Friday, March 31, 2017

Review of Emerald City Theatre's The Wiz

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Wiz. It was adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The book was by William F. Brown, with additional material by Tina Tippit. The music and lyrics were by Charlie Smalls. I saw another production of The Wiz and I really liked that one, but it was very different from this one. This one is more appropriate for younger children because it is much shorter and it has made some of the grown-up themes less prominent. It is about a girl named Dorothy (Isis Elizabeth) who has been swept away to a magical land where she meets new friends on her way home. I thought this was a really fun show. I think it is really great that they have a version of this wonderful musical aimed at children.

I went to see this show with a three-year-old friend and a fourteen-year-old friend and we were all rocking out to the Scarecrow (Leon Evans), Tinman (Jar'Davion Brown), and Lion (Miguel Long) songs. The Scarecrow was so clueless, but in a lovable way. I thought his dancing was really fun to watch; he does a bunch of acrobatic moves, which I thought were amazing. Even though the lyrics of his song "I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday" are actually not always so happy, the song is still upbeat and the Scarecrow still seems to be content with parts of his life, if he could just get away from the crows. In a kids' production it might be kind of strange to have the Tinman be attracted to Dorothy, so they made the song "Slide Some Oil to Me" seem more friendzone-y. I think that was a really good idea. This Tinman still sang a great song, but it was more appropriate for kids. The Lion is such a fabulous, sassy character and his song "Mean Ole Lion" is so hilarious and amazing. The young child I went with seemed kind of freaked out until the Lion was done roaring, but then she became more comfortable during the song.

I thought that Glinda (Aziza Macklin) was fabulous. Her dress (costumes by Kate Kamphausen) was gorgeous as well as her singing. I also loved Dorothy's dress and her voice. I noticed that in this production they cast the same actor as Glinda and Aunt Em. So when Dorothy and Glinda meet at the end, the connection they have is kind of like Dorothy's with Aunt Em. I thought that was really sweet. In the Kokandy production they cast the same person as Aunt Em and Evilene. I think both of those choices make sense. I think seeing Aunt Em turn evil might be strange to a kid because a younger child looks up to their caretakers much more than a teenager does. But the choice makes sense for the Kokandy production to me because it is more about the teenage experience of going away from home and thinking that your mother figure is sometimes like the Wicked Witch of the West.

People who would like this show are people who like kid-friendly productions, lovable scarecrows, and friendzone tinmen. This is a super fun show to see with kids. I liked it a lot.

Photos: Austin D. Oie

Review of Born Ready at The Factory Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Born Ready. It was by Stacie Barra, and it was directed by Wm. Bullion. It was about a woman named Marion Kroft (Eleanor Katz) and she had been a child star and once she wasn't a child anymore she got her own variety show. One day a new dancer named Harriet (Clara Byczkowski) arrives and they find out she is very funny and has a lot of talent so they give her a part on the show. Over time, Marion and Harriet develop a meaningful friendship that shapes Marion into a better person and puts Harriet on the same path to fame that Marion was on before, which isn't completely a good thing. It is about what it is like being a woman in show business, chosen family, and the difference between t.v. and real life. I thought the show was really fun and an awesome look at t.v. shows in the 1950s.

I really liked the commercials. I thought it was funny how they were all strangely suggestive. I think my favorite ones were the one for cereal and the one for ladies' "body wash." The cereal one I thought was very funny because the dancers--Betty (Rachel Craig), Lois (Aimee Binder), Shirley (Libby Conkle), and Harriet--wore cereal boxes, which is not a very natural thing for dancers to wear. The announcer (Eric Roach) talked about having highly processed grains like it was a great thing, which it certainly isn't in this time and age right now. They had these fans they used for the commercial for feminine wash, and I found that very funny because they used the fans to make some very strange, but appropriate-for-what-I-think-they-were-selling, shapes. It was funny how the commercials would interrupt some of the most serious moments with a bit of hilarity. The commercials made you feel like you were actually there at Marion's show.

One of my favorite scenes was when Evelyn (Mandy Walsh) was first introduced. She was a reporter who basically spread all of the gossip about all the stars. She reminded me a lot of Rita Skeeter from the Harry Potter books. What is happening is that Harriet and Marion are being interview by Evelyn with Sam (Timothy C. Amos), Marion's husband, there for moral support. From the second Evelyn walks in you can tell that everyone else in the room absolutely hates her. But it is kind of like her fuel how much everyone hates her. I thought that it was really funny all the loathing glances that everyone in the scene would have towards each other. And also whenever they would have a sip of their drink, they would just give each other the most disgusted side-eye and I loved it so much.

Another scene I loved was the scene when Byron (Tim Newell), who was the television executive, was talking on the phone and his secretary Irma (Christy Arington) walked in and she just was so excited that the Christmas decorations had gotten in. And then she immediately goes into decorating mode, decorating his office without really caring about him being on the phone, but then once she tires to move his phone while he's talking on it for decor reasons, she feels super bad about it. I thought both of these characters were really hilarious. I loved how there was kind of this easter egg near the end where you see Irma smoking and not really giving a crap. I feel like she is saying "I've worked for this guy for years and I'm still working for him--I deserve a smoke." Basically the whole show is promoting smoking as a thing to clear your sinuses and relieve your stress. And Irma seems to have caught on to the trend.

Dottie (Allison Cain) was the costume lady and she basically raised Marion. She really seemed like the only completely sane person in the entire show. She seems to always be there for everyone, except if they get on her nerves. Then she'll put a pin in your costume. When Harriet starts acting like Marion, Marion turns into her Dottie. I really liked how this play was about women's relationships. I think there are some very sweet relationships in this show like Dottie and Marion and Harriet and Marion. But they are not just sweet; the relationships are also hard for them because when something goes wrong for one of them the other one feels like they need to help. Both of the relationships have changed by the end and it is really hard to see them change. I think it was good because it was heartbreaking and that made you feel closer to some characters and farther apart from others. I have to be vague because I don't want to give away the ending.

