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THEATER REVIEW: The Secretaries
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2016-05-18

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Playwright: The Five Lesbian Brothers

At: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.

Tickets: 773-975-8150;

AboutFaceTheatre.org; $20-$35

Runs through: June 12

About Face Theatre ( AFT ) camps out for its premiere of The Secretaries with some bloody results.

From the spooky intro, we can immediately tell we're not in Kansas anymore—it's actually Oregon, and Big Bone to be specific. The tone is set with cliques and clicks while this small lumberjack town is quickly turned upside down. As in many parts of the world, Big Bone is full of secrets—and those skeletons are enjoyable to watch come out of the closet.

The story surrounds a group of secretaries ( Patty, Ashley, Peaches and Dawn ) ruled by their big boss Susan, played by AFT Artistic Associate Kelli Simpkins. Patty, played by Erin Barlow, is the new girl on the job and desperately wants to fit in with the group. This pool proves to be a challenge, with lots of hoops to jump through, including some women-on-women action. From Twister to tampons, no subject seems taboo for this crew. This job works them around the clock as the ladies are told to not have sex privately or gain weight in their personal lives.

It's an eerie show inspired by Twin Peaks and The Stepford Wives, with a dash of Heathers and Office Space thrown in for good measure. Director Bonnie Metzgar obviously has a ball staging this production and brings out some mean performances from her cast.

AFT's mission statement advances gender identity, and we see that in action with Lauren Sivak playing both Dawn and the bearded Buzz. She must hate spirit gum these days.

Having interviewed star Sadieh Rifai last year for WCT in a completely different role, it is fun to see her stand out from a very talented pack as Peaches. I think the audience would have watched her lip-synch early '90s songs the entire show and be completely happy with her performance.

This comedy goes real dark when poor Peaches is picked on about her weight by her boss. No mercy is shown and no punches were pulled in a segment that we can all sympathize with.

The game scene during a pajama party was hilarious. It makes one wish for an intermission and to make this gruesome tale a little longer.

Patty's journey to become a full-fledged secretary is a bit sidetracked at times, with the real meat of the story not hitting until the bloodthirsty end. When it hits the fan, the audience was literally gasping out loud on premiere night.

These days, secretaries are now called administrative assistants. I play one myself downtown and have been thinking about changing my diet. Maybe I will start drinking SlimFast and try fitting in with the secretary pool a little more. What could possibly go wrong?


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