Tag: Gary Murphy

Review: One Thousand Words (Theater Faction)

Garrett Wade Haley and Brandon Campbell star in One Thousand Words at Theater Faction            

          

One Thousand Words
 
Written by Curran Latas (music)
   and Michael Braud (book & lyrics)
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Sept 17  |  tix: $22-$27  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

September 12, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Adrift (Polarity Ensemble Theatre, Azusa Productions)

Colin Henry Fewell as Isaac and James Eldrenkamp as Jack, in Polarity Ensemble Theatre's "Adrift" by David Alex, directed by Maggie Speer. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)        
       
Adrift 

Written by David Alex  
Directed by Maggie Speer
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Aug 26  |  tickets: $12-$20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

August 1, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: California Suite (Black Elephant Theatre)

Visitor from Philadelphia-Joe Ogiony and Elizabeth Rude, Black Elephant Theatre, California Suite.       
      
California Suite 

Written by Neil Simon 
Directed by Josh Johnson
at Chemically Imbalanced Theater (map)
thru July 1  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
           Read entire review
     

June 12, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Barefoot in the Park (Chemically Imbalanced)

     
Barefoot in the Park - Chemically Imbalanced 7
Barefoot in the Park
 

Written by Neil Simon 
Directed by Josh Johnson
Chemically Imbalanced, 1422 W. Irving Park (map)
thru Oct 9  |   tickets: $15   |   more info

Check for half-price tickets

      Read entire review

     
September 16, 2011 | 1 Comment More

Review: Entertaining Mr. Sloane (Project 891 Theatre)

  
  

Project 891 gives us sly, subversive, down-low Joe Orton

 
 
  Tracy Garrison, David Schaplowsky Aaron Kirby, David Schaplowsky  

Project 891 Theatre presents
 
Entertaining Mr. Sloane
  
Written by Joe Orton
Directed by
Ron Popp
at
City Lit Theatre, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr (map)
through March 27  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Project 891 Theatre Company loves to take little trips down memory lane. What they’ve struck upon with Entertaining Mr. Sloane is a period piece wherein audiences may recall the subversion that “gay” once was–and that queer deconstructive politics constantly tries to resurrect. Ron Popp’s direction belies a delicate understanding of each character’s psychological state, yet unstintingly serves up gay transgression in its original down-low incarnation–with all its seedy, low-rent perspective intact.

Tracy Garrison, Aaron Kirby, David SchaplowskyAs such, Project 891’s rough and simple production reinvigorates an interrogation of the pretensions of middle class respectability from a queer position. It is as refreshing as it is dangerous. All the same, be prepared for this production’s emphasis on the emotional more than farcical elements of Joe Orton’s dark comedy. Whether Popp has given us a kinder, gentler slant on Orton’s work is a question worthy of debate—it certainly goes for quieter laughs and for deeply nuanced performance.

Kath (Tracy Garrison) rents out a room to young Mr. Sloane (Aaron Kirby), a self-confessed orphan, in the hopes of someday being able to afford a rest home for her father, Kemp (Gary Murphy). Garrison immediately sets up Kath’s emotional, as well as sexual, neediness in her negotiations with Sloane. Fear of scandal and censure from the neighbors motivates her cover story as a widow—she is actually an unwed mother who had to surrender her child, who would now be Sloane’s age. Garrison accurately conveys the mentality of a woman who has always had to settle for very little, yet persistently, yearningly inches for every little bit more. Her psychologically incestuous attraction to Mr. Sloane only enhances her thinly veiled desperation and wittily contrasts with her neurotic observance of propriety.

Kirby possesses all the handsomeness and charm his role requires. Rather than digging into the salaciousness of his character, however, he projects sly and equanimous content in letting others project their desires upon him. Besides his chemistry with Garrison, it’s a pleasure to watch his Sloane play sexual straight man (if that word can be used) to Ed (David Schaplowsky), Kath’s closeted brother, who shares her obsessions with propriety and terror of social opprobrium. Shaplowsky is never more hilarious than when Ed insists upon the purity of manly virtues, excoriates the conniving lusts of women—particularly his sister—or when he becomes shocked at evidence of Sloane’s coitus with her. In addition, he renders some truthfully tender moments for Ed, in surprising and sympathetic contrast to his usual closeted, social-climbing, misogynist douchebaggery.

Aaron Kirby, Tracy GarrisonGarrison, Kirby and Shaplowsky make a cunning ménage a trois. The trickier part seems to be to integrate Murphy’s performance as Kemp, “the Dada,” into the whole proceedings. Kemp’s initial encounter with Sloane drags and seems leaden, even with its revelation of the terrible secret Kemp has over him. Also, Sloane’s attack on Kemp needs far edgier veracity, both in fight choreography and Sloane’s sudden expressions of psychopathology. This production is terribly interesting, in that it makes a case for Sloane’s pathology being the result of his hypocritical environment—but that cannot be allowed to dull the shock of violence that Orton’s script demands.

