REVIEW: Red Noses (Strawdog Theatre)

Laughing in the face nose of the Black Plague

 

Strawdog Theatre Red Noses Remount 2

   
Strawdog Theatre presents
  
RED NOSES
   
Written by Peter Barnes
Directed by Matt Hawkins
at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway (map)
through August 15th |  tickets: $15-$20  |  more info

reviewed by Katy Walsh

Strawdog Theatre Red Noses Remount 1 ‘It’s easy to find someone to share your life with. What about someone to share your death?’  Serious contemplations about the fragility of life get a laugh with the addition of a clown prosthetic.  Strawdog Theatre presents the remount of its successful 2009 production RED NOSES.  14th Century Europe is being plagued with death.  The dying is reaching epidemic proportions.  The survivors are targets for flagellant crazed religious types and victim-hunting scavengers.  From this hopeless void, a joyful priest recruits individuals to fight death with humor.  He forms a traveling troupe of performers to ‘ripple and spread’ amusement across the grieving countryside.   Strawdog’s RED NOSES explores the humorous side of the Black Plague by adding a clown-car-filled cast, jamming it to eighties music and letting death urinate on the wall.

The show starts playfully with a game of toss.  Death arrives with a neon yellow ball. The game becomes deadly.  Victims spew out neon yellow barf.  Game over!  The dying has begun.   Death doesn’t keep anyone down for long.  Zombies rise, dance and sing “Only the Good Die Young.” 

Under the direction of Matt Hawkins, the twenty-three cast members are lively, moving from scene to scene and role to role.  They juggle balls, play instruments, and remove spittle as a tight working ensemble.   It’s all about finding the comedic moment and putting a red nose on it.  Shannon Hoag (Marguerite) is hilarious as the disappointed almost-raped nun.  She belts out a wonderful rendition of “I don’t want to lose your love tonight.”  Sarah Goeden (Bells) and Chelsea Paice (Tricycle Clown Messenger) without a word effectively amuse and communicate with ringing and expressive faces.  Michael E. Smith (Pope) delivers a humorous line and attitude with ‘I don’t have to be wise just decisive.’  It’s the small touches that change dire to funny.  Two amputees do a stub version of a high five.  A blind man calls out a color.  
Death gets his cloak caught in his suitcase.  Cause of death?  Talented cast injects shots of fatal humor.  

Strawdog Theatre Red Noses Remount 3 

‘If there is life after death, why do we have to die?’ Playwright Peter Barnes penned a tale about laughing in the face of death.  To exploit the absurd, he set it in a plague killing era and added clown noses.  The script could go “Patch Adams” cute as one man’s quest to bring joy to the infirmed.  Strawdog wisely chooses a “Monty Python” approach with comedy influenced by pushing the funny aspect of sensitive content.  Barnes’ play has a propensity to go long and tedious with some productions exceeding a three hour running time.  Even with Mike Przygoda (Music Director) orchestrating the 80’s flashback with a high-energy, live soundtrack, the second act gets a little tiresome with death-defying religious undercurrents. Still, “You gotta have faith!” Strawdog’s RED NOSES is plagued with comedy for whatever ails you! 

 

   
   
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Strawdog Theatre Red Noses Remount 4

Running Time:  Two hours and twenty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission

  
   

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Strawdog Theatre announces new artistic staff and ensemble members

strawdog

As part of their ongoing celebration of 22 years(!) in Chicago theatre, Strawdog Theatre Company proudly announces the hiring of new Managing Director Hank Boland, new General Manager Cortney Hurley, the addition of four new ensemble members: Amy Dunlap, Paul Fagen, Mike Przygoda and Justine C. Turner and the appointment of Matt Hawkins as Strawdog Artistic Associate and Resident Director.

hboland_large Hank Boland replaces Alex J. Goodman as Managing Director of Strawdog Theatre Company.  Boland’s work with Strawdog Theatre Company includes writing Season Seventeen’s epic musical The True Ballad of Fall’s Blessings, directed by Strawdog’s Artistic Director Nic Dimond and written in collaboration with Strawdog Theatre Company. In 2006, Dimond asked Boland to develop a writing initiative for Strawdog Ensemble Members.  Billed the The Hit Factory, this program regularly schedules late night events and graduations to showcase new work. The Hit Factory now also offers tuition based classes to the public, please see our website for more information. The Hit Factory is committed to creating new works, and strengthening the working relationships between Strawdog Theatre Company and other members of the Chicago theatre community. Boland holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Film from Columbia College in Chicago where he is an adjunct faculty member in the screenwriting department.

Cortney Hurley, Strawdog’s Production Manager since 2006, has been promoted to General Manager, overseeing Strawdog’s growing theatrical complex located at

Strawdog Theatre Company is now home to a 70-seat mainstage theatre, 40-seat Hugen Hall cabaret space complete with bar and liquor license and 400 square foot rehearsal space called Nowhere Mountain.

Strawdog Theatre Company is also pleased to announce the addition of four new ensemble members: Amy Dunlap has appeared on the Strawdog stage in Cherry Orchard, Marathon ‘33 and the Strawdog Radio Theatre Series. Dunlap graduated from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts and has been seen in productions at several Chicago theatres including 16th Street Theater, Lifeline Theatre, Factory Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Adventure Stage Chicago and Estrogen Fest.

Paul Fagen was last seen as Father Toulon in Strawdog’s critically-acclaimed production of Red Noses. Originally from Annapolis, MD, Fagen has also acted in productions at The House Theatre of Chicago, Speaking Ring Theater and Quest Theatre Ensemble.

