Tag: Joshua Allard

Review: The Snow Queen, or When Christmas Freezes Over! (Piccolo Theatre)

Piccolo Theatre's "The Snow Queen, or When Hell Freezes Over" by Jessica Puller, directed by Nicole Keating. (photo credit: Robert Erving Potter III)        
The Snow Queen, or
When Christmas Freezes Over!

Written by Jessica Puller  
Directed by Nicole Keating  
at Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main (map)
thru Dec 21  |  tickets: $10-$25   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

November 18, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: A Girl with Sun in Her Eyes (Pinebox Theater)


Strong performances surrounded by nonsensical plot


Audrey Francis, Vince Teninty - Pinebox

Pine Box Theater presents
A Girl With Sun in Her Eyes
Written by Joshua Rollins
Directed by Matt Miller
at The Second Stage, 3408 N. Sheffield (map)
through August 7  |  tickets: $35  |  more info

Reviewed by Catey Sullivan

A Girl With Sun in Her Eyes only works if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief into a massive bridge across not one but two otherwise utterly unbreachable chasms. The holes come in the form of actions by characters who, in real life, would be more likely to sprout wings and fly than actually behave this way. As fine as the performances are in playwright Joshua Rollins’ drama, they’re stuck in a story that’s held together by glaring contrivances. If Rollins’ characters behaved like people in the real world, there’d be no story.

Consider: Would a tough, veteran undercover police officer – someone who has survived three years posing as a prostitute – leave a suspect alone in a room along with ridiculously easy access to materials that reveal her real identity? Not unless there was no other way to advance the plot she wouldn’t. For that matter, would she Steve Pickering, Vince Teninty - Pineboxstill be working undercover if her cover had been blown? No she would not, although Rollins would have us believe otherwise. Never mind that Officer Lucy has been not only identified but publically threatened by a young man of the ‘hood in which she works. She’s still “undercover”, picking up potential johns at the local strip club, taking them to seedy hotel rooms, leaving them alone to rummage through her stuff, and (number four in the roster of This Would Never Happen gaffes) occasionally opening the door without checking to see who it is first (never a good idea when somebody has recently threatened to kill you.)

Still, Rollins’ plot holes insofar as the cops are concerned crop up fairly late in his 90-minute drama. The biggest problem occurs within the first two minutes, as William, a middle-aged white man in a starkly lit conference room, takes a blow to the skull from a detective clearly operating in accordance with the John Burge School of Interrogation. In real life the extremely well-connected William would demand a lawyer as soon as that first, bone-crunching punch landed. At the very least, he’d name-drop/demand to call his extremely high-placed connections. But William does nothing of the kind. Instead, he submits to extensive torture, stonewalling interminably. He does this because if he didn’t – if he acted like any other well-connected, middle class white guy with no arrest record suddenly getting beaten to a pulp by a rogue cop – the play would be over in less than five minutes. Instead, it winds on for an hour and a half, until William is rescued by the modern-day equivalent of a deux ex machine.

So much for the plot in A Girl With Sun in Her Eyes. There are inconsistencies of character here as well. For example: Would a cop who has no compassion take the time to explain to someone begging for mercy why she has no compassion? No. The compassionless don’t bother to explain themselves; that’s one of the defining characteristics of being hard-hearted. You don’t care what people think and you certainly don’t feel the need to justify your cruelty.

In the program notes (following a Dickensian bit of autobiography replete with references to “meager belongings” and a rather self-important mention about how no one else in his entire family went to college), Rollins discusses the existential matters of chance and how the tiniest of margins – a few feet – can make a world of difference in the direction of a life. But despite its preponderance of characters making bad decisions that snowball into catastrophe, A Girl With Sun in Her Eyes doesn’t even begin to seriously examine the fascinating, miniscule twists of fate and free will that can mean the difference between a prison term and a college degree. It fails because the key decisions the characters make are so patently unbelievable. The result is a series of consequences based on contrivances rather than authentic behavior. And all those contrivances mean the piece is more likely to make you roll your eyes than provoke your thoughts.

That said, there is one solid reason to take in A Girl With Sun in Her Eyes. That’s Vincent Teninty’s portrayal of the hapless William. He exudes hurt and vulnerability throughout, portraying the sort of flawed, damaged antihero that’s easy to feel for. A monologue midway through about being scarred by a former lover has the pathos to bring tears to the eyes. It’s a terrific, complex performance that covers the spectrum from cowering to courageous, from open and empathetic to closed off and bitter.

It’s too bad he doesn’t have a better story surrounding him.

Rating: ★★

Karen Aldridge, Steve Pickering - Pinebox

Pine Box Theater’s A Girl With Sun in Her Eyes continues through August 7th at The Second Stage (3408 N. Sheffield), with performances Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 pm & 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm. Tickets are $35, and are available at www.pinebotheater.org.

