Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review of Griffin Theatre's Bat Boy: The Musical

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Bat Boy: The Musical. The book was by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming and the music and lyrics were by Laurence O'Keefe. It was directed by Scott Weinstein. The music direction was by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster and the choreography was by Rhett Guter and Amanda Kroiss. It was about the famous Bat Boy (Henry McGinnis) from a tabloid. Of course the Bat Boy is not a real thing, but they made up a really awesome backstory to go with him. But it was also a very dark story. When I was little I used to hate dark comedies, but now I'm a big fan. This show is about respect, family, and prejudice. I thought that this was an absolutely fun and amazing show.

One of my favorite songs (and also one of the most uncomfortable songs for me to hear ever) was called "Children, Children." It was a song sung by Pan (Jordan Dell Harris). It had a bunch of animals and mythical creatures coming out and talking about the beauty of nature, or at least that is how it started. And then it turned into all of the animals very suggestively doing things with the different animal puppets (by Lolly Extract and Amber Marsh) they were holding. It was basically to encourage Edgar, the Bat Boy, to "get together" with this girl he likes named Shelley Parker (Tiffany Tatreau). This song was hilarious but it made me very uncomfortable. I think everybody else just found it hilarious, but since I am an eleven-and-three-quarters-year-old girl, that made it slightly more awkward for me. It was so funny because of the way they used the different parts of the animal puppets and their costumes (by Izumi Inaba). It was hilariously awkward.

I also really liked "Mrs. Taylor's Lullaby" sung by Mrs. Taylor (Ron King). It was absolutely hilarious and the character work put into Mrs. Taylor was amazing. She would fan herself very quickly with her hand when she would get frustrated, which I could not stop laughing at. The song was funny because it was a very dark song about killing Bat Boy sung in a very sweet tone and manner. Ron King also sang a song called "Joyful Noise" as the Reverend. It was very high in energy and I really loved that song. I would have that be my ringtone! It was super fun and I wanted to just get up and dance during that song.

"Show You a Thing or Two" was another of my favorite songs, sung by the entire Parker family--Dr. Parker (Matt W. Miles), Meredith (Anne Sheridan Smith), and their daughter Shelley--and Bat Boy. I really liked this song because it was really sweet, but it wasn't a slow sweet song. It was just about how everyone in the family wanted to help Edgar/Bat Boy become a gentleman. The song was a really fun montage of them teaching Edgar to read and write, teaching him to speak well, and they also had flash cards that were really funny because they were not necessarily things someone learning civilized English should need to know immediately, like names of operas, movies, and people. Also in the montage was Bat Boy drinking blood! Later in the show, you find out who Bat Boy's mother is, which is a big reveal, but then Dr. Parker has to explain to Bat Boy where he came from. And it is like this big long elaborate story and he has to put on a wig to tell the story and that was very funny. I really liked how Dr. Parker's character changed so much over the course of the show. It was funny to see this person who seemed to be so intelligent at first making these horrible decisions to talk about his plans in earshot of other people. They'd say, "What did you say?" And he'd say, "Nothing" and go on with his day. Bat Boy's transformation is going from a demon-boy found in a cave to a civilized, strangely British man, Dr. Parker's transformation is going from a smart, civilized guy to a crazy man. It just shows you that people can drastically change and just because you think you know who somebody is, doesn't mean that is how they are today.

People who would like this show are people who like blood, murderous lullabies, and ridiculous mating rituals. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is super funny and awesome and I had so much fun at it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Review of Hell in a Handbag's The Divine Sister

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Divine Sister. It was by Charles Busch and it was directed by Shade Murray. It was about a convent and school and the nuns that lived there and taught there. Mother Superior (David Cerda) and her best friend Sister Acacius (Ed Jones) were both teachers and nuns there, but they both had complicated pasts that they wanted to keep secret but are revealed throughout the course of the play. Basically, by the end of the show, everybody has something that has been revealed. And all of the things that are revealed are pretty ridiculous. This was a really crazy and weird show. This show wasn't exactly to my taste, but I think other people could really enjoy it.

