Review: Big Love (Chicago Fusion Theatre)

  
  

Ambition exceeds preparation in wedding dark-comedy

  
  

Jamie Bragg and Marcus Davis in Chicago Fusion Theatre's "Big Love" by Charles Mee

     
Chicago Fusion Theatre presents
   
   
Big Love
  
Written by Charles Mee
Directed by Nilsa Reyna
at Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
through June 25  |  tickets: $25  |  more info

Reviewed by Dan Jakes

Tackling a work by contemporary mosaic playwright Charles Mee requires aiming high. By design, Mee’s scripts are better described as blueprints than directives. His stage directions pose particularly unique challenges for production directors; some are broad and flexible, while others are comically specific, often with a blatant disregard for economy:

“…and, of all the brides and grooms, some are/ burning themselves with cigarettes/lighting their hands on fire and standing with their hands burning/ throwing plates and smashing them/ throwing kitchen knives/ taking huge bites of food/ and having to spit it out at once, vomiting…”

Stack commands like that on top of hefty themes and purposefully jarring in-play styles, and one can imagine why so many young artists are drawn to Mee’s work. The challenge his shows present offer unique opportunities for exciting, meaningful, fiercely entertaining theater.

Carla Alegre Harrison in Chicago Fusion Theatre's "Big Love" by Charles MeeIf the actors have their lines memorized, that is. Director Nilsa Reyna’s production demonstrates a worthy vision, but his hindered in practice by jumbled dialogue, meandering actor-intentions, and hit-or-miss execution.

Adapted from The Suppliants by Aeschylus, Big Love follows 50 Greek women’s journey for refuge from a family arrangement forcing incestuous marriage upon them to their cousins. Having escaped by ship, three would-be brides (Carla Alegre, Jamie Bragg and Kate LoConti) seek shelter in an Italian mansion, owned by wealthy Piero (Todd Michael Kiech, inexplicably cast as a man of persuasion–Kiech exhibits the charisma of a robot wearing an ascot). Soon after, intended husbands Patrick King, Marcus Davis and John Taflan (ideal as the entitled, handsome, bratty, machismo-saturated Constantine) discover their fiancés’ hiding-spot and follow pursuit. Mee’s play jumps back and forth between Aeschylus’ narrative and broader musings on love, duty, and gender.

Royal George Theatre’s teeny upstairs studio serves as the playing space for Mee’s large-scale show. Nick Sieben’s smart, functional thrust set makes ideal use of the black box’s shortcomings. Concrete slabs, a soaking tub, pink ribbon, and a flower-installation create an ambiance that performs double-duty satisfying the play’s realistic and ethereal sensibilities. It’s one indication of a clear vision behind the show–another is David Mitchell as the curly Q’d, flaming nephew. Mitchell’s heightened acting meshes with text’s abstract style in a way that even when, out of the blue, he dips into a bath and sings a show tune, the moment is touching instead of hackneyed or contrived. Kate LoConti too makes hard-to-digest character traits easy to swallow.

     
(from top) John Taflan as Constantine, Marcus Davis as Oed, Pat King as Nikos in Chicago Fusion Theatre's "Big Love" by Charles Mee (from left) Carla Alegre-Harrison as Lydia, Jamie Bragg as Thyona, and Kate LoConti as Olympia

The rest of the show fares less well. Too many scenes are burdened by actors not seeming to be invested in the same moments, and emotional highpoints reading as stilted and clunky. Here, Fusion can’t quite merge Mee’s tangential ideas with a convincing story.

There‘s a reason so many plays end with a wedding; for better or for worse, they’re inherently dramatic. When even one that ends in a murder-orgy is tedious, the chemistry is off.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

 David Wesley Mitchell, Lisa Siciliano, Todd Kiech in Chicago Fusion Theatre's "Big Love" by Charles Mee

 

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Review: Dixie’s Tupperware Party (Royal George Theatre)

     
     

There’s a different use for a Tupperware decorating pump?!?