People who would like this show are people who like meaningful relationships between women, dancing cereal boxes, and Christmas decorations. I think that people should go this show. It is so much to fun to watch. There are so many great surprises in the show and I really liked it.

Photos: Michael Courier

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review of WildClaw Theatre's The Woman in Black

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Woman in Black. It was by Steven Mallatratt, based on the book by Susan Hill, and it was directed by Elly Green. It was about a man named Mr. Kipps (Robert Koon) who was trying to stop a curse that has been following him for years. So he hires an actor (Priyank Thakkar) to reenact Mr Kipps' past experiences. It is about facing your fears, paranormal activity, and terror. This is such a chilling show! I really loved it.

The first thing that you see is Mr. Kipps and the actor playing around with the first lines of the story that Mr. Kipps has written to help him overcome what the Woman in Black has done to him. The actor has come to teach him how to perform a compelling story. The first scene I think is quite funny because it is Mr. Kipps' first attempt at performing his story and he is reading it like it is A Christmas Carol. The actor is trying to get him to really perform the story and put his heart into it, but Mr. Kipps is scared to talk about this subject. Each time Kipps reads the first lines, it gets more cheesy and actor-ly, and I thought that was funny to see the actor who is coaching him get more and more annoyed with Kipps. But this isn't the plan they end up doing in the end because Mr. Kipps has the actor play Mr. Kipps as a young man and Mr. Kipps plays all of the people he meets along his journey. Mr. Kipps does end up being a good actor, maybe overdramatic at times because the people he is playing are dramatic. The play gets more intense as it goes on, so this first scene is vital because you get to see the relationship between Mr. Kipps and the actor before any of the creepy stuff starts happening.

There were a lot of really chilling moments. I saw the movie and I thought it was scary, but this was scarier because everything was so up-close. Whenever anything terrifying happened it felt like it could reach out and get you. I feel like the set (designed by John Wilson) added a lot to the entire experience. Even before you get into the theater you are slightly scared that something is going to jump out at you because there is this long corridor with red curtains and lamps and you don't know what is behind the red curtains. When you get into the theater you see all these mirrors and torn-up wallpaper and also a really old-fashioned stage and a door on the stage that looks very ominous for some reason--it just seems like something could come out of there or there is something you don't want to see behind that door. But the first time something really surprises you it is from behind you which is very unexpected and a good jump scare. Also they had a coat rack on stage that scared me sometimes because I thought it was a person. It gives you a short moment of thinking things are different than they are. And the mirrors reflect what is happening on stage, but sometimes you catch it out of the corner of your eye and you think that there is someone moving next to you. I thought the sound (designed by Sarah D. Espinosa) was really scary because it seemed to come from different part of the theater. It made you very alert. I thought it was super cool how they had gas lamps (lighting design by Emma Deane) around the stage and they would flicker occasionally, but not so often that you knew when it was coming which it made it all the better. I liked all the technical elements of this show; I thought they melded together very well to make a chilling experience.

One of my favorite moments was when the younger Mr. Kipps played by the actor was exploring the house and he walked into a room whose door had been locked the time before when he'd been there. And the door throws itself open and he sees a child's room and there is a rocking chair rocking back and forth. I loved this moment in the movie as well. I think it is so visually stimulating and just gives you goosebumps. It is so creepy because it takes something that you usually feel comfortable with and makes you not feel comfortable because it feels so empty. There is another point in the show where they use empty space but it does make you feel more comforted. They only use sound to represent a dog named Spider who is there to keep the younger Mr. Kipps company in the house. You know where the dog is because of where the actors are petting and looking and where the sound is coming from. You know the dog is adorable because of how much love Mr. Kipps is showing to Spider. The dog is very happy and energetic, but once anything paranormal starts happening it immediately goes into action mode and that is how you know something is happening. You kind of get a warning. You feel like the dog is protecting Mr. Kipps and you.

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.

Photos: Clark Bender

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review of Route 66 Theatre Company's The Source

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Source. It was by Gabrielle McKinley and it was directed by Jason Gerace. It is about a man named Vernon (Cody Proctor) and a woman named Oona (Kristina Valada-Viars) who were both asked to go on a mission to meet with the source of leaked documents. They end up forming this bond over these days that they are together waiting for the source. It is about secrets, trust, and devotion. I thought this was a really awesome and interesting show. It was like a live suspense movie and I absolutely loved it.

I think the relationship between Oona and Vernon is very touching, but at the beginning it certainly isn't. They start out as enemies, but then they eventually become caring friends. I think that this is kind of of a traditional trope in spy stories and stories where people are trapped or stuck with each other. It wasn't predictable though because they played it for so long that they didn't really like each other. There weren't signs all around saying "They actually like each other." They really get to see who the other person is and then they start to like each other. It is believable because the acting, the directing, and the writing all work together to make a really intriguing and meaningful relationship. The way that their lines at the beginning kind of snap back and forth between each other make them seem witty but not too cruel to have a relationship after. The characters are exhilarated by their discussions, so they pick fights. So the fights become kind of a source for passing the time with playful human interaction. But they also talk about their own lives and what they think about them. It makes a very meaningful relationship that you are very invested in.

I think that this play is generally really intriguing and engaging. But I feel that it was sometimes unspecific. You never really know what they're trying to find out. The writer might have done this to make it up to the viewer what the subject of the papers is. It makes it slightly discombobulating for me to have the people in the story know what is going on but not me. As they discover things, the audience doesn't always get told what the content of the discovery is. The play is about the relationship between the two characters, of course, so not having the specifics makes the audience focus more on that. I think that relationship is a really great one to watch, but I really wanted to know everything about the papers and the source too.

Suspense is a very big factor in this show because the entire time there was the looming presence of someone unknown. Sometimes the writer and director build up the tension right until you say, well I guess nothing is going to happen, and then they get you. My response was jumping up in my seat and trying to keep from screaming. Some people would curl up in their seats and hold on so no one could take them away. And some people would actually scream. I thought it was really fun and funny to watch and also to get scared so many times right when you let down your guard. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I've never been so scared of a Rubik's Cube in my life. You are interested in the relationship so much that you kind of forget that they could be killed at any moment, and then when you are reminded of it, it is even more terrifying because you've grown to love the characters even more than you did before. I think the ending is actually beautifully choreographed and terrifying because at this moment there is no one that you can see on stage and then one mysterious thing happens and then another and then the lights go out without you really understanding, but that is what makes you think about it a lot later.

