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

  
   

Continue reading

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.