Wednesday Wordplay: The secret of being boring…

 

The secret of being boring is to say everything.
            — Voltaire

 

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
            — Charles Dickens

 

Flattery is like cologne water, to be smelt of, not swallowed.
            — Josh Billings

Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?
            — Rose Kennedy

There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.
            — Freya Madeline Stark

The truth is that there is nothing noble in being superior to somebody else. The only real nobility is in being superior to your former self.
            — Whitney Young

 

We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.
            — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.
            — Albert Camus, Happy Death

 

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.
            — James Thurber

 

If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.
            — John Cleese

 

I have no faith in human perfectability. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active – not more happy – nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.
            — Edgar Allan Poe

 

Sometimes the lies you tell are less frightening than the loneliness you might feel if you stopped telling them.
            — Brock Clarke, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, 2007

 

Three failures denote uncommon strength. A weakling has not enough grit to fail thrice.
            — Minna Thomas Antrim

  
  

Sanity Break: Bette Midler sings ‘Otto Titsling’. Hilarious!

Bette Midler sings Otto Titsling on Johnny Carson

 

 

You gotta love Bette Midler – this is hilarious!

  
  

Review: Nefarious! (Cornservatory)

     
     

Will the Hot Hero Club stop the villain from destroying their city?

     
     

A scene from Corn Production's 'Nefarious!' by Miquela A. Cruz

  
Corn Productions presents
  
Nefarious!
  
Written and Directed by Miquela A. Cruz
at
The Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln (map)
through March 26  |  tickets: $7-$15  |  more info

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Nefarious is an adjective meaning extremely wicked or villainous. In Corn Productions’ of Nefarious!, written and directed by Corn Productions company member Miquela A. Cruz, the evil (or nefarious, if you will) supervillainess Lilith has something big planned for Metropalopolis on the one-year anniversary of her destruction of Miss Cosmo. It’s up to the Superstar Hot Hero Club, led by Mr. Bulleit and his sidekick Dr. Watts, to stop the launch of Pandora (2.0) and put an end to Lilith once and for all, saving their fair Metropalopolis!

A scene from Corn Production's 'Nefarious!' by Miquela A. CruzNefarious! opens with a musical number introducing all of the characters. It’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. Although it’s clear that this show is going to be cheesy and over the top, there’s talent on stage. The ensemble has a strong voice and, as mentioned, over the top characterizations. Not that this a bad thing here, as the characters need to be exaggerated in order for them to work, such as Mr. Bulleit (Matthew Gall), Dr. Watts (Andrew Bolduc), Anime (Kallie Noelle Rolison) and Yami (Justin Lance). These actors, as well as the rest of the cast, take their parts seriously but still know how to play and have fun with them at the same time.

While the singing of the ensemble is strong, solos are a little shaky. Lilith’s (Aasia Bullock) solo “One Day at Time,” starts weak and flat, but Bullock then finds her stride by the end of her song. However, she lacks a level of deviousness – for a character who’s supposed to be “nefarious” she should take the song further, playing up the evil villain archetype. Meanwhile, Brendan Stallings proves to raise the wicked-meter as Kayne, Lilith’s right hand man.

The third of four songs, “Best Friends,” sung by Yami (Lance) and Anime (Rolison) has some awkwardly choppy musical transitions. That said, Lance and Rolison are larger than life, keeping us laughing throughout.

Gall as Mr. Bulleit completely plays up the narcissistic superhero persona, which makes him a standout. Even though his solo “How I Love to Love Me” has some less than pitch-perfect moments, his charisma helps make up for it.

Being a superhero comedy, there is, of course, a plethora of fight scenes. The fight choreography by Orion Couling and Zach Meyer is great. It’s evident that Couling worked hard in his direction to make the fights seem as realistic as possible and make them engaging for the audience. While the fight scenes are captivating, the voice over scenes leave one’s mind wandering, waiting for the action to return to the stage.

The set in the intimately-sized theatre at the Cornservatory is set in an L-shape with simple set pieces. The backdrop of a cityscape is not overly fancy or showy and there’s plenty of open space for the multiple fight scenes that take place.

