REVIEW: Return to Haifa (Next Theatre)

Accomplished design team elevates poignant story

 

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Evanston’s Next Theatre presents:

Return to Haifa

by M.E.H. Lewis
directed by
Jason Southerland
through March 7th (more info)

review by Aggie Hewitt

Return to Haifa is a smart and moving new play that follows two couples, one Jewish and one Palestinian during the ugly formation of the Jewish state. M.E.H. Lewis, a Chicago playwright, has created a nicely structured play, balancing the two couples against each other in a simple and effective way. She is credited in director’s note as being “famous as a playwright who does research worthy of a PhD dissertation,” and that is evident in her work – though, at times, it feels too academic.

ReturnToHaifa21 The Jewish & Palestinian husbands (nicely played by Daniel Cantor & Anish Jethmalani , respectively) are named Jacob & Ishmail for the estranged decedents of Abram who fathered Judaism and Islam. Playwright Lewis does not allow Ishmail a single scene in the first act where he does not mention a goat: “He will be so strong he will be able to kick a goat over the ocean” or “He can’t even milk a goat without knocking the bucket over three times.” Do you get it? Palestinians used a lot of goats in the 1940’s. This kind of writing can feel a little bit cold, especially during the first act, where large chunks feel like historical exposition. By the second act, however, all of this research comes together; creating a tension and frustration in the dialogue that would not be possible without the sometimes-alienating moments in Act One.

It’s the production’s women that make the play: Diana Simonzadeh as Safiyeh does some of the best on stage aging I have ever seen, both physically and emotionally. She goes from a playful, happy young mother to a wise, angry, regretful old woman without ever losing a bit of integrity or honesty. Her counter part, Saren Nofs-Snyder, gives a truly heartbreaking performance as Sarah, the holocaust survivor.

The over-arching themes of Return to Haifa deal with one’s possessions and where you call home. The house that these women both call home at different points of the play is always the most prominent thing on stage, and it’s well designed by Tom Burich. The walls are made of gauzy scrim, giving the inside of the house a nostalgic, dream-like and unattainable feel.

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Whenever Jared Moore is involved in lighting design, he seemingly becomes one of the play’s leading roles, as he comments on and advances the story on stage. He is so intuitive and artful about his work. The house is lit mostly in warm ambers, making it look inviting and safe, until it isn’t, and the stage becomes washed out with a nauseous grey blue that actually looks like death.

Return to Haifa is a good show, and a good choice for Next Theatre, whose shows often tend to be more traditional. Return to Haifa is not a challenging play, even though the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a challenging topic. It examines horrible things without any true horror. The result is a nice and moving drama, which focuses more on the emotional than the political.

Rating: ★★★

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View (2010-02) Return to Haifa - Next Theatre
February 15, 2010 | 0 Comments More

SNS: Elaine Stritch sings The Little Things You Do Together

Sunday Night Sondheim: “The Little Things You Do Together

In the recording studio with Stephen Sondheim, recording the cast album for “Company”.  In the recording you’ll see a much younger Sondheim.  One question for Sondheim fans, who is the guy that gives instructions before the recording begins? Is this the book writer of Company?

Elaine Stritch sings "The Little Things You Do Together" from the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company in 1970.

 

A few YouTube comments of note:

1. i love how elaine just commands the room and listens to the other actors as well.

2. Elaine is just being Elaine. She always has to be the center of attention, even now she still doubts her own talents, I would guess. Only proves no one ever gets to be the person they always wanted to be, even when everyone says they’re the best.

       2a. bold statement, do you know Elaine personally i wonder?

       2b. Well said.

