Theatre

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

Interrobang Theatre Project launches its 2017-18 Season, exploring the urgent question “What is Truth?,” with the Midwest premiere of Dawn King's darkly comic and politically relevant British drama FOXFINDER, directed by Literary Manager Margaret Knapp. FOXFINDER will play September 28 – November 5, 2017 at The Athenaeum Theatre (Studio 2), 2936 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.interrobangtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office. The press opening is Monday, October 2 at 7:30 pm.
 
FOXFINDER will feature Alexandra Fisher, David Anthony Marshall, Jack Olin and Alanna Rogers.
 
In the not so distant future, the economy is failing, food is scarce and paranoia is in the air. Samuel and Judith Covey live in rural England, maintaining their government-controlled farm – in constant fear of losing it all. After an anonymous tip, William Bloor, a "Foxfinder," arrives to investigate a suspected contamination, threatening to uncover secrets of desire and regret that will change all of their lives forever. 
 
Comments Director Margaret Knapp, "Although it flirts with thematic elements like the examination of a police state in today's society, the effects of global warming, and religious zealotism, at it's core Foxfinder is about the battle against the forces of nature, both external and internal, and how when these forces threaten to overwhelm us, we look for someone, or something, to blame."
 
The production team for FOXFINDER includes: Eric Luchen (scenic design), Melissa Perkins (costume design), John Kelly (lighting design), Jesse Case (sound design), Pauline Oleksy (properties design) Georgette Verdin* (asst. director), Claire Yearman* (fight choreographer), Lindsay Bartlett (dialect coach) and Victoria Bustoz (stage manager).
 
*Denotes Interrobang Theatre Project Company Member. 
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: FOXFINDER
Playwright: Dawn King
Director: Literary Manager Margaret Knapp
Cast: Alexandra Fisher (Judith Covey), David Anthony Marshall (Samuel Covey), Jack Olin (William Bloor) and Alanna Rogers (Sarah Box).
 
Location: The Athenaeum Theatre (Studio 2), 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Thursday, September 28 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, October 1 at 7 pm
Press opening: Monday, October 2 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Thursday, October 5 – Sunday, November 5, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2 pm. 
Tickets: Previews: September 28: pay-what-you can, October 1: $17. Regular run: $32; Students $17 (with ID), Seniors $17. (Ticket prices include $2 Athenaeum Theatre restoration fee). 
Tickets are currently available at www.interrobangtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Michael Washington Brown, in association with Athenaeum Theatre Productions, present “BLACK!,” July 20 – 30, in Studio 2 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Opening night is Thursday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m. The performance schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The running time is 100 minutes including a 10-minute intermission. Tickets are $25 and available at AthenaeumTheatre.org or 773.935.6875.
 
Brown, was born in England and created “BLACK!” in 2016. The production has been included in the Asheville Fringe Festival, the FRIGID Fringe Festival in New York City and the Seattle Fringe. It will be performed at the Tempe Center for the Arts and the San Francisco Fringe Festival in September 2017.
 
In “BLACK!,” Brown inhabits an array of characters from Africa, the United States, England and Jamaica, performing each person’s individual perspective and sharing his experiences. The production highlights the nuances and life perspectives of various people who are from the Black global community.  Many stereotypes currently exist which seem to ‘mesh’ all black people and their stories together.  The truth is that there are distinct differences and very definite similarities between Black people from all walks of life.  In addition, each carries their own distorted and often exaggerated opinions about the other, which is a way to distinguish a separation, even though in truth, they are more alike than they believe. “BLACK!” uses the power of language and performance to delve into these characters to reflect on this communities’ history and their future as well as what they do and do not share of the global Black experience.
 
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share this show, its voices and a global ‘Black’ perspective with the Chicago community,” Brown said.  “Chicago is embedded in a rich history filled with a melting pot of cultures, along with its extensive support of the theatre and arts. It is my mission and purpose to share this show as far and wide as I can.  Chicago is an obvious choice in my journey…I am grateful to have the Athenaeum Theatre, supporting my debut of “BLACK!” in this vibrant and intoxicating city, ” he concluded. 
 
ABOUT MICHAEL WASHINGTON BROWN
Michael Washington Brown was born in London, England. He is the first generation born outside of his family’s direct heritage of the Caribbean (Jamaica & Barbados). In 1992 at 19, he left London for the shores of California, a place he fell in love with from his initial visit as a child at age 10. He knew even at this young age that he would ‘one day’ make America his home.
 
