peteg's blog - noise - theatre

Back to Back Theatre: Lady Eats Apple at the Carriageworks.

/noise/theatre | Link

$40.01 = $35 + various surcharges, booked 2017-03-16 on fear of it being booked out (it was, and the session I would have preferred — Friday's Auslan-interpreted one — was too). It's been more than three years since I've been to the Carriageworks; their ritz bar doesn't do coffee at 7:30pm on Saturday nights, which makes reading Voss a little more challenging.

The sales pitch for this one was that it was developed collaboratively by people with and without disabilities. I enjoyed the one piece of deaf theatre I saw while studying Auslan in Melbourne, and Adam Hills makes much gentle, powerful humour from sign language and his missing foot. Of course placing young adults with intellectual disabilities at the centre of this sort of thing is challenging for all concerned, and one may wonder if the audience is going to feel things are too Ricky Gervais for comfort.

Well, two girls did leave during the performance. (Actually getting in was a bit of a challenge with all my gear as they forced us through an inflated airlock/vaginal type structure.) The headphones seemed spurious. The first of the three acts (An Insecure God) was something of a mashup of Christian creation myths, somewhat successful. The second (Matter Creates Matter) was a washout. I got thinking that it might have been due to my glasses having a polarization filter as I could make out some shapes clearly through my peripheral vision, but really there wasn't enough to get a grip on. Act 3 (The Human Bond) has the cast play contract cleaners, charting the paucity of personal growth opportunities (driving was verboten for the bloke with Down Syndrome) and in particular romance. It was somewhat effective: Sarah Mainwaring's diction is a wonder, so careful, precise, and evocative she should be making airplane safety ads. Seriously, I would pay attention to those if she was: her every word left me hanging.

I sat in the second row and was surprised to strike up a conversation with the Persian bloke I climbed over to get to a seat. (Theatre seating designers, think a bit about how general admission works, and don't stick one set of steps up the middle; put one on each edge of the risers.) He was generally quite down on Sydney. His partner was silent. Afterwards I rode down to the new-ish Max Brenner's in Alexandria, which strangely enough is open until 11pm.

Cameron Woodhead saw an earlier version in Melbourne. Jo Litson says the music for Act 2 was by Chris Abrahams. Jane Howard.

Red Line Productions: Crimes of the Heart at the Old Fitzroy Hotel.

/noise/theatre | Link

Last minute freebie. Preview, opens Friday. Straight southern gothic, oh my. The mostly-female cast was great, the production solid in this first outing. It was a bit weird being back at the Old Fitzroy Hotel; the coffee neon in the corner is still there, the bar about the same; it could have been 2005. The ride over and back was quite fun; the city is quite dead after 7:30pm, and the skies had been blue for a few hours. Got the CB400 up to 10.5k revs in first gear on the spaghetti monster flyover. :-)

Triumph by Louris van de Geer, at IO Myers Studio.

/noise/theatre | Link

$20, booked 2017-02-26. Stupidly I filled this first working week in a long while with night events. I'm toasted.

If one scene makes a play, the final movement of this three-parter, set in a misty eucalyptus forest, evoked by a smoke machine and the passivity of the cast, justifies going to this. The playwright is from Melbourne, and reviews of a production there make me think I missed a lot of what this is about. It's a cliche that people bound through adversity; perhaps there's a new angle in here somewhere. The production is part of the Performance Production course at the School of the Arts and Media at UNSW.

It's been almost 18 months since I last went to the theatre. Earlier this year I signed up to all the whats-on mailing lists I could find — though I expect most of the action is on FaceBook these days — and scored a freebie to a preview of Superhal at NIDA on Monday night past, which I went to with Sugam. I refrain from commenting on it as the performance was a preview; The Sydney Arts Guide reviewed it after it opened.

The Artistic Home: The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan.

