Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ada Grey's Top Ten of 2013

It has been a great year for me reviewing shows. I reviewed twice as many shows as last year! There are so many shows that I loved that did not make it on the list. I really hope that next year I can see even more shows. I want to thank all the theater people in Chicago for making Chicago a great place for theater!

Here are my top ten shows in alphabetical order:

12 Nights (The Hypocrites): "People who would like this show are people who like Shakespeare, rainbows, and mix tapes."

Big Love (Strawdog Theatre Company): "People who would like this show are people who like being free, being in love, and flip-up sunglasses."

Bo Thomas and the Case of the Sky Pirates (Babes with Blades): "People who would like this show are people who like: mysteries, complicated secretaries, and evil Greek ladies."

Bud, Not Buddy (Chicago Children's Theatre): "People who would like this show are people who like jazz music, love and family, and Sleepy La Bone."

The Crownless King (The House Theatre of Chicago): "People who would like this show are people who like dragons, storytellers, hammers, and ear trumpets."

Great Expectations (Strawdog Theatre Company): "People who would like this show are people who like Dickens, larks, and somersaulting babies."

Lil'Women: A Rap Musical (Nobody's Sweetheart Productions at Chicago Fringe Festival): "People who would like this show are people who like rapping, ill-spittin' lil' women, and tricky high fives."

The Mikado (The Hypocrites): "People who would like this show are people who like kissing people on the head with two fingers, fish (because there are lots of good fish in the sea), and sassy maid-ens."

To Master the Art (TimeLine Theatre Company): "People who would like this show are people who like food, France, and fun!"

Wicked (Broadway in Chicago): "People who would like this show are people who like friendship, flying monkeys, and awesome Glinda squeals."

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review of The Strange Tree Group's The Dead Prince at DCASE Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Dead Prince. It sounds sort of like a horror show, but it is not. It is a hilarious musical. It was written by Emily Schwartz and it was directed by Paul S. Holmquist. It is about a Princess named Sara (Delia Baseman when I saw it, but usually Ann Sonneville) and a man named Will (Zachary Sigelko) and they are going to find the Princess's true love (Scott Cupper), but then they find out he's dead and that is not such good news. And there was this magic mirror named Maldorf (Michael Thomas Downey) who told them the Prince was dead and they have to take him along for directions. I think that this show is a really great show; it is fun but also scary and also sweet.

I really liked "The Bat Song." I thought it was really funny because all of them were just singing, "This is the song about all the bats" or something along the lines of that. And then they were using bat puppets and me and my dad and mom were going hysterical. It was really funny because they were just saying that and every single person was hiding under a blanket or something and bats were hovering over their heads. I think that the bat puppets (designed by Noah Ginex and Sarah Scanlon) were really cool but not really realistic either. I think they made them not super realistic because then it makes you feel more like you are in a fairy tale.

I really liked the character Princess Sara because she wasn't just like (Read this in a refined voice.) "I am a princess! You have to do everything…for ME!" I think that Princess Sara was a very cool princess, how she was looking for her true love instead of asking other people to do it for her or just waiting for her prince. Her true love was not actually the Dead Prince, it was Will who was a minstrel and was standing right in front of her and helping her through this entire journey. I think that Delia who had stepped in at the last moment did a really good job playing the part with a script in her hand. But I think that Ann would have been great too. I think that Delia did a really good job designing the costumes as well. My favorite costume I think was the Princess's costume. I think it was a really good idea to use ribbons for the blood when Diggs (Cory Aiello) gets his arm chopped off.

I really liked the mirror Maldorf. I thought that he was really really funny. When Sara was talking, he was in the background moving his arms and doing explosion sounds like boom shish shish boom. That was so funny because it wasn't so over the top that it wasn't funny; it was perfect on the funny chart. There was another cool magic character which was the old lady, otherwise known as Oh, Death (Amber Vaughn Robinson) who talked in a really weird way and I'm thinking about it and I am laughing. There was this time when Death was talking to Maldorf after she had taken some of his friends. I liked this because it was very tense and you didn't know if he was going to get back his friends or not. I think they did a really great job putting the characters that were usually funny into a suspenseful scene.

There was a thief who fell in love with somebody he was robbing and their names were Leopold (Dan Behrendt) and Tasha (Kate Nawrocki). But then the farmer who he was robbing got really angry because the thief was smooching his daughter. And they learned that it is better to be in love and not to just think that somebody is sexy. I really liked the farmer's daughter because she was very tough and I like tough girls. I know that she was tough because she took off Diggs' arm. I think that these characters are really awesome because they are not like any characters I usually see in a musical or fairy tale.

