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Thursday, March 31, 2011

THE BIG BALL (game) WINNER


Hey sports fans!  After that OUTSTANDING contest we threw yesterday, we really had to hunker down and make a decision about who's tweet was the funniest!  And we did:  Kyle, you are the BIG WINNER!!!

Here's Kyle's tweet, which will be tweeted on @EricandAndy tomorrow morning!

"I would love it if @ericandandy could jump into the time vortex with @mayoremanuel and come back with pictures. #preferablyhanddrawn"

Hilarious!  So, Kyle, to claim your tix, please write to Andy & I at:

reviewsyoucaniews@gmail.com


Congratulations, Kyle!  And thanks to all our fans!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Eric & Andy's HUGE (base) BALL CONTEST!!!!!


Hey baseball fans!  You already know that Eric & Andy have the hugest balls around!  But now you can too when you play Eric & Andy's 2011 OPENING DAY TWITTER CONTEST TO WIN CUBS TICKETS!

Here's the rules...all you have to do is make a comment on this blog post with a funny tweet about Eric & Andy (less than 140 characters, please)!  If we judge yours to be the funniest tweet we've ever seen, we will not only tweet your funny tweet about us on OUR twitter page...you'll win 2 FREE TICKETS TO OPENING DAY THIS FRIDAY APRIL 1st!!!!  The game's at 1:20pm, and the Cubs will be taking on the Pirates!  WHERE ARE THE NINJAS???? IN MY PANTS!!!!

Also, follow these two heroes of baseball and theatre on Twitter at @EricandAndy !!!!

We will announce the winner at noon on Thursday!!!

Be funny!  Win tickets!  LOVE US UNCONDITIONALLY!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cripple of Inishmaan (Chicago Shakespeare/Druid)


About five or six years ago I was on the phone with my Uncle Patrick who had then just moved back to Ireland for good. It must have been Christmas or some such day. “How is Ireland” I asked. And he responded, “It’s the 51st state in the Union.” And I knew what he meant. The Irish had become more like Americans because of the Celtic Tiger which is to say disgusting fatties who live beyond their means. That is not exactly true, mostly because we are super fat here, but you get my drift. The Irish were paying outrageous sums for property and were so entrenched in a bubble it didn’t seem like a bubble to them at all. USA! USA! USA!

And overspending isn’t the only thing that was lapped up like so many foamy heads off a pint of Guinness. The Irish were also ingesting our culture, for like the last 20 years or so. I will only mention programs and films (pronounced fill-im, with two syllables) Irish people have mentioned to me, so below is not a scientific list.

The Simpsons

Good Fellas and Martin Scorsese

Reservoir Dogs and Quentin Tarantino

Desperate Housewives- Yeah. Desperate Housewives. I know it looks like it doesn’t belong but it is a huge money maker. I wish it was The Wire.

I think the first three on the list were big deal things over here, too. Good Fellas is a big one for anyone and I know plenty of people who still talk about and quote that movie. Same for the Simpsons. And Reservoir Dogs. Way cooler than quoting plays. Cool as Pinter and Shakespeare are, you don’t pull out of their zingers at a bar. And if you do, you deserve a wedgie the size of the mighty state of California, I tells ya’.

You know who else is fun to quote? Your own family, if your family is colorful. And playwright Martin McDonagh must have come from a colorful family. Everyone knows his tale by now and if you don’t then you can look up the details online but basically he had Irish parents who moved him and his brother to England so they could find work (so Irish!). Then, when he was 16 or so, his parents moved back to Galway, the best county in all of Ireland, and left his brother and Martin in England. Long story short, at a very young age, Martin McDonagh became one of the most famous and produced playwrights of the our time by writing a series of plays about rural Ireland, most set in the West, in Galway, if I’m not mistaken. Until Tuesday, I had only been to see THE PILLOWMAN, at Steppenwolf and then again at Red Twist. So, I was keen to see THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN performed by the (I heart) Galway’s Druid Theatre Company for dirt cheap. Both the influence of Scorsese and Tarantino can be seen in the piece and that is news to no one. Everyone knows this cat is totally influenced by those cats, and if you don’t you haven’t read a thing about theatre in the last 10 years.

The cripple’s name is Billy who lives with his two spinster Aunites, who own a shop. He hears of a film being produced on the Aran Islands and hustles a lift from BabbyBobby Bennett in an effort to break into show business. And he ends up going to America, leaving his Aunties and the towns folk behind. Do you really not know the story here? I knew the story and I really have no idea how; must be from several reviews, read throughout the years. More than anything, this is a play about small town life with your neighbors and gossip serving as the only form of connection or entertainment. It’s about the oppression of your ability to change because of your community and the comfort the routine that community can offer.

