Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Review of Prop Thtr and Pop Magic Productions' In Sarah's Shadow: The Eleonoras Duse Story

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called In Sarah's Shadow: The Eleonora Duse Story. It was written and directed by Olivia Lilley. It was devised by Lilley, Dyllan Rodrigues-Miller, Nick Benz, Mary Iris Loncto, Kelly Anderson, and Davia Bhandari. The choreography was by Kelly Anderson Williamson. It was about a girl named Eleonora (Rodrigues-Miller) who was in her family's traveling theater company and she dreamed of a day when she wouldn't have to sleep on the streets anymore. So she started her own acting career in Rome after her parents (Bhandari and Benz) died. She gets discovered by an agent (Benz) but he is slightly sketchy. So when she starts getting rave reviews she decided to go out on her own to America. She starts to hang out with all the rich people and meets Gabriele D'Annunzio (Benz) who is a writer and Isadora Duncan (Loncto) who is the modern dancer. She becomes friends and lovers with them both, but one of the relationships doesn't work out that well. I think this is a really intriguing and beautifully done show. I learned a lot about Isadora Duncan and Eleonora Duse, and I want to learn a lot more.

I think this show had some really great dances in it. I'm a really big fan of dance. I loved how they mixed modern dance with more of a classical style. When they wanted to express emotions it was more modern and lyrical. They used the classical for more happy scenes that stayed happy and didn't transform halfway through the song. I really liked the dance where Eleonora was introduced to Isadora Duncan. It was a great introduction to her and showed how different her dance style was in this era. I thought it was so beautiful how her scarf flew around her. I also loved the dance where Sarah Bernhardt was on stage performing. The dance reminded me of how acting was back then; it was very melodramatic. I think the dance embodied that in a good way because it emphasized each gesture she made and each heartfelt motion. It is a good idea to think of this as more of a dance show when you go see it, because there is a lot of dancing in it.

I really liked the scene with D'Annunzio and Duse where they decided they were going to make a play together. It was a very sweet scene because you really got to see their real connection together and how they wanted to help each other with their careers in any way they possibly could. He seemed to recognize that she needed a play for herself so she wasn't always just doing Shakespeare. She could express her true feelings in a play written for her that had a character that she wanted to play, instead of just going through all the same emotions she'd done on stage a thousand times before. It really made me root for the relationship, and it made me very sad when it started to go off the rails.

It seemed like this show had more dance than theater, and though I liked both, I wish they had leveled out into more of a equally-distributed suspension. I wanted more theater because I wanted to see these characters saying their emotions and ideas more. I think expressing your emotion through dance is a powerful thing, but I wanted to see more of the speaking element, although the dance they do is very beautiful. Language is powerful in a different way than dance. Dance shows how you are feeling, but language allows more complex and detailed expression. I think it is a good idea to have dance in this show, and I think it is a good way to tell a simple story, like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, but I think it is more difficult to tell a complex real life story just with dance. So it is good that they also had elements of theater. I just wish there had been a little more to fill in some of the gaps in the story.

People who would like this show are people who like dance, intriguing characters, and flowing scarves. I think that people should go see this show. It tells the story of Eleonora Duse in a really compelling and beautiful way. I had never heard of her or her work before and I'm very glad I saw this show because she is such a fascinating person.

Photos: Beth Rooney

Monday, October 30, 2017

Review of Adventure Stage Chicago's Akeelah and the Bee

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Akeelah and the Bee. It was adapted by Cheryl L. West based on the screenplay by Doug Atchison. It was directed by Daryl Brooks. It was about a girl named Akeelah (La Shone T. Kelly) whose father died and her and her father used to do crosswords and learn words together. She had a school spelling bee and she won it and there was a man there, Dr. Larabee (Michael Anthony Rawlins), who had almost won the National Spelling Bee when he was a kid. He agreed to mentor her, but she doesn't always want to put in all the work. Her mother, Gail (Gabrielle Lott-Rogers), also isn't very supportive at first. Once she gets to the regional spelling bee she meets her rival, who is a boy named Dylan (Glenn Obrero). All he wants to do is win because his dad (Arvin Jalandoon) will be mad at him otherwise. It's about memory, family relationships, and community. I think this is a beautiful and inspirational story about moving on and determination.

