Kimberly Katz

Kimberly Katz

Title and Deed is a one man show, a 65 minute monologue delivered on a bare stage with a few subtle lighting changes and the gentle rolling of the lead actor’s wheelchair to signal movement throughout the play.  Will Eno’s writing is often compared to Beckett but I found Eno’s work to be much more sensitive, compassionate and outright funny than Beckett’s plays. 

Chicago actor, Michael Patrick Thornton, (one of the founders of The Gift Theatre Co.) is brilliantly cast in the role of the “Traveler” from another world who is traveling feeling estranged from his own homeland, hoping that “the change of locale that comes with international air travel will somehow change him”.

Thornton is confined to a wheelchair - although the play does not call for the use of a wheelchair, and once seeing the play with him at the helm, one cannot imagine the play succeeding as well in its message without the lead character being disabled. Thornton has a remarkable sense of humor and a sad voice, rough with heartfelt regret, which lobs Eno’s long poetic sentences at the audience with a casual yet thoughtful pinpoint accuracy that evoked laughter and sometimes tears in a way that a lesser actor could not achieve. I was totally surprised to find out that the play was not written to be played by an actor in a wheelchair because much of the understanding we feel towards the Traveler comes naturally from seeing a young-ish man confined to a wheelchair - not from seeing a poor wanderer describing his mother’s death and his alienation from the world now that he has no real connection to his home and it’s joyful traditions.

 We all know instantly when we see the young man rolling up the small hill to the stage that because he is in a wheelchair he has suffered permanent and irreversible losses regarding his own lifestyle.  It almost doesn’t make sense to me to see this play cast with an actor without the wheelchair because so much of the truth about the character is implied and is true about the alienation from daily life, the shrinking of your whole world and fortune, which occurs when you are permanently disabled.

I absolutely adored Eno’s sparing, yet lyrical use of words.  What rolls off Thornton’s tongue like ear candy, comes off as true poetry, prose poetry, and paints vibrant, multidimensional scenes in your mind without the use of any set pieces, a painted backdrop or even additional characters.

Eno describes life as basically a “series of funerals” and perfectly describes the universality of how human life begins, “We all come from blood and saltwater and a screaming mother begging us to leave." I actually nodded in agreement and sensed a strong group nod from the entire audience - or as the traveler called us “a clump” of humans gathered to hear him speak - when he said we all know that feeling that life begins triumphantly, but as we lose more and more of the people who constitute our memories of what “home” is, we experience"the human cannonball feeling at the beginning; the sickening thump at the end."

Before the play, I had recently flown to attend the funeral of a very close immediate family member and was not in the mood for something that addressed the issue of death in any way - but I was won over and in the end transformed by the self denigrating humor, common sense and hopeful poetic beauty of this piece.

There was a tremendously universal line in the script, just a heartbreaking and truthful line when the traveler describes the last moment of his mother’s life in the hospital room, “her voice made this sound, this horrible raspy sound and … she just wasn’t my mother anymore.”

I literally walked in to this production feeling shaken with grief, trembling inside, feeling all alone while trying to make sense of my sudden and recent loss but  left feeling that everyone in the mostly middle aged or older audience and indeed everyone in the world must be suffering from many of the same deeply depressing feelings and thoughts.

I highly recommend seeing this extraordinarily written and performed production especially when you are feeling that “life is a series of funerals until the last funeral which is your own” because Eno has created a powerful and profoundly funny monologue about self acceptance, life and compassion which has a very healing effect.

Title and Deed is being performed at Lookingglass Theatre through May 3rd. For tickets and/or more show information visit http://lookingglasstheatre.org/

Wednesday, 04 March 2015 00:00

Review: The Royal Society of Antarctica

The Royal Society of Antarctica is a very unique story that comes equipped with a powerful cast and a rich blend of humor, drama and intrigue that constantly move the play forward without the interest lulls you would think would be found in a three act show with a two hour and fifty-five minute run time. Playwright Mat Smart’s world premiere takes place at the intimate Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park where its forty-something cramped seats (unless you are sitting in the first row) actually adds to the overall intimate experience. The set, though simple, creates a potent illusion of a base site interior used as cover for its workers at the bottom of the world where temperatures are always below freezing and winds can pick up to 100-plus degrees in the right circumstances. We feel cozy and warm in our seats and protected from the cold as the characters feel the same when they enter set from the outside dangerous wintry conditions.  