I had always heard that McDonagh plays made fun of or showed disdain for Irish people. And, I didn’t find that to be true. The characters and situations are crafted with care and the language is super fun. And to me, as an Irish American, with only one Aunite and one Uncle not born and breed in Ireland, totally familiar. There is a celebration of language and rhetoric going on in this play. And the timing in the lines and set ups is really rock solid. This is the work of an insider.

What surprised me the most? Is what a well-made play it is. This is what the new, hot, British bad boy has to offer the canon of plays about Ireland? This completely playing within the rules effort? I expected, from what I have read about him, more cinematic element because of what he said about his own plays being cinematic but no. There are long scenes with plenty of repetition and solidly placed exposition with a few highly organized twists so the audience doesn’t get lulled into the complacency felt during most ‘play plays’. There’s nothing truly absurd. I mean, there is a flavor of it with some Beckett-ey stuff with the Aunites, but when you compare it to actual Beckett it still seems like realism. There is no magic realism or jumping between scenes and conversations. It’s almost old school.

And so is the staging. This is a ‘lights up lights down’ thing with blackouts. When was the last time you saw an honest to god blackout, Chicago. I know. We don’t do them anymore. They're out of fashion and most of the theaters we go to or produce at need the actors to move the scenery so everyone figured might as well make it part of the thing. Put an old song in there or have the scene change while the next scene is happening. I really liked the play and the production. I was always totally engaged and with the play.

The acting was superb. Take that with a grain of salt. I mean, I do think the acting was incredible but part of that was the authenticity of the performances. I’ve seen some Irish plays around town and heard some Irish accents and, well, accents are hard. They seemed to be using their own accents, too. I mean, they didn’t put on any old school accent. The play is set in 1930’s Ireland, before outside influences really had a chance to affect the way the accent worked. Are you still awake after that boring bit about the accents? I hope so because one of the actors was in RETURN OF THE JEDI. Heard of it much? His name is Dermot Crowley and he played JohnnyPateenMike which is sort of like a Tyler Perry House of Payne version of the town gossip Irish bachelor who lives with his mammy but he is also a HILARIOUS creation and he was played HILARIOUSLY by this Dermot Crowley, who, by the way, was also in OCTOPUSSY. The Aunties were played by Ingrid Craigie and Dearbhla ‘fancy pants Grammy nominee’ Molloy and they were hilarious, too. Tadhg Murphy played the cripple fella and holy cow I may have seen him in the Abbey’s production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST a few years ago in Ireland. Or did I see that at the Gate? Anyway, he was adorable and charming and had a sweet voice and an unrelenting limp. If you can, get tickets to this. You get a free ticket to BLACKWATCH, performed by the National Theatre of Scotland. Boy oh boy, that play looks good.


A-


-Anita Deely

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Corporate Pizza (Which One is the Best?)


“Pizza is kind of like sex. It’s never really bad.” - some anonymous jag off

The person who declared the above statement has obviously never tasted good pizza nor good sex. Luckily I have had both many times, thank you very much. But since this is not a blog about sex (look for my sex blog soon though, entitled This Will Suck And Not in the Good Way) I will have to talk about the pizza.

Not all pizza is created equal. There is bad pizza out there. Really bad. The kind of pizza where if you threw it down a sewer a rat as big as a dog would bring it back, knock on your door and say, “Sir, please take this offensive food item and shove it up your ass. Now if you’ll excuse me I hear a small black child singing a song about me.” Bad pizza is an affront to all mankind and the perpetrators of this heinous crime must be held accountable.

Now, I’m not talking about frozen pizza. Like my beloved Cleveland sports teams, everyone knows frozen pizza is awful so let’s just leave them alone. And I’m also not talking about those scary, hole-in-the-wall pizza joints that look like no one has cleaned it since the Carter administration (in LA there’s this dark, dank pizza joint called Mr. Pizza that I swear is a front for the Russian mob and yet, surprisingly, they serve a good slice of pepperoni and mushroom). No, I’m talking about the nationwide chain pizzas that claim to have “delicious” pizza when in actuality what they give you is the bullshit baked in a circular form. All of them are garbage but which of them are the less painful to eat?

To quote The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, allow me to “break it down”.

Little Caesars: Everything about Little Caesar’s – the stores, the ads, the signage, the food – depresses me. The whole business needs to swallow some St. John’s Wart followed by a handful of SAM-e’s. They are just so sad. They should change their slogan to, “Hey…we have pizza…eat it…or not…I don’t care…life sucks.”

And what adds to that depression is the fact that they know their pizza blows chunks. That’s why they give you a second one. It’s like Little Caesar’s feels bad that their food utterly lacks flavor, so to compensate they’ve decided to give you even more of it for free. That is the equivalent of someone kicking you in the nuts and saying, “Hey man, sorry I kicked you on the nuts. My bad. To make up for it, how about I kick you in the nuts?”