I think the party scene had a lot of really good elements in it. It shows how different these two worlds (Barrington Hills and the Southside of Chicago) coming together are. When Akeelah and Georgia (Brandi Lee) go to Barrington Hills for Javier's (Brandon Rivera) birthday, Georgia hates the food and that basically the only thing to do is play Scrabble. She wants to have a real party and dance and listen to music. I do have to agree with Georgia that it doesn't seem like a party I would have had, but Javier and Trish (Gaby FeBland) are having a great time. The tableaus were very funny where Akeelah and Dylan were battling to the death at Scrabble. They played the Jeopardy theme music and while the Scrabble game was going on, in the background you see the conflict going on between Georgia, Trish, and Javier. You also get to see the conflict between Dylan and his dad at the end of the scene. It shows how Dylan can't really make any decisions for himself; his father takes him away from the party because he was losing at Scrabble against Akeelah.

I think there are a lot of really great relationships in this show. My favorite one was with Akeelah and Dr. Larabee. I think I liked it so much because it was really sweet to see how they could be like family to each other by teaching each other. He teaches her about her rhythm that she has and how every word connects to an origin. She helps him discover that it is worth the risk to have emotional connection again. I really liked how Akeelah and her brother Reggie (Eric Gerard) had a very close relationship. They looked out for each other and they had their sibling code. But he makes really bad decisions because he is afraid he won't be able to contribute to what his sister and his mother need. It really shows what family is really like. It shows that with family you give second chances, which makes me very emotional because I know that sometimes second (or even fifth) chances aren't enough, but it is very true. I also really liked the friendship that Javier and Akeelah had, but I didn't really catch on to the romance until they basically announced it. Their friendship was really adorable and they helped each other out through a lot of things. Like when he got out in one of the spelling bee competitions, he wasn't super sad that he hadn't stayed in over her and he was cheering her on.

I really liked how community was such a big theme in the show. I loved how everyone came around to help Akeelah prep for the National spelling Bee when she needed it the most, even her enemies, like Ratchet Ronda (Kyra Jones). Sometimes I did feel like the neighborhood seemed a little bit stereotypical. Like how there was the town drunk (Kelvin Davis) and the nosy Christian lady next door (Yahdina U-Deen). It wasn't new or something I hadn't seen. But I still like how much they use the community element in this play to show you how close everyone was in this neighborhood.

People who would like this show are people who like great mentoring relationships, community, and Scrabble tableaus. I think that people should go see this show. I think it has a really empowering message and I liked it.

Photos: Doug Haight of Fortune Fish Films

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ada Grey Interviews for You: Ava Briglia and Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton

I had so much fun conducting a virtual interview with Ava Briglia and Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton who play Summer and Freddy in School of Rock, playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, November 1-19, 2017.

Ava Briglia
Ada Grey: What is your favorite song or moment in School of Rock?

Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton: My favorite song in School of Rock is “Stick It To The Man (Reprise)” because I do a drum solo and I don’t have to jump around, like in the early version of the song.

Ava Briglia: My favorite song is one that Miss Mullins sings, “Where Did the Rock Go?” Lexie Sharp has an incredible voice and there is one part that gives me chills every time I hear it. My personal favorite moment is when me, John [Michael Pitera] (Billy), and Carson [Hodges](Mason) are on the side during the battle of the bands. We have so much fun together cheering on our friends while they rock out!

AG: What is your dream role?

GM-H: My dream role is Freddy, the drummer and that’s my role in the show. So, I’m very happy.

AB: I've been very lucky to play two of my dream roles in professional shows! When I grow up I would love to be Elphaba from Wicked or Zoe from Dear Evan Hansen.

AG: Do you have a role model? If so, who? And for what reasons?

GM-H: I don’t have just one role model because I admire many great artists like Michael Jackson, James Brown, Led Zeppelin...they are all great performers and entertainers.

