Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review of Shaw Chicago's The Millionairess

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Millionairess. And it was at the Ruth Page Theatre. Actually, the review of Harold and the Purple Crayon, the previous review that I wrote, I saw that play two days before I saw this one at the same theater. Coincidence, isn't it? This is a staged reading, and when you go to a staged reading sometimes they are just wearing their regular clothes and sometimes they are wearing costumes. In this, they were wearing costumes. When you go into it, you see a bunch of music stands because they are going to put their scripts on them and read from them, and that is why it is called a reading--because they are reading from their scripts. This play was written by Bernard Shaw. My experience with Bernard Shaw is that I have seen My Fair Lady which is based on a play called Pygmalion which is by Bernard Shaw. It kind of sounds like a pig and a chameleon put together, but that is not at all what it is about. The Millionairess is actually what you think it is going to be about: a millionairess. It is also about breaking up and lawyers, which can be confusing for kids my age. But it is mostly about a millionairess (Lydia Berger Gray), so I mostly understood it. And when you go in, I think you will be surprised about how well the actors do their parts even though it is a staged reading--and usually you wouldn't think a staged reading would have such good casting.

The Egyptian Doctor (Mark Plonsky) was a really funny character because he was serious--but also funny at the same time. He was like, "Oh. Nothing wrong with you! Good morning!" I thought it was funny because the millionairess, Epifania Ognisanti di Parerga, was like, "Look! I really have something wrong with me!" but he didn't trust her because she was just trying to be interesting. In the program, it just says Egyptian Doctor. It says Egyptian Doctor, because you don't find out what his name is. Because she says when she asks him to marry her, "ascertain his name and make the arrangements." It is funny because she doesn't even know his name as she's marrying him.

The lawyer (Joseph Bowen) you wouldn't suspect would actually be funny, but he was actually one of the funniest characters in the play. I liked that when Epifania said "I'm going to commit suicide, and I'd like to leave all my money to my husband,"he was like, "Oh you want to commit suicide? Here's some medicine that will kill you lickety split." And then she was like, "Don't you have any sympathy for me at all?" And he says, "I do have sympathy for you. You just said you wanted to commit suicide, and I am trying to help." And then she calls him a rhinoceros. I don't know why she calls him a rhinoceros; I think it is about the meanness, because rhinoceroses can be pretty mean. But I think it would be a better thing to say if he smelled bad, because rhinoceroses smell disgusting.

Epifania has a very strange relationship with her husband Alastair (Gary Alexander). It is weird because she is leaving all the money to her husband and she hates him because she thought he was going to be very romantic but he wasn't at all. I think he wasn't the best type for her because she only cared about money and he only cared about boxing and sports. Alastair had a girlfriend which was called a Sunday wife. The girlfriend's name was Patricia Smith (Jhenai Mootz). And he like ran off to her to become husband and wife but Epifania was kind of a Sunday wife to another man Adrian Blenderbland (Jonathan Nichols). I thought Patricia was funny, like when she said "And I ran to his arms and we embraced, but not like the way that you think of embracing." Blenderbland is always talking about how money isn't important at all, but it is when you need it. Like you need to get new food all the time and you need to get new clothes that fit you. I think that if anyone was actually doing anything wrong it was Alastair because he was actually dating someone and Epifania was only going to Blenderbland for help.

There was a part that was touching, and funny and weird all at the same time. The scene starts with Patricia and Alastair sitting in a hotel somewhere, maybe a hot tub, I'm not sure. And the part that was really touching, funny, and weird was when the Egyptian doctor goes up to Epifania and she says, "Check my pulse!" And then he checks her pulse and says, "That's the most beautiful pulse I've ever heard." And then they get married. It was touching because they got married and it was funny because they got married so suddenly. And it was weird because he married her for a pulse.

People that would like this show are people that like staged readings, trying to get new boyfriends, and really really long names. One thing that was interesting about it is that Shaw makes his characters talk in a different way than we actually do in real life--in a very opera like way. I mean that they talk exaggeratedly. And that is really fun to see in a play. I liked how they could make a staged reading into more of a play because they made costumes that looked like that time period and their performances I thought were great. People should see this show because it is fun and it gets you really interested in the plot of the story.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review of Harold and the Purple Crayon at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show, and it was called Harold and the Purple Crayon. Strangely, I had never read Harold and the Purple Crayon even though it is one of the most famous children's books ever written. But now I have. The book is about going to different places and exploring and how you can do stuff in your imagination that you can't do in real life. The play is kind of about the same things but in a different way, like the milkmen (Alex Goodrich and Bethany Thomas)were telling the little boy Harold (Nate Lewellyn) to draw this and use his imagination, but in the book he just decides to use his imagination and use it in the way that he wants. I thought the show could have been better, but I adored the costumes, puppets, and the choreography.

It is pretty difficult to do an adaptation of Harold and the Purple Crayon because of all the crazy things that happen, like quick scene changes where he is on land and is scared away from a terrible monster and two seconds later he has to be in the sea. Don Darryl Rivera was the writer and he did something that I have seen lots before in kids' shows: turning a book with almost no words into a play with lots of singing. (Auston James did the music and Rob Burgess did the lyrics.) I think they do that because younger kids like to sing along to lots of songs. Like when I was like 1, 2, and 3 I sang songs that my dad liked. Songs make a show longer and they can make you move on from what you were doing faster or slower. So this is an example in which they did not move along very fast: "I'm flying so high. There's a dragon in the sky." They were just saying two things over and over again that had to do with one thing: that there's a dragon in the sky. He was just scared and running in place. There was another song that was kind of repetitive, but it actually made the play go on faster because these aliens were trying to snatch the crayon and trying to eat it, but they all did it in different ways, which I thought made it more exciting. The song just went "Jump it! Jump it!" but the director Sean Graney and the choreographer Tommy Rapley told the actors to make up different tactics to try to get the crayon.

It could have been better if it had less singing; if it had had less singing it would have been more true to the book because there is nothing that says in the book that Harold could be singing at that moment--he is drawing and he is running and almost never has his mouth open in the whole thing. Dancing would be fine; you can do choreography with only three songs--three songs would have been perfect for this, but there were like around ten.

My favorite costume (by Alison Siple) was the porcupine because it kind of looked like armor and had spikes coming out of it. I liked how they used everyday objects. They used a bike helmet and put quills on that and I thought that was really cute and creative. I thought Harold's costume was very true to the book. I also loved the Alien costumes which I thought were really cute, and I loved their little tongues that poked out and kind of looked like socks trying to eat the purple crayon. That costume was also a puppet. I also liked the crab puppet/costume because of the little snappers that people would put their hands in and make them snap, and it made them look like they didn't have any hands, just snappers. It looked hard to move in, but Bethany Thomas made it look easy. Joanna Iwanicka did the puppets and props. One of my favorite puppets was kind of a puppet and also kind of an umbrella. It was a puffer fish that was an umbrella that when you pushed it up and made it pop out it was blown up. I thought the caterpillar eating the apple was really adorable because it had an enormous lump, which was the apple inside it, which I thought was really hilarious.

I thought the choreography was really awesome because it was good for the story to have that choreography because if it didn't have it, the songs wouldn't have as much impact on the viewer. If there was a bad song the choreography would make it seem more interesting. I liked the alien dance because they were all jumping and they were kind of hypnotizing Harold so he would do the dance and then they could eat his crayon. The moose and the porcupine I thought had a really cool dance when they were singing about the pie and how they were in love with the pie. I think that when the porcupine and the moose came on stage, I wanted to get to know those characters even more because the actors were good at playing their parts. Their dance was a lot of twirling around with the pie and basically not even noticing Harold was there. I thought the dance was funny.

