How much is a 4,300-seat entertainment palace worth?

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Finally, finally there seems to be a glimmer of hope for the future of the 80-year old, Rapp and Rapp-designed Uptown Theatre. The Chicago Tribune reports that the projected bids could be anywhere from $1 to 40-million for this celebrated theater, replete with 4300 seats and 3 vast lobbies.  Many bids are expected, including Chicago’s Jam Productions (which used the venue in the 70’s), California’s LiveNation and Madison Square Gardens.  Says Chris Jones on his blog:

It seems counterintuitive, but in many ways the judicial sale is a consequence of renewed interest in the Uptown, flowing from the increasingly competitive marketplace for live entertainment in Chicago and the relative shortage of viable venues.  The fortunes of the long-imperiled, down-at-heel Uptown look brighter now than at any point in the last two decades.

UPDATE: Uptown Theatre has been purchased by Jam Productions for $3.2 million.  Full story here, here and here.

Bonus: Though I posted Ian Sklarsky’s beautiful (and heartbreaking) Uptown Theater YouTube video months ago, here it is again:


Top picture courtesy of  www.UptownTheatre.com

July 28, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Review: "Fast Forward" by About Face Youth Theatre

By Venus Zarris

About Face Youth Theatre presents a delightful and imperative world premiere with Fast Forward. This oral history based production was two years in the making, incorporating several interviews with students, teachers and people inside and outside of the LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & Questioning) community. What you see creatively acted out on stage are true stories. The priorities of these stories serve to show the truth about young people’s lives, admonish the life threatening lack of sex education in the schools and combat the conditions that threaten LGBTQ youth.

About Face Youth Theatre presents their newest play, "Fast Forward"

To say that being openly gay in high school when I was a kid was unsafe would be like saying that playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun is slightly dangerous. To say that gay visibility was nonexistent would be like saying that signs of compassion in the current presidential administration are hard to come by. That is to say, these declarations are profound understatements. When I was in high school there was nothing gay in the vocabulary or on the radar. We queer kids were flying solo. And although in some places things may have improved dramatically, depending on location, time seems to be at a stand still.

Multiply the difficulties of being safely and happily ‘out’ as an adult by about 10,000 and you have the general climate that still exists for most LGBTQ kids in America. There are so many aspects of queer life that still have a long way to go before we are fully franchised but perhaps the most profound area of importance is queer youth. Contemplate the dramatic strides that the community has made in the past few decades without the aid of safe and nurturing adolescent experiences. Now try to imagine the incredible social and political growth spurt that could result from a generation of kids that wouldn’t have to live in agonizing fear.

Grant it, from that adversity has come a great deal of fortitude. But imagine what could be accomplished if the formative years of these kid’s lives were not spent surviving the intolerance. Fast Forward to what could be accomplished if the energy and personal resources spent trying to justify one’s existence as a teen could be redirected to less primal necessities. What might queer people’s lives look like now if we could have been ourselves in high school as easily and with as much social support as the straight kids?

By illustrating the struggles that still exist for LGBTQ kids today, Fast Forward presents the situation as it stands and then dares to fantasize about a future classroom where kids are safe to be who they are and where education is responsible enough to give them the critical information they need avoid the very real dangers of sexual ignorance.

*55 youth are infected with HIV everyday in the United States

*In the U.S., half of all new HIV infections are among people 25 and younger

*$1 billion was spent on Abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum

*No federal funding exists for comprehensive sex education

*Currently, no LGBTQ youth-focused sex education exists in the United States

FAR FROM ACADEMIC, dry, or sermonizing, Fast Forward showcases the talent and enthusiasm of a dynamic young ensemble. They are fearless and dedicated storytellers who infuse the exuberance of youth into their work while taking us on several personal, poignant and playful journeys. The occasional melodrama is easily eclipsed by the humor and passion of the lovable cast. Director Paula Gilovich squeezes every drop of skill and determination out of the exceptional ensemble and supports their efforts with a first rate design team to create a show that is as entertaining as it is provocative and vital.