People who would like this show are people who like developing relationships, suspense, and scary Rubik's Cubes. I think people should definitely go see this show. I think it is an awesome experience and I really loved it.

Photos: Rob Zalas

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review of Kokandy Productions' The Wiz

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Wiz. The book was by William F. Brown and the music was by Charlie Smalls. It was directed by Lili-Anne Brown. The music director was Jimmy Morehead and it was choreographed by Breon Arzell. It was based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. It was about a girl named Dorothy (Sydney Charles) who was blown away from her home town to a new land called Oz. She meets many strange people and things along her way back home. It's about journeys, being happy with yourself, and home. I think this is a super fun and amazing show. I'm so glad I got to see it!

I really loved the song "Ease On Down the Road." I've already listened to it many times since I've seen the show! I've been rocking out in my room. I am even listening to it while I'm writing this review! It was super funny when Lion (Chuckie Benson) had just joined the group of Dorothy, Scarecrow (Gilbert Domally), and Tinman (Steven Perkins), and he started trying to dance the dance that everyone had been doing for the first two incarnations of this song. He was just kind of stumbling around looking at everyone else's feet, which would be anybody trying to do this because they wouldn't have had any time to learn this dance. I guess he was not easing on down the road--more like awkwardly sliding down the road in a hilarious way It was poking fun at the magic that usually happens in a musical when someone just learns a dance with no practice. I think what made it especially funny was how this entire play was generally very magical, but when the Lion started not knowing the dance, that broke a convention. The show kind of says to the audience, "You thought we were going to do that again, but nope!"

The witches and wizards were hilarious! I thought that every single one of them had such a different personality. Some were girly; some were evil; some were doing drag, and some seemed just really high. The first time any of them entered the room they had so much flair! For example, when the Wiz (Frederick Harris) entered, it was with a cloud of smoke--literally. When he walked on stage he had like this Beyoncé walk where he put one foot in front of each other, but just elongated it as much as he could before he took the next step. Also Glinda's (Anna Dauzvardis) wig looked a lot like Nicki Minaj's, and she was generally fabulous looking! She seemed like a perfect beauty queen. I thought it was so funny when Addaperle (Angela Alise) walked on stage so wobbly. With those shoes I wouldn't have blamed her, but she also seemed intoxicated in some way, shape, or form. So was the rest of her fan club! And last, but not least, Evillene (Nicole Michelle Haskins). She was just flawless but so evil. And really dehydrated...get it? Her song "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" was so fabulous and she also kind of terrified me at the same time, which was appropriate for the character.

I really loved the four heroes: Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion. Each has a theme song that is insanely memorable. I really loved "I'm a Mean Ole Lion" which was basically trying to scare everyone away, but instead it made everyone in the audience absolutely adore the Lion. It is so full of attitude, but by the time the song ends you see he is as scared as anyone else. I think you learn a lot about the Lion in this song or at least what he pretends to be. Also the Tinman had a pretty amazing song, "Slide Some Oil to Me." It was very slick (haha) and jazzy. He was clearly a player. He seemed to be flirting with Dorothy. I think that's really funny because the Scarecrow seemed pretty defensive about how the Tinman was coming on to Dorothy. "You Can't Win" was the Scarecrow's song. It was about basically how in any situation there is no good outcome. It sounds like a pretty depressing song, but it isn't. It is a very peppy- and upbeat-sounding song, even though they are singing about how everything sucks. Dorothy and the Scarecrow had this really cute bit. The Scarecrow was talking about saving up for a brain, and Dorothy had to break it to him that you can't buy a brain. But I guess later he does get a "brain" but he gets it for free! Great deal! Dorothy had a really gorgeous song called "Home" and her voice is absolutely beautiful. It was about how hopefully if time slows down enough she'll be able to take things in and as a result be happy with her life. I think that is a really good message and it is a really beautiful song.

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: Michael Brosilow

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review of Filament Theatre's The Van Gogh Cafe at Fannie's Cafe

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Van Gogh Cafe. It was adapted by Andrew J. Lampl from the book by Cynthia Rylant. It was directed by Julie Ritchey. Menu development was by Chef Tony Golec and Stephanie Rybandt. It was about a cafe in Flowers, Kansas, run by Clara (Aissa Guerra) and her dad Marc (Les Rorick), where a lot of very strange occurrences happen. It is about family, how food brings us together, and magic. The interesting thing about this show is it was basically dinner theater where the dinner was centered around the events and food in the play. I thought this was a really fun show. I think it is a great outing for the whole family and I really liked it.

I thought the food was very delicious. I was surprised that it was because usually the theater is the main selling point in dinner theater. But in this case they were both equally good! The first course was a veggie muddle which was basically potatoes and other vegetables in a creamy cheesy garlic sauce. I think that was delicious. The lemon meringue pie was absolutely scrummy (as Mary Berry would say). It was very tangy and it was very firm, which was good becauseI don't like runny pies. The crust was really good and crisp and flaky. All five courses were tasty, but I think my favorite was the blueberry muffin, though I did have a problem with the size. They said in the story they were supposed to be mini. But I did see a preview so they may have changed the size since then. I thought the muffin was very delicious. I had to bring some of mine home because I can't eat too much in a short period of time, and they were still good the next morning. When I finished it I was sorry there wasn't more. "Why?!" I shouted to the blueberry muffin gods!

I thought that the "Lightning Strike" scene was hilarious but kind of dramatic because Marc got struck by lightning, but apparently the lightning was very artistic lightning and it made him want to write a bunch of poems. He writes these poems that seem to tell the future, like he wrote one for a woman (Lindsey Dorcus) about yellow flowers and then later she got yellow flowers from an admirer (Rejinal Simon). And because of the lighting strike the kitchen starts cooking for itself, which was a lucky thing because we got the delicious lemon meringue pie out of that.

