Tag: Mike Cherry

Review: Water & Power (UrbanTheater Company)

Ivan Vega and Dennis Garcia star as Power and Water in Water & Power, UrbanTheater Chicago           
      

  

Water & Power

Written by Richard Montoya  
Batey Urbano, 2620 W. Division (map)
thru July 22  |  tix: $20  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

June 28, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Heat Wave (Cold Basement Dramatics)

Abby Pierce stars as Hopper in Cold Basement Dramatics' "Heat Wave" by Steven Simoncic, directed by Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary, part of Steppenwolf Theatre's Garage Rep.  (photo credit: Michael Courier)        
      
Heat Wave

Written by Steven Simoncic  
Directed by Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary
at Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted (map)
thru April 25  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     

April 18, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: At Home at the Zoo (City Lit Theater)

Ted Hoerl and Elaine Carlson star as Peter and Ann in City Lit Theater's "At Home at the Zoo" by Edward Albee, directed by Steve Scott. (photo credit: Tom McGrath)        
      
At Home at the Zoo

Written by Edward Albee 
Directed by Steve Scott
at City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr (map)
thru Oct 26  |  tickets: $25-$29   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     

October 17, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: Devil Land (UrbanTheater Chicago)

Tricia Rodriguez stars as Destiny in UbanTheater Chicago's world premiere of "Devil Land" by Desi Moreno-Penson, directed by Hank Hilbert. (photo credit: Anthony Aicardi)        
      
Devil Land

Written by Desi Moreno-Penson
Directed by Hank Hilbert
UrbanTheater Chicago, 2628 W. Division (map)
thru April 6  |  tickets: $10-$20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review 

March 20, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: Fish Men (Teatro Vista @ Goodman Theatre)

In a duel to the end, (left to right) Rey Reyes (Raúl Castillo) competes against chess hustler Cash (Cedric Mays) while John (Mike Cherry) and Dr. Lee (Gordon Chow) observe in Teatro Vista’s Fish Men, written by Cándido Tirado and presented by Goodman Theatre (April 7 – May 6).       
      
Fish Men 

Written by Candido Tirado  
Directed by Edward Torres
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru May 6  |  tickets: $12-$42   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
             Read entire review
     

April 17, 2012 | 7 Comments More

Review: Riff Raff (Mary-Arrchie Theatre)

     
Eduardo Martinez, Eric Sherman-Christ (Mary-Arrchie Theatre - Riff Raff)
Riff Raff
 

Written by Laurence Fishburne
Directed by Richard Cotovsky  
Angel Island Theatre, 735 W. Sheridan (map)
thru Oct 30  |  tickets: $18-$22  | more info

Check for half-price tickets

     Read entire review

     
September 26, 2011 | 3 Comments More

Review: Bonegrinders (Bendsinister Theatre)

     
     

An authentic, yet not wholly theatrical new play

     
     

A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.

BENDSINISTER Theatre presents

   
   
Bonegrinders
   

Written by Melody Von Smith
Directed by Juan Castaneda
at The RBP Rorschach, 4001 N. Ravenswood (map) 
thru June 18th  |  tickets: $15 (suggested donation) 
more info

Reviewed by Jason Rost

While their name is up for debate, BENDSINISTER Theatre is a company packed with potential. The exact same can be said for the title and script of their latest production, Bonegrinders by Melody Von Smith, an environmental chemist and journalist by day. As you enter the RBP Rorschach space, set designer Noel Dominique has created an incredibly authentic looking bar. It’s so real, that you can purchase drinks from the bartender before the start of the show. It’s this authenticity that Von Smith and director Juan Castaneda excel at. However, getting the look and feel of a setting is not enough to make for a good theatrical outing. With such attention to realism, there is very little in terms of theatricality that merits this script being a play instead of a screenplay or television script.

