Tuesday, 03 October 2017 19:43

Foxfinder is vaguely relevant

The most depressing thing about the Foxfinder’s premise of “near future” is that it looks remarkably like somewhat distant past, as in late 1800’s A.D. past. Gloom and doom, enhanced by the haunting music (by Jesse Case) and nearly constant rain, abounds in this Midwest premiere of Dawn King’s British drama Foxfinder, directed by Margaret Knapp. A four member ensemble, clad in Amish-like clothes (costume design by Melissa Perkins) acts out a scenario in which a rural farm owned by married couple Judith (Alexandra Fisher) and Samuel Covey (David Anthony Marshall) gets visited by a 19-year-old inspector (Jack Olin) sent by the state to find out why their farm is under performing. The economy is in bad shape, and most people either work at the factory and get their food severely rationed, or live in the cities where food supply is very limited. The most fortunate citizens are farmers who have access to fresh vegetables, eggs and meat, their job being “to secure England’s food supply”. There’s complete lack of technology as well and everything is done the old-fashioned way.

Obviously, there’s a reason for human misfortunes in this joyless place, a common enemy: foxes that have supernatural powers. Right. The confused masses are brainwashed by the government to look for this Enemy to be held responsible for their problems: poor harvest, illness, death of a child, anything and everything. It’s the inspector’s job to investigate presence of such foxes on the farm, destroy them and help the farmers get back to producing, or else be sent to work at the factory. Fear is a good strategy, so everyone gets on board. There’s also resistance movement in the village represented by the neighbor (Alanna Rogers).

But doesn’t every government have “The Enemy” to point the finger at: Hitler had Jews, Russia had America, and America has terrorists, global warming, and racism?
Fortunately, in the play, the farmer eventually figures out who the real fox is. Good for him.

Foxfinder won the Royal National Theatre Foundation Playwright Award 2013, the Papatango New Writing Competition 2011 and Most Promising Playwright, Off West End awards 2012.
*Due to nudity and strong language, not recommended for all ages. Performance lasts 90 minutes without intermission.

Foxfinder is being performed at Athenaeum Theatre through November 5th. For more show information, go to http://athenaeumtheatre.org/.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

As my sidekick for the evening – himself a theater and sketch comedy guy – and I entered Stage 773’s Cab Theater on Saturday to see Cupid Has a Heart On, we were greeted by smiley, bubbly folks who I guessed were cast members of the show. I turned out to be right. I said to my pal, “Looks like we’ll be spending an evening with grown-up theater kids, huh?” I’d turn out to be right about that, too.
The venue’s got a cabaret feel – black all around; red Naugahyde, too; swanky and dark like a Saturday night. We crossed the stage and found seats in the far corner, back behind the accompanist and his keyboard. Turns out the pianist was also the show’s director, Brian Posen. His playing throughout the show was rollicking and rambunctious – very much an old-timey lounge feel to fit the surroundings – and Posen even took part in a number about himself, as the lonely piano player, later in the evening. The music he and the cast have written and performed was really something, bouncing from one genre to the next and always played with absolute musicianship. But a bit of advice for those who see the show – while the red pleather booth behind the piano was plenty comfortable and afforded a nice view, the sound of the keys often drowned out the performers’ vocals.

The songs and sketches that made up the show were fun, though I’m still not sure who the target audience was. The baby boomers in the crowd laughed the loudest, while much of the content seemed to be about those much younger than middle age, about the age of the millennials who are the show’s actors and singers. Some material was timeless, while some felt like it had been written more recently to update this, Chicago’s longest running comedy show. I, myself, did not feel like I was the target audience. Perhaps I’m too jaded or too cynical, unable to be shocked by much in these frenetic and chaotic days. Or maybe I just needed more than the one drink I had at the bar to loosen me up enough to be shocked.

