Review: Hamlet (DreamLogic TheatreWorks)

     
     

An ambitious Shakespeare in promenade style

     
    

Jack Sharkey as Hamlet and Meg Elliott as Gertrude, DreamLogic TheatreWorks, Chicago

  
DreamLogic TheatreWorks presents
   
Hamlet
   
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Scott McKinsey
at Gunder Mansion, 6219 N. Sheridan (map)
thru March 5  |  tickets: $30 (w/ open bar) |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

His father was murdered. His mother married the killer. His girlfriend is playing hard-to-get. Why so glum Hamlet? DreamLogic TheatreWorks presents Hamlet, performed in promenade. Hamlet is in mourning. His uncle/step-dad wants hit him to snap out of it. His mom struggles to soothe her husband’s and her son’s mood swings. His girlfriend’s father assesses that Hamlet is a nut job. At her dad’s insistence, Ophelia breaks it off with Hamlet. Despite seeing a ghost, contemplating suicide, and being dumped, Hamlet is focused on getting his uncle to admit to the assassination. He contracts a traveling theatre troupe to perform a play of deception and betrayal. In between sniping at his ex, Hamlet observes the discomfort of his Paul Chakrin as Claudius, Meg Elliott as Gertude and Alexis Meuche as Ophelia in DreamLogic TheatreWorks' 'Hamlet' at Gunder Mansion.uncle’s theatre experience. The show doesn’t quite have Hamlet’s anticipated happy ending. His uncle admits only one thing, like father like son, death is the simple solution. The body count rises as life spirals into a stabbing-drowning-poisoning-stabbing fatal distraction. Presented in promenade, DreamLogics’ Hamlet is Shakespeare in your face, by your side, and behind your back.

A promenade theatrical experience puts the audience on stage. The technique has theatre-goers physically follow the activity from room to room. Set in the Gunder Mansion, DreamLogic utilizes the main floor, including the foyer and the front door. It starts in darkness. The cast is wearing contemporary street clothing. It’s hard to tell the actors from the audience. Flashlights and door pounding provide gripping chaos. The intrigue engages immediately and continues through a thrilling and potentially dangerous swordfight. Being feet, and sometimes inches, away from the action makes it personal. It’s like going to someone’s house for a dinner- murder theme party but with no dinner. (There is, however, an open bar.) Depending on your position…literally, observing the smallest gesture broadens the character’s persona. Gertrude pats her husband’s arm to shush his drunken pontification. Polonius crushes Ophelia’s love life and then patronizingly kisses her on the head. Gertrude and Claudius giggle like newlyweds. The talented cast promotes the virtual reality Shakespearean experience.

Director Scott McKinsey broadens the focal point of the scene to all the characters in the room. Without the fourth wall separation, characters are unable to melt into the scenery. They are constantly on. With the aid of clothing and closeness, the Shakespeare prose becomes conversational with subtle nuances teased out. A stand-out, Rob Glidden (Polonius) gives a blow hard delivery that is hysterical. Glidden is such a dad! Glidden lectures his son about money and his daughter about giving-it-away-for-free. Out of his paternal arena, he bumbles at court with delightful buffoonery. Jack Sharkey (Hamlet) keeps it real. Sharkey’s choices make Hamlet a recognizable guy. Sharkey rants in desperate betrayal and rejection. Sharkey is a hothead haunted by his dad’s ghost and his own honor. Either because of the vicinity or the humanity, Sharkey may be the most authentic Hamlet I’ve ever seen. Other especially poignant performances are a heart-wrenching Ophelia (Alexis Meuche), a maternally torn Gertrude (Meg Elliott) and shiver-inducing ghost/drunkenly disturbing Claudius (Paul Chakrin).

Shakespeare done in promenade is an ambitious undertaking. The classic verse doesn’t lend easily to an intimate experience. Plus, especially in Hamlet, the plays are long! Three hours standing is a challenge. To alleviate any discomfort, DreamLogic has benches and chairs in each room for a momentary respite. The occasional squat combined with comfortable shoes help make it less murderous on the audience. DreamLogic TheatreWork’s Hamlet is a classic and unique entertainment experience.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Paul Chakrin as Claudius and Nick Goodman as Laertes in DreamLogic's 'Hamlet' at the Gunder Mansion.

