Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ada Grey's Top 10 Plays and Top 5 Musicals

I reviewed 120 shows this year. There have been so many great ones, but I'm happy to say these are my top 10 plays and top 5 musicals! There were a lot of creepy, honest, crazy, hilarious, heartbreaking and thought-provoking shows.

Top 10 Plays

At The Table (Broken Nose Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like inside jokes, friend piles, and jumping into lakes out of embarrassment. I have never seen a show that seemed so authentic while exploring so many relevant topics. It makes you really feel like you are at the table. I thought this was an amazing show and I absolutely loved it.

Ideation (Jackalope Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like complex characters, searching for bugs while listening to Moana, and petite scones. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is such a great story and so well acted. It combined humor, reality, and possible dystopian futures. I really loved it.

Men on Boats (American Theater Company)

People who would like this show are people who like naming things after yourself, whiskey mosh pits, and rescue pants. I thought this was a really fun show. I think that literally everyone should see it. I would see it thousands of times if I could. I absolutely loved it. It was hilarious and amazing.

Pass Over (Steppenwolf Theatre Company)

People who would like this show are people who like genuine humor, terrifying truths, and caviahhhr. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is so moving, hilarious, and important. I loved it!

Peerless (First Floor Theater)

People who would like this show are people who like Macbeth references, stylized language, and awkward slow dancing. I think that people should definitely definitely definitely go see this show. It is a really amazing, nerdy, creepy, and hilarious show. I really really loved it.

The Portrait of Dorian Gray (The Runaways Lab Theatre and Pop Magic Productions)

People who would like this show are people who like explorations of hedonism, new-fangled old stories, and lord pronouns. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I've really enjoyed both of the awesome shows I've seen from this company. They are really great at making you care about characters you thought you knew and showing you a new twist on them.

Significant Other
(About Face Theatre and Theater Wit)

People who would like this show are people who like relatable moments, wanting to be a salamander, and looking for towels. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It was such a good story, had great performers, and I loved it.

The Taming of the Shrew
(Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

People who would like this show are people who like new takes on classics, great acting, and bloomers. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I have never seen The Taming of The Shrew like this before, and I really loved it.

Two Mile Hollow (First Floor Theater)

People who would like this show are people who like hilarious parodies, metaphoric motorcycles, and birds. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is such a fun play, but it also has a lot of really good points to make. I loved it!

The Woman in Black (WildClaw Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like rocking chairs, invisible dogs, and being scared by coat racks. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is super fun and creepy and I absolutely loved it.

Top 5 Musicals

Bonnie & Clyde (Kokandy Productions)

People who would like this show are people who like complicated characters, interesting histories, and photo shoots with your guns. I think people should definitely, definitely go see this show. It closes next weekend, so get your tickets while you still can. It has beautiful music, great performances, and I'm obsessed with this musical now.

Jesus Christ Superstar (Paramount Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like retellings of old stories, amazing singing, and hilarious Herods. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is a lot of fun to watch and it feels super meaningful. It had great actors and the singing was amazing. I loved it!

Lizzie (Firebrand Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like feminist rock musicals, heart-wrenching songs, and watermelon blood. I think people should definitely definitely definitely go see this show. It has a great score and it is performed beautifully. I loved it!

Trevor (Writers Theatre)

People who would like this show are people who like being weird, Diana Ross, and studying underwear catalogs. I think that people should definitely go see this show. There were so many things I loved about it. It is a such an amazing and unique new musical. I loved it!

The Wiz (Kokandy Productions)

People who would like this show are people who like magic roads, player Tinmen, and wobbly witches. I think this is a amazing show it was so much fun to watch. I absolutely loved it!

Photos: Matthew Freer, Ian McLaren, Evan Hanover

Monday, December 18, 2017

Review of Red Velvet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Red Velvet. It was by Lolita Chakrabarti and it was directed by Gary Griffin. It was about Ira Aldridge (Dion Johnstone) who was the first African-American actor to play Othello. He was asked by his friend Pierre LaPorte (Greg Matthew Anderson) to take over for Edmund Kean who had played the role for a very long time, but Edmund's son Charles (Michael Hayden) was not too keen on it. The other performers grow fond of Ira, even though at first they were racist and rude. He develops a close relationship with his leading lady who is playing Desdemona, Ellen Tree (Chaon Cross). They help each other become better actors, but the racist critics make the board of the theater question if they should even have a black Othello. It is about injustice, what makes theater beautiful, and conflict in communities. I think this is a heartbreaking but beautiful show.

The scene where Ira and Pierre have an argument about keeping Ira as Othello was really moving because you could see their friendship falling apart. It was also hard to know whose side to be on because Pierre is trying to help Ira and being completely honest about Ira's performance and why he thinks what is happening is happening, but it seems like he might be siding with people who are doing things for racist reasons. But maybe we should be on Ira's side because people are unfairly judging him because of his race and he is actually a talented actor. But then Pierre points out that Ira might have hurt Ellen during a scene, which would be a problem with him staying in the company. This scene makes you consider that maybe Ira wasn't right about everything. Even though people were doing terrible things to him, he was not just a victim; he made mistakes too. This makes him even more of a human character rather than a magical character who saves the theater for a bunch of white people. There is this strip of light down the middle of the stage in this scene and they are arguing only in the strip of light. You keep thinking the argument is over, and then it would begin again. It was beautiful to watch. I liked how this argument didn't make it so that there was just one person who was right and one person who was being terrible.

I really loved the character of Connie (Tiffany Renee Johnson), the backstage servant from Jamaica. I wish we had gotten to know more about her instead having just one scene where she spoke. It took place when she and Ira were the only people in the room. I thought it was really interesting to see her as a person with reactions and opinions. Until this point she seemed to be listening but not reacting; she was doing her job and that was it. In the scene with Ira, Connie seemed confused as to if she should talk to Ira like he was one of the white people, because she was supposed to serve him, or if she could talk to him like a equal. I could see that uncertainty and I think the actor did a great job with Connie's thought process in that scene; it was clear even though she didn't really say anything about it. I think Connie is useful to have in the show because she is there as an ironic presence to show how insensitive the company is. When she is on stage the company make a lot of racist comments, not really taking her into account or thinking of her as an actual presence. It is terrible because you can see she is uncomfortable, but she can't say anything about it.

I think this show had a really cool way of showing us how Shakespearean acting used to be in the nineteenth century and how broad it was and how it changed. I thought it was really cool to see how much Ellen's performance changed after she had talked to Ira and he showed her how acting can be more of a personal experience and not just for the audience and how you should connect with your scene partner to make the audience connect with you. I really loved how she noticed "Wow! This is a much better way to act than the way I've been doing it." I really liked how she took every suggestion he made as a joke at first, even though it seems like such rational things to suggest now.

