Theatre in Review

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to announce its 2018 season, kicking off this spring with a revival of its 2013 hit L’IMITATION OF LIFE, a dead on parody of the 1959 film Imitation of Life about race, mothers and daughters – and looking fabulous! Adapted by Ricky Graham and Running with Scissors and directed by ensemble member Stevie Love, ensemble member Ed Jones and Robert Williams reprise their roles as Lana Turner and Annie Johnson.
 
This summer, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia return for THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 2. Following last year’s sold-out, seven-month run, Handbag’s parody of the beloved TV sitcom is back with all new adventures written by Artistic Director David Cerda and directed by Becca Holloway. THE GOLDEN GIRLS will feature Chazie Bly, David Cerda, Adrian Hadlock, Ed Jones, Michael S. Miller and Grant Drager.
 
This fall, Handbag’s 16th season continues with Charles Ludlam’s comedic throwback to the age of film noir: THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE, directed by Shade Murray. The cast includes ensemble members David Cerda, Sydney Genco, Ed Jones and David Lipschutz 
 
For Halloween, Handbag conjures up a special treat: THE GOLDEN GIRLS: Bea Afraid! Our heroines return for seven spooky performances guaranteed to scare you out of your housecoat. 
 
The season will conclude with a soon-to-be-announced holiday production! 
 
Handbag’s 2018 Season will be staged at Mary’s Attic (5400 N. Clark St., Chicago) and Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago). Season subscriptions and single tickets will be available shortly at www.handbagproductions.org.
 
Hell in a Handbag Productions’ 2018 Season includes:
 
March 31 – May 6, 2018
L’IMITATION OF LIFE
By Ricky Graham and Running with Scissors
Directed by Stevie Love
Featuring ensemble member Ed Jones (Lana Turner) with Robert Williams (Annie Johnson). Additional casting to be announced.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
In this hilarious parody of the1959 film Imitation of Life, Lana Turner is determined white widow and single mother with aspirations of becoming a Broadway sensation. When Lana meets Annie Johnson, a struggling single African-American mother, the two team up and take on the world as Lana does “whatever it takes” to make it in show business – while Annie takes care of the homestead and raises both daughters.
 
The two women face insurmountable challenges led by their daughters. There's the blonde, perky and “so white it's frightening" Suzie, daughter of Lana Turner, and the raven-haired rebellious light-skinned beauty, Sara Jane, daughter of Annie. Sara Jane learns the hard truth about acceptance and the color of your skin- especially when she tries to “pass” as white. 
 
June 19 – September 7, 2018
THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 2
By David Cerda
Directed by Becca Holloway
Featuring ensemble members Chazie Bly (Ensemble), David Cerda (Dorothy), Adrian Hadlock (Sophia), Ed Jones (Rose), Michael S. Miller (Ensemble) and Grant Drager (Blanche).
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago
 
When Handbag opened THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES in June 2017, it was supposed to be short summer treat for Handbag audiences but quickly turned into a sold-out, seven month run! Now, these lovely women from the classic TV sitcom return with new stories of friendship, love and cheesecake – all with the Handbag twist audiences have come to love!
 
September 20 – October 28, 2018
THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE
By Charles Ludlam
Directed by Shade Murray
Featuring ensemble members David Cerda (Mother Nurdiger), Sydney Genco (Roxanna), Ed Jones (Chester Nurdiger) and David Lipschutz (Zachary Slade). Additional casting to be announced.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE is Charles Ludlam’s last play and a perfect vehicle for Hell in a Handbag! Chester Nurdiger is a mild-mannered fellow who lives in the back of the pet shop he runs with his sultry wife Roxanna and his overly protective mother. Roxanna is bored to death, but when a handsome drifter walks into their lives, things get interesting… perhaps even deadly?! Part Double Indemnity, part The Postman Always Rings Twice, THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE is throwback to the classic age of film noir by the master and founder of the Ridiculous Theater movement. 
 