3. I don’t think I would be that upset if 70’s styles came back in fashion.

4. Is that Barbara Barrie in the sunglasses?? She’s great!

5. If you look closely you will see Beth Howland singing who played Vera on Alice

        

February 14, 2010 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Fathers and Sons (eta Creative Arts)

A mixed bag at eta’s "Fathers and Sons"

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eta Creative Arts presents:

Fathers and Sons

by Michael Bradford
directed by
Kemati J. Porter
through April 4th (ticket info)

review by K.D. Hopkins

The eta Creative Arts Foundation production of Fathers and Sons takes many directions right out of the gate. The dramaturgy describes the play as ‘a portrait of men moving from dysfunction to wholeness’ and as specific to the African American experience. Unfortunately there was such an attempt to express this in the production that the characters remained more outlines than clearly defined and one of the main characters is more of a ghostly caricature as a result.

fathers-sons The play opens in a well-appointed living room with a telephone ringing though not being answered. The ghost of patriarch Bernard Goodwater (ably played by George Stalling) appears with his gleaming trumpet playing “Salt Peanuts” by Dizzy Gillespie. Mr. Stalling is a veteran of the Chicago theatre scene that I saw back in his Loyola drama school days when I was a student at Mundelein. He still has the same passionate delivery, but more matured and defined. The character as a ghost is written in one dimension by default. Bernard barely breaks the mold of a musician with itching heels and a dismissive attitude towards women. And every time Bernard’s character appears there is a blaring trumpet inserted, signifying the ruminative and destructive history handed down to his son. Stalling plays him with a Cab Calloway flair that gets as grating as the blaring trumpet.

The action moves jarringly to present day when Marcus Goodwater comes home to his wife Yvette, relaying the horrific news that their daughter went missing when Marcus looked away for one minute. Mark H. Howard and Olivia Charles play Marcus and Yvette Goodwater respectively. Their tragedy is another plot line that drives this drama. Tragedy is never simple and when family gets in the mix, the underlying cause usually bubbles to the surface.

Part of the cause is Marcus’ father Leon played by Dale Benton. He comes to town after getting a call from his mother regarding the horrific event. Marcus is suspect of Leon’s motives for coming and greets him with a sneer and a bag of drugs. Leon has a drug problem in addition to diabetes-‘the sugar’- and Marcus has suffered it all before. Dale Benton is definitely the most nuanced actor in this cast. His suffering is palpable at not being welcomed by his son and haunted by the specter of Bernard’s apparition mocking him. He embodies the ignored son with a chip on his shoulder and the resulting monkey on his back.

eta-logo Although the entire cast is talented and has great potential, the problems with Fathers and Sons is its lack of focus. Is this a drama about the war between men or the war in Iraq? Is it about family tragedy revisiting itself with a missing child being the pre-emptive strike against Marcus? The playwright, Michael Bradford, claims that the jazz rhythms of the bebop era are how the stories in the play relate to each other. That would make more sense dramatically if this were in the style of theatre of the absurd or expressionism. The characters are too broadly drawn for either style to gel. Bebop was a wildly improvisational style of music-unpredictable yet linear with a distinct motif. The structure for that is in the writing. According to the president of eta Creative Arts Foundation – Abena Joan Brown – this is a work in progress that will change and as it goes on the audience should see a different play every time they come to see it.

This being said, there is incredible potential in Fathers and Sons and the play should have been worked out more before the premiere or marketed as a work in progress.

Surrounding this production, there is much made regarding the fact that the play is directed by a woman, which is understandable considering the nature of the male character’s attitudes toward women. The characters of Bernard and Leon are stuck in the old fashioned mold of victim when it comes to women. Women are sex sirens who will take your money and cut you to the quick. They are helpless and think that their only salvation is to abandon their families for music, drugs, drink, and more sex. Even the modern day character of Yvette is drawn as the irresistible sex goddess who demands to get married in a dominatrix costume while exploiting Marcus’ foot fetish.

Kemati J. Porter does well with the direction but would serve the drama better by taking a scissors to a good half-hour of superfluous material; introduce the ‘Salt Peanuts’ motif a couple of times and then leave it in Leon’s head for the actor to portray. Mr. Stalling and Mr. Benton have the acting chops for that kind of subtlety.

