Tag: Anthony Stamilio
A Modern Take on Indecency
|Black Elephant Theatre presents|
|Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde|
|Written by Moises Kaufman
Directed by Michael Rashid
Raven Theatre West Stage, 6157 N. Clark (map)
through November 14 | tickets: $18-$22 | more info
Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins
We humans love a good scandal. We love to put people on the pedestal of fame and notoriety and then topple the perch. Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde puts a modern slant on the Victorian era scandal that was made of Wilde’s personal life. There is a preamble of sorts set in present day at the Green Carnation Bar on karaoke night. The Green Carnation is a gay bar and the men are mostly young and a study in beauty. The characters are happily drunk and indulging in what could be at best naughty behavior but the fact that they are all men still leaves a dangerous edge to this drama.
The walls of the bar are covered in art that scandalized the Victorians. Aubrey Beardsley’s line drawings of engorged phalluses are joined by a portrait of a Greek boy, an absinthe advertisement, and, of course, Oscar Wilde at his languid best. This preamble serves as an unnecessary distraction – we are not needing a peek behind the walls of what is no longer forbidden, and I find drunken karaoke to only be fun when I am also inebriated. When the lights finally go down, the people in the bar become the characters in Oscar Wilde’s indecency trial.
Wilde made no secret of his love for young men and found a willing partner in Lord Alfred Douglas who he affectionately called Bosie. The Marquis of Queensbury , Bosie’s father, called Wilde a Sodomite and was subsequently sued for libel. It is certain that Wilde was more upset at being called something so common. He was also famous for his wit and aestheticism. To be a mere Sodomite was beneath Mr. Wilde.
The actors portray historical characters with a farcical quality and post modern edge. Mark LeBeau Jr. speaks the dialogue of Sir Edward Clark as if he were in a screwball comedy of the 1930’s – talky and fast. Unfortunately LeBeau garbles some of his words, and the staging has his back to the audience for some his scene.
Casey Chapman is glorious to watch as Sir Alfred Douglas-Wilde’s beloved Bosie. Chapman portrays a glowering and somewhat petulant Douglas who defies his father and revels in his sexuality in the times when even the piano legs were covered in the parlor. Chapman looks the part of an aristocrat in his carriage and his enunciation. He and Kevin Bishop as Oscar Wilde bring erotic shading to ‘the love that dare not speak its name’. The fact that the staging is in a modern bar takes away the bodice ripping illusion of Victorian times.
Danne W. Taylor is menacing as the Marquis. He dons an eye patch for the role and it is a nice addition. In one moment Taylor is the chicken hawk in the bar and in the next a hypocrite with a title disowning his son.
Jake Szczepaniak is great comic relief as George Bernard Shaw. It is known that Shaw was a champion for equal rights and quite the curmudgeon, but his appearance is a welcome non sequitur to the proceedings.
Alex Polcyn plays one of the judges to great comic effect as well. The hypocrisy of the times and the ridiculous nature of making an example of one man is a great premise for a farce. Polcyn dons a U.K. style court wig and orates like a Monty Python character. The timing and elocution are perfect and a lot of fun to watch in spite of the heavy subject matter.
In the second act, Kevin Bishop is seen more as Wilde. He is wonderful in the role and portrays Wilde’s famous wit and refusal to be common. Michael B. Woods is very funny as the cardigan -wearing judge in Wilde’s trial that sends him to prison. Woods is the quiet and observant bartender for most of the play and then transforms into a perfect vision of a cranky old man banging on the table for order in the court.
It is fortunate that the comic moments are in this production. Wilde was funny and acerbic with little tolerance for fools. Moises Kaufman incorporates a lot of the trial and Wilde quotes, but runs a bit on the talky side. It’s a razor-thin balance that Kaufman’s dialogue treads. He attempts to show how anyone’s life can be misconstrued as a criminal act just by how they choose to live. Black Elephant Theatre uses the subtitle ‘love is a crime’, recalling the early days of the AIDS epidemic when gay men were targeted as the means by which a plague was unloosed. The same thing happened to Oscar Wilde and just as painful and ignominious death awaited him when he was released from prison.
