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Friday, August 16, 2013

Namosaur by Scott Oken (Factory Theater)




In my opinion, there are 3 kinds of Factory Theater plays.

#1. Soldiers/Heroes face off against a maniacal bad guy.

#2. A bunch of people have dance battles against other people.

#3. Other.

My favorite has always been the first. There are a few reasons why, and let me tell them to you.

Factory plays have a great and storied history of making meandering, ridiculous sagas that travel to the ends of the Earth and back again. In the end, we laugh, we fear for our safety, and we bring our own beer. The quality is always high, but you will find yourself with favorites. For instance, Matt Engle has emerged as a first rate director who understands the nuances of comedy. Corri Pasko and Sara Sevigny write crazy popular woman based comedies, but my favorite director is Manny Tamayo. Tamayo understands the cinematic scope of the insane stories and brings a film maker's eye to the Prop Theater.

Namosaur is the story of a group of soldiers and 2 ladies who have to go through the jungle for some reason and there are dinosaurs there and some crazy Korean Baptist preacher named Nguyen Nguyen. This dude has some dinosaur eggs on a necklace and he trapped one of the ladies and told her about them or something and she wrote it down in a notebook. It's not important. What IS important is that there are DINOSAURS in VIETNAM!!

How has no one thought of this yet? It seems like a classic idea.
Well, good on you, Scott Oken. You are a visionary.

Usually in the hero/soldier plays, The Factory needs to bring in some talent that you haven't seen before on that stage (because their ensemble is too famous for themselves anymore), and gives people who you have seen in smaller roles a chance to shine. Case in point in Namosaur; Tim Amos. One of my favorite red-haired, dolphin-tattooed gentlemen has been seen as various unlikeables including pornographers, casino owners and Irish detectives. In Namosaur he finally gets his chance to shine as a leader of a bunch of ingrate soldiers in the middle of the harsh woodlands of Vietnam. Amos' cigar chomping Lieutenant is abrasive and noisy, while still being cuddly and having short hair. Sort of like Meg Ryan.

Tim Amos tells these broads what's what.




The Factory uses the role of "the villain" to showcase some of their incredible comic talent. I have seen Steve Walker in Top Shelf, Dan Granata in League Of Awesome, but never have I ever seen a villain played with the robust testicles as Eric Roach in Namosaur.

Here's the beautiful thing about Eric Roach as a comedian and something the rest of you need to learn: He doesn't even care of you are there or not. He does not need your laughs because his confidence in his performance does not rise and fall with audience approval.

In my opinion that is the greatest thing a comic can do.

This is from a different play, but Roach sort of looks the same!



Roach plays Nguyen Nguyen, a German dinosaur scientist that moves to Vietnam to make dinosaurs, I think. I was laughing too hard to hear what he was saying.


Anyway, what I am trying to say is, if you have never seen a Factory show, this is the one for you to see. If you have, then you know what I'm talking about.

After the show is out, I can finally ask you:

DO YOU LIKE IT!!?


A+

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach








Tuesday, August 13, 2013

4 Comparisons Of Other Shows to Orange Is The New Black According to One Person

1. Somewhere between Will & Grace and Oz lies Netflix's ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

 

2. It's like Maude and Barney Miller met MSNBC's LOCKUP and three-wayed in the 
yard!

 +  +



3. If Seinfeld had a baby with Faces Of Death!

 + =


3. It's like Friends got shived by LA Law and then run over by Spenser: For Hire!


4. It's sort of like Miami Vice got married to Married with Children on the set of Ice Road Truckers!
 




















Wednesday, August 7, 2013

An Open Invitation to Hedy Weiss


Dear Aunt Hedy,


We have been noticing the amount of flack you have taken today just because you endorse racial profiling of Arabic people.


This is not a new thing with you. After the “Wicked” incident, you have had countless other slip ups that might not be considered “acceptable” by modern left-leaning Chicago society.


It’s hard for you to understand why they are upset. We know. I mean, it’s not like you are all that smart in the first place, so you are probably confused why all these Jews are drinking Haterade.


It used to be so much easier before the Internet, eh, Hedy? I mean, back then you could pound something relatively coherent on a stone tablet, have a Pterosaur fly it to the Editing cave, ol’ Gutenberg could get it on the printing press, and you could sling your racist missives at the stupid flyspecks you called readers and if someone was offended, why all they could do was yell at a switched-off radio until their house negro brought them a Moxie with Hershey’s syrup to calm down their nerves.


And while we still aren’t convinced that Arabs can read, we know for a fact that there are Blacks and Mexicans waiting with drooly lips for you to slip up. And slip up you have.


So, we have a solution to your problems:


We are making you a once in a lifetime offer to be Head Reviewer (this is just a title, you should know you are never better than us) at one of Chicago’s finest and most selective of theatre blogs: Eric & Andy’s Reviews You Can Iews!!!


See, Andy and Eric are super busy with parenting and actually doing art and catching up on House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, so we could use someone who seems to have the free time and wherewithal to really spread some ignorance and racism to the public at large!


A lot of people think we are joking when we pretend to be ignorant, but here is a little secret just for you:

We are just like you.

We love to drink wine and sleep in dark theaters. We love to leave without saying goodbye and we also made a deal with Broadway In Chicago for free hotel room stays just for saying that their plays are the best.


See? We will maybe even pay you better. It’s time for you to get out of the print game. Chris Jones is winning. HE ALREADY WON.


Staying at the Sun-Times will only prolong your inevitable downfall into...well, into something that is somehow worse than where you are right now. You’ll be left with an office filled with dusty plaques for great writing that you know don’t mean anything because you know in your heart of hearts you weren’t meant for the newspaper world. Too much drinking, too many late nights with Royko banging you up against a murphy bed that he didn’t even take the time to fold down so you could at least get off your bunions.


Anyway, enough of “This Is Your Life”. You have 24 hours. We are giving you 24 hours to come and be head critic for our blog. If you don’t, then the offer is going to Rom Rilliams and we heard he loves Arabs, so... what’s it gonna be?


Asalam a lakim, or whatever those people say. Namaste? Peace, love, hair grease? Who cares. Come work for us. We need those sweet hit counts, BRAH-dimir Putin.



Happy Ramadan,


Eric and Andy


A+

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SCOTUS, Wendy Davis, World War Z (Review)




Congrats to my gay friends that happen to live in a select group of states! Congrats to Wendy Davis for making abortions accessible to the backwoods of Texas for another month! Congrats to Brad Pitt and the Human Race for surviving the Zombie Plague!! Suck it, Black People who live in the South!!

We have so many things to be thankful for this week, it's hard to pick one, but there are certainly similarities in all of them.

Let's start with the way our country works. In all cases, we are dealing directly with the laws of the land;

We have a Supreme Court, the nation's highest court of judges, that vote the same way on everything they do.  Will Antonin Scalia ever vote in favor of my new Gays For Marijuana Law? No. He won't. Is that the way a judge in our highest court should work? Even if it is totally Constitutional?

At the same time, will Ruth Bader Ginsburg ever vote in favor of my new Send All The Blacks and Jews To Work On Oil Rigs amendment? No.
So how can we begin to grow as a nation if our HIGHEST COURT is stagnant in their OWN opinions?

Wait a second, how does the law even work in the goddammed first place?

I heard that some lady in Texas didn't want a law to pass, so she just stood there yapping her fat mouth for 13 hours.

You can do that? You are telling me that in the most advanced country on Earth, you can literally just keep talking, and when the clock strikes midnight, a bill is dead in the water?

That can't be true.

Now listen, I am all for abortion clinics being everywhere. She was protecting nearly 30 abortion clinics all through Texas. I think everyone should have abortions all they want, and there should be some mandatory abortions all throughout Texas but doesn't this law seem a little bizarre?

First of all, how can the salaried people that we elect just call it quits on a bill they have spent months making because the clock strikes midnight? Can you imagine if you did that at your job?

"Hey Spencer, are you finished with the Henderson Account?"

"Oh man, I was working on it, and I realize it was due today, but unfortunately my wife started talking at me about abortions or some shit, the clock struck 12am, so...no."

I don't know about you, but if Spencer worked for me, I would be pissed. Spencer, you can forget all about that $5 Starbucks Gift Card you thought you were gonna get.

Do our elected lawmakers give each other Starbucks Gift Cards?

But this all raises a much bigger point for those of us with no law degree and no understanding of the nuance of our insane political system...

None of us know what is actually happening.

How could we?

There is too much to know! Most of our elected officers don't know what's going on either!

Get ready for a fact:
38% of our elected officials have law degrees. The rest were carpenters, doctors, rich kids, actors, magicians, and candy makers. That's not even 40%. But almost 50% of both the House and the Senate are just career politicians. There is also a ski instructor, a female cosmetics saleswoman, a prison guard, a mountain guide and a casino dealer.

So, if we don't know what's happening, and THEY don't know what's happening, what are the real laws?

