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Monday, February 28, 2011

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

So, Anne Hathaway and James Franco weakened America with their hosting of the Oscars last night.  Just so unfunny, milquetoast, bland, boring, safe...because every other Oscar ceremony has been more exciting than a blowjob on a rollercoaster.

Every Oscars we all get revved up with "Oh, maybe something exciting will happen!  Maybe someone will say something weird or ruin their careers!  Maybe this will finally be the Oscars where Jesus shows up!" talk.  It's like America forgot about the dozen or so boring ass awards shows that preceded it, and we all forgot how boring the Oscars ALWAYS are.  People host parties and make little Oscar pools and get drunk on a Sunday so we can all gain the privilege of watching a long dull ceremony where rich and pretty people are congratulated for saying lines in a way that doesn't seem fake or non-human.  Oh, and directors.  Let's not forget the singular visionaries who piece together masterpieces from nothing.  Like Christopher Nolan...who was not nominated because he made us think superheroes might be real.

So, let's get something crystal clear...Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes, and was reviled as a pariah because he dared to make fun of the beautiful and important celebrities.  Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted the Oscars, and are now reviled as pariahs because they were the Millennial answer to Tony Orlando and Dawn.

America doesn't want excitement (although it thinks it does) and America doesn't want a competent show where nothing really happens.  What they want is somewhere in between, because when it comes right down to it, this show is about money and power and who has it and why.  You want to know why Hathaway and Franco were hosting?  Because the Academy wanted the hip viewers they so desperately crave.  But what they really should be doing to get those people is making sure that Netflix and Hulu can stream new releases directly to your flat-screen because going to the movies sucks.  I like my movies at home, delivered right to my living room.  I would think that most young people want that because going to the movies at an actual theater has been replaced by having food in your refrigerator for a few days.

But, what is the real problem with the Oscars?  In my opinion, it starts and ends with the writing.  The lame jokes and weirdo musical numbers and Franco coming out dressed like Marilyn...all that crap was not written by Franco, Hathaway, Sorkin, Hooper, or Celine Dion.  It was written by Bruce Vilanch and his gaggle of overpaid idiots grasping at straws of ideas that have to be green-lit by producers and verified by censors of every stripe.  Kids and old people watch the Oscars, so god forbid Melissa Leo says fuck.  That'll be her last statue.

Yes, Franco was high...but wasn't he hired to be high?  To do his whole meta-stoned-artiste shtick?  And Hathaway looked good and can say words in the right order and basically was the girl we all wish we dated in college.  And she was hired to be all of those things, wasn't she?  Complaining about Oscar hosts doing the job is about as stupid as complaining that these 24 Busch beers got me SO drunk, brahs!

They are famous and young...and were supposed to be famous and young in front of a few million people.  Who did you want to host, Billy Crystal?  You want his tired vaudeville and smug grin after every one-liner?  You want Bob Hope to come back from the dead and host it from that little YouTube box at a podium?

No, you don't want any of that.  What you actually want is to make fun of it.  Because it's an escape anyway, and switching to cynical snark mode is easy for everyone.  Franco's gay, high, and egotistical.  Hathaway is annoying and talentless.  Tom Hooper had his Best Director statue bought and paid for before the show even started.  Natalie Portman is a pregnant bitch.  Cate Blanchett's dress looked like shit.

Because that's what we do to working actors and artists in America.  We make fun of them because none of them do real jobs.  Guess what?  None of us do real jobs and the only guy who said anything resembling the truth last night was Charles Ferguson, winner of the Best Doc statue for Inside Job.  "Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong," he stated simply and plainly.

But, seriously, fuck that guy.  What's that jerkass Franco doing now?

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Porno Theatre Shows!!!

It’s not everyday that you travel into a wormhole where all your favorite shows onstage have turned into dirty sex porno movies, but today IS that day! Needless to say, this is not safe for work, home, or your wife! Go out there and see some porn theatre!

NOW PLAYING

The Book of Jiz-
Chemically Imbalanced Theater takes you to the heart of an old fashioned tale in The Book of Jiz. Join 5 Quaker women as they discover their true calling: Jizm lovers.

The Accidental Fuck of an Onanist-
Watch Signal Theatre make a man beat his hot meat onstage, and then get power balled by Anthony Tournis!

Americans in Darryl!-
The brand new 4 Days Late Theatre Company isn’t afraid to jump right in with a tale of a seductive derelict that lures innocent women into the forest to do it in his butthole.

Piss-
Theatre Wit tackles the hard as nails questions, like...what do you do when everyone you know wants a hot Golden Shower but you???

The Masturbating Margarita-
Strawdog Theatre has updated this virtually unstageable Russian classic to a single woman furiously masturbating herself for 4 hours.

Jerkules-
Over at the Lyric Opera, watch all the dudes you know kneading their pizza dough until you are virtually bukakked with man milk!

Guys and Guys-
The Mariott Theatre Lincolnshire has taken a page from other great classics and made Sky Masterson a dong hungry animal on the prowl!

The 13th of Penis-
When you want to watch a 12 girl on 1 dude masterpiece of reverse gang bang action, PLEASE leave it to LiveWire Theatre to blow your mind out the back of your pants!

Tommy’s Gun Garage-
Watch Tommy unload all over dees guys in a hilarious Mafia semen festival! Mafia Wars were never this sticky!

Star Clitness-
The House Theater proves once again that stars and clits go together like sharks and motorcycles in this beautiful and touching story of an orgasm that could save the world!

Sex With Strangers-
Steppenwolf Theatre does this regular play.

A Doll’s Blouse-
Infamous Commonwealth keeps their traditions alive with another play about having intercourse with stuffed animals. Not to be missed!

The Cherry Busting Whorechard-
Watch as Russians do it until their houses are sold at the Raven Theatre’s incredible and unprecedented update of this international sex classic!

That’s Weird, Grandma-
Watch Barrel of Monkeys and their Grandma take on 2 black guys at the same time! Did I mention she is pregnant!!?

The Whiz-
Theatre at the Center does a piss-soaked reworking of the classic Wizard of Oz! Watch black people urinate on each other!

In and Out in Darfur-
Join Timeline’s diamond salesmen on the prowl for some black market thing as we travel through the heart of Africa in this war torn and moving fuckfest!

The Poonstone-
Lifeline takes a break from doing really long shows, and gives you the treat of watching ladies put dildos inside themselves all over the stage!

My Filthy Cunt-
Right Brain Project isn’t playing around when it comes to getting in “big” audiences in this interactive vagfest for the senses!