Because the content of the show was meant to shock. The songs were mostly about the things we don’t speak of – the sexual taboos, the not-so-sexy urges, the bad relationships gone worse, the crap that makes life so sexy sometimes and so crappy at others. From UTIs to lactose intolerance, from failed attempts at self-pleasure to failed attempts to resist booty calls, from the fact that even our parents do it to a duet about booty, the songs hit on the stuff we think and feel and maybe even talk about, but very rarely drag onstage. But once onstage, the show’s performers didn’t hold back.
And that was the real pleasure of the evening – seeing these really gifted singers and comedians give it their all. Most all of them accompanied themselves or others with guitars or ukuleles at some point (one tune found SIX guitars being strummed while the logistics of a sixsome were discussed). And all of them can sing their booties off, both as lead vocalists and harmonists. But it was the ensemble’s willingness to leave it all onstage that impressed me most. Clothes were removed. Bodies were contorted. Audience members were dragged onstage, or made a part of the show where they sat. While this audience member might not have been shocked, he had a smile on his face the whole time, impressed by the job the cast did.

Individual talents that made an impression on me were many, even as the cast worked well together. Di Billick – one of the pre-show greeters – stole most scenes she was in. Jake Feeny and Alex Madda added spunk to their fine vocals. Andy Orscheln was often found with a guitar in-hand, and always radiated how much he enjoyed performing. Katie Maggart’s girl-next-door charm nicely complimented the show’s more risqué moments. Chad Michael Innis was a standout – hilarious and insistent, all over the place. But the star, for me, was Marco Braun – another cast member milling around the audience before the show. A burly and bawdy Jonah Hill type, Braun captured our focus whenever he was onstage with his beaming smile, his (oft-unclothed) physique, and his irresistible presence.
So, no matter my personal reaction to the material, I had a good time watching a troupe of gifted entertainers deliver it. For those who are more easily shocked than I am, then you’ll love letting these folks shock. And for those who want to support our city’s gifted entertainers, you can find them in the Cab theater at Stage 773 every Saturday at 8pm.

It turns out I did spend my Saturday evening learning what happens when those eager, energetic, and talented theater kids we all knew in school turn into grownups. They become eager, energetic, and talented performers who put on a hell of a show. And Chicago’s theater and comedy communities – and those who enjoy the shows they put on – are lucky to have them.

Published in Theatre in Review

Blue Man Group, the critically hailed theatrical phenomenon with an open run at the Briar Street Theatre, will celebrate 20 years in Chicago Thursday, October 12 with a special birthday performance at 8 p.m. Guests of the celebration will enjoy a few surprises during the show that will coincide with the special milestone as well as receive commemorative cupcakes from Sprinkles Cupcakes after the performance.
 
Since its Briar Street Theatre debut in 1997, Blue Man Group Chicago has:

*Entertained more than 4,600,000 people with 10,493 performances
*Held five autism-friendly performances in collaboration with Autism Speaks
*Used 965,365 ponchos and 17,694 boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal
*Awarded $45,000 to emerging artists though two Blue Man Group art competitions

Blue Man Group performances are a celebration of human connection. Mixing art, music, comedy and state-of-the-art technology, the show encourages audiences to reconnect with their inner (and outer) child and see the world through a new perspective.  Three bald and blue men explore our cultural norms with wonder, poking fun at our collective quirks and reminding us how much we all have in common. Backed by a live rock band, the Blue Men unify the audience for the show’s celebratory climax - an unforgettable, euphoric dance party.
 
Blue Man Group is continually refreshed with new music, fresh stories and custom instruments. It's a joyful, multi-sensory experience that has performed in over 20 countries and has captivated more than 35 million people of all ages and cultures worldwide.
 
About Blue Man Group
 
Blue Man Productions is a global entertainment company best known for the award-winning Blue Man Group show, performed in over 20 countries and seen by more than 35 million people worldwide since 1991. A dynamic combination of art, music, comedy and technology, the show’s euphoric celebration of human connection has universal appeal for a broad range of age groups and cultural backgrounds. The show is continually refreshed with new music, fresh stories, custom instruments and state-of-the-art technology. Blue Man Group has permanent theatrical productions in New York, Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, Berlin and a World Tour.
 
This creative collective has become part of the pop culture zeitgeist. Blue Man Group has served as the face of branding campaigns for Intel and TIM/Brasil and appeared countless times on hit shows like “The Tonight Show,” “Arrested Development,” “Ellen,” “Schlag den Raab” (Germany), “WOWOW” (Japan), and “Caldeirão do Huck” (Brasil).
 
