REVIEW: I Do! I Do! (Light Opera Works)

 

Dated musical extols institution on life-support

 

Catherine Lord and Larry Adams - Light Opera Works - I Do I Do 003

   
Light Opera Works presents
   
I Do!  I Do!
   
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Book and Lyrics by Tom Jones
Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller
Music direction by Roger L. Bingaman and Linda Slein
McGaw Children’s Center Auditorium, Evanston (map)
Through November 14  | 
tickets: $27-$42*  |  more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

It’s not only its historic setting that makes I Do! I Do! seem dated.

Marriage — the till-death-do-us-part style — is more and more passé. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that the number of young adults who’ve never married rose from 35 percent in 2000 to 46 percent in 2009. Among all Americans ages 18 and older, the proportion of those married dropped from 57 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2009 — the lowest percentage ever recorded.

Catherine Lord and Larry Adams - Light Opera Works - I Do I Do 006 Of those couples who do marry, at least half eventually divorce. Adultery is rife — the news is full of stories about philandering celebrities and politicians — and some studies estimate that as many as 45 to 55 percent of married people cheat on their spouses.

In times like these, how relevant can a sentimental musical about a 50-year-long marriage be?

Based on Jan de Hartog’s 1951 Broadway hit The Fourposter, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’ tender, two-piano, two-character musical, currently in revival by Evanston’s Light Opera Works, follows Michael and Agnes from their wedding at the turn of the 20th century through their five decades of married life. The action mainly revolves around their four-posted marriage bed, although its presence is more symbolic than titillating. We watch them through wedding-night nerves, the birth and rearing of children, squabbles and reconciliations, his brief extramarital affair, her mid-life crisis and their ultimate retirement, a story told mainly in a series of schmaltzy duets punctuated by occasional solos, recitatives and a judicious amount of dialogue.

In 1966, when I Do! I Do! premiered on Broadway, the divorce rate was just 27.4 percent, and roughly 80 percent of U.S. adults were married. You have to wonder what today’s large number of never marrieds, divorced and gays and lesbians are going to get out of this paean to old-fashioned, traditional marriage.

Michael and Agnes no longer represent the universal, generic twosome they once did, even among the married. Few today still follow the male wage earner-female homemaker model at the root of some of this couple’s tiffs. Married life has become much more complex.

 

Catherine Lord and Larry Adams - Light Opera Works - I Do I Do 005

Yet although dated in its subject matter, I Do! I Do! remains fresh in its intimate format — a two-person musical was ahead of its time in the 1960s. Schmidt’s sweet and bouncy but repetitive melodies and Jones’ simplistic sentiments — "Marriage is a very good thing, though it’s far from easy" — sometimes verge on cloying, but several of the songs have appeal, notably "I Love My Wife," Michael’s acknowledgement of how unfashionable it is, the upbeat "Love Isn’t Everything" and the comic "Nobody’s Perfect" in Act I and the poignant lament about aging, "Where are the Snows?" and the love song, "My Cup Runneth Over" in Act II. In Light Opera Works’ production, music directors Roger L. Bingaman and Linda Slein double on the dual pianos, occasionally a little muddy but capably over all.

Veteran actors Catherine Lord and Larry Adams make this production worthwhile. Lord’s beautifully timed, wonderfully funny and highly expressive performance as the often-dissatisfied Agnes gives the show some real spice. She acts with every part of her body. Adams’ rich baritone elevates the score.

If you’re looking forward to your wedding, an optimistic young married or about to celebrate your umpty-umpth wedding anniversary, this bittersweet and nostalgic musical may be just the excuse that you’re looking for to have an evening out holding hands with your honey. For many, though, I Do! I Do! describes a life so alien it might as well be science fiction.

   
   
Rating: ★★★
   
   

Catherine Lord and Larry Adams - Light Opera Works - I Do I Do 004

*age 21and younger are half price.

