Theatre

If you’ve followed Netflix’s big 2016 hit Stranger Things, this play will make all kinds of sense. You’ll get the jokes, the 80’s references and will easily follow the story line. If you haven’t seen the series, it would be recommended that you do before checking out Random Acts and Greenhouse Theater’s collaboration, Strangest Things! The Musical

Spoofing one of the most talked about sci-fi series to hit the airwaves over the past few years, Strangest Things! follows the disappearance of Will Byers, a young boy in Hawkins, Indiana. Set in the 1980’s, his mother Joyce Byers, brother Johnathan and a group of Will’s friends search everywhere to no avail, eventually enlisting the help of Police Chief, David Harbour. When a young girl known as “Eleven” appears from seemingly nowhere dressed in only a hospital gown, it is soon discovered she has psychokinetic abilities and things start to get weird. 

Befriended by Will’s friends, Eleven is able to contact Will from the other side and it becomes apparent that things are not at all what they seem. Joyce believes Will is contacting her from another dimension, his energy channeled through the radio and a string of Christmas lights, confident he is alive but trapped in another world. Of course, this sounds crazy – or is it? And with every good sci-fi thriller there needs to be a villain, so it’s soon discovered an experimental laboratory, led by scientist Martin Brenner, may have a hand in Will’s disappearance. Suspicious, the snooping begins and the plot gets deeper and deeper as the story progresses.  

The series won its popularity not only with its engaging storyline, but with the heavy use of 80’s music and sound effects, making it prime parody material.

That’s where Strangest Things! comes in. 

While Strangest Things! The Musical hits on some of the 80’s silliness and occasionally finds success in its over-the-top lampooning of the series’ characters, it struggles to hold onto its momentum. Taking popular 80’s hits like “Xanadu”, “I’m A Virgin”, “Sweet Dreams” and “Don’t Stop Believin’”, writers Bryan Renaud and Emily Schmidt change the lyrics to accommodate the storyline in the play. While the lyrics are, at times, funny, the execution falls a bit flat, the harmonies weak and the vocals often lacking strength, excluding Molly Lecaptain as “Juice” (Joyce) Byers who can flat out belt. We almost wonder if the play would have been better without the musical numbers, the dialogue exchanges drawing the most laughs along with the character exaggerations of each.

Lecaptain does a good job in taking on Winona Ryders’ character, over-amplifying her panic-stricken, bewildered and frenzied traits at just the right intensity, while Kevin O’Connell as “Sheriff Hopper” (Police Chief David Harbour) also takes his role and runs with it. Will’s best friend Mike is played by Jenna Fawcett, who doesn’t have to do much more than wear a goofy wig to get a chuckle but also delivers plenty of funny lines and loopy expressions. Older brother “Johnathan” is played by Ben F. Locke, who doubles as hunky high school heart throb Steve. Locke’s performance offers some of the best camp-dom in the musical, leaving more “Johnathan” scenes to be highly desired. Their comedic ability is only limited by the play’s script.

The play starts strong as we meet our characters the first time around (especially “Barb” played by Christian Sibert), but the humor becomes predictable, the character’s freshness soon overplayed and the jokes often coming off as contrived or overdone, a perfect example being Hopper’s mention of T.J. Hooker – which was funny – until he points out to the audience that we should laugh because he made an obscure 80’s reference. We know.    

If you enjoyed the Netflix series, there might be just enough in Strangest Things! to like despite its many missed opportunities for witty, comedic growth. The idea is there but the play could use a reworking to give its audience the most bang for their buck.            

Lukewarm, the play has severe hits and misses, some jokes really creative while others falling flat. As a whole, the story might be a bit tough to piece together without having seen the series, as it is presented somewhat scattered without full explanation, so again, it is recommended you watch Stranger Things first.  

Strangest Things! The Musical is being performed at Greenhouse Theater Center through May 13th. For more information on this production, visit www.greenhousetheater.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

I thoroughly enjoyed the world premiere of Jesus the Jew: As Told by His Brother James. The play is the seventeenth work produced by Forum Productions. The one-man show by playwright William Spatz is very well-written and in my opinion contains some of the answers of the most important issues facing our society today with regards to antisemitism and the violence propagated against Christians and or Jewish Christians in this country and others around the world. 