AB: I have a lot of role models! My sister Beada has been my biggest role model and inspiration. She's hard working and always kind and supportive to all of her friends and cast mates. She has helped me train and always encourages me! I have a lot of adults that I've worked with that I admire. Christopher Sieber and Jennifer Bowles from my last show worked hard, were so professional, always kind and fair to all of the kids. The entire current adult SOR tour cast have been amazing role models. Rob Colletti and Elysia Jordan are like my big brother and big sister.

Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton
AG: Gilberto, I know you play several instruments. Which do you like most?

GM-H: The instrument I like the most is the drums. I also like to play the bass a lot.

AG: Ava, how is the role of Summer different from other roles you’ve played?

AB: Summer is a dream role for me because she is more than just a rule follower who obsesses over gold stars. She is very smart and knows that women should be equal to men and when Dewey says she could be president of the United States it's the best compliment she could get! She is similar to Matilda in wanting to make things right and standing up to everyone, even adults. The main difference to me is that Matilda is more matter of a fact and Summer is sassy and a little bossy. I am in love with both characters and feel like they are both a part of me.

AG: What do you love about being on tour? What’s hard about being on tour?

GM-H: What I love about being on tour is that you get to see different places and you try new restaurants, Go Karting, meet new fans, and new audiences. What has been hard on tour is that you have to concentrate on your homework.

AB: I am having the best time on tour. This cast is like one big family, I think we are very lucky. I love seeing and learning new things in each city, it's like one big adventure! The hardest part about the tour has been catching up on school. I do an online school and get new assignments daily, like a regular school day. During put-ins and dress rehearsals I fell a little behind. That's new to me because I could always make up work on my day off but a lot of times that day is a travel day. I'm almost there, with the help of our tutors I should be back on track very soon!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Review of The Taming of the Shrew at Chicago Shakespeare

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Taming of the Shrew. It was by William Shakespeare and it was conceived and directed by Barbara Gaines. The Columbia Women's Club scenes were by Ron West. It was about The Columbia Women's Club putting on their annual play, The Taming of The Shrew, losing one of their cast members and gaining another, and their ideas about women's suffrage. I think this is a really fun and eye-opening play. It made me think of the The Taming of The Shrew in a whole new way and made me realize you don't have to accept the sexist ending.

This play sort of takes place in two different worlds: Shakespeare's play and the Women's Club. You get to see the women's feelings about the play through little chunks in between scenes, which I think actually added a lot to the play because all these women's views are changing, not only about this play, but about women's rights in general. You can see people becoming a little more uncomfortable about their lines and a little less certain that what they are saying is right. At the end of the play, when Katherine (Alexandra Henrikson) gives her submission speech, you can sense everyone in the room start to get more uncomfortable and feel more depressed. I was like, "Oh no. This is going to be the saddest ending of all time." But instead they still tried to resolve things in the frame narrative. I think it did help to not leave everyone thinking "Feminism is hopeless; men are terrible." It left me thinking more about some of the things women did accomplish by displaying how they felt.

I think there were a lot of really great performances in this. I thought Henrikson did a great job showing her arc in both her role as Katherine and as Louise Harrison, who plays Katherine. Crystal Lucas-Perry played Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne and that character playing Petruchio, and those two characters were so different and played so well. I hated Petruchio so much when he was being mean to his wife, who didn't even want to be his wife. He was unappreciative but also a straight-up sexist. Kate Marie Smith, who played Olivia Twist and that character playing Lucentio, seemed so gallant and heroic as Lucentio. She made the part not just a boring dude who is in love with a pretty lady. I really liked Olivia Washington as Emily Ingersoll and that character playing Bianca. You got to see not only Bianca's arc, but Emily's of breaking away from her mother and becoming her own person. Bianca refusing to come to her husband when asked was kind of a parallel to how Emily had just broken away from her mother, which I think was a super interesting parallel. I think Lillian Castillo was really great comic relief as Lucinda James and Biondello. She also had a really great mustache for Biodello. When Biondello noticed that the real Vincentio (Cindy Gold) was actually there, and it wasn't the fake one (Ann James), his reaction was just priceless.