/noise/theatre | Link

Goldstar ticket: $14.00 + $4.25 service fee = $18.25. Rode the bike up from South Oakley. The forecast was for high teens but it turned into a beautiful Autumn day of light winds and twenty degrees. This was the first venue I went to in Chicago; their production of The Late Henry Moss put me off the rest of the previous season. I guess I was sold on some kind of nostalgia and a solid review by Dan Jakes in the Reader. This session was packed.

Well, I tried to get into it but was defeated by sleepiness. Should have had a caffeinated coffee beforehand. The play takes a similar ensemble form to Balm in Gilead but there is never more than half the cast on stage at once. The set perfectly evokes a dive bar down on the waterfront of San Francisco, 1939 (or so I imagine). The depression and coming war are in the background, and this is all small-scale trials and tribulations of people grafting in the neighbourhood, or getting in the way of that grafting. There's some very funny dialogue in the middle between the philosophizing longshoreman McCarthy and his childhood buddy Krupp, a cop. An anonymously rich man anchors proceedings, which is somewhat flawed as he almost always presents as the puppet master of his offsider.

Jacob Davis.

Theatre Y: An Impressive Presentation of Lovely Evidences: Underneath the Lintel by Glen Berger

/noise/theatre | Link

The last Theatre Y show at the Lutheran Church on Francisco Avenue near Logan Square, a preview. No tickets this time, and the customary free beer, before and after; a full house, an appreciative crowd. Where else were you going to be on this Friday night?

This play is about a Dutch librarian who thinks he is Poirot. That this is already a totally preposterous premise for worthwhile theatre should have you planning to be at one of the out-and-about taking-it-to-the-people editions. Darren Hill is the sole performer and perfectly inhabits the character. (The accent and mannerisms so obscure his native self that I wouldn't have guessed he was from Blackpool.) In the talk afterwards the production was unpacked as a collaboration between Darren, who had been fascinated by the play itself for several years, and Melissa, who as director helped him completely realize the Dutchman, in particular by constructing a vocabulary of physical tics that were startingly persuasive. The character's identity is ambiguous. Melissa observed that it was unusual for her to be part of a production that drew laughter from the audience. She said it was unlikely to be reviewed by the mainstream Chicago press as it was not in a traditional format, with a fixed address; I'm wondering how the bar-goers of Chicago are going to take it. Twin boys (age 12) framed it with ukulele-based musical pieces, in bluegrass (?) style.

My only disappointment about this show was in not seeing Melissa perform one last time. I managed to unload The Moon of Hoa Binh on Evan, and was the last to leave. It was raining earlier in the day so I took the bus and Blue line there, but walked home in clear skies.

Update 2015-10-03: Review in the Reader.

Oracle Theatre: This House Believes the American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro at the Public Access Theatre.

/noise/theatre | Link

Free, $20 donation at the end, booked 2015-08-27. Took the red line up as I was feeling lazy, and the weather was supposedly dicey. This was a recreation of a debate in the Cambridge Union in 1965. Apparently the original is online. The opening statements by the two Englishmen were provocative; for the negative, the argument was that the American Dream would be further along if the American Negro had been treated better. (The title elides "has been achieved".) The main part of it was essentially a pair of monologues from James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr, and I found neither particularly edifying. Buckley in particular made it clear how much American rhetoric rests on the invocation of tribal shibboleths that are substantially irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is perhaps why it is unconvincing to foreigners. I gave up trying to process his assertions very early on. But where are the contemporary debates held now?

The production is quite OK, and has been staged multiple times. Aimee Levitt at the Reader got right into it.

Profiles Theatre: The Jacksonian.

/noise/theatre | Link

Goldstar ticket: $10.00 + $6.50 service fee = $16.50, bought 2015-08-06. I met up with mrak and Ang for lunch in Chinatown. We took the water taxi back to Madison, and as I was too lazy to cycle I then took the red line up to Sheridan. Those stations are seriously not accessible; carrying the bike up and down stairs and squeezing through those gates is not fun. My old reliable Asian Mix Cafe was closed, this being the Sunday of the Labor Day long weekend, so I had to make do with a couple of donuts and a 312 beer. I got talking to Vicky, who wrote Late Night Catechism.