Running Time: Three hours with a ten minute intermission

  
  

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REVIEW: Titus Andronicus (DreamLogic TheatreWorks)

 

Set in historic mansion, a gripping tale of war and revenge

 

 Titus Andronicus - DreamLogic TheatreWorks 3

    
DreamLogic TheatreWorks presents
   
Titus Andronicus
   
Written by William Shakespeare 
Directed by
Scott McKinsey
at
The Hopkinson House, 10820 South Drew (map)
through November 6   |  more info 
Note: performance includes house tour, open bar, and catered dinner

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

It has been over thirty years since I set foot inside one of the Morgan Park/Beverly mansions. They always seemed so forbidding and aloof on the other side of Longwood Drive. I felt a deep sense of privilege and gratitude to see a stunning version of Titus Andronicus in the Hopkinson Mansion. DreamLogic Theatre Works has woven Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy with a historic house that was the last stop for the Underground Railroad in the northern states. The Hopkinson house is as much a character in the play as is the searing violence and venal scheming of the Shakespeare’s Goths and Romans.

Titus Andronicus - DreamLogic TheatreWorks 4 The play is set when Rome was in decline. The Goths were invading Rome, pillaging villages, and meting out horrible punishments. The general Titus returns after a ten-year battle with the Queen Tamora and her retinue as his spoils of war. He executes Tamora’s son Alarbus to appease the Roman gods and sets in motion a carnal revenge cycle.

DreamLogic chose to present this production promenade style in the attic of the Hopkinson house. It is a wise choice that gives an almost enchanted value to the drama. I was given a tour of the home and some history revealing that Mrs. Hopkinson was a member of Queen Victoria’s court who also hosted dramatic productions in the same attic. The producers and cast also have been privy to a sweet ghost by the name of Spencer. The young lad’s trunk is a prop in the production and Spencer played a few pranks on the wardrobe mistress I was told. In the promenade style, the audience is a part of the play. The cast members wend their way through the audience. They address us as ‘Romans’ and look us in the eye while sometimes touching us. The audience is more witness than mere voyeur being entertained for a few hours. I was entranced by some action on the stage only to be surprised at the character of Aaron crouching behind me, panting and waiting to attack.

The attic is dressed in burlap and what seems to be birch twigs set as antlers, transforming the space into the cave-like smudged camps of ancient wars. Dim lights represent camp fires and oil lamps of ancient Rome. The slaves and captives are thrown into a pit that was originally hiding place for escaped slaves in America. The cruelty of war and slavery is the same in every age and it sent a shudder down my spine every time that pit was mentioned.

The cast of this production is superb. Titus Andronicus has long been maligned as one of Shakespeare’s lesser works. The combination of the cast will definitely make you reconsider this assumption. The actors trod the attic completely inhabiting the roles as if they’re the ghosts themselves. Curtis Powell plays the role of Titus with a measured ferocity such that it is a shock when the character’s madness is revealed to be a ruse.

Megan Storti plays the malevolent and seductive Tamora. Ms. Storti gives a savage performance as a queen in captivity. The Moor, Aaron, is played by Mallory Backstrom. I have seen some brilliant performances with nontraditional casting and I add this to that roster. Ms. Backstrom projects the warrior, lover, and defiant sire with heat and lithesome grace.

Jack Sharkey is impressive as the cuckolded Saturnius. Mr. Sharkey’s character commands the stage as the emperor by nepotism. Alexis Meuche as the doomed Lavinia is also wonderful. Her character is the first to suffer one of the works’s many dismemberments and brutal assaults. Ms. Meuche plays the muted Lavinia with raw emotion and superb physicality. (I could not look away though I wanted to when Chiron and Demetrius attack her.)

Ray Ready as Chiron and Edwin Unger as Demetrius bring some dark humor to the tragedy as well as requisite savagery. Rounding out this stellar cast are Paul Fleschner, Nick Goodman, Sara Katherine Hammond, Brendan Siegfried, Jeffrey Clarke Stokes, Brady Greer Huffman, and Mickey Renan. They revolve in and out of various roles without missing a step. Scott McKinsey’s direction is excellent and well paced. That is no small feat considering that this is a three hour production with one ten minute intermission.

I highly recommend Titus Andronicus as produced by DreamLogic. This is a full theatre experience and an immersion in history of this regions and our country’s own shameful past as passed down from ancient history.

       
       
Rating: ★★★★
     
    

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As a side note-the Hopkinson mansion has a history as a residence to students throughout the years. Cast member Mallory Backstrom is in residence and an excellent tour guide. It’s a very worthy Chicago style theatre adventure. Go see it!

