Review: Nice Girl (Raven Theatre)

| February 4, 2018 | 0 Comments

Lucy Carapetyan, Benjamin Sprunger, Stella Martin and Lynne Baker star in Nice Girl, Raven Theatre            


Nice Girl

Written by Melissa Ross
Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map)
thru Mar 11  |  tix: $38-$46  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets


Sweet, quietly compelling Chicago premiere


Lucy Carapetyan, Benjamin Sprunger, Stella Martin and Lynne Baker star in Nice Girl, Raven Theatre

Raven Theatre presents
Nice Girl

Review by Lauren Whalen

Stories are everywhere, and in these heated political times, when everything presented to us is high-stakes and life-changing, it’s easier to forget about the quieter narratives. Sometimes it’s nice to see a good, solid story that, while political in its own way, doesn’t try to shove A Very Important Message in the audience’s faces, and instead values character development and nuance over gimmick. The Chicago premiere of Nice Girl at Raven Theatre is just that. Some may find it dull, but I welcome this subtle, sweet twist on Lucy Carapetyan and Benjamin Sprunger star as Josephine and Donnie in Nice Girl at Raven Theatrethe classic coming-of-age story.

It’s 1984, and Josephine Rosen (Lucy Carapetyan) is 37 years old and single, and still lives with her mother. Since returning from college, she hasn’t left the Boston suburbs, opting to work a dull office job and deal with mom Francine (Lynne Baker), who claims she is not well but musters the energy to leave the house and buy cigarettes. When Josephine makes friends with coworker Sherri (Stella Martin), a flamboyant divorcée with a chaotic love life, she begins to envision a future beyond her mother’s house. And Josephine’s new crush on butcher and former high school classmate Donnie (Benjamin Sprunger) adds more drama to the mix.

Melissa Ross’ script offers a unique perspective on growing up through the eyes of a woman striving to catch up to her more settled peers, but tends to get in her own way. Josephine is introverted and shy, but has a sassy side that comes through in her interactions with mom Francine, and increasingly with Sherri and Donnie. Though Sherri sometimes borders on caricature, playwright Ross does an excellent job of treating each character with respect, and allowing their motivations and quirks to show as the play goes on. Though her pacing is a little slow, Director Lauren Shouse works well with Ross’ source material, letting the story shine through without overwhelming it.

Lynne Baker and Lucy Carapetyan star as Francine and Josephine in Nice Girl, Raven TheatreLucy Carapetyan and Benjamin Sprunger star as Josephine and Donnie in Nice Girl, Raven TheatreStella Martin, Lucy Carapetyan and Lynne Baker star in Nice Girl, Raven Theatre

In turn, the production team brilliantly showcases the finer parts of the early 1980s (New Wave music, bright colors and teased hair). Scenic designer Lauren Nigri beautifully recreates a working-class East Coast home, and has fun with multi-use set pieces. Nöel Huntzinger’s costumes are vibrant and time-specific, and Eric Backus provides lovely original music and a killer soundtrack that had many audience members singing along at intermission. Martin is such a perfect comic relief, it’s easy to overlook Sherri’s more exaggerated qualities, and Sprunger is a charmingly awkward love interest. Baker’s performance is honest and funny without going over-the-top, and Carapetyan is so heartbreakingly vulnerable it’s impossible not to root for Josephine.

Nice Girl is a quiet story, but a hearty and fulfilling one. Ross’ script is simple but powerful, and poignant in a world where women are still fighting a seemingly never-ending battle for autonomy. As a 37-year-old single woman myself (albeit one with a very different life from Josephine’s), it was refreshing to see someone of my age, gender and social status represented not as a stereotype or a joke, but a living, breathing person. Thoughtfully directed and performed, Nice Girl may not blow you away, but it will leave you satisfied and humbled.

Rating: ★★★½

Nice Girl continues through March 11th at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $43-$46 (seniors/teachers: $38-$41, military/students: $15), and are available by phone (773-338-2177) or online at (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

Lucy Carapetyan, Benjamin Sprunger and Lynne Baker star in Nice Girl at Raven Theatre

Photos by Michael Brosilow 




Lynne Baker (Francine), Lucy Carapetyan (Josephine), Stella Martin (Sherri), Benjamin Sprunger (Donnie)

Understudies: Devri Chism (Sherri), Mike Newquist (Donnie), Katherine Swan (Josephine), Anne Wrider (Francine)

behind the scenes

Lauren Shouse (director), Lauren Nigri (scenic design), Nöel Huntzinger (costume design), Becca Jeffords (lighting design), Eric Backus (sound design, original music), John Buranosky (properties design), Jason Martin (dialect specialist), Sydney Archer (scenic artist), Jordan Pokorney (assistant director), Wilhelm Peters (stage manager), Michael Brosilow (photos)

Lynne Baker and Lucy Carapetyan star as Francine and Josephine in Nice Girl at Raven Theatre


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Category: 2018 Reviews, Lauren Whalen, Raven Theatre

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