If you’d like to submit a porno play, simply email it to reviewsyoucaniews@gmail.com!!

The New Electric Ballroom (A Red Orchid Theatre Company)


A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Old Town neighborhood to see a play! My wife and I were ecstatic to take in a story in a different part of town. We get used to the ho-hum, same old North side joints and forget that there are other places in this beautiful city. Old Town is MUCH better of a place.
They've got a stand-up comedy theater, a Subway restaurant, and the bums are much more cosmopolitan and pay you compliments when you walk past.
This is also where you will find A Red Orchid Theatre Company. A Red Orchid has never been afraid to push the boundaries of theatre and art, and plus they are equity, so most actors know they will never work there.
The actors that DO work there are of the highest caliber, and from the moment you arrive, you can tell that these guys are in it for the love and not the hundreds of dollars awarded them.
Case and point: The Irish classic "The New Electric Ballroom" a 2008 piece from the New Voice of Ireland Enda Walsh.
The play is cast with actors we have all undoubtedly heard of, if not seen perform a thousand times before. They are Legends of Chicago, and this is the piece that has brought them together.
Let me tell you what it is about, I think.

There are these three sisters that live in a kitchen in Ireland. They sit around all day and stare at the wall and put lipstick all over their faces and talk in these crazy Irish accents that are not the funny and sort of racist Irish accents we are used to. Well, these women do something really special. Everyday, they reenact this time when a pop singer came to town and made out with one of them and then the other one saw and ran off. They sit all day long and do the same monologues everyday about how they felt when they were in high school and this happened. Then they put on the same clothes they were wearing that night and then they cry or make cakes, depending on the day. They always go through this night, which must have been pretty painful, and an event we can all relate to.
Remember when you were in high school, and Bell Biv Devoe came to town and you and your sister were so excited to see Michael Bivins onstage. Then, during "Poison" he happens to catch your eye in the audience. You lock eyes. Your hearts beat as one. He waves you backstage and your sister follows. You are ready to sacrifice your purity for one night with this award winning musical hero. He sits you down by his makeup bench. He comes in for a kiss and his tongue is where happiness lives. He kisses you hard, then harder, then softer, then, you hear a noise and Michael goes to find out what it is. You wait for him but secretly you know that the moment has been lost. All your dreams of getting the high, hard one from your greatest musical influence of the last 15 years have vanished. Then you go home and tell this story everyday for the next 40 years. All hope of ever starting a family or finding any sort of relevance in your own life has disappeared because you are too big of a pussy to just get over Michael Bivins.
So you sit in your kitchen and put lipstick everywhere, in the hopes of...

Now, I will be the first to tell you that I have a very utilitarian male brain. I love a get up and go story with somebody to cheer for and a bad guy who wants to blow up all these hostages, and sometimes nuance and mental illness confuses me on stage because it's not all spelled out. I find myself thinking things like:

"Wait, why can't these women just get over it already?"
and
"Why did they send off that lady to the plastic room?"
and
"How much fish can these women possibly eat?"
or
"Who's THIS dude?"

In between the moments of confusion for my tiny brain though, there is beautiful poetry to be heard. Words are spoken in ways you have never heard before, since they have this crazy accent, so simply adjusting to the sounds adds a feeling of isolation to American audiences. There are stellar performances by the whole cast, but the standouts for me were Kirsten Fitzgerald as the younger sister who is sort of like "What the fuck is going on around here" and Guy Van Swearingen as the fish delivery man who gives monologues in doorways.

In addition, I'd like to tell Elise Kauzlaric to watch her back because there is a new dialect coach in town that's no joke. Her name is Anita Deely and she has turned these actors into the real deal.

This play isn't for everyone, but it IS still playing, and I bet you will have a good time.
When my wife and I left, we discussed it for the rest of the night! Sometimes, maybe it is better to see things that make you think about junk and take you to Old Town.

Thank you A Red Orchid for making my marriage stronger!!
Do it for your OWN marriage!!

A-

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Feel Like I'm Not Pulling My Weight Around Here

This is an apology.

I guess I've been a little busy lately, what with the critically lauded production of Lakeboat over at Steep Theatre and preparing to add a little baby to my family.  I think that I'm just too pooped to pop, y'all!

Andy's been handling a bunch of the review duties these days, and thank god for him, you guys.  Thank GOD for him.  We've been trying to keep up with the intense interview schedule we've worked out for ourselves, and we're doing okay.  But, I haven't actually gone to see a theatre show in weeks.  It's one of those things where I'm in a show and I'm old and it's freezing outside and I'm saving money and all that blah blah blah.  Plus, it's going to be tough for me very soon because little baby Simon Ambrose (the Civil War historian/author my wife and I are siring) will be arriving and most theater shows are for adults because kids know better than to pay $75 for a ticket to something where they have to be quiet and polite for 3 hours.  Believe me, I've soiled my pants at plenty of theatre shows...but, I'm running out of excuses.

I think maybe I'll have to be better about reviewing things that aren't all about theatre...like being a new dad, or putting together a crib, or movies that just hit my On Demand list.  Dudes, don't worry...I still love theatre.  And I'm gonna review shows...because you deserve it.  But, please, accept this hug and know that I'm doing my best.  You're the greatest fans in the world, and just because I'm a hero doesn't mean I'll just rest on my laurels.  No laurel resting for this guy!  We've only just begun...TO LOVE!

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Working" Press Junket (Broadway In Chicago)

Stephen Schwartz walking around in old person white sneakers.


Every now and then, we get invited to really strange things that are totally awesome. For example, a few weeks ago, we got invited to have a meet and greet with the cast and creator of the new Broadway In Chicago show "Working", now on stage at the Broadway Playhouse.

I'm not a huge musical theatre fan, but was actually pretty excited to meet Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz composed Wicked, Pippen, Godspell, and a bunch of other shit, too.

When I arrived in the morning at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, I didn't know what to expect, so I decided to wear a sweater and tie which turned out to be right, even though I was still the weirdest looking dude in the room. While I'm at it, let me tell you what this thing was like:

I was WAY over my head here. The Ritz-Carlton is a very fancy hotel. I go up to this ballroom with this other black guy from undoubtedly a black guy website and Janet Davies from ABC News. We get up there, and there's tons of cameras and junk and then some press guy comes out and tells us that Stephen Schwartz wants to play a song or two for us.





Janet Davies' sweet ass blocking my view of the legend.


So this dude plays a song called "Fathers and Sons" from Working (which was beautiful) and, besides the cameras, was just played for me, the black guy, and Janet Davies. I had a private concert with Stephen Schwartz and I was abuzz with excitement and grandeur!!