In a scene depicting a high school sex education class a teacher diagrams a fetus but gives no information of how the baby was conceived. Her dull delivery, coupled with the lack of relevant information, falls on deaf ears as the students zone out.

“Don’t you think that’s a little odd? That SEX education would be boring to TEENAGERS?’ Asks one intuitive youth.

The topics covered are approached from several angles, displaying a well-rounded collection of perspectives. The stories range from funny to compelling to sad to redeeming and the delivery is very impressive, especially coming from such a young cast. Their devotion to story telling, as well as the critical messages conveyed, shines through and their exhilaration is contagious. The summation Rap delivered by Pookie L. towards the end of the show is alone worth the price of admission!

Fast Forward closes by asking, “What if we were the generation to stop this?” (referring to the bigotry and ignorance that LGBTQ youth must endure) And based on the intelligence, excitement and commitment of these kids, you believe they just might succeed!

About Face Youth Theatre does the community at large a great service and creates a playfully profound and fabulously entertaining accomplishment. Fast Forward is a good time that should not be missed!

Rating:  «««½

 

(“Fast Forward” runs through August 2 at Center on Halsted, 3656 North Halsted Street. 866-811-4111)

July 26, 2008 | 3 Comments More

Review – "Much Ado About Nothing" at First Folio

by Venus Zarris

The Bard verses Nature; at First Folio it is a dead heat!

I am not an outdoorsy kind of person. Given the choice between an air-conditioned theater and a summer night outside with mosquitoes buzzing in my ear, I am inclined to choose ‘civilized shelter.’ But the sweet and talented folks at First Folio Shakespeare Festival combine impressive theatrical production with breathtaking natural setting to create a perfect evening of entertaining escape.

Mayslake Peabody Estate Forest Preserve in Oak Brook.I say escape for three reasons. One, you are transported into the world of Shakespeare’s classic comedy by a completely engaging cast. Two, you are swept away by the natural wonders of the lovely Peabody Estate. And three, you are far from the hectic city limits.

But rest assured, if your ‘First Folio Get Away’ is anything like ours you will not only count your evening as one of the summer’s best but as one to be remembered for years to come. Pack a picnic, assemble your favorite cohorts and prepare to relax and enjoy.

Birds, Bats, Breezes, Fireflies and… a turtle?

We packed some delicious delicacies and subtle spirits. Anxious to indulge and imbibe, we planned to arrive a little early, the play starts at 8:15pm but the grounds open at 7pm. As we turned into the entrance I noticed something on the side of the access road. It was a turtle! Unable to climb the curb, he seemed destined for trouble so we parked and I picked him up. Turtles pee when they are scared and this guy was evidently terrified! But a quick trip to the lake behind the estate mansion and he was eagerly swimming back to safety.

(I add the little turtle aside because in my personal experience, turtles have been good luck charms and delightful omens. True to form, he foreshadowed a positively delightful night!)

We set up our picnic and were refreshed by subtle and unexpected spontaneous cool breezes. Birds playfully flew around the stage and as dusk set in the fireflies added delicate and restrained intermittent fireworks to the festivities. Paying close attention overhead, I noticed a pair of bats doing their part to keep the bug population at bay and add to the already enchanting atmosphere.

As the night progressed the moon slowly emerged from behind the treetops. Almost full, its beauty was easily underestimated but that night it was simply partial and premature sublime perfection. Its waxing excellence exceeded the drama of its pending fullness.

If there was one natural element that needed to be ‘toned down’ it was the boisterous crickets. Obviously unaware of Shakespeare’s impressive and historic theatrical reputation, they did their best to sing over the actors. Thankfully, a state of the art sound system thwarted their disrespectful efforts.

Shakespeare’s writing is so timeless that it can be delivered with bare bones or lavish production values and engage on either scale. But the added element of nature created a beguiling accent that almost threatened to usurp the already impressive theatrical offering.

