okay, sorta bad taste, but still funny….
YouTube video: Spoof of Hitler’s The Downfall.
Title is self explanatory.
The last speaker of an ancient language in India’s Andaman Islands has died at the age of about 85, say linguists.
The death of the woman, Boa Senior, was highly significant because one of the world’s oldest languages, Bo, had come to an end. Boa Sr remained the last Bo speaker for at least 30 years. Read entire story HERE.
If you find this fascinating, check out this article. Kind of sad really.
When I’m not doing something that comes deeply from me, I get bored. When I get bored I get distracted and when I get distracted, I become depressed. It’s a natural resistance, and it insures your integrity.
— Maria Irene Fornes
The best index to a person’s character is
(a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and
(b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.
— Abigail van Buren
Do not think of knocking out another person’s brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago.
— Horace Mann
I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty…This is my highest and best use as a human.
— Ben Stein, E! Online, 12-20-03
Treat your friends as you do your pictures, and place them in their best light.
— Jennie Jerome Churchill
Privacy and security are those things you give up when you show the world what makes you extraordinary.
— Margaret Cho, Margaret Cho’s Weblog, 07-05-04
Aim at the sun, and you may not reach it; but your arrow will fly far higher than if aimed at an object on a level with yourself.
— Joel Hawes
As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it.
— Mahatma Gandhi
Complaining is good for you as long as you’re not complaining to the person you’re complaining about.
— Lynn Johnston, For Better or For Worse, 11-06-03
Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
— Henry Van Dyke
….you are in control of your life. Don’t ever forget that. You are what you are because of the conscious and subconscious choices you have made.
— Barbara Hall, A Summons to New Orleans, 2000
Luck is the residue of design.
— Branch Rickey, Lecture title, 1950
Crib notes written on a public speaker’s hand in order to remind him or her what to say during a speech or interview.
One of the options for "Relationship Status" on Facebook. Refers to a couple in an ambiguous state between "friends" and "in a relationship". May also be used to indicate dissatisfaction with an existing relationship.
When you watch too much football on your LCD big-screen. Can apply to other sports or programming in which you sit, staring at it for hours. Known to have negative effects on you health.
Abagail’s Party – A Red Orchid Theatre
The Analytical Engine – Circle Theatre
Cocktails with Larry Miller – Paramount Theatre
The Gimmick – Pegasus Players
Katrina: The “K” Word – Loyola University Chicago Theatre
Kenny Rogers – Paramount Theatre
Love Song – Buffalo Theatre Ensemble
Monks in Trouble – Apollo Theater Studio
Mrs. Caliban – Lifeline Theatre
The Old Settler – Writers’ Theatre
Over the Tavern – Noble Fool Theatricals
The Ring Cycle – The Building Stage
Valentine’s Weekend Engagement – River North Chicago Dance Company
What Once We Felt – About Face Theatre
American Buffalo – Steppenwolf Theatre
The Artist Needs a Wife – the side project
Determination – Bruised Orange Theater
F.A.T. People – Gorilla Tango Theatre
Frindle – Griffin Theatre
The Glass Menagerie – Chicago Heights Drama Group
Keymaster/Gatekeeper – Gorilla Tango Theatre
Minna – Trap Door Theatre
Phedra – New World Repertory Theatre
The Wedding – TUTA Theatre
The Year of Magical Thinking – Court Theatre
special ticket offers
$20 tickets to Distracted at American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron Street. American Theater Company is offering $20 tickets to the following performances only: Thursday, February 11 at 8 p.m., Saturday, February 13 at 3 p.m. and Sunday, February 14 at 3 p.m. To purchase tickets, call (773) 409-4125 or visit www.atcweb.org and use the code "extras".
$10 tickets to Phedra by Jean Racine at Theatre Building Chicago,
1225 W Belmont. New World Repertory Theater is offering a limited number of discount tickets for their Thursday and Friday 8:30 p.m. performances through February 14. Call the box office at 773-327-5252 and use the code "EXTRA."