So, this is another Southern gothic with a girl running around a hotel room in her undies (at times). There's a demented dentist who loses it as his family life decays. The barkeep is a tad psychotic and the maid on the make. Yeah, it's a solid production of some tired and mediocre material. I saw Juliana Liscio in Take Me Back; here she has a meatier role but is still somewhat squandered.

The cycle home was pleasant, though there seemed to be a mild, steady southerly all day.

Tony Adler. And many others.

Windy City Playhouse: Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight by Peter Ackerman.

/noise/theatre | Link

Goldstar ticket: $12.50 (house seating) + $4.00 service fee = $16.50, booked 2015-08-11. Beautiful cycling conditions, just a light and slightly cool wind later in the evening. I finished reading Pynchon's Bleeding Edge at Heritage Bicycles, and then hurried dinner at Royal Thai on Montrose, an adequate chicken cashew.

Got upgraded to "sit anywhere", so sat in the front row in a swivel seat. Not optimal, but all the seats had their drawbacks. It was perhaps two-thirds full, and the crowd mostly older than me. This is a clothes-on sex farce, and barely amounts to a piece of fluff. The first half had some spirit, but the second half chose not to cash those chips, perversely settling instead for repetition on the theme of "is he gay or what". I was unsettled as things became quite disconnected at some point, and I think the take-home was that everything is forgivable. The material pulls its punches at the end by not invoking the obvious racial slur, which would have further deflated things I'm sure, but perhaps given those on their date nights something to talk about afterwards.

I beat the Google bicycling hero benchmark for the route home, which probably means it's about time for autumn.

Tony Adler. Jacob Davis.

Citizens' Relief: Ashes to Ashes by Harold Pinter.

/noise/theatre | Link

Goldstar ticket: $10.00 + $3.75 service fee = $13.75, bought 2015-08-09. A beautiful night to ride over to Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art near the corner of Chicago/Milwaukee. (These guys improbably control the domain art.org.) I had a Revolution Brewing WIT (wheat beer? — ale with spices) in a can. This being early in the run, there were only three audience members, which was a shame. Apparently there there 25 on opening night this Thursday past. Citizen's Relief consists of the actors Simone Jubyna and Mike Driscoll who self-direct. Both donned English accents. Simone as Rebecca is suitably arch and somewhat robotic/medicated. Mike as Devlin is creepy in his reassured, unreflectively stolid British self absorption. The material, perfect for a simple set and this pair of actors, is a somewhat unsettling not-quite-dialogue that jars with domestic banality. Vintage Pinter, in other words.

New City Stage. Justin Hayford at the Reader.

The Poor Theatre: Take Me Back at Collaboraction, Flat Iron Arts Building.

/noise/theatre | Link

$16.00, bought 2015-07-22. 2pm, which is a little early for a matinee. The closing session. Hasty lunch at the Subway near the corner of Division and Halsted. Quite pleasant cycling weather, especially with pumped-up tyres. I saw The Paranoid Style in American Politics in the same theatre recently. This company put on Edgar and Annabel a while back, with Dillon Kelleher starring in both. Alex Fisher was Matchbox in Desperate Dolls; here she plays a natural/neutral highschool sweetheart. Susan Monts-Bologna (as the mother) and Juliana Liscio (small-time partner in crime) were new to me. It was a good production with good actors with polished but not great raw material (from Emily Schwend); it's far too easy for Southern Gothic to slide into sentimentality, or small-town woe-for-those-who-never-escaped (from Muskogee, Oklahoma in this instance). Far better to take it to the limit.

Justin Hayford at the Reader. Jacob Davis is less gushy. Scott C. Morgan observes the excellent sound design.

Making Rain Productions: Coronado at the Cornservatory, 4210 N Lincoln.