Plus, other basic flaws in execution, like dialect slippage and technical trouble with lighting on opening night, keep this production of Entertaining Mr. Sloane from being a truly superlative one. Hopefully, there will be corrections in the course of the run–its delicate and nuanced aspects are truly worth seeing. By the time Ed and Kath have sealed the deal on Sloane, we pity him, for all his murderous tendencies. Old age and treachery shall always overcome youth and skill. Indeed.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

    Tracy Garrison Aaron Kirby, Gary Murphy   

Entertaining Mr. Sloan continues through March 27th, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8P and Sundays at 2P. Tickets are $15, and can be purchased online. Go to project891theatre.com for more info.

[http://youtu.be/lu6Nk75zM5o]

           
March 10, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Gross Indecency – Oscar Wilde (Black Elephant)

A Modern Take on Indecency


Gross Indecency of Oscar Wilde - Black Elephant - Emily Granata 001

 
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 Gross Indecency of Oscar Wilde - Black Elephant Theatre 015 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.

Gross Indecency of Oscar Wilde - Black Elephant - Emily Granata 007 Gross Indecency of Oscar Wilde - Black Elephant Theatre 009
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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.

Gross Indecency of Oscar Wilde - Black Elephant - Emily Granata 013 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.

 
 
Rating: ★★½
 
 

Gross Indecency of Oscar Wilde - Black Elephant Theatre 002

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

October 21, 2010 | 4 Comments More

REVIEW: Epic Proportions (Project 891 Theatre)

Shortness on vaudevillian style slows down “Epic Proportions”

 Cole Simon, Anna Shutz, 3

Project 891 Theatre presents:

 

Epic Proportions

by Larry Cohen and David Crane
directed by Ron Popp
at Chemically Imbalanced Theatre, 1420 W. Irving Park
through March 28th (more info | tickets)

review by Paige Listerud

I once looked down on broad physical comedy. Absorbed by witty dialogue and high concept situations, I relegated trips, pratfalls, and near misses to comedy for the lower orders. That alone makes me a bigger ass than any of the actors that manfully, enthusiastically sport their way through Beau Forbes’ fight choreography in Epic Proportions, Project 891’s latest production at Chemically Imbalanced Theatre. Physical comedy, perfectly timed and emotionally truthful, is like ballet—an athletic challenge that looks deceptively easy.

Anna Shutz, Cole Simon 2 The athletic end of acting has waned with the advance of modern theater, a loss that shows most when well-trained actors take on physically demanding comic roles. Today, the art and craft of physical comedy seems the province of specialists, dropped from the average actor’s repertoire like a hot potato.

Too bad. With the exception of the physical stuff, Ron Popp has assembled an excellent cast, with each actor fit perfectly to type. Benny Bennett (Matt Lozano) is a likable star-struck schlub, beginning his film career as an extra in, “Exuent Omnes”, a movie helmed by the egomaniacal director D. W. DeWitt (Robert Kearcher). Benny’s brother, Phil (Cole Simon), an all-around American boy-next-door, comes to collect Benny to take him home to the farm. But, since it is the Depression, and since extras get a dollar a day plus free meals, and since the last truck has left all 3400 cast members stranded in the desert—per Mr. DeWitt’s orders—Phil stays to become party to the madness of a runaway, overproduced picture that sees no end in sight.

As for “Exuent Omnes”, think “The Ten Commandments” meets “Ben Hur”, meets “Quo Vadis”, meets every other B-list sword and sandal epic. Both brothers fall for pert, cheerful Louise Goldman (Anna Schutz), assistant director to the extras, whose job of dividing the extras into ‘slave group” or “orgy scene group” already sets brother against brother. Add an assistant to Mr. DeWitt (Matt Allis) with the demeanor of a shark and a lesbian costume designer (Liz Hoffman) lusting after Louise and you have plenty here to entertain beyond the sturm und drang of jumbled comic fight scenes.

Cole Simon, Anna Shutz, Matt Lozano.jpg 2 Cole Simon, Anna Shutz

Obviously, the production strives to be consciously overwrought, in stylized parody of Cecille B. Demille films. Some moments are more successful than others. Tommy Culhane’s deliciously bug-eyed gaze and overarching gestures set the right tone for pronouncements about the glory of Rome. Hoffman’s sassy Queen of the Nile and voracious Continental lesbian are treats. If only Popp’s direction didn’t deprive her of a few critical comic moments. Gary Murphy’s Demille-like voice-overs, as well as the cast of the mockumentary that first introduces Exuent Omnes–Kate Konopasek, Floyd A. May, Manny Schenk and Larry Teagarden–round out the manic film enthusiasm for a fictitious cult classic.

