Chicago Dramatists presents
At 1105 W. Chicago
Written by Aline Lathrop
Directed by Meghan Beals McCarthy
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturday s at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru March 6th
Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes one intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Sex sells…. especially in a double-wide sixty miles outside Las Vegas. Chicago Dramatists presents the world premiere of BORDELLO. In the break room, seven women quibble about the boss, work conditions and paying taxes. It’s business as usual!? Except the ladies are prostitutes at a licensed brothel. It’s ‘Customer Appreciation Night.’ Discounted prices increase sales. Anything goes! The gal whoring the most wins a Ford Explorer. The competition gets brutal when someone slips razor blades into soap. Is the mutilation threat about the 4-wheel drive or jealousy over the boss’ attention? BORDELLO educates about the sex trade. The ‘pussy penitentiary’ enforces a locked-down facility with no phone calls and mandatory dick checks. The hookers’ lives have common themes: child molesting, dysfunctional male dependence, and financial hardship. BORDELLO is a compelling and raunchy story about sex for pay. There is NO “Best Little Whorehouse” song or “Pretty Woman” conclusion. It’s a dirty business!
Playwright Aline Lathrop doesn’t glamorize it. Lathrop calls a dick, a dick. Initially, the vulgarity shocks but then it becomes industry standard. The emotion comes out of the fuck. Lathrop creates seven distinct characters, who struggle with their career choices. Cattle calls and spotlighted monologues are interspersed between break room scenes of real conversation. The effect is intriguing and leads up to a dramatic first act conclusion. In Act 2, it’s a year later. The storyline goes preachy. The monologues become excessive. It’s not good when you start rooting for a reformed whore to reunite with her slutty self. Under the direction of Meghan Beals McCarthy, the show isn’t a quickie. The initial scene introducing the characters is staged through the theatre instead of the ongoing cattle call routine. It feels clunky and unnecessarily long. It’s followed by minutes of silence in the first break room encounter. It IS work as I clock watch.
Despite the sluggish pacing, McCarthy knows how to work the whores. These scantily clad
ladies of the evening confidently strut to sell it. When they aren’t pimping themselves out, they are very natural as bitter, competitive co-workers. Lewd sexual acts are chatted about with the work-style monotony of comments like ‘the copy machine is broken’ or ‘the internet is down.’ Marguerite Hammersley (Honey) plays the aging out hooker with dignity. Hammersley has an authentic contentment in being a lifer. Katherine Keberlin (Jewel) is fabulous as the enterprising porn queen. Keberlin unapologetically markets her tits and assets with professional ambition. Dana Black (Mandy) rages as a dominatrix and a bitter employee. Joanne Dubach (Kitten) is marvelously uninhibited. Dubach delivers horrifically disconcerting lines with a shiny-happy effervescence. The surprise is the break room scenes could be from “The Office” if you could forget these gals aren’t selling paper. Melissa Canciller (Lotus) is Ryan. Kyra Morris (Godiva) is Stanley. Ariana Dziedzic (Michelle) is Kelly.
BORDELLO has all the makings for pure gold adult entertainment. It just needs a corset to tighten it up.
Missing the old Kitten, Shawn sums up the show with “rewrite second act.”
Production photography courtesy of Jeff Pines.