Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Review of Turtle at Redtwist Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Turtle. It was by Jake Jeppson and it was directed Damon Kiely. It was about a woman named Molly (Emily Tate) who was a mother of two young children and her daughter (voiced by Miranda Garrabrandt through the baby monitor) was obsessed with turtles and they loved watching turtle documentaries together. Then Molly became obsessed with turtles but she never knew how much turtles could shape her relationship with her husband Sloan (Drew Johnson) and his brother Pete (Michael Sherwin) and sister-in-law Grace (Carolyn Kruse). This play is about how a small thing can change your life, the struggles of being a parent, and feeling disconnected from the people you love. I thought this was a really intriguing and exciting show.

I really loved the opening monologue. What I especially liked about it was how light it was, so that the big things that happened later in the play were more surprising. The monologue was Molly trying to get both of her kids to calm down. You learn about how she is a stressed mom and all she wants to do is have a bit of peace and quiet, but still be a good parent. I think it is a great introduction for Molly's character; it shows you the classic suburban mom and how protective she is, but then as the play continues you get to see not just the parenting part of her life but also her relationship with her husband and his family. There was one moment that I found very funny where Molly accidentally burns the grilled cheese for her kids and then she acts like it is totally fine when she is clearly very pissed off, and says "Just let mommy scrape off the burnt parts real quick."

I think the turtle is in the play to show how much Molly cares about her children and how much she wants the best for her entire family, but still wants to be happy. The play takes something important away from the turtle to show how Molly is when something important is taken away from her. When the turtle loses its babies, it loses its purpose; a turtle's occupation is basically to make more turtles. That shows how Molly kind of realizes that once her children are gone she will have a completely new life like the turtle when it goes to the aquarium. The turtle shows us Molly's dedication to the people that she loves and has to love, but it still isn't a happy ending for anyone because even if you feel like you are doing the right thing, it doesn't mean that everything will turn out in the end.

In this play, politics are sometimes a distraction from what is going on right in front of you. Pete, who is Sloan's brother, his marriage is not going great, but instead of talking about his marriage and trying to fix things he decides to talk about politics instead. He has also just been fired from his job, but then he won't even talk to anyone about it. But Molly doesn't use politics as a distraction she uses it as connection by having knowledge of the election so she can talk more with her brother-in-law, who she might like as more than a brother-in-law. Even though he uses politics as a distraction he also finds a connection with her.

People who would like this show are people who like connections through politics, intriguing stories about motherhood, and symbolic turtles. I think people should see this show. I felt like it was an interesting show and I had never seen anything like it before.

Photos: Jan Ellen Graves

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ada Grey's Past Holiday Show Reviews

I'm in rehearsals for a show at A Red Orchid Theatre called The Haven Place (read more about that here), so I won't be seeing many more shows before the end of the year. Below I've put links to some of the holiday shows I reviewed in the past that are playing again this year.

The Ruffians' Burning Bluebeard

People who would like this show are people who like 1903 humor, reasonable/not-very-reasonable snack-eating fairies, and halves of cotton balls. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. I had so much fun and so much fear and afterwards you are very sad about it but you are also remembering all the wonderfully horrible jokes, and "Rehab," and clowns coming out on camel carts, and flowers being thrown to the audience.

Read the full review here!

The House Theatre of Chicago's The Nutcracker

People who would like this show are people who like heartwarming family stories, sugar plum cookies, and toys that understand innuendo. I have seen it since I was five or six and I am absolutely in love with it. And I notice new things every year. You should all make it a tradition.

Read the full review here!

Goodman Theatre's A Christmas Carol

People who would like this show are people who like creepy Christmas stories, scarf comedy, and family. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was beautiful, funny, and amazing!

Read the full review here!

Emerald City Theatre's A Charlie Brown Christmas

People who would like this show are people who like Charlie Brown, dancing dogs, and Christmas. I think that people will enjoy this show. It is perfect for little kids and it is fun for families to go to together.

Read the full review here!