Beyond the stage show, they are Grammy-nominated recording artists, known for their contributions to various film and TV scores and multiple Blue Man Group albums, including their most recent, THREE.  Their “Megastar World Tour” rock concert parody played arenas across the globe. The group’s recently published first-ever book, Blue Man World, is a visually stunning anthropological exploration of the curious bald and blue character.
 
Blue Man Group Ticket Information
 
Tickets are available from $39-$99. Tickets may be purchased at the Briar Street Theatre by calling the box office at (773) 348-4000; by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787; at all Ticketmaster ticket centers or via the Internet at http://www.ticketmaster.com/bluemangroup. For a full show schedule and ticket pricing, please visit www.blueman.com/chicago.
 
Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more, varying from $46- $69 per person. For groups of 10 or more, call the group sales department to book at: 773.348.3300 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request information.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Friday, 29 September 2017 12:16

Review: Becky Shaw at Windy City Playhouse

“Sometimes lying is the most humane thing you can do,” declares Gina Gionfriddo’s character Suzanna Slater in her play ‘Becky Shaw.’ Gionfriddo’s script was shortlisted for the 2009 Pulitzer and enjoyed a successful Off-Broadway run in 2008. ‘Becky Shaw’ makes its Chicago premiere at Windy City Playhouse in Irving Park.

Scott Weinstein directs this sleek production at the even sleeker Windy City Playhouse space. With only 25 seats, the performance space asks its audience to swivel in remarkably comfortable club chairs between scenes as there are three stages in the theater. Something about the orientation of the theater makes this telling more active than a typical play. A really unique experience that may be as memorable as the play itself.

‘Becky Shaw’ is a story about two non-biological siblings Suzanna (Amy Rubenstein) and Max (Michael Doonan) caught in a ‘Cruel Intentions’ style love affair until Suzanna marries someone else. They come from a splintery family and are brutal with one another, but not brutally honest. When Suzanna and her husband attempt to set up cold and cruel Max with delicate Becky Shaw, the play takes a dark direction.

This play is nothing if not well acted. The titular role, drawn as an allusion to the Victorian novel ‘Vanity Fair’ by Thackery, is played by Carley Cornelius. Her version of a clever woman trying to claw her way out of circumstances is haunting and weird. At no point do you ever feel that you’ve got her figured out. At times she’s vulnerable and soft but then turns deliberate and forceful. Cornelius brings a very relatable quality to this mysterious character. Gionfriddo has created such a fascinating character in Becky Shaw, that it’s almost disappointing that there’s not more of her here.

Gionfriddo’s play is funny and provocative. There are quote-worthy snippets of dialogue that, offer glimmers into the playwright’s opinions. She seems very concerned with equality of sexes. Several times the script calls a relationship a meeting of equals. Some may remember Gionfriddo’s play ‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ which premiered at the Goodman in 2015. While nowhere near as good, ‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ continued the playwright’s probe into the complexities of long term romantic love between men and women.

The scene jumping quality of the script lends itself well to the multi-staged set-up of Windy City Playhouse. It helps establish the passage of time between scenes and gets you close enough to the actors to feel directly involved. The female ensemble is works really well together in this production. Chicago stage veteran Suzanne Petri gives a standout performance as the mother of Max and Suzanna, and walks away with some of the most insightful lines of the evening. ‘Becky Shaw’ is a play about what happens when you bring a new person into your life, whether you want it or not. (John Accrocco)

Through November 12 at Windy City Playhouse 3014 W Irving Park. 773-891-8985

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Put acting greats Francis Guinan and John Mahoney on stage together and you undoubtedly get a performance that will certainly mesmerize. Add Jessica Dickey’s poignant script that delves into history and what we can take away from it, keen direction by Hallie Gordon and fine supporting performances from Ty Olwin, Karen Rodriguez and Gabriel Ruiz and you have a power-packed production that truly resonates with its audience. Steppenwolf’s latest, The Rembrant, is just that.

