Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review of End Days at Windy City Playhouse

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called End Days. It was by Deborah Zoe Laufer and it was directed by Henry Godinez. It was about this family who lived in this house and the mother Sylvia (Tina Gluschenko) was very religious and she thought the end of the world was coming. Arthur (Keith Kupferer) and Rachel (Sari Sanchez), the father and daughter, did not believe that the end of the world was coming soon. The daughter became friends with this boy Nelson (Stephen Cefalu Jr.) who had a crush on her at her school. And they had like this party where they were waiting for the end of the world but since three of them did not believe it, they were not taking it seriously. And the mother was yelling at them to pray, but the thing is, I think that if the world is ending you should just have the time of your life. I think that this was an awesome new play and I think this was a great production. It was very strange but then it made a lot of sense too. Like there was a guy (Steven Strafford) who played both Jesus and Stephen Hawking. There are not many things that could be weirder than that. But then Jesus and Stephen Hawking are both very popular people in the world so it was great to see them in a different context.

When you walk in, you look up at the ceiling and you see a bunch of things you would find in an office and a bunch of toys. And it looks like an office and kid's playhouse has been blown up because the father used to work in one of the twin towers. The set (by Brian Sidney Bembridge) shows you all the disorder and the destruction that has happened to the family. But it didn't look burnt; it looked like it was all up in the air. And even though they had moved in awhile earlier, they hadn't unpacked everything, so there might have been toys and computers just floating around the house. The set wasn't only the house. It was also a cafeteria and there was also a wall behind it and a swing for some of the scenes that happened outside.

I really liked the scenes with Stephen Hawking, but it felt kind of wrong to laugh at a person in a wheelchair with a funny voice. It would be okay if they told a funny joke. Like when he said "bummer," that was funny because number 1, he was a famous scientist and he would probably not say anything like "bummer." I did find that funny, but then I still found it slightly sad because I was afraid that people were laughing just because he was in a wheelchair and had a computer's voice. I found some of the wheelchair stuff slightly uncomfortable for me because, when he was swinging back and forth next to Rachel on the swing, people were laughing but of course he can't just get out of his chair and swing with her, so that makes it pretty sad too, to see this man wanting to do stuff with one of his fans but he can't. I don't think it is bad that they laughed because it can also be funny and it wasn't really Stephen Hawking. It was just in Rachel's mind. And Jesus is probably also just in Sylvia's mind, but then he could actually be there, depending on what kind of show you think this is. I think it is not a religious show about how Jesus is always there. I think it is saying that Sylvia thinks Jesus will be staying around with her. And then she will go to heaven but she doesn't know about the rest of her family. And I think the show is sympathetic with her because she doesn't know what to do and it is hard on her to believe that her family doesn't feel like any of this stuff is going to happen.

The family also includes Nelson, who has a crush on the daughter. Both of his parents are dead and now he is living with his stepmother. So he is having a pretty hard life and his crush's family is kind of his family too. He falls in love with the smartest girl in the class and they learn to like each other. Each day he wears an Elvis suit because his mother made him one when he was a little kid. The Elvis suit makes him feel more secure and like his mother is still around. I find it very heartwarming that he would still wear this outfit even though his mother has been gone for so long. But he doesn't want everyone to help him, he just wants to have a good time and not have everyone look at him like he's a weirdo. He's adorable and he is the romantic person, but he doesn't turn into a prince when you kiss him. He brings the entire family back together. The father used to be depressed and once Nelson came around and they went shopping for all kinds of cereal, he feels better. Rachel used to be super uninclusive and didn't like to talk to anyone, and then she learned all the cool facts about the universe when Nelson gives her Stephen Hawking's book and she fell in love with Nelson and he made her happy. And the mom learns to be open to whatever from Nelson because he can be in both religions and he loved science. He's like an angel in disguise, but he got something in return. He got a family.

People who would like this show are people who like ceilings covered with stuff, Stephen Hawking, and really cute Elvises. I think people should definitely go see this show because it is funny, heartwarming, and you get to know a lot about different kinds of beliefs. I loved this show!

Photos: Justin Barbin

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review of Sideshow Theatre's Antigonick

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Antigonick. It was by Sophokles and it was translated by Anne Carson and it was directed by Jonathan L Green. It was about a girl named Antigone (Anu Bhatt/Ann James) who wanted her brother to be buried, but it was against the law to bury him because he was supposedly a traitor. So Antigone went out to bury him, and she was caught and was going to be buried alive. I thought it was kind of cool how they restarted the story halfway through the play and had each actor switch roles and do it from the beginning. It was kind of like a great feat to change your character at the snap of your fingers. It was an amazing thing. It must have been weird to watch someone else saying the lines that you just said. I think they did that so they could show how different actors portrayed the same role. And I thought that was pretty awesome.

