Saturday, May 19, 2007

Go See 'Gidget'

I wouldn't call this an unqualified rave, and of course I work at City Lit a lot, but I recommend their current production of Gidget absolutely. Mainly for one of the best performances I've seen this year.

It's based on the novel of the same name by Federick Kohner, about his daughter Kathy, the surf-obsessed girl who courted the surfer-boy gods down on the shore with food until they took her in as one of their own, christening her "Gidget," as in "girl midget." It's adapted by City Lit Artistic Director (and one of the most absolute men of the theatre I know) Terry McCabe and Marissa McKown and directed by McKown. Rather sluggishly, it turns out. There's not much going on physically, and of course the sensation of surfing is impossible to duplicate onstage(even with hydraulic surfboards, as in 2005's terminally stupid Broadway jukebox crapfest Good Vibrations.). But this is one of the better staging concepts in the show, actually. The actors in the ensemble (everyone but Gidget and the Great Kahoona doubles as a "kid" and as an "adult," more on that later), dressed neutrally, bear the surfers aloft in a nakedly theatrical but nonetheless effective image, equating the elation of surfing with the highs of flight.

The performances, unfortunately, are a bit of a mixed bag. Sabrina Kramnich is the class of the evening as Gidget. She narrates the story, and has roughly more of the evening than Hamlet, so the show is obviously going to rest on her five-foot tall frame, and she acquits herself extremely well, as both the gawky fan-girl at the beginning and the emergent young woman who is finally liberated by her endless summer. Eric Hoffmann looks like Adonis and has the easy-going swagger befitting the Great Kahoona, and also reveals some simple, effective vulnerability later. Most of the rest of the cast are just past college-aged, with the advantages (lively and convincing as the "teens") and disadvantages (less imposing as the older "authority" figures, particularly Dan Kennedy's not-potent-enough Dad) inherent. But see the show for Kramnich's performance; she doesn't ring a false note, and more people ought to see it.

Gidget, playing at City Lit Theatre, now thru 6/3. Fri-Sat at 8, Sun at 3. 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago. 773-293-3682.


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