Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sweet Confinement (Sinnerman Theatre)

Recently I have become obsessed with the show “The Walking Dead.” I’ve always been partial to zombie films, like the classic scenario of a group of people trying to survive against an onslaught of bloodthirsty monsters. I have a weakness for indiscriminate violence on film (“28 Days Later), or the addition of humor while still retaining solid zombie kills (“Shaun of the Dead, or “Zombieland).

I enjoy “Walking Dead “so much more is because of the examination of the human condition. The zombies become the circumstance that helps propel the dramatic tension. The characters then have to deal with each other in this heightened reality, and the audience can then watch how humans deal with each other in crisis situations. Factors like family ties, race, past transgressions, and memories of the way the world used to be bring out feelings of hate and jealousy, acts of kindness or cruelty, and revolving alliances amongst the actors.

This use of a classic symbol is put to great use in the single bathroom set of Sinnerman Ensemble’s production of “Sweet Confinement,” written by Co-artistic director Anna Carini, and directed by Brea Hayes. In this case, the action begins with Amy (Cyd Blakewell) and her punky friend Amelia (Calliope Porter) standing around a giant pool of blood in the middle of the floor. Amy’s husband William has slit his wrists after Amy had decided to leave him and sent divorce papers, and is now in the hospital. This desperate attempt at getting her attention has brought their friends and relatives into the same house to help Amy, and to face ugly truths about their relationships and secret desires.

The characters spend the play trying to clean the gore, and by doing so, are forced to deal with each other. Amy’s brother Josh (Keith Neagle) returns from Washington D.C. to find his best friend dying and his sister practically catatonic, but is so emotionally stunted that he can’t or won’t share the burden. Ginger (Anna Carini), the flighty career woman, tries to help with supplies and food, flitting about the room trying not to vomit, but has to admit to sleeping with William. Amelia is the tough girl, but really wants Josh back in her life. Caleb (Howie Johnson), the next door neighbor, wants William out of the picture so he can have Amy all to himself.

The “elephant in the room,” William, never appears onstage, but his presence is all about. His past is filled with incidents caused by his manic depression, and his loved ones have borne the brunt of the effects. The human condition, and how we all react when we are up against it, is examined here to fine effect. The company is fully represented onstage, and shows the usual strong ensemble work of Sinnerman. Blakewell is particularly effecting as Amy, dazed by the event, and then exploding with rage over being once again tortured by another person’s condition.

The acting is only augmented by the clean white tile of the bathroom set, created by John Ross Wilson, which effectively contrasts the massive amount of blood onstage. Brea Hayes has the relationships between characters, past and present, perfectly clear and relatable to any audience. Carini also captures the dramatic weight of the situation, but also peppers the scenario with timely humor. If you enjoy a keyhole view into someone’s world, be sure to check out this show.


-John Moran

Friday, November 4, 2011

Follies (theatre review)

Now when you think Chicago Shakespeare, what comes to mind? Is it aging vaudevilians getting sauced in a broken down theater, cheating on their wives and husbands, and breaking into song? Well, if that wasn’t your thought, perhaps there is something wrong with you.

The regional Tony award-winning theater known for its updating of the Bard’s work, as well as bringing international companies to Chicago to perform, has started off its season with the Stephen Sondheim musical, “Follies.” This is the tale of the cast of the Weismann Follies, who, in 1971, have returned to the theater in New York where they sang, danced, performed slapstick, and couldn’t keep their hands off each other. 30 years after the Follies closed, the theater itself is set to be demolished, and the the performers are having one last get together to relive the memories, drink a lot of booze, get felt up by butlers and cabaret boys, and perform their big numbers.

The story revolves the 4 friends Sally and Buddy, Ben and Phyllis, who met here, fell in love, got married, and have returned with their marriages on the rocks. Throught the night, they reveal their true feelings, and decide whom they will be going home with on this night.

The production was astonishing. Director Gary Griffin has made a play that happens to have music. The acting is so strong across the board, but Caroline O’Connor as Phyllis is a force. She belts her song “Could I leave You” with such feelling that it is both funny and intimidating. She burns up the floor in the second act, showing the skills that have made her a Broadway star for years.

Griffin has taken the stage and created a world both reality and fantasy. The play begins with an angelic lead flapper, who enters the space, and effectively allows the world of the Follies to enter. The stage is a busted down theater that once captured the imagination, but has fallen on hard times. The entertainment of the Follies act as a vehicle for the characters to express their deepest regrets. Susan Moniz as Sally goes from a bubbly ingenue still holding onto hope for a lost love, to a scorned songstress in her version of “Losing My Mind.”

Robert Petkoff as Buddy, the good guy trying to do the right thing, only to realize he has a one sided marriage, brings the tragedy in “The Right Girl,” and the comedy in “Buddy’s Blues.” Brent Barret, the performer turned politician, who is mired in a loveless marriage, is able to seduce Sally once more with “Too Many Mornings,” and emaotionally fall to pieces in “Live, Laugh, Love.” These characters are confronted with memory, but, as the play seems to say, memory is often how one chooses to remember it.

The show also plays with time, as th younger versions of the four lovers, flow in and out of the party, showing the truth of where these four went wrong. Adrian Aguilar as Young Ben, Andrew Keltz as young Buddy, Rachel Cantor as Phyllis and L. R. Davidson as Sally are wonderful, showing the foursome while they still had their lives ahead of them.

I felt as if I was in New York watching a Broadway show. If you want the next best thing (without Broadway prices), go see this show.

-John Moran

Monday, October 31, 2011

My Halloween Bathroom Experience

On the weekend before Halloween, people let themselves act like lunatics. You can see your local bank manager dressed as Princess Leia, or your own mother dressed as a sexy Astronaut.
It is also an excuse to treat your body like a Lake Havasu gang bang and do things you have never dreamed you would normally do to people you wouldn't normally let near you.

After doing a show at the Mercury Theater this past Friday, the rest of the cast and I went for a few drinkies and some laughs next door at the great Cullen's Bar and Grill.

Let me preface this story by telling you that it is entirely true and the reason I am telling you about this is because I am looking for a little closure and maybe you have a theory you could share with us.

Cullen's is a good place to get weird because of the 2 bar areas and cover bands that jam away at popular songs of the day. There are little corners to have private time with the first available slutty football player you see and the bathrooms are a long hallway's walk away from the public and a perfect place to make life-changing mistakes.

As I walked to the bathroom to pee, I passes a group of men dressed as a Bachelorette Party leaving the bathroom screaming and cheering their friend dressed as a giant penis.

What is happening? Am I in a dream?

I entered a peaceful bathroom, and quickly picked the second urinal to the left. I do not want any trouble in here. I want to return to my table and friends as hastily as possible. Crocodile Dundee next to me was quietly muttering to himself.

Then the door opened and a beautiful Queen Elizabeth entered the bathroom. He was quietly retouching his makeup in the mirror.

Just then, Crocodile Dundee swings around and says to Her Majesty: "You're in too deep, man!"

The Queen replies, "I am so sorry, Dan."

What the Hell are they talking about? My brain starts building their story, perhaps a jilted lover? A club membership gone wrong?

The bathroom stall door swings open and there stands a sweaty and radiant Fighter Pilot and some sort of heavy breathing Goblin Thing. They look at the Queen and Maverick says, "We have been WAITING for you!"

Her Highness walks to the stall and dips his head in, looking towards the toilet.
"I can't do that. I am sorry, but I just can't."

Then I left. I couldn't bare to see what was going to happen next. But now, I regret not waiting to find out!

What were these men talking about? Did I wander into a love square gone wrong? Were they witches on the make? Was Crocodile Dundee trying to pimp out the Queen to a Goblin and an Air Force man?

All we can do is hope that everyone is safe and that whatever happened, my dreams will return to normal.

Now is your chance to make some theories. What do YOU think was going on? HELP US!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Massive's FAUST (theatre/dance review)

Two shows into their existence, Kyle Vincent Terry’s fledgling performance group The Massive present a reboot a reboot of a… Well, this could go on for quite a while. But newcomers to Goethe’s Faust need not tap their Wikipedia app to study up. Likewise, those unfamiliar with concert dance can sit back, relax, and leave any reservations at the door.

Terry brings a pedigree to his product not offered on many stages in Chicago, combining a hip hop based movement fusion developed by the now defunct Instruments of Movement (Terry was a company dancer) and the movement play format popularized by Chicago Dance Crash (Terry served as their Artistic Director for three years).