Papa John’s: If Papa John was my dad I would go all Oedipal on his ass. He just thinks he’s so f-ing cool doesn’t he, touring the country with his below average za and touting it as “better ingredients, better pizza”. Trust me, it’s the exact same substandard ingredients creating the exact same substandard pizza as everyone else. And stop with your goddamn garlic dipping sauce. Who you think you’re foolin’? You know you’re just hyping your sauce because you know you’re pizza is taste-free. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you’re pizza needs to be dipped in anything, then it’s not a pizza worth eating. Oh and PS, your garlic dipping sauce is garbage as well, so good job on adding crap with crap – you’re in negative territory now.

Pizza Hut: The Chinese love Pizza Hut. Seriously, look it up or fly to Beijing and ask someone. Pizza Hut is the biggest food chain in the country. The country! That should say something about Pizza Hut.

It says that the Chinese don’t know dick about pizza.

Pizza Hut’s pizza is a greasy piece of cardboard topped with toppings that I’m convinced come from my daughter’s fake food play set. It sets a benchmark in all things bad about pizza. How they have achieved a pizza that is doughy and crunchy, sauceless with bad sauce, and salty without flavor is a minor miracle in technological ineptitude (notice I didn’t say “cooking ineptitude”. I wouldn’t insult cooking like that). And don’t get me started on that “stuffed crust” nonsense. No one needs that much goddamn cheese. I love cheese, but my heart doesn’t need any extra stuffed into a crust. And guess what? That same cheese in the crust is the same bad cheese that’s on top of your pizza. So now you have a double dose, a two-fer, a buck shot if you will, of terrible cheese to eat.

Domino’s: Ok, full disclosure, when I was in college I loved Domino’s. Chalk it up to being young and dumb, but I remember really enjoying it. But now, as I have been over the last few years forced to consume it at the too numerous to mention kids’ parties that I have to take my children to, I know loather Domino’s Pizza with the same hate I usually save for the music of Rascal Flats.

And now they’re trying to hype this new recipe for their pizza. And make no mistake, it is a new recipe – a recipe for an even shittier pizza. Note to the execs at Domino’s: making your tomato sauce sweeter and your pizza crust saltier does not make it better. It barely makes it different. You are like the high school lacrosse star who is forced to take Home Ec and wants nothing to do with the class so he just half--asses it for the entire semester in hopes he’ll slide by without getting noticed. Congrats Domino’s – you’re lazy and you can’t make pizza. You have corned the market on stupidity.

And on a related note, the new Domino’s commercials are total lies. Those are actors in those ads. No one is that stupid to all of the sudden be surprised that they’re in a “fake room” right next to a Domino’s kitchen. Are you telling me that they didn’t notice the big giant kitchen before they walked into the “room”? And legally Domino’s can get away with it by putting a caption underneath saying, “real people”. Notice how they didn’t say “non-actors”. They use the term “real people” because actors are technically “real people” - just barely, but they are.

So to answer the question, which ass pizza tastes less like ass? Well, that’s a tough one. They are all ass-worthy in their own unique way. But if I had a gun to my head and was forced to eat one of these brands of pizza (which is really the only way you should be eating these pizzas), I guess I would have to pick…oh hell, I don’t know. They’re all so bad. I guess if I had to I would choose Little Caesar’s. If I’m gonna eat awful pizza then I might as well eat a lot of it…and be sad at the same time.

That’s me – go big or go home.


-Kirk Pynchon

Monday, March 21, 2011

10 Women of Chicago Theatre

Every year the heat is on! We are proud to present for 2011, the 10 Women of Chicago Theatre.

These women have done plays, sang songs and entertained us. By us, we mean the men of Chicago Theatre, who have graciously allowed them all to use their spare time to be on stage, at least until we deem them responsible for raising our children!

Now we bet you are wondering, “Why aren’t you judging men, also?”

The reason is because there are so many talented male performers and directors and playwrights and designers, that there’s no way we could catalogue all that aptitude and skill. So instead, we have compiled 10 women’s names, because they seem like nice ladies who might date us.

So congratulations, women. Here are your new heroes:

Ann Sonneville - Ann’s that girl that you wish was a total bitch, because she’s so awesome you want to Source Code her boyfriend.

Emily Casey - Neither of us really know this person, but she smells like a meadow and makes you think of unicorns and waterparks.


Sarah Rose Graber - This eternally happy woman may make you mad about your own depression, but her positivity is only outweighed by the sheer number of plays she does.



Katie McLean Hainsworth - I put Katie in that category of women who would totally be cool with dressing in a Princess Leia bikini for her man.Kate Harris - Kate is that 42 year old hussy you all wish you were. She steals shows and gets naked sometimes and still gets parts written for 27 year olds.
Nikki Klix - Not only is Nikki about as sweet as a bucket of pie, she also sings and acts and plays an orchestra’s worth of instruments. Think about that the next time Megan Fox gets cast in something.
Lindsey Barlag - Ever heard of a little play called “CHERRYWOOD”?! She was the broad in the bathroom. Stop fronting on Lindsey Barlag, ladies.