The first part of the show started out with Anu as Antigone talking with her sister Ismene (Eleni Pappageorge) about how unfair it was that only one of their brothers could be buried. So she decided to bury him but then the guard (David Guy) caught her and she was Kreon (Ann James) sentenced to death. It is kind of ironic that she went to bury someone and ended up buried herself. And you don't really know if she is alive or dead at the end. I'd like to think she is alive because I like happy endings. I really liked when Eurydike (David Prete) said, "This is Eurydike's monologue. This is her only speech in the play." And I think that it is cool not to have them recite the monologue in a straightforward way and just saying what it is, just basically summarizing it. It is unusual and it showed that the character of the wife, she was just "the wife." She didn't do anything else. The Chorus (Lona Livingston), who is basically the narrator, also had a part to play. She was basically the court advisor to Kreon, like Jafar but she is not evil. Teiresias (Maritza Cervantes) was really awesome because he was completely blind but he could tell the future. And I really liked when the The Chorus said about Teiresias something along the lines of "And history shows, he is always right." I thought that was funny because it was very matter-of-fact. And I liked when The Chorus was proving someone wrong already, but then they still made it so matter-of-fact.

I found it cool that they switched actors and did the same show a second time, but the second time around the jokes weren't funny and you already knew what was going to happen, and it made it less enjoyable than the first time even though the actors were equally as good. But then it was also good because you got to understand things a little better because you were hearing it for the second time. And I think it was also cool how the actors' interpretations were different. Kreon in the first part plays Antigone during the second part. I think that the actor got to get the experience of both characters. If Kreon could have seen Antigone's side, the ending might have been different and he wouldn't have tried to bury her in the first place. Eurydike hates Kreon a lot, so the play has that actor become the person that they hated before. So then you can get both perspectives like I said before.

People who would like this show are people who like Greek drama, different perspectives, and knowing what the ending could have been. I think people should go see this show. It was a very interesting and eye-opening experience for me.

Photos: Jonathan L. Green

Friday, March 27, 2015

Review of The One and Only Ivan at Lifeline Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The One and Only Ivan. The original book was by Katherine Applegate and it was adapted by James E. Grote. It was directed by Dorothy Milne. I really think that this was a great adaptation and The One and Only Ivan is one of my favorite books, so I'm glad they didn't mess it up! The story is about this gorilla named Ivan (Christian Castro) who is put in a shopping mall for visitors to come and look at. But then he didn't have any other gorillas to be friends with and he just lived in a cage. There is an elephant named Stella (Allison Cain) who is a very learned old elephant and she wants Ivan to be happy. Ivan also has a friend who is a dog named Bob (Rick Smith) who was a stray and didn't work in the shopping mall and who is the comic relief. And there is a baby elephant named Ruby (Tiffany Oglesby) who was sent there and she doesn't really know anything and she is scared. So Stella asks Ivan to promise her that he will help Ruby get to a better place. The rest of the story is all about Ivan trying to get Ruby to a better place. I think that it is good to have a show for kids that faces actual problems that are happening in the world right now instead of just making it all happy happy fun time. This show is funny, sad, and bittersweet.

I think that Ivan is an amazing character. He is so sweet and adorable, but then he is a good protector, so you shouldn't mess with him. I really loved how the actor used his body (movement consultant, Kristina Fluty) to make himself look like a gorilla. But he wasn't making fun of how gorillas move because that would have thrown off the whole tone of the story. I loved when he got angry and jumped down to help Ruby. You got to know Ivan very well throughout the course of the show, and I loved the first chapter of the book, how it starts, and I'm glad they kept that in. When you watch him saying "I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It is not as easy as it looks" it makes it even more sad, especially if you read the book, because you know what is coming. But it is not only sad because it is kind of funny because there is a gorilla who is trying to write a book or, in the play, there is a gorilla who is trying to narrate a big story. One of my favorite Ivan moments was when he was painting and how he made a bunch of pictures of bananas. And then he is like, "I shall paint…another banana" like he is just the most dignified artist ever. I thought that was great and hilarious. I think that he really is an artist. I think that what makes an artist is if somebody makes art and shows it to other people, then that is an artist.

I think that the puppets were amazing. They looked so awesome and cool. I especially liked the elephants. The elephants were so detailed, but they didn't put like a mask of an elephant on someone because that would have just looked like a mutant elephant-person. They held the elephant head in their hands so then it was like the elephant had the spirit of a human. You could also see the person's facial expression because it is very hard to make understandable facial expressions on an elephant puppet. I thought that both of the actors playing elephants did an amazing job at making you sympathize with them and never want their characters to go away. I think it is very sad when Stella says that gorillas have hearts of ice. And Ivan says, "I would give anything for a heart of ice." That made my heart want to be a heart of ice! Bob, the dog, was another puppet. He was small and cute and adorable, but very sassy. And I want a dog like Bob because I want a sassy dog. Sassy dogs are just the cutest things. I really liked when he woke up and was like, "Hey! I'm dreaming about food over here!" I think that that was very funny. He looked kind of like a stuffed animal that you might have in your house. Bob the character is already animated in the book, so it was fun to have the dog very hyper throughout the entire show.

I thought it was awesome how Bob was played by the same person who played Mac because even though they are such different characters they still have some things in common. Like they both have a hard life and they both love Ivan. And they both love eating food, I think! You don't hate Mac, even though he abuses the animals, because he thinks he is doing the right thing. But he can never make me think that by hitting a animal you are doing the right thing. George (Tom Jansson) and Julia (Oglesby) are father and daughter. They both love the animals a lot and they are a great case of humans who love animals. Julia reminds me a lot of me because I love art and I would like to have a gorilla for a friend! And I would name a dog Bob, too! I think that their father-daughter relationship is very strong. I really liked how George would do anything for his daughter, even though they have a hard life. Even when he thinks he might lose his job for doing the right thing, he still does it for Julia.

