Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review of Griffin Theatre's Bat Boy: The Musical

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Bat Boy: The Musical. The book was by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming and the music and lyrics were by Laurence O'Keefe. It was directed by Scott Weinstein. The music direction was by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster and the choreography was by Rhett Guter and Amanda Kroiss. It was about the famous Bat Boy (Henry McGinnis) from a tabloid. Of course the Bat Boy is not a real thing, but they made up a really awesome backstory to go with him. But it was also a very dark story. When I was little I used to hate dark comedies, but now I'm a big fan. This show is about respect, family, and prejudice. I thought that this was an absolutely fun and amazing show.

One of my favorite songs (and also one of the most uncomfortable songs for me to hear ever) was called "Children, Children." It was a song sung by Pan (Jordan Dell Harris). It had a bunch of animals and mythical creatures coming out and talking about the beauty of nature, or at least that is how it started. And then it turned into all of the animals very suggestively doing things with the different animal puppets (by Lolly Extract and Amber Marsh) they were holding. It was basically to encourage Edgar, the Bat Boy, to "get together" with this girl he likes named Shelley Parker (Tiffany Tatreau). This song was hilarious but it made me very uncomfortable. I think everybody else just found it hilarious, but since I am an eleven-and-three-quarters-year-old girl, that made it slightly more awkward for me. It was so funny because of the way they used the different parts of the animal puppets and their costumes (by Izumi Inaba). It was hilariously awkward.

I also really liked "Mrs. Taylor's Lullaby" sung by Mrs. Taylor (Ron King). It was absolutely hilarious and the character work put into Mrs. Taylor was amazing. She would fan herself very quickly with her hand when she would get frustrated, which I could not stop laughing at. The song was funny because it was a very dark song about killing Bat Boy sung in a very sweet tone and manner. Ron King also sang a song called "Joyful Noise" as the Reverend. It was very high in energy and I really loved that song. I would have that be my ringtone! It was super fun and I wanted to just get up and dance during that song.

"Show You a Thing or Two" was another of my favorite songs, sung by the entire Parker family--Dr. Parker (Matt W. Miles), Meredith (Anne Sheridan Smith), and their daughter Shelley--and Bat Boy. I really liked this song because it was really sweet, but it wasn't a slow sweet song. It was just about how everyone in the family wanted to help Edgar/Bat Boy become a gentleman. The song was a really fun montage of them teaching Edgar to read and write, teaching him to speak well, and they also had flash cards that were really funny because they were not necessarily things someone learning civilized English should need to know immediately, like names of operas, movies, and people. Also in the montage was Bat Boy drinking blood! Later in the show, you find out who Bat Boy's mother is, which is a big reveal, but then Dr. Parker has to explain to Bat Boy where he came from. And it is like this big long elaborate story and he has to put on a wig to tell the story and that was very funny. I really liked how Dr. Parker's character changed so much over the course of the show. It was funny to see this person who seemed to be so intelligent at first making these horrible decisions to talk about his plans in earshot of other people. They'd say, "What did you say?" And he'd say, "Nothing" and go on with his day. Bat Boy's transformation is going from a demon-boy found in a cave to a civilized, strangely British man, Dr. Parker's transformation is going from a smart, civilized guy to a crazy man. It just shows you that people can drastically change and just because you think you know who somebody is, doesn't mean that is how they are today.

People who would like this show are people who like blood, murderous lullabies, and ridiculous mating rituals. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is super funny and awesome and I had so much fun at it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Review of Hell in a Handbag's The Divine Sister

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Divine Sister. It was by Charles Busch and it was directed by Shade Murray. It was about a convent and school and the nuns that lived there and taught there. Mother Superior (David Cerda) and her best friend Sister Acacius (Ed Jones) were both teachers and nuns there, but they both had complicated pasts that they wanted to keep secret but are revealed throughout the course of the play. Basically, by the end of the show, everybody has something that has been revealed. And all of the things that are revealed are pretty ridiculous. This was a really crazy and weird show. This show wasn't exactly to my taste, but I think other people could really enjoy it.

Agnes (Charlotte Mae Ellison) was my favorite character. She is a nun in training at the convent. She was a very silly character and she was kind of like the super-happy, jolly-jolly-fun-time, Julie-Andrews character of the entire story. She was over the top but in a very funny way; she really seemed very genuine while she was acting goofy. And she was very committed to it, which I really liked. She was mostly very peppy and skipping around and singing, and she would end almost every number in the splits! I found her really funny. Then she has a huge transformation at the end where she becomes a total biscuit and starts smoking and has a huge amount of makeup and a perm. And I thought that was hilarious.

The way that you find out that three of the characters were related is because they realize that when they are emotional they have gagging reflexes. I thought that was quite clever, kind of dumb, and funny all at the same time. That basically explains the entire show in a sentence! The entire show is very silly in an over-the-top way with a lot of sexual humor and unexpected twists. I think a lot of people will enjoy that. I'm not sure if camp is really my style or my thing, but there were still moments that I enjoyed.

