peteg's blog - noise - theatre - 2014 12 26 TheRuffians BurningBluebeard

The Ruffians: Burning Bluebeard at Theater Wit.

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$36.00, bought on 2014-12-14. Another beautiful winter's day in Chicago, almost hot at 12+ degrees. I spent the afternoon up that way, around up-market Belmont, firstly at Heritage Bicycles for coffee and wifi, and then dinner at a Turkish / Central Asian place further north on Lincoln.

Burning Bluebeard is another Christmas panto, this time with more audience interaction. Apparently it has been drawing capacity audiences for a few years now. The game is to recount the fire in the Iroquois Theatre of 1903, and as such it is a bit navel-gazingly-meta, like Season on the Line, but more provincial. Therefore things worked best in the last movement, where the events of that evening are replayed in some of the tightest theatre I've seen here. The only downside is how much is said rather than shown before this; in retrospect much of the first 80 minutes is mere flaffing about, setting things up for that. At no point did I want to hear more about Mr Bluebeard, but such is dramatic necessity.

The opening held a lot of promise for me, evoking Summertime in the Garden of Eden with clowns artfully shedding their chrysalises (body bags). I struggled with some of the threads, partly due to not really following pop culture anymore, not having a TV, and not really grasping the relevance. I enjoyed the mashup of Teen Spirit and Europe's The Final Countdown. I may have been the only one in the crowd to recognise a very slow variant of Lamb's Gorecki. The adulteration of Lennon's sacrosanct Imagine piano riff by a winking playwright / building manager (?) Jay Torrence lip syncing to Amy Winehouse's Rehab (?) meant something to most of the crowd. A kid sitting in the middle was infectiously amused by many of the comedic pauses. I got handed the last of the Mason jars full of small white LEDs by Ryan Walters (playing Eddie Foy). Pam Chermansky is new this year (the remainder of the cast are back for a third run). The performers clearly enjoyed themselves immensely. With deft timing (after an ending like that!) Torrence convinced me to blow $20 on a donation / t-shirt. The ride home was quite pleasant.

Jacob Davis got right into it. A review from last year with more production history, and another by Tony Adler. Justin Hayford tries to be realistic but ultimately rolls with the crowd. Chris Jones. etc.