People who would like this show are people who like gorilla best friends, elephants with human spirits, and adorable Bob dogs. I think people should definitely go see this show. I think it is best for kids 4 and up because they can understand the issues. And I think adults would also like this because it is not all about kids' stuff. I thought it was very touching but also very funny. I absolutely loved it!

Photos: Suzanne Plunkett

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Review of One Came Home at Lifeline Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called One Came Home. It was based on the book by Amy Timberlake and adapted by Jessica Wright Buha. It was directed by Elise Kauzlaric. It was about a girl named Georgie (Ashley Darger) who had a sister named Agatha (Amanda Jane Long) who had run away with a bunch of pigeon hunters because she wanted to get away from her small town and all the people that wanted to marry her. Georgie likes to hunt pigeons and all kinds of animals. So when Agatha doesn't come back, Georgie decides to go out looking for her with Billy (Jeff Kurysz), one of Agatha's courters. Everyone else thinks that Agatha is dead, but Georgie thinks she might not be. I really liked this show. I thought it was a great adaptation because I read and loved the book.

I think that Agatha's suitors all seemed like pretty good guys, but the thing is she wanted to go to college. And because it is 1871, if she gets married, then it would have been useless and waste of money to go to college because she wouldn't be able to become a teacher or anything. She'd just be washing dishes and hanging out the clothes to dry all the time. Or at least that's what Grandpa Bolte (Errol McLendon) thinks. But then you don't hate Grandpa Bolte because he is such a nice guy, but also I don't agree with him. If she has kids and is a mother she has to be smart so then she can homeschool her kids! Mr. Olmstead (Dan Granata) loved books and he would show Agatha all his books in his library to woo her. The thing is, if he got married to Agatha she still would just be his wife. He probably wouldn't let her go to college. And Billy would probably have done the same thing, but Billy was very much in love with her. But the thing is he was very mad at Olmstead because he felt like he'd taken something away from him. Even though Billy is in love with her, he still treats her like property because he feels like something has been taken away from him. Agatha doesn't want to be a wife or property. I think that seems very powerful for her not to just say, "Oh you are the nicest of my suitors. I choose you!" I think that is good that even in these days they had women who would stand up for themselves. I find it kind of aggravating that Billy just goes off and proposes to Polly (Miriam Reuter) right after his love dies, but that shows us that he thinks that Agatha is replaceable even though she was the love of his life. Even though Billy seems like a nice guy, I think Mr. Olmstead is better because after she dies, he is just sad for awhile. And if you fall in love with someone they can never be replaced.

The most important relationship in the play is between Georgie and Agatha because you see how Georgie would do anything to find her sister and make up for the mistakes she made. Georgie's adventures were all with Billy, who had been in love with Agatha, and you see that develop throughout the play, but it is still not the most important relationship. One of the creepiest parts of the play is when Georgie is searching for a letter but then she found something else and it jumps out at you and I was so scared. She doesn't find this thing in the book, because you don't really need her to find anything to understand that she believes that her sister is dead. But on stage you need something to show how much Georgie has put into finding Agatha and how much she believed. I thought it was interesting how even when Georgie finally believes Agatha is dead, the relationship still grows because Georgie is learning more about Agatha by finding out what was actually happening in her life.

The scene with the Garrows was funny and kind of heartwarming and scary. It was funny when Mrs. Garrow (Heather Currie) wouldn't even listen to what Billy was saying. What she did was that she would yell at him and then spray the water in his face because she thought he was after her daughter Darlene. But the heartwarming part is how much Mrs. Garrow would do for her daughter and that she comforts Georgie and tells her to run away from Billy because she she thinks he's beaten her because she has a black eye. And then the scary part is when the father, Mr. Garrow (Patrick Blashill), comes out and he is just terrifying. His voice and his smile--you are just like, "He's a murderer!" And I think that was great to have such a terrifying person. He wasn't terrifying as the Sheriff. He seemed like a very nice person in that role--the Sheriff just wasn't very observant. I think that Miriam Reuter also did a great job playing two roles and making them very distinct. I think that all the actors did a great job of seeing the characters' flaws and weaknesses and also their strong points. You really got to know the characters. I think that's a great thing to have in a show.

I liked how country and western the elements of the show were. I loved how they made this one set (designed by Alan Donahue) into lots of different places and it still felt like you were in those places. I thought it was awesome how the bird's wings were made out of fans. I really loved that. The birds reminded me of Agatha because she loved to wear beautiful dresses and, because the birds were made of fans that are also fancy, when you saw them your brain clicked and you thought of Agatha. And they also had a horse and a donkey that were made out of ladders. I liked that because it was cool but unusual. I think they used a person (Granata) for the donkey the very first time so that you knew it was alive and they weren't just riding ladders and to make you laugh hysterically. I liked how the sound effects and the music (John Szymanski) were live right there. It made you feel more connected to the story.

People who would like this show are people who like great sisters, scary surprises, and ladder donkeys. I think people should definitely see this show. It is funny, scary, and it makes you think a lot about your relationships with your family.

