REVIEW: The Last of the Dragons (Lifeline Theatre)

A good time for ALL ages

 

TheLastoftheDragons4 LR

review by  K.D. Hopkins

As I entered the Lifeline Theatre on a freezing Chicago afternoon, I thought back to the first time I saw real children’s theatre. It was a production of Peter Pan in the early 70’s. I was a cynical kid and did not give in easily to fantastic imagination. Fast forward to 2010 – I watched while what seemed to be an endless stream of children were herded into the cozy theatre. They were a well-behaved bunch and I sensed more sophisticated than most children about theatre. That was a bonus as we settled in for an hour of fun with a really great lesson about individuality and tradition.

TheLastoftheDragons3 LR The Last of the Dragons is a world premiere musical adaptation from a novel by Edith Nesbit. It is of interest to note that Ms. Nesbit was a woman considered ahead of her time in Victorian England. Not only was she an accomplished author but also a political activist involved in creating the precursor to England’s Labour Party – the Fabian Society. The central character of Princess Andromeda (nicknamed Andy) is a girl possessing a strong mind who has decidedly unfeminine pursuits according to her father, the king. She is an accomplished swordswoman, wears her hair short, and likes to dress in trousers. Like Victorian England, women’s roles were defined clearly and if one expected a comfortable life, she would willingly adapt to societal mores.

Princess Andy is played by Anne Sears. She is fresh faced and appealing as the gutsy princess. Her comic gifts show brilliantly in the scene where she is being coached in princess behavior and attire. Mike Ooi plays the King with just enough bombast and humor. Ooi possesses a fine bass voice that resounds in the song “Tradition”. This production does not talk down to the audience just because it is meant for children. There is a layered dynamic between the characters of the King and Princess Andy. They engage in swordplay in the opening scene that hints at the King’s indulgence and acceptance of his daughter’s skills and individuality.

Cast member David Fink is a triple threat as the hilarious D’Artagnan, Chamberlain, and as the Dragon. Mr. Fink has been in previous Lifeline Theatre adaptations (including my all time favorite childhood book “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile”), and here his role of Dragon breaks your heart as the Dragon who is a pacifist and longs to have friends rather than being feared. It’s a fine and subtle lesson about fear and prejudice as traditions that need to be broken in every generation. His characterization of the parrot D’Artagnan had everyone in the audience chuckling. He is physically nimble and obviously knows how to project emotion in spite of a giant papier-mache head.

Kudos is due to Scott Allen Luke as Prince Stanley. He is the perfect counterpoint to Princess Andy’s physicality. His character is studious and henpecked by his mother the Queen played with flair by Mallory Nees. Prince Stanley is told, “You must be more like a prince and less like you”. It is another good lesson in appearances and tradition no matter the time. Glass slippers, white horses, and dwarves can easily be seen as the cool shoes, toys, and school cliques in our time.

The staging of The Last of the Dragons is genius in its simplicity. The young audience can focus on the characters rather than lots of set dressing. The swordplay is not too violent and there are smart double entendres for everyone to enjoy. Director Dorothy Milne has managed to project the just right mix of whimsy and morality lessons with this production. Lifeline’s tagline is ‘big stories up close’ and they continue to be true to their word. The staging of the Dragon’s lair is funny and just scary enough. The Dragon is a beautiful mix of brocade and voile managing to cleverly encompass the breadth of the stage.

The music and lyrics are by Mikhail Fiksel, Kyle Hamman, and Alex Balestrieri. It is easy and fun to sing. In fact, I found myself humming the finale “Fly With A Dragon” as I walked home. David Bareford adapts this play from the story written by Ms. Nesbit, who collaborated with Kenneth Grahame of “Wind in the Willows” fame on her ‘Dragon’ stories toward the end of her colorful and turbulent life. The story is a fun fantasy that the kids will probably act out at home like any good childrens theatre or book. After I left, I recalled another theatre experience from the later 70’s called Warp by Stuart Gordon at the Organic Theater. This fine production of The Last of the Dragons is great preparation for more theatre in a child’s future whether they are three or ready for AARP.

If you have not yet been to a Lifeline Theatre production, this is an excellent one to attend – and see for yourself why this theatre company has been a long-time anchor in the Glenwood Arts District and a precious resource in the neighborhood as a whole.

