Friday, May 22, 2015

Review of Step Up Productions' Crimes of the Heart

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Crimes of the Heart. It was by Beth Henley and it was directed by Brad Akin. It was about these three sisters Babe (Elizabeth Antonucci), Lenny (Sarah-Jayne Ashenhurst), and Meg (Amanda Powell), and their mother and their father had left them when they were very young. They are all grownups now and have come together because Babe has shot her husband. That isn't a very happy occasion, but they are trying to remember the good times too. And they are trying to help Babe get through what she's going through. But she is not the only person with problems. Meg has just lost a job singing in a night club and Lenny is working too hard with her grandpa and she is not having a very good love life. This play is about family bonds, loss, and trying to survive. I liked this play a lot. I thought it was very interesting and funny. You might think this stuff doesn't sound funny, but then because the things that happen are so weird and terrible it is just funny anyways.

Lenny I thought was the least depressing sister because she never attempts murder and she never attempts suicide and her ex-boyfriend isn't married with two kids. Then you think that she might be able to get her life together because the sisters help her out with the hard choices like calling her ex-boyfriend who she is still in love with. Also she chases her cousin Chick (Lindsey Pearlman) with a broom because she hates her so much and has never been able to show that. Chick is a very hatable character because she is very annoying and doesn't really care about people's problems. I found Chick hilarious because she was so terrible! The thing is, you see Lenny develop so much throughout the play. She begins being kind of shy and a scaredy cat and she ends up being forward and kind and not scared. At the very beginning, she didn't have a birthday cake on her birthday, so what she did was grab a cookie and stick a candle in it. It kept breaking apart which was so funny. But by the end she actually gets a cake from her sisters which shows that even though they forgot about her birthday, they still love her.

Babe was the youngest and she was the one who shot her husband. But that was because there was a teenage boy he was trying to hurt but then the teenage boy ran away and she wanted to kill herself but then she decided to shoot her husband. Everyone in the show thinks she is kind of crazy, and I kind of agree with them. One of the reasons they think she is crazy is that after she shoots her husband she makes lemonade. Death lemonade! But I think it was mostly because of her husband and how terrible her life is going right now that she acts crazy. So she is not actually crazy; she is just really depressed. I've never seen a comedy with such a depressing main character. I liked the show still, but it was still very depressing. It makes you think about your life choices and death and guilt, and all that kind of stuff. She tries to kill herself more than once, and the ways are pretty ridiculous. But it is still very sad because it shows how much she doesn't understand what she is doing. I liked the character, though. This is more of a dark-comedy character, because even though she is funny sometimes, she is still super sad.

Meg is the middle sister and she was a singer at a night club. I also thought she was one of the funnier characters, but she still had a quite depressing life. One of the saddest things is when she finds out the love of her life Doc (Drew Johnson) is still married. At the beginning she isn't very nice to her sisters because she has been away so long. But then the thing is that by the end you see that she is loving these girls more than when the play started. I liked how she took all the calls from the lawyer Barnette (Will Crouse), but she didn't really know who he was. I thought that was hilarious. And then I thought it was really funny when Babe came down when Barnette would still be in earshot, because it was a screen door, and Meg said "He's gone now" because he must of totally heard her.

People who would like this show are people who like sisters, death lemonade, and breakable birthday cookies. I think people should go see this show. If you like dark comedy, this is definitely for you! I had fun at this show and I liked it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review of Inana at TimeLine Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Inana. It was written by Michele Lowe and it was directed by Kimberly Senior. It was about this man named Yasin Shalid (Demetrios Troy) who just got married to a woman named Shali Shalid (Atra Asdou) and they are learning to love each other because they haven't really gotten to know each other; they are just married. They are in this hotel room in London and they have come from Mosul in Iraq for their honeymoon but also to escape from the war. Yasin is the head of the museum in Mosul and he has this one-armed statue of Inana which is very important to him because it was the last of her kind. And it turned out that there is more than one one-armed goddess in the show. Inana was the goddess of love, war, and healing. The thing is that the show is about the same things the goddess is about. It is about love because of the marriages in the play and also the family relationships. It is about war because war drives them away and threatens Inana. And it's about healing because over the course of the play Yasin and Shali are trying to heal from not being able to go back to their hometown and things that they lost there. I thought this was an amazing show. It was very educational, but in a good way. I loved the plot. I loved the characters because, even though the play is short, you get to know the characters so well.

