Cohesive set adds clarity to an otherwise jumbled script
the side project presents:
The Artist Needs a Wife
review by Ian Epstein
The side project’s production of The Artist Needs a Wife, by Jesse Weaver, tells the claustrophobic tale of Freud and Mott (played by John Ferrick and Chris Hainsworth). Freud and Mott are two older, similar looking, starving artist types. The duo lives in a decrepit hovel that doubles as a garden level apartment with walls so leaky, rusty, and paint-smeared that the canvas of Freud’s many-year masterpiece looks like a natural extension of the wall itself. His muse is a woman named Whore (Allison Cain). If she hadn’t dried up at the same pace as Freud’s inspiration to paint, the pair might’ve produced something like a de Kooning together. Instead, there’s a lot of struggling.
In fits and starts, Freud and Mott come and go, looking for a touch of Michelangelo’s genius at the bottom of a box of corn flakes or hidden among the pages of a Polish mail-order bride catalog. When they don’t find inspiration in these places, they make bold dramatic gestures: stabbing the empty box of cornflakes to the wall with a carving knife or tearing the apartment to pieces. And in a moment rife with dramatic possibility, one even orders the redheaded bride that the other was eyeing in the catalog. Suddenly the image in the catalog is flesh, and Whore has competition in the form of a sexy little redhead (Ann Sonneville) with a thick stutter.
All of this sounds great, but the script feels like a sprawling rough draft with too little knowledge of its many subjects to be either funny or serious. It reaches towards the kind of tension that builds up in the back and forth of a Pinter exchange supplemented with a healthy dose of the absurd – but it doesn’t grab hold of anything. There isn’t a particularly developed stage vocabulary for lack of inspiration so this prominent thematic thread is hard-pressed to hold an audience’s interest for what feels like an unending two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes. Whenever passage of time comes up, the actors dismiss it with affected lists — a trait that might work if the actual chronology of the characters were made legible anywhere (the walls, the plot, their intimacy). There are words misused without intending to be, confusion about Polish being written in Cyrillic (which it isn’t), and profanity that reads like a loud placeholder for what a truly ticked-off down-and-out artist might yell. All of this leaves the audience excusing too much of the playwright’s shorthand to enjoy the show.
William Anderson‘s set, with its moldy colors, its cramped, cockeyed amenities, and its fragmented ceiling tiles may be the only piece of this production that strikes a tone appropriate to the subject matter. It is especially admirable for its clarity, economy, and versatility.
FEATURING: Allison Cain, John Ferrick, Christopher Hainsworth, and Ann Sonneville
CREATIVE TEAM: Carolyn Klein (director) William Anderson (sets), Emily Duffin (props), Miles Polaski (sound), Greg Poljacik (fights), Seth Reinick (lights), and Mieka van der Ploeg (costumes)
Tickets: $18 General, $12 Industry (with H/R, business card or student ID)
Group discounts available
Grueling In storytelling, “The Exonerated” lacks dramatic structure
La Costa Theatre presents:
review by Paige Listerud
The vibe created by La Costa Theatre’s The Exonerated feels downright 60s-radical–whether it be in the relaying of 6 true cases of wrongly accused men and women from the late 60s and early 70s, or the soft, plaintive guitar performance in the darkened theater space before the show begins. The language used by the wrongly accused/proven innocent reflects the Boomer generation and their perspective on violent, endemic racism and homophobia. Their voices, as performed by cast, ring authentically but that same period element distances the storytelling from the audience.
It relinquishes this play to being a thing of the past, even though it was only just produced in the first years of this century; even though the gross gaps in our justice system still haven’t been rectified.
But more than an old hippy feeling compounds the challenge of revitalizing these stories and making their pain immediate. Unfortunately, The Exonerated, which stirred some of New York’s biggest stars to perform in it, which was made into a movie with Aidan Quinn and Susan Sarandon, and was presented to Gov. George Ryan as he pondered a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois, sorely lacks critical dramatic structure to make it an enduring work of theater.