Agnes (Charlotte Mae Ellison) was my favorite character. She is a nun in training at the convent. She was a very silly character and she was kind of like the super-happy, jolly-jolly-fun-time, Julie-Andrews character of the entire story. She was over the top but in a very funny way; she really seemed very genuine while she was acting goofy. And she was very committed to it, which I really liked. She was mostly very peppy and skipping around and singing, and she would end almost every number in the splits! I found her really funny. Then she has a huge transformation at the end where she becomes a total biscuit and starts smoking and has a huge amount of makeup and a perm. And I thought that was hilarious.

The way that you find out that three of the characters were related is because they realize that when they are emotional they have gagging reflexes. I thought that was quite clever, kind of dumb, and funny all at the same time. That basically explains the entire show in a sentence! The entire show is very silly in an over-the-top way with a lot of sexual humor and unexpected twists. I think a lot of people will enjoy that. I'm not sure if camp is really my style or my thing, but there were still moments that I enjoyed.

I felt like the show had some aspects that I wasn't a huge fan of. I felt like some of the acting was over the top in a way that was funny, but seemed fakey. I understand that camp is not supposed to be believable, but I wanted to see these actors actually seem like they cared about what they were saying more than they sometimes did. You want the play to be fast-paced but sometimes it felt like they were just rushing and it made it very hard to understand. Sometimes people would stumble or totally forget a line, which I found very awkward, but I'm not sure if that would still be a problem if someone saw it now.

People who would like this show are people who like campy shows, family gagging reflexes, and jolly-jolly-fun-time nuns in training. I thought this was a crazy show and a lot of people I think will have a lot of fun at it.

Photos: Rick Aguilar Studios

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review of First Floor Theatre's World Buliders

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called World Builders. It was by Johnna Adams and it was directed by Jesse Roth. It was about two people named Max (Andrew Cutler) and Whitney (Carmen Molina) who were both patients/lab rats at a hospital. The doctors were trying to find a cure for their condition where they make up a world and live in that world even though that world doesn't exist outside their own minds. But they want to keep their worlds. It was about what people consider diseases, friendship, and creativity. I really liked this show. I thought it was very intriguing and interesting and I saw the deep relationship between the characters.

Each person with this condition has their own world, and all of them are very different. Whitney's is kind of like science fiction. There are different characters who have romances and there are thousands of people on different planets. She has so many people that some of them just have to be background characters. There are also wars and opposing planets and there is a government and all of these rules. She knows all these rules even though there are so many of them. And in Whitney's world she can go back to different times and change what people said and what they did. She is in control. But Max just believes that when something happens in his world it just happens. And he feels like he doesn't have control over his world. And his world is not as big as Whitney's; his world is just a room. But it is still complex because of the details of the person in the room. It is also very creepy because his world is just a room where a woman is locked in and one day she is just gone. I thought the differences between their worlds, which they had long conversations about, were very intriguing. Max's world is like being locked in a room with monitors, but Whitney's world is like a science fiction novel that she is writing and can revise as much as she wants.

I think that the relationship between Max and Whitney was very complicated because I was rooting for them even though I wasn't sure if it was a healthy relationship. It might have been healthy because both of them had worlds so they wouldn't think the other one was a weirdo. Usually someone who has an alternate world that they spent most of their time in would be kind of weird to another person. It might have been unhealthy because two people who have worlds might not have time for the other person and it would make them sad that their partner's world was more important than them. It could also be dangerous because if two people have worlds at the same time and aren't paying attention, bad things could happen. They say in the show that people have died because of their worlds. But I'm rooting for them because they seem to genuinely love each other and they understand each other a lot too.

The last scene had a lot of impact on me because it really showed their devotion to each other, which was very sweet. I'm not going to be too specific, because it is the last scene of the play, but if you have seen the play you'll know what I'm talking about. Max is willing to make a sacrifice for Whitney, even though Whitney won't make that same sacrifice for him. Instead, she tries to make a way so they can both have what they want. And I found that so beautiful and I thought it was a very sweet ending to the show.

People who would like this show are people who like powerful love stories, science fiction, and touching sacrifices. I think people should go see this show. I thought it was charming, beautiful, and it had a lot of hope.

