REVIEW: Snow Days and Plane Delays (The Mime Company)

        
        

The beauty of silence enhances little Christmas rituals

  
  

The Mime Company - Snow Days and Plane Delays poster

  
The Mime Company presents
  
Snow Days & Plane Delays: Evening of Holiday Mime
   
Created by Mime Company ensemble
Directed by
Amanda Brown
at Studio BE, 3110 N. Sheffield
(map)
through Jan 2  |  tickets: $12-$20   |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Face it–Christmas is exhausting. The holiday demands physical, mental and emotional energy from everyone participating–and even from those who don’t. Decorating, shopping, cooking, wrapping gifts, assembling them, greeting friends and relatives—and then there’s the obstacle course of traveling to your holiday destination. Amanda Brown of The Mime Company directs a well honed and superbly disciplined troupe that can draw out the humor and poignancy of yearly Christmas rituals in their latest production, Snow Days and Plane Delays: an Evening of Holiday Mime. Nothing impresses like the exceeding professionalism of the total ensemble—their slightest gestures and facial expressions speak volumes, and their coordinated physical discipline astonishes.

A man packs up and prepares to leave for his flight. Interspersed between the trials and tribulations of his trip–going through security, finding a seat in the overcrowded waiting area, packing his carry-on luggage on the plane, etc.—are tales and scenes associated with Mime-Company-snow-days-square-posterChristmas. Carolers go door to door, struggling to find a receptive audience for their songs. A family struggles to take a decent Christmas photo through the years. A mother and father fuss over an assembly-required bicycle late into the night. All terribly familiar scenes, but more—the ensembles’ unity, balance and symmetry brings greater immediacy and intimacy to each relatively minor activity, evoking a closer and deeper look at each human relationship and gesture.

The Mime Company heightens the bittersweet passing of time with the shifting nature of family, as children emerge from childhood to take on the challenges of their parents’ care in “Family Photo Album.” “The Little Match Girl” resurfaces as a classic to remind audiences of the suffering of the destitute homeless during this time of year. Into the mix, the ensemble amuses with delightfully ridiculous situations—a guy just learning to ski, ballet dancers headed on a total Nutcracker train wreck, and couples losing and finding each other at the mall, while negotiating its bewildering assortment of escalators, elevators and walkways.

Snow Days and Plane Delays will only be playing over the January 2nd, so catch it in its short run as a breather from the holiday madness. Looking at all our frenzied rituals under the microscope of silence makes them special and, perhaps, even less arduous.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Video below: The Mime Company’s A Holiday Evening of  Mime in 2008, created by Matt Paolelli.

  
  

REVIEW: The Breakfast Club Musical (pH Theatricals)

Bouncy score gives this “Breakfast Club Musical” potential

 5 main characters of "Breakfast Club"

pH Productions presents

The Breakfast Club Musical

Directed and adapted by Jason Geis
with direction assistance from Scott Hogan
Music by
Jessica Hunt, lyrics by Jason Geis
musical direction by Jessica Hunt
At
Studio BE, Lakeview
Through April 29
(more info)

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

The archetypes of high school — The Brain … The Jock … The Princess … The Basketcase … The Criminal — surely live on in generation after generation, yet I confess I don’t understand the continuing fascination with John Hughes’ teen-angst film "The Breakfast Club." Set in Shermer High School, a fictional version of Hughes’ Northbrook alma mater, Glenbrook North, the film has led to dozens of YouTube video reenactments and two local stage productions this season alone — all from people who were surely in Pampers, or unborn, when the film premiered in 1985. Like other full casttributes, the latest homage, pH Productions’ The Breakfast Club Musical, takes its dialog and most of its humor directly from the film. The castDan Aho as Principal Vernon; Sally Anderson as Carla the Janitor; Brett Mannes as Brian Johnson, the Brain; Drew Current as Andrew Clark, the Jock; Martha Hearn as Claire Standish, the Princess; Tristan Tanner as Allison Reynolds, the Basketcase; and Matthew Gottlieb as John Bender, the Criminal; backed by a chorus — re-enacts the Saturday when five mismatched teens were unexpectedly stuck together for a day-long detention. More  fully realized than the staged version now at iO Theater, pH’s production, reportedly three years in the making, benefits from an original score of 17 songs by Jessica Hunt with lyrics by adapter and director Jason Geis. With Hunt accompanying on keyboards, this show feels like a workshop production with aspirations rather than a sketchy one-off, and as such, it deserves to be held to a higher standard.

Hunt and Geis’s bouncy pop sound fits well into the theme of the show. Songs range from "An Imperfect Place," a strong ballad sung by Bender to explain an illicitly closed door, to the campy "I’m Only a Virgin," performed by Brian when he’s caught exaggerating his conquests (and hammed to full extent by Mannes) to the lively "Bizarre" by Andy. As a lyricist, Geis is a little too apt to go for the cheap laugh. This show didn’t really need two songs about virginity, and the humor value of obscenities set to music is of the "funny once" variety. Other songs seem incomplete, such as "Come Monday," which just repeats the same line over and over again. And although the song-and-dance numbers refer to the plot, they often seem inserted rather than interwoven, like musical intervals spliced between reels of the film.

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The cohesiveness of the story may suffer a bit for anyone who’s never seen the movie. For example, the chorus adds impact to the songs but needs explaining. Who are these extra people and what are they doing there? When the full cast is on stage,Cassie Speerschneider’s choreography becomes a little cramped. Performances waver. Gottlieb, who resembles the young Marlon Brando, and the flexible-faced Mannes carry most of the show. Hearn and Current each shine in a couple of star turns, but fade when the focus isn’t directly on them. As a director, Geis needs better awareness of sightlines. It would have played better on stage, for example, for Allison to dump her purse on a desk where the audience could see it, but instead she upends it onto the floor, out of view of the back rows.

This isn’t the place for a lengthy discussion of why so many entertainment enterprises — from local troupes like this one to Broadway companies to Hollywood studios — seem bent on rehashing old movies instead of making up new stories of their own, but I like the way Mac Rogers put it in his commentary on the spate of screen-to-stage adaptations that hit Broadway a few years ago: "A musical doesn’t need to be original to be worthy, it just needs to not suck." The Breakfast Club doesn’t suck — in fact it’s quite engaging — but it doesn’t quite go far enough in re-imagining the original. There’s potential here that hasn’t yet been realized.

 

Rating: ★★½

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This week’s Openings and Closings

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show openings

The Addams Family Broadway In Chicago

American Buffalo Steppenwolf Theatre 

Christmas Follies Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus

The Nutcracker Center for the Performing Arts at Governors State University

The Nutcracker North Shore Center for the Performing Arts

In the Heights Broadway In Chicago

It’s a Wonderful Life Improv Playhouse Radio Theatre

It’s a Wonderful Life AFTRA/SAG Senior Radio Players

Rent, School Edition Studio BE

Salsa Sketch Gorilla Tango Theatre

chicagoatnight

 

show closings

CUBA and his Teddy Bear UrbanTheater / PEOPLE’S Theater of Chicago

The Dreamers Theatre Building Chicago 

How to Act Around Cops The Artistic Home

The Mercy Seat Profiles Theatre

The Mystery of Irma Vep Court Theatre

The Nutcracker Sings Jedlicka Performing Arts Center

Patchwork U.S.A. Raven Theatre

Peter Gallagher, Don’t Give Up on Me Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place

Stars in the Attic Gorilla Tango Theatre

Summer People The Gift Theatre

Time Traveling Mom-Dad Gorilla Tango Theatre

Towards the Sun! Gorilla Tango Theatre

Young Frankenstein Broadway In Chicago