  
  

Dixies Tupperware Party - Chicago Royal George Theatre

  
Royal George Theatre presents
  
Dixie’s Tupperware Party
  
Written by Kris Andersson
Directed by Patrick Richwood
at Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
through June 12  |  tickets: $44-$49   |  more info

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

There is nothing like a good old Southern woman with big hair and a big heart. I knew a few Dixie Longate types in my youth and still to this day. The authentic Dixie Longate is the hostess of Dixie’s Tupperware Party” at the Royal George Theatre. Ms. Dixie is a hoot making her way through the audience before the show passing out mints from her favorite Tupperware container. She warned me not to eat it until I had finished my glass of wine or it “will taste like ass”. Noted Ms. Dixie – I did not try the mint until well Dixies Tupperware Party - Chicago Royal George Theatre 2after the glass was drained.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is a real Tupperware party where one can purchase all varieties of the American classic food storage product. Dixie gives the history of the Tupperware party, starting with Brownie Wise over 65 years ago.

Now, Ms. Longate is a very special lady, and has what could be called chutzpah or as we like to say on the South Side “she’s got a real set of stones on her”. The bio reads that she left her kids in an Alabama trailer park to become a Tupperware superstar and never looked back. The great thing is that it is a true story for thousands of American women over the last half century. Dixie feeds her three children –Wynona, Dwayne, and Absorbine Jr. – by selling the practical and colorful plastic goods.

The show starts with Dixie filling a Tupperware tumbler (complete with the no-leak straw hole) with a healthy serving of Jack Daniels. Along with an actual catalog, the audience is given name tags in case one wakes up behind a dumpster at the truck stop and forgets their order. There are malapropisms, double entendres, and sight gags aplenty. Ms. Dixie’s persona is a tribute to all of the women who have ever cried in their cheap whiskey to a country song. I’m not talking contemporary country either. You have to reach back to the great ones: Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and the fabulous Dolly Parton. Few can wear the gingham and the lacquer hair spray with such panache as these ladies and Dixie Longate.

Dixie’s Tupperware Party is an interactive show wherein Ms. Dixie will single out a few audience members and take them through potentially embarrassing exchanges. One young woman became just “Lesbian”, which was said by Dixie with a pseudo-offended fundamentalist sneer. Ms. Dixie was aghast that the Lesbian team beat the nice Christian boys in the Tupperware Rimming contest. She also heard a lot of homo-sectionals cheering for the nice Christian boys. Hmmm?

There is an audience Q&A for special Tupperware questions and testimonial er…Tuppermonials for those of you with fond memories of America’s finest plastic ware. I was amazed to find out that Ms. Longate really is the number one sales person for Tupperware in the USA and Canada, and you can see why – she knows her stuff and is wickedly funny at the same time! There are raffles with really cute prizes of Tupperware miniatures, and for the winners of the Rimming Contest there is collapsible Tupperware. (In case you are wondering, rimming in Tupperware-speak is sealing the top on a bowl. Duh!)

If you are offended by drag, truck stop sex, or freaky uses for a whipped topping dispenser with five decorating tips, please come and bring a friend. Ms. Dixie is a gifted comedienne with a knack for improv and will make great use of your discomfort, much to the audience’s amusement. Now get your mind out of the truck stop, y’all, and get your fannies over to the Royal George Theatre!

  
  
Rating: ★★
     
     

Dixies Tupperware Party - Chicago Royal George Theatre 3

Dixie’s Tupperware Party has been extended through June 12th and is not to be missed. For tickets call the Royal George at 312-988-9000 or but tickets online at Ticketmaster

Performances continue Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3 and 8pm, Sundays at 3pm.

Visit dixiestupperwareparty.com for more details on Ms. Longate’s escapades. It’s great grown-up fun and empowerment for all the big-haired ladies of America.

     

Artists

Kris Andersson (Creator, Dixie); Patrick Richwood (director); Richard Winkler (lighting); Christopher K. Bond (sound); Steven C. Kemp (set)

     
     

Review: White Noise (Royal George and Whoopi Goldberg)

        
        

Though it doesn’t quite rock the hard place, it still rocks

  
  

MacKenzie Mauzy and the ensemble in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago.

