Four female actors start to jump and prance around the stage. One lets out a sound, free and uninhibited, and the others begin to follow her lead. Another actor enters with a djembe, pounding out a simple but constant rhythm, which gradually becomes more and more complex and passionate. The prancing turns into dancing and tribal movement, as the ensemble lets out all of their fears, anxieties, and societal barriers to fill the space with freedom, vulnerability, and just plain noise. With everything that has come before, pain, covering up, and trying to forget, this moment is a culmination and a celebration of being yourself and throwing every other norm to the wayside. This is the human spirit in its purest, and most raw form.
Light. Goodness. Sweat. Fitness.
In a boutique athleisure store for yoga nuts, five women are struggling with their identity. Jess (Emma Maltby) has just moved to Chicago with hopes of finding herself again, free of judgment. Agnes (Emily Marso), her old friend, has a place for her to stay, and a feminist belief system directly in conflict with her, and now Jess’s, current place of work: La La Lea. Run by the unnervingly and unendingly positive Clare (Alex Dauphin), flanked by the bitingly perfect Carly (Charlotte Thomas) and an anxiously agreeing Becca (Lindsey Kite), this store is for those who are “going for great”, at all times. Only high vibes, never low ones. Only turmeric, never fast food fries. Coca Cola is the new cigarettes, and vapid self-help feminism is the only way to go. The hilarity matches that of Mean Girls, The Duff, or even Sex in the City, but very quickly the mantras are put to the test, when a violent crime happens at another La La Lea nearby. The way the basic—and that’s a sorority, girl-who-eats-quinoa-and-wears-Ugg-boots “basic”— yoga dogmas deal with this grave situation is the fascinating crux of this production.
Design Nods to Turn Heads
Any audience member can also appreciate the attention to detail found in the work done surrounding the actors and the script. The yoga mats are stored in a gigantic cubby apparatus that looks like a wine rack, complete with potentially appropriating and unspecifically Asian partitions in the back and “motivational” posters written in chalk hung around the studio and even on the way into the theatre. There’s even a class schedule in the lobby, plugging “Yoga 4 Moms!” at 4 pm. The music playing is an absolute riot, but only if you choose to listen (you have AJ Chien to thank for this). When you realize the soothing acoustic coffee shop tune playing as the intermission ends is in fact a cover of Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’, it may just make your night.
Commision Theatre Brings A Bold Ensemble
The standout star of this production is that there aren’t any. Every actor in this show is extremely generous in how they provide stakes and obstacles for the other performers. If you’re looking for comedic and dramatic chops in your theatre experience, this is a must see. There’s one particular moment in the play when Dauphin’s Clare slowly reads out a famed Madeline Albright quote from her vision board, but misquotes it as coming from Taylor Swift. She says the whole quote and the incorrect speaker twice, and with so much conviction that you could almost believe Taylor Swift did say it. The other actors are considering with gravity or complete disbelief, while the audience is lost in laughter. It’s this kind of tongue-in-cheek yet honest portrayal of millenial yogis that makes this production so enticing, and Beth Hyland’s script so smart. There’s a persistent wave of positivity and wellness, with a subtle undercurrent of judgement and daring everyone else to disagree. Just be positive! It’s easy.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Thurs-Sat 8pm, Sat matinees 4pm
5779 N Ridge Ave
Chicago, IL 60660
Emma Maltby, Emily Marso, Alex Dauphin, Charlotte Thomas, Lindsey Kite, Margaret Kellas, Kianna Rose Louisor, Allyce Torres
Beth Hyland, Claire Reinhart, Melissa Hubbert, Allyce Torres, Sydney Achler, Kaycee Filson, Andrew Chien, Meghan Erxleben, Melissa Perkins, Ella Raymont, Ella Raymont, Joshua Bartlett, Lindsey Kite, Reed Motz, Madison Niederhauser, Ella Raymont, Charlotte Thomas, Kyle Whalen, Conner Wilson
Photos courtesy of Commission Theatre
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago
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