Print this email for $5 off one (1) regular priced admission for The Flaming Dames Mardi Gras themed revue, "Bourbon Street Burlesque" presented by New Millennium Theatre Company at The Spot, 4437 N. Broadway. Show runs Friday and Saturday nights through February 27 at 10:15 p.m. (NO PERFORMANCES FEB 12-13) and a special performance on Fat Tuesday, February 16 at 10:15 p.m. $5 dollar discount taken at box office in exchange for printed email blast. Call 312/458-9083 for reservations or visit www.nmtchicago.org for more information.
$15 tickets to Diamante Production’s world premiere of Lucid at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Diamante Productions is offering a limited number of discounted tickets for the Sunday, Feb. 14, 3 p.m. performance. The discount is available for these three performances only. This offer is only valid at the door.
Gift Theatre creates a real charm offensive
The Gift Theatre presents:
[a special dinner/theatre event]
by John Cariani
directed by Barlag, Belcuore, Blandford, Branham, Dibo, Gawlik, and Jones
featuring: Dan Aho, Burfete, DiNicola, Emmons, Jim Farruggio, Ed Flynn, Aemilia Scott, Justine Serino, and Kyle Zornes
through February 21st (more info)
review by Paige Listerud
Much about John Cariani’s play, Almost, Maine, mirrors Jules Feiffer’s 1977 play Hold Me! Both are collections of light, comical sketches regarding the uncertainties of the human heart. The essential difference between them is that the poignant neuroticism of Feiffer’s work grounds itself in the daily struggles of urban—okay, New York City—existence, while John Cariani situates his characters in the benignly rural and utterly imaginary location of Almost, Maine.
So, Fieffer’s characters fret, not only over their past or latest or lack of personal relationships, but also the political and social uneasiness of their times. By contrast, Cariani’s small town residents exist far, far, far away; not just from anything resembling everyday concerns—quite a thing to think about in a play emerging from 2004—but also reality itself. All the struggles of falling in and out of love dominate the minds of Almost’s inhabitants as if there were nothing else going on in the world. Moreover, the play steps further from reality in the literal use of sight gags based on our clichéd idioms about love.
All of which would be a treacly mess in less proficient hands. But Gift Theatre Company’s numerous directors and actors demonstrate a delicate, persistent care for the material, eliciting every critical ounce of human sympathy from the moment. The pain of abandonment or loss receives the wry and gentle touch called for by the text. Humor is almost born, not from the lines, but in the space between the lines as characters contend with what direction to go in the pursuit of romance. In the process, Capriani’s deeper wit about the precariousness of creating or preserving love shines through. It’s a magical place, Almost, Maine—but magical places can be as dangerous as the real ones. Almost is fraught with the possibility of losing one’s big chance at love, even when it is staring you in the face.
Since the play has such a short run—and only for benefit purposes–GTC hadn’t planned to have it reviewed. Too bad, they’re getting a good review anyway. At the very least, Almost, Maine is a real charm offensive, a solid showcase for cast and crew. Plus, if it’s perfectly timed to be “date theater” for the masses this Valentine’s Day, at least it’s a work about love that both is and is not about the happy ending.
A four course Northeastern Seafood Dinner For Two @
Production and dinner are only available as a coupled event:
Dinner For Two at Gale Street Inn + Tickets for Two to The Gift = $75.
A Value of $60 for Your Meal + A Value of $50 for Your Tickets = Sweet!
Tax, Tip, Beverage Not Included.
A Non-Seafood Substitute Menu Will Be Available Upon Request.
Sorry, No Refunds. Exchanges Subject to Seating Availability.
Please give yourselves plenty of time to savor and enjoy your meal before the show! Patrons also enjoy the freedom to park their car in Gale Street’s lot!
For Evening Performances:
Please plan on being seated at Gale Street by 6:00pm and no later than 6:30pm.
For Matinee Performances:
Dinner served after the show starting around 4:30pm.
Before the show, please plan on being seated by 1:00pm.
As a courtesy to you, the audience, and the actors, there is no late seating at The Gift.
How do you see yourself? How do others see you?
