Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Review of The Taming of the Shrew at Chicago Shakespeare

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Taming of the Shrew. It was by William Shakespeare and it was conceived and directed by Barbara Gaines. The Columbia Women's Club scenes were by Ron West. It was about The Columbia Women's Club putting on their annual play, The Taming of The Shrew, losing one of their cast members and gaining another, and their ideas about women's suffrage. I think this is a really fun and eye-opening play. It made me think of the The Taming of The Shrew in a whole new way and made me realize you don't have to accept the sexist ending.

This play sort of takes place in two different worlds: Shakespeare's play and the Women's Club. You get to see the women's feelings about the play through little chunks in between scenes, which I think actually added a lot to the play because all these women's views are changing, not only about this play, but about women's rights in general. You can see people becoming a little more uncomfortable about their lines and a little less certain that what they are saying is right. At the end of the play, when Katherine (Alexandra Henrikson) gives her submission speech, you can sense everyone in the room start to get more uncomfortable and feel more depressed. I was like, "Oh no. This is going to be the saddest ending of all time." But instead they still tried to resolve things in the frame narrative. I think it did help to not leave everyone thinking "Feminism is hopeless; men are terrible." It left me thinking more about some of the things women did accomplish by displaying how they felt.

I think there were a lot of really great performances in this. I thought Henrikson did a great job showing her arc in both her role as Katherine and as Louise Harrison, who plays Katherine. Crystal Lucas-Perry played Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne and that character playing Petruchio, and those two characters were so different and played so well. I hated Petruchio so much when he was being mean to his wife, who didn't even want to be his wife. He was unappreciative but also a straight-up sexist. Kate Marie Smith, who played Olivia Twist and that character playing Lucentio, seemed so gallant and heroic as Lucentio. She made the part not just a boring dude who is in love with a pretty lady. I really liked Olivia Washington as Emily Ingersoll and that character playing Bianca. You got to see not only Bianca's arc, but Emily's of breaking away from her mother and becoming her own person. Bianca refusing to come to her husband when asked was kind of a parallel to how Emily had just broken away from her mother, which I think was a super interesting parallel. I think Lillian Castillo was really great comic relief as Lucinda James and Biondello. She also had a really great mustache for Biodello. When Biondello noticed that the real Vincentio (Cindy Gold) was actually there, and it wasn't the fake one (Ann James), his reaction was just priceless.

I think this show had some really great visual aspects as well. The set (by Kevin Depinet) was really magnificent. I loved the huge arch that was at the entryway and the glass door; it was all very 20s and reminded me a lot of the Newberry Library. The costumes (Susan E. Mickey) were also really cool. I loved how they used their bloomers as the breeches because they'd lost most of their costumes. I loved how they matched to the dresses they were already wearing. I thought that was really funny. And a way they produced a funny moment out of the bloomers was when Elizabeth Nicewander (James) wandered in and saw that everyone was taking on their skirts. At first she was shocked, but then she was like "Oh. Oh well." and just took off her skirt.

People who would like this show are people who like new takes on classics, great acting, and bloomers. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I have never seen The Taming of The Shrew like this before, and I really loved it.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review of Steppenwolf for Young Adults' The Crucible

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Crucible. It was by Arthur Miller and it was directed by Jonathan Berry. It is about a group of girls--Betty Parris (Kristina Valada-Viars), Susanna Walcott (Stephanie Shum), Mercy Lewis (Avi Roque), Mary Warren (Taylor Blim), and Abigail Williams (Naïma Hebrail Kidjo)--who were dancing in the forest with Reverend Parris' (Peter Moore) slave Tituba (Echaka Agba)and they are suspected of trying to call on the devil. Instead of just taking the punishment they would have gotten, they start accusing other people of witchcraft which leads to destruction and death. But one of the girls, Abigail, has had an affair with her old employer, John Proctor (Travis A. Knight), so she tells everyone that his wife Elizabeth (Valada-Viars) is a witch so that she can be with him, which is really messed up. And when Reverend Parris realizes he can't deal with all these witches on his own, he gets Reverend Hale (Erik Hellman) to help him. But eventually Reverend Hale realizes that maybe the children are lying. It is about the faults of religion, flaws in the judicial system, and acts of courage. I think this is a really intriguing and beautifully done show. It had great visual aspects and it was also really well acted.

There were a lot of really great visual aspects to this show. The set (by Arnel Sancianco) was eerie, like a skeleton of a house on a platform. And the actors all walk out on stage completely silent and sit around the platform in chairs. And then this drum music starts and the girls get up and start to dance with Tituba. I thought that was a really cool way to start the show. It was such a change from the silence and put-togetherness of the actors coming on stage at first. Then it became this loud drum music (by Kevin O'Donnell) and stomping dance. To me, it kind of represented how the play goes. It starts with something normal, a girl being sick, and then it turns into accusations of witches witches everywhere, basically everything going crazy. I thought it was cool how the actors changed on stage too. All of of the costumes (by Izumi Inaba) for different characters played by the same actor were added on to the base costume, and they were all black and white. Against a dark-colored set it was a really cool image.

John Proctor is a very complicated character. He makes a really bad choice to have sexual relations with his employee while his wife was sick. That doesn't make it okay at all; that makes it worse. But he knows he made a mistake and he wants to make up for it by helping save his wife's life. But before he knows his wife's life is in danger, he is sort of mean to her because of how guilty he feels about what he has done. That doesn't make it okay to be a jerk to her. It is sad that they don't get a happy ending, which is how you want it to go. But that is probably not how it should go because he deserved to have a little bit of consequences, but I think the consequences he got from the outside world were too harsh. His wife wanted to forgive him and live with him, but he couldn't do that in the end because he didn't want to lie again, even if it wasn't to her. He becomes a better person over the course of the play. Abigail is also complicated because you know that she isn't doing the right thing by accusing hundreds of people. But you feel sorry for her because you know the reason why she is trying to get Elizabeth out of her life is because she felt like John Proctor had promised her something. Abigail has been tricked by John. But she also makes a mistake. And she doesn't try to make up for it. She just makes many more mistakes that kill 20 people. But also, Abigail gets called a whore because she slept with John even though it probably wasn't all her idea. And even though John gets called a lecher, you mostly remember that he's honest in the end. I'm not sure the play is really trying to forgive Abigail, but it is really interested in forgiving John. But as an audience member I can see ways to forgive Abigail, especially with these particular performances. She does a good job of making me hate her in some scenes and in other scenes be able to see where she was coming from, which is a really hard thing for an actor to do. John Proctor is also not kind to her, he is physically rough with her, which I think adds a lot to how you can sympathize with her.

This show expresses basically what it feels like being a teenage girl. You feel like you want to be noticed, and you'd do anything to get that attention. They want a little excitement in their lives, so they dance in the woods and drink blood, like hanging out with your friends and going to a party when you are not supposed to. And the society around them believes them when they are lying and doesn't believe them when they are telling the truth, which is pretty messed up. I think it is great to have this as part of a theater for young adults show, because so many people will identify with it. It is always good to learn from things other people have done without having to face the consequences yourself. And this is why theater exists--to generate that learning but also catharsis. And that is good to show teenagers.

People who would like this show are people who like eerie sets, thinking about characters in new ways, and witches witches everywhere. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think it is a really great production of this play. It made me think about it in ways I hadn't the first time I saw it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Review of Choir Boy at Raven Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Choir Boy. It was by Tarell Alvin McCraney and it was directed by Michael Menendian. It was about a young man named Pharus (Christopher W. Jones) who went to an all-boys boarding school. And he was the choir lead for the school's a cappella group. But he had an enemy, Bobby Marrow (Patrick Agada), who wanted to bring him down because of his position in the choir and also his sexuality. Bobby's friend Junior (Julian Terrell Otis) is not completely on board with the whole making-fun-of-Pharus thing. The other student Bobby is trying to get on board is David (Darren Patin) a minister in the making who also isn't really sure about himself. AJ (Tamarus Harvell) is Pharus's main supporter. They are roommates and basically best friends. Bobby's uncle is the headmaster (Robert D. Hardaway), so it doesn't seem like Bobby gets the right consequences for his actions. Headmaster Marrow wants Pharus to succeed but moreover he wants his nephew to succeed, so he is sort of stuck. They have a new teacher, Mr. Pendleton (Don Tieri), who has come out of retirement to teach these teens, but he is not always aware that what he is saying might be racist. I thought that this was a fascinating and complex show. I loved the plot and I think it had some really great performances and musical arrangements.

I think Pharus is a really complicated character. You're rooting for him most of the time, but it seems like he has some faults. Like he tries to get what he wants without always considering other people's feelings. He is very competitive. One thing that is really good about him is that he will be himself no matter what other people think. He is also a really good friend to AJ and he wants to do well by his mother. As the choir leader, he seems to get everyone to do what they need to do. I think it makes for a very interesting story to have a main character who doesn't have all noble purposes. He loves people, but he also loves attention and being in the spotlight, and he is willing to make other people unhappy to get that.

I really loved the music in the show. I think the arrangements (music director Frederick Harris) were really great. I really loved the song "Rockin' Jerusalem." I think it was super cool and had some really good choreography (by Breon Arzell). They are all calling their parents while they are singing it and basically you get to hear how their home life isn't that great, and how they are all afraid of disappointing their parents or that they already have. The song is happiness and jubilation but while they are actually talking they are not happy or full of jubilation. "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" was a pretty sad song, as you can probably tell by the title. It is really sad because it shows how these kids don't get to see their parents much anymore. That actually might be their experience; they might feel like a motherless child. They are teenagers and they have a lot of stuff they should probably be talking about to their parents. But they aren't because they can't because their parents aren't actually there. They can talk to them over the phone, but that isn't the same. All of the song selections really worked with what was happening in the play, which made it super moving.

I think the show has three characters that are kind of the voice of reason in this teenage tornado: Mr. Pendleton, Headmaster Marrow, and AJ. Headmaster Marrow, when he is talking with Pharus after he has messed up the school song (but for good reason), he talks to him about it and finds out what the circumstances were and tries to solve the problem. Mr. Pendleton, although he doesn't make the best first impression, he does grow on the students and makes the choir get back together. And he talks to the headmaster about the headmaster's cluelessness about the sexuality of his students. AJ helps out Pharus a lot by helping him make his accusations and ideas a lot less extreme. But he also has a lot of fun with him and doesn't act like the adult in the room at all times. I think it is important to have the voices of reason in all these different packages instead of just having one guardian angel watching over everything because you get to see all the different ways people can do the right thing. And it shows that Pharus has someone there to talk to, literally in his room, and other resources, but there are other people in the show who don't know they have that, and they would be better for it if they knew they did.

People who would like this show are people who like voices of reason, complicated heroes, and Rockin' Jerusalem. I think that people should definitely see this show. I have never seen a show like it. It had a really interesting plot and was really well performed. I really liked it!

Photos: Dean La Prairie

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review of Kokandy Productions' Bonnie & Clyde

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Bonnie & Clyde. The book was by Ivan Menchell. The music was by Frank Wildhorn, and the lyrics were by Don Black. It was directed by Spencer Neiman. The music direction was by John Cockerill, and the choreography was by Aubrey Adams. It was about a couple, Bonnie Parker (Desiree Gonzalez) and Clyde Barrow (Max Detogne), who committed robberies and murders during the 1930s. It is about their lives and how they were brought together and how terrible their deaths were. It is about love, fame, and family. I think this show has a such great songs and a really compelling story. I really liked it.

My favorite song was "Picture Show." It was about how Young Bonnie (Tia L. Pinson) wants to be a movie star like Clara Bow and Young Clyde (Jeff Pierpoint) wants to be like the outlaw Billy the Kid. It was my favorite song because it was sung so well and it had really great music and is super catchy and I am still thinking about it now. It shows us the evolution of these characters and how even when they are adults their values are basically the same as when they were children because they still want fame but once they become adults, at that point in their lives, they will do anything to get what they want. You imagine they would grow out of it, but they never did. The adult version of "Picture Show" is "The World Will Remember Us" sung by the grown-up version of Bonnie and Clyde. It is saying "people will remember us because of our outlandish actions, not just because we could be like someone famous." They have discovered their way out of the Devil's Back Porch, where they live, and it is through each other, a few people's lives, and a lot of their money and cars.

There were a lot of visually stunning moments in this show. One of my favorites was in "The World Will Remember Us" where they recreated the famous Bonnie and Clyde photo shoot that they did with their guns. The pictures are just the most badass thing I've ever seen. (I'm a big Bonnie and Clyde nerd at this point. I watched a documentary and read a book.) Everyone looks so amazing in them but you are kind of afraid at the same time. I love how they just left them at a crime scene. Oopsie daisy, just dropped these badass photos. The recreation in the musical was so spot-on and perfect. I loved that moment. "God's Arms are Always Open" also had a great visual moment where it was basically a montage of Clyde robbing all of these different people, but also having a gospel section, led by the Preacher (Nathan Carroll), in between each robbery. The Preacher is reassuring Buck Barrow (Cisco Lopez) that he's doing the right thing going back to jail and that God will forgive him. Buck turned himself in because his wife Blanche (Missy Wise) wanted him to go back so they didn't have to live in fear anymore. Whenever the people singing gospel would raise their hands in praise, Clyde would put his gun up like he was robbing them. It was so disturbing and so cool-looking.

I had very complicated feeling about the characters of Bonnie and Clyde because they had done so many terrible things but were so in love with each other. And they were real people, which makes it more complicated because you want them to win, but in real life they would have just kept killing a bunch of people, which wouldn't have been great. "You Love Who You Love" is a song Bonnie and Blanche sang beautifully as a duet. It is basically about how hard it is to be the significant other of their partners and talking about how they can't choose who they love, even though it is hard being them. You see that Blanche especially is sort of a bystander and that they did terrible things, but it was because of love. I thought this was a really sad but true song. You can't help loving people even if you don't want to. You can try, but it hurts. "Raise a Little Hell" was a song that Clyde sang about how he had done so many bad things already, so why doesn't he do some more. There were some great vocal acrobatics in this. It is complicated because it is a terrible thing to say, but he is doing these things to get back to the person he loves most and away from all the people in jail who hurt him. So he has a good motive, but that doesn't make what he does to people okay. "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" is a really sad song sung by Bonnie and Clyde, but it is really beautiful. At the time, they are not doing anything wrong, they are just saying their feelings and that they know they haven't been saints, but they lived the life they wanted to and if they died now it wouldn't be so bad because they had the life that they wanted. They wanted to be famous, they wanted to be together, and they wanted to be happy.

People who would like this show are people who like complicated characters, interesting histories, and photo shoots with your guns. I think people should definitely, definitely go see this show. It closes next weekend, so get your tickets while you still can. It has beautiful music, great performances, and I'm obsessed with this musical now.

Photos: Evan Hanover

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review of The Rembrandt at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Rembrandt. It was by Jessica Dickey, and it was directed by Hallie Gordon. It was about a man named Henry (Francis Guinan) who worked as a museum guard in the Rembrandt gallery. And he was so entranced by Rembrandt. So one day, when a new recruit, Dodger (Ty Olwin), shows up along with an art student, Madeline (Karen Rodriguez), they all band together and it leads to a plan to touch the Rembrandt. Then the story switches from the present day to back to 1653, the time of Rembrandt. Rembrandt (Guinan) is going through some tough times and he has to get a painting of a philosopher out to his patron. Then Homer (John Mahoney) shows up on stage and starts talking about life and toilets. The last scene shows Henry going home to his sick husband, Simon (Mahoney), and his nurse Martin (Gabriel Ruiz). It is about dedication, art, and human connection. I think this is a beautiful show. It has such a great story, such great actors, and is so moving. I was crying by the end.

Community is a very big theme in this show. Every person has a team. Rembrandt is on a team for creating art. He is the artist but there are also people behind the scenes. Rembrandt's partner Henny (Rodriguez) is there to support him and get him food, since he is drunk and painting. His son Titus (Olwin), has gotten him paints and is talking to him and helping him splatter the canvas. Henry also has a team at the museum. It starts out just being him and Jonny (Ruiz). They both work at the museum and are both working to make sure the art is secure. Then as Dodger and Madeline come in, the purpose of the team starts to shift away from Jonny and his goal of protecting the works of art and not touching them. Simon has a team which is his nurse Martin and his partner Henry. They are a team to make the end of Simon's life a good one. The nurse is there by obligation, but Henry and Simon have a really strong bond and the last scene is really beautiful. Perfect segue into talking about my favorite scene!

My favorite scene was the last scene with Henry and Simon. They are basically joking around and having a good time, but some really deep things come up, like they talk about how Henry feels like he disappointed Simon and wasn't a good enough partner. They also reminisce about when they first met and how everyone seemed against them. The scene shows that they are very in love, even though they have been together for so long. They hadn't been a perfect couple; they'd been through some hard times. But they persisted. It was very realistic in a really powerful way. It was very moving because it seems like a couple that could actually exist: not perfect but persisting. I think my favorite funny moment in this scene was when they were talking about pistachio pudding and Simon didn't want any of the chocolate that they had; he only wanted pistachio. Henry was talking about how he would get it tomorrow. And Simon was complaining about his chocolate pudding. Then Henry reveals [spoiler alert!] that he's had the pistachio pudding all along. (*gasps*) Simon then jokes about how what if he'd died right then, and he never got his pistachio pudding, even though Henry had it all along. It was hilarious, but it was also kind of bittersweet. Simon was joking about the inevitability of death, but they still found it funny because it was such a prominent part of their lives right now. It was so moving because it was so genuine and adorable. And you just want them to be together forever, but you know that can't happen.

There were a lot of funny/charming moments in this show. One of my favorites was when Dodger and Madeline were having an argument and then suddenly Henry bursts in and says something along the lines of "You guys should definitely go on a a date," and that was funny because that was the last thing they wanted right then. But then they did end up making plans to go on a date, and I actually think they would be pretty compatible. There is also some physical comedy when they are all about to touch the painting and Jonny, the guard with the gun, pulls out his gun and threatened to shoot them. It is really overboard, but it is really hilarious because you are pretty sure he won't do it. Dodger is the one who starts the idea to touch the painting, and he just starts telling people to touch it, which I don't think is the best work etiquette. Homer probably wasn't a really funny guy in real life, but in this play he was pretty funny. And he talked about everything from toilets to poetry. Homer tells us how it is weird that people use the toilet in a pot, and you realize that poetry and toilets are not that far apart. Both are things that disguise everyday life as something more sophisticated. I've never gone so deep into talking about the similarities between toilets and poetry. And I don't think I ever will again.

People who would like this show are people who like touching paintings, poetry toilets, and pistachio pudding. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. I think it is such a beautiful story. It is funny, has so many beautiful messages, and the acting is great.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review of The House Theatre of Chicago's United Flight 232

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called United Flight 232. It was adapted and directed by Vanessa Stalling from the book Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It was about a plane that was traveling from Denver to Chicago and crashed in Iowa in 1989. It is about the people on the plane and their experiences. It is about gratitude, reflection, and heroics. I think this is a really beautiful and moving show. It has such a powerful message and was gorgeous to watch.

This show has some very beautiful visual aspects. When you walk into the room you are already very immersed because the hallway that leads you to the theater looks almost exactly like a jetway, the walkway that leads you to a plane. The set (designed by John Musial) and the projections (by Paul Deziel) worked very well together because the set was like a white tent surrounding the audience. And you could see people's shadows when they would walk past and you could also see designed projections, like how the plane's systems work and how it looks when it falls apart. Even though they only had nine actors (Abu Ansari, Johnny Arena, Brenda Barrie, Alice De Cunha, Elana Elyce, Dan Lin, Carlos Olmedo, Joseph Sultani, and Jessica Dean Turner), you still felt for every single person on that plane. I think the projection of the seating chart made the ending even more moving because you remembered how many people were on that plane. I think the flashlights (lighting design by William C. Kirkham) they used were really really cool because the light coming out of them looked like plane windows and they would move across the white tent, and I thought that was mesmerizing. I liked how much the blocking looked like choreography; it was cool how each movement looked so fluid.

Each of the character's stories in this was very moving. There was a really moving story which was about a businessman (Olmedo) that was sitting next to a teenage girl and they were trying to plan how they were going to get out of the plane when it crashed. It was so moving to see people who had no connection and never had spoken before planning on how to save each other. There is so much compassion in the play for people from other people who don't even know each other. All they know is that they are a person who has a lot more life to live; they don't know if they are even good people. There was a story of a passenger (Lin) rescuing a flight attendant (Barrie) after the plane hit, and they hadn't planned anything, he just did this really heroic act for someone. He could have just been thinking about himself and getting himself out of the plane, but he didn't. You usually think of the flight attendants as the people who will take care of people on the plane, and she does work hard, but in this case when she can't help anyone, the roles kind of reverse. I think that is a really moving moment. I really loved the way Elana Elyce portrayed this woman who was sitting at the back of the plane. She is facing a really hard thing; she is basically contemplating her life and realizing the things she has done wrong, and she want to be able to change them. She is having her own heroism inside her head; she is rescuing herself from not having a life well-lived.

I really admired the determination of the pilots (Ansari, Arena, and Sultani) to save others even if they might not be able to save themselves. It is really sad how many people died but it is also amazing how many people survived. It is sad how some people seemed to be rewarded because of their selflessness and other people were selfless but they still died. It would be really great if the world operated on terms of fairness, but it doesn't work like that. I think the point of the play is to show these amazing stories and to show the world how incredible it was that anyone survived this and also how terrible it was that some people didn't. It really makes you think how these freak accidents happen even if you don't deserve for them to happen to you. The play made me think about what I would do if I were in this situation. I would want to be the kind of person to save as many people as I possibly could and go for the greater outcome.

People who would like this show are people who like immersive sets, moving stories, and selfless heroics. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. It has a beautiful and amazing message about how we should really appreciate the life that we have and try to live it the best that we can. I think everyone should get the opportunity to go see it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review of Route 66 Theatre Company's A Funny Thing Happened...

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center of New York City. It was by Halley Feiffer and it was directed by Keira Fromm. It was about two strangers named Don (Stef Tovar) and Karla (Mary Williamson) whose mothers Geena (Judy Lea Steele) and Marcie (Meg Thalken) both had cancer. They meet because their mothers are sharing a hospital room and a friendship starts. It is about family, loneliness, and grief. I think this is a really weird but fun show. The characters were really unique--I've never seen any characters like any of these people--and it was intriguing to watch.

I thought that the relationships in this play were very interesting to watch, although they were very messed up people. The relationship between Karla and Don started with conflict about the volume of one of Karla's bits. They are basically arguing through a curtain for the first twenty minutes of the play. But then they start to talk because they are sort of bored and they sort of don't have anyone else to talk to. They are feeling vulnerable because their parents are dying, they are alone, and either their childhood or their child's childhood isn't going that well. When people who are really deeply messed up have relationships, I am worried for the outcome. Messed up people definitely deserve happiness, but it might be better if they went with someone who didn't have so many of their own problems to throw onto the ones they already have. But if you love someone, you should definitely try it out. The relationship between Karla and her mom I think was really beautiful even if it was slightly weird. You really get to see that in the last scene because in the rest of the play Karla's mom is being mean. I liked how the ending scene was kind of a nod to the first one where Don asks why Karla has to read her bits aloud, and she says it's because her mom and she did that all the time when her mom was awake. Later you find out that that hadn't really been the case. I thought that it was a really great way to wrap up the play, to see a relationship turn into something more deep than it was in the beginning and to see Karla get something like the relationship she wanted with her mom.

This show had some very disturbing moments. Like the opening to the play was Karla writing a comedy bit about how she has been single for so long. It was basically about her "wet dreams." It was disturbing because she talked about rape and I don't think rape is ever really funny, at least not the way that I know the definition. But there were also some funny lines, like when she talked about the fedora. People who have seen the show will know what I mean. I also thought it was pretty disturbing how the mothers of the two main characters had to listen to graphic content concerning their children. I was disturbed because of some of the graphic content that was shown, and I didn't know it would be. The description did say there were dirty jokes, but to me it went past the realm of jokes into stuff that was more visual. And I didn't like how the last thing one of the characters would hear was this content. I think it was purposeful, and I think it is okay to have stuff that is disturbing, but I just wanted to point out how disturbing it might be to people my age.

This show also had some very humorous moments. Don read a story in the New Yorker that he found so adorable and funny. And the story was not adorable, because it was literally about a condom that had expired. But it was very funny and adorable to watch him try to get his point across about how funny the story was. Karla's response was basically a straight face. And that also added an element of humor. Also, Karla's mom wanted Don to feed her sparkling water. It was so funny because of how Don reacted to this request, at first thinking it was a joke. And then when he started doing it, he was narrating everything as he did it, which was ridiculous. I also thought this was a great segue into Don's story about his son. And he handled talking about his son much better in this instance than he had before. He had been completely stoic, walked into the bathroom, slammed the door; there were a few seconds of a pause and then very loud screaming and banging on various things. It was hilarious.

People who would like this show are people who like really long titles, sparkling water, and fedoras. I think this is a weirdly great show. It had some really great performances and some really great plot points. Not every moment worked for me, but I think that it still worked well.

Photos: Brandon Dahlquist

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review of Strawdog Theatre Company's Barbecue at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Barbecue. It was by Robert O'Hara and it was directed by Damon Kiely. It was about a family that gets together for a Barbecue-vention for their sister Barbara (Abby Pierce/Ginneh Thomas). It is about family, addiction, betrayal, and about things not being what they seem. I won't be able to say a lot of details about this show because there are so many plot twists I don't want to give away. I'm going to try to talk generally enough so that when you have seen the show, you will understand. I thought this was a really good show; the script was really crazy and well-written and the acting was great. I really liked it.

This is a very strange show. It plays with your mind a lot and makes you think things are real that are not and vice versa. Each character is played by two different actors. James T, the brother, is played by John Henry Roberts and Terence Sims; Lillie Anne, the sister who organized the intervention, is played by Barbara Figgins and Deanna Reed-Foster; Adlean, the sister who always seemed to be smoking, is played by Kristin Collins and Kamille Dawkins; and Marie, the opinionated, slightly shady, whisky-drinking sister is played by Celeste M. Cooper and Anita Deely. It makes me think about how the same story for two different groups of people can be so different, and not just because they were played by different people but because of what was revealed about them throughout the show. One of the stories kind of just ended and you don't get to see how it turns out but the other one is finished and you get to see a big reveal as to why we were switching back and forth. It made me think about the differences between a story and real life and the story of a story. I thought it was cool how they addressed issues of race and class in ways I never thought about or expected.

This play is about how addiction can mess up not only you but also your family and the people around you. It is about how you have to be thinking about your actions not just for yourself but for the people around you. Addiction doesn't look the same for everyone. It is always because they feel like they need the comfort of whatever it is, but they feel like they need it for different reasons. Sometimes it is because they are depressed; sometimes they feel like they have to replace something with a substance. Sometimes it is because they are stressed or feel a lot of pressure. Sometimes it is because they feel like they can't be who they really are. We hold on to things as if they were people, and try to distract ourselves from what is really going on in the world because it is hard because people can hurt you. That doesn't mean that drugs and alcohol can't hurt you too. Addiction is always at the center and the source of everyone's problems in this play. I think that makes for some very interesting storytelling for there not to be a villain that is human, but for there to be a villain that is an actual problem in our society today.

There is a lot of surprising humor in this play. But a lot of it is connected to big unexpected moments that I don't want to give away. But there were a lot of very funny bits and I thought the actors did a really good job delivering them in a very perfect way. One of my favorite moments was when one character brought out an electric device to shut another character up. When you see the show, you'll know what I mean. It was just absolutely hilarious.

People who would like this show are people who like surprising twists, funny but meaningful stories, and shady, whisky-drinking sisters. I think people should see this show. I think it is well-performed, well-written, and all around a fun show to be at.

Photos: Heath Hays

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review of New Light Theater Project and Chicago Dramatists' Still Dance the Stars

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Still Dance the Stars. It was by Jayme McGhan and directed by Sarah Norris. It was about a couple, James (Martel Manning) and Anne (Bethany Geraghty), who were going through some rough times after being a viral sensation with their YouTube proposal. There were these stuffed animals that they used to collect from theme parks and carnivals when they were happy. They come to life in the couple's minds and have adventures that reveal things about why the couple's relationship has fallen apart, but also show a way back to happier times. It is about trying to rebuild relationships, loss, and finding your way home. I think this is a really really moving show. I cried so much. It was also quirky and had its humorous moments. It had such a beautiful meaning, and I really loved it.

I thought that it worked pretty well how each of the stuffed animals were played by, and somewhat influenced by, someone in the couple's actual life. There was a crew member of the television show that was going to interview Anne and James named Phillip (Michael Allen Aguirre) and his stuffed toy persona was a potato. I thought that was very funny because he was so awkward and sort of simple; the character really seemed ordinary and plain like a potato. Anne's sister Ashley (Courtney Knysch) was a thingus, which is basically a stood-up caterpillar with striped pants and like three tiny legs. She is very upbeat, sort of weird, and quick-witted. James doesn't really like her but Anne is getting a lot of help from her and is grateful. Anne likes all the weird toys, like the potato, and her weird thingus sister. But James isn't so keen on it. Anne's mother Margaret (Claudia Campbell) is a giraffe as a toy and is a minister in real life who has a very young husband about whom she talks pretty explicitly. I think she is a giraffe because she is very poised and sweet and helpful and comforting. I don't know why I think giraffes are comforting; maybe because they seem very slow, vegetarian, and chill. James's dad Clayton was a crocodile. He is a version of someone who has done a lot of damage, but is sweet and well-meaning now--like a taxidermy alcoholic crocodile, but slightly less morbid than that. There was also the person who would be interviewing them, Layna (Dana Martin), who plays Captain Lame-o. She is basically the villain of this alternate universe. She's not as bad in real life because she is an actual person, but she does seem to be taking advantage of them and asking questions she knows will be hard for them to answer. Hope (Ariana Sepúlveda) is a stuffed hippo ballerina who doesn't seem to have another version of them in the real world. But the play eventually reveals who she is, and it is very gut-wrenching.

There were a lot of impromptu dance battles (choreography by Ashlee Wasmund) in this show. I thought they were hilarious and ridiculous, and sometimes they were even good. There were moves from break dancing, hip hop, ballet, and modern. The moves were very classic to the genres that they were performing, which I think showed how, in the mind of James, a guy who isn't a professional dancer, this is what he thinks these genres of dance would look like. I thought Hope and Anne in particular were good dancers. They had a dance together that was really moving. I was about to cry, and it was great.

This show wasn't all sad. I thought it was really funny when Phillip was asking Ashley out and he was talking about taking Ashley to White Castle, which is literally the least romantic place on this planet--I mean a graveyard is more romantic than White Castle; Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes that possible. I guess a sewer, but really the place you go for your first date should be a lot higher than that on the romantic-ness scale. I also thought the mom, Margaret, was really funny with all her inappropriate references. They are generally about her husband and her daughter finds them disgusting, which is hilarious. I think there was a perfect contrast between the humor in the fantasy scenes and the sadness when you see reality creeping back into their lives. That just made every time that something sad would happen even sadder. It is very true because the more fun you have in real life, the sadder the sad parts that come after are.

People who would like this show are people who like impromptu dance battles, White Castle, and taxidermy alcoholic crocodiles. I think that people should definitely see this show. It is hilarious, moving, and silly. It closes Saturday, so everyone should go see it while you still have the chance!

Photos: Tom McGrath

Ada Grey Interviews for You: Interview with Chase Phillips from Mowtown the Musical

I had so much fun emailing with Chase Phillips from Mowtown the Musical about playing Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, who his favorite singers are, and his joyous reaction to getting cast in the show. Mowtown returns to Chicago October 3-8, 2017

Ada Grey: How does it feel to portray these music icons (Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson)? Does it feel like a big responsibility?

Chase Phillips: It feels awesome to portray such important people especially when they were children. They all began making an impact on people’s lives when they were at a young age, so it’s very important to me that I do an incredible job.

AG: How did you react when you found out you got the part?

CP: I screamed, shouted and started to praise the Lord because I was so thankful to get the part.

AG: Which character that you play do you relate to the most?

CP: I would say Stevie Wonder because he was probably treated like he was different by kids when he was growing up but he pushed through it. At my old school, I was treated badly sometimes because I didn’t fit in, but I pushed through it and always did my best.

AG: Which song in Motown do you think is the most fun to sing?

CP: “The Love You Save” by the Jackson 5 because it’s a more upbeat song than all their other songs in the play that are about sad love.

AG: What are some of your favorite music artists?

CP: John Legend, Adele, Michael Jackson, and Tye Tribbett.

AG: What are some of the things you are looking forward to doing on tour? What will you miss about home?

CP: Traveling to all the different locations and meeting all the new people! I’ll miss my family, friends, dog, and my school.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review of TimeLine Theatre Company's The Audience

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Audience. It was by Peter Morgan and it was directed by Nick Bowling. It was about Queen Elizabeth II's (Janet Ulrich Brooks) relationships with her prime ministers (Matt DeCaro, Carmen Roman, and Mark Ulrich) throughout her reign and which one was her favorite. They drink a lot of tea and booze and talk about politics and their lives. It is about developing relationships, government, and how being royalty isn't actually as powerful as you think it is. I think this is a really interesting show. It shows you behind the scenes of the relationship between royalty and the British Parliament. This show had great acting, a fascinating storyline, and made me want to learn more about the British government.

I think this play was really interesting because they showed Elizabeth as an actual vulnerable person. You don't think of that when you think of royalty. But this play shows you her memories as a child (Audrey Edwards and Sophie Ackerman at alternating performances) and how she was worried about her father becoming king and that she might mess up being queen. Brooks plays Elizabeth from her early twenties through her late eighties. I felt like I was seeing Elizabeth grow up. The way Brooks differentiated each age was phenomenal. When she is young she is uncertain about what she is doing, but as she ages she get more confident. Brooks adjusted her energy level, the way she talked, and the way she moved. It was really fascinating to watch. I have never seen her in a role like this before, and she just did it perfectly. During her her first meeting chronologically, she meets with Winston Churchill (DeCaro) and she is nervous and doesn't really know what to do, so she starts trying to engage in a conversation but Winston is not having that. They are drinking tea in the first meeting, but as her reign progresses, she starts drinking harder beverages. She starts becoming more confident and she starts insisting on understanding political and military situations.

Elizabeth's relationship with Harold Wilson (DeCaro) was very different from any other in the show. She connected with him and talked to him person to person more than with the other Prime Ministers. Wilson didn't really think he'd get the job, which made it hard for him to get started. But Elizabeth had just become more confident in her job, so I think she was sort of a guide for him. They had empathy for each other and I think that is why they became such good friends in the course of the show. I think it was really sad how Wilson by the end of the play had lost his amazing power to be able to read over something and have it completely memorized. They had this book that he'd read to show off his amazing abilities when he had met earlier with Elizabeth in Scotland. It was sad to see them try to recreate that memory later.

I had mixed feeling about Margaret Thatcher (Roman)--not about the actor but about the character. The actor made me hate Thatcher and admire her the same time. I think Thatcher was a badass, but she had very conservative ideas and would always stick by them and didn't really care about anyone else's opinions at all. I really loved her costume (designed by Theresa Ham), it looked exactly like something very Margaret Thatcher. It was buttoned up and she had like a silk scarf tied in a bow that looks like it is devouring her. It showed how uptight she was. She is usually very poised, and in the scene she has panic, but I didn't really feel sorry for her because it seemed like she was taking out all of her anger on Elizabeth and not listening to her, which is something Thatcher did in her career. I thought it was sad that Thatcher didn't have a good relationship with Elizabeth since she was the only woman Prime Minister in this play. I thought the difference between Thatcher and the other character this actor played, Bobo McDonald, who was Elizabeth's nanny, was just amazing. She would walk off stage as one of the people who loved Elizabeth the most and helped take care of her for so many years, and she would walk back on as someone who didn't respect Elizabeth at all.

John Major (Ulrich) was a really interesting character. He was so awkward and Elizabeth was slightly annoyed by it, which made for a funny scene because she just got slightly more annoyed as the scene went on. She had learned that these meetings weren't chitchats, but he was trying to make them into a chitchat because he was awkward and couldn't get into the conversations that they needed to have. I thought it was funny how, when Elizabeth finds out his father used to be a trapeze artist, she thinks it is exotic. And he points out that her father was the King of England and he thinks that is exotic. This shows you that their lives are exotic to the other person because that is the life they didn't get to live.

People who would like this show are people who like stories about the monarchy, empathetic relationships, and ravenous silk scarves. I think that people should go see this show. It had really great acting and really accentuated the range of many actors. It made me think about a side of Queen Elizabeth I'd never thought of before.

Photos: Lara Goetsch

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review of Red Theater Chicago's The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. It was by Kristoffer Diaz and it was directed by Jeremy Aluma. It was about a man named Mace (Alejandro Tey) who was a wrestler. He was trying to make his name known and call attention to the social injustice in the wrestling world, while still trying to keep his job. The wrestling world is dominated by everyone's favorite wrestler, Chad Deity (Semaj Miller), and is run by EKO (Mickey O'Sullivan). Mace invites a person his brother and his other brother played basketball with, VP (Priyank Thakkar) to audition to be a wrestler because VP is so great at self-promotion and seems like he can get anything he wants. It is about justice, being the guy in the background who always gets defeated, and fame. I think this is a really great show. It is a great concept with fluid dialogue and beautiful acting. I loved it.

This show has really good direct address. It is not just there for no reason. The audience is a character. Mace is talking to someone and is trying to get his point across. He is talking to the audience as a person. He is the narrator but he is also part of the story which I think is a very important thing you need when you want to do direct address. I liked how he had the power to bend time and step in and out of the story. Like when he is fighting with Chad Deity, he speaks about how he is feeling and how they are helping each other. There is also one part where VP steps in and says I am going to do the talking for Mace over here really quick because he is sort of busy doing this fight, which shows that it is not just Mace that has all of the power. It is more of a communal thing, which is more interesting to watch because you get to see multiple people's perspectives on what is happening in the story in the moment.

I really loved the way the play started and how they kept coming back to the same story. The story was about Mace's brother and other brother and how they all used to watch wrestling together. They had these dolls that didn't really move at all and they would eat soggy knock-off cereal. They kept coming back to this story because it was an important image in his mind; it is why he got into wrestling. He would study the moves. Wrestling is an escape from reality for him: that he is eating soggy knock-off cereal and he had the immovable doll wrestling guys. Even though the dolls look awesome, they are not fun to play with. He doesn't want to be a wrestling guy in a permanent pose; he would rather be fun to play with and movable. Even though he doesn't really like being the one who never wins even though he is more talented, he enjoys other aspects of his job, like being in one of the most popular wrestling shows at the time. He becomes a different person throughout the play; he sees wrestling not just as a dream job but as a job that has a bunch of problems. That kind of relates to the dolls, because he becomes aware of the world around him. He is not one of those stuck in a strong guy pose. He is responsive.

I think the fights (by fight director Kyle Encinas) were really accurate and cool. They reminded me of the channels I usually skip past on tv because wrestling usually grosses me out, but I didn't want to skip past this channel. I thought it was super intriguing. It reminded me a lot of the actual sort-of-stagey fights they do in professional wrestling; I think they translate well to the stage because they are already so theatrical. I really liked how the play wasn't trying to glorify wrestling. It was showing the good parts and the flaws. Wrestling is used to talk about social injustice instead of just being there for the fighting aspects. That doesn't mean the fighting itself wasn't amazing, it just gave it more depth and more reason for it to be there. I really liked when Mace was showing everyone how he and Chad Deity would fight. It all seemed super dramatic but then when he was telling us how it all actually happened, it seemed a lot less painful because he showed how he was acting and how he was not getting really physically hurt. Chad Deity was protecting him in the ring. And he gives Chad Deity all the glory even though he is not as good of a wrestler. Just because Chad Deity is more of an American Hero to people means that he has to win everything because the American fans want the American to win. Mace and VP are also American, but they have to pretend that they are not so there is a motivation for fans to hate them. Wrestling basically uses racism and xenophobia to make it so all the fans are rooting for the same person. Wrestling in this play seems to have more villains than heroes, which I don't think is a really good worldview. It is too simple because in the real world there are very few people who are totally evil. But the play isn't simple because it calls attention to these problems in wrestling and has a lot of people who do good things, like Chad Deity, Mace, and VP. But nobody's perfect. EKO is the villain but that is because he is representing what is wrong with wrestling: the racism, willful ignorance, crassness, and how money is the whole reason it exists.

People who would like this show are people who like amazing fights, flexible strong guys, and soggy knock-off cereal. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was a beautiful story and made me see wrestling in a new way. It made me think a lot about how the world is consuming racism and all these things they say they are against and not even noticing it. I really loved this show.

Photos: M. Freer Photography

Friday, August 25, 2017

Review of The Fair Maid of the West at Oak Park Festival Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Fair Maid of the West. It was adapted and directed by Kevin Theis from the play by Thomas Heywood. The fight choreography was by Geoff Coates. It was about a young woman named Bess (Amanda Forman) who is a barmaid and falls in love with a man named Spencer (Zach Livingston), who kills a man in self-defense and then he goes to Belgium with his friend Captain Goodlack (Debo Balogun). When Bess believes Spencer has been killed, she sets out to claim the body. She makes a crew out of a self-obsessed patron of the bar, Roughman (Aaron Christensen), the goofy bartender, Clem (Bobby Bowman), and Goodlack. They have many adventures along the way, including being shipwrecked on a very crazy island ruled by a misogynistic and indecisive king, Mullisheg (Jack Hickey), and his queen, Tota (Melissa Carlson). It is about determination, female power, and redemption. I think that this is a really fun and clever show. I liked it.

There were a lot of really funny parts to the show. One of my favorite funny characters was Roughman. He was harassing Bess, which doesn't sound funny, but he has a change of heart when he learns that he wasn't dueling with a strong strapping man but with Bess pretending to be a man. It was really funny and awesome when he discovered who she was and bowed down to her. I also really liked Alcade (Mark Lancaster); he was Mullisheg's attendant and he was just trying not to lose his job and trying to get everyone hyped up about the king. It was funny to see him struggle to try and please the king and also trying not to reveal to anyone that the king was making a lot of bad decisions. There was also great and humorous audience participation. They give you muffins at the top of the show to hurl at people giving the curtain speech. And they also gave out "flippies" which were flags to wave when Mullisheg, the King of Fez, would come out.

I thought the set (designed by Michael Lasswell) was really cool. I really liked how they used older technology to hoist open a door that they put a bed behind that they would then pull out. I thought it was cool how many levels there were and how they looked like a ship but could also be other locations. I also liked where the fights were placed throughout the show; they all furthered the story. My only complaint was that sometimes the fights seemed slow and didn't seem very captivating because of that. I really liked the fight that Spencer had with Joffer (Drew Mierzejewski) and his guards (Kate Booth, Bill Gordon, Ken Miller, and Bryan Wakefield). I thought it was cool how they did an outnumbered battle, but it was still really badass to watch whenever Spencer would defeat someone.

The play seemed really modern even though it was written a long time ago during the Renaissance. They made it so it was more of a heroic story for Bess and she wasn't a damsel in distress; the man was the one being rescued. I think that is very good for such an old play. I thought it was cool how they had two of the sidekick characters to Bess start out as not her friends but as her enemies. They each had a redemption story. Goodlack is going to take her inheritance by shaming her, but instead he apologizes once he sees what she is really like. And Roughman starts out harassing her and ends up respecting her. I think that Bess shouldn't have forgiven them quite so easily, but it made for an interesting group of people to be on her expedition. I haven't seen very many Renaissance plays that are so focused on the redemption and don't just end the play the minute it happens.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome sets, newfangled old plays, and hype about the king. I think that people should go see this show. It is a good story with great actors and lots of funny moments.

Photos: Cole Simon

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review of Musical Theater Works' Gypsy

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Gypsy. The book was by Arthur Laurents and the music was by Jule Stein. The lyrics were by Stephen Sondheim. It was directed by Rudy Hogenmiller and choreographed by Clayton Cross. It was about a woman named Rose (Mary Robin Roth) who had two children, Baby June (Sophie Kaegi) and Baby Louise (Moira Hughes), who she wanted to become vaudeville performers. She really thinks she wants the best for her children, but is pretty much a stereotypical stage mom living vicariously and precariously through her children. Then June (Rosie Jo Neddy) grows up and decides she doesn't want to pretend to be nine anymore. Louise (Lexis Danca) takes over for her but decides that vaudeville isn't really for her and stumbles into burlesque and realizes that that is what she wants to do. It basically shows how children grow up and they go away and how hard it is for some mothers to deal with that. I think this is a fun musical and I enjoyed seeing it again.

I really like the song "Mr Goldstone." It is really fun and it really shows how people feel when something really exciting happens to them. You start to jumble up your words and get overly excited and try to do everything to make the person you are excited about really like you. Like when Rose calls Mr. Goldstone "Mr. Egg Roll" it is hilarious to me. This is a song that is super weird but I think it works because it is not trying to be serious; it is them blatantly saying "this is weird and we know it." Unlike "Little Lamb," which is kind of terrifying. It is literally an adult woman talking to her stuffed animals and asking them how old she is. It doesn't seem to further the story in any way, at least not in any way I can see. "Little Lamb' is trying to be serious, but it is still ridiculous. I think this is not the performer's fault at all, it is just the lyrics are so weird but not weird in a funny way. They weren't going for funny.

There was a song, "All I Need Is The Girl," sung by Tulsa (Clayton Cross), which was about how all he needed for his dance number was the girl. And Louise had a really big crush on him and was dancing along with him, which was very cute. But if you've seen the musical, you know how that works out. I thought the dancing was so good. It was really impressive--it looked like he was gliding across the floor. It reminded me of Fred Astaire--all he needs is Ginger Rogers to be the girl! This is basically showing off what Tulsa is capable of, even though he is stuck in Mama Rose's musical numbers, repeating "Extra! Extra! Hey would you look at the headline!" no matter how little it applied to the situation like when they turn the show into a farmyard version. It shows you that Mama Rose is not the best of songwriters. But that is hilarious. I don't know why it gets me every time even though I'm prepared for it.

"Rose's Turn" is such a well-written song. It is such a great wrap-up the show because she is literally belting her opinions about how her life has been, and it wraps up the show so neatly. It really makes the show go out with a bang. She is basically saying "I messed up my life. I did too much for my kids." She feels like she's not getting enough appreciation for what she did for her kids, but the problem is she is not really taking into account what her kids might actually want. She is admitting to some mistakes, but not the mistakes she actually needs to apologize for. Like she doesn't say "I'm so sorry. I made you do things. That you never. Wanted to do. I didn't care. What you wanted to do. I just lived. Vicariously though you." (That would work with the music. Try it.) But really it is an anthem; it is Rose's song and it's basically about her and not about her children who were the ones who were being hurt in the situation. It works so well because it is catchy but not annoying. It is a such a powerful song.

People who would like this show are people who like great dancing, belting your feelings, and egg rolls. I think this is a fun show with weird and great songs. It really makes you appreciate your mother!

Photos: Brett Beiner

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Review of Trevor at Writers Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Trevor. The book and lyrics were by Dan Collins based on the film Trevor. The music was by Julianne Wick Davis with orchestrations by Greg Pliska. It was directed by Marc Bruni and the musical direction was by Matt Deitchman. The choreography was by Josh Prince. It was about a boy named Trevor (Eli Tokash) who was in middle school in the 80s, obsessed with Diana Ross (Salisha Thomas), and was discovering his sexuality and that apparently it wasn't ok, according to his friends and family, for him to feel the way he did. He has fallen in love with Pinky Faraday (Declan Desmond) who is a football player and they become friends. But it doesn't seem like Pinky is interested in him in a romantic way, and Trevor's secret diary gets discovered and causes problems for him. It is about identity, adolescence, and inspiration. I think this is a really great show. It has a talented young cast, really good music, and a powerful story.

I really liked the opening song "On With the Show." It was a great way to begin the show; it introduced some of the characters in a way that was concise but still specific and detailed. It was adorable how Trevor talked about who Pinky Faraday was: "with a name like Pinky you'd think he'd be...but he's not." It shows how he feels about Pinky before you've even seen them have an interaction. This song establishes Trevor's motivations, his relationships, and the upbeat tone of the first act. Because he talks directly to the audience, you get to know his thoughts and see how lovable and relatable he is. And he hits a high note that was really amazing! The song "Weird" felt very true. The first time it is sung it is more of an accusation against Trevor by Mary (Eloise Lushina) and Frannie (Maya Lou Hlava), the queen bee of the school and her friend. The second time, it is sad because Trevor is singing about how he can't quite figure out why he feels how he does. It is interesting to see Trevor taking the word weird and applying it to himself. He isn't really able to take into account that he might be gay because that is not something he had been educated about. It made me think a lot about how hard it would have been to have been gay in this time period and not know anything about it because kids didn't have as many positive resources to find out what it feels like when you are gay.

Trevor had two different role models. One was Diana Ross who he would possibly never meet and Diana probably didn't really know about him, though he fantasizes that she does. The movements that Diana and Trevor would do together were so beautiful because they were so connected and showed you how connected he felt to her in his brain. Diana Ross had great fashion, a great voice, and was in a great musical, The Wiz, which might have sparked Trevor's interest in musicals. And all of her songs seem to be encouraging people to be themselves and do what they want. She's a great icon for people trying to find their identity and be who they want to be no matter what kind of prejudice people have against them. But Trevor also actually needs a role model for his everyday life, not just in his fantasies, which he finds in Jack (Jhardon DiShon Milton) who is a candy striper who was also obsessed with Diana Ross and who shows Trevor that his life will get better and inspires him to talk to Pinky face to face.

This show was very moving, but that doesn't mean it didn't have a lot of funny moments. I really loved the song "Underneath (Turn the Page)." It was so funny and also a realization song for Trevor. He realizes that he isn't attracted to women because his friend Walter (Matthew Uzarraga) is doing a science experiment with an underwear catalog. It was hilarious when Trevor gets obsessed not with the looks of the women but how uncomfortable the ways they are posing are. There is a girl who is sitting on a bale of hay in her underwear and he says, "Wouldn't that be itchy? I want a girl who is more intelligent than that." And Walter did this amazing dance. It was really great how fluid it was, but it was also hilarious because of how into it he was. Trevor's other friend, Cathy (Tori Whaples), also had some humorous moments. I loved how obsessed Cathy was with Trevor, and it was hilarious how she came on to him. She would act like she was being subtle, but she wasn't at all; it was gold. She had to take out her rubber bands whenever she thought she might kiss someone; that was so hilarious and awkward because she would say, "hold on just a second" and then take out the rubber bands and resume the conversation so that it could be romantic in the moment. Also there was a scene about the priest, Father Joe (Jarod Zimmerman), who came to talk to Trevor about Trevor's feelings. It was so hilarious and uncomfortable how detailed he was about what sex is like. It was just perfectly awkward.

People who would like this show are people who like being weird, Diana Ross, and studying underwear catalogs. I think that people should definitely go see this show. There were so many things I loved about it. It is a such an amazing and unique new musical. I loved it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review of The Comrade's In The Wake

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called In The Wake. It was by Lisa Kron and it was directed by Alex Mallory. It was about a woman named Ellen (Rose Sengenberger) who was in love with two people, Danny (Mike Newquist) and Amy (Alison Plott), while her country and the political world were falling apart around her. She was a devoted democrat while George W. Bush was elected and reelected, and because she is so obsessed it starts to influence her relationships. It is about choices, politics, and blind spots. I think this show has a really strong message about choosing who you want to be with and the way the political world affects everyone. It had really realistic and intriguing dialogue and a strong ensemble. I really liked it.