October 6, 2018 – November 3, 2018
The GOLDEN GIRLS: Bea Afraid – The Halloween Edition
By David Cerda
Directed by Becca Holloway
Featuring ensemble members Chazie Bly (Ensemble), David Cerda (Dorothy), Adrian Hadlock (Sophia), Ed Jones (Rose), Michael S. Miller (Ensemble) and Grant Drager (Blanche).
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
It’s not Halloween without a Handbag show, so Artistic Director David Cerda is conjuring up a special edition of its hit TV sitcom parody. Better get your tickets early – Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia are only back for seven wig-raising performances. Bea afraid, Bea very afraid!
 
About Hell in a Handbag Productions
 
Hell in a Handbag 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.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Friday, 19 January 2018 13:03

She the People at Second City

With six women onstage pulling no punches and taking no shit – like The Vagina Monologues, if it were freaking hilarious – She the People is the show we need right now. Written, designed, and performed by the women of The Second City, these funny and talented actresses use their wits and comedy chops to send up sexism in advertising, politics, and pop culture.

With sketches ranging from 10 seconds to 10 minutes, She the People parodies all kinds of situations in which women regularly find themselves. A lady in a parking lot is cat-called and, hit with a sudden burst of pink light and romantic music, turns around to face her verbal assaulter, instantly in love. A group of single female wedding-goers slow-motion fight for the thrown bouquet to Mozart's Lacrimosa. A businesswoman gives a boardroom presentation in a dinosaur costume, irritated that her colleagues are focusing on what she's wearing instead of her ideas: "If Bob came up here dressed as a coelurosaurian theropod from the Cretaceous Period, nobody would bat an eye!" I bet if Bob grabbed people by the pussy, too, he would be let off the hook. 

Image result for she the people chicago

This is a refreshingly feminist show, giving women the space to share their experiences without a devil's advocate constantly undermining them. (In one sketch, a woman creates the law: Any time a man directs a sentence at a woman that starts with the word "actually," he must pay that woman a dollar. ON BOARD.)

On the other side of the same coin, the show doesn't shy away from critiquing postmodern feminism as well. A scene comes to mind of a group of twenty-somethings out to brunch discussing social issues only to constantly get distracted by, "Mimooooosaaaaas!" 

Beyond that, She the People fearlessly takes on male-dominated politics – a roomful of all-male politicians sanction laws on female healthcare while giggling at the mention of "boobs" – the sugarcoating of women in media – "I'm a woman in a maxi pad commercial, and I'm going to the emergency room because there's some blue Windex stuff coming out of me," – and systematic racism – a group of friends play a board game called "Privilege"; guess which girl gets five tokens for getting into the same Ivy League school as her parents and which gets zero tokens for getting detained at the airport for no reason.

Image result for she the people cast

So, grab your friends, male and female alike, grab a drink, and enjoy two hours of woke comedy. If you're a man and bring your girlfriend or wife to this show, she will appreciate you, not only because of the sweet date idea, but because she identifies with those women onstage, and if you hear them and understand them, you've heard and understood her.

She the People is playing at Second City's Up Comedy Club Thursdays through Sundays until April 1st. Tickets can be purchased at the box office at North & Wells or on the Second City website.

Published in Theatre Reviews

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to conclude its 15th Anniversary Season with its most popular show ever: the holiday hit RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER 2017 by David Cerda*, co-directed by Becca Holloway and AJ Wright*. Handbag’s irreverent parody of the 1967 Rankin Bass children’s television special will play November 25 – December 30, 2017 at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. Tickets are on currently available at www.handbagproductions.org (through Brown Paper Tickets) or by calling (800) 838-3006. 

RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER will feature Graham Heacock as Rudolph, Kristopher Bottrall* as Herbie, Allison Petrillo as Jane Donner, Chase Wheaton-Werle as Tom Donner, Michael Jack Hampton as Santa, Tommy Bullington as Mrs. Claus, Sydney Genco* as Elfina, Colin Funk as Spike, Michael Rawls as Score, Josh Kemper as Coach Comet, Lori Lee* as Yukon Cornelia, Terry McCarthy* as Connie Blitzen, David Cerda* as Gladys Dasher, Christea Parent* as Clarice and Matt Sergot as Sam the Snowman.
 