In The Royal Society of the Antarctica, twenty-something Dee returns to her birthplace at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica to seek answers to her mother’s suspicious disappearance that took place when she was a child. Surrounding Dee’s investigation, many characters are also focused upon with their own back stories. The team is comprised of janitors, utility technicians, scientists and food workers.  Workers are at the station for several month engagements at a time.  As one worker puts it – the first year you are there for the adventure, the second, you are there to see their friends again, the third, it’s probably for the money and if you come back for a fourth year it’s because you no longer fit in with normal society. We see the latter in the social awkwardness displayed by some of the characters. We also find some are there to run from their past.

Considered something of an untouchable holy ground due to its purity and the global agreement not to tarnish its earth by chemicals or otherwise, there is a certain magic present that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Strict rules are in place to safeguard the sanctity of the land. The sun and snow are so bright it can create a blinding effect and if a blizzard occurs, one could get permanently lost just walking twenty feet due to its zero visibility. Temperatures are so low limited skin exposure is dangerous. A hole in the ozone sits directly above them making it unsafe to remove their sunglasses for even just a minute. Daytime lasts for months followed by endless night time.  

There is a collection of strong acting performances that help in bringing this story to life headed by Paul D’Addario as “UT Tom” and Aila Peck as “Dee”. Jay Worthington is a blast to watch as “UT Tim”, the animated utility tech and team lead, while John Kelly Connolly is flawless as “Ace”, a man who has visited each continent, had sex on each continent and strives to be the first to have sex on each continent with someone native to that continent. Kyle Zornes also gets a lot of laughs with his deadpan delivery as “Jake”, the love-stricken science researcher who just can’t seem to get it right.

As Smart puts it, “I went to the bottom of the world to find this play—working as a janitor for three months at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. It’s perfect that it will premiere in my hometown at The Gift.”

All in all, The Royal Society of Antarctica is an entertaining experience with a distinctiveness to be remembered, opening up a new world that for most would likely go undiscovered.

The Royal Society of Antarctica is playing at The Gift Theatre through April 26th. Visit www.thegifttheatre.org for show information or call 773-283-7071    

      

*Photo - Jay Worthington (left) as UT TIm and Aila Peck as Dee                 

                                                                     

Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi opens with a spectacular video presentation of the massive gardens and castle of Versailles along with a full on catwalk style fashion show by the queen, her girlfriends and the rest of the royal cast. I loved the staging of this show by a six person design team including Clint Ramos (scenic design), Dede Ayite (costume design), Dave Bova (hair and wig design), Japhy Weideman (lighting design), Lindsay Jones (sound and composition) and Jeff Sugg (projection design). The mirrored stage, combined with giant Vegas style flowers above it and the ever changing video projections worked together wonderfully to give us a glimpse of the largesse and majesty of that time period. Truly, the fashion of the time was something that separated the rich from the poor but also enslaved those able to afford it because it was impossible to dress and style yourself without a huge staff.

Alana Arenas is stunning as Marie Antoinette and does a great job portraying the doomed queen with both biting sarcasm and the occasional childlike grasp of the violent events unfolding all around her and because of her but not within her control at all. She, like the rest of royalty, is completely out of touch with the real world. We really see this as they try to pass as farmers during their escape after revolutionaries have taken over yet they are completely incapable of holding a normal conversation with approaching peasants (worse yet, they actually try to flee in the royal carriage thinking no one will notice them!). It is also very interesting to see the many parallels from Marie Antoinette that exist today, such as the inappropriate distribution of wealth, power in the hands of people that should not have it and the lack of power in those that should.

