REVIEW: The New Adventures of Popeye (Factory Theater)


Strong the to finish, ‘cause they eat their spinach!


Factory Theater presents
The New Adventures of Popeye
Directed by Eric Roach
Prop Thtr, 3504 N. Elston (map)
through Dec 17   |  tickets: $8   |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

The Factory Theater has a late-night theater offering, The New Adventures of Popeye – but one wonders whether it shouldn’t be pared down and placed just before Jenny & Jenni in the way that cartoon shorts used to warm up the audience in movie theaters before the feature. Directed by Eric Roach, with John Moran (Popeye), Sarah Rose Graber (Olive Oyl) and Dave Skvarla (Bluto), the team absolutely nail the Popeye - Factory Theatercartoon mannerisms, voices and movement of their characters. Their goal is to produce Popeye for adults, which in some ways is rather redundant, since the original cartoons always had Popeye mumbling witty asides that the adults could get a chuckle over, while the kids reveled in the cartoon’s hyperbolic physical comedy and routine sparring between Popeye and Bluto over Olive.

Eric Roach and cast (which include Lina Bunte and Colin Milroy) also try to update Popeye with contemporary themes and concerns. For openers, Popeye and Bluto compete in selling their apples at a farmers market. Popeye’s apples are organically grown while Bluto’s reek of harmful chemicals. But the premise comes off as preachy more than funny; even now it’s difficult to see two iconically stereotypical seamen like Popeye and Bluto getting into farming, organic or otherwise.

The other sketches prove to be much funnier: couples-counseling for Popeye and Olive Oyl, the travails of air flight for all three. I wonder if there’s still time to put in material about ex-ray screening and full-body pat downs. Whatever the case, the production comes off much cleaner when returning to the original comic structure of the cartoon, which has always been about two guys fighting over a gal—a skinny, rubbery, mewling kind of gal. Pleasant and pure nostalgia holds the audience, as well as marvel over the ease with which the cast physically and bracingly evokes the cartoon’s clownish effects.

Rating: ★★½



John Moran is Popeye
Sarah Rose Graber* is Olive Oyl
David Skvarla is Bluto
Lina Bunte is Female Koken
Colin Milroy* is Male Koken


Directed by Eric Roach*
Geoff Coates is the Fight Director
Amy C Gilman is the Props Designer
Jason Weinberg is the Stage Manager



John Moran (Popeye) has appeared onstage with A Red Orchid Theatre, Strawdog, the Hypocrites, Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Black Ensemble Theater, and his beloved Factory. He is so very happy to be back, playing another cartoon character.



Eric Roach (Director) is filled with happiness to be back with the Popeye crew!  He’s a proud member of the Factory ensemble, where he’s directed the Factory classics Janice Dutts Goes To Life Camp, Bustin’ Out of The Hell, The New Adventures of Popeye, and the original run and current Storefront Theatre remount of 1985!  He’s also going to be a proud papa in April of 2011, and will be teaching his infant the joys of sleeping through the night and why Ke$ha is the real source of evil in the world!  Love to my Angel and Baby Doe Roach!


Dave Skvarla (BLUTO) is an actor and violence designer.  Sometimes, he is a writer.  And even less often, a director, sometimes.  At the Factory he once played Morris Fishman in Mike Beyer’s “DIRTY DIAMONDS,” but you can call him Billy.  He will soon play Sgt. Cuff, the Greatest Detective in all of England, in “THE MOONSTONE” at Lifeline Theatre, and right after that, also at Lifeline, Dave will be General Woundwort, the biggest rabbit anybody has ever seen (where Art intersects Reality), in “WATERSHIP DOWN.”  Likes:  Hitting and being hit, dying, Kit Kats, Jameson, and a wee taste o’th’other…  Turn offs:  eager puppies and over-earnest puritans, too much hops, & squeaky, nasal bitches.


Sarah Rose Graber (Olive Oyl)
Sarah Rose Graber is a proud Factory ensemble member where she’s done a ton of shows and is so happy to be adding Popeye to the list! Graber is currently performing in The Book of Liz at CIC, and has worked around town with Northlight Theatre, Adventure Stage Chicago, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Strawdog, and more. She’s having so much fun and hopes you are too! *High five*


Lina Bunte (Female Koken) has trained at Second City, iO, and Annoyance Theatre. She is a Resident Artist at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy. She loves all Factory shows and is really excited to finally be part of one. Thanks to Sarah Rose Graber to asking her to join the cast and Eric Roach for being a really cool director. Lina is still wating for Benicio Del Toro to call her.


Amy C Gilman (Props Designer) is a Scenic and Props Designer. This season, she has designed the scenery for Alice and Me and Choose Thine Own Adventure for Filament Theatre Ensemble, and will be designing props for Stage Left Theatre‘s Enemy of the People. She has designed props for Theatre Seven‘s Lies and Liars and The Sand Castle. She has recently received her BFA in Scenic Design from DePaul University and has studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Geoff Coates (Fight Director) is a freelance Fight Director with over 40 productions and 20 years of violence design for Chicago theaters, and is the recipient of 5 Joseph Jefferson Nominations, 4 Joseph Jefferson Awards and 2 After Dark Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Fight Choreography. Geoff strives to explore the causality of conflict, and express it through dynamic and realistic physical action, cunning and inventive spectacle, and a desire to entertain and educate. Also, he can kill you with his brain.


Colin Milroy (Male Koken)  Spinach is like wet, green toilet paper but Popeye makes it good.  Colin watched a lot of Popeye and even dabbled in spinach as a kid because he really wanted those forearms. He is giddy to be part of the experience that you see tonight. Colin has been a happy member of the Factory Theater since 2007.  Colin’s play, The Gray Girl, will be part of the Factory’s 2011 season.  It does not currently involve mermaids, the BP Oil Spill, or David Bowie, but with revisions, you never know. Have fun tonight and be sure to eat something enjoyable with your vegetables.


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