Friday, May 27, 2016

Review of The Hypocrites' Johanna Faustus

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Johanna Faustus. Is was co-adapated by Emily Casey and Sean Graney from Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. It was directed by Sean Graney. It was about this woman named Johanna Faustus (Dana Omar) and her parents had been killed by religious extremists. And she was thinking about taking revenge but she ends up taking it too far. She converses with Mephistopheles (Kate Carson-Groner) and Lucifer (Sasha Smith) and promises her soul to them. I thought it was clever and it was a fun short piece. I enjoyed it.

There was a scene where Johanna Faustus was being sung a song by Lucifer and Mephistopheles. It was about the seven deadly sins. All the rest of the people in the cast (Breon Arzell, Whitney Dottery, and Lauren Vogel) would come up and perform a sin. One of my favorites was Pride (Arzell) because he was just so into it. He was trying to get the entire audience to cheer for him and it was super funny because he was saying a lot of stereotypically jerky stuff. And I think they made a really good point about the seven deadly sins which is that if there were none of them we would probably never get anything done. Like if there was no sloth then no one would ever be relaxed enough to do good work, and if there was no lust there would be no babies, and if there was no pride people would never be motivated. I think this was my favorite part of the show and it cracked me up.

There was another funny part that was also kind of sad, where Johanna was at her book club and everyone else there was kind of a die-hard Christian and she was expressing her opinions but no one else wanted to read the books she wanted to read. It was funny because of the way that everyone acted toward Johanna but also kind of agitating because they really didn't understand at all what Johanna felt. None of them even wanted to read the fondue cookbook that the book from Hell was disguised as. I thought it was absolutely hilarious that the book from hell looked like it was about fondue, which is kind of like heaven.

They had this entire running gag because Arzell who played the pope also played Johanna's father. There was this lady (Smith) who kept popping up and saying, "Whenever you see the pope it looks strangely like your father. Buy my book!" And I found that hilarious how they addressed the double casting because most theaters don't do that. Even though it was funny that the pope and Johanna's father were played by the same actor, the scenes with her father were very touching and in the end her father had to take her to hell and torture her, which was a very sad ending to the show. (The only reason I'm not putting a spoiler alert is because you can't really spoil the Faustus story because everyone knows it, or at least they all should.)

People who would like this show are people who like the seven deadly sins, hilarious denizens of hell, and fondue. This show has a very short run and closes this weekend, so go get your tickets now and see this fun show!

Photos: Evan Hanover

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review of The Neo-Futurists' Mike Mother

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Mike Mother. It was created and written by Jessica Anne, and it was directed by Josh Matthews. It was about this girl named Jessica Anne and she had not had a very good childhood and teenage years. It was about her story and the way that she's dealt with her hard life. Mike (Mike Hamilton) is a very good friend to her and in the show they seem to have fun together and he helps her with the show. This show is about parenting, deceit, and making experience into art. I think Jessica Anne made this show to let out her anger and tell her story to people who come to listen. But I don't think what she is doing is selfish; I think it is very powerful and brave for her to share her intriguing and distressing story. I think it is good to see what someone else's life is like and she gives that opportunity to us.

The beginning of the show was much more happy than the rest of the show was. They started out with a bunch of recorded applause and were telling jokes. I think that kind of tricked me, but in a good way, because it led me to believe that the mother-daughter relationship would be a lot better than it actually was. So my experience was kind of like Jessica's experience with her mom. She thought something about her mom that wasn't true. There was a good contrast in this show between goofiness and Jessica's terrible real life experiences. Instead of having just one emotion throughout the show, you feel a lot of different emotions and the contrasts gives each emotion a lot more impact and they hit you harder.