I like that Adjmi mentions twice in the play that Marie was only 14 years old when she was married to the imbecile King Louis the Louis XVI (Tim Hopper) – because most people assume she was an adult when she entered the realm of marriage and politics which was not true. You can really see in his text how similar the situation is for celebrities and their children today that their every move is first exalted and then diminished and eventually degraded as the social and political climes about them change. It is also pointed out how gross the invasion of privacy is when a human being feels they cannot even leave the confines of their home or do anything normal in public at all without it being analyzed and ridiculed by thousands of strangers whose opinions should not matter at all.

In a way we all have a little Marie Antoinette in us, that confused and excited teenager who is thrust into adult circumstances and is forced to “conform and perform” or sink under the weight of disappointment of family and society around us if we do not produce the hoped for successes in finances and family life, i.e. having children.

I highly recommend this elegant, eye popping and thoroughly modern interpretation of the life of a woman who was born and bred not to have her own life but the life prescribed for her by her parents and their political advisors.

Tickets and information:

When: Now through May 10, 2015

Where: Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St.

Contact: www.steppenwolf.org

I really enjoyed this funny little musical comedy about the ups and downs of mastering your first date with someone special. Aaron and Casey have been set up in a blind date by mutual friends. Aaron is a slightly nerdy Jewish boy in a steady finance job while Casey is an artsy, independent girl who has previously had a penchant for stoic bad boys that she never had to commit to.

I found myself really rooting for both characters to overcome their personal demons. Aaron’s demon from the past is a cheating yet outwardly devoted blonde ex- fiancé’ who actually left him at the altar. Casey struggles to overcome the dark, cynical humor and pickiness that forces her to alienate truly nice guys and write them off as “just friend” material before anything deeper can materialize between them.

The show opens with some great, funny but true observations about how many people lie on their online dating profiles and just how much “Googling” a person tells you about a person before you even meet them.  The internet, an unforgiving and never forgetting entity, all its own has truly changed the way we date and view each other and probably not for the better. Now we can just collect a bunch of facts and rarely give the other person a chance to relate to us in person for a few hours and see how the unrelated facts of their past add up.

There were several really hysterical numbers by supporting cast members who interject with their really timely advice - warnings that she is not Jewish and the occasional “bailout call” from Casey’s best gay friend or BGFF, Reggie.

Although the show and plot is aimed at twenty and early thirty-somethings, I still identified with much of it and actually learned a thing or two. For example, when Aaron’s best friend (an edgy womanizer) tries to tell him over and over not to even bring up the subject of his ex-girlfriend, I really got how tempting it is to talk about your past relationships but that it must never, never be done! As Casey’s face falls when he begins to talk about the blonde blue-eyed stunner who left him, it just ruins the moment and you see how much of a major issue and chip on his shoulder (against all women in general) and that Aaron’s seemingly innocent baggage still weighs heavy for him. There was a very funny moment when Aaron finds out the raven-haired Casey is not Jewish and again his whole world seems to come to a stop because he knows in his heart he will probably marry a Jewish woman, yet here is a very, very attractive non-Jew who could be quite good for him and would be a great complement to his own neurotic, negative critical impulses.

Charlie Lubeck and Dana Parker in the two lead roles do very nicely to illustrate their characters neuroses. Parker has a nice singing voice and you really believe she is as fiery and artistic as she appears.  The entire ensemble does a great job with each of their numbers. Cassie Slater is very funny as Dana’s married with children older sister living in the suburbs, unhappy as hell yet wanting her little sis to experience the safety of marital bliss. Adam Fane as Dana’s best gay friend absolutely steals the show with his rap and dance numbers trying to save Dana from this fateful first date.  Shea Coffman and Anne Litchfield as Aaron’s male macho best friend and dreamy ex-fiancé’ have great comic chops as they morph in and out of the scenes playing different supporting characters that round out the show nicely.

I loved the intimate and colorful set created by Thad Hallstein and lighting design by Brandon Lewis, which made the audience feel we were really saddling up to the bar with these two kids on their first date. The staging included an adorable live four piece band of young players that was visible just off stage left in soft red and green lights of a Friday night bar in Chicago or any town.

