Review: Terminus (Abbey Theatre – MCA Stage)

 
   

Ireland’s best takes to the MCA stage

  
  

Declan Conlon, Catherine Walker, Olwen Fouere - Terminus

  
Abbey Theatre, i/a/w Goodman Theatre presents
  
Terminus
  
Written and Directed by Mark O’Rowe
at
Museum of Contemporary Art Stage, 220 E. Chicago (map)
through March 6  |  tickets: $28-$35  |  more info

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

The monologue is a difficult thing to master, both in terms of writing and performance, so I was a little wary when I found out Terminus is only three intertwining monologues. Luckily, Abbey Theatre, the national theater of Ireland, knows how to transform the monologue into riveting theater, as Mark O’Rowe’s poetry is exquisitely performed by the three actors. Standing inside a shattered picture frame, giant shards of glass surrounding them, A (Olwen Fouéré), B (Catherine Walker), and C (Declan Conlon) recount the events of one evening that will change them forever.

A, an emergency hotline operator, explores seedy Dublin pubs as she looks for an ex-student who is trying to abort a child nearly come to term. When a night out goes horribly wrong, B finds herself face to face with the supernatural, and loves what she sees. And C cuts people up without any remorse, so he’s a bit of a wild card in the proceedings. O’Rowe’s evocative language uses rhyme liberally, giving the monologues a bit of a freestyle rap vibe that helps keep the momentum constantly moving forward. O’Rowe is an immensely skilled playwright, and he creates a bleak image of Dublin that is both intensely alive while horrifyingly decayed. The verse allows him to present information in new ways, creating images in segments to build suspense until the big comedic/dramatic reveal.

Catherine Walker, Declan Conlon, Olwen Fouere - TerminusConsidering how serious the subject matter is, O’Rowe’s script is very funny, albeit darkly. There’s a Bette Midler through-line in all the stories that lends itself to comedy but takes on a dark meaning in the context of the plot, and finding the comedy in the midst of all this darkness is why the script is so successful. His characters may speak in verse, but their speech is natural, and the language flows very comfortably from all three actors, who have the unenviable task of keeping an audiences attention on their own. There’s a strength between the three actors that has undoubtedly comes from their time spent in rehearsal, and the connection between them can be felt throughout the entire play, uniting them despite their separate stories.

O’Rowe doesn’t have the same problems as other writer-directors, and that’s because Terminus is a tightly constructed production that doesn’t over-conceptualize or complicate the script with directorial flourishes. The ambition of this play is in it’s script, and the actors turn in beautifully nuanced performances that capture all the ecstasy, terror, and heartbreak of urban life. Often cringe-inducing in its explicitness, O’Rowe’s script is a grim and graphic image of Dublin life, but the poetry of the langue finds the beauty hidden within the darkness of the city’s soul. I didn’t know what to expect from Ireland’s national theater, and now I know not to expect anything less than brilliance.

  
  
Rating: ★★★½
   
  

All photos by Ros Kavanagh

  
  

Review: The Servant of Two Masters (Piccolo Theatre)

  
  

Piccolo keeps tradition alive and lively

  
  

Servant 300x250

   
Piccolo Theatre presents
  
The Servant of Two Masters
  
Written by Carlo Goldoni
Directed by
John Szostek
at
Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main Street (map)
through April 9  | 
tickets: $25  | more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

There’s something refreshing about returning to good, old, broad physical comedy and farce. No jaded irony or hipster coolness impedes its sheer enjoyment; mad-dash energy and pure silliness carries the story along to its positive, if predictable, end. Piccolo Theatre does The Servant of Two Masters the old-style way, with all the Arlecchinotraditional bells and whistles. Take that literally, since benches line the wooden stage, loaded with noisemakers to amplify exaggerated gestures, body movement and wild slapstick typical of commedia dell’arte.

Under the tight direction of John Szostek, Piccolo is determined to give audiences as authentic and bawdy an old-world experience as possible, contrasting charming Italian song from the elegant innamorati (lovers) with the bawdy songs and acrobatic comedy of Truffaldino (Omen Sade). The entire cast acquits their roles with energetic teamwork and enthusiasm, which includes a certain improvisation with Carlo Goldoni’s text. Yet, none are put to the test like Sade–his put upon, wily servant is basically a non-stop cartoon through two vigorous acts. If there is anything to appreciate about Piccolo’s production, it’s the marathon of physical action the players go through for the audience’s enjoyment.