Sonia Alexandria strives to keep the direction clean and simple; the minimalism of the barest of sets and strategically crafted lighting creates the right ascetic tone for the production. The effort to craft each story with the actors’ voices and bodies alone is the right move. The trouble is stories exposing some of the grossest injustices inherent in our legal system—stories which should raise hackles on the audience’s heads–get lost in a spliced-up jumble that contains no dramatic arc and raises no stakes. Impact gets lost just where one needs and wants and longs for impact.
Such a deep structural failing cannot be redeemed by the unaffected and earnest performances of a capable cast. That’s too bad, because some manage to achieve deeper resonance than just outrage at what has been done to them. Cliff Ingram’s Delbert Tibs and Theresa Ohanian’s earthy young hippy Sunny remain in the mind long after the lights come up.
For anyone who thinks law enforcement plays out just like the cop shows on TV, The Exonerated will act as an all-too–necessary antidote. For those long familiar with the arbitrary nature of our justice system and the tenuousness of everyday freedom, at the very best The Exonerated will come across as just another day in racist, classist, homophobic America.
Peter Robel shows grace & poise in this exquisite one-man show
Boho Theatre presents:
I Am My Own Wife
Review by Aggie Hewitt
Watching a one-man show is as terrifying as watching Philippe Petit walk on a high wire between the Twin Towers. At any moment he can come crashing down, flailing and unstoppable, leaving the audience with a bloody mess that they never asked for. When someone chooses that kind of undertaking, they make an oath to their audience. They say, “I promise not to fall. I promise you I can do this.” A one-man show is dangerous. Not in an artsy way, where it’s so provocative that it’s very existence is dangerous, it’s dangerous because it can be so embarrassing. The actor has nothing to hide behind. Even with a spectacularly written show, like Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife is, no amount of great writing is going to stop an actor from becoming Tobias Funke if he derails mid-performance. Sometimes people go to the theater for a grown-up version of a rollercoaster: with every rise and fall of the actors ability one can feel their body tense with the fear of witnessing something truly shameful. That doesn’t happen at Boho Theatre, where Peter Robel, playing all the 35+ characters makes it all the way across the high wire, with such grace and poise that you will forget to be scared at all.
I Am My Own Wife was originally created by Doug Wright, with developmental help from Moises Kaufman and the actor Jefferson Mays. It explores the life of German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf as she survived both the Nazi and Communist regimes, and Doug Wright’s obsession with her. The play has that lovely, sad bookishness of a Moises Kaufman play, and his presence is felt in the narrative. The scenes taken from real transcripts of interviews between Doug and Charlotte have a documentary feel to them, a feeling that is almost academic. It’s Doug Wright’s love of learning about Charlotte, and not his love of Charlotte herself that makes this play an intellectual treat. The more you learn about Charlotte, the more you want to fact check yourself, to learn everything possible about this enigmatic character. When the lights come up at the end of the second act, the only thing you know for sure about Charlotte is that you want to learn more about her. What better way for a biographical piece to end?
All of this great writing would fall flat however if it were not being presented by a great actor. With something as audacious as a one-man show, the last thing you’d expect an actor to do is to take back seat to the story, but that is exactly what Peter Robel does in this performance. During the course of what must be an exhausting show, Peter Robel never once stops to let you see him working. His acting textbook pure; it’s as if Uta Hagen came down from heaven and instructed him in great storytelling. Since I assume she didn’t, a lot of credit probably goes to co-directors Peter Marston Sullivan and Stephen M Genovese.
The play works so well because even though Peter Robel’s performance is as amazing as watching a marathon runner pushing himself past normal human capacity for endurance, each choice that is made ultimately serves the play. The reason that this one-man show isn’t embarrassing is that it’s a great story, told by smart people. Every mind that went into this production, from Doug Wright to John Zuiker, who designed lovely and elegant set was focused on telling a simply and well-crafted story. This is a production that proves that when integrity is in the intentions, wonderful theater can be achieved.
