Tag: Erin Myers

Review: Plainsong (Signal Ensemble Theatre)

Vincent P. Mahler and Jon Steinhagen star in Signal Ensemble Theatre's "Plainsong" by Eric Schmiedl, directed by Bries Vannon. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)        
      
Plainsong

Written by Eric Schmiedl  
Adapted from novel by Kent Haruf
Directed by Bries Vannon  
Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice (map)
thru March 8  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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February 9, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: Brewed (The Ruckus & Tympanic Theatre)

Erin Myers and Charlotte Mae Ellison star in The Ruckus' and Tympanic Theatre's "Brewed" by Scott T. Barsotti, directed by Anna C. Bahow. (photo credit: Gerard Van Halsema)        
       
Brewed 

Written by Scott T. Barsotti
Directed by Anna C. Bahow  
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru March 24  |  tickets: $17   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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March 13, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Don’t Give That Beast a Name (The Mammals)

Erin Orr as Marie, in The Mammals' "Don't Give That Beast a Name," by Randall Colburn and Bob Fisher, continues through November 3rd at Zoo Studio.        
       
Don’t Give That Beast a Name 

Written by Randall Colburn and Bob Fisher
Directed by Bob Fisher
at Zoo Studio, 4001 N. Ravenswood (map)
thru Nov 3  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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September 25, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: All Girl Moby Dick (The Mammals)

Liz Chase as Queeqeug in The Mammals' "All Girl Moby Dick", adapted by Bob Fisher and Sara Gorsky. (photo credit: Bob Fisher)       
      
All Girl Moby Dick 

Adapted by Bob Fisher and Sara Gorsky 
Directed by Bob Fisher
Zoo Studio, 4001 N. Ravenswood (map)
thru May 26 June 9  |  tix: $20  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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April 24, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Fifth of July (Infamous Commonwealth Theatre)

  
  

Faithful revival of heartfelt Lanford Wilson

  
  

Fifth of July at Infamous Commonwealth Theatre Chicago

  
Infamous Commonwealth Theatre presents
   
   
Fifth of July
  
Written by Lanford Wilson
Directed by Edward Morgan
at Raven Theatre West Stage, 6157 N. Clark (map)
through July 10  |  tickets: $10-$20  |  more info

Reviewed by Jason Rost

Lanford Wilson, who recently passed away this past March, was a master of capturing his audience’s heart while incorporating political and wry humor into the mix. This is most evident in his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Talley’s Folly. However, that play could not have been written if not for the first play in his Talley Trilogy, Fifth of July, now on stage at the Raven Theater in a faithful revival by Infamous Commonwealth Theatre Company.

Fifth of July, while being the first play written in the Talley Trilogy, is actually the final play chronologically in the story of the Talley family in Lebanon, Missouri. Sally Friedman (deftly played by Joanne Riopelle) is a supporting character here as family and friends of her nephew Kenneth (Stephen Dunn), a paraplegic gay Vietnam vet, gather at the family home to scatter the ashes of the deceased Talley patriarch, Matt. Kenneth has become reclusive along with his horticulture-nut boyfriend, Jed (played by Billy Fenderson, who adds some wonderful lightness to an often morose group of characters), who encourages Kenneth to take a job teaching English at the local high school despite his surrender to the real world.

A scene from Infamous Commonwealth's "Fifth of July" by Lanford Wilson. (photo: Paul Metreyeon)The other visitors to the house include Kenneth’s sister, June (Whitney Hayes) and her daughter, Shirley (a perfectly cast Glynis Gilio) who is fourteen going on thirty. Also at the home are Kenneth and June’s friends from their unruly Berkeley years, Gwen (Erin Myers) and John (Josh Atkins). Their connection and history is slowly revealed, some aspects more predictable than others. Gwen and John have an ulterior motive for coming to the Talley home, in that they are hoping to buy the house to be used as a recording studio for Gwen’s fledgling country music career. Roy Gonzales is thoroughly entertaining as her spacey unpredictable guitar playing groupie, Weston.