The cast of Working sings the hits.


Then the entire cast of the show came out and did a couple numbers. There was a piece sung by the legendary E. Faye Butler, and another by the glamorous Barbara Robertson. This whole day was super fun so far and not anywhere close to being over!
After the songs were sung and the last bagel had been shmeared, it was time to do some work and get serious about doing my interview.

My press contact told me to go set up in the corner of the room, not too close to the black guy or piano, and far out of the way for Janet Davies and her 47 cameras. As I was waiting for my first interviewee to show up, I was prepping my area and scoping out the competition. I know that Eric and I are just two thirty year old dudes with a dream and a can-do attitude, but sometimes when we try to bring you the exclusives, it's easy to feel inferior to the others. For example, as I was getting ready, I saw the black guy setting up his portable studio equipment. Janet Davies was talking shop with one of her numerous assistants, making sure the coffee is ready and her couch is comfortable, and I was...Oh no, I have a major hole in my sweater! As I check out my sleeve, the edge of the table I'm sitting at cuts my finger open, and as a finger cut can, started bleeding profusely. So now, my only clean piece of notebook paper, used for interview the Legends of Broadway is stained with the sanguine fluid of a thousand mendicants.

Do I have time to go to the restroom and try to bleed this out under warm water? No! It's time to get to work and bring home the scoop.

The first guest to my Gore Cage is none other than the illustrious Gene Weygandt. A lot of younger actors in town might not be familiar with this man, because he was already pretty fucking famous and has been ever since. Gene came up with the rest of the early Steppenwolf crew at Illinois State University (Redbirds! Flying High!) and moved to Chicago in what must have been the late 70's/early 80's. This was when there were only a couple companies you needed to know. They were Wisdom Bridge, Igloo, Remains, and Organic. These were the companies to beat. Now if you've ever seen Gene Weygandt before, you know that he has an infectious smile, a loud voice, and the mischievous eyes of a dark and magical fox.
Weygandt recently played the Wizard in Wicked, so this was another chance for him to work with Schwartz.
"Such a nice guy, and I am so blessed to just be around guys like him." Weygandt smiles.
We talk and talk about everything from his favorite restaurant (Petterino's) to where he lives, ("I will always call Chicago my home") to what next steps I should take with this gaping and bloody wound on my hand ("You are sort of grossing me out, kiddo").
Well, we are laughing and visiting and having the best time ever when our session has ended. Gene has to go back to rehearsal.
Before he goes though, let me tell you this. We should look at actors in our community like Gene and Barbara Robertson and be humbled that someone so great and known on Broadway and U.S. stages everywhere would be so happy to still call Chicago his or her home. Their kind fled to New York and L.A. when the companies around here gave them an outlet to television.
"Fuck it, man! Let them come to us, right?" Gene chuckles as he floats back into his light portal. An amazing talent with an amazing transporting light portal.

So, after I was asked to leave, and dripping blood on the marble flooring, I hit the cool Chicago air with my face and thought about how lucky I was to be a part of this great town and have such incredible and unparalleled experiences.


Go get 'em, Chicago! We can do it!!



Broadway In Chicago
A+

Gene Weygandt
A+

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Wedding (TUTA) *remount*


Have you ever heard of this company, TUTA?
You probably have and were like, "What the hell does that stand for? I can't go see a show by a company with some goofy acronym, there just aren't enough hours in my life to spend them on an acronym-having-ass theatre company."

Well, good sir, today is your lucky day because I will now reveal to you what TUTA stands for.
Ready?
The Utopian Theatre Asylum.

You can see now why they go by TUTA because it is ultimately less confusing, and since most of their audience doesn't speak English because they are all from Sarajevo, nobody knows what it means anyway.

TUTA is now doing a remount of "The Wedding", what some considered the greatest production in the history of Chicago Theatre.
I mean, last year it was on every Top 10 list including ours, even though we didn't see it. That's how good it was.

I finally went to see it last weekend, and let me tell you, a lot of what they said is still right.

The Wedding is one of Brecht's more goofy plays about a wedding literally falling apart in front of our eyes. Now, the play is, of course, dated and a lot of the lines don't make very much sense, but that's the breaks when you want to do a translation of a hundred year old play.

So, the script is sort of meh, but what makes this show so super great and the Top Play Ever Made is the cast. They are all so smart, and just fucking perfect at their respective parts.

Now since this is some crazy Eastern European theatre company, I'm sure they workshopped it for 6 years before they made it to a play, but let that be a lesson to the rest of you. Workshop a play every now and then, and don't just throw up the first dumb thing you think of.

There's an actor in town who is about to be added to my beautiful Triumvirate of Glory.
Do you remember who is in it? There is John Taflan, Dan Granata and Rob McLean, and now it will be made a Diamond of Excellence with the addition of Trey Maclin.

I bet you don't know who Trey Maclin is yet, but you will, because he is more talented than everyone you have ever met combined.
Maclin plays the husband who is watching his home and life fall around him, and he does it with such great skill and humor, it's hard not to just recommend the show on him alone.
But if that wasn't enough, the rest of the cast is outstanding, too.

Well let's see. There's the unflappable Jaqueline Stone as the wife. She plays this slutty little jerk that is impossible not to love/hate.
This guy named Kirk Anderson, who works all over town, plays the Father just right.
You know what? Everybody is great.

The play sometimes has the feeling of a Sean Graney play without Sean Graney. Which is to say, it's an old play given a new life and radical staging, but it's missing that sense of danger that Graney brings. The feeling that the actors could literally tear apart the theatre. So maybe what I'm saying is that it's a little too measured for the amount of destruction we see happen to our heroes.

But all in all, the critics were right, and you won't find a better show to see right now in town.

Go see it and tell The Utopian Theatre Asylum we sent ya!


A

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pint Pub (1547 N Milwaukee Ave., Bucktown)


So, bros, I needed some new kicks because this winter has left my gear all tore up. So I heard you could get some good deals….in Wicker Park.

Now, as you know, I usually don’t go farther south then Belmont for anything, but it’s a down economy, bros. Condos don’t pay for themselves. The hard part was gonna be walking around all those hipsters. You know the type, dudes with sweater vests and arts degrees. At least the vests keep you warm. (Up top, bros.) I got a communication degree, but at least I can dress myself and shave. Guess what, dudes. You can’t get a decent car or Cubs season tickets working at the record store.

So anyway, I find a decent deal on a couple pairs of shoes (just wish my man would throw some money into the joint. Gross, bruh. I gotta take my shoes off to be in here. Clean it up!)

