Review: Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Laugh (Annoyance Theatre)

  
  

Hilarity, history and the ‘Big O’

  
  

Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Life, co-created by Anne Marie Saviano and Marc Warzecha for Chicago's Annoyance Theatre and Bar.

  
The Annoyance Theatre presents
 
Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Laugh
  
Co-created and directed by Anne Marie Saviano
Co-created and written by Marc Warzecha
at The Annoyance Theatre and Bar, 4830 N. Broadway (map)
through May 15  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

Ah Chicago. It’s a hardscrabble kind of place and once the people take you into their hearts it seems that there is instant canonization. For better or worse we Chicagoans have our saints. In Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Laugh, conceived by two Second City alums, The Annoyance Theatre hits the mark with hilarious perfection.

Michelle Renee Thompson does a spot on Oprah as Lady Bountiful and full of herself. Ms. Thompson’s Oprah is led on an ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ type of replay of her years in Chicago. This is a purely Chicago production with parodies of present day politicos and a couple of ghosts from the past played to perfection.

The supporting cast of "Oprah" brings to life all of the lore that has been dispensed about Ms. Winfrey. No one is allowed to look Ms. Winfrey in the eye and if you reach the exalted position of calling her Ms. Oprah Winfrey rather than her surname-well it’s a Benny Hinn-style miracle. The evangelist dig was slipped in so smoothly that perhaps only insomniacs and media nerds such as myself caught it.

Oprah gives a ‘miracle’ of her advice and inspiration to Janet who she calls Janice, lays hands on her forehead, and Janet swoons falling backwards. Liz Bell is hilarious as the newly-inspired Janet and as other characters Suze Orman, Ellen Degeneres , and Mother Theresa.

Nate Sherman plays Oprah’s eternal sideman Steadman. Thompson’s Oprah doesn’t know his last name or what he does for a living. Mr. Sherman also brings life to Mahatma Gandhi and Jesse Jackson Sr. The spoof of Jesus, Gandhi, and Mother Theresa on Oprah’s favorite things show brings down the house. Gandhi gets a Volkswagen Beetle and exclaims that he deserves it because "I got shot and it was bullshit!" while Jesus and Mother Theresa cling to one another in shock and awe. Mr. Sherman’s Jesse also offers father another illegitimate baby with Oprah if she will stay in Chicago.

Justin Vestal plays Richard M. Daley as the political scion always trying to live up to his father’s legacy. Vestal is a mirror or Daley-isms at a press conference even throwing in the legendary ‘cuckoo!’ He begs Oprah to stay and shore up his legacy since he lost the Olympics. Then the ghost of Richard J. Daley enters and he is given the Royko-inspired name "Boss". He slaps Richard M. around and then sets about showing Oprah that Ellen Degeneres would be the queen of talk while Oprah is relegated to local commercials.

If you have lived in Chicago for at least five years, you will recognize the Eagle Man laying the insurance rate egg, Peter Francis Geraci’s painful deadpan delivery, and the Empire Carpet commercials. (It should be noted that Elmer Lynn Hauldren just passed away and was known as the Empire Man for over thirty years.) A woman behind me cringed and said "too soon". I say just right. Hauldren was well aware of his cult status and had been spoofed on the Chicago stage before by playwrights and comedians. The show was running before he died and his appearance with a halo was more of a tribute in my eyes. Besides, Hauldren had appeared in the carpet commercials as a cartoon for the past few years with only his voice. R.I.P. 588-2300 Empi-i-i-re Today! Wolfgang Stein played him with a wonderful doddering effect.

Oprah! opens up a few sensitive tabloid subjects with comic flourish. Brittany Davis plays best friend Gayle King with schoolgirl lesbian crush undertones. Oprah and Gayle pantomime patty-cake (ala “The Color Purple”) whenever they part. Stein reappears as couch jumping freak Tom Cruise who frantically humps Oprah’s leg. And there’s is a freaky scene with her and Dr. Phil that would spin the National Enquirer on its’ head.

In all, this is inspired satire and it is brilliantly funny. I have not laughed so hard in a while and hope that Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Laugh could play continuously for a while like other Chicago classics. Over 70 Chicago icons make the cut in this fast paced and intelligently funny show. Yes, some of the jokes are base and low, but to quote Richard "Boss" Daley, "This is Chicago and if you don’t like it, kiss under the mistletoe on my suit tail".

  
  
Rating: ★★★½
  
  
  Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Life, co-created by Anne Marie Saviano and Marc Warzecha for Chicago's Annoyance Theatre and Bar.   Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Life, co-created by Anne Marie Saviano and Marc Warzecha for Chicago's Annoyance Theatre and Bar.  

Oprah A Comedy! Live Your Best Laugh runs through May15th at The Annoyance Theater. Go to www.annoyanceproductions.com for more information on tickets and show times. Lighten up and laugh!