Nefarious! is billed as a musical, but with only four songs, the description is misleading.  More (funny) songs are definitely in order. But in spite of that, Miquela A. Cruz’s writing is strong, with a plethora of jokes and one liners to keep the show chortling along. And the plot twists certainly make for an unexpected diversion.

In the end, Nefarious! if full of high-energy over-the-top performances that keeps the audience entertained throughout.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

A scene from Corn Production's 'Nefarious!' by Miquela A. Cruz

Nefarious! plays at the Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln, through March 26 Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $7 on Wednesdays, $10 on Thursdays and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets can be purchased by calling 312-409-6435.


Cast

Matthew Gall (Mr. Bulleit ), Aasia Bullock (Lilith), Andrew Bolduc,(Dr. Watts), Kallie Noelle Rolison (Anime), Justin Lance (Yami), Brendan Stallings (Kayne).

  
  

Review: This (Theater Wit)

 
  

Theater Wit exposes adultery with intelligence and grace

  
  

Rebecca Spence and John Byrnes in 'This' at Theater Wit. Photo by Johnny Knight.

  
Theater Wit presents
  
This
  
Written by Melissa James Gibson
Directed by
Jeremy Wechsler 
at
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
through March 27  |  tickets: $24  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

What if “the other woman” was not some scheming, seductive siren but your best friend? Many dramas make melodramatic hash out of both kinds of scenarios but This, the latest production of Theater Wit, keeps a cool, compassionate head about sexual transgressions between friends. Melissa James Gibson’s comic script handles the subject with insight, gentle maturity and grace. Theater Wit has a hit on its hands because This demonstrates the right mix of humor and common sense about relationships, love, loss, and recovery. Meanwhile, Jeremy Wechsler’s direction is nothing less than a deft touch–keeping the action clear, light and decidedly on track.

Rebecca Spence as Jane in 'This' at Theater Wit.  Photo by Johnny Knight.Jane (Rebecca Spence) has spent the past year grieving the death of her husband, Roy. Fortunately, she’s had the support of her friends from college, Tom (John Byrnes) and Marrill (Lily Mojekwu), who are married and having their first child; and Alan (Mitchell J. Fain), the “gay friend.” While the gay friend has pretty much become a stock character for contemporary comedy, Fain makes the role distinctly his own, delivering Gibson’s dialogue with a razor sharp edge, which makes the humor more vivid and Alan’s personal revelations more poignant.

Jane’s friendships with these three carry their own sharp edge; the play is quite knowing about the ways friendships can both nourish and undermine the individual. Dinner at Tom and Merrill’s starts with Merrill’s attempts to set up Jane with a new guy, Jean-Pierre (Steve Hadnagy), but it also subjects Jane to a game that puts her on the spot and pulls more information out of her than she’s ready to reveal. Later, Tom shows up on Jane’s doorstep, confessing to a well of untapped desire for her. Jane’s slip-up with Tom acts as the catalyst to plumb whole underlying assumptions her friends have about her and about each other.

The show is not just about Jane but also about how a group of friends handles the rocky changes within long-term relationships—new stresses, miscommunication, unspoken needs and momentary betrayals. Scene after scene regales the audience with witty banter, but the play never strays too far from the loss really haunting Jane. Spence makes every moment count–both her surrender to Tom and her final meltdown are convincingly real. Merrill’s postpartum malaise over her marriage to Tom is grounded by Mojekwu’s solid intelligence and sensuality. Byrnes brings the right level of silent frustration to Tom getting shut out in the marriage. As for Hadnagy’s portrayal of Jean-Pierre, he keeps a light touch—all the better to play an easygoing continental without falling into French-y caricature.