I thought that the water ballet was the most light-hearted part of the show because it showed that when she was a little kid she was not completely destroyed by what her mom has done yet. Mike and Jessica are spitting out water into this tub and there is music playing and it is supposed to represent when she would have fun with other kids by putting on water ballets where they would dance on garbage bags on their tiptoes. It kind of seemed like the water ballet she remembered was kind of like her first performance. She used water, she danced around with her friend, and she turned garbage bags into a stage and tried to make her life which she thinks is kind of like garbage into art. You find out something later about this memory that helps you understand that even if something isn't true it can still tell you the truth.

There was this part where they tossed coins in a tub whenever they quoted 'night, Mother, which is a show about a woman and her mom and the woman is going to kill herself. That is a very depressing show and so is this one. Sometimes they reenact scenes from 'night Mother with lamb puppets, which I found very disturbing. The rest of the audience seemed to think it was hilarious, but the over-exaggeration to make suicide and seizures funny things to me felt very disturbing. I do like dark humor, but because Mike Mother was an actual story of someone and how they felt unloved, that made it more depressing than funny to me. I still really liked the show, but I just experienced it differently than some of the other audience members. I found other parts funny, like the water ballet because they were spitting out water and kind of being joyful and it didn't seem mean or inconsiderate to laugh about that.

People who would like this show are people who like emotional stories, water ballets, and lamb puppets. I think people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was really upsetting but it was important to me to see it because it is a real life story and it really made me feel a lot of emotions like anger, sympathy, and depression, but it was still very entertaining. I really liked this show and I think it was a really powerful story.

Photos: Joe Mazza @ Brave Lux

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review of Underscore Theatre Company's Haymarket: The Anarchist's Songbook

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Haymarket: The Anarchist's Songbook. The book and lyrics were by Alex Higgin-Houser and the music was by David Kornfeld. It was directed and the movement was done by Elizabeth Margolius. The music direction was by Robert Ollis and Tyler Merle Thompson. It was about the Haymarket affair, which came about during a time when people were protesting for 8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, 8 hours for what we will. The Haymarket protest happened in Chicago because the police had come the day before to a strike at the McCormick factory and shot some of the strikers. At the Haymarket protest somebody threw a bomb at the police officers and all these men, George Engel (Tyler Merle Thompson), Adolf Fischer (David Kaplinsky), Louis Lingg (Royen Kent), Albert Parsons (James Smart), and August Spies (Mike Mazzocca), who supported good working hours and conditions were blamed, put on trial, and hanged. Lucy Parsons (LaKecia Harris) is a woman who is the wife of one of the men who was killed, and she is basically the central character. And I think she is a super cool person. I thought this was a really fun show even though it was serious. I think it is a really good way to learn about this sad but interesting part in history.

There was this song called "Lady Dynamite" which was not about a lady; it was about literal dynamite. It is sung two times by Louis Lingg about how much he loves dynamite and how it kind of solves all your problem. This isn't exactly true, because it can land you in jail. I think some of the anarchists, like Lingg, thought dynamite would be good for protecting themselves against the police and for winning the revolution if it was violent. I liked this song because I felt like it was very creepy. It was about something that could really seriously hurt people, but Lingg seemed really happy about it, especially the last time he sang it. The women (Summer Hofford, Victoria Olivier, Khaki Pixley) would start out dancing really slow and then it turned into more of a frantic jig, and that made it even more creepy. And another thing that made it more creepy was when I found out later that he really did kill himself with a blasting cap. It was very creepy in the show, but the description I read later was even more gruesome.

I liked how the courtroom turned into a circus which kind of makes the point that people can see a trial as if it were a show, even though it is deciding if somebody is going to die or not. They also stage it and describe it as a circus because no justice is being done and everything has gone crazy. The judge and jury treated it like a carnival show even though it is about a bunch of people about to be hanged. Everyone who is not being judged has some kind of circus element to them like a clown nose or wig or a silly voice. It was pointing out that the judge, jury, and lawyers deserved to be clown-i-nized. It basically was not a true trial and it wasn't going to help anybody.

