REVIEW: Lakefront Property (Bruised Orange Theater)

      
     

Apocalypse of the Heart

 

 

   
Bruised Orange Theater presents
   
Lakefront Property
   
Written by Clint Sheffer
Directed by Mark Spence
at
Acme Art Works, 2215 W. North (map)
through Dec 18  |  tickets: $18   |  more info

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

I have lived near Lake Michigan for all of my adult life, and when I moved here I noticed that the people were different. Was it the water’s tidal pull or did an inordinate amount of strange folks gravitate here? That question re-emerged as I watched Bruised Orange Theater’s fascinating production Lakefront Property.

Lakefront Property - Trish and Pokey Lakefront Property tells the story of two isolated and lonely souls who live in a fantasy world – literally. Jeff Harris plays the self conscious Pokey who constantly puts himself down as fat and unattractive. He has an imaginary girlfriend named Trisha who is played with brilliant insanity by Ann Sonneville. Trisha is what could be called the postmodern girlfriend experience. She is demanding, impulsive, sexually driven and, did I mention, a figment of Pokey’s imagination?

Jeff Harris gives a razor sharp performance of Pokey. He is that guy that you see on the bus painfully shy about everything from his coat to his hairline. He may be talking to himself or is he? Part of Director Mark Spence’s notes relay a line form his favorite band Record Low. ‘What if I’m wrong?’ The theme of this play is just that. What if we the observers are wrong about the pull of the invisible partner or the tides of Lake Michigan?

Delving deeper into the parallel lives theory is the character of Kyla, played by Stephanie Polt. Kyla is a coke-addled waitress who is living on the edge of reality. Ms. Polt is achingly real in her portrayal of not wanting to give a damn anymore while her heart longs for the right man. That man turns out to be a ghost named Harold, played with equal parts folksy charm and sinister menace by David Bettino. Harold is from the mid to late 1800’s and comes on to Kyla with the charm of inviting her to an ice cream social. Whatever you believe about ghosts, it is said that there are benevolent and malevolent spirits. Harold comes to take Kyla to the other side. He is attuned to her cocaine habit and dangerous lifestyle and thus sees her as ready to accompany him to a parallel universe where he has literally witnessed train wrecks in the early days of rail travel. She is another wreck that he witnesses.

Lakefront Property is written by Clint Scheffer, and this is a revival of a Bruised Orange’s early days. That first production took place in an abandoned storefront without a city sanctioned amusement license!

BOTC has come a long way from those days, and have made brilliant use of the Acme Art Works space in Wicker Park/Bucktown. The play is staged in an old protestant church sanctuary that adds a ghostly allure. The stage is set under a mural of Jesus ascending much to the awe and ecstasy of the disciples. Director Mark Spence has the characters flowing in and out of this abandoned altar space as sacrifices to the search for love and companionship from all levels of consciousness. It is a powerful and moving play in these times of personal ads and Internet dating. When Pokey and Kyla find each other after fleeing their imaginary/ghostly lovers I actually breathed a temporary sigh of relief. I say temporary because Trish and Harold remain on the perimeter of the stage glowering just as they remain in the character’s minds.

 

Lakefron Property - Pokey and Kyla on Lakefront - Bruised Orange Lakefront Property cast - Bruised Orange Theater

Trish becomes a boiling obsession in Pokey’s mind. He yearns to be wanted by both women – one for real and the other an imaginary backup who will love without fail. Harold becomes malevolent and terrifying to watch.

So – what if they are wrong? What if we are all wrong about the search for love and relationship? As Mr. Spence noted, this question turns to a defiant statement after going through the hell of life imagined or hallucinated. Either way you could die trying. This is what I consider Chicago theatre at it’s best. It’s raw, unadorned, and yet skilled and polished.

   
   
Rating: ★★★½
   
   

lakefront property - landscape poster

Lakefront Property runs Thursday through Saturday until November 20th and then December 2nd through the 18th on the same days. Show time is 8:00pm. Get there a little early to check out the exhibit in the space as well as to sit in the theatre space itself. Let the ambiance of the old sanctuary get inside your head a bit. You might feel a bit of that parallel universe tugging at you. Acme Art Works is located at 2215 North Avenue in Chicago. Go to www.bruisedorange.org for more information.