Chicago’s favorite cross-dressing reindeer is back and he’s 20 years old! RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER had its first reading in 1996 and has evolved into one of Chicago’s most popular anti-holiday, holiday shows. Join Rudolph and all of his misfit friends as they struggle with fitting in and being ‘normal’ in an increasingly abnormal world. Playwright David Cerda* always adjusts the show to fit the current social climate. 
 
The production team for RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER includes: Roger Wykes (set design), Kate Setzer Kamphausen (costume design), Cat Wilson* (lighting design), Ralph Loza (sound design), Adrian Hadlock* (props design), Lauren Griffith (choreography), Keith Ryan* (wig design), Sydney Genco* (make-up design) JD Caudill* (music director) and Drew Donnelly (stage manager).
 
*Denotes Hell in a Handbag Ensemble Members
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER 2017
Playwright: David Cerda*
Directors: Becca Holloway and AJ Wright*
Cast (in alphabetical order): Kristopher Bottrall* (Herbie), Tommy Bullington (Mrs. Claus), David Cerda* (Gladys Dasher), Colin Funk (Spike), Sydney Genco* (Elfina), Michael Jack Hampton (Santa), Graham Heacock (Rudolph), Josh Kemper (Coach Comet), Lori Lee* (Yukon Cornelia), Terry McCarthy* (Connie Blitzen), Christea Parent* (Clarice) Allison Petrillo (Jane Donner), Michael Rawls (Score), Matt Sergot as (Sam the Snowman) and Chase Wheaton-Werle (Tom Donner).
 
Location: Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Saturday, November 25 at 7:30 pm, Sunday, November 26 at 7:30 pm and Thursday, November 30 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Thursday, December 7 – Saturday, December 30, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursday, Fridays and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 6 pm. Please note: there will not be performances on Saturday, December 2, Sunday, December 3 or Sunday, December 24 (Christmas Eve); there will be an added performance on Wednesday, December 20 at 7:30 pm.
Tickets: Previews $13. Regular run $25 in advance, $30 at the door. VIP tickets with cocktail $40 and up. Group rates $20 for 10 or more. Tickets are currently on sale at www.handbagproductions.org (through Brown Paper Tickets) or by calling (800) 838-3006.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Hell in a Handbag rings in its fifteenth-anniversary season with real magic in this hilarious spoof of the 60's and 70's TV shows we all grew up loving with its hocus-pocus focus on the show Bewitched

In this tale, Bewildered, by Aaron Benham (music and lyrics) and Ron Weaver (book and lyrics) Gladys Kravitz, the nosey neighbor of the magical family finally gets her due when she stops spying on the witch-filled household and is invited to have dinner with them. Caitlin Jackson as Gladys is splendid as she has both the musical chops to belt out every note with ease and turn the obnoxious neighbor into a sympathetic "every- woman" who feels unloved as a wife and disrespected as a person. As Gladys discovers in the surprise ending that she is magical too, her song "Leading Lady" reminds everyone in the audience to be true to themselves no matter who they are because in the end, we are ALL the leading ladies in our own lives. 

David Cerda, Hell in a Handbag, artistic director as Endora is truly at his best in this FABULOUSLY funny portrayal of Samantha's mother and steals every scene under his wig with a bat of his eyelashes and a twirl of the spectacular multi-faceted bejeweled caftans designed by Rachel Sypniewski with spot on funny as hell period wigs by Keith Ryan. Cerda as Endorra also reminds us of the ongoing plot line in the original series wherein she tries to get Samantha to leave her straight laced, sexually uninterested husband and choose from among thousands of eligible warlocks where she could live a life of magic and freedom! Instead Samantha chooses the daily humdrum dimension of the limited earth life with all its cold rules and regulations for women and men which don’t include the use of magic.

Elizabeth Morgan is adorable as Samantha and has a nice voice but needs to step out a little more with her nose twitching delightfully -  in order to keep up with the shine and glamour of wit coming full blast out of the regular cast members of Hell in a Handbag. 