 

Actor, Steven Strafford plays a modern-day professor of religious history who has just found out his brother John has been tortured and killed in an attack in Syria. He then travels back and forth in time to portray James, the brother of Jesus, one of the mainstays of his research. Strafford's performance is compelling and rich. 

 

Jeremy, as James thanks the audience for coming whether they are Jews, Christians or Jewish Christians. This designation is very important especially in the political climate currently where all three groups are regularly singled out in some countries and sentenced to death by beheading if they do not renounce their Christian and/or Jewish ties. 

 

This play is of particular interest to me because I am a Jewish Christian or Messianic Jew. That is a person who is Jewish by birth who continues to believe that Jesus was Jewish and was the Messiah sent to save the Jewish people and later the non-Jews from the belief that we are just helpless animal-like human beings in bodies which have no actual active spiritual life that continues after death of the human body. We also believe that God is a loving forgiving being that abhors killing of humans and animals, indeed cruelty to women and all living things. 

 

I was given a very complete three-year education in Jewish history and religious practices before completing my bat mitzvah and the only mention of Jesus, if any that I recall, was that Jesus was to be looked at as a Rabbi gone mad - a religious traitor to the Jewish people whose new ideas threatened to destroy Judaism rather than elevate it to new levels of generosity and higher spiritual intelligence. I have often wondered how the separation of Jesus' Jewish birth and the statement he made regarding incarnating in a human body specifically for the Jewish people turned into an entirely new religion called Christianity – a religion that proceeded to make a scapegoat of the Jews when Roman occupation and laws actually caused the killing of Jesus. I've also wondered how Christians and especially Catholics who - on the one hand - give great honor to Mary, Jesus' mother, seem to have completely forgotten the fact that Mary the Mother of God was a JEWISH woman named Miriam. And how can modern Christians continue to refer with reverence to the Gospels written by Jesus' disciples as inspired by God without recalling that ALL the disciples of Jesus were JEWISH?

 

James’ finally answers this question in the last hours of his life in the play when he is about to be put to death (after 30 years of leading Jewish Christians) for not renouncing his brother's and his own Jewish faith. 

 

The apostle Paul is well known among feminists for his damning letters stating that women should have no place in the new Church and should be subject to all the discrimination that Jesus himself stressed many times should end by interacting with women, healing them and insisting that they receive the same education his male apostles were receiving. During this council, the apostle Paul effectively overthrew James’ leadership by declaring a new law that if a Jewish person believed in Jesus they must stop all Jewish religious practices and laws or be sentenced to death.

 

Jeremy as James also made it clear that Mary was from a wealthy family and financially supported Jesus and, by extension, financially supported many of the apostles that followed Jesus. Mary Magdalene was NOT by any stretch of the sexist imagination a "prostitute" as many since have claimed. 

 

James states that Jesus and Mary were indeed married per the Jewish tradition and although it was not brought up in this play, their marriage gives some credence to the theory that Mary Magdalene, Jesus' legal wife, gave birth to a daughter after his death, directly continuing the spiritually royal bloodline of Jesus himself. It’s been said that she and her daughter were escorted to safety by her father and sailed to France to raise her daughter.

 

There is some humor in the play when James says, “Lots of Jewish mothers think their sons can walk on water, but in this case…”

 

The production team includes: Milo Blue (scenic design), Hailey Rakowiecki (costume design), David Trudeau (lighting design), Alex Kleiner (sound design), Ron Rude (production manager) and Sarah Knoke (stage manager). This team does a great job decorating the set with objects of art from both modern and ancient times. The interesting props keep one’s eyes busy looking at the beautiful colorful aspects of that historic period while keeping the audience firmly in the present with offstage interruptions by reporters seeking interviews with him and friends or family who are trying to help Jeremy stay calm and sane in the face of the news that his brother has been tortured first then killed. 

 

Jesus The Jew delivers the most important message of our time, that the division of Jews from Christians and the division of Jesus from his own Jewish followers and people came from a political move - a political document written to serve the Romans and the ambitions of one aggressive sect of new Christians/Jews led by the apostle Paul. 

 

My only complaint about the well-written and well-documented play is that it does not delve deep enough into the horrors and centuries of suffering that this rift initiated by the apostle Paul caused. Actually using the word “horror” is inadequate to describe the current situation for both Christians and Jewish Christians - the Holocaust or recent be-headings of Christians and Jewish Christians around the world and the suffering of women subject to the new rules of Bible thumping-Jew hating Christians who have been forced to follow their husband’s commands even under extreme abuse. 