"Keep on Talking, August Spies" was a song during the trial talking about how August Spies would just continue on talking forever to try to prove that the trial was unjust. But if you know the story, you know that didn't work out one hundred percent. It was pretty funny because August Spies kept interrupting the chorus to talk a little bit more about how terrible what the court was doing was. I think it was kind of appropriate to have humor here because the story is so depressing and it kind of worked with the circus elements of the trial to have an upbeat kind of song. Also, August Spies seemed to have kind of a crazy life because he got married when he was in prison!

I thought that "The Order of the Gallows" was a super cool song about the wives (Harris, Hofford, Olivier, and Pixley) of the men who were getting executed and how they went on a speaking tour about how what the policemen and the judges were doing was wrong. Lucy Parsons was the leader of the women of the noose and I think she is a super powerful character and she has become an inspiration for me. My mom and I are reading some really cool books about her and the entirety of the Haymarket Affair. I wish there were more books that focused just on Lucy Parsons for kids. I think it shows how brave and cool and awesome these women were that they really actually spoke their minds and they didn't just try to deal with it and say, "There's nothing we can do, I guess." Especially for this time period when women were so oppressed, it was exciting to see women say what they wanted to say.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome women of the noose, circus trials, and dynamite. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was a super fascinating story and I hope everyone will go see it.

Photos: Evan Hanover

Monday, May 23, 2016

Review of Disenchanted (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Disenchanted. The book, music, and lyrics were by Dennis T. Giacino and it was directed by Christopher Bond. It was about fairy tale princesses rebelling against sexism in their Disney movies. Snow White (Merritt Crews), Sleeping Beauty (Daniella Richards), and Cinderella (Madison Hayes-Crook) were your hosts for a kind of vaudeville show. I really enjoyed some of the songs and performances, but I felt it was not a completely successful rebellion against sexism. The audience seemed to really love this show, though, so it is not a terrible show for everyone. I was just hoping for more.

It sounds like a great idea to critique Disney princess movies, but I don't feel like it hit a home run like I hoped it would. I do believe that some Disney movies are sexist, but I do think they are getting better. I love Disney movies; I even love the sexist ones. The sexist ones were made a long time ago and were based on really old stories. It is okay to watch sexist stuff if you don't partake in the negative messages but analyze them and separate them from the good messages. When I was a little kid, my mom said I couldn't watch any Disney princess movies until I was a feminist. And I asked what a feminist was and she said, it is someone who thinks women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. And I said, "Well, of course!" So then I got to watch Cinderella. Disenchanted had a good goal to show the sexism in Disney movies, but I felt like they were making points I'd heard many times before and I wanted a bit more originality and also a bit more truthfulness. When they made an accusation that didn't seem true to me, that made me think they were just fishing for things to not like about Disney's portrayal of girls to make the show longer and it weakened their case.

One example of telling lies about Disney movies was a song called "Big Tits." It was claiming that all Disney princesses had large breasts because all of the male animators just wanted to make them that way. I know that Disney did have some female animators, but I know there were more men. But the song is kind of telling a lie, because the princesses don't all have the same figure and almost none of them have big breasts, except maybe Pocahontas, who has pretty normal sized breasts. I felt like the song was very unneeded and made me feel angry. And also don't think it is bad to represent women as having large breasts because a lot of actual women on this earth do have large breasts and it doesn't mean they always have to be sexualized. I also think that if there is something wrong with men animating women with big breasts then there should also be something wrong with men writing a song and directing women to draw attention to their cleavage. I don't always think that is wrong, but here it seemed to be a double standard.