I felt like the show had some aspects that I wasn't a huge fan of. I felt like some of the acting was over the top in a way that was funny, but seemed fakey. I understand that camp is not supposed to be believable, but I wanted to see these actors actually seem like they cared about what they were saying more than they sometimes did. You want the play to be fast-paced but sometimes it felt like they were just rushing and it made it very hard to understand. Sometimes people would stumble or totally forget a line, which I found very awkward, but I'm not sure if that would still be a problem if someone saw it now.

People who would like this show are people who like campy shows, family gagging reflexes, and jolly-jolly-fun-time nuns in training. I thought this was a crazy show and a lot of people I think will have a lot of fun at it.

Photos: Rick Aguilar Studios

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review of First Floor Theatre's World Buliders

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called World Builders. It was by Johnna Adams and it was directed by Jesse Roth. It was about two people named Max (Andrew Cutler) and Whitney (Carmen Molina) who were both patients/lab rats at a hospital. The doctors were trying to find a cure for their condition where they make up a world and live in that world even though that world doesn't exist outside their own minds. But they want to keep their worlds. It was about what people consider diseases, friendship, and creativity. I really liked this show. I thought it was very intriguing and interesting and I saw the deep relationship between the characters.

Each person with this condition has their own world, and all of them are very different. Whitney's is kind of like science fiction. There are different characters who have romances and there are thousands of people on different planets. She has so many people that some of them just have to be background characters. There are also wars and opposing planets and there is a government and all of these rules. She knows all these rules even though there are so many of them. And in Whitney's world she can go back to different times and change what people said and what they did. She is in control. But Max just believes that when something happens in his world it just happens. And he feels like he doesn't have control over his world. And his world is not as big as Whitney's; his world is just a room. But it is still complex because of the details of the person in the room. It is also very creepy because his world is just a room where a woman is locked in and one day she is just gone. I thought the differences between their worlds, which they had long conversations about, were very intriguing. Max's world is like being locked in a room with monitors, but Whitney's world is like a science fiction novel that she is writing and can revise as much as she wants.

I think that the relationship between Max and Whitney was very complicated because I was rooting for them even though I wasn't sure if it was a healthy relationship. It might have been healthy because both of them had worlds so they wouldn't think the other one was a weirdo. Usually someone who has an alternate world that they spent most of their time in would be kind of weird to another person. It might have been unhealthy because two people who have worlds might not have time for the other person and it would make them sad that their partner's world was more important than them. It could also be dangerous because if two people have worlds at the same time and aren't paying attention, bad things could happen. They say in the show that people have died because of their worlds. But I'm rooting for them because they seem to genuinely love each other and they understand each other a lot too.

The last scene had a lot of impact on me because it really showed their devotion to each other, which was very sweet. I'm not going to be too specific, because it is the last scene of the play, but if you have seen the play you'll know what I'm talking about. Max is willing to make a sacrifice for Whitney, even though Whitney won't make that same sacrifice for him. Instead, she tries to make a way so they can both have what they want. And I found that so beautiful and I thought it was a very sweet ending to the show.

People who would like this show are people who like powerful love stories, science fiction, and touching sacrifices. I think people should go see this show. I thought it was charming, beautiful, and it had a lot of hope.

Photos: Evan Barr

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review of American Theater Company's Xanadu

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Xanadu. The book was by Douglas Carter Beane and the music and lyrics were by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. It was directed by Lili-Anne Brown. The music direction was by Aaron Benham and the choreography was by Brigitte Ditmars. It was about a muse named Clio (Landree Fleming) who goes to the mortal world as a girl named Kira who is Australian to help an artist, Sonny Malone (Jim DeSelm). The muses are not allowed to fall in love with mortals, but two of her sisters who are also muses, Melpomene (Karla L. Beard) and Calliope (Missy Aguilar), are trying to get her killed by making her fall in love. And once Clio and this mortal get to know each other they decide they are going to open a palace of culture, which is really a roller rink with maybe some art, in a building owned by Danny Maguire (Aaron Holland) who used to be in love with Clio when she wasn't Clio but somebody named Kat. I really liked this show. I thought that it was super fun and I thought that it was a great way to make a terrible 80s movie into a fun show.

The relationship between Kira and Sonny was adorable and cheesy. And I thought the cheesiness was just hilarious in this. They look at each other very, how do I put this, in awe of each other. And I was like, "What's so amazing about them this time?" But I guess that is like asking, "Why do fools fall in love?" Why do they fall in love? I actually have an explanation for that: she's Australian and she has roller skates and he looks like he just came out of the neon store after a %50 off sale. They actually succeeded in making me care about the characters: even though they looked and acted ridiculous, I wanted them to get what they wanted because they were really funny and the songs were really sweet sometimes.

Two of the muses help them fall in love, Melpomene and Calliope, but that is not their intention; they just want Clio kicked out of her position of leadership...by death!!! They sang this song called "Evil Woman." I though their vocals were amazing. This was one of my favorite songs and it was pretty funny too because they were trying not to seem like they were plotting. And the conversation before it was just hilarious. They started using very modern phrases, like they said the river god was Melpomene's baby daddy. But they also said words like "thus" a lot and then would just snap into talking like somebody in the 80s. I thought that that was very funny and I really liked that.