The play’s set is beautifully dressed and creative with the window structure, though these same structures block some sight lines and could be solved with some simple adjustments.

eta-logo2 eta Creative Arts has been a fixture on the South Side for 39 years. Eta brings invaluable arts education and performances to what otherwise would be ignored by the theatre community. President Abena Joan Brown came out at the end of the play and asked that the audience be truthful and kind in their evaluation and to spread the word. I recommend Fathers and Sons with some reservations. It is my hope that this work will become better defined and further empowers the great artistic and community work of eta Creative Arts Foundation.

 

Rating★★½

 

Fathers and Sons runs Thursday, February 11th through Sunday April 4th 2010. The eta Creative Arts Foundation is located at 7558 S. South Chicago Avenue. Call 773-752-3955 for ticket information. Valet Parking is available. Metra and CTA availability is limited.

NOTE: Check out the fabulous art exhibit during intermission from the JP Martin Group Collection. There are some stunning prints available of which the sales help support the theatre.

February 14, 2010 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Flaming Dames Bourbon Street Burlesque

Let the good times roll!

BSB3_Photo by Leslie Kerrigan

New Millennium Theatre presents:

The Flaming Dames in Bourbon Street Burlesque

through 27th at The Spot, 4427 N. Broadway (more info)

review by K.D. Hopkins

 

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

That means “let the good times roll”, and they were rolling in Uptown on a cold Saturday night. The Spot on Broadway was the place to be and The Flaming Dames in Bourbon Street Burlesque was a bawdy good time. This was burlesque in more of a variety show genre than some of the other revues making the rounds. That is the old BSB1_Photo by Leslie KerriganNew Orleans tradition that is a delicate balance of naughty dancing and what used to be called blue comedy.

The Spot is a labyrinth of rooms and yet wide open which is reminiscent of a New Orleans dance hall such as the gone and lamented Tipitina’s. It was the perfect setting as we settled in with a couple of Voodoo cocktails. The pineapple and mystery liquor worked its magic as the emcee Remy the Gator LaRue took the stage. LaRue was a host in the Harry Anderson tradition wearing the fedora and a sly smile. I was a bit disappointed that he was not more a part of the show with some slight of hand and rim shot punctuated one-liners. He introduced the very able show musicians Bangin’ Bobby Bayou and the Missionary Position Band and then the “Flaming Dames”.

The ladies had appropriately kitschy names that brought howls and whistles from the audience. Lady Laveau, Victoria Voodoo, Zoe Zydeco, Bourbon Street Betty, and Cajun Spice were a lovely group of talented dancer and singers, replete with chorus girl style dances that ended mostly clothed with a tease of pasties.

One of the hallmarks of burlesque is individual talent such as fan dancing, contortion, spinning tassels and such – it’s disappointing that this doesn’t take place in this show, as it could have showcased the ladies better). This is a group revue that could have give more individual justice to the dancers, though still a vivacious and beautiful group who definitely are having a great time clicking (among other things) with the audience.

The comic relief is in the ample form of the hostess Queen Bee and host King of Mardi Gras. Queen Bee is straight out of “Wigstock” with the huge hair and enormous assets. The King of Mardi Gras should be the comic foil to Queen Bee, and If he would play it as the head of a New Orleans Mardi Gras crew, it might come off a bit funnier. Instead, the King acts more like a frat boy wandering the Quarter after a thermos of Hurricanes in his underwear.

BSB2_Photo by Leslie Kerrigan

The banter between King and the Dames starts off like a fight on a trashy daytime show. In fact, one of the audience members started chanting “Jerry! Jerry!” As the show continues, however, they manage to salvage the comedy.  But a honing of comic skills would be in order. The best vaudeville and burlesque comics master the art of the double-entendre and deliver adult humor with a knowing wink instead of gratuitous f-bombs. But one must surmise that the low-brow trivia questions with the audience members was overall a success the night I went by the fact that a spectator took off his shirt. The colorful beads were flying and he got as many appreciative screams as the dancers.

The show features a great recorded soundtrack that’s full of the kind of slinky and suggestive music that one might hear emanating from bars in the Big Easy. The show is about 45 minutes long – a perfect amount of time to down a couple of Voodoos as the show reaches completion.