There is such a strong sense that much has happened before this play, it’s a wonder that Wilson wrote this piece first, never intending it to be a part of a trilogy. It’s a common belief that Wilson only wrote the other two pieces in the Talley Trilogy because Mary Carver, the original Sally Friedman, wanted more background information for her character in Fifth of July. It skates upon background information in such a way that watching it as a stand-alone play can leave you feeling slightly left out, having a bit of catch up to do. The relationships are not laid out on the table in a contrived exposition.

Morgan’s direction is most noticeable in its fine pacing and structure. Dunn captures the defeatist nature and ultimate rejuvenation of Nathan subtly and honestly. Wilson’s writing can allow for languishing, but the actors clip along. Joe Court’s sound design provides a perfect soundtrack to the time period, reckoning the music of the rebellious 60’s which many of these characters are strongly connected to. Ashley Ann Woods’ scenic design fills out the Raven space expertly in creating the worn vastness of the Talley house. One small detail I noticed that distracted on the design spectrum was a bag of Scott’s fertilizer. It was the only element on stage that was clearly out of the appropriate time period with its computer graphic design on the contemporary bag. While not wholly taking away from the play, Wilson’s plays are deeply set in their time and every last detail should fit in the world. Analise Rahn, however, makes no missteps in her accurate and telling costume design, including a perfect dress for Shirley.

While this is a faithful revival of Wilson’s work, it doesn’t necessarily take many risks. Morgan gives us a crisp clean production that simply tells the story. A few more eccentricities throughout the cast may have aided in adding more intrigue to this family drama that is light on highly dramatic events. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting and transportive look into what the rebellious generation of the 60’s turned into a decade later. Many gave up their fight, and some held onto it. Resentment against Vietnam vets lingered on, as is evident with Kenneth, who made the decision not to run from the draft. It was a turbulent time, which is a point only hinted upon in Wilson’s play. With Shirley we see the next generation arising in the 80’s as she shouts at one point, “Me, me, me!”

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Fifth of July runs at the Raven Theatre Complex through July 10th. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8:30 PM, and Sunday at 3:30 PM. Tickets are $15 student, senior, industry and $20 general. There is a special $10 performance on Sunday, July 3rd. For tickets and more information visit infamouscommonwealth.com or call 773-516-4528.                                        

      Photos by Paul Metreyeon  

June 22, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll (The Mammals)

  
  

Mammals’ dream journal struggles to maintain balance

  
  

Gabe Garza as Hyde, Sarah Scanlon as Eve - The Mammals - Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll

   
The Mammals present
   
The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll
  
Written by Jason Adams, Scott Barsotti, Randall Colburn, Bob Fisher,
Reina Hardy, Warwick Johnson and Jeremy Menekseoglu
Directed by
Bob Fisher
at
Zoo Studio, 4001 N. Ravenswood Ste B-1 (map)
through April 2  |  tickets: $20  | 
more info

Reviewed by by Barry Eitel

In their The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll, The Mammals are quick to dismiss Robert Louis Stevenson, decrying his novel as a “penny dreadful.” Instead, at the onset of the play, our guide Professor Oliver Mastodon Peale says that we are about to get a taste of the real story. He claims that next to the titular doctor’s eviscerated body laid a book, half written in neat cursive, half written in near-illegible handwriting. This adaptation, as we’re led to believe, is actually a dramatization of that story. It’s a bold move; one that breathes life into the Victorian-era tale.

Gabe Garza as Hyde - Dream Journal of Doctor Jeckyll - The MammalsKnown for their exploration of the horrific and grotesque, Dr. Jekyll and his alter-ego Mr. Hyde provide ample fodder for the Mammals. However, the play can never decide whether it is a gothic descent into hell or a smartly-done spoof. In the end, the show becomes a victim of taking itself too seriously.

In lieu of actors, claims Peale (Jason Adams wrapped in a robe and marvelously fake moustache), he has hired sleepwalkers. We watch as Jekyll (Scott Barsotti) battles, comforts, and eventually succumbs to Hyde (Gabe Garza). Basically, it’s a story dwelling on the well-explored turf of Apollonian versus Dionysian. The Mammals make very clear that Jekyll is a man of science while Hyde concerns himself with art and magic (usually through harming cats). We watch as Jekyll, through Hyde, tears into those around him and, finally, into himself.

