Review: Gorilla Tango’s “The 24-Hour Plays: Chicago”

24 hour_bryan and cast

The 24 Hour Plays: Chicago
at Gorilla Tango Theatre

Reviewed by Timothy McGuire

Just Say Yes Entertainment has brought The 24 Hour Plays from New York back to Chicago. The 24 Hour Plays are a process in which a group of writers, actresses/actors, directors and crew people work together to create five plays from scratch and within only 24 hours of conception they perform them live at Gorilla Tango Theatre.

Without knowing any details about the performances, the draw to these Monday night shows is the risk that the performers are taking. Can they memorize their lines? Has the cast created any chemistry after working together for just one day? Can the writers guide the performers or will the actors be forced to improvise some of the crucial dialogue? Most at doubt, can they present a quality performance with such limited rehearsal time?

24 hour_Daughters 1-1[1] Overall Gorilla Tango and Just Say Yes Entertainment put on a fun weekday escape for a casual crowd of young adults and middle aged couples. The audience is mostly from the local Bucktown neighborhood, and the relaxed atmosphere and fair priced Miller Lites encourage friendly conversation throughout the audience. The dialogues were well written and performances smoothly delivered, although most of them lacked depth.

Most of the plays were written to include some sort of ironic twist at the end. The haste in developing a plot fast enough to twist the ending created some confusion as to the various themes within the plays. The characters lacked development and the storylines are changed so fast that the audience did not have a chance to become emotionally engaged. Some of the performances lacked necessary physical emotion, especially in many of the actor’s facial expressions. Instead of creating a relationship with the audience, most of the plays resorted to gimmicks to create an impact with the viewers. These shortcomings are to be expected with only 24 hours to create and prepare the performance, but one show stood out amongst the others and did find the depth and beauty of its characters.

The Daughters of Doherty was creatively written by Reina Hardy. The script consisted of various themes which seem to branch off of each other into new questions and ideas. Her characters had a history to them, and a personality in their comments. The direction of Zach Wilson did not force the plot along or try to rush to explain every detail. He let the untold facts create mystery in Hardy’s characters and gave the audience the opportunity to independently relate to them. I only wish I could see a full production of this play so I can have a better understanding of the emotional tension that hung over this scene.

In The Daughters of Doherty three half-sisters are preparing a dance for the youngest one’s wedding day. The significance of this reunion is that they are not familiar with each other. They just recently found out that they share the same father. Amanda Goodyear plays the resistant sister. She smokes a cigarette, ignoring her sisters futile dance rehearsals, and prefers to engage in conversation with her father (Bill Merker) instead of joining in on the preparations. The dialogue between Amanda and her father may be cold, but there is a trust and sincere understanding between them. Their relationship allows for the snotty honesty that delivers terrific jokes centered on her drug addiction. The close relationship between Amanda and her father is evident, although throughout the scene you can feel something sad and hidden beneath the conversation. In the obligatory twist (though, in this instance, well-written) we find out that the relationship between Amanda and father are not at all what we thought.

Amanda Goodyear fully absorbed this character, and appeared at ease with the complicated personality of her role. With the assistance of Reina Hardy’s brilliant script, Amanda’s performance stood out among all others Monday night. In just 24 hours she created a complicated, thought-provoking young adult that impacted the audience.

gtt1 Not every performance is going to “knock your socks off” at The 24 Hour Plays. It is too complicated for even the most talented cast to produce something with consistent quality in just 24 hours; although, the format does offer the opportunity to discover that new “up and comer” and special talent that possesses the ability to rise to such a pressure filled occasion.

Rating: Recommended

What: The 24 Hour Plays: Chicago
Where: Gorilla Tango Theatre
When: Monday nights (6/15 and 6/22)
Tickets: $10 – call 773-598-4549

Review: ‘A Little Night Music’ (Light Opera Works)

Light Opera Works doesn’t disappoint with their foray into Sondheim’s Scandinavian twilight masterpiece

 

Catherine Lord (Désirée Armfeldt) and Larry Adams (Fredrik Egerman) are caught by Michael Cavalieri (Carl-Magnus Malcom) 

A Little Night Music
by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler
Light Opera Works

Reviewed by Richard Millward

Stephen Sondheim‘s A Little Night Music stands almost alone in the grand sweep of his works for musical theatre – though set in the perpetual twilight of a Scandinavian summer night, A Little Night Music is perhaps his lightest show. Far better known for “the shadows where, artistically at least, he has always felt most at home,” in the words of NY Times critic Ben Brantley, Sondheim here takes a less tragic, more bemused view of love and its foibles. Although ..Night Music starts with pairs of lovers – some mismatched, some not remembering why they matched in the first place – the romantic, waltz-based score leaves little doubt that come the night’s final turn about the ballroom floor, love will right all wrongs.

A Little Night Music 2 Seldom seen outside of opera houses due to the breadth and complexity of its score, A Little Night Music is now revived by Light Opera Works in Evanston through June 14. As audiences have come to expect from Light Opera Works, the quality of the production’s music make this a production well worth seeing. It is a delight to hear Jonathan Tunick‘s orchestration of some of Sondheim’s most memorable songs given a treatment at once lush and precise (through a 28-piece orchestra), under the baton of music director and conductor, Roger L. Bingaman. The demands of the vocal score, with its intricate harmonies and counterpoints, are a challenge to which this cast seem generally well-suited.

Almost without exception, the principals give strong, musically solid performances. The trio of “Soon,” “Now,” and “Later,” sung by Natalie Ford, Larry Adams, and Mike Reckling, the “Liasisons” of Judy Golman, and the quintet that act as a Greek chorus throughout were uniformly well-sung. Catherine Lord, as the actress Desiree Armfeldt, delivers the show’s “hit” song, “Send in the Clowns,” with subtlety and a heartbreaking, self-knowing regret. A singer cast in a role written for a non-singer, Miss Lord has vocal power to spare in delivering a “Send in the Clowns” you will not soon forget.

A Little Night Music 3 Only Jessye Wright, as the Countess Malcolm, and Megan Long, as the maid, Petra, fail to deliver in their solo turns. Although Miss Wright has some of the biting, self-deprecating wit her role requires, she unfortunately has been cast in a role unsuited to her singing voice, and she struggles to change registers in “Every Day a Little Death.” Miss Long’s “The Miller’s Son” is undermined by her brassy voice but perhaps more so by a tempo much slower than one would expect and some jarringly suggestive moves that conspired to render her number, always problematic in the flow of A Little Night Music’s book, a mood-deflecting speedbump so close to the denouement.

But these are minor faults in an evening in which one can experience the thrill of hearing a full chorus and orchestra set off on such an incredibly joyous “Weekend in the Country.” Mr. Sondheim may prefer the shadows, but his foray into the Scandinavian twilight remains a romantic masterpiece, and it is delivered by Light Opera Works with the loving musical care it deserves.

Rating: «««½

June 5 –14, 2009
At Cahn Auditorium – 600 Emerson, Evanston, IL

Additional reviews:

Pioneer Press: ‘Night Music’ a beloved tale for a reason