“First Date” is a fun, funny and ultimately informative production that I think will become a first date favorite for many, many couples, young and old. “First Date” is being performed at the quaint and cozy Royal George Cabaret Theatre. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.  

Well, you just can’t go wrong with Neil Simon, one of the greatest Jewish playwrights of all time and a solid grouping of well trained Chicago character actors like the cast assembled at First Folio Theatre in Oakbrook. “Laughter” is based on Sid Caesar’s beloved “Your Show of Shows” where Simon was a junior writer during the period in which McCarthyism and commercial sponsorship really began to apply their stranglehold on American TV and American writers in general.

Rene Ruelas, as the lead Max Prince, does a fantastic job portraying the manic and wildly erratic neurotically Jewish comedian with an undercurrent of boiling rage at the rope of McCarthyism closing round his show’s neck. The studio is threatening to turn it from a 90 minute show full of erudite and intellectual comedic references into a 60 minute vehicle to sell toothpaste or soap. Every once in a while Simon mentions in this piece the blacklisting and communist witch hunt that ruined so many innocent American writers lives during that period which gives the play more gravitas and makes the stakes higher for all the characters.

Kevin McKillip's hypochondriac Ira really does remind me of Kramer’s energy in Seinfeld and his way-way out physical comedy antics really pay off with some big laughs from beginning to end. When Ira and Prince argue violently over an eminent firing of one of the staff members to appease the studio and rather end up literally forcing each other to say “I Love You”, I really felt the depth of affection between these two and the writers group as a whole. When it appears that they all must fight just to stay on the air at all one of the writers says we must because, "Maybe we'll never have this much fun again in our entire lives.” Hayley Rice's, “Carol” is dynamite as the sole female writer in this group who keeps pace with “the boys” and then some.

Angela Weber Miller's set design really hearkens back to the period and felt very real in part because this theater was built in the historic Mayslake Peabody Mansion. Thanks to realistic stage props, a well-schemed interior and fitting costume design, we really get the feeling of what it must have felt like to be in a writer’s room in New York during the 1950s.   

There’s something so fresh and current about every play Neil Simon wrote including this one which is not as often performed as some of his bigger Broadway hits. This cast of seasoned character actors brings the Max Prince Show and all of the excitement and frustration of making a living writing comedy circa 1950s come to life in a wonderful way. “Laughter” makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time to rally them and to also remember their courage while up against NBC’s over-wielding of power and the rise of commie-hunting McCarthyism.

Laughter on the 23rd Floor is a delight with plenty of quick one-liners that pace this funny Neil Simon piece. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.firstfolio.org.

I decided to review this wonderful new play by Aaron Holland partly because I loved the title and in spite of the mention in the PR materials saying that Holland’s inspiration were in part from Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

I’m so glad I did because this play about one young “everyman” or “everywoman” as the case may be,  Amari Bolkonski, (played wonderfully by Armand Fields) has so much to say to all of us about the necessity of self love and friendship in overcoming life’s sometimes crippling blows to our sense of identity.

In Bailiwick Chicago’s Princess Mary Demands Your Attention, Amari is suffering from agoraphobia and OCD in part because his mother, Countess Bolkonski, (Pam Mack) openly disparages her youngest son by comparing him unfavorably to his distant older brother who is in her eyes, “the real man” in the family.

Luckily Amari runs into a few young gay club kids who become his “new family” and his closest friends and confidantes as he struggles to get out from under his mother’s controlling, domineering, apron and on with his own life.

Nathaniel (TJ Crawford), Bastian (Omer Abbas Salem) and Christian (David Kaplinsky) do a fantastic job of bringing these funny and sympathetic characters to life. Their scenes together are really fun to watch and seem to come from a very real, natural place.

Pam Mack does a wonderful job with the role of Countess and redeems her character’s seemingly abusive treatment of her youngest son in a truly heart wrenching scene telling Amari that she is truly sorry and that he must start to love himself as he is, after she has suffered a debilitating stroke.

