Review: There Is a Happiness that Morning Is (Theatre Oobleck)

  
  

A witty, cerebral look at love in all the wrong places

  
  

Diana Slickman, Colm O’Reilly and Kirk Anderson in Theater Oobleck’s “There Is a Happiness That Morning Is”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

  
Theatre Oobleck presents
  
There Is a Happiness that Morning Is
   
Written by Mickle Maher
at DCA Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph (map)
through May 22  |  tickets: pay what you can  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh 

The college watches two people have sex on the quad.  Shocking… especially because the public intercourse is between teachers who will enter courses the morning after.  Theatre Oobleck presents There Is a Happiness that Morning Is. Two poetry professors consummate decades of collaboration. The next day, they acknowledge the super-sized P.D.A. in very different ways.  A barefoot Bernard is in full bloom with twigs and leaves sticking out of his hair and pants.  He poetically states ‘I happy am‘ but wants to apologize for the visual spectacle.  A pulled together Ellen owns the intimacy to her class but not necessarily to Bernard.  And she absolutely refuses to ask for pardon from the college. They teach unrelated but related lessons on William Blake’s poetry.  Discourses of ‘Infant Joy‘ versus ‘The Sick Rose‘ probe happiness and dark secret love.  The Colm O’Reilly and Diana Slickman in Theater Oobleck’s “There Is a Happiness That Morning Is”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.separate verses are interrupted by the college president’s twisted reveal. There Is a Happiness that Morning Is is a witty, cerebral look at love in all the wrong places.

Playwright Mickle Maher pays homage to 18th-century poet William Blake with this show.  Maher builds the action from two characters’ interpretations of two different poems.  It’s living verse as the professors reflect on their intellectual and physical connection to the words.  As an Oobleck practice, the story unfolds without a director.  The devised piece works with the cast’s obvious synergy in storytelling.   Looking like Timeout’s Kris Vire’s brother, Colm O’Reilly (Bernard) is hilarious using his fornication as education.  A starry-eyed O’Reilly teaches a lesson in ‘at last I am this poem.’  Diana Slickman (Ellen) counters O’Reilly’s flowery romanticism with no-nonsense practicality.  Slickman’s drollery entertains with a he-said/she-said discourse.  Overlapping lectures set in different times are particularly amusing as he pours his heart out and she takes attendance. In an opposites attract way, O’Reilly and Slickman’s mismatch heightens the humor.  Kirk Anderson (James) surprises with his arrival and adds another kink(y) to the lovemaking.  Anderson deadpans his buffoonery with lighthearted results.

‘Love makes all the difference. With love, all things are better.  Love makes a magic zone.‘  Poets write about love.  Poetry professors interpret the meaning of love… from their own personal experience. There Is a Happiness that Morning Is is a clever, intellectual love lesson.  Although avid readers of poetry will sustain a higher level of pleasure, this course is a stimulating perusal for anyone! 

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Diana Slickman, Kirk Anderson and Colm O’Reilly in Theater Oobleck’s “There Is a Happiness That Morning Is”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

There Is a Happiness that Morning Is continues through May 22nd at the DCA Storefront Theater, with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm.  Tickets are pay-what-you can ($15 donation suggested), and can be reserved online or by calling the box-office at 312-742-TIXS.  Show running time: Ninety minutes with no intermission.  More info here.

        

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Stuart Carden appointed Writers’ Theatre Associate AD

StuartCarden Writers’ Theatre has appointed Stuart Carden associate artistic director.

I’m so excited to be in collaboration with Stuart,” said Michael Halberstam, executive director the Writers’. “He has a rich background in literary development, a keen and ambitious scope of work as a director and a passion for the administrative challenges that come with supporting artistic direction. In a very short time I believe we will see Stuart’s strength of perspective and influence find its way onto the stages of Writers’ Theatre.”

Says Carden:

“I’m thrilled to be back home in the thriving Chicago theatre community as Writers’ Theatre’s new associate artistic director. Michael Halberstam and Kathryn Lipuma have created something extraordinary in Glencoe and I’m honored to join the passionate and vibrant group of artists and theater-makers that call Writers’ home. Through the course of my career my theatrical raison d’être has been helping bring new and diverse voices to the stage and I’m looking forward to bringing that passion for new work to Writers’ exciting Literary Development Initiative.”