 

James even acknowledges that as he gives his last sermon before he is put to death that there may not be any Jewish Christians left to hear his final pleas for a meaningful, literal and political reunion of the Jewish and Christian people. That strongly resonated with me because I am the ONLY Jewish Christian that I have ever met (other than my mother who had a similar late life realization) who sees Jesus as a Jewish Rabbi and miracle maker of the highest order, the human incarnation of God on earth.

 

I highly recommend this compelling, well-paced and delicately handled theater piece for anyone who is interested in a more realistic view of daily life during Jesus' time, or is seeking similar comfort that Jewish Christians still actually exist. 

 

Jesus the Jew: As Told by his Brother James is being performed at Greenhouse Theater Center through March 26th. For more information on this show, click here.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Due to popular demand, Greenhouse Theater Center is pleased to present the return of Cathy Schenkelberg’s hit one-woman show SQUEEZE MY CANS, directed by Shirley Anderson, playing February 16 – March 12, 2017 at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Schenkelberg’s evocative and humorous account of life as a Scientologist returns for a full run following a limited engagement last summer during the Greenhouse’s popular Solo Celebration! Series. Tickets for SQUEEZE MY CANS are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. The press opening is Thursday, February 16 at 7:30 pm.

 

Have you ever wondered if Bozo was a suppressive person? Have you ever considered what it might be like to audition to be Tom Cruise’s girlfriend? What would you do if the carrot of spiritual freedom was dangled in front of you, waiting to be seized? Writer/performer Cathy Schenkelberg decided to chase it and what she found was Scientology: America’s foremost intergalactic theology. After years of studying and searching, she found herself blowing alien life forms off her body, farther than ever from who she had hoped to be. Now, she returns to share that story in this no-holds-barred cautionary tale of how she survived the pseudoscience.

 

SQUEEZE MY CANS returns to Chicago following sold-out runs in 2016 at Outdoor Voices festival and Sacred Fools Theater/Hollywood Fringe Festival in Los Angeles and Dunes Summer Theatre in Michigan City, Indiana.

 

"Our audiences were profoundly affected by Cathy's humorous and shocking retelling of her brave journey through Scientology when we hosted her as part of the Solo Celebration! Series," comments Greenhouse Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. "Cathy manages to turn her nearly 20-year experience with America's most prominent alien religion into a fearless, hilarious and heartbreaking performance. We are proud to have her back as she continues to tell her story of survival and the power of perseverance."

The production team for SQUEEZE MY CANS includes: Brandon Baruch (lighting design), Victorio (Toy) Deiorio (sound and projection design) and Ron Rude (production manager)

PRODUCTION DETAILS:

 

Title: SQUEEZE MY CANS

Written and performed by: Cathy Schenkelberg

Directed by: Shirley Anderson

 

Location The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago

Dates: Press Performance: Thursday, February 16 at 7:30 pm

Regular run: Friday, February 17 – Sunday, March 12, 2017

Curtain times: Thursdays and Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 7:30 pm & 10 pm; Sundays at 2 pm

Tickets: $25. Students $20.

Tickets are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336.

 

About The Artists

 

Cathy Schenkelberg (Performer/Playwright) is a Nebraska native and Chicago/LA-based actress, singer and voiceover talent who has voiced campaigns for clients such as Sears, Kohl’s, Applebee’s and SC Johnson. Early on in Chicago, she’s had roles in Jacque Brel, Working, Little Shop of Horrors, Noises Off and Moms the Word, to name a few. Cathy was also Chrissy in the Midwest Tour of Hair and Pepper the Clown on WGN’s Bozo Show. She has worked as a dancer/singer at clubs and cruise ships - even impersonating Dolly Parton, Madonna and Marilyn Monroe (all at the same time). In her recent return to the stage, she had the good fortune to play Madame Thenardier in Les Miz, Violet, Zuzu and Ma Hatch in It’s A Wonderful Life, Sue Ellen in Honky Tonk Angels and the Mother in A Christmas Story at Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora CA as well as Veronica in God of Carnage at American Stage in St Pete FL. But it has been her spoken-word pieces at such venues as Write Club LA, Spark off Rose, Rant N’ Rave and Louder then a Mom, where her one woman show, Squeeze My Cans, was conceived. Visit www.squeezemycans.com for more information. 

