REVIEW: Departure Lounge (Bailiwick Chicago)


Best Friends For Now


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Bailiwick Chicago presents
Departure Lounge
Written by Dougal Irvine
Directed by
Tom Mullen
Royal George Cabaret, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
Through Dec 12  |  tickets: $35-$45   |  more info

reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

Turning points are more than just passages in life: They’re the meat and more of vibrant theater. We look back at those paths in the wood we didn’t take to wonder how different we’d be if we did. Or we realize that all along what seemed comforting and secure was just being held hostage by time. Memory and identity are inseparable, but they change at their own pace–and at our peril.

Departure Lounge - Bailiwck Chicago  003There’s a big crossroads in Dougal Irvine’s invigorating Departure Lounge, an intimate coming-of-age musical about four 18-year-old Brits returning from a spree week on the Costa del Sol. (They’re one of many “ugly Englishmen” who – awaiting the “A-level” test scores that will determine their college careers or doom them – party hearty in escapist Mediterranean destinations.)

As a hilariously contrived flight delay forces them to wait impatiently in boarding area of the Malaga airport, the quartet of best friends raucously reprise the binge drinking and all-night pub-crawling they’ve inflicted on both themselves and the citizens of southern Spain. They are rich-boy, Oxford-bound JB, orphan lad and general jerk-off Pete, the comparatively quiet Ross who brought and, it seems has lost, his girl Sophie along the way, and closet-case Jordan who’s slept with the most girls and liked it the least.

Brimming over with testosterone and hangovers, these soccer-playing, wanna-be ”guys-gone-wild” celebrate the scary joy of being 18—which means not knowing what’s coming. The opening rouser “Brits on Tour” initially and instantly confirms every stereotype about loutish British hooligans unleashed and abroad. It’s hard to believe they’ve really been friends forever (which is very relative when you’re only 18), what with the Alpha-male rivalry and playful put-downs, especially the repeated use of “gay” as a standard for lameness or weakness. (It gets harder and harder for Jordan to join in the mean fun of “Why Do We Say Gay?”)

But the big question that these merry pranksters wrestle over, sometimes literally, is what happened with and to Sophie on Thursday night. They keep coming up with vastly differing, “Rashoman”-like variations on what went on—and an imaginary Sophie appears to suit each fantasy. The real story, as well as Jordan’s sexuality, tests their friendship and leaves its future in serious question. By the end Departure Lounge wisely sobers up along with the boys. Given this scene and these ex-schoolboys, it’s the only right resolution.


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Tom Mullen’s Bailiwick Chicago staging, the U.S. premiere of a work that only got its London premiere on Sept. 28, richly succeeds at conveying the transient confusions of high-stress adolescence, the forced and real camaraderie of chums behaving badly because it’s expected, and the pain of being in between a lot of stuff (Spain and England, a comforting past and unwritten future, boyhood and adulthood, sex and love, men and women, a gay guy and his childhood chums).

Well coached by music director Kevin Mayes, Mullen’s young quartet connect best in the music that unites them (rather than the dialogue that doesn’t). Their “Spanish Hospitality” is an anthem for all the obnoxious and xenophobic tourists who embarrass you abroad. Their “Fe-male” nails their reflexive misogyny as well. Departure Lounge - Bailiwck Chicago  005But their bittersweet “Leaving Spain” charts exactly how much they’ve changed because of this milestone-making stress test in a departure lounge.

Erik Kaiko and Dan Beno, as Ross and JB, share the evening’s loveliest moment in the beautifully harmonized duet “Do You Know What I Think of You”; it both confirms their male bonding and their doubts about the differences between them. Jay W. Cullen’s Pete revisits his fantasies of a real rather than foster family in “Picture Book.” Deeply conflicted Jordan, intricately lived in by Devin Archer, conveys his divided loyalty in the intricate solo “Secret.” Finally, as the mercurial Sophie, Andrea Larson stretches the most, as she conveys both the Sophies projected by her teenage suitors and the real deal.

When she comes into her own, it reunites them one last time. But that’s it, mates: We know what they only sense, that more has ended with this summer in Spain than they’ll know for years or forget for much longer.

Rating: ★★★


NOTE: Strong language and sexual content. May not be suitable for children under 16.