I really liked Ann Paula Bautista's performance. She played Mulan, Pochahontas, and Princess Badroulbadour (who is who Jasmine is based on). I felt like she made the entire show a lot more enjoyable for me. She got to sing songs that I thought were funny and clever and more often actually had a point that made sense to me. I felt like it was really interesting that they made Mulan a lesbian. I thought that made for some interesting plot lines, like how Cinderella and Mulan seem to "get together." The Pocahontas song talked all about how they don't tell her true story, and I think that is a really good thing to talk about because they don't tell her true story whatsoever. But, as she rails on about how they don't tell her story, she doesn't really tell her actual story. They already made this show pretty dark, so I think they could have mentioned how she was kidnapped and maybe married to someone she didn't want to marry, and died in her early twenties. I also enjoyed Uche Ama as The Princess who Kissed the Frog. Her song was all about how it took so long to have an African American princess in a Disney movie. But if the writers wished it had been sooner, why didn't this play introduce her character sooner? It would have been really awesome to have her voice in the earlier songs in the play. I also thought the costumes (by Vanessa Leuck) were very cool and modernized and made the princesses look more awesome.

People who would like this show are people who like new versions of Disney princesses, parody, and cool costumes. I thought this show tried very hard to make this a groundbreaking new kind of show, but I feel like they just missed the mark for me. I think the audience I saw this with enjoyed it, so maybe you will too.

Photos: Dahlia Katz

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review of Promethean Theatre Ensemble's The Lion in Winter

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Lion in Winter. It was by James Goldman and it was directed by Brian Pastor. It was about this king Henry (Brian Parry) and queen Eleanor (Elaine Carlson) who are not in a happy marriage anymore. But the kingdom is going to go to someone else because the king is going to die soon. But each of the kids, Richard (Jared Dennis), Geoffrey (Nick Lake), and John (Tom Murphy), have been a disappointment to the parents and haven't been very nice to their parents either. So that makes them not very appealing for the throne. There is a King who is staying for the holidays, Philip of France (Evan Johnson); it is a big royal family Christmas get-together. You can tell from the beginning that it is not going to turn out amazing; the king isn't just happy to have a wife at the time, he needs a mistress too, Alais (Heather Smith). And two of his sons and his wife have all held rebellions against him and his rules, so that means that none of them have a great relationship with their dad. John is the one who doesn't rebel against him (at least not until the play is over). I thought that this was a very funny show. Given that the main theme is betrayal and bad family relationships, I didn't think it would be. I really liked this show because it was funny and emotional and a lot of it was so unexpected.

I really liked all the witty lines that were in this show. A lot of the wit comes from the despair or confusion or hatred that the characters are feeling. They use wit to overpower people and to get over or hide their own sadness. I think Eleanor hides her fear during some of her lines, like when Henry says the day my sons work together will be the day pigs fly. And she, of course, replies with a sassy remark: "There'll be pork in the treetops come morning." And when Henry and Eleanor are having their daily friendly argument, there's a very funny line where Henry says that she'll let her bridge down for anybody and she says "there's not much traffic anymore." I think that was a very clever way to say, "Well, I don't get much attention anymore" and make him feel bad about what he did. Even though she is the same age, even younger, she doesn't get even half as much traffic as Henry. I think that is because old rich men are more appealing to young women than old rich ladies are to young men. I think it is terrible that the king gets as many women as he wants but the queen is locked away in a castle and it is supposed to be totally ok.

There is a recurring theme of betrayal in this show. Everybody betrays somebody in the course of the play, and most of the time more than one. The King of France betrays 4 people and all in the same scene! Alais betrays the Queen sometimes but sometimes she loves her and thinks of her as a mother. The sons betray each other at least once and all of them betray their father and then they betray their mother. And then they betray the King of France. I think the weird thing is that the parents do really love their kids; they are just not very good at showing it. The sons want the crown and they want all the power that they can get. When Richard breaks down with his mom, it made me think that maybe he did actually love her. And John loves his dad, but maybe only because his dad is the only one who loves him. It is kind of depressing to have everyone in the same family betraying each other when you feel like they should love each other. But there is such a heck of a load of betrayal that it becomes funny.