/noise/theatre | Link

Goldstar ticket: $10.00 + $3.75 service fee = $13.75, bought 2015-07-14. Lunch was so-so Vietnamese chicken curry noodles at Simply IT, followed by an attempt at snoozing next to the golf course at Belmont Harbor which was stymied by vast numbers of biting insects. Loads of dragonflies also, which don't seem to bother humans. Dinner was Singapore noodles at Asian Mix Cafe, similarly meh. Warm, but not too humid for long bike rides.

This is something like the Dennis Lehane version of Gone Girl. The acting was quite solid but the scene changes were frequent and momentum-destroying; the play is cut up like a modern movie. The use of physically-dissimilar actors playing the same characters in different threads was an effective way of prolonging the mystery. The title had me going because I thought it referred to the actual locality in San Diego, whereas I think Lehane's Coronado is everywhere small-town USA, somewhere affected by hurricanes, with enough unsavvy trailer park residents to sustain a livelihood from insurance scams. The compromised shrink was little more than a cliché. The Gone Girl herself was a bit too controlling, to no particular end; her raw need was enough. The source material garnered a damning review in the New York Times.

The Cornservatory is one of those "shopfront" theatres a long way from the Loop, in this case up Lincoln (and not Broadway), and it typically hosts comedy. I rode home via Lincoln/Damen/Clybourn, trying to avoid the bros of Lakeview, lit by a big full-ish moon.

A Red Orchid Theatre incubator: Celebration by Harold Pinter infused with the music of Mauricio Kagel.

/noise/theatre | Link

$10.00 + $1.00 Convenience Charge = $11.00, bought 2015-07-22. Presented by the incubator, "a caKe experiment with music by beyond this point". Directed by dado, who also played the role of Julie. Two-thirds packed, and where else are you going to be on this Friday night? Ran for about an hour, played for laughs and cut up with miscellaneous po-faced percussion. The raw material is a brutal accounting of the Posh-and-Becks nouveau riche trash culture of the late 1990s. Elliot Baker as Lambert nailed his part of that; Dan Wenzel as Matt was suitably inert. The interjecting waiter spouted a mix of the true, the plausible, and the manifestly fraudulent, all of it tosh, embodying the earlier English tradition of guilt by association; Stephen Walker's fine comedic timing made that all work. Maria Stephens nailed the creepy slutty resistability of Prue, and Carolyn Molloy may have been reading the BBC news while recounting her complete faith in the flaws of her beau Russell, played with perfect insouciance by Michael Doonan. David Weber as Richard the restaurateur was cannon fodder.

Annoyingly the Chicago Reader has decided to severely reduce the number of theatre reviews they publish.

Sideshow Theatre Company: Stupid Fucking Bird

/noise/theatre | Link

Goldstar ticket. $20.00 + $6.00 service fee = $26.00. 3pm. On the suggestion of Adam, the ever present barman at the Chopin Theatre, who is doing this company's books. Had a late lunch at Simply IT Vietnamese, a not-so-tasty ginger chicken claypot. The Taste of Lincoln got between me (at Fullerton) and the Victory Gardens no-longer-Biograph Theater. Apparently based on Chekhov's The Seagull, about which I know nothing but am guessing is the source of his principle about stage props. This has its moments but I felt a similar distance from it as I did from Three Sisters; wallowing in lurv-induced self pity does not make for good drama, and no amount of "new kind of theatre" contrivance is going to change that. The cast did modulate the emotional temperature quite well, but it's oftentimes a long slog between meaty bits. The set and scene transitions are nicely handled, with Katy Carolina Collins belting out some tunes. I didn't recognise Nina O'Keefe from The Other Place. This is a reheat from last year, with the same cast.

Oracle Theatre: The America Play at the Public Access Theatre.

/noise/theatre | Link

It ended up being a beautiful day despite the dire warnings of thunderstorms for the afternoon. I got some lunch at the Simply IT Vietnamese on Lincoln. The curried chicken was quite OK. Afterwards I cycled up to the eastern side of Belmont Harbour, which is as pleasant and secluded as anywhere near the city. Between snoozes I ploughed on with Ahmed Rashid's Pakistan on the Brink, which is sadly dated. The first chapter is precisely the story that Seymour Hersh has called into question. Had an early-ish dinner at Asian Mix Cafe, the same-old chicken laksa, which was its usual tasty self.

