Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Making Superman Dumb (comic book meditation by Guest Blogger Anthony Tournis)

This post was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be about how I would fix Superman (trust me he needs it). Then something changed. I started doing research about the horrible storylines that Superman has been through over the past 73 years. Holy shit did I uncover comic fucking gold!!! I decided to abandon my tirade about changing Superman and blow your minds by presenting the REAL ( I cannot stress REAL enough) stories that have already been published featuring Superman, or some incarnation thereof (Super-boy, cross-overs, and all that bullshit). I am not joking these are REAL AS HELL!!!!

1. The Legion of Super Pets (I’m not fucking kidding a goddamn LEAGUE OF SUPER PETS!!!!) Superman had A LEGION OF FUCKING SUPER PETS!!!!!(The super pets were Krypto the Dog, Streaky the Supercat, Comet the Super-Horse, and Beppo (a fucking super chimp))). All real. Look it up!

2. Superman fights Pat Boone for the love of Lois. Pat has a new tune that makes Lois love him. Superman must defeat him. Just say it out loud “Superman is fighting Pat Boone”. Feel dumb yet?

3. Red Kryptonite turns Superman gets turned into a human King Kong. Apparently, green kryptonite will kill him. Red will turn him into a 1930’s horror movie ape. This story comes complete with an Empire State Building shootout. I guess when red kryptonite turns Superman into a human King Kong bullets will work on him again.

4. Superman denies everybody water. Yep. Even dogs.

5. Superman fights Dracula. Yeah. You’re probably saying “Hey man, Dracula was popular back then. Monsters fought superheroes in the 40’s and 50’s. Let it slide!” NO! Superman vs. Dracula was released in May of 2002, so crappy storylines are timeless. SPOILER ALERT: Superman beats Dracula…big surprise. However, Superman beats Dracula because Dracula bites Superman and drinks his blood, which is concentrated sunlight. That kills Dracula. Here’s my question: How strong are Dracula’s fangs? Knives, bullets, bombs…nothing can penetrate (YEAH!!!) Superman EXCEPT FOR DRACULA’S FANGS??? Dracula’s fangs are the most powerful weapon in the world. Dumb.

6. Superman fights Superboy. Ummm……….AREN’T THEY THE SAME FUCKING PERSON?!?!?!?!?! Apparently, they were the same person for forty years, but then Superboy was a different person from Superman. Then they existed in separate dimensions and fought each other. Isn’t inter-dimensional travel and shifting character backgrounds on the fly convenient? This is giving me an aneurysm.

7. Superman charges Batman as a witch and has him burned at the stake. Who pitches this shit? “What would Superman do at the Salem witch trials if Batman was a witch?” “That’s why we have you, Smith! I love it! I want that story in my hands by the end of the week! It’s like we’re printing money!” SPOILER ALERT: Batman lives!

8. Superman kills Lois lane…MULTIPLE TIMES!!!!!! Seriously, she dies more than half a dozen times and keeps coming back! What the hell? Is it Superman’s fault for killing her or is it her fault for letting him KILL HER ALL THE TIME?!?!?!??!?!?

9. Superman’s trademark ‘S’ emblem becomes a death ray that kills his friends. *Put gun in my mouth*

10. Superman grows antennae and leads an army of giant ants. *Pull trigger*

I went through all this shit for you. I need a drink.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Disgrace - Blank Line Theatre Collective (theatre review)


Since becoming super famous, Eric and I receive tons of offers from theatres to come and review their plays. The problem is, we are both also theatre artists and have a hard time getting away. So when we do we like to try new things and have new experiences, just as we think other artists in town should, so they may know what is happening in this wonderful city. Unfortunately, this past Saturday, we couldn't agree on anything, so we decided to go hangout at our favorite bar, Sluggers.


Yep, Andy and I often like to hit some balls at the batting cages while the girls marvel at our stances and we all listen to the latest Kenny Chesney tracks.


We do this thing for the ladies, where we both go in to the cage, and I hit left handed, and Eric hits right. We swing at the same time, and whomever hits the ball first gets first dibs on the least weird girl who is watching us. But this time was different. We swung at the same time, and to our dismay, we hit each other in the heads with the bats and knocked each other out.


It was like a lightning bolt had struck us. I felt as if the world gave way to a dark and sinister cave of ice where nothing was as it seemed. It also smelled a lot like cookies baking and at one point I noticed a giant butterfly watching a TV made out of horn-rimmed glasses. I think he was watching an episode of "Soap."


It's like we were floating around, looking down on the city of Jerusalem starting to feel a little sick. We started to land and we landed in a firewood yard. I wasn't sure where we were.


We touched down with the lightness of angels and the sky looked purple with menace. The firewood yard teemed with untold secrets. Luckily, we had our dream camera to snap some shots of this Elysian field of wood and trains forgotten forever.


This industrial landscape forced a visceral experience out of my legs. Like they knew where to go. We were being called to the east by a man with a beard. This place friends, was called "The Business Zone".


But, like all Zones (Twilight, Inter, Loading) there was a price to be paid...a toll to cross the terminator line between light and dark, order and chaos. We beheld our bearded ferryman, waiting with an outstretched gnarled claw to lead us over the Stygian River and deeper down the rabbit hole.