American Blues Theater's It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago

People who would like this show are people who like angels, phone romance, and hilarious drunks. People should go see this show because it is funny and anybody who likes the movie would love this show. It makes you feel like you are a fancy person in the 1940s.

Read the full review here!

Photos: Michael Brosilow, Liz Lauren, Austin D. Oie Photography, and Johnny Knight

Monday, November 21, 2016

Review of About Face Theatre's I Am My Own Wife

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called I Am My Own Wife. It was by Doug Wright, and it was directed by Andrew Volkoff. It was about a woman named Charlotte (Delia Kropp), who was transgender starting in the 1930s, and she was trying to live life as a woman in Nazi Germany and then in Soviet East Germany, neither of which supported LGBT rights at all. It is also about the people--all played by Ninos Baba and Matt Holzfeind--that she meets on her way to and after creating her famous Mahlsdorf museum. This entire play was created because Doug Wright (played in the show by Scott Duff) heard about her and her museum and wanted to interview her. And you find out many interesting stories, but everyone starts questioning their truth. I thought this was an inspiring and great show because this woman has lived through so much oppression but never stepped down from who she wanted to be.

My favorite character is often not the main character, but in this show it definitely is. Charlotte had a very big personality and even if the rumors they were saying were true, I still loved her. She seemed like such a fabulous and brave person and she had such an exciting life. I wish I could have been friends with her. I loved the way that Charlotte would rave about her friends, like each of them was her idol. I also liked how brave she was and how she wouldn't take any crap from anyone. She also told some stories that everyone thought could easily be tall tales. Like she said that she killed her father because he was a Nazi and said he would hurt her mother. It shows that she wanted to protect her mother more than anything, even if it wasn't true that she actually killed her dad. It was so sweet; I really wanted to believe her at all times.

Charlotte was always talking about her aunt and how amazing she was because she was lesbian and liked to dress like man and she understood where Charlotte was coming from. In the scene where she introduces you to her aunt, I instantly found out she had the coolest aunt in the history of the world because her aunt gave her a book that was supposed to help her understand who she really was. The aunt also found Charlotte, when she was a boy, dressed in dresses. Charlotte expects her to go on a rampage, but she doesn't. She helps her. I thought that was a really beautiful moment. And if this character of the aunt is made up, it just shows that Charlotte needed a character like that in her head so that she could continue with her life.

Alfred Kirschner (Holzfeind) was a very interesting man. He was a very good friend of Charlotte and he was also obsessed with gramophones. When Charlotte went over to his house, she found that he had a bunch of gramophones and a bunch of records. And he said something along the lines of, "I have eight thousand records" and she said something like, "Oh, I only have seven...thousand records." I thought that was hilarious and adorable and it was the start of a beautiful friendship. They were both part of the LGBT community in East Berlin. He had a lot of men hanging around his house (all played by Baba) and they would all have very different personalities, but they were all kind of snotty to Charlotte because she was transgender. I was hoping the people in the LGBT community would have been nicer to the T. Alfred goes to jail because he sold illegal clocks with Charlotte. I thought that was kind of ridiculous but also kind of sad. It shows you how much it sucked to live in East Germany at that time. I don't want to think Charlotte sold him out; I do think Alfred would have helped her be safe by taking the fall for them both selling illegal clocks.

People who would like this show are people who like inspiring stories, record hoarders, and illegal clocks. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was a really great and beautiful show, and I really loved it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Review of Theater Unspeakable's Moon Shot: A Race to Space at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Moon Shot: A Race to Space. It was devised by Theater Unspeakable and directed by Marc Frost. It was about the United States and the Soviet Union's battle to get to space first. I generally love Theater Unspeakable. They do a lot of great and intriguing work. They do most of their performances on a tiny platform and there are no props and they use their bodies and mime for props. I thought this was a really exciting idea for a show, but I think they tried to pack a lot of plot points into a short time, so at times it was hard to understand. I still enjoyed the movement of the piece and thought it was a fun show.