This show is very suspenseful. You didn't really know what was going to happen to the characters at any given moment. It is very exciting because it is like an adventure story because it is kind of like Indiana Jones, except instead of trying to find artifacts, this is about trying to preserve artifacts. It is also pretty exciting to find the different back stories to the characters that you didn't expect. There is also a bookstore owner named Abdel-Hakim Taliq (Frank Sawa) who keeps being hurt by the government because they think he is doing something bad, but really all he is doing is having books that are not completely religious for them or have pictures of naked babies in them. He is kind of like Yasin's best friend. And his story shows how the government would hurt people for not good reasons and it also shows how dangerous it would be for Yasin to stay in Iraq.

I felt like some of the scenes were very touching, too, Shali's father, Emad Al-Bayit (Anish Jethmalani) has asked Yasin to take her away and never let her come back to Iraq. She doesn't want that; she wants to be able to go back. You feel sorry for Shali because she has basically had everything she had known taken away from her. And she doesn't know where she is very well and now she is going to live in this place she doesn't know very well. But later in the play you find out she is not the kind of person you think she is; she is stronger than you think. I think one of the reasons her father sends her away is that he loves her so much and doesn't want her to get hurt. I thought that was very touching and sweet. I also found it touching the relationship Yasin and Shali built throughout the play. They tell stories to each other that you get to see in flashbacks. And some of the flashbacks are touching too, like when you see that whenever Shali was a good girl, she would get an orange. And it was also really sad when you found out about Yasin's first wife Hama (Arya Daire). What happens to her is absolutely awful.

This doesn't sound like a very funny play, but then when you actually see it, it actually has some pretty funny moments. These are some of my favorite funny moments. I thought the waiter (Michael B. Woods) was very very funny. He kind of reminded me of Monty Python waiters because of his attitude; his attitude was like, "I shall connect with this man even though I am just a waiter who comes to his hotel room." I really love Monty Python, so that was really great. One of the other funny things is when Shali's sister Mena (Daire) gives her lingerie and then Shali goes to try it on in the bathroom and then she comes back out and says "It looked good" but she is still still in her same clothes. And Yasin thought she would come out in it, so then he is all ready to say "you look gorgeous in that," but she comes out in her normal clothes. Mohammed Zara (Behzad Dabu) was very funny. He was the assistant to Yasin at the museum. It was funny how eager he was to take over the museum and how giddy he was. It was just very funny and adorable.

People who would like this show are people who like artifacts, suspense, and lingerie that your wife won't let you see. I really really liked this show. I thought it was super awesome. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It talks about some scary subjects, but you don't see them happening, so I think if you think your child would be okay with that they could see it too.

Photos: Lara Goetsch

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ada Grey Interviews for You: Josh Segarra and Ana Villafañe

I had so much fun interviewing Josh Segarra and Ana Villafañe. They'll be playing Emilio and Gloria Estefan in On Your Feet which will be playing at the Oriental Theatre June 2-July 5 before it heads to Broadway.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review of Strangeloop Theatre's Thinking Caps

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Thinking Caps. It was by Keith Gatchel and it was directed by Maria Burnham. It was about these devices called Thinking Caps that you put on your head and then it had web pages and virtual worlds you could walk around. You didn't look at a screen; it transmitted this images into your mind. The story is about a husband and wife, Charles (Drew Wancket) and Maggie (Laura Stratford) who started out just as work buddies but they end up making their life together. Charles thinks Thinking Caps could be dangerous, but Maggie thinks that they are the best things that have ever happened. It is about using technology too much until it hurts you. I don't think the writer thinks technology is all bad, though, because he still shows the good sides to it. It is also about relationships. I thought this was a very fun show. I thought it was very clever and cool. It made me think about the usage of smart phones and about romance.

There are two sides in the show. One believes we should make people use Thinking Caps less because then it will hurt people less. That person is named Kim Ayers (Jaclyn Jensen) and Charles agrees with her. I think that is a good idea; she doesn't want to take them away, just to make them hurt people less. But she isn't really a good guy because she is trying to warn people about the dangers but she is doing it in a scary way and it hurts you because they are trying to relive the instances where people have been killed while using these headsets. There is also another side where there is this man named David Scrab (Casey Kells) who thinks they should be able to use them whenever they want because then he will make more money. The thing that is good about his point of view is that he enables people to talk to each other like they are really there even if they're not, which I think is a great thing. But then he should just put more research into it before just putting it out there before anyone has done research to see if it is harmful. Maggie works for him as a designer and builder and that is good for her because she gets to do what she loves. She is very creative. But then she finds out all the terrible things that David Scrab is doing. I think that technology is a good thing and I am glad we have it, but I don't think we should use it too much or bad things could happen to the world and to you.

