Why Not Me: Love, Cancer,
…and Jack White
An endearing storytelling experience with lots of laughs and heart
|Jen Bosworth i/a/w Stage 773 presents|
|Why Not Me: Love, Cancer…and Jack White|
Review by Clint May
A lot of people in the midst of the troubles of life ask, “Why me?” Chicagoland native Jen Bosworth has a more interesting question, and it’s the title of her one-woman (and back-up musician) show, Why Not Me (subtitled “Love, Cancer…and Jack White”) Why, indeed, should it not be any of us that experience life’s slings and arrows? Some endure a long dark night of the soul by whining, drinking, or any number of self-destructive and self-indulgent behaviors, but others, like like Matt Stone and Trey Parker, find ways to sublimate their angst of being different into something constructive. For Jen, being different meant being too ‘fat’ too get any traditional roles in the cutthroat acting world of Los Angeles. Her story of a dejected return from chasing a dream to living with her parents frames the larger basis for this storytelling interlude (it’s only 50 minutes) that brims with gently acerbic humor and droll observation.
Jen—one feels you can be on a first name-basis with her after listening—begins unassumingly by stepping out in an inexpensive fur coat that engulfs her cherubic face as if to mock the fame and stardom she sought as she walks on stage but the faux glamour evaporates when she stops to ‘grab [her] chair and Big Gulp.” This sort of relaxed approach and unaffected intimacy pervades the ensuing story. She thought she’d made it in Chicago and was compelled to move to LA to pursue bigger dreams, but ended up working as Nicholas Cage’s personal assistant (he was “1. Weird, 2. Nice, 3. A movie star.” is all she’ll say on the matter, though she does a pretty good impersonation). “Too fat to be cast in any meaningful roles,”, she eventually suffers a breakdown and returns to Chicago just in time to be there for her dying father. When her new husband and then mother also get diagnosed with cancer, she finds considerable solace in nightly dreams of White Stripes lead singer and guitarist Jack White. To give away much more would be a disservice to Jen’s bracingly confidential narrative.
With a bluesy guitar accompaniment from musician Briar Rabbit, Jen’s story is one a lot of us could tell if we looked back on the hardships of our lives, our insecurities, and our dreams. As with any storytelling production, it’s the teller that must elevate and relate, and Jen does both with sublime aplomb. Genuinely moving and frequently hilarious, Why Not Me is more like having coffee with an old friend with whom one has just reconnected after years apart than a piece of theatre. Debuting exactly one year after her mother’s passing, it’s a poignant tribute to following dreams in the face of hardship and honoring the people who supported those efforts.
Why Not Me drifts a little unnecessarily into Jung’s synchronicity with a titch of apophoenia (the tendency to see relationships in coincidences) than those of rigorous rationality (like myself) may prefer as it closes, but Jen is a relatively reluctant ‘believer’ (every time she references “God” she punctuates it with “God!” as if befuddled and frustrated by her own inference) and more of a spiritualist. This is not surprising as she holds two masters degrees in Spiritual Psychology and Counseling Psychology. Still, she’s so utterly charming that it’s fairly easy to forgive the syrupy indulgence for the chance to be in the presence of a gifted and ever ebullient storyteller. This is Jen’s dream made manifest, and I for one will be in the grandstands cheering for her success and looking forward to tales yet untold.
Why Not Me: Love, Cancer…and Jack White continues through December 8th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays 8pm. Tickets are $20, and are available by phone (773-327-5252) or online through PrintTixUSA.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Stage773.com. (Running time: 50 minutes, no intermission)
behind the scenes
Alyson Lyon (director), Ed Schweitzer (lighting), Keith Emroll (stage manager)