Stuart Carden joins Writers’ Theatre as associate artistic director after two seasons at City Theatre Company in Pittsburgh where he was associate artistic director. As a new play specialist, Stuart has helped to develop over thirty plays, twelve of which he directed in their world premiere productions. Notable regional, U.S., and world premieres include works by Martin Crimp, David Henry Hwang, Tristine Skyler, Jeffrey Hatcher, Shishir Kurup, Richard Dresser and Yussef El Guindi. Last season his production of Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis garnered five Kevin Kline nominations including “Outstanding Production” and “Outstanding Director.”

In Chicago he directed the world premiere production of Shishir Kurup’s The Merchant on Venice at Silk Road Theatre Project, which was named one of the top ten plays of 2007 by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Time Out Chicago. Other recent new play work includes directing Mary’s Wedding, The Pillowman, Stones in his Pockets, A Picasso, The Moonlight Room, 10 Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith, Big Love and Back of the Throat. Classical and classically inspired directing projects include The False Servant, Spring Awakening, Life is a Dream, The Crucible, The Game of Love and Chance, Miss Julie, A Streetcar Named Desire and his own adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s Diary of a Madman.

Stuart has taught acting, directing and movement at Carnegie Mellon University, The Hartt School, Loyola University, Beloit College and Act One Studios. He holds an M.F.A. in directing from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. In the 2009/10 season Stuart is slated to direct David Harrower’s Blackbird at City Theatre Company and a play very familiar to Writers’ Theatre audiences, Crime and Punishment adapted by Curt Columbus and Marilyn Campbell, at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

For more info about the Writers’ Theatre, please visit www.writerstheatre

h/t BroadwayWorld.com

‘Rod Blagojevich Superstar’ moving to Chicago Shakespeare

secondcity_blagojevich 

Following a sold out run at Second City e.t.c., the popular comedy review “Rod Blagojevich Superstarwill be playing a limited engagement Chicago Shakes on Navy Pier.  The Navy Pier version has been updated with new sketches and music to include recent Blago happenings, such as his 6-figure book deal and Roland Burris’ son (and, as the Blago drama proceeds, so will Second City’s improv show!).  After each performance, the famed improv theatre troupe will improvise a 20-minute political comedy set based on audience suggestions.

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Superstar has book by Ed Furman, music and lyrics by T.J. Shanoff and direction by Matt Hovde. The cast includes Joey Bland as Rod Blagojvich, Mike Bradecich as Richard Mell/Pat Fitzgerald, Lauren Dowden as Lisa Madigan, Lori McClain as Patti Blagojevich and Sam Richardson as Senator Roland Burris.

According to Second City notes,

“Politics and parody take center stage Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare with the Second City’s rollicking musical parody of the rise and fall of ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich. A faux tribute to the man who compares himself to Gandhi, King and Mandela, Rod Blagojevich Superstar presents the story of the former governor in the style of a ’70s rock musical. Jesus and Mary Magdalene have been replaced by Rod and Patti Blagojevich, with appearances by Alderman Dick Mell, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Senator Roland Burris. The jury is still out on Blagojevich, but of the five other Illinois governors who have been charged with crimes, three have done time.”

More info at ChicagoShakes.com.

Rave reviews after the fold.

See video preview of the show here.

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Theater tidbits: Lifeline Theatre, About Face, Mordine

 

 

»» Lifeline Theatre is welcoming two new members into their creative team – Robert Kauzlaric as marketing director and Lea Pinsky as the new Director of Education.  I’m sure they’ll add a lively creative energy to this remarkable theater company.  (currently playing at Lifeline: Mariette in Ecstasy)
   
»» TimeOutChicago is holding a contest for Stupid Kids over at About Face Theater. The theater company has gathered submissions of high  school triumphs and tribulations, and now they want you to vote on your favorite “Stupid Kids” moment! Lucky winners will get to present or perform their submissions for Stupid Kids audiences during the final week at Center on Halsted.          Click here to vote.   
See TimeOutChicago’s rave review of Stupid Kids here.
   
