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  WINDY CITY TIMES

THEATER REVIEW The Bobby Pin Girls
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2017-11-07

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Playwright: Janey Bell

At: Nothing Without a Company at the Chicago Mosaic School, 1101 W. Granville Ave. Tickets: $20-$25

Runs through: Dec. 3

It's been said of mating customs in 21st-century North America that every emotional cripple eventually finds a crutch and vice-versa. Janey Bell's fable recounts the pivotal night that two young women break free of exploitive symbiosis to emerge as individuals capable of making independent decisions. Oh, by the way—it's a screwball comedy.

Childhood chums Ana and Bree share an apartment in a boho district of Chicago. Ana is an aspiring actress currently rehearsing a play written/directed/produced by a wealthy dilettante. Bree is a would-be artist whose eclectic projects crowd the common areas of their residence. On this evening, however, Ana has been invited to a party at her employer's swanky loft and Bree has received an email from ex-boyfriend Danny, who is seeking reconciliation. Since the prospective hostess has previously displayed flirtatious behavior and the former swain was a druggie, both Ana and Bree suspect these plans will not end well, but venture forth despite their misgivings.

This what-could-go-wrong set-up consumes about 20 minutes of the play's hour-long duration, quickly giving way to the arrival of the prodigal Danny, laden with regrets, remorse and a plentiful supply of Xanax. No sooner has he dozed off on the sofa than Ana returns with a harrowing tale of woman-on-woman sexual harassment, and stalking rescuer Tim on her heels, armored in avowals of knightly gallantry toward his adored and fetishes crafted from her discarded hairpins. Instead of surrendering to circumstances, though, our heroines rally their own wits to rid themselves of these parasites—no helpless damsels-in-distress here!—and, in asserting themselves, discover their trust to lie in one another.

Not Without a Company stages its production in an actual apartment located above the Chicago Mosaic School, decorated with the splashy murals characterizing artistic environments. ( Playgoers are seated against the walls like unfinished works-in-progress. ) Closet and bathroom retreats are actual rooms, the lights are toggle-switch household lamps and, if you listen closely, you can even hear the El next door. Under Ben Kaye's non-intrusive direction, Grace Hutchings and Emilie Modaff replicate the vocal mannerisms of earnest post-grads to the smallest inflection. All these elements make for a portrait of youthful lifestyles in 2017 so authentic as to deserve enshrinement in a time capsule.


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