REVIEW: Casanova Takes a Bath (Theater Oobleck)

From Frivolous Flings to Serious Finances

casanova

   
Theater Oobleck presents
   
Casanova Takes a Bath
   
Written and performed by David Isaacson
at
Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston (map)
through June 13th  |  tickets: $12 donation  |  more info

reviewed by Paige Listerud

David Isaacson’s one-man show, Casanova Takes a Bath, passes itself off as something as light and whipped as blanc mange. His sartorial transformation from modern-day satirist to Giacomo Casanova takes place by means of a few articles of clothing ransacked from his wife’s closet. The bareness of the studio stage at Prop Theatre contains only a blackboard, a stack of newspapers, and an antique music stand with its own stack of papers—Isaacson’s script. Complete with bare-bones lighting design (Martha Bayne), Isaacson’s examination of our current financial crisis, from the perspective of the world’s greatest lover, adherences to the utmost minimal of minimalist theatre principles.

How economical. How unlike the shenanigans of Wall Street financiers, the shenanigans of free-market advocates of deregulation, the blind faith of defenders of “the efficient markets hypothesis,” and those who still believe that math will always represent accurate reality. These dreamers, these practitioners of “creative economics,” these “masters of the universe” only use their various economic jargons to hide those tendencies that mirror the wanton habits of the protagonist of Isaacson’s show. Casanova becomes, for us, the expert to turn to precisely because own his financial profligacy was equal to his perpetual, serial, sexual debauchery.

And why not? When modern day financial instruments and credit default swaps begins to resemble the impulsive gambling schemes of an 18th-century libertine, why shouldn’t we turn to that sly, witty, and insouciant rogue–especially when, down on his luck in prison, he is being candid about all his vices, compulsions, hair-brained money-making misadventures and sexual entrapments. Isaacson has rediscovered the perfect figure to expose us to the implications and ramifications of real-life venture capitalism. Add a little sex, an aspect of human nature that is driven by many of the same delusions and impulses as gambling with other people’s money, and you have the 21st-century financial crisis, only saucier.

But it’s not all witty euphemisms, scandalous liaisons, and weird predictions wrought from engaging in fake occult practices. No, the fun’s got to stop sometime. Isaacson is great at linking the fluff to the finance. But, while he is quite accurate when linking a moment of 18th-century shenanigan to its present-day incarnation in our financial sector, there are moments when his dry, humorous approach just doesn’t bring the hammer down hard enough, hard enough to bring home to the audience the greater perils of our current financial and political situation.

I wonder if Casanova couldn’t be a source to turn to, yet again, in order to awaken us to the deeper implications of the hole we have dug and are still digging ourselves into. Concerning his own experience of his times, Casanova reflected:

All the French ministers are the same. They lavished money which came out of the other people’s pockets to enrich their creatures, and they were absolute: The down-trodden people counted for nothing, and, through this, the indebtedness of the State and the confusion of finances were the inevitable results. A Revolution was necessary.”

Ah, yes. Revolution. Enlightenment revolution, wars for independence taking place in the context of The Enlightenment; bloody revolutions that spiral out of control and lead right on into dictatorship—at some point, all the fun and frivolity stops. Once again, because we have gambled with our future too far, the fun stops and someone gets an eye poked out or a head chopped off or somebody gets thrown into prison. I just hope it’s not me. I didn’t know anything about the financial shenanigans when they started—way back during the Reagan revolution. I just know about the dangerous outcomes; I know them because, creature of the lower orders that I am, I get to be subjected to them.

“All the French ministers are the same. They lavished money which came out of the other people’s pockets to enrich their creatures, and they were absolute: The down-trodden people counted for nothing, and, through this, the indebtedness of the State and the confusion of finances were the inevitable results. A Revolution was necessary.”     Giacomo Casanova

  
   
Rating: ★★★
  

Show openings/closings this week

show openings

12 Ophelias Trap Door Theatre

Animal Crackers Goodman Theatre

An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Dr. John Faustus on this His Final Evening Theater Oobleck

Fear The Neo Futurists

Lights Out Alma Annoyance Theatre

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Court Theatre

The Marvelous Wonderettes Northlight Theatre

Pump Boys and Dinettes Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

Rent Big Noise Theatre

Splatter Theater Annoyance Theatre

St. Crispin’s Day Strawdog Theatre

UFC: Under Forced Closure Annoyance Theatre

Yeast Nation (The Triumph of Life) American Theater Company

 

show closings

 

Bill W. and Dr. Bob EverGreen Theatre Ensemble

The Boys Next Door Jedlicka Performing Arts Center 

Bruschetta: An Evening of Short Plays Appetite Theatre

Illocal Comedy Corn Productions

Jackie: An American Life Theatre-Hikes

Poiseidon! An Upside-Down Musical Hell in a Handbag Productions

Rollin’ Outta Here NakedGorilla Tango Theatre

The Ruby Sunrise The Gift Theatre

Super Happy Fun Show Corn Productions 

Tuesdays with Morrie Independent Stars

TV Re-Runs Cornservatory

Under Milk Wood Caffeine Theatre

 

This openings/closings list courtesy of League of Chicago Theatres

This week’s Chicago theater openings/closings

Chicago Skyline from Adler Planetarium 

Opening This Week

The Bucktown Stand-Up Showdown Gorilla Tango Theatre

Cloclo Chicago Center for the Performing Arts

Cyrano de Bergerac Oak Park Festival Theatre

El Grito del Bronx Collaboraction

Get Comfortable: A Night of Shorts Gorilla Tango Theatre

On Stage with Megon McDonough Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University

One Year in June Gorilla Tango Theatre

Stud Terkel’s not Working The Second City etc

Somewhere in Texas Dream Theatre

Spinning Yarns the side project

These Shining Lives Theater on the Lake

Tupperware: An American Musical Fable The New Colony

Two Spoons Bailiwick Repertory

Walker & Dunn Gorilla Tango Theatre

 

Show Closings

The Alcyone Festival Halcyon Theatre 

In Your Facebook Prop Thtr

“Fog” and “Mr. Sycamore” Chicago Cultural Center

Little Brother Griffin Theatre

Our Future Metropolis Lookingglass Theatre

Strauss at Midnight Theater Oobleck

The Who’s Tommy Circle Theatre

Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding Piper’s Alley

 

special ticket offers

$15 tickets to The Great American Nudie Spectacular! by Scratch Media at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont. TBC is offering a limited number of discount tickets for the following performances:  Friday, July 17, and Saturday, July 18, both at 10:30 p.m. The discount is available for these two performances only. Call the box office at 773-327-5252 and mention this offer.

Chicago theater openings and specials this week

buckingham fountain

show openings

5th of July Oak Park Festival Theatre

The Alcyone Festival 2009 Halcyon Theatre

Belmont Burlesque RevueGorilla Tango Theatre

Follies Actors Theatre Company

Improv Children of the Corn 2Cornservatory

Jesus Hopped the “A” Train Village Players Performing Arts Center

Little BrotherGriffin Theatre

Nederlands Dans Theater I Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University

A Song for CorettaEclipse Theatre

Strauss at Midnight Theater Oobleck

 

For special ticket offers, click on “Read more”

 

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Theater Oobleck’s “The Strangerer” extended

THEATER OOBLECK’S THE STRANGERER EXTENDED

Bush, Kerry and Camus Meet Again at Chopin Theatre Through June 29

Theater Oobleck proudly announces the extension of Mickle Maher’s smash hit The Strangerer at The Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, through Sunday, June 29. Mickle Maher, Guy Massey, Colm O’Reilly and Brian Shaw star in The Strangerer, deconstructing the first George Bush/ John Kerry presidential debate with a satirical twist inspired by the Albert Camus classic The Stranger. The Strangerer marks the beginning of Theater Oobleck’s 20th anniversary season.  

The Strangerer, which opened April 4, extends through June 29 at the Chopin Theatre. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 “more if you’ve got it, free if you’re broke.” For information or reservations, call 773.347.1041 or visit www.theateroobleck.com.

Review – Theatre Oobleck’s “The Strangerer”

Review by guest reviewer Venus Zarris.

I met my lover and some dear friends tonight for cocktails, all abuzz from last night’s production. When I told the name of the play my friend Star said, “You mean ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus?” “Well, yes and no.” I answered. ‘The Stranger,’ a classic absurdist novel that tells of senseless murder, was on Bush’s 2006 vacation reading list. This inspired playwright Mickle Maher to examine the president through the absurdist world of Camus’s writing and the result is a hysterically wonderful example of theater’s most exigent possibilities.    

I came away from Theater Oobleck’s production of ‘The Strangerer’ asking a question that I don’t think I’ve ever asked before in the hundreds of plays that I have reviewed. Where is playwright Mickle Maher’s Pulitzer Prize? This question was as urgent as the underlying message of Maher’s deceptively profound script.

