Review: Bad Girls–The Stylists (Akvavit Theatre)

| March 25, 2018

Madelyn Loehr, Kirstin Franklin and Jennifer Cheung star in Bad Girls The Stylists, Akvavit Theatre            
      

  

Bad Girls: The Stylists

Written by Astrid Saalbach
Translated by Michael Evans
at Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice (map)
thru April 14  |  tix: $15-$25  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Absurdly funny, strangely empowering U.S. premiere

  

Kim Boler, Jennifer Adams, Jennifer Cheung, Kirstin Franklin and Madelyn Loeh star in Bad Girls Stylists, Akvavit

    
Akvavit Theatre Company presents
    
Bad Girls: The Stylists

Review by Lauren Whalen

Bad Girls: The Stylists was the second play I saw in as many days with an all-female cast. If that’s not cause for celebration, I don’t know what is. Akvavit Theatre focuses on contemporary Nordic playwrights, and the U.S. premiere of this dark comedy about scissor-happy stylists, though not for everyone, will strike a chord with many. As three Kim Boler and Madelyn Loehr star in Bad Girls The Stylists, Akvavit Theatre (photo by Karl Clifton-Soderstrom)hairstylists try to stay afloat while changing the world, one strand at a time, they encounter nervous brides, nutty walk-ins and mysterious life-changing strangers. Bad Girls: The Stylists is a true dark comedy, with plenty of bizarre and hard-to-stomach moments, but it’s also strangely empowering.

When the play begins, three women start their day in a subterranean hair salon. Both Jorun (Jennifer Cheung) and Mette (Kirstin Franklin) are single moms, while ditsy Trine (Madelyn Loehr) is so madly in love with her boyfriend, she’s tattooed his name on her wrist. The women need another stylist to make rent and pay expenses, so when Boogie (Kim Boler) steps into the salon, it’s a dream come true. Or is it? With big hair, a mysterious accent and a penchant for sharp scissors, Boogie may have nefarious plans for the workplace. And then there’s that nosy customer “A” (Jennifer Adams), who may have a lot more information than she’s letting on…

Jennifer Adams, Madelyn Loehr and Kirstin Franklin star in Bad Girls The Stylists, Akvavit TheatreKim Boler, Kirstin Franklin and Madelyn Loehr star in Bad Girls, The Stylists - Akvavit TheatreKim Boler, Jennifer Adams and Kirstin Franklin star in Bad Girls The Stylists, Akvavit Theatre

Over the course of a fast-paced 80 minutes, the five actors play 28 different characters, aided by the many wigs displayed on set. Scenic designer Chad Eric Bergman and hair/wig designer Keith Ryan are a match made in hair heaven, skillfully incorporating Styrofoam heads into the overall concept. The wigs also serve as a kind of hourglass – as they disappear off of the Styrofoam heads and appear on the actors’, the countdown to the disturbing denouement ticks by. Breahan Pautsch, Akvavit’s co-artistic director, is comfortable and capable at the helm, milking every moment of dark, nasty humor for all it’s worth. Much of Bad Girls: The Stylists tends toward the macabre, what with Boogie’s possible mob ties, a nervous bride’s desire to be “ready” for her husband at all costs, and a scene of group bullying that quickly escalates. Pautsch keeps the pacing tight and the scene work sharp, never dwelling too long on a moment. The frenetic pace works well for this type of story: smart, sassy and more than a little raunchy. Michael Evans’ translation of Astrid Saalbach’s script is delightfully weird, reveling in its own oddities and making the audience laugh uncomfortably in the best possible way.

Each actor is well-cast, playing multiple roles with ease and bringing specialized traits to her “main” character. Cheung, always a delight, is razor-sharp, and her Jorun is brutally efficient (emphasis on the brutal). Boler is fantastic as the dastardly Boogie and an appearance-obsessed blonde-beehived conservative politician. Adams’ A is fantastically weird, and Loehr shines as the bubble-headed bottle blonde Trine. Franklin stands out the most for her star turn as repressed, obsessive Mette, a woman who has a lot going on under her cheerful redheaded exterior. Like most Akvavit productions, Bad Girls: The Stylists is an acquired taste, but if you want to see black comedy done incredibly well, look no further.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  

Bad Girls: The Stylists continues through April 14th at Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 4pm.  Tickets are $25 (students & seniors: $15), and are available online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at ChicagoNordic.org(Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission)

Kirstin Franklin, Kim Boler, Madelyn Loehr and Jennifer Cheung star in Bad Girls The Stylists, Akvavit Theatre

Photos by Karl Clifton-Soderstrom


  

artists

cast

Jennifer Adams (“A”), Kim Boler (Boogie), Jennifer Cheung (Jorun), Kirstin Franklin (Mette), Madelyn Loehr (Trine)

behind the scenes

Breahan Pautsch (director), Chad Eric Bergman (scenic design), Lily Walls (costume design), David Goodman-Edberg (lighting design), Nigel Harsch (sound design), Hillarie Shockley (props design), Rick Gilbert and Victor Bayona (violence, intimacy design), Keith Ryan (wig and hair design), Lindsay Tornquist (assistant director), Harrison Ornelis (technical director), Hannah Harper-Smith (stage manager), Karl Clifton-Soderstrom(photos)

Madelyn Loehr, Kirstin Franklin and Jennifer Cheung star in Bad Girls The Stylists, Akvavit TheatreKim Boler, Jennifer Cheung, Madelyn Loehr and Kirstin Franklin star in Bad Girls The Stylists, Akvavit Theatre

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Category: 2018 Reviews, Akvavit Theatre, Lauren Emily Whalen, Strawdog Theatre

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