I think this show had some really great visual aspects as well. The set (by Kevin Depinet) was really magnificent. I loved the huge arch that was at the entryway and the glass door; it was all very 20s and reminded me a lot of the Newberry Library. The costumes (Susan E. Mickey) were also really cool. I loved how they used their bloomers as the breeches because they'd lost most of their costumes. I loved how they matched to the dresses they were already wearing. I thought that was really funny. And a way they produced a funny moment out of the bloomers was when Elizabeth Nicewander (James) wandered in and saw that everyone was taking on their skirts. At first she was shocked, but then she was like "Oh. Oh well." and just took off her skirt.

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.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review of Steppenwolf for Young Adults' The Crucible

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Crucible. It was by Arthur Miller and it was directed by Jonathan Berry. It is about a group of girls--Betty Parris (Kristina Valada-Viars), Susanna Walcott (Stephanie Shum), Mercy Lewis (Avi Roque), Mary Warren (Taylor Blim), and Abigail Williams (Naïma Hebrail Kidjo)--who were dancing in the forest with Reverend Parris' (Peter Moore) slave Tituba (Echaka Agba)and they are suspected of trying to call on the devil. Instead of just taking the punishment they would have gotten, they start accusing other people of witchcraft which leads to destruction and death. But one of the girls, Abigail, has had an affair with her old employer, John Proctor (Travis A. Knight), so she tells everyone that his wife Elizabeth (Valada-Viars) is a witch so that she can be with him, which is really messed up. And when Reverend Parris realizes he can't deal with all these witches on his own, he gets Reverend Hale (Erik Hellman) to help him. But eventually Reverend Hale realizes that maybe the children are lying. It is about the faults of religion, flaws in the judicial system, and acts of courage. I think this is a really intriguing and beautifully done show. It had great visual aspects and it was also really well acted.

There were a lot of really great visual aspects to this show. The set (by Arnel Sancianco) was eerie, like a skeleton of a house on a platform. And the actors all walk out on stage completely silent and sit around the platform in chairs. And then this drum music starts and the girls get up and start to dance with Tituba. I thought that was a really cool way to start the show. It was such a change from the silence and put-togetherness of the actors coming on stage at first. Then it became this loud drum music (by Kevin O'Donnell) and stomping dance. To me, it kind of represented how the play goes. It starts with something normal, a girl being sick, and then it turns into accusations of witches witches everywhere, basically everything going crazy. I thought it was cool how the actors changed on stage too. All of of the costumes (by Izumi Inaba) for different characters played by the same actor were added on to the base costume, and they were all black and white. Against a dark-colored set it was a really cool image.

John Proctor is a very complicated character. He makes a really bad choice to have sexual relations with his employee while his wife was sick. That doesn't make it okay at all; that makes it worse. But he knows he made a mistake and he wants to make up for it by helping save his wife's life. But before he knows his wife's life is in danger, he is sort of mean to her because of how guilty he feels about what he has done. That doesn't make it okay to be a jerk to her. It is sad that they don't get a happy ending, which is how you want it to go. But that is probably not how it should go because he deserved to have a little bit of consequences, but I think the consequences he got from the outside world were too harsh. His wife wanted to forgive him and live with him, but he couldn't do that in the end because he didn't want to lie again, even if it wasn't to her. He becomes a better person over the course of the play. Abigail is also complicated because you know that she isn't doing the right thing by accusing hundreds of people. But you feel sorry for her because you know the reason why she is trying to get Elizabeth out of her life is because she felt like John Proctor had promised her something. Abigail has been tricked by John. But she also makes a mistake. And she doesn't try to make up for it. She just makes many more mistakes that kill 20 people. But also, Abigail gets called a whore because she slept with John even though it probably wasn't all her idea. And even though John gets called a lecher, you mostly remember that he's honest in the end. I'm not sure the play is really trying to forgive Abigail, but it is really interested in forgiving John. But as an audience member I can see ways to forgive Abigail, especially with these particular performances. She does a good job of making me hate her in some scenes and in other scenes be able to see where she was coming from, which is a really hard thing for an actor to do. John Proctor is also not kind to her, he is physically rough with her, which I think adds a lot to how you can sympathize with her.