   
   

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REVIEW: Bash (Brikenbrak Theatre Project)

 

Trio of one-acts reveal the possible evil in us all

 

Brikenbrak art gallery - Mill Stream by Joyce Speechley

   
Brikenbrak Theatre Project, i/a/w Gorilla Tango Capital presents
   
Bash
   
Written by Neil Labute
Directed by Paul Cosca
Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western (map)
through October 31  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Deathbed confessions are absolution rites to get to the afterlife. Reality show confessionals are bragging rights to get to the after-show-life. Bash is the telling of deep dark secrets for both release and vanity. Brikenbrak Theatre Project, in association with Gorilla Tango Capital, presents Bash, a trio of one act plays by Neil Labute. Ipigenia in Orem has a businessman pick-up on a woman in a hotel bar. The woman gets screwed when the anticipated hook-up turns into the guy’s walk-of-shame sans the sex. A Gaggle of Saints has a college couple recount different versions of a big party in the city. Despite their privileged and religious upbringing, the students aren’t as pure as the ‘dirty people’ they ignore. Medea Redux has a scorned woman share a revenge plot fourteen years in the making. BASH is the disturbing stories of three-of-a-kind ordinary people, all challenging the definition of humanity. Brikenbrak poster - Bash by Neil Labute Society is taught to believe that there is good in everyone. What if deep, deep down, a person is bad? And unremorseful? And sitting in the next seat on the train? BASH is ‘ataxia,’ the Greek word for ‘world out of balance.’

Master storyteller Neil Labute has written three monologues with authentic dialogue and details. Under the direction of Paul Cosca, the narratives are unsettling interrogations. Cosca stages the audience in a horseshoe around two chairs facing each other. Each theatre patron receives a number on arrival. Three guests will take turns sitting in the judgment seat. (It is not forced participation. When a number is called, silence ensures a ‘pass’ to the next number). Taking a turn opposite the actor, I had the best seat in the house for Ipigenia in Orem. In dual roles, Cosca is also the nervous businessman and I’m the pick-up. The experience is real, intimate and uncomfortable. Throughout his discourse, Cosca keeps suggesting I have another drink from the imaginary mini bar. (I wish I could). Cosca shuffles through smaller stories mixing up timeline. As the listener pieces it all together, Cosca goes from pathetic geek to shrewd businessman… to the umpteenth degree. Cosca is awful…good.

In A Gaggle of Saints, Graham Jenkins (John) and Kirby Brown (Sue) have a duet monologue. From good families and church goers, the perfect couple describes in enthusiastic detail how pretty their relationship looks. Jenkins’ presence personifies big-man-on-campus with a carefree stance. Brown talks ‘mob wife’ with perky willful obtuseness. She wants security and nice things and doesn’t mind a little blood. Jenkins flashes a smile and rage with the same glee. Jenkins suppresses and oppresses hate. Jenkins is bloody…brilliant.

In Medea Redux, April Taylor describes her childhood sweetheart, her teacher. Taylor shares a long-kept secret with fond memories of love that spurred into revenge. Her cadence is matter-of-fact as she describes the innocence of youth and fast forwards to the burden of adult understanding. Taylor’s account of vengeance satisfaction is unemotionally emotional. Taylor is scary…great.

With Labute’s words and Cosca’s direction, the realization of human evilness in non-Hitler types – a guy in a bar, kid in church, gal at KFC – is a deep dark secret revealed. Bash whacks with an intensity that leaves a bruise… permanently!

   
   
Rating: ★★★
 
 

Brikenbrak art gallery - There are Secrets by Layne Jackson Brikenbrak Theatre Project is proud to present an art gallery entitled "Visions of Secrets", to accompany our newest production, Bash, by Neil LaBute.

Twelve artists from all around Chicago have submitted over 40 paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations for the gallery, including Layne Jackson‘s "There are Secrets" (left) and Joyce Speechley‘s "Mill Stream" (top of review).

The twelve artists included in the gallery are Julia Lynn Haw, Layne Jackson, Joseph Budka, Maral Hashemi, Lisa Pantoja, Ricardo Gonzales, Erika Cespedes, Chrissy Scolaro, Chris Helton, Clark Bending, Michelle Korte Leccia, and Joyce Speechley.

 

Running Time: Ninety-five minutes with no interruption

   
   

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