As always, Ed Jones' highly anticipated presence in the show does not disappoint as Uncle Arthur and absolutely brings down the house while setting up the main story line with his wonderful rendition of "Let Yourself be a Little Gay!" Ed Jones and  David Cerda really seem to have studied their characters minute mannerisms and trademark funny bits to a tee and several times I squint my eyes and could have sworn they were channeling the original brilliant actors and actresses who played these roles on TV.  

The production handles the magic wielded by Samantha and company in a unique fashion that adds yet another jolt of humor to its audience. Bewildered also has fun with the mystery of the two Darrins who play Samantha's husbands on Bewitched in a very clever way that just has to be seen to be appreciated. 

The great thing about the superbly camp productions put on year after year by Hell in a Handbag is that no matter how bawdy they are, or how many lines of individuality they cross, they always have a positive moral underlying each show that makes you feel "pretty oh, so pretty!" in the skin that you are in!

I highly recommend seeing this fun-tastic, fast-flying production for everyone who needs a good jolt of laughter and positive affirmation about the life you are leading in these strange and hostile times.

Bewildered is being performed at Stage 773 through November 11th. For more show information visit www.handbagproductions.org.  

 

Published in Theatre in Review

“Spamilton,” the critically acclaimed parody of “Hamilton,” welcomes Chicago actor Becca Brown to the production as the new female star. Brown has performed with theater companies including The Second City and The Hypocrites, and her TV and film credits include the 2003 feature film “School of Rock” and the second season of “Easy” on Netflix. ”Spamilton” is playing an open-ended run at the Royal George Theatre (1641 N. Halsted).with tickets on sale through October 1 and new tickets added weekly. Tickets ($35 – $99) can be purchased at the Royal George Theatre’s box office online, at Ticketmaster.comor by calling 312.988.9000.
 
“Becca originally joined the ‘Spamilton’ family as our understudy in this spring, and has consistently impressed us with her comedic timing, voice and impeccable impersonations,” said ‘Spamilton’ creator and director Gerard Alessandrini. “It was undeniable that she would be the immediate choice to become the next female performer in Chicago, and she’s seamlessly blended into the show next to our talented ensemble.” 
 
Created by Tony Award honoree Alessandrini, the mastermind behind “Forbidden Broadway,” “Spamilton” officially opened in Chicago on March 12 to rave reviews, with Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times calling “Spamilton” an “altogether brilliant, hilarious, cliché-demolishing send-up of ‘Hamilton,’” Chris Jones of Chicago Tribune noting “You really don’t want to miss ‘Spamilton,’” and Barbara Vitello of the Daily Herald exclaiming the show is “deliciously silly. The laughs come fast and furious!” The all-Chicago “Broadway ready” (Chicago Sun-Times) cast includes Donterrio Johnson, Adam LaSalle, Becca Brown, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez and David Robbins, as well as Sydney Charles and Brandon Kinley.
 
Becca Brown is a native Chicagoan actor, comedian and musician with training from University of Illinois at Chicago, The Second City Training Center and iO Training Center. Brown has performed music and stand up all over the country and is a regular performer at The Second City, iO, Laugh Factory and Salonathon. Recent theatre credits include “American Idiot” (The Hypocrites) and the title role in “Jenna Roxy” and the “Church of Modern Love” (The Hideout). Movie fans may recognize Brown as the female bassist in the 2003 film “School of Rock,” and she can be seen in the upcoming second season of “Easy” on Netflix. Brown is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.

“Spamilton,” which was initially scheduled in New York as an exclusive 18-performance off-Broadway engagement, has extended three times and is now playing its fourteenth smash month of an open engagement at the 47th Street Theatre in the heart of New York’s Theatre District. The New York production earned rave reviews across-the-board, with Ben Brantley of The New York Times calling it “smart, silly and convulsively funny!” and Lin-Manuel Miranda exclaiming “I laughed my brains out!” In its Chicago premiere, the local cast received additional acclaim, with critics hailing the production “endlessly entertaining” (Performink), “A Must-See!” (BroadwayWorld.com), and “razor sharp and filled with wit and humor” (Chicago Theatre Review). On opening night, cast members from the Chicago production of “Hamilton” were in the audience, and following the performance Wayne Brady called the production “Amazing! It’s the perfect blend of funny and parody. Go see ‘Spamilton!’
 