This show expresses basically what it feels like being a teenage girl. You feel like you want to be noticed, and you'd do anything to get that attention. They want a little excitement in their lives, so they dance in the woods and drink blood, like hanging out with your friends and going to a party when you are not supposed to. And the society around them believes them when they are lying and doesn't believe them when they are telling the truth, which is pretty messed up. I think it is great to have this as part of a theater for young adults show, because so many people will identify with it. It is always good to learn from things other people have done without having to face the consequences yourself. And this is why theater exists--to generate that learning but also catharsis. And that is good to show teenagers.

People who would like this show are people who like eerie sets, thinking about characters in new ways, and witches witches everywhere. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think it is a really great production of this play. It made me think about it in ways I hadn't the first time I saw it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Review of Choir Boy at Raven Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Choir Boy. It was by Tarell Alvin McCraney and it was directed by Michael Menendian. It was about a young man named Pharus (Christopher W. Jones) who went to an all-boys boarding school. And he was the choir lead for the school's a cappella group. But he had an enemy, Bobby Marrow (Patrick Agada), who wanted to bring him down because of his position in the choir and also his sexuality. Bobby's friend Junior (Julian Terrell Otis) is not completely on board with the whole making-fun-of-Pharus thing. The other student Bobby is trying to get on board is David (Darren Patin) a minister in the making who also isn't really sure about himself. AJ (Tamarus Harvell) is Pharus's main supporter. They are roommates and basically best friends. Bobby's uncle is the headmaster (Robert D. Hardaway), so it doesn't seem like Bobby gets the right consequences for his actions. Headmaster Marrow wants Pharus to succeed but moreover he wants his nephew to succeed, so he is sort of stuck. They have a new teacher, Mr. Pendleton (Don Tieri), who has come out of retirement to teach these teens, but he is not always aware that what he is saying might be racist. I thought that this was a fascinating and complex show. I loved the plot and I think it had some really great performances and musical arrangements.

I think Pharus is a really complicated character. You're rooting for him most of the time, but it seems like he has some faults. Like he tries to get what he wants without always considering other people's feelings. He is very competitive. One thing that is really good about him is that he will be himself no matter what other people think. He is also a really good friend to AJ and he wants to do well by his mother. As the choir leader, he seems to get everyone to do what they need to do. I think it makes for a very interesting story to have a main character who doesn't have all noble purposes. He loves people, but he also loves attention and being in the spotlight, and he is willing to make other people unhappy to get that.

I really loved the music in the show. I think the arrangements (music director Frederick Harris) were really great. I really loved the song "Rockin' Jerusalem." I think it was super cool and had some really good choreography (by Breon Arzell). They are all calling their parents while they are singing it and basically you get to hear how their home life isn't that great, and how they are all afraid of disappointing their parents or that they already have. The song is happiness and jubilation but while they are actually talking they are not happy or full of jubilation. "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" was a pretty sad song, as you can probably tell by the title. It is really sad because it shows how these kids don't get to see their parents much anymore. That actually might be their experience; they might feel like a motherless child. They are teenagers and they have a lot of stuff they should probably be talking about to their parents. But they aren't because they can't because their parents aren't actually there. They can talk to them over the phone, but that isn't the same. All of the song selections really worked with what was happening in the play, which made it super moving.

I think the show has three characters that are kind of the voice of reason in this teenage tornado: Mr. Pendleton, Headmaster Marrow, and AJ. Headmaster Marrow, when he is talking with Pharus after he has messed up the school song (but for good reason), he talks to him about it and finds out what the circumstances were and tries to solve the problem. Mr. Pendleton, although he doesn't make the best first impression, he does grow on the students and makes the choir get back together. And he talks to the headmaster about the headmaster's cluelessness about the sexuality of his students. AJ helps out Pharus a lot by helping him make his accusations and ideas a lot less extreme. But he also has a lot of fun with him and doesn't act like the adult in the room at all times. I think it is important to have the voices of reason in all these different packages instead of just having one guardian angel watching over everything because you get to see all the different ways people can do the right thing. And it shows that Pharus has someone there to talk to, literally in his room, and other resources, but there are other people in the show who don't know they have that, and they would be better for it if they knew they did.