Over the Top and Into Your Panties
TUTA Theatre presents:
by Paige Listerud
You can keep Mother Courage or The Threepenny Opera—for me, right now nothing expresses Bertolt Brecht’s rage against the bourgeoisie like The Wedding, his early 70-minute lampoon of the middle class at play. But then, the folks at TUTA really know how to bring it. Their production onstage at Chopin Theatre’s downstairs studio is an almost ceaseless cascade of escalating inappropriateness. Like so many over-the-top family get-togethers, once drinking is in full swing, the loosing of social bounds leads to some pretty dark places.
It’s a show to return to again and again. Zeljko Djukic’s superb cast wrings high schadenfreude out of every moment of humiliation and disappointment. Meticulous is the word that could describe each ensemble member’s performance—the most minor reactions between them give both humor and weight to wedding party developments–only it’s too dry and sanitized a term to describe all that really goes on. No, satire evolves both naturally and perversely from both unspoken and exposed disillusionments with relationships, marriage, and family. More essentially, they know how to play people both bored and boring, utterly irritated with each other from start to finish, doing everything to break each awkward silence and reaching extremes to fill each oppressively meaningless minute.
For sheer outrageousness, Andy Hager takes the crown, mostly because his character’s voyeuristic craving for poon tang doesn’t know the meaning of discretion and, since Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan are nowhere in sight, he must do the best he can with women in present company. Add a down-low tango, mixed with a naughty little ditty about bangin’ girls and you’ve got the kind of depraved degenerate you’d like to pass the time with at the next stultifying wedding you must attend—if only you could keep him far away from your sister.
Djukic’s direction is a confident but invisible hand in the middle of all the mania, allowing mischief to blossom in the most unexpected corners while never allowing it to distract focus. And he knows how to coax the action back to its comic center once things have gone too far and Brechtian darkness beneath the levity shows its ugly head. Original music by Jesse Terrill contemporizes Brecht’s farce and provides the characteristic distancing necessary to comment on the action. A Greek chorus unto herself, aided by only scant few lines, the Bridegroom’s Mother (Laurie Larson) comments on the action by the force of baleful looks alone.
But an otherwise unstoppable production grinds to a clunking pace once Bride (Jennifer Byers) and Bridegroom (Trey Maclin) finally have been relieved of their obnoxious guests. If the dramatic choice is to show lack of chemistry between the newlyweds, it might be well to reconsider it. After all, passion is always a two-edged sword with Brecht. Love suffers from entropy as surely as any edifice and passionate hatred often emerges from the same messy, primordial, and unpredictable place as passionate love.
The Wedding runs January 14 – February 14, 2010, at Chopin Theatre Studio, 1543 W. Division, Chicago. For tickets call 847-217-0691 or go online to www.tutato.com
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
— Arthur Schopenhauer
I dwell in possibility…
— Emily Dickinson
There is nothing like a newborn baby to renew your spirit – and to buttress your resolve to make the world a better place.
— Virginia Kelley
Every day holds the possibility of a miracle.
— Elizabeth David
I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming… suddenly you find – at the age of 50, say – that a whole new life has opened before you.
— Agatha Christie
First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
Really listening and suspending one’s own judgment is necessary in order to understand other people on their own terms… This is a process that requires trust and builds trust.
— Mary Field Belenky
What helps luck is a habit of watching for opportunities, of having a patient, but restless mind, of sacrificing one’s ease or vanity, of uniting a love of detail to foresight, and of passing through hard times bravely and cheerfully.
— Charles Victor Cherbuliez
Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only for wallowing in.
— Katherine Mansfield
The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else.
— Martina Navratilova
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
— J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 1997
Tears may be dried up, but the heart – never.
— Marguerite de Valois
A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents.
— Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
when one is in a desperate need for a siesta because they become extremely tired in the afternoon and coffee isn’t cutting it any longer.
"working at panera sucked today after that wild night of drinking. i had the worst mid-day crisis ever."
Funny play on words used by successful management types. Can be combined with finger guns for the ultimate combo.