He required our Press Credentials, and we were obliged to behold them. He managed to peek through his smeared lorgnette to observe these highly valued packets of prominence. We could see from his smirk, he understood what we needed.


He led us past rooms of significance, filled with sights most mortals would be loathe to lay eyes upon. A box of cow hearts, the dreams of the dead, eldritch leathery wings flapping in the night. The gibbering sounds of lunacy on the other side of doors with no handles, no keys. A staircase longer than the deep of the ocean.


Our fortune seemed as ghastly as the foreboding chortles of troubadours playing a single game of Bid Euchre behind a wash of Venetian Blinds. Where did we belong? Where was our home now?


Was it now We entered a long brightly lit room filled with other troubled souls longing for a country of their own. Would we all find something together here, under the watching Harvest Moon? A woman with no feet offered a supplication to us. A song of hope was sung quietly in a corner by a man wearing little else than a rope of indeterminate length. The rope snaked away into a hole so inky and murky it could only be the gate to hell...or heaven.


The wench with no feet enticed us to her with her pulsating hand of sorrow. We were sure to follow her dictums as we were filled with affright by the other lonely wanderers. We were led quietly into a vast space where no air can break free.


I was so manic with expectation I could barely contain my peals of internal laughter and dismay! We were told that the middle of the room was "ours" and to never, ever leave it. If we ventured outside of the small island of safety...well, ours would be the 1000 small deaths of the bold and the vain.


As we sat, puzzled in the abyss of darkness, despair set into our weak bones. Were we the men for this assignment? How can we be expected to tarry our lives on the wishes of such a being? We swallowed deep, feeding our gullets with the last breath ever to be promised us.


A light! A glorious light shown forth! Oh, mine eyes were astounded to see it! Three young women spilled out of the light, dressed in white diaphanous gowns and speaking in what seemed to be tongues. After a moment...or a year, I couldn't say...their speech finally settled into a pace and form I could recognize, even though my brain could scarcely comprehend it.


Their speech included the name "Francois" and talks of Eggs Sandwiches. This was what we were supposed to be witnessing. Our existence had become a Macabre Circus of Voyeurism and I could not look away. These forms of flesh and fabric had us in their smooth hairless grips. As they spoke to each other, and in turn to us, the watching throng, the matters switched quickly and emotions ravaged their wet and nimble bodies.


I could only guess what these women had done or not done, seen or not seen. Was it real? Had Francois had them all carnally? Was there a murder? What year was this? Is that a soda can? So many unanswered questions. I felt impotent and useless, as these sirens continued to weave a tale of lies and deceit and eggs and almost taking off all their clothes but then not doing it. The eroticism was palpable and sustained.


Were they going to finally kiss and let their thighs become the only victims in this barbarous game of sweat and passion? No, they were not. They were instead to continue their tales of woe and confusion for a while longer. Until my senses had been worn down to the quick.


Lightning! A shock to the system! My arms turned to gooseflesh as the women screamed and gyrated in front of a scrim of no color except for the stabbing white of flashing and terror! What was this? Where had we gone? My eyes and mouth had locked in a rictus of horror! And escape came into my mind. Was it possible to make it to my own home, my own bed? Preposterous...we were locked in, forever.


And as quickly as this dream had begun, it was finished. We grasped for the middle being. She smiled with the light of a wild bears countless hungry gazes. It was not to be. She had escaped our reach and left us with the colors of injustice surrounding our lovelorn brows. Our daughters of ecstasy have drowned in the darkness!


With no warning, I awoke on the floor of the batting cage at Sluggers, calling out the word "EGGS SANDWICH!" over and over, like a mad fool. I was covered in peanut shells and Rascal Flatts shouted at me about fast cars and freedom from the jukebox. My mouth was dry, and I shivered all over. My feet ached, although I had not walked on them in hours.


"Dude, what was that?" I asked. “It felt like I had a stroke.”


"Holy fucking shit, dude, did we knock each other out with those bats?"


"Oh man, we are idiots. You wanna grab a pizza and pretend this never happened?"


"You know that I do want that."

And that's what we did. But wait...the camera...the night of phantasmagoric wonders? Did it happen?

Maybe. Or maybe.

Disgrace: B+

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer
-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thieves Like Us (The House Theatre of Chicago)

Being a critic is hard.
Sometimes you are expected to hide your love for a theatre company the same way you tried to hide the boner you got in 5th grade when you found out you were going on a field trip to the Native American Museum and were stopping to eat at Arby's.

Well I'm just going to come right out and say it.

I have an Arby's Boner for the House.
Nathan Allen and his gang of Methodist Misfits have created a new style of Theatre that is accessible and creative and fun and almost always coherent.

I went to the luxurious Chopin Theater, the new home of the House, with a few friends to see "Thieves Like Us" on Friday.
It was cool, we had a couple cigarettes outside and then went inside, so...

"Thieves Like Us" was adapted from a movie called "Thieves Like Us" which was adapted from a book called "Corresponding Thieves".

