Review: Well of Horniness (Reasonable Facsimile Theatre)

  
  

Despite strong cast, feral lesbian romp jilted by clunky pacing

  
  

The Well of Horniness - A Reasonable Facsimile

  
A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company presents
  
The Well of Horniness
  
Written by Holly Hughes
Directed by Samantha Garcia
at The Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln (map)
through April 30  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Who doesn’t love lesbians on the loose? Well, maybe Peter LaBarbera—but, then, he looks like he hasn’t got laid in, like, forever. The rest of us would eagerly plunge headfirst into a production promising slap-dash Sapphic pleasure. Trouble is, Holly Hughes’ 1983 schlock comedy The Well of Horniness comes across more like a wet, sloppy kiss from your lesbian aunt than a well-placed riff on dangerous, dueling dykes and the bisexual gals who can’t forget them. Not that the cast of A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company doesn’t give it the good, old (*ahem*) college try. But Samantha Garcia’s direction spreads out action, and not in a good way, across the Conservatory’s stage, often losing valuable focus and timing.

“These muffdivers have been looking for a rumble,” quotes detective Garnet McClit (Miquela Cruz) and that, at least, is one thing to be grateful for concerning individual performances. As Georgette, Karen Shimmin throws seductive glances over her shoulder like it was meant for you, and does feral, raccoon-raised lesbian with perfection. Angela DeMarco, as the redhead (rather, red-wigged) Babs, brings strong, pistol-packin’ bravado to the stage. Liz Hoffman’s absolutely scores with her daffy depiction of Vicki, who once belonged to the lesbian sorority, Tri Delta Tribads, but now faces married, middle class boredom with her carpet-clearance husband Rod, played with hearty, sympathetic charm by Susan Gaspar. Of the ladies, only Cruz needs to add a little seductive spice to her butch to raise the heat of night.

Tragically, even for schlock theater, the part of the Narrator (Emily Friedrick) is drastically overwrought. Hughes’ comedy is no police procedural or noir thriller, yet a little more attention to the dry style of those two genres might generate more laughs than Friedrick’s current delivery. As is, she comes across more like a town barker hawking her wares than a master of Hughes’ overwrought and over-punned exposition. Of course, a large part of the problem may be Hughes’ writing. It’s showing its age–and its fish jokes do have a limited shelf life. Clearly, schlock is a comic actor’s medium—you have to know when hold back and when shoot for the stars—sometimes without too much help from the script.

(L-R, back row) Karen Shimmin, Miquela Cruz, Susan Gaspar; (front row) Emily Friedrick, Liz Hoffman, Angela DeMarco - the cast of 'The Well of Horniness'

Most of all, the biggest crime seems to be those moments when the ladies play it safe. Police pat downs, prison scenes—these are the things that dreams are made of. They’re already salacious, by their very nature and pornographic history–now how to make them outrageous, transcending their formulaic predictability? That’s the formula that Garcia and cast have yet to work out. Much as I love Hoffman upping the silliness quotient for the show or DeMarco channeling Joan Crawford, The Well of Horniness still clunks along too disjointedly for a truly rad ladies’ night out. Let’s hope they can tighten things up in the course of the run. Do it for the sisters who are doin’ it for themselves!

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

The Well of Horniness continues through April 30th, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, at The Cornservatory Theater, 4210 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $12-$15. Make reservations online at www.arftco.com, or call 773-418-4475. Group rates are available. This show is for adults only.

 

Artists

Cast

Miquela Cruz*, Emily Friedrick, Susan Gaspar*, Liz Hoffman* Karen Shimmin* and Angela DeMarco*.

Production

The show is directed by Samantha Garcia*, set and costumes designed by Tina Haglund*, props designed by Susan Gaspar*, stage-managed by Hazel Marie*,
marketing by Steve Hickson*.

*A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre ensemble member.

     
     

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: Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Christmas Binge (A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre)

     
    

A comedy hangover about the crappiness of Christmas

     
     

Mrs. Bob Cratchits Wild Christmas Binge - Reasonable Facsimile Theatre

  
A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre presents
   
Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Christmas Binge
   
Written by Christopher Druang
Directed by
Michael Buino
at
The Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln  (map)
through Jan 2  |  tickets: $12-$15   |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

I love schlock comedy as much as the next two-fisted drinker; I also have as much disdain for overwrought and overplayed Christmas sentimentality as anyone. But even that much common ground simply couldn’t bring me to open up to A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre’s production of Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Christmas Binge. Christopher Durang’s musical comedy is already a messy hodge-podge of spoofed feel-good Christmas tales, thrown together and slung like hash to the masses. Too bad that messiness is unintentionally amplified by the paucity of cast cohesion and a majority of performances that settle on bland.