The character of Stacy (Rus Rainear) is Amari’s fairy godfather of sorts, a flamer who has watched over Amari since his father’s death as a child and given him a place to work in his food stop since Amari is afraid to leave his house and deal with people in general. Rus Rainear is adorable in this role and gets many laughs with just a “look” or gesture.  Stacy’s undying support along with Amari’s loyal buddies who help him dress up and get him out of his basement  Amari realizes over time and with the hallucinated appearance of his own personal “Queen Mary”  inspire him to break out and realize that his hiding and self pity are ruining his life.

I thought director Lili-Anne Brown did a fabulous job integrating music from the period and strobe lights and smoke and into the piece in a way that maximized the laughs, glamour and fantasy world of Amari and his friends while keeping Amari’s transformation grounded in a very touching way that anyone gay or straight, male or female, can identify with.

In the lobby before the show the audience was encouraged to write on an index card the thing they feel is holding them back in life.  Also there was  a “wig room” with costumes and accessories for audience members to try on “Princess Mary’s glam clothes and wigs and take a “selfie”, which really appealed to me because it made me think about applying the play’s ideas to my own life before I even entered the theater.

I highly recommend this funny yet poignant piece by Holland not because it is perfect and needs no further editing but because in its current incarnation it is so joyous and uplifting one cannot help but feel moved and entertained by it. 

Princess Mary Demands Your Attention is being performed at Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater through February 21st. For tickets and/or more information call 773-871-3000 or visit www.victorygardens.org.

 

*Photo - (left to right) TJ Crawford, Omer Abbas Salem, Armand Fields and David Kaplinskyin Bailiwick Chicago’s world premiere of PRINCESS MARY DEMANDS YOUR ATTENTION by Aaron Holland, directed by Artistic Director Lili-Anne Brown.  Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 18:00

New Colony’s Plastic Revolution Is Air Tight

Plastic Revolution is a funny and campy musical comedy that takes place in 1950s Kissimmee, Florida about a recently widowed suburbanite, Delores Clarke, who meets an enthusiastic and pioneering Tupperware saleswoman named Brownie Wise. Together these two gals revolutionize the sales process by introducing the concept of “Tupperware parties” as a hugely successful sales tool for the Tupperware Corporation that captured the imagination and excitement of freedom from time consuming everyday chores and sold it to the average housewife.

The other ‘Stepford Wives” in the neighborhood fear Clarke at first thinking that because she is single she is out to steal their husbands!  But after realizing that Tupperware really does free those from the slavery of cooking dinner for their families every night of the week (leftovers!) and also could provide a source of income they hold up Delores and Brownie as their heroines and start on a new way of life.

I really loved that the lead “Stepford Wife” named Lilah who warns the other women that this revolution is going to ruin their family lives and undermine their role as housewives was cast with a man in drag. Danny Taylor turned an absolutely hysterical, yet “straight” comedic performance in this role and has a beautiful, expressive singing voice to boot!

Sasha Smith in the lead role of Delores Clarke has a wonderful rich singing voice as well and a sweet quality that really endears the audience to her from the very first scene. Cassie Thompson as Brownie Wise has a great frenetic sense of physical comedy that reminds you that women of that time period began using diet pills and speed in order to get all their mind numbingly boring chores and lonely housework done!

I thought the music and comedy were each very enjoyable and that the production comes with a nice blend of parody/camp and feminist musical comedy.

In their seventh season, this is The New Colony’s Theater Company’s first production in The Den Theatre as their new permanent performance space, alongside The Hypocrites and the Irish Theater of Chicago. Plastic Revolution is being performed at Den Theatre through February 22nd. For more information and/or tickets, visit thedentheatre.com or call 773-413-0862.   

 

*Photo - (front, left to right) Cassie Thompson and Sasha Smith with (back, left to right) Elise MayfieldLizzie SchwarzrockDaeshawna Cook and Danny Taylor in The New Colony’s world premiere musical PLASTIC REVOLUTION. Photo by Ryan Bourque.