People who would like this show are people who like voices of reason, complicated heroes, and Rockin' Jerusalem. I think that people should definitely see this show. I have never seen a show like it. It had a really interesting plot and was really well performed. I really liked it!

Photos: Dean La Prairie

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review of Kokandy Productions' Bonnie & Clyde

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Bonnie & Clyde. The book was by Ivan Menchell. The music was by Frank Wildhorn, and the lyrics were by Don Black. It was directed by Spencer Neiman. The music direction was by John Cockerill, and the choreography was by Aubrey Adams. It was about a couple, Bonnie Parker (Desiree Gonzalez) and Clyde Barrow (Max Detogne), who committed robberies and murders during the 1930s. It is about their lives and how they were brought together and how terrible their deaths were. It is about love, fame, and family. I think this show has a such great songs and a really compelling story. I really liked it.

My favorite song was "Picture Show." It was about how Young Bonnie (Tia L. Pinson) wants to be a movie star like Clara Bow and Young Clyde (Jeff Pierpoint) wants to be like the outlaw Billy the Kid. It was my favorite song because it was sung so well and it had really great music and is super catchy and I am still thinking about it now. It shows us the evolution of these characters and how even when they are adults their values are basically the same as when they were children because they still want fame but once they become adults, at that point in their lives, they will do anything to get what they want. You imagine they would grow out of it, but they never did. The adult version of "Picture Show" is "The World Will Remember Us" sung by the grown-up version of Bonnie and Clyde. It is saying "people will remember us because of our outlandish actions, not just because we could be like someone famous." They have discovered their way out of the Devil's Back Porch, where they live, and it is through each other, a few people's lives, and a lot of their money and cars.

There were a lot of visually stunning moments in this show. One of my favorites was in "The World Will Remember Us" where they recreated the famous Bonnie and Clyde photo shoot that they did with their guns. The pictures are just the most badass thing I've ever seen. (I'm a big Bonnie and Clyde nerd at this point. I watched a documentary and read a book.) Everyone looks so amazing in them but you are kind of afraid at the same time. I love how they just left them at a crime scene. Oopsie daisy, just dropped these badass photos. The recreation in the musical was so spot-on and perfect. I loved that moment. "God's Arms are Always Open" also had a great visual moment where it was basically a montage of Clyde robbing all of these different people, but also having a gospel section, led by the Preacher (Nathan Carroll), in between each robbery. The Preacher is reassuring Buck Barrow (Cisco Lopez) that he's doing the right thing going back to jail and that God will forgive him. Buck turned himself in because his wife Blanche (Missy Wise) wanted him to go back so they didn't have to live in fear anymore. Whenever the people singing gospel would raise their hands in praise, Clyde would put his gun up like he was robbing them. It was so disturbing and so cool-looking.

I had very complicated feeling about the characters of Bonnie and Clyde because they had done so many terrible things but were so in love with each other. And they were real people, which makes it more complicated because you want them to win, but in real life they would have just kept killing a bunch of people, which wouldn't have been great. "You Love Who You Love" is a song Bonnie and Blanche sang beautifully as a duet. It is basically about how hard it is to be the significant other of their partners and talking about how they can't choose who they love, even though it is hard being them. You see that Blanche especially is sort of a bystander and that they did terrible things, but it was because of love. I thought this was a really sad but true song. You can't help loving people even if you don't want to. You can try, but it hurts. "Raise a Little Hell" was a song that Clyde sang about how he had done so many bad things already, so why doesn't he do some more. There were some great vocal acrobatics in this. It is complicated because it is a terrible thing to say, but he is doing these things to get back to the person he loves most and away from all the people in jail who hurt him. So he has a good motive, but that doesn't make what he does to people okay. "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" is a really sad song sung by Bonnie and Clyde, but it is really beautiful. At the time, they are not doing anything wrong, they are just saying their feelings and that they know they haven't been saints, but they lived the life they wanted to and if they died now it wouldn't be so bad because they had the life that they wanted. They wanted to be famous, they wanted to be together, and they wanted to be happy.

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.