Theater Unspeakable uses a platform for everything that happens. In this show, actors did step off the platform for some of it. I really like the movement in all of their shows. I think the reason why it has so much impact is because of how treacherous it is and also how much fun the actors (David Gordezky, Quenna Lené, Sarah Liken, Aaron Rustebakke, Rejinal Simon, Orion Lay-Sleeper, and Vanessa Valliere) are having making the play and doing the movements and portraying so many characters. It is fun to do something that is really challenging and they all seem to have a figuratively and literally close relationship because they are literally and figuratively standing on each others' shoulders. The performance style is not just fun to look at; it has meaning. It shows you that teamwork is really important; if someone literally or figuratively falls, your colleagues will pick you up again.

I really liked how people were not just characters or objects, but they also played space. They would lift up somebody who was supposed to be in space and carry them around the stage. They seemed to be floating, like they were actually in space. I thought that was really cool. I also really liked the character of Wernher Von Braun (Lay-Sleeper). He was the rocket scientist from Germany who worked for the Americans and he went on t.v. with Walt Disney and they put that in the show and I thought that was really cool. At first I thought that was made up, but it isn't. It is all true; you can watch it on YouTube. In the show, he seemed to be really uncomfortable on t.v. which I thought was very funny.

One of my favorite celebrity animals is Laika the dog and I am really glad that they put her in the story, even if it was just a brief cameo. I liked how they just presented her as a normal dog, and then you realize she is in a rocket ship. And then you get worried that the dog is going to die, and you should be. If you know the story of Laika, you know it doesn't go well. But she is still one of the first astronauts. I saw a show about Laika when I was six that I really enjoyed. I feel like the moment about Laika the dog might be obscure for people who didn't already know about sending dogs into space. I felt like the show didn't get to give you enough context or detail about what you were seeing in this scene and some others. But it was it was really fun if you did already know a lot about the race to space.

People who would like this show are people who like space dogs, tiny platforms, and awkward German rocket scientists. This is a fun show and I feel like it is an experience that no other theater will give to you. I'm sorry this review didn't come out sooner. I saw it halfway through the run and there weren't many performances, but I hope that you'll have another chance to see it when it is remounted.

Photos: Ben Gonzales

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Review of First Floor Theater's Deer and the Lovers

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Deer and the Lovers. It was by Emily Zemba and it was directed by Jesse Roth. It was about a boyfriend, Peter (Alex Stage), and a girlfriend, Qiana (Shadee Vossoughi), who were going to her parents' retreat and they find a dead deer inside the house and the deer had crashed the window and caused a mess. Then Peter's sister Marnie (Kay Kron) came with her husband Felix (Tony Santiago) because they thought they were invited. They call animal control and Lenny (Matt Nikkila) arrives and says they can't do anything with the deer, so they are stuck with a giant dead deer in their house. Everyone has their secrets, which all get revealed. It is about betrayal, misinterpreting signs, and the challenges of love. I really liked this show. I thought it was very funny, but it also had some great messages.

One of my favorite misinterpreted signs was when Marnie was in the forest and she found a squirrel, or the squirrel found her, as it hurled itself out of the tree toward her, which she thought was a big sign. She thought it was a sign that her life was useless, and she announced this to the world that her life was useless because of the squirrel. I thought it was hilarious but also kind of sad at the same time, because it was clearly not what the squirrel was trying to do. Felix also misunderstands Qiana; he thinks that they are more serious than they actually are. Peter also misinterprets how into him Qiana is. This is kind of sad, because you like both the characters and want them to be happy. The entire play seems to be wanting you to root for Peter, but then your views kind of change throughout the play, which is think is very interesting. The audience also might be misinterpreting things. And Lenny is a very good example of that, but you have to see the show to find out what I mean.

