REVIEW: The Regulars (Hobo Junction Productions)

More regular than epic

 

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Hobo Junction Productions presents
 
The Regulars
 
Written and directed by Josh Zagoren
at
Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln (map)
through June 13th  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

The Regulars, an epic rock musical comedy about waiters is a new rock musical-comedy about, well, waiters, presented by Hobo Junction Productions. The audience is presented with the following warning tucked neatly inside their programs, "Caution: This production is meant to strictly Regulars_Hank_Molly make you laugh. We are not trying to make a comment on the human condition. We do comedies…and that’s what they are meant to do… make you laugh." What follows is an hour and fifteen minute dissertation on the human condition. Love, sex, violence and work are major themes in The Regulars, and although it is a musical farce, it is certainly a comment on life as a working, single white person in present day America.

The Regulars opens on a motley crew of waiters in the break room of a chain steakhouse. They spit venom at one another, and meet the new girl Molly (Danelle Wildermuth), who the women hate but the men amorously adore.  With their tough-as-nails demeanor and utter contempt for their job, the crew tries to prepare Molly for the hellish work night she has ahead of her. But nothing can prepare her for the mini-Vietnam that is dinner service at Laconia Steakhouse. The waiters come to the break room with increasingly stained and tattered clothes, and everything that can go wrong does; they run out of sugar and ketchup and secret shoppers from corporate show up.

With paper-thin characters and less-than earth-shattering plot points, writer/director Josh Zagoren has created a show that has no choice but to have absolutely hilarious scenes and dialogue. Unfortunately, The Regulars falls flat. While there are funny moments, Zagoren doesn’t push the envelope far enough. The audience is teased with the promise of a kinky new girl/stock boy love affair, but is given little more than a double entendre about a long rubber hose. You don’t need raunch for comedy, but if a writer puts something dirty or subversive out there, Chicago audiences are sophisticated enough to want to see it pay off. Comedy is in no short supply here in Chicago, which means, if a show claims to exist for the sole purpose of being funny, it had better be really, really funny, which unfortunately The Regulars is not.

     
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There are of course, amusing elements within the production. The funniest character is the sleazy newly-promoted headwaiter Simon, played by the subtly weird and awesome Bryan Campbell. Campbell plays the part with a bizarre innocence, making Simon’s cheesy moves easy to watch. Campbell also has one of the funnier songs, a 1950’s-style rock ode to a mediocre bar the crew goes to after work, “The Billy Bar.” Campbell, like the rest of the cast has a strong singing voice, stronger than the voices you’ll hear in a traditional comedy show in Chicago. Clara Kessler as Denise, the militaristic manager has the strongest voice in the cast, and a nice levity in her performance.

Sadly, levity isn’t enough to hang one’s hat on, despite The Regulars being a competently structured farce, with fun music and gifted actors. And Josh Zagoren is a talented writer and director – way too talented to write a show off as being comedy for comedy’s sake. Every successful comedy is a comment on the human condition, whether it admits it or not. There is a lot of rage underlying this piece about low-income workers in an overbearing job, and if Zagoren trusted himself enough to nurture that a little more, this could be a really funny play. Unfortunately, comedy for comedy’s sake doesn’t stand a chance of being more than cute, and in this town, just being cute doesn’t cut it.

  
  
Rating: ★★
  
  

Run time is approximately one hour with no intermission.

WHERE: Apollo Theater * 2540 North Lincoln Avenue.  Running Dates: May 7th thru June 13th – Fri. and Sat. @ 8:00 p.m & Sun @ 3:00 pm. Tickets: $15.00 – Call (773) 935-6100 or Purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com


Regulars_Anthony_Autumn CAST: Jake Autizen as Bear, Eli Branson as Anthony, Madeline Chilese as Autumn, Derek Elstro as Hank, Danelle Wildermuth as Molly, Ashley Wint as Sunny, Carla Kessler as Denise, Bryan Campbell as Simon, Cyra K. Polizzi as Ana the Bus Girl

CREW:
Playwright – Josh Zagoren
Music by – Josh Zagoren & Dan Krall
Music Orchestrated by – Joe Griffin & Mike Przygoda
Director – Josh Zagoren
Stage Manager – Amy Hopkins
Tech Director – Amy Hopkins
Costume Designer – Janna Weddle
Set Designer – Amy Hopkins
Lighting Designer – Amy Hopkins

 

     
    

REVIEW: Point Break Live! (New Rock Theater)

Gnarly to the max!


