Sunday, November 20, 2005

Help! Help!

Tonight I saw the very scary pre-crack-up and suicide Sarah Kane drama "4:48 Psychosis," as staged by the very good and very hard-core troupe "The Hypocrites." As I understand it, the text of the play is basically a poem, giving Sean Graney ultimate freedom in creating characters, settings, etc. etc. He has used this freedom to freak me way the heck out, putting the action on and around three separate raised platforms, like art installations. There are no seats-- the audience mills about, moving with the focus, so you're never able to fully avoid the terrifying, terrifying actors. And it's all in a tent. From the moment I walked in, I was panicking, because I knew these people were literally trapping me inside the mind of a suicidally depressed woman.

Now, I'm suggestible, and as a defense mechanism, I find it hard to fully relax in hypnotic situations. I have trouble giving over my mind to my yoga teacher, and she just chants things like "I am.... fully alive." So forget this play. Five minutes in, I had an interior conversation that went like this:

- Let's go. Let's get away from here and these crazy dead-baby women.
- No! We have to stay and review this show. We are getting paid.
-You're referring to yourself in plural already.
-We're going to be totally fine, and we can't go.
-Ok, but I'm going to take half your brain, and go over here, and babble about inane trivia for the rest of the show to prevent you getting too involved, ok?
-Don't you think that actress looks suspiciously like that girl you went to high school with?

And so on. My brain kept up the fully formed, rapid fire sentences until the thing was mercifully over. Backpedaling frantically to keep me from going into the upsetting pit that is Sarah Kane's head. I still got out of there feeling distinctly shaky.

One hour performance. Two hours recovery time. What a show.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Orientalism! And more Spanish Inquisition

This afternoon: Manuscript Found in Sargossa. The set excited me, as it looked a lot like what my Viola Project students came up with for their last workshop at 3Arts. Killer story, or rather stories, as it's about a young man who, while journeying through the mountains to Madrid, gets sidetracked into a gypsy camp full of people who have been likewise sidetracked and always insist on explaining why. Gorgeous, although a bit inexplicable right at the end, and the circus tricks really served to advance and illuminate the story, instead of dominating it. Circular, gasp-worthy, Picaresque. Also, incense was burned. I think this should happen more at the theatre.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Cloud Nine at the National Pastime

Tonight's play put good old Caryl Churchill on the map way back in the day. It was a lot of fun, long, and left me with the definite impression that something had happened. I'm not sure what. It's a very deliberate gender-bender and expectations up-ender, full of impressively glib depravity. Everyone's British, so there's a lot of that joke where awful, meaningful phrases are tossed of in the middle of empty politeness, and everyone reacts to them by staring straight ahead. I really like that joke. The staging (god bless unit sets) had depth, and there was all kinds of motion and tension going back and forth. Got a little sappy though. Right at the end.

It's nice to see the loft of National Pasttime's ceiling put to good use. The last time I saw that space it was in the hands of the clueless (See: my review of Hack/Slash).

But good job, Infamous Commonwealth. Way to overcome my terror at an 8-person audience with an engrossing show.

ZOMG Hemingway RL Slash Fic!

Old Earnest's boundless machismo is definitely ripe for the homosexual fantasy treatment. And who better to play Spock to his Kirk than effete drunk F. Scott Fitzgerald? "The Amazing Adventures of Scott and Earnest," now playing at City Lit, amazed me with how little it skirted around the issue without ever letting the two authors kiss. All in all though, a bit unsatisfying, some of which could have been remedied by putting notes in the program to explain which bits of the plot were fantasy, and which weren't. Also, set changes of some length, and a peculiar stiffness to the acting. Really, I was hoping for it to go fanfic all the way, with scenes of glorious adventure and long make-out sessions, but mostly I got Mexican jail scenes. Some funny moments, though.

The venue? City Lit is in a church, a churchy church, and it's on the second floor, so you get eyeloads of social service programs as you walk up. However, it is a servicable little space, with seats arranged in a companionable U. It's also quiet, and darn close to the Byrn Mawr El.

I'm behind two weekends, so let me rush to catch up:

Last week, part of a bill of one acts in a brand new South Side Theatre, the EP. It's a storefront, and oddly enough the storefront window bit comprises the back wall of the theatre space, so you could theoretically open the black curtains and have real windows out onto a real street. But I'm betting they did it to catch the eye of passing traffic. Had a party to hit, so didn't stay for the whole thing. But Shawn Pfasdflkjl remains fantastic. Creepy, touching short about a man control-alt-deleting his robot mom. Shawn Pfawery is so cool that I might someday learn to pronounce or spell his name.

Friday before that, I went on what I like to call a real theatre adventure,
meaning a show put on in some completely unreasonable spot that is
under no circumstances a theatre and is also impossible to find.
Triple points if it's on the South Side. Real theatre adventures are
a lot of fun, except I'm usually late to them.

So, "Monkey House", in Chinatown, actually, in this brutally lovely
old industrial building by the river. They just had a room with some
chairs, and they'd put a lot of found objects in it, charming
charming. The vibe was very Andersonville, which is the authentic of
Anthropologie, for non-chicagoans keeping score. Endearing,
phonographesque sound system playing the prettiest darn music.

The centerstage review for this one is already up, so if you fancy learning more, look out for it.

Now to banish my headache before tonight's show.