“Nice Girl,” a Chicago premiere now at Raven Theatre, is the story of thirty-seven-year-old Jo (Lucy Carapetyan) in the eighties and her journey toward deciding that she wants more out of her life. She makes a brand-new best friend in her co-worker (a truly vibrant performance from Stella Martin) and lands a dreadful boyfriend all while navigating oppressive Reagan-era views of what women should be.
It’s a nostalgic play, comfortable in its familiarity, infused with tunes the audience hums along to before, throughout and after the performance. The story is unsurprising, but the character development drives it along, though perhaps not enough to justify its two-hour run time. It delivers the listless realism emblematic of Raven Theatre.
In a program note, director Lauren Shouse claims her intentions for this play is for it to be a celebration of the political moment we are witnessing: a wave of women reclaiming agency, time and lives to become whatever they want to be. It’s a nice idea, but this particular story seems like a lackluster approach. I couldn’t help but wish the play was braver, deeper or more complex.
I hope, and look forward to the time when, under the new leadership of young artistic director Cody Estle, Raven Theatre will take bigger risks with their plays and tell stories that are more diverse, more thoughtful and less safe. (Emma Couling)
Raven Theatre, 6157 North Clark, (773)338-2177, raventheatre.com, $15-$46. Through March 11.