In addition to Alessandrini, the creative team includes Gerry McIntyre (Choreography), Dustin Cross (Costume Design), Milo Blue (Scenic Design), Andy Kloubec (Lighting Design), Matt Reich (Sound Design), Jamie Karas (Prop Design), Leah Munsey-Konops (Wig Design), Fred Barton (Musical Director), and Richard Danley and Fred Barton (Musical Arrangements).
 
“Spamilton” is produced in Chicago by John Freedson, David Zippel, Gerard Alessandrini, Margaret Cotter and Liberty Theatricals, in association with JAM Theatricals. 
 
The performance schedule for “Spamilton” is as follows: Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For additional details, visit Ticketmaster.com or TheRoyalGeorgeTheatre.com. For more information, visit Spamilton.com.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The Second City is excited to announce “I Can’t Believe They Wendt There: The Roast of George Wendt” a night guaranteed to destroy one of the world’s most beloved comedy legends, George Wendt--all in the name of charity.
 
Roastmaster Jason Sudeikis, along with Roasters Bob Odenkirk, Betty Thomas, David Koechner, and a growing list of the biggest and brightest names in comedy will gather for this once-in-a-lifetime evening of comedy and camaraderie to benefit Gilda’s Club Chicago and The Second City Alumni Fund, hosted at Chicago’s iconic Mainstage at The Second City.
 
The one-night-only performance will take place on Saturday, September 9th, 2017 in the Second City Mainstage Theater (1616 N. Wells, Chicago, IL 60614) The show will begin at 7:00pm.
 
“The Second City has been a phenomenal friend of Gilda’s Club Chicago since we opened in 1998, and we are grateful for the opportunity to partner with them on this exciting event,” stated LauraJane Hyde, CEO of Gilda’s Club Chicago. “Support like this helps us continue to ensure that anyone impacted by cancer is empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community.”
 
“We’re looking forward to an incredibly special evening that brings back the long-lost art of the Dean Martin-era celebrity roast. It’s been a few years since George has returned to his old stomping grounds here at Second City, and he’s saint of a guy for letting us put him in the hot seat for two incredible causes. We are thrilled to be able to partner with Gilda’s Club Chicago again for this tremendous opportunity to impact the lives of those who are battling cancer, their support circles, and also the members of our own Second City family who are up against the most challenging of circumstances.” Andrew Alexander, CEO/Executive Producer of The Second City.
 
Tax-deductible tickets for the “I Can’t Believe They Wendt There: The Roast of George Wendt” are on sale now and are organized into three ticketing tiers.
 
Top-Shelf VIP Tickets ($3,000 each) include a pre-show VIP reception inside Second City’s historic complex at 1959 Kitchen & Bar. Includes a photo opportunity with George & Jason. Appetizers and top shelf open bar service provided.
 
The 1959 Package ($1,959 each) features a backstage experience led by Second City’s Behind the Bentwood tour guides including special surprise guests. Open bar & dinner in Mainstage Theater provided by the best of Chicago's classic cuisine is also included.
 
General Admission is also available ($1,000 each) and includes open bar & dinner in Mainstage Theater provided by the best of Chicago's classic cuisine.
 
Tickets are tax-deductible and can be purchased online at www.secondcity.com or by phone at 312-664-4032.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

After a sell-out run last summer, this hilarious and inspiring story about the grit and passion required to 'make it' as an artist and the sweet rewards that come from never giving up on your dream returns.
 
Brad Zimmerman’s hit comedy My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy is returning to Chicago for a five-week engagement July 6 through August 13 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, IL 60077. One-part standup, one-part theatrical, My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy is the story of one man’s struggle to fulfill his dream and ‘make it’ as a comedic actor in New York.
 
