Review: House Theatre’s “All The Fame Of Lofty Deeds”

| November 16, 2009

A banjo-picking, toe-tapping, tumbleweed-talking good time!

 

The House Theatre of Chicago presents:

All The Fame of Lofty Deeds

At the Chopin Theatre
Written by Mark Guarino
Based on and featuring the music and artwork of Jon Langford
Directed by Tommy Rapley
Thru December 20th (ticket info) 

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

lofty_deeds_poster Chugging whiskey, a forgotten country singer confesses his mistakes to a tumbleweed. The House Theatre of Chicago presents All The Fame of Lofty Deeds. The familiar cowboy skull and cross-guitars painting of Jon Langford is the basis for the character Lofty Deeds, an aging honkytonk singer. Playwright Mark Guarino utilizes the music and artwork of Bloodshot Records recording artist Jon Langford to create this play. As he faces his death, Lofty Deeds struggles with his past decisions. After trading love and family for life on the road under the exploitative pressures of record executives, Lofty is now haunted by the ghosts of musicians past.

Nathan Allen takes on the duality role of Lofty Deeds. He mixes the bitter drunk old man moments with flashback scenes of a naïve country singer at his happiest… on stage. The set design by Lee Keenan feels like a Jon Langford painting with its stark, gritty qualities. Where do has-been country singers go to die? A trailer in the desert, of course. Continuous reminders that this is a show about a man in a painting, director Tommy Rapley has actors don portraits to portray the ghosts of musicians past. On the stage within the stage, the live band adds to the upbeat tempo with memorable songs like “It’s Not Enough” and “The Death of Country Music.”

The story is dark; the forgotten celebrity drinking himself to death. The script is complicated; flashbacks with stories within stories. But like enjoying any country song, don’t get too caught up in the story or words. And appreciate art for art! Take pleasure in the music and the colorful images. What came first – the song or the picture? Langford created the character Lofty Deeds in his song “All The Fame of Lofty Deeds” and in his cowboy skull painting. Guarino took the song and wrote the play. The House Theatre took the play, painting and song have brought it to life on stage. The results, All The Fame of Lofty Deeds is a banjo-picking, toe-tapping, tumbleweed-talking good time.

 

Rating: ★★★

 

Decked out in his Jan Langford t-shirt, Rick summed up the experience as “death, redemption, regret.”

WAITING FOR THE SHOW

The Chopin Theatre is a block from the Blue Line’s Division stop. Never knowing how the CTA is flowing especially at rush hour, I arrive in Wicker Park with time to kill. Wicker Park is the perfect backdrop to see a play about a skull cowboy singer. It’s edgy. It’s arty. And it’s dark… literally dark! I stumble down a dimly lit street to the inviting glow of Lovely (1130 N. Milwaukee). Friends have gushed about this bakeshop. It has an arty bohemian vibe with clusters of interesting characters on laptops or in lively conversations. I’m waited on by the friendly owner, Brooke. She lets me know Thursday is ½ price cookie day. Being a firm supporter of the crusade to have dessert become a first course, I enjoy my cranberry almond cookie with a decaf Americano. What can I say? LOVELY!

I meet up with Rick in front of the Chopin to pick a dinner locale. We decide on sushi. In my short walk around Wicker, I’ve already past several sushi restaurants. We decide on the Blu Coral (1265 N. Milwaukee). The BC is expansive, contemporary and empty. Another Thursday bonus, bottles of wine are $10 off. We settle in with a Malbec and three maki rolls. One of my favorite things about the BC is the bathrooms. A twist on unisex style, a long line of sinks is shared space. Sink to sink hand washing could be the new foreplay on a date. Or better still, ensure the guy you’ve been checking out is indeed a hand washer.

After the show, we head next door to Evil Olive (1551 W. Division). Like the Blu Coral, it’s empty. I’ve only been to EO once and it was packed. EO hosts Atomic Sketch, which features artists creating and selling art, on the last Thursday of the month. Atomic Sketch is a great opportunity to support local artists. After watching Lofty chugging whiskey, I’m tempted by EO’s signature Templeton Rye. But we’ve done the Deeds and it’s time to go home.

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Category: 2009 Reviews, Chopin Theatre, House Theatre, Katy Walsh, World Premier

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