Another element that I really liked was how they used direct address. I am not usually a really big fan of direct address but this time I thought that the whole experience was already so inclusive of the audience that it was actually a really good idea. At the beginning of the story, Judy Jones (Kristina Loy) was right behind us and would touch our chairs and talk directly to us, which I thought was really cool because it made you feel like you really were at the Van Gogh Cafe. I think if this had been a production on a regular stage, I would not have liked this element so much because it would have seemed artificial, but in this case it was welcome. Another thing near to the beginning that I liked was how they gave out animal ears to people so they could play the stray animals that had come to get food. I had already come adorned in puffball ears and my dad got to play a dog which was a hilarious moment in my life because I don't think I've ever seen him in public wearing dog ears, though I think it suited him very well!

My favorite scene was "The Silent Star." I thought that it was really heartwarming. A silent film star (Simon) has come to the Van Gogh Cafe because it is in a former theater that he used to perform in. Marc has been a fan of this star for years and they have a very long conversation about his movies, which you don't get to hear. I would have liked to have heard more of that conversation because I am very interested in silent movies and I love them. Then we get to the kind of sad part which is where the silent star dies because he has come there where he started his career to end his career. And now he gets to be reunited in death with his friend (Alex Ireys)--or maybe more than a friend--who had also performed with him a long time ago. And they started waltzing together which I thought was very sweet. I thought this scene was a nice change from the light nature of most of the other scenes.

People who would like this show are people who like artistic lightning, silent movie stars, and lemon meringue pie. I think this is a really really fun show. I thought it had great food and a great story and I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Filament Theatre

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review of TUTA's Gentle

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Gentle. It was based on the story "The Meek One: A Fantastic Story" by F. M. Dostoevsky. It was adapted and directed by Zeljko Djukic. It was about a Pawnbroker (Tom Dacey Carr) who marries an immigrant (Dani Tucker) to save her from having to marry a trucker. It is basically about their relationship and how it ends and all the regrets he has about how he treated her. I thought that this was a really moving and intriguing play. I'd never read the short story but I was really compelled to because I was so engaged with these characters. I thought they had amazing actors that made the story so compelling.

I thought the set (by Kurtis Boetcher), the lights (by Keith Parham), the sound (by Jeffrey Levin), and directing speech to the audience all melded well together to make you feel really invested in the play but from an outside perspective. The set was a very pristine, white, shiny room. But they had this white curtain that they put aside to unveil a window that was dirty and old. I thought that it kind of seemed like a metaphor to me about relationships. Every relationship has a disgusting window even though the rest of it might seem perfect and shiny. The lights when you first watch the room just seem normal. But then they would just flicker. And it made you feel uncomfortable but I think that was great because it immersed you more in the play. It kind of foreshadowed that things would look great for awhile in the play, but then they would flicker and you would see that something wasn't right. The sound also seemed sort of trippy and unsettling. There was beautiful classical-sounding music but it felt like it kept getting louder while the play was generally quiet. The direct address also added to the creepy feature of the play because it felt like they were talking to you but then they would just snap back into the scene in their world. Which I guess must have been how the Girl felt when her husband was shutting her out of his life, but then there were moments that he would talk to her like an actual human.

The scene where their relationship changes from acquaintance to a commitment is the scene where he proposes to her. But to get to this scene he has to walk through the frame that the rest of the stage is in. I thought that was actually kind of terrifying because it was so unexpected. You didn't imagine anyone would cross those boundaries. It told you that the next scene was going to take place after he has crossed boundaries in his mind. The family the Girl lives with has a very poised maid named Lukerya (Lauren Demerath) who is basically telling the Pawnbroker all the reasons he should marry the Girl. She gets very excited for the new couple, and I thought she was kind of a comic relief. But you never see her like that again because it is not funny for much longer. I thought it was really sweet to see the Girl's quirk that she had when he proposed. She said, "I have to think" and chewed her candy that she had gotten from the truck driver kind of secretly while she thought. I think he asks her to marry her because he feels bad for her but also because he really likes her. But I think he is worried about liking her, so he kind oppresses her and pushes her away when she tries to show affection towards him. And that is going to make her feel less comfortable around him.

I think that the reason why the ending is so sad is that you see that by the end he is actually trying to make her happy. But it doesn't work because she has already felt rejected. He starts the marriage by basically being her teacher and he has just saved her but he doesn't want or need anything from her. That makes her feel rejected so she goes off to be with another guy, possibly romantically, but we don't really know. Basically seeing what she is like when she is happy by spying on her with this other guy makes the Pawnbroker realize he loves her. I think that kind of an issue with his job as a pawnbroker is that he has to see her with someone else to see what she is worth.

People who would like this show are people who like crossing boundaries, thinking with candy, and metaphor-windows. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It has great acting, great tech, and a great story. It was amazing to watch and I loved it.

Photos: Austin D. Oie

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review of A Wrinkle in Time at Lifeline Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Wrinkle in Time. It was based on the novel by Madeleine L'Engle and adapted by James Sie. It was directed by Elise Kauzlaric. It was about a girl named Meg (Jamie Cahill) who went with her brother Charles Wallace (Trent Davis) and her friend Calvin (Glenn Obrero) to another dimension to rescue their dad (Michael McKeogh). They are guided by three witches--Mrs. Who (Javier Ferreira), Mrs. Whatsit (Madeline Pell), and Mrs. Which (Carmen Molina)--and meet a lot of strange creatures on different planets. It's about family, learning to love your flaws, and magical science. This book holds a very special place in my heart and I was happy to see someone was doing an adaptation of it.

My favorite scenes took place on the planet Camazotz. I thought they were particularly interesting because they combined music, precision, and deadpan expression. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin all went to the planet that Meg and Charles Wallace's dad was on. The inhabitants of this planet (Ferreira, Marsha Harman, Pell,and James Romney) all dress in grey and each of their children plays outside in perfect time together so it made a beat of the ball bouncing or skipping rope. It sounded really cool. Once Charles Wallace introduces himself it throws everything off for a second and then they snap back into their perfect, pristine world of rhythm. The inhabitants don't seem to be having any fun, and when they see the children that don't look like anyone else, they all became suspicious. The uniformity of Camazotz is very scary in an effective way.