The fact that Brad Zimmerman has put the time in to work on his craft is an understatement. He spent 29 years “temporarily” waiting tables in New York,while continuing to pursue his dream of comedic acting. In My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy, he tells the story of his journey, along with a chronicle about his childhood, family, and misbegotten love life with warmth, wit, self-deprecating humor, and wicked charm, and combines his years of training as an actor with his innate comedic talent.
 
In his 90-minute show, Zimmerman also reviews the trials and tribulations of waiting on tables – particularly for someone not exactly invested in that career, and with little tolerance for finicky diners:
 
“I don’t want 60 questions, get to the point!” he said he would tell restaurant patrons when he sat down for an interview for The New York Times. He joked that if diners prefaced their orders by saying they were in a hurry he would say “So go!” He says he did enjoy some of the bantering he did with diners, and often tried out material on them, however there were also ‘the bossy customers who would snap their fingers to get his attention… and the health-food obsessives who elaborately customized their orders and button-holed him over ingredients.’  As he says in My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy, he was convinced his epitaph would read “I’ll be right with you.” 
 
Eventually his determination and hard work paid off, and Zimmerman went on to act - he had a small part in “The Sopranos” playing Johnny Sack’s lawyer - and to become the opening act for a number of well-known entertainers, including George Carlin, Brad Garrett, Dennis Miller, Julio Iglesias, and 6 years with Joan Rivers who said “I’ve had three great opening acts in my lifetime: Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling, and Brad Zimmerman.”
 
Zimmerman worked on the script for My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy for nine years, and performed it in small venues all over the country, including a stint at Stage Door Theatre in Florida, where it came to the attention of producers Dana Matthow and Philip Roy (Respect: A Musical Journey of Women, Old Jews Telling Jokes, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy). Since then, My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy spent two years at Off-Broadway’s Stage 72 at the Triad Theatre in New York, and has toured the USA from coast-to-coast.
 
My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy will run from July 6 through August 13 at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets start at $46, and will be available online at MySonTheWaiter.com or by phone at 847-673-6300.  For group rates (10+) call 312-423-6612. For more information about My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy please visit http://mysonthewaiter.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Stage 773 Director of Theatre Management Jill Valentine and co-producer Liz McArthur are thrilled to announce the highly anticipated lineup for the 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, taking place June 15 through June 18 at the comedy hub of Chicago, Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. The Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, the largest of its kind in the nation, features a melting pot of comedic genres, including everything from ‘highbrow musical improv’ to ‘relatable stand-up’ to ‘character driven sketch’. Blending long term veterans with fresh newcomers, the fest packs over 80 shows into four funny-filled days. Stage 773 has made it easier than ever to discover new groups to love, allowing patrons to filter through art forms, a rating and keywords to find their own taste in comedy. The full schedule and searchable calendar for the 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival can be viewed at www.stage773.com/WomensFestCalendar
 
“We are extremely excited to be celebrating the sixth year of the festival and to host some of the best women in comedy in the nation,” said Valentine. “Having women from all different comedic art forms come together and celebrate under one roof in Chicago is something that is very special to us and the community.”
 
Featuring both fresh and familiar faces, highlights for 2017 include the return of comedy powerhouse Kristen Toomey, who has packed the lineup with some of Chicago’s best talent for a series of stand-up showcases, Her Story Theater, which made its mark on the scene by creating original plays based on Chicago lives that reflect national concerns, Matt Damon Improv, comprised of all women of color “slaying improv comedy,” and Strip Joker, featuring a hilarious roster of stand-up comics who are willing to bare it all in the spirit of totally vulnerable, inclusive, and uncensored comedy. Stand-up favorites include the debut of Montreal-based D.J. Mausner, who at 22 years old she is already an award winning stand-up, sketch, and improv master, LA-based Jen Murray and winner of the IO West Comedy Festival's "Best Comedian" Award in 2015, and transgender standup comedian Dina Nina Martinez, who the Late Late Show’s James Corden hails as “…very funny.”
 