All photos by Heather Stumpf


July 2, 2011 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Eclipse Theatre’s “Democracy”

Democracy Is a “Lite” and Casual Affair


Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow.  –Abraham Lincoln, 1864

Eclipse Theatre presents:


adapted by Romulus Linney
directed by Steven Fedoruk
thru December 20th (ticket info)

reviewed by Paige Listerud

Lincoln saw it all coming, but could he have anticipated an America as rife with corruption as it was under his leading general? Henry Adams’ novel, Democracy, which forms one half of Romulus Linney’s adaptation, (the second being Adam’s novel, Esther, based on his wife) came from the disillusionment Adams experienced under Ulysses S. Grant’s administration. Idealistic and eager for reform, Adams pinned great hopes upon the rough, honest and honorable military man.

Democracy05 Disillusionment followed hard and fast upon Grant’s 1868 election—September 24, 1869 saw the dawn of Black Friday, a panic brought about by James Fisk and Jay Gould’s attempts to corner the gold market, as well as the severe misjudgments of Grant and his Secretary of Treasury George Boutwell to stop them. Investigation revealed the involvement of the President’s brother-in-law, Abel Rathbone Corbin, but Grant’s association with Gould alone would have brought the scandal right to the door of the White House. In a prominent English journal, Henry Adams anonymously published an article on the scandal, hoping it would be picked up and reprinted often in the American press. It was, but Fisk and Gould never faced prosecution. The crash of Black Friday crippled the American economy for years afterward.

The most corruption Linney’s play touches on is the Whiskey Ring, involving Grant’s appointee General John H. McDonald and Grant’s own private secretary Orville E. Babcock. Even here, Linney only satirizes Grant’s alcoholism and his expurgated testimony. The play doesn’t mention that Grant fired special prosecutor John B. Henderson when he denied Grant’s wishes to hold Babcock’s trial in military court. Grant’s replacement, James Broadhead, not only allowed Babcock to be acquitted but also closed out all the other cases involved.

Material that could provide for four or five satires goes missing from both Adams’ novel and Linney’s adaptation. It becomes quite clear that we are dealing with American History Lite. But what Adams would not bring up out of a sense of delicacy or fear of reprisal, Linney most likely avoids out of our culture’s collective ignorance. If lite is the only way we can take it, all the worse for us, since forgetfulness like that can only leave us wandering in a fantasy theme park of a country–as make-believe as the fictions surrounding George Washington of which old Mrs. Dudley (Barbara Roeder Harris) disabuses the other characters on their day trip to Mt. Vernon.

Democracy02 Democracy07 Democracy01

Who knows how much anyone is paying attention–since Senator Silas Raitcliffe (Jon Steinhagen) is wooing the recently arrived, beautiful young widow, Mrs. Lee (Rebecca Prescott), and young Episcopal minister Reverend Hazard (Stephen Dale) is in hot pursuit of Mrs. Dudley’s daringly bohemian niece, Esther Dudley (Nina O’Keefe). Director Steven Fedoruk keeps things light at Eclipse Theatre’s upstairs studio and focuses mainly on “who’s zoomin’ who.” He’s assembled an excellent cast in that case, able to handle the unevenness with which Linney has cobbled together Adams’ two novels.

The greater burden may be in portraying the younger couple–given their issues with mortality and proving improvable faith. Linney’s writing also doesn’t provide much in the way of romance for O’Keefe and Dale to connect with. But both actors do maintain the control needed to make their characters’ religious disputes personal and to temper the material’s overweening histrionics.

Democracy07 Linney’s adaptation allows the rest of the cast far more fun. Diplomat Baron Jacobi (Larry Baldacci), lobbyist Mrs. Baker (Cheri Chenoweth), and Mrs. Dudley are a hoot, as we say out here beyond the Beltway. Ron Butts and Sandy Spatz make an amusingly backwoods Mr. and Mrs. President, although why Butts doesn’t push Grant’s alcoholism further is anyone’s guess.

Sen. Raitcliffe and Mrs. Lee explore and expound their passions for politics as much as for each other. They form an arguably perfect pair, since each may be as ethically compromised as the other. Steinhagen, who recently played Judge Brack with sinister sophistication in Raven Theatre’s Hedda Gabler, throws out villainy for the blinkered guilelessness that Henry Adams wrote for the novel’s character—a man who regards “virtue and vice as a man who is color-blind talks about red and green.”

Why neither novel nor play delve much into Mrs. Lee’s ethical colorblindness remains a conundrum, since Raitcliffe throwing away millions of votes makes for less of a wake-up call than Raitcliffe receiving a bribe for his party. Could Mrs. Lee be the quintessential American—less likely to grasp political transgressions, but more able to understand the personal ones, like an errant blowjob or two? As Raitcliffe declaims during one of Mrs. Lee’s parties, politics in a democracy can only be as pure and honest as the people it comes from. A little more sophistication on the part of the American people couldn’t hurt either. A sucker may be born every minute, as another 19th century figure was fond of saying, but we should at least try to have the next generation of suckers be smarter than the last.


Rating: ★★★



November 27, 2009 | 1 Comment More