Terry first took a stab at the gold standard of German romanticism in 2008 at Stage 773’s predecessor, Theatre Building Chicago. Like the building itself, Terry’s Faust is revamped with only a few returning sections. The world is a bit more distinct, the plot and premise more complete, and the all-around experience fascinating for audiences of any genre.

Traditional theatregoers are treated to more visually satisfying storytelling, concert dance enthusiasts will have a strong narrative to latch on to, and anyone with short attention spans for anything longer than the latest YouTube sensation will have Sarah Keating Oates’s devilishly sexy moves to feast their eyes on throughout.

Following the traditional premise, Faust tells the story of a man unsatisfied with reaching the apex of achievement and intellect as he is sucked into a wager with Mephistopheles, with his soul the prize at stake. The preshow visuals set the mood before a ferocious, yet intimate opening that can’t help but suck you in. Once introduced, Nebi Berhane instantly captivates as the title character. Moving with just the right balance of power and grace, his exchanges with Oates’s Mephistopheles are packaged with a provocative display of reluctance and then consent. The first act flows smoothly to a climax (in more ways than one). In a stunning finale (which I don’t want to spoil here), Faust breaks the cycle of purity in Margaret, the pawn of his wager, who is both danced and played beautifully by Jennifer Zyrkowski. You might want to stop by the lobby bar or get some air at intermission.

This is not to insinuate that The Massive’s Faust is all sex and no substance. Far from it (though I wouldn’t slap it with a G rating either). The dilemmas stemming from sex or seduction, or the quest to “ruin” or destroy a woman’s “purity” are as relevant as ever in this production, maybe even more so than the somewhat dated or narrow conflict of “good vs. evil” or humanity vs. the divine.

As the story continues to unfold in the second act, the narrative remains intact, though the method of storytelling takes an unnecessary turn with the use of live dialogue, and a bit more acting than dance. The greatest strength of this theatrical experience is the use movement to tell a story, evoke emotion, and provide vision and insight for the audience. Terry and his stellar cast achieve this with flying colors, leaving me to question the late turn. It is not so much that the talking or crude attempts at humor don’t work, but they are no substitute for the dancing of Oates and Berhane, especially at such a crucial moment in the story. This is not to say that audiences will not find the ending more than satisfying. The entire experience will leave you chattering from the curtain call through your ride home on the brown line.

Inconsistencies aside, it is not every day that Chicagoland audiences will have the opportunity to witness legitimate storytelling through movement, let alone with Terry’s hip and modern aesthetic. A real treat is planned for the final two performances as well, as Terry will take to the stage himself as part of the cast.

It’s fair to say that this alone could be worth the price of admission.

The Massive’s Faust: A

Faust continues with performances on October 22 & 29 at 8pm and October 23 & 30 at 3pm at the newly renovated Stage 773. For tickets, call 773-327-5252, or visit boxoffice.printtixusa.com/stage773/eventcalendar

-Michael Dice, Jr.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Starting Here, Starting Now (theatre review)

“It’s like Disney’s Three’s Company,” were the first words whispered to me by my lovely date at the opening night of Theo Ubique’s latest musical charmer, Starting Here, Starting Now. Her comment was made with a beaming smile and full enthusiasm; I squinted my eyes and nodded in agreement, ignorant to the fact that there is no actual Disney reboot of the popular 70s series. But the end of the evening, there was a wave of golden-age thinking, as the audience left longing for the days of crossword puzzles, marijuana smoking, and threesomes, all of which are still prevalent today, but not in same oddly sentimental way.

Throughout Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire’s 1976 revue, the full cast of two women and one man delightfully sing and playfully swing through all the ups and downs of relationships, be they on the street or between the sheets.

But as spicy as some of the material was, the show never took an exploitative turn. This was due, in part, to the tight staging by director Fred Anzevino and simple but graceful choreography of Maggie Portman, who had the three talented performers navigating the cozy 50 seat space inside The No Exit Cafe effortlessly. At no time did anyone seem cramped for space, and while the movement never distracted from the music, the staging was active enough to hold our attention throughout.

The trio of performers left little, if nothing, to be desired. While Teddy Boone took turns with one or both of his female co-stars, his pairings with Hillary Patingre supplied some of the most enjoyable moments of the evening. Stephanie Herman really shined both in hilarious moments (lightening the mood early on with “I’m a Little Bit Off”) and in her breathtaking solos. Her Act II performance of “What About Today” was worth the price admission on its own.

Herman, Boone, and Patingre all shine here. Musical Director Eugene Dizon had the cast completely in command of their voices, and each remained committed more to their songs than to their own vocal ambitions. Their voices sparkled throughout the space without ever becoming overbearing or self-indulgent.

Raquel Adorno’s throwback costume design provided just the right touch. She captured the period and complemented the actors without go overboard. While the decked bedroom/sex pad was more suitable for the tease of a threesome, it also provided a perfect center piece for songs of frustration, confusion, and philosophizing 70’s style (complete with a pantomimed joint).

While the ending seemed to lack the typical finale panache, Starting Here, Starting Now hit all of the right notes in the relationship landscape in a tight 70 minute program, though the humorous musings of Maltby and Shire seemed to click a little bit more than some of the more serious moments. “I Don’t Believe It” hilariously captured the sour grapes all of us have experienced towards other couples, and Herman’s “Crossword Puzzle” seemed to come from an odd inspiration, but ultimately captured the slow burn of couples conflict stemming from the littlest things. Let’s just say, it’s not about the puzzle.

Theo Ubique’s latest offering is a must see! The book as well as the production had an endearing and enjoyable synthesis of period nostalgia and timeless accessibility. It transported you back to the not-so-distant past, when romantic relationships were unaffected by texting, facebook, AIDS, vajazzling, or The Starr Report, and yet there was an honesty in the themes and moments that were more-than relatable, even if, like me, you were born after this show first premiered.

The performances and the music are colorful, warm to the cheeks, and good to the ear, with plenty of highlights throughout the revue. Whether you enjoy musical theatre or not (and I typically do not), Starting Here, Starting Now is a winner


Michael Dice Jr.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Name Is Mudd (Jackalope Theatre Company)

Gang, as some of you know, I am a MAJOR history buff, and Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite subjects. In fact, the amount of historical fiction written about this dude is only beaten by two other men, Attila the Hun and Adolf Hitler.

3 ruthless dictators.

Let me tell you what Historical Fiction is. Historical fiction is a medium of art that shows our greatest heroes of History in a new, fake light.
For example, I just read: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

This was a biography of Lincoln, hitting all the major points of his life, except in this version, everything he did to free the slaves, bury his children, etc. was all motivated by his deep-seated hatred of Vampires.

There is also a medium called Historical Erotica. That is where you take a figure like Ghandi and write a porno where he goes to Argentina and rails a bunch of Ex-Nazis. I love this kind of fiction because I like to hear about chicks in the past getting plowed by my heroes.

THEN, there is a genre called "Actual History" where you tell the story of someone's life correctly using all factual information. This way is sort of cool, but there aren't ever really any surprises because you know how it ends. You usually have to find a new angle that may or may not be interesting, because if you are telling a story about, say, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we have heard this story about 10 million ways and cannot possibly tell me anything new.

This was my attitude when I went to see "My Name Is Mudd" at the Viaduct Theater last week. A play centered around the doctor Richard Mudd who treated John Wilkes Booth after he broke his leg, or treated Lincoln... he treated somebody for something, it wasn't totally clear.

Jackalope Theatre Company has a long and storied history of doing plays, I think. I haven't ever seen a Jackalope play before, so I don't wanna speak for their body of work, but they must have done SOMETHING good before because they have some pretty big names in the cast!

There is John Ross Wilson, Esteban Andres Cruz, a couple different Samuels and another Mexican fella named Roy Gonzalez!

So far, this play has 2 more Mexicans than Lincoln ever met in his life.

The set is an old R.E.M. video set from the early 90's, so immediately I was intrigued.

The premise is simple: A group of Vaudeville actors are going to sort of tell us about the events leading up to, and surrounding the famous assassination. Sprinkled throughout the show are pieces of factual evidence that is both eye opening and sort of crazy sounding.

The performers are first rate. The jokes are funny. The story is, like, the most famous American story there is, so what's not to like?

NOTHING! Parking is sort of hard over there, actually.

Esteban Andres Cruz steals the show, as usual as this wig maker who is working on Booth's show. Cruz has this way of being serious and goofy at the same time. How does he do it?

Anyway, listen. I am rambling on a bit, but you should make it out to see this show. This young company is going to start taking leaps and you could stand to learn a thing or two.

Sic Semper Tyrannis to Everyone!