Guinan stars as longtime art museum guard Henry. A lot is going on this particular day. Henry’s boss Jonny (Ruiz) has just hired a new guard named Dodger (Olwin) and Henry needs to show him the ropes. The young, mohawk-wearing Dodger clearly isn’t in the same mold as his new mentor Henry and when art student Madeline admire a Rembrant before sketching it, the new guard encourages her to “touch the painting”. “Touch it”, he says, “feel the history.” Upon Henry’s return, he gazes at the same painting, one he has admired for years, Dodger urges him to do the same. Of course, this is absurd, thinks Henry. But Henry is troubled, his husband slowly dying from cancer. He has been a loyal guard for years. He wants so badly to touch the Rembrant – to feel the brush strokes. So, he does.

Once Henry feels the canvas, we are taken back in time to the life of Rembrant (also played by Guinan). We see the strong bond he has with his son Titus (Olwin), a son who wants nothing more to be by the side of his father. Dickey makes a valiant effort in encompassing the thought process behind Rembrant’s paintings. In one painting a man has a large hand and a small hand. This we learn is to keep father and son together forever, one hand belonging to Titus, the other to Rembrandt. The period is well-played and Guinan at the top of his craft.

Then emerges Homer, played wholeheartedly by Mahoney. Homer reminds us death is imminent for all of us. Though the time and the how unknown, the certainty for sure. It is a riveting dialogue that profoundly makes its way throughout the theatre prompting us to think about enjoying the gift of life while we can. We are also reminded of Mahoney’s powerful stage presence.

The play goes full circle, Henry by the side of his husband Simon (Mahoney) as they reminisce about the past, cherishing fond memories and exchanging their feelings for one another in a sad, but moving scene that adds an exclamation point to a very engaging story.

Guinan is sensational. However, he will take leave of the role after the October 22nd performance. Talented Chicago actor Joe Dempsey will reprieve Guinan and take over the role of Henry and Rembrandt as of October 24th. Inventive set design, wonderful acting performances and an engaging story, The Rembrandt is a warm production that connects the present to the past in a very creative way.

Recommended.

The Rembrandt is being performed at Steppenwolf Theatre through November 5th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.steppenwolf.org.

 

*Extended through November 11th

Published in Theatre in Review

Due to popular demand, Hell in a Handbag Productions and Mo Less's racous and ranchy revue BAD TASTE will play the first Wednesday of every month beginning Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at The Charnel House, 3421 W. Fullerton Ave in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. The evening of queer and camp curiosities features a rotating cast of Chicago's most daring and disgusting performance artists: burlesque, drag, clowning, sideshow, comedy and cosplay – all with a shocking and hilarious twist! The evening also includes games, adult beverages and raffle prizes. Tickets ($10 in advance, $15 at the door) are currently available at www.BadTasteChicago.com.
 
The next BAD TASTE on Wednesday, October 4 will feature erotic and eclectic line-up including: murderous mistress and striptress CROCODILE LIGHTNING, medical madness from DR. JAMES PEMBROKE AND KOLZAC, clown college dropout ISAAC SAMUELSON, nb (nbd) stand up artist KJ WHITEHEAD, drag twin of the beloved Florence, LAWRENCE OF A'LABIA, the Original Rascal without a Cause LILLY RASCAL, world record holder for Consecutive Viewings of The Little Mermaid STEVIE LOVE and your host/ess/?? MO LESS.
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: BAD TASTE
Dates: The first Wednesday of every month
Time: Doors open at 8:30 pm; show starts at 9 pm
Location: The Charnel House, 3421 W Fullerton Ave. in Chicago
Featuring: a rotating line-up of queer and camp curiosities
Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Currently available at www.BadTasteChicago.com. 21+ only.
 
About the Presenters:

Mo Less (Host/Presenter) is a burlesque and drag artist whose theatrical, tongue-and-cheek style challenges gaze and expectation in performance. Having got their start at Gorilla Tango Burlesque, they've shared the stage as an independent artist with renown Chicago troupes including Vaudezilla!, Pervesk Presents and Belmont Burlesque Revue.
 