It is about this dude in jail in the 30's named Bowie Bowers who is kind of the pussy of the chain gang he is a part of. All day long they pick up rocks and put them in buckets and then move those buckets to another place and then move those buckets again back to whence they once came.
The House doesn't use any backdrops, so at first it can be hard to tell where they are, but the actors are wearing striped shirts and pants so at first I thought they were zebras, but zebras don't move rocks from one place to another or have mustaches, so I knew I was wrong. They were jailbirds.

The next thing you find out, is that they are in the South somewhere because they all talk like this:
"Zoopy doopy doo! Ring-a ding ding, y'all! Yeeee HAW!!!!"

Next you find out that they want to escape, because one of them said this:
"Lookeee here, y'all. We's gonna bust out this here peeee-rison and make a run fer it through this here holler till we is clean and make a run fer it in this crick and excape!"

And sirs, that is just what they did.

Bowie Bowers and his inmate friends T-Dub and Chicamaw Johnson excape and take off! They first stay at some old guy's house who has a gun glued to his shoulder. He has this sweet young thing daughter that likes Bowie even though he is sort of balding and a horribly dangerous criminal.
Well, the three guys talk to the old man for a really long time about something, I'm not really sure what, but it sounds important. Not important to you and me, but important like, the way some Southern person is asking for forgiveness on Springer or begging for more Meth from a dude named Randy.

Anyway, the decide that the only way to stay out of trouble and disappear is to rob a bank. This logic has a few flaws in my opinion, but then again, I didn't live back then, so I couldn't tell you.

Well, they rob one bank and it goes good, then another, then they all buy sweet clothes and hats and shoes and all the brown liquor they could get their hands on. They LOVE whiskey!! They drink it everywhere they go! I think maybe they keep drinking it because they are really nice guys and they are scared about all the jerky things they are doing.
I don't blame them. Almost every time I have done something I regret, whiskey has been involved also.

Anyway, some more stuff happens and then they decide to split up and T-Dub and Chicamaw go to stay at T-Dub's sister-in-laws house with some other lady and Bowie and the girl from before go to stay somewhere else because he is done with being a criminal and wants to start a new life for him and the girl from before, because now she is pregnant.
You never really find out where they are, except there is a bed and they do it a lot.
Some dudes are into bangin' pregnant chicks. Just google "Pregnant lady sex". You will see what I mean.

You will never guess what happens next!
Bowie gets sucked into doing one more job with the gang!

I won't tell you how it ends, but if you have ever seen any movie or play, or have ever read any fiction or nonfiction or magazine or heard any song ever in your whole life, I'm sure you have a pretty good idea.

Also, there is a ghost torch singer. Only Bowie can see her though, I think. Maybe she is in his imagination or maybe the other people just don't want to talk to her so they just ignore her because she always asks them for change or something.

A Quick Note: Any time there is a lady ghost onstage, the directors always put them in heels. This is a bad idea because when the ghost inevitably has to walk off stage, they sound like Clydesdales on a carriage ride. "Oh my God, I just saw a ghost! Can you hear it?! It's the ghost that sounds like the Budweiser Horse Farm." Also, ghosts wouldn't wear heels because it's uncomfortable.

The cast of this show is just incredible. It's got all your House favorites, plus some new great talent.

John Byrnes leads the charge as Bowie Bowers, a criminal with a heart of gold. John is always super good and a great choice. If you ever have a play where you need a roughneck kinda dude to wear a suit, John is your boy. He looks fucking awesome in a suit.

Tom Hickey play T-Dub, the Kentucky bandit with a quick brain and glasses to make sure you know. He makes all the plans and likes blonde girls and loves to eat dinner. Tom Hickey is one of those actors that will never be bad in any play. He is also in every play that Kimberly Senior has ever directed, so if you have ever seen one, you know who Tom is.

Shawn Pfautsch plays Chicamaw and does a great job. He is a bandit ON THE EDGE! He wants to shoot up everyone and sounds like Gabby Hayes! I've seen Shawn play all kinds of roles and he is a really nice guy too.

Have you ever heard of Paige Hoffman? I hadn't either but boy, was she good. She has that great mix of honesty and emotional connection and believability in the weird worlds that you need to be successful at the House. She plays the girl that loves Bowie.

Beth Sagal is beautiful as the Torch Singer with all the right moves. She's always singing and walking around and has an awesome voice and hair. You can't miss her!

The real heroes in the cast of this show are Tim Curtis, Mike Smith, Chris Matthews, Chelsea Keenan, and Bridget Haight. They play all the other characters with head turning lithesomeness. They make random bank managers and guards and women seem like real interesting people. They are all known and lauded around our city, and they are reason enough to experience this trip back in time into the 30's!!

Damon Kiely adapted this play. I don't know Damon too well, except that he is an artistic director someplace and he always wears red pants. His script sometimes feels a little more expository than I would like, because the House is inherently expository, you can go a little deeper with character stuff and leave the whos, whats and wheres to the director, but maybe he didn't know that already, so for a first House script, it was pretty sweeeeeeet.

Kimberly Senior directs for the fist time at the House, and I feel like she has probably seen a lot of plays there, so she knew the usual way they handle things. The thing with the House is, you can always try new stuff! New ways to tell stories is the thing! So don't fall back on old tricks! Not everyone needs to sing a song together, and a little more starkness never hurted nobody, but Kimberly Senior directs scenes better than anyone in town and she has done it again and again! The love scenes, and the people scenes where everyone is a-drankin' and a-fightin' are great and add a different element that you wouldn't usually see in a play here.

Look, America. You won't find a perfect play in town. If you wanna see everyone do it the same way, go to the Athenaeum or to the Improv Shack. But if you want to see something that can make you excited about theater again, you gotta go to the House. They do things that you would've never thought of!

The Artistic Director at the House is named Nathan Allen, and he has held on to the values of this company as they have grown and changed personnel. They are just as exciting now as they were when they first started. Also, they are very nice, so if you are an old person, you won't feel out of touch because they will help you to your seat and bring you coffee I bet, if you asked.

Go and see this show and make the theater feel like a magic place again and not like a place that ruined your life!!


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Camera Phone Picture Day Results!!! (Camera Pictures)

Buddha at work!? No Thanks!!

Yesterday was very exciting. It was the first annual Camera Phone Day for Reviews You Can Iews, and people really jumped in! There were tons of great shots! Also, most of them were pretty boring because almost everybody works during the day. So there were lots of pictures of peoples desks.
Let's take a look!

Somebody is taking the trolley today!!

Cottage Cheese for lunch!!?

Dr. Pepper and a piece of paper.

We had problems formatting you, Sideshow Bob and Einstein.

People love Facebook!

It's that guy! (I don't know who that is.)

Another satisfied customer who will be receiving a restraining order!!

This person works inside of a Counting Crows video!!

I beautifully backwards day in Gay Paris!!

That's too much soda for you!!

Get back to work, Goofball!!!

That dog is next to his director's chair!! A DOG DIRECTOR!!?


Thank God this dog doesn't think he is a director.

This looks like a dark room that a hungover detective will solve a case in!!

Somebody is recommending a book for women to read!!

Everyone loves the blog!!!

Time to get some new pudding!! Or mayonnaise! Or whatever that is!!

A long day of drinking coffee and stamping stuff!


If you keep all those tabs open all the time, it will crash your computer.

Another long day at the basket factory.

Thanks for making Camera Phone Day a great success! Can't wait for next year!!!

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Monday, September 20, 2010

Camera Phone Picture Day!!

Hey Everybody!!
Wanna make this dreary Monday more fun for everyone!?
Well, take out your telephone and take a picture of whatever you are looking at right NOW!!
Is it your cubicle?
A person on the bus?
Your bed?

Who knows!!
Take the shot and send it to

We will post them as they come in!!
Let's get a community of bored people together as one!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eric and Andy's Night at the Theater!!!

UPDATE: No more tickets available guys!  Sold out in 50 minutes!  Keep your eyes peeled for contests closer to the date if you missed out!

For years now, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre has been the biggest employer of actors in town, but for years now, they have felt inaccessible to the working artist as a destination for entertainment.

Well not anymore!

Eric and Andy have been working tirelessly for our beloved theatre community to bring you the event of the season!!


Come and join us for a free night on the pier as we take in a performance of the Midwest premiere of "Romeo and Juliet" a play by William Shakespeare (based on the film by Baz Luhrmann).

There will be light appetizers, an open bar, music, and a talk-back after the show, hosted by Eric and Andy with all the Chicago performers! All of this evening is graciously donated by Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and truly is an excellent opportunity for our community to come together and enjoy an amazing production at an amazing Chicago Theatre!

Open bar starts at 5:30pm
Show at 7:30pm
Talk back immediately following show.


To order YOUR PAIR of FREE tickets, please call the CST box-office at 312.595.5600 and use the code word "Eric and Andy"

Seats are limited so call NOW!!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Viewparsing (guest educational entry by JOHN TAFLAN)


Now, you may ask, what is Viewpoints? 1

Viewpoints can frustrate in the way it defies simple definition. In addition to nature, Viewpoints is a philosophy of ensemble creation while also being a set of names for how we walk and talk while also being awareness-guideposts for a performer to use if he or she wants to. In the context of an unexecuted theatrical idea, however, Viewpoints can be used as a way of composing a play/scene. Still confused?

Now, you may ask, what is composition?

Composition is a method for creating new work.

Now, you may ask, what is a method?

Method is a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something. 2

Now, you may ask, what is procedure?

Procedure is an established or official way of doing something.

Now, you may ask, what is something?

Something is thing that is unspecified or unknown.

Now, you may ask, what is a thing?

A thing is an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to.

Therefore, Viewpoints is a way you do a thing.


As with most things that need to be done, there is a way of doing them; that way is Viewpoints. 3

Viewpoints is made of Viewpoints. The nine Viewpoints of Viewpoints are as follows: Tempo, duration, kinesthetic response, repetition, shape, gesture, architecture, spatial relationship, and topography. 4

Tempo is how quickly you can escape from the cage or “grid” set up by Viewpoints instructors at the top of a Viewpoints session.

Duration is how long it takes you to recover from the 10th Viewpoint—beating—administered after a successful Tempo. 5

Kinesthetic response is the sneaky execution of a pre-planned reaction to an event you have already decided the outcome of.

Shape is what your body is all the time.

Repetition is for compulsives. Use sparingly.\

Gesture is what you do with your arms to distract someone while you try to remember your next line.

Architecture is any building, portion of a building, or room inside of a portion of a building where a Viewpoint can occur.