People who would like this show are people who like backstage servants, fascinating arguments, and rational acting suggestions. I think people should go see this show. It is beautifully done, and I think this is a true story that needs to be known.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Friday, December 15, 2017

Review of Griffin Theatre Company's Violet

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Violet. The book and lyrics were by Brain Crawley and the music was by Jeanine Tesori. It was based on the "The Ugliest Pilgrim" by Doris Betts. It was directed by Scott Weinstein, the music direction was by John Cockerill, and the choreography was by Kasey Alfonso. It was about a woman named Violet (Nicole Laurenzi) and when she was 13 she got hit in the head with an axe and she has a scar. She is going to a preacher (Anthony Kayer) to get it miraculously removed. She meets two men from the military who really influence her, Monty (Will Lidke) and Flick (Stephen Allen). I think this show was performed really well. Everyone in the show has really amazing voices. I think it was an interesting and unique story.

My favorite song in the show was probably "Raise Me Up." The vocals from Lashera Zenise Moore as Lula were so amazing and she just slayed the entire song. The song is all gospel and everyone in the audience was so drawn into it. They were shouting out how amazing she was. So it felt like a concert. The environment was relaxed and open, so that was fun. I also really liked the songs "Anyone Would Do" and "Lonely Stranger" which were very different songs from "Raise Me Up," but also had great vocals from Brianna Buckley, Sarah Hayes, and Moore. Both of them were very sultry songs about how lonely these women were. None of the other characters paid attention to them while they were singing, which gave it sort of a dark undertone and made them seem more alone. Flick and Violet sang a song together called "Hard To Say Goodbye." They both sounded amazing and the song was heartbreaking. It was sad to hear them say goodbye because you know now is not the right time to say goodbye because they are so angry. It is passive aggressive, the way he is saying it isn't hard to say goodbye, because you can tell it actually is hard.

There were two songs that were centered on the family: "Luck of the Draw" and "On My Way." One was about getting closer to your family and one was about getting away from your family. In "Luck of the Draw" Young Violet (Maya Lou Hlava) learns how to play cards from her father (Matt W. Miles). It is a really cute scene; it is really adorable to see this bonding moment to show how close Violet and her father used to be. At first, he doesn't explain the game very well so that he wins all the time, but eventually she gets the hang of it. Violet is also on stage playing cards with Monty and Flick which shows how much she has learned over the years and is an interesting image. "On My Way" is all about how Violet can't wait to get away and go to a new place that she thinks will solve all her problems. It was also sung by all the rest of the people on the bus who all had the same mission to get away from something. I loved how they use every single voice in this song to sum up what the goal of Violet's story is: to get away and become a new person before she comes back.

There were some choices they made in the show that I found troubling or distracting. They didn't show the scar, which made me keep looking for it, and then when I couldn't find it, I kept looking which distracted me from the story. I know the Broadway production also made this choice, but I still found it strange. It made me think she could be crazy. It seems like they don't trust the audience enough to see the scar and still like the character, which is what all the good people in the show do. I feel like they should have trusted their audience more. I was also troubled by how she didn't want to just take away her scar but change her entire face, which I didn't think was necessary. She was naturally very beautiful. They also seemed to put Flick in the story as this character who is sort of a replacement for a relationship that has just ended for Violet. I think he deserves better than someone who treats him like a rebound. I also don't think it is fair that he has to teach her how to be a better person in relationships and how not to be racist.

People who would like this show are people who like card games with your dad, sultry songs, and passive-aggressive goodbyes. I think that people should go see this show. I think it has such amazing actors and great songs. I liked it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Monday, December 11, 2017

Review of Red Theater Chicago's Little Red Cyrano

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Little Red Cyrano. It was by Aaron Sawyer and it was directed by Michael J. Stark and Aaron Sawyer. It was about a man named Cyrano (Benjamin Ponce) who fell in love with Little Red Riding Hood (Dari Simone), but she was in love with a man named Christian (Dave Honigman) who was not very poetic, but he wanted to gain the heart of Little Red, so he asked Cyrano to write for him. And Cyrano complied. This is a mashup of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood and Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. It is about love, poetry, and when being courteous has gone too far. I think this is a really fun show. It had some cool audience participation and I liked the use of sign language in it.

I don't really understand why this couldn't have been just an adaptation of Cyrano with the same cast. At first I thought they were trying to make it accessible to kids but putting in a character they already knew, but that didn't make a lot of sense to me either. Why couldn't kids be interested in a show with characters they weren't already familiar with? I enjoyed Red's performance a lot, but I thought she could have played Roxane very well as well. The story of Cyrano is already adaptable to a story with sign language. It is all about poetry and words, and using words in sign language is a different way to show the poetry and is beautiful to watch. Adding Little Red Riding Hood didn't make a lot of sense to me because she didn't need to be Red Riding Hood for the story to make sense. I didn't feel like these stories had enough in common to justify putting them into a mash up.

I was rooting for Cyrano and Little Red's relationship. It was pretty hard to take when she kept not realizing how much Cyrano loved her. But I liked the reciprocity of their relationship and it seemed really healthy except she didn't understand the depth of Cyrano's feelings. They seemed to talk to each other and respect each other. In Cyrano it is a little harder to decide whether Cyrano and Roxane together is better than Christian and Roxane together. But in this version, it was pretty obvious who you should be rooting for because Christian seemed like such a jerk. In the play Cyrano, Christian seemed like a sweet guy who didn't know how to express himself. But here he seemed like a selfish, self-obsessed guy who didn't realize how much Cyrano was helping him and took him for granted. And he ends up being the villain of the story too. It makes the story a lot less complicated; there's a clear decision you make at the start of the show, which is that Christian is a terrible person for Little Red, and it doesn't really change through the play.

I thought it was really cool how the actors asked the audience to sign and to be part of some of the scenes. One time they asked you to be trees. Sometimes people asked you to hold on to a letter that they had signed, as if it were a paper letter. They would make the sign for a letter, like a or g, and then they would give you the invisible letter, have you make the sign and hold on to it for later. I also really liked a lot of the performances. I really loved Cyrano; he made the character really lovable and you wanted the best for him, but you could still see the character's mistakes. I felt like his signing was very poetic and he really took time with each word and it was really beautiful to watch. Raganeau (Stark) was a baker whose wife, Lise (Christopher Paul Mueller), leaves him because he has not been charging soldiers pretending to be poets for their food. I found their relationship kind of sad but hilarious. She was like, "I wanted to go to Paris and we can't because you won't make these people pay. So bye." I thought Raganeau was able to convey a lot of emotion even without spoken words, and even if you didn't understand sign language you could understand his story. I also loved the woodsman character (Mueller). He had this moose hat and no one knew for a while that it was not a hat but that he was really growing antlers. It was really funny to see him try and explain that.

People who would like this show are people who like signed poetry, tragic love stories, and mysterious moose hats. I think that people should go see this shows. It uses sign language in such a beautiful way and I think a lot of the performers did an amazing job.

