Friday, September 25, 2015

Review of The Tempest at Chicago Shakespeare

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Tempest. It was by William Shakespeare and it was adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller. It was about a girl named Miranda (Eva Louise Balistrieri) and her father who was a magician named Prospero (Larry Yando). And what happens is that Prospero makes a huge shipwreck and washes a prince ashore named Ferdinand (Luigi Sottile). And Miranda falls in love with him. And Prospero realizes that they actually love each other very much and he questions taking revenge on his brother Antonio (Lawrence Grimm) and the king Alonso (John Lister) and the king's brother Sebastian (Michael Aaron Lindner) who have also washed ashore. His brother kicked him out of being the duke and the other people helped him except for Gonzala (Barbara Robertson) who packed them clothes and necessities for babies when they had to leave--and a lot of books! And Prospero has a servant named Ariel (Nate Dendy) who does all his bidding and some really cool magic tricks! And his other servant Caliban (Zach Eisenstat and Manelich Minniefee) in this version was kind of like conjoined monster twins who are not very feminist because they offer Miranda to Stephano (Ron Rains) like she is their property. This was very different from other Tempests that I have seen because it had magic in it--I mean really awesome magic. The magic and the play were the same thing, they used the magic to tell the story. I loved this show. It was so much fun to be at and I really loved it. It is one of my favorite shows I've seen at Chicago Shakespeare!

I really liked the magic. I thought it was really cool and exciting. My favorite trick that they did was the floating one where Miranda was floating and they put a hoop around her so they could show there were no wires or anything. There was another one where Ariel waved his hand over Prospero's jacket and a gold pattern would appear as he took his hand away. I thought that was really cool and I'd never seen anything exactly like it before. It kind of reminded me of those dolls where you put the dress in the water and it changes the pattern. But there was no water or anything that you could see. I have theories about some of the tricks, but I'm not sure if any of them are right. And I'm not sharing them because if they are right that would ruin the show for other people. Ariel did a bunch of sleight-of-hand card tricks that I thought were very cool. At first there was this woman in the audience that came up and he gave her a card and he was supposed to do something crazy with it, but then he just grabbed it and shooed her away. I thought that was funny because the next time he actually did do something amazing; he put together a card he had broken apart. This is all before the show started! They also did this version of sawing a lady in half, but Ariel's head just spun around and around while he was in a box but you could still see his feet at the bottom and his feet were not turning. I thought that was amazing.

The drunks are Trinculo (Adam Wesley Brown) and Stephano. Even though you kind of hate them because they are not very nice talking about women and they treat Caliban not very well either, they are still very funny. The songs that they sing are very funny and in this version are also modern which makes them even more funny. Trinculo first meets Caliban but I kind of feel sorry for Trinculo because even though he is the first one to meet Caliban he gets treated badly by Stephano and Caliban treats him as bad as Stephano does. And Caliban worships Stephano just because he has alcoholic beverages. I thought that it was cool that two people played Caliban and they were basically connected all the time. They had to say a lot of their lines at the same time which made them even creepier. They did cartwheels while they were connected to move around and I thought that was so cool.

I thought that Prospero was really amazing because he was so good at magic but also an amazing actor. You really got to see his relationship with Miranda and it was so believable and beautiful and sad because it seemed like he would do anything for her. It is sad because then she is going to get married and then she won't be with him all the time, and I think he'll be sad about that. I thought Ferdinand and Miranda seemed like they would actually be a good couple and it wasn't just because he was the first man that Miranda saw. Their first attraction is based on how handsome and beautiful the other is, but then they actually talk to each other like equals. Ferdinand is not like "I am a man. You have to listen to me. You can't talk." And she is like, "I'll carry the logs for you!" I thought that was so great. And I just loved this relationship in this show. I thought that Prospero saying, like, "You can't touch her!" was really funny because they were like itching to do that the entire time!

People who would like this show are people who like amazing magic, conjoined monster twins, and alcoholic beverages. I think people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was amazing and I enjoyed it so much!