              

Crazy Oprah

REVIEW: Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night (Nuns4Fun)

  
  

A fun evening of parochial flashbacks!

   
 

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Nuns4Fun Entertainment and Vicki Quade present
  
Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night
 
Written and Directed by Vicki Quade
at
Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
through Dec 24  |  tickets: $30  |  more info

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

Sunday was a true Chicago winter day. The snow and cruel wind brought back memories of the 1967 blizzard. It’s what was called ‘the big one’ for a while and we Chicagoans take pride in having survived. A little girl named Kathy Deneen trudged through the snow the day after the blizzard in spite of snow past her pull-over galoshes. Holy Name of Mary School did not have snow days. Memories!  Flash forward to 2010 and a grown up (sometimes) Kathy trudges herself over to the Royal George Theatre through a nasty winter storm. It was a real trip to walk into a perfectly Mother Superior Ho-Ho-Holy Nightreproduced Catholic classroom.

I gawked in amazement at the felt board with both Nativity and secular Christmas appliqués. Virgin Mary’s and Baby Jesus’ abounded. I looked for a scary cloakroom to put my coat and scarcely remembered that I wasn’t wearing pullover galoshes when Lisa Braatz bounded into the classroom. Ms. Braatz is one of the actresses (along with Kathleen Puls Andrade, Michelle Renee Thompson and Andrea Moser) portraying Mother Superior in Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night, produced and directed by Vicki Quade. Whether you are Catholic or not, the show is good, clean, and G-rated fun. In fact, if you are or were raised Catholic like me, it can be a little weird separating the show from real memories.

Ms. Braatz embodies a nun right after Vatican II but still bred in the old catechism. Her character has ramrod posture devoid of any sexuality in her movement. The head- gear and the rosary were in perfect placement. I almost stood up and recited The Act of Contrition for being grumpy about the weather!

Ms. Braatz takes the audience through a stroll down memory lane regarding the saints, martyrs, and of course sin – but only the venial variety. Mother Superior asks names, and if you aren’t named for a saint then you must be a Protestant. ‘What kind of name is Austin?’ she quizzed one young woman who sat with her family of –gasp- former Catholics. She asked if there were any single or widowed women in the classroom and I raised my hand. I got a holy card with Saint Ann who is the patron of single women and widows. My prayer instructions are ‘Saint Ann! Saint Ann! Send me a man as fast as you can!” Yes it’s amusing but tell that to South Siders with saint statues buried in the yard to bring forth a homebuyer.

Mother Superior has all sorts of displays and prizes for correct answers on holy days of obligation, one of which is Christmas. Her spiel on Baby Jesus’ birthday is funny because of the authenticity. I’m pretty sure that even non-Catholics would get the humor and be good sports about not being the ‘one true religion’. She is ecumenical in her references to the Hanukkah Bush and Muslim New Year but that’s where the comparison ends. The class/audience gets a lesson in St. Nicholas that culminates in some amusing pictures of the character as well as real history. The best picture is good old St. Nick and Baby Jesus. It must be a miracle since they were a few centuries apart in existence but you never question Mother Superior.

Mother Superior Lisa BraatzAct 2 of Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night consisted of putting together the Nativity and the secular Christmas to get to the finals and win a trip to Rome where the Pope lives. Our parish of St. Gabriel was sure to win by putting a Santa, a Christmas tree, an elf, and a candy cane or two around the Nativity scene to make it more contemporary. If you have ever taken a walk around some Chicago neighborhoods during the holidays, this will ring true and funny. Ms. Braatz assigns roles to audience members for a wacky time traveling Nativity play. One young woman was given the role of the Virgin and a blue feather boa because the Blessed Mother is always seen in blue. Then five Angel Gabriel’s are cast from the audience and given different readings of the Annunciation (another Holy Day of Obligation by the way). Mother Superior gave one of the few men in the audience the role of Joseph and a Beatnik wig. Everyone was happy to participate and it didn’t involve a smack in the face with a cream pie or on the knuckles with that giant candy cane. I will admit to drawing back a little when Mother Superior picked it up.

In all, I recommend this show for family outings and where to take your relatives from the old neighborhood. That is particularly if you’re from Chicago, where we ask what parish did you grow up in. This show is one of the nuns4fun productions that have been entertaining Chicagoans for years. They take donations for retired nuns who are not covered under the Social Security Act and are now living that vow of poverty without the protection or security afforded to priests.

Put on your galoshes and your sense of humor and get to the Royal George. FYI-the Baltimore Catechism is available online and it would be good to do a little brush up if you want a lovely macramé plastic cross!

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

For show times on Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night call The Royal George Theatre at 312-988-9000 and visit www.nuns4fun.com to get more information on more Mother Superior entertainment. I will let you know how that St. Ann thing works out.

 

 

  
  

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