In 1994, he began studying scene classes in San Francisco and knew instantly what he wanted to do and be…an actor. He gradually found himself working his way up the local scene and then eventually performing in productions at: The Magic Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Marin Theatre Company and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. He moved to New York City to continue his journey and landed a variety of New York City productions that began at the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Theatre has always been Brown’s passion, but deep down he always felt there was ‘more to give’. Brown wanted to tell stories that were not being told. It was at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 2012 when he saw a one-man show and was inspired beyond anything he had previously experienced. He realized in this moment what his ‘more to give’ would be: “To write and share my own stories and perspective.” Brown discovered that his love of reading had laid the foundation and allowed the ease of his own voice, to reveal itself to him. 

ABOUT ATHENAEUM THEATRE PRODUCTIONS
Athenaeum Theatre Productions, a not-for-profit 501c3 arts organization, is firmly committed to providing the Chicago non-profit performing arts community a welcoming shared space to incubate new projects and collaborations by providing high quality and below cost performance, rehearsal, office and reception space supported by a staff of theatre professionals. Founded in 1911, the Athenaeum Theatre is Chicago’s oldest, continuously operating off-loop theatre.  Home to 15 not-for-profit performing arts groups and four stages including its 984-seat main stage.
 
Michael Washington Brown, in association with Athenaeum Theatre Productions, present “BLACK!,” July 20 – 30, in Studio 2 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Opening night is Thursday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m. The performance schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The running time is 100 minutes including a 10-minute intermission. Tickets are $25 and available at AthenaeumTheatre.org or 773.935.6875.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Amour, playing at the Atheneaum, is a jewel box of a show. This lighthearted musical (technically a comic opera) is profoundly entertaining, without needing to be profound. It is just plain fun.

With nearly no spoken dialog, the nine cast members sing their hearts out for 90 minutes. The music, lively and varied, stays fresh – and the libretto is sharp and humorous. These are all very talented, natural singers, who are well balanced and, with no electronic assist, sing dialog clearly, ever with an ear to a backstage orchestra – though small it is excellent. 

On key and in seemingly effortless harmony, the cast waltzes through a dozen different musical styles that hearken to the play’s roots. It was Tony nominated on Broadway in 2002, adapted from a 1997 Paris production. Numbers run the gamut from cabaret to jazzy Manhattan Transfer, grand opera, and everything in between.

The story line is delightfully simple: an office worker in dreary post-war Paris discovers he can walk through walls, turning his humdrum life into an adventure. Brian Fimoff as Dusoleil brings that Everyman quality to his role. 

Much credit must be given to Black Button Eyes Production for retrieving this treasure from the script vault. Their mission is to bring Chicago seldom-seen works containing elements of fantasy, in which magical and surreal invade reality. Mission accomplished.

Standouts include Missy Wise (as Claire/Whore), with a big voice and plenty of sass. Kevin Webb plays a Gendarme but his performance as a Nazi-like Boss in jodhpurs and riding crop is over the top funny. A real standout is Scott Gryder in three key roles: he is all Newsies as a newspaper vendor; very funny as frightened advocate; but he could give Paul Lynde a run for the money as office clerk Bertrand. 

And then there is THE VOICE: in this show, it's Emily Goldberg (playing Isabelle). Goldberg has it all: trained, expressive, and Broadway beautiful. (Goldberg, playing musical theater al around town, is certainly Broadway bound, so catch her locally while you can.) Fimoff pairs nicely with Goldberg in their duets, but he cannot match the rest of the troupe's volume when he is not belting.  

The Amour production itself is a tribute to what can be conjured up with minimalist but imaginative props and sets. It also is a testament to the audience's ability not just to suspend disbelief, but to join in the fantasy. 

Amour debuted in Paris in 1997, and its original libretto was adapted for Broadway in 2002 by Jeremy Sams. Music is by Michel Legrand, and the French libretto is by Didier Van Cauwelaert here in a witty English adaptation by Jeremy Sams. 

Amour, highly recommended, runs through October 8 at The Athenaeum Theatre

Published in Theatre Reviews

Blind dates can be interesting enough but add in a few surprises and things can get pretty uncomfortable in a hurry. In Recent Tragic Events we meet a couple, Waverly and Andrew, who gets together for a date on the recommendation of mutual friends and as the night progresses they have more in common than they could have possibly thought. 

 

The date starts precariously. It's the day after the September 11th attacks and Waverly's twin sister has not been heard from. Waverly is somewhat certain that her sister would not have been at the World Trade Center during the attacks but still has a bit of doubt. Andrew, who manages a book store at the airport, is awkward and shy but quickly notices that Waverly has the exact same books as him when picking her up and their admiration for the same authors quickly creates a bond between the two. With Waverly upset about her sister's status the two decide to stay indoors to hand out and order pizza. It's not long after that down-the-hall neighbor Ron intrudes on the date. Ron is a happy-go-lucky musician who doesn’t seem to take too much in life very seriously. The three of them tune in and out of news broadcasts covering the attack, but try to keep things light-hearted though a heavy cloud overshadows their evening. Soon Ron’s married girlfriend joins the group hair disheveled and clad only in an oversized t-shirt and panties. She doesn’t speak, only nodding and making slight sounds in agreement or disagreement. 