I liked the scene where Charles and Maggie first got together on the headnet. I think they seemed like two amazing, sweet, talented people who fall in love. And if it weren't for the headnet they probably wouldn't have gotten to know and love each other. They worked together, but it was different when they could be alone on the headnet and just talk to each other about everything. They are able to show each other the most important parts of their lives, which is probably something they wanted to show each other but then never could at work because they have to be working. But then the headnet also destroyed their lives. I think that it was good to have the love scene at the beginning because it shows how this entire thing began and you want them to get together and once they do you just feel happy. Then when things start to go wrong you feel even sadder.

I really liked the scene with the baby Emma (Ellen DeSitter). Maggie and Charles had a baby that you are introduced to pretty early, but then you get to see what she might look like when she is older but she still has a baby's mind in this scene. So she looks older but she still has a baby's mind and they have this precious daddy-daughter moment which is where he tells her all about Superman and how he's not swimming in the sky, he is flying. It showed that the dad was a really big nerd (and I mean that well because I am nerd) and he wanted his daughter to be that way as well. I liked this scene because it was really funny how she would smile at whatever he said, which is something a bunch of babies do. At first, I thought it was just a bad portrayal of children, because I was like, kids would know all about words and talking and flying. But then the thing is she still has a baby's mind and her avatar looks like what she'll look like when she looks older, but she's not older. So that explains why she is acting like kind of an idiot--because she's just like four months old! Then I thought that that was pretty cool. I would like to see what I will look like when I'm older!

People who would like this show are people who like virtual reality, scifi, and Superman. I think people should definitely go see this show. I think it is an amazing low-budget production and I really want you to go see it. I had a lot of fun.

Photos: Chris Owens

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Reviews of Ondin and The Secret Life of Suitcases at Stages, Sights & Sounds

Once upon a time I went to two shows and they were called Ondin and The Secret Life of Suitcases. Ondin was created by L'Illusion, Théâtre de marionnettes in Canada and The Secret Life of Suitcases was co-created by Ailie Cohen Puppet Maker and Lewis Heatherington in Scotland. They were part of the Stages, Sights & Sounds International Performance Festival for Young Audiences, which is a bunch of plays and workshops that are happening in May. I thought that these were both very great performances. I was captivated in both of them and found them both very interesting. I was sad that I couldn't see the American Revolution from Theater Unspeakable again, but you can read my review from last year here.

Ondin was about this boy whose legs turned into a fish tail when he fell into the water. Then he met this girl named Melusine who had loved by the water for many years. I thought it was cool that they changed Ondine to Ondin, so that you knew even boys could be mer-people. They (Sabrina Baran, Gabrielle Garant, and Maryse Poulin) tell the story with puppets and music. I really liked at the beginning how there was a dress that turned into the sea. It started moving and moved up and just stayed there and she stepped out of it. I loved the sting ray puppet. I thought it was so awesome and beautiful. And Ondin had a fish who became his friend over the course of the show. It kind of reminded me of the Ariel story, only I think this was better. You knew they were becoming friends because he eventually got to pet the fish and it followed him around. There was a lot of very cool music in this and they also made some instruments part of the show. There was a rain-making disc that made the sound of the ocean but was also used as a raft and then the moon. It is about children's friendship and finding your right place in the world.

I really loved the show The Secret Life of Suitcases. It was funny, clever, and adorable. The main character's name was Larry (Ailie Cohen); he was basically a really hard-working businessman. But he'd never done anything exciting. So there were little puffballs inside of suitcases called quarks (Samuel Jameson & Cohen), who decided to bring him on this big adventure. I thought the quarks were absolutely adorable. They kind of reminded me of muppets. And the suitcase arrives at his work and he decides to open it and it takes him on this big adventure. He goes onto an island and then goes to space. The puppeteers had these shirts on that made them look like the background for the puppets--the backgrounds were like the ocean, an island, and outer space. I thought that was really cool. There was also a tiny puppet of a shark fin that I thought that was really funny, because you saw the guy (Jameson) just pulling it along across his shirt. One of my favorite moments was at the very end when Larry got so excited that he was going to eat spaghetti on the beach because he might not be doing something that was super adventurous but he still got to go and have fun with his friends. I just loved how he talked when he said "I'm going to eat spaghetti! On the beach!" and it came from the back of his throat. And at the end it kind of went higher--and it was hilarious. All their set pieces were made out of suitcases, and I thought that was really cool. Like there was a door that was also a suitcase. There was also a little suitcase person with little suitcase feet that I thought was adorable. The show taught a lesson on how even the little things are adventures, and I thought that was a really good lesson to teach. It also taught us about how you should enjoy adventures too, even if they are scary. And also to go through with the adventures even if you have work stuff; you should still make time for fun.

