Twilight Bowl takes a close look at overlooked lives | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Twilight Bowl takes a close look at overlooked lives 

Five women in small-town Wisconsin search for their places in the world.

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Liz Lauren

Rebecca Gilman's portrait of five young women in a small Wisconsin town (and one annoying interloper from Winnetka) is a minor-key chamber piece, with a few wince-worthy dramaturgical air horns thrown in. Set in the bar of a bowling alley, it follows the women's lives over two years, from the farewell party for soon-to-be-incarcerated Jaycee (the dynamic Heather Chrisler), caught helping her father sell prescription meds, to a celebration for Sam (Becca Savoy), whose bowling scholarship to Ohio State promises a way out. Along the way, the women try to figure out where they belong, and whether they still have room for each other in their lives.

Erica Weiss's direction mostly allows plenty of breathing space, and Gilman's story balances uncomfortable group dynamics with honest one-on-one encounters. A conversation between Sam and bartender Brielle (Mary Taylor), who had her own abortive attempt at attending college, teases out the emotional strains of trying to fit into a place you're not sure you deserve to be (or want to be) in the first place with compelling empathy. But a scene involving Maddy (Angela Morris), Sam's self-absorbed North Shore college acquaintance, leans too heavily on rich-girl cliches even as we learn some disturbing things about Maddy's own circumstances.

Despite some jarring false notes, the cast (including Anne E. Thompson as Sharlene, an awkward but well-meaning Christian, and Hayley Burgess as stoic workhorse Clarice) ultimately fleshes out these overlooked lives with wit and emotional honesty.   v

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