  
Whoopi Goldberg presents
  
White Noise: a cautionary musical
  
Book by Matte O’Brien
Music/Lyrics by
Robert Morris, Steven Morris, Joe Shane
Directed and choreographed  by
Sergio Trujillo
at Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
through June 5  |  tickets: $50-$65  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

Neo-Nazism, maybe now more than ever, is definitely a lonely philosophy, with both sides of the political spectrum trigger-happy to brand their opponents as followers of the Fuhrer. Unlike the more fashionable discrimination against Latinos, Muslims, and gays, wholesale white supremacy is not in vogue these days. White Noise, the new “cautionary musical” produced by Whoopi Goldberg, asks what would happen if subtle and coded racist rhetoric went viral? It’s already sort of happening over on 4Chan; in this way, Matte O’Brien’s book is screamingly relevant. He’s assisted by well-wrought, if often disturbing, songs and Sergio Trujillo’s snappy staging. However, by using tired Nazi philosophy Emily Padgett and MacKenzie Mauzy in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatreas its punching bag, White Noise fails to present a nuanced reflection on racism in today’s America—something we desperately need.

The events of the play were inspired by a little duo of white nationalists who formed a band called Prussian Blue. The two tween girls sang about race wars and crushes on skinheads, nearly immediately gaining the ire, and spotlight, of the national media. However, the pinnacle of Prussian Blue’s career was playing a state fair or two. The titular band in White Noise is sexier, more talented, and more marketable—singing their ciphered bigotry, they become YouTube darlings and put out a number one single.

One wonders how their repulsive beliefs are kept hidden from the media – something the show never explains. In fact, you aren’t really told much about how those beliefs came to be; there is never the searing indictment of inherited racism you find in American History X.

What we’re left with is the terrifically short rise and fall of White Noise, which is comprised of sisters Eva and Eden (Mackenzie Mauzy and Emily Padgett), skinhead/bassist/Eva’s boyfriend Duke (Patrick Murney), and Jake (Eric William Morris), who’s slapped onto the band by record exec Max (Douglas Sills as a lukewarm Bobby Gould-lite) with the mission of repackaging the group. The show becomes a battle between the greed of the amoral Max and Duke’s desire to vocalize his disgusting views on a national platform. Eva and Eden are caught in the crossfire. Eden just writes the tunes; she’s never really that concerned with the message. Eva fully believes the stuff, but she’s also a capitalist.

This story is juxtaposed with Max and Jake’s attempts to repackage backpack rappers Dion (Wallace Smith) and Tyler (Rodney Hicks) as gangstas. It doesn’t help that the two’s original ideas are pretty lame (like a rap version of the Declaration of Independence – not kidding), lacking the intelligence of Lupe Fiasco or De La Soul. Against their will, Max turns them into Blood Brothers and Jake writes them a little tune called “N.G.S.,” a smash hit about N’s (think N.W.A.) shooting “white boys.” Obviously, Jake and Max are guilty of racist double-dipping, but Max could care less and Jake is concerned with making his career. The whole musical leads up to a giant concert featuring a double bill of White Noise and Blood Brothers. Needless to say, it doesn’t go down as smooth as “Ebony and Ivory.”

     
Eric Morris, Emily Padgett, MacKenzie Mauzy, Patrick Murney in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre
Rodney Hicks and Wallace Smith as the "BloodBrothas" in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago. MacKenzie Mauzy and Emily Padgett in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre

Mauzy and Padgett give great performances and nail the musical numbers. Their tunes, penned by Robert Morris, Steven Morris, and Joe Shane, are legitimately catchy. Murney is chilling and Morris, who becomes the romantic lead in this tale, is decent. Max is a wannabe Mamet character who just isn’t quite ballsy enough, but Sills does the best he can.