Photos: Liz Lauren

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review of Visión Latino's Yellow Eyes

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Yellow Eyes. It was by Migdalia Cruz and it was directed by Xavier Custodio. It was about a girl Isabel (Jackie Siejo) who went to go and visit her great grandparents, Don José (Armando Reyes) and Doña Ana (Joette Waters). And her great grandmother was going kind of crazy. But she loved them very much and she learned a lot from them. She has a boyfriend Ian (Johnathan Nieves) who seems to think only about himself, but he does love her. She also has two friends. One, Lulu (Yajaira Custodio), was obsessed with church and was kind of going crazy. And the other friend Sharon (Tara Marie Smith) was her best friend and their relationship was kind of fading because Isabel was getting beat up a lot by people who thought she shouldn't be friends with or dating people of a different race than her. It is about friendship, reflecting on your choices, and love. I thought that this was a great show and I really really enjoyed it because it was just such a perfect mix of funny and sad and those are the exact kind of plays I love.

Sharon was Isabel's best friend and her little brother had just died. It was so sad to see how sad she was but also how mad at her mom she was because her mom was sad and as a result Sharon could never have any peace and quiet. I found it super sad that this person went through such hard times and got so mad at her mom just because she was as upset as her mom was, she just contained it. She was one of my favorite characters so it made it even sadder. I found the scene where Lulu was talking to her about her brother, who she thought was still alive but of course he wasn't, so sad. And what happened is that Sharon was very sad and didn't want any help, but she did realize that actually she did want help and wanted Lulu to come to her brother's funeral. Sharon is important to the show because she is Isabel's best friend and is trying to save their relationship. But the thing is is that she is more than a sidekick to Isabel because of this story about her brother.

I felt like the grandparents were very funny but also very touching. I think that all the flashbacks of her as like a young maiden and him as a working boy were very funny; the way that they interacted like they were very young was very funny, but not how sad he was that she would never say that she loved him. He would say,"Do you love me?" and she would say "Maybe" like she actually did but she didn't want to confess it because she thought that was very sappy. But of course it wasn't. It was just a feeling. He told everyone that he loved her and he would look at her so tenderly and lovingly. And when they were older, he would still look at her in the same way. At a certain point in the show you see that she hasn't hated him her whole life. She actually does love him, but the problem is that they had had a bad experience and he wasn't able to help her. But not because he was lazy or didn't care. I felt like it was so sad because he wanted to help her and was so mad at himself that he couldn't help her.

Ian was so funny. I loved how he did this Michael Jackson stuff all the time, like doing the dance and he also picked his afro all the time. I found that very funny. I loved the huge amounts of sass that he had, but on the inside he seemed kind of sweet even though he often seemed pretty selfish--like how he only seemed to care about his hair. But that wasn't all he cared about. He just thought if he only seemed to care about his hair he would seem cooler. The same actor played the grandpa as a young man and I thought he did a great job at being very serious and sad in that part but also being this really funny character. Lulu was really funny and touching too. She talked about church all the time, but then it became a different church she was really happy about even though it was a different belief. And she didn't see anything weird about that so she seemed kind of clueless. When she was talking to that rat it made me want to cry. You'll have to go see the show to find out what I mean.

People who would like this show are people who like afros, beautiful friendships, and great grandparent love stories. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is a beautiful play with amazing actors and I really really loved it.

Photos: Yajaira Custodio

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review of The Hypocrite's American Idiot

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called American Idiot. The book was by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer and the music was by Green Day with lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong. It was directed by Steven Wilson and the musical direction was by Andra Velis Simon. The choreography was by Katie Spelman. It was about three men who were all best friends basically: Will (Jay W. Cullen), Tunny (Steven Perkins), and Johnny (Luke Linsteadt). They each have their own problems and they each have their own girlfriend at some point. Will's girlfriend Heather (Alex Madda) gets pregnant. Tunny's girlfriend Extraordinary Girl (Becca Brown) plays base with him in a band. And Johnny's girlfriend is named Whatshername (Krystal Worrell) and she tries to make him a better person and love him. They learn how to live their lives better and they grow up but it is not easy because a lot of obstacles come up: like drugs, injuries, and thinking that you are not ready to commit yet. I thought this was a fun show. I am not a huge Green Day fan; it is not exactly my style of music, but I liked this show because it was fun and exciting and I really enjoyed it.

There was a song called "St. Jimmy" sung by the character St. Jimmy (Malic White) which was all about drug addiction. It was talking about how drug addiction is amazing even though most everybody in the audience realizes that heroin is not a good thing to put into your body. But I think people do it because they are depressed and sad; but they do know it is not good for them. But the thing is that a lot of people do some kinds of drugs but they don't let them ruin their lives. And heroin is very hard to stop. You knew this song was about heroin because that's what they were doing the entire song: shooting heroin into their veins. The music is very loud and kind of going crazy and that is appropriate because it is basically about drugs. St. Jimmy was a really amazing actor and I thought really rock and roll. Malic is like adorably threatening and it shows you that in drug addiction you are super happy but you are also very very crazy and dangerous and in danger both.

I really liked the song "Letterbomb" that all the girls sang. It was really cool because the show is mostly a show about a bunch of boys, but this is a song that is sung by girls and is about girls. It was a really good, fist-pumping, foot-stomping, girl-power song. I thought the performance of this song was really fun and really awesome. I think Whatshername is telling Johnny that she can live without him just fine. I think she could have stuck around a little bit longer, but he did clearly say I chose my drugs over you and you don’t mean as much to me as something that is hurting me. I am glad that she left him because she does deserve better and it isn’t fair for him to treat her like this and it also isn’t her job to fix him. But it is kind of sad that when he does give up the drugs and wants her back he can’t get her back because she has made her choice.

My favorite song in the show was "Wake Me Up When September Ends" which was a slow tempo song. I liked the lyrics because the rest of the show was very yelly and screamy and i'm-mad-y. They took a little break from that and I appreciated it. The song is about how they are all so sad in this one month because people have lost their limbs, people have lost their girlfriends, and people have lost their chance at happiness. And it is all about how September has been a horrible month and they feel like nothing could ever get better. They are saying they just want to wait until everything is over because then you wouldn't have to live through it. I felt like it was very sad, but sometimes a sad song is needed in a play where there is a lot of really loud music. I feel like it was a very beautiful and sad song with three best friends on their bed or their couch or their wheelchair feeling like they messed up their whole lives. But it is not hopeless because they try to find ways to make themselves happy again. I felt like the actors did a really good job of expressing their roles and made them more than a stereotype of a typical American military man or a typical messed-up person or a typical suburban guy on a couch.

People who would like this show are people who like girls singing powerful songs, adorably threatening drug addiction, and couches. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was super fun and loud and exciting. And even if you don’t really like musicals you would like this show if you like rock and roll.

Photos: Evan Hanover

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review of American Blues Theater's The Rainmaker

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Rainmaker. It was by N. Richard Nash and it was directed by Edward Blatchford. It was about this girl named Lizzie (Linsey Page Morton) who lived in this small town. She had come back home after going to visit her cousins where she was supposed to find a husband. When she comes home she meets her crush File (Howie Johnson), who is the assistant to the Sheriff (Robert Breuler) of the town. Her family is her dad H.C. (Danny Goldring), her younger brother Jim (Matt Pratt), and her older brother Noah (Vincent Teninty) and they want her to get married. But then a con man named Bill Starbuck (Steve Key) comes to town and tells them he can make rain come during the drought. It is about love, beauty, and confidence. I really liked this show; I felt like it was very interesting. I felt like the ideas that it expressed about beauty and finding a good person for you were very intriguing, and I felt like they were also very true. People do tell you that you are not beautiful, even when you are. And the good person for you has to be a person that will tell you to stay with them and won't just let you go without them and will protect you.

Three of my favorite characters were Jim, H.C., and Noah. I felt they were all really sympathetic and funny characters. I did feel like Noah was kind of a jerk sometimes; like to say that Lizzie was plain was super mean and I feel like she wasn't plain. I feel like she was a pretty girl and no one should say stuff like that to anyone because it just is mean and unhealthy and makes their self-esteem lower so it is hard for them to be happy for the rest of their life. But you still have sympathy for him because you feel like he is sad and troubled and he doesn't really exactly know what he is saying. But I think it is still hurtful. Jim was the youngest and he had a girlfriend who wore a little red hat and he was kind of obsessed with her. And that made you like him better because everyone said "You can't date this girl! She's terrible!" But it turns out that they might be meant for each other. I really thought it was funny when Jim got on the phone with his girlfriend and his voice just went deep and more intimate and that was just hilarious. H.C. was just amazing. He also had some problems, but overall he was a good father and he wanted what was best for his kids. And everyone in that family I felt like was pretty lovable, but all of them had some faults.

I feel like Starbuck was a con man, but not exactly, because he came there to con them but he actually gave them something the family actually needed: confidence. He gave them confidence and made them believe in themselves. It seemed like he was actually a good person but he had taken up this line of work that wasn't actually the best. Like you could meet a very nice robber, but they have just chosen the wrong line of work. File is the opposite of a con man, because he is a police officer. File does the talking all wrong, but Starbuck does the talking all right and charms Lizzie with his charms. Starbuck is better at talking to her at the time she needs it most. I don't think she should be with Starbuck, but Starbuck is helpful to her like a psychiatrist.

I thought the set (by Sarah Ross) was really beautiful and it kind of reminded me of a dollhouse because it was compact and the sides opened and closed like a dollhouse. I though that was cool because you didn't have to completely reverse the set to have scenes in different places. I also thought the working kitchen was pretty cool. I also thought that in the Sheriff's office how they had a wanted poster with Starbuck's actual face on it was cool.

People who would like this show are people who like dollhouse sets, stories about confidence, and little red hats. I think that people should go see this show. I felt like it was entertaining and heartwarming and I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Johnny Knight

Review of Kids Fringe at the Chicago Fringe Festival

Once upon a time I went to Kids Fringe at the Chicago Fringe Festival. I saw two shows and they were called Once Upon a Zombie Apocalypse and That's Weird, Grandma. (I am going to see a third show, called Punch & Judy, but I'll add that in after I see it.) I thought these shows were really fun and entertaining and I liked them a lot. I think it is a cool idea to have a Fringe Festival for kids so that kids can see a festival that's just for them that is not like some of the other kids theater out there that is more standard. This was more fun and unusual. I think even more children's theater should be like this, where it is more than just fairy tales everybody has heard of put on by adults. I do love a lot of adaptations of books like they do at Lifeline, Chicago Children's Theater and sometimes Emerald City, but it is also fun to see ideas that don't come directly from books.

Once Upon a Zombie Apocalypse was written and directed by Ashley Roberson. It was about these three kids, CeCe (Angela Alise), DJ (Joel Boyd), and Jack (Jalen Gilbert). They are brothers and sisters and their parents (Andi Earles and Terry Francois) go away for a few hours, and their little sister CeCe tells them they can do whatever they want if they play with her for a half hour. They all have their own personalities. CeCe is the energetic one, DJ is the nerdy one, and Jack is the kind-of-insecure one. But CeCe loves fairy tales, and feminism it seems, and DJ loves Zombies, and Jack loves Jill (Monica Moore) also known as his study group buddy, also known as his "girlfriend." I loved the feminist princess idea. Cece went to rescue her kingdom with no princes or anyone's help. But then there is a zombie-killer zombie cow played by DJ who helps her out a little. I love how he says "I'm a zombie-killer zombie cow, man" just like he's saying "I'm in fifth grade." Like it is just like a normal thing for him to say. I loved the Titanic reference when Jill had to go home. She just had to go home, but she did this entire dramatic death scene and then was like, "Oh yeah. I do have to go home. I'll see you later." And Jack continued his screaming "Noooo!" I think this show may have had the best ending line ever. You have to go see it to know what it is, and I would definitely recommend you go see this show. It is very very fun and interesting and you will laugh your pants off.

That's Weird, Grandma is produced by Barrel of Monkeys. Kids write it. They do it. And the world is saved. I write stories for them at the Loyola Park program, so I am one of those kids! This one did not have any of my stories in it, but it did have some by my friends and classmates. It was directed by Joseph Schupbach. I always think that Barrel of Monkeys does great shows, and this was not different. I felt like a lot of the stories in this were really enjoyable and a lot of fun. I really liked the horse story. It was about this girl (Rachel Wilson) whose parents (Bradford Stevens and Ryan Williams) were separated and she got a pony named Zurine (Curtis Williams). She gave it some food and it got its hoof stuck in a fence. I found it really really funny and I liked the depressing country music they played. I also liked the costumes for this piece and how everybody ran on stage at the end and did this slow-motion happiness running. And the mom came in running from off stage smiling even though she had nothing to do with that part of the story. There was also another story called "The Long Day" which was about this little boy (Nick Hart) who went to his grandma's (Curtis Williams) house and it was a very very long day. And his grandmother would keep telling him to go get things, but then the thing was that while he was going over to get the things he would just say. "The long day! The long day! The long day!" And he said it in a very shaky, depressed, and scared way. I thought that that was very very funny. They said it was like Samuel Beckett, and it was. The Grandma was basically just a grandmother in a garbage can because she couldn't do anything for herself. She just had her grandson dress in a sack and a sunbonnet and sent him to work. There was another one about crocodiles being domestic animals (chomp chomp chomp). Caleb Probst sang that and everyone else was a backup singer dressed as a crocodile. I liked that song very much. I thought it was very funny and very catchy. I'd like to get it on iTunes!

People who would like these shows are people who like long days at your grandmother's house wearing sacks and zombie-killer zombie cows. (I'll think of a third thing when I see Punch and Judy!) I think that people should definitely definitely go see this festival. I had a ton of fun, and I hope you do too!

Photos: Ashley Robeson, Evan Hanover

Monday, September 7, 2015

Review of Peter and the Starcatcher at Drury Lane Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Peter and the Starcatcher. It was written by Rick Elice with music by Wayne Barker. It was directed by William Osetek. The music direction was by Ben Johnson and the choreography was by Rhett Guter. It was about a boy named Boy (Caleb Donahoe) and a girl named Molly (Emma Rosenthal) who were on this ship called the Neverland and there was another ship that belonged to Queen Victoria (God save her!) and one of the cargo that was supposed to go on the Queen's ship has been swapped. They have to get the right cargo back on the right ship. That's their mission, but several things happen that conflict with them doing that. It is about friendship, love, and origin stories. I thought this was a really fun show and I think this might be one of my favorite scripts ever. It is just so funny and touching, and it is all the right mixes, and I just love this play.

I felt like the vibe of the show was really cool. I liked how it seemed kind of like a storefront production even though it was a very big show in a theater with like a thousand people. The set (by Scott Davis) was very budgeted looking, which I think is a very cool look for this kind of show. I really like that vibe in a show because it brings you closer to the characters. Since it was originally not a broadway show, it kind of has a not super-high-budget set. I also thought it was cool how they used people as doors and stuff like that. Like one of the instances that they used people as the set that I really liked was when Molly was going through all these doors made by people and then they would be the people inside the rooms and then they would scatter to be the doors again. In each room something terrible was happening, like someone was getting beaten up or something, but then they would just scatter back and be doors. I thought that was very fun and cool and I really liked it.

I thought Black Stache (Matt Mueller) was very funny. I love that character. He was so hilarious and I love all the modern references that he makes. Like how he says, "And your milkshake brings all the boys to the yard." And when he slams his hand in the chest he sings, "Oh my god, oh my god, you guys" like from Legally Blonde but in a British accent which might be the funniest thing ever. And also it is coming from a person with the biggest mustache on the planet! I laughed my pants off almost the entire time he was on stage.

I really loved Ted (Zack Colonna). I loved how he was so obsessed with pork all the time. You think he is waking up during a romantic moment and that he is going to disturb the two lovebirds, but then he just says "pork" in like a loving way but he doesn't wake up. And Prentiss (Aaron Kirby) was very very stuck-up and very funny. He always pretended to be the leader, but when anything bad happened he got scared and wasn't a good leader at all. I found that very funny. The real leader is always Peter/Boy or Molly. I like that Molly gets to be the leader because at the very beginning they are very skeptical of a girl being a leader. And she is a very good leader but she brags a lot, although she is a very nice and amazing person. She might have to brag so much to make herself feel confident because her father (Rod Thomas) goes and does stuff without her all the time.

I saw some of the audience members had left at intermission. And I didn't understand that because I thought it was a good show. The thing is, I think the reason that they left might have been that they wanted it to be more like a musical. But if they just wait, they get all that in the second act. It starts with a big dance number and there is also a lot of heartwarming and sad stuff at the end. And in the middle it is all goofy and funny. I don't think the first act is bad, but I think some people don't get everything they want from a big musical from it. But if they just wait, they'd get everything they want in the second act.

People who would like this show are people who like amazing back stories, fabulous mustaches, and pork. I think people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was a fun production and I enjoyed it a lot.

Photos: Brett Beiner

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review of Juan Chipotle presented by terraNOVA Collective and The Playground Theater in association with the Chicago DCASE

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Don Chipotle. It was by Juan Francisco Villa and it was directed by Jo Cattell. The lyrics were by Gabe Ruiz and it was composed by Jenny Lynn Christoffersen and Preyas Roy. The show was about a boy named Celestino (Angelica Roque) whose family was made up of a bunch of mobsters (Lorena Diaz, Wendy Mateo, and Isabel Quintero). And he turns into this superhero named Don Chipotle and goes on this adventure with his friend Octavio (Karen Rodriguez), but he has to deal with real-life situations like having people he loves pass away, having people after him trying to hurt him, and people taking advantage of him being young and impressionable. I thought this was a cool show. I felt like it had a lot of fun and amazing elements, like how everything was made out of cardboard, and like how most of the characters were wearing makeup that looked like skull-faces, and the acting was amazing.

The style of this play was really cool. The set (by Joanna Iwanicka with scenic artist Laura Carney) kind of looked like what a kid would make to make their own play because everything was made out of cardboard. But it didn't look cheap; it looked really artistic. The props (by Sara Engel) were also cardboard and I thought that was really cool. My favorite was the teddy bear, because I thought it was cool that they made such an important part of Octavio's life cardboard and at the very end it turned real. The puppets (by Taylor Bibat and Rachel Singer) were super amazing. They were made out of cardboard as well. My favorite one was the train--or was it a dragon? You'll have to find out in the show! I thought the projections (Liviu Pasare, Bibat, and Singer) were very cool. They kind of reminded me of Manual Cinema. They were all an outline or a kind of sketch and they were very artsy and interesting. I did wish the projection screen was a little bit bigger so you didn't have to stray from the performers to look at the projections. I liked how they used Day of the Dead elements like how everyone had the skull faces. I thought they did that because the entire play is kind of about death. I also liked Don Chipotle's goggles (costumes by Izumi Inaba); they were really cool.

I felt like the show was very fun, but it did have a few problems. I sometimes felt a little confused about what was happening in the story. One time the characters were in a church and then they were in a train station and that was confusing because how did they get from the church to the train station? I was also sometimes confused about whether a character had actually died or if it was in Don Chipotle's imagination. Also, it might have been nice if they had had subtitles or translation sometimes when they had been speaking in Spanish, so even people who didn't speak Spanish could understand. Most of the time you could understand even if you didn't speak Spanish, but sometimes it got a little hard to understand. And sometimes characters didn't have full introductions and it was hard to understand who they were. But eventually you would figure it out most of the time, but until that happened I felt confused.

I had three favorite characters. One of them was Don Chipotle. He just kind of reminded me of me as a kid and how I would always pretend to be a superhero, but in my case a teenage witch from an anime movie. And Don Chipotle has this great flamboyant personality but then there was also more depth to this character because you got to see how sad he was. One of my other favorite characters was Octavio. I just found him so funny and amazing. He was like the kind of kid who is so enthusiastic and you just feel like he is the most adorable little thing ever. There was depth to this character too and you find out lots of crazy things about him by the end. There was also this woman (Mateo) who was very creepy who would come and offer Don Chipotle and Octavio cardboard cookies. I loved her accent and I really wanted her to have an entire back story that you would just be able to see. That is the kind of woman that probably had a very traumatizing experience with her child, and maybe she no longer has a husband so now she wants to kidnap children.

People who would like this show are people who like heartbreaking bittersweet endings, dragon-trains, and cardboard cookies. I think people will enjoy this show. It was beautiful to look at and the character arcs were beautiful and I really liked it.

Photos: Joel Maisonet