Hell in a Handbag Productions (Presenter) is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit. For additional information, visit www.handbagproductions.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

From the bustling streets of New York City at the turn of the 20th century comes the Tony Award-winning new American musical, NEWSIES, making headlines at the Marriott Theatre just in time for the holidays, running October 25 through December 31 at 8 p.m. at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Featuring an electrifying score with music by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menkenand lyrics by Jack Feldman, and book by four-time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, NEWSIES is the ultimate story of courage and overcoming one’s fears. Jeff Award nominee Alex Sanchez (Marriott Theatre: Evita, On the Town, Mary Poppins) brings his high-octane energy and brilliance to direct and choreograph the heartwarming piece, with Musical Direction by Jeff Award winner Ryan T. Nelson.
 
“We all get to a fork in our lives - which path do we choose? I want to inspire audiences to not be afraid to take the courageous path and strive for the unreachable,” says Director and Choreographer Alex Sanchez. “This story will be brought to life on stage with a plethora of energy bursting from our outstanding cast of dancers. Incredible set design will flow with the ensemble to provide a city landscape as vibrant as New York.”
 
Based on the 1992 motion picture of the same name and inspired by the real-life ‘Newsboy Strike of 1899’ that shook the ivory towers of publishing titans William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, NEWSIES follows orphan Jack Kelly and his band of teenaged ‘newsies,’ who dream of a better life far from the hardships of the streets. While they’ve had the talent and moxie to survive the challenges of inner city New York, the newsboys are pushed to the limit when media moguls Hearst and Pulitzer raise distribution prices at the boys’ expense. Timely and fresh, the fictionalized adaptation of NEWSIES addresses age-old themes of social injustice, exploitative labor practices and struggles as the young learn to harness their power against a corrupt establishment. Featuring soul stirring music, NEWSIES introduces eight brand-new songs by the original dynamic duo team of Menken and Feldman while keeping many of the beloved songs from the film, including “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” “King of New York” and “Santa Fe.”
 
NEWSIES stars Patrick Rooney as “Jack Kelly” (Marriott Theatre: World Premiere of October Sky, Spring Awakening), Eliza Palasz as “Katherine Plumber” (Marriott Theatre: World Premiere of October Sky, Evita, Spring Awakening), Kevin Gudahl as “Joseph Pulitzer” (Marriott Theatre: Spring Awakening, Elf, My Fair Lady, 1776, The King and I) and Stephanie Pope at “Medda Larkin” (Broadway: Chicago, Pippin, Fosse). NEWSIES also stars Nick Graffagna as “Davey,” Matthew Uzarraga as “Crutchie,” and Carter Graf and Zachary Uzarraga alternating as “Les,” with Bill Bannon, Eean Cochran, Shea Coffman, Nicholas Dantes, Alejandro Fonseca, Sam Griffin, Garrett Lutz, Jeff Pierpoint, Zachary Porter, Liam Quealy, James Rank, Laura Savage, Peter Sipla, Adrienne Storrs, Steven Strafford, Richard Strimer, Martin Ortiz Tapia, Tiffany Tatreau, Andy Tofa and David Wright, Jr.
 
The production will feature set design by Kevin Depinet, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss, and musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.
 
The performance schedule for NEWSIES is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., with select Thursday 1:00 p.m. shows. Holiday weeks may have adjusted schedules. Ticket prices range from $50 to $60, including tax and handling fees. Call for student, senior and military discounts. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of FREE dinners available with the purchase of a full-priced theatre ticket, which can only be purchased through the Marriott Theatre Box Office. To make a restaurant reservation, please call 847.634.0100. Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets, please call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or go to www.ticketmaster.com. Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for more information.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

“The Legend of Georgia McBride” written by Matthew Lopez, is an adorable and entertaining piece brought to sexy, vibrant life by an exquisitely multi-talented cast of characters. 

The play is set in a dusty part of the Florida panhandle at a run-down club called Cleo's owned by Eddie played with great irony by character actor Keith Kupferer. 

After night in and night out with an unsuccessful Elvis act, Eddie has allowed his cousin "Miss Tracy Mills" (Sean Blake) to bring her two man/woman drag show to the club in the hopes of salvaging his nightclub income. 