The Neo-Futurists present:
I AM A CAMERA
review by Ian Epstein
I AM A CAMERA appropriately begins with a slideshow. The audience waits while a projector cycles through images taken from an anonymous childhood. A slideshow in total darkness draws from the same atmospheric quality of being at a movie theater except that still images force the audience’s attention to examine each frame thoroughly. Within seconds, the audience begins to wonder if the children in these photographs and the person in that one are the same. Who are they? What should I be looking for?
The anonymity hardly matters as soon as the second image appears, since holding one photograph up to another inevitably invites comparison. The audience searches in the dark for clues that will shed some light on the relationship between what was there a moment ago and what is there now. The succession of faces and places begins to hint at a story.
Then the projector stops and the lights come up a bit and Neo-Futurist ensemble member Jeremy Sher – playing Neo-Futurist ensemble member Jeremy Sher — enters from behind a broad white curtain. A voice commands him to smile from some offstage, unseen, photographic location (the booth). As he does a song begins to play and it plays and plays and plays and then as it ends there’s the familiar electric blue of a camera flash and the smile fades as Jeremy melts into the darkness and disappears offstage. Enter Neo-Futurist ensemble member Caitlin Stainken (playing Neo-Futurist ensemble member Caitlin Stainken) – she repeats this process, a kind of unnerving endurance-performance mugshot. The repetition underscores the fact that the length of a song is a very long time to sit still and stare at someone forcing a smile. From its first moments, director Greg Allen toys with the tension between frozen images and breathing bodies.
As the play unfolds, I AM A CAMERA comes to life on a screen, on a stage, in front of a screen, behind a screen, in silhouette, in darkness, in a momentary flash, beyond a screen, back in the audience, in and out of the audience, with the audience on a screen, in photographs scattered across a table, in motion, in stillness, in any combination of these and, of course, here and there it bubbles out of the image world into words.
PERFORMANCES: Opening Night: Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 8:00 p.m. Performances continue through March 13, 2010: Thurs/Fri/Sat at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15, $10 for students/seniors with ID, or pay-what-you-can during previews and on Thursdays.
Limited seating, reservations highly recommended!! Go here to reserve tickets…
A no-frills sophisticated comedy
By Katy Walsh
Leonard wants to marry Grace as a way to finally break-up with Julia. Although this sounds like the plot of the next Hugh Grant romantic comedy, it’s not. ShawChicago presents The Philanderer, a play written by George Bernard Shaw in 1893. Unlike many contemporary movies, The Philanderer is a sophisticated comedy with many layers of humor. On one level, the love affairs are discussed with polite sensibilities. Whether it’s the prudish time period or British formality, love is an unemotional state. Another dimension of absurdity is the Ibsen Club. Most of Shaw’s characters are members of this new-age association requiring members to denounce being a “womanly woman” or “manly man” to generate true equality of the sexes. The club’s premise must have been shockingly hilarious at the turn of the century. Even in modern times, it’s still funny. Encouraged by the young men, women are smoking and drinking in the “old boys club” and it’s freaking their fathers out.
With the tradition of producing shows more like readings, ShawChicago stages The Philanderer without scenery, costumes or other design elements, thus relying heavily on the talents of its playwright and its cast to stimulate the audience. And this talented cast delivers, providing brilliant dialogue with British wit.
Lydia Berger is outstanding as Julia Craven. Berger scores the emotional character and plays it out to the maximum. Very much a “womanly woman”, Julia’s club membership is threatened by her tendency to resort to crying to manipulate men. Berger is hilarious in her struggle to be less womanly. Kevin Christopher Fox is the philanderer, Leonard Charteris. Fox amuses as the nonchalant playboy. Without any hint of self deprecation, Fox states he’s not gallant, handsome or well-dressed. In a very matter of fact manner, Fox takes no responsibility regarding why women keep falling in love with him. Making a smaller role memorable, Richard Marlatt has a ludicrous melt-down as the bumbling physician, Dr. Paramore. Even though the show is auditory, as Col. Craven, Skip Lundby looks very natural saying words like “vexed” and “confounded.” Despite the presence of the script, most of the cast have memorized their lines. On occasion, when an actor resorts to actually reading, there is stammering.
