Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review of Route 66 Theatre Company's The Source

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Source. It was by Gabrielle McKinley and it was directed by Jason Gerace. It is about a man named Vernon (Cody Proctor) and a woman named Oona (Kristina Valada-Viars) who were both asked to go on a mission to meet with the source of leaked documents. They end up forming this bond over these days that they are together waiting for the source. It is about secrets, trust, and devotion. I thought this was a really awesome and interesting show. It was like a live suspense movie and I absolutely loved it.

I think the relationship between Oona and Vernon is very touching, but at the beginning it certainly isn't. They start out as enemies, but then they eventually become caring friends. I think that this is kind of of a traditional trope in spy stories and stories where people are trapped or stuck with each other. It wasn't predictable though because they played it for so long that they didn't really like each other. There weren't signs all around saying "They actually like each other." They really get to see who the other person is and then they start to like each other. It is believable because the acting, the directing, and the writing all work together to make a really intriguing and meaningful relationship. The way that their lines at the beginning kind of snap back and forth between each other make them seem witty but not too cruel to have a relationship after. The characters are exhilarated by their discussions, so they pick fights. So the fights become kind of a source for passing the time with playful human interaction. But they also talk about their own lives and what they think about them. It makes a very meaningful relationship that you are very invested in.

I think that this play is generally really intriguing and engaging. But I feel that it was sometimes unspecific. You never really know what they're trying to find out. The writer might have done this to make it up to the viewer what the subject of the papers is. It makes it slightly discombobulating for me to have the people in the story know what is going on but not me. As they discover things, the audience doesn't always get told what the content of the discovery is. The play is about the relationship between the two characters, of course, so not having the specifics makes the audience focus more on that. I think that relationship is a really great one to watch, but I really wanted to know everything about the papers and the source too.

Suspense is a very big factor in this show because the entire time there was the looming presence of someone unknown. Sometimes the writer and director build up the tension right until you say, well I guess nothing is going to happen, and then they get you. My response was jumping up in my seat and trying to keep from screaming. Some people would curl up in their seats and hold on so no one could take them away. And some people would actually scream. I thought it was really fun and funny to watch and also to get scared so many times right when you let down your guard. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I've never been so scared of a Rubik's Cube in my life. You are interested in the relationship so much that you kind of forget that they could be killed at any moment, and then when you are reminded of it, it is even more terrifying because you've grown to love the characters even more than you did before. I think the ending is actually beautifully choreographed and terrifying because at this moment there is no one that you can see on stage and then one mysterious thing happens and then another and then the lights go out without you really understanding, but that is what makes you think about it a lot later.

People who would like this show are people who like developing relationships, suspense, and scary Rubik's Cubes. I think people should definitely go see this show. I think it is an awesome experience and I really loved it.

Photos: Rob Zalas

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review of Kokandy Productions' The Wiz

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Wiz. The book was by William F. Brown and the music was by Charlie Smalls. It was directed by Lili-Anne Brown. The music director was Jimmy Morehead and it was choreographed by Breon Arzell. It was based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. It was about a girl named Dorothy (Sydney Charles) who was blown away from her home town to a new land called Oz. She meets many strange people and things along her way back home. It's about journeys, being happy with yourself, and home. I think this is a super fun and amazing show. I'm so glad I got to see it!

I really loved the song "Ease On Down the Road." I've already listened to it many times since I've seen the show! I've been rocking out in my room. I am even listening to it while I'm writing this review! It was super funny when Lion (Chuckie Benson) had just joined the group of Dorothy, Scarecrow (Gilbert Domally), and Tinman (Steven Perkins), and he started trying to dance the dance that everyone had been doing for the first two incarnations of this song. He was just kind of stumbling around looking at everyone else's feet, which would be anybody trying to do this because they wouldn't have had any time to learn this dance. I guess he was not easing on down the road--more like awkwardly sliding down the road in a hilarious way It was poking fun at the magic that usually happens in a musical when someone just learns a dance with no practice. I think what made it especially funny was how this entire play was generally very magical, but when the Lion started not knowing the dance, that broke a convention. The show kind of says to the audience, "You thought we were going to do that again, but nope!"

The witches and wizards were hilarious! I thought that every single one of them had such a different personality. Some were girly; some were evil; some were doing drag, and some seemed just really high. The first time any of them entered the room they had so much flair! For example, when the Wiz (Frederick Harris) entered, it was with a cloud of smoke--literally. When he walked on stage he had like this Beyoncé walk where he put one foot in front of each other, but just elongated it as much as he could before he took the next step. Also Glinda's (Anna Dauzvardis) wig looked a lot like Nicki Minaj's, and she was generally fabulous looking! She seemed like a perfect beauty queen. I thought it was so funny when Addaperle (Angela Alise) walked on stage so wobbly. With those shoes I wouldn't have blamed her, but she also seemed intoxicated in some way, shape, or form. So was the rest of her fan club! And last, but not least, Evillene (Nicole Michelle Haskins). She was just flawless but so evil. And really dehydrated...get it? Her song "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" was so fabulous and she also kind of terrified me at the same time, which was appropriate for the character.

I really loved the four heroes: Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion. Each has a theme song that is insanely memorable. I really loved "I'm a Mean Ole Lion" which was basically trying to scare everyone away, but instead it made everyone in the audience absolutely adore the Lion. It is so full of attitude, but by the time the song ends you see he is as scared as anyone else. I think you learn a lot about the Lion in this song or at least what he pretends to be. Also the Tinman had a pretty amazing song, "Slide Some Oil to Me." It was very slick (haha) and jazzy. He was clearly a player. He seemed to be flirting with Dorothy. I think that's really funny because the Scarecrow seemed pretty defensive about how the Tinman was coming on to Dorothy. "You Can't Win" was the Scarecrow's song. It was about basically how in any situation there is no good outcome. It sounds like a pretty depressing song, but it isn't. It is a very peppy- and upbeat-sounding song, even though they are singing about how everything sucks. Dorothy and the Scarecrow had this really cute bit. The Scarecrow was talking about saving up for a brain, and Dorothy had to break it to him that you can't buy a brain. But I guess later he does get a "brain" but he gets it for free! Great deal! Dorothy had a really gorgeous song called "Home" and her voice is absolutely beautiful. It was about how hopefully if time slows down enough she'll be able to take things in and as a result be happy with her life. I think that is a really good message and it is a really beautiful song.

People who would like this show are people who like magic roads, player Tinmen, and wobbly witches. I think this is a amazing show it was so much fun to watch. I absolutely loved it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review of Filament Theatre's The Van Gogh Cafe at Fannie's Cafe

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Van Gogh Cafe. It was adapted by Andrew J. Lampl from the book by Cynthia Rylant. It was directed by Julie Ritchey. Menu development was by Chef Tony Golec and Stephanie Rybandt. It was about a cafe in Flowers, Kansas, run by Clara (Aissa Guerra) and her dad Marc (Les Rorick), where a lot of very strange occurrences happen. It is about family, how food brings us together, and magic. The interesting thing about this show is it was basically dinner theater where the dinner was centered around the events and food in the play. I thought this was a really fun show. I think it is a great outing for the whole family and I really liked it.

I thought the food was very delicious. I was surprised that it was because usually the theater is the main selling point in dinner theater. But in this case they were both equally good! The first course was a veggie muddle which was basically potatoes and other vegetables in a creamy cheesy garlic sauce. I think that was delicious. The lemon meringue pie was absolutely scrummy (as Mary Berry would say). It was very tangy and it was very firm, which was good becauseI don't like runny pies. The crust was really good and crisp and flaky. All five courses were tasty, but I think my favorite was the blueberry muffin, though I did have a problem with the size. They said in the story they were supposed to be mini. But I did see a preview so they may have changed the size since then. I thought the muffin was very delicious. I had to bring some of mine home because I can't eat too much in a short period of time, and they were still good the next morning. When I finished it I was sorry there wasn't more. "Why?!" I shouted to the blueberry muffin gods!

I thought that the "Lightning Strike" scene was hilarious but kind of dramatic because Marc got struck by lightning, but apparently the lightning was very artistic lightning and it made him want to write a bunch of poems. He writes these poems that seem to tell the future, like he wrote one for a woman (Lindsey Dorcus) about yellow flowers and then later she got yellow flowers from an admirer (Rejinal Simon). And because of the lighting strike the kitchen starts cooking for itself, which was a lucky thing because we got the delicious lemon meringue pie out of that.

Another element that I really liked was how they used direct address. I am not usually a really big fan of direct address but this time I thought that the whole experience was already so inclusive of the audience that it was actually a really good idea. At the beginning of the story, Judy Jones (Kristina Loy) was right behind us and would touch our chairs and talk directly to us, which I thought was really cool because it made you feel like you really were at the Van Gogh Cafe. I think if this had been a production on a regular stage, I would not have liked this element so much because it would have seemed artificial, but in this case it was welcome. Another thing near to the beginning that I liked was how they gave out animal ears to people so they could play the stray animals that had come to get food. I had already come adorned in puffball ears and my dad got to play a dog which was a hilarious moment in my life because I don't think I've ever seen him in public wearing dog ears, though I think it suited him very well!

My favorite scene was "The Silent Star." I thought that it was really heartwarming. A silent film star (Simon) has come to the Van Gogh Cafe because it is in a former theater that he used to perform in. Marc has been a fan of this star for years and they have a very long conversation about his movies, which you don't get to hear. I would have liked to have heard more of that conversation because I am very interested in silent movies and I love them. Then we get to the kind of sad part which is where the silent star dies because he has come there where he started his career to end his career. And now he gets to be reunited in death with his friend (Alex Ireys)--or maybe more than a friend--who had also performed with him a long time ago. And they started waltzing together which I thought was very sweet. I thought this scene was a nice change from the light nature of most of the other scenes.

People who would like this show are people who like artistic lightning, silent movie stars, and lemon meringue pie. I think this is a really really fun show. I thought it had great food and a great story and I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Filament Theatre

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review of TUTA's Gentle

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Gentle. It was based on the story "The Meek One: A Fantastic Story" by F. M. Dostoevsky. It was adapted and directed by Zeljko Djukic. It was about a Pawnbroker (Tom Dacey Carr) who marries an immigrant (Dani Tucker) to save her from having to marry a trucker. It is basically about their relationship and how it ends and all the regrets he has about how he treated her. I thought that this was a really moving and intriguing play. I'd never read the short story but I was really compelled to because I was so engaged with these characters. I thought they had amazing actors that made the story so compelling.

I thought the set (by Kurtis Boetcher), the lights (by Keith Parham), the sound (by Jeffrey Levin), and directing speech to the audience all melded well together to make you feel really invested in the play but from an outside perspective. The set was a very pristine, white, shiny room. But they had this white curtain that they put aside to unveil a window that was dirty and old. I thought that it kind of seemed like a metaphor to me about relationships. Every relationship has a disgusting window even though the rest of it might seem perfect and shiny. The lights when you first watch the room just seem normal. But then they would just flicker. And it made you feel uncomfortable but I think that was great because it immersed you more in the play. It kind of foreshadowed that things would look great for awhile in the play, but then they would flicker and you would see that something wasn't right. The sound also seemed sort of trippy and unsettling. There was beautiful classical-sounding music but it felt like it kept getting louder while the play was generally quiet. The direct address also added to the creepy feature of the play because it felt like they were talking to you but then they would just snap back into the scene in their world. Which I guess must have been how the Girl felt when her husband was shutting her out of his life, but then there were moments that he would talk to her like an actual human.

The scene where their relationship changes from acquaintance to a commitment is the scene where he proposes to her. But to get to this scene he has to walk through the frame that the rest of the stage is in. I thought that was actually kind of terrifying because it was so unexpected. You didn't imagine anyone would cross those boundaries. It told you that the next scene was going to take place after he has crossed boundaries in his mind. The family the Girl lives with has a very poised maid named Lukerya (Lauren Demerath) who is basically telling the Pawnbroker all the reasons he should marry the Girl. She gets very excited for the new couple, and I thought she was kind of a comic relief. But you never see her like that again because it is not funny for much longer. I thought it was really sweet to see the Girl's quirk that she had when he proposed. She said, "I have to think" and chewed her candy that she had gotten from the truck driver kind of secretly while she thought. I think he asks her to marry her because he feels bad for her but also because he really likes her. But I think he is worried about liking her, so he kind oppresses her and pushes her away when she tries to show affection towards him. And that is going to make her feel less comfortable around him.

I think that the reason why the ending is so sad is that you see that by the end he is actually trying to make her happy. But it doesn't work because she has already felt rejected. He starts the marriage by basically being her teacher and he has just saved her but he doesn't want or need anything from her. That makes her feel rejected so she goes off to be with another guy, possibly romantically, but we don't really know. Basically seeing what she is like when she is happy by spying on her with this other guy makes the Pawnbroker realize he loves her. I think that kind of an issue with his job as a pawnbroker is that he has to see her with someone else to see what she is worth.

People who would like this show are people who like crossing boundaries, thinking with candy, and metaphor-windows. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It has great acting, great tech, and a great story. It was amazing to watch and I loved it.

Photos: Austin D. Oie

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review of A Wrinkle in Time at Lifeline Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Wrinkle in Time. It was based on the novel by Madeleine L'Engle and adapted by James Sie. It was directed by Elise Kauzlaric. It was about a girl named Meg (Jamie Cahill) who went with her brother Charles Wallace (Trent Davis) and her friend Calvin (Glenn Obrero) to another dimension to rescue their dad (Michael McKeogh). They are guided by three witches--Mrs. Who (Javier Ferreira), Mrs. Whatsit (Madeline Pell), and Mrs. Which (Carmen Molina)--and meet a lot of strange creatures on different planets. It's about family, learning to love your flaws, and magical science. This book holds a very special place in my heart and I was happy to see someone was doing an adaptation of it.

My favorite scenes took place on the planet Camazotz. I thought they were particularly interesting because they combined music, precision, and deadpan expression. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin all went to the planet that Meg and Charles Wallace's dad was on. The inhabitants of this planet (Ferreira, Marsha Harman, Pell,and James Romney) all dress in grey and each of their children plays outside in perfect time together so it made a beat of the ball bouncing or skipping rope. It sounded really cool. Once Charles Wallace introduces himself it throws everything off for a second and then they snap back into their perfect, pristine world of rhythm. The inhabitants don't seem to be having any fun, and when they see the children that don't look like anyone else, they all became suspicious. The uniformity of Camazotz is very scary in an effective way.

I think there is a really great theme in this play of how parents can fail. The dad fails his wife (Vahishta Vafadari) and family by not being at home for years because he was held captive by IT, a scary giant brain that controls Camazotz who was spoken for by Red Eyes (Naïma Hebrail Kidjo). And then to protect Meg and Calvin, he leaves Camazotz without Charles Wallace. I think that it is a good lesson that parents can fail, but when they do, it doesn't mean they don't love you. That is important to learn as a kid. I think that all children in their lives will see their parents do something wrong. Meg, at first, just gets mad at her dad for messing up. But then later she has to have her own heroic moment and she is trying to help her family get back together and be a full family again. And she does forgive her father because he talks to her and she understands that he didn't mean to hurt her. This is a pretty insane story, and most parents don't have the excuse of having traveled to another planet and having been captured by a giant brain. But this story does have elements of truth to it: parents will mess up sometimes, kids will mess up sometimes, but you will always be family and love each other.

It is very hard to do a play of such a well-known and beloved book because everyone who has read the book has an idea in their brain of what it is supposed to be like. Meg, for example, seemed a little bit petulant in the play where in the book you feel like she is you. So you don't feel like she is whining in the book; you feel like she is expressing her opinion. Also when you think of Aunt Beast, who is not a human, you don't think of a human playing that role, so when humans do play Aunt Beast, it seems disturbing. Maybe a puppet or a different costume design that disguised their human form more would have worked better for me. Tessering, which is kind of like time traveling but you also go to different planets, in the book seemed really amazing and cool. On stage it seemed kind of awkward because the actors were just flailing their arms and legs around while balancing on other actors' feet. They are trying to seem like they are floating in air, but it didn't work for me.