There was a lot of very goofy humor in this. There was one scene where Hermes (James Nedrud) was trying to deliver a message to Clio about how she could not fall in love with a human. And Hermes could not roller skate whatsoever and so he was giving this huge dramatic monologue while he was holding on to the railing. And whenever there was a little bit of break in the railing he would scream his head off until he got to the other side of the break.

My favorite scene in the entire show was the scene with Zeus (Holland), who reminded me a lot of someone who had all the ladies, the best kind of car, all the money, and was high all the time. Basically that guy had it going pretty good and he had this hilarious voice that was just kind of whispery and very high. I think that was absolutely hilarious. I know a lot about Zeus because I really like Greek Mythology and I take the National Mythology Exam every year, and I can tell you Zeus did have a lot of ladies and a lot of babies and was basically a player. So that was one of the funniest moments for me. And he had a very funny reaction to a mortal coming up to Olympus; he said something like "Sorry. Mere mortals are not allowed up here" in this exasperated voice. But he was very calm while he said it. There is a song, "Have You Never Been Mellow," where the attending goddesses of Zeus--Hera (Kasey Alfonso), Aphrodite (Aguilar), and Thetis (Hannah Rose Nardone) were singing about how Zeus should just let the kids be together. And then he starts to be seduced by them and then a bunch of different mythical creatures showed up, like a Cyclops (Daniel Spagnuolo), a Centaur (Nedrud), and Medusa (Beard) and they joined in and I really liked it because it was funny.

People who would like this show are people who like E-evil women, screaming Hermes, and high Zeus. I thought this was a really fun and great show. I liked it a lot and definitely think people should go see it. It was weird, silly, and just altogether really awesome.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Review of Haven Theatre Company's The Distance

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Distance. It was by Deborah Bruce and it was directed by Elly Green. It was about this woman named Bea (Abigail Boucher) and she has left her kids with her husband and gone to London where she used to live to be with her friends Kate (Megan Kohl) and Alex (Allison Latta). And they are trying to convince her to go back and get custody of her kids. Kate's brother-in-law Vinnie (Patrick Gannon) is there for a visit, and he doesn't exactly make things easier because all he wants to do is party. Kate and her husband, Darragh (Layne Manzer), have just had a baby but they have been having some problems lately. And there is also a big riot happening in London, and Alex's son Liam (Nik Kmiecik) is near the riot. This play is about not feeling good enough, friendship, parenthood, and freedom. I really liked this show. I felt like it was powerful and funny and sweet.

I felt like the relationship between the three friends--Alex, Kate, and Bea--was sweet but sad because there were some points in their friendship where they wanted to tell their friend she was doing the right thing even though they felt like she wasn't. I've had these moments where I wanted to tell my friend that she was doing the right thing even though I felt like she wasn't, so this part of the play really spoke to me. I also thought that all of them had a kind of messed up relationship with their spouse or ex-spouse and I thought it was really sweet how they would talk to each other about that stuff, even though it wasn't the nicest topic to talk about but they still talked about it just because their friend needed to. There were some moments I felt really bad for Bea because the other girls would get caught up in some gossip and leave her out of it and forget that she was having a terrible time. They disagree on how to take care of children: Kate thinks you should always be around your children all the time and never let them go, and Bea thinks that you don't have to be with your kids to love them, and Alex thinks that you can leave your kids to their own devices and they will figure it out, but she does still love them.

I really liked the set (by Joseph Schermoly). I thought it was super cool how it was like a modern house but then it could also be transformed into a hotel or a couple's bedroom. There were also these little slots behind the stage that could be used to be the outside and space on the side that could be used for the same purpose. And they had these really cool transitions where you would basically focus all your attention on Bea as she walked around the stage. I thought it was interesting. I don't like transitions that just have a blackout; I like transitions that have a lot of movement and feeling. I felt like I was watching Bea being really upset but also kind of dealing with it.

My favorite scene was with Liam and Bea. They start talking and she is trying to talk to him like an adult but she starts out talking to him like a kid or a baby. And I get where Liam is coming from, where he is just looking at her weirdly and doesn't really know what to say or do because he feels awkward. And I thought that that was very funny. But it isn't a very funny scene because then he starts going a little bit crazy because Bea is freaking out because everyone wants her to go back to her kids and she feels overwhelmed. And then he starts to freak out with her because his mom is getting high in the other room and the things Bea says make him think about his own family and whether his mom really loves him because Bea says she is not sure what she feels about her family anymore. And he is talking a lot about his dad and how he is wondering what his Dad is doing even though he doesn't really know anything about him. Which I thought was very sad but sweet at the same time because he really did not know anything about his dad before he left.