Betrayal can be funny if it is in a play, which sounds like a cruel thing to say, but it is true. I really liked the scene where Qiana and Felix found each other all covered in blood, and for some reason that was really attractive to them. And they proceed to make out. They try to lay out a couch so it is more like a bed, but then both their romantic partners walk in, and they are trying to get everything straightened up again. They are acting very suspicious but no one seems to notice, and the seat that I was talking about wouldn't stay up, so then throughout the entire scene they were trying to get the couch back up again, but that didn't work, so they keep trying while smiling awkwardly. I thought that that was very funny. There was another betrayal where Marnie went to a sperm bank instead of having a child with her husband because she thought he was having an affair, which she would be correct about. And there was one moment where Marnie was talking to everybody and shouted at the top of her lungs, "I AM WITH CHILD!" And when she said that it was all in slow motion, which was very funny. And there is a really funny fight (violence design by Amanda Fink) that ensues after that. And I do really like slapstick comedy and funny fights.

Qiana is alarmed by the deer and she thinks she is a deer and needs antlers, which is when the audience starts to think she is crazy. She's gone a little overboard with the whole deer metaphor. It actually kind of reminded me of Nina in The Seagull because she goes crazy over a dead animal (that her boyfriend kills) and then identifies with that animal, just like Qiana. Qiana wants antlers so she can feel more powerful, and Nina thinks of herself as a seagull because she feels like she is dead inside but she wants to be able to fly. I don't know if the deer really means anything, but everyone is trying to make it mean something. Peter is trying to make it mean that this is the perfect time to propose. Qiana is trying to make it mean that everything is a disaster and she has to do something about it. They have very different ideas of how the deer died at first. Qiana thinks the deer died from trying to get out of the house. Peter thinks the deer died trying to get in. I think that might actually be a metaphor because Qiana is trying to get out of the relationship and Peter is trying to get Qiana more into the relationship.

People who would like this show are people who like squirrel signs, uncooperative couches, and funny but deep stories. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was very funny and I loved it.

Photos: Ian McLaren

Monday, November 14, 2016

Review of Eclipse Theatre Company's The Little Flower of East Orange

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Little Flower of East Orange. It was by Stephen Adly Guirgis and it was directed by Steve Scott. It was about a man named Danny (John Henry Roberts, who is my dad) who was an alcoholic and a drug addict who was taking care of his mother Therese Marie (Jeannie Affelder). And he had to go away to rehab so his sister Justina (Jess Maynard) had to take care of his mom. And then Therese goes out and about on her own and falls down the stairs (maybe on purpose) and ends up in the hospital and nobody knew who she was. Her entire family was scared for her because they had no idea where she had gone. It's about devotion, mortality, and loving someone but not knowing how to show it. This was a really beautiful and amazing show. It brought me to tears four separate times.

Therese’s name is not found out in a nice way. She is bribed with guilt, scotch, and people telling her she is going to die. Dr. Shankar (Omer Abbas Salem)--like a shank and then a car, as he said--is the one who does this. Nobody in the play seemed to like him very much, and he didn’t seem to be a great doctor, but I thought he was funny because of how feisty he was even when everyone hated him. The detective (Marc Rogers) was a little bit nicer about getting information out of Therese. He goes and gets her scotch and he just talks with her about her life before this accident happened.

The people who worked at the hospital had a good amount of the funny lines. Espinosa (Donovan Diaz) was very sassy but also could give you a good bit of advice. He was very into New York sports. And if somebody didn't know a certain player or a certain team, they were immediately inferior to the rest of the world. He calls David (John Arthur Lewis) puto affectionately and tells him it means good friend and that he should call his doorman puto next time. That entire time he has a very sly grin on his face because puto does not mean good friend. Magnolia (Ebony Joy) wouldn't take any crap from anyone but she was very nice as well. She is very nice to Therese. Therese thought Magnolia was Jackie Robinson, but she was clearly not him. Therese just thought it because she was hallucinating. But Magnolia just goes along with it and doesn’t get all mad.

Nadine (Ashley Hicks) was Danny’s girlfriend and she had a lot of problems just like Danny, but she was also really nice to Therese and tried to understand where she was coming from. She was always high. Something unique about her is that she can see Therese’s dead dad Francis James (Michael Stark). I think the play might have done that because it wanted to show that these people were similar, even though Therese doesn’t really like that Nadine is with Danny. They both take drugs to make them feel better, but Nadine takes illegal drugs. They both want to take care of Danny, but neither of them are good at doing that without damaging him further. For example, Nadine gives him a slurpee...with gin in it, but that probably wasn't the best idea. They are also both damaged themselves. The play doesn’t specify why Nadine is being rough on herself, but you find out Therese had an abusive father.