Spatial relationship is how close you are to something. Sometimes, you can get too close and give it everything you’ve got and hinge it all on the hope that maybe for once, just once, you might have a chance at happiness. But oh no no, she’s just like every other one of them and you should have listened to your mother but what does she know about things like this? It’s my life, dammit, and I should be able to fall hard if I want but Jesus, I hope someone will be there to catch me someday…

Topography is what you walk on if a floor isn’t available.

Of course, the honest-to-goodness key to understanding Viewpoints is to engage in it directly through a never-ending series of improve-isations. On paper, the Viewpoints are brittle and unattractive. On a spring-loaded, 80’x80’ reinforced, Thai bamboo floor however, the true magic of Viewpoints is revealed.


Actors constantly make the mistake of thinking they are people (directors are often afflicted by this delusioin, as well).

What am I doing here?

When do I want lunch?

Who does that dog think he is?

How do you get actors to stop yakking on about themselves and give someone else a chance to talk? 6 How do they free themselves from years of television viewing and lazy parenting? The answer may surprise you. 7

The answer are Viewpoints.

Viewpoints—being an open process (free of rigid technique) and dictated by nine, never-changing compositional totems which must always be adhered to while working—can be the way you can get those actors to finally shut the fuck up and start behaving like adults.

Can a creative process truly be collaborative? Can a group of strong-minded individuals work together to decide what is best for a play/scene? Yes, and you can make that decision if you are the strongest mind in the room and you make everyone do what you want them to do. The way that you make them do what it is that you want them to be doing is Viewpoints.

Viewpoints, however, are about practical application through live exploration. Viewpoints is to be freely xamined through a unyielding series of improvisations whose parameters must never change.


Sample Exercise 1: Flouncing ‘round the rotunda.

Allow your actors to stand in a circle. Have them engage their Soft Focus. 8

After about 4 minutes, set up the imaginary cage or “grid” on the Topography of the room. 9 Allow the actors to choose whichever Tempo they want—fast or very fast—and give them 20 minutes or so to try to avoid running directly into each other.

For the final minutes of the exercise, allow the actors to react audibly should they feel the Kinesthetic Response to.

After the exercise is complete, allow the actors to sit on the Topography to discuss things they may have felt. Don’t rest until every actor has given you what you wanted.

End the exercise with your actors standing in a circle, staring at one another. This is the most important part of the exercise.


As you can see there are many things we can learn from Viewpoints. By harnessing the nine, never-changing Viewpoints, actors and directors can truly make their next production of A Streetcar Named Desire a little different. 10

1. See “The Viewpoints Book” by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau

2. Not to ever be confused with the over-sexed, Americanized “method” of acting wherein you become a huge asshole while you’re rehearsing and performing your play.

3. See “The Viewpoints Book” by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau

4. How fast, how long, how did you, how how how how how, hOw, how can I, how does that thing, how do we both, and how do I go?

5. See “The Viewpoints Book” by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau

6. For God’s sake...

7. Or it won’t, I don’t really know anymore. Do you expect me to read minds or something? I mean, really… I bust my ass everyday to put food on this table and this is the thanks I get? Your mother slaved away over a sticky microwave for three and a half minutes, now eat your Stouffer’s and shut up; NCIS is on.

8. Cross your eyes and hold your breath for a count of 30. Quickly exhale, releasing all the air from your body.

9. (If a floor is unavailable)

10. Despite coming under near-constant scrutiny from both actors and directors who look at a theatre-creation technique consisting entirely of—on its surface, at least—walking in a square and pausing occasionally, the value of Viewpoints is almost universally understood (even if grudgingly so) by those individuals who have given but an inch of themselves to it.

With an experienced, intelligent group of individuals, Viewpoints sessions incorporated regularly into the early stages of a rehearsal process can, in fact, create an unshakable, gut-level bond within a group of, what are essentially, strangers who are expected to portend any number of harrowing, dangerous acts with each other. One cannot underestimate the human body’s ability to react and provide honest insight into relationships and surroundings when confronted with a physical stimulation; you know it when it hits you: The burst of steam from a lifted saucepan lid, the nose of a lover on the ear, the almost-got-hit-by-a-cab near miss at the corner of Clark and Addision. However, it takes the sophistication of an individual prepared to look and feel truly foolish (without fear of permanent bruise to the ego), to successful contribute to the creation of an ensemble wherein honest, necessary work can begin to exist.

As expertly—if not a bit clinically—laid out in their regarded work, “The Viewpoints Book,” Anne Bogart and Tina Landau provide the blueprint for peak engagement with the people you share your rehearsal room and stage with. What’s so crazy about the whole thing is that a good group (good actors, good directors) will realize these Viewpoints naturally (without the need to label or 218 pages of text). It’s precisely those individuals who would scoff at the idea of a floor grid who are most in need of the discipline and freedom that an imaginary square on the floor can provide.