No , I haven’t read the book 50 Shades of Grey, only portions of it - while standing in the grocery store, but still I was swept up by the excitement of Broadway Playhouse’s mostly female audience who giddily lined up to see this show as if they were going to get to meet their own Mr. Grey in person.

Several of the musical parody numbers in this production got solid laughs on almost every beat and punchline, including the hysterical, “There’s a Hole Inside of Me “, “I Don’t Make Love , I F-ck!”, “Just Like any Other Couple” and “How Much Can I Take?”.  I really loved the way the three women reading the book together at a book club were the chorus for the show, interjecting their breathless responses to the action between Anastasia Steele and Grey the way the real fans of this book attempt to live out the fantasy in their own lonely lives.

I also enjoyed the way the parody shows both sides of the S & M world by showing that much of it is harmless fun and role play fantasy but that some of it is brought about by serious sexual dysfunction and or abuse, like revealing that Grey is into S & M because he was “sexually molested by an older woman from the ages of 15 to 21”. 

Ben Caplan as the plus-sized Christian Grey clad in a sickly revealing, red and white muscle builders unitard with a full on barrel tummy was hysterical, delivering his song and dance numbers with great physical comedic timing.

Diego Klock Perez was also very funny in his role as “Jose” the Latin lover who hopes to steal Steele’s heart from the dominating and untouchable Grey. Klock got great laughs just by his entrance and exit from the stage each time leaving Anastasia’s presence without losing her eye contact by backing slowing out of the room one deep step/lunge at a time.

Katie Lamark has a great singing voice and was very funny and cute as the befuddled and enamored Anastasia Steele.  But the real scene stealer for me was Carol from the chorus of three ladies’ book club played by Melanie Brook. She really reminded me of a young Carol Burnett and when I saw how young she is in person after the show I was even more impressed that she was able to pull off playing a dowdy, nerdy desperate woman in her fifties with such uncanny comedic accuracy.

The three piece band onstage was perfect for this show, it was lively and effective yet felt casual and fun. However, the set could use some real sprucing up as there was none to speak of and I think everyone was a little disappointed there was not even a backdrop painted to suggest Grey’s opulent million dollar home nor the trappings of his infamous “Red Room”.

Other than that though this was a really fun and sexy evening of entertainment because it made the whole audience feel that sex and different kinds of sex can be talked about openly and laughed at and even relished in public without anyone being offended or belittled, male OR female, fat OR thin, sexy or nerdy.  This fun and funny musical parody about America’s new obsession with soft core S & M strikes many of the right notes, no pun intended.

50 Shades! The Musical Parody is only playing at Broadway Playhouse through January 18th, so take advantage of this funny show while you still can. For more information, visit www.BroadwayinChicago.com.

Friday, 19 December 2014 18:00

Cirque Dreams Holidaze at Chicago Theater

Holidaze really is like nothing you’ve seen before, especially during the traditional Holiday season offerings like The Nutcracker. The international cast members from many countries including Italy, Mongolia, Asia, Ukraine, and Ethiopia were extremely gifted in each of their unique disciplines. The magnificent Chicago Theater was a perfect venue for such a show.

The sister contortionists, aerialists, silks artists, chair stackers, and clowns all did so many different things all at the same time onstage and in the air that  it was difficult to really take it all in! 

One dancer did a balancing and juggling routine while lying on a slanted bench where at one point she literally was doing a different and independent action with each of her four limbs, Her right foot was twirling hula hoops, while her right foot balanced a rolling boll, her right hand was juggling and her left hand doing some other equally amazing task. This and all the acts really make you realize what an awesome creation the human body is and what seemingly miraculous feats it is capable of with the right talent and cultivation.

The costumes were for the most part spectacular but occasionally I thought they went a little too comical (reindeer unitards and old Mrs. Santa Claus) instead of balletic and took some of the dignity away from what were amazingly graceful and dignified performances.

Also the hypnotic, repetitive music soundtrack needs an updating as it gave everything kind of a 1990’s Euro-House Music feel that was dazzling at first but became a little overwhelming and confusing by the end of the first act.