Mike Przygoda was most recently the Musical Director and Arranger for Strawdog’s Red Noses. Przygoda holds a BFA in music composition from Columbia College Chicago.  He has worked on numerous shows in Chicago both as a composer and as a performing musician for companies such as The House Theatre of Chicago (Valentine Victorious, Ellen Under Glass, The Boy Detective Fails, Hatfield & McCoy, The Sparrow, The Magnificents, The Nutcracker, The Rose & Rime), American Theatre Company (Oklahoma!), The Hypocrites (Camille/La Traviata), Trapdoor (AmeriKafka), Next Theatre (The Busy World Is Hushed, 365 Days/Plays), The Neo-Futurists (Beer) and has written music for Serendipity Theatre Collective‘s Second Story.  He served as a musical director for the Second City Touring Company.

Justine C. Turner joins the Strawdog Ensemble after appearing in Red Noses. Originally from Oak Park, IL and a graduate of Columbia College, Turner was most recently seen in the remount of Rivendell Theatre’s These Shining Lives at Theatre on the Lake and appeared in Ren Faire last summer at The Factory Theatre.

Director of Strawdog’s smash, sold-out production of Red Noses Matt Hawkins joins Artistic Associates Kimberly Senior and Shade Murray in their growing ensemble of Resident Directors. Hawkins previously directed Hatfield & McCoy for The House Theatre of Chicago, On My Parents Hundredth Wedding Anniversary for the side project and will direct Cabaret for The Hypocrites next spring.

Strawdog’s staff includes Artistic Director Nic Dimond, Managing Director Hank Boland and General Manager Cortney Hurley. The complete Strawdog ensemble includes Jennifer Avery, Hank Boland, Abigail Boucher, Don Cardiff, Erin Carlson, Michael Dailey, Anita Deely, Amy Dunlap, Paul Fagen, John Ferrick, Mikhail Fiksel, Aly Renee Greaves, Carmine Grisolia, Christopher Hainsworth, Kyle Hamman, Erik Hellman, Tom Hickey, Shannon Hoag, Anderson Lawfer, Sean Mallary, Kat McDonnell, Gregor Mortis, Stacy Parker Hirsch, Michaela Petro, Mike Przygoda, John Henry Roberts, Justine C. Turner, Jamie Vann and James Anthony Zoccoli.

Map to Strawdog Theatre:

Strawdog Theatre announces 2008/09 Season

Strawdog Theatre Company of Chicago announces their 21st anniversary season of presenting “the whole wide world in a little black box,” with the three mainstage plays. These productions, plus on-going late night offerings, will be held at Strawdog’s space in the heart of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood at 3829 N. Broadway Street (for more info, go to www.strawdog.org)

 

Strawdog Theatre 2008-09 Season

“Coping With Disaster”

 

Strawdog Artistic Director Nic Dimond elaborates:

“These Season 21 selections all center on a catastrophic event.  There is the robot rebellion and inevitable obsolescence of humanity in ‘R.U.R.;’ a wartime suicide which heralds the total destruction of an important family in ‘All My Sons;’ and the horrors of the Black Plague in ‘Red Noses.’  Other than providing instant dramatic appeal, this concentration reflects the growing idea that the numbers of natural and man-made disasters we are exposed to every day are becoming numbing, and these explorations are meant to rip the scab off our coping skills.  With our signature blend of brains and brawn, Strawdog continues to emphasize a true ensemble-based acting attack, as well as a design approach that immerses our audiences into the worlds where each of these stories live.”

 

R.U.R – Rossum’s Universal Robots
by Karel Capek
directed by Shade Murray
Originally debuted in 1921, Czech playwright Capek dramatizes the rise of robots over the human race. Strawdog welcomes back company member Shade Murray, director of Strawdog’s “Detective Story” (Jeff Award-winning Best Production, Director and Ensemble in 2003) and “Marathon ’33” (Best Ensemble 2006). Murray was recently assistant director for Steppenwolf’s smash production “August: Osage County.” He also won a 2006 Jeff Award for “The Chosen” at Writer’s Theatre.
September 18 – October 25, 2008

 

All My Sons
by Arthur Miller
directed by Kimberly Senior
The second production of Strawdog’s 2008-2009 season is Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” directed by Strawdog company member Kimberly Senior. One of the most celebrated classics of American drama, this play tells the story of the Keller family, reunited after the war only to uncover the secrets that will tear them apart. Senior returns to Strawdog after directing their critically acclaimed “Three Sistersin 2005 (remounted at Theatre on the Lake in 2006), who has also directed “The Busy World is Hushed” for Next , and TimeLine’s “Dolly West’s Kitchen.”
February 19 – March 28, 2009

 

Red Noses
by Peter Barnes
directed by Matthew Hawkins
The season will close with British playwright Peter Barnes’ “Red Noses,” directed by House Theatre’s Matthew Hawkins in his Strawdog directing debut. It’s the 1300s, and a quarter of Europe is dead from the plague, pestilence is everywhere, and humanity is convinced this is Armageddon.  A priest receives a command from God to gather a group of believers, teach them and send them off into the world to be clowns among men. A frequent Strawdog collaborator, Hawkins’ directing credits include House’s “Hatfield and McCoy,” and “On My Parent’s One Hundredth Wedding Anniversary” for The Side Project.
April 16 – May 23, 2009

 

Strawdog Late Night
Stawdog Late Night features a variety of programming (“The Game Show Show and Stuff,” live music, comedy, improv, roasts) in the newly-renovated Hugen Hall Cabaret space within the theatre, following each Friday and Saturday night mainstage performance at 11 p.m. Admission for Late Night is free with paid mainstage ticket (or $5 for just the Late Night), and there is a cash bar available. Visit the Web site at www.strawdog.org for performance schedule.