Much Ado About A Lot

Before the play’s exposition even gets started we are warmed up by a brilliant fluffing from the antics of Verges, adorably played by Keland Scher. Scher has charm and sweetness galore as he juggles, flirts and clowns with the audience creating the perfect pre-show mood. Oftentimes, this sort of interactive audience participation can prove to be obnoxious, corny or embarrassing but Scher is brimming with playful talent and is as lovable as a cartoon bunny.

Bickering, blundering, deception, redemption and ultimately, after some bumbling and revelation, requited love are the forces at work in Much Ado About Nothing. Between the entanglements and resolution Shakespeare has created Much Ado about an awful lot and the first rate cast delivers the goods with clarity and charm.

A scene from Melissa Carlson and Nick Sandys provide the most excitement with their clever verbal jabs and retorts. Carlson’s Beatrice, the confirmed spinster, is venomously shrewd and Sandys’s Benedick, the confirmed bachelor, is lyrically adroit. They elevate the juvenile game of ‘taunt your undeclared love interest’ to a wickedly witty and articulate exchange. Rene Ruelas renders an amusingly eccentric Friar Francis to add to the fun.

Andre Pluess’s sound design and original composition add even more natural texture and subtle elegance to the production. Michael Goldberg’s straightforward direction of the excellent ensemble and gifted design team create an outstanding rendition of the classic comedy.

You decide who prevails, theater or nature. Either way, it is a WIN/WIN proposition for the audience.

Gather up your friends for a little road trip and enjoy exceptional theater in a remarkable atmosphere. First Folio Shakespeare Festival is a brilliant addition to this summer full of marvelous Shakespearean options. It is a tucked away treasure that is well worth the drive.

Rating: ««««

(“Much Ado About Nothing” runs through August 17 at First Folio Shakespeare Festival, 1717 W. 31st Street, Oak Brook. 630-986-8067)

 

"Much Ado About Nothing" runs through August 17 at First Folio Shakespeare Festival, 1717 W. 31st Street, Oak Brook. 630-986-8067

July 24, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Chicago Theater Recommendations (July 2008)

A summary of theatre recommendations from the Tribune (Trib), Sun-Times (ST), Chicago Theatre Blog (CTB), and TimeOut Chicago (TO).   

 

Play   (Producers and/or Location)

Recommended By

Campaign Supernova (Second City etc.) Trib, ST
Cirque Shanghai Gold (Navy Pier)   Trib, TO, CTB
Dead Man’s Cellphone (Steppenwolf)   Trib, CTB
Hizzoner (Beverly Arts Center) Trib, CTB
Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night                  (Theo Ubique – No Exit Cafe) Trib, CTB, ST
Jersey Boys (Broadway in Chicago) Trib, ST, CTB, TO
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Gift Theatre) Trib, TO
The Mark of Zorro (Lifeline Theatre) Trib, TO, ST
Superior Donuts (Steppenwolf) Trib, CTB, TO
Wicked (Broadway in Chicago) Trib, CTB, ST
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Drury Lane Oakbrook) Trib, ST
The Lion in Winter (Writers’ Theatre) Trib, TO, ST
Relatively Close (Victory Gardens) CTB
Kooza (Cirque du Soleil – United Center) TO, CTB, ST, Trib
Gutenberg! The Musical!  (Royal George Theatre) TO, CTB
Lookingglass Alice (Lookingglass Theatre) TO
Funk It Up About Nuthin’ (Chicago Shakes) TO
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Queer Tale (MidTangent) TO, CTB
Ren Faire! (Prp Thtr) TO
Hay Fever (Circle Theatre) ST
Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Goodman Theatre) ST
Jekyll & Hyde (Boho Theatre) ST, CTB
I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass)
(Black Ensemble Theater)
ST, TO
A Steady Rain (Royal George) ST, CTB
Co-Ed Prison Sluts (Annoyance Theatre) Trib
A Rabbit’s Tale (Millennium Park) Trib
July 19, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Reviews: "Kooza" and "Cirque Shanghai"

Run Away and Join The Cirques!!

By Venus Zarris

I remember my first visit to the Ringling Brother’s circus at the International Amphitheater when I was a small child. Three rings of amazing delights and exotic animals were almost more than I could handle. Even in the ‘nose bleed’ seats the impact left a permanent impression. I was overwhelmed by the spectacle of it and have been a circus fan ever since.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily set the American standard for circus extravaganzas but since then there have been some wonderful imports that have broke the mold by reinventing the experience.

As if summer in Chicago isn’t already filled with wonderful opportunities for theatrical fun, there are currently TWO world-class circus options that are sure to thrill and amaze. Although vastly different experiences, both are equally entertaining. KOOZA – Cirque du Soleil is on the high end of production values as well as ticket price. $55-$125 per ticket may seem steep but the payoff is over 2 ½ hours of spellbinding bliss. There is a reason why Cirque du Soleil has a devoted fan base. They truly create another world, thereby making the escape from reality an absolute immersion into fantasy, before the first trick is even performed.

Cirque Shanghai: Gold, on the other hand, is lighter on production values and fantastical concept but more than makes up for this with 1 ½ hour of non-stop amazing acrobatic excellence. It possesses a beautiful charm that comes not from fabricated artifice but rather from a surprisingly heartwarming connection between the audience and the brilliant performers. At $14.50-$29.50 a ticket, it is also more family friendly as well as wallet friendly, especially during the current economic crunch.

There is something unparalleled about seeing both of these unique productions live. “Death Defying Acts” is just a circus catchphrase until you witness the dangers and dares first hand. There is nothing supernatural, but there is genuine magic created by all of these performers who have devoted their lives to becoming the best in their fields. Both Cirques are sure to rank as highlights of the summer as well as provide memories for years to come.

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KOOZA – Cirque du Soleil

The spectacle is nothing short of a spellbinding, jaw dropping, eye popping, sensational, magical and death defying sensory overload. This may sound like a bag of clichéd descriptive exaggerations, when in fact they are actually understatements compared to the otherworldly delights that await you under the big blue and yellow striped tent.

Kooza2 As you walk in you are struck by the sheer magnitude of technical engineering contraptions that are implemented to execute such a grand transformation in a parking lot. The pre-show antics of the small clown troupe warm up the crowd. Normally circus clowns fall in between the range of corny to creepy but these jokers are actually hilarious.

When the show officially starts you are in for 2 ½ hours of mind boggling visceral fireworks. Between the costumes, lighting design, production design, thrilling music delivered through an acoustically perfect sound system, and best-in-their-field world class performers; ‘KOOZA’ quite simply delivers the most whimsically lavish and lovely production values. The occasional ‘jazz hands’ tossed into the playful choreography made me imagine that Bob Fosse would have adored the flawless showmanship.

'Kooza' - now playing at the United Center through September

The opening sequence starts out simple with an ‘innocent’ flying a kite. There is a lovely connection to the sweet little person but when he receives a special delivery life sized jack-in-the-box and the ‘trickster’ appears all bets are off. The stage fills with color, life and sound. As the ornate three story orchestra tower is revealed there is a flashback to Japanese animator Miyazaki’s ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. This sets the stage for an experience that actually makes the surreal visual extremes of Japanese animation seem commonplace.

Kooza8 Every act thrills, amazes and delights. ‘KOOZA’ takes personal offense to gravity, as there are several gasp inducing aerial acts. The stage is almost underused for the volume of overhead amazements but the beautiful grounded triplets of synchronized shiny contortion almost steal the show. Their flexibility is hard to describe as human and at times almost sickeningly unnatural. One maneuver resembles the deleted ‘spider scene’ from the ‘Exorcist.’

