Directed by Benjamin Thiem
At Profile Theatre, Chicago
Flawed and underwritten, Body Awareness seems unfinished
Billed as a comedy, Body Awareness by Annie Baker, to me, was devoid of humor and it contains a flawed premise. Set at a Vermont college, we meet Joyce (Barb Stasiw) a high school teacher with a troubled son, Jared (Eric Burgher) – who refuses psychological treatment for an obvious social/psychological disorder. Phyllis (Cheryl Graeff) is the lesbian lover of Joyce who is running “Body Awareness” week on the campus.
Phyllis is a control freak in charge of both that campus event and her relationship with her lover, Joyce. Her PhD in psychology and her ultra-feminist beliefs fuel the action here. Problem: since we learn early on that Phyllis must control everything, why did she allow Frank (Joe Jahraus), a professional photographer specializing in nude photography of women to exhibit on the campus? Also, why was she surprised that Joyce invited Frank to stay at their home? Phyllis assumed that Frank’s photos objectified women before her every viewing them. That is hardly plausible from an academic.
I was never able to get over the above flaws. Added Phyllis’ insecurity or jealousy when Joyce tells her that she wants to pose nude for Frank. Phyllis threatens to leave Joyce if that happens. Phyllis, despite Cheryl Graef’s attempts to make her likable, comes of as a nasty, narrow-minded control freak feminist. We cheer for the empathetic Joyce ( truthful work from Barb Stasiw) to get rid of Phyllis. I never understood the basis of the Phyllis-Joyce relationship since Phyllis often insults and belittles Joyce.
I was moved by the work by Joe Jahraus as the kind visual artist, Frank. Eric Burgher was terrific as the explosive Jared who is both a genius and a social misfit. His struggle to accept his condition is dramatically presented. Body Awareness deals with hidden insecurities, basic desires and latent fears. I found the play underwritten with a flawed premise. Burger and Stasiw’s performances gave the work its finest moments.
At Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-549-1815, tickets $30 – $35 students/seniors $5 off, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, sundaes at 7 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission.