Review: Well of Horniness (Reasonable Facsimile Theatre)

  
  

Despite strong cast, feral lesbian romp jilted by clunky pacing

  
  

The Well of Horniness - A Reasonable Facsimile

  
A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company presents
  
The Well of Horniness
  
Written by Holly Hughes
Directed by Samantha Garcia
at The Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln (map)
through April 30  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Who doesn’t love lesbians on the loose? Well, maybe Peter LaBarbera—but, then, he looks like he hasn’t got laid in, like, forever. The rest of us would eagerly plunge headfirst into a production promising slap-dash Sapphic pleasure. Trouble is, Holly Hughes’ 1983 schlock comedy The Well of Horniness comes across more like a wet, sloppy kiss from your lesbian aunt than a well-placed riff on dangerous, dueling dykes and the bisexual gals who can’t forget them. Not that the cast of A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company doesn’t give it the good, old (*ahem*) college try. But Samantha Garcia’s direction spreads out action, and not in a good way, across the Conservatory’s stage, often losing valuable focus and timing.

“These muffdivers have been looking for a rumble,” quotes detective Garnet McClit (Miquela Cruz) and that, at least, is one thing to be grateful for concerning individual performances. As Georgette, Karen Shimmin throws seductive glances over her shoulder like it was meant for you, and does feral, raccoon-raised lesbian with perfection. Angela DeMarco, as the redhead (rather, red-wigged) Babs, brings strong, pistol-packin’ bravado to the stage. Liz Hoffman’s absolutely scores with her daffy depiction of Vicki, who once belonged to the lesbian sorority, Tri Delta Tribads, but now faces married, middle class boredom with her carpet-clearance husband Rod, played with hearty, sympathetic charm by Susan Gaspar. Of the ladies, only Cruz needs to add a little seductive spice to her butch to raise the heat of night.

Tragically, even for schlock theater, the part of the Narrator (Emily Friedrick) is drastically overwrought. Hughes’ comedy is no police procedural or noir thriller, yet a little more attention to the dry style of those two genres might generate more laughs than Friedrick’s current delivery. As is, she comes across more like a town barker hawking her wares than a master of Hughes’ overwrought and over-punned exposition. Of course, a large part of the problem may be Hughes’ writing. It’s showing its age–and its fish jokes do have a limited shelf life. Clearly, schlock is a comic actor’s medium—you have to know when hold back and when shoot for the stars—sometimes without too much help from the script.

(L-R, back row) Karen Shimmin, Miquela Cruz, Susan Gaspar; (front row) Emily Friedrick, Liz Hoffman, Angela DeMarco - the cast of 'The Well of Horniness'

Most of all, the biggest crime seems to be those moments when the ladies play it safe. Police pat downs, prison scenes—these are the things that dreams are made of. They’re already salacious, by their very nature and pornographic history–now how to make them outrageous, transcending their formulaic predictability? That’s the formula that Garcia and cast have yet to work out. Much as I love Hoffman upping the silliness quotient for the show or DeMarco channeling Joan Crawford, The Well of Horniness still clunks along too disjointedly for a truly rad ladies’ night out. Let’s hope they can tighten things up in the course of the run. Do it for the sisters who are doin’ it for themselves!

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

The Well of Horniness continues through April 30th, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, at The Cornservatory Theater, 4210 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $12-$15. Make reservations online at www.arftco.com, or call 773-418-4475. Group rates are available. This show is for adults only.

 

Artists

Cast

Miquela Cruz*, Emily Friedrick, Susan Gaspar*, Liz Hoffman* Karen Shimmin* and Angela DeMarco*.

Production

The show is directed by Samantha Garcia*, set and costumes designed by Tina Haglund*, props designed by Susan Gaspar*, stage-managed by Hazel Marie*,
marketing by Steve Hickson*.

*A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre ensemble member.

     
     

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

  
  

REVIEW: Bubble Tea Party (Stir-Friday Night)

   
   

Stir-Friday Night celebrates 15 years

 

bubblegroup2

   
Stir-Friday Night presents
   
Bubble Tea Party
     
Written/Performed by the Company
Directed by Pat McKenna
Chicago Center for the Performing Arts
777 N. Green St., Chicago (map)
Through Nov. 20  | 
Tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

It’s been 15 years since the late Quincy Wong and Keith Uchima founded Stir-Friday Night. The troupe got its start after a group of Asian-American actors met through Jade Monkey King, a musical Uchima created in 1995. The duo decided that Asian-American writers, directors and actors needed a bigger showcase.

"When you saw Asians on stage, they were the doctor guy, the second-banana guy," Uchima recalled at opening night of Stir-Friday Night’s 15th-anniversary revue. So the two men worked to found a company that would feature exclusively Asian-Amerians. Ultimately, that evolved into the sketch-comedy and improv troupe that’s still going strong – Stir-Friday Night.

