Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review of Striding Lion Performance Group's Remember The... (Alamo) at The Viaduct

Once upon a time I went to a dance show, and it was called Remember The...(Alamo). It was about the Alamo and kids learning about it in school. I think the characters lived in Texas because I think this takes place in Texas. It felt more real than if you just read a book and saw pictures about The Alamo. The Alamo was a big fight that happened because both of these two countries, the United States and Mexico, wanted Texas because it was a big state. One of the biggest, actually, in America. I did not know anything about the Alamo, but I thought "this seems cool," so I went to watch it and it was very interesting. It makes you want to know more about the Alamo and who were the people who fought in it. I think I realized when I went to the show that there are lots of ways to tell the same historical stories. What I already knew was that fictional stories can have more than one way to be told. For example, in The Little Mermaid, there are two ways to tell her story. The first one, the way it was written, is she kills herself of a broken heart and turns into a clump of dried up seaweed, which I don't think the little kids would like. But then Walt Disney's company changed the story so that she goes and marries the prince she want to marry.

When I got into the theater, I was like, "Wow! I did not know it would be like this because I thought the dancers would enter, but they didn't. They were already on stage playing their characters. The set was three screens where videos would come up. And there were four different places. There was like a bar or like a house--I don't know which. And there was also a school. And there was also like a living room that had a tv that was on. And there was also a desk that was tilted a little bit. You get to walk around, but lots of people didn't. I don't know why, because that is a lot of fun: getting to move around during a play and getting to interact with the characters.

I really liked how they used rock songs like a song about Davy Crockett that goes like this: "Davy Crockett. What you got in your pocket?" They also used slow sad songs like the one about Tumbleweeds. And it goes like this: "And the tumblin' tumbleweeds." They also used violin songs, which were actually played by a violinist in the show. And there was also a Johnny Cash song, and he is one of my favorite singers, so I really liked that one. And it went like this, "Hey, Santy Anna, we're killing your soldiers below, so that everybody will remember the Alamo." Using all these different songs made you feel like you were in all these different time periods. And that I meant as a compliment because that is a good thing because people are still learning about the Alamo. The show is about the Alamo and learning about the Alamo which has happened for many years.

I really liked the kind of dance that the kids did when they were pretending to be soldiers. They were pretending to be kids who were learning about the Alamo and were excited about the Alamo. They would make guns with their fingers and their feet. That was awesome. And when they would use their feet I just thought that was really creative because I have never seen anybody use their feet as a gun before. I thought it was cool how the kids pretended to die in a awesome battle-y sort of way. I don't like battles, but I think it is interesting to learn about them so then you won't fight about the stupid things that they fight about--like countries that somebody had and then somebody takes their country. It also made me scared and I felt like I was in an actual battle because they didn't always act in a kiddy way, they sometimes acted in a scary, "I'm going to kill this person" way.

When they did "Davy Crockett, what you got in your pocket?" then they would dance in like a rock and roll but jazzy sort of way. I just thought that was a good way to express their emotions about Davy Crockett. I think they thought he was a hero because he went on some adventures, which I haven't heard about yet, but I suspect they are really cool if they liked them that much. They would slide on to one knee with the other one behind them, and then they would shake their heads up and down in a yes position, and that move kind of showed me they were saying, "You are important to us; you are a hero." I think people like that did exist sort of. But I don't think it was true that Davy Crockett killed a bear when he was only three.

There was this cool game that they played that went like this: "Jim Bowie! Jim Bowie!" and different people would go into the center and say what they thought he was. And then people would act out what they just said: "Jim Bowie was a very brave man!" or "Jim Bowie was a very calm man." And then they would say "Jim Bowie! Jim Bowie!" again and someone else would go. And so on. That told me that they also thought that he was a brave and awesome and cool person. He did lots of other heroic things, but at the Alamo he was sick in bed. He fought back for himself, which anyone would do, but he didn't fight for any other person. It makes you think he was a heroic person, but he did things that were not for his country. He died in bed sick and not in the battle, which is not as heroic as other people who are not as famous were.

There was a part where somebody was trying to get through all these people and then she would say: "Right, left, slither through" and stuff like that. And then somebody after they had had a turn would go in front until they got to the wall. Then she would have to fight them. They were trying to show you how people still study Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett and try to fight like them. It looked very hard to crawl through like six people who kept getting in front of you again and again and again and again.