The Dead Prince was a really funny character. One of my favorite times was when he sat up and he grabbed the mandolin and started to play a really romantic song and then he fell over and said, "Oh no." That was really funny because you didn't know he was going to fall over and then he says "Oh no" and he says it in a very princely voice and then he has to get up again. Getting up again involves a lot of work. There was another really funny part that the Dead Prince did; when they were riding, he was asking about all the princely things to do. And since Princess Sara said hunting was princely, he said something along the lines of "Let's go out and shoot things together then."

People who would like this show are people who like tough girls, do-it-yourself princesses, and magic mirrors pretending to explode. I think this show should be for ages 8 and up. Some 7 year-olds might not be able to handle it but a lot of them could. This show closes this Sunday so you should go see it as fast as possible because it is amazing and I don't want anyone to miss this great experience.

Photos: Emily Schwartz

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review of The Merry Wives of Windsor at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was written by William Shakespeare and it was directed by Barbara Gaines. It was about a man named Falstaff (Scott Jaeck) who really liked the ladies, well, he wants money but he also wants to seduce them. He also likes to drink and eat. It is also about Master Ford (Ross Lehman) who thinks that Mistress Ford (Heidi Kettenring) is having an affair with Sir John Falstaff. But Mistress Ford has a friend, Mistress Page (Kelli Fox) who wants to make their husbands (Lehman and Kevin Gudahl) be embarrassed, and also Sir John Falstaff. It is about romance, wanting something that you can't have, and tricky wives of Windsor. This is a really good play. I recommend it to anybody who likes Shakespeare.

This setting was not in Elizabethan times and it was not in the time that is happening right now. It was in the middle, in the 1940s. You can tell because of the costumes and the set. Sir John Falstaff was in the army during World War II; that is important because he is still wearing an army uniform to impress ladies. He could have fought bravely, but it is sort of unlikely because he doesn't seem to be the kind of person who would put his life in danger. Because the war is over, the wives can play pranks. During the war they would have hid in cellars and have been working at the Red Cross. You could also tell it was the 1940s because of the music they played. Like whenever two people fell in love or were being cheesy they sang a song from that time.

I thought that it was really awesome how they had actual dogs be in the show. I thought that was really awesome because the dogs were so cute and they were really actually interacting with the story. Good job, dogs! One of my favorite moments that happened with the dogs was the chase scene and how the dogs just followed along in different ways. I really liked the dog that was on the poster. I got to pet it afterwards and it was super fluffy.

The part where the Merry Wives were trying to get Falstaff in the basket was really funny because they were like screaming at him hatefully and then they would put in the clothes lovingly, and then they would toss them all in, and then they would put them in lovingly. I really liked the Merry Wives because they were really funny and they always wanted to play tricks on men. They are clever. That tells us that women are cool. Playing tricks makes them have more fun than just telling their husbands to stop or to do something. There was this part where Mistress Ford was talking to Falstaff and was hissing in her words because that was supposed to make Mistress Page come. And Mistress Page didn't comes, so Mistress Ford was like, "You are the ssssssweetest, John Falsssssstaff." I thought that that was really funny because you knew what she was trying to do.

I liked the part where Sir John Falstaff was in the tub and he dropped his soap in the tub and then he said "Ooops" and Dolores (Amy Montgomery) just walked away. I thought that was really funny because she didn't fall for that. She was like, "Nobody's going to get your soap, especially not me." I think that she was really good at making herself sassy. The bath wasn't like a bathtub; it was like a tub of water in a barn. And it seemed like he was comfortable in the barn, but I don't think I would be.

I really liked the scene where Master Ford took all his friends to his house so then they could see that his wife
was having an affair. It was hilarious because when he came in, he is like, "Set down the basket!" And he's like " everybody prepare to be amazed." And then he opened up the basket and there was nobody in there. And he kept ripping out different kinds of clothing and sheets. At little points he would just pause and pull out underpants. If Falstaff was in there, he would have gotten to him right away because he is a very big man, and he is a grown man as well. That is probably one of the funniest parts of Merry Wives of Windsor.