I think there is a really great theme in this play of how parents can fail. The dad fails his wife (Vahishta Vafadari) and family by not being at home for years because he was held captive by IT, a scary giant brain that controls Camazotz who was spoken for by Red Eyes (Naïma Hebrail Kidjo). And then to protect Meg and Calvin, he leaves Camazotz without Charles Wallace. I think that it is a good lesson that parents can fail, but when they do, it doesn't mean they don't love you. That is important to learn as a kid. I think that all children in their lives will see their parents do something wrong. Meg, at first, just gets mad at her dad for messing up. But then later she has to have her own heroic moment and she is trying to help her family get back together and be a full family again. And she does forgive her father because he talks to her and she understands that he didn't mean to hurt her. This is a pretty insane story, and most parents don't have the excuse of having traveled to another planet and having been captured by a giant brain. But this story does have elements of truth to it: parents will mess up sometimes, kids will mess up sometimes, but you will always be family and love each other.

It is very hard to do a play of such a well-known and beloved book because everyone who has read the book has an idea in their brain of what it is supposed to be like. Meg, for example, seemed a little bit petulant in the play where in the book you feel like she is you. So you don't feel like she is whining in the book; you feel like she is expressing her opinion. Also when you think of Aunt Beast, who is not a human, you don't think of a human playing that role, so when humans do play Aunt Beast, it seems disturbing. Maybe a puppet or a different costume design that disguised their human form more would have worked better for me. Tessering, which is kind of like time traveling but you also go to different planets, in the book seemed really amazing and cool. On stage it seemed kind of awkward because the actors were just flailing their arms and legs around while balancing on other actors' feet. They are trying to seem like they are floating in air, but it didn't work for me.

People who would like this show are people who like good life lessons, cool uses of rhythm, and scary mind-controlling brains. I really loved this book and I think there are a lot of great themes in this play. It gave me a lot to think about afterwards.

Photos: Jackie Jasperson

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review of Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet. It was by William Shakespeare and directed by Marti Lyons. It is about two teenagers named Romeo (Nate Santana) and Juliet (Emma Ladji) who fall in love but their families are rivals so they have to hide their love. Then people die. It is about the teen experience, loyalty, and the dangers of prejudice. I think that this is a really great show. I absolutely loved it. I felt like it had a lot of awesome and amazing aspects. I'm not sure if I've ever cried at Romeo and Juliet before, but this one really got me.

I thought there were really great movement sequences, both dance (by Stephanie Paul) and fights (by Matt Hawkins). They made the Capulet's dance seem a little more like a teen party that you might go to (except your nurse and your mom are there!) because they used contemporary dance music and a mix of ballroom dancing and modern moves. They also had some really awesome badass fights. Like at the beginning when Benvolio (Andrea San Miguel) is trying to keep the peace between Balthazar (Cage Sebastian Pierre) and one of the Montagues (Andrew Saenz). She does it by some awesome sword fighting but then Tybalt (Sam Pearson) has to jump into the fray and it turns into this awesome four-way fight. It is so visually amazing. I also thought it was cool how in the Mercutio (Brian Grey) and Tybalt fight, Romeo and Benvolio both rush in to help Mercutio and once he actually dies (spoiler alert) Romeo kills Tybalt, but it a more violent way than I expected. I really liked that; it was really effective to see something so brutal and sad.

Even though this play is known as a tragedy it still has a lot of comedic sections. I thought that there were a lot of jokes that were relatable for me and the group of friends I went to see the show with, we were all between the ages of 12 and 14. There was a moment in the balcony scene when Juliet was calling to the Nurse (Karen Janes Woditsch) who is in the other room and she screamed "By and by I come!" in a very aggravated voice, but then she went back to talking to Romeo as sweet, perfect Juliet. I think every teen knows that situation. The balcony scene was funny overall, but also very sweet. Like one time Romeo was walking away and Juliet calls Romeo back. And he's like, "Oh it is my soul calling me back!" And then when he gets back she says, "I forgot why I called you back." And she sounds so apologetic. That is where the romantic bliss of the scene kind of retracts, but it makes it better because it seems more like a real teen relationship. Another funny part was how the Nurse always seemed to be in the market for a new beau. And she even seemed kind of interested in Romeo which was a funny recurring gag. But thankfully she backed off once Romeo and Juliet got married because it is not called Romeo and Nurse!

I think it is great that the romance in this Romeo and Juliet is less driven by attraction than it sometimes is. It is more about an emotional connection and not as much about just attraction. When they first see each other they do find each other attractive, but they start dancing with each other, which turns into talking together, which turns into a kiss. They were both being very witty talking with each other and the kiss came from him liking hanging out with her and not just because she was pretty. Romeo and Juliet in this production were like a couple everyone would want to be--except for the dying part. I liked how she got married just in the dress she was wearing. She didn't go and buy some fancy butterfly gown. She just went and got married to the person she wanted to be with and he liked her for just being her. They still speak in a very romantic way, but it doesn't make you want to vomit because the actors make the feelings seem so real.

Even though this play is mostly about the experience of the teenagers, you still get to see the adults' side of the story too. I felt like the characters that you don't always think about when you think about Romeo and Juliet really stand out in this production. Lady Capulet (Lily Mojekwu) I felt like had such a full character. Her story had a beginning, middle, and end and you could see that. It made me think that people don't pay enough attention to this character. The Prince (Elizabeth Laidlaw) is usually like the character that people go, "There was a Prince in this?" But I think she was memorable as a vessel for feminism in this show because people listened to her, even though they don't listen to any other woman in this show. Friar Lawrence (Demetrios Troy) seemed invested in helping Romeo and Juliet and seemed like a good person to talk to when you couldn't talk to your parents. He seemed like a person who had helped Romeo with his problems, like a psychiatrist. I think that it is good to show teenagers in the audience not just the side they relate to, but the rest of the story too.

