Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review of Fail/Safe at Strawdog Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Fail/Safe. It was based on the novel by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler and it was adapted by Nikki Klix and Anderson Lawfer. (Awww.) It was directed by Anderson Lawfer. It was about a bomb that was going toward Moscow and the president (Tom Hickey) said that he would sacrifice New York if it actually hit Moscow. And everyone had to make a decision about how they would get the bomb down so they wouldn't have to sacrifice New York. It took place in three different places, but all of the characters and places were in the same space. So they didn't have to do set changes or anything; they just brought up the lights on a different part of the stage (scenic design by Mike Mroch). I thought that was really awesome how you got to see what every character's reaction was to the same story. Like the Professor (Brian Amidei) thought they should go straight to war and have a controlled war but at the same time you are seeing Buck be like, "I hope that there is no war of any kind." I thought this show was very intense and nerve wracking and fun because you had no idea what was going to happen next. At the beginning everything is like hoppity-do, everything is great, and then it turns into this giant potential nuclear disaster. I think that people should definitely go and see this show. I had a lot of fun!

The president and his translator Buck were in a bunker because they think there was about to be a war and they don't want the president to be killed. Then they are trying to compromise with Moscow so they won't start throwing bombs at America. What I thought was cool was that you usually expect the president to be in the biggest and fanciest space possible, but he was actually in the most unlively, cramped place you can think of. Sometimes with a very suspenseful play you go too overboard with something, but with this I think the president and Buck seemed calm enough that they could do what they had to do, but scared enough that they didn't seem crazy. I thought the president was very well portrayed because even though he had a lot of power he didn't seem selfish. When you were seeing if he would drop the bombs on New York, that was very suspenseful!

The Nerve Center is where everything starts, where the entire nuclear war might start because they have this new technology and they are showing it to Congressman Raskob (Joe Mack) and an engineer named Knapp (Lee Russell) but then they see that there is a plane coming to the U.S. that might have a bomb and nobody knows what it is. I thought that Colonel Cascio (Stuart Ritter) and General Bogan (Mark Pracht) are two of the most complicated characters in the show because they feel like the Colonel has to obey the General on everything that he says but then he tries to go against him. Then he gets into trouble for that, also because he happened to hit his boss's face with a phone. Their job is to obey even if they think it would kill everyone in the world. I don't think that is a good way to treat people, to make them obey everything you say even if it will hurt people. They make those rules because they think it will be better to have someone who is older and more experienced telling everyone what to do. I think General Bogan was right in this case because it would be better to lose 5 lives than losing like 5,000.

A lot of funny and sad stuff happened in the Pentagon. Everyone had a different view of things. Sometimes their opinions were so crazy that you could hardly believe them. But sometimes the people had ideas that were so great, you just wished the people would believe them. The professor's idea that you have a war that can be controlled on both sides sounded impossible, because you don't know what your enemy is going to do next. But the professor's craziest and horriblest idea was to just kill everybody in Moscow. The idea that I thought was great was the one to try to get the bomb back in any way possible and Brigadier General Black (Carmine Grisolia) has that idea. Black is basically the good guy in the story. He tries to follow orders even though they require him to hurt people because he knows if there is a war it would last for a very long time. I thought that General Stark (Dave Skvarla) was really funny because he said this hilarious line about the professor which was something along the lines of, "When will the university pay to cut your hair." I just loved the expressions that came over both their faces.

People who would like this show are people who like suspense, old-timey computers, and haircuts. I really liked this show. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I think this show should be for ages 9 and up because it is very sad, but I think people who know more about what war is actually like and don't think of it as a game would be able to handle it. I think people should definitely go and see this show. I loved it!

Photos: Tom McGrath

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review of King Lear at Chicago Shakespeare

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called King Lear. It was written by William Shakespeare. It was directed by Barbara Gaines and it was about King Lear (Larry Yando) who has three daughters and he was giving his kingdom away to his daughters and he loved his youngest daughter Cordelia (Nehassaiu deGannes) the most. (Don't tell her sisters!) And his two older daughters, Goneril (Bianca LaVerne Jones) and Regan (Jessiee Datino), really went overboard with telling him how much they loved him. Then when it was Cordelia's turn, she just said "I love you as a daughter should." And then King Lear gets really angry. Then the rest of the play is him realizing he did the wrong thing and realizing that he shouldn't have given any land to his other daughters because it was all just a plot to get all his power and land. This play is about betrayal, love, government, and how Lear can't think about what his actions will make other people feel like or will make him feel soon. I had a lot of fun at the play as well as it being sad. I think that is a great combination because then there is a mystery to the play. Just because there was a horrible thing doesn't mean there is going to have to be another horrible thing next--sometimes you get a funny part.

I thought the man who played King Lear was amazing because he made King Lear funny and made you able to sympathize with him, but you're also kind of angry with him because he is very gullible and he never really tries to learn anything about his faults and how they cause the things around him. I thought that the opening was really funny because it opens up with him trying to change the music on his radio, but then it keeps not being the song he wants and then he throws the controller on the floor. And then the man who is standing next to him pulls out another one. It shows you that he is very rich that he has so many of these he can break one every few seconds. He deals with his anger by throwing things and not by thinking over what his problem is. You like him least when he sends off Cordelia and you like him most when he goes back to Cordelia. He starts out being angry at Cordelia and then he realizes his mistake.

My favorite scene was when the rain happened. The sound effects (Lindsay Jones) and lighting (Michael Gend) were amazing and terrifying because the thunder was so loud and the lighting was like lightning. The intensity was like if somebody was really in the storm because it was so loud and you didn't know when it was going to happen. When the scene was happening it was when King Lear was going crazy. I think those two things went together because the storm was kind of going crazy and the storm was making him crazy and you felt like you were in his mind because of course he wasn't really commanding the clouds but it seemed like he was. This is one of the only plays in Shakespeare where there is no magic. Like in Romeo and Juliet there's the magic elixir, in Hamlet there's a ghost, and in Julius Caesar the prophecies actually come true and the blood fountain dream. Edmund (Jesse Luken) lies about a dream that he has about his brother Edgar (Steve Haggard) doing wrong. What is weird is that Lear is kind of like Prospero in the storm scene, but Prospero is actually commanding the storm with magic. Lear also sees Edgar as a philosopher when he is dressed up like a crazy person and pretending he is a crazy person. It makes the story seem more real because of how little magic there is. If this story is real, it makes it very very sad.

I thought it was cool how Cordelia was a general because usually she is just a princess in a tower, and they made her seem more capable. And it made it seem more like when Lear disowned her, she didn't just go and marry a jerk. France (Christopher Chmelik) let her have freedom to do whatever she wanted to do.

I thought that the Fool (Ross Lehman) might have been in love with King Lear because of how he treated him. He treated him very nicely and when he was sad he would try to make him feel better. It was not like a fool usually would, like telling a bunch of different jokes; he would actually comfort him by giving him a hug. And King Lear gave the fool his coat so he wouldn't be cold and stuff like that. I think that King Lear was in love with the Fool because of that.

Edgar and Edmund were not very good brothers because Edmund was trying to get Edgar into trouble with his dad so Edmund would be Gloucester's (Michael Aaron Lindner) favorite child. Edmund was basically the villain in the play but there were also other villains. Like King Lear at the beginning is a villain. And Regan and Goneril and the Duke of Cornwall (Lance Baker) also were evil because two of them put out somebody's eyes and the other one lied in so many ways. I think Edgar has nothing against his brother and you feel sorry for him and just want to shout out from the audience: "He's lying to you! Don't go! Your father loves you!" I thought Steve did a great job at being crazy but not so crazy that you absolutely thought he'd really gone crazy. I liked when he was trying out how he could be crazy in different ways. I remember one where he says a line in like the weirdest way possible--like it doesn't even sound possible that it is crazy--and then he's like, "No." And I just found that funny because usually in Shakespeare when someone is trying to do believable pretending to be something that they are not, they're not very good but they don't know that. Like Bottom thinks that he is the best actor in the world, but actually he is really bad. After a lot of practicing Edgar finds out a way that he can pretend to be crazy. But then when he gets out he realizes he's just facing a bunch of crazy people: the Fool, King Lear, and Gloucester.