Throughout, ShawChicago showcases its namesake George Bernard Shaw with The Philanderer. Without the distraction of movement on a stark stage, Shaw’s words are the focus. With clever twists and entertaining banter, Shaw wittingly promotes his social agendas of the time period still relevant a century later: feminism, casual sex, animal testing, medical research, and vegetarianism.
CRAVEN: … How jolly it must be to be able to go to the theatre for nothing! I must ask him to get me a few tickets occasionally. But isn’t it ridiculous for a man to talk like that! I’m hanged if he doesn’t take what he sees on the stage quite seriously.
CHARTERIS: Of course: that’s why he’s a good critic. Besides, if you take people seriously off the stage, why shouldn’t you take them seriously on it, where they’re under some sort of decent restraint? *Act I: The Philanderer
Thursday, February 11
Come to the Athenaeum Theatre before the show to enjoy fine wine, exotic cheeses, and decadant desserts, catered by Fiorentino’s Cucina Italiana (featuring their notoriously rich "Cannoli Dream"). Then stay for the world premiere of Lucid, followed by a post-show discussion with the playwright, cast, and director. Lucid tells the story of Peter Moore, a discontented artist, saddled by the pressures of an unfulfilling relationship and a mercenary day job. Craving the freedom in his life that he lords over the canvass, he begins to experiment with the art of lucid dreaming, fulfilling his wildest fantasies with an imagined mistress. But soon his nightly trysts come to eclipse the demands of reality, and Peter discovers that he may have permanently blurred the line that separates dream from reality.
Event begins at 7 p.m.
Show begins at 8 p.m.
TICKETS ONLY $20
For reservations email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading "Theater Thursdays."
Race relations are a family affair
DCA Theatre and Jaz presents:
[white boy + black dad = grey areas]
review by Keith Ecker
There seems to be three ways that art tackles issues of race.
The first is with a naïve lens that diminishes our external differences and plays up the clichéd notion that we are all the same on the inside. These same works tend to give the contradictory message that everyone is special in their own way, which begs the question how can we be the same yet all be unique little snowflakes? These works tend to be trite or targeted toward children or both.
The second intellectualizes the concept of race, analyzing it in an effort to understand it. These are works that bring to mind sociological buzz terms and feel more like lectures than stories. In plays of this ilk, characters serve only as concepts, making the whole production about as interesting as a term paper come to life. What artists who construct these pieces fail to comprehend is that academia and intellectualism are useful to a point, but fall short of providing the critical insight that only comes with experience.
This brings up the third method—the experiential. In the realm of theatre, these are plays that do not have a sermon to deliver or a moral to preach. They aren’t arduous to sit through, and they don’t make you feel stupid by talking down to you. They are entertaining, digestible, full of substance and incredibly thought provoking.
Wiggerlover, a one-man auto-biographical show by James Anthony Zoccoli and playing at the Chicago DCA Studio Theater, embodies this third category.
The play is the story of Zoccoli’s childhood, specifically the year 1979, which for the young Zoccoli was indeed a seminal year. That’s when his white, Polish mother remarried Mr. Bell, a black man. With Zoccoli’s deadbeat Italian father out of the picture, the boy soon begins to call Mr. Bell dad, and in turn, Mr. Bell considers Zoccoli his son. Meanwhile, Zoccoli’s absentee father refers to his mother as a N-word lover, and, to his father’s dismay, Zoccoli proclaims he’s one too.
But life’s not easy when you’re white with a black father. Trying to develop a sense of identity is confusing, especially when the black kids you befriend forever treat you as an outsider.
Wiggerlover works because of its honesty. Zoccoli has looked deep within himself to understand his identity and has the writing chops to convey this journey in a refreshingly simple and genuine manner. He’s also funny, which saves the show from drifting into sappy Hallmark-card territory. In addition, there’s no ideology being forced down the audience’s throat. Zoccoli knows we’re too smart for that, even if race is a complex topic. It’s great to see someone who respects the intelligence of his audience enough not to hold our hands.