The play was written by committee, with contributions by Jason Adams, Scott Barsotti, Randall Colburn, Bob Fisher, Reina Hardy, Warwick Johnson, and Jeremy Menekseoglu (whew). It works best when Jekyll and Hyde play off each other like some sort of bipolar comedy duo. The most memorable scene is when the boorish Hyde becomes Jekyll’s wingman, giving him terrible advice for wooing Eve (Sarah Scanlon).

The writers seem to have taken for granted that we all know how the story ends, and the play clumsily spirals into the finale without much concrete motivation. The last couple of scenes, although striking, don’t really connect into a fully-realized arc. The framing device, although funny, doesn’t help things. For some reason, a pair of Siamese twins (Ashlee Edgemon and Anne Marie Boyer, who are not real conjoined twins) do what they can to derail Peale’s demonstration. It also seems like flute-wielding demons are trying to take over the show? Whatever they’re up to, the soundtrack they provide is eerily excellent.

Gabe Garza as Hyde, Sarah Scanlon as Eve, in The Mammals' original production of 'The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll', now playing at Zoo Studio.I take issue with the writers’ casual remarks about pedophilia and rape. Some of Hyde’s comments seem like cheap shots for shock value. The play’s moments of high tension are usually overblown, like when Scanlon and Garza scream at each other as they discuss the nature of screams. Again, it’s the comedy that should’ve been the star—the funniest moments can be subversive yet push the story forward. While not one of the smartest points of the show, Garza rolling around on the floor after a punch to the groin and groaning “My balls!” is a highlight.

Either way, the cast fully commits to the material, whether they’re playing a short tune on the dulcimer or screaming at the audience. And some fascinating moments are pulled out of the general chaos. In the last few scenes, a tired Peale goes into a beautifully metatheatrical monologue about the nature of art. John Ross Wilson’s cabinet-o-curios set provides a feast for the eyes, with plenty of drawers and doors for the cast to open and close. Like a dream, a lot of Dream Journal doesn’t quite make sense, but it definitely keeps your interest. Claiming ‘but that’s the point!’ seems a lazy argument to me, but it works well enough to keep this massive collaboration hammering along.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

Gabe Garza as Hyde, in The Mammals' 'The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll'

The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll continues through April 2nd at Zoo Studio, 4001 N. Ravenswood #B1, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 10pm.  BYOB! Tickets are $20, and reservations can be made by calling  866-593-4614.

  
  
March 8, 2011 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Carmilla (WildClaw Theatre)

  
  

WildClaw starts the year with fang-tastic Gothic treat

  
  

WildClaw Theatre presents 'Carmilla' at DCA Storefront Theatre

  
WildClaw Theatre presents
  
Carmilla
  
Written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Adapted by
Alyrenee Amidei
Directed by
Scott Cummins
at
DCA Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph (map)
through Feb 20  |  tickets: $20  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Purist fans of J. Sheridan LeFanu might curl their toes in horror over the liberties taken with his novella “Carmilla in WildClaw Theatre’s latest action-packed production, now onstage at the DCA Storefront Theater. But then, not knowing any LeFanu purists, just revel in this adaptation’s delightful mix of classic gothic style, self-conscious and knowing humor, insightful take on relationships, energetically executed fight scenes (Scott Cummins and David Chrzanowski) and–oh yes–lesbian vampires.

In our Buffy-Twilight-True-Blood saturated culture, you’ve seen vampires, you’ve seen lesbians, you’ve seen lesbian vampires–that’s entertainment. But WildClaw’s production, under Scott Cummins’ direction, cunningly returns audiences to the original dangers of women loving women, plus the wild danger inherent in giving oneself over to love, period.