Photos: Evan Barr

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review of American Theater Company's Xanadu

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Xanadu. The book was by Douglas Carter Beane and the music and lyrics were by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. It was directed by Lili-Anne Brown. The music direction was by Aaron Benham and the choreography was by Brigitte Ditmars. It was about a muse named Clio (Landree Fleming) who goes to the mortal world as a girl named Kira who is Australian to help an artist, Sonny Malone (Jim DeSelm). The muses are not allowed to fall in love with mortals, but two of her sisters who are also muses, Melpomene (Karla L. Beard) and Calliope (Missy Aguilar), are trying to get her killed by making her fall in love. And once Clio and this mortal get to know each other they decide they are going to open a palace of culture, which is really a roller rink with maybe some art, in a building owned by Danny Maguire (Aaron Holland) who used to be in love with Clio when she wasn't Clio but somebody named Kat. I really liked this show. I thought that it was super fun and I thought that it was a great way to make a terrible 80s movie into a fun show.

The relationship between Kira and Sonny was adorable and cheesy. And I thought the cheesiness was just hilarious in this. They look at each other very, how do I put this, in awe of each other. And I was like, "What's so amazing about them this time?" But I guess that is like asking, "Why do fools fall in love?" Why do they fall in love? I actually have an explanation for that: she's Australian and she has roller skates and he looks like he just came out of the neon store after a %50 off sale. They actually succeeded in making me care about the characters: even though they looked and acted ridiculous, I wanted them to get what they wanted because they were really funny and the songs were really sweet sometimes.

Two of the muses help them fall in love, Melpomene and Calliope, but that is not their intention; they just want Clio kicked out of her position of leadership...by death!!! They sang this song called "Evil Woman." I though their vocals were amazing. This was one of my favorite songs and it was pretty funny too because they were trying not to seem like they were plotting. And the conversation before it was just hilarious. They started using very modern phrases, like they said the river god was Melpomene's baby daddy. But they also said words like "thus" a lot and then would just snap into talking like somebody in the 80s. I thought that that was very funny and I really liked that.

There was a lot of very goofy humor in this. There was one scene where Hermes (James Nedrud) was trying to deliver a message to Clio about how she could not fall in love with a human. And Hermes could not roller skate whatsoever and so he was giving this huge dramatic monologue while he was holding on to the railing. And whenever there was a little bit of break in the railing he would scream his head off until he got to the other side of the break.

My favorite scene in the entire show was the scene with Zeus (Holland), who reminded me a lot of someone who had all the ladies, the best kind of car, all the money, and was high all the time. Basically that guy had it going pretty good and he had this hilarious voice that was just kind of whispery and very high. I think that was absolutely hilarious. I know a lot about Zeus because I really like Greek Mythology and I take the National Mythology Exam every year, and I can tell you Zeus did have a lot of ladies and a lot of babies and was basically a player. So that was one of the funniest moments for me. And he had a very funny reaction to a mortal coming up to Olympus; he said something like "Sorry. Mere mortals are not allowed up here" in this exasperated voice. But he was very calm while he said it. There is a song, "Have You Never Been Mellow," where the attending goddesses of Zeus--Hera (Kasey Alfonso), Aphrodite (Aguilar), and Thetis (Hannah Rose Nardone) were singing about how Zeus should just let the kids be together. And then he starts to be seduced by them and then a bunch of different mythical creatures showed up, like a Cyclops (Daniel Spagnuolo), a Centaur (Nedrud), and Medusa (Beard) and they joined in and I really liked it because it was funny.

People who would like this show are people who like E-evil women, screaming Hermes, and high Zeus. I thought this was a really fun and great show. I liked it a lot and definitely think people should go see it. It was weird, silly, and just altogether really awesome.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Review of Haven Theatre Company's The Distance

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Distance. It was by Deborah Bruce and it was directed by Elly Green. It was about this woman named Bea (Abigail Boucher) and she has left her kids with her husband and gone to London where she used to live to be with her friends Kate (Megan Kohl) and Alex (Allison Latta). And they are trying to convince her to go back and get custody of her kids. Kate's brother-in-law Vinnie (Patrick Gannon) is there for a visit, and he doesn't exactly make things easier because all he wants to do is party. Kate and her husband, Darragh (Layne Manzer), have just had a baby but they have been having some problems lately. And there is also a big riot happening in London, and Alex's son Liam (Nik Kmiecik) is near the riot. This play is about not feeling good enough, friendship, parenthood, and freedom. I really liked this show. I felt like it was powerful and funny and sweet.

