REVIEW: Shoot Faster, Dear Brother, I’m Dying (Apollo)

Lovely lies, perfectly preserved

 

A Civil War era America gets amusingly preserved in 'Shoot Faster, Dear Brother, I'm Dying!'

Apollo Theatre presents
  
Shoot Faster, Dear Brother, I’m Dying!
 
Written by Joe Anderson and Demian Krentz
Directed by
Amanda Blake Davis
at
Apollo Theatre Studio, 2540 N. Lincoln (map)
through July 31st  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

Not your usual blast from the past, this delicious, daffy and demented spoof of an imaginary Victorian-era correspondence between two strategically separated brothers amounts to a kind of sit-down comedy. It’s two hours of perfect parody as Shoot Faster, Dear Brother, I’m Dying! exactly apes the ornate letter-writing style of a A Civil War era America gets amusingly preserved in 'Shoot Faster, Dear Brother, I'm Dying!'century and a half ago. And it works equally well as a delightful exercise in deadpan absurdity. Silly and funny are far from mutually exclusive: The proof is this archly phony recitation of manufactured adventures.

Over the last decade comedians Joe Anderson and Demian Krentz have merrily concocted a series of letters exchanged between the hypothetical Binjimmons brothers, Chauncy and Adam, pontificating blowhards and gasbags with style to  spare. It’s here debuted as a major historical reclamation, here performed–as a breathless curator (Karen S. Chapman) describes–for the first time in chronological order from 1864 to 1871. Adding to the artificial authenticity is a musical backdrop by fiddler Kevin Madderson and a series of cleverly appropriated 19th century photographs and drawings depicting the brothers in love and war.

In the course of correspondence the brothers emerge as a kind of 19th century Beavis and Butthead. Without quite realizing the awful secrets they reveal, the letters recount Chauncy’s cowardice as a Confederate soldier, his desperate trek to the still wild West where he weds a whore who he thought was a nurse because “the hospital shared the same wall as a bordello,” and has his incredibly faithful dog stolen by a band of fur traders. Chauncy goes on to destroy scores of trees in order to create a Barnum-like entertainment complex. He slaughters buffalos to satisfy his need for sandwiches. He remains recklessly clueless of the carnage he commits wherever he wanders.

Meanwhile, ensconced in their family home in Virginia, brother Adam manages to sire a big-headed baby who’s captured by Indians, loses track of his randy father (a closet Mormon) and his deranged mother, who manages to terrorize a town before disappearing into the wilderness. When Chauncy is kidnapped by a crew of fur-loving partisans who despise him for leveling their forest, he’s rescued by his brother and a posse of courageous courtesans. It’s so crazy you almost think it just might be true…

 

Demian Krentz as Adam Binjimmons in Shoot Faster, Dear Brother, I'm Dying Joe Anderson as Chauncy Binjimmons in Shoot Faster, Dear Brother, I'm Dying

Complicating matters is the fact that five years of letters appear to be missing, only to be found just in time to fill in assorted gaps during the second act.

The remarkable feat–worthy of Mark Twain and other tall-tale tellers–is how well the author-performers capture the baroquely ornamental flavor of the era. With breathless zeal and unflappable seriousness, they deliver their hilariously flowery prose, festooned with overwrought aphorisms mingling with anecdotes of casual cruelty. Chauncy, a pathological liar when he’s not a self-pitying hypocrite, can mention the approach of a little boy, only to correct himself a moment later by saying it was actually a large man who was further off. The Binjimmons will never use four words when ten will do even better. The result is an embarrassment of riches which occasionally is just an embarrassment.

A closer recreation of 19th century humorists can’t be imagined nor should it. Or as the theater charmingly puts it, “Chicago theatergoers who have long clamored for an epistolary comedy about the Civil War, featuring a live fiddle players and photos of old things, will finally be able to check their item off their collective bucket lists.” Indeed.