WildClaw Theatre presents 'Carmilla' at DCA Storefront TheatreYoung Laura (Brittany Burch) is on the cusp of womanhood, passing her days at her father’s (Charley Sherman) rural schloss with only her governesses Madame Perrodon (Mandy Walsh) and Mademoiselle LaFontaine (Moira Begale-Smith) for feminine company. Amusing as the older women are, Laura craves a companion for which to socialize. The visiting and slightly amorous General Spielsdorf (Brian Amidei) has a ward, Bertha (Sara Gorsky), who just might fill the bill. However, word of her sinking into a mysterious illness cancels any chance of Laura making her acquaintance and draws the General away to see to his ward’s care. Laura faces her disappointment stoically, as well as the teasing Perrodon and LaFontaine give her on being a prospective match for the General. Living where they are, few options exist from which to choose a mate who could appeal to Laura romantically. She accepts that any marriage might have to be sensibly arranged for her future security more than anything.

During a family outing in the moonlight, a carriage careens by and almost crashes—three strangers emerge from the accident, a veiled woman, a younger woman who has collapsed and a servant in an eye patch. The veiled woman (Erin Myers) seems mysteriously familiar to Laura’s father but she refuses to reveal her identity. She only discloses that she must hurry on to take care of business critical to their family’s welfare, but doesn’t dare to take her weak daughter any further on the journey. Laura’s father offers to take the girl in for the three months the woman requires to secure their future. So it is that Laura becomes friends with the strange and fascinating Carmilla (Michaela Petro), who has seen Laura’s face in a dream, just as Laura has seen hers in a similar dream.

Cummins’ direction strikes a steady and creative balance between building eerie tension and swinging into bursts of action that enliven the storyline and push the plot forward. Beyond the excitement of fight scenes, the play’s interjection of gypsies, either at play or at mourning, work to disrupt the close, fever/dream relationship between Carmilla and Laura, as well as suffuse the play’s atmosphere with foreboding, unrelenting superstition. Superstition is gospel among this play’s lower orders, but its upper class characters are never far from its infecting influence. Dr. Hesselius (Steve Herson) seems at times as helpless as any medieval physician—resorting to bloodletting as part of Laura’s “cure” when she falls under the same wasting illness that takes Bertha’s life.

But more to the point, Burch and Petro successfully capture the delicate sensuality that was an intricate part of 19th century genteel women’s relationships. Even before Carmilla begins to put the moves on Laura, their relationship wobbles along a fine line between friends and lovers. Carmilla may have seduced others, but she invests earnest passion more in the chase than in the conquest. As for Burch, she skillfully renders Laura with all the befuddlement of a young woman who, besides not knowing about the birds and the bees, simply cannot know or imagine the emotional impact overwhelming love can have. Carmilla dominates Laura from the possession of greater knowledge and experience and maintaining the mystery about her.

     
WildClaw Theatre presents 'Carmilla' at DCA Storefront Theatre WildClaw Theatre presents 'Carmilla' at DCA Storefront Theatre
WildClaw Theatre presents 'Carmilla' at DCA Storefront Theatre WildClaw Theatre presents 'Carmilla' at DCA Storefront Theatre

Aly Amidei’s script has taken the best of LeFanu’s poetic text and interwoven it with a clearer feminist impulse. Carmilla comes across as more of an intellectual in this play than she does in LeFanu’s novella. Carmilla’s story also benefits from Amidei integrating 19th century beliefs about suicide leading to vampirism and the dead needing to be staked down so that they do not rise and prey upon the living. The men who come after Carmilla, the General and the Ranger (Josh Zagoren), strike the exact note of righteous masculinity prevailing against the disorder of a feminine fiend. Going after vampires is not without its humorous moments, though, and these are well played by Herson and Sherman.

Having so much going for it, it’s disappointing when instances of amateurism plague the show. There were times I simply loved Bertha (Sara Gorsky), Carmilla’s earlier prey-turned-vampire, prowling the countryside like a feral beast, only to watch her animality go over the top in other scenes. Carmilla’s occult powers over Henri (Scott T. Barsotti), her competition for Laura’s affections, also strained credibility and made his departure to go hang himself more laughable than convincing.