There have been countless depictions of George W. Bush‘s ineptitude and arrogance. If there is one thing that he has done right, and this is just about the only thing that can be said for him on a positive note, it is that he has provided more fuel for humor and parody than any president in the last several decades. But it has become cliché to mock Bush, too easy, too obvious. The idiosyncratic absurdities of his mannerisms and his infantile grasp of the English language have been fodder for seasoned satirists, novice stand-up comedians and everyday people alike. So what makes ‘The Strangerer’ more than just another exceptional vehicle for dead on impersonation?… The fact that it nails perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Bush’s reign of terror by illuminating the blatant and surreal disregard for human life that he has displayed.

As we complain on a daily basis about the rising cost of gas, (rapidly approaching what is tantamount to a Kruggerand a gallon) observe America’s standings in the world reduced to a joke, cringe every time a presidential address is babbled by a man who’s communication style consists of self congratulatory grins after successful completions of multi syllabic words, and struggle with the plethora of daily domestic and international foibles of the current administration we loose sight of the very real and frightening fact that our country is being run by a murderer.

We can calculate the decline of the economy. We can calculate the damage to the environment. We can calculate the devastation of foreign diplomatic credibility. But we cannot begin to calculate the toll this administration has taken in human life and human suffering. The implications are exponential, staggering and embody a lethal chaos theory. That is to say that all of the other maladies perpetuated by George W. Bush, and you can include many people in the debauchery but the buck stops with the commander in chief, are simply smoke screens to this administrator of mass destruction.

The setting for ‘The Strangerer’ is the first Bush/Kerry presidential debate in 2004. It starts out appearing to be a straightforward recreation but rapidly descends into madness as Bush repeatedly tries different methods of killing moderator Jim Lehrer. The question is not why an innocent man should be killed but rather what is the proper manner in which to go about killing him.

Colm O’Reilly’s remarkable portrayal of Jim Lehrer is spot on and sets a very controlled and structured opening tone. Mickle Maher’s performance of Kerry is hysterically vapid and astutely illustrative of his under enthusiasm and compliance to the political status quo. But it is Guy Massey that elevates the, already ingenious, material to extraordinarily astounding levels. He approaches what could be a trap of obvious characterization and impersonation with a 190 actors IQ and creates a tour de force that is as breathtaking as the writing that he is animating. His performance will go down in the annals of best performances that you have ever seen. This is an exceptional ensemble that delivers this show with a unified vision and unwavering focus. They are clever, tight, spellbinding and at times side splittingly funny.

You will be hard pressed to locate a production that even approaches the accomplishments of this show, much less can be included in it’s league. In examining a cross section of absurdity, ethics and theater Maher has created quite possibly the most brilliant political polemic you will ever see and something that is amazingly entertaining.

To miss this show is to miss a unique and incredible opportunity. This is why Chicago theater is incomparable.

Rating: «««« 
 
Related Links: TimeOut Chicago article; other “The Strangerer” reviews.

‘The Strangerer’ runs through May 11 The Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays and 8pm and Sundays at .3pm Tickets are a suggested $10 but they are ‘more if you’ve got it, free if you’re broke’ making this production accessible to everyone. For information or reservations call 773-347-1014 or visit www.theateroobleck.com.

 

 

 

 

 

TimeOut Chicago’s Ten Best Shows of 2007

It’s that time of the year again – when theater critics, websites and periodicals post their Best-of-the-Year lists.  So here’s the first, a “Year’s Best” list from TimeOut Chicago:

1.  The Adding Machine (Next Theatre – and soon Off-Broadway)

 2.  August: Osage County (Steppenwolf – and now currently receiving rave reviews on Broadway)

 3.  The Strangerer (Theater Oobleck)

 4.  Merchant on Venice (Silk Road Theatre Project)

 5.  Jerry Springer – The Opera (Bailiwick Repertory)

 6.  The Resistible Rise of Aruturo Ui (Steep Theatre)

 7.  Weapon of Mass Impact (A Red Orchid Theatre)

 8.  Mr. Spacky..The Man Who Was Continuously Followed byWolves (Strange Tree Group)

 9.  Another Day in the Empire (Black Sheep Productions)

 10. The Dining Room (New Leaf Theatre)

To see the complete list, along with TimeOut’s descriptions of each show, go to the article on TimeOutChicago’s website.