Photos: M. Freer Photography

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review of Remy Bumppo's Puff: Believe It Or Not

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Puff: Believe It Or Not. It was by Eugène Scribe and translated by Ranjit Bolt. It was directed by Nick Sandys. It was about a man named Albert (Joshua Moaney) who had come back from military service in Algeria. He was in love with his friend Maxence's (Gregory Geffrard) sister Antonia (Netta Walker). But her brother wanted her to be married to someone rich, so he arranged for her to be married to the Comte de Marignan (Christopher Sheard). But Antonia's friend Corrine (Kelsey Brennan), the daughter of of Cesar Degaudets (David Darlow) who people think is one of the richest men in the country, wanted to marry the count herself. Everyone, except Albert, starts lying to everyone else about their money, their writing, and their affections. I love a good farce, and this play really delivered that. It also has a very good point, which is that one of the problems with society is that lying is considered acceptable and even necessary for power and stature. I thought this was a really fun show. I love these kind of plays, and I had never heard of this one before, but I really enjoyed it.

The romantic tension between Albert and Antonia was so hilarious. Literally, they could not look at each other without looking they were having an aneurysm. It was so funny to see them back away from each other, look at each other longingly, realize they were looking at each other longingly, look away embarrassed, then have to look again. It was really adorable because it is very relatable for a lot of people--if their crushes like them back. They both seem to have standards that they want to meet for each other, but they would give each other up just so they can be worthy of each other. I think they are two really good eggs who aren't willing to lie for anything, which shows they are a good match for each other. Nobility isn't always the right choice, though, because sometimes the noble choice isn't good for anyone. The count, on the other hand, ends up doing something noble, even though he just thinks he is pretending to do something noble. I think the writer does think you should lie sometimes when it is needed, but he is still critiquing some of the lies people tell.

The other relationship in this show is a revenge relationship. The count had sent very romantic lying letters to Corinne, so that she wouldn't write nasty things about him in the newspaper, but then when she finds out the letters are lies, she begins to plot her revenge: marrying him (thunder). I think it is pretty hilarious because it is not what you are expecting someone's revenge to be. It's funny to see her try to seduce him in all these various ways and him not paying attention to her. It might be sad, except she doesn't seem to care. She wants to marry him in spite of himself. She is also writing these memoirs which are highly exaggerated and very funny. This ends up being a really big plot point, which I think is a really great way to tie together the story.

The set (by Joe Schermoly) and costumes (by Rachel Lambert) really contribute a lot to the humor in the show. When the lights come up in the beginning of act two, you see that the set is now all velvet, zebra print, and gold. Everything in the second act is a thousand times bigger and weirder and crazier. The zebra print and gold set your expectations for the rest of the play. And when Corinne comes in with see-through pants and a tiara you're just like "Yep. This play has officially gone insane, and I am loving it."

People who would like this show are people who like love aneurysms, marriage revenge, and see-through pants. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is a smart farce with hilarious and great performances. I loved it!

Photos: Nathanael Filbert

Review of Elf The Musical at Paramount Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Elf The Musical. The book was by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin and the music was by Matthew Sklar and the lyrics were by Chad Beguelin. It was based on the film written by David Berenbaum. It was directed and choreographed by Amber Mak. The musical director was Tom Vendafreddo. It was about an elf named Buddy (Kyle Adams) who found out he wasn't really an elf and left the North Pole to go find his father, Walter Hobbs (Michael Accardo), in New York. He finds out that his dad is a big time businessman with a wife, Emily (Lara Filip), and son, Michael (Oliver Boomer), and not at all like him. He meets a woman, Jovie (Samantha Pauly), at his job working at Macy's and tries to get her into the Christmas spirit. I thought this was a super fun show. It has a very talented cast, great music, and some great visual aspects.

I loved the relationship between Buddy and Jovie. It was great how you got to see Jovie become more of a happy person. "A Christmas Song" is the perfect representation of how their relationship is. He convinces her to do something she's never done before, and she eventually complies. But...before that she's cranky. It is nice to have a play where it is not a girl trying to change a grouchy guy, but a guy trying to change a cranky girl. I really liked how it wasn't about a woman having to do all the work so a guy can be a better person. I thought this was a really great Buddy; he was so perfect at making everyone in the theater feel really happy and in the Christmas spirit and he made his scenes so hilarious. Jovie was also really amazing and was perfectly sarcastic and right for the role. I loved her solo, "Never Fall in Love." It was really funny because she was saying, "Never fall in love...especially with an elf," which is a very specific instruction which only applies to the very few people who meet elves. And it was just a really funny song sung really well. Both Jovie and Buddy had amazing voices.

"There is a Santa Claus" was a song sung by Emily and Michael about how they realized that Buddy had been right all along about Santa Claus (Roger Mueller) being real. I thought their performances were really great. You could really see the connection between those two characters. It was adorable to see them bonding and see a scene with just them in it. The harmony at the end of the song was amazing; their voices worked perfectly together. And I really believed their relationship. I really liked how the actor who played Michael just played the part with the skill of an adult actor and avoided making it cutesy. He knew how his voice worked and he had good control over it. I was impressed. I loved how the actor playing Emily seemed like an actual mother and not a mother in a musical.

The finale was really stunning. I love tap and I thought the tap number in this was really great. I loved how they got basically the entire cast tapping. It was so much fun to watch everyone dancing together and having fun on stage. There is a really cool special effect involving Santa that was really fun. They had a kid chorus (Grier Burke, Sophie Kaegi, Harmonie Kalous, Tova Love Kaplan, Spencer Moss, Theo Moss) that got tap solos and I thought that was really adorable.

People who would like this show are people who like finding out Santa is real, awesome tap numbers, and romantic relationships with elves. I think people should go see this show. It is so much fun and really gets you in the holiday spirit. I really liked it!

Photos: Liz Lauren

Monday, December 4, 2017

Review of Q Brothers Christmas Carol At Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Q Brothers Christmas Carol. It was written by Q Brothers Collective (GQ, JQ, JAX, and POS) with music by JQ. It was directed by GQ and JQ. It was about a man named Scrooge (GQ) who was a crotchety old man who was mean to everyone but gets visited by his old business partner Marley (JQ) who sends him three other spirits, the ghosts of Christmas past (Postell Pringle), present (JQ), and future (Jackson Doran, Pringle, and JQ). And, spoiler alert, he has a change of heart. I've seen several other adaptions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and I think this was a great new take on it. It is more of a contemporary city version of the story that a lot of people can probably relate to. It seems to take place in a city like Chicago, and I think the music was really good. It got across all the main plot points of the book and also made them hilarious. I think this is such a fun show. I really loved this new take on a Christmas classic.