All in all, though, Wildclaw shows real dedication to intelligent horror entertainment. Audiences won’t be fed the same old vamps but something that evokes the rich subtly of women in close personal relationships. They will also find Charlie Athanas’ special effects and the sound design of Mikhail Fiksel and Scott Tallarida well paired with LeFanu’s language, rounding out Carmilla as a good, solid gothic treat.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

WildClaw Theatre presents 'Carmilla' at DCA Storefront Theatre

 

     
     
January 18, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: The League of Awesome (Factory Theater)

This “League of Awesome” fails to live up to its name

 

DSC_0008

   
The Factory Theater presents
   
The League of Awesome
   
Written by Corri Feuerstein and Sara Sevigny
Directed by
Matt Engle
at
Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston  (map)
through August 21  |  tickets: $15-$20  |  more info

reviewed by Keith Ecker 

(Before I launch into my review of the Factory Theater’s The League of Awesome, I’d like to thank the theater staff for assisting me after I suffered heat exhaustion the first time I tried to see this play. Like a good critic, I cut out early so as to avoid passing out in the audience and stealing the show, so to speak.)


The idea of staging a comic book must have been alluring to the Factory Theater ensemble.

“We can have sound effects! And fight scenes! And super powers! And title cards!” you can imagine them saying as you watch The League of Awesome, the quirky theater company’s newest comedy about an all-female group that, after banishing their arch-nemesis, finds itself stuck with nothing to do.

DSC_0082 But although these little gimmicks are fun and inventive, they do not make a strong play. A strong play requires a sturdy backbone of a story, and unfortunately, this backbone is fractured. That’s not to say that the supplemental sound effects and superpowers—done in Kabuki fashion where assistants dawn black garb to remain invisible to the audience—don’t intermittently work to their desired effect, but without a captivating context to stick these things into, it’s just a lot of noise and flashy ribbons.

The story centers around the “League of Awesome”, a group of superhuman females that rid the city of crime and super villainy. The Beacon (Corri Feuerstein, who also co-wrote the play) has the power to redirect beams of energy. Cat Scratch (Erin Myers) uses sharp claws to scratch her enemies, while her teammate and thinly veiled lover Rumble (Melissa Tropp) uses her brute strength. Finally, there’s Sylvia (Sara Sevigny, who also co-wrote the play), who has the power to conjure anything at will by preceding it with the words “The way I see it…”

At the play’s opening, the team is combating The Sorrowmaker (Dan Granata), a villain who has the power to make people sad. (Coincidentally, the villain is also the ex-boyfriend of The Beacon.) The team defeats The Sorrowmaker after Sylvia banishes him to the pages of a lost installment of the Hardy Boys series.

One-year later, the league has eliminated all crime, thereby eliminating their usefulness. Now they are bored and drink all day. Then, Sylvia’s sister stops by—a plot point that contributes nothing to the story—and reveals her ability to make people break out into song at will. The characters spend more time drinking and being bored as we the audience are bored along with them, but unfortunately have expired our drinks.

Of course, The Sorrowmaker breaks out and seeks to exact his revenge. Meanwhile, Sylvie drunkenly conjures a new superhero named Ms. Great, whose hard-lined sense of justice and morality would make Jesus feel like a sinner.

There’s more to the story, but it quickly becomes a jumbled morass, with subplots dead-ending, floundering and being forgotten about. There’s just too much going on at once for us to become invested. Will Cat Scratch and Rumble get past their petty fighting and stake their purpose within this story? Will Sylvie’s sister come to terms with her powers and will her character become developed enough for us to care? And why is Sylvie’s proclivity to get drunk such a big part of the first half of the play but is kind of forgotten about in the second half?

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Despite all the flaws in the script, the acting is solid. Granata lays it on thick as the spurned villain. He’s got the maniacal scowl and laugh down to a T. Sevigny’s brashness as Sylvie pays off for its comedic effect. But the biggest show-stealer of all is Wm. Bullion as Gladys, a vagrant and the play’s narrator. His delivery and aloofness is laugh-out-loud funny.

With a much tighter script, The League of Awesome could be an awesome production. It has strong performances, unique effects and interesting fight choreography. But without a reason to care about all the whiz and bang on stage, it plays out like a confusing collage of comic book panels.

   
   
Rating: ★★
      
      

 

July 25, 2010 | 1 Comment More