Because it IS important how quickly you cross the stage. It is important to feel how a room affects your breathing. And it is important to take what is given to you and give it back without judgment or pretense. It is important if one wants to create meaningful work. Because a community is created every day in rehearsal and every night in performance.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Under America (Mortar Theatre Company)

On Friday, Eric and I took our wives out on a beautiful late summer evening to the theater. That's the place you want to be on one of the last nice nights of the year.
It was brilliant and gorgeous and it was so nice that Mortar Theatre company gave us free tickets so we didn't have to sit on a patio all night drinking Shirley Temples and Sloe Gin Fizzes. Before the show, we went to Jack's on Southport.
I had been there a few times before. It feels like, sort of a last meal before you enter Athaeneum Theater Jail.
There definitely is a death march vibe as you walk up to its Shawshank Prison stone edifice.
At Jack's we dined on the finest cheeseburgers and fried pickles this side of Southport Avenue. We discussed politics and football, upcoming artistic presentations, and of course, the bartender.

This guy had watched the entire collection of Entourage on BluRay, and he wanted us to hug it out with him. I didn't want to though. I wanted him to give me my IPAs without any horseplay.
Hey bartenders! I'm not your fucking friend. I just wanna shot of Sambuca and a to go box. Quit it with the jumping in the convos ESPECIALLY if you are gonna spit out some facts you don't know about the Mosque in New York City. You are talking to the wrong kind of white folks.

I really wish we had gotten a lady waitress. She seemed so nice when my wife wanted her burger refired. We're at Jack's, not a Hooters in Rockford. Let's all know our place and not start talking about politics with our waitstaff. Anyway, the artichoke dip was really great.
Maybe that Pastor in Florida needs some Jack's Artichoke Dip.

Our wives asked us what play we were going to.
Andy and I steeled ourselves. We were not looking forward to double icy glares.
After I faked a coughing fit for 8 or 9 minutes, I informed the table that we were going to see a 2 hour and 45 minute play about race relations in Chicago from a baby company called Mortar Theatre Company.
A hush filled the bar. The only sounds were awkward fork scratchings on plates, and Molly Hatchet on the jukebox.
Well, after our wives paid for dinner, it was time to head over. Eric and I walked behind them, as we hummed "Flirtin' With Disaster". They were oddly, not in the mood for a 2 hour and 45 minute play about race relations in Chicago on this Friday night, after a long day of work.

Luckily, once we got to the theater and the promise of free tickets was realized, everyone seemed much happier. People love free things.
Our friend John Moran came too. Our wives love him.
We settled into our semi-comfortable seats and got ready to have our minds changed about white people and black people all over again. Only Norman Lear in the 1970s can do it better.
Let me give you the play setup:

"A young white lesbian moves into Cabrini Green to live amongst the black people to write an article about their struggles."

What does this sound like to you? If you answered "Black Dicks for X-Mas 7", you'd be right.
Most porno operates under the umbrella that lesbians are just looking for the right man to make them switch teams. I wondered how the hell this show was gonna get away with the naughty bits.
There was no naughty bits, though. Only an Asian lady strokin' boobs for a sec. That doesn't count.


So, there are a LOT of plots in this show...Anderson named the main one already. But, there's also the lesbian reporter's parents who seem to be some sort of politician and his sickly wife. He's always telling the lesbian that she's naive...but you know that's not true because gay people are never naive.
Well, the playwright must think the audience is naive because he said the lesbian went to Northwestern. Everybody knows about Northwestern's big anti-gay policy.
There's also the black family who lives in Cabrini Green with their old dog that you never see because it's really hard to put a dog into a play because dogs are notorious improvisers. Can't trust them.
The black family said things like:

"Chile, whachoo doin'!?"
"I be from these Streetz!"

So this was a totally realistic way to engulf me into the world which is actually about 10 blocks from the theater.

The youngest child gets arrested for possession of some sort of controlled substance and thrown into prison. We are also informed by the gay reporter that prisons are the new slavery so we should be mad about this.
Oh, also, his older brother works at a flower shop.
His brother works at a flower shop and has a wife named Tamika and a baby, and he is trying to dig out from under the ghetto and be a great dad and save money. See? There are so many things already in this play that deal greatly with everyone in Chicago's favorite play device:


For some reason, Chicago playwrights think the way to really win over an audience is to make things as different as they can and then compare them, and then bring them together...WHERE THEY MEET IN THE GRAY AREA.
Andy, are you telling me that this use of juxtaposition could have been used in a different way?


Listen, Eric. Maybe I'm wrong here, but we live our lives in gray areas. Basically, part of being an adult is making compromises everyday. It is EXCITING to see a character stand up and be willing to NOT compromise and have to pay the price for it. And not that the racial energy isn't an important part of the city we live in, but...

When will we see REAL juxtaposition? Real compromise?
Oh, you mean like a gas pump and the Andromeda Galaxy. Or a beef wellington and the works of Madame Bovary.
Right. So say for instance, if all black people were giraffes, and all lesbian reporters were spacemen. NOW WE GOT A FUCKIN' PLAY GOIN' ON!!!!
That would be pretty amazing to watch and I would feel incredible while experiencing it for myself! But, we are now reviewing a play that doesn't exist...yet.

Ok. We are off to a good start. So from now on, let's call the lesbos "Spacemen" and the blacks "Giraffes".
What can we call the Puerto Rican woman?
Let's call her "Dominican".
OK, so the Spaceman goes and lives with the Giraffes while the Dominican explains to us how hard assed she is and the Spaceman's parents complain about pills and people getting shot by Giraffes.