Well, in World War Z, we learn the greatest laws of all:

1. Don't Die
2. Find Water
3. Kill Everyone Who Fucks With Your Family
4. No One Is Going To Help You When The Shit Goes Down
5. Brad Pitt Is The Hottest Dude Ever

You cannot change these laws. They are from God.

World War Z is a movie based on a book by Max Brooks. It is sort of a Studs Terkel style "oral history" of how people survived the great zombie invasion and where we are socio-politically afterwards.
It gives us some lessons about what is truly important, including family, farmland, communication with others and not blindly letting a huge corporate government basically imprison us all and stop giving us information.

The movie makes none of these points, but is still super good. It is fast and the action is great. A lot of people are turned off of zombie style things because of the gore, and I can understand why. I don't need to see 10,000 people get beheaded in 90 minutes either, but because WWZ was such a huge budget flick, the corporation that made it won't allow for that sort of thing anyway, so we all win.

We can introduce our children to horrible nightmares of everyone they love turning into mindless eating machines and we can stare at Brad Pitt at the same time.

Holy god, have you seen the lady playing his wife?

Brad Pitt with Mirielle Enos

They look like if you put a can of cat food next to a Porterhouse.
Do they honestly think that we will believe that these 2 people would be married? Frankly, in WWZ, his handsomeness is the only downfall of the picture. It is seriously distracting. This part would be perfect for a Mark Ruffalo type or a John Goodman.

I am done convincing you to go see a $200 million budget movie.

BUT, if you are like me and are sick of Scalia and John Roberts swappin' deals for Popeye's Chicken then now is the time to act. Or next year, or maybe you can just wait to the Zombie Apocalypse comes.



Just hold on to those assault rifles and stay away from the WalMart.



SCOTUS D-
Wendy Davis A-
World War Z A+


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach














Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel (movie review)


Superman is back in MAN OF STEEL, he has returned, he has blown away box office records already, there are sequels booked, toys made, shirts printed, and merchandise aplenty at your local CVS.

But...is it worth it? Did Snyder and co. do what they set out to do, which is wipe the slate clean and give us a new Supes for a modern age while sticking to the character and tropes that we are all familiar with?

The answer, like my attraction to Henry Cavill's chest rug, is very complicated.

Let's start with the good and work our way down. There's plenty of ground to cover and you and I both have work to do so let's get on with it. Henry Cavill is a GREAT Superman. His physique is cut from the comic book pages themselves and his face is chiseled out of marble. He looks like what we all think Superman should look like...impossibly beautiful, a God on earth. Cavill also seems to get the inherent politeness and empathy that Supes possesses. Superman is not called the Big Blue Boy Scout for nothing...he's nicer than anyone you've ever met (unless you go with the Superman is a Dick theory, which they get at quite a bit in this film...Superman doesn't have to destroy a 12 million dollar surveillance drone, but he does...mostly because he thinks it's pretty funny) and is so charming that I thought Stabler wanted to make out with him. Stabler was pretty good in the movie too, but there were no special victims for him to unit so he seemed out of sorts. In fact, acting-wise, this ensemble is strong. Russel Crowe gets really into being science-Zen master Jor-El, Amy Adams is a pretty serviceable Lois (although she's basically around to get into scrapes that Superman has to save her from...but that's been her thing for years, so deal with it), and Michael Shannon as Zod does Chicago actors proud by treating this admittedly campy and hammy script like it's True fucking West. Get that cash, Shannon, you ever loving psychopath.

The film opens with a looooooong sequence on Krypton, and I gotta say, if you loved Flash Gordon you are gonna cream in your Ming the Merciless pantaloons over this shit. Luckily, I am a science fiction nerd, and this weirdo prog rock planetoid was just great. Uncanny bio-computers? Check! Dragonfly mounts? Check! A council of old freaks in Cher's outfits from the 80s? DOUBLE CHECK!

Oh, and Zod wants to take over the planet at the worst time and is sent to Dildo Jail.

All of the Kryptonian technology tiptoes right up to the campy line and then drops a skyscraper on it. Full-on stoned-out...and pretty show-offy really. But, hey, is it any stranger than the over-saturated crystal castle 70s Krypton, with its ultrawhite robes and hulahoop prisons? Not really, it's a wash. This film, more than any of the others in the Superman canon, is unapologetic science fiction (maybe more Space Opera, actually, but let's get nerdy later on, we're gonna have to) and very much underscores the idea that Superman is an alien and his presence on Earth will change everything.

But, before he changes everything, he's gotta grow up in Kansas with Ma and Pa Kent (adroitly played by Diane Lane and American hero Kevin Costner, in full baseball and apple pie mode here). The youth and adolescence of Clark Kent is played out in a series of flashback sequences, which some people may think of as sort of pretentious and art-housy what with the fragmented timeline. Well, those people are annoying. Although if Superman always has a flashback to a traumatic event from his childhood when he sees a yellow bus he better stay out of school zones, brahs.

Before he dons the tights, he humps it place to place looking for people to help, and then disappearing. See, Pa Kent makes it clear that the world is not ready for him. So, he's a little afraid to go full-on Supes just yet. It's fine, I get why they did it, but there is no SPOILERING way that Supes would not save his dad from being murdered by the world's most inconvenient tornado just cuz people might see his superspeed. Come on, Glenn Ford had a heart attack in Superman One and that showed Christopher Reeve that even with all of his power he still couldn't save him. A tornado killing Superman's father is inconceivable, and it's deviation from canon number one that I took umbrage with. UMBRAGE!!!!!!

Wait until we get to deviation from canon number two, gang. It's a doozy.

Well, Clark finds an old Kryptonian ship in the arctic ice and talks with his pop and gets the blue suit and learns to fly and all that jazz. By the by, Superman flying in this movie is astounding...Snyder's visuals in the flight scenes are impeccable and thrilling. You truly believe in it, which is ambrosia.

BUT, General Zod finds out where he is (Earth, for those not keeping up) and threatens the world with total destruction if Supes doesn't surrender. But, of course, Zod wants to remake Krypton on earth and get the codex and blah, blah, blah this is some REAL comic book nerd shit here...with big shades of The Matrix as well. A large theme in the film is predestined vs. free will. Of course, this is philosophy ala Zach Snyder and David Goyer, so you should never write a thesis paper on this film for your Ethics class because I will make sure you get an F PLUS. CLICK!

And then the REAL action begins. Superman punches things...a lot. He punches cars. Trains. People. Faces. Buildings. Lexcorp tanker trucks. Bank vaults. Corn. He punches more stuff in this movie than any Superman ever did. The battles in Smallville and Metropolis are gorgeous violence porn, and I do eat that stuff up...it's pretty fun. But, a nitpick: Superman never really tries to save anyone during this. Maybe he could have flown Zod to Saturn and fought him there, where there were at least no people around. But, no, they fight in a city the size of New York and wreck the joint. And let's be perfectly clear here...

MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WERE KILLED.

Now, usually, Superman cares about things like this. And with all the shit stuffed into this flick, they could have added a line or something to cover it. But, they didn't, and that was a bit weird. And I was mostly ok, until the deviation from canon number two:

SPOILERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRS

Superman kills Zod. Straight up snaps his neck. Not often do you see that kind of behavior from the defender of truth, justice, and the American Way. I suppose a case could be made that that IS the American Way now-a-days, but I'm no philosopher. Zod threatens a family with his heat eyeballs, all of the sudden Supes gives a shit, and he drops Zod like a bag of potatoes. No sequels for this dude. I hope Shannon got a good back-end on his contract.

I wasn't really happy that Supes had to kill Zod...because he didn't have to. They jailed Magneto and Loki and SPOILERS Khan for Pete's sake...they couldn't figure out how to jail Zod? The script just wasn't good enough to justify that huge deviation from Superman's morality, and I won't make apologies or defend it like some nerd who just loves Superman too much. Not a brilliant choice, Goyer. I know from experience that snapping Michael Shannon's neck gets you NOWHERE.

Also, Snyder, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to knock down a bunch of skyscrapers. They could have tunnelled through the earth, had a brawl at the core, gotten sucked into an alternate universe, Zod could have transformed into a giant giraffe with Michael Shannon's face, Superman could have offered to rap battle him for ultimate supremacy, they could have thrown monkeys at each other for a really long time like something from Family Guy. I reject the fact that all you could conjure up was "Hey, derp...SKYSCRAPERS!"

But, all in all, this is a summer blockbuster and a lot of my complaints are nitpicks. I was very satisfied with this movie, it's the best onscreen Superman since Superman One, and it absolutely eliminates the sorry SUPERMAN RETURNS from America's memory banks.

I think the potential for sequels is incredible, and I'll gladly go watch more Cavill-as-Supes. Now that they got this bizarre, three act, disjointed, sci-fi fantasy origin story out of the way they can really make headway on making Superman truly great again. But, please, maybe Goyer should sit the next one out...buddy, it's called subtext. When your dialogue is just the themes of the movie over and over again, maybe you need a script doctor. Or a superpunch to your adrenal glands.

