Saturday, October 10, 2015

Review of The Revel at The House Theater of Chicago

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Revel. It was by Damon Kiely and the music was composed by Jess McIntosh. The lyrics were by Jess McIntosh and Damon Kiely. It was directed by Leslie Buxbaum Danzig. It was about these women (Jeanne T. Arrigo, Kamille Dawkins, Courtney Jones, Julia Merchant, and Bridget Rue--Eunice Woods is usually in the show, too, but not the day I saw it) who didn't go to work because of this pastor Deacon (Andy Lutz) who told them if they went up to the top of this mountain and sang for God that they didn't have to work. The leader of the women is Agatha (Sarah Charipar) who has two kids, Peter (Chris Mathews) and Cadie (Christine Mayland Perkins). But Peter doesn't like the idea of the women skipping work because he's promised the bank that they would be able to repay their debts. And the Sheriff (Michael E. Smith) has been told by Peter to get the girls down from the mountain, but he does it much more harshly than he needs to. Then Agatha transforms in a way I don't want to spoil. And then Peter goes up there to see if he can convince them, dressed as a woman. But of course they get super mad that he has disguised himself and betrayed them, so they go way too far. This play is about how being filled with the spirit isn't good if you can't love anything else, how women shouldn't be oppressed, and not knowing how to stop from going too far.

I felt like the choices that the women made in the show were not the best choices. I felt like they should have gone to work because the entire state of their town was in their hands. But of course at first they didn't know that. But then they wouldn't stop and they became crazy and started saying that burning the devil out meant killing people. But it is not supposed to be literal; it is supposed to be about being righteous. But then they take it so literally and so terribly that they turn into bad people. And they become overly free; they are too free for their own good and that makes them not think straight, so they make bad choices. They even go so far as killing the people they actually love.

I feel like this would have been a more feminist story if all the women did not seem dumb at the beginning and then turn into complete psychopaths in the end. The story seemed to be saying that women can't understand metaphors or things that people, like Deacon, say. At first I thought it was going to be a church story with a bunch of cool music, but then it turns into this weird, gory story about women who have a lot of power but they don't use it right. It could be interpreted to be saying, "Don't let women have power because they will just mess it all up." I think they might have wanted to show us that if women are oppressed, then they can act this way, so we shouldn't oppress women. But that didn't work for me because afterwards Agatha is very sad about her choices. And I think she should be. So the play doesn't really give us any sort of confirmation that women make any good choices in life. I feel like people could interpret it in a lot of different ways, so I'm not saying that they were not being pro-women. It could just be interpreted that way by some people.

I thought the set (by Grant Sabin) was really cool. It had a bunch of different levels. It looked all rickety and old and I thought that was cool. This show was based on a Greek play called The Bacchae but it is not set in Greece. It is set in Appalachia during the Depression. The set, when you walked in gave you a sense of where the story would take place. I liked the columns and the way there were different ways of accessing different parts of the set. There were these rolling stairs that they would move so that people could climb up to different spaces and I loved that too.

I thought all the dancing, which was like clog dancing, was really fun and cool. Barbara Silverman was the clogging instructor, and Bridget Rue did the choreography. The dancing showed you that the women were happy at the moment, but then a little bit after that they were still happy but they were not such good people. Clogging is a very happy hoppy kind of dance but it is also loud and stompy, so it was good for the characters to show the angry and the happy sides of them.

I really liked the acting a lot too. I thought Cadie was maybe one of the only sane women who was a character in the show. When people were trying to set her mother on fire, she went for help. She didn't just join in on the whole fiasco. I felt like the role was portrayed really well so she was a likable character. At the very end something very sad happens to her and I was at the verge of tears. I felt like Charipar was also very strong as Agatha. She had a lot of character and she switched sides over the course of the show. I like that because you actually get to see the change in her personality from when she is a sensible mother to when she is a spirit-filled maniac. I felt like the Deacon was not a good person, but he was a really interesting character. He was kind of like a mystery character. You didn't know anything about him except that he was a Deacon. It seems like he might be a kind of con man, but maybe things just went wrong. He provided the spirit, but he did not say to kill people, so I don't think he is entirely in the wrong.

People who would like this show are people who like amazing sets, great acting, and spirit-filled clogging. I think people should go see this show. It was fun to be at and it makes you think a lot about being a child, being a parent, and being a woman.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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