I felt like the relationship between the three friends--Alex, Kate, and Bea--was sweet but sad because there were some points in their friendship where they wanted to tell their friend she was doing the right thing even though they felt like she wasn't. I've had these moments where I wanted to tell my friend that she was doing the right thing even though I felt like she wasn't, so this part of the play really spoke to me. I also thought that all of them had a kind of messed up relationship with their spouse or ex-spouse and I thought it was really sweet how they would talk to each other about that stuff, even though it wasn't the nicest topic to talk about but they still talked about it just because their friend needed to. There were some moments I felt really bad for Bea because the other girls would get caught up in some gossip and leave her out of it and forget that she was having a terrible time. They disagree on how to take care of children: Kate thinks you should always be around your children all the time and never let them go, and Bea thinks that you don't have to be with your kids to love them, and Alex thinks that you can leave your kids to their own devices and they will figure it out, but she does still love them.

I really liked the set (by Joseph Schermoly). I thought it was super cool how it was like a modern house but then it could also be transformed into a hotel or a couple's bedroom. There were also these little slots behind the stage that could be used to be the outside and space on the side that could be used for the same purpose. And they had these really cool transitions where you would basically focus all your attention on Bea as she walked around the stage. I thought it was interesting. I don't like transitions that just have a blackout; I like transitions that have a lot of movement and feeling. I felt like I was watching Bea being really upset but also kind of dealing with it.

My favorite scene was with Liam and Bea. They start talking and she is trying to talk to him like an adult but she starts out talking to him like a kid or a baby. And I get where Liam is coming from, where he is just looking at her weirdly and doesn't really know what to say or do because he feels awkward. And I thought that that was very funny. But it isn't a very funny scene because then he starts going a little bit crazy because Bea is freaking out because everyone wants her to go back to her kids and she feels overwhelmed. And then he starts to freak out with her because his mom is getting high in the other room and the things Bea says make him think about his own family and whether his mom really loves him because Bea says she is not sure what she feels about her family anymore. And he is talking a lot about his dad and how he is wondering what his Dad is doing even though he doesn't really know anything about him. Which I thought was very sad but sweet at the same time because he really did not know anything about his dad before he left.

The beginning and ending scenes in this show both gave you a way to look at the story they were telling in the rest of the show. They both take place in a hotel room and they both have the same characters in them, The Man (Josh Odor) and Bea. When the show starts, you think that first scene happens right before the next scene, but then you realize towards the end of the show that it happened longer ago. I saw at first that Bea didn't see The Man as just some guy, because they wouldn't have put it in the show then. And pretty close to the end you realize who that guy was, and it completely changed my perspective of the show. It made me think that Bea was not going to go back to her family because it seemed like she was reflecting on what her life was like before she had kids. The thing that made the ending sad is that you could see she wasn't happy no matter what she was doing.

People who would like this show are people who like cool transitions, sad but sweet relationships, and awkward conversations with teens. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was super moving, funny, and beautiful.

Photos: Austin D. Oie

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review of Sideshow Theatre Company's Caught

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Caught. It was by Christopher Chen and it was directed by Seth Bockley. It was about, well, it is very disorienting but it is fun. And I don't want to give too much away. It is about lies, trickery, and what we think is art. I liked this show. I thought it was very fun and interesting. Afterwards I felt like I was dreaming or something. It made me think about cultural appropriation, like somebody doing something that isn't part of their specific culture, and if that is ok. I also thought about the fine line between lying and art.

This show talks a lot about cultural appropriation, which I do think is an important thing to talk about because there are things that if a person does something that usually belongs to another culture, someone can get offended. I think that the character that the playwright has talk about cultural appropriation, Wang Min (Helen Young), seems kind of crazy, though, because she is very paranoid and everything she says seems like she is trying to sound smarter than the other person even though we can't understand what she means. She keeps saying, "it is not a matter of this or this" which I thought was funny. I think the playwright is saying she is overly concerned about cultural appropriation. In this scene Ann James plays herself and her reactions to Wang Min are hilarious; she's trying to look smart and also not seem racist. I think the scene is here for two reasons: for comedy and to show what the writer thinks about people who are obsessed with cultural appropriation and people who believe that cultural appreciation keeps them from seeming racist. I think he thinks both of them have problems.