 

The intrigue begins when Andrew tells Waverly that he had met her sister just two weeks prior at a bar. Recollecting his encounter, he tells Waverly and Ron that she had been discussing a position for a company located in the World Trade Center. Of course, that naturally amplifies Waverly’s worst fears. 

 

Recent Tragic Events is full of funny dialogue and subtle mannerisms, especially once Ron enters the scene, played hysterically by Maximillian Lupine who can induce laughter with the slightest of looks or gestures. Though Lupine gets most of the big laughs, Rachel Christianson is also hilarious – not so much as Ron’s girlfriend Nancy, but as Andrew’s favorite author, Waverly’s grandmother Joyce Carol Oates, who is portrayed by a sock puppet on her hand. Oates even knocks down a few beers with the gang during her visit if you can imagine a sock puppet chugging during a drinking game. Naturally when Joyce Carol Oates needs to use the bathroom, Nancy shows her the way, waits for her before returning together. Matthew Nerber also puts forth a humorous performance as the dweeby bookworm Andrew along with Laura Berber Taylor who displays a fine emotional range.   

 

The story is well-balanced with both the humor of the gang interacting (often awkwardly)and the drama that a tragedy more personal than expected may have taken place. Once really gets to like the characters, probably because there is a lot of truth in them. The question of free will is challenged, pondering if we really do make our own choices even when we think we do. This is brought to the surface in many ways not only with parallels to the September 11th attacks but even in the actors reading from a script after the “stage manager” alerts the crowd that the story could go in different ways by changing lines every time a chime is heard. Ron and Joyce Carol Oates also have a heated exchange on the subject. 

 

Recent Tragic Events is worth checking out. It is a show that will make you think past the many good laughs it offers. The characters work well together thanks to a well-assembled cast and solid scripting while the story keeps your attention, though it seems to run a bit longer than it should, quickly changing tone and opting to linger rather than closing on a prior opportune moment or two. 

 

Recent Tragic Events is being performed at Athenaeum Theatre through April 10th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.athenaeumtheatre.org .   

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Attempting to tackle a slew of tough issues, Picture Imperfect is an emotional drama with good intention that raises awareness to the difficulties of...well, single motherhood, autism, drug abuse, gambling, abandonment, the hardships in dealing with Child Protective Services, spousal manipulationand eventually mental illness. Thoughall important issues, co-writing duo Joel Z. Cornfield and Richard James Zieman may have diluted their intended focus by planting too many different seeds in the garden. Still, as many subjects that are touched upon in its hour and forty-five minute duration, this story, partially inspired from true events, has its share of intense-filled moments, some stemming from sheer misfortune but most from a chain of poor decision making. 

 

Cole is an autistic boy who expresses his thoughts with a paintbrush and canvas. His mother Mary is trying hard torebound from a string of unwise decisions that puts Cole's future into the hands of the Child Protective Services and, Eric, the eldest son, has all the athletic talent in the world but turns to a life of heroin abuse. George, the boys' gambling addicted father, has left four years ago where he has latched onto a stunning young beauty and convinces her to make pornographic videos for money. After his lengthy hiatus, George soon after returns to his family but with suspicious motives. With the threat of losing her son, Cole, to the system, Mary tries to recreate a healthy family environment. Our George and Mary here are about as far as they could be from the same named beloved couple in It's A Wonderful Life - rich in morale fiber, clean-nosed, thoughtful and family oriented. Perhaps the playwrights purposely played on such a disparity to demonstrate the immense contrast in character and circumstance - the results of love,understanding and sacrifice versus a selfishness to the point of destruction.

 

This is Dr. Joel Cornfield’s first contribution to the theatre is a tragedy piece but as the writer puts it, “There’s hope springing from tragedy.”

 

Barring a handful of passionate exchanges betweenmother and son and wife and estranged husband that get pretty penetrating, the two brightest spots in this play are Sarah Bright's demanding portrayal of Mary and Jamie McKinney's heartfelt performance as Eric. Alyssa Thordarson also delivers and is very convincing as Pam, George's seemingly unlikely mistress. The three are able to carry the cast to make this a respectable production along with its story that does just enough to keep it interesting. I do commend the writer's desire to bring to the table so many subjects that warrant concern and more awareness, but in this case slightly less may have been so much more.

Picture Imperfect is being performed at The Athenaeum Theatre through April 4th. For tickets and/or more show information call 773-935-6875 or visit www.athenaeumtheatre.org.

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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