A big theme in this show is the different ways characters are incapacitated. Danny can't help his mom, and he can't stop taking drugs and drinking. Justina feels helpless that she can't stop her mom from feeling bad. David thinks about killing himself because his mom is dying. Therese can't help her children or feeling like a burden. Francis James is incapacitated by his temper and alcohol. Basically Danny is not completely incapacitated because he is still trying to take care of his mom and his life, but he wants to do it himself. That is not a very good idea. I think you need to get through what you are struggling with and then get back to helping others, but his plans all get mucked up because they are going to send Therese to an old folks home and he feels obligated to save her. He is kind of angry all the time at her for scaring him by running away and for not being a very good mom, and he is also mad that she doesn’t blame her father more for messing her up. He feels like she is being too nice. Danny has a very complicated relationship with his mom where he loves her but is kind of mean to her too. You see how complicated it is in the last scene; it shows how angry they can get at each other and still love each other. That made me cry, because the thought of loving your mother and wanting the best for her but not agreeing with her is very sad. It was even harder to see my dad in this situation, but I think it will still have impact on other people when they see it.

People who would like this show are people who like stories with impact, sassy hospital workers, and gin slurpees. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was a very beautiful show and I really loved it.

Photos: Scott Dray

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review of Waltzing Mechanics' Cosmic Events Are Upon Us.

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Cosmic Events Are Upon Us. It was written and directed by Keely Leonard. The play centered itself on the Romanovs who were the family of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II (Lew Wallace), and the stress they were under and how loving they were with each other. It shows you that just because they're rich and powerful it doesn’t mean they are not real people. It is about how revolution can be a great thing, but it can also be corrupt, and how somebody can be the head of a corrupt royal government without really understanding that it is corrupt. I think they used the space really well by setting each act in a different place in the room. It has a great story and it moved me to tears, but it wasn’t all the way a sad play; it was also really beautiful and funny. I really really loved this show.

There were many very sweet scenes with the family. The Romanov family didn't seem like haughty rich people, but they did do some awful things to the people of Russia. The family had nicknames for each other, which I thought was very cute, and I'm reading a book about the Romanovs right now, so I know that it was all true. Alix (Adrienne Matzen), the mom, her nickname was Sunny. Olga (Julia MacMillan) and Tatiana (Gloria Petrelli) were the big pair, and Maria (Elena Feliz) and Anastasia (Chloe Dzielak) were the little pair. At the Beginning of the second act Alexei (Tanner Walters), their only boy and the youngest, is running around trying to get away from his caretakers Derevenko (Bob Pantalone) and Nagorny (Zack Florent). They are so loving to this kid that they are constantly trying to keep from dying from his internal bleeding caused by his hemophilia. It is so sweet because they really just have to protect him but they start to become friends with him. And the sisters are running around with the brother and playing games even if they feel like it is babyish. Doctor Botkin (Maximillian LaPine) also became friends with the family and he would talk about his kids and the nice thing was that even when everything started to go wrong, they still kept the sense of family, even with people who weren't actually family. I felt like having this scene made the last scene even more devastating because you got to see how good of people they could be and how dedicated to them the people who served them were.

Rasputin (Martin Monahan) was a very “interesting” man. He had a lot of girls; you might say he was a ladies' priest. (Thank you. I’m here all week). But he was a “man of God” and could heal the Romanovs’ child Alexei. So he could be useful if he tried! He was also suspected of having an affair with Alix, the Tsar’s wife. It may have been a coincidence that he could always heal the Romanovs’ heir, but we will never know for sure whether it was a miracle and I thought that was a cool mystery. When the actor playing Rasputin was not in character he was just acting drunk all the time. And when he was in character he was the perfect Rasputin because he was drunk! I thought the purposeful breaking character was a great element to the play because it added more humanity because it shows how human Rasputin actually was because he was just like a modern day douche. When Rasputin was not the drunk priest but the drunk actor he interacted with The Messenger (Tim Lueke) all the time. The Messenger was basically a narrator/actor who played a bunch of roles and would go in and out of character with them. I thought that was a great way to get parts of the story you may not know across. I also really liked how everyone in the show still acted like he was a character when he was a character and how it wasn't confusing when all the people in the show, except the family, played different characters because they were so well defined.