Zoccoli also really knows how to command the stage. He’s a tall lanky guy, which makes him fun to watch. Also, he’s not afraid to show off spastic dance moves or sport a goofy childlike grin. This helps undercut the seriousness of the material, making it much sweeter to swallow than if the story were told with somber sincerity.
The play incorporates video projections and a number of sound cues. All this multimedia is timed perfectly and works to full effect. The disco and early hip hop sound bytes transport you to another time and another place, while also giving Zoccoli an opportunity to shift gears and launch into another fascinating story about his childhood.
Wiggerlover deftly strikes a wonderful balance of hilarious-meets-poignant. Whether you grew up on the South Side of Chicago or the northern suburbs, you’ll find something about his story that rings true to you.
Presented by JAZ
Read more about the writer/performer at the Wiggerlover Blog
Running Time: 1 hour (no intermission)
The Cabinet’s surreal artistry returns
Redmoon Theater presents
Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes
The shadowy carnival showman Dr. Caligari, and his prime exhibit, the never-waking somnambulist Cesare, have been the stuff of nightmare ever since the 1919 premiere of Robert Wiene’s spooky silent film “Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari.” A highlight of the German Expressionist movement, the film contrasts light and shadow in eerie, tilted sets; heavy, exaggerated makeup and a spooky, suspenseful story line revolving around a series of mysterious murders.
Redmoon Theater‘s The Cabinet alters the story somewhat — here, Cesare becomes the narrator — but remains true to the original’s skewed, black-and-white imagery; sinister, melodramatic characters and surreal, dreamlike pace.
This production (inspired, a press release says, by a request from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel when Redmoon performed there last Halloween) is all but unchanged from the 2005 production.
Neil Verplank’s magical, 11-by-14-foot, wooden cabinet with its angular doors and drawers once again serves as a unique stage, setting off the rod puppets, shadow puppets and hand puppets beautifully designed for the first production by Lisa Barcy and Scott Pondrom. Clever pop-up books by Laura Miracle and Laura Annis also work into the show. Redmoon’s artistry remains impeccable.
Hissing and spitting, Cesare’s narration, a creepy voiceover by Colm O’Reilly (the only speaking role), seems to come from an old-fashioned gramophone (designed by Christopher Furman) jutting out from one of the doors, while the words of Dr. Caligari are conveyed through rear-projected supertitles at the cabinet’s top. Original music by Mark Messing, in the style of early 20th-century silent-film accompaniments, adds to the dark, uncanny mood.
Five ghoulish, grim-faced, androgynous puppeteers, fully made up, monocled and clad in black, white and shades of gray, slither through a variety of agile acrobatics onstage as they manipulate the more than 50 puppets through the cabinet’s 13 doors and drawers. Missi Davis, Sam Deutsch, Sarah Ely, Matt Rudy and Dustin Valenta contort themselves and pass puppets and props among themselves with clockwork precision.
The change of narrators does cut down the story’s suspense somewhat. Clearly, we’re supposed to sympathize with and fear for the unfortunate sleepwalker Cesare, the helpless tool of the evil doctor, caught in his endless nightmare — yet the mere fact that he’s telling the tale lets us know he comes out all right.
Haunting, and beautifully done, “The Cabinet” is no lightweight puppet show. Though whimsical in design, it feels ponderous and dirgelike — the hour-long piece seems to stretch much longer, as if the audience were caught in Cesare’s endless trance.
At 10:15 p.m. Saturdays, Feb. 27 and March 6, Redmoon will host “Boneshaker,” an evening of music with DJ Red Menace, “environmental performances” and an open bar. Admission is free to ticketholders for the 9 p.m. performances of “The Cabinet” on those nights, $5 otherwise.
Scenes from The Cabinet, 2005
The Polish Odd Couple
Moving Stories Theatre presents:
reviewed by Paige Listerud
Chicago audiences rarely get a chance to see the stimulating and provocative work of Polish playwright Slawomir Mrozek. For that reason alone, it’s worthwhile to high tail it to Moving Stories Theatre’s showing of The Emigrants at The Artistic Home. This is the first in a series of World Theater they will be presenting for the 2010 season and if their opening shot is any indication of future productions, we are all in for a real treat.
