Theater Thursday: Rhythm of Life! Musical Review (Hydrate)

Thursday, June 10
   
Rhythm of Life! A Musical Review
   
Chicago Cabaret Project
at
Hydrate Night Club, 3458 N. Halsted (map)
      

chicagocabaretExperience magic of the Cabaret during this two hour revue of song that will have a tear in your eye one song and laughing during the next. Enjoy a one hour hosted bar and appetizer reception prior to the performance provided by Halsted’s Bar and Grill and Hydrate Night Club. A dialogue with Artistic Director Kyle Hustedt and the cast of the Chicago Cabaret Project will follow the performance. Join Mistress of Ceremonies: Lynne Jordan, guest entertainer: Rus Rainear as Carol Channing and the Project as they deliver an evening of sheer entertainment! Saucy, Sexy Cabaret!

 

Event begins at 6:30 p.m.  Show begins at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the door 

For tickets and information visit www.chicagocabaretproject.com

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REVIEW: Blue Man Group – Chicago

Turning an event into a celebration

 Photo by David Hawe

  
Blue Man Productions present
 
Blue Man Group
   
at Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted (map)
Open Run  |  tickets: $54-$64  |  more info

reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

photo by David HaweBlue Man Group, with it’s on going shows in nine different international cities, 700 employees and a cumulative audience of 12 million plus and counting is certainly not hurting for press. In fact, after running at the Briar Street Theater since 1997, Blue Man Group is still selling out midweek performances. The show, which is self described, “modern vaudeville” combines technological elements like projected animation and LED screens, old-fashioned comedy and magic routines, as well as music made with tubes. And of course, all of this is presented by three hairless, earless Blue Men, or rather one Blue Man, played by three actors.

The three race-less men wander around the audience, exploring new the world around them as if they’ve never seen it before, staring into the eyes of their audience members trying to find a connection. The show, which is an entertainment extravaganza, and builds to a totally 90’s party atmosphere, is an exploration of how people communicate and relate in a world of mass media, information overload and cyber saturation. Blue Man Group is reputed to be a spectacle and not much else by some, when in fact, the show’s substance is thoughtful, solemn and at times very angry. The rave environment that the event turns into is not just about having a good time, it’s about people connecting on a primal level. By eliminating a narrative, Blue Man Group has created a performance that is entirely about a personal connection with their audience, from start to finish.

Most people are already familiar with Blue Man Group, even if they haven’t seen the show. Their act has been featured in newspapers and magazines, as well as heavy hitting daytime and late night talk shows. The technical proficiency of the actors is noted by the masses, and rightly so. The work that goes into the performance of this show is powerful, clean and honest.

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Photo by David Hawe Blue-Man-Group010

There is not question of the talent or the intelligence of this show; the question at hand is: how is a group of performance artists this weird this popular? With relatively few changes to the script since it’s creation, it’s hard to imagine how the show stays so fresh. It helps that the questions asked in the 90’s about technology and communication have only deepened as we’ve passed though the 2000’s. In their introduction to the tube instrument that the blue men famously plays, a video presentation introduces the concept. It reminds us that we live in a grid of interconnected channels so expansive that it’s size is virtually unquantifiable. What is the grid? Modern plumbing. Reminding us that we live in a community, that is actually physically connected by objects and things – as opposed to online data – may have  been a clever statement in 1997, but in 2010 it feels almost revolutionary. As  communication and information become ever increasing, these questions posed by 90’s artists become more and more relevant.

Photo by Eric McNattThe sheer entertainment of the piece is also a major factor. The show turns into a celebration, and it’s virtually impossible not to partake.

The smartest thing Blue Man Group does in terms of ensuring their sustainability is to make this show mind-numbingly fun. The show is not to be watched; rather, it’s to be experienced. This makes for a show that people will continue coming back to. Every audience member is involved in the show, and therefore has a personal relationship with it. Die hard fans of this show see it again and again, and something that is so hard to describe seems mysterious enough that hoards of new audience members are eager to find out what the story is with this enigmatic show.

Blue Man Group is a treat. It’s an event, and it’s enthralling. This show is a lot of spectacle, but with a lot of thought put into it as well. Perhaps most importantly, it’s the kind of show that makes people who don’t normally see theater get out and buy a ticket! Everyone wants to see Blue Man Group, the same way that everyone wants to see a big summer blockbuster. And the fact that this show manages to create something like this, and actually respect the intellect of their audience, might be one of the most notable theatrical feats of the 90’s, 2000’s and beyond.

   
   
Rating: ★★★★
 
 

Photo by Darbe Rotach


 

 

     
     

REVIEW: No Exit (The Hypocrites)

Looks like hell to me

 

Hypocrites Theatre production of No Exit

   
The Hypocrites present
   
No Exit
   
By Jean-Paul Sartre
Directed by
Sean Graney
at the
Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport (map)
through July 11th  |   tickets: $20-$25   |   more info

reviewed by Barry Eitel

In order to receive a degree in theatre at my university, every student has to take an Intro to Design class. In this class, every student had to come up with a design concept for Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist spiel No Exit. And then we spent long hours drawing costume sketches and pinning together a model box. I’ve seen Sartre’s vision of hell set in a pirate-themed hotel, an emptied-out swimming pool,  and an Arkansas basement (in case Hypocrites Theatre production of No Exityou’re wondering, my own stayed pretty close to the stage direction’s Second Empire-style, with a few liberties, of course). So I was pretty excited to see how a full production of the play would pan out, especially in the hands of director Sean Graney and his Hypocrites.

Featuring a massive nude statue and bright pink walls, the ridiculous design did not disappoint.

For those that weren’t in my Intro to Design class, No Exit paints a grim picture of the afterlife, where you’re locked in a garish room with people you soon learn to hate. Trapped in the tiny dwelling are the journalist Garcin (Robert McLean), the Sapphic postal-clerk Inez (Samantha Gleisten), and the coquettish Estelle (Erin Barlow). They attempt to deal with the situation, forging and shattering alliances like Dante combined with “Survivor.” They famously learn that “hell is other people.” There’s a reason existentialists aren’t known for their cheerfulness.

I got the impression that there was some environmental theatre going on here—the hot, stuffy Athenaeum studio theatre provided the audience with their own Hell. Or maybe it’s all coincidence. Even if there really was no deliberate plan to find the most uncomfortable seats possible, the Hypocrites would be smart to take responsibility. The experience definitely helps you connect to the characters.

Graney and scenic designer Tom Burch demand intense physical acting from the cast. The room is tiny and crowded with furniture and bodies. On top of all this, the whole set is on a steep rake. The design requires accuracy and focus; any sloppiness could end in making the chaos too chaotic.

McLean, Barlow, and Gleisten clamor and climb wonderfully, conquering the walls, sloped floor, and sofas. The three claw at each other in lust, anger, and desperation. More importantly, they can balance their characters’ evil qualities with vulnerability and rational thinking. Sometimes they can’t get a firm grasp on Sartre’s lyrical language. McLean is particularly guilty here, sounding wooden and dull at bits. He clearly gets the pettiness and jealousy of Garcin, though. All three add enough personal quirks and charms to make these borderline psychopaths engaging. John Taflan, clad in the uniform of a Napoleonic army officer, is endlessly fascinating as the valet. He’s tall, weird, and intimidating, which is what I think the Craigslist ad for a doorman in Hell would ask for.

Hypocrites Theatre production of No Exit

As with most Graney productions, there are exciting conceptual impositions on the text. Many work beautifully. All of the characters carry loads of cash on their person, but, alas, money doesn’t do much for you postmortem (it seems you can either flip coins or operate the vibrating chair). There’s one wonderful moment where Estelle throws fistfuls of change out of her purse, creating visual and aural bedlam.

Other choices don’t stick as well. For example, there’s a globe-stereo-thing the valet brings in. I appreciated the soundtrack it provided (Gaga, Beach Boys, the Police), but it just sort of ended up there. Then there is the cheetah-inspired costuming that begins to appear about three-quarters through. Graney also doesn’t quite find the ending—the story resolves a bit too much for a tale of eternal woe.

Basically, the concepts behind this No Exit were way better than the ones formulated by any freshman in my class. It could’ve been the weather, but I’d like to believe it was the fiery energy and dedication of the cast and team that made that theatre so sweltering. Graney’s version of Hell is no place I’d want to be.

   
   
Rating: ★★★