People who would like this show are people who like relatable teen romance, intense fights, and partying with your nurse. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. I think it is an amazing production with amazing actors. I absolutely loved it.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review of Babes with Blades' Henry V

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Henry V. It was by William Shakespeare and it was directed by Hayley Rice. It was about Henry the Fifth (Diana Coates) and the war with France and how he learns responsibility to his country. It is about loyalty, royalty, and history. It wasn't just a normal Henry V. There were scenes of it set in a high school, which I thought was really interesting. The Chorus (Chelsea Rolfes) was basically like your history teacher and she was trying to convey extra information to you about Henry's family and the war and what happened after the war. The fighting, the storytelling, and Henry's motivational speeches are very important in this show and they were all done well. I think it is really awesome that Babes with Blades does all-women versions of Shakespeare; I think it is really empowering.

I think that Diana Coates did a great job with the role of Henry. All of her speeches seemed really relevant and interesting. Even though the character is not usually a feminist at all, she made it seem very feminist. Because everyone seems to doubt Henry, that he can do the job well, it reminds me a lot of the ways that women in power are portrayed or thought of as weaker than men. Henry shows that he is actually a good king even though people didn't think he would be one. This Henry seems so sincere whenever he speaks and like who you would want to follow and help support him. I think the St. Crispin's Day speech should be turned into a song so people can jog to it. I had heard it before, but never so well done. It was so motivational. I liked how intimate it was and how he was just talking to her group of friends and not a giant army. I feel like that made it more meaningful and it seemed like he was talking to you in the audience. I think Diana was very present the whole time and, whenever anyone else was talking, she seemed to be listening, which I think is very very important for actors. It is really great when you see an actor who is intriguing but also intrigued.

I thought that the Princess Katherine (Alison Vodnoy Wolf) and her lady-in-waiting Alice (Rolfes) had the best comic-relief scenes. In the first scene that featured them, Alice was just teaching Katherine the names of the body parts in English. Like she learned how to say foot, but she pronounced it like foute, which is a bad word in French. Katherine says it like she can't even believe that is what they call pied in English. They are giggling but also feeling bad for giggling. It reminds me of me and my friends. Katherine and Alice seem to be very close and I think this is a very cute relationship. I really hope Alice gets to stay with Katherine when she moves in with Henry. I thought this was a good break from the fighting to see a normal relationship that wasn't full of conflict. It also shows that Shakespeare is not trying to say all French are stuck up snobs like the French King (Catherine Dvorak), the Dauphin (Samantha Kaufman), and Montjoy (Alexis Randolph). In this scene they actually seem like real people. Also, of course, after Henry wins the war, the king had to give him his daughter Katherine to marry. This doesn't seem like the best plan, because she is a real person and not an object, but Henry does seem to be nice to her and it seems like he will treat her like a human being even though her father doesn't. Even though Henry and Katherine don't speak the same language, when they meet they try to put in bits of the other person's language. I think that means they are both trying to understand each other better.

I thought that the fights (designed by Kim Fukawa, assisted by Gaby Labotka) were really cool. They seemed really real and fluid. I thought the big battle near the end was awesome. I loved how it included all the actors and it all seemed very up close and real, especially in a small space. I love stage combat in a small space because it makes you feel so much closer to the action. The problem with stage combat in a small space if you are the actor is the danger of hitting someone in the audience in the face, and they did not. The show also had smaller, more intimate fights like with Michael Williams (Randolph) and Fluellen (Morgan Manasa). This was a comedic fight. They were wrestling on the floor and then the king walked in. It was not exactly the best time for either of them. There are two separate speeches from Fluellen and Williams and they ran them together trying to tell the king what happened, which was hilarious.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome stage combat, motivational speeches, and accidentally swearing. I think this was a really fun show. It made me see a different side of Henry that I liked. I think people who have and haven't seen Henry V can all learn a lot from this production and enjoy it.

Photos: Johnny Knight

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review of A-Squared Theatre and Halcyon Theatre's American Hwangap

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called American Hwangap. It was by Lloyd Suh and it was directed by Helen Young. It was about a family whose father Min Suk (Joe Yau) had left them about fifteen years ago to return to Korea from America. He has come back for his hwangap, which is a sixtieth birthday celebration. And of course things are kind of awkward between them because he did leave them behind for 15 years. Ralph (Jin Kim), the youngest, is excited to see his dad an he hopes he will stay around and do father-son stuff together. Esther (Helen Joo Lee), the daughter, isn't really sure how she feels except that her dad could have done better. David (Gordon Chow), the oldest, is really mad at his dad for leaving them behind. He, being the oldest, I think understood the situation better than any of the other kids. And Mary (Cheryl Hamada) is the wife and at first it seems like she doesn't want anything from Min Suk, but over the course of the play she seems to kind of change her mind. It's about family, aging, and how hard it can be to let someone back into your life. I think this is a very funny but heartfelt show. I think this is an intriguing story. I liked it.

Ralph was a really great character. He was the person who everyone wanted to take care of because he'd had a mental breakdown after he had gotten his degree in engineering. He seems to want to stay at home forever because he doesn't have to get a job. In his opening speech he talks about his dad and I thought it was a very touching speech. I really liked it. I think the reason why I liked his character so much is that you get to know him right off the bat. You basically get to see that he really misses his dad and he wishes he'd gotten to spend more time with him and wants to make up for the time lost. He seems so real; the way he talks isn't like a play. It is much less fluid and I think it really makes you connect with the character when you see that it is not that easy for him to express himself. But he can write it down in poems about aliens! He had a bunch of quirky things about him, like he had this book and it was full of a bunch of celebrity birthdays. He was always showing that off and looking up people's birthdays. He can't drink alcohol because of his medication, so he has a fridge full of Juicy Juice juice boxes. I thought it was hilarious and sweet how he would say the full brand name every time.

