Review: Sinbad, The Untold Story (Adventure Stage Chicago)

  
  

Update on a classic adventure fantasy takes off, but not high

  
  

(l to r) Edgar Sanchez, Mildred Langford, Dana Dajani. Photo by Johnny Knight.

  
Adventure Stage presents
   
Sinbad: The Untold Story
   
Written by Charles Way
Directed by Amanda Delheimer
at Vittum Theater , 1012 N. Noble (map)
through April 16  |  tickets: $12-$17  |  more info

Reviewed by Dan Jakes

How relieving, I thought while sitting amongst the kids and pre-teens at Adventure Stage’s Saturday matinee, to hear the words “Baghdad” and “Koran” outside of a contentious context. The children who will see Sinbad: The Untold Tale are part of a generation who’ve never experienced America before its frighteningly mainstream Islamophobic discourse, before every televised use of the phrase “Muslim” was intrinsically linked to controversy and heated debate. Charles Way’s 2006 play, on the other hand, is about as amenable as it gets: a quest story promoting courage and nobility–values that are universal with characters that are relatable.

The intent, as well as the production’s partnership with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, is commendable; the execution is so-so.

Edgar Miguel Sanchez and Mike Ooi (koken) - photo Johnny KnightWay’s tale takes place in the years after Sinbad the Sailor’s epic journeys in “1001 Arabian Nights,” after the adventurer has wrapped up his seventh voyage at sea and called it quits. Retirement doesn’t end the world’s conquests, though, so when a witch plagues his city with a haze that in short-time will kill all adults (“Gas-s-s-s!,” anyone?), the tired and afflicted sailor transfers the hero role to his eager orphan porter (Edgar Miguel Sanchez, physically-grounded and affable as the young lead, alongside Dana Dajani as his travel partner Ittifaq).

From thereon, there aren’t many divergences from the tried-and-true action-for-kids plot. The porter is handed a box containing three items to use in times of peril, a girl sets out to prove herself by tagging along, saving him and becoming a love interest along the way, clever quips abound, etc. etc. It’s all very familiar and sustainable. But assuming the young audiences are not familiar with the original Sinbad stories, they’ll likely trip over a few recurring points. They may ask themselves, “who is that old man that keeps talking about adventures that sound more interesting? Who is Ittifaq’s mom, and why should I care?”

The action works from time to time. David Chrzanowski’s fight choreography infuses some video-game-type elements that, at the performance I attended, garnered lots of positive verbal reaction from the kids and least one audible “that’s cooool!” from a little girl behind me. Others fall comically short, like an attempt at a flying carpet that left two actors’ feet visible under their stuffed faux-legs. Not yet versed in polite restraint, many of the children outwardly giggled during a moment clearly aiming for a different response.

Sinbad: The Untold Tale could easily shave off 15 minutes, and its desired audience is a little ambiguous. As a journey tale, it meets the bar–but it isn’t magic.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
   
  

Sinbad the Untold Story. Photo by Johnny Knight

Sinbad: The Untold Story continues through April 16th, with 10:30am performances March 22, 24 and 31; April 5, 7, 8, 12, 14 and 15.  Family matinee 2pm performances continue April 2, 9 and 16, with a special evening performance April 8th at 7pm. Tickets are not available online.  Instead, call 773.342.4141.

  
  

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Adventure Stage Chicago announces 2010-2011 Season

Adventure Stage Chicago

 

Adventure Stage Chicago Announces 2010-2011 Season

 

for Young Audiences

 

Adventure Stage Chicago (ASC) proudly announces their 2010-2011 season for young audiences, comprised of three thrilling plays making their Chicago debuts: a moving Holocaust drama, an action-packed magical adventure and a comedic physical theater event.


 

October 30 – Dec. 9, 2010

 

And a Child Shall Lead by Michael Slade

Directed by ASC Producing Artistic Director Tom Arvetis

Chicago Premiere!

     
  Thirty miles outside Prague lies the city of Terezin, a Nazi-described "Jewish ghetto" and makeshift way station for millions of people awaiting transfer to death camps. Amid such bleak surroundings, a group of courageous children create stories, music, poetry, drawings, plays, puppets, and even an underground newspaper to craft a dream world of hope and beauty in a place where neither exist. Incorporating actual poems and other writings recovered from Terezin after the war, this exquisite play explores the strength, optimism and extraordinary resilience at the core of the human spirit. Recommended for ages 11 and older.

Performance Schedule:

  • Previews: 10:30 a.m. Oct. 28 & 29
  • Weekends: 2:00 p.m. Oct. 30, Nov. 6, Nov. 13, Nov. 20 & Nov. 27 (Saturdays) and Nov. 14 & 28 (Sundays)
  • Weekdays: 10:30 a.m. Nov. 2, 4, 9, 16, 18, 23, 30 & Dec. 2, 7, 9
  • Evenings: 7:00 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26 only.

 

March 19 – April 16, 2011

Sinbad: The Untold Tale  by Charles Way

Directed by Amanda Delheimer

U.S. Premiere!

     
  Ittifaq, the pampered daughter of famed sailor Sinbad of the Seven Seas, bristles under her father’s overprotective care and longs for an adventure of her own. Young Sinbad, an orphaned porter, lives on the streets and relies on his clever wit to survive. The two meet by chance just before a bitter sorceress casts a poison cloud over the city of Baghdad. Rendered sick by the witch’s curse, the elder Sinbad bids his daughter and the porter to set sail in search of the poison’s antidote. On their quest, the unlikely duo form a reluctant bond as they encounter good and evil genies, daring swordfights, magic boats and flying carpets. But can Sinbad and Ittifaq defeat the sorceress in time, or will their beloved city be destroyed forever? Recommended for ages 9 and older.