I think this show should be for ages 7 and up because of the dying. I think people should go see this if they want to learn about the Alamo because it is a good start for younger kids to begin on learning about the Alamo. People who would like this show are people who like battles, dancing, and Davy Crockett. I think this show is a very awesome one because it teaches you lots of things that you have not even learned yet when you are my age and it is cool and scary. Older people should see it because it makes them remember...the Alamo.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review of The ComedySportz Crew Meets Alice in Wonderland

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The ComedySportz Crew Meets Alice in Wonderland. It is about a boy (Jamie Campbell) and a girl (Annie Rijks) who go to different fairy tales and then they show the audience how that went. They face Expensivo (C.J. Tuor), a villain, and they face danger in the story and bad things that happen in the story. It is technology vs. imagination in this show. The boy and the girl are on the imagination side--the "good" side. And Expensivo is on the the technology side--the so-called "bad" side. The problem is that technology is made up with imagination and if you use technology some of the time you are using your imagination too. This is an false dichotomy. I learned the word dichotomy from my amazing mom. Dichotomy means it is this side or it's this other side; it is bad or it is good. But this is a false dichotomy because technology uses imagination.

I really liked the Queen of Hearts (Alison Black) because she had spunk. I liked that person a lot because she seemed like she knew what she was doing and she was having a lot of fun working on this project. I liked the part when she said, "This croquet match is going to be so much fun because I will have a trial to look forward to" because people usually aren't excited about trials, but she is because she gets to meet her enemy.

I thought the audience participation was cool. I liked the audience participation because it was fun for kids and can be even fun for grownups. They invited me up as a witness and I was a Narwhal, which is an endangered species of sea mammal that has a very odd horn. I thought it was a good idea to have that participation because it made the audience feel like they had done something cool and they had gotten to be a witness or on the jury or a guest in the tea party. I thought the people in the trial scene did a good job handling the kids. The Mad Hatter (Brian Finlay) and the March Hare (Travis Barnhart) also did a good job handling the kids when they had the tea party and they were like "change seats! change seats!" When I was there, there was a little girl who played a duck, and the only thing she ever said was "quack quack quack," and it was so adorable.

In the croquet scene, they were using hedgehogs as croquet balls. The hedgehogs were like rolling technology, remote-control cars with fur and a nose and eyes. I liked the hedgehogs because they were more creative than just using regular balls or stuffed animals. And I also thought the Caterpillar's (Tahnee Lacey) costume was creative. It was great because she had like a caterpillar's tail wrapped around her and antennae. I thought it was cool that they put the Caterpillar scene and the mushroom out in the audience.

Expensivo was a pretty bad idea just because it is hard to make a bad guy seem not cheesy in a show that is for kids. Little kids like cheesy things, like the Care Bears and Dora the Explorer. But older kids think those are bad and cheesy things, unless they are done by The House Theatre. I used to think Dora the Explorer was amazing, but now I think it is garbage. I would like to have seen Expensivo actually trying to hurt somebody in a physical way--then this show would have been much better. Then this show would have been scary and intense and awesome.

I was hoping to see something that was kind to the book, generous to the author, and didn't make fun of the book. Then when I walked out of the theater, I wasn't saying, "I know lots of things about Alice in Wonderland now and I understand it lots better." I was saying, "I knew that before." The thing that they did well was that they didn't say, let's add in all these things that are not at all in the book.

People who would like this show are people who like audience participation and hedgehogs. I think that the ages that would enjoy this the most are younger kids because it has things that littler kids would be more interested in--like villains trying to destroy fairy tales.

Photos: John Olson

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review of Ten Chimneys at Northlight Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Ten Chimneys because there were ten chimneys all over this estate. It was about this theater company that was rehearsing The Seagull in a summer home. And the people in the theater company were Lynn Fontanne (Lia D. Mortensen), Alfred Lunt (V Craig Heidenreich), Uta Hagen (Sara J. Griffin), and Sydney Greenstreet (Steve Pringle). They are all real people; none of them are made up. They find out about some romance between two people who are not married, which are Alfred and his friend from college. Some brothers, Alfred and Carl (Lance Baker), didn't get along very well because one of them was a pool shark, and that wasn't really a good thing, and he cheats his brother all the time. You pretend to be bad at pool when you are actually very good at pool, and then on the last round you put up a lot of money for it, and then he'll play so good, and then he'll get the biggest amount of money. Lynn and Alfred are fighting about how he doesn't love her anymore, but he kind of still does, and he kind of doesn't. They got together when they were in plays because they loved each other and they both liked acting. Uta Hagen is somebody who has just joined the theater company. I think she likes Alfred which is not good because he is already married to Lynn. Hattie (Linda Kimbrough) and everybody else in the theater company, treat Louise (Janet Ulrich Brooks) like a servant when she isn't; she's part of the family.

I liked how when you got the idea of what was happening, you were like "Wow. I didn't realize that before." Like, oh, Hattie was lying about her playing Nina from The Seagull. I also liked when it was a surprise that Lynn was so sarcastic and tore off her robe and was completely naked. It was strange because why would anyone take off their robe in complete public and be completely naked? They were talking about something she really didn't like the subject of, so she was showing her anger and being sarcastic.