 

Shirley Anderson (Director) is a Northwestern alum who spent the ‘90s in Chicago, adapting, producing and performing a solo adaptation of Dorothy Parker's short story Big Blonde at the Red Lion Pub, then in jazz clubs, colleges and theaters in Chicago, Edinburgh and Los Angeles. Anderson has written and performed as a solo performer ever since in Chicago and Los Angeles. In 1993, Anderson collaborated with Molly McNett on Sculpture in Vitro: Growing Up Female in the Age of Liposuction at Live Bait Theater after premiering the work in cooperation with Lookingglass Theatre and before touring the show to high schools and colleges. She has collaborated with Lookingglass Theatre Company, Plasticene and Studio 108 in Chicago and Sacred Fools, Theater Movement Bazaar, Zoo District, Son of Semele and Theater of NOTE in Los Angeles, where she currently lives and directs business operations for Blum & Poe art gallery.

 

About the Greenhouse Theater Center

The Greenhouse Theater Center is a nonprofit performance venue located at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Our complex offers two newly remodeled 190-seat main stage spaces, two 60-seat studio theaters, an in-house rehearsal room and Chicago’s only dedicated used theatre book store. 

Our mission at the Greenhouse is first and foremost to grow local theatre. We strive to cultivate a fertile environment for local artists, from individual renters to our bevy of resident companies, to develop and produce their work. In 2014 alone, The Greenhouse Theater Center provided space for almost 1,000 ticketed performances, serving more than 54,000 patrons. Among these events were at least 30 productions by our resident companies, including the celebrated American Blues Theater and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company. Through our Trellis Program, we offer the community affordable access to our work by housing Chicago’s only dedicated used theatre bookstore, located on the second floor of our complex, as well as offering a free reading series each Tuesday night where local artists workshop their latest scripts. Additionally, we also continue to play an active role in cultivating and nurturing our community through continued partnerships with the League of Chicago Theaters and local Chambers of Commerce. 

As of 2016, the Greenhouse Theater Center embraced the true spirit of growth and launched its producing entity. With the announcement of our eight month long Solo Celebration! Series, helmed by Artistic Director Jacob Harvey, we will produce 12 solo plays from June 2016 to February 2017. Through this inaugural effort, we hope to expand the solo play cannon while also cultivating a larger conversation about the possibilities of the one-person play. 

With new ideas always incubating, the Greenhouse Theater Center is flourishing. Come grow with us! 

 

Published in Buzz Extra

Forum Productions is pleased to present the world premiere one-man show JESUS THE JEW As Told By His Brother James, written by William Spatz, directed by Will Rogers and featuring Steven Strafford. A modern drama interwoven with the biblical tale of Jesus of Nazareth and his brother James, JESUS THE JEW will play February 17 – March 26, 2017 at Greenhouse Theater Center (Downstairs Mainstage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. 

 

Jeremy, a biblical history professor, faced with crippling fear and guilt, is mourning the tragic loss of his brother. Struggling to make sense of the present, he reaches into the ancient past to find answers – and imagines himself as James.

 

James is given a choice: renounce his brother or be killed. The problem: his brother is Jesus of Nazareth and James is the leader of all of Jesus’ followers for 30 years since the resurrection. Based on a wealth of research, JESUS THE JEW takes us back to the birth of Christianity and the transformation of Judaism, with two Jewish brothers and their four siblings growing up in Nazareth. Through memory and storytelling, James reveals his insights into Mary of Magdala, his archrival Apostle Paul and his misunderstood brother, as he faces the ultimate decision and his greatest test of faith.

James’ faith could lead to his death. Jeremy’s faith could save his life.

The production team includes: Milo Blue (scenic design), Hailey Rakowiecki (costume design), David Trudeau (lighting design), Alex Kleiner  (sound design), Ron Rude (production manager) and Sarah Knoke (stage manager). 

PRODUCTION DETAILS:

 

Title: JESUS THE JEW As Told By His Brother James

Playwright: William Spatz

Director: Will Rogers

Featuring: Steven Strafford 

 

Location The Greenhouse Theater Center (Downstairs Mainstage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago

Dates: Previews: Friday, February 17 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, February 18 at 2:30 pm & 7:30 pm, Sunday, February 19 at 2:30 pm and Wednesday, February 16 at 7:30 pm

Press Performance: Wednesday, February 22 at 7:30 pm

Regular run: Thursday, February 23 – Sunday, March 26, 2017

Curtain times: Wednesday at 7:30 pm, Thursday at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 pm & 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm

Tickets: Previews: $20. Regular run: $30 - $35. Tickets are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336.