Additional highlights include the return of Katie Rich with former SC Mainstage/Consultant for Onion News Network, Holly Laurent, in their improv duo Joan and Ro; Chicago Sketchfest veteran groups Off Off Broadzway, The Cupid Players and Rehner and Nixon; Improv veterans Susan Messing and Rachel Mason in The Boys; Comedic dance troupe Matter Dance and much more.
 
Chicago Women’s Funny Festival was founded in 2012 when producers Jill Valentine and Liz McArthur wanted to build a comedy festival where women could come together and celebrate all art forms of comedy under one roof. The first festival boasted 66 shows and 400 performers in five days. Women’s Fest also hosted events throughout the week where women from across the country could network with each other and more importantly, celebrate one another’s work. The response from comediennes and audience members was overwhelmingly positive – which is why the festival is coming back for a sixth year.
 
Jill Valentine is a Chicago Southside native who has been the Executive Director of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival (also the largest of its kind in the nation) since the festival’s inception in 2000. She is also a founder of Stage 773, as well as the Director of Theatre Management. Jill performs in several popular and critically acclaimed groups in Chicago, including The Cupid Players, Off Off Broadzway and Feminine Gentleman who have performed all over the country.
 
Liz McArthur hails from St. Louis and has worked with The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival since 2005. McArthur can be seen with groups such as Off Off Broadzway, OneTwoThree Comedy, and Feminine Gentlemen. McArthur is also part of the hit zombie comedy Musical of the Living Dead.
 
All performances will take place at Chicago’s home for the city’s most innovative, creative and passionate off-Loop performing artists, Stage 773, located at 1225 W. Belmont. Stage 773 is a non-profit Chicago company that produces The Cupid Players, Bri-Ko, The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, education and program opportunities, as well as offering subsidized theater rental space to the hundreds of Chicago’s itinerant off-Loop companies and performers.
 
The 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival runs June 15 – June 18, 2016. Performances are Thursday, June 15th at 8 - 10 p.m., Friday, June 16th at 8 - 11 p.m., Saturday, June 17th at 4:30 - 11 p.m., and Sunday, June 18th at 2 - 7 p.m.  Tickets go on sale Monday, May 15th. Individual ticket prices are $15, and festival passes are available for $37.50 (Thursday), $47.50 (Friday), $57.50 (Sunday) or $100 for an all festival pass (Thursday – Sunday). Sunday three show flex passes are available for $33.  All tickets and festival passes may be purchased at www.Stage773.com, by phone at 773.327.5252, and in person at the Stage 773 box office. 
 
ABOUT STAGE 773

Stage 773 is a vibrant anchor of the Belmont Theatre District and home to Chicago’s finest off-Loop talent. As a performance and tenant venue, our four stages provide entertainment for everyone: comedy, theatre, dance, musicals and more. We are a not-for- profit, connecting and catalyzing the theater community, while showcasing established artists and incubating up-and- coming talent.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

For those looking for about as much funny as can be compacted into sixty minutes, one would be hard pressed to find as many laughs as The Best of Bri-Ko, a sidesplitting theatre experience where the absurd is creatively implemented into a series of sketch acts, each one stranger than the next. 

Stage 773 Creative Director Brian Posen teams up with Chicago comedic forces Tim Soszko and Brian Peterlin to form this hilarious hour-long ride where just a single word is spoken throughout the entire performance. The three theatre veterans are able to inject their unique humorous spin into such simple everyday tasks from changing a light bulb to a having a dinner date that have the audience in stitches from the moment they take the stage to the show’s very climactic ending. A series of props are used in practically every sketch performed including water balloons, heads of lettuce, cream pies and other very messy items, making it as though a tornado had swept through the venue by the show’s end. Caution – you might become a victim of friendly fire.

Varying from one extreme to the other, a heavy-duty Nerf gun war breaks out throughout the crowd to Slayer’s “Angel of Death” while moments later we become subject to a hysterical dance routine to Wilson Phillip’s “Hold On” that you must see to fully appreciate. Adding to the intimate, and very unusual, theatre experience is the fact that the production is performed in Stage 773’s Cab Theatre, a smaller-sized room so as to easily involve the entire audience. 