The Flaming Dames in Bourbon Street Burlesque is a fun and rowdy way to warm up a winter night. You’ll no doubt feel impervious to the wind slicing down Broadway when walking to the train, considering you experienced a winning combo of great dancing and music. And the Voodoo cocktails hit the spot. What are in those things anyway?! Enjoy responsibly.

Rating: ★★½

BSB5__Photo by Leslie Kerrigan ASIDE: Personally, I had a great time and came home with a few beads around my neck. No, I did not flash my goodies – I answered a trivia question correctly and thus more decorations for the Christmas tree this year.

The Flaming Dames in Bourbon Street Burlesque” plays Friday and Saturday nights through February 27th at 10:15 pm. There are no shows on the 12th or 13th but there will be special Mardi Gras shows on Tuesday, February 16th. The Spot is located at 4437 N. Broadway near the Wilson Red Line or 36 Broadway bus. Either route is vaudeville warm up on weekend nights. Have fun!

February 13, 2010 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Breakfast Club – the 80s Musical (iO Theater)

Late-night musical re-enacts iconic Hughes film

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iO Theater, Wrigleyville, presents

Breakfast Club: the Totally ’80s Musical

Adapted and Directed by Jason R. Chin
Through March 25 (ticket info)

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

Driving down to see iO Theater’s late-night Breakfast Club: the Totally ’80s Musical, I tried to recall the salient features of that distant decade. Other than my own wedding and all the social, political and international goings-on summed up in the name Ronald Reagan, I couldn’t think of much. It was a fairly colorless era.

bc10 However, this show isn’t a paean to the totality of the 1980s, but only a tiny portion of it: John Hughes’ 1985 teen-angst cult film "The Breakfast Club." Set in Shermer High School, a fictional version of Hughes’ Northbrook alma mater, Glenbrook North, the show mixes dialog from the movie with nearly a dozen 1970s and ’80s songs performed by the cast in choreographed routines.

The film’s success lies in its combining the archetypes of high school: The Brain. The Jock. The Princess. The Basketcase. The Rebel. Whether you wore your hair shoulder length or in a mullet, dressed in tie-dye or bubble skirts, you knew them. This homage brings them back to life.

With Mark Lowe as Mr. Vernon; Tim Dunn as Brian Johnson, the Brain; Brian Finlay as Andy Clark, the Jock; Jessica Joy as Claire Standish, the Princess; Mary Cait Walthall as Allison Reynolds, the Basketcase; and Jeremiah Howe as John Bender, the Rebel; the cast re-enacts the Saturday when the five teens were unexpectedly stuck together for a day-long detention, punctuated by song and dance numbers set to the likes of Billy Idol’s "Rebel Yell" and Michael Jackson’s "Beat It."

Although this kind of like a live-action version of a video on YouTube (where you can see a dozen such re-enactments created by actual high-school students, mixed in with homemade music videos featuring "The Breakfast Club" movie clips), the iO cast has undeniable talent. In some cases, I thought their characterizations were better than the originals — and good voices. Musical Director Seth Tucker and Michele Tucker ably accompany on guitar, drums and keyboards.

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Erica Reid and Jeff Gandy‘s jerky, self-conscious choreography imparts a good deal of the humor, coupled with the actors’ largely deadpan re-creations of the characters.

Productions like this one are a reason I have trouble with rating systems. Lightweight and silly as it is, "Breakfast Club" is a sweet show, and if I were to rate it strictly on its own terms — just on what it’s trying to be — I’d give it four stars. But when I look at what four-star plays like "Awake and Sing" or "Out of Order" have invested in sets and costumes and playwrights, or the polish that troupes such as The Second City give to their carefully scripted works, it seems excessive to give the same rating to a quirky, bare-bones, late-night re-staging of a movie. So, while I hate to encourage all of those folks who don’t bother to read the reviews but just look at stars, I’m going to come down some for context’s sake.

However, if you remember the 1980s, or at least "The Breakfast Club," this musical might be just your thing.

 

Rating: ★★½

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Notes: Performances are at 10:30 p.m. Thursdays only. The second-floor theater has no wheelchair access. Paid parking is available in nearby lots.

 

 

 

 

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February 13, 2010 | 2 Comments More

REVIEW: Wilson Wants It All (House Theatre of Chicago)

A smart show about an unlikely future

 

Ruth as Hope 1st Speech sharper

The House Theatre of Chicago presents

Wilson Wants It All

By Michael Rohd and Phillip C. Klapperich
Conceived and directed by Michael Rohd
At the
Chopin Theatre, West Town Through March 27 (more info)

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

"The hard times, the drought…. A shortage so awful that private toilets eventually became unthinkable. A premise so absurd…”

Whoops! Wrong show. That’s from Urinetown, a smart, snappy musical comedy about a dystopian, near-future Hope and Mer w. Wilson on screenAmerica so plagued by overpopulation, water shortages and political upheaval that the government has banned private plumbing. Whereas in the play we’re supposed to be talking about, House Theatre’s Wilson Wants It All — a smart, snappy drama about a dystopian, near-future America plagued by overpopulation, water shortages and political upheaval — the government is working toward a ban on private procreation.

While a musical can get away with an absurd premise, when a drama predicts the near future, it needs basis in present-day facts. U.S. population growth, according to the Census Bureau, is "projected to decrease during the next six decades by about 50 percent." So you can’t credibly blame America’s economic woes on overpopulation, let alone create a crisis so severe that it could lead within 30 years to government-mandated birth control.

This might have been explained away — as, say, the result of a deliberate misinformation campaign, overpopulation as the weapons of mass destruction of 2040 — but it wasn’t. At the outset, then, suspension of disbelief suffers a blow, and the plot continues to batter at it until it unravels fully at play’s end.

Outside of the storyline, though, "Wilson" is a very fine piece of staged science fiction. The grim future world that Michael Rohd, artistic director of the Sojourn Theatre in Portland, Ore., sets out as director so trumps the plot he and The House’s Phillip C. Klapperich have conceived as playwrights that we spend most of Act I delighting in the set, properties and staging.

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The audience comes in to a clean bare set arranged with six floor-to-ceiling white screens. Both live-action and recorded video intersperse with the staged scenes in fluid and imaginative ways, such as a horrifying interactive billboard that analyzes and reacts to individual consumers. These aren’t new concepts — authors like Frederik Pohl and Harry Harrison wrote about them in the 1960s — yet with many clever details Collette Pollard, the scenic designer, and Lucas Merino, the video designer, ingeniously extrapolate from contemporary devices to show us their terrifying technological future.

We also see some skilled performances. As a kind of Greek chorus of vapid media commentators, Joe Steakley, Elana Elyce, Maria McCullough, Emjoy Gavino, Abu Ansari and Michael E. Smith are right on target, timed to the instant, and add welcome lightness to the play. Wilson in elevator

Some other details of the script work very well, too. America is fragmented into seven political parties. Hardly anyone uses surnames. Most of the characters act younger than their ages. It’s the bigger picture and the major plot lines that don’t make sense.

In Act I, we meet the sprightly Leslie Frame as Ruth: unemployed, 30 years old, and hoping to make a difference in her world. A wan Carolyn Defrin plays her fond, worried but rather naively unworldly mother, Meredith, and Edgar Miguel Sanchez boyishly portrays her earnestly political but inept and — it proves — fickle boyfriend, Remy.

At the other end of the scale, Rebekah Ward-Hays determinedly plays Hope, also 30, the orphaned daughter of a charismatic senator assassinated on the day of her birth. Wilson, the senator’s keen political strategist, laconically portrayed by John Henry Roberts, has been grooming Hope all her life to step into her father’s shoes. An army of aides, headed by Bryan (Kevin Crowley), stand ready to meet her every need. She’s America’s darling, its dream of delivery, and now it’s her time to come forward.