Photos: Suzanne Plunkett

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review of Kokandy Productions' The Full Monty at Theater Wit

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Full Monty. The book was by Terrence McNally. Music and Lyrics were by David Yazbek. Music Direction was by Kory Danielson and the choreography was by Daniel Spagnuolo. It was directed by John D. Glover. It was about these six guys whose factory shut down and then they decided that to make money and win back their wives they would have to become strippers. They wanted to show the women that you can't just find a Chippendale on the street and make that man your husband and they wanted to show them what an actual man is like. I thought this was a really weird and cool show. It is weird because it is not every day that you hear a plot like that! And it is cool because it is funny, you care about the characters, and it is awesome.

I think that it is good that they don't make all the characters all in really good shape and stuff. They make them each have problems. That shows that you don't have to muscular to be a real man; you just have to be…a man. Jerry's (Garret Lutz) problem is his marriage. His ex-wife Pam (Laura McClain) doesn't even want to be friends with him anymore because he wasn't acting like a father, he was acting like a best friend and a child. And she doesn't want that in a husband. But then he puts an act all together with his friends which shows that he could put together a life. Dave's problem is that he feels like he is not even a person because he's not in the best shape physically and he doesn't have a job and his wife Georgie (Marsha Harman) doesn't feel like he loves her anymore. But he doesn't realize that no matter what, his wife will still love him. I think the cutest couple in the play was definitely Malcom (George Toles) and Ethan (Greg Foster). They seemed like they could just be good friends, but they seemed like they could be in love too. Malcom would probably never have found out what sexuality he was, because he didn't really know anything before this (he was not the brightest), if he had not met Ethan while they were doing exotic dancing. Harold (Eric Lindahl) was the one who had the best kind of life before. He was very rich before the company shut down. Harold's problem is that he thinks his wife Vicki (Colette Todd), who loves beautiful new things, won't love him anymore if he tells her that he lost his job. He brings some of the dance experience because they found him dancing the tango with his wife at a dance class. Horse (Randolph Johnson) was a fantabulous dancer. I want to take dance from him. He did a bunch of uptown funk-like stuff, and that is how he got onto the team. His song that he sang with it was just great.

I really liked their rehearsals and their auditions where they had this old-lady piano player Jeanette (Caron Buinis) who talked about how she had worked with Frank Sinatra and a bunch of famous people from the Fifties and Sixties. I liked how she would tell everyone about everything in her life and she would compare whatever other people were saying happened in their life to her experiences with a bunch of famous people. I really liked how she was introduced by her starting to talk and someone said, "Who's she?" And someone else said, "I don't know. She was just here." I think I identify with the son of Jerry, Nathan (Seth Steinberg), because he was in a place that some people would find very bad for a kid to be, like he was at the auditions and the show and I was also at the show. But I don't think it was super bad because he got to spend more time with his Dad and I don't think any of this was new. I think it taught him about how to work together as a team and friendship and how to deal with insecurities.

Here are a few of my favorite funny moments. One of the ones that made me crack up was when Buddy (Charlie Rasmann), who was the main attraction at the strip show, his boyfriend (Royen Kent) walked by and was like, "That's it! I'm starting the car!" in a sort of valley-girl-type way. And he was pulling his coat very tight and crossing his arms and he seemed very upset about it. And there was this one guy, Ethan, who wanted to be able to do the "Make 'Em Laugh" running up the wall move. The only thing was, he just couldn't. He kept running into the wall. And I thought that was hilarious. I always love slapstick comedy and this was so funny! I really liked when Jerry and Dave were stuck in the bathroom stall listening to their wives talking about how awesome the strippers were and then they slowly opened the door when there were no women in the bathroom anymore. And they were just squished in there like a meatball.

People who would like this show are people who like old-lady piano players, running into walls, and educational exotic dancing. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was really fun, and the music and dancing were both great.

Photos: Joshua Albanese Photography

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review of The Royal Society of Antarctica at The Gift Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Royal Society of Antarctica. It was written by Mat Smart, and it was directed by John Gawlik. It was about a girl named Dee (Aila Peck) who went to Antarctica where her mother and father had met, but then her mom died there right after Dee was born. So she comes back to basically try to see what her mother saw and do what her mother did because she never really knew her mother. She ends up learning a lot about her mother, but she also learns what her father went through. She also makes a lot of friends there, like one of her best friends it seems is this girl named Tamara (Brittany Burch), who is a drunk and kind of doesn't tell anyone what her life is like back at home. Dee also meets this scientist named Jake (Kyle Zornes) who is studying algae, then before that she meets a man who is in the navy named Miller (Brian Keys). The other people that work there are UT Tim (Jay Worthington) and UT Tom (Paul D'Addario) and this very silent woman named Pam (Lynda Newton). And there is also a guy who runs the bar name Ace (John Kelly Connolly) who has some very strange goals in life and Dee has a lot to do with those goals. This show is about love, trust, and feeling like you don't fit in. I think that this was a great show. It makes you feel a lot of emotions. It makes you laugh; it makes you cry. You get to know the characters very well, so then whenever something bad happens to one of the characters you feel very very sad for them.