»» The Dance Center of Columbia College presents Mordine & Company Dance Theater this Thursday-Saturday (Feb 26-28, 8pm).  In honor of its 40th Anniversary (!), Mordine & Company will perform a program that symbolically acknowledges its history while also looking to its future.  As a special offer, receive a 20% discount on your tickets by entering the promotion code “Mordine 20” when ordering tickets here.
   

MordineDanceCompany

Chicago Theater: "Xanadu" Reviews

shows_xanaduxanadu2 

The hit Broadway-musical Xanadu joyously roller-skated its way onto Michigan Avenue last night at Drury Lane Water Tower

Here’s a collection of Xanadu theater reviews:

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* UPDATED * UPDATED * UPDATED * UPDATED * UPDATED * UPDATED * UPDATED *

 

Christopher Piatt  (TimeOut Chicago)

You don’t have to be gay to dig Xanadu; you need to be gay enough.  …(Book writer Douglas Carter) Beane‘s challenge was to stitch the virile, throbbing unapologetically awesome space-pop of Electric Light Orchestra into a credible evening.  The resulting airheaded, upbeat rock follies…has a deliriously screwball quality that channels the lush, berserk American entertainment of the 1930s.

Of the cast, haunted slumlord Larry Marshall adds an appealing noir quality.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth Stanley, the pop-princess chorine who skates and tells jokes, is the star of the goddamn universe. (Entire review here)

Rating: ««««« out of 6

 

Chris Jones (Tribune)

…A shrewdly good time, if you have a few pre-show drinks…

Yes, “Xanadu” knows it’s based on one of the worst movies ever made. It makes fun of jukebox musicals even as it takes its place among them. And with a comparable chutzpah to that which once catapulted Olivia Newton-John to incomprehensible global stardom, “Xanadu” manages to poke fun at the creative bankruptcy of the endless recycling of movies and nostalgia while doing precisely that itself. No armor is more protective than self-awareness.

Rating: ★★★                                                            Read entire review.

Hedy Weiss (Sun-Times)

Talent and fluff clash, but goofy grins prevail.

Let it never be said that playwright Douglas Carter Beane doesn’t possess a gleefully self-mocking sense of his own work. During the course of “Xanadu,” which received its high-energy, high-volume, post-Broadway debut here Wednesday at the winningly intimate Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place, he offers a fine assessment of the show. As one character exclaims: “This is like children’s theater for 40-year-old gay people.”    

Rating: Somewhat Recommended                         Read entire review.

Tom Williams (ChicagoCritic.com)

Let me start my stating that I hate disco music from the 1980’s and I think the Xanadu film may be the worst film of all-time or high on that list. Those biases have colored my take on Xanadu, the musical now at Drury Lane Water Tower Place produced by Broadway in Chicago. To me, there was nothing very cute or funny in this show. It tries too hard to be campy and satirical with dated 80’s referenced jokes. Filled with ELO tunes, leg warmers, roller skating, and a fake Australian accent, Xanadu came off as crass exploitive fluff that I found derivative.

As a consumer advocate, however, let me state that the audience at the opening night performance found the show to be a hilarious romp filed with bouncy, had-clapping songs filled with 80’s nostalgia. It is a feel-good show long on escapist entertainment and short on plot.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended                         Read entire review.

Fabrizio Almeida (NewCity)

I don’t know that the stage show offers any experience, let alone anything that might even qualify this as a fun and fabulous guilty pleasure. Clearly, the biggest problem is with Christopher Ashley’s direction. You can’t force camp, and yet every half-assed joke and lame visual pun has been overly telegraphed and repeated to the point of ineffectiveness. I did laugh a few times: Elizabeth Stanley’s breathy delivery of some stupid lines; the thick Australian accent. But overall I found the ninety-minute intermission-less stage experience tedious, dull and uninspired…………

…….clearly, this is a big misstep for Broadway in Chicago, and I don’t see ”Xanadu” running long or appealing to many theatergoers. Because if this camp-loving, ELO-listening, gay roller-skating lover of “Starlight Express” thought it was crap, what hope is there for you to like it?

Rating: Not Recommended                                        Read entire review.