People who would like these shows are people who like mer-people, walking suitcases, and eating spaghetti on the beach. I know these shows tour, so if you live anywhere near where they are going, go see them! They are both awesome!

Photos: Michel Pinault and Anne Binckebanck

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review of Jersey Boys (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Jersey Boys. The book was by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. The music was by Bob Gaudio, who was an actual original Four Seasons' member. And then Bob Crewe did the lyrics. It was about The Four Seasons who were big in the Sixties--they were like One Direction. This show is about how they got together and fell apart. It was a sad but funny play because it had some sad moments but it was also pretty funny. It is about friendship, betrayal, and music.

I thought it was cool how each of the band members--Bob Gaudio (Drew Seeley), Frankie Valli (Hayden Milanes), Nick Massi (Keith Hines), and Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey)--got to narrate one season of the story. I liked that because then you got to hear every person in the group's perspective. My favorite section, the most exciting part, was when Bob was narrating. I loved how when they turned their back to raise their hands and sing to the invisible audience it was like on the poster and you had that little recognition like, "Ohhhh." I liked when they were singing backup for other singers and they all had this one moment they all had the same idea--to have Bob Crewe (Barry Anderson) finally let them record--and they weren't fighting, but the next scene they were fighting again. Because what are bands for if not for fighting?! I really loved the character of Bob Crewe; I thought he was really funny because he was so overdramatic. He seemed really comfortable around everybody and his notes to the band were hilarious, like when he said, "It's a metaphor for women who twist you around their little finger" and he wiggled around his finger." I think Bob Gaudio seemed liked the least insane and depressed one. I liked how he always looked at the sunny side of things even if things weren't going as well as they'd like them to. They had found him because he had written a song about short shorts when he was a teenager. The show shows his development over time with songwriting because his songs got better and better over time!

Frankie was basically the lead singer. But even though he was the lead singer he was very depressed because a lot of bad things happened to him. Like his wife left him, he was abducted at age 16 by a crook who made him begin a band, and the third bad thing is that his daughter Francine (Leslie Rochette) had a drug overdose and died. I really wish they had had a song together because she had a lovely voice. His voice was also very nice so, if they put those two together. it would be extra good. His voice could go very high in falsetto and the actor playing the role did an amazing job making the falsetto really pleasant to hear. Frankie had two important relationships with women in the show, with Mary (Marlana Dunn) who he married and had kids with and with Lorraine (Jaycie Dotin) who was his girlfriend for a while, but then they broke up for the same reason he and Mary broke up which was because he was on tour too much and they never saw him. Mary was very straightforward and kind of reminded me of my mom, except less nice. Lorraine was an interesting character to me because she was a reporter; she had a job and seemed very smart. I think Frankie should have tried harder to keep both of his women--not by quitting the band, because he was very talented, but by inventing Skype or something so that he could better communicate with them when he was on the road.

I really like Nick Massi's season because he was one of the funnier ones because he was so serious. He was always deadpan about everything. Like one of my favorite parts was when he was just standing there silently while Bob and Frankie were talking and in the middle of the scene he just turned to the audience and said "I just realized something. I don't want to be in the band anymore." That was so funny because it was just in the middle of the scene and you wouldn't think that was what he was going to say, but then he did and it was just hilarious. I also really liked when he was talking to everyone about Tommy and roommating with him for ten years and he said, "He uses up all the towels!" I loved that that was his biggest problem even though Tommy had been a crook and stole a lot of stuff, also while they were roommating.

People who would like this show are people who like deadpan bass players, overdramatic producers, awesome music, and short shorts. I had a lot of fun at this show. It was crazy, awesome, and I enjoyed the story of it a lot.