Demons, angels and everything in between captivate beyond your wildest dreams. It is hard to imagine that two men perilously spinning on a giant double wheel of death can be followed by anything, much less a pickpocket, but the acts flow brilliantly. Your nerves are given occasional breaks from the more dangerous exhibits but the thrills are constant. Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA is an explosion of miracles that should not be missed!

Rating: ««««

(“KOOZA – Cirque du Soleilruns through August 24 at the Grand Chapiteau, United Center parking lot K, 1901 W. Madison Street. 800-678-5440)

Kooza7 Kooza9

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Cirque Shanghai: Gold

Among the many amazing achievements of this foray into exotic entertainment, Cirque Shanghai: Gold illustrated a cultural difference that I had heretofore not realized. Other than a vehicle for serving food, in China, plates can be spun on the end of sticks by flexible acrobats to create dazzling visual tricks. Whereas in Greece, we get drunk, toss them on the ground and yell, ‘Opa!’

cirqueshanghai1 If you are tired of the day-to-day grind, uninspired by the offerings of summertime blockbusters or simply want to escape into the world of something unusually magical, Cirque Shanghai: Gold should not be missed! We left the show with an adrenaline rush that made us literally feel like five-year-old children. Chocked full of moments that range from ‘DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!,’ to ‘NO WAY!,’ to ‘HOLY SHIT!,’ you cannot help but be astonished and overwhelmed by these award wining international athletic superstars.

Now, I realize that ‘Superstar’ is a word that gets thrown around quite freely in this country, but forget TV’s ‘Celebrity Circus.’ These miraculous performers are the real deal! And despite their otherworldly abilities to seemingly defy the laws of gravity and physics, these charming gymnastic geniuses perform their feats of daring acrobatic accomplishment without the slightest air of pretense or bravado. As a matter of fact, you can’t help but fall in love with their contagious warmth and humble enthusiasm. I found myself wanting to throw a party for the entire lovable cast so I could shower them with prizes and affection.

Just when you think that they can’t possibly out due the astounding act you witnessed, your jaw drops at the following flabbergaster. The flexibility alone elicits profound feelings of personal inadequacy as they do things that a normal body could only duplicate during a lethal fall down several flights of stairs!

cirqueshanghai2 As if the talent on stage isn’t enough, the exceptionally creative team behind the scenes is outstanding. Director Sylvia Hase hails from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Emmy Award-winner Steve Base provides the conceptual design. Choreographer Brenda Didier and lighting/scenic designer Brian Sidney Bembridge, both Chicago based award-winners, round off the visionary team.

But the beautifully brilliant costumes, lighting, music and dancing pale next to these genuinely gifted performers who not only entertain beyond your wildest dreams but also serve as incomparable ambassadors of international good will. I hope that their stay in Chicago returns to them at least some of the joy that they offer everyone who watches this wonderful all-ages treat! The acrobats explode with dazzling talent making ‘Cirque Shanghai: Gold’ a spectacular display of human fireworks and 90 minutes of sheer delight!

Rating: ««««

(“Cirque Shanghai: Gold” runs through Sept. 1 at The Skyline Stage on Navy Pier. 312-902-1500)

CirqueShanghai

July 18, 2008 | 3 Comments More

High gas prices negatively affect Shakespeare festival

Looks like the high gas prices are (not unexpectedly) affecting theatre ticket sales. Case in point: Ontario’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s box-office receipts are down 10%, with a possible $5-million dollar loss in revenue this year, the assumed reason being that Americans are thinking twice before filling up their tanks to cross the border into Canada.  Whole story here.

Picture of front of main theatre at Ontario's Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Main theatre at Ontario's Stratford Shakespeare Festival

July 17, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Three Shows – One Street! Don’t miss out!