Mr. Scrooge (Steve Hickson) is to be taught a lesson by an attending Ghost (Samantha Garcia) about the real meaning of Christmas. However, the magic isn’t working out as planned and the couple keeps getting transported to the whereabouts of Mrs. Bob Cratchit (Tina Haglund), the wife of Scrooge’s subservient employee. It isn’t quite part of the game plan, still they witness her breakdown over Bob bringing home another homeless child while there is no money to feed the children they have on his measly salary. Not able to take it anymore, Mrs. Cratchit tears off to get drunk and throw herself into the river.

The musical’s supposed to be a messy, nonsensical train wreck but, Durang’s unwieldy composition seems to have overwhelmed the cast and that isn’t a good thing. Michael Buino’s direction seems perfunctory at best, designed to get the actors on and off stage and that’s that. Sluggish and cumbersome are the only ways to describe the show as it progresses, with the intentional jaded boredom of the techies in charge of scene changes seeming to have infected the whole production by osmosis.

Mrs. Bob Cratchits Wild Christmas Binge - Reasonable Facsimile TheatreThe cast needs to pick up its energy, as well as pick up on their lines. During the mid-run performance the show exhibited a persistent drag in the action, only alleviated when Steve Truncale bounced into the second act as George Bailey to show us Zuzu’s petals. Now, with character performances as sharp delineated and driven as that, the show would be twice as funny.

Of the notable exceptions: Karen Shimmin gives us a delightfully masochistic Tiny Tim who grows more joyful at the thought of being made even more pathetic by his mother’s absence. Tina Haglund’s Mrs. Bob Cratchit is certainly sympathetic in her mournful disdain of her goody-goody husband, Bob Cratchit (Christopher Slavik), and her 24 + starving children. Haglund’s rapport with Steve Hickson’s Scrooge is quite good, too bad the play takes so long to get them together. Samantha Garcia starts out well as the Ghost of past, present and future, but seems to get as lost in her role as the Ghost does.

Cornservatory certainly doesn’t need critical acclaim or press attention. On the evening I saw the show, the house was packed with boisterous friends and Lincoln Park neighbors who had brought their own drinks. No doubt, I could have used a few to be merrier about what I witnessed. But I also wonder if I would wake up the next morning from a bad comedy hangover about the crappiness of Christmas.

  
  
Rating: ★½
   
   

xmas postcard for Mrs. Bob Cratchits Christmas Binge

Performances continue Friday & Saturday nights at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 4:00 pm thru January 2, 2011.  All performances at  The Cornservatory, 4210 N Lincoln Avenue. Tickets are $15.00, $12.00 for students and seniors.

 

Production Team

        
  Direction: Michael Buino*
  Set/Costume Design: Tina Haglund*
  Choreogrpher: Chani Buchic
  Prop Design: Susan Gaspar*
  Music Direction: Sarah Buino
  Stage Manager: Hazel Marie*
        

Ensemble 

Michael Buino*, Sipriano Cahue, Miquela A. Cruz*, Kristin Danko, Lena Dansdill, Samantha Garcia*, Susan Gaspar*, Tina Haglund*, Steve Hickson*, Bridget Rue, Karen Shimmin*, Christopher Slavik, Angela Snow*, Steve Truncale*, and Robert A. Walter    

* ARFTCo. Ensemble Member

  
  

REVIEW: That’s Weird, Grandma (Barrel of Monkeys)

Innovative art springs from the minds of babes

 

That's Weird, Grandma - Barrel of Monkeys - Photo by Erich Nerger (2)

Barrel of Monkeys presents:

That’s Weird, Grandma

Open Run at the Neo-Futurists  (more info)

review by Keith Ecker

Chicago is not lacking in the comedy department. I’ve met accountants who do improv comedy by night and schoolteachers who do stand-up. There are no less than three prominent comedy institutions in the city—Second City, iO and the Annoyance Theatre—not to mention the smaller contenders, including The Playground Theater, the Cornservatory, Chemically Imbalanced Comedy, pH Productions and ComedySportz.

That's Weird, Grandma - Barrel of Monkeys - Photo by Erich Nerger (5) Perhaps this saturation is to compensate for the depressing and long Chicago winters we have to suffer through. Regardless, saturation is the key term. How much comedy can one sit through before you feel like you’ve heard the same joke a hundred times over? Who do we turn to for comedy that pushes the boundaries while delivering fresh material?

The answer is the children.

Theatre company Barrel of Monkeys has tapped into the genius that is Chicago’s public school students and mined the young minds for comedic gems. And what they deliver is absolutely fascinating, often surreal and at times extraordinarily touching.

The show That’s Weird Grandma, which plays weekly at the Neo-Futurists space in Andersonville, is a fast-paced variety show of child-written stories adapted to the stage by the talented theatre group. Each week, the cast slots out one to three sketches, resulting in a completely new show every few weeks.

That’s Weird Grandma is only a small component of the Barrel of Monkeys franchise, which consists of an ambitious educational outreach program that teaches kids about creative writing. Since the program began, the group has worked in 32 Chicago Public Schools, and more than 7,000 students have participated in its workshops. There is also an after-school program in Loyola Park Field House in Rogers Park.

That's Weird, Grandma - Barrel of Monkeys - Photo by Erich NergerThe show I saw consisted of 16 sketches, each lasting no more than several minutes. Sketches were presented in rapid-fire succession, and each was given an introduction that included the name and school of the student who had written the piece. Most of the pieces were completely fictitious though a couple were reflections of real life, including the hilarious scene “My Dad at Panda Express,” which features an angry father chewing out a young and confused Panda Express employee for neglecting to save any orange chicken for him.

Music accompanies every scene, and many sketches are musical in nature. For example, “Kool-Yummm” is a lyrical ode to Kool-Aid and features a hip-hop jam from the big red pitcher himself, the Kool-Aid Man.

As mentioned, the comedy captures the surreal minds of children in a way that celebrates their imaginations. That's Weird, Grandma - Barrel of Monkeys - Photo by Erich Nerger (4)You’re not laughing at them; you’re laughing with them. For instance, “W-I-A-R-D” is a bewildering scene about three girls, one of which is named Monkey, who find a note on the ground. What does the note say? “It say Jogococo.” Is this explained? No. Does it need an explanation? No. This is an unfiltered reflection of the hyperactive imaginations that rises out of the minds of babes, and that is satisfying enough.

The show wouldn’t be as amazing if it wasn’t for the talented cast, many of whom received training at the aforementioned comedy powerhouses. Their energy is big,; their commitment is strong; and their singing abilities are solid. Two of the cast members even swapped out seats at the piano to provide the accompaniment.

That’s Weird, Grandma is appropriate for all ages and has mass appeal. Scripts are tweaked so that some subtle jokes for the adults are thrown in, but the material in general is the stuff that everyone can relate to, from sisters ruining lives to parents ignoring children.

If you’re looking for something beyond Second City’s political humor, iO’s long-form improv and the Annoyance’s in-your-face comedy, That’s Weird, Grandma fills a Dadaist niche all its own that is much more than child’s play.

 

Rating: ★★★★

 A scene from the story 'Big Riders' from 'That's Weird, Grandma'

Performance Dates, Times and Location

"That’s Weird, Grandma" is currently running Sunday afternoons at 2 PM. Our Sunday matinee shows continue through April 4, and our 8 PM Monday night shows return on March 15.

The show runs a little over an hour.

"That’s Weird, Grandma" is presented at the  Neo Futurists Theatre, located at 5153 N. Ashland Ave., on the corner of Ashland and Foster in Chicago.

That's Weird, Grandma - Barrel of Monkeys - Photo by Erich Nerger (3) Kids and actors join in the fun during a public school performance.