People that would like this show are people that like crayons, using your imagination, and aliens. I think this show should be for ages 1 to 5 because there is nothing that would creep out younger children. I thought the script needed more work, but I thought all the designing was great. Kids younger than me might think more about the designs than the script, so the script problems might not be as much a problem for the younger kids because they are paying more attention to the puppets and the dancing.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review of Males Order Brides at Quest Theatre Ensemble

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Males Order Brides. It's called Males Order Brides because it is about men ordering brides so they can get married. They are doing it because they have certain dreams about what their brides should be like. They want them to be pretty in a certain kind of way, and good kind of conversationalists, and very proper, and lounge dancers. They learn that those kind of dreams are right under their noses. They have this lady named Star Billings (Kieran Welsh-Phillips) that is helping Big Harry Deal (Jason Bowen) to blow all the men and the heroine Calico Shurtz (Jacqueline Salamack) into little pieces. This show is a melodrama; that means that the villain tells you everything and they have like beautiful heroines and men that work in a gold mine. And they come right out and say what they want. This means you just have to sit back and relax and enjoy the show, and you don't have to figure anything out at all. I like figuring things out more than just seeing things happen and having the characters tell you everything that is happening. Some people don't like processing things as much as other people and some people just like a break from processing things and processing things and processing things. This play is good for a break if you like processing things but you really want a two-hour break.

I thought the can-can dancer costumes (by Jana Anderson) were pretty cool because they looked like they were from cowboy times. And the one of the brides that was very proper with the hat and the spectacles (which was actually Star Billings) had a silk-looking dress that looked like somebody that was coming from Britain. The bride with the blonde curly hair I thought looked like one of the girls from Little House on the Prairie and I also thought that the scientist/lounge singer costume looked very sparkly and looked liked a famous singer from New York--because that's what that bride was.

I think it was kind of a bad message to send to say that you should change yourself to make somebody like you like Calico Shurtz does. She goes with her friends and puts on a dress and a fancy hat because she has been a tomboy for the whole play. A better message would have been to say, "Just make him like you as a person as who you are." She does the exact opposite of that which is making him like her a different way than she was before.

The actors wanted to make the audience laugh, but sometimes they kind of didn't know how to, but at most points they made the audience laugh. When they don't get as many people laughing, they would make up a joke that wasn't in the script. Sometimes they were the funniest parts: like when Big Harry Deal said, "I'll go and check on her in the girls' bathroom" and when he leaves C.D. Nichols (Bruce Phillips) said "Don't go into the girls' bathroom!" He said it in a voice kind of like "I am kind of scared that he is going to go into the girls' bathroom" and I thought that that was one of the funniest parts in this scene.

When the audience would throw popcorn at the villains, sometimes it got stuck in their hats, sometimes it got stuck in their dresses, and sometimes it got stuck in their shoes. Sometimes it also got stuck in my hair. I did not like it very much to have popcorn stuck in my hair, but it was an experience--the first time I ever got pelted with popcorn. One of the jokes that I really liked was when Big Harry Deal was talking with Star Billings while she was being pelted with popcorn and she was eating it. And then Big Harry Deal said, "Don't eat so much. You'll fill up and you won't be hungry for your dinner." And I thought it was funny because you cannot possibly be filled up on three pieces of popcorn. And then another time when he was was serving them the dinner and he dropped one of the plates, and then he picked it up, and nothing had fallen off. So he shook it up and down, but nothing came off because it was a prop. And he just served it to them like, "Ohhh-kay. I'm giving them fake foo-ood I guess. Ohhh-kay.

People who would like this show are people who like melodramas, the old wild west, and people getting pelted with popcorn. Some kids I think will like this show because it is easy to understand what is going on and there is lots of popcorn throwing and they can throw popcorn--which is something they have always wanted to do and this will be like the only chance in their life they will get to do it. The grown-ups in the audience were acting kind of like kids because they were having so much fun watching the show, and the oldest people there even threw popcorn. And some of the oldest people maybe came to see it because it was like a child memory of going to see melodramas.

Photos: Braxton Black