Rogers Park Theater Renaissance

By Venus Zarris

When you think of Chicago Theater your first thoughts might go to The Loop. Between The Goodman Theatre on Dearborn and the big commercial venues that produce the Broadway in Chicago product, the other options can get easily lost. Little to no advertising money makes it impossible for them to compete for visibility but that doesn’t mean that their efforts are any less impressive or important.

There is theater being produced all around the city and suburbs, some streets even have a couple options within walking distance but Rogers Park is exploding with outstanding work. Earlier this summer The Side Project saw a production of Sweet Confinement by a new company called SiNNERMAN Ensemble. They formed after training together at the School at Steppenwolf and the fledgling company created bold, provocative, glaringly intimate and urgently powerful theater in a tiny black box.

Keep an eye on this exciting new company and the other eclectic offerings at The Side Project at 1439 W. Jarvis Ave. (map).

Now Showing On Glenwood!!!

Within about a three block radius on North Glenwood, just off the Red Line Train Morse stop, there are three plays by three very different and very impressive companies.

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The Mark Of Zorro

Seldom do you ride a continual and exhilarating wave of energetic entertainment during an entire production but Lifeline Theatre’s world premier adaptation of The Mark of Zorro delivers a tsunami of charming delight!

"Mark of Zorro" at the award-winning Lifeline Theatre This show has everything going for it, both creatively and technically, but the two elements that keep rising to the surface are the unbridled humor and the flawlessly swashbuckling fight scenes. It is always a treat to go to a comedy and giggle but it is an unexpected pleasure to go to an adventure tale and squeal with laughter.

Just when you have caught your breath from the whimsical comedy you are swept away by the exciting swordplay. Normally even the best staged fight scenes tend to break the suspension of disbelief. They look telegraphed, rehearsed and contrived. But Geoff Coates’s gifted and dazzling fight choreography delivers the most believable and invigorating swordplay that I have ever seen on stage, and he does it with a large cast in a relatively small space! Long hours of rehearsal dedicated exclusively to the fight scenes pay of in terms of childlike thrills for the audience. WARNING TO THE FRONT ROW: You might just soil yourselves because the action is so close and so real!

If you are looking for exciting exploits, dastardly villains and a handsome, lovable, laughable hero, run to see The Mark of Zorro!

Rating: ««««

(“The Mark of Zorro” extended through July 20 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood. 773-761-4477.)

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Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night

Theater is a pretty remarkable proposition. A group of people from varied backgrounds and disciplines come together with a unified goal of presenting a piece of work. One might think that this is a recipe for chaos, and sometimes that is the case. But miraculously it is often the ingredients for something entertaining and or evocative. Occasionally it transcends the normal conventions and expectations and the synchronicity of creation lends itself to something exceptionally compelling. It taps a vein of emotions in a way that is rare and unique. This is the case with Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night, produced by the award-winning theatre company Theo Ubique.

JacqueBrel You enter the wonderfully quaint little venue of No Exit Café, far north of the hustle and bustle of the Loop and nestled next to the Red Line elevated train tracks, and are relocated to another time and another place. But the time and place are more so the setting of altered emotions and atmosphere, rather than a specific location. You are transported to comradery, inebriation, celebration, passion, longing, betrayal, loss, and melancholy.

Director Fred Anzevino and his eloquent company create a rare gift to the audience and an exceptional contribution to the exclusive theatrical choices that Chicago has to offer. Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night is a lovely homage to Brel’s talent and the perfect vehicle for Theo Ubique’s incomparable imagination.

Rating: ««««

(“Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night “ extended through August 30 at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave. 773-743-3355.)

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Questa

People’s Theater of Chicago delivers a solid Midwest Premiere of  Questa, by “NYPD Blue” writer Victor Bumbalo. The urban landscape is simply and immediately rendered by Patricia Perez’s exceptional mural design, starkly yet warmly depicting a skyline in ruins, and also by James Scalfani’s explosive interior cityscape design of color on black box walls, creating an homage to the vibrancy of New York with a black light painting on black velvet effect. The contrast of vitality and desolation evokes the city’s heartbeat as well as the contrasting emotions in the lives of Bumbalo’s characters before the play even begins. Annah Zaman’s subtly lovely original music infuses the production with an appropriately overwhelming melancholy.

questa Director Madrid St. Angelo works wonders with his resources. He creates as much honesty and consistency as possible with an uneven cast and an overly ambitions script. Shaun F. Conway, as Nicholas, and Cliff London, as Daniel, deliver the productions most believable and emotionally realized performances.

