Monday, April 16, 2018

Review of The Sound's Red Bowl at the Jeffs

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Red Bowl at the Jeffs. It was by Beth Hyland and it was directed by Rebecca Willingham. It was about a woman named Elena (Georgi McCauley) who had recently directed a version of Chekhov's Three Sisters that was nominated for a Jeff Award. And she has broken up with her boyfriend Gabe (Aaron Latterell), who had been in the show as Vershinin and is now dating Julie (Ella Pennington) who had played Irina. I think this show is really funny and relatable for people who are in the Chicago theater community because there are so many moments in this show where they will have had an experience almost exactly like that. That is very true for me. You have a lot of empathy for the characters, so it is hard to watch them go through such recognizable problems. The play is about friendship, betrayal, and the beauty and the struggles of making theater that is appreciated.

I really liked the very first part of the play where Elena, Caroline (Anne Thompson), and Alex (Faith Servant) were talking while they waited for the rest of the cast to show up. I loved their friendship and how their conversation was so casual. The rest of the show didn't have much casual conversation, everything had an underlying meaning and sometimes a backhanded tone. It was really nice at the beginning to see three women just talking about their lives and having genuine love for each other. It shows you how not everyone is in competition with each other. Alex had an audition that morning for the Goodman's Our Town, which ends up being a plot point later, but at this moment it just seems like a normal thing someone would talk about in their day, and Caroline does not seem jealous about Alex's opportunity. It seems like a lot of other times when people bring up opportunities in this show, people seem very jealous. I understand the feeling of jealousy, but I feel like a lot of the people in this play handle it in an immature way, which I think is why it is great to have this scene right at the beginning. It also makes the stakes in the play seem higher because there are friendships you care about right from the start.

This show had some really great Chicago theater inside jokes. If you know a lot of names of theater companies in Chicago, you will have probably noticed that a lot of names of theater companies have red in them. A Red Orchid, Redtwist, Red Tape, Red Theater, Redmoon. And of course this show is about a theater company called Red Bowl. Also Devin was on check avail for a Dick Wolf show throughout a good portion of the Jeffs. Being on check avail for Chicago ______, is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences and a lot of actors in Chicago have been through this experience. They also bring up that the play that wins everything is a really long show and no one really saw it. I'm kind of one to to talk about long shows, having been in a nine hour one, but I found it very funny all the jokes about how long the play was.

I thought it was interesting how they connected Three Sisters to this play. They didn't just try to make the show a new version of Three Sister, they just put some references and similarities in there. Hank (Carter Caldwell) was basically just Solyony--a little bit off and he sort of seems like he might need help. Sophie (Margaret Kellas) is really fake and loud, just like Natasha, and she is cheating on the play by sitting with her Hairspray cast just like Natasha cheated on Andre. Andy (Andrew Cutler) is told the person he loves doesn't love him just like Tuzenbach. Also everyone loves Devin (Pernell Myers) like the sisters love Andre. Caroline is the mother figure, like Olga. And Julie is young and kind of clueless just like Irina. Moscow is the Jeffs, everyone is trying to get there, but it is not certain if it is actually going to be good or not or even mean what they hope it means. I thought it was interesting that out of all the characters in this show, the one who seems most like a Chekhov character is Elena, the director, who didn't play a character in Three Sisters. She is depressed and reflecting on the past all the time and she is also the one who triggers a lot of the bad things happening. She is like a walking Chekhov play. Also her inability to be happy when everyone else is is very Chekhovian. Almost at the end of the play, there is a scene where she is alone on stage just staring forward and it was just very depressed Chekhov character of her to stare forward straight-faced and miserable and realizing she messed up.

People who would like this show are people who like inside Chicago theater jokes, supportive female friendships, and walking Chekhov plays. I think that people should go see this show. It is a lot of fun, and I think that even people outside of the Chicago theatre community will enjoy it too!

Photos: Montana Bruns

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