The theatre was almost at capacity. The play itself is sometimes difficult to grasp, being somewhat surreal, though the production is top-notch and the humour leavens the opacity. In particular Travis Delgado was great as the "lesser" Lincoln. The grave-digging second half was harder to get into.

Chloe Riley at the reader. Jacob Davis.

Theatre Y: The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez by Peter Handke.

/noise/theatre | Link

$20 + $2 booking fee = $22.00, booked 2015-06-04. A beautiful day for cycling around Chicago. Had a so-so lunch at Pei Wei, and got suckered by Parts and Labor, a theme pub on Milwaukee with a veneer less than an inch thick. Coffee? Not really, but please be seated anyway! Grr.

This is a summer dialogue between a man and a woman, more presences than characters, set in a forest or garden. The premise is that there be no action, just talking. The bloke is a botanist (a nod-to-self by Handke), while the woman is emotional. As Melissa said afterwards: the man looks at the world, and the woman at the man.

It was damn hot in the back of the church (hotter than hell, some may say), pretty much packed, and the beer beforehand left me feeling spacey. I enjoyed the interaction of the two actors, the sting of the man's occasionally prurient questions, and the woman's evocation of her past. It went all Hal Hartley at times, with the two talking past each other. (I'm thinking of The Unbelievable Truth, where Adrienne Shelley is not getting a lot of understanding from her highschool sweetheart.) An apple passes between the pair, a clear riff on another kind of subverted creation. I found it meditative and may have to go back to study the filigree.

Afterwards Melissa Lorraine and her co-star Kevin V. Smith held court over more beer outside, in a narrow space running alongside the church, with Kevin's parents and another older couple. I hope this helps them to decompress. I got talking to her husband Evan at some point about philosophy, and later Melissa about the kinds of works she's keen to realise. Pressed on the misogyny of the work (which, in my valueless opinion, was plausibly realistic), she commented that as a woman she would have gone further. I noted afterwards that the playwright copped some stick for his commentary on the Serbian/Croat war in the 1990s; in particular, Rushdie took a spray that I presumably read in the late 1990s in his essay collection Step Across this Line.

Tony Adler got into it. I wish he'd expand on his beef with their production of Happy Days; that was enough to bring me to everything Theatre Y does while I'm here. Jacob Davis.

Piven Theatre: Melancholy Play

/noise/theatre | Link

Goldstar ticket: $12.50 + $4.00 service fee = $16.50, bought 2015-05-26. Took the Metra to Davis, Evanston, notionally the downtown, thronged with kids studying at Northwestern. The wifi at the Unicorn Cafe is pretty bad, and it got a bit colder than I expected. Dinner at Siam Splendour Evanston, a mostly-decent Bamee something-or-other. I went on the suggestion of Eric at work, who did warn me that it was a piece of fluff (or almond shells). Marissa Oberlander at the Reader says similar things, but I evidently lack the ability to relate like she can. The vacuity sucked the fun out of the fluff, and turned the harsher observations (paraquote: "American men only experience/express happiness and anger") into clangers. The cast was valiant, and the musicians able in support. Some people left at interval, and I was tempted but wedged in by the generally aged crowd. I can't complain too much as it was solidly in the tradition of the American musicals I saw at The Muny several years ago. The space was quite pleasant, and they take their community art development seriously in that part of Evanston.

The Best of Chicago Spoken Word at Uptown Underground.

/noise/theatre | Link

$15.00, booked 2015-05-30. Part of the Pivot Arts Festival. I was lazy and took the red line up. Laksa at Asian Mix Cafe, reliable as always, and then a long schlep up Broadway. I was hoping for more from the support acts, many of whom presented their own poems; the greatest hits from the Chicago Slamworks people was most of the show. I think I made the right call to skip their most recent production, about coming-of-age. The audience was thin. The venue is pure retro, right down to the surly bouncer who was too busy updating his Facebook/Tinder/whatever to bounce anyone. I had a Poets stout while waiting for it to start (at 8pm, and not 7.30pm like they promised).