I have to give props to this show – which has Broadway-level production design – for not shying away from the vile language. The show may be as blunt as Nazi propaganda. It presents racism in a polarized manner that doesn’t speak to the insidious, quieter racism that we see today. But White Noise still asks some relevant questions. The Hitler salute-inspired choreography in the video of White Noise’s hit single, “Mondays Suck,” inspire rounds of fan vids on YouTube, a la “Single Ladies.” At the end of the night, I was wondering how stupid all those kids must feel after they realize they posted videos of themselves goose-stepping.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Eric Morris, Emily Padgett, MacKenzie Mauzy, Patrick Murney in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre

White Noise: a cautionary musical continues at the Royal George Theatre through June 5th, with performances Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 5pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 5pm. Tickets are $49.50-$64.50, and can be purchased online or via the box office (312-988-9000). For more info, download the

.

All photos by Carol Rosegg

     

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Top 10 Chicago shows we’re looking forward to this spring

Chicagoskylinefromnorth

 

Top 10 shows to see this spring!

 

A list of shows we’re looking forward to before summer

 

Written by Barry Eitel

March 20th marked the first day of spring, even if it feels like winter hasn’t loosened its grip at all. The theatre season is winding down, with most companies putting up the last shows of the 2010/2011. Over the summer, it would seem, Chicagoans choose outdoor activities over being stuffed in a hot theatre. But there is still plenty left to enjoy. The rising temperatures make leaving your home much more tempting, and Chicago theatre is ending the traditional season with a bang. Here, in no particular order, are Chicago Theatre Blog’s picks for Spring 2011.

 

   
Goat or Who Is Sylvia 001
The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?

Remy Bumppo Theatre
March 30 – May 8
more info

Playwright Edward Albee has gotten a lot of love this year, with major productions at Victory Gardens and Steppenwolf (for the first time). The season has been a sort of greatest hits collection spanning his career, including modern classics like Zoo Story, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Three Tall Women. Remy Bumppo ends their season with some late-period Albee, but The Goat never skimps on Albee’s honest dysfunction. In the 1994 drama, Albee takes a shockingly earnest look at bestiality, and questions everything we thought about love.


      

Porgy and Bess - Court Theatre - banner


Porgy and Bess
 

Court Theatre 
May 12 – June 19
more info

Musical-lovers have a true aural feast to enjoy this spring. Following their mission to produce classics, Court produces the most well-known American opera, Porgy and Bess. George Gershwin’s ode to folk music is grandiose, inspirational, and not without controversy. But the show, telling tales about African-American life in the rural South, features brilliant music (like “Summertime,” which has been recorded by such vastly different performers as Billie Holiday and Sublime). Charles Newell, Ron OJ Parsons, and an all-black cast will definitely have an interesting take on one of the most influential pieces of American literature.


           
Front Page - Timeline Theatre Chicago - logo
The Front Page
 

Timeline Theatre  
April 16 – June 12
more info

For their season closer, TimeLine Theatre selected a 80-year-old play with deep Chicago connections. Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur were well known journalists, reporting on the madness that was the Jazz Age. They turned their life into a farcical romp, The Front Page, which in turn served as the inspiration for the Cary Grant vehicle “His Girl Friday”. The play centers around several hardened newsmen as they await an execution; of course, things don’t go as planned. Along with loads of laughs, TimeLine provides an authentic Chicago voice sounding off about a legendary time.


     
Peter Pan - Chicago Tribune Freedom Center
Peter Pan

Broadway In Chicago and threesixty° entertainment
at Chicago Tribune Freedom Center (675 W. Chicago)
Begins April 29
more info

Imported from London, this high-flying envisioning of the J.M. Barrie play should cause many jaws to drop. We’ve seen high school productions where the boy who never wants to grow up flies around on wires (leading to some disastrous videos on Youtube). Threesixtyº’s show has flying, but it also has three hundred and sixty degrees of screen projections. Already a smash across the pond, this will probably be one of the top spectacles of the decade. WATCH VIDEO


     
Woyzeck - Hypocrites Theatre - banner
Pony - About Face Theatre - banner

Woyzeck
and Pony  

at Chopin Theatre
The Hypocrites and About Face Theatre 
in repertory April 15 – May 22
more info