Supervisor: Hey Joe! Working hard or hardly working? Hahahaha.
“Master Harold”…and the Boys
The Alcyone Festival 2010 - Halcyon Theatre
The Castle - Oracle Theatre
Desperately Seeking - Chemically Imbalanced Theater
The Dames Storm Division - New Millenium Theatre
Glitter in the Gutter - Annoyance Theatre
Harper Regan - Steep Theatre
Hughie/Krapp’s Last Tape - Goodman Theatre
King of the Mountain - Chemically Imbalanced Theater
Phedra - New World Repertory Theatre
Real Bros of DuPage County - Gorilla Tango Theatre
Savage in Limbo - Village Players Performing Arts Center
Short Shakespeare! The Comedy of Errors - Chicago Shakespeare
WHACK! - Gorilla Tango Theatre
The Year of Magical Thinking - Court Theatre
The Capitol Steps - North Shore Center for the Performing Arts
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan - Dance Center of Columbia College
Give Us Monday - Gorilla Tango Theatre
Icarus - Lookingglass Theatre
Little Women - Circle Theatre
Mamma Mia! - Rosemont Theatre
Mark and Laura’s Couples Advice Christmas Special - Gorilla Tango Theatre
Openings/Closings list courtesy of League of Chicago Theatres
The voices of the future are here.
January 7-31, 2010
Fridays and Saturdays @ 8:00 p.m.
Sundays @ 3:00 p.m.
special first preview performance on Thursday, January 7 @ 8:00 p.m.
(All seats just $15 each)
review by Oliver Sava
The three works that comprise Pegasus Players‘ 24th Annual Young Playwrights Festival offer unique views on youth, mortality, and abuse, and were all written by high school students. Aided by professional writing mentors, the playwrights are given the opportunity to see their ideas take shape under the guidance of some of the city’s top directing, acting, and design talent. The results are positive across the board, but like any group of adolescents, maturity varies from script to script.
The Nowhere People
Gabriella Bonamici‘s heartbreaking drama about widower Ernie (Benjamin Sprunger) and his mission to communicate with his dead wife, Ann, is the highlight of the evening, expertly directed by Kimberly Senior, who has steadily created a career around her ability to capture grief on stage (see: Timeline Theatre’s All My Sons and Next Theatre’s The Overwhelming). Luckily, Ernie’s neighbor Danny (Alice Wedoff) has a ghost of her own, and she’s been building a ghost-machine to open a portal to the spirit world and send it back. Bonamici’s script moves with fluidity and ease, filled with humor while never losing the gravity of the loss of a loved one on the human spirit. The script also handles exposition beautifully, gradually revealing essential information about the characters as the dramatic tension builds, and each discovery adds a new layer to the conflict. As landlord Sid (Michael Gonring) becomes increasingly concerned with Danny’s mental health and the ghost-machine’s uncanny ability to knock out the building’s power, Ernie has to decide between his own life and the answers he so desperately seeks. Sprunger and Wedoff have great chemistry, bonding through their joint experiences of loss and their common goal of reaching into the afterlife, and both actors are fully committed to the slightly far-fetched circumstances. The actors shine because of the script, a subtle yet powerful examination of the ghosts that haunt us all, and the extraordinary measures people go to escape the past.
Trapped atop a roller coaster, Effie (Rinska Carrasco) and Milo (Gonring) discover the unexpected connections they share while learning a bit about themselves. Gixiang Lee‘s hilarious script balances high school dramedy with a hefty load of cultural references that actually serve to flesh out the characters rather than simply give the piece an air of relevance. Effie enthusiastically singing Salt N’ Pepa’s "Push It" as they are elevated to the top of the coaster while Milo clings for dear life, terrified at what awaits below. Total opposites, but you know what they say about opposites. Lee’s script isn’t realistic, the Effie and Milo’s relationship is almost completely based on coincidence, but it is her fearlessness with the comedy that makes the piece so memorable. Milo’s list of fears, ranging from heights to large rabbits to "the small but ever present threat of death from falling out of bed," is brilliant, and the T.P. Employee (Sprunger) that comes to their non-rescue is played with a ridiculousness that borders on caricature but works in the context of the play. The humor might not be the most sophisticated, but Lee creates sympathetic characters that are easy to root for, making Roller Coaster an excellent comedic piece with real heart.