A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.Von Smith certainly has something with this script, but in its current state it lacks consistency. The theme of coming home from war and being unable to adjust to daily life has been told countless times, i.e. The Hurt Locker. The difference in Von Smith’s script is that instead of dealing with enlisted men and women, it deals with war journalists, but that difference is a fine line according to Von Smith.

Bendsinister’s Bonegrinders takes place entirely inside a typical neighborhood bar in Buffalo, NY. The story revolves around Sadie (played with great emotional capacity by Erin Elizabeth Orr), who has been recently widowed after her husband Lloyd, an embedded war journalist, was killed while working in the Middle East. The play opens when Sadie receives a letter from Lloyd, sent before he was killed, the day before his funeral. Her friends gather around her and attempt to comfort and advise her as she struggles to decide whether or not to open the letter. Further conflict arises when Lloyd’s best friend, Riley (Adam Dodds), a vigilante war photographer himself, returns for the funeral. A chaotic, at times muddled, mixture of anger, grief, and alcohol create a tumultuous atmosphere as events unfold and occasional truths are revealed.

Von Smith’s structure is where the play falters. The emphasis on giving each character their own storyline ultimately detracts from the central conflict. It appears to be a symptom of mimicking television episodic structure. The setting, characters and dialogue are exceptionally realistic. She has clearly given great thought and care to birthing each of these characters. Conversely, since we don’t have a 13-episode television series, and rather a two-hour play, you simply cannot stop the story immediately at hand from moving forward. If this were a play about “a bar” where different stories and different people enter and exit, then that might work. However, what we have is a play about a dead war journalist, his wife and his best friend. Taking detours to explore Devin’s (Greg Wenz) relationship with his father or Phil’s (Arch Harmon) restaurant business is superfluous and lessens the emotional impact of the primary narrative.

     
A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda. A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.
A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda. A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.

The insights we gain on the life of a war journalist or photographer is minimal. It’s nothing that could not be discovered after ten-minutes of googling the subject matter. Also, while Mike Cherry, Orr and Wenz give thoughtful performances, the cast on a whole is uneven. Dodd’s emotional outbursts are often contrived and strained. Harmon is a good presence to the mix, but is unfortunately very difficult to understand at times as he recites his lines by rote. Castaneda gets the atmosphere and naturalism perfectly, but fails at helping Von Smith’s script out by not shaping and building it through pacing.

Von Smith is a playwright to watch, as is Bendsinister Theatre as a new company. Bonegrinders, while ambitious, just doesn’t hit the emotional heights it aims for and divulges very little information about the world of war journalism. It lands into soap-opera territory too often. If she would allow her supporting characters to, well, support…that focus would be a start at allowing her central characters to communicate the political, human and social depth she hints at currently.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.

BENDSINISTER Theatre presents the Midwest premiere of Bonegrinders, continuing through June 18th at the RBP Rorschach. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM, and Sunday at 6 PM. A $15 donation for entry is requested. Performances are BYOB, with concessions available. Seats can be reserved by email at tickets@bendsinister.org or by phone at 773-234-2363. More information can be found at bendsinister.org

More info on Von Smith and the initial production of Bonegrinders: http://www.buffaloathome.com/detail.aspx?dct=54&id=6520&mid=240&loc=rss

     
     

June 12, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Sonnets for an Old Century (UrbanTheater)

     
     

Like life, ‘Sonnets’ is a bumpy ride

     
     

Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century'.

   
UrbanTheater Company presents
 
Sonnets for an Old Century
  
Written by José Rivera
Directed by
Madrid St. Angelo i/a/w Juan Castaneda
at
Steppenwolf Garage Theatre, 1624 N. Halsted (map)
thru April 24 |  tickets: $20   |  more info  

Reviewed by Keith Ecker

Chicago has a vast and virtually unknown storytelling scene. Shows like The Moth, 2nd Story, Story Club, Stories at the Store, This Much Is True and Essay Fiesta feature the best writers and storytellers in the city. As a member of this scene (and Essay Fiesta producer), I see at least a dozen personal monologues performed each month. You would think that after hearing more than 100 narratives, I’d become jaded. However, I’d argue that the opposite is true. My appreciation for genuine and honest storytelling continues to grow and appears to be without bounds. Conversely, my bullshit detector has become highly attuned.

Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series. Photo: Peter CoombsI mention all this because Sonnets for an Old Century, the new UrbanTheater Company production that’s part of the Steppenwolf Garage Rep, is a storytelling showcase. The play, written by José Rivera, consists of a series of monologues told by the recently deceased. The stage is their purgatory, and it is here that each provides commentary on the life he or she has lived, both the good and the bad. So in essence, these monologues—or free-verse sonnets—are personal narratives, even if the narratives are fictional.

Overall, Sonnets is an incredibly inconsistent show. There are moments where the monologists hit their high notes, striking genuine emotion. In these rare scenes, you can sense the actor is digging deep, plucking an honest chord from within and relaying that to the audience from behind the mask of the character. It is also in these scenes where the dialogue rises above contrivance and overwroughtness to become something real and relatable.

Unfortunately, there are far too many monologues in which the diction is absurd, even spiraling into laughable territory. Lines like "ecology of the spirit" and "rhythm of vegetables" could work if they weren’t delivered with such grave seriousness. Nobody talks like this, not even poets—or at least good poets. The actors struggle when assuming these pretentious characters, often falling into the trap of indicating rather than acting. But can you blame them? Nobody can relate to a clunker of a line like the "fallopian tubes of her mind." How can the actors find a place of genuine feeling when lines like this are the antithesis of genuine feeling?

But let’s get back to the highlights. There’s a beautiful monologue delivered by actor Hank Hilbert. He plays an actor who, in life, kept his homosexuality and his AIDS diagnosis hidden from most of the world. The language of the piece is pedestrian, though it still retains its power. There is humor as well as poignancy. There is action as well as characterization. It has all the makings of a great narrative.

Another highlight is provided courtesy of Christian Kain Blackburn. His character talks about sin, and attempts to justify his earthly behavior, which in life included drug and alcohol abuse. He then gives a riveting speech about his invalid father and the pain of watching the man grow old, weak and helpless. Blackburn pulls from the gut and succeeds in delivering one of the most compelling sonnets of the production.

     
Gino Marconi in a scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series. Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series. Photo: Peter Coombs
Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century'.  Photo: Athony Aicardi Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series. Photo: Peter Coombs Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series.

Despite these shining moments, and a few others, the play’s inconsistency detracts from its overall quality. Each character need not deliver his or her monologue in a similar voice – that would be a sign of a non-dynamic writer. But the style should remain consistent. You can’t go from real-world dialogue to slam poetry and expect us to think these characters exist in the same universe. Perhaps if director Madrid St. Angelo addressed these style shifts, there would be more cohesion and a better end product.

The reason why the aforementioned storytelling series are successful is because they strive to tap into a place of vulnerability without the protection of pretense. Sonnets for an Old Century will probably turn off quite a few audience members because of just how much it clings to its loftiness. If the actors and director could find a way to make each piece vulnerable, despite the laughable dialogue, this would be a much more powerful play.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century'.  Photo: Athony Aicardi

GarageRep continues through April 24th, with performances Wednesdays through Sundays at 8 pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 4 pm; with a three-show marathon on Sunday, April 24 at 1 pm, 4pm & 8 pm.  For more info, go to Steppenwolf Theatre’s 2011 GarageRep page.

 

Artists

Featuring: Jennifer Walls, Alex Polcyn, Christian Kain Blackburn, Gino Marconi, Gabi Mayorga, Shannon Matesky, Hank Hilbert, Rashaad Hall, Marilyn Camacho, Paloma Nozicka, Dru Smith, Marvin Quijada, Meghann Tabor, Phillip E. Jones, Arthur Luis Soria, Sojourner Zenobia Wright, Mike Cherry, Whitney Hayes and Amrita Dhaliwal.

       
        

What is GarageRep??

February 26, 2011 | 3 Comments More