Review: Nefarious! (Cornservatory)

     
     

Will the Hot Hero Club stop the villain from destroying their city?

     
     

A scene from Corn Production's 'Nefarious!' by Miquela A. Cruz

  
Corn Productions presents
  
Nefarious!
  
Written and Directed by Miquela A. Cruz
at
The Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln (map)
through March 26  |  tickets: $7-$15  |  more info

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Nefarious is an adjective meaning extremely wicked or villainous. In Corn Productions’ of Nefarious!, written and directed by Corn Productions company member Miquela A. Cruz, the evil (or nefarious, if you will) supervillainess Lilith has something big planned for Metropalopolis on the one-year anniversary of her destruction of Miss Cosmo. It’s up to the Superstar Hot Hero Club, led by Mr. Bulleit and his sidekick Dr. Watts, to stop the launch of Pandora (2.0) and put an end to Lilith once and for all, saving their fair Metropalopolis!

A scene from Corn Production's 'Nefarious!' by Miquela A. CruzNefarious! opens with a musical number introducing all of the characters. It’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. Although it’s clear that this show is going to be cheesy and over the top, there’s talent on stage. The ensemble has a strong voice and, as mentioned, over the top characterizations. Not that this a bad thing here, as the characters need to be exaggerated in order for them to work, such as Mr. Bulleit (Matthew Gall), Dr. Watts (Andrew Bolduc), Anime (Kallie Noelle Rolison) and Yami (Justin Lance). These actors, as well as the rest of the cast, take their parts seriously but still know how to play and have fun with them at the same time.

While the singing of the ensemble is strong, solos are a little shaky. Lilith’s (Aasia Bullock) solo “One Day at Time,” starts weak and flat, but Bullock then finds her stride by the end of her song. However, she lacks a level of deviousness – for a character who’s supposed to be “nefarious” she should take the song further, playing up the evil villain archetype. Meanwhile, Brendan Stallings proves to raise the wicked-meter as Kayne, Lilith’s right hand man.

The third of four songs, “Best Friends,” sung by Yami (Lance) and Anime (Rolison) has some awkwardly choppy musical transitions. That said, Lance and Rolison are larger than life, keeping us laughing throughout.

Gall as Mr. Bulleit completely plays up the narcissistic superhero persona, which makes him a standout. Even though his solo “How I Love to Love Me” has some less than pitch-perfect moments, his charisma helps make up for it.

Being a superhero comedy, there is, of course, a plethora of fight scenes. The fight choreography by Orion Couling and Zach Meyer is great. It’s evident that Couling worked hard in his direction to make the fights seem as realistic as possible and make them engaging for the audience. While the fight scenes are captivating, the voice over scenes leave one’s mind wandering, waiting for the action to return to the stage.

The set in the intimately-sized theatre at the Cornservatory is set in an L-shape with simple set pieces. The backdrop of a cityscape is not overly fancy or showy and there’s plenty of open space for the multiple fight scenes that take place.

Nefarious! is billed as a musical, but with only four songs, the description is misleading.  More (funny) songs are definitely in order. But in spite of that, Miquela A. Cruz’s writing is strong, with a plethora of jokes and one liners to keep the show chortling along. And the plot twists certainly make for an unexpected diversion.

In the end, Nefarious! if full of high-energy over-the-top performances that keeps the audience entertained throughout.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

A scene from Corn Production's 'Nefarious!' by Miquela A. Cruz

Nefarious! plays at the Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln, through March 26 Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $7 on Wednesdays, $10 on Thursdays and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets can be purchased by calling 312-409-6435.


Cast

Matthew Gall (Mr. Bulleit ), Aasia Bullock (Lilith), Andrew Bolduc,(Dr. Watts), Kallie Noelle Rolison (Anime), Justin Lance (Yami), Brendan Stallings (Kayne).