Greta Honold - Greta is an anagram of great. Greta was great at getting us this awesome party at Chicago Shakespeare and she’s really attractive for a young, thin, blonde girl with everything going for them.

Lily Mojekwu - Lily is gorgeous and can hop on stage and absolutely destroy you. And she is so shy in real life, which is adorable. If anyone messes with her, we’ll kill them dead.

Madeline Long- Maddy Long is bringin' it, y'all! With her kitten face and cool French accent, she is incomparable among kittenfaced French chicks.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why Andy and Eric are Heroes (Editorial)




The other day I was checking my spam folder and between ‘V1agraCialis Sale’ and ‘Remove Unsightly Weight’, I found ‘Eric and Andy’. After the other two e-mails provided nothing of interest I opened the Viagra e-mail and found a request to write a testimonial for ‘Eric and Andy’.

I suggested using the same testimonial I had written for the NSA/CSS or the verbiage from the restraining order, but they wanted something new, and less than 350 words.

So, where to start? I first met Andy in the process of writing the seminal piece of western-ghost-epic-coming-of-age-musical-theatre-about-magic-talismans-and-gambling-and-love-triangles-and-circus-freaks-like-august-osage-county-without-the-attic: THE TRUE BALLAD OF FALL’S BLESSINGS for Strawdog Theatre Company back in ought- four or so. Andy played Bertrand, the Boy Who’d Eat Anything, and his plot line was to live the happy ending version of Hamlet, kill his father, and take his rightful place beside his mother, the bearded-lady, and rule incestuously as the ’King of the Freaks’. (no. really.)


More recently, I have found myself to be the lucky director of THEATRE WARS, a game show at Strawdog that pits theatre company against theatre company for bragging rights, and ad space. THEATRE WARS has an extremely energetic and talented group of collaborators, amazing guests, and Andy, at the center as the host, sucking all of the energy, talent and amazement from it like The Black Hole (the 1979 Movie, not the make-believe science thing).


As for Eric. I met Eric during Strawdog’s production of RED NOSES, I think he was playing someone’s uncle, maybe his own, and he seems like such a good man, but that probably says more about his acting skills than his personality. Whenever I think of Eric Roach, his kindness, generosity of spirit, and talent, I am reminded of the age old Chicago Theatre Question: Why is Joe Janes still working with Don Hall? Eric. Joe. Wise Up! I will say this about Eric, I am certain he is smart enough not to let Andy hold the baby, or his child.


So, Eric and Andy: They are Jokers, Jesters, Tricksters, and Fools, and in all the best ways. In a community that can get pretty damned caught up in its own self-importance, it’s nice to have a fool or two around. So read what is posted here with a grain of salt, and your other cheek pre-turned. And if someone could get back to me on the whole ‘Joe Janes’ thing I’d appreciate it.


-Hank Boland

Thursday, March 17, 2011

YOU TOTALLY,LIKE, NEED TO LISTEN TO THIS SONG!!!!!!

By Britt Pearson


O.M. GAWD u guys!!!! M’kay, so I don’t need to tell you that it’s like tuff being a teen girl. I mean, my Momz like “Hey don’t like have fun”, and I’m all like “MOM!!!” It’s rough! I mean ,like, I know they bought me a car and stuff, but like, woah on the errands. Grammpie can wait on his stupid diabetes meds, I JUST WANT TO GO TO THE MALL!!!! I mean ,like, Dad put a whole bunch of insulin in the attic last summer. DUH! Why does Grammpie need insulin? Is he cold? O.M. GAWD! So ,you like, know it sucks being all stressed about boys and zits and school and getting old and getting fat and that stupid bitch Anna Wentworth who thinks she’s like all that and a Gucci handbag who was TOTALLY making out with some guy who I think Is in college but it doesn’t matter because she’s totally faking how cool she is and ,that’s like, not cool, ‘cause if your cool than you shouldn’t have to try so hard, and college guys ,are like, gross except for Hunter Daniels…HE’S SO HOT!!!!...and I totally hate her. SO, like I was flippin’ threw the YouTube and I totally found someone who TOTALLY GETS WHAT I’M ABOUT!!!Her name is ,like, Rebecca Black, and she totally knows what I like…FRIDAY!!!! O.M. GAWD I LOVE FRIDAY!!!!! Firstly, like, we do the same things! We both ,like, wake up and eat cereal!!! I only eat Total because I can’t eat sugar because sugar makes you fat I’m a future model SOOOOOOOOO, but, it’s like, WE DO THE SAME THINGS!!!!! So we both get up and maybe take the bus to school because I ,like, will sometimes get a ride with my friends to school, but I can’t drive because my Momz said I had to choose between that and ,like, cheerleading, and I was like, “MOM”! I mean this song is about hanging with the gals and partyin’ and like having fun, which I am totally about because I’m all like “Girls, okay, like, seriously, we need to party and have fun” and my girls are like “TOTALLY!!!!” So that is what this song ,like, means and stuff. So you should like listen to it because if you don’t…it’s sad! Enjoy guys and gals!!! Until it’s later!!!! XOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Filthy Hunt (Right Brain Project)


In theater, like anything else, first impressions go a long way. I have never seen a Right Brain Project production, but I know they have worked with talented people in the past. In “My Filthy Hunt,” written by Philip Stokes, and directed by Nathan Robbel, this is no exception. The show features Erin Orr, Bries Vannon, Emma Peterson, and Greg Wenz.

The Right Brain performs out of a black box studio on the 4th floor of an old industrial building on Irving Park and Ravenswood. The Mammals also occupy this space, so I was expecting low hanging pipes, makeshift bathrooms, and underground, challenging theater. I was right on most accounts.

Upon entering, I was directed into the 80 year old one person elevator and told to take myself to the 4th floor. If you are doing a show called “My Filthy Hunt,” that’s a good way to set the mood: place your audience in harm’s way right from the get-go.

Upon entering their space I was surprised and pleased with the set up. A small space, they have made in hospitable and interesting. They have comfortable seating, art hanging from the walls and ceiling, and $2 PBR and wine don’t hurt, either.

The space itself is a shoebox, but that is what an actor craves: no bells and whistles, just human beings telling stories, and that is what “My Filthy Hunt” is. It is the story of 4 very different, flawed, and haunted people, all connected to one man, Marvin (who never appears onstage), who picks them up at their lowest points, and touches them in a profound way.

The actors play multiple characters as they speak of their pasts and what horrors and painful episodes they’ve experienced. Moving from nasty childhood bullies, to violent or absent parents, to suburban busybodies, the actors do a great job of creating the backdrop for each character’s life story. Their only saving grace is Marvin’s kindness and honesty, but when a turn of events brings the 4 together, they are forced to deal with each other and themselves, and what has happened to the man they care about most.

This was the kind of theater I dig because it was unconventional, challenging for the performer and audience, and fast. The performance came in under an hour, and asked the actors to push themselves emotionally and physically. Pushing each other’s buttons, tossing each other into walls, and screaming at each other ( which I usually hate, but that’s because most of the time there’s nothing behind it) turned to embraces, affection and moments of encouragement.

I want to see theater that reaches me, but doesn’t try to trick me. In a difficult script, with little more than a coat rack onstage, there leaves little to hide behind. RBP has done a good job in creating a production that lets the actor be honest, and doesn’t placate the audience.

If you like off-beat, challenging theater, check out this show.

A.

Johnny Mo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The 13th of Paris (Livewire Theatre)


Please forgive me for interrupting your web-browsing, but I couldn’t help but wonder which play you were planning on seeing this weekend.

Please forgive me for speaking so boldly, but I think there is very little in this world more wonderful than a theatre patron hunched over a keyboard with a furrowed brow.

I thought, most likely, that you are purchasing a ticket to Wicked even though you have seen it several times. Wicked will be waiting to embrace you next Friday at 8pm. It will be warm, large, and loud. You will breathe deep and tell Wicked you have returned; you could not stay away. Wicked will say that you did not need to buy a ticket and come back. There are plenty of people in its vast auditorium to keep it company. But you will not listen. And Wicked will smile because Wicked knew you could not stay away; Wicked will be happy. You will cry. You will hum along. You will buy an original cast album at retail.

As you walk through the parking deck in a post-show daze, you will wonder why the Ozdust Ballroom didn’t sparkle like it did last time. Was Elphaba’s skin a little duller than it used to be? Did the flying monkeys not jump as high? Did they use non-Equity actors?

As you ponder these questions, you jump at the sound of a BMW squealing ‘round the corner, headlights and horn blaring, and realize you are alone. The love you felt was empty. Wicked only wanted one thing from you and you let it take it, you hussy. It was just so…so…predictable. You feel cheap, wounded. Dropping your keys, you lunge towards the purple-level elevator and press DOWN.

Emerging from the glass doors of the deck, the sting of incandescent light threatens your eyes with pin-pricks of orange mercury. Shielding your face and running east down Randolph, you stumble into the doors of the Puma store and pound for help. They’ve only just closed, though, and a pleather-clad twentysomething sneers at you as he extricates the store lights with a snap of phosphorescence.

You’re cold, now. Winds from the lake buffet your head and sneak down the collar of your shirt, rumbling through the poly-cotton tent. Strangers’ eyes sweep your sorry limbs, and look away. Still stumbling, you trip at the corner of Wabash and Lake, catching a mouthful of oil-drenched pavement. Reeling, you curse your own sorry lot and wait for the reprieve from this cruel world.