Sean Blake is amazing and seems born to play this role. Blake gets the most laughs and the most oohs and aahs with each stunning costume change or drag number and absolutely steals the show.  Miss mills also brings with her another drag queen of the highest order but one with a serious drinking problem named Rexy. 

Rexy played by Jeff Kurysz is hysterically funny in this role and does double time as Casey’s landlord and friend, a straight married man with children. Kurysz did so well in this transformation, it took me halfway through the play to realize this was the same person playing tow completely opposite roles and that was only because I thought I saw just a hint of blue eye shadow left over during his quick change from drag queen to local roofer!

The lead role of Casey is played with real charisma and fantastic dance abilities by Nate Santana. Casey has been trying to eke out a living doing his Elvis impersonation at the club but do to waning interest in his act has been demoted to bartender to make room for the new drag show. His wife, Jo (Leslie Ann Sheppard) has informed him she is pregnant and must give up his dreams of playing Elvis in order to support the family. The couple works well together, presenting a believable dynamic and we are easily able to root for them.

In the end, Casey learns to become a successful drag queen (after reluctantly doing so originally when asked by Eddie after Rexy is passed out drunk just before her number) and fulfills his artistic talents in this way. Just watching Casey’s transformation from Elvis impersonator to slovenly, broken down bartender to show-stopping drag queen is worth the price of admission and Santana does so with great communicative eyes and terrific physical comedy skills. 

Is drag just performing? No it is not as Rexy later explains to Casey, who thinks it's as simple as performing a show - it is a protest. There is much more to drag than eye shadow, glitzy dresses and fake boobs. It is a way of life, something to take your lumps for and definitely something not for "pussies". 

The set which slides back and forth to become their shoddy apartment and the dressing room of the bar is a little confusing and doesn't quite give the intimacy to either environment that it deserves. However, the lighting (JR Lederle), sound (Kevin O’Donnell), amazing costumes (Rachel Laritz), fabulous wigs (Penny Lane Studios- WOW!) and funny props by Bronte DeShong and yummy choreography by Chris Carter more than make up for that distraction. 

I highly recommend this laugh a minute feel-good comedy with several smashing dance numbers about making your dreams come true "right where you are with what you've got to work with" for the whole family to enjoy. 

“The Legend of Georgia McBride” is being performed at Northlight Theatre through October 22nd. More show information can be found at www.northlight.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

The live sounds of 30’s and 40’s jazz transform Court Theatre into a music venue in this production of Five Guys Named Moe. Written by Clarke Peters and directed by Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson, with Music Director Abdul Hamid Royal and Associate Director Felica P. Fields, this lively musical is a tribute to the great songwriter and saxophonist Louis Jordan (1908-1975), who went down in history as an innovator and popularizer of “jump blues,” a dance forward mix of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie, that paved the way for rock’n’roll in the 1950’s.

The uncomplicated plot provides the perfect canvas for Louis Jordan’s greatest hits and goes something like this: Nomax (Stephen ‘Blu’ Allen) is a clueless but perfectly lovable young lad who is broke and heartbroken because his girlfriend left him. Drinking at home one night and listening to Louis Jordan’s hits on the radio, depressed Nomax is whining about his life, when out of the blue (no pun intended) his radio erupts with five guys, who climb out one by one, introduce themselves as Big Moe (Lorenzo Rush Jr), Eat Moe (James Earl Jones II) , No Moe (Eric A. Lewis), Four-Eyed Moe (Kelvin Roston Jr), and Little Moe (Darrian Ford), and get the party started with ‘Five Guys Named Moe.’ Because five heads are better than one, The Five Moes are very helpful in trying to solve Nomax’s lady problem; the dynamic and superbly fun hits “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That” and “Messy Bessy” are prove of that. Not to mention “I know What I’ve Got” and “Safe, Sane and Single,” which were outstanding. Louis Jordan’s use of comedy in his songwriting had become one of the most prominent elements in his music, for he “laughed to keep from crying”. Besides, having been married five times, he most certainly contemplated the relations between the opposite sexes in his own life.