Performance Schedule:

  • Previews: 10:30 a.m. March 17 & 18
  • Weekends: 2:00 p.m. March 19, March 26, April 2, April 9 & April 16 (Saturdays)
  • Weekdays: 10:30 a.m. March 22, 24, 29, 31 & April 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 15
  • Evenings: 7:00 p.m. Friday, April 8 only.

 

 

May 3 – May 21, 2011

500 Clown Nose

  World Premiere!
 

Experience 500 Clown’s signature mix of high physicality, raw emotion and powerful storytelling with content accessible to an all-ages audience. In 500 CLOWN NOSE, three clowns stumble into a quagmire and soon find themselves jailed in a barren landscape. Their attempts at escape encompass slapstick mishaps, vaudevillian turns, clown acts and daring physical feats. Their desperate search for a way out relies on ingenuity and resilience. When they find the exit, freedom comes at the price of leaving the fun world they’ve created. Featuring 500 Clown founder Adrian Danzig with Timothy Heck and Lea Pascal.   

Performance Schedule:

  • Weekends: 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m. May 7, 14, & 21 (Saturdays) and 7:00 p.m. May 6, 13 & 20 (Fridays)
  • Weekdays: 10:30 a.m. May 3, 5, 10, 11, 17 & 19

 

Tickets for all shows are $17.00 for adults, $12.00 children aged 14 and under, $10.00 previews and $8.00 school groups. Other group discounts available. Passport to Adventure subscriptions are available beginning in mid-September. For tickets or more information, call (773) 342-4141 or visit www.adventurestage.org.

All shows are performed at Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St., in the heart of Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Street parking is available, and the theater is close to the Noble St. stop on the #56 Milwaukee bus line and the Division stop on the CTA Blue Line. The theater is wheelchair accessible.

Each Adventure Stage Chicago production presents weekday performances primarily for school groups, as well as weekend matinees for the general public. Every performance includes a post-show audience talkback with the cast.

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REVIEW: The Ghosts of Treasure Island (Adventure Stage)

Rockin’ adaptation reveres original pirate tale

 

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Adventure Stage Chicago presents
 
The Ghosts of Treasure Island
 
script by Eric Schmiedl
Music/lyrics by Captain Bogg and Salty
directed by Amanda Delheimer
at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble (map)
through May 20th | tickets: $12-$17 | more info

reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

Childhood is an existential crisis. Little ones ask their parents "why?" after any conceivable statement, sure that adults are omniscient rulers, who hold in their minds the secrets of life’s mysteries. The grown-ups, unable to answer questions  like, "why does a car go? Not how, but why?" end up distracting kiddies with rules, especially rules about how rude and annoying it is to ask unanswerable questions. Our rules say, "be good, and treasure-island1good things will happen to you." Childhood lore tends to reflect and uphold these laws, good conquers, evil is defeated, and happiness reigns. Young adult novels, plays and movies rarely venture into areas of ambiguous morality, but those that do are rewarded with critical acclaim, and sometimes the promise of timelessness; such is the case with Robert Louis Stevenson‘s 1881 Treasure Island. This is a tale that truly respects the emotional intelligence of children, and Adventure Stage Chicago‘s theatrical adaption of The Ghosts of Treasure Island doesn’t shy away from that.

From the opening scenes of this thrilling play, the audience is confronted with themes of familial loyalty, regrets of old age and the beckoning call to youth to "make your mark" on the world. This is a show that – to steal Del Close‘s famous phrase – plays to the top of it’s intelligence. From the creative set designed by Chelsea Warren, which includes a beam which can be raised to transform a flat wooden floor into a pirate ship, to the artful adaptation by playwright Eric Schmiedl, who plays hard on the book’s themes of self-discovery and moral ambiguity.

One of the most striking parts of the play is the performance of Glenn Stanton as the depressive alcoholic pirate Billy Bones, whose life of regret, and pathetic death serve as the inciting incident of this play. He is actually scary as the forlorn pirate, whose drunken state gives way to demented fantasies and violent, erratic behavior. Jim Hawkins, played here by youthful Kroydell Galima, should have been played by an actual teenager, instead of an adult actor who can play young. However, Galima is committed, intelligent and earnestly in touch with the emotional state of a child.

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Punctuating scenes and major emotional shifts in this play is the pirate band Captain Bogg and Salty, who according to the program worked closely with the playwright in creating the adaptation. The music is dark and intense, and the lyrics are poetic. The band transforms a turn of the last century tale into a ballad rock musical, whose emotional intensity matches the complicated 129-year old story.

Ghosts of Treasure Island is a rocking adaptation that reveres the original tale. A perfect blend of childhood angst and modern day craft have made a near perfect children’s play. There are short comings, however. The play, which runs over an hour and a half may be a bit long for some young audiences. Additionally, this play has the potential to be too scary. It holds children to a high level, so make sure the little guys and girls you bring on board are up for an intellectual challenge and can handle the fear factor. In terms of raising the stakes of children’s theater, however, The Ghosts of Treasure Island truly hits the mark.

 
Rating: ★★★

Recommended for ages 9 and up (4th thru 8th grades).

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  • April 24 (Performance is part of ASC’s Spring Fling: A Pirate Party)
  • May 1 (Behind the Scenes Day – Get a VIP tour after the show)
  • Special Evening Performance: Friday May 7th at 7:00 p.m.
  • May 8 (Picture with a Pirate Day – Take photos with the cast)

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