So I get done, and I’m thinking beer. But where do I go where I don’t have to listen to emo or pick which organic food I want. So I find a safe spot: Pint, a bar that is home away from home.

Pint is an Irish style sports bar on Milwaukee just west of Honore. I walk in and the first thing I see is the hot cocktailer. She says hi as she’s picking up menus someone dropped on the floor, and I’m in love, not only for the view but her accent! She’s British! Nice first impression.

I grab a seat at the bar, and the tender is this nice girl. She’s cute, but not hot like a model, so you know she got the job cuz she’s knows what she’s doing. I look to see what’s on tap, and this place loves beer! They got 15 beers on tap, including Bud Light, Old Style and PBR. That makes me feel like I’m at the ballpark. It’s a good idea to have those, too, because cheap beer means more money for Jaeger Bombs. They got other stuff, too, like Bell’s, Blue Moon, Stella, and Newcastle, and Point, for the Packer fans. Whatever.

They got a cool menu, too, everything from quesadilla to grilled cheese. They got salads (for the chicks) and decent burgers. I went on a Saturday, and the special was $5 Guinness and $3 shot of Beam. Not bad. I don’t usually dig on dark beers. I prefer chewing my lunch. They got a website, www.pintpub.com, bro.

So I hang out, checking out basketball on their big screen. Each table had its own TV, which I thought was a plus. The place has got tables on the main floor, and then a second floor that looks over the place. Great area to hook up. Right, bros? I also dig the bar itself. It has these huge mirrors that are inside these brick arches. Classy. And against the mirrors, they’ve got every kind of booze you could think of.

And the best part: NO Hipsters! I guess tickets for Death Cab or whatever went on sale that day or something. You can’t tear them away from their Macs. Seriously, bros. The crowd was a nice mix of decent looking chicks, and dudes with actual jobs. I also didn’t spend a lot of money. She got me a beer on the house. I didn’t even have to tell her who I was!

So, overall, decent joint. Check it out sometime, if you’re in the neighborhood, if your lady wants to, I don’t know, look at old dresses and jewelry and cowboy boots and junk.


A

-Josh Vaughn

Monday, February 14, 2011

Being Harold Pinter (Belarus Free Theatre)


She has been arrested three times for participation in peaceful political and theatrical activities. –Natalia Kaliada

He has been arrested for his professional activities. –Vladimir Scherban

He has been assaulted during peaceful political action and arrested for his professional activities. –Dzianis Tarasenka

She was expelled from her last university year for her cooperation with BFT.

–Irene Iarochevich

He has been arrested for his professional activities and banned from applying for any official job in Belarus because of his cooperation with BFT. –Pavel Haradnitski

He has been put on trial for organizing peaceful political action, and currently, his plays are forbidden from being staged in Belarus. –Nikolai Khalezin

I went to go see Belarus Free Theatre’s Being Harold Pinter, and my head is swimming:

Being Harold Pinter cannot simply be described as a “great” or “amazing” play. Those terms—safe, and summarily applied to works as diverse as Les Miserable and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf—do not adequately convey the call for immediate and necessary engagement with the piece on all levels. One truly feels like a small, wrinkled dick (ugly and inadequate) when the standard, post-show inquiry/exchange is made:

“Hey, John. How was the show, last night?”


Being Harold Pinter was amazing! You should go see it.”

Which isn’t to say that Being Harold Pinter isn’t amazing; it is. But this is not a play whose participants seek to be commended for “hitting that high note” or “getting there during that scene” or “really having the audience in stitches during that one part.” A four-star review on the standard scale is almost an insult. An honest-to-goodness “rave” of Being Harold Pinter would not simply be confined to the pages of a daily rag. It would be the immediate and unquestioned end of tyranny in all forms. Free expression would cease to threaten the marble ringed usurpers of power as they rush abdicate their ill-gotten thrones. You and I would feel ashamed to ever wish pain or suffering on each other, and those terms would be so alien as to send us rushing to our ancient dictionaries with magnifying glasses. Simply put: Being Harold Pinter is a wake-up call. How can you call it a great play when people have died in order for it to exist?

Being that it is a piece of theatre, however, acknowledgment of its success in that medium is necessary: Being Harold Pinter is ingeniously conceived, moving, acted with a formidable honesty, and staged creatively with only four red chairs to serve the storytelling.

However, as a massive “fuck you” to the despotic Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, Being Harold Pinter’s true achievement is indefinable in that conventional sense.

Adaptor and director Vladmir Scherban has merged the terrifying (mostly late-career) plays of Harold Pinter, his infamous Nobel Lecture, and the sickening letters of Belarusian political prisoners into an indictment so awesome in its incisiveness that a genuine fear takes hold of you: This thing is truly dangerous for everyone involved. And you know that going in. But honestly, you really don’t know. You have no clue.

The piece starts benignly enough: We meet a man who—after suffering a bloody fall, being mistaken for dead, and learning he has earned the Nobel Prize in Literature—identifies himself as Harold Pinter. This Pinter confesses that his plays (in this case, The Homecoming and Old Times) were in actuality, revealed to him by the characters that inhabited them. Pinter admits that while he certainly provided a jumping off point for these beings—the first line of dialogue in each piece—what occurred after that was almost entirely out of his control. He confesses that he is simply a conduit through which characters reveal themselves.

This Harold Pinter’s ability to cede control of his art is a high, creative ideal for him. Anything less would mean dishonestly presenting crinkled facsimiles of men and women who move through their lives in storybook blocks of plotting; plays that are delicious upon consumption, but of little nutritional value.

What is terrifying to witness with this knowledge of Pinter’s process in mind however, is the feral state his characters revert to almost immediately: They are petty, mean, full of darkness and a need to dominate each other.

At this point, the desire to draw parallels between these Pinter pieces and the government of Belarus is an inescapable one: Is Pinter God? If Pinter is God, why does he not step in and end the suffering of his characters? If Pinter assumes too much dominance over his characters, does he become Lukashenko? Or, has Pinter’s absence meant Lukashenko can exist in the first place? Are we doomed by a lust for control or are we nothing but that lust given flesh and blood and countries to run?

As Being Harold Pinter continues—drawing from Pinter’s later, more overtly political works such as One For The Road and Ashes to Ashes—the entertaining of parallels is no longer just a thought to be considered at a safe, intellectual distance; Pinter simply becomes Belarus.

We now watch the unmotivated, near-pornographic torture of characters whose consequential slip-ups are never revealed, even to them. Men and women are burned, bitten, taunted, stripped naked, screamed at, and attacked just as Pinter allowed them to be. Why are we watching this? Why are we forced to hear their screams?

