By Eric Karas
The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham’s Magical, Miracle, Sure-Cure for All Female Weaknesses is a play with musical commentary and performances about supporting women’s health and the pitfalls of fame and notoriety.
This play starts out with some thumping music and performers acting out the disturbing situation of cold men handling women’s health issues. The show quickly morphs into the entire cast playing string instruments from banjos to fiddles and more. The tone shift lets you know you are in for a fun romp but about some real issues.
Based on a true story, Lydia Pinkham is a woman with a home remedy elixir she promotes for women’s health issues. When the Pinkhams’ have financial problems her sons work on promoting her cures which causes Lydia to become known nation wide. This has good and bad consequences which mirror our problems with social media notoriety today.
Jenilee Houghton wrote this play and stars as Lydia. She brings a real heart and soul to this woman who wants to help other women. When she confronts the dark side of fame she really lets you feel her sorrow. The cast is uniformly terrific as they play instruments, dance and inhabit the many characters. The female cast specifically have many different roles to play. Roisin Goebelbecker’s mad mugging is really entertaining as she jumps in and out of her characters.
The true standouts of this production have to be Tim Huggenberger and Sean Caron as Lydia’s sons. Huggenberger steals every moment he has on stage, whether he is doing little dances while distributing letters or interacting in comedy bits with the brother. Caron gets to play the straight man flawlessly with him. There is a whole pantomime scene on a train that is so funny and heartwarming that It is worth the price of admission alone. They really are terrific in this.
Director Chris Causer keeps this cast moving and finds a consistent flow with the material which has many different elements. Switching from live musical performances with instruments to comedy bits to drama and dancing. Everything is very cohesive and entertaining throughout.
Overall this production is what Chicago theatre is all about. A group of talented performers in a small space giving 110% to entertain an audience. They leave them laughing and thinking. Nothing better than a group giving their all to entertain and be dedicated to a piece of theatrical art. The elixir might just be some vegetables and some booze but if you believe in the magic then it’s there. Just like productions like this.
Moving Bench Theater presents “The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham’s Magical, Miracle, Sure-Cure for all Female Weaknesses” through November 24 at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N Lincoln Avenue, Chicago. Further information and tickets are available here.