nytheatre.com review by Kate Ward
Dee Bolos begins her one-woman show with a question. What do we think of
when she says, "Southside"? Her assortment of characters, residents of
the Chicago neighborhood, rattle off their free associations: frosted
hair, jeans with zippers at the ankles, the dirty Irish, St. Ignatius,
cops, plumbers, and the neighbor who doesn’t mow his lawn. This is an
America not restricted to one locality in the Midwest. What follows is a
series of monologues attempting to paint an intricate portrait of Bolos’
working class roots. I have to be honest, I was a little touchy about
the subject matter. There is cringe-inducing potential for condescension
in these types of sociological memoirs. I needn’t have worried. Although
a bit jarring, Southside gives us an unassuming and painfully
funny look at the world in which Bolos grew up.
August 15, 2003
The structure is a little fragmented. There seems to be no connection among the vignettes save the fact that all of the individuals reside in Southside Chicago. The feel is of a serio-comic episode of MadTV (both Bolos and director Jacqueline Stone have backgrounds in improv comedy). Despite this lack of through-line, I found myself affected uniquely by each story. Some of the most poignant include the tale of a sixth grader nicknamed "mosquito bite boobs" recounting her embarrassment at not having a bra for the boys to snap; a bartender’s hard rationalization of his act of vigilante justice; and a daughter’s tough-love plea to her mother to kick out an abusive boyfriend.
One of the more schizophrenic sketches involves a clandestine PTA meeting and a soccer mom’s pronouncement that it’s okay to masturbate. This seemed less an elucidation of the old neighborhood than a baffling detour into the well-worn territory of outrageous female comedy, replete with gynecological diagrams and recitation of the words "vagina" and "clitoris." My eye rolling was interrupted, however, when Bolos switched on the house lights and raffled off a brand-new "Bullet" vibrator. I pulled out my ticket and perked up in sheepish anticipation. A woman in the front row won the prize. Damn. I was off by only one digit.
She brings it all home with an energetic rap about Southside pride, which almost pulls a theme together. The song is catchy. I’m still humming it. The audience exited the theatre in a bubble of enthusiasm. Southside is a fun, touching, and almost fulfilling evening.