Belarus Free Theatre does not allow an escape from this pain. Pinter’s text melts from the mouths of the actors, and what emerges from the bogs of slurry pooling at their feet is a howl from Belarus in its people’s own words: Letters from political prisoners detailing every conceivable injustice man has ever dealt to his brothers and sisters. It is a disgusting scene. It is also triumphant. An entire allegory has been elaborately constructed just to get to this moment. We have been tricked. We thought we were going to see a play but what we really purchased tickets for was a confession made by those who have nothing to atone for. What we should have seen is Alexander Lukashenko begging for forgiveness from every person he has ever harmed. What we should have seen is not this play. We should have seen Belarus Free Theatre’s production of Everything is Great in Our Country and We Get to Go Home Next Week.

The quotations at the top of this piece are taken from the program. At the end of each artist’s bio is a defiant statement of commitment to the piece we have just witnessed. Every one of them has been to prison, been beaten, forced to leave their country, and all for the sake of a play.

And yet, as quickly as I have typed that last sentence, I realize it is incorrect. It is not all for the sake of a play. It is for the sake of life. It is for the sake of peace. It is for the sake of beauty and love.

Being Harold Pinter is amazing. You should go see it.


A+


-John Taflan

Friday, February 11, 2011

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Carmen Aiello of Carmencasting in Los Angeles


Some of us decide to take the plunge to LA. We know it isn’t for everyone, but we wanted to see what you had to look forward to on the Best Coast. We recently had a chance to interview a great hero of ours. Carmen Aiello has toiled tirelessly for Chicago actors as a casting agent in Los Angeles for a few years now. We met him at Twinkerbell’s in the San Fernando Valley for cosmos, astroglide, and chatting about the Biz!!!

Hi Carmen! Thanks for meeting us in this Leather Bar. What would you like to drink?

Body shots on you and I'll lick the salt off of the Roach!

This just got awesome. While we are waiting for the drinks, tell us about why you decided to come out here to LA.

Honestly? Well- first, I think that people thought I was crazy to do this. I’m the least likely to have moved to Lala land. Look, I wanted to help actors. That was simple. And I’ve worked with the best Chicago actors and they are really fucking tough artists. And I wanted to represent Chicago’s best. I felt...I felt that , well, it was really emotional for me to make this transition. And the most talented people needed someone who understood them. So either it was New York or L.A. and I don’t want to have a toilet that transforms into a sink in a cockroach infested studio in New York- so I chose L.A.. Where I could have a car and do what I wanted.

Drinks are ready. So, what is it that you do exactly out here? Put some salt on Eric.

I’m ready to bite the lime out of his mouth. It’s early to think about drinking but this is a good start to a Friday. This lime is really sour, y’all!
I’m an artist. Let me explain this. I help actors. My passion has always to be surrounded by actors my whole life. It’s all I know. They are crazy people with strong desires and passion. I want to embrace that and help people who deserve it. Chicago actors are driven. It’s inspiring. And you guys are hot. Fuck this whole Hollywood look. Give me some corn fed midwesterners.

There was a real fat dude on The Cape the other night that I (Eric) went to college with. If that jerkoff can get paid, I know I can.

Well...I think L.A. is catching up with the real world.

So tell us. If I was a young good looking actor, and just moving to LA, what would I have to do to get in front of you?

Well, I don’t have a couch yet in my house...so there goes that idea. But really...I work as a Jr Agent and I’m casting three SAG Feature movies and helping artists. It’s not always about look. The blonde hair blue eyes is way over. If you can act, you can book a role.

Now, Carm...is that oversimplifying a bit? Is it a little about who you know, as the saying goes?

NO! You guys. No. no no no no no no no no no no. NO! I will crack out my whip here.

It seems like, I see some people who studios continuously try to sell us over and over again, even though we clearly don’t like them. Including, but not limited to: Simon Baker, Mike O’Malley, etc. Why do they get so many chances?

Baker from The Mentalist?

Mmmm hmmmm.

Well. I mean, how many plays do you see with the same actors and you are like “UGH, why not someone new????” I mean... you have to develop and persist change. You have to be a bit unruly. And that’s what I’m doing. Provoking change. I have had at least 10 unknown Chicago actors go up for series regular roles in the past month. I did it through passion and the belief that they are worth it. One Chicago actor is testing on Monday for a major television show. He has no credits. NONE. And he doesn’t look like Simon Baker. At. All.

Good, because that guy looks like he took a 2x4 to the nose. Is he supposed to be hot on The Mentalist? Should have ducked those punches, Simon.

We are in a leather bar- you can do whatever you want to him.

Carmen, walk us through the process of getting information to you. How do I even get a chance to meet with someone like you?

Well...you mean if you didn’t know me? I mean, if you came out here I would come see you. Hello. I’m not a bitch. Well...I’m not a bitch in my profession. I could be YOUR bitch if you asked nicely.

Yes, you could. But let’s say...oh...John Cheeseman from Ohio State moves to LA. Didn’t know you, but wanted to take the right steps...how should he staple his resume to his headshot?

I’m just a regular guy on a mission. I mean, I guess people have contacted me through Facebook and cold called me on my cell (which is not fun) but I’m decent and I listen. I mean, I have a job to do and I have to look at all the resources and time it takes to get to know someone. I’m not a hookup. Meeting me is more than a one night stand. We don’t get to home plate on the first meeting. I like to develop relationships with actors. And sometimes it happens right away. I have to know they are serious. I have to know they are talented- And when I say talented, I mean they have knowledge of theatre, TV, FILM and the ability to handle large and small roles. They have to be interested in themselves. Not just wanting a quick fix. I have no interest in making someone’s dream come true from the air. I worked really fucking hard to be here. Really hard. And I want to know someone can take the difficulty of being an actor. I did well in Chicago and I have knowledge of dance, theatre art and, now, TV and FILM. I want someone who I can relate to and can teach me something about myself. Those are the people I am drawn to. So it happens when it happens. It can take years or a week. You know? Hard work and passion.

You keep saying the word “Hard” and it is making me think about that little twink over there. I could bear down on that little bastard big time.

He’s in a sling. Too easy.

I bet he’s no Simon Baker. Anyway, when you finally get somebody you are interested in, do you sort of...send them out to different agencies, or...I don’t know how it works.

