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Theater Mon Feb 02 2015

To Relax and Laugh Is Good Therapy at Rhinofest

By Kim Campbell

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Photo by Jen Moniz.

To Relax and Laugh, written by Barrie Cole and directed by Jen Moniz, is part of Rhinofest, the 26th annual Rhinoceros Theater Festival, Chicago's longest running fringe theater festival. The show runs for the next three Fridays at Prop Thtr.

Cole, the playwright, writer and performer best known for her hilarious and often jolting stream-of-conscious revelations, has produced a two-woman show that stays true to her quirky approach while transcending style altogether. It gets to the heart of a dysfunctional, beautiful friendship between a dubious therapist and her repressed charge.

The two characters -- Nadine played by Carolyn Hoerdemann and Sloan played by KellyAnn Corcoran -- are so vastly different that to watch their awkward attempts to communicate in the beginning is a painful and funny reminder of every blind date and first dinner with partner's parents condensed. It quickly devolves to pure mayhem as Sloan, at first timid and uptight, begins to exert her will in an effort to stay the unbridled and unpredictable enthusiasm Nadine has for experimental psychology methods.

Perhaps most amusingly, Hoerdemann portrays Nadine's psych-101, New-Age speak with complete conviction, clearly making it up as she goes along while pulling in threads of her own creativity. Somehow, even as the audience and Sloan begin to suspect the bullshit, the results cannot be denied: Sloan is starting to loosen up and learn something about herself, if only to psychically protect herself from the merciless gaze of Nadine.

Barrie's writing is often acerbic, spontaneous, full of contradictions and at times transcendently insightful -- striving to reach beyond mere character to touch on the essence of wonder at sheer existence. One of these moments of clarity verging on enlightenment comes as Sloan tells Nadine a story about witnessing her friend's grandmother dying. At some point, the two have turned from adversaries to friends, a development that has facilitated the growth of both characters to our delight and amazement. But this can't happen until the highlight of the play, a three-minute tantrum meltdown, prescribed by Nadine for the woes that ail Sloan. At first it is hilarious, but riding that tantrum with Corcoran as she explores all of its power, rage and physical release is nothing short of cathartic for the viewer as well.

To Relax and Laugh will be presented at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave., for the next three Fridays -- Feb. 6, 13 and 20 -- at 7pm. Tickets are $15 at the door (suggested price), or $12 in advance online. For more information, see Rhinofest or call 773-492-1287.

Kim Campbell is a Chicago-based writer who writes about culture, food and fitness.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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