REVIEW: Devilish Children-Civilizing Process (Dream Thtr)

   
  

Naughty children demand gnarly punishment

 

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Dream Theatre presents
   
The Devilish Children and the Civilizing Process
    
Written and directed by Jeremy Menekseoglu
Based on German tales by Heinrich Hoffmann
at Dream Theatre, 556 W. 18th Street (map)
through Nov 21  |  tickets: $12-$18  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Are children little monsters? Do they need constant discipline in order to be molded into socially acceptable beings? Is terror a useful and appropriate tool to insure obedience and good behavior? Is a certain level of cruelty always necessary when raising children? Dream Theatre has long produced disturbing archetypal works by its Artistic Director Jeremy Menekseoglu. But his new play, The Devilish Children and the Civilizing Process, digs deep into the very foundations of what we like to believe is cultured order and proper education. Beneath the veneer of discipline lies violence to spontaneous playfulness, emotional well-being and childlike innocence.

Devilish Children - Dream Theatre 031All of which is just fine with the cast. Directed by the playwright, they plunge with relish into their new production’s dark savagery, based on the 19th century collection of German cautionary children’s tales by early psychologist Heinrich Hoffmann. “Der Struwwelpeter” became a European classic in its day and served as the inspiration for the breakout 1998 musical, Shockheaded Peter. Anna Menekseoglu, who plays Pauline, remembers an English version of the book from her childhood—as a little girl, its illustrations absolutely fascinated her.

Little Karl, Age 3 (Judith Lesser) has been banished by her German father, referred to only as Vati (Chad Sheveland), to a dark and foreboding place because he misbehaves. Here, Vati tells him, he will learn to become civilized, to act like a gentleman, and earn the right to associate with the rest of world. Once abandoned, he falls under the instruction of the other abandoned, macabre and threatening children in the garret. They perform one story after another on the essential lessons that will make Karl, Age 3, ready for society—never suck your thumb, don’t be a crybaby, don’t run and jump about, don’t play with matches, etc.

Each cautionary tale is a minor adventure in horror. It is not enough to instruct. Karl, Age 3, must be terrified into learning his lessons. To this end, Dream Theatre employs simple stage effects, masks and some pretty traditional, but well-timed horror sound design (Jeremy Menekseoglu). The Tall Tailor (Annelise Lawson), who comes to cut off the thumbs of little boys and girls who won’t stop sucking them, is absolutely frightening. In fact, 19th century children’s costuming (Rachel Martindale) so perfectly complements the cast’s crisp and creepy German dialect it’s difficult not to think of the Third Reich and all its mind-blowing cruelty in the pursuit of the racially pure perfect order.

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Menekseoglu and company execute their demon-child roles with sadistic vigor and gruesome enthusiasm. Mishelle Apalategui’s monstrous glee as Romping Polly and Bil Gaines’ calm and sinister delivery as Conrad are particularly memorable. Anna Menekseoglu’s little pyromaniac, Pauline, is just a delight. Humor and play always lurk right beneath the horror, yet the most horrifying lesson for Karl to learn is that he is innately bad and that this place he cannot leave is what he deserves. For him, as well as the rest of us, it’s a relief to see another, more beneficent model of adult masculinity appear near at end of this play–to bring light, generosity and joy to an otherwise hopelessly benighted existence.

    
   
Rating: ★★★½
   
   

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Devilish Children runs Thursday, October 28 through Sunday, November 21, 2010 with two additional Monday performances on November 8 & 15 at 8:00pm and a special 9:00pm performance on October 30. Performance times are 8pm on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 7pm on Sundays. Performance location is Dream Theatre, 556 West 18th Street, Chicago.

Featuring Annelise Lawson, Chad Sheveland, Judith Lesser, Bil Gaines, Rachel Martindale, Mishelle Apalategui, Anna Menekseoglu and Jeremy Menekseoglu

Design by Anna Weiler, Giau Truong and Jeremy Menekseoglu.

Based on the German cautionary tales by Heinrich Hoffmann.

        
         

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"Addams Family – The Musical" – Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth participate in first public reading

 

UPDATE: Read our review3 stars!!    review

 

bebeneuwirth nathanlane 

Wow – Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have this same list of Broadway stars headline the pre-Broadway Chicago production?  And doesn’t Bebe Neuwirth seem like the perfect Morticia Addams? 

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Excerpts from the Playbill-Online article:

The cast of this developmental workshop includes Nathan Lane as Gomez, Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia, Kevin Chamberlin as Fester, Zachary James as Lurch, Mary Louise Burke as Grandmama, Terrence Mann, Jan Maxwell and more. As is often the case with readings and workshops, this does not necessarily reflect what the final production casting will be.

As previously announced, the musical will make its world premiere Nov. 13, 2009-Jan. 10, 2010, at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre in Chicago, prior to a spring 2010 launch on Broadway.

With a book by Marshall Brickman and partner Rick Elice (librettists of the 2006 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Jersey Boys) and music and lyrics by Drama Desk Award-winning composer-lyricist Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party), the musical is wholly original and not based on Addams Family material from other media.

Produced by Elephant Eye Theatrical and Roy Furman, The Addams Family has direction and design by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, the creators of Shockheaded Peter.

The Addams Family creative team also includes choreographer Sergio Trujillo, lighting designer Natasha Katz and musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell.

For more information on the premiere engagement of The Addams Family, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.  Read the entire article here.

UPDATE: Addams Family opens in Chicago!!!

Cousin Itt coming to Broadway in Chicago!

A family shot of the popular 60's sitcom, "The Addams Family"Yep, you read right.  The creepy yet lovable Addams family is getting a musical of their own, courtesy of Broadway in Chicago.  Making its world premier here in Chicago at the Oriental Theatre (aka Ford Center for the Performing Arts), The Addams Family – A New Musical will begin its pre-Broadway run in November 2009.

Like many other Gen X-ers, I grew up watching “The Addams Family” after school, my favorite characters being mother Morticia and the oh-so-hairy gibberish-speaking Cousin Itt. (and, yes, being an avid crossword enthusiast, “Itt” is spelled with 2 t’s!).

Judging from the creative team, this show has a lot of promise: composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party), choreographer Sergio Trujillo (The Jersey Boys), and Olivier Award-winning director/designers Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch (Shockheaded Peter). 

By the way, does anyone know what these original Addams Family actors are up to now?