It depends on the needs of that individuals career. Listen, I have worked for crazy people. One boss pounded her breasts and screamed at me on my first day of the job for a major television show I was a casting assistant on. But I was able to get an amazing Chicago actor a read with her. So it was worth it. I didn’t come out here and, well, yes I did. I came out here and three days later found a job doing exactly what I wanted to do. But I have worked for crazy people and tried to help actors at each job. So it depends where I am. Now I work for an amazing woman who will listen to my creative ideas and I’m casting. So I can pass their information on or see if there is a role in the movie. But the rest is up to the higher-ups and producers. At an agency, you have to be signed or “hip pocketed” by an assistant. That means the assistant is taking care of your career- not that you are sucking them off in their pocket.

That would require some big pockets.

Hip pockets? I got into major trouble at an A-list agency. I was a lead floater. I pitched over 20 Chicago actors and no one has ever done that. I sabotaged my career there because I believed in these actors. And now one of them is starring in a Malcolm McDowell movie that I’m casting directed by Chicago director Frank Merle. So...Hip pockets are private. Discreet. On the DL. It’s like being gay in Hollywood. You shouldn’t disclose that you are hip pocketed at an agency. Like you shouldn’t be gay in Hollywood. Don’t say anything.

I see. Good thing we are here in the Valley. So tell me (Andy) what the craziest thing you have ever done is.

(Eric) Once I banged some dudes on the balcony of Wrigley...oh, you meant Carmen.

I guess I missed a lot since leaving Chicago. Where were you guys when I was single out there?

In a van.

You can fit three people in the back of a van. I’m insulted.

Answer the question, sir!

I’m glad you finally know my title. Yes. What’s the craziest thing I’ve done? Professionally?

Whichever. Professionally or just in life. People like to know who they are dealing with here.

Agh! Um. Tried to play sports? Be in Boy Scouts? Crossed the border of Mexico at 3am on a Friday night.

Were you headed to a brothel in TJ to try to break the gayness out of you?

I was trying to break the gayness in the hot Mexican men. Hola amigo. This is going to get me in trouble.

Carmen, we want to thank you for meeting us here. You are a good friend to us Chicago actors and I hope we ALL get a chance to be around you more. You are a hero.

I really miss you guys. There are some amazing Chicago actors out here. Real quick. I gotta say this cause I have to represent them- it’s my job. Dana Green - saw her last night at South Coast Repertory Theatre in Midsummer Nights Dream. Remember her? She made an incredible living in L.A. doing theatre. Jordon Hodges, Brenden Hill, Rebecca Jordan, Lisa Rothschiller, Jimmy Slonina, Richard Ragsdale, Christopher Johnson...

Well, we gotta go...

Steve Walker, Kyle More, Joey Christopoulos, Aaron Boucher, Dehlia Miller, Molly Erdman, Cesar Jamie, Jamie Hoggson, Joe Canale, Adam Silver, Ronald Conner, Jason Karasev...

Okey doke. Well, nice to see you out he-

John Rushing, Maggie Suma, Alexandra Billings, Andre Ing, David Rispoli, Jacqueline Zook, Jenna Johnson, Dawn Barber, Joey Honsa...

OK, this isn’t the Nam Memorial, Carm-

David Dastmalchian, Erin Killean, Lindsey Fisher, Melissa Pryor...

(Andy to Eric) What should we do? This is getting really creepy.

(Eric to Andy) Should we just leave? He just keeps talking...this is like a gay horror movie.

(Andy to Eric) Maybe if we pretend we are dead, he will just walk off.

Nicole Adelman, Tony Casale, Linara Washington and Ian Forester- who told me to come out here in the first place. I’m just so lucky to know so many incredible people. Everyone has made it here and the journey is epic. I’m forgetting people because there are so many. But we have a gifted bunch and it’s growing incredibly strong.

(Eric and Andy stop feigning death) Well thanks for buying us the drinks. Can we have a ride?

A ride? Yeah baby I’ll give you a ride. Turn around.

RUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNN!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

PORT (Griffin Theatre Company)


There's this playwright in Ireland or England or something named Simon Stephens and there's this director from Detroit named Jonathan Berry. Berry thinks that Stephens is the best because Stephens talks about broken down towns and what it's like to grow up in abusive families or something.
I'm not really into that stuff, because I have a hard enough time going to the theatre, but then to see some 2 and a half hour long show about strife...it's just not really my cup of tea.

On the OTHER hand. Stephens makes plays that are really easy for actors to dig in to and lots of room for a director to put his stamp on it without too much tech and other bullshit to get in the way.

There is hardly any dance numbers or Saigon choppers to have to deal with, which also makes it ideal for the Chicago stage.

So Jon Berry's biggest strength is his ability to direct a scene. He is really glorious at it. He lets actors play around and you can feel his hand on every show he does. You can tell he really understands people's struggles because he has very sad big eyes and you want to just hug him and maybe give him 5 dollars for a blanket or coffee or something.

But do you know why you should see this play?

Caroline Neff. She plays the lead. This character named Racheal. This play takes place over the course of 80 years, so you see Racheal grow up, and eventually die of drug abuse in a car fire. Her performance is solid all the way through and she carries the whole thing on her shoulders.

The acting isn't lopsided by any means, all the performances are honorable. I particularly liked Andrew Swanson as this loser in the town named Danny.
John Byrnes is really good as this loser in the town who punches whole window panes out named Kevin.
In addition, Joey deBettencourt is super good, also as a rakish loser in the town named Billy.

This play takes place in Stockport, England so you are probably thinking, "What are the accents like there?"

Well, they were thinking the same thing and brought in the heavy hitter. Just as a general rule in this town: If you need an obscure accent from some very specific neighborhood in England, you call Elise Kauzlaric. She understands the nuance and subtlety of every accent that ever was in England. BUT SHE IS VERY EXPENSIVE. So get in touch with me and I will give you her personal phone number and some information to blackmail her into doing some work on your new turn-of-the-century South African colony drama.

I'm not afraid to tell you that I cried a little during this play. There are certainly moments that are easily identifiable to adults who have loved and lost and made mistakes that they regret, but then again, I cried at "Cats" because of the easily identifiable moments.

Jon Berry is a great director that you will probably need to know about in the future, so why not make this the first time!

Go see this great play by a remarkable company and sublime director and first-class actors and fantastic EVERYTHING!!!

A

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Monday, February 7, 2011

Odradek (The House Theatre)


The House seems to have found a very nice home at the Chopin Theater. They do all their plays there now, which is good because they are able to design for the same space all the time instead of doing one show at the Athenaeum, another show at the Raven...maybe a late night at Strawdog and a 3 week run at the Prop.
I think for itinerant theatres, it's important to have a headquarters where people can associate a building with your company because sometimes you see plays in lousy places.