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tom Williams and You (An Expose)

Hey Andy! Did you hear the internet argument that rocked the Chicago Theatre world over the weekend?

I did not. I use my weekends to do fun stuff. What’s the scoop?

Well, it started when our favorite critic, Tom THE BOMB Williams posted his review of The Kid Thing on his blog. You can look at it here.

Ok, now that I have read it, I do remember seeing some talk about this. What did he say that was so wrong?

Well, everyone decided that what he said about lesbians wearing dresses and makeup was completely bigoted, as if he was 25 years old and knew better. I just saw an old man doddering on about what he thinks lesbians are...it was like when my Grandma called African-Americans “colored” in 1991.

Hasn’t the Theatre Scene had some issues with this fella before? I mean, wasn’t there a thing that happened a few years ago with copying somebody else’s material? Hasn’t he said some things that get people huffy in the past?

Oh, for sure, Andy. Tom THE BLOB Williams’ theatre blog is dug up every few months by some slighted industry person as an example of “what criticism ISN’T” and everyone comments and facebooks and twitters about how we should not invite Tom to shows any more and how he needs a kick in the pantys and why he likes to eat his own poop. You know, internet arguments.

So what you are saying is, people keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Why, as adults, would we do that?

I don’t really know, Andy. I mean, it’s the textbook definition of insanity. But, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that everyone is actually insane. It’s just that some people are prettier and younger than other insane people, like Tim THE GRIM Willbians.

Well, I wanna be clear to you about something. I think that Torm THE SWARM Wimbeldon can say whatever he wants because these people continue to invite him to their shows. They are asking him to critcize their art, and for that I say “BRAVO, Mr. Wallarms.” But what I WILL NOT TOLERATE, is some old dude thinking he can out misspell US and make casually racist comments. That, my Sir, is our territory!

Amen to that. Here’s the deal, America. All these critics in the world, they have their turf...Venus Williams wishes everyone a good show, Chris Jones is British and aloof, Hedy Weiss is a vampire, and Ada Grey is six so no one can make fun of her. And Eric and Andy are the idiot manchildren who say retarded shit and call people retarded women who smell like placenta omelettes and this guy is HORNING IN.

WE make the Lesbian comments in this town! Maybe Tome THE GNOME Willkens should try some other things he might be good at, like shoveling or fixing toys.

One of the great, and really stupid, things about the internet is that anyone can say and do whatever they want. If Thomas THE GROWNMASS Wilferd wants to talk about lesbo dikes who wear jeans and have tatoos and smell like patchouli and should live in compounds while he sleeps in a Nazi uniform and eats all the flowers on your windowsill...then GODDAMN can he ever do it. But, you guys are STILL THE ONES POSTING HIM ON YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE WHEN HE GIVES YOUR SHOW FOUR STARS.

So what’s the answer here, E-Bone?

I honestly think your theatre company should have a lucid and frank OFFLINE discussion about who you want to invite to your show to review it. There are a lot of reviewers in town, and if you truly feel that Timmy THE HEADJIMMY Wilbog shouldn’t be allowed in your theatre, fine. Don’t give him tickets. I promise you, it will have no effect on your bottom line.

Well, I would like to mention a critic whom I really like nowadays named Bob Bullen. I think he is a thoughtful dude and writes a blog called Chicago Theatre Addict. I also hope we never have to discuss Tom Williams again, because it’s so deeply, deeply uninteresting.

I agree Andy. Let us move Tom into the dustbin of history, like driving gloves and American cars.

Wanna go take in a Lesbian short film?

You know that I am already doing that.

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

Friday, September 9, 2011

How To Write A Bio For A Program (Theatre Learning)

There is a burden that all theatre professionals have to deal with in our business. The very thought of it makes me paranoid and nervous.

At the beginning of every new production you are involved in, you receive an email that reads:

Hi (Show Title) Pro & Cast,
Your bios and headshots (if you are an actor) for The Show You Are In are due.
If you could please e-mail them to me it would be appreciated. Thanks, (Production Manager or Whoever Handles This)

I hate receiving this email because I never know what to say about myself. Should I talk about past awards and favorite roles? Should I speak of my affiliations? My feelings about the Government?

Well, today I am going to tell you the do's and don'ts of writing a great bio!

I know since everybody's season is getting started, this is very relevant and you will want to take notes.

First, I will write you a sample bio that has a bunch of mistakes and then we will dissect it to learn better.

Anderson Lawfer (Mamie Reardon) is thrilled to be part of this great production. You may have seen him in plays at Victory Gardens, Collaboraction, Steep Theater, About Face (Jeff nomination- Best Performance), the National Tour of Wicked (with Sigourney Weaver) which toured many prestigious theaters, among others. He is the Associate Artistic Director of Vampire Couch Theatre Company where he also serves as the literary manager and head playwright. He would like to thank his wife Lil RayRay and his daughters for their support and unconditional loyalty.

Seems harmless enough right?

This bio is making you look like a douchebag and let me tell you exactly why, in 5 points.

1. Anderson Lawfer (Mamie Reardon) is thrilled to be part of this great production.

If you say the word "thrilled" and don't use an exclamation point, then you are not thrilled.
For example:
Anderson is just thrilled to be getting married.
Anderson is just THRILLED to be getting married!

See? The second one is clearly more excited sounding, but it also makes you sound like a retard, so just avoid saying you are thrilled at all. This also goes for excited, pleased as punch, super excited, and having a great time working at this company.

2. You may have seen him in plays at Victory Gardens, Collaboraction, Steep Theater, About Face (Jeff nomination- Best Performance),

Nobody saw you in those things.

the National Tour of Wicked (with Sigourney Weaver) which toured many prestigious theaters, among others.

If you put some famous person's name in a show you were in, and are now doing a non equity show at LampSkunk Theatre Company, it looks like you have fallen very hard. Maybe it is because you quit doing tours to start a family and teach at DePaul, or maybe it is because you are an awful drunk that tried to bang the usher. The point is, we don't know why you didn't stay on the up and up, but you clearly didn't, so just leave it alone.

Prestigious Theaters read: Whites Only.

Among Others read: There are no others.

4. He is the Associate Artistic Director of Vampire Couch Theatre Company where he also serves as the literary manager and head playwright.

There is nothing wrong with this. That is actually a pretty sweet title.

He would like to thank his wife Lil RayRay and his daughters for their support and unconditional loyalty.

This is a grammatical error that drives me crazy. If you would like to thank them, then quit being a pussy and just thank them already!
Plus, if you are thanking your wife for support, you are lying to everyone. Your wife wants you to stop doing plays for free and get a second job.
Also, your daughters don't even remember you because you spend every night above a liquor store talking about what your new mission statement should be.

So now that we have discussed the don'ts, let's put all of these practices to work and make a true bio that you can be proud of!

Anderson Lawfer (Mamie Reardon) is a part of this production. You didn't see him in plays at Victory Gardens, Collaboraction, Steep Theater, About Face (Jeff nomination- Best Performance- Lost to Stacy Stoltz), the Regional Tour of Wicked (with Kerr Smith) which toured many diverse theaters, and no other plays. He is the Associate Artistic Director of Vampire Couch Theatre Company where he also serves as the literary manager and head beerdrinker. Thanks to his "wife" Lil RayRay and his daughters for not caring where he is, and to whomever in the cast he is undoubtedly having an emotional affair with right now.

Now that we know how to write a great bio, let's go out there and take back the programs!!

Have a great season everybody!


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Wednesday, September 7, 2011



Do you like to write things?
Are you a "free thinker"?
Do your friends say that you are funny and/or laugh at your jokes/gags?


Then you should be writing for Eric and Andy!

Because of the Fall Theatre and Movie season, we are overwhelmed with things to see and need your help!
The internet is very popular now, so why not leave a footprint in the internet sand to show your parents!
You will get free tickets to plays and events and all you have to do is write something that isn't terrible about them afterwards!
Also, if you are in the theatre scene in Chicago, this could be the best thing that has ever happened to you.

P.S. - We could use someone of color to even things out.
We're pretty white.

Like a black person?

NO, no...maybe Asian or Indian...Mexican if we're desperate.

So, if you are Asian or Indian or maybe Mexican, but probably White, send a writing sample to Reviewsyoucaniews@gmail.com and get started on your blogging career today!

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kevin Smith's RED STATE (movie review)

"I'm a HUGE Kevin Smith fan!" - Kevin Smith, Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Ep. 141

Of course you are, Kevin.  And that seems to be the crux of the issue with your entire career.