 

Rating: ★★★

The Last of the Dragons runs through February 21st 2010. Shows are Saturdays at 1:00PM and Sundays at 11:00AM and 1:00PM. The Lifeline Theatre is located at 6912 Glenwood Avenue in Rogers Park. Call 773-761-4477 or visit www.lifelinetheatre.com for more information on Lifeline’s productions and other fun programs for children and adults alike. See you in the aisles!

 

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Opening this week in Chicago

500 Clown and the Elephant Deal 500 Clown

Boleros for the Disenchanted Goodman Theatre

A Celebration of Hope and Peace Chiesa Nuova

A Celebration of Johnny Mercer Northwestern University Theater

Dead Wrong The Factory Theater

Earth: TTFN?!WWS Productions

The Hollow Lands Steep Theatre

In Your Facebook Prop Thtr

Once Upon a Time (or the Secret Language of Birds) Redmoon Theater

Over the Rainbow Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus

Snubfest 2009 Chemically Imbalanced Comedy

Summer Music Series Drury Lane Theatre Watertower

Two Torn Apart Gorilla Tango Theatre

Up Steppenwolf Theatre

 

Show closings after the fold.

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Cool beans – a great Chicago theater is reborn!

organicphotosmall_1 From Organic Theater’s homepage:

In the 1970s, when Chicago’s vibrant theater scene was earning the city a national reputation as the place to be for exciting new theater, few companies shone brighter than the Organic.  It was quintessential Chicago theater, a mirror for its time.  Today’s Organic Theater is still a mirror for its time, with a bold new vision and audacious new mission. At the Organic, you’ll experience sparkling new adaptations and world classics rarely seen in Chicago, performed in rotating repertory by a permanent company of artists. The new Organic is an adventure –  artists and audience together exploring great stories, well told.  (emphasis mine)

 

The 2009 Repertory Season

 

 

Sexual Perversity in Chicago

and

Bobby Gould in Hell
both by David Mamet


 

The $30,000 Bequest
by Mark Twain

Synopsis and creative/performing teams after the fold.

Performed in Rotating Repertory
May 28 – June 28, 2009
Greenhouse Theatre Center (map below)

Tickets:  773-404-7336, or buy online.


Map of the Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theatre Center, home of Organic Theatre’s 2009 Repertory Season

 

    Organic Theater’s MISSION STATEMENT

Organic Theater Company is committed to a vision of creating productions with a permanent group of artists over a sustained period of time and presenting them a rotating repertory.

This approach, while relatively unusual in the United States, is widely accepted in much of the Western world as the ideal way to make a body of theatrical work.

Rotating repertory creates the opportunity for a unique relationship between the company and its audience, one in which the same actor can be seen in a variety of roles over a short period of time. It also allows the actors to work as a single instrument, much like the world’s great orchestras and dance companies.

 

 

  

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Opening This Week in Chicago

  BeanwithChicago-onit

 

$30,000 Bequest –  Organic Theater

Cirque Shangai: Bright Spirit –  Navy Pier

The Duck Variations Theatre-Hikes

Hope VI Chicago Dramatists

The K of D: An Urban Legend A Red Orchid Theatre

The Last Ninety Minutes in the Life of Nikola Tesla –  University Theater at University of Chicago

Line Gorilla Tango Theatre

A Little Night MusicLight Opera Works

A Minister’s Wife Writers’ Theatre

Mountain Days: The John Muir MusicalTheatre-Hikes

Next Beer Is Here Chicago Center for the Performing Arts

Phenomenon of Decline Gorilla Tango Theatre

The Ride Down Mount Morgan Redtwist Theatre

Third Apple Tree Theatre

Women of Manhattan The Artistic Home

Theater Thursday: “Sexual Perversity in Chicago”

Thursday, June 4

Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Bobby Gould in Hell
Organic Theater Company at the Greenhouse Theater Center
2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago (map)

Organic TheaterOrganic Theater Company returns to its roots with the 35th Anniversary production of Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet, which had its world premiere at the Organic in 1974, presented on a double-bill with Bobby Gould in Hell, Mamet’s darkly funny companion piece to Speed-the-Plow. Before the show, join the company at The Spread Bar and Grill  (2476 N. Lincoln Ave.) for a reception with appetizers and drinks. 

Event begins at 6:30 p.m. Show begins at 8 p.m.
TICKETS ONLY $20
For reservations call 773.404.7336 or visit www.organictheater.org and use code “ELECTRA”

Next week’s Theater Thursday: Oedipus at The Hypocrites.


“Thursday Thursday” brought to you by the web’s best food, restaurant and wine guide.


For this week’s special ticket offers, click “Read more”

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