I once directed a one act about baseball players in the basement of the Chinese Heritage Center.

So trust me on this.

So, the point of all this is, the House really knows how to take advantage of the space they have now. They move things around. They make plays in circles or on a thrust.

This play, "Odradek" is done straight up proscenium style. The set is a gigantic staircase and a bed, a doctor's office and a door frame but man, is it cool looking.

Now, I understand I get a lot of criticism for celebrating the House too often, so here is a perfectly unbiased review of the show.

Ugly Brett Neveu has written a play based on a stupid poem by farty Franz Kafka. The story is of a small town Father and Son team who live alone in Disney's Haunted Mansion. The boy's mother has left them alone for some reason, but since it is in the Midwest, I bet it was because of a meth addiction.
So the Dad (terribly played by the unbeautiful David Parkes) starts up this relationship with the town's new pediatrician (a misshapen and loathsome Carolyn Defrin). The son (an incredibly untrustworthy Joey Steakley) sees this happening, and since he has no friends and there is no school in the town, he starts to hang out with this pile of garbage in the basement. This pile of garbage is really a puppet of garbage but dude...when you first see the lighting and the voice and everything, it's scary as fuck.

The puppeteers of the garbage (Lizzie "Lizard" Breit, Amy "Sweetbox" Hillber and Mel "Gibson" Gill) are really great. I mean terrible.

You know, when this was first written, the pile of garbage was based on a half used spool of thread that Kafka kept finding around his house. So... already pretty haunting.

So as this kid gets more and more attached to this monster, his wheels fall off and he starts getting really bizarre. His dad is bangin' the doctor and talking about ice cream places in town and it's all just too much for him to handle.

And do you know who's to blame for all of this?!
His toenails.

You just gotta see it.

I don't know how much I'm supposed to give away, but Odradek is equally deliberate and reasoned as it is visceral, if ya know what I mean.

"Lustful" Lee Keenan and Claudette "Peeface" Pollard are again, the biggest heroes ever making light and space seem like their own characters.

Anyway, "horror" or "weird fiction" is a huge departure for these guys and if it's your first House show, good luck.

Sometimes the actors have a hard time getting into the rhythm of the dialogue, but over all, it's a great way to spend a creepy night.

Go see this play! Or don't. Chicks and some smaller dudes might not be able to handle it. I heard someone got sick on opening night.



A

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Who Do These Idiots Think They Are?

The blog post in question.

Did you read that shite? Good, ok. I want you to sit back, close your eyes, and imagine Eric and Andy getting hit by a bus. And don't let it just hit them...I mean really savor every detail. Their nonchalant walking across a busy intersection with their dopey mouths open, obviously spewing forth some retarded banter that they think is just the funniest thing ever. The sharp intakes of breath when they both realize that their pathetic lives are about to be cut short by the Chicago Transit Authority. The weird moment when Eric pees his pants and grabs Andy and hurls him between him and the oncoming vehicle. The sickening smack when the bus breaks every single bone in their bodies. The careening arc of their limp, doll-like bodies flying down Ashland. And finally, the crunch of their bones when 2 tons of pain rolls over their lame, hacky limbs. The river of blood and brake fluid running down the gutter. A small child holding a balloon who's seen the whole thing. A dog braying in the distance. Silence. Five years later, Rom Rilliams and Ralbert Rilliams meet at the Rilliams family reunion, and raff and raff and raff.


I thought the mumps got cured...oh, no, you have fat face

Why do I constantly have to call out all these haters? How long has The Reader been around, jerks? They probably even wrote some nice things about you ballsacks back in the day when NO ONE in town wanted anything to do with you. And doing an entire blog post ANONYMOUSLY? After you wrote THIS? You think I'd just forget about that?


Sorrow got replaced with Donuts

I can't believe I have to teach MYSELF a lesson about the interzones, but here we are. You boys just think you are the shit, don't you? Real tough-ass gangstas? Just remember, there are people out there who could eat you for lunch. The internet is written in ink, and you decide that The Reader is worthy of some kind of scorn. Why? Those guys are writers about theatre...isn't one of your little things that you want people like that around? That you want a community to form? Way to go about that, you assheads. Go ahead and call out a institution...you'll get some hits on your little blog, and people might make some snarky comments. But, really, all you did was point out how petty you two can be sometimes. And why? You think you're heroes?

Fine...act like it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Reader: Why They Can't Ever Beat The Internet! (Written by Anonymous)


Anonymous
Used to be, The Reader was the only publication in town that would review your little theater company/art show/sandwich shop in Pilsen.

Anonymous
The Chicago Reader: The Abacus of Theatre Journalism!

Anonymous
Now, as long as you give them a free ticket and a chance to ogle your ladies, you have acres of internet real estate just aching to fill up content about YOU.

Anonymous
But you still want some uneducated old fat guy to show up and cough in the back row? Then you need The Reader.

Anonymous
In the same way that Craigslist beat the Reader at its own game, what with offering free advertising to slumlords and hookers on the web, the bloggers and Facebook have beaten it in theater and art criticism. ANYONE can be a critic now, and while that might not be a favorable solution to the problem of why Hedy Weiss won't see your performance art piece about vaginal cleanliness, it does solve the problem of Ralbert Rilliams farting up your theater space.

Anonymous
The old saying still holds weight:
"4 bloggers equal 1 Chris Jones, but at least neither of them are the Reader ".

Anonymous
So, is there any real reason why people are still inviting the Reader to see their work? Is it the same reason why people still eat at the Heartland Cafe? Baby Boomer Guilt.

Anonymous
Tradition seems to have gotten us right here, where we have been for 30 years. Let's try something new, gang! Instead of spending your press packet money on some old weirdo who will undoubtedly ruin your perfect blog review record for the sole sake of being contrary, try something new, like a suburban newspaper, or an actual advertisement. Unless you are too lazy to change.

Anonymous
There are outlets out there who will treat you with respect, and yes, the blogs and papers might not get into the hands of aging hipsters with technology issues. But those jerks will be begging for free tickets anyway. Why not get on a blog that someone can read on their Droid? You at least know they can afford a fucking Droid.

Anonymous
You know Anonymous, I feel like sometimes we beat around the bush because we assume that everyone is smart and understands what is being said between the lines, but let's come right out and say it today.
THE READER IS THE FUCKING WORST.

Anonymous
Back when The Reader actually had 4 sections, I used to call it The Bum Quilt. But I suppose you could call it Bum's Charmin these days. I mean, if you picked up a few of em, you bums.