I found it very hard to see most of the male characters in this show as good people. You found the things that they did funny, but you didn't sympathize with them whatsoever. Geoffrey is a little bit different. Even though he does some bad stuff and he's plotting all the time, he is the underdog and that makes him a little more likable and understandable. He thinks he is so smart that nobody can stop him, but that isn't fully true in the end. Because the women were so mistreated and one of them didn't even really know what she was supposed to be doing, I found them more sympathetic. Eleanor is so clever and sassy, but mistreated, that you want to see her get justice. I found it weird that I only really sympathized with a few people, because usually there are only one or two villains in a play. This play was full of people who could be villains in other plays. I think that was super awesome and I really liked that because I usually enjoy watching villains more than heroes anyway, even if I don't like what they do.

People who would like this show are people who like loads of betrayal, sassy queens, and pork in the treetops. I think people should go see this show. I thought it was very funny and very clever. It was a great way to experience my first encounter with The Lion in Winter.

Photos: Tom McGrath

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ada Grey Interviews for You: The SpongeBob Musical

I had so much fun interviewing Ethan Slater (SpongeBob), Danny Skinner (Patrick), Carlos Lopez (Mr. Krabs) and Nick Blaemire (Plankton) from The SpongeBob Musical. I'm really looking forward to seeing the show!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review of Babes With Blades' 180 Degree Rule

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called 180 Degree Rule. It was by M.E.H. Lewis and Barbara Lhota and it was directed by Rachel Edwards Harvith. It was about this woman named Ruth Alice Bennett (Amy E. Harmon) and she was a female film director in the 30s and 40s. And she was in love with an actress named Margot Faber (Lisa Herceg) and it was about how they had to hide their relationship from everyone except their closest friends. There is also a woman who teaches about the movies named Katie Dunham (Kate Black-Spence) and she is trying to find out about Ruth's death as part of her research. This show was about love, trust, and prejudice in Hollywood. I thought this was a moving, fun, and beautiful show. I really loved the story. I had never seen a play about women directors in Hollywood and I thought it was a really powerful story. I would like to see more plays on this subject in the future.

One of my favorite scenes was when Margot and Ruth first meet and you can just see the spark between them when Ruth walks into the room. Ruth is working on backdrops and Margot is an actress in the movie. The director (Tommy Bullington) seems to disapprove of Ruth because she thinks it's ok to offer advice about directing to a famous director. She says there should be more longing in Margot and Gilbert Bailey's (Jason Andrew Narvy) lines in the scene. Then Margot and Ruth have their first kiss very unexpectedly and very suddenly. It shows that their relationship has been produced by movies and will always be connected to movies but then they continue to love each other off screen too. I feel like it is the start to a beautiful relationship and you can see it in their very first scene together. But then you can also see that it is not going to be easy all the time because they are both so committed to the movies that they don't want to reveal that they are lesbians to the public because both their careers could be ruined. I think it is very sad that they have to choose between the art that they love and the person that they love.

I thought that it was a great idea to have the character of Katie Dunham be such a big part of the show because she gives the perspective of an outsider looking in. But then she turns out to be a super big part of the story. You think she is an outsider but she turns out to have a lot of insight on all the characters' lives. One of my favorite parts is how she bribed the people she was talking to with their favorite food and drinks. It was funny how she knew exactly what they wanted and how they were willing to tell secrets they promised they would never tell for pie, which sadly sounds a little like me. I just found that absolutely hilarious, but at the same time it shows you how Katie really cares about finding out the truth because she did all this research on Ruth Alice Bennett and her friends, even what they liked to eat and drink.

I thought that the fights (violence design by Libby Beyreis) were super cool. There was one head bang on a table that looked completely real. I was a little afraid the actor actually got hurt! There was also another fight with Nazis that had a great story behind it and also was a great fight to watch. Those are my favorite kinds of fights, where it is not just about the hitting and the punching; it is also about having a good story to go along with it. I thought all the fights in the show were amazing, but I wasn't surprised because every single time that part of Babes with Blades shows blows me away!

People who would like this show are people who like awesome fights, sad but beautiful love stories, and pie. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I loved the story and the fights and everything about it. It is my favorite show at Babes with Blades since Bo Thomas and the Case of the Sky Pirates!

Photos: Johnny Knight

Friday, May 13, 2016

Review of The Few at Steep Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Few. It was by Samuel D. Hunter and it was directed by Brad Akin. It was about these people named QZ (Dana Black), Matthew (Travis Coe), and Bryan (Peter Moore). They all work or used to work for this newspaper for truckers. But Bryan has left for four years after his friend died and used to be in a serious relationship with QZ and has come back because he doesn't have anywhere else to go. It is about how no matter how long you leave somewhere, when you come back there will still be a shred of what used to be there. Even though the paper has changed and Matthew now works there and Bryan and QZ now argue all the time, it still feels like there is a little of the same paper and a little of the same people left. It is about people who are not very good at being people; they have trouble interacting and not hurting themselves or other people. Some of it is kind of depressing, but some of it is also kind of hopeful. I thought this was a really moving and funny show. I really enjoyed it a lot. You definitely need to get your brain working before you see this show because there are a lot of things to hypothesize or try to understand. And if you don't, you wouldn't be able to understand the show.

For their newspaper they have these personal ads where people will put out a little message in the newspaper so that they could find somebody to love. QZ has set up this voicemail so that she doesn't have to pick up the phone every time and people can still leave their message. QZ doesn't really want to pick up the phone because she would rather spend her time quietly playing Tetris. The game disconnects her from the outside world and in the world of Tetris there are no people asking her for help or telling her what to do there are just little colorful blocks. QZ wants the paper to keep going, and when Bryan is around she feels like she has to be really cool and like she is not hurt at all by him leaving. Bryan has a different way of coping. He doesn't distract himself from the messages; he listens to the messages even when he is not copying them. There is this one woman named Cindy who is trying to make one of the ads but doesn't really know how. And it is very funny because she doesn't really know what she is doing and she keeps trying to start over and talking to the answering machine like it will talk back. She seems like such a sweetheart, but it is also kind of sad and depressing because she asks for the person to be nonviolent, which probably means she was hit and abused by her last partner. I feel like this phone message sums up the entire play because she has some very very funny moments but then she is not a completely well character.

The BB gun scene was my favorite scene. I found it so hilarious because the way that Matthew acts is like it is a real gun and it is a dire situation and all he can do to save his cause is to shoot Bryan. The audience thinks it is a real gun at first, but then Bryan says that it is a BB gun and then everyone just kind of laughs it off. Matthew's cause is that he wants the paper to continue being up and running and he wants Bryan to work with him to make it more like it was when he read it as a kid. It shows you that Matthew is not a violent person, but he is trying to be very threatening for his cause. It is funny and sad, though, because this is what it has come to, shooting each other over a newspaper. And the BB gun, even though it isn't a real gun, does too much damage for a BB gun which I felt like was the funniest part because of Bryan's reaction and how he really thought he wouldn't get hurt. I found that very hilarious, especially when he chased Matthew around the room and Matthew said, "You can't catch me. I'm spry." It seemed like Matthew had made up a catch phrase, and it was an awesome one too!

When I started writing this review I couldn't entirely tell who the main character was. It might be Bryan because he has a big problem and now he is coming back to a new situation. It might be QZ because during the play she sees what she actually wants to do with her life. It might be Matthew because he is the one who discovers new things and he is the one who has a big cause. I thought that that uncertainty was really cool because you got to know all of the characters very well, instead of just really learning a lot about one and the others being on the sidelines. And you can say that there is no main character or that they are all the main characters. I felt like all of these characters, you understood them, but they couldn't understand themselves. Which I find very sad, now that I think about it. But in a weird way I think they understand each other, and that makes it less depressing. They are people who are so disappointed in themselves that they couldn't understand themselves, but I do think that it is kind of sweet that they understand where each other are coming from.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome catch phrases, equally fascinating characters, and Tetris. I think that people should definitely, definitely go see this show. I found it moving and lovely. I really loved it.

Photos: Gregg Gilman