There was some great talent on that cleverly designed stage made to look like inside of an old radio (scenic design by Courtney O’Neill). Powerful voices, the most remarkable of them Darrian Ford’s [whose new original vocal jazz album, The New Standard, is set to release later this year], impressive dancing with occasional somersaults thrown in for a good measure (by James Earl Jones II), Lorenzo Rush, Jr’s commanding presence and hilarious relic, always on.

The band is no slouch either: led by the pianist/Music Director, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Broadway’s Five Guys Named Moe composer/arranger Abdul Hamid Royal, who had worked with many recording artists, such as Liza Minelli, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, and Christina Aguilera, to name just a few; it produces a tight sound.

By the end of the First Act, the audience is playfully forced to sing the silly lyrics to “Push Ka Pi Shi Pie,” and some fortunate first row attendees are dragged onto stage to dance with the cast and then led to the lobby bar. Hey, “What’s the Use Of Getting Sober?”, right?

Second Act takes us to The Funky Butt Club, where the Five Moes have a gig to do. The sounds of old jazz are like an anti-anxiety remedy, taking us to a different time far, far in the past, it seems. What great 63rd Season opener for Court Theatre! “Five Guys Named Moe” is being performed at Court Theatre through October 8th. For more show information visit www.courttheatre.org.

*Now extended through October 15th

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Tuesday, 19 September 2017 21:49

Review: Goodman's "A View from the Bridge"

The Goodman Theatre almost never includes a show in their subscriber season that they haven’t developed themselves. Dutch director Ivo van Hove began his vivid production of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” in London before bringing it to Broadway in 2016. It went on to win the Tony Award for best revival. Goodman artistic director Robert Falls requisitioned the work for Chicago prior to the Broadway run. Some may remember van Hove’s contribution to the Goodman’s 2009 Eugene O’Neill Fest. His arresting version of “Mourning Becomes Electra” performed entirely in Dutch was a sure stand out.

Ivo van Hove’s vision for Arthur Miller is uniquely his own in that it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen. If a standard Miller production bores you, then imagine an electric guitar version of Miller. The scenery and scene changes have been cut and what’s left is a minimalist masterclass in strong directorial choices. Minimalism doesn’t mean a lack of spectacle. The white cube contains the play to a small portion of the stage, allowing for audience members to sit right on stage. Each movement of this highly choreographed production creates a stunning visual.

Suffice it to say, you’ll never see “A View from the Bridge” like this again. van Hove’s intention is to create an “ultimate” version of classic American works through a European lens. What he reflects back is interesting. The concluding scene is a work of installation art, and leaves you with an unsettling feeling that we are but animals battling it out at the bottom. As with his interpretation of O’Neill’s “Mourning Becomes Electra”, van Hove is unafraid of heightening the subtle sexuality in the script. The blocking between Catherine (Catherine Combs) and Eddie Carbone (Ian Bedford) is highly suggestive and pushes the envelope even further than Miller had in 1953.

There’s no scenery, no costumes and no tricks for this cast to hide behind. Since the New York production, some of the parts have been recast, but many have not. Catherine Combs reprises her role as Catherine, but is no stranger to the Goodman stage. Combs’ performance is transfixing. She’s able to balance the juvenile qualities of a young girl in a falsetto, but convey the deep-voiced desires of a woman with an unexpected control. Playing her adoptive mother Beatrice, Andrus Nichols, commands each scene. The script would make this character a weakling, unable to stand up to her hulking husband. Nichols brings a hardened strength to the role that propels the final scenes to full throttle.

This production will stick with you. With our nation’s president touting severe immigration reform, this play comes at a critical point in history. Arthur Miller wrote plays that addressed social issues. In many ways Eddie Carbone is how Miller saw America, as something afraid of change. When we hear white supremacists chanting “You will not replace us” on national TV, it’s hard not to draw comparisons. This is an essential play for our times. Ivo van Hove has created a striking and extremely intense version of “A View from the Bridge” that Arthur Miller himself would applaud.

Through October 15th at the Goodman Theatre. 170 North Dearborn. 312-443-3811

*Now extended through October 22nd

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Page 2 of 23

 

 

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