Extra Credit:

  • Check out the Bailiwick Chicago blog
  • More info at Bailiwick’s Facebook page

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  • REVIEW: K. (The Hypocrites)


    Allen goes coo-coo for Kafka



    The Hypocrites - K - by Greg Allen004

    The Hypocrites present
    Written and Directed by Greg Allen
    Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division (map)
    through November 28   |  tickets: $14-$28  |  more info

    Reviewed by Barry Eitel

    At the last three productions I’ve seen put on by The Hypocrites, arguably the local leader in avant garde storefront, there’s been some blatant reference to the originating text. In Sean Graney’s stage adaptation of Frankenstein last year (our review ★★), the pages of numerous copies of Mary Shelley’s book were pasted on The Hypocrites - K - by Greg Allen001the back wall. In No Exit (review ★★★), Inez splattered toothpaste all over the set and tacked on leaves from Jean Paul-Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. And in their season opener K., translated from “The Trial”, a semi-finished novel from that proto-surrealist genius, Franz Kafka, characters read, toss around, and swear upon a tiny copy of Kafka’s chilling story. The stage adaptation and direction are the handiwork of Neo-Futurist Greg Allen, a master of metatheatricality. The production unravels in the last few scenes, but the darkly funny story is an enthralling journey. One wonders, considering that Kafka died before finishing “The Trial” (or any novels, really), if this is sort of the point.

    Allen first penned his adaptation in 1996. “K.” is Josef K., Kafka’s unwitting protagonist in his slamming critique of law, order, and bureaucracy. “The Trial” is pretty much an expressionist legal thriller, with less crime and more paperwork. K.’s monotonous life is disrupted when he is arrested one morning, but not detained and never told what offense he committed (the police don’t even know). The rest of the piece follows K.’s long, occasionally action-packed struggle to get his trial to go to trial.


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    Allen cherrypicks from Kafka’s plot. He hits important characters and scenes, but he streamlines the piece. This works well for the adaptation; K.’s Sisyphean legal journey is easy enough to follow and digest. Allen then plugs the gaps with a self-awareness that shocks the story into a stage life, one that is very aware that it is theatre. The actor playing K.’s father, Sean Patrick Fawcett, must yank a program from the audience to prove to K. that he is, in fact, K.’s father. A painter sells works with titles like The Hunger Artist, The Penal Colony, and The Castle. And there’s a full-on Metamorphosis moment. These choices tap into themes that both resonate with the original text and go beyond it: the nature of narrative, and reality, for that matter.

    Brennan Buhl’s portrayal of K. syncs perfectly with Allen’s vision. He straddles the script, keeping one foot in the story and the other in our world. Sometimes he is charmingly aloof, making it seem like he’s part of some dark improv set—ready to joke and riff off whatever happens to him. At other crucial points, he snaps into the plot’s reality with devastating somberness. Buhl’s performance is stripped of sentimentality; his whole world is funny and inconsequential until the agonizing futility of his situation beats him into submission.

    The Hypocrites - K - by Greg Allen003There are a few times when the Allen’s meta-theatre meddling fails to produce the fruit, the ending being the prime example. K. has a possibly fatal encounter with his arresting officers, but the final outcome isn’t revealed, and Buhl sucks in the audience at the last moment….except we don’t know where we’re going. We get a sort of “what happened?” moment, and I was very confused as to what actually happened. Allen’s tight focus slackens here and the moment clogs up the heavy theatrical metaphor flowing through the piece.

    Buhl is joined by a great supporting cast who all jump into a massive gumbo of personas. They do great things with Chelsea Warren’s set, which features plenty of doors to shift around, open, and slam. There’s an energy present here that isn’t seen often today, one that doesn’t mock the fact that theatre is happening, but lovingly accepts the art form while pushing its limits. Even with K.’s misfires, Allen has created riveting, intellectual theatre.

    Rating: ★★★

    Brennan Buhl - Hypocrites Theatre - Greg Allen

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    Bailiwick Chicago extends F**KING MEN for 2nd time

    Bailiwick Chicago Announces 3-Week Extension

    of Joe DiPietro’s F**KING MEN

    Executive Director Kevin Mayes announced today that Bailiwick Chicago’s hit production of Joe DiPietro’s F**KING MEN will be extended for an additional three weeks due to popular demand. Performances will continue through Sunday, August 29 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont with the original cast.

    We are so pleased that Chicago audiences have embraced this production,” said Mayes, “and we are excited that we’ve been able to keep the original cast together for this second extension. It’s been an amazing summer for Bailiwick Chicago, with our two hit shows Aida and F**KING MEN. We are incredibly proud of – and humbled by – the response.