Just because this is a play about the Romanovs, it doesn't have to be sad all the time, just like the Romanovs' lives weren't always sad. There was one scene where some Russian people were all gathered around to hear the canons that would go off whenever any of the Tsar's children were born. There were a lot of canons so you had to be counting to figure out the sex of the baby. It depended on the number of cannon shots. They were all listening and whenever it was a girl everyone would get very disappointed a be like, "Aw. Another girl. Dang it." And once they got to the third girl, they were like "Seriously?!" and using modern language to express their anger. I thought the way they did that was hilarious. Also, the way the Tsar announced the sex was sort of tedious and ridiculous. They could have just done 50 canons for a boy and 40 for a girl and that would have been not deafening to all of the villagers. I found the killing of Rasputin quite comedic actually. I was not expecting to, but they all had these cult caps to show that they were going to kill Rasputin. Two of them (Lueke and Lapine) were absolutely infatuated with each other. I thought that was a very funny plot point and also something cool about history. The group had plans to poison him but then they got tired of poisoning him, so they just shot him, which was an easier and funnier alternative. There was also a Stalin puppet (Zach Bundy) and he attracted the ladies despite his socki-ness. You know that Stalin turns into a pretty awful person and he kills a lot people who helped him, including, indirectly, his wife (Emily Demko). The funniness was kind of undercut because you know how awful this person becomes. The lighthearted mixed with the tragic was great for this show because you don't want everybody to be sad the entire time even if they know what is coming.

People who would like this show are people who like little pairs and big pairs, assassinating ladies' priests, and sock-y Stalin. People should definitely go see this show. It is awesome to watch and I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Tyler Core

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Review of Fun Home (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Fun Home. The book and lyrics were by Lisa Kron and the music was by Jeanine Tesori. It is based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. It was directed by Sam Gold. The choreography was by Danny Mefford. The music supervisor was Chris Fenwick. It is about a family in the 70s and 80s and the father Bruce (Robert Petkoff) of the family is gay but is not married to a man, so he has to keep it a secret. Alison (Kate Shindle) is looking back on Medium Alison (Abby Corrigan), who is in the process of figuring out her sexuality, and looking back on Small Alison (Alessandra Baldacchino), who just kind of realized that she is attracted to women. She's remembering things from her childhood to put in the graphic novel she's writing. I really loved this story. It really spoke to me and it was really beautiful.

There is a song called "Come to the Fun Home" that is sung by Small Alison and her brothers Christian (Pierson Salvador) and John (Lennon Nate Hammond), which is all about the funeral home that their dad works at. I thought this was a really cute song, but it is about a funeral parlor, so when you actually think about it, it is kind of weird, but it is still adorable. Their dance was cute--that might have been the funniest part. The dance seemed very disco-inspired and they would be dancing on top of a coffin and that kind of stuff, but none of them were alarmed by that. The name Fun Home may be sarcastic, because this home is not very fun. Everyone is kind of sad. But it is still fitting, because the funeral home isn't a scary place for them. It is where they go to have a good time.

"Changing my Major" is such an adorable and hilarious song. It is about Medium Alison having her first sexual experience with Joan (Karen Eilbacher) who will become her girlfriend. By the way, the way Alison kissed was just the cutest. It was really cute and funny how after this one time she was like, "That was awesome and amazing and I am doing this forever with Joan. I'm changing my major to Joan!" You knew this was coming because after just a kiss she totally threw herself into it. That was hilarious. I thought Joan was amazing and hilarious and such a good person for a first girlfriend. And Alison was so lovably dorky in this scene. Words can't even explain how cute they were together.

