Review: Neo-Futurists’ “Fear”

Just in time for Halloween

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Neo-Futurists present:

Fear

Conceived and curated by Noelle Krimm
running through October 31st  (buy tickets)

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Just in time for Halloween, with Fear, Noelle Krimm and cast at the Neo-Futurarium tout themselves as “the thinking man’s haunted house.” A walking-tour based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Fear certainly will give you something to think about—but will also carry your experience far beyond any cerebral appreciation.

Fear-2 Fear is there to throw the audience off balance, to make them apprehensive about what is coming next, to subvert the mundane internal presumptions of control and reasonable expectation that help to make life manageable and endurable. The production doesn’t need to splatter gore or make you blindly stick your hand into a bowl of spaghetti—the realized uneasiness of life’s exigencies is enough to terrify.

Thus Krimm and company rely, not just on Poe’s obsessions with madness, terror, and degeneration, but also on a modern American lexicon of horror, wherein box-cutters and Dixie cups filled with—what? Kool-Aid?–take on sinister meaning just by being silently presented. Old tech and new are thrown together to suggest the disarray of history and the precariousness of preservation.

The dances and puppet shows are childlike, but are not there to show us happy fables. Fear highlights our most basic fears: of personal safety, of injury, of strangers and strangeness, of both physical and mental illness. It is a romp through the fears we suppress just to make it through life, even if we must all submit in the end.

  While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man”
And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.
—–The Conqueror Worm
 

Most of all it is fun–so catch Fear if you dare. The tour involves several sets of stairs, so accessibility is a concern. With enough interest, the tour may extend beyond Halloween.

Enjoy.

 

Rating:  «««½

 

Extra contributors: Rachel Claff, Matt Hawkins, Seth Bockley, Chloe Johnston, Mindy Myers, Ren Velarde, Bernie McGovern and Dan Kerr-Hobert

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Review: American Theatre Company’s “Yeast Nation”

 A Mucking Good Time

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American Theatre Company presents:

Yeast Nation

by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann
directed by PJ Paparelli
runs through October 18th (ticket info)

reviewed by Timothy McGuire

Yeast Nation is an innovative musical production unlike anything I have ever seen before. Greg Kotis (a veteran of Chicago’s Neo-Futurists) and Mark Hollmann (a veteran of Chicago Theatre Building’s Musical Theatre Workshop), the same creators of the Tony-winning musical Urinetown, tell a provocative story about the creation of life based on an absurd premise of single celled yeasts living in a primordial soup. There are no  stories of life before these yeasts; these yeasts are the beginning of time.

yeast-nation-3These vocally gifted yeasts are living under the dictatorial rule of the Elder (Joseph Anthony Foronda), he being the yeast that produced all other yeasts. They are starving yet the Elder forbids them to rise to the top where plenty of nourishing food is available. The Elder believes that his oppression is for the good of all yeasts and life as a whole. He even kills a yeast (Sweet yeast’s father) for disobeying him and eating from the top of the liquid surroundings. The Elder’s son Second (Andrew Keltz), the second in command, sees no sense in his fathers orders. He ventures off to discover and take advantage of all the wonderful things available near the top, such as delicious fulfilling muck. He promises Sweet (the name of the sweet yeast) a new world, not knowing what lies ahead. Second’s engulfment of muck results in the birth of a fantastic pink creature (Stephanie Kim), sparking the beginning of the progress to a new multi-celled organism.

Do not be alarmed if none of this makes any sense – the creators were aware of their own craziness in the foundation of their story and the even more incredible plot. In the beginning I was getting a little nervous as I had no idea what was going on, and then the scary-eyed grey-haired yeast (Barbara Robertson) poked fun at how weird it is to believe in a story about yeasts. Throughout the play the creators slide in small little jokes recognizing the lack of believability and completely insane premise of a society of single-celled yeasts. This is theatre, not school. Have some fun with it.

Each scene is filled with graphic sexual innuendos hidden in Kotis and Hollmann’s brilliant writing. Though tempted to share with you some of these tastefully shocking lines, I would not want to ruin the experience of the live delivery. Considering the depth of this unordinary script and lyrics, I am looking forward to discovering the jokes that were intelligently hidden beyond my comprehension the first time seeing the performance.

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There is no distinct set on stage. The scenery is composed of purple lights hanging from the ceiling and rafters creating Disney-like prehistoric stars. The stage is cluttered with scaffolds and equipment displaying the result of a Broadway-style performance being compressed into the small storefront space of American Theatre Co. This design allows for the yeasts to utilize a variety of heights and abstract placements on the stage, providing the sense of a large production cramming itself into the small set.

The lighting and special effects add the change in atmosphere to each various style of song. The musical variety in this bizarre tale includes a little bit of everything. The style of each song had its own vibe from a tune sang at a church choir, downtown disco, a rock concert, Christian rock, Gospel, rock video and more. I am pretty sure they did a parody of Meatloaf’s music video for “I Would Do Anything for Love.”

Before I even had an idea of what was going on in the plot, I already felt I was watching the beginning of a spectacular new musical. The confusion is part of the fun. The costumes were a little hokey, but the quality of talent on stage combined with the unique incomparable writing by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann is a combination for success. Go see the birth of the next hit musical that you cannot believe someone could imagine to produce.

Rating: «««½ 

Playing at American Theatre Company, 1909 W. Byron, Chicago, IL, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays, through October 18, 2009.

 

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Wednesday wordplay – Margaret Cho and George Bernard Shaw

(Mostly) inspirational quotes

 

Success is meaningless if you can’t sleep at night because of harsh things said, petty secrets sharpened against hard and stony regret, just waiting to be plunged into the soft underbelly of a ‘friendship.’
            — Margaret Cho, Margaret Cho’s Weblog, 04-12-2006

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.
            — George Bernard Shaw

You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.
            — Evan Esar

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.
            — Eugene Delacroix

A dog is the greatest gift a parent can give a child. OK, a good education, then a dog.
            — John Grogan, An Interview with John Grogan, 2008