The convoluted script is thought provoking, albeit not completely engaging, and the overall production proves to be a strong effort by an up-and-coming company with plenty of dedication, talent and potential.

Rating: ««

(“Questa” runs through July 19 at The Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 North Glenwood Ave. 773-371-1868.)

July 15, 2008 | 2 Comments More

Review: "A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Queer Tale"

Shakespeare, Never So Gay and Never So Fun!

By Venus Zarris

This midsummer seems to be chocked full of options for fans of the Bard. There are two productions currently running of Much Ado About Nothing, one under the starlight and trees of the First Folio Shakespeare Festival at the beautiful Mayslake Peabody Estate Forest Preserve in Oak Brook and the other at the Oak Park Festival Theatre. There is also Funk It Up About Nothin’ (weblink here), a world premiere “ad-rap-tation” of Much Ado About Nothing at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. (It can’t be Nothing if there are three productions going on at once. I call that Much Ado!)

On July 26th Bohemian Theatre Ensemble opens The Merchant of Venice at BoHo Theatre @ Heartland Studio and on the 27th The Mill Theatre opens Paula Vogel’s Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief, a reimagining of Othello, at Stage Left Theatre.

midsummer nights dream - a queer tale But if you are looking to satisfy your iambic pentameter cravings with a delightfully decadent deviation, MidTangent Productions A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Queer Tale is the show for you! Director/Adaptor Tony Lewis takes Shakespeare’s romantic comedy of young lovers and mischievous fairies and infuses it with a red light cabaret complete with some of the best dance numbers you’ll see in any musical. Filled with writhing bodies engaged in undulating erotic naughtiness, this spin on the Bard’s classic will make you wish that all of the Shakespeare library could be retold with as much homoerotic delight.

In the struggle to gain mainstream acceptance, the gay community has taken to homogenized representations. Many of us are settling down, pairing off in committed relationships, buying homes and/or having or adopting children. On the surface it might even be construed that being straight is so great, we are attempting to imitate or emulate. But Queer Tale stands as not only a wonderful adaptation of Shakespeare, it also stands as an unapologetically sexual solute to the daring divergence and darling debauchery at the roots of gay liberation and expression.

With forbidden lesbian and gay relationships, a Drag Queen Titania lip-syncing to Cher and Madonna and an outrageously erotic dance party fueled by euphoric intoxicants, this show celebrates the ‘old school’ joie de vivre of the community while, at the same time, illustrating the ongoing struggles for acceptance and equality. With a charming cast, fantastic soundtrack and the most playful choreography in town, this will reinvent your notions of Shakespeare in love to include sophisticated and stylized same sex subversion.

“How now faggots?” Asks Puck. “We are but tricks and treats!” Answers the Fairyz of the Hood. From the brilliant dance opening to the bittersweet end, MidTangent’s ‘Queer Tale’ is filled with tricks and treats and then some!

The outstanding direction, conceptual ingenuity and adorably enthusiastic cast shine through to make this a production that transcends sexual orientation or identification. You can’t help but be enchanted by this midsummer dream.

“Some are born gay. Some achieve gayness. And some have gayness thrust upon them.”

Regardless of your sexual proclivity, Queer Tale makes for amazingly entertaining Shakespeare and ambitiously excellent theater!

Rating: «««½

(“A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Queer Tale ” runs through August 3 at National Pastime Theater, 4139 North Broadway (map). 800-595-4849)

July 15, 2008 | 0 Comments More