This current group includes artists, mostly U.S.-born, who trace their heritage to India, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. Their 15th-anniversary show, Bubble Tea Party, doesn’t show everything this company is capable of. Sketch-comedy revues tend to be uneven by their very nature — this one is more so than most.

The cast members all perform very well — when the show suffers, it’s in the writing. Some of the skits are lame — such as a recurring business about Olympic-style "Geisha Games" and an overlong, elaborate sketch of crude puns set in historic England; blue humor doesn’t seem to be this troupe’s strength. Other sketches start with interesting premises but never manage to come together, as in an odd piece that lampoons the Tea Partiers with an Alice in Wonderland theme and one in which a guy tries to convince his friend to eat 25 tacos in 60 seconds.

Undeniably, the company does its best work when it concentrates on the Asian-American experience. Two hilarious skits feature Amrita Dhaliwal playing an immigrant South Asian mother interacting with her American-born offspring.

The show follows up the scripted pieces with some improv, also with mixed results. The lineup isn’t set yet, but the company expects a few alumni to make guest appearances as well.

Stir-Friday Night deserves congratulations for its 15 years, and this show has enough funny moments to be worthwhile, but the troupe isn’t tapping the talent pool of Asian-American comedy writers deeply enough.

   
   
Rating: ★★
   
  

Ensemble: Melissa Canciller, Amrita Dhaliwal, Samantha Garcia, Erica Ikeda, Jin Kim, Christine Lin, Harrison Pak, Avery Lee and Jasbir Singh Vazquez

  
    

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REVIEW: The Sound of the Yellow Flower (Strangeloop)

 

Characters fail to connect in Belarus drama

 

A scene from Strangeloop Theatre's "The Sound of the Yellow Flower"

   
Strangeloop Theatre presents
  
The Sound of a Yellow Flower
  
Written by Dustin Spence
Directed by
Letitia Guillaud
at
Trap Door Theatre, 1655 N. Cortland (map)
thorugh October 3rd |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

Dustin Spence’s The Sound of a Yellow Flower revolves around four characters in post-Soviet Union Belarus looking for liberty, justice, and love in their unstable country. Years after violinist Sasha (Rich Logan) and military colonel Nikolai (Mark A scene from Strangeloop Theatre's "The Sound of the Yellow Flower"Pracht) help usher in an era of independence for Belarus, they are faced with the question of what comes next. Nikolai wants to see Sasha takes a position of political power, but Sasha wants nothing to do with it, having married Zoe (Samantha Garcia), an American activist working to expose the injustices done by the current government. Nikolai’s relationship with heroin-addicted prostitute Natalia (Meghan M. Martinez) ends up bringing the four together in an explosive, tragic climax, but Spence’s script fails to capture the setting and the scenes have an unnatural build to them that makes it difficult to connect with the action on stage.

Language becomes a hurdle in establishing the play’s foreign setting, as little is done to de-Americanize the dialogue beyond the actors adding eastern European dialects. The opening scene has musician Sasha and Nikolai speaking in semi-broken English, but thankfully it is quickly done away with as it makes no sense to have two educated characters speaking ungrammatically in their own language. The profanity-laced dialogue has an almost-Tarantino stylization that feels out of place in the European environment, but the two actors are able to make the action interesting enough to keep the focus.

Zoe speaks in a thicker accent to show her unfamiliarity with the language, but ends up sacrificing a lot of diction in the process. The playwright doesn’t provide much exposition regarding the current socio-political climate of Belarus, and losing Zoe’s expository lines due to her accent diminishes the clarity of the plot. Dialects prove a further hindrance when the characters become enraged, as the actors often lose their accents in the explosion of emotion.

Sound of the Yellow Flower 3 Sound of the Yellow Flower 1

These sudden fits of rage occur throughout The Sound of a Yellow Flower, as most of the scenes quickly and without warning turn into screaming matches between the characters. Intensity is fine, but without any proper buildup the emotions feel empty. The relationships aren’t given the time to develop completely, making the connections between characters feel artificial. When it doesn’t feel like there’s any danger in watching a hooker get choked, there’s something wrong.

When these jumps into fury are avoided, the play gains actual depth, like a scene that juxtaposes one of Nikolai’s first nights with Natalia with the first meeting of Sasha and Zoe. The actors are given the time to create intimate moments with each other, and the relationships benefit greatly from the newly established chemistry. The scenes that follow are a return to form, but the brief glimmer of love provides a bit of hope for the tragic characters before their lives fall apart.

      
      
Rating: ★★
  
   

Sound of Yellow Flower poster 2

  
  

 

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