There were so many funny moments in this play. I loved how Marley's hell was having to only speak in Reggae music. It was so funny how it seemed like he might actually be enjoying the dancing and the singing, because he was giving it his all, but he kept saying how much this was the worst thing in the world for him. You also weren't expecting for Jacob Marley to appear like Bob Marley with dreadlocks and backup dancers, but that made it even funnier. I also really loved the song that Scrooge sang when he first met his girlfriend Belle (JQ). It was all about math and was strangely suggestive. It was hilarious how they combined a Marvin-Gaye-let's-get-it-on-type song with math. I think the moment that I laughed the most was when the actor playing Bob Cratchit (Pringle) was also playing Martha, his daughter. He would just smell the corn on the stove at strange moments to cover that he was talking in Martha's voice when she was offstage. Then he would go offstage and come back on as Martha, who would talk in the corn again, but in her dad's voice. It is such an unnatural thing for someone to do, just randomly smell corn, that it made it more hilarious.

All the performers were really excellent rappers. Every time you turned around, Lil' Tim (JQ) had a new disease; it was really funny how when anyone would say "Aw" he would add something like, "I also have rabies." He would say it sadly like it was a new discovery. And then his entire family would sort of back away a little bit. It is pretty funny seeing a grown man acting like a ten year old doing really good rapping. Also he would dance with his crutch and he could actually do some impressive things. I guess when you can't leave the house because you have been contaminated with every disease known to humanity, you have a lot of spare time to work on busting a move with your busted leg. Scrooge did a song right after he had a change of heart where he went and apologized to everyone and tried to make amends while doing this very awkward and amazing jumping dance. When Scrooge was happy, he apparently had no boundaries, and he just popped up in the bedroom of his nephew Fred (Doran) and his boyfriend (Pringle), and rapped LET'S PLAY CHARADES!!! and did his hopping dance while he did this. And then, for the final song, the whole group sang a song that reminded me of TLC, and I really liked that. The Ghost of Christmas Past reminded me of The Sugar Hill Gang--very old school, very smooth. It was very clever to put an old school rapper as the Ghost of Christmas Past. He did a great job reflecting the styles of old school rappers, which I really liked.

I think this is a great show to bring the whole family to. It has a lot of things that kids will appreciate and are interested in, but it is also true to the Dickens story. The book and the play have the same moral, which is that you should give and forgive and that Christmas should bring people together. It is also about helping people who are not as fortunate as you, and that is a good lesson for the president and all the people that helped to create that stupid tax bill. Unfortunately, the whole Pence at Hamilton ordeal makes me think they wouldn't take too kindly to this play. If they could accept it for what it is, they might have a change of heart, just like Scrooge!

People who would like this show are people who like the Christmas spirit, busting a move with a busted leg, and smelling corn excessively. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is so much fun and a great thing to bring the whole family to.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Review of The Minutes at Steppenwolf

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Minutes. It was by Tracy Letts and it was directed by Anna D. Shapiro. It was about a man named Mr. Peel (Cliff Chamberlain) who has just come back from his mother's funeral and it is his first day back at the city council. Everyone is being secretive about the last meeting, the minutes have not been released, and Mr. Carp (Ian Barford) is missing. And so Mr. Peel has to find out what is happening, and he discovers some dark secrets about the town. It is about exclusion, political corruption, and the need for the truth. I think this is a very intriguing play. The plot was really engrossing. This doesn't sound like a play that would be a comedy, but it is actually very funny. It was a really cool experience to see politics through this lens.

There were a lot of funny moments. One of my favorites was when Mr. Blake (James Vincent Meredith) decided that it would be great to have a cage match with Abraham Lincoln as a new festival tradition called "Lincoln Smackdown." Which might be one of the weirdest ideas I've ever heard. And to hear him give his pitch was just hilarious because he thinks it is going to make the city lots of money. He doesn't seem to know why anyone wouldn't think it was the best idea in the world. It was really hilarious to see him try to defend his idea of letting people punch Lincoln in the face. Mr. Oldfield (Frances Guinan) really really wanted Mr. Carp's parking space and he was basically complaining about how he had been on the council the longest and didn't have a close parking space. It is funny because he is just really obsessed with getting this parking space and you'd think he could let it go for a minute. Ms. Matz is funny because she is so clueless and doesn't really understand how the government works and can't seem to stay engaged or pay attention for more than thirty seconds--unless she's performing in a historical pageant. The entire council starting doing this pageant for Mr. Peel, so he could understand the history of Big Cherry better. It was really funny because they gave it completely their all and were performing this story like they were on Broadway, but all the council members were doing a really bad job. It was also just funny to see council members doing theater. And Mr. Oldfield doing foley by tapping on his Tupperware and whistling was hilarious. The girl (played by Ms. Matz) who had been kidnapped in this story was called Little Debbie, and they said she became very rich in the future, and I was wondering if it was because her of Swiss Cake Rolls. But instead it is because of genocide.

(SPOILER ALERT: I'm trying to be vague enough so I can make a point, but the rest of this review might give some things away.) A lot of the funny moments, you realize later, have a dark side to them. In the pageant, the story they were telling was not 100 percent true. It is later revealed that the person who was thought of as a hero actually turned out to be a racist, terrible person that didn't even do any of the noble things the legend said he did. And you see how the town is built on lies and the suffering of others. I also realized that Ms. Matz wasn't just spaced out all the time; she might have acted that way because of her medication. And my hypothesis is that she is taking the pills so she can forget about the terrible thing she is doing. And Mr. Oldfield's obsession with parking seems like he is trying to take the place of someone who is gone, which is already creepy, but then all of a sudden the group is doing terrible things, but all he can think about is the parking. He isn't fazed by the terrible things. And even though Lincoln Smackdown seems like a hilariously terrible idea, there is still a dark side to it. It seems like Mr. Blake is trying to fit in with all the racist white people in the town. But later you understand that he is probably terrified of what might happen to him and his family.

Mr. Hanratty (Danny McCarthy), Ms. Johnson (Brittany Burch), and Mr. Carp all have moments of redemption, where you think they have become better people. The first good deed that you see is from Mr. Hanratty who wants to build a accessible fountain for people in wheelchairs. He is interested in this because his sister is in a wheelchair. It is sort of an intersection between doing a good thing for the world and doing something self-interested because it is his sister that he is thinking about. But even if it was just because his sister was in a wheelchair, it still would have been a good thing for the world to have, except that what was on the fountain didn't really deserve a memorial. Ms. Johnson ends up revealing the minutes because she knows it is the right things to do, but she ends up being too scared for her family to finish what she started and still continuing on the darker path. Mr. Carp you don't get to see a lot of, but you know he used to be as bad as everyone else until he realized something. He does something good with his realization: he decides to speak up even though it is dangerous. I think the playwright is trying to make a point about what motivates us--that is family, fear, comfort, and justice. They are not always good motivations, but sometimes they might have a good outcome. And sometimes good motivations can have a bad outcome. A lot of people would do anything for their family, but to oppress other people so your family can have a nicer house is a cruel idea.