MAN OF STEEL: B+

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

UPSTREAM COLOR (Movie Review)


Carruth's first film PRIMER still manages to remain relevant today, a treatise on time and love and the lengths people will go to change something they regret. I'm not sure if his follow up UPSTREAM COLOR will have the same staying power, but it does stand alone as a supremely challenging piece of expirimental sci-fi. It is truly mind-bending, and I spent the first hour of the film with my mouth agape simply unable to make sense of a film that mostly works on a subconscious non-narrative level. Following the story is nearly impossible, but that doesn't stop the film from being an intense and hypnotic overload of ideas and emotional resonance. If you have ever been into Lynch, Cronenberg, Jodorosky, Tarkovsky, or even Gaspar Noe you might owe it to yourself to chill out with this one. Warning: it's a complete brainblower, so don't go STRAIGHT to the theatre for this one. Cheech & Chong-style, brahs. Available on the Netflix Streaming.

B+

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Mother (Oracle Productions)


You know how we are always talking about the Bolshevik Revolution?

Well, this play is about how it got started! Or ended? This is before it started, actually. I think?

Let's start at the beginning.



I have spent a lot of time at Oracle Theatre. They are a proud group of guys and gals that put on good plays and are dusting your theatre with technology. They are way ahead of you as far as use of technology in theatre goes, unless you are the Goodman or Blue Man Group. So it was disconcerting to walk into the theater and see lots of work tables and tons of actors dressed up like poor people sleeping everywhere.

"What the hell is this?" I said to the usher. It was sort of like I was in a work camp. I thought those were only in the Holocaust in Germany, so I thought that was where this play was set. There was this blonde lady dressed up like Else the Nazi from Indiana Jones (an incredible and chilling DeChantel Kosmatka) , and she was sort of walking around and telling these actors in poor people clothes to stop sleeping.

They were walking on these tables that are all over the  theater. Stepping over our heads. On the screens are projections of worker camps. Sick people on the screens, mean people on the tables. No drinks. "This is like a slow Tuesday night at Coyote Ugly, eh?!" I joked to a stranger next to me. No answer.

"Take off that Nazi uniform!" I screamed at Else from Indiana Jones. No answer. "Oh great." I laughed to another audience member, "This broad is stay in character for this whole show." Again, no answer. Am I even alive? Is this a dream?

Then they closed the door and the show started!

It started with this incredible song. I mean, it was really beautiful. It was about all the problems that these people have. Now, there are tons of people on stage. They are all dressed like Oliver with the gloves and grubby hats.

* A note to all costume designers- If you want to show us a poor old-timey white person, they MUST have fingerless gloves.  

So these guys are all singing about the problems in Russia (not Germany) and how poor they are. I don't know anything about Russian history, really so this was pretty interesting. What sort of problems do they have?

Once the song ended and the dialogue began, one lady (a super attractive for a poor old mother Katherine Kebelein)  explained to us that she only had a little tea left, and that if she had to make tea for everyone, it would probably be a little weak.

"What the hell? Is this going to be a show about white folks complaining about tea? Come ON."

But no. See, her son is a leader of this group that hands out leaflets to people at worker camps. The leaflets say things like, "Rise Up, Workers" and stuff. I am not totally sure why, but I think they weren't being paid well. Or they made them be there? Should you revolt from a place that you don't even have to be at?

Well, it sort of got me thinking about the leaflets. These little flyers that they are sneaking to people. These were often called "propaganda" because they spoke for a side of a political party. So it made me think about....what if we had propaganda things nowadays? They would have to be internet memes. So I made a few to show you what they are a little better.

People would really get behind this one:


and now that we know that people love cute animals more than crazy pictures of Stalin, this would have been  better:

and this one would still be useful even today:



So basically, these poor factory workers were spreading memes all over town and teaching people to read (which is an important step in the spreading of information), and the other political party were so sick of it, they decided to kill them. 

So that's what this play is about. It sounds heavy, I know. It WAS heavy, but it is also a Brecht play, so there are songs and familial relationships that make it seem...almost cartoonish in the best possible way.

Brecht (if done correctly) can tell us huge, complicated stories with standard 2 Dimensional characters. The names, the movements, the non rhyming songs, are all tools he uses to make everything seem familiar. That is why he has survived and also why people still love to do his work. Except for Mother Courage, because that play is boring as shit. 

These characters are larger than life and symbolize all of our struggles for all generations, not just these Bolsheviks.

Max Truax has cast this thing perfectly. The voices, faces and table walking abilities are second to none.

I wouldn't have minded a live band, but who am I? Burt Reynolds? I don't need a live band everywhere I go.

Go and see this play. Seriously. It is a really good time, disguised as a lousy time. Also, they hand out free paper at the end.

A+

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach