The historic Gunder Mansion in Edgewater opens its doors for a unique theatre experience: a fifty-minute event consisting of five distinct plays, each unfolding in a separate room of the mansion and designed for an audience of one. The entire audience consists of only ten members; there are two tracks to choose from: “Personal” and “Up Close”, and there are two shows per night (7:30 PM and 8:30 PM).

The ten members of the audience are divided into two groups; each member will then follow a journey (either “Personal” or “Up Close”). Upon entering each room, a ten-minute play unfolds where the audience member becomes an active participant. So, what’s in the room?

It could be a fun TV show (“Iconic”, created and directed by Julian Stroop), a gothic fortune teller parlor (“The Guest”, written by Kaitlin Gilgenbach, directed by Molly Donahue), or just an ordinary room with an extra-ordinary person in it. Prepare to be surprised and amused, and throw caution out the door: this interactive play, as the show’s Experience Director Janet Howe put it, is the opposite of watching Netflix at home. It’s kind of like an amusement park where some rides are more fun than others, but, overall, the entire experience is highly enjoyable. You’ll even go home with a souvenir [of your own making].

The creative team behind “For One” (experience director Janet Howe, production manager Claire Chrzan) designed each play to revolve around the audience, so each room feels like a special customizable adventure. Dream-like, each play has no beginning and no end; once you’re in the room, you’re immediately drawn into the midst of action, so you might as well assume your designated role. The outcome is somewhat unpredictable, since actors play off the audience member’s words and actions. At the end, you’re often admired for your wonderful qualities and talents, and then politely kicked out. What a great chance to feel like a star, or at least like the most important person in the room. Lucky you.

About the venue: Gunder Mansion was built in 1910 for pharmaceutical company executive Samuel Gunder. It later was used by the Viatorian religious order. After many years of residing there, they sold the property in 1981 to the Chicago Park District for half the market value hoping to see it restored and used for the community. The Mansion was acquired by Edgewater Community Council; it was subsequently rehabbed and transformed into Cultural Center.

“For One”, the latest production by (re)discover theatre company is being performed through September 30th. For more show information visit http://www.rediscovertheatre.com/for-one/.

Published in Theatre in Review

Question: Is Shakespeare really that sexual?

Answer: Yes, as it turns out. 

Fifty Shades of Shakespeare not only proves that the plays of William Shakespeare carry some very heavy sexual undertones, which is fantastic, but also provides an insight towards gender fluidity and sexuality. This is all done by using Shakespeare to help talk about sex. 

 

In its fourth year, Fifty Shades of Shakespeare is brought to you by the (re)discover theatre. It is the brainchild of Jess Shoemaker and the (re)discover theatre. 

 

Upon arrival to Mary’s Attic, I grabbed a drink from the bar in back and found a seat near the front in the second row. I wanted to be as close to the action as possible because I had no idea what I was in for, but was very intrigued to say the least. Once I took my seat I was greeted by a cast member and regaled with an excerpt from a grocery store romance novel. That immediately set the tone for the night. Not much soon after that I was asked if I would like to contribute to the “Box of Secrets” that actually wasn’t very secret. The idea is this: you are handed a piece of paper that has a question. You write down your answer with as much or as little detail as you want. Then during intermission and different breaks someone from the cast reads responses that have been handed in. My question was, “What was the dirtiest thing you’ve ever said in bed?” I accepted the challenge and answered truthfully and honestly. Unfortunately, my response was not read to the audience. Bummer. 

 

The show itself consists of twelve scenes, all from the Shakespeare canon. These are the greatest hits, if you will. The cast is made up of only four (yes four) actors: Amelia Bethel, Tanner Bradshaw, William Delforge, and Madeline Moeller. That means that these four are playing 23 different roles. However, the big twist is that the roles are chosen at random, by the audience, before the show begins. The cast switches roles every evening, making each evening a new experience. 

 

If you’re already familiar with Shakespeare, then buckle up because shit gets real the instant they dim the lights. It is a show that provides nonstop laughs and energy for two hours. This is accomplished by the random casting of roles that explore and break down not just gender fluidity, but sexual expression. It does not matter if it is two men portraying Romeo and Juliet or having Macbeth played by a woman and Lady Macbeth played by a man. Or even turning a scene where two men dabble in some light-ish bondage. I should point out that Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed by all male casts.

 

This show breaks down the beauty of love into its most raw and animalistic instincts. Shakespeare just provides the rich subtext so the performers can really unleash. You may walk out of the show unsure what you just saw, but you will have been entertained to the fullest.  Fifty Shades of Shakespeare speaks to a new day and age that we, the majority of society, are entering a new kind of sexual revolution where nothing is off limits. And it’s for the better. 

 

Fifty Shades of Shakespeare is playing at Mary’s Attic from now through February 27th on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday evenings at 8:00 p.m. If you don’t have plans yet or are the last-minute planning type, then I would suggest checking out their special Valentine's Day show Tuesday night February 14th. Tickets can be reserved by clicking here

 

Published in Theatre in Review

 

 

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