Written in 1974, The Emigrants reflects both the philosophical and the mundane dilemmas of émigrés from Eastern Block states living in the West. Commenting on his own immigrant experience in a letter, Mrozek wrote, “I never experience such a sharpening of [my] senses and thoughts as in an unfamiliar country, an unfamiliar city, among unfamiliar people, whose language preferably I do not know. [This offers] such intensification of life, of my whole existence.”
That state aptly describes Emigrant XX (Goran Milev, who also directs the productions), the prosaic prole who wants to make just enough money to own a house back in the old, totalitarian home country. Emigrant AA (Joe Mack), a Polish liberal intellectual succeeds him in education and abstract understanding, but hasn’t enough drive to get dressed and step out of the basement apartment they share. Without a dollar in his pocket, XX finds excitement going to the train station and standing among the people there, while AA stays on the subterranean level, imagining himself as an organism in the bowels of a great beast.
Together, XX and AA make up a pre-Perestroika Polish odd couple–getting on each other’s nerves over issues that are either petty, but significant to daily survival, or are deeply profound but, without traction, vanish into airy nothingness. Milev, in particular, strikes all the right notes portraying XX’s new emigrant awkwardness and anxiousness to be acceptable. Compounded by a capacity for taking concepts too far and reluctance in admitting when he doesn’t understand something, XX’s character drives most of the comedy of the piece.
Indeed, he seems to be its heart and soul, especially when AA determines to make him the center of his new work of political theory. Never mind that AA hasn’t completed any work, intellectual or otherwise, since he’s arrived—XX cannot leave until it is done. Here, the enlightened intellectual begins to reflect the control of the totalitarian state they have both left. But then, as XX astutely pointed out earlier, under totalitarianism the both of them were equal—in slavery. New rules and not-so-new divisions of class and privilege determine their value as human beings in the so-called free world.
It’s here where the production falls short in teasing out all the layers of darkness, paradox, and absurdity. But then, Mzorek packs more into an 80-minute one-act than most playwrights do into two hours. Mack’s interpretation of AA is especially casual—that, and no discernible accent, makes AA like a slightly more educated Dude from The Big Lebowski than a despondent Polish intellectual émigré. A certain lack of fire and intensity, particularly when holding forth dearly held political views, robs Mack of an edge to be realistically threatening once the story turns dark. Both actors do sustain the dynamic tension between them, however, long enough to suggest the pearl of madness at the bottom of AA’s soul–and the pearl of wit that dwells at the bottom of XX’s.
The Emigrant’s run will be short—only until February 21st. For those who crave more intellectual fare and seek a break from the cultural insularity of American life, this small, dense political drama may prove to be a walk on the wild side.
‘Distracted’ isn’t worth your attention
American Theatre Company presents:
review by Keith Ecker
I’ve been told by medical professionals that I have both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and general anxiety disorder (GAD), which is the exact same dual diagnosis given to the little boy in the play Distracted.
So you’d think that because I could identify with one of the play’s central figures, I’d probably be able to sympathize with its characters; maybe I’d be moved to think about the consequences of medicating children. Well, I can’t sympathize, and the only thing I was moved to do was leave the theater once the lights came up.
There’s a lot to be said about this American Theatre Company production. So much in fact that it’s hard to focus. But as my therapist reminds me, it’s best to break things down into smaller tasks.
Let’s start with something simple, like the space. It’s huge with an exposed concrete floor big enough to stage Xanadu. Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a large space. It just requires a lot of energy to fill it. Unfortunately, there’s little energy in this play. The mother (Donna Jay Fulks), who tries to “fix” her son’s AD/HD, has the emotional depth of a woman in an Activia commercial. When she should be banging her head against the steel beam that was obstructing my view of stage left, she instead grits her teeth, rolls her eyes and half-asses a mantra to calm herself down.
