Northside/southside, Sun Partners, Inc., at the Theatre Building. This revival of Kathleen and Robert Lombardo’s play-within-a-play musical exploration of two women from very different parts of Chicago does little more than provide a bit of entertainment and tell a superficial story. We first meet Kimberly and Janet backstage preparing for a cabaret show. Then the structure of Northside/Southside shifts as the ladies transform into their stage personas, Mosetta and Allison, and perform a show in which they battle/defend/explore their different backgrounds through song. Not understanding each other’s differences produces rage, pride, and envy, strong emotions that could explode into great dramatic tension, even catharsis.
But not in this musical. Kathleen Lombardo’s book and lyrics rely on generalities rather than specifics to create the characters, especially Allison. As played by Amber J. Lawson, she has the annoying ditziness of the young Sally Struthers, while Patricia Mosley’s Mosetta stays on one level–superconfidence–through the entire show. Sometimes I thought the chasm they were trying to cross was the fact that one woman has brains and soul while the other is unrelentingly stupid. Both on- and offstage the women play at being tense, but the book lacks the risk of real confrontation. If the dueling ladies had had it out in the first act rather than in the show’s last beat, Northside/Southside could have been much more than a few semimemorable songs and actually made a statement about class, race, or both.
–Gabrielle S. Kaplan