The beginning and ending scenes in this show both gave you a way to look at the story they were telling in the rest of the show. They both take place in a hotel room and they both have the same characters in them, The Man (Josh Odor) and Bea. When the show starts, you think that first scene happens right before the next scene, but then you realize towards the end of the show that it happened longer ago. I saw at first that Bea didn't see The Man as just some guy, because they wouldn't have put it in the show then. And pretty close to the end you realize who that guy was, and it completely changed my perspective of the show. It made me think that Bea was not going to go back to her family because it seemed like she was reflecting on what her life was like before she had kids. The thing that made the ending sad is that you could see she wasn't happy no matter what she was doing.

People who would like this show are people who like cool transitions, sad but sweet relationships, and awkward conversations with teens. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was super moving, funny, and beautiful.

Photos: Austin D. Oie

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review of Sideshow Theatre Company's Caught

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Caught. It was by Christopher Chen and it was directed by Seth Bockley. It was about, well, it is very disorienting but it is fun. And I don't want to give too much away. It is about lies, trickery, and what we think is art. I liked this show. I thought it was very fun and interesting. Afterwards I felt like I was dreaming or something. It made me think about cultural appropriation, like somebody doing something that isn't part of their specific culture, and if that is ok. I also thought about the fine line between lying and art.

This show talks a lot about cultural appropriation, which I do think is an important thing to talk about because there are things that if a person does something that usually belongs to another culture, someone can get offended. I think that the character that the playwright has talk about cultural appropriation, Wang Min (Helen Young), seems kind of crazy, though, because she is very paranoid and everything she says seems like she is trying to sound smarter than the other person even though we can't understand what she means. She keeps saying, "it is not a matter of this or this" which I thought was funny. I think the playwright is saying she is overly concerned about cultural appropriation. In this scene Ann James plays herself and her reactions to Wang Min are hilarious; she's trying to look smart and also not seem racist. I think the scene is here for two reasons: for comedy and to show what the writer thinks about people who are obsessed with cultural appropriation and people who believe that cultural appreciation keeps them from seeming racist. I think he thinks both of them have problems.

Lying and art are both very big concepts in this show. Lin (Ben Chang) feels like he has to lie and have a really sad backstory and also make good art to be a famous artist. I think the reason that people think that getting a sad backstory will get them more publicity and get them to be a more famous artist is that people think artists with sad stories have a lot of talent because they didn't get lessons but they still continued to do their art and people who had classes are good because they had a good teacher. The structure of the show is very complex. When you walk into the theater there is basically an art exhibit and you can go up on stage and look at all the artwork. I liked the artwork (by Larry Lee) a lot. There were faucets and a fish in a glass aquarium. And there were these pictures lined up on the floor of this man screaming. He could have been upside down, but it was kind of up for judgement what was happening. And there was a Chinese food box sculpture that was really cool. Then they tell you to sit in your seat and you get tricked a lot about what is real and what is fake. Usually when I get tricked or lied to, I feel really bad about it. But because this was theater, I already kind of knew it wasn't all real. But at the end I was still completely fooled. I think the people who worked on this show wanted you to be disoriented and feel tricked and lied to when you left. But they still wanted you to have fun, I think. And I did still have fun.

There was a piece of art at the Art Institute called Wu Street by Xu Bing and Ai Wei Wei. It was super interesting and it reminded me a lot of this play. There were several oil paintings the artists found in the trash and rescued. And they found an article about the abstract painter Jonathan Lasker and thought it sounded like the paintings, so they published a Chinese translation of that article with a made up artist name and pictures of the found paintings. It reminded me of the play because the play shows a story of people who have deceived others into thinking something is groundbreaking art. And then the deception itself is the art at the Art Institute but then the deception in the play is also the art because the play itself is art. I'm sorry I can't be more specific; you'll have to see the show to find out more specifically what I mean.

People who would like this show are people who like disorienting and fun plays, things not being a matter of something or something, and goldfish. I think that people should go see this show. It is super fun and made me think a lot. I enjoyed it.

Photos: Jonathan L. Green

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Review of Filament Theatre's Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Portage Park

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Portage Park. It was by Jessica Wright Buha and it was directed by Christian Libonati. It was like a game where you have to solve the mystery of who stole this young baseball player's special box. Basically there are a bunch of elaborate scenes throughout the neighborhood and you sneak around with a group of people and Sherlock and Watson gathering clues. There are a bunch of different groups and you follow different suspects and then meet up to put all your clues together and try to figure out who the culprit was. Everyone gets their own Sherlock and Watson from a duplicator, that turned out to be very useful during the course of the play. I was in the red group and my Sherlock and Watson were Alex Ireys and Kristina Loy. But first there are a Sherlock and Watson who introduce you to the story: Alejandro Tey and Nathan Drackett. I had a lot of fun at this show. I think that adults could still have fun at it, but you'd have more fun if you went with a kid. I liked the free aspect to it where you could do whatever you wanted as long as you stayed with the group. It is fun to go into everyday places and have people stare at you because you are being guided around by Sherlock Holmes!