Show openings/closings this week

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  show openings

 

11:11 The New Colony

Aelita & Shiny Boxes Dream Theatre

Almost, Maine The Gift Theatre

Aunt Nancy and Doggie Tales Corn Productions

The Cabinet Redmoon Theater

F.A.T. People Gorilla Tango Theatre

Bourbon Street Burlesque New Millenium Theatre

Frindle Griffin Theatre

Glass Menagerie Chicago Heights Drama Group

The Greatest Porno, EVER! Gorilla Tango Theatre

I Am A Camera The Neo-Futurists

Improvised Disney Gorilla Tango Theatre

Jessica Presents: Yet Again Gorilla Tango Theatre

A Raisin in the Sun The Theatre School at DePaul University

Return to Haifa Next Theatre

Rush Limbaugh! The Musical Second City

Show Us Your Love Bailiwick Chicago

The Skin of Our Teeth Moving Stories Theatre (at  The Artistic Home)

TGIF: RAW Gorilla Tango Theatre

Wiggerlover DCA Theatre  

Wilson Wants It All The House Theatre of Chicago

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show closings

 

The American Pilot Theatre and Interpretation Center, Northwestern University

Ayn Rand Soup Kitchen in Atlas Shrugged Corn Productions

Burlesque is More Annoyance Theatre

I Hate Hamlet Big Noise Theatre

Chicago Theater Openings and Closings this week

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Show Openings

The (edward) Hopper Project The Storefront Theatre

24 Hour Project Infamous Commonwealth Theatre

Annie Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University

The Artist needs a Wife the side project

I Hate Hamlet Big Noise Theatre

Killer Joe Profiles Theatre

Kink Annoyance Theatre

Mamma Mia! Rosemont Theatre

Mary’s Wedding Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

The Original Improv Gladiators Corn Productions

Out of Order Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

The Prisoner of Second Avenue Citadel Theatre

Private Lives Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Sleeping Beauty Winnetka Theatre

Some Paradise Annoyance Theatre

Too Hot to Handel Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University

The Wedding TUTA Theatre Chicago

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Show Closings 

Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival Chicago SketchFest

Death of a Salesman Raven Theatre

It Came Upon a Midnight Queen Chemically Imbalanced Theater

A Look Through Our Eyes Gorilla Tango Theatre

Sketch and Sniff Gorilla Tango Theatre

Sublime Beauty of Hands and Klown Kantos Next Theatre and Theatre Zarko

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientolgy Pageant A Red Orchid Theatre

Theater openings and closings this week in Chicago

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show openings

 

Twas the Night Before Christmas Center for Performing Arts at Governors State

500 Clown Christmas North Central College 

American Stars in Concert for the Holidays Paramount Theatre

Civic Ballet’s The Nutcracker James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts

Icarus Lookingglass Theatre

It’s a Wonderful Life Improv Playhouse

The Klezmatics North Shore Center for the Performing Arts

The Nutcracker McAninch Arts Center

W is for Winter Prop Thtr

 

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show closings

1985 The Factory Theater (our review)

All the Fame of Lofty Deeds House Theatre  (our review)

Aunt Dan and Lemon BackStage Theatre Company

Beethoven, as I Knew Him Drury Lane Water Tower

Burlesque is More Annoyance Theatre

Carnival Nocturne – Storefront Theater  (our review)

Chad Morton’s TV Christmas Miracle Village Players Performing Arts Center

Cockettes: Christmas Spectacular Annoyance Theatre

Cold Dream Theatre

Cooperstown Theatre Seven of Chicago (our review)

The David Bowie Hepzikat Funky Velvet Flarney Solstice Spectacular Live…From Space! New Millenium Theatre

D-Cup Diatribes Gorilla Tango Theatre 

Democracy Eclipse Theatre (our review)

Faith Off Gorilla Tango Theatre

The Flaming Dames in Naughtier and Nice New Millenium Theatre

Florid Deveraux Does the Holidays Prop Thtr

Gift of the Magi EverGreen Theatre Ensemble

Gossamer Adventure Stage Chicago

Graceland Profiles Theatre 

Horrible Apollo Theatre (our review)

Hunky Dory The Factory Theater (our review)

Improv Children of the Corn 3 Corn Productions

Low Toner: Decision Quality Gorilla Tango Theatre

LUNATIC(a)S Teatro Luna (our review)

Perseus and Medusa: Or It’s All Greek to Me Piccolo Theatre

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Annoyance Theatre (our review)

Short Shorts Annoyance Theatre

A Silent Night: Grandma Got Run Over Without Healthcare Gorilla Tango Theatre

Souvenir Northlight Theatre (our review)

When She Danced TimeLine Theatre

Whining in the Windy City Royal George Theatre