Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review of Griffin Theatre's London Wall

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called London Wall. It was by John Van Druten and it was directed by Robin Witt. It was about life in the workplace in the 1930s in London. They have put women in the workplace and that was a big change because women weren't really considered as office workers before. They face challenges because a lot of the people are still very sexist, so women have to learn how to be comfortable and how to protect themselves in the workplace. This play is about deceit, love, and how from the outside an office can seem normal but inside a lot of drama happens. I thought that this was a really great show. I found it exciting and thrilling and I loved it a lot.

Pat Milligan (Rochelle Therrien) kind of connected all the stories together. She also was going through very hard times at the moment because she had just moved to the city and she didn't really know what she was doing. She is friends with Hec Hammond (George Booker) but he doesn't feel like they should only be friends, and sometimes she doesn't either but he can't buy her a bunch of fancy stuff, so she feels like she shouldn't be with him. Mr. Brewer (Nick Freed), however, is very rich and can buy her a lot of fancy stuff. But the problem is that he is not exactly a good person. And Miss Janus (Vanessa Greenway) tries to help Hec and Pat get together because she really wants them to be happy. She likes Pat a lot and she is doubting her own choices about love. From beginning to end you are always rooting for Hec and Pat because they seem like they would be a really good couple, but the problem is that they are too worried to actually express their feelings.

This play kind of reminded me of a old-fashioned version of The Office because there is a relationship you are rooting for, a really clueless boss (Ed Dzialo) who is nice person but not very helpful, and it is funny but also has sad moments. My favorite funny scene was the scene where Miss Hooper (Ashley Neal), Miss Buffton (Amanda Powell), and Birkinshaw (Michael Saguto) were reading evidence for a divorce case. They weren't just reading it and being sad. They were reading it and saying, "We shouldn't be reading this," and then immediately going back to reading it. They find the entire thing shocking and interesting. And their reactions are just hilarious. Miss Willesden (Mary Poole) is a rich old lady who doesn't have any family and she comes to the office to keep getting her will redone. She is one of my favorite funny characters because she is so lovable. But then you also feel sorry for her because she doesn't have anybody even though she seems like such a nice person. She was very enthusiastic and her outfits were all so vibrant (costumes by Rachel M. Sypniewski). She is also trying to help out young women who don't really know how to live life very fully yet.

I thought it was really cool that this play was written by a man, because I thought it could have been written by a woman because it faces a lot of difficulties about being a woman, like being harassed and being told you can't do something because you are a girl. I liked how Miss Janus was kind of the main character even though she was a woman, and she wasn't always perfect. She struggles with being sociable and with the ups and downs of her work and her life. He shows that Miss Janus is one of the smarter people that works there, even though she is a woman. Women's work is not valued very much in this office, but they do a good job anyway. I think he is trying to call attention to how people thought that women's ideas weren't worth listening to and that women didn't have any reason to talk about work--that should be for men. The women have a pretty good reason for wanting to get married and get out of the office because it is so bad to work there. I found it sad that that was what everyone thought was the best option because there are better options now, like having actual careers.

People who would like this show are people who like stories about young love, office drama, and rich vibrant old ladies. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It was a great way to spend the night because it was funny but really touched on serious topics too. I loved it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review of Sparky at Lifeline Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Sparky. It was written by Jessica Wright Buha based on the book by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans. Music and lyrics were by Laura McKenzie. It was directed by Amanda Link. It was about a girl named Libby (Eunice Woods) who wanted a pet, but she couldn't get a pet unless it didn't have to be walked, fed, or bathed because her mom (Jhenai Mootz) didn't want to have to deal with that. So what she does is that she looks for a pet in an encyclopedia her mom gives her, and so she decides on a sloth, which is a very unusual pet for a young girl. And she names it Sparky (Andres Enriquez). But then she wants Sparky to be a dog, actually. So she tries to teach him tricks, but to no avail. So she has to learn that Sparky can't be a dog and that you should just let somebody be who they are and not try to change them. I thought it was fun and fabulous and it was a weekend morning well spent. I think it would be great to take your kids to!

There was a lot of sloth humor in this, which happens to be one of my favorite things I love sloth humor. Sloth humor is all about slowness; and if you get the right speed of the movement and match it with the outfit and the content facial expression, then you get the perfect sloth comedy. They did. They got perfect sloth comedy. Somebody who didn't seem to like sloths or comedy very much, even though she did a lot of it, was Mary Potts (Juanita Andersen). She was sometimes a total showoff. She was like an actual friend because she could sometimes be super nice but other times she was a complete showoff. She's funny because she is so exaggerated. And she is so confident in what she is saying and doing even though she was sometimes completely wrong. It was hilarious. There was also many a mom joke in this. You have probably heard of dad jokes, but have you ever heard of mom jokes? They are basically the same: the jokes aren't amazing and they are more like puns than jokes. And she silently laughs along with them because she might be the only one who gets them. But I got a lot of the ones in this show because I spend a lot of time with my mom.

The message of the play was that no matter who you are you should always be yourself and let other people be themselves. I think that adults need to know this too. Libby wants Sparky to be like an amazing trained dog. But of course a sloth isn't a trained dog. He is barely even trainable. You should just feel lucky you have it. If adults have a spouse or a kid who is not the way they want them to be, they just need to accept them for who they are instead of trying to change them. People can only change themselves. Libby learns that Sparky is a good friend and that he is really good at playing dead and walking in slow motion. And then she appreciates those things about him.

The music was super fun and energetic and I really liked it. One of my favorite songs was when Mary Potts was singing about her pets, and she was saying my pets can do all this and they are so amazing. Her cat can bake cookies and meow songs! But Sparky can just play tag very...very...slowly.... And the backup singers were her cat (Mootz) and parrot (Rachel Page) and I thought that was also hilarious. I also liked the song where Libby and Sparky were playing hide and seek for the second time. And Sparky had caught on, but Libby was feeling bad, so he decided "I'll hide." And he sang, "Count ten.... Very...very...slowly." It just made me laugh so hard. I loved it! Another song that I liked was the song about the encyclopedia which was all about animals Libby might be able to have as a pet. And they spelled encyclopedia a lot, so you could learn from it!

People who would like this show are people who like mom jokes, talented cats, and playing tag with sloths. I think people should definitely go see this show. I had lots of fun and I really enjoyed watching it.

Photos: Suzanne Plunkett

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review of Stage Left Theatre and Red Tape Theatre's Mutt

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Mutt. It was by Christopher Chen and it was directed by Vanessa Stalling. It was about a woman named Hannah (Aurora Adachi-Winer) who was a race advisor for the Republican party. And she recommends this man named Len (Daniel Smith) who was running for president. A lot of people thought he was the perfect Republican candidate because his ancestors were from everywhere around the world. The Republicans (Ian Daniel McLaren and Mary Williamson) hope he will change everything so they won't have to have any more meetings about race, which they think are stupid. There is also another candidate named Nick (Michael Reyes) who really wants to talk about race in an actual way. But he isn't very good at it. Hannah chooses Len but then she gets fired for dumb reasons. So she decides to become Nick's campaign manager. There are a lot of unexpected twists. This show was all about how politics can go wrong all the time. It is about how politics can't solve all our problems. The play shows you that you can't just think about race, you have to think about personality because if you get somebody to be president who will be a bad president, it doesn't matter what race they are. I liked how the acting was over the top in a great way and how each bit of comedy was connected in some way to earlier scenes.

The Democrats and Republicans are very similar in this show. They were played by the same actors (McLaren and Williamson) which of course made them very similar, but both of them were equally dumb. They both didn't know how handle the government, so they had to say they knew what to do when they didn't. I thought that it was a really interesting choice; it made me think, do they have a lot of similarities in real life? I don't think they have as many similarities in real life as in the show, but they do still have some. I thought that was cool and it made me think about politics. I thought it was a very smart decision to make the Democrats and Republicans equal for once, which usually doesn't happen in a play about politics. I think the writer probably is a Democrat, but he has problems with Democrats as well as Republicans. In the show, Nick wants to be a Democrat instead of a Republican because he wants to feel good about himself. It is kind of true that Democrats are usually depicted as happy with their choices, which can mean they get nothing done.

