The Storefront and Prop Theatres present the fourth installment of this biennial celebration of women in Chicago theater. Organizationally, the festival represents a triumph, having quickly grown to include more than a hundred artists supporting two alternating bills of short performance pieces. As the second program, which I saw this Saturday, indicates, though, the festival may be growing too quickly to ensure consistent artistic quality. The program “We’re Still Here” features some first-rate work. Chicago performance veteran Nana Shineflug offers a witty meditation on chance, perspective and the meaning of life. Sean Graney’s short play “Fear of Scars” is a thoroughly chilling character study of the economic, physical and emotional burdens bound up with motherhood. And Cat Dean and Jill Heyser perform their dynamic “Tetsuo” on stilts, a bravura display of gracefulness and strength. But even the stronger pieces feel only tangentially connected with one another. The sharp shifts in style, tone, and subject matter, always tricky in an omnibus program like this, leave the audience continually off balance; in particular, it’s hard to square the starkness of Graney’s piece with the generally light and physical tone of the program, as if Flannery O’Connor had scripted one section of a seventies variety show. The stilted voice-over sections, attempting to stitch the work together, only compounded the tonal difficulties. With luck, the next installment of the Fest will keep the ambitious scale with a more coherent and consistent body of work. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.