Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review of Adventure Stage Chicago's The Giver

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Giver. The Giver is about this boy named Jonas who lives in this strange community in the future. It is a completely black and white world. Everything is very uncolorful colors and black and white. And I mean that metaphorically and literally. The metaphorically part is that you obey the rules which is the white or you get "released" which is the black. The scary stuff almost always jumps out at you, like "Oh, I didn't know that was going to happen" or "I didn't know this person would get hurt." If you have read the book, it won't be as jumping out at you, because you'll know everything that is going to happen. It was basically the book; it was a very good adaptation. It used all the subjects that were in the book and they didn't really add anything that was not at all like the book. Because there are so many exciting things in the actual book, they didn't need to add anything.

The set was really awesome. Jessica Kuehnau Wardell's set was like the actual world in the book. The actual world is completely black and white; it is very clean. It is not that scary at first; you just think it is a nice community. She made me feel like I was in another place even though this happens in the future and we are in reality in the present. The Giver's house was basically a bed and a chair and lots of books--that's what it is in the book too. At all the other houses they only have books on boring things because all the things that they have are all about the rules. If the community could read those books, they could have their own free little life, and they could make their own decisions. They would enable that because then they could get their own books that are actually interesting. When you read exciting adventure tales and stuff, they make you want to do the things that the people in the books actually do.

There were four people in the family: Jonas (Aaron Lawson), the Mother (Sarah Rose Graber), the Father (Carlos Rogelio Diaz), and Lily (Sindy Castro). And there was Gabriel, who was not exactly part of the family but became part of the family. Gabriel was a small little puppet that you could just move around his arms and stuff; he was more just a wooden guy and you could just control him. All the family got to play Gabriel, but Landree Fleming did the voice from behind the set. They chose to have a puppet because it is pretty hard to get an actual baby to do the part, or a doll. They had a puppet so they could actually control what it was doing.

I thought Sindy Castro was a good choice for Lily. She did a good job playing a young kid. She skipped a lot, and I skip a lot too. That is something that lots of kids do: they skip. She made her voice sound very young by speeding it up because kids are always saying stuff very fast. The Mother, I thought she did a good job of playing somebody that thought very seriously about the rules. She kept giving Jonas his medicine for the stirrings, which means he is starting to hit puberty and think about romance, and nobody wants that to happen. They make families by somebody choosing a mate for you and the babies are chosen at a ceremony and they are given to their new parents. Nobody can ever have romance with anybody that they like. Without romance they wouldn't have a true love, like they could never be in love with the people they wanted to love. The Father I think is a little confusing because you are always thinking, "why would he want to release Gabriel if he loves him so much?" The character is supposed to be a little confusing. I think the actor made his character just the right amount of confusing.

Fiona (Landree Fleming) is one of Jonas's best friends. Landree Fleming I thought had a good ear for what kind of person Fiona was. She was a very sweet person, and she thought about her friends first. But there was something a little scary about her. The scary thing was that she was learning the "fine" art of releasing, which is actually not fine at all. Fiona is not mean at all; she is just learning something mean. You like Fiona and all; she might be one of your favorite characters. I like her too. But teaching somebody who is a nice person to harm another nice person is just disturbing. It shows you that they are trying to make the perfect community, but then they don't make a good community that is good enough to everybody who lives there.

Kroydell Galima played Asher, and Asher is another of Jonas's best friends. I thought he knew what kind of story they were telling. I mean that the actor knew what kind of community it was, what relationship he had with the community. The character does not know about the releasing and how bad it is. Asher is a weird person; they say that Asher is somebody who doesn't obey every single rule because he is a weirdo. Like when he said, when he was only 4 years old, he said, "I want my smack," instead of "I want my snack," so he got his smack, which was a whipping. He thinks it was kind of funny, which is weird because he himself was the one getting hurt. And nobody thinks that they themselves getting hurt is funny; well, except for Asher. That makes him 1 in 6 million 3 thousand. I thought, "Yikes! I feel uncomfortable right here" when he is laughing about himself getting hurt. Just for grammar difficulty, they hurt him!

I thought John Ruhaak's impression of The Giver was believable. I saw The Giver reading the books, and I thought right away, "Oh, that's The Giver" because he looks like people would imagine The Giver looking like: a middle-aged man in an old-timey and different-style cape than everybody else's clothes. He is a good person but sometimes he can be very strict. The Giver loves Jonas, but his parents don't really love him, and they don't really love Lily either because they are not exactly real people. They are basically Frankenstein's monsters because the community is crooked and makes love weird. Like the monster's love for his father is just crazy. Everybody believes that The Giver loves Jonas in a way that nobody ever loved him.

Aaron Lawson I thought showed the way that Jonas would behave about the community. I thought when he was receiving the memories he would look like he was experiencing what The Giver was giving to him, and he did what it is like in the book. In some of the memories he looked scared and hurting. And in other memories he looked happy and like he was enjoying himself. I think I am most like Jonas because he wants to help his friends and other people by saving them from the control of the community. Memories are basically how he knows The Giver and how he is going to be The Giver. He is going to be The Giver for thousands and thousands of people.

The first thing that happens in the book and the play is a plane going overhead. They did a good job acting out a plane and people being scared about the plane and thinking about them being attacked. You think that this is going to be a scary story when the plane goes overhead, like there will be a fire and everything. But it is scary in a completely different way. It is not scary in the way of lots of fire and lots of scary monsters coming and trying to kill people. The play was disturbing in a different way. It is more about not like war but like destroying themselves.

People that would like this show are people who like memories, mystery, and using their imagination. I think this show should be for ages 6 and up. People should go see this play because it is a good adaptation of a good but scary story. It teaches you that if you are trying to make something perfect, you can't make it perfect, and you shouldn't try to make it perfect or you will end up doing bad things that you think are good.

Photos: Johnny Knight

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review of The Neo-Futurist's The Strange and Terrible True Tale of Pinocchio (The Wooden Boy) as Told by Frankenstein's Monster (The Wretched Creature)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Strange and Terrible True Tale of Pinocchio (The Wooden Boy) as Told by Frankenstein's Monster (The Wretched Creature) and it was at the Neo-Futurists.  I didn't really know how Frankenstein and Pinocchio would connect, because they are very different stories.  One is about murder and one is about telling the truth.  Frankenstein is about death and love, but not really romantic love, but how a monster shows his feelings.  He shows his feelings by doing terrible things which are so sad I don't know if you want to hear them.   The stories connected in sort of a weird way.  And it is like The Monster telling a story, but not really being in the story of Pinocchio.  They both have dramatic structure; they both have stuff that wouldn't really happen in real life.  They both have poignant parts to the story.  Both The Monster and Pinocchio are both false creations.  I mean like nobody in the world could make a live puppet.  The Monster is like made out of dead bodies, and you can't make dead body parts come to life again.  I got the word "false creation" from Macbeth, a great Shakespeare play: "A dagger of the mind, a false creation."  And a false creation means something that is untrue but seems true. I think Greg Allen, the director, does a good job of making these stories connect in a clear and understandable way.

So there was this character named Drummer (Thomas Kelly) and he wanted to get Pinocchio to be a drum when he was a donkey.  So he would stretch out his skin over a pot or something and then he could use his bones for drumsticks.  So, when Drummer is saying, "Oh we'll get to know each other.  What is your favorite color?  Oh and I bought you this beautiful leash and it has this beautiful rock on it.  Let's look at the water.  And let's put the rock in here" the rock pulls Pinocchio into the water and he comes back up a puppet.  I thought Drummer was kind of animal cruelty-ish.  He's not scary; he's mean and funny and a little stupid.  So when Pinocchio came to come see the Milkmaid/Blue Fairy/Tien Doman and he saw Lampwick (Thomas Kelly) laying as on the ground and he's a donkey.  And then these guys take Lampwick away and when they are off stage you hear "Oh! A dead donkey for my drum!"says Drummer.  It is cool and weird because Lampwick is also the person who played Drummer so it is kind of weird to be saying "Yay!  My other character is dead" and he's going to make himself into a drum.

I think in Pinocchio's tale, the sad one (the actual book) and the happy one (the Disney version), they should get Pinocchio to be homeschooled.  He's told "behave, go to school, don't be different than all the other boys in the world."  Him having to go to school, not be different, and not be his own self that he wants to be makes him be kind of a jerk.  In the play, Pinocchio (Robert Fenton) treats people like they are idiots and like he is the smartest person in the world. He actually isn't the smartest person in the world because the Fox (Chris Rickett) and Cat (Tien Doman) trick him into thinking that there is this place where he can "grow money, " but money doesn't grow on trees.  He just wants more of what he has; he is never satisfied with what he has.  It is really inappropriate for kids to swear.  That is really a grown up thing to do.  You can say "oh my gosh" or "geez louise," but you can't say "oh my god" or anything really offensive.  When I am angry I say "errrrrh."  And Pinocchio swears a lot, so he is a very inappropriate child. So when he is swearing at the Fox and the Cat, Geppetto (Dan Kerr-Hobert) says "That is very inappropriate language for a little boy" because it is. Some people kind of think it is kind of funny, but I don't because I would never swear, at least not as big as he does.