But, I digress.  I'm here to review RED STATE, Smith's (allegedly) 2nd to last film before a self-imposed retirement.  RED STATE is a failure, a mistake in a filmography filled with botched attempts.  A clear case of a man in love with the sound of his own voice.

But, perhaps some history will help to understand why RED STATE was even made.  In 1994, Kevin Smith's first film was released, forever altering the landscape of independent film.  Love it or hate it, CLERKS is what made Kevin Smith, what put him on the map so to speak.  CLERKS is a film about talking...there really is no other point to it.  But what talking it is...the dialogue is fresh and interesting and pretty different from what Hollywood was churning out at the time.  Too bad Smith had no money and no talent when it came to casting.  Many of the stars of CLERKS are part-time actors, amateurs, and pals of Smith.  Also, Smith filmed in black and white in order to avoid lighting issues with filming in color.  He maxed out all of his credit cards and sold most of his comic books to fund the film.  So, really, it's kind of a fluke that it was not only a hit...but a legitimate phenomenon.

Once Miramax picked up CLERKS at Sundance, it was simply the underground cult film to watch.  At the time it came out I was 19 years old and I found it hilarious.  In fact, everyone who was a teen in 1994 must have thought it was pretty great, because Smith has been doing some serious coasting on that fan base ever since CLERKS came on the scene.  Here was a movie made by a nerdy fat nobody, FOR fat nobodys and nerds.  Can you understand why Smith was appointed their savior and hero?  Smith has admitted that his mere presence is a reminder to everyone that they can do exactly what he did.  And while that is an inspiring sentiment, it's also quite grandiose.  Kevin Smith's Number One Fan is Kevin Smith...and if you dare to find out more about that you need look no further than SMODCAST, the network of podcasts that he claims are now the ultimate expression of his "art."

But what is Smith's art?  Talking.  Bloviating, if you choose to be dismissive.  Smith loves to fill acres and acres of hard drive space with the sound of himself expounding on the awesomeness of weed, how much he loves to eat his wife's asshole, and how Southwest sucks because he was so fat once they threw him off a plane.  I'm dead serious.  Oh, and he also likes to talk about jerking off, taking shits, and cum ropes.  This is now Smith's artistic endeavor...recording himself talk about bullshit.  Smith's podcasts fall under the "comedy" label...and if you enjoy fart, poop, and jizz jokes then yes they are comedy shows.  I've been listening to a couple of Smith's podcasts (Smodcast and Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, for those interested) for about 6 months now and I think I've laughed about 10 times.  Guess what isn't funny when you are sober:  A stoned guy making ass-eating jokes.

But this is not about Smith's podcasts...you want to know what RED STATE is and if it's worth your money and time.  Suuuuuuure it is...I think.

RED STATE is a departure for Smith, and I must give him credit for attempting something so very different from the rest of his filmography.  His previous effort (not including COP OUT, which he just directed) was ZACH AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO, which can only be called god-awful and an embarrassment.  Poorly written and directed in a way that makes CLERKS look like a DePalma film, ZACH AND MIRI was the straw that broke Smith's back.  He freely admits (in one of his numerous Q&A sessions) that the failure of ZACH AND MIRI turned him into a giant stoner.  Basically, it broke his brain.  But one only has to watch ZACH AND MIRI to realize that he's no Judd Apatow, and that if you make a shitty movie, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks can't save it no matter how funny and/or appealing you find either of them.  The miscalculation is staggering on Smith's part.

So, in order to make it all better, he had to scrap everything and start from scratch.  Unfortunately, you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, and Kevin Smith is an old, old dog.  RED STATE starts with three horny teens, excited about the possibility of getting to bang Melissa Leo.  I believe there are horny teens in the world, and I believe there are horny women out there who live in trailers and might want three teen boys to give her a gangbang to remember.  But I do not believe that in the age of internet, smart phones, and To Catch A Predator that these 3 morons wouldn't at least be slightly worried about the crazy horny lady in the middle of the woods who wants to get a train run on her so bad she posts it on the internet.  So, anyway, in defiance of logic, these horndogs drink the pre-sex beer she offers...which is of course drugged, and they are taken away to the 5 Points Church in Cooper's Dell.

Now, here's where Smith decides to take on religion (which he already did in DOGMA...a film so stupid I turned it off in the middle and wondered why I was still wasting my time on this guy...MALLRATS wasn't that funny), specifically Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church.  You know...GOD HATES FAGS and all that noise.  Kevin, didn't you get the memo?  We're supposed to ignore these jerks, then maybe they'll go away.  Smith's 5 Points Church is his version of the WBC, and his Phelps is Abin Cooper...played by the always incredible Michael Parks.  I love Michael Parks, and to his credit he turns in an amazing performance.  We first see Parks in a (I shit you not) 15 minute monologue/sermon that stops the middle of the movie cold.  Yes, Parks is incredible, but this talking (you see the theme yet?) gets in the way of what Smith would like you to believe is his horror-action genre picture.  And it happens throughout the 2nd half of the film...just this interminable talking, gabbing, diarrhea of words and crackpot stoner conspiracy theories.  I wanted action, and I got a bunch of actors talking about all the amazing things that were happening JUST off camera.  It's as if Smith was afraid of the action premise that he had set up for himself, and he decided to talk it away until the movie was finally done.

On with the show!  The horny teens were brought to the church so they could be sacrificed to whatever evil God these freaks worship.  See, Smith is just extrapolating what the WBC would LOVE to do...and that's murder a homosexual saran wrapped to a cross in front of a congregation of psychos.  So that happens (as cheaply as possible...Smith made this movie for an estimated 4 million and I guess shooting a dude in the head was kind of expensive) and 2 of the horny teens make a break for it.  So, and here's implausible thing number 37 (I won't list them all because you guys don't have time), one horny teen is running around the basement of this church.  Every single door is locked EXCEPT for the door to their giant armory filled with AK-47s and MAC-10s.  It's like Smith thought...well, we've got to get to the guns somehow.  I know!  I'll just make the one door that should be locked up tighter than a nun's pussy completely unlocked!  Awesome!  I'm so smart.

Great.  So, through more convoluted movie "magic," the ATF is finally called in to take care of the shooting going on at the 5 Points.  And here comes John Goodman.  I love John Goodman here, playing the head of the local ATF field office.  Goodman brings his A-game...stripping down his performance to nearly nothing more than a badass in a really tough situation.  But, once again, he is completely hamstrung by Smith's ridiculous need to keep everyone in the film talking rather than doing anything.  Goodman rises above the material, but it is a herculean effort.  He seemed to be sweating from sheer force of will.

I could go on and on about how the end of the film completely screwed the one big chance to do something interesting with the last 10 minutes...and seriously, it's such a missed opportunity I considered turning off the film right there, but the only other thing on was CLERKS II.  I could talk about how Smith couldn't pick a villain...is Cooper's 5 Points Church the embodiment of religious mania gone totally wrong, or are the government stooges of the ATF an example of the banality of evil?  I guess I'll talk about a few positive things...Smith has learned a few new visual tricks which are nice little bits of editing and camera movement that shows that hey, even this guy can pick up a few things along the way.  The acting from Parks, Leo, and Goodman is pretty stellar all around and they do make a compelling case for watching the film.  Seeing pros in their element doing good work is always worth the time.

But, the problem lies in one person and one person only...Kevin Smith.  Kevin, you may have embraced the new social media and Twitter, and good on you for that.  You've got a huge fan base, plenty of money, and you've figured out how you will spend the rest of your life: talking about 1994.  Because, even if you aren't talking about CLERKS...you're still talking about CLERKS.  I suppose there are worse legacies, but I just can't think of any right now.  I mean, I wasn't even supposed to be here today.

RED STATE: C (A+++ if you really love Kevin Smith)

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Friday, September 2, 2011

Eric and Andy Will Be Back Next Week!

Hey Gang!
We took the summer off, but we will be back next week with more of our velveteen words and sugary quips!
Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Homosexuals (theatre review)

A year ago, I took my class of kids to go see a play. This play was ok , and pretty easy to follow, even for my 5-6 year olds. When we returned to class after the show we sat down to have a discussion about the show. I asked one of the boys if he could remember the name of the funny Doctor in the play. The Doctor had a pretty easy name to remember. “Doctor Clown”*.

I asked the boy, “Tanner, do you remember the name of the Doctor in the play?”

The boy looked at me, a little absent-mindedly and answered, “Um.. Doctor Horowitz?”

“Noooo.” I said, trying not to laugh.

“Then I don’t know”. said Tanner without the least bit of interest or embarrassment for not knowing the name.

“Ok, does anybody else know the name?”