Then there's the Catman.
What should we call prison?
American Girl Place.
Ok. So, the littlest Giraffe is slangin' weed on the El train and gets caught and thrown into American Girl Place where he meets all kinds of other Giraffes.
And then we get to the title metaphor.
Turns out, under the American Girl Place, there are a series of tunnels connecting all the projects and ghettos and American Girl Places in America.

What should we call tunnels?
So the little Giraffe gets thrown into solitary confinement in the American Girl Place and his dad shows up and takes him through the Wormholes.

So far, this is the best goddamned show I've seen this year.
See? Pay attention, youngsters.

So while he is in the wormholes he runs into a Catman. Is that right?
Yes. And the Catman has a letter to give to the Parole Board of the American Girl Place. So, for this next bit in the second act, the show becomes a live action Legend of Zelda. Because Catman tasks the little Giraffe with the letter.
The little Giraffe doesn't want to do it though! He wants to stay in American Girl Place because he thinks that that is where all Giraffes wind up anyway.
Back to the Spaceman in the projects...she is now stealing her mom's Zanex to get through the crazy nights at Cabrini Green. And now SHE starts having insane hallucinations and thinks the older brother Giraffe is stealing her MacBook.
Let's call MacBooks "Big League Chew".


So, she's going crazy looking for her Big League Chew and her parents show up in her dreams as psychotic police officers and take HER to the wormholes to and the little Giraffe runs into the Catman again.


The Catman might be his dad Giraffe, or maybe just a crazy guy. He lives in Texas somewhere.
And I guess in Texas they end the second act of a three act play with a little prison rape.
This is Cat on Giraffe rape. Almost like two black guys in jail.

I was shaken to the core. We needed some sodas stat!

For some reason, the entire Athenaeum building was closed off except for the 1st floor studio for Under America. So, one of the theater workers had to unlock the elevator so a group of us could go to the vending machines. I don't like being in the Athenaeum at night. I haven't liked it for years. And now, during our nocturnal adventure to the vending machines, I finally understood why.

The whole building is haunted by dead plays.

As I entered the vending machine room, I thought I saw the eldritch shade of William Inge walk past me. It was actually an ancient headshot of David Skvarla fluttering to the ground.
Man, that guy stood right behind us as our dollars weren't being taken. It felt like we really were in the American Girl Place!

And Skvarla, just staring up at us the whole time.
We entered the elevator with our sodas. WHAT'S THAT NOISE? Is that the club footed steps of Laura from The Glass Menagerie?
Nope. It was just an AA meeting finishing up in the basement.

You were so scared.
I don't ever want to be in the Athenaeum alone again. I also don't ever want to have to type the word "Athenaeum" again.
So we are back to the play after the second intermission, and by now, things look really bad for the Spaceman and the little Giraffe. The Asian talks to the Dominican about rescuing the little Giraffe from the American Girl Place, but says that the Spaceman has to stop writing about it on her Big League Chew or it will draw too much attention in court and they will have to make a Clam Chowder out of him.

Also, I changed the word "example" to "Clam Chowder".

Once again, juxtaposition. And really, just plain old position.

Oh, and the Asian spaceman and the other spaceman are really mad at each other because the spaceman is more interested in the Big League Chew and the Giraffes.
I can't really remember what happens at the end, except the Spaceman's parents are better than we thought they were. And the oldest Giraffe dies of a stroke.
Right. And then there was some poetic bookending with the very opening lines, which I appreciated because I forgot what they were, being that I saw them 2 hours and 40 minutes ago.
Right. Let's talk about the performances.
OK. I really liked Deanna K. Reed as the oldest Giraffe. She was very loving and could be tough when she needed to be.
She was just great!

You know, they say in Chicago, it's hard to find good Giraffes that are non-equity, but that didn't seem to be the case.
No way!

I also love Annie Slivinski who played the Spaceman's mom...I had also seen her in The Lady From Dubuque where she played the Lady from Dubuque.
Who played the older brother Giraffe?
Sentell Harper. He played MANY roles in the show, including the Catman, and had no problem switching in between them all.
He was really great, too.
Agreed. There are some good actors in this show.
Really good actors! It's a hard script to make live, but they did a nice job.
The set was well done, in fact, all the production values were pretty top shelf. Somebody's got a little cash to wave around, eh Mortar Theatre???
Yeah! Remember, these are kids who are just getting started, it's important to support these younger companies because they are our future. Do you want your kids to grow up knowing that there is no more Mortar Theatre Company?
I don't. It always makes me sad to cross another theatre company off the big list of theatre companies.

Rush out to see "Under America" at Mortar Theatre Company, but bring your own sodas, or you will be raped in the Athenaeum.
GHOST RAPED. Oh, and don't go to Jack's unless you love boring ill-informed bartenders.

Do something fun this weekend!

Under America: B-

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer
-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Michael: Wow, I totally love going to openings of things. I went to this one at Remy Bumppo which was a totally awesome spectacle, opening of the Apple Store in Naperville, and the grand opening of the Big Lots! on Diversey all in the same month! I got a great deal on those 4 packs of Cadbury Eggs! Yummy!