I really liked the first scene between Ellen and Judy (Kelli Walker), Ellen's friend who is an aid worker with refugees from Sierra Leone in Guinea. Judy has come to crash at Ellen's place in New York on her way to her mother's funeral. I think this scene shows a lot about the relationship between Ellen and Judy because Ellen wants to help Judy but is also sort of constantly annoyed with her. Judy isn't exactly the person you'd expect to be helping all these refugees; she's very sarcastic and cut off from emotion. Even though Ellen is the person that is more deeply interested in what is happening in the political world, Judy is the one actually doing things to try and stop the bad things in the world. Even though Ellen thinks she is very progressive and liberal because she's always arguing with people, she's not doing anything to help progress the nation. Judy thinks people shouldn't be focused on the politics themselves but on the trouble politics is creating, which I think is really true, and I'm glad that the play addresses this. Judy is the less flawed character in the situation, even though she is less easy to get along with. I think this is really great storytelling because it doesn't make it so you are just rooting for one character and not others. All the characters in the play are flawed in some way but they are also easy to empathize with.

I think Amy and Ellen had a special relationship; they really clicked together. The only problem was that Ellen was also in love with her current partner, Danny. I think she gets a lot from each person, which is sad for her because she has to leave one of them behind. If she chooses Amy, she leaves behind her chosen family--Danny, his sister Kayla (Adrienne Matzen), and Kayla's wife, Laurie (Erin O'Brien). If she chooses Danny, she leaves behind a person who is basically like her, loves being with her, and who she has an intellectual and romantic relationship with. All we see of the blossoming of Amy and Ellen's relationship is their first meeting, kiss, and the suggestion that they have sex. I think the way Ellen starts the relationship with Amy is important because if she had sex and then went home and told Danny about it, I wouldn't think very well about her because she didn't talk it over with her partner before she acted on her impulses. If she was offered the option, went home and talked it over with her boyfriend, and then came back to act on her original impulses, I would think better of her because her boyfriend would have given his consent. The play isn't really clear about which happened, which makes it hard as an audience member to decide if she is right.

The scene that introduces Tessa (Samantha Newcomb) was very compelling because you meet a new character who has very different views from everyone else in the show. Tessa is Judy's niece, and Judy is now her full-time guardian. She comes from a tiny town and she is now visiting New York and she finds out that the people who have been showing her around the city--Kayla and Laurie--are lesbians and she is very surprised and slightly grossed out. She really likes Kayla and Laurie as people, but she let herself get distracted from how much she liked them by who they were attracted to. She also disagrees with them about George W. Bush, who she thinks is actually helping the U.S. This scene made me think about 9/11 in a different way. I hadn't realized that a lot of people were scared of what would happen if Bush wasn't president anymore. And even though people were in small towns who were probably not going to be the target of terrorist attacks, they were still terrified that something could happen to them. You see how scared people were, and you see where they were coming from when they reelected Bush because they thought that he could "help" them feel safe. But they weren't really thinking about the people who were in 9/11 or the people who were actually being hurt by Bush's decisions. It is a good illustration of how people hurt themselves by cutting themselves off from what is actually there because they are thinking too much about what they are supposed to be scared of and not enough about what they should be doing to feel safe. They could do that by looking at the actual situation of a loving relationship between two women instead of their ideas about it, and looking at the fact that terrorists don't represent all of Islam instead of just lumping everyone in a country or religion together. The scene wasn't all really deep; there was also a section about how much Danny wanted congee. It was really funny because everyone else was like, congee is really the thing you want Tessa to take away from this trip to New York? It was hilarious how he kept trying to defend his opinion of how amazing this Chinese rice porridge is.

People who would like this show are people who like in-depth looks into politics, stories about complicated relationships, and congee. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think it has a really involving story with a talented ensemble. It made me think about what it was like to be alive at the turn of the century. This show reminded me a lot of how life is right now. And it is sad that we are kind of reliving this situation.

Photos: Paul Goyette

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review of Fight City at The Factory Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Fight City. It was by Scott OKen and it was directed by Jill Oliver. It was about a dystopian future where women are in charge and men are degraded and oppressed. It is about how if one gender is in power, even if it isn't the one in charge now, it doesn't mean everything would be better. The problem with society is inequality not who is in charge. It is about a woman named Barb (Jennifer Betancourt) who is a cop in this society where women are in power because there had been a disease that affected only men. Her mother Margaret (Mandy Walsh) used to be a fighter extraordinaire on the force, but one of her former students, Erica (Kim Boler), has gone rogue. So Barb and her partner Janet (Almanya Narula) go on a mission to find Erica and stop her from her evildoing. And a man, Weatherfoot (Harrison Weger), has just been placed on the police force which is very unusual, and he has to prove himself to the force and his boss (Jen Bosworth). I thought this show had a compelling story and world with really good fights (by fight directors Maureen Yasko and Chris Smith).

I thought all the fights were really well done. One of my favorite fights was the one where Margaret confronts Valentine (Susan Wingerter), Erica's engineer who has created this gun. Guns are forbidden in this reality. Valentine and her posse discover Janet and Margaret having a heart to heart and decide to ruin that by shooting at them. Margaret spits out a tooth and there is lots of face-bashing-in. It was very violent and it was super badass and I really liked watching it. It was sort of gross, but it was awesome to see women kicking butt, and you don't see women fighting ruthlessly that often in plays and movies. I also thought that Weatherfoot's fight with Steele (Eric Frederickson) was super awesome and it was part of the big buildup to the fight with Barb and Erica. I think it really added a lot to the intensity of the final scene. I think the ending battle with Erica really utilized everyone in the scene but not so much that it took away from the duel between the mortal enemies Barb and Erica. There is one character who is dead by this time who I really wish would have been involved; it didn't ruin the fight for me, but it would have added an emotional element to the end of the show. The death added to Barb's motivation, but I thought of another way she could have been motivated by a different character dying. I felt like it would have added to the effectiveness of the final scene if you got a little bit of an epilogue so it wasn't just that the fight ends and then the show ends.

I thought it was a really interesting concept that this world would be sexist toward men. The way they portrayed it was really good because it made me sad just like I would feel if the sexism was directed toward women. That shows that it was really good writing because it made me feel bad for them even though in our society right now men are the people in power. I think that Relf (Josh Zagoren) was a particularly good example of this. The actor did a really good job of portraying him as someone who was vulnerable but not feminine. He was a man but his demeanor was smaller. That is what made it powerful when he was being treated like crap all the time; he was clearly scared in an actual way. One scene that really got to me was when he came into the squad room in the police station with bruises all over him and no one ever seemed to notice the bruises. That really reminded me of things that happen to women today; they show up somewhere and something is clearly wrong, but people don't pay attention. Not all the men are defenseless though. Verne (Frederickson) can fend for himself and he starts a campaign for men's rights. He has this speech at the end of the show that is going on when the end battle is happening. It was really motivational because while this violent fight is going on in one corner, he is talking about the future of this world and how he is going to try and make it better. I liked that the men's rights group had a woman (Grace Odumosu) in it, but I wished that one of the main characters had been masculinist too. It was kind of hard to root for people who were grabbing men's butts without consent all the time. Weatherfoot is just trying to follow the rules of the system; he isn't really an activist. It was upsetting how he keeps being objectified by the women just because he's there.

I thought it was really interesting how the relationship between Janet and Margaret was all about looking out for Barbara. They were both mother figures even though only Margaret was her actual mother. I also liked how Margaret had taught Janet everything she knew, which made Margaret more of a mentor toward her. I wanted to see more of this relationship and more of each of their relationships with Barb. I would have also liked to delve deeper into Margaret's backstory with Erica. That is a common problem in shows that are generally based around fights, but I think they could have made it a bit longer and given more time to develop those relationships.

People who would like this show are people who like alternate realities, badass fights, and spitting out teeth. I think people should go see this show. It is a lot of fun to experience. I really enjoyed the fights and the universe the show puts you in.

Photos: Michael Courier