7 or 8 girls raised their hands.

“Sophia, could you tell us?”

“It’s Doctor Clown! I know because I thought it was a funny name because I don’t have a clown doctor that would be too funny but one time I did have a doctor that had a funny last name but now I can’t remember it because this time I ate something bad and my Mommy told me I had to go to a doctor because my tummy hurt and so I went to the doctor and he gave me medicine and it stopped hurting but then my brother had to see a dentist one time-”


This is a constant pattern you see in children. Girls running their mouths off to a male teacher, perhaps talking over the other girls to be heard and there being no consequence for these actions, because while the other girls are clearly having their feeling hurt for not being picked, they wait to talk to you alone, and to blame another girl for, maybe, pushing her, or putting her backpack too close to hers.

With boys, it’s always the other way. “You don’t like my answer? Then fuck you, pal. I’m gonna go run around with my buddies.”

The thing is, when you work with children, you can make connections pretty easy to the grown ups in your life that act the same way.

I went to see this play by About Face Theatre called “The Homosexuals”. This play is about a group of gay guy friends and takes place over the course of 10 years or so. They all bang each other and break up and make up and bang their boyfriends and cheat on each other and eat Oreos and do all sorts of guy stuff.

Well, I’m watching this show, and listening to the dialogue, and the whole time I am thinking: These dudes seem really shady to me. They aren’t talking about their problems a bunch, they aren’t arguing over the dishes, or who made the bed, but they are talking about who they want to fuck and what is for dinner.

Well, I left thinking about that. About dialogue that seemed a little cold.

It made sense, and the math was there, but having been in a bunch of relationships, I had a hard time relating.


This is how relationships are when you don’t have women in them! They are AWESOME!


It all made sense and never in my life has homosexuality seemed more appealing.

As straight men, we look forever for a girl with a beautiful female body and the mind of a college buddy, and guess what bros? The woman doesn’t exist.

You can either bang your college buddy (looking like a much better option) , OR you can be with a woman and say goodbye to silence and baseball.

Unfortunately, it isn’t our choice. We are born gay or straight. For me, I was born to a life of following women around and trying to make myself attractive to what might as well be an alien species, because men have no idea what is attractive to women. Do women like mustaches now? They like Tom Selleck. He has a mustache.

Oh the pining I do to be a man who loves men! A man that didn’t have to concern himself with dress patterns and wedding invitations and hear stories about how some woman at work is trying to destroy her life.

Anyway, go see this play.

It’s fantastic and let me tell you why.

Patrick Andrews is awesome. I hadn’t met this guy before, but apparently he is good at everything and he seems like a nice guy too. Patrick plays the main guy and he is strong enough to carry this show and maybe a sequel.

Scott Bradley is in it. Scott is what some people would consider a legend, and while I might agree with them, he is more than that, a Chicago treasure that will reveal himself to America when the time is right. He plays this great character that seems written for him. A sort of Golden Girl in the body of a 35 year old man.

Benjamin Sprunger is in it. Ben was nominated for a Jeff Award last year for “Company”, and has maybe the most ridiculous body you have ever seen. Everyone in the audience had boners when he took his shirt off, so...free boners.

Ben does nicely with a British accent, even though I’m not sure why they needed a British character.

The script was written by the about-to-be-famous Philip Dawkins who keeps writing better, more provoking pieces, exploring his unique point of view.

The show recently was extended until August 14th, so if you run, you can probs still catch it, and you want to because as far as new work goes, there isn’t any better right now.

Here is my one problem, and please keep in mind that this is my problem with about 75% of new work out there:

Leave September 11th out of your play. Other things have happened over the course of the last 10 years besides September 11th. Nobody ever uses it as a way to show how the world has changed, only as a mile marker.


I have always loved About Face for their strength and service to the community through youth ensembles and hot guys, and never has the opportunity for you to love them seemed better than right now!

Go see it!


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

*In this story, I have changed some names to protect children and my employment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Confusing Premise, but Moving Stories Recorded by The Archivist (theatre review)

It takes guts to back a full production of new work at any theatre. That said, in the Right Brain Project’s world premier of Stephen Gawrit’s original science fiction play, “The Archivist,” playing through August 20th at the group’s matchbox of a space, there was no other choice than to go all in. Gawrit’s wholly original world, brought to life through Emma Peterson’s painstaking direction and the stellar work of an excellent design team, is intricate and oftentimes confusing, perhaps a symptom of the play’s broad ambitions. But there’s something special going on here if you can get past the puzzling rules and latch onto the deep themes alive in a dying world.

The Archivist takes place well into a future without humans, who have brought on their own self-destruction through nuclear war. Unfortunately this was the only unoriginal part of an incredibly original and fascinating future. Upon enter the RBP’s space, viewers are greeted with video showing the impending atomic holocaust (the footage seemed to be taken from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but if I were to claim this as fact, I would be outing myself for having seen that film one too many times). The chorus of this futuristic tragedy doubles as Voices, or vessels for the thoughts of the plays characters (I think). This was probably the least effective part of the performance. The group’s delivery in unison and spoken rhythms will benefit from a few more performances.

In an effort to “chronicle and validate” humankind, a group of cyborgs known as Archivists or Creators, travel through time and space, recording human memories. This is where the play took off. The crop of cyborgs- a silent film actress, a father and his teenage daughter, and a solider return with a head-full of memories and a deep connection to the lives they lived in the past, a connection so strong that the line between reality and assignment ultimately disappears.

Colby Sellers and Charlotte Mae Jusino gave deeply moving performances as a suicidal teen and her broken father, who was left to watch the story of her demise play out on tabloid television. Natalie DiCristofano also shined as the copy of a manically depressed silent film star.

If you’re tracking a common mood here, it’s clearly sadness. Both the strengths and weaknesses of the play are rooted in Gawrit’s commitment to strong and excessive shades of the same gloomy color. The world resembled that of 12 Monkeys, where logic and sense clearly elude survivors in the future after a biological epidemic sends them underground. It also has hints of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slapstick,” where the few survivors fail to fully adjust to their post-apocalyptic world that they had a hand in creating.

What is missing here that is present in both of those works is a sense of humor or satire. As a viewer (and apparent inhabitant of this world – a part of the performance that I never fully understood), you are left wishing for some context or perspective as a witness.

At the same time, much of the emotion and contemplation is only possible through the commitment of the performances and the play’s emotional message that seeps through in the final scenes between The last Archivist (Evan Hill) and his Companion/mate (Meghan Phillipp). Their final decision in the face of insurmountable obstacles to their own existence and mission is moving and hits themes deeper than most works I’ve experienced in the science fiction genre. There’s plenty of hopelessness here, as in many post-apocalyptic works, but the ending to the story of the central characters is inward and human. At the same time, efforts to physically integrate the audience into the world of the play end up detracting from the otherwise powerful climax.

Alexis Michael’s scenic design is fantastic, alluding to futuristic worlds we are all familiar with in popular post-apocalyptic sci-fi film, but seemingly unique to the world of this play at the same time. Beyond the unnecessary entrance into the space, the main scenic design was amazingly wrapped around and built into the tiny space of the RBP. Maybe 20 seats at most are available and while the acknowledgement of the audience was more distracting than anything else, the proximity to the action and the excellent navigation of the actors through the space added to the awesomeness of the experience.

Peterson should be commended for her work choreographing the actors as characters that experience multiple states of consciousness while they seamlessly work their way through the space. Rather than watching actors dodge one other, the set, and the audience, it was as if such cramped living conditions were all the characters knew.

While the play is utterly confusing at times (I am certain I have botched the story and the rules of this new world in my writing here) and the dark and saddened mood can be cumbersome without a variety of emotional undertones, “The Archivist” is more than worth it! Whatever it lacks in clarity and variety, it makes up for with depth and a wholly original future.

Be patient, drink water (it’s provided as the space gets pretty warm), and think while you watch. Gawrit’s unwavering commitment to the humanity of his characters, and the excellent collaboration of Peterson and Michael in building a fully operational model for this complex story make “The Archivist” well worth the trip.

Grade: A-

-Michael Dice, Jr.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Chicagoland Ladies of Arm Wrestling

I am a wrestling fan. Stone Cold, the Rock, Rob Van Dam, Mick Foley, and many others have put themselves in harm’s way several times for my entertainment, and I respect them for that. I don’t watch WWE every week so studiously that it could be considered church, but I’m a fan who appreciates a good, loud, funny, raunchy good time. The Chicagoland Ladies of Arm Wrestling (CLLAW) are just that. Produced by Sideshow Theater Company, this cast of colorful, over the top athletes (and make no mistake, they ARE athletes) yell and scream, spit and taunt, strut and preen all over the stage to give their fans a great time.

CLLAW X, the latest bout pitting warrior princess against warrior princess, was at the fabulous sports bar Joe’s on Weed. This place is friggin’ huge. My companion and I showed up, and my first reaction was, hell yeah. You are transported into a wrestling event, a la’ a pay per view event like No Way Out or Summer Slam. The excitement and estrogen in the air is palpable. The arm wrestling ring, a table secured to a floating platform in the middle of the room, is the centerpiece of the event. This positioning is absolutely key in order to allow the crowd to surround the ring and see all the action. The host of the event, dressed as Wonder Woman, directed the action from the stage, along with a guy with no pants on. We were introduced to the competitors, each complete with their own entourage. There was a fierce white trash fighter Arm-kansas, along with her baby mama; the sweet but not innocent fairy tale heroine Snow Blight; and Arm-ageddon, the harbinger of doom, who’s pretty hot, by the way.

The event was judged by Molly Brennan, who rules, and because she takes on all those girls. Oh, I’m sorry, did I just issue a challenge?!? The other judges were a dude in drag (who went to school with my buddy) and Joe Janes. You know…that guy.

The single elimination tournament was ready to start. The competitors went down, one after the other. Now, we all know that wrestling is “fake” (those guys kill themselves to sell a match, make no mistake about that!), but these girls sell out. They are fighting each other up there. They try to psych each other out. They play to the crowd, and give a good show. I was yelling and screaming the whole night. I was also really happy, because I don’t think there are very many better ways to spend a Saturday night. The judges even through obstacles against the wrestlers, pouring syrup over the arms, or pies in the face on pin falls. Stupid fun.

The final pair, the Killer Bee (you can imagine what her deal is) and Arm-ageddon faced off in a twisted match, literally. They were struggling so hard against each other that a part of the metal table base was twisted and broken off. They are fighting, ya’ll! After a time out for technical difficulties, the match resumed. In a close call, Killer Bee came out on top, seizing the belt from previous champ, monster criminal Connie Vict. After the show, my buddy knocked a drink out of a dude’s hand and got kicked out, so our night ended poetically.

Overall, you have got to see this show. You don’t have to enjoy wrestling to have a good time at this event. The crowd is loud, the action swift, and the beer flows. Be sure to check out CLLAW XI. Information is available on their blog: http://cllaw.wordpress.com/

-John Moran

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Disney's Beauty and the Beast (theatre review)

I got to go to “Disney’s The Lion King” a year ago and that was my first experience with Disney musicals.

It was awesome. Not only is the show totally tits, but the Broadway In Chicago people are friendly, helpful and have all their shit together, which can be a relief when you usually deal with the volunteer marketing directors in our beloved storefront scene.

I really wish I had gotten a BFA.

So I was totally pumped to go see “Disney’s Beauty And The Beast” at the wonderful “Disney’s Oriental Theater” in the heart of downtown “Disney’s Chicago”.

I went with my friend Tom, so we immediately had the creep factor of two middle-aged men at a little girl’s play. BUT THAT’S WHERE YOU ARE WRONG!!

See, anyone who has ever been to anything Disney knows that they have scientists working around the clock to make every production and experience equally as enjoyable for adults, too.

An old man who loves cartoon musicals

We al know the story of Beauty And The Beast because it is a tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.

In fact, from the first words sung, it was completely visceral for anybody who knows anything.

There goes the baker with his tray, like always

The same old bread and rolls to sell

Ev'ry morning just the same

Since the morning that we came

To this poor provincial town

Oh man, I was STOKED!!!

In fact, when you go see a Disney play, it sort of makes you feel like shit for all the hard work you have done for the last 10 years making plays out of things you found in the garbage, because this play costs like, 3 million dollars.

The best part about Disney plays for me, was something I noticed in the first act that I hadn’t noticed before…there is no irony or skepticism. Nobody is winking at me or breaking any walls or juxtaposing a Fleet Foxes song against a play set in the 1800’s. It’s just a fairy tale told as a fairy tale. To me, that is so relaxing and you are able to let your guard down because no one is trying to give you a message. Eric and I have discussed Art Vs. Entertainment at some of our appearances and while it exists in all aspects of theatre, Disney is the finest.

Basically, quit trying to get me to learn some shit at your play. I don’t want to.

Towards the end of the first act is probably the most celebrated number from this thing called “Be Our Guest”. You see, Belle has just become the castle prisoner of the Beast and refused to eat with him. The Beast storms off, leaving Belle alone in the castle to wander and make new friends with the furniture. There is a clock named Cogsworth, and a Candlestick thing named Lumiere. They are the bosses of the house. Cogsworth is always worried about the Beast not being happy and about the rose petals falling off the rose, because when the last petal drops, they will stay as these objects forever. Lumiere is so concerned with banging the feather duster, he doesn’t care about shit. Well, Belle comes downstairs and meets them and they tell her that they can make her any food she wants and then they do this dance to the song “Be Our Guest” which is fucking incredible. There are dancing plates and spoons and Welcome mats that do back flips, and teapots and all sorts of crazy appliances doing dances. They shoot confetti at the audience and hold for applause for about 25 minutes.

Then the Beast comes back out and sings some more about how sad he is.

If I were them, I would switch those 2 songs, because after the sensory overload of “Be Our Guest” I wasn’t ready to hear that monster sing anymore until after I had a cigarette.

Well, the Beast and Belle find true love and the candlestick gets his hands back, so he is ready to fingerblast everyone, and everyone has a great final dance time.

I don’t know how much tickets cost or who is equity or any of that bullshit. If they wanna do the play and know they are making less, good for them. Unions are never a sign of talent, so don’t be thrown off because of any of that stuff being discussed.

It’s a Disney show and the quality is unmistakably there.

We had a great time, and got to meet the cast afterwards, which wasn’t as exciting because they aren’t union.

Who's the broad in the red and what is she doing tonight and does she like married guys?

The raping candlestick wasn’t there; I really wanted to meet him.

Anyway, you don’t need to hear it from me, but this show is pretty cool, take your daughters, or just go by yourself, you will love it.


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Monday, July 11, 2011

The All New Original Tribute to the Blues Brothers (theatre review)

I have always seen the allure of the Blues Brothers. They were two dudes that didn’t take care of themselves from the suburbs that liked to dress really cool and handcuff briefcases to themselves and talk about how they were sent by God to sing cover songs.

If you can’t get behind that as an American then I think YOU are the one with the problem, fella.

The story is pretty simple and one we all know. Jake and Elwood Blues grew up in Joliet and have to avoid the cops because they stole something or another and on their way to wherever, they have to stop and sing Otis Redding songs with backup dancers.

The original Blues Brothers were John Belushi and Dan Akroyd and even if you were born in the last 20 years, you have undoubtedly seen them in some form of slutty girls Halloween costume or maybe at the “House of Blues”, which is also filled with slutty girls, I bet.

Well, I went to see a show that is a tribute band of a cover band this past week, and I tell ya what. It was pretty neat. To be honest, I thought I was going to see a play version of the movie, but that is mainly because I don’t do any research. Either way, I was super excited.

This production is straight from the bars and cabaret houses of England and Australia and right into the 5 thousand seat Auditorium Theater in Downtown Chicago, where the lights are bright and everyone is asking you for money if you sit outside at the Bennigan’s down the street from the theater.

The guy who plays Jake is really named Brad Henshaw. Apparently he is very famous in England. He does a pretty good Belushi with all the cartwheels and Joe Cocker impressions and he also produced it and directed it.

My favorite part of the show was the guy who played Elwood. I always felt like while Belushi gets to play the real cool guy, Akroyd had a much harder job. He had to play it straight, and also, he gets that really awesome speech about being “30 miles outside of Chicago with a half pack of cigarettes” . Also, Akroyd is still alive, so suck it Belushi. Your brother is on “According to Jim”.

It’s just a concert, so don’t get any ideas about it telling a story or anything, and to be honest, while the Auditorium is world-renowned for it’s acoustics, the sound mix was pretty lousy.

But if you want a chance to see the Blues Brothers in person, this might be your best bet until you get to Heaven.

Oh yeah, also the black guy from the movie was played by Huggy Bear from “Starsky and Hutch”. In the movie, the black guy was played by…um…that one famous black guy…not Ben Vereen, not Gregory Hines…not Harry Belafonte…not Sammy Davis…but the OTHER black guy that could sing and dance and wound up doing children’s tv shows.

Anyway, take your husband out to see it, he will like it.


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun (movie review)

You would be forgiven for thinking that Hobo with a Shotgun isn’t actually a real movie. From the self-explanatory title, to the film stock’s super-saturated colors, to Rutger Hauer’s semi-silly grizzled expression, everything about it seems to indicate a sort of unreality in the production. And in fact, Hobo began its life as a fake trailer, shown before screenings of Tarantino’s and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double-feature. Given its genesis, the inevitable comparisons to Planet Terror and Death Proof seem like a conveniently built-in marketing device, drumming up feverish interest for the depraved cult fan base that constitutes the modern-day viewership of “grindhouse” cinema. As this gem of a splatter film enters its third weekend as a midnight movie at the Music Box Theater, consider the review that follows a public service announcement: If you can stomach it, Hobo with a Shotgun is the most entertaining movie you will see all summer.

The story is simple: our hero, known only as the Hobo (Rutger Hauer), rides a cargo train from points unknown through an idyllic landscape and stops off in Hope City, an urban nightmare populated with drug dealers, prostitutes, and armed robbers. Soon after bearing witness to numerous acts of unspeakable violence (including a rather creative method of decapitation in the middle of the street), the Hobo interjects on behalf of a pretty young prostitute named Abby (Molly Dunsworth), just as she is about to be dragged off to some horrible fate by Slick (Gregory Smith), the favorite son of Hope City’s reigning crime boss Drake (Brian Downey). In return for his gallantry, the Hobo suffers abuse and injustice at the hands of the corrupt police chief (Jeremy Akerman) and Drake’s less-favored son Ivan (Nick Bateman). Left with little choice, the Hobo invests his savings in a 20-gauge shotgun that he uses to clean up the streets. Drake and his sons, who run Hope City by way of a horrifying agenda of violence, find their authority threatened by the Hobo’s streak of vigilante justice and wage war against him and everything he holds dear.

The final third of the film introduces the viewer to a supernatural element, in the form of Drake’s secret weapon: a pair of centuries-old demon-soldiers known only as the Plague. The Plague’s rampage through the flickering fluorescent-lit hallways of a hospital tin search of the vigilante Hobo is one of the highlights of the film. If there is one thing Hobo with a Shotgun could have used, it is more of the Plague.

Now, a word of warning that should not come as a surprise: expect a total gorefest. Just how gory, you ask? Well, you can find an exhaustive catalogue of the film’s violent acts here (spoiler alert). You might have difficulty erasing some of those images from your head. If graphic violence disturbs you, do not go see this movie. Rent The Care Bears Movie instead. For those who can stomach the violence, Hobo with a Shotgun strikes the perfect balance of humor and gore. The surprisingly engaging story relies on the tender friendship between the Hobo and Abby for its moral center. These unlikely heroes give the audience something to root for in between cascades of blood.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Hobo with a Shotgun is a midnight movie this weekend at the Music Box Theater. It may be your last chance to see this film on the big screen. DON’T MISS IT!


-Joseph Tansino

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: White Sox/Cubs game on 6.20.11 – Game 2 of the BP Cup – The Tipping Point

This is my first foray into reviewing, but, God willing, it won’t be my last.

Scratch that. I’ve been reviewing things my whole life. In many forms, just not necessarily in written format. Most of my reviews have been the old fashioned way, by campfire. But it’s a new millennium! And has been for almost 12 years! Probably time to de-commission that saying from my arsenal!

Further, I’ve noticed reviews are on the upswing, and I’m nothing if not receptive to a changing climate. Time I get on the bullet train to Coolsville, because you know what gang? I’ve been stuck at the train station in Septic City for quite some time.

Enough about me, and on to the game.

So, my dad and I work at the same company, and had taken two cars to work that day. Natch, I don’t live with my parents anymore. I’m fucking 35, people. Anyways, we meet at my house after work, to consolidate our driving down to the Cell. We’ve only got one parking pass, and with the BP Cup up for grabs, you know that place will be sold out. Parking at a premium.

My wife greeted us upon return from work, and had made me some Cornell Chicken to sup on. I need a base before going to sporting events, as I have been known to imbibe. Meanwhile, my dad was pacing.

Our baby had not awoken from her nap. Pee-paw was pissed. As a newly minted Pee-paw, he was smitten. For the man who had everything, a granddaughter was not one of those things. Now he had one. He wanted to play with his granddaughter. She was not complying. The pacing continued.

I polished off my chicken, rice and beans and was ready for the night alcohol consumption. I decided to try the new bottle of Bourbon I’d bought. I wanted to be more adult. Miller Lite and RedBull Vodkas were not the drink of adults. No matter the allure of a Dos Equis, my alcohol canvas was drab. I took a quick swig. It did not go well. I’m still waiting to become a man. And anyone who would like a bottle of 12 year old bourbon, let me know.

Eventually the baby awoke, the pacing stopped, and after a brief session of a tortoise playing with a lamb, we were off.

We were to meet my uncle at 630 prior to the game, but the baby had made us late! After a few phone calls, everyone agreed family was more important then promptness, and our late arrival was forgiven.

Ashland to 31st, to Wallace to a bunch of other streets, and we were in the parking lot. The parking attendant was particularly ornery. Many of the cars followed not the directions of the attendant but called their own shots, and parked willy-nilly.

One particular car was garnering the wrath of the attendant until a buxom young lady jumped out. All was forgiven. It was an honest mistake he said. The letch in me respected what he had done. He let his judgment be clouded by boobies. I respect that.

Upon meeting a brief family reunion of sorts, tickets were taken, and in we went.

The game was not sold out. The first time ever.

Kelsey Grammer threw out the first pitch. The theme from Cheers was played. The theme from Back to You was not played. Nor was the theme from the Housewives of Orange county.

Baseball was played.

In the 5th inning the skies ominously looked upon us. My friend and I decided to take cover in the bullpen bar, before hell broke loose. My uncle aka my ride, did not. Hell broke lose, and I was stuck drinking beers in the interim. My ride left, leaving me to take the train home.

After a 100 minute rain delay, it was too late to stay. I had to wake early the next day, and did not want to deal with a full train. I’m fucking 35, people. So I bid adieu to the Cell and Redlined to the Blueline.

Baseball Continued.

Popping out of the division street exit, I walked home. But not before I popped into a bar to take a whiz. The Miller Lite hath cometh to fruitionith.

Feeling like I shouldn’t piss and ditch, I ordered a beer. A PBR Draft. The cost? A BUCK FIFTY. Again, it was A BUCK FIFTY. This could be my new place. Empty. Cheap. Just like me.

How could this place have slipped under my nose? And so close to my house? Mydearlord. I looked around to take in the scene. No one spoke English. A large Pool Table dominated what could have been the world’s most awkward dance floor. The woman next to me asked the bartender if she could smoke inside. The bartender said sure and lit up herself. I think that woman might’ve been a prostitute. I can’t decide.

I asked the bartender to turn the game on, as, I probably should see the game all the way through. Bitter end and all, you know. She said it had been cancelled. I rebuked that thought and told her I’d just arrived from the game and the BP Cup was back on!

She turned the channel from Law and Order, and, it was, back on.

Only the 8th. I took off, planning on catching the last inning at home.

My wife had been trying to furiously catch up on madmen, and she had an episode in the blueray box. “Too far in to change it”. With the baby in the bedroom, I was shit out of tvs.

So I fired up the gamecast on cbssports.com and watched dots and names run around on a refurbished Dell until the game was over. 4 -3 Sox winner. Sweet.

Baseball had Ended.

Shit. Peggy is a department head now on Madmen? I’ve missed a bunch of episodes. Too many.

Then I went to bed.

It’s been that kind of season for the Sox, Cubs, and baseball in general. Sort of unfocused and all over the place.

Cornell Chicken: A
Sox: C
Cubs: C
Baseball: C +
$1.50 PBR: A
Rain: D +
Boobie Lady: B
Good Whiskey: D
Forgiveness: A –

-Pete Fitz

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Men of a Certain Age (TV Review)

"Or, how people keep going."  That perhaps should be the subtitle of this show.  Or maybe, "Ray Romano Can Act."  Or, "I Wish Peter Boyle Was Still Alive To Be On This Show."  Mostly because Peter Boyle is a god among men.

This little show is critically acclaimed, and I'm about to acclaim it more, so bear with me.  I'm not even the target demo for it, but I watch it every week.  It's not especially remarkable...the filmmaking is competent, the stories are mostly boilerplate, and the music choices are a bit too on-the-nosey sometimes.  But I keep coming back for the acting.  Oh, the acting.  It's really top-shelf, and there's a reason for that.  It has to be.

