Playwright: Danielle Pinnock. At: Waltzing Mechanics and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Tickets: 773-334-7728 or www.rivendelltheatre.org; $32-$35. Runs through: Feb. 27
There's no denying the enjoyable acting talent of Danielle Pinnock. As the star of her one-woman show Body/Courage, Pinnock engagingly morphs from character to character while also displaying a wonderful flair for quirky comic timing.
So it's no wonder that Pinnock keeps an audience rapt throughout the reflective journey that is Body/Courage. Where Pinnock is on slightly shakier ground is with the overall structure of the show.
Body/Courage is drawn from Pinnock's lifelong struggles with body image issues. Pinnock fills the audience in on her boisterous family heritage stretching back to Jamaica and the never-ending contradictions she is fed about diets and food.
Pinnock also augments her own story with excerpts from interviews she conducted with more than 300 people about their own body image issues. The diverse array of interviewees range in age, gender, religion, nationalities and sexuality, so there are a plethora of enthralling voices to be heard.
But that's also a partial failing of Body/Courage. Pinnock's own life story is worthy of a show in of itself, especially with her harrowing family conflicts and a frightening brush with alcoholism.
Conversely, you could also argue that many of the people Pinnock interviews deserve more time to be heard instead just having their bright gems of insight interspersed into the show. For instance, the body shaming involved for those who are heftier in the gay male community could have been dwelled upon a tad longer. So could have the many incisive before-and-after perspectives of a transgender woman.
Or perhaps Pinnock needs to make a more concerted effort of sign-posting the overall dramatic course and framework of Body/Courage. That way, audiences might have a better sense of where they're headed with the piece, even if Pinnock's chameleon characterizations largely keep those questions at bay.
Director Megan Carney keeps Body/Courage moving at an engrossingly clipped pace, while Diane Fairchild's ever-shifting lighting design keeps abreast of Pinnock's multitudes of amusing and touching characterizations. Regina Garcia's household set also provides a great playground for Pinnock to inhabit, giving Body/Courage a richer sense of shifting places than if it was performed on a bare stage.
Body/Courage bursts at its seams with hard-hitting questions and emotions tied to body-image issues. At its current state of an 80-minute, intermission-less show, Body/Courage could easily stand to be expanded on both personal and societal levels.
Or it might need a more determined focus to lay out exactly to audiences about where they're headed along with Pinnock and her thoughtful journey. Either way, Pinnock's strong performance should make it all an entertaining ride.