My favorite song musically was "Ring of Keys." It is so catchy. I really want to learn how to sing it. It is about Small Alison realizing that there are people who feel the same way she does and don't try to hide it. I think that "Your swagger, and your bearing, and the just-right clothes you're wearing" is such a sweet line because you realize how, just looking at this person, everything she is wearing and doing is just right to Alison. I think she is attracted to her and she wants to be her, which is very complicated, especially when being lesbian wasn't even something that was on her radar. I think the ring of keys is what draws Alison's attention most because they are just out there for everyone to see and the woman seems so proud about herself and that is out there for everyone to see too.

"Telephone Wire" and "Days and Days" were the two saddest songs for me. "Days and Days" was a really beautiful song sung by Helen (Susan Moniz). It was about feeling like your entire life has been for someone and that person doesn't appreciate you. And I really felt for her because she just seemed like somebody who deserved better but didn't know that she did. But she wanted for her daughter to have better than she did and to do better than her dad had. "Telephone Wire" was a touching song about the awkwardness that happens in the car when she and her dad are trying to take a drive. The telephone wire is what they are passing as they drive along, and she is focusing on it so she can think of something to say. I was frustrated that they didn't even speak to each other about anything important and that made me feel bad for them.

People who would like this show are people who like sad songs about awkward car rides, rings of keys, and disco dancing on coffins. I thought this was a really moving and funny show. I really liked it!

Photos: Joan Marcus

Monday, November 7, 2016

Review of Polarity Ensemble Theatre's Leavings

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Leavings. It was by Gail Parrish and it was directed by Ashley Honore Roberson. It was about a one-hundred-and-eleven-year-old woman named Beatrice (RJW Mays) who was being interviewed by a reporter (Emily Radke) because she was the oldest person in the state. Beatrice is trying to prove that the governor of Mississippi's (Richard Engling) ancestor, who was a slave owner, was related to her as well because he had children with his slaves. She wants to lift a curse from her family so that they can live better lives. They were neglected and abused by their ancestor who gave the governor's family money and even people. And Beatrice's family has not been treated well by society because of their race. I think this is a really sad and moving show. It kept me engaged the whole time and I am so glad I saw it.

Beatrice's grandmother Tempe and her mother Sally were both played by the same person (Brianna Buckley). I thought that was very effective because it showed how strong their bond was with each other and how awful it would be for them to be torn apart. Their lives are also similar. When they are grown ups, one of them was a slave and the other was free, but they still had sadly very similar lives. Both of them did maid's work and both them were treated badly and raped by a white man. These characters made me very emotional because their past was so harrowing and I really wish I could have done something. I wanted to jump up on stage and hug whoever was sad at the time. Sally, even though so many terrible things happened to her, she really loved her children and her husband and she seemed to have part of her life be much better than her ancestors'. Tempe seemed to try to take control of her life when she starts doing her ritual, and that shows you that with the box she buries she seems to take some comfort. I think Tempe wants for the people that will come after her to be happier and live a more prosperous life. Tempe seems to think a lot about the future because she does so much for future generations and she is still in contact with the generations after her by being a ghost.

There are three terrible events in the show that involve people judging black men unfairly and then hurting or killing them. All of them are based on real stories. One of them I know actually happened in 1919 just like they said; and that was a man getting stoned and then drowning from his injuries at a beach for crossing the blacks and whites line. That happened in Chicago; I think if there is not a memorial on that beach, there should be. They tell this story not through actually showing it but by hearing Little Bea's (Asia Jackson) brother Rafe (Geno Walker) talk about it through a letter. This was effective because of the way he told it--he seemed so scared. Oseola (Evan Bruce) is another of her brothers who could pass as white. You can see why he might want to do that just to live an easier life. Their dad, Bea's dad, seemed to be a very nice guy, but the problem was that he would have fits of anger. He would try to help his family but he would feel powerless, like he couldn't. His anger propelled him a lot, but his anger was not at all unjustified. When he finds out his wife is raped, he doesn't go to the cops because he knows they won't do anything. So he takes matters into his own hands and awful things start to happen to him. I think this and the scene leading to it were the saddest scenes. I was crying. Later, there were cops (Bruce and Mutar Thomas) in 2016 who thought that Bea's grandson Benny (Walker) was going to break into cars because he was sitting near a parking lot. And then one of them punches him because Benny says he'll be praying for him because it seems like the cops were only aggressive with him before because he was black. This shows how everything isn't fixed. It might be better, but it isn't fixed.