I thought that Antarctica was a great place to set it. For one thing, the author was a janitor in Antarctica, so he was kind of going off his own experiences. I think that is really awesome because then you just don't get an outside perspective. You get an insider perspective. Because he sets it in Antarctic it make it more obvious why people are not making such great decisions. They miss home and they are in a place with only a few other people and they are so isolated from the rest of the world that they don't use alcohol in the best ways and some of them kind of forget what it was like to be back home. But Antarctica also makes them all feel like family. They have a tradition where they eat honey-butter biscuits every week. I thought that sounded very cute and delicious, and I really want a honey-butter biscuit. Antarctica is kind of a character in the play. It is like the bully of the world because there is nothing but mountains and snow there and it is almost always below zero. It is like a bully because it is dangerous and it isolates other people. But it is also very beautiful. So when you first see it, you are like, this is the best place in the world and it kind of tricks you, but when you've been there for awhile then you realize this is not the best place. It is like a bully or a bad handsome boyfriend.

There are several romantic relationships in this: UT Tim and Tamara, Dee and Jake, Dee and Miller, Pam and UT Tom. And these are some of my favorite romantic relationship moments. I thought it was really funny how Jake showed how much he loved Dee by saying he felt like a dead seal through email. And then he said, "I'll just send that before I think the better of it." And then he was like, "Did I just send that?" And then he was like "No. No. No!" And then of course Tamara had to come over and see it and make up the dance move "The Dead Seal." I found it slightly maddening because all he was trying to do was show that he loved Dee, but then it didn't really go as planned. I also really loved the moment where Miller and Dee were talking and he ripped off his shirt, and she said, "You have muscles where I didn't think there were muscles." I thought that was very funny. I think that their relationship seemed to be going pretty well, but then it became very sad. But then that still taught her about what her father's experience had been there. Pam and UT Tom seemed kind of like a very perfect but very strange couple. One of them barely talked and the other one was very energetic. It is hard for them to have a relationship because they were both secret kind of people and they weren't very good at telling the other person their secret. One of my favorite scenes was when Tom told her his secrets, but she didn't like his secret so it made it all go haywire. UT Tim and Tamara's relationship is first about making out, and then all about the physical relationship (the scene in the closet is hilarious!), and then it turns out it is all about love and trust. UT Tim thought he could trust her, but then he couldn't, but then something happens that makes you think they might get back together. Ace had a very weird relationship with Dee because his goal in life was to at least make out with a person born on every single continent. I think he wanted to do that because the person that he was in love with didn't end up loving him back. He wanted to feel like he had actually accomplished something. He just wants to show that he's a ladies' man, so his wife will realize she made a mistake.

UT Tim and UT Tom are basically like family because they have been on so many trips to Antarctica together. So they are basically like father and son or brothers. When you meet them, they both have crazy mohawks, and it makes them seem like twins. They seemed a lot like each other, but then they thought they were different kinds of people, so that made it harder for them. Even though you never see Dee's dad, you feel like you understand their relationship. You understand that it is hard having no mom and he had to do everything and go everywhere with her. But the problem is that, since she didn't have a mother, she kind of wasn't noticing how much he did for her because she was thinking about what she didn't have. I liked the scene where Dee was listening to his messages and he had heard about someone that she loved had died, but he didn't know how much she had known and loved him. I found that so sad because even though he didn't know this person at all or even what his name was, he still felt sorry for him and his family.

People who would like this show are people who like snow, kissing people that have been born on every continent, and honey-butter biscuits. I think people should definitely go see this show because it was fun, hilarious and also very sad. I loved it so much.

Photos: Claire Demos

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review of Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Play at Emerald City Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Play. It was based on the books by Mo Willems and the script and lyrics were by Mo Willems! The music was by Deborah Wicks La Puma. It was directed by Morgan Ashley Madison. It was about two best friends named Elephant Gerald (David Wesley Mitchell) and Piggie (Rachel Shapiro) who go on crazy adventures (for younger kids) where they learn about friendship and sharing and how not to get super mad even if someone breaks your favorite toy. I thought that it was super-fun and I think that kids will really love it.

I have been reading Elephant and Piggie books since I was very little and I loved them and got to go and meet Mo Willems and get my book signed. And I still have the one that Mo Willems signed for me. When I was little I figured out that Piggie was an optimist and Gerald was a pessimist. When I heard about this I was very excited. I was kind of scared that they would mess it all up, but they did not! They didn't change any of the story from any of the books, though they did add on, but I still think that was very good. They didn't sing about things that were completely unnecessary. They had songs that were about being best friends, ice cream, loving your new toy, and fancy pool costume parties. Those are good songs to have because they are like the books and not completely made up.

Gerald is a great character. I think the actor did a great job making him a character that is complicated because he is a pessimist, and pessimists are harder for kids to understand than people who are happy all the time, but then he is still a lovable character. He's hilarious and I just love the character of Gerald. I really liked when they were getting ready for the party and he came out in a Phantom of the Opera costume (by Sarah Jo White). He came out and he was already in an elephant costume, so a pessimistic talking elephant in a Phantom of the Opera costume is probably one of best things that has ever happened. And the music plays and he swishes his cape and his ears are just there and it is hilarious. I also really liked the song "Ice Cream Hero," which is about how he is going to share this ice cream with Piggie and he is so proud of himself. I liked that because he was in a superhero cape and he was just so worked up about how he was going to give this ice cream to Piggie. And there were Squirelles (Teressa LaGamba, Eliza-Jane Morris, and Daryn Harrell) dancing in the background. And I thought that the ice cream looked really awesome (props design by Aji Slater).