 

About The Artists

 

William (Bill) Spatz (Playwright) is a playwright, philanthropist and real estate developer in Chicago. As president of the board for the Greenhouse Theater Center, Bill has overseen the remodeling and expansion of the Greenhouse, which has for over 40 years served as an artistic home for Chicago theater companies, including the Body Politic, Victory Gardens and Remy Bumppo. Bill is the President of the Bill and Wendy Spatz Charitable Foundation. When not producing theater, Bill spends his time engrossed in historical research, traveling with his wife Wendy and supporting Chicago theater companies.

 

Will Rogers (Director) is a creative producer and director who focuses on the development of interdisciplinary work. Most recently, Will’s work centers on the collision of culinary and performing arts as Artistic Director of Plateful Company. With Plateful collaborators Alex Kliner and Sarah Beth Tanner, Will has developed the dinner party musical A Place Called Plenty, the musical cooking show Biscuit Broads and several other in-home events. Will worked as Associate Producer for Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater for seven years, during which time he also served as Casting Director as well as curator of the alternative programming series, Fresh Squeezed. As a director, his work has been seen at Ragdale, Victory Gardens, Hell in a Handbag Productions, Chicago Dramatists, 16th Street Theater, Pavement Group, Savage Vanguard Theater (Austin) and the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, among others. Will has been on the faculty of Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp in Steamboat  Springs, Colorado and is the creator of Mixtape, a showcase of new musical theater. He is an alum of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design. Will is excited to return to the Ragdale High School Intensive for a second year.  

 

Steven Strafford (Performer) was most recently seen as Chick Clark in Wonderful Town at The Goodman last fall. He has toured in Spamalot, Peter Pan, Cinderella and Grease. In Chicago, he was also seen as Jesus and Stephen Hawking in End Days. He has performed regionally at Sacramento Music Circus, Cape Playhouse, Portland Stage Company, Cardinal Stage and many others. His one man show, Methtacular! was nominated for a Jeff Award in 2014. It has had productions here in Chicago, NYC, Maine, California and most recently a two-night stint at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre. His new play, Small Jokes About Monsters, is in development and production around the country. 

 

Forum Productions (Producer) has produced or co-produced 17 plays since its founding in 2014. Previous productions include the highly-acclaimed Churchill (Producer: Chicago, 2014; Producer: Off-Broadway, 2015) and the Greenhouse Theater Center's much-lauded Solo Celebration! Series (Producer), which concludes in February of 2017. In 2017 and 2018, Forum productions will be producing a series of solo performances in Florida, as well as continuing to produce in Chicago.

 

Published in Buzz Extra

Chicago actress Linda Reiter plays Rose Kennedy, matriarch of the Kennedy family in the play "Rose" by Laurence Leamer, with both strength and delicacy. I have seen Linda Reiter around town in many great productions but this is truly her finest and fullest role, deserving of a Jeff Award (the Chicago version of the Tony Awards). 

 

Leamer, a Kennedy biographer, built the entire play on forty hours of taped interviews taken by Robert Coughlan, who was the ghostwriter of Rose Kennedy's own memoir in 1974. Leamer attained the tapes after Coughlin’s death in 1992 where the tapes found home on a shelf until just recently when Leamer finally chose "deal with them", the result being this spectacular and intimate one-woman show.

 

Kind of a rise and fall of the Kennedy’s from Rose’s viewpoint, I learned many interesting and sad facts from this piece that I'm sure the public is unaware of. For one, Rose mentions in the show that she felt a delay in the doctor’s arrival that caused her daughter Rosemary's "slowness" or what we would call today very mildly mentally challenged due to oxygen deficiency at birth. 

 

I was unaware of the circumstances and motive behind the lobotomy Rosemary was given. Apparently, the beautiful, but "slow" Rosemary was an embarrassment to Joe Kennedy so she was sent to live with some nuns in Europe - out of sight out of mind Joe thought. But when Rosemary had just barely reached adulthood she began to sneak out in the night to meet men and have adult experiences in the local towns, Joe feared she would become pregnant ruining his and his sons’ chances for political success. 