Comedy emphasizes the way the writer feels about a certain topic. He will make a joke about a certain type of person or thing and that, to me, showed his opinion. Like when the Democrat guy could only say middle class, I thought that was funny. But it also showed you the way that Christopher Chen felt about the way Democrats only think about the middle class and that he didn't like that. Also, everybody was always falling in love with Len and that was very funny because they always went insane when he would walk by like he was Justin Bieber and not a politician who could barely talk. The point is that people will follow someone even if he or she has no idea what they are doing if they think he or she is cute. We don't always choose our politicians in the best way, which would be to see who the politicians are and find who you agree with more and vote for them.

I really liked the therapy scene where Nick is going to therapy and his therapist (Alejandra Vivanco) is like the worse therapist in the world. She was super terrible because she said, "Im not here to listen to you or help you with any of your problems." That is exactly what a therapist should do, and that just shows how Nick would not be a good president since she can fool him. I found the scene hilarious and I couldn't stop laughing. I also loved the witness scenes where this detective (McLaren) is investigating about this serial killer and the witnesses are all played by the same person (Nicole Michelle Haskins). And she would put on all these big characters. My favorite was when she played a choir lady and she sang every single note like Mariah Carey. It was amazing and I loved it.

People who would like this show are people who like comedy, thinking about politics, and singing witnesses. I had a lot of fun at this show and I liked all the over-the-top comedy!

Photos: Tom McGrath

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review of Promethean Theatre Ensemble's Brontë

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Brontë. It was written by Polly Teale and directed by Jaclynn Jutting. It was about the three Brontë sisters who became writers (Anne [Janeane Bowlware], Charlotte [Eleanor Katz], and Emily [Anne Korajczyk]) and about how their writing changed their lives. The had very hard lives because their mother and two of their sisters had died so they basically had to take care of themselves. A lot of people didn't think women should be writers but thought they should just be wives and mothers and housekeepers. But of course the Brontë sisters didn't believe that, so they rebelled by showing that women can write and can make amazing stories and poems. They were not the only women writers but they were really good at portraying the real lives of women and how it is not as easy as people think it is. They don't make women objects; they make them subjects and you get to learn a lot about their feelings. This play tells their story with a lot of flashbacks so that you can see what their life before was like and they do talk to the audience, but not in character. This play teaches you a lot about the Brontë sisters and about their home life as well as their work. I thought this was a bittersweet and interesting show. It made me think a lot about the Brontë sisters and what it must have been like to live in the Victorian era.

I thought that the relationship between Charlotte and her brother Branwell (Ken Miller) was very touching. When they were kids it seemed like they had a lot of the same dreams. You got to see what they were like as kids and how they spent time together pretending to be captains looking for a new land. It ends up that he is not as great an adult as he was a kid because he isn't very kind and he doesn't have any ambitions anymore. So he has an affair with his employer's wife and he feels happy when he is around her, but then the husband catches him and he has to go home to his sisters because he is unemployed. And then he starts to drink. The sisters still love him, but he is doing terrible things to himself and he won't listen to them. Because you love him so much at first because he is so ambitious and the little boy version of him is kind of adorable, it makes it even sadder to see him get so messed up. It makes Charlotte sad, but she acts more angry because she feels he should have done something more.

You don't only see the sisters as themselves, you also see them turning into the characters that they wrote. The sisters play the characters in their own books that speak to them the most. Emily plays Nelly but sometimes speaks along with Cathy (Ashley Fox) from Wuthering Heights. It shows you that she kind of connects with two different characters. Nelly is very protective and tries to help people at every turn. But Cathy is more disturbed. And Emily feels disturbed sometimes and feels hurt and betrayed, like Cathy. But to the outside world she is more like Nelly. Anne turns into Helen from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (I have never read that book, but my mom is a Brontë enthusiast, so she told me about it.) I think she really sees things from Helen's view because her brother is always drunk just like Helen's husband. Charlotte has two characters that you see her become, Jane Eyre and Bertha (Fox). Bertha is not a main character, but you can see Charlotte put a lot of thought into her because you see that she has all these mental connections with the character like how she says some of the same things Bertha says in Jane Eyre when she is trying to write to her teacher Heger (John Arthur Lewis). Also the actor who plays Rochester (Jared Dennis) also plays the person who will become Charlotte's husband, Bell Nicholls. I thought that was very cool that you saw the seeds of her real life in her story.

The sisters do love each other very much, but the play is very realistic as to how siblings are. Siblings are not always super friendly to each other, like Charlotte lashes out at her sisters when she is disappointed about not getting published. But then they are still ready to comfort her after she storms out and comes back. The sister have different ideas about want they want their lives to be like. Charlotte wants fame for herself and her books. She wants to be a part of the community of famous writers. Emily wants everyone to just leave her alone and let her deal with herself. She writes to keep herself from hurting herself and she doesn't want anyone to talk to her about it. Anne wants people to read her work but she doesn't want everyone to recognize her on the street. But they all have one thing in common: they all want to write.

People who would like this show are people who like Victorian novels, stories about talented women, and discovering new lands. I think that people should go see this show. It was fun and it really teaches you a lot about the Brontë sisters and the era they lived in. I enjoyed it.

Photos: Tom McGrath

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review of Route 66 Theatre Company's No Wake

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called No Wake. It was by William Donnelly and it was directed by Kimberly Senior. It was about this man named Edward (Stef Tovar) and he had been through a divorce about a decade ago and now he is at his daughter's funeral. Of course, his ex-wife Rebecca (Lia D. Mortensen) and he don't get along super well at first. She has married a British man named Roger (Raymond Fox), so everything is kind of awkward between the three of them. They are trying to figure out how to stop feeling guilty about the problems their daughter had. And they think of some pretty terrible ways to deal with their sadness that make other people sad. This play is not just insanely sad. It is also very very funny in some parts. It is about love, loss, and fighting for what you want. I thought that this was a really great show. It made me laugh and it also made me sad, and I think that is a pretty good combination.

One time one of the characters was walking along the beach, and he saw a sign that said "No Wake" and he didn't know what it meant. But then he realized that it meant, don't make any waves here. That's what it meant. That is a good title for the play because the characters don't want any waves, they just want their lives to be calm. But then more than one character realizes they want to fight for what they want and not just be calm. Life can be boring because of passivity if you don't have any obstacles. Life is more interesting when you have to fight for what is right and try out new things and rediscover things that impact you in a big way.

Edward and Roger had a fight (fight choreography by John Tovar) that was very funny. They kind of were just flailing around trying to wrestle each other but every time they failed. I thought that was hilarious. When Roger took his shoe off and had to say "Time out" as he hopped around trying to get it back on, even though they were in a hotel room and he wouldn't get his feet dirty, I thought it was hilarious. I think Roger thought that he looked like a wrestler or a big man until he tried to fight and then he realized, "Yeah. I don't." The very opening scene was also really funny. Roger was telling Edward a story about frogs, which is a very strange first conversation to have with somebody, especially your wife's ex-husband. He was talking about kids and what he'd done as a kid. He had thrown around frogs...or were they toads? And he wanted his frogs to get into a diving position and he said if they had done that they never would have gotten hurt on the edge of the bucket. I thought that was funny, but I feel kind of sorry for the frogs because the frogs didn't deserve it. The play is very funny, but also very disturbing, just like the frog story.

The show wasn't always a comedy show. Sometimes it was a bit of a tearjerker. I found it very touching how after Roger and Edward had their fight they kind of made up. It showed that even though what was happening was very sad, just by talking about trying to keep their bodies in shape and complaining about not being in good shape any more, they were able to kind of bond. There was also a very sad scene where Edward and Rebecca were in Edward's hotel room and she realized that she had to talk to him about their daughter. They talk about what it is like to lose their daughter, and how, even though they were not in touch with her anymore and she said she hated them, maybe she didn't hate them and was just sick. But that didn't make everything ok for them because they still felt like something had been their fault. I think it is very sad to think about someone deciding not to talk to their parents.