Anne Page (Tiffany Yvonne Cox) was a very pretty girl who was the daughter of Mistress Page. Her dilemma is that there are a lot of men who want to marry her but she is only in love with one. The men are Dr. Caius (Greg Vinkler) who is a French doctor who likes dogs, Slender (Steven Sutcliffe) who is a really weird guy who likes to sing "You Are My Sunshine," and Fenton (Matt Mueller) who she was actually in love with and he was from the Air Force. I liked the part where Slender sang "You Are My Sunshine" and Anne Page was laughing behind the flowers he had given to her. There was another song where he did the splits at the end but failed. I thought that that was really funny because he just fell over.

I loved the part where Mistress Quickly (Angela Ingersoll) puts Simple (Christopher Chmelik) in the closet. It was really funny because then the doctor came and he said, "I'm going to take a walk," but then he comes back and says, "Oh, I forgot my cane" and then he goes to the closet and then you can see her facial expression go like, "Nope. Just don't find him in there. Just don't see him in there." And then the doctor says, "Why is there a stranger in my closet?" and then he is trying to get Simple and Simple is like freaking out. And he was freaking out really well; I thought that that was really funny.

People who would like this show are people who like laundry baskets, dogs, and slapstick splits. People should go see this show because it is funny and anybody who likes slapstick would love it. I don't think you really learn anything, but you enjoy it. You wouldn't want to learn anything from this; you would more just want to laugh at it. And you will!

Photos: Liz Lauren

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review of Detective Partner Hero Villain at Strawdog Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Detective Partner Hero Villain by Brett Neveu and it was directed by Gus Menary. It was about a detective (John Wilson), a hero (Sam Guinan-Nyhart), a partner (Marc Rita), and a villain (Tim Parker). It could also be about one person who was all those things. It was about a detective who was being confused because he had a very difficult case about this guy who kept hitting people who were wearing shirts of a superhero on the head with pipes and killing them. The problem of the play is trying to solve the case: who is the killer and where is the killer. But it is also about finding out what is up with the hero: why is he not saving the day? The detective finds out that he's not just the detective but that he is a partner, a hero, and a villain. There are three partners, two detectives, two heroes, and two villains. The Detective is the partner of the evil and the good and he is also the villain because he helps out the villain and he is the hero because we get to know him most. People should totally go see this. It was so amazing. The space is perfect for the show. All the actors were really great and they were perfect for their roles. It is a hard show for the mind, but it doesn't make you get angry; it is a good puzzle for your head.

I thought that the scene where the villain talked to the detective on the phone was very suspenseful. It was suspenseful because you felt like the villain could just be right outside his door or right behind him. I thought that the villain was really well-cast. He really freaked me out and I thought he was awesome. When he did his villain voice I felt like he was right behind me and could hit me over the head with that pipe. For a second you liked him because in the second scene on the phone he was acting really weird and funny. But then after he said about three lines he went back to being creepy. He was mostly pretty scary and he was basically the clue machine because he basically told the detective where he was. I thought it was funny how the detective said about the villain "His name is Super Doug, I mean Supernova." His actual name was Doug but changed his name to Supernova because it was more super-villain-like. You can't just say, "Hi, I'm Doug. You'd better run." Because it didn't sound scary, but if you say, "My name is Supernova," then they'll run.

I liked how the partner kept thinking of different metaphors that didn't really work. They didn't work because they just didn't make sense. He was trying to be super super smart but kind of failing. He was like, "imagine there are two halves of a circle and there is another half of the circle but that just has to go on top." You need somebody in a play that you just love that character because he's the comic relief. Somebody that is trying to be super smart is just super funny. The partner also had some serious parts like when he told the detective that they'd caught Supernova. I think that the person who played the partner was very awesome and amazing because he was great for the part and for a play like this he was the best comic relief ever. He has this line at the end that is really funny but I can't tell you because it would give away the ending.

So the Detective is the main character and he is serious most of the time. You feel like he is the hero because you get to follow his story most and you get to know how he is feeling and what he is thinking. You were interested in him and pitied him because he was lost throughout most of the play. He was emotionally lost because he didn't really know which was the good side and which was the bad side. He didn't want to be on the wrong side and he didn't want everybody to turn against him. I thought it was scary when the detective pulled out his gun because I knew that he was going to shoot it and he made it even more suspenseful by making it seem like he was going to kill this person and he was ready to do it. I thought that he was really perfect for this part. I thought that this actor was really amazing; he was scary but not too scary.

I thought that the hero was very funny. I really liked it when he came up to the detective and gave him a hug because superheroes don't usually give detectives hugs. He was sort of like Batman, but he is not like Batman because he is sweet and they make t-shirts of him. They make t-shirts of Batman in the real world but not in Gotham City. I thought this superhero wasn't always like (read this in a serious voice) "I'm Fantastic Phenomenon." He actually said what he wanted; he wanted to stop saving people because it was getting hard. Sam was great for this part because he seems like he could be a superhero because he is tough and knows how to do fight choreography but he doesn't seem like he can do everything in the world so that makes the complicatedness more believable.

I thought that the costumes (by Aly Renee Amidei) were really great and seemed like detective, partner, hero, and villain outfits. I really liked how the hero's outfit looked like Batman's and the mask covered part of his face. I also really liked the villain's outfit; I thought it was cool how it looked like part of his chest was exposed and was bloody. But it was actually a supernova, which is when stars burst and make a beautiful light pattern. I thought that how it looked like a bloody chest AND a supernova made it even more scary.

When you first get there you feel kind of scared. There are three reasons why you feel kind of scared. One is that there are outlines of people with blood on their heads. And two is that you have just heard that there is going to be a gunshot at some point. And three is that there is this music that was atmospherically creepy (sound by Stephen Ptacek). But then you are not scared through the whole show because there are funny things and serious things and dramatic things.

People who would like this show are people who like batman-like superheroes, supernovas, and nonsensical metaphors. This show is amazing and fun and funny but also suspenseful.

Photos: Tom McGrath

Monday, December 9, 2013

Review of A Christmas Wish at Quest Theatre Ensemble

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Christmas Wish and the book and lyrics were by Andrew Park, who also was the director, and the music was by Scott C. Lamps. This play was about Dasher (Andrew Behling) from Santa's sleigh team after he died and was put in a taxidermy shop with a Beaver (Vince Lonergan) whose wife had died, a Turkey (Veronica Garza) who didn't like people staring at her breast, the Goat (Kirk Osgood) who cursed the Cubs, a Bear (Kent Joseph) who wanted to run away with a girl bear (Kieran Welsh-Phillips), a Fish (Amy Stricker) that used to be a prostitute, and two pairs of Hooves (Lindsey Spencer and Welsh-Phillips) that didn't have a story. I didn't really understand what was supposed to happen to the characters because I thought the actors were really expressive but the text was really confusing for the audience. And why did it take place in a taxidermy shop? I had some ideas, but none of them really fit with the story. I expected a story about a little girl or little boy who wanted something from Santa for Christmas. It sounds like a really family-friendly thing, but when I saw it I thought it seemed more like an adult thing. It was like a children's play but with a bunch of inappropriate things stuck in. Instead of it being about the happy parts of Christmas, it was about death, sorrow, selfishness, and prostitution.

There was this song about this fish who was a prostitute and how that was her big secret and how sad she was about that. The actress did a good job singing the song, but the thing that I thought wasn't that good about the song is that it was about a fish prostitute and the dancing in the back was a little bit scary I thought because the guy Dancing John (Osgood) peeled off some of his shirt and started rubbing his bare chest in a sexy way while basically drooling. This play was literally called A Christmas Wish but it should have been called A Burlesque Fish.

"At Tom's Shop," was a song which went like this: "At Tom's Shop, feel good tonight, at Tom's feel good toniiiiight." It is catchy, but not in a good way. It is catchy in the way that you want to get it out of your head but you can't. There was another song called "The Most Annoying Song" and it was actually less annoying than some of the other songs.

I thought that the song Jane Doe (Molly LeCaptain) sang about how she was going to sue Walt Disney because she wanted her prince to come was a cool idea for song because it was funny but then also I remembered later in the car what happens to the deer in Bambi. The girl dies. And Jane Doe is a deer and girl, so I would call that a prediction that she is going to die. And the prediction was right. The thing was that it went on a little bit too long. I think that she was a very great singer and I thought that she was very good at singing high-pitched notes and being very interacting with the song.

I liked the actor who played Dasher. I thought that he was really committed to his character and wasn't just saying all the lines. And he sang this rock song about how he was going for the girl and I thought that that was really good. Santa (Kent Joseph) did not want him to get married to Jane Doe because it would mess up the team somehow. When Dasher gets to Santa he sings the song, but the thing is that Santa was acting sexy with the backup ladies and I thought that that was another reason why this shouldn't be called A Christmas Wish because it makes you feel like Santa is completely bad.