I really liked Piggie because she was very cute. She was very lovable and Piggie has always reminded me some of myself--like very energetic all the time. And I think she captured that energy very nicely because sometimes even myself who is always energetic gets slightly annoying to other people. But she wasn't annoying at all. I have no idea how she does it! One of my favorite moments was when she was playing her trumpet and everyone was like, "This is horrible, we have to leave." And by the end, it actually sounded pretty good. She is determined to play that trumpet and then even after they say "You are not doing very well" she is still not hurt because she knows she is practicing and can keep on trying. It was one of my favorite parts because it really showed Piggie's personality.

The Squirelles were like the backup singers for Elephant and Piggie. The squirrels in the book are like the friends of Elephant and Piggie. And they are still the friends of Elephant and Piggie but they have a different occupation. I loved their outfits. They had these giant puffy tails and their dresses were actually gorgeous. They also danced in the background. I think these characters were there so they could help Elephant and Piggie with little intrusions to make the stories work. Like, if the Squirelles had not told Piggie that Elephant did not break her toy, it was a break-and-snap toy all along, then they might have been mad at each other forever and that would have ended their friendship. That shows that even if you have a best friend, it is good to have other friends too. I really liked when one of the Squirelles (LaGamba) was so fascinated by the break-and-snap toy and kept saying "Break. And snap. Break. And snap." Then the other two, who were still sane, had to take her away from the break-and-snap toy. And I thought that was very funny.

People who would like this show are people who like dancing squirrels, ice cream, and break-and-snap toys. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is a great adaptation of the books, and if your kids love these books, they would definitely love this play. I think if you have kids or are a kid you will like it more, but even if you're an adult and forced to see it by your Elephant-and-Piggie-loving friends, you will still have a great time.

Photos: Johnny Knight

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review of Collaboraction's Forgotten Future.

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Forgotten Future. It was directed and written by Sarah Moeller and the co-writers were Adam Seidel and Michele Stine. The original version was co-directed by John Wilson. It is about three different children whose names are Lauren (Leah Aberman), Carolina (Esme Ayvar-Perez) and Isaac (Tyrese Hall) and their teachers Mr. Wright (JP Pierson), Mrs. Fischer (Susie Griffith), and Mrs. Mendoza (Jazmin Corona) and their moms and dads (Jon Aberman, Antonia Arcely, and Anji White) and what it was like going through the hardest year in Chicago public schools. And it is about how we need to change Chicago public schools and help them work a different way. Lauren works too hard; Carolina works too little because she doesn't like being at the school and she doesn't do well on her tests; Isaac's problem is being bullied a lot at his new school. I think that they were really trying to make a good message about Chicago public schools. I understand we need to change the schools. I have a lot of friends who are in public schools, and I want them to be more happy in their school system. And I know I am not an expert on this stuff because I don't go to public schools, so it was good to learn about it. My favorite parts were the parts when they were telling a story. The parts that were not as effective were when they were yelling at me about things that a single person cannot change. But then I did like the parts where you were just transferred into someone else's life for a little bit. Then it reminded me some of Exit Strategy, another play about Chicago public schools and how they needed to be changed, but that one was comedic in some ways and you didn't feel like you were being yelled at.

I think it was a good idea to have kids in the show playing the kids because then you really get a sense of what these children actually think about the schools and their lives. That made it more believable. One of my favorite moments was when Carolina watched a bunch of World War II movies and that is what she gave her report on even though most of those movies weren't really accurate and they weren't what the assignment was about. Mr. Wright wanted them to read some of the books he had given them. That showed that she did not like to read and that the teacher was not giving assignments that his students would like. He could have told her to read a book and then see how much it was like what was in the movies about World War II. Her report was wrong, but it was still funny.

I really liked the relationship between Isaac and his mom (White). I thought it was very sweet. I liked how much it seemed like they loved each other and how much she stood up for him even though her life was already pretty hard. I think it was fair how she treated the teacher Mrs. Fischer because the teacher wasn't helping her kid. She didn't yell at her, she just told her that she didn't like the way the school was operating. Mrs. Fischer says she will help him and asks his mom what he likes. And she says that he likes superheroes. So then Mrs. Fischer starts reading comic books, and I think that was a good way to make him feel more at home because then he would feel like his teacher likes some of the same things as him.

Mrs. Mendoza just didn't have as big of problem as the other teachers because she was at a better school. Her problem was that she couldn't teach the children anything else besides what was going to be on the test. I guess that problem needs to be solved, but it is not as big of a problem as your students not liking you at all or you feeling like you've let down your students because they've been bullied around and you don't have enough computers or things like that. I think that these are very big problems and they need to be solved. Maybe you can solve them by changing how the schools get funded. If the street doesn't have any money, then the school doesn't have any money so then the people who are living there can't give any of the money they are using to live so that their kids can have better schooling. If every school had the same amount of money, then all the schools would have enough to keep teaching people so then the public schools would be a better place.

I really really loved the set (by Ashley Woods). I thought it looked like an actual classroom, which I thought was super awesome. The set makes you feel like you are actually in a school which made it more effective. You felt like you were actually experiencing what these kids were experiencing. Then the teachers would talk to you too. Whatever side you were sitting on, you had a teacher assigned to you.

People who would like this show are people who want Chicago public schools to be better, want kids to have better bonding with their teachers and parents, and want kids not to feel stupid if they don't get amazing grades. I thought this show was a good experience for me and I think I agree with most of what they are saying.

Photos: Joel Maisonet

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review of The Hypocrite's Endgame

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Endgame. It was by Samuel Beckett and it was directed by Halena Kays. It was about a man named Hamm (Kurt Ehrmann) and his family member/servant Clov (Brian Shaw). And the world is getting all messed up and they are in this house where they have almost no food and their house is in pretty bad shape. They are all living in the same house with Hamm's parents Nagg (Sean Sinitski) and Nell (Donna McGough) who live in trash cans--totally normal! And they haven't even changed out of their wedding clothes even though they had a baby! The play is about respect and lack of respect, dire situations, and love. At the beginning you think, "Oh my gosh, they all hate each other." But by the end, you realize that they all love each other in some way. I found it sad and scary because everything is just falling apart, literally and figuratively. I think that people should still see it though, because it also has funny moments. It wasn't easy to understand, but that can make a play more interesting because then it doesn't just click in your brain; it makes you think about it and linger over each sentence.

I have not seen any Beckett so far, except for a funny version that was plays Beckett wrote in his childhood, most likely not the actual ones he wrote. It was called The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in an Envelope (Partially Burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled "Never to be performed. Never. Ever. EVER. Or I'll Sue. I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!!." And it was a very funny show. And now I think he might have actually written those plays as a child if he was this weird as an adult. The two plays were both insanely weird and didn't make a lot of sense. But I still loved them because they were so weird but also you got to know the characters and you felt sorry for them when they were sad or in a bad situation.

When you first come into the show there are a bunch of balloons and party hats and it tricks you into thinking this will be a fun party show. But then once the curtain opens you see this wrecked house (set design by Elizabeth Bracken). From the outside it looks like a touring stage, so it makes it a theatrical performance. The characters are like characters instead of like real people like in most shows. You are thinking more about how ridiculous it is than how completely depressing it is because they still want you to enjoy the show instead of just being depressed the entire time. It wasn't realistic because of the way everything keeps falling apart and people are living in trash cans. But it is basically saying don't think of the future as bright, but then that kind of makes everyone sad, but then they make it even more ridiculous so then you won't cry throughout the entire show.

Clov is basically Hamm's servant. But it seems like they are also related in some way. Hamm calls Clov "son," which is also just a term of affection, so they could just be very good friends. Also Hamm was talking about this traveling boy and his father and you kind of think he might be talking about him and his son. Clov kept getting this ladder so he could see what it looked like outside and what was happening. And he kept slamming his fingers inside of the ladder and that was really funny. His expressions are just really hilarious. The way he reacts is like an old Harold Lloyd movie, which is very stagey. So then you laugh as a response instead of crying.

Hamm had a dog which was a stuffed dog (props by Danielle Case) which was made out of cloth and had button eyes and was very sad looking. And you don't really know if he actually thinks it is a real dog or not. And I find that super sad. He can't see anything and he has some anger management problems and he can't walk. He is not a nice guy but you still feel sorry for him because he doesn't really understand what is going on and he doesn't really know what's happening. He is in a really tough position which makes it hard for him to be a happy person. Then he takes his anger out on the people that he lives with because there is no one else to really even talk to. When his servant leaves, you don't really feel sorry for him because you think, "He got himself into this position by being mean to Clov all the time." I think Clov comes rushing to his side whenever he calls because he feels like it is his duty because he has known this person a long time and probably owes some kind of debt to him. It is also about love because he loves him too much to give up and say "I'm done."

Nagg and Nell both live in trash cans, as I've said many times because it is so freaking insane! I think they are trying to signify that these people can't be together because of some kind of barrier. And those are Hamm's parents, so that might be one of the reasons that Hamm is so upset and depressed. You see that they love each other and they are still trying to have a relationship, but they can't. I think that maybe they need to stay in trash cans because someone put them there before the world started getting weird and then they are cursed to being in the trash cans forever. And when they knocked on the trash can and one of them didn't answer and then you knew that one of them was dead, and the other one was so sad, it was just so sad because they still loved each other but they don't get to say goodbye to each other.

People who would like this show are people who like sad hilarity, trash cans, and stuffed dogs. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. You laugh and then you cry because you feel so many different emotions throughout the entire play. I really loved this show; it was insane but so much fun.

Photos: Evan Hanover

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review of The Sweeter Option at Strawdog Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Sweeter Option. It was written by John Henry Roberts (my dad). I think it is ok for me to review my dad's play because I wasn't there for the entire rehearsal process, so I didn't already know all the tricks, so I was still surprised by everything. You still get my first impression and I think people want to know my opinion on this. And I think it is still fair because I will give my honest opinion whatever I am reviewing. It was directed by Marti Lyons. It was about a man named Tucker (Sam Guinan-Nyhart) who is employed by a woman, Carolyn (Emily Tate), to go and get this money that her lover must have stolen. Then he meets this woman Irene (Michaela Petro) and she supposedly has the money. Then two teenagers, named Joy (Sarah Price) and Pete (Rudy Galvan), want to get the money too. I think this show is about love, letting your emotions get away with you, and wanting to be someone else. I really loved this show. I loved how you got to know the characters so well, even though it was only 80 minutes. There is lots of shooting, panicking, and surprises. I think that is a great way to have a show because sometimes, in this show, you think you know what you are getting into but you don't because all the surprises sneak up on you. I really like shows that make you work to understand, like this one, because if you don't have to work for them, if you just sit back and have them explain it all to you, it is not as much fun. I love solving puzzles!