The L rumbles overhead and a shower of sparks dancing down the steel girders briefly illuminates a flapping corner of paper. Dragging yourself into the gutter, you peal back the triangle to reveal a squared, white leaf of gently penned script. Pulling the letter toward your uncertain eyes—catching the intoxicating aroma of sandalwood, vanilla, tea-tree, lemongrass, oak, and applesauce—you read:

Please forgive me for interrupting you, but I couldn’t help but wonder what you’re doing down here.

Forgive me for speaking so boldly, but there is very little in this world that is more wonderful than a theatre patron sprawled in a gutter.

I thought, most likely, that you came from a show that loved you very much. I hope it was a show full of hope. Did it stand with you on a balcony and share a sunrise? Were you asked to consider whether or not your fears could hijack an honest moment of bliss? Or if those same fears could be drowned for a bit with the water of an orange can?

I hope the show you saw asked you to believe that a gentle phantasm can firmly give us strength and insight to deal with the delusions we pollute our minds with. I hope the show you saw taught you to enjoy quiet moments. I hope it made you bold at cafes. I hope it taught you that pants are important. I hope it had Rob McLean in it.

So, please forgive me for interrupting you, but you see there is very little in this world that is more wonderful than a theatre patron sprawled in a gutter. If you saw a show that loved you like that…it must have been Wicked! Have you seen that thing?! Man, that thing is awesome!

A gentle pulse of blue decorates the underside of the L tracks as a mustached policeman stoops over and asks if you’re ok.

Yes, you say. Yes.

You stand. You wipe off your face, and head north.

The 13th of Paris: A-


-John Taflan

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Man Who Turned Into A Stick – Geopolis Theater Company



Usually in plays with titles like “The Man Who Turned Into a Stick,” I expect it’s going to be a Jackie Chan kung fu epic with an old beardy master who trains a stupid jerky guy to find himself through fighting, using a “stick” metaphor to explain to the guy how he should be when he fights, and then the beardy master gets kidnapped and the now enlightened guy has to rescue him and stuff.

But no, the guy in this play actually turns into a stick. Like, a twig.

“The Man Who Turned Into A Stick” from Geopolis Theater Company is a delightful romp (directed by Japanese-ish guy Eric Turner) through some one act plays written by this Japanese guy in the sixties (Kobo Abe). The other plays are called “Suitcase” (where a guy turns into a suitcase), “The Cliff of Time” (where a guy turns into a crappy prizefighter) and the titular “The Man Who Turned Into a Stick” (where a guy turns into a stick). All of the guys are played by one guy, which makes it seems like all the plays are supposed to go together or something.

The place where the plays are performed is totally not a theater. It’s a Japanese Cultural Center. By which I mean it’s a dojo.

So, I got really, REALLY excited when I had to take my shoes off and walk across the room-sized mat to get upstairs to where the play was being performed. I was really thinking I was going to be walking into a real-live Tekken when I emerged from the stairway, but I was sorely mistaken. There were just some people in crazy costumes standing still and staring at nothing. But THEN I thought maybe they’re just getting focused to fight and stuff..?

Wrong. No fighting in this/these play(s). The first one (“Suitcase”) is about this lady (Miona Harris) whose husband’s at work or whatever and has this person-shaped suitcase (Chris Sanderson) that makes goofy noises while he’s gone. The lady’s friend comes over (Marissa Cowsill) and tries to jimmy it/him open. Apparently it contains the voices of the lady’s husband’s ancestors, who were all apparently radio announcers because all the noises it/he makes sound like radio commercials. I totally understood it.

So in the next one (“The Cliff of Time”) the suitcase guy turns into an actual guy and everybody else in the cast ties really long strips of fabric to him. Accompanied by some ominous taiko drums, the cast members all stood with the other ends of the fabric in the corners of the playing space. He was like the hub of a wheel! A hub that is a boxer training rigorously for a fight, that is! This part really showed off the abdominal muscles and skinniness of Chris Sanderson, also some of his acting as it was a one man gig. I wish I hadn’t just seen “The Fighter,” because Chris totally could have been Christian Bale or any other boxer in that.

Finally, the big stick-man one (“The Man Who Turned Into a Stick”). A guy dies and turns into a stick and goes to hell.

For presumably not having any money as most small theatre companies don’t, I thought this was a really good set of plays. It was really transcendent and things and might have something to do with the trials of contemporary people struggling with individuality in a contemporary society. But I don’t know. All the acting was really good, especially Sanderson. His performance was reminiscent of Tyler Durden plus Twyla Tharp with all his moving around and being different things and people. Mostly Tyler Durden because of his washboard abs.

Also notable was Marissa Cowsill, who looked/was like this girl in Inuyasha or one of those adult swim anime cartoons. Her hair was red and her eyes were huge, a credit to her preparation.

The rest of the cast (Jon Beal, Miona Harris and Josh Hoover) really did a good job moving like people are supposed to move in these stylized kind of plays. They definitely reminded me of people in Japan.

So go check this play out. I might go again because it got my gusto up to just roll around on that mat and pretend I’m Ryu from Street Fighter for a while. SHORYUKEN!