I think the phone calls between Esther and David seemed very sweet. They seemed to have a very close relationship. They would call each other all the time, and he would tell her stories, and they really wanted to see each other. The stories were there to make her feel better and to kind of explain the situation she was in and also just to be funny for her. Like he told one story about him trying to rescue her from a gnome, but instead he happens to find his parents in flagrante delicto. (My mom just taught me that phrase so I wouldn't have to say anything gross.) And he is trying to calm her down about their parents splitting up and then seeming to get back together. I loved the relationship between Esther and David. It helps the story go back in time without having to really go back in time. It seems like their relationship has always been like that.

I thought the relationship between Min Suk and Mary was interesting. You can't decide if they should be together or not. On the one hand he abandoned her and her children. And on the other hand they seem to make each other happy. One of my favorite scenes was when he had just come home and he was trying to win her back. And she was also bringing all the sass to try to make him jealous. He was trying to hint to try and find out if she had a boyfriend. And she says, "There will be no men coming over." Then she pauses for a second while he looks very happy. And then she says, "I usually go over to his place." I imagined an air horn sound and a bunch of people saying, "Burrrn!" And then eventually he seems to win her over by showing her his "sexy" shark pajamas that go up to his belly button and below his knee. I think their relationship is very cute at some moments but also very sad because you know what he's done to her and the family and how much he regrets it.

People who would like this show are people who like sweet sibling relationships, Juicy Juice juice boxes, and sexy shark pajamas. I think that this was a good show. I thought it was funny, heartwarming, and had memorable characters.

Photos: Marivi Ortiz

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Review of Broken Nose Theatre's At The Table

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called At The Table. It was by Michael Perlman and it was directed by Spenser Davis. It was about a bunch of friends who go to a vacation home in the summer for a weekend. And while they are there they get into a lot discussions about deep topics: like gender, sexuality, and race. They start to disagree about each other's ideas and they get into arguments while some of them also have their feelings all spill out at once. It is called At The Table because Chris (Elise Spoerlein) says that there are certain people who are invited to the table to discuss certain topics, and if you are not a part of that community you can't be at that table. Personally, I believe that you shouldn't be able to make decisions for a community you aren't a part of but you can have an opinion and support the community. I think that is a less restrictive version of what Chris is saying. I think the play revolves around the idea of who can sit at the table, and in the end supports the less restrictive view. I thought this was an amazing show. It makes you feel like you are part of the actual discussion. There are not that many plays that make you feel that immersed.

Lauren (Echaka Agba) really wanted to set up her two friends Elliot (David Weiss) and Nicholas (Johnard Washington). They are left alone and Elliot and Nicholas start having a very deep conversation, but they start to lean in different directions. I thought there were some really nice moments in this scene. Elliot had so many apologies; he even apologized for apologizing, which I know I have done before. Nicholas would do this thing where he would say something that was an insult but not quite an insult. And he would say, "yes, but I said it with a smile!" I thought that was hilarious and a cute quirky thing that he did. This scene really shows how complicated it can be when you have a friend trying to set you up with someone else. I think that maybe she wanted to set them up because they are both nice and gay, but that is not really a reason. She likes both of them and thought if they liked her they must both like each other. They might have been friends but, when you push a romantic agenda on them, people might get hurt because they aren't both interested. Like one of them might jump into the lake out of humiliation. Maybe.... Lauren's role is kind of like the mom; she is the responsible one who just wants for everyone to be happy. But Nicholas says that she is acting like a "mammy" toward these white people and she needs to stop doing that and get her own life. I think that makes her question everything and I think that is why certain chains of events that happen later in the play happen. I feel like she does maybe want to be a caretaker, but now she feels like it is wrong because of what her friend had to say.

I think that throughout this show you can see that, even when people are friends, they can have conflicting ideas. The straight white men in the show, Stuart (Evan Linder) and Nate (Adam Soule), seemed kind of biased at points but they didn't think they were because they had such a "diverse" group of friends, like an African-American woman, and a Jewish-Asian-American woman, a gay couple, and a feminist. But there really are a lot more kinds of people out there, and I think one of the most interesting conversations that the group had was about how they were not that diverse. Sometimes Stuart and Nate's biases even seem unintentional, like when they had just been talking about how women don't belong in the kitchen all the time, but then start ordering the women around and ask them to get more snacks for them--which the women go and do with Leif (Benjamin Brownson), who is Elliot's boyfriend. Then Stuart, Nate, and Elliot all are hanging out being "bros" together. And Elliot keeps calling attention to all these manly stereotypes he's going to have to comply with so that he can become one of the guys. But Leif has not stayed around in manly land; he went off to hang out with the girls. And when he comes back he sees his boyfriend in a nonsexual pile with the other guys and everyone starts piling up on each other. It is one of those moments that friends have that make sense at the time but later make no sense at all. I think that Nate and Stuart don't see their own biases because of how much fun they have with the rest of the people there. But sometimes what is fun for them, like joking around about ordering women to the kitchen to get snacks, ends up not being much of a joke because they actually expect the women to get them the snacks.

I think the scene with all the woman at the table at breakfast in act two was a break from all the arguing. It was a heartwarming moment and you get to see them create their first inside joke. Sophie (Jennifer Cheung) is the new addition to the group of friends. She is Stuart's new girlfriend, which is pretty awkward for Lauren who is his old girlfriend. She is basically telling a story of her sister scaring a guy off when she was at an abortion clinic. He sister had screamed "back the f**k off." Then whenever a new person walks into the room, Sophie, Lauren, and Chris scream that at them as a joke. I think this was a really relatable moment because inside jokes are such a big part of friendship. This is the solidifying thing for them becoming real friends.

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.

Photos: Matthew Freer

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review of First Floor Theater's Peerless

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Peerless. It was by Jiehae Park and it was directed by Hutch Pimentel. It was about twins named M (Aurora Adachi-Winter) and L (Caroline Chu) who are in high school. Even though they are twins, L has stayed back a year, so they can go to the same college without competing. Only one minority gets in to the college each year from their school. And they want it to be M, but it doesn't end up that way. Instead it is D (Jesse Massaro) who is part Native American. They need to get into that college so they make up a plan for M to take his place. It is based on Macbeth which is really awesome; I love modern Shakespeare stories. It was like a cross between Macbeth and Heathers, which are two of my favorite things. I thought this was a really fun and terrifying and suspenseful and amazing show. I have never seen anything like it, and I absolutely loved it.