Yet Hope’s not so sure she wants the life Wilson has in store for her. And at the moment of decision, she discovers her Doppelgänger. This futuristic, feminine remake of "The Prince and the Pauper" has potential; the ultimate unveiling of Ruth, Hope and Meredith’s relationship, though tawdry and predictable, has roots in real-life situations.

But by the second act, when the charm of the stagecraft has begun to wear off, revelations of decades-long unrealized love, selfless conspiracy and the ultimate solution ring untrue.

 

Rating: ★★★

 

 

February 13, 2010 | 3 Comments More

Free ticket offer for New World Rep’s “Phedra”

Theatre Building Chicago is offering complimentary tickets for closing performance of Phedra, presented by New World Repertory. Call the TBC Box Office at 773-327-5252 – use the Code Word ALLISON. Curtain for the February 14th performance is at 3:00 PM

Phèdra by Jean Racine

Based on ancient myths, the tragedy examines how love and unabated passions can destroy us all. Phèdra is cursed by the gods to love her step-son, Hippolytus, who hides a secret love affair of his own. Emotional, turbulent and sexy, “Phèdra” is a mythical soap opera for the contemporary audience.

February 12, 2010 | 0 Comments More

London theater awards rife with Hollywood stars

Jude Law, James Earl Jones, Keira Knightley, among others

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 file photo, actor Jude Law attends the 

Hollywood heavyweights feature strongly in the race for the 2010 Laurence Olivier theater awards, including nominees Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, James Earl Jones and Keira Knightley.  

Among the nominations:

  • James Earl Jones is a best-actor favorite for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams
  • Jude Law is also up for best-actor for his lead role in the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet
  • James McAvoy for Three Days of Rain, Mark Rylance for Jerusalem, Ken Stott for  Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and Samuel West for Enron.
  • Rachel Weisz received a best-actress nomination for her performance as faded belle Blanche Dubois in Willams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.
  • Also included in best-actress nominations are Gillian Anderson for Henrik Ibsen‘s A Doll’s House, by  Lorraine Burroughs for The Mountaintop, Imelda Staunton for Entertaining Mr. Sloane and Juliet Stevenson for Duet for One.
  • "Pirates of the Caribbean" star Keira Knightley is nominated in the supporting actress category for her turn as a manipulative movie starlet in The Misanthrope.
  • Melanie Chisholm — better known as Mel C of the Spice Girls — is nominated for best actress in a musical, for Blood Brothers.
  • “Mr. Bean" star Rowan Atkinson is up for best actor for playing Fagin in Oliver!
  • Along with these Hollywood stars, sexy song-and-dance drama Spring Awakening received seven nominations, including best new musical. Lucy Prebble‘s Enron, about the collapse of the Texas energy giant, and Jez Butterworth‘s raucous state-of-England play Jerusalem lead the drama field with six nominations each, including best new play.
  • New-musical contenders are Spring Awakening, Dreamboats and Petticoats, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Sister Act.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on March 21.

February 12, 2010 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: The Skin of Our Teeth (The Artistic Home)

One of theater’s strangest American families comes to life

 

SKIN_Antrobus Family night at home

The Artistic Home presents:

The Skin of Our Teeth

 
by
Thornton Wilder
directed by Jeff Christian
through March 21st (more info)

review by Ian Epstein

Jeff Christian and the clever folks over at The Artistic Home have done their dramaturgy research. In their production of Thorton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth they look back to the circumstances that governed the original production of Thorton Wilder’s species-sized, odd-ball American classic.  From it’s original debut during the height of war-torn 1942, Christian looked to the original Broadway premiere as inspiration.

SKIN_Sabina gets scolded The play begins with the audience facing curtains as black and heavy as the Great Depression, an event still sitting as fresh on everyone’s minds as the Recession might for audience memeber’s today. A short intro video in digital imitation of home movies from the days when they were still on film introduces the audience to the Antrobus family.

Then the curtains part to reveal the Antrobus home in Excelsior, New Jersey.  Sabina (Maria Stephens), the hired help to the Antrobus family from the dawn of time until today, steps on stage wielding a feather-duster like a knife. She works herself into a frenzy about the weather. Sabina, clad in fishnets, heels and a thigh-length black maid’s dress, dusts and monologues and tells us where we are.