Pantalone (Kevin Lucero Less) is about to marry off his daughter Clarice (Deborah Craft) to Silvio (Glenn Proud), the foppish son of Dottore Lombardi (Joel Thompson). But Truffaldino arrives to interrupt their engagement with news that his master, and Clarice’s original betrothed, waits downstairs. Actually, it is really Beatrice (Denita Linnertz) in men’s dress impersonating her brother, who was betrothed to Clarice before he lost his life in a duel with Beatrice’s lover, Florindo (Tommy Venuti). ArlecchinoDisguised, Beatrice simply hopes to complete a business transaction with Pantalone so that she can use the money to find and assist her lover, who fled after the duel. Cross dressing is only one of the delights of The Servant of Two Masters; mistaken identity galore drives most of the plot as Truffaldino signs on to serving none other than—guess who–Florindo when he arrives in town.

Piccolo’s production exults in these old formulas and executes them with verve. Szotsek has obviously encouraged a take-no-prisoners approach to the playing out the various dinner service sketches, swordfights (fight choreography David W. M. Kelch), and a boffo, knock-down-drag-out wrestling match between Pantalone and the Dottore. However, the production delivers charm as well as energy. The simple pleasure of buffoonery – that is the hearty spectacle that Piccolo achieves in its economically tiny space. In doing so, they enliven a great tradition for future audiences.

  
  
Rating: ★★★½
   
   

 

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Review: The Man Who Came to Dinner (Circle Theatre)

     
     

Circle Theatre serves up a hilariously entertaining ‘Dinner’

     
     

Jon Steinhagen, Kieran Welsh-Phillips, Jerry Bloom - Circle Theatre

  
Circle Theatre presents
  
The Man Who Came to Dinner
   
Written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
Directed by
Mary Redmon
at
Madison Street Theatre, Oak Park (map)
through April 3  |  tickets: $20-$24  |  more info

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian

When an infamously demanding radio personality slips on the ice of his dinner host’s front stoop and is forced to take up residence against his will in their home for six weeks, among their various relatives, famous friend visitors and townsfolk, only madness can ensue. Such is the story of The Man Who Came to Dinner, currently playing at Circle Theatre.

Jon Steinhagen, Noah Sullivan, Patti Paul - Circle TheatreThe Man Who Came to Dinner begins with an energetic cast (maybe a little bit too energetic). While the show is a farcical comedy and over-the-top acting is to be expected, some performers, such as Mrs. Stanley (Patti Paul), wife of Earnest Stanley who are hosting radio personality Sheridan Whiteside, teeter on excessive overacting, which can be grating at times. Whiteside (Jon Steinhagen) starts off understated, delivering dryly bitter lines and insults in a rather hilarious manner. As the show progresses, we see Steinhagen begin to talk faster and faster which – though serving as a method of condescension to others – at times become hard to understand and just a tad grating. However, when taken as a whole, Steinhagen does a great job of embodying the character and fleshing Whiteside out.

Lorraine Sheldon (Heather Townsend) is also plagued by use of quick speech, but as she is a larger than life character, a famous actress friend of Whiteside’s who he’s invited to visit, Townsend’s bombasity works here, as Townsend uses not only her voice but her facial expressions and body language to bring Lorraine Sheldon to life.

Whiteside has traveled with his secretary Maggie Cutler (Kieran Welsh-Phillips), who keeps his life in order while he’s indisposed. Welsh-Phillips offers depth to the character of Maggie. She’s a presence on stage, speaking clearly and delivering her lines with confidence and knowledge of her character’s story. Maggie also falls in love while they are stuck at the Stanley residence with Burt Jefferson (delightfully played by Danny Pancratz), a newspaper reporter who has come in search of a story on Whiteside.

Harriet Stanley (Brooke Sherrod Jaeky), an ax murderer masquerading as Mr. Stanley’s sister, Nurse Preen (Katie Kisner), Whiteside’s nurse and Beverly Carlton and Banjo (Jerry Bloom), friends of Whiteside’s who visit, round out the list of standout performances. Jaeky is understated, creating a strange yet fascinating character. Kisner is rather comical as she attempts to deal with Whiteside’s temper tantrums and antics. Bloom takes on characters based on famous character men: Jon Steinhagen, Heather Townsend - Circle TheatreBeverly on Noel Coward and Banjo on Harpo Marx. Bloom does a terrific job of paying homage to these characters as well as bringing his own take to the roles.

The set, designed by Bob Knuth, is quite ornately decorated. From the busily detailed wallpaper to the decorative window treatments to the proper-looking furniture and baby grand piano it’s clear that we’re in the home of wealthy individuals. A grand staircase leads to the home’s bedrooms and French doors lead to an (offstage) library. The attention to detail is exceptional and the set is visually interesting, a perfect backdrop for this performance.

The Man Who Came to Dinner proves to be an entertaining show and ends on a hilarious note that keeps the audience laughing as the actors take their bows.

   
  
Rating: ★★★
   
  

Danny Pancratz, Kieran Welsh-Phillips, Jon Steinhagen - Circle Theatre

The Man Who Came to Dinner plays at Circle Theatre (1010 W. Madison, Oak Park) through April 3rd. Tickets are $20 to $24 and can be purchases by calling (708) 771-0700.

  
  

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