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New Rock Theater presents
Point Break Live!
Adapted by Jaime Keeling and Jamie Hook
directed by
Eve Hars
at New Rock Theatre, 3931 N. Elston
(map)
through June 26  | tickets: $25-$30  |  more info

reviewed by Paige Listerud

pointbreak7I had one question going into New Rock Theater’s farcical, free-for-all production, Point Break Live!—would it be funnier than the original movie starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze?

The answer: indubitably! Directed by Eve Hars, the show is as rad as all its advertising portends. Unintentional humor in Kathryn Bigelow’s surfer movie results from the usual, heavy-handed, Hollywood pandering to its 18-35 male demographic.  Plus, while Bigelow’s direction may be slick and the script slightly wry, the film still makes the typical action movie mistake of taking itself too seriously. But Point Break’s shortcomings, for live adaptation creator Jaime Keeling, are all gold to be mined for Point Break Live! Add a rockin’ cast and crew, plus the chance for an audience member to play Reeves’ role as Johnny Utah in this teenage wet dream of a show, and you’ve got a comic formula that accounts for sold-out success in Seattle, Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Receiving a survival kit and auditioning a few bold audience members to take on “the spirit of Keanu” warms up the crowd before the evening’s performance. Acting is not a prerequisite for the starring role, since the one playing Johnny Utah will read directly from cue cards–the method that “really catches the essential rawness of Keanu Reeves’ acting style.” The night I viewed the show, Max from the Mercantile Exchange put special gusto into lines like, “Are we gonna jump or jerk off?” indicating either familiarity with the original movie or a particular fascination with jerking off.

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In any case, an impeccable comic cast backs up the star player and they clearly know what they are about. Matthew Peck’s grooved out and devil-may-care portrayal of Bodhi, the ringleader of the surfers/bank robbers (played by Patrick Swayze in the movie), belies his Shakespearean training at the British American Drama Academy in London. It’s an interpretation far too cool for Shakespeare, dude. His gang Roach (Nathanael Card), Grommet (Derek Elstro), and Nathanial (Cody Evans) provide most of the manic energy of the production, which is absolutely rife with hetero-friendly homoeroticism.

What a pleasure to see two old Chicago theater pros like Errol McLendon, who plays Pappas, and Greg Callozzo, taking on FBI chief Harp–a role that received its own  comic twist in the original from John C. McGinley . McGinley may be more familiar to audiences now as Dr. Perry pointbreak1Cox on the TV series “Scrubs.” Callozzo takes the role further than McGinley by portraying Harp as the kind of cross-dressing FBI chief that would make J. Edgar Hoover nervous with excitement. A bulldog in a feathered boa, Callozzo is especially funny when he cracks himself up in his rabidly masculinist exchanges with McLendon.

Make no mistake, Point Break Live! is played for all its over-the-top laughs. However, given our culture’s obsession with surfer dudes as the no-holds-barred boys of endless summer—an obsession consciously created and fueled by Hollywood—Point Break Live! ends up plumbing depths to the American male psyche in ways that Freud never could or would. He wouldn’t either because he’d have too much education or taste, or because his own historical and social reality would never allow him to be this extreme. The intellectual way I dissect it is boring, but the way Hars’ cast enacts it is gnarly to the max.

With a death wish that just won’t die, Point Break Live! boyishly, enthusiastically, and egregiously exaggerates all the action movie clichés and man-crush stupidity of the original movie. You don’t need a college diploma to love it. A high school diploma is, well, just generally a good idea for everyone.

Rating: ★★★

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