I might have been the oldest kid in my group, but it was still really fun and some of the kids were hilarious. There was one little kid who seemed to be having a great time. And he said some very hilarious things. We found a seed that looked like an avocado seed, and this one little kid said "That's what avocados are made out of!" and everybody could not stop laughing because it was adorable. All the kids were really involved in the story. They all really seemed like they wanted to participate. I thought a lot of the theories people had were really awesome. I liked how you didn't solve the entire mystery in your group but you had to come all together and solve it that way as a larger group. I was the photographer for my group and shared clues on social media with the other groups and I thought that was super fun.

I loved my Sherlock and Watson. They were super fun and funny and they listened to every single kid's thoughts and their analysis. Sometimes they would put a searching group together and I went on one with Red Watson where we found this guy talking on his phone and he was talking about a secret plan of some sort. And then another guy walked by and it was kind of hard to know if he was doing the show or not. It was disorienting but in a fun way. Both Sherlock and Watson were really good at listening to people. When somebody would say that they found a place, Sherlock and Watson would not just ignore it. They would take that to mind and then go to it. I think that both of them were great improvisers and they would make up something funny or clever really quickly.

People who would like this show are people who like interactive theater, solving mysteries, and avocado seeds. I think kids and their parents should go see this show. It was a super fun experience and I really enjoyed doing it. I think it would be cool if one of the groups was aimed at adults so they had a more complicated course you could do; that would have been a lot of fun to try. The only reason this is such a short review is that I didn't want to give anything really away. It would be very hard to avoid that with a play where the entire plot is to figure out the plot!

Photos:Dominick Maino

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review of Light Opera Works' My Fair Lady

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called My Fair Lady. The book and lyrics were by Alan Jay Lerner and the music was by Frederick Loewe. It was based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion and the movie Gabriel Pascal made of it. The choreography was by Clayton Cross and it was directed by Rudy Hogenmiller. It was about this woman named Eliza Doolittle (Elizabeth Telford) who was selling flowers on the street and decides she wants to become a proper lady after she hears Henry Higgins (Nick Sandys) brag to Colonel Pickering (Kirk Swenk) that he could pass her off as lady. So she goes and asks for lessons and Higgins makes a bet with Pickering that he can turn her into a lady. She moves in with them and they all start to become friends. But Higgins doesn't really see her as a person; he sees her as an object that can make him win a bet. It is about respect, class, and change. I feel like this show is very tricky to find out if you agree with the choices of the characters and feel like the ending turns out well. You can still enjoy this show even if you don't fully agree with the choices of the characters, and I think this production undercut some of the sexism in the show. I had fun at this show. I thought the music was great, there were funny scenes, and it had a slightly different take on Eliza and Henry's relationship.

The song "Get Me to the Church on Time" is a very silly song. I feel like Eliza's dad, Alfred P. Doolittle (Cary Lovett), had all of the silliest and weirdest songs. But he is also a huge sexist, because he has a whole verse of the song "With a Little Bit of Luck" about tricking women into giving him money and love without having to give anything in return. "Get Me to the Church on Time" had my favorite choreography in it. I felt like the choreography really suited the song. It was really big and ridiculous. The song is about how when you marry somebody, your life is kind of over, so you should live it up until you get married. He is sort of contradicting himself throughout the entire song because he is saying in the verses, "marriage sucks and you have to do all the stuff you want to do before you get married," but he's saying in the chorus that he wants to get to the church so he can get married, so that makes it seem like he doesn't want to get out of it. I thought Doolittle was very funny and I feel like the actor was very good for the part because for some reason I liked the character even though he treats everyone around him badly. He helped you ignore that he had beaten Eliza and cheated on his girlfriend and had altogether been a terrible person. But he had a good singing voice!

I really liked the race track scene. The costumes (by Theresa Ham) were gorgeous in every scene and reminded me of the movie without just copying the movie, and my favorite was in this scene: Eliza's black and white dress. My favorite line is also in scene; it is "Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin' arse." This is the first time that Henry Higgins takes Eliza out into society, and it looks like a disaster but it turns out to get her fans--like Mrs. Higgins (Joan McGrath) and Mrs. Eynsford-Hill (Maggie Clennon Reberg)--and an admirer, Freddy Eynsford-Hill (William Dwyer). They like her because she doesn't really seem to care what people think of her in that moment, and they think that means she is cool and she is acting like the cool kids do. You want her to behave however she wants to and not just how Henry wants her to. And it shows that there are people who feel that way in the play as well.

I feel like the problem with My Fair Lady compared to Pygmalion is that Eliza comes back to Henry Higgins really quickly even though he's been a jerk to her. She does not do that in the play. But the musical also does show some of the feminist perspective. Mrs. Higgins says a lot of awesome things about how Henry is a jerk, so that shows you she understands that her son is not a nice person and she doesn't try to defend him. I also feel like how Eliza is going out into the world and telling people what she actually wants instead of just doing what other people want her to do is great. When she is singing the song "Show Me" to Freddy she is talking about how the guy that she loved didn't show her that he loved her. And she is actually saying "I want you to do this for me, so I can actually like you." She is not letting other people tell her what she should do or what they will do to her; she is saying what she wants. If she tells people what she wants, she can't be a thing (or as Higgins calls her, "baggage") because people talk and say their feelings but things don't. Freddy did not see her as a thing because he likes her personality and he likes her more after she starts talking about what she wants. I feel like there is hope for Henry Higgins even though he has been a jerk because he also likes her when she expresses her own feelings to people and doesn't care what they think. This production shows that Henry could get better but has a long way to go by having both Eliza and Henry laugh together after he says "Where are my slippers?" That shows that they aren't mad at each other anymore. It also shows that he can laugh at himself and he doesn't take himself as seriously as he used to. The staging is implying that they could fall in love again, but it is not a sure thing, and that he has to keep changing for her to like him again.