The scenes in the show are kind of mixed up; you have the second scene first and the first scene second. Some people might find it confusing, but the way that you don't find it confusing is that you just look in your program and see, "Oh, this scene happened before this scene!" The set (by Joanna Iwanicka) changes so dramatically that it doesn't look at all like what the set looked like before, so that can help you because if they go to a place that they just talked about leaving, then you know, "Oh, this happened before they were in the car." I thought the set was really awesome. I loved the changes and I loved how it would just open up to reveal a new place. Props (by Amanda Herrmann) can also help you out: if someone is carrying a brown bag and they didn't have that bag in the scene before, but then if they are getting that bag in the scene after, you know that was before they were in the car. You are figuring stuff out as it goes along! I also really liked the props. I thought they really contributed to the entire story and made it look like the 70s. I also really loved the costumes (by Kristy Leigh Hall). When Irene takes off this jacket that she was wearing in the last scene and Carolyn comes out in that coat, you think, "Oh, she must take that coat from her at some point." And then you find out if you are right by the end of the scene.

I really loved the first scene in the show but the second scene in the timeline. It was such a great way to start the show. You hear all the noises of the car coming by (sound by Heath Hays) and then the door opens and you see a man walking in with a woman slung over his shoulder. It starts it off on a kind of comedic note but it is also dark; you don't know if this woman is dead or if she is just asleep. It lays out a bunch of options for what the next thing is and you can ponder what this woman's part in the story is. I also really liked that when she wakes up she drinks almost an entire bucket of water and then she asks "Who are you?" and "Where am I?"and it is funny because she drinks the water before she even asks those questions. One of my favorite lines was the one that Tucker said when he said, "Findings. It's a word I know." And the way he says it is so sarcastic and that makes it so funny. And then later in the scene, a girl named Joy walks in and says, "I'm looking for the Smiths." And I think that was a great way to introduce the character because it really showed what she was like. She does not like to say what she actually wants. I think that she is a great character because she is very loyal but she is also not very focused all the time. Even though she is the more focused of the two, her and Pete, then she is still not focused because she is arguing with him about how much more in the game she is than him when they are trying to get something from these other people. I'm actually not just being vague for fun. I'm being vague because otherwise that would give away the entire moment. It was so funny when you first see Pete and he's trying to open up this case but he wants to keep his eyes on the person he's pointing the gun at, so he can't find the lock and he's just feeling around the case. It makes me crack up so hard.

The scene in the car was super awesome. I really loved the car. It was amazing looking. It looked like an actual old 70s car and I thought that was really awesome. I really liked the entire radio scene where Tucker kept getting so mad about how Irene was touching the radio so much because she didn't know what station she wanted. And then he said, "Why don't we just go down to the radio station so you can burn it down." That line also has to do with another part of the show, which happens before in the timeline but it happens after in the show. That was very clever, father. Cyril (Matt Farabee) is this boy at the gas station who is a big fan of Tucker's because he showed that people named Cyril could also be cool. He was a very lovable character because he was so excited to meet his hero.

I thought the scene in Irene's living room was very emotional for a bunch of reasons that I can't say. But then it was also really funny for this line and this face: so when Irene had to use the bathroom, Tucker asked her to empty out the drawers and then when she emptied them all out, she made this smile like "Ok, ok, I got it." Like a sarcastic smile which is one of my favorite faces in the world. And the best line was, "Oh, I keep the bazooka in the upstairs bathroom." Because of course she doesn't keep a bazooka in the upstairs bathroom. And accompanied by that smile it was just so funny. Then it gets darker when Carolyn comes in and she seems really stressed and she hasn't done her makeup lately because she has been so sad because she is worried about Leo, her lover. I thought that she did not seem like a bad person even though Leo was married to someone else; you still like her even though she is doing something wrong.

The final scene was super cool. There were lots of twists and turns throughout the entire scene. You even get to meet a new character in the scene. You get to meet his friend/landlord, Mac (Jamie Vann). Mac was the only person who seemed completely honest and did not have anything bad happen to him. I really liked how Tucker kept falling asleep, and each time he fell asleep, he would wake up and something would be different. And every time he closed his eyes, the lights (by Jordan Kardasz) would go out so it was like you were in his mind. And I thought that was really cool. Tucker was so funny when he kept eating the instant coffee. He didn't drink it, he just spooned it into his mouth. It literally was instant coffee. The scene was funny but also scary. I'm very frustrated that I can't talk about much about it because I don't want to give anything away about the plot that is so complex and awesome. You have to pay attention to all the different keys there are or you won't get the end. And then you also have to think about what the picture that Irene drew meant.

People who would like this show are people who like noir, action, and literally instant coffee. I think this show had great acting throughout all the parts. It was also very funny, scary, and intense. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is a great show; you will be on the edge of your seat the entire time and there will be lots of squealing whenever anyone gets shot.

Photos: Kyle Hamman, KBH Media