Men of a Certain Age focuses on three men, roughly of the "past middle-age, pushing 50" variety.  They all happen to be close friends, and live in beautiful sunny Southern California.  There's Joe (Ray Romano), the divorced father of two and recovering gambling addict; Terry (Scott Bakula), the single and philandering failed actor; and Owen (Andre Braugher), the family man and car dealership owner with daddy issues.

Let's go in order of greatness here:

1.  Andre Braugher is the shit.  He's always been the shit, and always will be the shit.  Talk about technique and emotional power.  I really don't think there's any doubt that Braugher always brings the goods, and as Owen he's crushing it...through subtle choices that lesser actors would easily fumble.  Plus, not much vanity in his performance.  Here's a guy who has no problem being fat around the middle, and making it work for him because that's what the character would look like.  He also was the voice of Darkseid in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, which is soooooooo dope.

2.  Ray Romano is handling his business.  Not only as a showrunner (this is his and Mike Royce's project after all), but as a lead actor with an extremely difficult part.  Now, full disclosure, I've always liked Ray.  Even on Everybody Loves Raymond, which I still catch from time to time (usually to see a little Boyle action, because that guy is a goddamned hero), although it is very much a standard sitcom.  One of the better ones, for sure, but still pretty run of the mill.  And see, Ray could have just done ANOTHER one of those silly little disposable sitcoms.  It would have been easy and I'm sure he was flooded with mediocre scripts that would feature him as a wacky dad, or a wacky cop, or a wacky accountant, or some such bullshit.  But, he decided to challenge himself and write an hour long comedy/drama with indie-film sensibilities that he had to be SURE no one would watch.  And then he went ahead and gave himself the hardest role, AND cast great actors to surround himself with because it would help THE SHOW.  Yeah, you could say my respect for this guy went up a notch.  Plus, he got to feel up Patricia Heaton in her straight-up MILF phase, so big ups to him from Jamaica, Queens.

3.  Scott Bakula, switching it up to fiction from science fiction, does a solid job.  Listen, I love Bakula and the guy gets a free pass for life thanks to Quantum Leap, but unfortunately he's the weakest link here.  I'm not saying he's bad, but he's just serviceable.  I guess on a show like Quantum Leap, he had a chance to shine because he's surrounded by different actors every week of varying quality (not counting Dean Stockwell, who rules) and his stint in the Star Trek universe worked for him because can you name another damn person from Enterprise?  Thought so.  Here he's simply alright, and that's enough.  He certainly gets the "failed actor" mentality...and his character answers that question, "How long will you convince yourself that a dream is attainable?"  A really, really long time is the answer.  Something tells me that there are millions of guys like Terry in LA, still waiting and hoping and living in cheap one bedrooms and shtupping waitresses from the local diner because that's the only shtupping available.  And, every once in a while he'll really hit it out of the park, with a gesture or glint in the eye that shows you he knows what he's doing.

So, the acting is good (bordering on great), right?  How does the actual show hold up?  Pretty well...it's interesting enough to keep me coming back.  Plus, they certainly get the right supporting actors (Robert Loggia, Jon Manfrellotti, Penelope Ann Miller) to hold up the show.  The pace is great, because it has settled into that weird period in life when everything seems to go really slow, until it doesn't.  And, the fact that someone is writing and producing a show about 3 guys turning 50?  You will NEVER see that again in this youth-obsessed world, and you should because, homies, we ALL gonna get there someday.

Give this one a chance, and you won't regret it.  A simple television show, with enough honesty to fill your garage.

Men of a Certain Age: A-

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sketchbook/X-Men: First Class (Collaboraction) Compare/Contrast

A sketchbook picture of the X-Men

Last Saturday, I saw X-Men: First Class and Collaboraction’s SKETCHBOOK: Evolution -- both during opening weekend! Since I had caught the fifth installment in the X-Men series earlier in the day, it was weighing on my mind as I sat in the audience later that night in Chopin Theatre. The movie and festival seem ripe for comparison. After all, both focused loosely on the theme of evolution! Below you’ll find my running comparison of the elements in the sci-fi action blockbuster, X-Men: First Class, and the festival of avant garde short works, Sketchbook: Evolution.

Franchise History

If you are unfamiliar with these two franchises, and the Genus: Species format of the titles didn’t tip you off, allow me to clue you in: both X-Men: First Class and SKETCHBOOK: Evolution are part of successful, long-running series. I won’t bother getting into the whole Marvel-ous history behind the X-Men franchise. What’s important to know for the purposes of this comparison is that the first X-Men movie came out just one year before the first Sketchbook festival. Coincidence? Unlikely. But check this out: there have been 11 Sketchbook festivals, and only five X-Men movies! SKETCHBOOK clearly has the upper-hand in terms of output. (And let’s just be honest: X-Men 3 was barely serviceable, and X-Men: Origins? Absolute garbage.)

I haven’t seen any of the earlier SKETCHBOOK festivals, so that’s about all I can say on this subject.



X-Men: First Class stars the guy from Inglourious Basterds (the one with the unconvincing German accent) as Magneto, and according the IMDB, the voice of Gnomeo plays Charles Xavier. It also features that hot girl from that movie about growing up with an extended family of meth dealers in the Ozarks, except they dolled her up in this one so she actually looks attractive, and so then she forgot how to act? On the other hand, SKETCHBOOK: Evolution stars your freshman roommate from DePaul Theater School, a barista from Intelligentsia who handed you a flyer while you were ordering a coffee and scone, and Steve Wilson’s high school acting class.

I’d say the performance quality in these two ventures was about equal: there were some great performances and there were some amateur performances. Pint-sized theater prodigy Ada Grey was in one of the sketches, and she absolutely stole the show. Ada is six years old, and I’m pretty sure that her theater blog has more followers than Iews You Can Use (but that’s okay, we’re not sweating it, RIGHT GUYS?). And it turns out she’s also a natural performer, too. Of course. WTF. She is six years old! I couldn’t even tie my own shoes when I was six. Honestly, Ada Grey was probably the most evolved thing in the whole festival.



It’s a little unfair to try to compare plots, because SKETCHBOOK: Evolution had like 16 plots, more or less (some of the pieces didn’t technically have “plots”), whereas X-Men: First Class, being borne of a single script, had one plot. But this is as good a place as any to mention “The Franchise,” a sketch that spoofed blockbuster franchises and had me wondering about the eight dollars I’d spent on X-Men: First Class. (For the record, I don’t regret it.) “The Franchise” poked fun at Hollywood’s tendency to recycle successful blockbusters into stale carbon copies, to the point where they fall into the absurd.

Generally, I’d have to say that the storylines present here were mostly uninspired (and I’m talking now about both X-Men: First Class and the majority of the pieces in SKETCHBOOK: Evolution). The stories were entertaining, yes, but the theme is supposed to be evolution here, right? Genetic mutation! Rapidly advancing technology changing the way humans function! Shit like that! There has to be something more original that this incredibly talented theater community can dredge up than a sketch about an iPhone intervention, or a story about a pair of two-dimensional scientists who discover the third dimension. The fifth X-Men installment also suffers from tired ideas that tend to weigh down the action, but that’s Hollywood, so what do you expect really?

Since I’ve been told that I have difficulty managing my expectations, I’m adjusting the grades for “plot” based on the fact that I had extremely low expectations for X-Men: First Class, and perhaps unreasonably high expectations for SKETCHBOOK: Evolution.


Special Effects

This is a no-brainer, right? X-Men: First Class obviously takes this one. X-Men’s budget was like a million times SKETCHBOOK’s. I don’t actually know the budget for either of these ventures, but it’s not even a fair fight. So I’ll give SKETCHBOOK: Evolution an A for effort. They had a freaking awesome puppet. And there were some interesting things they tried to do with overhead projectors.

(Could air-conditioning be considered a special effect? SKETCHBOOK gets an F for air-conditioning.)


Final results

So which should YOU go see, X-Men: First Class, or SKETCHBOOK: Evolution? What do you think I’m going to say? This is a theater site, right? Look, SKETCHBOOK: Evolution closes in just a couple weeks. X-Men: First Class, however, will likely be available in one form or another for eternity. Based on the grade point average I’ve calculated for each of these two events, SKETCHBOOK: Evolution get the upper hand, ever so slightly. But that doesn’t even account for live theater’s limited shelf-life. Once SKETCHBOOK closes, you won’t be able to find it On Demand or on Blu-ray. Go see this show!


-Joe Tansino