Jessie: Well, Michael, I attended the Frost/Nixon opening at Timeline theatre. You know, Timeline? That theatre where you performed in the hit musical Altar Boyz for two years with Will Allan?

Michael: I’m not familiar. Do you mean TimeLine?

Jessie: Oh...must be thinking of a different theatre then. But doesn’t Will Allan kind of look like Justin Bieber’s gay sister?

Michael: Oh yeah, totally. He’s got that look DOWN. But wait, let’s back up a second. You were at the grand opening of Frost/Nixon at TimeLine Theatre as well? That was the other totally awesome thing I was able to go to the other night! You were there?

Jessie: I was totes there. I saw you, but you were singing show tunes and weeping with the other Altar Boyz so I didn’t want to interrupt the ritual. Well, hey, now we can review that play, I guess.

Michael: I guess. Well, first and foremost, what hairlines! Hairlines in the 1970s were totally in! Big ones, widow’s peaks, thinning, none, what amazing freedom they must have had! I think that was after birth control and before, like, STDs and stuff, so everyone wanted to have really awesome hairlines to do it with. Chicks dig ‘em, don’t they?

Jessie: Hmm, yeah, I guess that’s true. Now that AIDS are around, I just don’t care about hairlines like I used to in the 70’s.

Michael: So, is this the part where we recap the plot for everyone who didn’t see the movie?

Jessie: Can they just YouTube the movie? I mean, do we have to explain everything? Like the political background leading up to the events? Do the readers of this blog know who Nixon was and all the amazing things he did?

Michael: I know, right? He totally brought Vietnam to an end and ushered in a new era of international diplomacy. He also totally undermined the people’s authority to have control of their government and stuff. Which was lame, so I guess that’s what most of the play was about. Like, how lame that was. And that, like, he should answer for it. Or something.

Jessie: But the man was a Quaker. Does that count for nothing anymore? Its like having an Aztec president basically because I’m pretty sure the Quakers have all died out.

Michael: They live on on oatmeal boxes at least. Well, alright, so there’s this preening English prick named David Frost (played by some aptly cast American named Andrew Carter) who’s like only a little famous, like Steve Zahn famous, and he wants to be, like, Jimmy Fallon famous. So he thinks interviewing Richard Nixon will make him Jimmy Fallon!

Jessie: I always confuse Steve Zahn and Giovanni Ribisi. Did they both play mentally challenged dudes?

Michael: I think they are the same mentally challenged dude, actually.

Jessie: Wow, lets move on before we lose our core audience.

Michael: So he decides to pay a bunch of money to Richard Nixon to get some interviews with him so that he can make him admit he’s a failure and a jerk. But, like, Richard Nixon is totally a smart guy so it’s really hard for him to be honest about stuff.

Jessie: Once you get him liquored up, its a different story.

Michael: Boy howdy! Can that man spew some truth! Every bit of that scene where he calls Frost all drunk rings like church bells on Sunday.

Jessie: I don’t get it because I’m Jewish.

Michael: Sorry, like...temple...chimes on...Saturday?

Jessie: Acceptable. We love chimes. Continue.

Michael: Cool. They go into the interviews and Frost is totally worthless and Nixon just talks over him and stuff and Frost gets, like, nothing out of him. So Frost goes home and gets blown by his hot English girlfriend and he has an epiphany! He goes to the last day of the interviews with both feet swinging, and the intellectual thrust and parry that ensues! Mwah! I could hardly keep up. Those guys are totally awesome at talking!

Jessie: So true! And when they aren’t awesome at talking, their sidekicks jump in and awesome talk for them. Like that guy who was played by Sam Rockwell in the movie. And the other guy who was played by Kevin Bacon in the movie.

Michael: Wow, those guys were cool too. Let’s just call them Sam Rockwell and Kevin Bacon from here on. And we’ll call the Nixon guy Frank Langella.

Jessie: Do we need all this background stuff? I mean, would that lady critic of the Tribune provide a backstory? We are professionals, Michael. I didn’t make these “professional critic” T-shirts for nothing.

Michael: I thought you did make them for nothing, you have your own silk-screen process in your bathroom, don’t you?

Jessie: Yeah, but that is for the clients. I just wrote in Sharpie over my Cubs t-shirt. I guess I wasn’t really committed to the idea.

Michael: So then they talk some more, and Nixon almost cries and stuff because he blurts out that he’s an illegal immigrant or something, and apparently that was bad because...

Jessie: Wait, shouldn’t we leave the end as a big surprise?

Michael: You’re right, I got totally excited from all the jabs and thrusts from Frost and Nixon. You all should just go see it. Nobody can possibly know what happens unless they go see the show (or rent the movie, or watch the actual interviews, or read the many books by various firsthand participants in the interviews)!

Jessie: Well, I will say I liked this show. It was like watching a boxing match minus the awkward and violent homoerotic vibes and blood.

Michael: I agree, I’ll say I liked it too. Except I saw it before on a pirated DVD my roommate had, and we all know that theatre can never be as good as a movie because they’re more expensive. Just ask Michael Bay. He did a really terrible production of The Emperor Jones that I saw. Fine direction, but it was bad because there wasn’t any money.

Jessie: So go see Frost/Nixon. And write a better review than we just did. I dare you.