People who would like this show are people who like touching stories about parents, funny failed wrestling, and diving frogs. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was amazing and everything you could want in a play. I loved it!

Photos: Brandon Dahlquist

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Review of Gotta Dance (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Gotta Dance. The book was by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin and the music was by Matthew Sklar with additional music by Marvin Hamlisch. The lyrics were by Nell Benjamin. It was based on the documentary Gotta Dance directed, written, and produced by Dori Berinstein. It was was directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. It was about this group of older people who audition for a hip hop dance team that will perform at halftime for the New Jersey Cougars basketball team. But of course, the rehearsals don’t go completely smoothly because not everybody gets along and they don’t understand hip hop at first, except for one person. It is about respecting the group that you are in, never being too old to start something, and dancing no matter what. It was super fun!

I liked the song called "Princess" because it was this bonding moment between the grandmother Bea (Lillias White) and her granddaughter Kendra (Joanna A. Jones). Kendra would have to drive her grandmother home every time after practice, but she didn't want to. It showed you that the bond between them was kind of lost, but the grandma was trying to restore it. Their relationship had been that she would spoil Kendra with dance lessons and everything she wanted. But more importantly, she made Kendra realize that there was always someone who loved her and she was more valuable than her boyfriend made her seem. They both had really amazing voices, so both of them singing it together made it a really amazing song.

I really liked the song "¿Como No?" that Camilla (Nancy Ticotin) sang when she danced with her boyfriend Fernando (Alexander Aguilar). I thought it was really catchy and the salsa dancing was amazing. Their feet were moving so fast and they were both so lively when they did this dance. The point of the song is that she is trying to say even if people say I am old and can't do anything, that's not true. And she's doing this amazing song and dance while she is saying it, so it kind of proves everybody wrong!

"The Prince of Swing" was so fun to watch. Ron (Andre De Shields) sang with Tara (Haven Burton) and Jenny (Jonalyn Saxer) about how, when he would go to parties when he was younger, he would introduce himself as the Prince of Swing. Tara is the coach and Jenny is part of the Cougarettes, the young hip hop team. He is trying to teach everybody to dance the way he used to dance and show them that that kind of dance is actual dancing. Also, his wife (Sydni Beaudoin) has passed away, but he has a vision of her and got to dance with her again. I thought that was super sweet. When he was dancing with his wife, the entire room froze for a second to show he was just in his own little world remembering his wife.

Dorothy (Georgia Engel), who is the very innocent kindergarten teacher, had an alter ego, which was Dottie. Dottie was the side that didn't care about what people thought and she also loved rap and hip hop. You weren't really expecting that from this character because she is shy and quiet. She is one of the funniest things that happen in the show because of her song "Dorothy/Dottie" where she raps and dances like a pro. I thought this was funny because it was just such a big behavior change, but she didn't change the way she expressed herself about it. She was just like, "Yes, I like to rap" like she was saying "Yes, I teach kindergarten."

Mae (Lori Tan Chinn) was one of my favorite characters because she just had this very happy personality even though she was in the worst situation. Joanne (Stefanie Powers) wanted to kick her off the team because she messed up. But just because you don't do something perfectly doesn't mean you shouldn't get to do what you love. Also Mae's husband has Alzheimer's, which means he can't recognize her anymore, which I think is so so sad. I thought that giving her a sad song, "The Waters Rise," was a good idea because even funny characters can have something sad in their life. I feel like she should have had some kind of funny song too, just because I liked the character so much.

I wanted to know more about Muriel (Kay Walbye) because her story was so interesting but you didn't spend a lot of time on her. Tara’s story wasn’t as interesting to me because her problems didn't seem as big as the older dancers who were dealing with their families falling apart, divorces, illness, and everybody thinking they can't do anything. But I loved the "Swagger" song and I thought she was a great performer. I just wish they would find a little bit deeper plot for her.

People who would like this show are people who like fabulous dances, the Prince of Swing, and rapping kindergarten teachers. I think people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was super fun and I really enjoyed watching it.

Photos: Matthew Murphy