Lying and art are both very big concepts in this show. Lin (Ben Chang) feels like he has to lie and have a really sad backstory and also make good art to be a famous artist. I think the reason that people think that getting a sad backstory will get them more publicity and get them to be a more famous artist is that people think artists with sad stories have a lot of talent because they didn't get lessons but they still continued to do their art and people who had classes are good because they had a good teacher. The structure of the show is very complex. When you walk into the theater there is basically an art exhibit and you can go up on stage and look at all the artwork. I liked the artwork (by Larry Lee) a lot. There were faucets and a fish in a glass aquarium. And there were these pictures lined up on the floor of this man screaming. He could have been upside down, but it was kind of up for judgement what was happening. And there was a Chinese food box sculpture that was really cool. Then they tell you to sit in your seat and you get tricked a lot about what is real and what is fake. Usually when I get tricked or lied to, I feel really bad about it. But because this was theater, I already kind of knew it wasn't all real. But at the end I was still completely fooled. I think the people who worked on this show wanted you to be disoriented and feel tricked and lied to when you left. But they still wanted you to have fun, I think. And I did still have fun.

There was a piece of art at the Art Institute called Wu Street by Xu Bing and Ai Wei Wei. It was super interesting and it reminded me a lot of this play. There were several oil paintings the artists found in the trash and rescued. And they found an article about the abstract painter Jonathan Lasker and thought it sounded like the paintings, so they published a Chinese translation of that article with a made up artist name and pictures of the found paintings. It reminded me of the play because the play shows a story of people who have deceived others into thinking something is groundbreaking art. And then the deception itself is the art at the Art Institute but then the deception in the play is also the art because the play itself is art. I'm sorry I can't be more specific; you'll have to see the show to find out more specifically what I mean.

People who would like this show are people who like disorienting and fun plays, things not being a matter of something or something, and goldfish. I think that people should go see this show. It is super fun and made me think a lot. I enjoyed it.

Photos: Jonathan L. Green

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Review of Filament Theatre's Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Portage Park

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Portage Park. It was by Jessica Wright Buha and it was directed by Christian Libonati. It was like a game where you have to solve the mystery of who stole this young baseball player's special box. Basically there are a bunch of elaborate scenes throughout the neighborhood and you sneak around with a group of people and Sherlock and Watson gathering clues. There are a bunch of different groups and you follow different suspects and then meet up to put all your clues together and try to figure out who the culprit was. Everyone gets their own Sherlock and Watson from a duplicator, that turned out to be very useful during the course of the play. I was in the red group and my Sherlock and Watson were Alex Ireys and Kristina Loy. But first there are a Sherlock and Watson who introduce you to the story: Alejandro Tey and Nathan Drackett. I had a lot of fun at this show. I think that adults could still have fun at it, but you'd have more fun if you went with a kid. I liked the free aspect to it where you could do whatever you wanted as long as you stayed with the group. It is fun to go into everyday places and have people stare at you because you are being guided around by Sherlock Holmes!

I might have been the oldest kid in my group, but it was still really fun and some of the kids were hilarious. There was one little kid who seemed to be having a great time. And he said some very hilarious things. We found a seed that looked like an avocado seed, and this one little kid said "That's what avocados are made out of!" and everybody could not stop laughing because it was adorable. All the kids were really involved in the story. They all really seemed like they wanted to participate. I thought a lot of the theories people had were really awesome. I liked how you didn't solve the entire mystery in your group but you had to come all together and solve it that way as a larger group. I was the photographer for my group and shared clues on social media with the other groups and I thought that was super fun.

I loved my Sherlock and Watson. They were super fun and funny and they listened to every single kid's thoughts and their analysis. Sometimes they would put a searching group together and I went on one with Red Watson where we found this guy talking on his phone and he was talking about a secret plan of some sort. And then another guy walked by and it was kind of hard to know if he was doing the show or not. It was disorienting but in a fun way. Both Sherlock and Watson were really good at listening to people. When somebody would say that they found a place, Sherlock and Watson would not just ignore it. They would take that to mind and then go to it. I think that both of them were great improvisers and they would make up something funny or clever really quickly.

People who would like this show are people who like interactive theater, solving mysteries, and avocado seeds. I think kids and their parents should go see this show. It was a super fun experience and I really enjoyed doing it. I think it would be cool if one of the groups was aimed at adults so they had a more complicated course you could do; that would have been a lot of fun to try. The only reason this is such a short review is that I didn't want to give anything really away. It would be very hard to avoid that with a play where the entire plot is to figure out the plot!

Photos:Dominick Maino