Thursday, November 30, 2006

What if there were only four people in the world, and two of them were assholes?

Just got back from Profile Theatre's production of "Fat Pig," which has been extended like 60 times because all of Chicago has a huge crush on the title character. She's played by Deborah Hearst, an actress so thoroughly charming that she nearly throws the entire premise of the play. Her character, Helen, lives in this awful tiny world where fat girls will never be loved, but honey, it's a traverse theatre. I looked right across the stage and saw an audience of the smitten.

She has pretty killer chemistry with Tom, the real main character, while giving every impression of being out of his league. He's a weak man, with awful friends, and geeky on the essential level (ie, lost and unsure), but dammed if they aren't completely adorable together. Against my better judgement (this is a Labute play, after all), my romantic comedy rah-rah juices got going. I was emotionally involved to the point that I wanted to take off my shoe and throw it at the villain.

Of course (and this doesn't qualify as a spoiler), Tom's smarmy little co-worker/male buddy and psychotic but toned coworker/ex eventually crush the relationship by being meanies. And this hurt, and hit home as it happened, but it didn't quite succeed as a "scathing indictment." I know society is pretty rough on the overweight, but the two meanies were way too over the top to make me, I don't know, question my own behavior or that of anyone I know. (This was in the writing, btw, not the performances.) They were worthless people. Why would any human being talk to them for more than two minutes?

Of course, this is often my problem when watching claustrophobic four-person dramas that expose the vicious deceit in romance and other relations. I just want to scream "Meet some goddamn new people!" Seriously. There are other people in the world, right? Take your girlfriend and go looking for them.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Christmas is the best time of the year... be drunk. Ah. I just got back from 500 Clown Christmas Carol. Children, I've been ill lately, so ill and fatigued that I seriously considered skipping a party being thrown in my own apartment. But no longer! 500 Clown has reignited my holiday spirit. Using nothing but pop music and worrying stunts. For indeed, one MUST dance like a monkey if one wants to dance. Excuse me, there's a party happening over there that I must attend to.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Crushin' on Russians

Last night, I saw the imported Russian all-male 12th Night at Chicago Shakespeare. Sorry it took me so long to post. I had much drinking to do last night, and much eating to do today. Sneck up!

Anyway, lovely, wonderful production, populated by fit slavic dreamboats who are, to the man, glittering film stars in the mother country, appearing in such movies as "Investigation is Led by Experts" and "Siberian Barber."* (The audience was packed with swooning emigrees.) Unlike most English- speaking glittering film stars, these boys can act on stage. Lots to enjoy, but my unrealistic crush of the night turned out to be their Feste. On stage, he was basically Boy George. But how cute at the after party!

I should pause here, and admit a deep, silly, stereotype-laden love for all things Russian. I find the culture- which I know mostly through the literature- to be both touching and hilarious in its extremity. Read a capsule biography of Dostoyevsky and perhaps you'll see what I mean. One cannot choose but laugh. I'm sure it has nothing to do with reality, but often I'll read or hea about something that elicits this unique conception of misery and meaning and say "Ah! how delightfully Russian!" Anyway you could tell this was a Russian version of 12th Night, because the famous party scene didn't really get going until after Toby socked Maria in the jaw. That is, first we lie on the floor weeping, then we down four or five shots of vodka, and THEN we can really start to have a good time.

*titles of films are not made up.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

B is for Basil, assaulted by bears

Just returned from Gorey Stories, at the Viaduct, a show-with-music based on Edward Gorey's beloved, laconic, and unsettling books. Despite having been mounted twice before, the show had a slight case of the opening night stumbles. Or maybe not. There was something odd about the pacing, and it was hard to figure out if it was intentional. It was - an extra beat- after practically everything that happened. And before practically everything else that happened. And it kept the evening from taking off.

Here's what they did right- wonderfully detailed costumes that could have stepped right off the page. Several really funny performers- particularly the men, and particularly little Henry. And some quite nice music from live musicians.

The trick with story theatre, I believe, is generally to keep the flow going. You want to avoid saying something, and THEN having somebody do it. This happened in "Gorey Stories" pretty much constantly. My date for the night suggested that the pauses were an attempt to capture Gorey's essential dryness- the spare words that face you every time you flip the page. But then many members of the cast performed in a way that was positively wet- making Gorey's mildly deformed characters positively grotesque. I think the show could be really lovely with some cuts to the first act, a severe pacing adjustment, and a lighter touch from the actors. Oh, and thicker make-up. White-face works, people! So cake it on, and don't be shy.

Click for show details...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Chicks and Ducks and Geese Better Scurry

I've just come back from the live taping of NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me"* with a terrific crush on Peter Segal. Yes, I know he has a family. It isn't the sort of crush that involves breaking up marriages. It's the sort that involves coffee and babysitting your kids for free. Anyway, it's a funny show, but has a tinge of that soporific NPR quality, meaning the energy level is just right for playing while you clean your room and drink tea and maybe lower than is ideal for a live evening. Or perhaps it's just me. I've been waging a three-week war of attrition with this cough, so a voice as harmonic as Carl Kassel's makes me long for afghan blankets. New best friend Peter Segal also had a nasty cold, prompting a fantasy scenario in which we ditched the taping for relaxed conversation in his living room while his wife brought us hot drinks. Yeah. Prolonged illness has really toned down my fantasy life.

After the taping, Segal takes questions from the audience. Now, earlier in the show, he'd dropped a line from a particularly bouncy Broadway standard, very apropos, but so damn bouncy that it immediately got stuck in my head, causing me to become rather bouncy in my seat. This is torturous when you only know one line. "Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry... Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry.. " I couldn't stop myself. I asked if he could sing the rest.

"I've been waiting all my life for someone to ask me that question." Pause. "Do you know how it starts?"

We both knew what was at stake. The possibility of an impromptu sing-a-long Chase Bank Auditorium "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" hung in the air between us. We could sense the glory and the sweetness of the moment. But neither of us knew the words. And so it passed!

Let this teach you, children, never to neglect the classics!

*It qualifies as theatre. Why? Because that's how the Reader lists it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


I am now going to blog about a show I saw on closing night. Helpful! City Lit Theatre's "Jekyll and Hyde" was quite well done, full of thrills of the slow, creeping sort. True, absolute, straight-ahead reader's theatre, where you'll often have four people on stage reading from each other's letters. The cast was full of people with interesting Victorian English faces, and laconic ways of speaking, so that by the time they got to the truly intense finale, the audience was quite suckered in. And it's closed. Oh well.