My favorite song was the song that the Turkey sang about how everyone is just staring at you like you are just a piece of meat. I liked that a lot because it wasn't about anything inappropriate; it was just about men and how men can sometimes be really annoying. It is about how men can be sexist and how women and turkeys and turkey-women should act against that. I thought the dancing and the singing was really good for this song and it seemed like everybody knew what they were doing and everybody was all together.

People who would like this show are people who like feminist Turkeys, reindeer singing rock songs, and fish prostitutes. But even if you like these things I'm not sure if you will want to go to the show because there are also a lot of strange things that are hard to understand. I don't think it was trying to be a parody. It was just trying to be its own Christmas show, but that is a Christmas show I'm not very excited to go and see.

Photos: Braxton Black

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review of American Blues Theater's It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called It's a Wonderful Life. This is a radio play of It's a Wonderful Life, the movie. This is different from just watching the movie because it is actually in color and they add live ads that they speak into the microphones that are actually for things that you can just walk out of the theater and do it, like Insomnia Cookies, probably the best cookie place on earth, right across the street from the theater. Everybody but George Bailey (Kevin R. Kelly) plays more than one part. I think that they did a very nice job of making them play completely different types of characters. It is fun to see them change characters immediately. I think this show should be for ages 6 and up. Some five years olds could see it if they are okay with a lot of romance talk.

I really liked the characters Ernie (Ian Paul Custer) and Bert (John Mohrlein). They were awesome because they were really funny. They were perfect for the parts of Ernie and Bert and I thought that it was really funny how they looked like Ernie and Bert in the movie, but also in Sesame Street. I loved how when they came on as the characters you really knew that they were Bert and Ernie because they were chatting and trying to look cool, like cab drivers and cops do. I really liked how when George and Mary (Gwendolyn Whiteside) came back from their wedding, Bert and Ernie were singing this song together and they were singing it in a really funny way. They were singing "I love you truly, my dear!"

The person who played Bert also played Clarence, which I thought was cool because cop and angel are not exactly the same thing. And he also played Mr. Potter who is the bad guy. I thought that was a cool decision to let us be able to see what that actor looks like as three completely different parts. I think that he was good at all of the different parts that he had to play even though they were so different.

I really liked the part where Uncle Billy (James Joseph) was drunk and he fell into garbage cans and he said, "I'm all right! I'm all right!" He seems like a funny, hilarious drunk. It is not always funny when people drink, but when Uncle Billy drinks he is the most hilarious drunk. When Uncle Billy loses the money you feel really sad for him because Uncle Billy is a really nice guy. Everybody was really angry with him because they thought that he had just gone out and bought a candy bar and gave them all the money because he was just stupid. But really Mr. Potter wanted everybody to think that George stole the money and was horrible.

The sound effects (by Shawn Goudie) I thought were pretty cool because they used things they actually use in radio plays. Like when they closed the door they didn't just go off stage and slam a door, they had a door that they could slam right there that was small and that people could carry. The smoking, how they actually lit a match, was really cool because you saw the light flicker and then it was gone. Even though George was just sucking on a pencil, the sound effects made it seem like he was actually smoking a cigar. There was a little bar on stage where you could see all the sound effect equipment.

The scene where George and Mary fell in love was a very nice scene I thought because they got telephone cups and were listening to Sam Wainwright (Michael Mahler) on the telephone together. That is so nice because they had to both listen so they were practically kissing and I thought that was funny because they basically fell in love by talking to someone on the phone together. Earlier in the scene, the mother (Denice Mahler) is upstairs when George comes to visit Mary. She says, "What is George Bailey doing down there?" And then Mary says, "He's making violent love to me, Mother!" Even though he is just sitting in a chair. I thought that that was really funny.

There was this part where George Bailey came home and all his kids were running around everywhere. Then there was this moment where the youngest kid said, "Excuse me!" and then he said, "Excuse you for what?" and the kid said, "I burped." I think they should have made that moment longer instead of making the lines very quick. That would have made more people laugh. The problem with adults playing little kids is that they don't seem like kids because they aren't kids. I think that the woman who played Zuzu (Denice Mahler) did a good job on whispering her line, "I want to look at my flower." But it made it funnier to have an adult be the kid because that is not what happens in the movie. I think it made it funnier instead of touching or bittersweet. That I think is okay, but I think I prefer bittersweet or touching.

People who would like this show are people who like angels, phone romance, and hilarious drunks. People should go see this show because it is funny and anybody who likes the movie would love this show. It makes you feel like you are a fancy person in the 1940s.

Photos: Johnny Knight