  
  

REVIEW: Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Christmas Binge (A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre)

     
    

A comedy hangover about the crappiness of Christmas

     
     

Mrs. Bob Cratchits Wild Christmas Binge - Reasonable Facsimile Theatre

  
A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre presents
   
Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Christmas Binge
   
Written by Christopher Druang
Directed by
Michael Buino
at
The Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln  (map)
through Jan 2  |  tickets: $12-$15   |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

I love schlock comedy as much as the next two-fisted drinker; I also have as much disdain for overwrought and overplayed Christmas sentimentality as anyone. But even that much common ground simply couldn’t bring me to open up to A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre’s production of Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Christmas Binge. Christopher Durang’s musical comedy is already a messy hodge-podge of spoofed feel-good Christmas tales, thrown together and slung like hash to the masses. Too bad that messiness is unintentionally amplified by the paucity of cast cohesion and a majority of performances that settle on bland.

Mr. Scrooge (Steve Hickson) is to be taught a lesson by an attending Ghost (Samantha Garcia) about the real meaning of Christmas. However, the magic isn’t working out as planned and the couple keeps getting transported to the whereabouts of Mrs. Bob Cratchit (Tina Haglund), the wife of Scrooge’s subservient employee. It isn’t quite part of the game plan, still they witness her breakdown over Bob bringing home another homeless child while there is no money to feed the children they have on his measly salary. Not able to take it anymore, Mrs. Cratchit tears off to get drunk and throw herself into the river.

The musical’s supposed to be a messy, nonsensical train wreck but, Durang’s unwieldy composition seems to have overwhelmed the cast and that isn’t a good thing. Michael Buino’s direction seems perfunctory at best, designed to get the actors on and off stage and that’s that. Sluggish and cumbersome are the only ways to describe the show as it progresses, with the intentional jaded boredom of the techies in charge of scene changes seeming to have infected the whole production by osmosis.

Mrs. Bob Cratchits Wild Christmas Binge - Reasonable Facsimile TheatreThe cast needs to pick up its energy, as well as pick up on their lines. During the mid-run performance the show exhibited a persistent drag in the action, only alleviated when Steve Truncale bounced into the second act as George Bailey to show us Zuzu’s petals. Now, with character performances as sharp delineated and driven as that, the show would be twice as funny.

Of the notable exceptions: Karen Shimmin gives us a delightfully masochistic Tiny Tim who grows more joyful at the thought of being made even more pathetic by his mother’s absence. Tina Haglund’s Mrs. Bob Cratchit is certainly sympathetic in her mournful disdain of her goody-goody husband, Bob Cratchit (Christopher Slavik), and her 24 + starving children. Haglund’s rapport with Steve Hickson’s Scrooge is quite good, too bad the play takes so long to get them together. Samantha Garcia starts out well as the Ghost of past, present and future, but seems to get as lost in her role as the Ghost does.

Cornservatory certainly doesn’t need critical acclaim or press attention. On the evening I saw the show, the house was packed with boisterous friends and Lincoln Park neighbors who had brought their own drinks. No doubt, I could have used a few to be merrier about what I witnessed. But I also wonder if I would wake up the next morning from a bad comedy hangover about the crappiness of Christmas.

  
  
Rating: ★½
   
   

xmas postcard for Mrs. Bob Cratchits Christmas Binge

Performances continue Friday & Saturday nights at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 4:00 pm thru January 2, 2011.  All performances at  The Cornservatory, 4210 N Lincoln Avenue. Tickets are $15.00, $12.00 for students and seniors.

 

Production Team

        
  Direction: Michael Buino*
  Set/Costume Design: Tina Haglund*
  Choreogrpher: Chani Buchic
  Prop Design: Susan Gaspar*
  Music Direction: Sarah Buino
  Stage Manager: Hazel Marie*
        

Ensemble 

Michael Buino*, Sipriano Cahue, Miquela A. Cruz*, Kristin Danko, Lena Dansdill, Samantha Garcia*, Susan Gaspar*, Tina Haglund*, Steve Hickson*, Bridget Rue, Karen Shimmin*, Christopher Slavik, Angela Snow*, Steve Truncale*, and Robert A. Walter    

* ARFTCo. Ensemble Member