deliver me from evil
In therapy after being hospitalized for attempted suicide, Magdelina (Wedoff) reveals a history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse inflicted by her mother (Gilmary Doyle) in Kat Blackburn‘s deliver me from evil.The strain of past trauma begins to weigh on Magdelina’s relationship with girlfriend Soda (Caren Blackmore), and she must confront her demons in order to salvage the only loving relationship she has ever known. Petra (Carrasco), Edward (Gonring), and Jenny (Mildred Marie Langford) represent the childish, masculine, and feminine aspects of Magdelina’s tortured psyche, giving form to the poetry in her journal. These sequences, combinations of interpretive movement with symbolic imagery, have varying degrees of success. One particularly chilling entry features the four teens cutting together, the act taking on a communal nature reminiscent of ritual sacrifice, but at times the poetic sections feel a little too much like they were ripped from a teenager’s journal – angstful , angry, and lacking in maturity. The actor’s do a fine job with the material, but deliver feels the most like a play written by a high school student of the three.
Thursday, January 21
Glitter in the Gutter
Enjoy a pre show reception with food and drink and then get your wig caps and stilettos on to visit Pepper LaRoo and Velveeta Fitzgerald, inseparable drag queen roommates that dream of hitting it big. Inspired by John Waters, "Designing Women" and Dionne Warwick, Glitter In The Gutter offers a fresh look at drag culture while paying R-E-S-P-E-C-T to it’s roots. The first ever live drag queen sitcom followed by a post-show dialogue with members of the cast and director.
Event begins at 7 p.m.
Show begins at 8 p.m.
TICKETS ONLY $15
For reservations please call 773-561-4664 and mention "Theater Thursdays."
Barrymore’s ghost walks through ‘I Hate Hamlet’
Big Noise Theatre Company presents:
I Hate Hamlet
Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes
Fluffy as cotton candy, Paul Rudnick‘s 1991 screwball comedy, I Hate Hamlet, numbers among those navel-gazing theatrical-themed plays that theater people always find enchanting. In this case, they’re right: Full of witty one-liners and ridiculous absurdities, this is a very silly, but very funny play.
Inspired when Rudnick lived in a New York apartment that had been home to famed actor John Barrymore (1882–1942), the comedy, currently in production by Big Noise Theatre in Des Plaines, follows up-and-coming TV-star Andrew Rally (the boyishly handsome Mark Mocarski), who moves to New York from L.A. when his hit medical series is cancelled. His elderly agent (Aimee Kennedy) has convinced him to give the stage a try, and although he remains ambivalent about both his desire and his ability to play the role, he’s been cast as Hamlet at Shakespeare in the Park.
Meanwhile, his real-estate broker, Felicia (Terre Virgilio), who sidelines as a medium, sells him the late Barrymore’s New York digs, with — you guessed it — the ghost of the stage and screen legend — dressed for his most famous role — in residence. Although the living Barrymore deserted the Shakespearean stage for Hollywood, his shade (Rob Nowak) is determined to turn the diffident Andrew into an accomplished Hamlet.
That’s not the absurd part.
Andrew’s ditzy, deeply romantic girlfriend, Deirdre (Julie Bayer), is thrilled that he’s playing the sweet Danish prince, giving him hope that she’ll end their long celibacy. A 29-year-old virgin, Deirdre’s been putting off the infatuated and importunate Andrew’s propositions and proposals for years, waiting to feel that the time and the man are perfect. On the other hand, Andrew’s pal Gary (Aaron G. Stash), a fast-talking, quintessential hyphenated Hollywood writer-director-producer, is trying to lure the actor back to L.A. with a high-paying contract for the pilot of a lame new sitcom.
