By Mia McCullough
Directed by Greg Werstler
Produced by Stage Left Theatre
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Thoughtful exploration of how we think about beauty in ourselves and in others unfolds
Playwright Mia McCullough took a tiny story in the Chicago Tribune about local Glenview women protesting a billboard in their suburb making it into a profile of our complex concepts of the nature of beauty in 21st Century America. The person narrative format allows each character to express their opinions and reactions to both the billboard and the concept of beauty. The result is an honest, often humorous glimpse into the contradictory views of the nature of beauty and how we actually rate ourselves with beauty.
An French-Arab, Mourad (Kamal Hans) runs a spar in affluent Glenview, Illinois where he caters and pampers his rich white clientele. In his direct6 mail campaign, he hires Pete (Kyle Johnson), a local freelance photographer to find a suitable model for his spa promotion. Pete shows Mourad his portfolio that contains a wonderful photo of Talya (Melanie Derleth), his secret love and ex-girlfriend. Mourad selects the photo because Talya is so beautiful that when he use arrows to suggest she could use a spa to make her even more beautiful, h4e can do miracles. Or so his promotion suggests. His mailings works to increase his spa business but, amazingly, when Mourad mounts his promotion onto a billboard on a main road running through Glenview the town’s women protest the billboard as offensive toward women.
We meet Julie (Emi Clark),a typical vain middle aged suburbanite who laments her fading beauty despite her weekly visits to Mourad’s spa. We meet her 11 year old daughter Cari (Kayla Rea) who gives the gawky girl’s take on beauty. Add Talya’s narrative as to her reaction (and her story) toward Pete and her photo being larger than life on the billboard and we have a smart, realistic and truthful discussion about beauty. With Andie (Jennifer Pompa), a plus-size woman and conscious of the play, we hear the truth (wort’s and all) about the self-loathing effects of being over weight.
Impenetrable is a smart, free-flowing narrative that glibly speaks to how we actually think about beauty in ourselves and in others. We see how some men see beauty in women but this show emphasizes women’s take on beauty. While the play is geared toward women, I found it enlightening and interesting. Melane Derleth, in traditional headscarf, gradually tells her story of how her beauty makes her venerable to sexual attacks. Impenetrable is a nicely structured, well acted world premiere that has much to say about contemporary views of beauty.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: September 7, 2012
At Theater Wit, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, tickets $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through October 7,2012.