-Michael Peters

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Summer Spring Roll Recipe for Your Family! (Recipe)


The winter will last as long as it likes, and it’s looking like that is way too long this year. While we can’t change the weather, we can at least pretend it’s nice out by eating food that is reminiscent of those summer days we miss. A great, fairly easy, and fairly inexpensive possibility is Vietnamese spring rolls. They can make delightful appetizers or wonderful light meals.

To make Vietnamese spring rolls, you will need:

· A package of rice paper wrappers (thin round sheets made of rice)

· A package of rice vermicelli noodles (sometimes labeled as “rice sticks”, these are very thin rice noodles)

· Fresh cilantro (You’ll need a couple of sprigs per roll)

· ½ pound of medium cooked, peeled, and de-veined shrimp, tails removed (2-3 shrimp per roll)

· Boston, green leaf or romaine lettuce

· Fresh bean sprouts (you’ll need 3-4 sprouts per roll)

Making spring rolls is something that takes a little patience to learn. Once you get the feel for it, you will be able to make them faster and faster. The first several, however, will take time. Don’t be surprised if you end up with a pile of torn wrappers your first few times making them. I went through plenty of wrappers when I first learned, and even now I tear a few.

First, get some water boiling in one medium pot, and some water warming in another medium pot. Add the rice noodles to the boiling water and cook until soft. This won’t take long. Drain, rinse with cool water in a colander, and set aside in a bowl, covering it with plastic wrap so the noodles don’t dry out.

The water that is warming will be used to soften the rice paper one by one as you make the rolls, which will be explained in more detail later.

Spring roll production setup:

Pick a table or countertop area where you have some room to work.

Place the cilantro, shrimp, lettuce, and bean sprouts near you so you can easily add them to the roll you are making. Place the bowl with the cooked noodles nearby as well.

Put a large plate in front of you and place a damp paper towel on it- this will be your plate on which to make the rolls.

Place the container or plate, lined with damp paper towels that will be where you put finished rolls in a place within reach from your production plate. Have another damp paper towel handy to keep the finished rolls covered so they don’t dry out.

Place some trivets or potholders on your counter or table and place a large rectangular Pyrex, or other sort of dish that can withstand the warm water without cracking, on the trivets. Pour some of the warm water in the dish so it is about 1- 1 ½” deep. Add more water to the pot & continue to keep warming it on the stove so you can add new warm water as the water in the dish cools without having to wait. Over the course of making spring rolls, you will probably pour cooled water out from your dish and add new warm water several times, as warm water works best to soften the roll wrappers.

Okay, now you are set up and finally ready to make your first spring roll. You will make the spring rolls start to finish, one at a time.

First, take a spring roll wrapper and slide it into the Pyrex dish of warm water. It will become softer and more pliable. The trick is to soften it, but not to the point that it will tear too easily. You will develop a feel for this as you make more and more rolls. It generally takes under a minute.

When it is softened, lay the wrapper flat on the damp paper towel on your preparation plate. Slightly to the left of the middle, place two or three shrimp in a column.

On top of the shrimp place about a tablespoon of noodles.

On top of the noodles place a couple of small cilantro sprigs.

On top of the cilantro sprigs place a couple of bean sprouts

On top of the bean sprouts place a piece of lettuce leaf (no spine) big enough to cover the pile of components you have made.

Fold the top of the wrapper down, the bottom up, and then roll the wrapper to the right, like you are wrapping a burrito or similar thing. The trick is to wrap it snuggly, but not to rip the wrapper.

If the wrapper didn’t rip (or at least not badly- a small tear is ok), then place it on your finished plate with a damp paper towel over it and start the next one.

If the wrapper did tear, no big deal- just salvage the components and toss the wrapper and start over again.

Repeat this process until you have as many rolls as you would like to make. I usually make two per person.

The order of the components doesn’t really matter, other than that the rolls tend to be prettier if the shrimp show through from one side and the lettuce from the other, which is why I put the shrimp on first and the lettuce on last. Really though, it will taste the same in any order.

A good way to conserve on cost when making these is to cut the shrimp in half lengthwise and only placing 3 halves in the roll (outside of the shrimp down so it looks nicer). This way your shrimp will go twice as far.

The rolls can be made ahead of time as long as they are kept refrigerated in a Tupperware container. (Again, lined with damp paper towels and covered with damp paper towels.) It is okay for finished rolls to be touching each other.

A popular sauce to serve with the rolls can be made by combining:

¼ cup coconut milk (Chaokoh is a great brand)

½ cup hoisin sauce (Kikkoman or Koon Chun Brand, NOT Dynasty Brand)

¼ cup water

Combine the above ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with spring rolls. The sauce can be garnished with chopped peanuts.

I hope you enjoy this yummy and healthy taste of summer!