On a positive note, the use of 16 flat-screen televisions was a novel effect. Not only do the screens serve as figurative distractions—representing cell phones, cable news and instant messaging—they also create digital scenery. A doctor’s office, for example, comes to life when the screens flicker with images of impressionist paintings and a fish tank.
Next, the acting. I’ll start with the positive on this one. The supporting cast, many of whom play multiple roles, steals the show. As the protagonist boringly drifts from one professional to another, teetering on helplessness and frustrated but never quite getting there, the supporting cast infuses real emotion and vibrancy into the piece. Audrey Morgan, who plays the teacher, a doctor and a nurse, and Dina Facklis, who plays the obsessive-compulsive neighbor Vera, have impeccable commitment and comedic chops. When they speak, the play comes to life.
Unfortunately, most of the time the acting is dead on arrival. The mother and father (Kevin Rich) are an incredibly unconvincing couple, playing out the tension in the relationship with all the reality of a “very special episode” of a primetime sitcom. True, Fulks had a challenging part. The mother is the sun that the world of the play revolves around. But damn it, feel something! Maybe this is emblematic of Distracted’s suburbia setting, where people harbor a sort of overly reserved kind of existential anger at society that must be suppressed for fear of what the neighbors might think. But hey, we’re all human. And even a soccer mom is going to have a mental breakdown at some point. I’ve seen it happen, and it isn’t pretty. The best we get is a shoe-shopping spree and a small outburst where she confesses to the audience that she feels like her son is ruining her life.
The direction. PJ Paparelli, who is also the artistic director of ATC, makes Distracted move fast. A bedroom morphs into an office which morphs into a classroom. A teacher becomes a nurse, a doctor breaks out of character and everyone stops action to speak to the audience. The smash-cut scene changes work thanks to the coasters on all the set pieces. However, the character switches do not. Paparelli moves so fast that half the time the actors seem confused as to whom they are supposed to be, occasionally stumbling over their lines in an effort to catch up.
Finally, the writing. I’m amazed this play was first produced in 2007 because it feels like it was from the early 90s. I’m 28 years old. Childhood Ritalin prescriptions were commonplace, albeit controversial, when I was 8. This play treats the subject matter as untouched territory while failing to contribute anything to the decades-old dialogue. Worse still, the whole piece feels like a big lecture, a sort of morality play where the audience is talked down to the entire time. And because there aren’t really characters in this piece, just physical embodiments of different points of view, we never have the opportunity to care about anyone.
One last note: If you do find anything redeeming about this play, it will all be dashed by the miserable ending. Distracted just kind of peters out on an anticlimactic note, that note being a song by Eminem, a rapper no tweenage boy has listened to for nearly a decade. I don’t know if the use of Eminem was in the script or if it was a directorial move, but it reminded me of watching my mom try to prove how cool she still is by doing tequila shots.
A good supporting cast and some interesting stage elements can’t save this production. Sadly, the only thing you’ll be paying attention to while watching Distracted is your watch.
The surreal world of “Lucid”
Diamante Productions presents:
Review by K.D. Hopkins
The play Lucid is supposed to be about the mystery and excitement of what is called lucid dreaming. This is a somewhat controversial technique parlayed by New Age practitioners as a means to fulfill desires both conscious and subconscious. The playwright Tony Fiorentino has attempted to bring this to the audience in the form of a frustrated working drone named Peter Moore. He is a character descended from Roth and John Updike yet updated for our time and current American culture. Moore shares a cubicle and comic relief from the work day with Wally who seems to be an everyday guy but has a Mephistophelian bent with his fantasies and rants against the bosses of the world. Peter and Wally are graphic artists working in anonymity putting doodles and copy on items that end up in the dollar stores of Chicago or plastered on the windows of closed storefronts.