Photos: Evan Hanover

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review of The Rembrandt at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Rembrandt. It was by Jessica Dickey, and it was directed by Hallie Gordon. It was about a man named Henry (Francis Guinan) who worked as a museum guard in the Rembrandt gallery. And he was so entranced by Rembrandt. So one day, when a new recruit, Dodger (Ty Olwin), shows up along with an art student, Madeline (Karen Rodriguez), they all band together and it leads to a plan to touch the Rembrandt. Then the story switches from the present day to back to 1653, the time of Rembrandt. Rembrandt (Guinan) is going through some tough times and he has to get a painting of a philosopher out to his patron. Then Homer (John Mahoney) shows up on stage and starts talking about life and toilets. The last scene shows Henry going home to his sick husband, Simon (Mahoney), and his nurse Martin (Gabriel Ruiz). It is about dedication, art, and human connection. I think this is a beautiful show. It has such a great story, such great actors, and is so moving. I was crying by the end.

Community is a very big theme in this show. Every person has a team. Rembrandt is on a team for creating art. He is the artist but there are also people behind the scenes. Rembrandt's partner Henny (Rodriguez) is there to support him and get him food, since he is drunk and painting. His son Titus (Olwin), has gotten him paints and is talking to him and helping him splatter the canvas. Henry also has a team at the museum. It starts out just being him and Jonny (Ruiz). They both work at the museum and are both working to make sure the art is secure. Then as Dodger and Madeline come in, the purpose of the team starts to shift away from Jonny and his goal of protecting the works of art and not touching them. Simon has a team which is his nurse Martin and his partner Henry. They are a team to make the end of Simon's life a good one. The nurse is there by obligation, but Henry and Simon have a really strong bond and the last scene is really beautiful. Perfect segue into talking about my favorite scene!

My favorite scene was the last scene with Henry and Simon. They are basically joking around and having a good time, but some really deep things come up, like they talk about how Henry feels like he disappointed Simon and wasn't a good enough partner. They also reminisce about when they first met and how everyone seemed against them. The scene shows that they are very in love, even though they have been together for so long. They hadn't been a perfect couple; they'd been through some hard times. But they persisted. It was very realistic in a really powerful way. It was very moving because it seems like a couple that could actually exist: not perfect but persisting. I think my favorite funny moment in this scene was when they were talking about pistachio pudding and Simon didn't want any of the chocolate that they had; he only wanted pistachio. Henry was talking about how he would get it tomorrow. And Simon was complaining about his chocolate pudding. Then Henry reveals [spoiler alert!] that he's had the pistachio pudding all along. (*gasps*) Simon then jokes about how what if he'd died right then, and he never got his pistachio pudding, even though Henry had it all along. It was hilarious, but it was also kind of bittersweet. Simon was joking about the inevitability of death, but they still found it funny because it was such a prominent part of their lives right now. It was so moving because it was so genuine and adorable. And you just want them to be together forever, but you know that can't happen.

There were a lot of funny/charming moments in this show. One of my favorites was when Dodger and Madeline were having an argument and then suddenly Henry bursts in and says something along the lines of "You guys should definitely go on a a date," and that was funny because that was the last thing they wanted right then. But then they did end up making plans to go on a date, and I actually think they would be pretty compatible. There is also some physical comedy when they are all about to touch the painting and Jonny, the guard with the gun, pulls out his gun and threatened to shoot them. It is really overboard, but it is really hilarious because you are pretty sure he won't do it. Dodger is the one who starts the idea to touch the painting, and he just starts telling people to touch it, which I don't think is the best work etiquette. Homer probably wasn't a really funny guy in real life, but in this play he was pretty funny. And he talked about everything from toilets to poetry. Homer tells us how it is weird that people use the toilet in a pot, and you realize that poetry and toilets are not that far apart. Both are things that disguise everyday life as something more sophisticated. I've never gone so deep into talking about the similarities between toilets and poetry. And I don't think I ever will again.

People who would like this show are people who like touching paintings, poetry toilets, and pistachio pudding. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. I think it is such a beautiful story. It is funny, has so many beautiful messages, and the acting is great.

Photos: Michael Brosilow