So, it was a little confusing when they were talking about pool sharks because I didn't know very much about pool sharks because they are things that kids don't really have to know. I know what a pool shark is now because I put it together at the end of the show. I thought it was confusing when they would quickly change the subject. So when Lynn and Alfred had just finished a scene and they came in arguing, or at least it so seemed they were arguing. But they were actually rehearsing part of The Seagull, which I did not know til they stopped and started talking about how great the scene was and how good a job they did. I have seen lots of Chekhov plays, like Uncle Vanya and two Cherry Orchards, but I have never seen The Seagull. It would have been clearer to me if I had seen The Seagull.

The parts that I liked in the show were the funny parts. I liked when they were talking about how they had completely forgotten about The Seagull and that trip, and Sydney Greenstreet calls the play the one where the bird is saying "I'm the title! I'm the title!" Saying "I'm the title! I'm the title!" is a little bizarre because if you are saying "I'm the title!" you sound like you are crazy. I liked the scene where Louise threw the plates on the floor because she said "That was an accident," when she totally did it on purpose. Hattie was funny. She was always basically faking dramatic things that happened to her and cool things that she wanted to believe but were not actually true. I didn't want to be good friends with Hattie because she doesn't seem like a person that would really like a person like me, but I did think she was an interesting character.

In the scene where Alfred gave Carl the money to pay back the sharpies, I liked how Carl was like "I paid off the sharpies yesterday, but thanks for the extra." But he should have just been like, "I'll give you back this money because I already paid back the sharpies," but what he actually said was exactly the opposite of that. He was selfish and sophisticated and stealthy. I liked his character but not in way that you think he's good. You like him because he is funny, but you don't like him because he is a little bit evil.

There was something that I was a little bothered by which was that I thought they should have shown more things than they did. I mean, like, they should have shown Alfred going to the town and going to see his friend. They could have just done a quick set change or gone to a part of the stage that wasn't the house and shown you that. I also think they should have shown Uta Hagen not going onstage and being bit and kicked because it was an exciting and suspenseful moment. They should have showed it because they wanted it to be an exciting and suspenseful play. If you show things, then the play will have more meaning to that scene. The effect goes on you in a way that feels like it is actually real. If you just tell, then it doesn't have the exact same volume. It is quieter in a way that is concerning. You are not looking into this other world; you are just watching somebody telling you what might have happened.

People who would like this show are people who like famous actors, history, summer homes, and plate breaking. I think they chose some good characters that were interesting to put in a play. And this will make you, if you have never seen The Seagull, want to see The Seagull or see it again if you have seen it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review of The House Theatre of Chicago's Death and Harry Houdini

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Death and Harry Houdini. It was about important things that happened in Harry Houdini's life. And it is not only about Harry Houdini's life; it is about other people's lives--like Bess, and Theo, and Mrs. Weiss. The things that you learn from this play about Harry Houdini are that he takes good care of his mother, he knows what is good for him very quickly (he marries Bess the evening he meets her), and he wants everybody who is his friend to be immortal.

In the scene where you first meet Bess (Carolyn Defrin), Harry Houdini (Dennis Watkins) was just ending his magic show and he had just said, "Now it gets really tricky when you start using the potato." This is one of my favorite scenes because it has lots of funny things in it. So, Bess said to Harry, "I forgot to thank you for giving me the seat on the trolley this morning" and then they weren't really paying attention, and she says, "I was on the trolley with you this morning," and Theo (Shawn Pfautsch) said, "I was?" thinking that he was the person on the trolley. So, when Theo starts paying attention he says, "Hi, pretty lady" like he's a little scared because she is so pretty. But his brother actually ends up getting Bess, and Theo turns out to be her brother-in-law. It tells us that Theo, when he was young, like his twenties, he was a little clueless. You still like him because he is funny in that way. And when he is so scared he can't stand it anymore, he leaves and says "Bye, pretty lady" in the exact same way. I think its really funny.

In the next scene, Harry and Bess go out in a boat--it is actually just a set piece that rolls around and he paddles with her ukelele. It shows you that they are very much in love because they are out in a boat and they are singing about how they could call each other anything--like, for example, the first line of the song is "Bessie, baby...can I call you baby?" "You can call me anything" "Good." Then at the end of the song Bess says, "Harry, are you presuming marriage, but I think I feel it too!" That tells you that they are about to get married. They are a good couple. They left love notes for each other around the house; I learned that in a Harry Houdini book. The play also shows you that they are a very good couple, except for something that goes on in her head. So when he was being a little inconsiderate when he bought a dress for Mrs. Weiss (Marika Mashburn) but Bess thought it was for her, she says, "I think I just got a little carried away," and then she shoots at him. And then they are all there standing still and then they explain what Bess has just done. And then when it comes back, Harry is handed a cup, and he looks sideways at her, and spits out the bullet. I think that is really funny because he is like, "That can't get me very bad. I am an escape artist, so don't try to shoot me because I have a few tricks up my sleeve, like being able to spit out a bullet."