People who would like this show are people who like tomboy Cordelias, amazing storm scenes, and stereo controller destruction. I think people should definitely go and see this show because it is funny, scary, and King Lear is amazing! I really liked this show because it made me realize how funny and sad King Lear can be.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review of Women Beware Women at Two Pence Theatre Co

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Women Beware Women. It was directed by Kathryn Walsh and it was written by Thomas Middleton. It was about many things. One of them is a girl named Bianca (Eliza Hofman) who was very in love with her husband Leantio (Josh Zagoren) at the beginning but then he left for a week and when he came back she was having an affair with the Duke (Nick Jordan). It is also about a woman named Livia (Loretta Rezos) and her brother Hippolito (Michael Mercier) was in love with his niece Isabella (Maggie Scrantom). She tries to make her fall in love with him so he won't be in despair for the rest of is life, but things don't go exactly as planned. Livia is also part of the Bianca story because she arranges for the Duke to come and make her do something against her will that makes him happy but doesn't make her happy. I think that women should definitely beware women who are very good at helping people with their troubles and are good at talking but they do really bad things, like Livia. I liked how this was a play about women who do terrible things instead of about women who do amazing things. I also love plays about women who do amazing things, but this was different and I liked it. I thought this was an exciting play, and you should definitely go and see it. I really liked it!

Bianca's choice to be with the Duke instead of her husband is, I think, sort of a bad one. I think she should have stayed with her husband since she was already married. And I felt like the Duke expressed how he thought she was so beautiful in a horrible way. At first I didn't understand why she decided to go with the Duke instead of her husband. But now I think she decided that the Duke would make her rich and famous. And she realized how her husband was treating her, which was not very nice. He was treating her more like an object that made him happy. He brought her home to his mother (Morgan McCabe) and made promises that he had not talked about with his wife yet. And he wouldn't even let her look out the window to see what the weather was like. He doesn't let her go anywhere because he is afraid she'll have an affair with someone. And if he hadn't done that, she probably wouldn't have.

I think it is weird that everyone is so shocked about the uncle-niece relationship between Hippolito and Isabella. I think that it is weird because in this time period people got married to their cousins, and an uncle is not exactly the same but it is sort of the same. In the play they are very shocked that he is in love with her, but I wasn't. I felt like it wasn't good that Livia lied to them just so her brother would be happy. She could have just said, "I think you two can be in love and have to be in love secretly because everyone would hate you for a long time except me because I don't care that you two are uncle and niece. I think that if you love each other you should love each other and I won't tell anyone" and then actually keep her promise. I don't think it would be okay now, but I think it would have been back then. You are rooting for the relationship because when Livia lies to Isabella and says that they aren't actually uncle and niece, Isabella then just goes straight to tell him that she loves him. Hippolito seems like an amazing person compared to the Ward (Laura Lapidus) who she is supposed to marry who is a complete idiot!

I think that Livia is a very evil character but you still find sympathy for her. Most of the stuff that she does is horrible horrible horrible, but they still find a way to make you like her. You can understand why she decides to let Guardiano (Matt Pierce) try to make the Duke and Bianca a couple: because she thinks that if she makes the Duke happy he will make her rich and famous. And that I think is very selfish, but you can understand why she wants that too. You don't hate her because her one and only love dies but most people think it is good that they killed him because she and her love weren't actually married and he was already married and they hadn't been divorced yet. She falls in love in a kind of strange way; she falls in love with him by just seeing him. I think she just suddenly finds who she wants to be with. That makes you like her more because this is not a plot. It is actually the way she feels.

I thought that the staging idea was really cool. You would be sometimes super close to the action because you were seated all around the room and the action took place all around the room. But the problem was that sometimes I couldn't see what was going on in the scene because of where we were situated. I really wish that I could have seen the dueling scene because I know who it was by, R&D Choreography, and I know their choreography is very good. They could make it different by either just putting it on one stage or making it promenade so you could go and see whatever you wanted whenever you wanted. I think that my readers should get there very early and go in the second that the doors open and get the best seats in the house. Don't get a back seat--get a very front seat! Some people will have to sit in the back seats, so you should just bring like 7 cushions and sit on all of them.

People who would like this show are people who like characters that you hate but also love, evil-ish relationships, and suspense. I had a fun but on-the-edge-of-my-seat time at this show. I think that it is great to have this kind of show that hasn't been done in a long time. It was written a long time ago, but it represents some things that are happening in our time. I really loved this show.

Photos: Ben Chandler