There were a lot of awesome references to Macbeth that you see throughout the show. L and M are Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. L sets the whole plan in motion and persuades M, who keeps wanting to back out. D is Duncan because D has everything that L and M want. Later D haunts L and M, and L says "come back to bed" and I just had this moment of "Hey! Macbeth reference!" I think BF (W. Matt Daniels), who was M's boyfriend, was kind of like Banquo and Fleance because he was a friend and then M and L betray him. There was also someone representing the three witches, and that was Dirty Girl (Amanda Fink). She was basically like the goth girl that no one liked. She can tell the future, even though sometimes it is misleading. The rats, that are kind of like her pets and live in her pocket, they talk about a little in Macbeth: one of the witches says "And like a rat without a tail / I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do." They also had this moment when D's brother was knocking to indicate if he was ok and if he needed help. And then he knocks that he needs help and that reminded me of when Macbeth keeps hearing knocking after he has killed Duncan. Both M and Macbeth feel like "oh no, someone's coming for us!" and I think that M and Macbeth feel very similar in this moment: they feel like maybe they shouldn't have done what they've done.

I liked the way this play was stylized, especially how they used six lockers for the entire set (by William Boles and Arnel Sancianco). They didn't just use them for one thing. They used them for lockers, and doors, and beds. I also thought the sound (by Thomas Dixon) was really creepy and awesome. They used these rat noises that would make you shiver in your seat. They had these light panels (by Claire Chzran) that looked a lot like what you would see in a school, but then they would change to different colors. They used the school aesthetic for so many different things and transformed it, and I thought that was really interesting. The twins and Dirty Girl used stylized language, but the rest of the people were a little bit more natural sounding. When the twins spoke to each other they seemed like their minds were connected because they were always able to finish each others sentences. And sometimes one of the sisters doesn't finish her sentence and the other knows what they are trying to say but sometimes doesn't say it. I think that showed that the twins and Dirty Girl are different from the rest of the school. They all have slightly darker minds. It is stylized in a way like Shakespeare is stylized but it doesn't sound like Shakespeare.

My favorite scene was the school dance. I thought that it was funny, and it was cool to hear all the songs they were playing in the background. You learned so much in that scene about all the characters in it--like how M is a really awkward dancer. There were so many moments in that scene that made me want to curl up in a ball. Because slow dances at schools are cringe-y and terrible. Everyone is 5 feet apart from each other and trying to reach each other's shoulders without being arrested. It is the first time you really get to know D and you find out he seems to be an weird and sad person, but tonight apparently was the best night of his life because he was going to the dance with the prettiest girl in the school, M. You felt very sorry for him because he didn't really seem to have an eventful or happy life. But he tries to make the best out of his sad stories, which kind of makes them funny, even though he was telling a story about trying to kill himself. He talks about this strange vision where there was this guy he called his "chief" who said D was being weak and he should wake up, but he said "wake up" in a very forceful way and over and over again like he was reliving the moment, but for some reason it was still pretty funny. It was a pretty ridiculous vision he had, even though killing yourself isn't funny. I think this play does that a lot. It makes very dark situations funny. M and L in this scene are basically trying to get D to feel comfortable around them so they can murder him. There are also some awesome sibling rivalry moments where instead of arguing they just stare each other down and make the other person know they did something wrong. Like when M threw her tree nut cookie into the drink that D was having to save him from drinking poison, L just walked up very close to her face and stared at her. I think that is very relatable and hilarious.

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. I hear they added some performances, so there is a chance you can still see it!

Photos: Ian McLaren

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Review of The Actors Gymnasium's Quest

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Quest. It was written and directed by Leslie Buxbaum Danzig. The circus choreography was by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi with Tommy Tomlins. It was about a girl named Robin (Kate Braland) who was on a quiz show with three other kids (Emerson Caitlin, Ezra Danzig, and Sadie Sims) and they were sent to a magical land after asking the hardest questions: what is the most important time, who is the most important person, and what is the most important thing to do? There is a king (Amanda Crockett) who is trying to become the best king by answering those questions. They come across a lot of obstacles and people on the way to see the hermit (David Corlew) who is supposed to have the answers. I never thought I would see circus inspired by a Tolstoy story, but it really worked. I thought this was a really fun show with amazing circus performances.

There was a really cool scene where the king had a monologue about how he wanted to be the best king, his ideas about the questions, and the different strategies he would use to become a better king. But he had a lot of anxiety about messing up. The entire time that the monologue was happening he was tossing a hat from one hand to another and rolling it off his head to his arm to his leg and back to his head. Then other hats get added in until the king is juggling a bunch of hats and making each throw precise. It was amazing and mind-boggling to watch. He seems like he is juggling around a lot of issues in the monologue as he is juggling around a lot of hats.

I really liked the hermit trapeze number. The hermit and Robin were doing a trapeze act and trying to talk to each other about the three questions at the same time. I really like trapeze and I think two person trapeze is amazing to watch because you see the cooperation they have to have with each other. They had these moves where the hermit was trying to put Robin down on the ground, but Robin really wanted to stay up on the trapeze. It was awesome because it looked like there was a chance that she could fall but then she would get pulled up again and she would be totally fine. I think it was really amazing to watch them arguing as it was more death-defying because they were high in the air. They eventually learn how to cooperate with each other.

I thought it was really cool how they used kids and teens in the show. I really liked the jumprope section. They would have people flipping over these big jump ropes and it was really awesome to watch. They also did this drumming section where there were three people around each drum and occasionally one of them would run off to run with Robin. I thought it was awesome to have live music (by Kevin O'Donnell) done by the performers. I also liked the part where they used the jump ropes again but they didn't use them in the traditional sense, they used them as doorways, which I thought was really cool.

People who would like this show are people who like jump rope, hermit trapeze, and juggling hats and issues. I think that people should go see this show. It is a lot of fun and very exciting to watch. I think it would be fun to see with your entire family and I really liked it.

Photos: Cole Simon