Michael Rashid’s direction is skillful, though one wonders what he could have done if time were shaved off of the production and if farce and drama were more seamlessly blended. At times the action feels like one of the Beardsley’s exaggerated drawings, and then suddenly it’s as murky as the absinthe that Wilde supposedly imbibed.
I recommend this production with a caveat. Unless you dig watching drunken karaoke, take a pass on the pre-show. It’s meant to get the audience into the mind frame of the times and the characters, but it adds more time to a production that clocks in at two hours without karaoke.
Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde is a presentation of Black Elephant Theatre and runs Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sundays at 8:30pm through November 14th. The production is located in the West Stage of the Raven Theatre Complex at 6157 N. Clark St. in Chicago. A trailer of the play and more information is available at www.blackelephanttheatre.com
Are you a victim, a savior or both?
|Brikenbrak Theatre presents|
|The Samaritan Syndrome|
|by Jeremy Menekseoglu
directed by Paul Cosca
at Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee (map)
through May 25th | tickets: $12 | more info
reviewed by Robin Sneed
Set in the chilling world of mental asylum turned brothel for customers with a penchant to save the women residing there, The Samaritan Syndrome takes us on a journey through the post feminist landscape of relationships between women with a pathological need to be rescued and men who are desperate to be saviors.
Jeremy Menekseoglu’s tightly written play in one act, hits hard in its description of a cycle between women who have become so victimized their knights become victims in their attempt at salvage.. Heroic efforts are transformed into pathetic trudges towards the last remnants of traditional societal roles. The exchange of manipulation Rosenberg finds in both savior and saved, the script of this trapped dynamic, whose only outlet becomes violence, is dead on. This is an entropic world in which there is a flatness that barely covers killing rage.
Directed with an even and deeply caring hand by Paul Cosca, this is an ensemble piece deftly performed by Anthony Stamilio, April Taylor, Brooke Elbrecht, Claire Kander, Nathan Randall, Sarah Grant, and Whitney LaMora.
Anthony Stamilio as Mr. Suit, carries the lead with force, playing a man searching for a woman he has lost, trying to redeem her, failing, and ultimately giving over to an outcome that is as shocking as it is inevitable.
Saint, portrayed by Brooke Elbrecht is the woman Mr Suit has been looking for. She sits waiting for her lost love in an almost Chekhovian longing that mirrors Mr. Suit’s long search for her. Elbrecht plays this role guilelessly as the woman with a bent for positive psychology. Her stark refusal to believe Mr. Suit’s summation of the man she loves as con man, becomes an inciting force, turning Saint into a woman who unravels Mr. Suit with his own expectations of their future relationship. With this, their fates are decided.
April Taylor gives a mature and steady performance as the Night Nurse of this asylum for those still trying to find meaning in a raging fantasy of knights and damsels. She subtlety creates a character arc in the personality split between her professional self and her own heroism toward women she cannot help. Her portrayal of a woman trapped in a role from which she is trying to break free is touched with nuance and depth. She is savior and victim, emerging only once in an attempt to save the despairing Mr. Suit from himself
Nathan Randall as Charming, gives a riveting performance as a man so deeply rooted within his cycle of abuse and salvation as to become evangelistic of the dynamic he is in. He is savior to the lost Grace, played energetically by Sarah Grant. She becomes the blithe purveyor of need as commodity. Grant delivers this complicated scenario with accuracy and humor, conveying complicity in the manipulation. She digs deeply to find the emotional cycle of abuse and release with her partner in this twisted space. The scenes between Grace and Charming reflect the core of this piece. The moments in which Charming confronts Mr. Suit, demanding he cry and show enough emotion to satisfy the requirement for savior, is a brilliant development, demonstrating the way in which the culture around these relationships is built.
Original music by David Rosenberg becomes part of the ensemble, bringing aural awareness to the dark quality of this theatre experience. This is the first piece from Paul Cosca’s Brikenbrak Theatre Project, and with this production of The Samaritan Syndrome, they have put themselves on the map as ones to watch.