If there are any flaws to the play’s otherwise realistic portrayal of friendship and relationships, it’s in Tom and Merrill’s rather rapid recovery after Jane has let the cat out of the bag about her and Tom’s affair. Also, Alan’s perfect memory–to establish the truth of Merrill and Tom’s He Said/She Said moments—comes across as more of a contrivance than actual drama. But the smoothness with which the cast skates through Gibson’s script redeems these flaws. Wechsler’s cast engages the script with an enviable liquid alacrity, creating scenes with instinctually fluid reactions between people who have known each other for ages. For all the burden of Jane’s secret shame and the pressured snippiness between Tom and Merrill, these are people who like each other and rely on each other’s company as a witness to their lives. No matter what their flaws, they are just the people to bring Jane back to the land of the living.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Rebecca Spence and Lily Mojekwu in Theater Wit's "This". Photo by Johnny Knight.

Mitchell J. Fain and Rebecca Spence in Theater Wit's "This". Photo by Johnny Knight. Rebecca Spence and John Byrnes in Theater Wit's "This". Photo by Johnny Knight.

This continues through March 27th, with performance  Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.   Single tickets are $15 to $35.  For tickets and information, visit TheaterWit.org or call the Theater Wit box office, 773.975.8150.

    
     

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Review: Radio Golf (Raven Theatre)

        
     

Wilson’s thought-provoking drama has a whole new relevancy in 2011

     
     

Warren Levon, Demetria Thomas, Michael Pogue in Raven Theatre's 'Radio Golf'. Photo by Dean LaPrairie.

  
Raven Theatre presents
  
Radio Golf
  
Written by August Wilson 
Directed by
Aaron Todd Douglas
at
Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark Street (map)
through April 9 |  tickets: $30  |  more info 

Reviewed by Dan Jakes

It’s only been six years since Radio Golf, the tenth and final work in Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson’s “Pittsburg Cycle, premiered at Yale Rep.

A lot has happened in six years.

In that time, certain middle-upper-class white signifiers prominently featured in this 1990’s-based drama have taken a dip from grace. Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, lucrative condo investments and, well, Tiger Woods…let’s just say they aren’t what they used to be. “Unemployment” has knocked out “affluenza” as the country’s go-to economic buzz-word, Chicago just watched a mayoral campaign season with similar Harold Washington-era fears about equal race representation and, oh yeah, America elected its first non-white president.

Michael Pogue, Demetria Thomas in a scene from Raven Theatre's 'Radio Golf' by August Wilson. Photo by Dean LaPrairie.Yesterday, this show about a wealthy young black man running for mayor of Pittsburg was contemporary. Today it’s a period-piece, a quality that only adds to its resounding ideas.

The timing of director Aaron Todd Douglas’ production feels perfect. With just enough distance and room for perspective, we get to see the protagonists’ superficial goals and misplaced trusts with an unwavering knowledge of the consequences—something Wilson, who died in 2005, never got the chance to witness for himself. I wonder if he knew he was creating a prescient work of theatre.

As candidate Wilks, Michael Pogue conveys idealism and an eagerness to please his community, listening to its grievances and welcoming citizens into his private office, a space traditionally reserved for the shady deals that are kept far away from picture-windowed PR campaign centers. Time goes on and compromises need to be made, such as the necessity to petition a neighborhood for blight status and the unethical demolishing of a delinquent taxpayer’s house. A little more arc in Pogue’s demeanor would be compelling. But like the rest of this cast, Pogue finds the rhythm in Wilson’s dialogue most of the time (the poetic allegories are clear and strong), steam-rolling it a bit here and there.

David Adams is the most consistent and entertaining of the bunch. Patient and methodical as the stubborn but righteous owner of the dilapidated property at 1839 Wylie Ave.—a brick house that stands in Wilks’ way between continued suburban poverty and a massive, gentrifying real estate complex—Adams carries the weary but proud burden of a man who values what’s right. Blue collar local Sterling Johnson (Antoine Pierre Whitfield) does likewise. Both actors nail Radio Golf’s comedy with complementing styles: Adams understated and Whitfield abrasive.

It makes me wonder about 2012. 15 years after this story takes place, how much of “the game” will be the same, and who gets to play?

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Warren Levon, Michael Pogue, and David Adams in Raven Theatre's 'Radio Golf' by August Wilson. Photo by Dean LaPrairie.

Radio Golf continues through April 9th, with performances Thurs. through Sat. 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $30, and are available by calling 773-338-2177, or online at RavenTheatre.com.

 

 
 

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