 

At that time only five hundred lobotomies had been performed in the world and only on the most violent of criminals. So without telling her mother Rose he took Rosemary to a doctor who supposedly specialized in such a procedure. The doctor administered some topical anesthetic to Rosemary's forehead and told her to sing a song. Beautiful Rosemary with her big eyes and full lips trustingly and with no knowledge of what the doctor's visit was for, asked her father what to sing. Joe said, “Sing Danny Boy, that's a good one." The doctor carved away at Rosemary's frontal lobe until she stopped singing. Later Joe told Rose that '"His daughter sang ...for too long." 

 

Rose was bound with this horrible secret and did not tell the rest of the family because she knew they would never feel the same way about their father again. Rose later wonders if she had let them know if they would have bowed to his wishes so complacently, sometimes leading eventually in some way to that child's death - either fighting at war or when Joe refused to let Kathleen marry the man she loved out of their religion. 

 

Sadly, Rose herself only visited Rosemary once twenty-some years later in the nunnery her daughter was returned to after the disastrous lobotomy. She said Rosemary actually recognized her and had gained a lot of weight but cursed at her, turning her back until the nuns came and said Rose must leave because her presence was upsetting her daughter.

 

I truly believe this one act of tortuous father to daughter betrayal in the Kennedy family was the beginning of the so called "curse" on the Kennedy clan. Reiter brilliantly describes with heart wrenching poignancy this unbelievable story along with the deaths and mourning of the rest of her children - one by one, many of whom she also gave birth to alone as Joe was usually on vacation in Florida with other women) while she was pregnant and giving birth. 

 

Ironically, it was Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver who started the Special Olympics, perhaps the only good thing to come of Rosemary's terribly unfair and cruel life and demise. 

 

Reiter, as Rose, fondly recalls her memories of Jack, who grew up sickly, still suffering from chronic pain even in his days as President. Almost dying from surgery performed in his youth, she explains how Jack defied the odds, fulfilling his destiny. She describes in detail how Jack looked up to his older brother Joe and the devastation felt upon his untimely death from a plane crash. She describes Bobby as Jack’s protector stating, “There wasn’t anything Bobby wouldn’t do for Jack.” Reiter skillfully captures the pride of a mother upon speaking of their achievements and also the worry and pain as she reminisces the family’s misfortune.      

 

The play is inter-cut with wonderful photos of the entire Kennedy clan including Rosemary, which I had never seen before. Throughout the play the phone occasionally rings as Rose nervously waits to hear from her son Teddy who is running later than usual. After all, he is her only remaining son as she tells her story and though Rose’s disappointment is apparent that Teddy is not on the other end of the line, the audience gets to hear her conversations with various family members including Jackie Onassis Kennedy. 

 

Kennedy buffs or not, historians all the same will certainly enjoy this masterful piece that Reiter executes so very well. In “Rose”, we as audience members, get an up close and personal view of the Kennedy’s rise and the many tragedies that later claimed the lives and health of one of America’s most prestigious families. Reiter performs brilliantly in this history-filled treasure, “Rose”, a part of Greenhouse Theater Center’s Solo Celebration.  

 

I highly recommend this beautifully crafted and factually stimulating play with Linda Reiter delivering possibly the finest performance of her life. “Rose” is being performed at Greenhouse Theater Center through September 25th. For more information on tickets and curtain times, visit www.GreenhouseTheater.org. 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

From the moment British television star Simon Slater appeared in the lighting to the side of the stage and began to describe in gritty detail the three most common ways to commit suicide, it became apparent this one-man murder mystery thriller was going to be one helluva ride. Gripping from the get go this high-charged play only became more and more engaging as the story progressed thanks to Slater’s airtight delivery and fantastic ability to convincingly take on a series of characters. 

 

As part of the Solo Celebration, a series of twelve one-person act shows at Greenhouse Theater Center spanning over eight months, “Bloodshot” makes its U.S. premiere after making its mark as a successful hit in London. Written by Douglas Post and directed by Patrick Sanford, Slater flawlessly weaves together a peculiar string of events, producing a smart, witty and spellbinding mystery that has traces of film noir and leaves one guessing all the way through. 

