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  Desperate Dolls at Strawdog Theatre

Desperate Dolls

Strawdog Theatre
1802 W. Berenice Chicago

Three gorgeous women are ripe for their big break, but this dark trip through the seedy side of Hollywood turns hopeful dreams into nightmares. Set in 1968, Sunny Jack Fennigan has the best intentions, making movies with female stars designed to turn a quick buck at the box office. When a powerful agent known only as "Captain" offers up starlets Matchbox, Pretty Sexy and The Vil for Fennigan's latest picture, the story takes a twisted turn through back-alley motels and murder scenes.

Thru - Dec 23, 2014

Mondays: 8:00pm
Tuesdays: 8:00pm
Sundays: 12:00pm & 8:00pm

Price: $15

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-528-9696

Nearby Restaurants

  Desperate Dolls Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...But a show like this needs a point of view from its makers — a point, in other words. What ideas is it exploring? Is the play recreating the grindhouse aesthetic just to do it? I wonder if that's enough. Much as I admire the skill on display, this is really nasty material (the women are terrorized and brutalized just because) and neither Driscoll, nor playwright Darren Callahan, seem to be saying anything other than "Here it is!" — which feels like an intellectual dodge."
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Nina Metz

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Now that I've seen Strawdog Theatre's staging of another Callahan script, I'm thinking that messy may be his aesthetic. Scenes get strewn every which way in this 80-minute tribute to sex-and-violence exploitation movies such as Roger Corman turned out in the 1960s. But the dissonance isn't just structural. I found myself feeling more and more alienated from Desperate Dolls as it went on its Hollywood-starlet-murdering way. In the time of Bill Cosby, Jian Ghomeshi, and Ray Rice, it's harder than ever to find campy humor in brutalized women."
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Tony Adler

Windy City Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...When the goal is an homage to American International, Hammer and other low-budget film studios of the 1960s and '70s, there's no need to apologize for Mad Men-era motel-room decor, or Hitchcock-knockoff juxtaposition of the Ronettes chirping "He Came, He Saw, He Conquered" with the shrieks and struggles of conveniently underdressed damsels—or, for that matter, the whole guilty-pleasure aesthetic remaining as popular today as when Petronius or Thomas Middleton pandered to audiences asking only for squirms disguised as shudders. No one can deny the high quality of period accuracy reflected in the Strawdog ensemble's athletic performances and scenic/wardrobe design, but the playbill note speculating on why this style of drama is so rarely done in live theater overlooks the vast library of original material available on Netflix allowing for more, um, private viewing."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Gapers Block - Somewhat Recommended

"...Perhaps the most visceral achievement of the play is communicating the fear of suffocation by motel room that becomes a metaphor for the whole of Hollywood: The luxury of clean linens is immediately unmade by the first romp on the bed, which inevitably ends in disappointment at best, violation at worst, and always anxiety over the next phone call or knock at the door that could bring either stardom or the final nightmare."
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Amien Essif

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...Fisher, Marren, and Shipley bring equal amounts of sex appeal and desperate vulnerability to their respective roles, while Mack hams it up with great gusto and delight. It’s only Poole whose acting is unsatisfactory, but his one-dimensional part doesn’t provide much of a challenge. Raquel Adorno’s costumes, Jamie Karas’s props, and Ashley Woods’ set stylishly evoke the Swinging Sixties, right down to Pretty Sexy’s go-go boots and the seedy motel room. Subtlety might be in short supply during this Strawdog offering, but it’s hardly necessary when fake blood is flying amidst half-naked girls eagerly jumping in and out of bed. In short, Desperate Dolls revels in cliché with Tarantino-esque abandon."
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Barnaby Hughes

Splash Magazine - Somewhat Recommended

"...Visually there are some scenes of wonder, but taken as a whole too much of the play feels disjointed. It is altogether too stylized to be truly terrifying or suspenseful and too self-aware to be taken seriously. There is some nifty non-linear story telling going on and the plot pieces (just like one of the starlets) can be coherently stitched back together. But in the end there are just not enough choice bits to make it a worthwhile endeavor."
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Noel Schecter

ChicagoCritic - Not Recommended

"...Since the other program note is all about how the immediacy of the theatre creates a deeper psychological impact, this misunderstanding is what breaks the show and caused it to be staged in the first place. There really isn’t anything psychological about Desperate Dolls. Pretty Sexy is from Seattle; Matchbox played Annie Oakley in high school; The Vil, we are told, has potential to be a successful actress. Sunny Jack has a friend named Paul. That is the extent of their characters. Their response to being raped and murdered is to scream and cry. Since the technical limitations of theatre make sensory shock impossible and the artistic limitations of the genre make empathy or understanding impossible, there is nothing left. Desperate Dolls is loud and messy, though not that messy, but is neither engaging nor enjoyable."
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Jacob Davis

Chicago Stage Standard - Somewhat Recommended

"...While we appreciate the challenge presented to the viewers via the gritty subject matter, it is not entirely clear if the exploration is intended to make comment on the objectification and sexualization of the Hollywood ritual, or whether it is glorifying or paying homage to it. There’s a fine line between subverting an established trope and promoting it, especially when that trope happens to contain multiple violent acts against women and exposed female forms. That is not to say that this sort of difficult material has no place on the stage, but the balance should be carefully considered."

Conor McShane and Leslie Hull

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