New Jersey’s so cold that the dogs are sticking to the sidewalk and there’s a glacier steamrolling Vermont so they have to let in the Woolly Mammoth and the Dinosaur (yes – both appear in the show).

But she starts to repeat herself and the audience is left to wonder if she’s even delivering the lines properly and just when it’s gone to far, Sabina pulls everyone out of the play and it becomes clear that Thorton Wilder is toying with the audience’s trust in one of those play-within-a-play type moments.  Sabina becomes Maria Stephens and she’s angry and doesn’t understand a word of this damn play so she starts ranting about Chicago theater and directors like David Cromer and Anna Shapiro and recent productions of “Our Town

The few updated lines that Sabina delivers as Maria (or is it the other way around?) are wonderful because they freshen up the script’s ability to play with its own fictitiousness.   To borrow from literary critic John Barth, "when the characters in a work of fiction become readers or authors of the fiction they’re in, we’re reminded of the fictitious aspect of our own existence."  And the effect is only exaggerated when the character opposes the role as vehemently as Stephens does.  The quips about Our Town productions and the snippety interactions with Wilder’s characteristic Stage Manager (Eustace Allen) return to the play a much-needed sense of surprise and possibility.

SKIN_Mrs. Antrobus-Are they alive Husband and wife John Mossman and Kathy Scambiaterra (the Associate Artistic Director and Artistic Director of Artistic Home, respectively) portray Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus in the spirit of the original, married Broadway actors Florence Eldridge and Frederic March.  They’re strong performance bolsters the show. And Maria’s over-the-top Sabina goes a long way.   Katherine Swan plays Gladys Antrobus with a fun sense of teenage blasé and and Nick Horst is as tempermental and willful as Henry Antrobus (a.k.a. Cain — who killed the other Antrobus son Abel…).

Joseph Riley‘s set and Aly Greaves’ costumes don’t match the pace or intelligence of the acting and in a show as long as this they become distracting.  Still, come for a good performances of one of American theater’s stranger families.

Rating: ★★½

 

   
   
February 11, 2010 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Rush Limbaugh! The Musical (Second City)

It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Fat Pundit Sings

 RUSH- LtoR- Kevin Sciretta, Karla Beard, Colleen Murray, Mar

Second City e.t.c. presents

Rush Limbaugh! The Musical

book by Ed Furman
music/lyrics by
TJ Shanoff
directed by
Matt Hovde
through March 24th (more info)

review by Keith Ecker

RUSH- LtoR- Colleen Murray, MArk Sutton, Cayne Collier, Bump There’s an irony in juxtaposing Rush—the arena rock trio of Canadians who helped forge the musical genre known as progressive rock—with Rush Limbaugh—the overzealous, portly megalomaniac who helped forge the political movement known as neo-conservatism. This is the kind of sharp wit and pop-culture referencing that Second City’s newest play, Rush Limbaugh! The Musical, relies upon to penetrate through the mess that is today’s political landscape.

And just what is the topography of this landscape? Politicians and pundits have made careers out of capitalizing on fear, hate and anger. Religion is in the pocket of the self-proclaimed righteous who corrupt and manipulate their follower’s belief systems for their own gain. The two-party system gives voters a choice of crap and diet crap. All these are themes found in Rush Limbaugh, which at its greatest moments steps out from behind its satirical shield to reveal a genuinely pissed-off group of performers.

The musical focuses on the rise of Rush Limbaugh (Mark Sutton), from his humble beginnings as a rich hippie-hating nitwit in the 1960s to the mouthpiece for the evangelical Christian conservative movement.