    F**KING MEN observes the sex lives of the modern urban gay American male. Conceived as a noir-riff on Arthur Schnitzler’s 19th century play, LA RONDE, the play examines ten men from all walks of life as they negotiate the before and after of lust, love, betrayal and the pursuit of sex and emotional connection. Funny, poignant, sometimes dramatic, always provocative and sexy, the show has been critically acclaimed by Chicago critics: “Emotionally Searing…Superb Performances…there is truth and understanding in F**KING MEN.” (Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times) “…[F**KING MEN] is serviced brilliantly by this snappy, assured Chicago production.” (Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune) “…F**KING MEN is pretty fucking solid.” (Kris Vire, TimeOut Chicago).

    Bailiwick Chicago has launched a dedicated web site for the production with photos, videos, and additional information about the show at

    Performances are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $25. Special Reserved seating is available for $30. Student and Industry rush tickets will be available at the door for $15 at every Sunday performance. Group (6+) tickets are $20.00. To purchase tickets, call the Stage 773 box office at 773-327-5252, or go

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    REVIEW: F**king Men (Bailiwick Chicago Theatre)

    The Circle of Gay Life


    Bailiwick Chicago presents
    F**king Men
    Written by Joe DiPietro
    Directed by
    Tom Mullen
    Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
    through July 25th  |  tickets: $25  |  more info

    reviewed by Keith Ecker 

    I don’t know if you read the papers, but us gay guys get a pretty bad rap. If we’re not contributing to the downfall of society, we’re made out to be self-loathing, sex-crazed loveless loners.

    But the truth is, gay men—just like all human beings—are capable of love, and in fact, spend much of their lives, as everyone does, looking for it. And it is this search for Ryan - Beaumeaning, connection and kindness in a sea of sex that playwright Joe DiPietro attempts to illuminate in his cyclical play Fucking Men.

    Fucking Men is a loose adaptation of the 19th century play La Ronde in which pairings of characters are featured in scenes preceding and succeeding sexual encounters. It’s an interesting structure—often employed as an improv comedy exercise—that lends itself to strong characterizations and oodles of dramatic irony.

    The play begins and ends with John (Arthur Luis Soria), a young lovelorn prostitute. John is about to turn a trick. The trick’s name is Steve (Cameron Harms), a closeted military man who wants to receive oral sex from a man, you know, just to test it out. After the deed is done, Steve freaks out and beats up John.

    Next is a silent scene in which Steve is in the gym sauna opposite Marco (Armand Fields). Steve touches his chest, signaling to Marco that he’s interested. Without saying a word, the two men fool around. Afterward, Marco continues his locker room routine: change out of clothes, pack up his bag, etc., while the closeted Steve rambles on about his sexuality and his encounter with John.

    Naturally, the next scene depicts Armand with yet another character (this one a wisecracking, pot-smoking college student). And the domino effect of the La Ronde continues from there.

    fucking men - bailick chicago_001  fucking men - bailick chicago_002 fucking men - bailick chicago_003 fucking men - bailick chicago_004 fucking men - bailick chicago_005
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    The overarching theme of the play seems to be the need to inject kindness into our relationships, no matter how fleeting. It is all too easy to take advantage of others to fulfill our own selfish sexual and emotional desires. But if you come at sex with a sense of empathy, then you can be sure to limit the amount of pain you spread throughout the world and increase the love. Think of it like paying it forward…only sexually.

    Some of the scenes really capture this idea. When the older and partnered Leo (Thad Anzur) enters the college dorm of Kyle (Cameron Johnson) for a random sexual encounter, he gets cold feet. Leo wants to know Kyle, to have some emotional connection prior to the physical connection. Youthful Kyle just wants sex and makes it  clear that if Leo isn’t going to give it up then he can easily get it elsewhere. The two end up chatting and finding some common ground to connect on. Leo gets the emotional connection he’s been seeking, and Kyle gets the sex.

    Christian - KarmannOther scenes, however, are less believable. The opening scene in particular falls flat. When the closeted Steve gushes about his self-doubt and sexual confusion to the prostitute, I had to roll my eyes. The scene just doesn’t seem grounded in reality. A prostitute is going to know not to take on a buff, aggressive client who is deeply self-hating and fearful of gays. It’s a safety precaution. And the closeted Steve’s dialogue is riddled with more clichés than a Lifetime movie.