I’m not exactly sure if Georg Buchner’s unfinished 1830s play can support a whole city-wide theatrical festival, but I’m excited to see the results. The Oracle Theatre already kickstarted the Buchner love-fest with a well-received production of Woyzeck directed by Max Truax. Now Sean Graney and his Hypocrites and a revived About Face get their chance, along with numerous other performers riffing on the play. Pony offers a semi-sequel to Woyzeck, tossing together Buchner’s characters with others in a brand new tale. The Hypocrites offer a more straightforward adaptation to the play. Well, straightforward for the Hypocrites. I’m sure their white-trash-avant-garde tendencies will make an appearance, and I’m sure I’ll love it. (ticket special: only $48 for both shows


     
American Theatre Company - The Original Grease
The Original Grease

American Theatre Company 
April 21 – June 5
 more info

American Theatre Company ends their season with a major theatrical event—a remount of the original 1971, foul-mouthed version of Grease. Before Broadway producers, Hollywood, and John Travolta cleaned up the ‘50s set musical, “Summer Nights” was “Foster Beach.” The story of this production is probably as interesting as the actual show, with lost manuscripts and brand new dialogue and song.


       
Voodoo Chalk Circle - State Theatre
The Voodoo Chalk Circle

State Theatre 
April 9 – May 8
more info

This month, Theatre Mir already took a highly-acclaimed stab at this intriguing piece of Brecht, which tears at Western views of justice. In true Brechtian style, the State’s production is shaking the narrative up, transferring the story from an Eastern European kingdom to a post-Katrina New Orleans, where law and order have broken with the levee. We’ll see if Chelsea Marcantel’s adaptation holds water, but she has plenty to pull from, including the region’s rich folk traditions and the general lawlessness seen after the storm.   WATCH VIDEO


         
hickorydickory - chicago dramatists - banner Hickorydickory

Chicago Dramatists 
May 13 – June 12
more info

To welcome spring, Chicago Dramatists will revisit one of their own, the 2009 Wendy Wasserstein Prize-winning Marisa Wegrzyn. Directed by artistic director Russ Tutterow, the darkly whimsical piece imagines a world where everyone has a literal internal clock that ticks away towards our demise. What happens when someone breaks their clock? Through a very odd window, Wegrzyn looks at tough, relevant questions.


     
Next to Normal - Broadway in Chicago - banner
Next to Normal

Broadway in Chicago 
at Bank of America Theatre 
April 26 – May 8
more info

The newly-minted Purlitzer Prize winner, Next to Normal rolls into town on its first national tour, three Tony Awards in hand.  Alice Ripley, who received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, will reprise her acclaimed performance at the Bank of America Theatre on Monroe. Contemporary in sound and subject matter, the work explores the effects of a mother’s bi-polar disease exacerbated by her child’s earlier death, Next to Normal will no doubt be anything close to normal for Chicago audiences.    (watch video)


     
White Noise - Royal George
White Noise

Royal George Theatre 
April 1 – June 5
more info

Like Next to Normal, the new White Noise promises to take the usually vapid rock musical genre and stuff it with some tough issues. A show focusing on an attractive female pop duo with ties to white supremacy? It ain’t Rock of Ages, that’s for sure. Produced by Whoopi Goldberg, Chicago was chosen as the show’s incubator before a Broadway debut. Perhaps the premise may overwhelm the story; either way, White Noise is going to inspire conversations.     [ Listen to the Music ]

  
  

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

  
  

A fun evening of parochial flashbacks!

   
 

front page

   
  
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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REVIEW: Proof (Chicago Fusion Theatre)

 

Must proof be a prerequisite for belief?

 

Proof-Hal (Nick Freed & Claire (Nilsa Reyna) photo by Scott L. Schoonover

    
Chicago Fusion Theatre presents
   
Proof
  

Written by
David Auburn
Directed by Alex C. Moore
at
Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
through November 14  |  tickets: $25  |  more info

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Proof, a play by David Auburn, a fascinating piece of work that plays with the double entendre of the word “proof” that occurs throughout the show: literal math proofs being solved as well as the need for proof to discover the truth. How can a person prove a fact that seems impossible? Can someone who’s certifiably lost their mind prove to still be a genius in their work? Chicago Fusion Theatre touches on these and so much more with their production.