RUSH-LtoR- Karla Beard, Mark SuttonOur tour guide on this journey is a woman with a Caribbean accent named Shasta (Karla L. Beard). She punctuates the play with parodies of Rush songs about Rush Limbaugh. While Rush is still young and floundering, Reverend Rightwing (Cayne Collier) steps in to help give the budding radio star a boost. The two forge a mutually beneficial relationship where Rush will use his own brand of Christian lunacy to win new converts to his radio show. Soon Rush becomes a voice to be reckoned with, successfully helping take down Bill Clinton. It is then that he’s on top of the world, ushering in a new Republican world order with the election of George W. Bush.

Donald Rumsfeld (also played by Collier) and Karl Rove (Bumper Carroll) make appearances as a bumbling Abbott and Costello duo while evil Anne Coulter (Colleen Murray) lurks in the shadows. There’s also a subplot involving Hillary Clinton (Murray) and Barney Frank (Kevin Sciretta), who serve as the weak, impotent voice of the left.

The acting is superb. Mark Sutton can muster up a vicious growl and a penetrating scowl on command. When he performs the on-air scenes in the makeshift radio booth, he really captures the despicable glee that the real Rush infuses into his racist diatribes, such as “How do you starve a black man? You hide his food stamps under his work boots.” But despite how wicked Sutton’s Rush might come off, you can’t resist watching him.

The supporting cast is rock solid. Beard has a voice on her that shines on the parody of the Dreamgirls tune “And I’m Telling You,” in which her character tells Rush that she’ll stay by his side even after the neo-conservative movement begins to lose steam. Murray successfully pulls off double duty as the weasely Anne Coulter and the manic Hillary Clinton, while Sciretta does a dead-on Barney Frank impression.

Overall, the writing (care of Ed Furman who also wrote Rod Blagojevich Superstar!) is strong. However, there are some terrible groaners that fall flat near the top of the play. The biggest flaw, though, are the Barney Frank lines, which amount to boring and trite homophobic comedy. It was strange to see these childish references to gay sex in a show that otherwise believed in the intelligence of the audience.

RUSH-LtoR- Cayne Collier, Mark Sutton, Collen Murray, Bumper RUSH-LtoR- Kevin Sciretta, Mark Sutton, Colleen Murray
RUSH- LtoR- Cayne Collier, Kevin Sciretta, Bumper Carroll, M RUSH- LtoR- Karla Beard, Kevin Sciretta, Colleen Murray, Mar

TJ Shanoff, who also worked on Rod Blagojevich Superstar!, wrote the music and lyrics, which are outstanding. From the Democrats shouting in punk rock fashion about how “fucked” their party is to Rush singing the praises of Oxycontin, the songs are deeply funny and veer away from obvious rhyme schemes that would normally spoil the joke.

Rush Limbaugh! The Musical is a political treatise told through musical comedy. Despite some base material that would be better left out of the play, you’ll find a lot of smart jokes to laugh at…unless you’re a Republican, in which case you might have been better off seeing the Rod Blagojevich production.

Rating: ★★★

Rush Limbaugh! The Musical at The Second City e.t.c. (1608 North Wells in Piper’s Alley, Chicago). previews Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 2:00pm, opening on Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 8:30pm and will run Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm until March 24, 2010 at The Second City e.t.c.

rush-logo

February 11, 2010 | 0 Comments More

Billy Eliott tickets – even Hitler can’t get them!

okay, sorta bad taste, but still funny….

YouTube video: Spoof of Hitler’s The Downfall.
Title is self explanatory.

February 11, 2010 | 2 Comments More

Wednesday Wordplay: redneck teleprompter and the death of a language

Boa Sr remained the last Bo speaker for at least 30 years 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.


 

Inspirational Quotes

 

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

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
            — Marianne Williamson, "A Return to Love," 1992

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

I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.
            — Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, 2005

 

Urban Dictionary

 

Redneck Teleprompter

Crib notes written on a public speaker’s hand in order to remind him or her what to say during a speech or interview.

Sarah Palin glanced at her redneck teleprompter during her interview a the Tea Party Conference in Nashville.

 

It’s complicated

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.

LCD Trip

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.

Joe Sixpack gets an LCD Trip every night watching ESPN.
We totally LCD Tripped during last year’s Superbowl.

February 10, 2010 | 2 Comments More