Schoolgirl Figure, Goodman Theatre. If Wendy MacLeod’s past work–she wrote the incest-themed House of Yes–doesn’t give an immediate indication of her take-no-prisoners approach, the first few minutes of her latest script will. In the opening scene four high school girls have been standing in line for the bathroom so long that one begins to grumble. “It’s the after-lunch rush hour,” her friend deadpans, referring to the daily binging-and-purging ritual that goes on among girls at their school.
“Black comedy” doesn’t begin to describe what MacLeod is aiming for here; her characters lick phone receivers and door handles in the hope of contracting stomach flu and obsess about their intake of “airborne calories” from food smells. In MacLeod’s fractured portrait of our image-conscious society, eating disorders are as American as apple pie–one of the many treats the narcissistic compulsives in this play won’t touch for fear of losing their Barbie-doll size 4 waists.
David Petrarca’s cast–particularly Courtney Shaughnessey as the failed bulimic Patty and Second City vet Stephnie Weir in a variety of supporting roles–are exceptional, but Todd Rosenthal’s set design trumps everything else in this production. He distills MacLeod’s script to its absolute essence, transforming a hospital stretcher into a buffet table and placing a disembodied Ronald McDonald head over the stage to cast disapproving glances at the characters. Occasionally Schoolgirl Figure flies too far over the top, but Rosenthal keeps things on an even keel with his stunning visual metaphors.