Playwright: book and lyrics by Gillian Bellinger, music by Chuck Malone. At: Fireworx Productions at the Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln Phone: 773-404-7336; $15. Runs through: May 22
No, it's not a cautionary science-fiction tale of DNA experiments leading to a band of marauding mountain felines, nor is it a toothpasty fable featuring teenagers cheering their school team to victory. A "cougar," in the parlance of 2010, is a woman of mature years who chases after men considerably younger than shethe female equivalent to "old goats" or the World War Two-era "wolves" ( though nobody has, as yet, invented a "cougar whistle" ) .
Our title characters are Southern belle Bette, Latina Lana and steely Kate, three horny single over-50 chicks on the prowl for partners willing to overlook their gray hair, sun-belt attire and familiarity with senior-citizen discounts. This presents no problem for Kate, who shamelessly addresses an unwary bartender as "meat." But Bette's fancies are inclined toward a handsome stranger of mysterious means, to the dismay of her grown daughter and the resentment of her ex-husband ( in spite of the comfort offered the latter by the oracular Lana ) . Their antipathy is well founded, for Bette's swain harbors sinister motives and it's up to her comrades to rescue her from his predatory advances.
Folded into this 90-minute romp are a score of irreverent ditties reflecting the take-no-prisoners universe conceived by Gillian Bellinger and Chuck Malone. For every hymn to misogyny like the gold-digging Michael's "One More Score," we get such empowering hand-jive anthems as the jubilant "Ain't Fucking Grand" ( "The G-spot stands for 'granny'" ) ; bittersweet ballads like "Replaceable" and "I Came Home to You;" and a dripping-with-testosterone geezer-stripling duet entitled "Dick To Dick."
"I can't wait to be offended!" caroled a cougar-bait playgoer before the show. Despite gynocentric humor to make wincy-mincers squirm, Cougars! is, at heart, a romantic comedy finishing with Jacks and Jills paired on surprisingly conventional lines and blissfully affirming "When you have friends, you don't need Life Alert!." The actors are uniformly young, their "age" makeup evoking memories of high school drama clubs, andsorry, all you Harold and Maude fansthe only AARP card-carriers in the house on opening night were the press. But considered as a late-night stop on a pub crawl through the DePaul district, Cougars! constitutes good, clean, bawdy fun for all ( upper-end ) ages.