Robert (Sandy Elias and Catherine (Natalie DiCristofano) photo by Scott L. Schoonover) The set design, by Scott Schoonover, is subtle yet bold, particularly in the color choices of stark white against bright blue. Suspended above the stage are multiple torn-apart notebooks full of mathematical equations. The rest of the set mimics the notebooks in both color and information, with the stages outer walls also covered in equations.  A mirrored backdrop provides the actors space to add additional equations. The set itself if bare save for one chair.

Proof opens on Catherine (Natalie DiCristofano), on her 25th birthday, talking with her father, Robert (Sandy Elias). Desipite DiCristofano and Elias having a real connection that radiates out into the space, DiCristofano starts off a little shaky as she tries to find her ground. As the show continues, however, she definitely improves and finds the depths of Catherine. Elias is instantly personable as he fills the space. When he speaks he owns the stage with an amiable presence.

The plot twists and suddenly it’s clear that Catherine is, in fact, speaking with her dead father – whom she’d taken care of in life – in her own thoughts. It’s a quick turn that pulls the audience further into the action, then caries it forward. Hal (Nick Freed), a former student of Robert’s is going through Robert’s old notebooks, looking for uncovered mathematical discoveries. Freed is funny and charming in his role; he understands his character’s intentions and brings Hal to life.

Catherine’s sister Claire (Nilsa Reyna), returns home for their father’s funeral and to help Catherine out until she figures out what to do. Reyna starts out flat, especially as her character demands that emotions are let loose loose and exposed. DiCristofano, on the other hand, flourishes with her understated, dry humor as she delves into the depths of her character.

Hal (Nick Freed) photo by Scott L. Schoonover Catherine (Natalie DiCristofano) photo by Scott L. Schoonover
Catherine (Natalie DiCristofano & Robert Sandy Elias) photo Scott L. Schoonover Robert (Sandy Elias) Photo by Scott L. Schoonover

DiCristofano, like Elias, has great stage chemistry with Freed. They play well off of each other. Whenever there’s a scene between DiCristofano and Elias or DiCristofano and Freed, it’s captivating.

Through Proof, the action moves quickly and efficiently. There’s no point in which a scene drags on or is dragged out, allowing the scenes to flow and keep the audience’s attention. In between scenes the characters all add more and more mathematical equations to the walls of the set, adding to the chaos occurring around them. It’s an interesting punctuation between the performances and character interactions.

When Elias takes the stage later in the show in flashbacks of Catherine’s memory, he’s quite a stage presence. He’s full of life and commands the audience’s attention so it’s impossible to tear yourself away.

As the characters become more emotional, the scenes become more raw and heart wrenching. Since it’s such a small space, you can see all of the emotions play out in the actor’s eyes, pulling us into the action and holding us hostage.

Chicago Fusion has given us proof that they are a talented company, ably conveying their seismic artistic voice in intimate spaces.  

   
   
Rating: ★★★½
   
   

Catherine (Natalie DiCristofano) photo by Scott Schoonover) Proof plays at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., through November 14. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by calling the box office at (312) 988-9000 or at the Royal George Theatre’s Web site.

  
  

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Theater Thursday: Killer Joe (at Royal George Theatre)

Thursday, May 20th

Killer Joe by Tracy Letts

Profiles Theatre at the Royal George Theatre

1641 N. Halsted, Chicago

royalgeorge-killerEnjoy a complimentary drink and snacks from the Royal George Cabaret bar and then meet the team behind one of the most acclaimed shows of the year in a rare post-show discussion with the original cast. Killer Joe focuses on the Smith family, a greedy, vindictive clan of Texans who hatch a plan to murder their estranged matriarch to cash in on her insurance policy. Unable to bring themselves to do the deed, they hire Killer Joe Cooper, a full-time cop and part-time contract killer. Once he steps into their trailer, their simple plan quickly spirals out of control.  (our review ★★★½)

The production contains graphic violence, nudity and strong adult content, no one under seventeen will be admitted.

Show begins at 8 p.m.  Event begins immediately following the performance.

TICKETS ONLY $35 

For reservations call 312.988.9000