People who would like this show are people who like Little Debbie, Lincoln Smackdown, and Tupperware foley. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is such an intriguing show and it really made me think a lot. It is very funny but disturbing. I really liked it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Ada Grey's Past Holiday Show Reviews

Here are links to some of the holiday shows I reviewed in the past that are playing again this year. I'm sorry I won't have time to see them again! Next week I'll have reviews of two more holiday shows: Elf at Paramount Theatre and The Q Brothers Christmas Carol at Chicago Shakespeare!

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! Tickets available 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! Tickets available 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! Tickets available 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! Tickets available here.

The Mercury Theater's The Christmas Schooner

People who would like this show are people who like family traditions, the importance of Christmas, and sexy strudel. I could tell the actors were really committed to this show and the audience really seemed to enjoy it.

Read the full review here. Tickets available here.

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review of Wild Boar at Silk Road Rising

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Wild Boar. It was written by Candace Chong, and the Chinese to English translation was by Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith. The adaptation was by David Henry Hwang. It was directed by Helen Young. It was about a man named Johnny (Scott Shimizu) and he worked for a paper with his old professor Ruan (F. Karmann Bajuyo) and Ruan's wife Tricia (Christine Bunuan). They are investigating the disappearance of a famous journalist, Mu Ne (Fin Coe). Johnny has had an affair with Tricia, and is now interested in an old girlfriend, Karrie (Emily Marso). It is about bad decisions, freedom of speech, and deception. I found this show confusing and because of that I wasn't able to invest completely in the plot and many of the characters, but I enjoyed some of the performances.

One of the biggest problems with the show was the metaphor that gives the show its title. It seems like they were trying to make a metaphor out of the wild boar, which Johnny hunts with his friends. But the problem is that I can't figure out what it means. And if it isn't a metaphor, then the scene of the boar hunt is sort of useless. I was thinking the boar was maybe Ruan and how his life has been threatened before, but I don't see how that relates to Johnny or his setting the boar free or how Ruan is wild. Maybe the boar was supposed to be Mu Ne because some people didn't think he existed, like they thought they couldn't find wild boar anymore, but we never find out what happened to Mu Ne or if he even existed. So that still isn't a satisfying metaphor. It could be a metaphor for things suppressed by the government, but then they never really succeed it setting those things free. In this play they explain everything at great length, which wasn't always interesting and it didn't always make stuff clearer. It felt like they were trying to cram as many things as possible into the play, so the ending doesn't address the questions asked at the beginning because they've moved on to other ideas.

Tricia, I think, is a very complicated character, and I think Bunuan did a great job making me have sympathy with the character while seeing all of the character's flaws. She has cheated on her husband many times, but you see that she wasn't getting enough attention from her husband, so she felt lonely. It still wasn't the right choice, but you could see how she felt abandoned. I do like how she said what she wanted instead of waiting for some man to sweep her off her feet. And it seems that when she was younger she said what she wanted instead of cowering. Even though her husband was older, he was what she wanted and she didn't care what anyone thought. I do wish her character in the play had been defined by more than her relationship with men, but the actor is very clear about her character and her characteristics, so you can guess what she would probably be like in other situations that didn't involve men.

Your understanding of Karrie changes twice in the play, and I thought that was very cool and that made it so you were eagerly awaiting what she would say next and what new opinion of hers would be revealed. She has this really heartbreaking monologue, where she was talking about her child and the struggles of being a mother. It was delivered just beautifully. The actor really pulled you into her character's life and I'm sad we didn't get to see more of this character's story. Her character seems to change a lot right before the act break, and I really believed her transition, but it was still very surprising. She was talking about how she was so poor and she liked the government's plan for putting poor people in a city underground because it was better than where she was living right now and they might be able to afford things down there that they couldn't now. I can see why she might be tricked by a plan like that because her life is so terrible now, and she thinks, maybe this is a way I can make it better.

People who would like this show are people who like puzzling metaphors, underground cities, and women saying what they want. This show has some great performances, and I am looking forward to what Silk Road does next.

Photos: Airan Wright

Monday, November 27, 2017

Review of Firebrand Theatre's Lizzie

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Lizzie. It was directed by Victoria Bussert and the music direction was by Andra Velis Simon. The movement director was Jon Martinez. The music was by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt. Lyrics were by Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner. The book was by Maner. It was about Lizzie Borden (Liz Chidester) who was accused of murdering her father and stepmother and about the reason why she did it and the relationships she had--with her girlfriend, Alice (Jacquelyne Jones), her sister, Emma (Camille Robinson), and their maid, Bridget (Leah Davis)--and how they were affected by her trial. It is about justice, love, and standing up for yourself. I thought this was a super fun show and I loved the performances and the songs. It is dark and reminded me of a female, real Sweeney Todd. It was altogether a really great show.

This is a rock musical. There were a lot of different types--ballads, metal, punk--and each song worked with the story and the song's genre. There are a lot of catchy songs with great lyrics in the show. My favorite song was "The House of Borden" because the melody was really catchy and it got stuck in your head, but not in an annoying way. It was sort of like an explanation song; it was telling you all the stuff you need to know, but in an interesting way. I love this song very much. Everyone was super into it. They were singing their hearts out and it sounded amazing. The song was led very well by Bridget, who did a really good job at being both funny and menacing. This song is very driving, really fast-paced. Everything happens very quickly and they get a lot done very quickly. I think doing exposition this way is really useful. If all the background was just spoken, it wouldn't have been as intriguing. I wouldn't have been smiling all through the exposition! "What the F--k Now, Lizzie?" was another great, catchy song. It is about when Emma comes home and finds out their stepmother and their father are dead. She is mad at first, but she realizes she shouldn't be mad because now she is going to get a lot of money from her father's death and he won't be hurting them anymore. The vocals on it were really great. The song is sort of like their pact that they are going to help each other, even though Lizzie killed their father.

"This Is Not Love" leads into "Gotta Get Out of Here," and there is such a drastic difference between the two songs. One of them is very meek and sad and helpless and the other one is very angry and determined. The are both reactions to Lizzie's father raping her. They are really great songs because they are showing the emotional rollercoaster of the same events. The first song is really heartbreaking, and the second is really heartbreaking, but in a different way because she is really lashing out at people and she doesn't know what to do except to get out of there as soon as possible, and she can't get out of there at the moment. I think the actor does a great job showing where Lizzie snaps between the songs.

Alice sang a song about how she had been watching Lizzie for a very long time and was in love with her called "If You Knew." She is asking Lizzie to share her secrets with her, but she can't tell her her own. I thought that was a really good song because it was sung beautifully and it really showed how much Alice loved Lizzie and would do anything for her at the beginning of the show. It is sad to see how Lizzie breaks that trust between them later because she has done something terrible and Alice doesn't want to be a part of that. Once they start the relationship, they have this really sweet song together "Will You Stay." Alice is being so kind to Lizzie and trying to help her. And it is really sad how what Alice thinks she wants, Lizzie, ends up betraying her even though Alice has been so good to her. Lizzie lies to her and makes Alice help her even though she doesn't know what is really going on. The song shows the betrayal starting, so even though it sounds like a sweet song, once you know that Lizzie is lying, it is not so sweet anymore. Alice's devotion is performed very well; she is the least messed-up character in the show and I think seeing her become more messed up during the show is just a really cool thing to watch, and the actor shows you how much she's changed effectively.

The last song of the first act, "Somebody Will Do Something," is where Lizzie kills her stepmother and her father in watermelon form. It is a very scream-y punk song where she grabs her axe and starts hacking up these watermelons, spraying the front row with watermelon blood. It smelled like watermelon in there then, which was also a plus. To have no one playing the parents, it makes it so you can make it more crazy. She just seems like a maniac to see her hacking at a watermelon when, if it was a person, it would be long dead. It makes it so you don't have to have sympathy for the parents. I think for this play that is good because the point of the play is Lizzie's empowerment and how much murder is her only way out. In a real-life situation you would definitely want to have sympathy for people who are getting murdered, but in this situation you are supposed to be rooting for Lizzie even though she is a murderer. It is about Lizzie taking control of her life and saying that she is going to get out of there and is tired of being pushed around.

People who would like this show are people who like feminist rock musicals, heart-wrenching songs, and watermelon blood. I think people should definitely definitely definitely go see this show. It has a great score and it is performed beautifully. I loved it!

Photos: Marisa KM

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review of About Face Theatre and Theater Wit's Significant Other

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Significant Other. It was by Joshua Harmon and it was directed by Keira Fromm. It was about a man named Jordan (Alex Weisman) and all his friends--Kiki (Cassidy Slaughter-Mason), Vanessa (Tiffany Oglesby), and Laura (Amanda Drinkall)--were getting married and he was really desperate for a relationship. So when a cute new guy, Will (Benjamin Sprunger), shows up at work, he falls for him. It is about feeling abandoned, wanting love, and accepting the way your life is. I think this is an amazing show. It is such a compelling, funny, and heartbreaking script that a lot of people can identify with. I loved it.

Jordan's best friend was Laura and they joked that if they weren't married by a certain age, they would marry each other, and they talked about what their wedding would be like. They seemed like they would be pretty good together, even though they weren't physically attracted to each other. They had so much fun together and they seemed to help each other and think the other person was important and deserved love. Laura becomes less of a friend once she meets a guy, and she isn't as attentive even when Jordan needs it most. It is very heartbreaking to see that relationship dissolve because they have been such close friends for so long. He wants her to be happy, but he doesn't want to lose her. And she wants him to be happy, but she also wants to find a romantic partner. I think it is really hard to have your best friend have someone else in their life that is really important to them. I think both Jordan and Laura deserve to be happy and have good romantic relationships. But Laura gives more time to Tony (Sprunger), who I agree should be getting a lot of attention too if she wants to make the relationship work, but I feel like she should not be blowing off her best friend as much as she was. I understand Laura can't give Jordan attention at the exact moment he needs it because Tony's aunt is in the hospital, but I do feel like she could have helped him later instead of just blowing him off.

There are a lot of funny moments in this play. I was laughing a lot. There was a really funny scene where Jordan meets Will for the first time and he's retelling the story and can pause the action anytime he wants. And one of the moments he pauses it, Will is sort of posing like a male model and Jordan is pointing out parts of him. It is really funny because Will is just standing there nonchalantly while Jordan is praising him for all these things you wouldn't think people would notice about people the first time they met them. It was hilarious how Jordan specified that Will was looking for a towel and he acted like it was the most magnificent thing in the world, looking for a towel. And after he told the story to Kiki, Laura, and Vanessa, their faces were all really weirded out, and it was just the perfect moment because you had been focused on Will and Jordan until that moment.

This play blends humor and sadness together. There is a sort of sad but funny moment when Jordan is talking about how he would rather be anything but a human: a rock, dental floss, a salamander, or rain. It is sad because he does really want to not be a person. I understand that. Sometimes it is hard being a human being and you'd rather be an inanimate object...or an amphibian. He is trying to make light of a terrible situation. It is funny how he doesn't want to have a boyfriend or lots of money or be royalty or anything like that. He just wants to be a salamander. I also really loved the moment when Jordan was trying to talk himself out of sending an email, but almost sending it every few seconds. I've had that moment about a thousand times. There are so many relatable moments in this show. And this one was exactly right. It is hilarious but also sad because he ends up regretting the decision he makes.

Because you identify so much with Jordan, it is like a punch to the gut when something bad happens to him. When he goes to visit his grandma Helene (Ann Whitney), she always says the same things, which means she might have Alzheimer's or dementia. You see that Jordan notices that but he wants to continue on as if she's said something new to make her happy because he cares so much about her. It is scary when you see a loved one getting sick and you are worried that you don't have much time with them, so you do everything to make them happy even though what you are doing may not always be truthful. Jordan goes out with a guy named Zach (Ninos Baba) and they have a really good date and Jordan feels a connection, but Zach isn't over his ex, so he calls it off. And you can see Jordan was really happy there was someone distracting him from all the marriage going on around him, so he could think about someone else instead of just moping. This play is basically a melting pot of crappy moments that have happened to most people, but seeing Jordan's experience, all of those crappy things all pushed together, and Alex Weisman's fantastic performance make it just really relatable and heartbreaking.

People who would like this show are people who like relatable moments, wanting to be a salamander, and looking for towels. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It was such a good story, had great performers, and I loved it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Friday, November 24, 2017

Review of A Swell in the Ground at The Gift Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Swell in the Ground. It was by Janine Nabers and it was directed by Chika Ike. It was about a couple, Nate (Keith Neagle) and Olivia (Sydney Charles), who lived in New York. You get to see their entire relationship from when they got together in college to their roughest times. And they have two college friends--Charles (Andrew Muwonge) and Abigail (Darci Nalepa)--who complicate their relationship and sort of act as confidantes even though the couple should just be talking to each other. It's about young love, thoughtless decisions, and finding your way. I think this is a beautiful show that really shows the ups and downs of a relationship in a really clear and compelling way.

I think it is really cool how this play jumped back and forth in time. It shows you the roots of why people did things, but in a way that makes you think about why they did things before it is actually revealed. Once there were two scenes going on in the same place but at different times. I thought that was a really cool way of showing what had happened a few years ago and why what was about to happen was especially terrible but makes sense. I think it is a really well-written scene, because the second you ask yourself a question, like "what does this mean," the scene answers it, but not in the way you thought that it would. Jumping back and forth in time means the actors have to know their character arc in even more detail than if it were just in chronological order because it isn't building in the play in the same way it would be building in real life. It is jumping all around and the development of the character is going back and forth. I think the actors all did a good job showing the transformation of their characters from when they were like 18 to when they were like in their late 30s even though they didn't do it in order.

Olivia I think is a very interesting character because she is a good person who is going through a very hard time and the person she is with is not helping her with that. I can see why she is demanding a lot of effort from Nate--because she has just lost someone important to her and doesn't know if she will have someone like that again. And when the one person she thinks she can count on is put off by her pain, she feels like she needs to go to someone else because she isn't getting what she needs from Nate. I think she does it in an appropriate way. What she does is talk to someone she's been friends with for years to get his advice and doesn't keep it from Nate. But the second his feelings get hurt, Nate goes off to someone he has already had an intimate relationship with recently and has an intimate relationship with them and doesn't tell Olivia until she says she wants to continue to work on their relationship. What they should have done is just talked to each other about their problems and helped each other. But Olivia can't do that by herself and I can't really tell if Nate wants to or not. I think Nate thinks he understands himself, but he really doesn't. Once Olivia says she wants to step back from the relationship but not get a divorce, he immediately acts on his impulse and tries to replace a relationship that hasn't even ended yet.

The relationship that you start out rooting for isn't there at the end of the play. That is different from a lot of plays because in a lot of plays you see a relationship grow and have its trials and tribulations, but it all works out in the end. This play is more realistic because sometimes things just don't work out. Maybe one person is more to blame than the other, but I think the person who is less to blame gets the better outcome because they did the right thing and now they know what to avoid in a partner. It's not like every relationship that has a bumpy road figures it out and comes back together. But I still think this play has a happy ending in a more realistic way because people are happy in different ways. I think the way it ends is all for the best, but it is not the way you thought it would end.

People who would like this show are people who like surprising endings, learning from your mistakes, and complicated characters. I think people should definitely go see this show. I think it is a beautiful and well-written script and it was performed in a powerful way. I loved it.

Photos: Claire Demos

Friday, November 17, 2017

Review of Welcome to Jesus at American Theater Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Welcome to Jesus. It was by Janine Nabers and it was directed by Will Davis. It was about a all-white town in the middle of nowhere and their football coach, Arthur Henderson (Josh Odor), has started acting strangely right after their star player has died. They need a new star player, so when a young black man called Him (Rashaad Hall) shows up in the town, they ask him to be on the team. At first it doesn't seem like they care about his race, but as the play goes on, the town's racism starts to show. It is about prejudice, community, and what it really means to be a good person. This show really makes you think and feel all the emotions. It is eerie, horrifying, and I liked it.

The character Him was sort of a critique of the character in a lot of books, movies, and plays who is a person of color that is sort of magical and tells the white guy what to do and is a teaching figure. The focus in those type of stories is on the white people, and you aren't really supposed to pay attention to the ideas, opinions, and feelings of the person of color apart from how they are using them to help white people. They are only around in the plot when the white people need them. This play calls attention to what the white people are doing and how what they are doing is terrible and wrong. They are clearly taking advantage of Him, not just getting help from Him. It made me think about how many books and movies have this problem.

There were so many twists in this show, and I think the writer did a great job of hinting at each twist, but not giving it away. And each of the big reveals were very satisfying...or horrifying. I don't want to give anything away, but what you find out about Ma Danver (Stacy Stoltz)and Sheriff Danver (John Henry Roberts) and Coach Henderson is just insane and really well-written. It is a great twist and I wasn't expecting it at all. Everyone in this town is not what they seem. Dixie (Taylor Blim), especially. She seems like the girl next door, but she ends up being the girl next door that you want to move a few doors down from.

Even though this play is pretty dark, there are also some humorous moments. When the Sheriff had just been cutting up a body they found in the woods so it will fit in a bag, he walks out to talk to Bud Henderson (Theo Germaine). He hasn't realized that he is covered in blood, and he is very nonchalant about it. I found that very funny. There was a scene where they had just discovered some new information about the Coach's condition and he was trying to get away. And every time the lights would go down and they would come back up again, he would be in a new place in the same position. It would scare everybody, because he was just staring forward and he had just teleported, but he didn't seem to register that he was scaring anyone, and it was very very funny. Officer Mike Danver (Casey Morris) messes up a lot at his job; he literally loses dead bodies. That is how bad he is at his job.

People who would like this show are people who like great twists, critiquing stereotypes, and teleporting coaches. I think people should go see this show. It has a really crazy story, and I have never seen anything like it before.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Review of Cirque du Soleil's Crystal

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Crystal. It was about a girl named Crystal (Nobahar Dadui) who went skating one day, trying to escape from her life, and the ice cracked and she fell down into an alternate universe. Then she is led through her life by her reflection (Madeline Stammen). It is about finding yourself, growing up, and escaping. They tell the story with circus, ice skating, projections, voice over, and music. I think this is a very visually stunning show and there are really beautiful skating and acrobatic acts.

I really loved the aerial straps act. It was really beautiful. It was performed by Dadui and Jerome Sordillon. It was a courtship between Crystal and a man and they were performing to Beyoncé's "Halo." I love that song and it was very wistful. You noticed every movement of the act and paid attention to it because it was so emotional and mesmerizing. You are rooting for the character of Crystal, and it's really sweet to see her fall in love. I loved the way they put the iceskating (by Dadui) into the same act with the suitor who was doing the aerial straps, and then they would join together and it was absolutely gorgeous. Sordillon also did this thing where he was walking up air really really slowly and it was crazy. He must have amazing core strength!

The hand to trapeze act was awesome looking. Crystal was played by Emily McCarthy for this part. She got to the trapeze by walking on other people's hands, and it was just an amazing feat of balance. And then when she actually got up there, she leapt up into the arms of the man on the trapeze. It was so insane. You felt so scared for her, but she was just calm and collected the whole time. They are telling the story about how Crystal wants to get back up to the surface, to her real life. And the man on the trapeze is trying to keep her down. It was very lyrical and there was a lot of reaching. The struggle was beautiful to watch.

I always really love tap numbers, and I had never seen anything like this before. It was tap dancing on skates. It was absolutely crazy to listen to all the sounds that could come out of just skates. Then they (Zabato Bebe, Julien Duliere, Liza Mochizuki, and Shawn Sawyer) started having this competition. They tried to one-up each other. One person did a backflip that was just insane. One person ripped his shirt off. And everyone at the end did this huge tap number together that was really cool. They were all so in sync. It was just amazing. I loved it.

People who would like this show are people who like skate tap dancing, walking on hands, and Beyoncé being the soundtrack to your romance. I think people should definitely go see this show. It only has three more days in Chicago, so go see it soon! It is so much fun, has some beautiful art in it, and I really liked it.

Photos: Matt Beard

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review of The Comrades' Bob: A Life in Five Acts

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Bob: A Life in Five Acts. It was by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. It was co-directed by Will Quam and Derek Bertelsen. It was about a man named Bob (Raymond Jacquet) on his life journey from being born in a White Castle to having to strike out on his own to becoming a man and opening up a flea circus. It was about growing up, discovering who you are, and how you are influenced by the people around you. I think this is a really fun show. I think it was funny and heartwarming in a weird way that I liked.

I think it is really effective to have such a huge story in such a small space. It makes it intimate; you feel like you are on the journey with Bob. A person's entire life is a huge story, especially Bob who travels all over the place. You can tell when they are in a new place, even though they don't have a lot of set, because the chorus (Angela Horn, Bryan Renaud, Brittany Stock, and Sarah Jane Patin) tells you. This play is a big story about a man who became a legend, but it took him awhile to get there. Bob becomes a legend by telling his story in a small way. Who knows? Maybe we were watching a performance by his fleas! It was like normal things that will happen in everyone's life, like being born, doing a road trip with your mom, and buying Girl Scout cookies. But there is always a twist. Like when he is being born it is in a White Castle. When he is on a road trip with his mom, there is a significant conflagration. And when the Girl Scout shows up, it makes him see a new side of his life and what he is doing wrong. I think it is effective that there are so many interactions between Bob and other characters in this show because you see his journey when every small thing is jolted into an extreme.

I think extremity and humor is a really good pairing because if you make something super extreme and unexpected, that makes it more humorous. It was really funny how all of the waitresses (played the chorus) were all very into Bob. It was very funny to try to see them get his attention. The reason why he doesn't want to be with the waitresses was because their cheese omelettes were bad. And if that were the case, he wanted nothing to do with them. That was something that was extreme and funny. I also really liked the recurring joke where Bob always ended up in the same person's trunk, but they had a different name each time even though it was the same character (Stock). Something that was also very extreme and unexpected was when the wolves showed up and Bob's father (Patin) decides that he has to sacrifice himself to save Bob. It was so over-the-top and unexpected and I absolutely loved that.

There are also some heartwarming moments in this show. Like when Bob meets his first love (Stock). They seemed like they were really good for each other and really happy. When they first meet each other they each have these lists, and they start reading them to each other and saying all the things they want to do. They are sharing aspirations with each other of things they want to accomplish either before they get married (her) or in their entire life (him). I thought it was really sweet how they both made these lists, and they seemed like they were perfect for each other, and their entire relationship, which was shown in this montage, was just adorable. Bob's relationship with his adoptive mother (Horn) is so sweet. She just wants to teach him everything and it so sad that they don't get as much time as they wanted together. When Bob is first getting his bearings as he is striking out on his own, he talks to a police officer (Renaud) who used to be in love with his adoptive mother. It was sad but it was heartwarming because the police officer ended up having a pretty good life and still ended up being part of Bob's family--because that is the way Bob's life works!

People who would like this show are people who like coincidences, lists, and White Castle births. I think that people should go see this show. It is such a fun and ridiculous and touching show. I really liked it.

Photos: Cody Jolly

Monday, November 13, 2017

Review of BoHo Theatre's Marie Christine.

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Marie Christine. The words and music were by Michael John LaChiusa. It was directed by Lili-Anne Brown. The musical direction was by Aaron Benham and it was choreographed by Breon Arzell. It was about a woman named Marie Christine (Kyrie Courter) who lived in New Orleans in the 1890s. Her mother (Nicole Michelle Haskins) had magical powers to do things for people, and they would come to her for help. Marie Christine also has those powers that her mother passed down to her. But her brothers Paris (Averis Anderson) and Jean (Curtis Bannister) don't want her to use her powers; they want her to get married to someone who was respectable in their class. Their money came from their white father, who never married their mother, who was black. Marie Christine fell in love with a man named Dante (Ken Singleton) who was white and was a ship's captain and it seemed like he'd had been with a lot of women over his travels. The musical is about how their relationship falls apart and how she gets revenge. It is about blind devotion, the limits of revenge, and guilt. I think this is a really good show. It is beautifully done and intriguing to watch.

Marie Christine and her mother really had a close bond, and it is sad to see Marie Christine on her own, but she does really well for herself--I mean, until she meets Dante. I wish we had gotten to see more of the mother-daughter relationship and the mother passing her knowledge down to her. But when Dante arrives he messes up Marie Christine's life because she doesn't think of herself anymore. It is really sad to see her taken over by something that doesn't stay. She spends the whole rest of her life devoted to this one person and gets no devotion in return. When her mother sings to her about how her grandfather is the sun, she is basically saying you came from something better than this and you deserve something better than this. This story is based off of Medea, and her grandfather was Helios, the sun god. I liked how they made the meaning more figurative in this story. Marie Christine and her mother had both gone through similar things with their partners, so when they both sing "Your Grandfather is the Sun" to their children in different circumstances but with the same intention, it is just heartbreaking. Especially when you find out how Marie Christine's relationship with her children ends. Also Nicole and Kyrie's voices are so great; during the songs where they were singing to their children, their voices were very sweet and they were singing a beautiful lullaby. But then they could also belt when they are angry or trying to really get their point across.

I thought "A Month Ago He Comes Here" was a really good song and it got across an outside point of view on the relationship between Marie Christine and Dante. The maids (Katherine Bourné and Neala Barron) are singing so it gave you an insider outside point of view. It was a valid point of view but not from within the actual relationship. When you are seeing the inside of the relationship it seems like they just love each other, but from the outside it seems crazy. The show also has other perspectives, like when Marie Christine and Dante go to a party and everyone is gossiping about their affair, but it is great to see the roots of the gossip in the song with the maids. It helps you understand the relationship not just from the blind world these two people are in.

I think this show also has some great visual aspects. The movement really pulled me more into the story. When all the prisoners sang and danced using a series of repeated movements that all represented what they would do for the person they loved, it was just mesmerizing. The set was also really amazing. I loved how it was using the story's Greek roots because it had columns and arches, but with more of a modern twist that you could see in the shutters and the bed. I really loved that.

There are not a lot of funny songs in the show. Most of the songs are very emotional and are usually saying all the things that are going to go wrong because of a specific action. The song "A Lovely Wedding" is sung by Magdalena (Barron), who is a singer and proprietor of a saloon who wanted to have children and she thought Marie Christine could give her something to help her do that. I really like how the song was funny but still dark. It was basically saying that it was a great wedding, but there were things that were off. It seemed like it was a huge mistake, and they ran out of cake, which seems like the biggest crime of all! There wasn't anything that really seemed like there was anything that made it a great wedding, which brought the comedy out. It was effective because even though it was humorous, the song was also slightly eerie. I think Neala Barron's voice really emphasized each part of the song and made you picture each part of the wedding. And her voice is just great.

People who would like this show are people who like maids' perspectives, exploring the downfall of magical women, and not-so-lovely weddings. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It has beautiful songs, great performances, and stunning choreography. I really liked it!

Photos: Katie Stanley