In the scene where Harry Houdini goes to stop this weird Frenchman called Hilmar the Great (Kevin Stangler), or something along the lines of that, Hilmar says he is Harry Houdini's apprentice when he isn't. And when Hilmar came in and said "Bonjour bonjour bonjour," then his assistant (Trista Smith) came over with a pair of handcuffs. They are acting all like "Thank you! We are so happy to be here!" by being happy and having big smiles on their faces. They're not supposed to be realistic smiles; they are smirking because nobody knows that he is not actually Harry Houdini's apprentice. You feel a little sad for Hilmar, when Harry tells him to say that he is a fraud, even though he did something very bad. He was lying, after all, to basically all of France. You still feel sorry for him because he is very nervous because he has just gotten in trouble with his "master." He admired him, and then he got in trouble with him because he did something bad to Harry's accomplishments. There is only one Handcuff King. Hilmar could have been the Jail King. But he cannot say he is the apprentice of anybody if he is actually not their apprentice. But now he can open up a new magic show that tells the truth. It depends if he will actually tell the truth or he will keep getting in trouble with his so-called "masters."

In the scene where Rabbi Weiss (Abu Ansari) dies, Harry is very sad because the doctor is telling him it might be tonight, and by it he means Rabbi Weiss might die tonight. Death and his two girl assistants saw Rabbi Weiss in half, and his feet and his head and his arms are separated from each other. I thought it was a scary but cool trick. It is a good thing to represent death because it is being cut in half and being cut in half kills you--if you aren't doing magic. I think this was a good way to represent Rabbi Weiss's death because it gives you an idea that this is gonna be a scary play.

In the scene where Bess is getting tea for Mrs. Weiss, Bess gets angry because Mrs. Weiss is not being very considerate to her. And then when she asks for honey, she said, "Oh you want me to sing" and then she sings "I'm a little teapot." And then, when she says "tip me over and pour me out," she shows her underpants. I thought it was pretty funny because I was like, "I'm not sure what to do for Mrs. Weiss right now. I feel sorry for her, but I also feel very sorry for Bess because Mrs. Weiss was being pretty mean to her."

The narrator (Johnny Arena) is there because there might be some things you cannot understand, like why would Bess fire a gun at Harry? Then he can explain it. And when Harry come out on stage in a straightjacket upside down, then you won't just think "this is a trick that Harry Houdini does," you will know it is Harry being born. I think it is good that they had a narrator, because otherwise things would have gotten pretty confusing. He sounded excited and like he was about to tell you an exciting and death-defying story, not like he was about to tell you what was going to happen to Michaelangelo. They chose the style of the narrating to fit magic, to fit suspense, to fit excitement!

I think they used dance and music because it helps explain the story of Houdini's life better than just going on and saying "This is Harry Houdini's life" with no music or accompaniment or dance. There was a lot of music and dance in his actual life because Bess was a dancer and a singer. And it makes the story more exciting and adds a little bit of panache to it. He didn't have a regular life; he had a exciting life, and usually musicals are not about regular life; they are usually about exciting life. I liked the dance and song "We are the Brothers Houdini" because it had lots of jazzy stuff and I like jazzy things. And I also really liked "Bessie, Baby" because it was a nice, slow, and romantic song.

I really thought the magic tricks brought Harry Houdini's life to life. It made me feel surprised because it made me feel like I was really seeing Harry Houdini. And if it didn't make you feel like that it might not be a very good play. But it wasa very good play. I could never see him in real life, because Harry Houdini would be 138 years old and almost nobody lives to be that old. And anyway I don't think he could do the water torture cell because he would be so old, or escape from straightjackets. I don't know if he could even play a good game of chess. We don't have Harry Houdini, but we do have Dennis Watkins who is like another dimension of Harry Houdini. He even does the water torture cell trick. He also does the swallowing needle trick--which I have no idea how he does that! He also knows how to do the Metamorphosis box trick. The magic in the show helped get the story of Harry Houdini perfectly right

People who would like this show are people who like magic, music, excitement, and mystery. The mystery is how he does the tricks. I think this show should be for ages 6 and up. You should not get tickets for the next few weeks, because they are almost always sold out. So you should see it in the summer when it is remounted. The second that you start the show, you know that this show is going to be awesome, exciting, and amazing. And it is.

Photos: Michael Brosilow