Xanadu is fun for 5-year kids to 95-year old disco queens!

Chicago Theater – Best of 2008 (TimeOut Chicago)

Court Theatre's "Caroline or Change", six out of six stars The Hypocrite's "Our Town" "Million Dollar Quartet" at the Apollo Theater Steep Theatre's "Breathing Corpses"

 

TimeOut Chicago‘s Christopher Platt and Kris Vire present their top 10 Chicago theater picks of 2008:

 

1. Caroline or Change  (Court Theatre)
by Tony Kushner
Standouts: Charles Newell (director), Doug Peck (musical director); actors: Kate Fry, E.Faye Butler
     
2. Our Town  (The Hypocrites)
by Thornton Wilder
Standouts: David Cromer (director), actors: Jennifer Grace (as Emily), David Cromer (narrator)
 
     
3. Speech and Debate  (American Theatre Company)
by Stephen Karam
Standouts: PJ Paparelli (ATC Artistic Director); performances: Patrick Andrews, Jared McGuire, Sadieh Rifai
 
     
4. Uncle Vanya (TUTA TheatreChicago)
by Anton Chekhov
Standouts: Zeljko Djukic (director), Yasen Peyankov  and Peter Christensen (translators), Martin Andrew (designer)
 
     
5. Miss Julie  (The Hypocrites)
by August Strindberg
Standouts: Sean Graney (director); performances: Stacy Stoltz, Greg Hardigan
 
     
6. Titus Andronicus  (Court Theatre)
by William Shakespeare
Standouts: Charles Newell (director), ; performances: Timothy Edward Kane, Hollis Resnik
 
     
7. Fake Lake  (The Neo-Futurists)
by Sharon Greene
Standouts: Halena Kays (director), Welles Park pool, Mikhail Fiksel
 
     
8. Breathing Corpses  (Steep Theatre)
by Laura Wade
Standouts: Robin Witt (director), Marcus Stephen (set designer)
 
     
9. Million Dollar Quartet  (Goodman, Apollo Theater)
Standouts: Levi Kreis (as Jerry Lee Lewis), Lance Guest (Johnny Cash), Rob Lyon (Carl Perkins), Eddie Clendening (Elvis Presley)
 
     
10. As Told by the Vivian Girls  (Dog & Pony Theatre)
by Devin de Mayo
Standouts: Devin de Mayo (director)
 

 

To see the TimeOut Chicago description of each of these shows, click here.

Mary-Arrchie’s "Our Bad Magnet" extended thru Jan. 18th

Due to popular demand, Mary-Arrchie Theatre will be extending the Jeff Recommended US Premiere of Our Bad Magnet, by Douglas Maxwell, at Angel Island Theatre, 735 W. Sheridan .

Currently, the final dates for 2008 will be December 18th – 22nd. The extension, then, will begin January 2nd and run through January 18th, 2009.

Kevin V. Smith, John Wilson, Layne Manzer, Daniel Behrendt

L to R: Kevin V. Smith, John Wilson, Layne Manzer, Daniel Behrendt

Press accolades:

“well-cast American premiere…features some breathtaking moments…one of the most effective and surprising endings I’ve seen in a while…” – Chicago Tribune

“For anyone who wants to experience joy, sadness, and the potential to be moved to tears in their holiday theater-going experience, don’t miss Our Bad Magnet.” -Edge Chicago

“Maxwell’s play is rich, moving, funny and real, and well served by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia’s direction, which keeps the right balance of tension and humor. All four actors are excellent” -Centerstage Chicago (Must See Show)

Layne Manzer, Daniel Behrendt, John Wilson

L to R: Layne Manzer, Daniel Behrendt, John Wilson

More accolades:

“drama’s U.S. premiere is helped by Garcia’s note-perfect cast” -Time Out Chicago

“the amorphous ending is a thing of almost transcendental beauty, a surreal and unknowable benediction from some vast, benevolent god.” -Windy City Chicago

“This cliques with me” CheekyChicago.com

Visit the theatre company’s website for more info: www.maryarrchie.com/now.html

 

Daniel Behrendt, John Wilson, Layne Manzer

L to R: Daniel Behrendt, John Wilson, Layne Manzer