  
  
Rating: ★★★½
  
  

 

shoot-faster-dear-brother

Production Personnel

Amanda Blake Davis Amanda Blake Davis
(Director)

Amanda is a veteran of The Second City e.t.c. stage, where she wrote and performed in five original revues, including Disposable Nation, Campaign Supernova and Studs Terkel’s Not Working, for which she received a Jeff Award for Best Actress in a Revue. Prior to that, she performed with The Second City Las Vegas and The Second City National Touring Company.

 

Joe Anderson Joe Anderson
(Writer/"Chauncy")

Joe is a veteran of The Second City comedy theatre. He now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He performed at the Second City Detroit as a Mainstage understudy and member of their touring company. For the past five years he has performed at hundreds of colleges and clubs as the co-headlining comedian on the We Can Make You Laugh Comedy Tour. Recently you may have heard him as the new voice of Big Boy in a national campaign for Big Boy Restaurants. Terry Lawson of The Detroit Free Press declared, "After a few minutes you’re chuckling, then laughing out loud, then just admiring the consistency and cleverness of Joe Anderson’s comic sensibility."

 

Demian Krentz Demian Krentz
(Writer/"Adam")

Demian is an accomplished comic actor, writer, and improviser. He is also a classically trained actor who graduated with a degree in Theater Performance from Western Michigan University’s highly-regarded dramatic studies program. Recently, he starred in the award-winning film Gospel According to Roy, which has screened at over 15 film festivals around the world. He’s been all over Chicago performing with several improv and sketch comedy groups. Nina Metz of Newcity has said, "Demian Krentz stands out as the kind of performer who is fully engaged with the idea of acting—portraying an actual human being—and he’s all the funnier for it."

 

Mary McClenahan-Fielding Mary McClenahan-Fielding
("Mrs. Chapman the Curator")

Having an ancestral connection to the Civil War –her great, great grandfather fought for the Union army as a cavalry soldier — Mary is the only member of the production actually qualified to be in the show.

She recently performed with Urban Theatre Company and had a leading role in the Discovery Channel’s Escaped series.

 

Mike Casey Mike Casey
(Fiddle/Banjo/Guitar/Mandolin/"Chaudam")

Mike has been active in the Chicago area theatre scene for thirty years as musician, music director and actor. He served as actor, musician and music director for Triton College’s production of Smoke on the Mountain. He was music director and musician for Theatre-Hikes‘ production of Heidi and has also served as musician on many other Theatre Hikes productions including Taming of the Shrew, Mountain Days andRebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. He has worked on productions at Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park and at the Theatre Building and Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago. He is presently working on a production of The Robber Bridegroom at Triton College.

Mike is a full time music instructor at his studio in Oak Park where he teaches guitar, violin, banjo, mandolin, bass guitar and ukulele.

Mike is also a prize winning fiddle player having competed in contests in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas and Manitoba Canada. He has over forty fiddle trophies to his credit. He has published a fiddle instruction book called "Elementary Fiddling".

 

Meghan Teal Meghan Teal
(Beloved Stage Manager)

Meghan stage manages one of Second City’s Touring Companies, for their Theatricals and Communications divisions, as well as understudying both resident stages here in Chicago. You can also
find her stage managing various improv and sketch shows at The Annoyance Theatre, iO, ComedySportz, and The Playground. Past Stage Management credits include shows at Theatre Building Chicago, The Apollo Theatre, Pyewacket Theatre Company, and Griffin Theatre, among many others. She has also produced and directed in the past, as well as organized concerts, film series, lectures, and numerous other entertainment events. Love and thanks to her amazing family and friends, McNally, Bea Arthur, and Mighty Might BlueCo.

  
Note: all photos and bios have been pulled from the Shoot Faster website.
 
 
shoot-faster-dear-brother shoot-faster-dear-brother

5 Responses

  1. Wonderful review! So glad you enjoyed it and thanks again for joining us!

  2. Thanks for the kind and generous words. My heart’s just opened as wide as the widest ocean.

    • well, you wouldn’t have gotten kind words if it wasn’t a wonderful “product”. so congrats on your outstanding show.

  3. Great review! Just one typo to point out: “Written by Jon Anderson” in the credits should be “Written by Joe Anderson.”

  4. Sorry about misspelling Joe’s name. I will instantly enlarge the font size of my word processor and hope that that helps….

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