     
     

REVIEW: The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (Two Pence)

A mixed bag at Two Pence Shakespeare

 

2Pence # 6

   
Two Pence Shakespeare present
 
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
 
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tom Wells
at
Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main St., Evanston (map)
through August 21  | 
tickets: $9-$20   |  more info

reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

The publicity materials for The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet led me to believe that this adaptation was to show the after-effects of war, and how society deals with returning veterans. Such an interpretation of possibly the Bard’s most renowned  work held, for me, remarkable potential – but I saw very little effort to portray a post war mentality. The conflict in most of Shakespeare is universal. There are and will be rivalries and feuds for as long as there is humanity. The civil unrest in Romeo and Juliet comes off here more as a feud or an unfortunate gang war.

2Pence # 3 In spite of this, It is the actors that make this production spellbinding and fun, despite the tragic outcome. Taking place in a converted train station, the sounds of the Metra pulling in add to the production’s nostalgic setting between the wars.

The tussling between the Capulet and Montague fractions is convincingly vicious and bloody. Daniel McEvilly is absolutely stunning as Mercutio. Some would argue that Mercutio is the most compelling character and McEvilly makes the case in this production. He stalks the stage with a feral presence that gives a razor sharp edge to the gang unrest. The words of Shakespeare sound mellifluent and stabbing all at once. Mr. McEvilly’s Mercutio is profane and fierce; one feels more sadness when he meets his tragic end than at the conclusion of the play when the titled lovers lay dead.

Austin Campion portrays a gentle Romeo with grace and a light touch. Mr. Campion begins tentatively, but then we have to remember that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet’s characters as youths on the brink of adulthood. This Romeo fights with his buddies against the Montague’s and speaks lustily of girls, but Campion successfully portrays the longing soul beneath the veneer of bravado.

Christa Sablic (Juliet) brings joy and a wonderful colt-like energy to her role. Juliet has been played as a mooning petulant girl for literally 400+ years. Ms. Sablic portrays her as a teenager who falls in love. It’s been a while since I was a teenager but I do remember how ‘he’ was all consuming and all about which I thought. Ms. Sablic plays Juliet as a sensuous young woman who is ripening under the spell of love and, yes, lust.

Another standout in this production is Sherry Legare as Nurse. Ms. Legare adds a compelling comic touch to her role as Juliet’s guardian and conspirator. She takes on the visage of a toddling old nanny with all but the rolled up stockings, seemingly paying homage to Carol Burnett, but with a more muted slapstick take.

2Pence # 5Charles Cowen as Juliet’s parent-approved suitor is something out of a 1930’s film drama. His portrayal of all a parent wants for a daughter to marry is spot on. Cowen has a royal posture and perfects the arrogant sneer that one has come to love in the character, versus the tragic hero story.

The rest of the cast performs quite ably, but the rhythm noticeably changes in the speaking scenes with Lady Capulet and Juliet. KC Karen Hill plays Lady Capulet, and she comes off as miscast. Ms. Hill is a beautiful actress, but she projects a speedy energy that is out of sync with the story and the rest of the cast. Part of this is costume and makeup/hair choices – the production’s setting is between the wars that took place in the earlier 20th century and Ms. Hill is costumed and coiffed for the post punk 90’s.

Andy Baldeschwiler is appropriately stern as Lord Capulet, possessing a very dignified presence and a most traditional Shakespearean-sounding voice. Additionally, Eliza Hofman is fun to watch in two dual male roles. She has excellent comic timing and exudes a nice gangster aura in spite of being quite pretty.

Any adaptation of Shakespeare runs the risk of seeming pompous and out of touch with the times. It is classic theatre, and taught in almost every school as a reading assignment. Getting the rhythm of Shakespeare and having the ability to translate it into universal understanding is what is difficult for a lot of people. Two Pence’s aspirations for creating a post war ambiance falls a little flat and perhaps should have been more conventional with the era costuming and props.

Given the production’s material and groovy performance space, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is an enjoyable evening of classic theatre.

   
       
Rating: ★★½
   
   
2Pence # 1 2Pence # 2

NOTE: For this production, Two Pence has collaborated with the Vet Art Project, and some production proceeds will be donated to the organization. The show is performed at the Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main Street. This is a cool space in the Metra station and accessible by CTA, Pace and of course Metra. Check out www.twopenceshakespeare.org for tickets and information about the Vet Art Project. The play runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 pm through August 21st 2010.

      
       

Continue reading