Photos: Jeremy Daniel

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review of Irish Theatre of Chicago's The White Road

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The White Road. It was by Karen Tarjan and it was directed by Robert Kauzlaric. It was about a man named Shackleton (Paul Dunckel) and his crew who were on this expedition to walk all the way across Antarctica. But then it was getting too cold and their boat had sank because of the pack ice. So they decided to have some of the people go onto a lifeboat to find help and the other ones would stay on Elephant Island with Frank Wild (Michael McKeogh). I think this story is about hope, friendship and adventure. I've been learning a lot about Shackleton lately and I felt like it seemed very accurate. I thought this was a very exciting production because it is just a thriller. There are these guys trying to survive bitter cold and harsh conditions, but then it has a good ending. You get so involved in all the characters because they each have a special thing about them and you get to know them more and more throughout the course of the show.

Shackleton had a lot of interviews with the men to see if they would be good to go on the mission. And he asked them really strange questions like "How do you sleep?" He asks that sort of stuff to see if they will be ready for harsh conditions and if they'll be fun to be around. He doesn't think they all have to be tough. He thinks they have to be nice people but still know what they are doing and be willing to work. I thought that Vincent's (Stephen Walker) interview was very funny because he was just so deadpan and serious and was like, "I sleep in a bed." There was also another interview with a man named Worsley (Kevin Theis) who had had a dream about how he was on a boat and was steering a boat through a bunch of ice. And the next morning he saw the advertisement. I was very happy they kept that part, which is true, in the play. And Worsley also did this really funny thing once he got the job where he would ram the boat into the ice and then every time he did that he would go "Wooo!" There is also a man named Orde-Lees (Joseph Stearns) who was chased by a seal later. I thought that was very funny how he ran past and Shackleton was like, "You're a very fast runner." He was very refined when he came in for the interview and was like, my name is from this place. Shackleton wants him because he can be a cheering-up person when he plays his banjo, but he is also a walking encyclopedia which is a good thing to have on a expedition.

There is a guy named McNeish (Steve Herson) who really liked this cat who they named Mrs. McNeish. He did kind of remind me of a cat because cats can be kind of solitary and all-business. But then you also get to see his heart when he is with the cat. The dogs and the cat play a very big role in the story because they are one of the ways all the men stay sane. But they are also like family to them. So when they have to kill the cat and the dogs they are all so miserable and sad and the audience is so miserable and sad. All the dog shooting happens behind a shadow screen and there is a guy who is talking to each of the dogs before they die. They go through all their names as kind of like a memorial to them. I thought that was very very sad, but then you also knew that was what had to be done if they wanted everyone else to survive. You feel like you don't hate the people who shoot the dogs because you know it is not their fault.

There is a stowaway named Blackborrow (Gage Wallace) who they find in one of the boxes. When he pops out Shackleton asks him the same questions as he does in the interviews, but he also says, "You know you'll be the first to be eaten." And Blackborrow is like, "Yeah, I don't really care." And Shackleton is like, "You're on board!" He thought he would be good because he had no fear and has some truth-detecting in him and that made him a good candidate for this expedition. And it also had to do with how funny he was. He was one of my favorite characters because he was very funny and he was kind of like the new guy. No one liked him at first but they did when they got to know him. This character is in the play as comic relief but he also has some very touching and sad things happen to him. I think the audience really loves him because he is so energetic and optimistic and he thinks he can get away from his problems if he goes on this exploration, but then he has new problems but also gets an adventure. The audience identifies with him too because he is more of a normal man. He is not a sailor or a photographer or an explorer. One of the funniest characters is McIlroy (Nicholas Bailey). He thought that he was the most handsome man on earth and had Hurley (Neal Starbird) take all these pictures of him. Whenever Hurley was taking a picture of him, McIlroy would pose very powerfully. He was like, "I should show everyone this because I look so handsome and adventurous!"

I liked how the actors used their bodies and the set (designed by Ira Amyx and Merje Veski) to show scary moments that you thought they couldn't really do on a small stage. I thought that it was really awesome when Crean (Matthew Isler) and Shackleton and Worsley all built a sled out of their luggage. Then they slid down the hill and it was super awesome. I kind of wanted to do that too, but it was probably very dangerous in real life. They also had these put-together-your-own lifeboats. It was cool because they had to rebuild everything and you could see that happen. The journey in the lifeboats took so long and everyone was squished together in the three different lifeboats with paddles and lanterns. It did seem like they were out in the open water!

People who would like this show are people who like adventure, stowaways, and sleds made out of luggage. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. I thought it was a great, suspenseful, and bittersweet show. It is a crazy and awesome experience and you are on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Photos: Jackie Jasperson