The production runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays Through November 6th at the Hopkinson Mansion, 10820 S. Drew Street, in the historic Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. The house is open at 6:30pm with a complimentary open bar, catered dinner, and look around the home before the show at 8:00pm. The Metra is right around the corner from the mansion and if you are feeling adventurous you can get there by CTA Red Line, the Vincennes bus, and then a short walk. If you don’t know your way around I would suggest a taxi from the 95th stop. More information is available at dreamlogictheatreworks@gmail.com

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REVIEW: The Love of the Nightingale (Red Tape Theatre)

This eerie ‘Nightingale’ sings a refreshingly resonant tune

REDTAPE THEATRE - Photo 1

  
Red Tape Theatre presents
  
The Love of the Nightingale
  
by Timberlake Wertenbaker
directed by
James Palmer
at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 621 W. Belmont
(map)
through May 29th  |  tickets: $25  |  more info

reviewed by Barry Eitel

I’m not going to lie, my expectations weren’t so high when I entered the space for Red Tape Theatre’s newest production, The Love of the Nightingale by Timberlake Wertenbaker. The last (and admittedly, only) show I saw by them, last season’s Enemy of the People (our review ★½), was pretty weak. That said, I was completely blown away. Directed by Artistic Director James Palmer, Red Tape’s Love of the Nightingale was refreshing, bizarre, and remarkably resonant.

REDTAPE THEATRE - Photo 2 Nightingale explores the ancient Greek myth of Philomele who, as all those mythology buffs out there will tell you, was transformed into a nightingale after some pretty traumatic experiences. And given that it’s written by Wertenbaker, you can bet the whole story is given a feminist twist. Palmer and his enormous cast explode the story into life, ripping it from its ancient Greek context and filling it with anachronism and theatricality. Set designer William Anderson builds a completely new space within the heart of the gym in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. The set is its own little world, encircling the audience and featuring plenty of hidden drawers, doors, and other surprises. Palmer’s production is intensely physical, demanding the actors throw all they got out on-stage, just a few inches from the audience.

The story tells of the relationship between Philomele (Meghan Reardon), her sister Procne (Kathleen Romond), and her brother-in-law and King of Thrace, Tereus (Vic May). For those unfamiliar with the Greek myth, Procne asks her husband, Tereus, to bring her little sister out to Thrace for a visit. He sails over to Athens to pick her up, but things get a little heated on the trip back. Through a brilliant choice, the play is shaped and revealed by an almost silent dollmaker/carpenter/puppetmaster (Robert Oakes), who seems compelled to tell this unsettling story to us.

The dream team of designers Palmer amassed has concocted a marvelous world. Ricky Lurie’s modern-dress costumes are stunning, reveling in the uncanny style Palmer has set out. The suits and dresses are bright and colorful, contrasting sharply with the terrifying depths the play plunges towards. Anderson’s set is simple enough REDTAPE THEATRE - Photo 2 to hold all of the different scenes required in the text, yet exudes its own bizarre essence. This is all pushed by Palmer, who moonlights as lighting designer, and his fetish for flickering fluorescents. The show is eerie and surreal, sometimes a dream and sometimes a nightmare.

Although the performances are at times outdone by the incredible design, there are some choice actors here. Romond’s tortured Procne is excellent; although the character doesn’t feature much in the original myth, here we’re entranced by her struggle. As Philomele, it takes Reardon a scene or two to hit her stride but she gets there, especially as the play gets heavier. May does great work as well, finding both Tereus’ sliminess and his royalty. For such a small stage, the cast is massive. However, they all fit the play extremely well, and everyone out there is required for the world to work as well as it does.

Much of the chorus is used in choreographed movement that surrounds the audience, trapping them into Philomele’s tragic tale. However, sometimes the movement pieces overstay their welcome and reach into repetitive territory, then our interest flags. The play calls for plenty of brutality, but Zack Meyer and Claire Yearman’s fight choreography doesn’t really hack it. It works well technically, but doesn’t have the piercing specificity the rest of the show has.

From their The Love of the Nightinggale, it is clear Red Tape has an aesthetic that works for them. Hopefully, they’ll expand and explore more of what made this play great. If Red Tape keeps churning out work like this, they’ll become a tiger of the storefront scene.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
 

REDTAPE THEATRE - Photo 2

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