Guy Massey is The Monster.  The first impression that you got was that this was going to be a terrifying story that everybody dies in.  It is the feeling of terror--well something that is not as bad as that but still cool.  You are seeing him roaring, and there is big thunder and lighting and scary sounds. When you actually get into the story, you find out that it isn't as terrifying as in the beginning.  The Monster also swears a lot.  I think because he is kind of lonely, is one reason.  And he killed his own father.  And I suspect that wasn't very fun.  I thought his makeup wasn't as much like the makeup in the movie--which I haven't seen but I've seen lots of pictures.  This was more realistic, more like a real human, and not so cheesy.  I think of The Monster as lots of scary body parts sewn together and come to life with different colored eyeballs.  In the movie, he looks a little too cheesy to think that he is really weird or scary or real.

To be honest, I think there really isn't a main character.  There are two main characters which are The Monster and Pinocchio.  Even though they are both kind of jerks, you feel kind of sorry for them.  You feel sorry for Pinocchio because he is not treated equally as other children. I feel sorry for The Monster because  he feels lonely and sad.  That makes the audience not be bad persons; it just makes us sympathize.  If there is like somebody that is kind of mean to you and then they get hurt, you are going to feel sorry for them.  The show showed me what it is really like to sympathize with someone who is almost a complete jerk.  The Monster is also big and mean, but I kind of feel like The Monster is kind of actually a little bit nicer than Pinocchio even though he killed lots of people.  They both kind of have an excuse for their badness. Pinocchio is not treated very well, and The Monster is treated like he is a slave.  They both are not treated equally to other people.  The Blue Fairy and Geppetto are people that love Pinocchio, but nobody really loves the Monster because everybody just screams and runs away when they should actually be thinking about his feelings.  Pinocchio does lots and lots of cruel things to people--like when the Blue Fairy dies and he swears at somebody in the audience for doing what he asked them to do and like killing beautiful creatures like crickets.  But The Monster only does one cruel thing at the end of the play which I am not going to give away. And if you don't get to see the play, just call me up.

The puppets I thought were really cool.  I really liked the shadow puppets because they really had a cool meaning to them: they would show things that people couldn't really do onstage.  The Punch and Judy was kind of like a real puppet show, only a little more violent; like they killed off a little girl.  And that was really disturbing.  The puppet theater is also a puppet.  There is a guy in the puppet--kind of like Big Bird.  I have never seen an actual Punch and Judy show.  I have seen dancing puppet animals in the Puppet Bike.  I saw a Christmas Bear puppet show in New York in the winter.  But I have never seen an actual Punch and Judy show, so I didn't know what it would be like.

There was the ghost of the talking Cricket which was made out of ice, and it was very fantastic, and how they got that ice not to melt.  So Pinocchio bit the Cricket's head off and that is how he actually bit off his head--because he was made out if ice!  It was a little funny--Pinocchio biting the Cricket's head off and cutting his head off, and smashing him, and Geppetto eating him. It was funny because it was so absurd and crazy, not because a boy smashing a great part of nature is actually funny. 

People who would like this show are people that like donkeys, puppets, and violence.  It makes you ask yourself questions that you never asked yourself before.  What is it like to have done something bad but not to think it is a bad thing?  Does The Monster actually love Pinocchio?  Can The Monster tell the future?  Grownups should come see this show because it is sad, crazy, and fuh-larious.

Photos: Joe Mazza

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review of The Petrified Forest at Strawdog Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Petrified Forest and it was at Strawdog Theatre. The Petrified Forest is about this girl named Gabby (Caroline Neff) whose father (Ted Hoerl) runs this restaurant, and she is one of the waitresses. She wants to go to Paris because they have cool, amazing sights there, but there is this boy named Boze (Shane Kenyon) who kind of likes her who is a football player. She kind of likes him, but she also likes this writer named Squier (Paul Fagen) who comes into the restaurant. She likes him because he's been to Paris and she wants to go to Paris. And I can't blame her for wanting to go to Paris because I have been and it is one of the beautifulest places in the world. I think she wants to live there really because there are civilized people there. They dance in the streets. That is actually what she says.

So there is this scene where Boze is protecting Gabby from Duke Mantee (Jamie Vann). Duke Mantee is the criminal and they are running away because they had just killed a lot of people. And the police are running after them. And everybody is saying like, "Let's go," but they are waiting for Duke Mantee's girlfriend, and he wants to see his girlfriend. And when he is protecting her, Boze gets shot and there is lots of blood spraying from his hand. His hand it like completely red with blood. I thought it was creepy and awesome.

Duke Mantee is almost completely bad, but I think he likes Gabby. I don't think he like has a crush on her. I just think he likes her. I think Duke kind of wants something to do while he is waiting for his girlfriend: like shooting people, being mean, talking to Gramp (Walter Brody), and eating. While Duke is eating his food, this guy named Pyles (Travis Porchia) comes in and keeps saying "Hi, brother" to Joseph (Brandon Saunders), the driver for the rich people (Jim Poole and Janice O'Neill). Joseph and Pyles are both African American characters and are both not treated equally as the people that they work for. Pyles kind of feels sorry for Joseph because he doesn't feel like he's treated as equal with the rich people he works for. But Duke Mantee treats Pyles like he is just a pile of nothing. He treats him worse than his other employees because he has a different color skin than everybody else in his crew. Pyles seemed nicer than the rest of the crew that were always pointing guns at people. He wasn't always pointing guns at people, he was talking to people and being funny and talking to his "brother."

So Gabby was kissing Boze, and Squier came in. And they were talking about how he wanted to be buried in the Petrified Forest, and he was talking about how he was a writer, and she said, "I've done a few drawings, but they aren't that good." But he turned out really liking them. When he sees the pictures, it shows us that she's really good at expressing her emotions by drawing. You hope that she turns out going to Paris with Squier because that is what she wants and nobody is letting her do that.

Squier makes a bad decision. It is a very scary decision, and I don't think he really should have done it because it took away part of his world. He should have just married Gabby, and then when he died she would get the money still. I have no real idea why he did it--maybe because he wanted her to get to go to Paris that second, or sooner rather than later. Squier kind of wants to be like Cyrano because he gets badly hurt and dies. But in Cyrano he does not want to die and in this he does want to die. Squier wants Gabby to be happy, and he wants to die knowing that she loves him like Cyrano knows that Roxanne loves him. It makes the end seem touching when Gabby recites Squier's favorite poem that she recited to him when he first got there.

Since I am a girl of only 7 1/2, I do not know anything about true romance. I know about being kissed on the cheek, because that has happened to me, but I don't know anything about being romantically involved. Even for grownups, it is a pretty confusing play, because nobody knows why he didn't choose to be a happy family for a while. I know about how Romeo and Juliet works. Romeo kills himself because he thinks Juliet is dead. But she isn't dead, and she wakes up, and then she kills herself because she can't live without Romeo. The Petrified Forest is a good play; it is an awesome play. But if you are a child it is kind of hard to understand Squier's decision. But everything else is pretty understandable. Like this football player has a crush on a girl named Gabby, and then this writer comes, and then she tells him about how she wants to go to Paris, and then this bad guy comes, and then it turns into total destruction. It is really not a children's play. It is a grownup's play, but I don't mind thinking about things that are confusing, but not so confusing that you are like "what's happening? I don't understand a thing he's saying!" I can handle, "I don't understand what this means; I don't know why he made that decision" because it makes a mystery for you to solve after the play is done. And I really like the mystery.

People who would like this show are people that like mystery, romance, poetry, and Cyrano. It is a very interesting play. I liked it a lot because it kind of made me see through a whole new window in the world. You can make a bad decision, but other people seem to think it is a good decision. It is like a big pile of questions that you have to ask yourself that you have never answered a question that is even a little bit like it. After the show is finished you will feel happy, you will feel sad, you will feel mad--an assortment of different emotions, some of which I don't even remember the names to all of them. If you are young and you come to see this play, you will feel like you switched minds with your mom or your dad or the person sitting next to you because you will be able to know even more grownup things than you learn everyday. This is the end of my review, for which we twain are met.

Photos: Leigh Loftus