People who would like this show are people who like fun songs, women telling people what they want, and getting to the church on time. I thought this was a good and interesting show and I liked it. It closes this weekend, so if you want to see it you should get your tickets now.

Photos: Joshua Lott

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Review of Irish Theatre of Chicago's Spinning

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Spinning. It was by Deirdre Kinahan and it was directed by Joanie Schultz. It was about a man named Conor (Dan Waller) who had just gotten out of prison after killing Susan's (Jodi Kingsley) daughter, Annie (Tyler Meredith). He comes back to talk to Susan about his life and what he has done and how he feels like he didn't actually kill Annie. The show is about forgiveness, family, and wanting to change the past. I thought that this was a great show. I thought that it was very moving and I really enjoyed it.

I really liked the way that Tyler Meredith showed the way that Annie changed around different people. With her mom she seems a little bit more carefree and less like she needs to live up to something. With Conor she tries to be more grownup but you can see the strain that she is going through. Another difference is that when she is around Conor she would smoke, but she would always try to be a good girl around her mom. It seems like she was a good daughter, but she would do things away from her mom that weren't nice to her body. She seems to try to be more badass when she's not with her mom. It really shows in the acting that Annie is trying to be a different person.

This show uses a heck of a ton of flashbacks and it is for a good reason because there is a lot of exposition you need to understand what is happening with Susan and Conor. It was always clear to me when the flashbacks were happening which is very important. One of my favorites was when Susan was at a carnival or a fair and this is when she first meets Conor. She talks about her friend who is on the Ferris wheel like her friend is kind of a jerk and like she, Annie, doesn't need friends. She's doing that because she wants to impress Conor. And when she is with her mom you see more how important her friend is to her because she doesn't just stop being friends with her even when Annie's crush says he likes her friend better. Another of my favorite flashbacks was a scene between Annie and Susan where Annie is trying to curl Susan's hair because Susan is going to a party. And you see that they are not just mother and daughter; they are also great friends. There is another flashback where Conor and Jen (Carolyn Kruse) have a fight about how Conor really wants to have another kid and you really see how much power Jen has over Conor. And you also get to see how their relationship is melting away and it is very sad. Even though I wasn't very sure that they were a good match, it is very sad to see their relationship turn into something that they don't want anymore.

If you don't want to know anything about the end of the play, don't read this next paragraph! There was something of a mystery at the end of the show where you don't really know if Conor is lying to Susan about what Annie thought about her. I cried at the end because of the beautiful way Conor talked about Annie's death. But you don't know if he is actually telling the truth. Even if it isn't true, it shows that he wants to make Susan feel better, which is very touching. It leaves the audience thinking which is always a good thing. I think it was a good idea not to show the death in a flashback because I feel like that would have taken away some of the emotion. Storytelling makes it less gruesome and more heartfelt than showing it. I absolutely loved that kind of ending to the show. I thought it was sad and beautiful at the same time.

People who would like this show are people who like sweet mother-daughter relationships, flashbacks, and Ferris wheels. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was an amazing script and the acting was great. I really loved it.

Photos: Emily Schwartz

Monday, June 6, 2016

Review of The Artistic Home's The Seagull

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Seagull. It was by Anton Chekhov and it was directed by Cody Estle. It was about this man named Konstantin (Julian Hester) and he wanted to be a writer. As the play goes on, his life keeps getting worse and worse. He's losing his love Nina (Brookelyn H├ębert), he's losing his mother Arkadina (Kathy Scambiaterra), and he is losing his happiness entirely. Almost everyone in the show is pretty depressed or unhappy at some point. But the show is also funny at points. I like Chekhov's dark humor in his shows. He is good at making depressing scenes depressing but also in turning terrible situations into something kind of funny. The characters do things that you hate, but you still have sympathy for them at some time or other. This was a great production. The acting was amazing; I don't always feel sympathy for some of the characters in The Seagull that I felt sympathy for in this production. I really liked the show. I thought it was insanely moving. It is the first time I ever cried during a Chekhov play.