"With so much buzz today about what's appropriate in comedy, Bri-Ko is a breath of fresh air," says Stage 773 Creative Director Brian Posen. "This is a hilariously entertaining show without the politics or controversies you typically see with this genre."

Poesen couldn’t be more correct. If you were to throw bits and pieces into a blender from Blue Man Group, The Marx Brothers and various vaudevillian acts, inject it with steroids, then douse it with Posen, Soszko and Peterlin’s own exclusive brand of humor, you’d have Bri-Ko – a true one-of-a-kind comedy event that goes from 0-60mph in seconds flat. 

Posen, Soszko and Peterlin work incredibly well together, exhibiting not only a well-oiled team chemistry but each having plenty of their own moments mainly done with key facial expressions and challenging physical comedy. No question about it, Bri-Ko is a power-packed hour of pure fun that can be enjoyed over and over again. 

There is no shortage of stage experience in this very exceptional cast. Jeff and After Dark Award Winner Brian Posen has been active in the Chicago theater scene for over 20 years as an actor, producer, director, and teacher. Posen and Peterlin have worked together for years, in 2001, alongside Brian Posen, founding The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, now the largest in the nation. Tim Soszko teaches at Second City, Barrel of Monkeys and Columbia College while performing with many companies including Bri-Ko, The Cupid Players and The Tim and Micah Project.

The Best of Bri-Ko is being performed at Stage 773 in the Cab Theatre each Thursday through March 23rd before reworking material and returning this Fall. 

Very, very recommended.

For tickets and/or more show information click here.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Friday, 11 November 2016 23:15

Lovers and the Dearly Departed

With all the earmarks of a romantic comedy, First Floor Theater’s “Deer and the Lovers,” now playing at The Den Theatre, offers up of a barrel of laughs along with serious reflections threaded throughout.

 

Written by Emily Zemba and directed by Jesse Roth, the 100-minute play dives deep into the relationships of the four main characters that come face-to-face with death and betrayal while on a weekend retreat at a cottage house in the woods of New Hampshire.

 

Deer and the Lovers opens with Peter (Alex Stage) and Qiana (Shadee Vossoughi) arriving for a romantic get-away at her parents’ home. However, those plans were spoiled not only by the discovery of a dead deer that crashed through the front window but also the unexpected arrival of Peter’s sister Marnie (Kay Kron) and brother-in-law Felix (Tony Santiago).

 

With plenty of jokes and puns on the dearly departed animal, it becomes clear that Zemba intends for the deer to serve as a metaphor for Qiana and her path in life. For instance, while Peter is able to madly declare his love, Qiana seems less sure of her affections in comparison. And the later arrival of Marnie and Felix at the cottage shines a bright light on just why that is the case as we watch both couples deal with issues of love, commitment, secrecy and betrayal.

 

Qiana, in particular, seems obsessed with how to dispose of the deer and how it met its current fate: How did it get in the house and why? Where was it going and what was it running from? These are all questions that she can pose about her own path as well and the answers are equally elusive.

 

Later conversations with the mysterious local animal control agent Lenny (Matt Nikkila) in the second half of the play further illustrate Qiana’s connections with the deer.

 

After a dramatic reveal, we see her frantically taking matters in her own hands as she drags the deer into the woods in an attempt to bury it herself. It is almost as if she feels that finding a final resting place for the animal will bring it peace and free her from the soulless, emptiness she feels inside. And it is at that point that the symbolism of the setting in New Hampshire with its motto – Live Free or Die – becomes even more relevant.

 

Fascinating and quirky, Deer and the Lovers is time well spent. The talented cast meshes well and is effective in hitting all of the comedic points in rhythm while also delivering the soul-searching undercurrents.

 

Recommended

 

Deer and the Lovers is currently playing at The Den Theatre until December 3. Tickets are available at www.firstfloortheater.com. 

 

Published in Theatre in Review
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