The play opens on the “L” as Wally is regaling Peter with how he stood up to the boss. The dialogue escalates until Wally claims to have taken an ax to the boss. He knows it is a lie but claims that it could happen in the world of lucid dreaming. Wally has taken the class for $300 and wants to share his newfound knowledge with Peter. That benevolence-really malevolence-sends Peter Moore into a descent where he is obsessed with non-reality. On the home front, Peter has what is the new American Dream set on its ear. His girlfriend is pregnant and has moved in taking up the extra bedroom where he once had an art studio. She is portrayed as obsessed with being a family and having Peter as a part of his child’s life. The minute Peter hits the door, he is faced with Becky doing Kegel exercises on the sofa and having ordered takeout to satisfy her eggplant craving. Their relationship is strained even though they each proclaim love and devotion. They all step through the looking glass when Peter gives his seat to a beautiful passenger on the “L”. Peter feels a connection and thinks that she is everything that Becky is not. She leaves her scarf on the train which becomes a fetish for Peter’s fantasies.
Peter is played by Daniel McEvilly. He fits the look of the character and does well especially in scenes with Becky, played by Laura Shatkus. Otherwise his performance came across as a bit too earnest. The artist has attention deficit rather than longings for freedom in his portrayal. This may be due to the writing more than the acting. There are elements of Surrealism and then Transcendentalism and then the Great American Discontent of post war America. They are all worthy subject matter and yet one cringes when Peter and his fantasy lover-Robin quote Thoreau. Mr. McEvilly does a fine job of projecting the rage of the working stiff who is meant for greater things. His scenes with Wally- played by Jake Szczepaniak are at times riveting. They have some great dialogue about art and real life. Sometimes McEvilly veered into preaching but he balanced well off of Mr. Szczepaniak.
The character of Wally is quite complex and well played by Mr. Szczepaniak. Wally is a world class BS artist that hides behind his bravado. He is a Mephistopheles leading Peter into a world that can solve all of his problems without any mention of the cost. When Peter goes too deep into the surreal world of lucid dreaming, Wally tries to take immoral liberties under the guise of being drunk and blacked out. This scene had the possibility of being smarmy but came across as menacing and unsettling.
Laura Shatkus’ portrayal of Becky is quite good. She has the task of taking on a role that’s written with a misogynistic bent. Pregnant women are usually portrayed as hysterical, needy, and insecure – always at the expense of a very put upon man. Peter goes so far as to count back the days when she got pregnant to claim that the child may not be his. He does not want any responsibility messing up his fantasy life. This is where the play veers dangerously close to melodrama, but Ms. Shatkus’ emotional range and subtlety keep things taut.
The character of Robin is played by Tracey Kaplan. She has a wonderful stage presence that also keeps the drama on course. She is equally charming as the woman on the “L” and the fantasy/muse of Peter’s dreams. The scenes between her and Mr. McEvilly are erotically charged and they play well off of each other. As mentioned before, some of the dialogue is a bit stilted and derivative but great chemistry between actors can be the saving grace. (Speaking of derivative-the homage to “Casablanca” made me chortle rather than feel any regret for the characters.) Robin always appears holding an apple as her symbol of temptation and the great fall of man. It was a bit too obvious and the actors had enough chemistry to not need a superfluous prop.
One would be remiss to not mention the brilliant scenic design by Robert Shoquist. The set is a Kafkaesque mix of cubicles representing the compartmentalization of Peter Moore’s life. It is accented expertly by props designer Lindsay Monahan. There is an assault of the hyper-colored junk that crowds our world including the sound of a Halloween skeleton singing “Just A Gigolo”. The office is a tight box as much as home is a suffocating trap lit beautifully in somber tones by Justin Wardell. The set is on a Lazy Susan mechanism that the actors move between scenes. The physical movement adds to the surrealist tone. One definition of Surrealism is ‘what is beneath the surface is what the mind’s eye sees’. We are taken beneath the surface of Peter Moore’s mind as well as the mechanisms of the drama and maybe the mind of the playwright. This was an enjoyable drama that will be of some interest to those who are into psychology and relationships in our times; that can be a surreal journey in real life.
NOTE: This play contains adult subject matter and sexual situations. Parents are advised.
“Lucid” plays on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM at the Athenaeum Theatre 2936 Southport. Tickets are available through Ticket Master at 800-982-2787 or at the Athenaeum box office.