Silent Theatre Company: The Seven Secret Plays of Madam Caprice at the Chopin Theatre.

/noise/theatre | Link

Goldstar ticket: $10.00 + $5.25 service fee = $15.25, bought 2015-05-18. Downstairs, 4pm. Adam the ever-present bar dude was tending bar there rather than at the top of the stairs, and wasn't vending decaf, so I got a flavourless ginger ale. I walked over in grey skies: cold, windy, but at least not rainy. Lunch at Pot Pan Thai beforehand: I'm developing a taste for their chicken penang.

Tony Adler hated it, and I was worried that no-one would show. In the end there were about 15 people, which was enough to fill out the front rows. He's dead right that the seating is a long way from optimal; quite often one of the actors stood between me and the action. The Hammer Trinity guys had it figured out: a larger floor space, and more spatially linear action. Marcus Fittanto was great, as was the rest of the cast, and the production was solid, with some excellent lighting. Lauren Fisher evoked Paulette Goddard from Chaplin's days of silence, and Gillian Hastings anchored things with a fabulous voice and indefatigability. Josie Nahas floats around like she's born to it. Still, mental illness is not something to be played lightly, and scruting the plays-within-the-play is beyond me.

Irish Theatre of Chicago: The White Road at the Den Theatre.

/noise/theatre | Link

Goldstar ticket: $15.00 + $4.75 service fee = $19.75, bought 2015-05-18. 3pm, with my fellow oldies. A recounting of Shackleton's abortive imperial Antarctic expedition during the Great War. This is a solid production with some good acting, but I can't imagine any Irishman (and I mean any) ever saying "For England!" in a non-ironic way.

Chloe Riley got into it. I went on Grace's recommendation.

First Floor Theatre: The Paranoid Style in American Politics at Collaboraction, Flat Iron Arts Building.

/noise/theatre | Link

$20 + $1.69 processing = $21.69, bought 2015-04-24, for closing night. Goldstar had a cheaper base price but the service fee was too high. I headed over around 6.30pm to grab some dinner at Pot Pan Thai (the same-old Banmee Delight) in some heavy fog and light rain, or condensate. Their ticket clearly indicated that we should use the street-level Collaboraction door, but in actuality one needed to proceed up the main stairway of the Flat Iron Arts Building and brave the comic book geeks on the third floor landing. Being closing night, it was packed.

This was an original by Emmett Rensin, inspired by an essay of the same name by Richard J. Hofstadter from 1963/4. The promotional materials of the robust-values candidate feature a mugshot of Mickle Maher, author of Song About Himself. While the dialogue is taut, and the timeline nicely spliced up, the plot is a bit hackneyed; it must be, as I picked the perp somewhere around halfway. I hoped there'd be a twist, with the limp-wristed intern Gary (excellently played to type by Luke Michael Grimes) stepping up and really telling us why he's a Republican.

Andrew Cutler played the Sourthern dirty-tricks maestro Pete Caldwell perfectly. Mitch Salm as east-coast greaser Will Ford had some very funny scenes, especially opposite Eric Gerard, a communications director who fears the black grandmas of the inner-city Chicago churches. These nicely offset the occasional violence, which when it came was plausibly explosive. Amanda Fink as the candidate's daughter and presumable chief-of-staff rushed her lines and pouted a little too much; the pearls don't totally make the blue-blood. Kate Cornelius-Schecter played a right-wing journalist who wanted to more directly participate in the political pantomine. While I enjoyed it, in that car-crash kinda way, its central weakness was that it failed to yield any insight into why anyone with principles could be a Republican.

I went pretty much on the recommendation of Jena Cutie at the Reader. According to Jerald Raymond Pierce, Rensin mined all the cable shows I don't watch. I concur that the scene transitions were first-rate.