The cast certainly exhibits all the exuberance typical of a 1930s comedy. However, the craft that is the legacy of vaudeville and screwball films needs to be tightened up for the sake of a fully realized work. Who knew silliness could be so complicated? Who knew everything old would be new, and necessary, again?

Rating: ★★½

 

Matt Lozano and Cole Simon

EXTRA CREDIT:

March 10, 2010 | 3 Comments More

Review: Project 891’s “Never the Sinner: The Leopold and Loeb Story”

 An Ode to the Wrong at Heart

Loeb and Leopold

Project 891 Theatre presents:

Never the Sinner: The Leopold and Loeb Story
by John Logan
directed by Michael Rashid

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Project 891 Theatre’s first stage venture, Never the Sinner: the Leopold and Loeb Story, resonates with unresolved issues from the last century. These issues continue into the 21st century as part of our unresolved daily discourse: justice, mercy, the cause of callous criminal conduct, the value of human life, the death penalty, sexuality and its causes. When one considers the implications of this play by Academy Award screenwriter John Logan, what amazes is that both the infamous murder and its prosecution are central to the history of Chicago and the nation, yet receive little serious attention today beyond true crime enthusiasts.

Guest director Michael Rashid was completely surprised when the producers offered him the project:

“They sent the script down in front of me at IHOP. We were just heading out for coffee and fries. I had known about the script for a while and had been fascinated with the story from my teens. After seeing Swoon! I was fascinated by the villains, the dark side and, being a gay man myself, the gay relationship in the story. John Logan emphasizes, first and foremost, this is a love story between Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.”

The performances are the greatest power of the production. Matt Hays (Richard Loeb), Ron Popp (Nathan Leopold), Gary Murphy (Clarence Darrow), and Robert Kaercher (Robert Crowe) are its four pillars. Each actor has been cast with precision. Gary Murphy is pitch perfect as the weary, yet undaunted humanist Clarence Darrow. Leopold and Loeb2Matt Hays conveys Loeb’s boyish amoral enthusiasm with humorous but terrifying accuracy. Robert Kaercher’s States Attorney is the quintessential man of his times, in his demeanor, delivery, and over-reliance on expertise to prosecute criminals.

Actors playing the press provide the necessary relief from the heaviness of the play’s themes, but Logan’s first work is not the easiest with which to create an uninterrupted dramatic arc. Its structure contains a lot of stop-and-start from scene to scene and Rashid’s direction has not resolved all those problems, given the spatial limitations of Chemical Imbalance Theatre. The incorporation of a high tech large digital flat screen as backdrop to the simple 1924 set and costuming is effective for the most part, conveying period newsreel footage and images emphasizing Leopold’s fascinations with falcons and Loeb. But it can also be distracting when unnecessarily telegraphing Leopold and Loeb’s relationship.

Ron Popp’s turn as Nathan Leopold, or Babe, is the hardest to warm to. His detached, ratiocinated worldview, his absolute belief in the Nietzschean Superman, provides as much distance between the character and audience as it does between him and the rest of his character’s world. But the play is dead-on in centering his worldview, with its deeper psychological underpinnings, Leopold, Loeb and Clarence Darrow as the prism through which to view Leopold and Loeb’s murder of Bobby Frank. This comes through with painful clarity when psychologists for the state interrogate Leopold and Loeb, expounding on their same-sex affair with the same detached, dissecting, and devaluing analysis that Leopold, in his turn, applies to ornithology, languages, little Bobby Frank’s life, everything.

Everything, that is, except his romance with Loeb, which he casts in fantasy, submission, and erotic wonder. Darrow orders Nathan to put aside all facts and figures, to go the heart of his being, to know truly why he has committed this terrible crime. When Babe answers, “What if my heart is wrong?” it is as if clouds have parted and the mystery becomes crystal clear. So far as the play is concerned, Leopold needs to believe in the Nietzschean Superman, and that he and Loeb are such creatures, so that his heart can have some small hope for survival in the anatomized, meaningless, Modernist world he must live in.

Loeb, Germaine and Leopold The role of Darrow could have been performed as a knight or, heaven forbid, high priest of humanistic truth. But, thankfully, Murphy’s performance gives Darrow’s idealistic moments earthiness, vitality, and accessibility. Where is such an eloquent champion now for the better part of our nature against the death penalty? We do not live in the better future that Darrow pictured himself a part of. We have been under the leadership of people who justified themselves as being above the law and above the rest of humanity. We are still suffering the blowback.

Rating: «««

 

View Never the Sinner - the Leopold and Loeb Story

Never the Sinner: The Leopold and Loeb Story

Presented by Project 891 Theatre
Where: Chemically Imbalanced Theater, 1420 W. Irving Park Rd.
When: Through Aug 2, 2009
Tickets: $10-$15  (Box Office: 1-800-838-3006)

Pictures taken by Val Bromann.

July 19, 2009 | 7 Comments More