If you can believe in a chastely monogamous TV actor who turns down lucrative roles, you might as well believe in ghosts.
As the ghost, Nowak brings the swashbuckling Barrymore to booming life. By far the strongest actor in this uneven production, Nowak all but carries the show, overcoming an awful wig, legs that cry out for padded tights and the faltering delivery of castmates. Bayer, suitably flaky as Deirdre, and Stash, expansive and frenetic as the big-talking Gary, also turn in respectable performances.
Director Craig Gustafson has not been able to coax fast-paced dialog from his cast, and poor timing often puts a drag on what ought to be glib exchanges, making some of Andrew’s self-criticisms ring painfully true. Still, with Nowak’s Barrymore and colorful touches such as Teresa Kerrigan‘s flamboyant costuming of Felicia, this good-hearted production captures the overall silliness of the script.
Hamming it up for the over 5 set!
Emerald City Theatre presents:
The True Story of the Three Pigs
By Katy Walsh
The media investigates a double ham-icide. Emerald City Theatre presents The True Story of the Three Pigs. The play starts where the three pigs fairytale ends. Two pigs are dead. The wolf is in jail. Random Adjective, a reporter, has been assigned to examine the evidence. The audience is invited to accompany her as greenhorn reporters. Her investigation leads to interviews with the surviving pig, Red Riding Hood, and the wolf. The True Story of the Three Pigs is an interactive play that teaches children that there are many sides to a story and to always cover your mouth when you sneeze.
Joe Goldammer uses distinctive voices to play multiple roles: a high pitch squeak for the surviving pig, garble growls for nana wolf, and portrays Red Riding Hood as a German research expert on wolves. Although entertaining for adults, Goldammer’s best comedic moments may be lost on the little ones. Samantha Nicodemus plays Random Adjective as a fast talking reporter from the 1940’s. Nicodemus does a great job of keeping the kids connected to what’s happening by reviewing the evidence after each interview. Matt Olson is the Big Bad Wolf or Alexander T. Wolf. In two of the crime reenactments, Olson is the stereotyped Big Bad Wolf. However, when Alexander T. Wolf gets to tell his version of the story, he is a vulnerable, misunderstood wolf with allergies. Ernie Nolan directs the action and keeps the cast animated with exaggerated gestures to elicit giggles.
It’s obvious upon entering the Apollo Theatre that Emerald City Theatre loves kids! They keep the 60-minute show interactive. Kids volunteer to come up on stage to verify huff puff results or model reporter moxie. After each interview, the audience members (i.e., greenhorn reporters) are invited to ask questions and assess the 5 W’s and 1 H (who, what, when, where, why and how). The repetitive nature of the reenactments help the younger audience members follow the story. Emerald City also adds to the children’s theatrical experience by providing coordinating gifts and games, pre-show pig-snout-making activity and post-show autographs with the cast. The kids even decide one of three endings. Applause determines what the newspaper headline will be. (for the opening performance the greenhorn reporters voted that the wolf was actually innocent)
The show promotes its target audience as 3-8 years old. Observing the children in the audience, a 5 years-or-over rating seems more realistic. Newspaper reporter, ham on a platter, German scientist – the story has some complicated elements to follow. Although the cast has colorful costumes (Ernie Nolan), the minimal scenery isn’t visually exciting. Unable to follow the story and without colorful stimulation, the pre-schoolers may become victim to the paparazzi. They don’t care about the truth! They want the three pigs fairytale.
- True Story of the 3 Little Pigs – Study Guide – helpful guide for classes
- View Season Calendar
- Fairy Tale Contest – Contest Details and Order Form
- TimeOut Chicago’s Ernie Nolan interview
Matt Olson as the Big Bad Wolf (aka Alexander T. Wolf) greets greenhorn reporters Max and Ruby after the performance.
Creative team includes: Nic Jones (lighting), Joe Court (sound), Jenny Pinson (props), Joshua Lansing (technical director) and Scott Deter (stage manager)