You might think that this just a depressing sad play, but it has moments of hope. It is appropriate for things that are depressing and sad to be depressing and sad, but I think it does not undercut it to have some shimmer of hope at the end; it just makes the play a little more enjoyable. The hope is that racists can change their opinion. In the ending scene, Benny is at his grandmother's house with his Aunt Theresa (Monette McLin) and the governor of Mississippi calls and they start a conversation that you don't get to hear the rest of, but while they are talking, they seem to be talking to each other as equals, which I think is a beautiful ending. The governor believes that black men are neglecting their children and they have to do something about that. But he is not going to do anything; he just is going to tell people they need to do something. But by the end he realizes how unfair it is to African-American people to underestimate the damage that white men have done to their own black children in the past.

People who would like this show are people who like strong mother-daughter bonds, moving stories, and hope. I really liked this show. It made me think about a lot of sad but important things. I think people should go see this show. I thought it was beautiful and heartbreaking.

Photos: Jackie Jasperson

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Review of Runaways Lab Theater's Mary Shelley Sees the Future

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Mary Shelley Sees the Future. It was written and directed by Olivia Lilley. It was about Mary Shelley (Sarah Patin then Lindsey Tindall) swapping lives with Mya (Lindsey Tindall then Sarah Patin), a girl from 2016, and both are very excited to be in the other person and learn new things. It tackles a lot of great topics: feminism, sexuality, and art. It's about finding yourself, how far and how little we've come, and what it means to truly connect with someone. I really liked the show. It was so much fun to be at even though it was not at a normal theater space. I really enjoyed it.

Once Mary Shelley as Mya has started to settle in with her girlfriend Angelica (Natalie Joyce Smith), they were hanging out and Mary had an idea for a book all about monsters that were cars. And Juan (Nico Fernandez) says that that is just Cars the movie. And she gets very upset at Pixar, which I thought was very hilarious. She thinks Pixar is a single person who has a bunch of life-changing ideas. Then she feels like her work doesn't belong in this time because everyone has already had all the ideas. That is a really sad idea: that everything has been thought already. But people can elaborate on old ideas, and that is where things like fan fiction or this play come into the picture. People will continue to give us new stories. Old ideas can be new; as long as there is a new way of telling them.

I think one of the most moving scenes was on the beach in 2016. There was this guy who was Angelica's friend named Pete (Peter Wilde). And he is listening to Rhianna's "Work" and singing along very passionately while he is running, and he stops running to talk to Mary as Mya. And they get into this in-depth conversation about identity and feeling like you are not in your own body. Pete is transgender and Mya is Mary Shelley, so they get into this very sweet conversation and they discover they are more alike than they think. Everything slowed down for a second and they really connected.

Mya as Mary Shelley seemed very proud of herself and especially that her mom Mary Wollstonecraft was the first feminist. And whenever anyone would talk about her, she would say under her breath, "First feminist," and I thought that was really funny. She is very proud of the accomplishments that "she" (as Mary Shelley) has done. But Mya discovers how awful it used to be for women back in Mary Shelley's time and how scary it used to be for them. Women could have their children taken away from them because their husband had died. They weren't allowed to explore their sexuality without being considered wicked or speak their minds without being thought of as weird.

People who would like this show are people who like first feminists, new twists on old ideas, and "work work work work work." This was a fun show and I feel like they did a lot of brave and awesome things. I'm glad I saw it.

Photo: Matthew Gregory Hollis