    The other major flaw of the play is the music. Laurence Mark Wythe composed original instrumentals for Fucking Men that play as transitions between scenes as set pieces are moved and altered to create the various settings. And although the music itself is just fine, it undercuts the dramatic tension of the scenes when it is used underneath the dialogue. I’m assuming this was a decision made by director Mullen, and I would hope it is relegated only to scene transitions in future performances.

    Overall, Fucking Men strikes at the core of what motivates gay men—and quite possibly everyone else too—to have sex. And although there are some weaknesses with a few of the characters whose behaviors just are beyond believable, it’s pretty easy to find traces of yourself in most of them.

    Rating: ★★★

    fucking men cast with playwright Joe DiPietro

    Cast of “F**king Men”, including Director Tom Mullen and Playwright Joe DiPietro.


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    Non-Equity Jeff Awards nominees announced


    2010 Non-Equity Jeff Award Nominees



    Production – Play
      Busman’s Honeymoon Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
    Death of a Salesman Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Killer Joe Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½ )
    The PillowmanRedtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
    St. Crispin’s Day Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
    Wilson Wants It All The House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)


    Production – Musical
      Chess  Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre i/a/w Michael James (review ★★½)
    Evolution/Creation  -   Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
    The Glorious Ones   Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
    The Who’s Tommy Circle Theatre 


    Director – Play
      Aaron Todd Douglas: Twelve Angry Men Raven Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Michael Menendian: Death of a SalesmanRaven Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Michael Rohd: Wilson Wants It All House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
    Kimberly Senior: The PillowmanRedtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
    Rick Snyder: – Killer Joe Profiles Theatre  (review ★★★½)


    Director – Musical
      Fred Anzevino & Brenda Didier: Chess – Theo Ubique Theatre (review ★★½)
    Jeffrey CassThe Who’s TommyCircle Theatre
    Stephen M. Genovese: The Glorious Ones Boho Rep (review ★★★)
    Andrew Park: Evolution/CreationQuest Theatre Ensemble  (review ★★★)


      The Glorious Ones Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
    Red Noses Strawdog Theatre Company
    Twelve Angry Men
    Raven Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Under Milk Wood  Caffeine Theatre  (review ★★)


    Actor in a Principal Role – Play
      Tony Bozzuto: On an Average DayBackStage Theatre Company 
    Darrell W. Cox: Killer Joe
    Profiles Theatre  (review ★★★½)
    Andrew Jessop: The PillowmanRedtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
    Peter Robel: I Am My Own Wife Bohemian Theatre  (review ★★★★)
    Chuck Spencer: Death of a Salesman Raven Theatre  (review ★★★½)


    Actor in a Principle Role – Musical
      Courtney Crouse: ChessTheo Ubique Cabaret Theatre  (review ★★½)
    Tom McGunn: The Who’s Tommy Circle Theatre
    Eric Damon SmithThe Glorious Ones
    Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
    Jeremy Trager: Chess Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre   (review ★★½)


    Actress in a Principle Role – Play
      Brenda BarrieMrs. CalibanLifeline Theatre  (review ★★★★)
    LaNisa FrederickThe Gimmick Pegasus Players (review ★★)
    Millicent HurleyLettice & Lovage Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★★)
    Kendra Thulin: Harper Regan Steep Theatre  (review ★★½ )
    Rebekah Ward-Hays: Aunt Dan and Lemon BackStage Theatre 


    Actress in a Principle Role – Musical
      Danielle Brothers: Man of La Mancha Theo Ubique Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Sarah Hayes: Man of La ManchaTheo Ubique Theatre   (review ★★★)
    Maggie PortmanChess  Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre  (review ★★½)


    Actor in a Supporting Role – Play
      Chance Bone: Cooperstown Theatre Seven of Chicago  (review ★★)
    Jason HuysmanDeath of a Salesman Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Edward KuffertThe CrucibleInfamous Commonwealth (review ★★★)
    Peter Oyloe: The Pillowman Redtwist Theatre   (review ★★★)
    Phil TimberlakeBusman’s Honeymoon Lifeline Theatre  (review ★★★)


    Actor in a Supporting Role – Musical
      Eric Lindahl: The Who’s Tommy Circle Theatre
    Steve Kimbrough:
    Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical Hell in a Handbag
    John B. LeenChess Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre  (review ★★½)


    Actress in a Supporting Role – Play
      Nancy Friedrich: The Crucible Infamous Commonwealth (review ★★★)
    Vanessa Greenway: The Night SeasonVitalist Theatre i/a/w Premiere Theatre & Performance (review ★★★★)
    Kelly Lynn HoganThe Night Season Vitalist Theatre i/a/w Premiere Theatre & Performance (review ★★★★)
    Kristy Johnson: A Song for Coretta Eclipse Theatre  (review ★★)
    Mary RedmonThe Analytical Engine  – Circle Theatre  (review ★★★)


    Actress in a Supporting Role – Musical
      Kate GarassinoBombs Away!  – Bailiwick Repertory Theatre  
    Danni Smith
    The Glorious Ones  -   Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
    Trista Smith: Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical  -  Hell in a Handbag
    Dana Tretta
    The Glorious Ones  Bohemian Theatre   (review ★★★)


    New Work
      Aaron CarterFirst Words  MPAACT (review ★★★)
    Ellen FaireyGraceland Profiles Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Tommy Lee JohnstonAura  Redtwist Theatre
    Andrew Park and Scott Lamps
    Evolution/Creation  -   Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
    Michael Rohd & Phillip C. KlapperichWilson Wants It All  -  The House Theatre of Chicago  (review ★★★)


    New Adaptation
      Bilal Dardai: The Man Who Was ThursdayNew Leaf Theatre  
    Sean Graney:  –
    Oedipus  The Hypocrites (review ★★★★)
    Frances LimoncelliBusman’s Honeymoon Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
    Frances Limoncelli:  – Mrs. Caliban  – Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
    William Massolia: Little Brother  Griffin Theatre


      Kevin BellieThe Who’s Tommy  Circle Theatre
    Brenda Didier
    Chess   Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
    James Brigitte DitmarsPoseidon! An Upside Down Musical  Hell in a Handbag Productions


    Original Incidental Music
      Andrew Hansen: Treasure Island  -  Lifeline Theatre  (review ★★★½)
    Kevin O’Donnell:   -  Wilson Wants It All  -   House Theatre   (review ★★★)
    Trevor WatkinThe Black Duckling  -  Dream Theatre


    Music Direction
      Ryan BrewsterChess  – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
    Gary PowellEvolution/Creation  Quest Theatre   (review ★★★)
    Nick SulaThe Glorious Ones  Bohemian Theatre   (review ★★★)


    Scenic Design
      Tom BurchUncle Vanya Strawdog Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Alan DonahueTreasure Island Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Heath HaysOn an Average Day  -   BackStage Theatre Company
    Bob Knuth
    The Analytical Engine  Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
    Bob KnuthLittle Women  -   Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
    John Zuiker:   I Am My Own Wife  -   Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)


    Lighting Design
      Diane FairchildThe Gimmick  -  Pegasus Players (review ★★)
    Kevin D. Gawley: Treasure Island Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Sean MallarySt. Crispin’s Day  – Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
    Jared B. MooreThe Man Who Was Thursday New Leaf Theatre
    Katy PetersonI Am My Own Wife
    Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)


    Costume Design
      Theresa HamThe Glorious Ones  -  Bohemian Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Branimira IvanovaTreasure Island  Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Joanna MelvilleSt. Crispin’s Day  -  Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★) Jill Van BrusselThe Taming of the Shrew  Theo Ubique  (review  ★★★)
    Elizabeth WislarThe Analytical Engine  – Circle Theatre (review ★★★)


    Sound Design
      Mikhail FikselOedipus The Hypocrites (review ★★★★)
    Michael GriggsWilson Wants It AllThe House Theatre (review ★★★)
    Andrew HansenTreasure Island Lifeline Theatre  (review ★★★½)  
    Joshua HorvathMrs. CalibanLifeline Theatre (review ★★★★)
    Miles PolaskiMouse in a Jar Red Tape Theatre  (review ★★)


    Artistic Specialization
      Kevin Bellie: Projection Design, The Who’s Tommy  -   Circle Theatre
    Elise Kauzlaric: Dialect Coach, 
    Busman’s Honeymoon  Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
    Lucas Merino: Video Design, Wilson Wants It AllThe House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
    James T. Scott:  Puppets, Evolution/Creation Quest Theatre (review ★★★)


    Fight Choreography
      Geoff Coates: On An Average Day  -  BackStage Theatre Company
    Geoff Coates
    Treasure Island  Lifeline Theatre   (review ★★★½)
    Matt HawkinsSt. Crispin’s DayStrawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
    R & D ChoreographyKiller Joe  Profiles Theatre  (review ★★★½  )


    More info at the Jeff Awards website.