People who would like this show are people who like good life lessons, cool uses of rhythm, and scary mind-controlling brains. I really loved this book and I think there are a lot of great themes in this play. It gave me a lot to think about afterwards.

Photos: Jackie Jasperson

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review of Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet. It was by William Shakespeare and directed by Marti Lyons. It is about two teenagers named Romeo (Nate Santana) and Juliet (Emma Ladji) who fall in love but their families are rivals so they have to hide their love. Then people die. It is about the teen experience, loyalty, and the dangers of prejudice. I think that this is a really great show. I absolutely loved it. I felt like it had a lot of awesome and amazing aspects. I'm not sure if I've ever cried at Romeo and Juliet before, but this one really got me.

I thought there were really great movement sequences, both dance (by Stephanie Paul) and fights (by Matt Hawkins). They made the Capulet's dance seem a little more like a teen party that you might go to (except your nurse and your mom are there!) because they used contemporary dance music and a mix of ballroom dancing and modern moves. They also had some really awesome badass fights. Like at the beginning when Benvolio (Andrea San Miguel) is trying to keep the peace between Balthazar (Cage Sebastian Pierre) and one of the Montagues (Andrew Saenz). She does it by some awesome sword fighting but then Tybalt (Sam Pearson) has to jump into the fray and it turns into this awesome four-way fight. It is so visually amazing. I also thought it was cool how in the Mercutio (Brian Grey) and Tybalt fight, Romeo and Benvolio both rush in to help Mercutio and once he actually dies (spoiler alert) Romeo kills Tybalt, but it a more violent way than I expected. I really liked that; it was really effective to see something so brutal and sad.

Even though this play is known as a tragedy it still has a lot of comedic sections. I thought that there were a lot of jokes that were relatable for me and the group of friends I went to see the show with, we were all between the ages of 12 and 14. There was a moment in the balcony scene when Juliet was calling to the Nurse (Karen Janes Woditsch) who is in the other room and she screamed "By and by I come!" in a very aggravated voice, but then she went back to talking to Romeo as sweet, perfect Juliet. I think every teen knows that situation. The balcony scene was funny overall, but also very sweet. Like one time Romeo was walking away and Juliet calls Romeo back. And he's like, "Oh it is my soul calling me back!" And then when he gets back she says, "I forgot why I called you back." And she sounds so apologetic. That is where the romantic bliss of the scene kind of retracts, but it makes it better because it seems more like a real teen relationship. Another funny part was how the Nurse always seemed to be in the market for a new beau. And she even seemed kind of interested in Romeo which was a funny recurring gag. But thankfully she backed off once Romeo and Juliet got married because it is not called Romeo and Nurse!

I think it is great that the romance in this Romeo and Juliet is less driven by attraction than it sometimes is. It is more about an emotional connection and not as much about just attraction. When they first see each other they do find each other attractive, but they start dancing with each other, which turns into talking together, which turns into a kiss. They were both being very witty talking with each other and the kiss came from him liking hanging out with her and not just because she was pretty. Romeo and Juliet in this production were like a couple everyone would want to be--except for the dying part. I liked how she got married just in the dress she was wearing. She didn't go and buy some fancy butterfly gown. She just went and got married to the person she wanted to be with and he liked her for just being her. They still speak in a very romantic way, but it doesn't make you want to vomit because the actors make the feelings seem so real.

Even though this play is mostly about the experience of the teenagers, you still get to see the adults' side of the story too. I felt like the characters that you don't always think about when you think about Romeo and Juliet really stand out in this production. Lady Capulet (Lily Mojekwu) I felt like had such a full character. Her story had a beginning, middle, and end and you could see that. It made me think that people don't pay enough attention to this character. The Prince (Elizabeth Laidlaw) is usually like the character that people go, "There was a Prince in this?" But I think she was memorable as a vessel for feminism in this show because people listened to her, even though they don't listen to any other woman in this show. Friar Lawrence (Demetrios Troy) seemed invested in helping Romeo and Juliet and seemed like a good person to talk to when you couldn't talk to your parents. He seemed like a person who had helped Romeo with his problems, like a psychiatrist. I think that it is good to show teenagers in the audience not just the side they relate to, but the rest of the story too.