One other note I have for the producers of this particular cast is the presence of a very young, tiny aerialist/ballet dancer who appeared to be about 6-7 years old. She was a brilliant ballerina who could very easily be playing the lead in The Nutcracker, but in this show she was trussed up in a very strange halter type contraption and pushed around the stage by a man on stilts. I felt very uncomfortable watching someone so young performing this way and doing contortionism at all when her body is so flexible because it is still forming.

To make sure I was not overreacting, I leaned over to a friend and asked what he thought and his first response was, “Creepy! Like watching child abuse!”  I agree, this act needs to be placed on the ground like the other young 9-year old dancer in the show and re-costumed as children should never be costumed in something that even resembles a restraint of any kind.

Other than that this was a refreshing and spectacular night of amazement, suspense and bursting at the seams with psychedelic Christmas colors and lighting effects that I will never forget. 

Oriental Theatre - From the opening of the show when Chicago actor Ed Kross comes out and explains in a perfect 50’s TV announcer voice that we are all at a live taping of the Lucy Show back in 1952, I was captivated.

Two real episodes of the show were purchased for this production, “The Benefit” and “Lucy has her eyes examined.”  I thought both episodes were perfectly chosen not just for their comedic effect but because they showed clearly how far ahead of her time Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz were by creating the three camera filming process and Lucy being the first female studio owner, way, way ahead of their time!  I adored the bright, honest yet sardonic tone of the antics of the ensemble who lovingly recreated the between scene period TV commercials for classic products Brylcreem and Alka Seltzer.  Rick Sparks staging is spot on and is very fun and exciting to watch as the entire cast and crew move seamlessly from introducing the show to setting off the applause sign for us , the live studio audience. It really felt like we were transported back in time to 1950s Los Angeles and were waiting breathlessly to see these two huge iconic stars in the flesh for the first time.

Lori Hammel as Ethel and Kevin Remington as Fred Mertz were very funny, very well cast and true to their characters. It is interesting to note that the real Vivian Vance playing Ethel originally objected to the 20 year plus age difference between her and her TV husband Fred! I always wondered why her husband was so much older and less attractive than the handsome couple they were best friends with but that was pretty typical for the time period.

Thea Brooks did a fantastic job playing the most difficult role in this show. Brooks really captured the absolutely brilliant physical comedy and genuine dancers grace with which Lucille Ball (originally a Broadway quality dancer) was able to bestow upon female comedy timing in a world which had yet to enter fully in the women’s movement at all.

The  wonderful, best friends forever interaction between Lucy and Ethel reminded us that Lucy was also ahead of her time not only by marrying interracially, but Lucille Ball  was also the first champion of long lasting, devoted, female friendship, now referred to as “chicks before dicks!” at a time when both issues were severely frowned upon and questioned by society.

Euriamis Losada as Ricky blew audiences away with his eerily accurate portrayal of Ricky Ricardo’s movements and voice! Every single line of comedy and each line of his musical numbers were so like the original I occasionally squinted my eyes and felt I could see Lucy and Desi standing on the stage.  These two performances were so difficult and required much attention to detail by Brooks and Losada, yet they pulled it off without bordering on caricature or parody regarding these two beloved superstars. Thea Brooks and Euriamis Losada displayed real STAR turns in this production and I can’t wait to see their future incarnations on Broadway in other productions.

I only have two notes for this delightful and thoroughly enjoyable production. It would have been nice if instead of the “game show break” utilizing an audience member and plant in the audience which separated the two episodes, Sparks had just allowed us, the studio audience, to take a ten minute intermission. Also, I would have loved to see a single behind the scenes scene between Lucy and Ricky AS Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, to peer into that break from the fantasy of the show to the reality of their rocky but ground breaking marriage. It would have been very special to witness indeed and have allowed Losada and Brooks to peel back and show yet another layer of these two magnificently complicated performers in their own time period.

I highly recommend seeing I Love Lucy Live on Stage at the Oriental Theatre with your whole family to bring back the love and simplicity and also the hysterical hypocrisy of the time period that many of us grew up watching and loving. 

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