Anonymous
Wasting an opening night full ticket for some creep to sit in the house and write a 3 line review? You might as well just invite a bum. Or Rom Rilliams.

Anonymous
Did we just blow your minds?

Anonymous
Are you going to tell the Reader on us?

Anonymous
Well you can't call them, because they couldn't pay the phone bill this month since it was either that or give Rack Relbig a case of Blatz for his review of The Beats.

Anonymous
So you better mail them a letter, even though you will never know who to mail it to. Better make it out to Adult X-Matches.

Anonymous
You know where a better place to find mistresses is though? AshleyMadison.com. I'd just email them.

-Anonymous, Anonymous

Armless (Lights Out Theatre Company JOE TANSINO)


After receiving my assignment to review this play I searched for “armless” in my RSS feed and came up with a review by Mr. Roach (along with an article about an armless pianist who won on the television show “China’s Got Talent”). It seems that a while back, Eric and Andy reviewed a reading of the play “Armless,” part of the Lights Out Theater Company’s Pre-Game Play series. Based on this review, I thought the play would be about Facebook. But that’s only because I stopped after reading the first two paragraphs of the review. And so, alas, I thought for sure this was going to be a play about Facebook. Curious to discover what connection armlessness might have to the social network, I ventured out to Mary Arrchie and found a seat in the back of the small, 42-seat theater.

While I sat waiting for the show to begin, I speculated about the themes that playwright Kyle Jarrow might have intended to present. In the future, we’ll communicate via the internet telepathically. That is to say, in two hundred years I will still be writing play reviews for Eric and Andy, but I’ll simply transmit my reviews via thoughtstreams to Eric and Andy, who will screen those reviews for content, still uncertain two centuries from now whether I have any business pretending to be a writer. Eric will twitch his nose, and Andy will blink, and voila! the review in question will be transmitted directly to the brains of all those who are interested in what the Reviews You Can Iews writers have to say (that means YOU, devoted readership). Afterwards, I’ll give everyone in my social network a piece of my mind, literally, letting each person know my opinion of this or that play, so that he or she can push it into his or her subconscious, where it will stew with a trillion other useless transmissions. In the future, thanks to advances in telepathy, we’ll have no need for keyboards. In the future, we’ll have no need for arms.

That’s what I thought “Armless” would be about. I was wrong.

In fact, the play is about a young man named John (Gavin Robinson) suffering from a disorder called Body Integrity Identity Disorder. John leaves his wife Anna (Mary Williamson) and goes to the big city to find a certain Dr. Phillips, whom he hopes will amputate his arms, based on stories he’s read in Internet chat rooms devoted to like-minded amputee “wannabes.” After John requests the ethically and legally suspect procedure, he discovers that he’s found the wrong Dr. Phillips. (“It’s a common name!” explains Ian Knox, who plays Phillips) Oops. The rest of the play finds Anna, Dr. Phillips, and his receptionist Jenny (Annie Calhoun) grappling to understand John’s motivation and save him before he does something rash.

Under Bobby Libby’s direction, the cast navigates Jarrow’s dark and absurd script, which weaves between macabre comedy and serious meditations on love, suffering, and mental illness. Despite a smattering of somewhat predictable jokes about arms and limbs, the play never relies on cheap laughs, and some of the funniest moments of the play occur in the dead air between lines - a credit to the cast members, who seemed to have a strong grasp on the bizarre two-headed beast they were riding.

Jarrow turned the play into a feature-length film that screened at Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals. This production runs about 70 minutes in length, long enough to mine the strange territory it explores but short enough that you don’t tire of its central conceit: that a man who has a pathological urge to cut off his arms just needs love, and not intensive psychotherapy.

I give this play two very enthusiastic arms in the air!

A


-Joe Tansino

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Steppenwolf Theatre JOE TANSINO)

Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? had me on the edge of my seat for all the reasons you’d expect, plus one more.
I was mortified that my cell phone was going to ring.
It was an irrational fear. I had turned off my cell phone, taken out the battery, and left it in the car. Despite these precautions, I could not allay the dread that filled my soul, that somehow I would disrupt one of my favorite plays, written by a man that I’m very best friends with in a parallel universe. It didn’t help when, during the second of two intermissions, a bartender cautioned me that the sound of the ice in my drink might cause Tracy Letts and Amy Morton to break character, lunge over the seats, and wring my inconsiderate neck. The bartender blithely transferred my scotch into an ice-free coffee cup with a lid, but one little chunk of ice slipped into the otherwise sound-proofed container. She slid it across the counter to me. “Eh, that will melt.”
Inside the theater, my senses were heightened. Even the slightest sounds reverberated loudly and diverted my attention from the action onstage. The cautionary tale I had read just weeks earlier, of the theatergoer whose ill-timed cell phone had ruined the culmination of one of 20th Century America’s greatest plays, left me anxious and distracted. But it appeared to have had no such effect on my fellow audience members, some of whom exclaimed loudly and verbally, in shock, apparently, whenever George cursed (whether it be in English or Spanish or French). A woman tried to squeeze every last drop from her plastic water bottle, creating an inadvertent and unappreciated musical score during the exorcism scene. Sneezes cannot be helped, of course, but the courtesies usually left at the door to the theater remained in full effect: “God Bless You”s and “Thank you”s in loud whispers, while George and Martha terrorized their young guests. “You’re welcome.” “Don’t mention it.”
Despite all these audible distractions, Pam McKinnon’s production of Albee’s Woolf proved to be a highlight of my theater-going experience in Chicago. No surprise that Tracy Letts and Amy Morton give great performances as the caustic old married couple George and Martha. But the younger couple, Carrie Coons and Madison Dirks as Nick and Honey, hold their own against those veterans. Coons in particular, with her discomfited facial contortions and physical gestures, adeptly portrays a sympathetic character, one who just can’t help the fact that she’s mousy and slim-hipped and not very interesting. And the set design was incredible, perfectly capturing the living quarters of an eccentric, socially crippled college professor and his undomesticated, batshit-crazy wife.
During the final act, as I drained the few last drops of scotch from my paper cup, that little chunk of ice - which had not melted, despite my bartender’s assurance - clunked noisily against the plastic lid, and the sound was like a bomb exploding. Fortunately, Letts and Morton didn’t seem to notice. Neither did anyone in the audience. George and Martha continued tearing each other apart, tongues lashing vengefully at each other, as I gingerly placed the cup between my feet and sat, frozen, for the remainder of the play.
Play: A+
Audience: C-

-Joe Tansino