In the first scene there were a lot of sad moments but then there were also funny moments. I feel like the first scene kind of captured the tone of the entire play. One of the first lines in the play is Masha (Laura Lapidus) saying, "I wear black because I'm in mourning for my life." It is funny because it is such a very emo thing to say, but it is sad because that is actually how she feels and she is not just saying that. Masha is a very troubled lady and I wish that she could have told Konstantin how she actually felt, that she liked him. But I think it is good that she doesn't pursue it because as Nina finds out, Konstantin can be kind of a drama queen son of a biscuit who doesn't consider anybody else's feelings. Her obsession with Konstantin is kind of funny though, because no one in the audience thinks he's worth the trouble. I really thought that the play Konstantin wrote was hilarious. It is all about the end of the world and everything is dead except for this one thing played by Nina who is speaking. He does not mean for it to be funny. I know it sounds very dark, but it ends up being funny because of the way that the people watching are making fun of it. They are making fun of how deep he is trying to be. But then Konstantin gets mad and stops the show and storms off. So then you do kind of feel sorry for him even though he is making it a bigger deal than it is. You also see the funniness and the sadness in that scene when the doctor, Dorn (Brian McKnight), is talking to his lover Polina (Barbara Figgins). It is sad because Polina feels that the doctor doesn't love her anymore, even though they have been going at this for a very long time. But it is funny how she expresses how she wants him to stay with her by saying "You are still attractive to women. They are all swooning over you." She starts out with a compliment and turns into utter jealousy. Then Nina gives him a bunch of flowers and Polina says, "Oh, these are lovely" and then she takes them out of his hands and storms off with them. I thought that was super hilarious; it made me laugh, but I did still feel sorry that her feelings had gotten hurt.

Medvedenko (Kaiser Ahmed) has had a huge crush on Masha for a very long time and eventually they do get married. He got what he wanted but it wasn't exactly what he wanted when he got it. In the second half they get into a huge fight about her coming home to their baby. I don't think that Masha makes the right decision to just stay at Arkadina and Konstantin's house for the night and not care for her child. That part I find very sad because they have a big couple's quarrel in front of their friends and her family. Their fight was very realistic. They didn't have a huge battle or a screaming fight, but it was still really terrible because of the way they were treating each other. Chekhov's point is that even if you think you know what you want, sometimes it isn't what you want once you actually experience it. Masha didn't want it, but she marries Medvedenko anyway to get over Konstantin. That doesn't really work out for her in the end.

Near the end of the play, Nina comes back to Konstantin. She has been with Trigorin (Scot West) who had been with Arkadina when they met. Nina has a child with him, but the child dies, he leaves her, and her acting career is a flop. So she comes back to Konstantin to visit, but at the same time Trigorin is there with Arkadina, which of course Nina is not very happy about. And she keeps saying that she is the seagull because she is the girl that Trigorin was talking about as a subject for a story about a girl who is free and lives by the lake and is destroyed by a guy who doesn't have anything better to do. After she leaves, Konstantin is very upset and starts ripping up papers because she has blatantly rejected him. It is very sad to see this guy who has loved this woman for years, and when she comes back she doesn't love him. The papers are all of his work and he does it in one fell swoop and doesn't even think about it because Nina has so much power over him. It is terrifying to see someone so overpowered by something that he should have been over years ago. I cried at this moment and I feel like the man playing Konstantin really moved me. If you are just reading the play, you might not care because he is kind of a jerk to a lot of people. But this actor really made me care about the character.

People who would like this show are people who like sad but funny shows, sympathetic characters, and mourning for their lives. I thought this was a beautiful show and I loved it.

Photos: Joe Mazza at Brave Lux

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review of Chimerica at Timeline Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Chimerica. It was by Lucy Kirkwood and it was directed by Nick Bowling. It was about a photojournalist named Joe Schofield (Coburn Goss) who had taken these pictures of this man who was standing in front of a tank in China holding some bags after the Tiananmen square massacre. They were called the tank man pictures, and he wanted to solve the mystery of who the Tank Man was. Zhang Lin (Norman Yap) is the reporter's friend and he still lives in China. He's helping him find out who the tank man really is but he is also dealing with the death of his wife and his life is not great because the government is angry at the people who protested and are still looking for them, especially the ones who say that they still want things to change. This show is about making your mark on history, how just because people aren't getting hurt or tortured where you are doesn't mean it is not happening anywhere, and the dilemma of the photographer that when you are watching something terrible happening you just take pictures of it instead of putting down your camera and helping. I thought that this was a very powerful show and I took a lot away from it. I started reading a book about Tiananmen Square because I was very intrigued and I needed to learn more about this because I had never heard about it before. I feel like it is good I found out about it because it made me more aware of what is happening in China now and what happened in the past.

I thought that it was really cool and interesting that the focus really shifted a lot in the show. At first you are focused on the American reporter, but then halfway through the first act it shifted to Zhang Lin because I found his story more compelling. The play is structured for you to think that it is Joe's story, but Zhang Lin's story is very interesting and had more impact on me. And you find out that Zhang Lin has been keeping a secret throughout the show and that a lot of scenes you didn't know were about him were actually about him. I liked how the story could be about both people instead of it just being about a white person's experience with Chinese people. I feel like the show did a great job giving both perspectives.

There is a gorgeous but very sad love story between Zhang Lin when he was younger (Dan Lin) and Liuli (Janelle Villas) and that was one thing that made his story more compelling to me. A lot of my favorite scenes were with them; they were insanely talented actors. I really believed them. I believed they were really in love and I believed their pain and I felt very sad for them. There is this terrifying element where Liuli came out of the older Zhang Lin's refrigerator. There is a backstory that they met by her coming out of his refrigerator after he just bought it. I found that very touching that his first memory of her kept coming back to him.