 

“Bloodshot” takes place in 1957 London when an ex-detective now freelance photographer finds himself smack dab in the middle of a murder mystery. Known for his capturing “blood shots” from grisly crime scenes, he takes on a different type of assignment when he is hired – and paid handsomely – by an unknown employer to secretly take photos of a beautiful young woman. He is soon thrust in the middle of a murder mystery that takes on many unexpected turns the deeper he investigates.

 

While taking the audience along on this thrilling tale of murder, Slater’s skill in becoming the handful of characters sprinkled into the story is nothing short of remarkable, and the dialogue exchanges just as impressive. As an American jazz club musician, Slater demonstrates his talent as a saxophonist and he adeptly plugs away at the ukulele while immersing into a slew of vaudeville-esque jokes as a comic. Slater also performs a jaw-dropping magic trick as a club owner who entertains his patrons as a magician, swallowing several razor blades in the process. 

 

Slater is a force to be reckoned with as he takes a well-written story and single-handedly creates an illusion of a large scale production and does so seamlessly. “Bloodshot” has everything a theatre goer desires from a fetching storyline abundant in intrigue, brilliant acting, humor and a display of musical talent. Simon Slater is someone you cannot help but enjoy watching perform.  

 

Highly recommended, “Bloodshot” is being performed at Greenhouse Theater Center through September 10th. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.GreenhouseTheater.org.            

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

It goes something like this:

“Sit down, relax and squeeze the two cans in front of you”

The cans are wired to a funky gizmo where a needle gauges one’s activity on a meter based on their responses to questions asked.

“Tell us about a pleasant memory you’ve had.”

“Give us another pleasant memory.”

"Explain."

“Tell us another pleasant memory that made you happy.”

"Explain."

“Tell us something that made you sad.”

“Explain.”

“Give us another memory that made you sad.”

“Explain”

The examination goes on and on and on and on until finally, “Okay. Your needle is floating”. Yay! That’s a good thing when on the path to going clear.

Disguised as a healing procedure, this probing is an ongoing process used in the Church of Scientology to basically infiltrate one’s state of mind and, well, obtain secrets.

In Cathy Schenkelberg’s one-woman show “Squeeze My Cans”, we get an inside look at one of the most bizarre religions that is not only shocking, it is down-right hilarious at times. Providing real life memories of her years in Scientology, Schenkelberg reveals a world that is almost hard to believe, truly defining the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction”. This autobiographical solo-play, written and performed by Schenkelberg, is beautifully pieced together and recounts her story from the time she was recruited into Scientology through her departure from the organization many years later.

Animated and heartfelt, the long-time voice over actress shares intimate stories during her search for spiritual freedom (a goal that of course is never attained unless money is paid to proceed to the next level). Her stories include holding auditions to be Tom Cruise’s girlfriend, blindly sending her daughter off with strangers in a van, alien spirits that dwell in volcanoes, a bizarre encounter with J.T. (that’s John Travolta) and plenty others that one would be hard-pressed to believe. Presented as a tale of warning, Schenkelberg flawlessly delivers her message while not allowing for a single dull moment. 

In “Squeeze My Cans”, we are keenly presented with the sad tale of someone who was susceptible while searching for a higher purpose who, rather than finding fulfillment, was taken for the ride of a lifetime. Though one comical story is told after another and laughs are recurrently heard, we certainly feel for its author and the plethora of others who have been taken advantage of by what is exposed in this play as nothing more than a giant hoax. Based on L. Ron Hubbard’s book Dianetics, we get an unbelievable sneak peek at this nonsensical religion, its manipulating prowess and its nearly unbreakable hold on its loyal subjects – emotionally and financially. Schenkelberg’s message is simple – stay away!  

But Schenkelberg is a survivor and we can’t help but feel elation at the fact that she was ultimately able to find it within herself to break away. This implausible journey is very well-written and superbly performed with brilliantly executed back and forth dialogue as Schenkelberg interacts with the many characters involved. Plenty of touching moments are mixed in with the show’s humor, making this a nicely balanced production that is as engrossing as it is informative.  

Directed wonderfully by Shirley Anderson, “Squeeze My Cans” is an amazing show with firsthand accounts of the peculiar that you really need to hear to believe. If you missed this this uniquely written and performed show last July, now is your chance to catch it this time around. "Squeeze My Cans" is being performed once again at Greenhouse Theater Center, this time through March 19th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.greenhousetheater.org.   

            

 

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