People who would like this show are people who like relatable teen romance, intense fights, and partying with your nurse. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. I think it is an amazing production with amazing actors. I absolutely loved it.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review of Babes with Blades' Henry V

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Henry V. It was by William Shakespeare and it was directed by Hayley Rice. It was about Henry the Fifth (Diana Coates) and the war with France and how he learns responsibility to his country. It is about loyalty, royalty, and history. It wasn't just a normal Henry V. There were scenes of it set in a high school, which I thought was really interesting. The Chorus (Chelsea Rolfes) was basically like your history teacher and she was trying to convey extra information to you about Henry's family and the war and what happened after the war. The fighting, the storytelling, and Henry's motivational speeches are very important in this show and they were all done well. I think it is really awesome that Babes with Blades does all-women versions of Shakespeare; I think it is really empowering.

I think that Diana Coates did a great job with the role of Henry. All of her speeches seemed really relevant and interesting. Even though the character is not usually a feminist at all, she made it seem very feminist. Because everyone seems to doubt Henry, that he can do the job well, it reminds me a lot of the ways that women in power are portrayed or thought of as weaker than men. Henry shows that he is actually a good king even though people didn't think he would be one. This Henry seems so sincere whenever he speaks and like who you would want to follow and help support him. I think the St. Crispin's Day speech should be turned into a song so people can jog to it. I had heard it before, but never so well done. It was so motivational. I liked how intimate it was and how he was just talking to her group of friends and not a giant army. I feel like that made it more meaningful and it seemed like he was talking to you in the audience. I think Diana was very present the whole time and, whenever anyone else was talking, she seemed to be listening, which I think is very very important for actors. It is really great when you see an actor who is intriguing but also intrigued.

I thought that the Princess Katherine (Alison Vodnoy Wolf) and her lady-in-waiting Alice (Rolfes) had the best comic-relief scenes. In the first scene that featured them, Alice was just teaching Katherine the names of the body parts in English. Like she learned how to say foot, but she pronounced it like foute, which is a bad word in French. Katherine says it like she can't even believe that is what they call pied in English. They are giggling but also feeling bad for giggling. It reminds me of me and my friends. Katherine and Alice seem to be very close and I think this is a very cute relationship. I really hope Alice gets to stay with Katherine when she moves in with Henry. I thought this was a good break from the fighting to see a normal relationship that wasn't full of conflict. It also shows that Shakespeare is not trying to say all French are stuck up snobs like the French King (Catherine Dvorak), the Dauphin (Samantha Kaufman), and Montjoy (Alexis Randolph). In this scene they actually seem like real people. Also, of course, after Henry wins the war, the king had to give him his daughter Katherine to marry. This doesn't seem like the best plan, because she is a real person and not an object, but Henry does seem to be nice to her and it seems like he will treat her like a human being even though her father doesn't. Even though Henry and Katherine don't speak the same language, when they meet they try to put in bits of the other person's language. I think that means they are both trying to understand each other better.

I thought that the fights (designed by Kim Fukawa, assisted by Gaby Labotka) were really cool. They seemed really real and fluid. I thought the big battle near the end was awesome. I loved how it included all the actors and it all seemed very up close and real, especially in a small space. I love stage combat in a small space because it makes you feel so much closer to the action. The problem with stage combat in a small space if you are the actor is the danger of hitting someone in the audience in the face, and they did not. The show also had smaller, more intimate fights like with Michael Williams (Randolph) and Fluellen (Morgan Manasa). This was a comedic fight. They were wrestling on the floor and then the king walked in. It was not exactly the best time for either of them. There are two separate speeches from Fluellen and Williams and they ran them together trying to tell the king what happened, which was hilarious.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome stage combat, motivational speeches, and accidentally swearing. I think this was a really fun show. It made me see a different side of Henry that I liked. I think people who have and haven't seen Henry V can all learn a lot from this production and enjoy it.

Photos: Johnny Knight