Americans can easily get caught up in their own problems, and forget that bad things are happening in other places. I think that the writer definitely wanted to draw attention to this. Tessa (Eleni Pappageorge) is a British woman who analyzes people's shopping habits and there was this scene where she and Joe were kissing, while next to them on stage Zhang Lin was being tortured. I feel like they were trying to make the point that you are having a great time over here in America but in China this guy is having a truly terrible day. Also, Frank Hadley (H.B. Ward), who was Joe's boss, just blows over all these pictures of people suffering and only thinks, "Will these be good for selling papers?" I liked that character, though, he was very funny. I think the writer has sympathy for Americans but she is still criticizing us, which I think is fair. I think it is more effective when characters you like have flaws because you can't really just hate them; you have to listen to them. There was a man named Peter Rourke (Tom Hickey) who was taking care of his child and he used to be a reporter and Joe was asking for his help. But with the child distracting him, he couldn't really help much. I don't think it is a bad idea to take care of a child, but your life does totally change. That is another example of people getting caught up in their own life and not being able to pay attention to what is going on around them.

People who would like this show are people who would like adorable but depressing love stories, difficult questions, and refrigerators. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I didn't even get to talk about a lot of the things I liked. The acting was all amazing. I thought the show was beautiful and it really made me think a lot.

Photos: Lara Goetsch

Review of Once in a Lifetime at Strawdog Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Once in a Lifetime. It was by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and it was directed by Damon Kiely. It was about these three friends--George (Scott Danielson), May (Kat McDonnell), and Jerry (Michael Dailey)--who had worked on a vaudeville show and they heard about talking pictures and they decided to go to Hollywood to open up a school of elocution. So now they are trying to find out the secrets of Hollywood but also make a living. It was about trying to make your way in Hollywood, the trials and tribulations of writing, and friendship. I thought this was a really fun show. I enjoyed it a lot and thought it was a great last show for Strawdog in this space.

One of my favorite scenes was where Lawrence Vail (Paul Fagen) was in the waiting room at Glogauer's (Jamie Vann) studio and he said that he'd been waiting there for four weeks. But then it ended up that he actually worked there, and he still couldn't get in to talk to Mr. Glogauer because they kept thinking he was just a drunk and crazy man. That is what the incompetent and forgetful secretary Miss Leighton (Nicole Bloomsmith) says about him while she was actually looking for him and he is following her around. I thought that was a really funny running gag. It is saying that the writers are very under-appreciated and that the people who are making the movie never really think about the writers. Vail was a very sympathetic character because he didn't really get his shining moment when he really deserved it; he was hired to write for a famous producer but then they never really gave him a chance.

Anderson Lawfer and Michaela Petro were a comedy duo who almost every time one of them was onstage, the other one was too. A bunch of times they played Phyllis (Lawfer) and Florabel (Petro) who were two actresses who had been doing silent films and now that talkies had come out, they needed to learn how to talk well. And their voices were so crazy-sounding that you thought they might be hopeless voice students. They were so exaggerated and they had such hilarious voices that it made me laugh whenever they were on stage. They were also a comedy duo when they were electricians coming to fix something, and then Lawfer starts humming a song and Petro asks if that is his song, and he says it is but it is a song that is famous now. They also played a duo of lackeys who were always hanging around Glogauer and would do anything that he wanted them to do. Petro had this fabulous lipstick like Betty Boop and she had cat-eye glasses which made an awesome look.

George has made his way in Hollywood but kind of left May and Jerry behind, but he still lets them work for him. George is so successful because he can make decisions on the spot and even if they seem like they won't work, they somehow always work out. I thought that was another very funny joke that kept on happening: that everything that George did worked out, even if it was very dumb. And what he does to make himself seem smart is he quotes people who are smarter than he is from the newspaper, like Helen Hobart (Justine C. Turner), or from people, like Vail, who he has been talking to. I think that it is very sweet that he wants to help May and Jerry even though they aren't as powerful as he is. He also wants to help Susan (Sarah Goeden) who is his girlfriend and he helps her on her rise to fame being an actress in a movie directed by Kammerling (Brandon Saunders), who is a crabby German director. George was a great character. One of my favorite George moments was when he was offered cigarettes by a very flirty cigarette girl (Kamille Dawkins) and he was like "No" in a very confused tone. I don't think he understood that she might be offering more than cigarettes. Sometimes you get terrified for him when he does something that is clearly going to make people mad, but then when he gets away with it you feel happy for him. My favorite instance of this is when he bought all these airplanes but then it turned out well because other studios needed them for a movie. I won't say what his last big amazing decision is, but they play a Miley Cyrus song which is appropriate for the play and for Strawdog.

People who would like this show are people who like crazy-sounding movie actresses, hilariously incompetent secretaries, and a lot of airplanes. I think people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was very funny and clever and I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Tom McGrath