- Kristin Enkvetchakul

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Master and Margarita (Strawdog Theatre Company)


Editor's Note:  This is a conversation between Eric Roach and Simon Ambrose Roachinez "Tha Muthafuckin' Third".  Please be aware that Simon is an unborn fetus that did attend The Master and Margarita with his father, Eric, last night.

Eric
Hi Simon!

Simon
S'up, you white muthafucka!

Eric
Simon, please call me dad.

Simon
Aiight, as long as you call me The Best In The Biz, cracka.

Eric
Ok.  So, what did you think of The Master and Margarita last night?

Simon
Dad, what you think I thought, yo?  I'm all up in mom's belly, son!  I could tell there was some flashin' lights and shit, and people be laughin' at some weird ass devil jokes.  White people be crazy, you know what I'm sayin'?

Eric
I sure do know what you are saying!  Well, The Master and Margarita was a novel originally written by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov over a period of 12 years.  He wrote it in 1928, then burned it in 1930, started it again in 1931, and kept on writing new drafts of it up until his death in 1940.  Many critics feel the book is one of the best novels of the 20th Century, and one of the foremost Soviet satires.

Simon
Man, the Soviets really love their satires, pop!  Shit was BALLIN', yo!

Eric
It certainly was balling, my boy!  Anyway, Strawdog Theatre just opened their production of the Edward Kemp adaptation of the novel, directed by longtime Chicago storefront stalwart Louis Contey.

Simon
Contey's is that bomb-ass shit that always be poppin', y'all.

Eric
Contey's direction is top-notch, as the staging was amazingly entertaining.  Keeping such a large cast moving and shaking for 2 hours and 15 minutes is a huge challenge, but he was more than up to the task.

Simon
Especially when they all be doin' such a freaky script that don't make NO sense, yo!

Eric
Doesn't make any sense, Simon.  But, yes, it don't make no sense.  But that's okay when you have such a great cross-section of incredible Chicago actors on stage at the same time!  Let's start with the titular couple, shall we?  Dennis Grimes is channelling a young Jeff Daniels in his rock-solid portrayal of The Master, the cowardly playwright at the center of the piece.

Simon
And, dad?  I'd like to break off a piece of that Justine Turner!  WHAAAAAT?  You want some fries with that shake, gurl?

Eric
Yes, Miss Turner is lovely and enchanting as Margarita, the passionate woman who falls for The Master and his subversive play about Pontius Pilate and Jesus.

Simon
The first half of this play was all about Russian bureaucracy, and how the state decided what the citizenry would be allowed to believe as the truth, right, dad?

Eric
HELL YEAH, SON!

Simon
You know I'm the shit, y'all.

Eric
Soon, the play is populated with the otherworldly Professor Woland and his band of nasties.  Woland is played by none other than Tom Hickey, who simply can't contain himself.  Tom really chews up the scenery in this one, giving the devil his due.

Simon
And then there's your homie Anderson Lawfer, playing like a retarded Wookie or something.

Eric
Andy played Behemoth, Woland's talking cat.  And does it with panache!  Only Anderson Lawfer could get into a dirty mascot costume and make you believe in a psychotic cat.  He also pulls off the best line of the show, which brilliantly breaks the fourth wall and serves the context at the same time!

Simon
THIS PLAY BE ALL SMART AND SHIT!

Eric
Oh yes.  This is probably one of the smartest plays I've seen in quite a while, and while that can be the kiss of death these days - Larry the Cable Guy DOES have a show on The History Channel, you know - this show really provides the entertainment value.  It clips along, and really brings the laughs!  And you'll still be thinking about it long after it's over!

Simon
Dad!  Don't forget so many other great actors out there like Christy Arington, Anita Deely, Loretta Rezos, Dan Granata, and Sarah Goeden!  You trippin' if you forgettin' them!

Eric
You are so right Simon!  I would be tripping to forget about those wonderful performances.

Simon
Basically, pops, this show is a really fine and funny allegory about how politics and logic cannot destroy 2000 years of subconscious belief.  It also can be taken as a fine slapsticky farce and as a showcase for wonderful acting.  Really, Strawdog is bringing that fucking flavor to your EAR, son!

Eric
I really couldn't have said it better myself, Simon!  Go see a really weirdo play, America!

Simon
PEACE, NIPPLE GREASE!

The Master and Margarita - A

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer, and introducing Simon Ambrose Roachinez "Tha Muthafuckin' Third"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sketchbook Reverb (Collaboraction)


You ever been to the Flat Iron Building? It used to be a symbol of prosperity in Chicago and a structural landmark, created by an architectural visionary.
Now it is a building for dirty hippies to make Art out of pubes and scream in their communal bathrooms.
Collaboraction has set up shop in this place, and built what seems to be a neat little theater! It isn't finished yet, and I always assumed that Collaboraction had more money than this place seems to be, but the inside theater is neat.
It has the feeling of a weird children's show set, because there aren't any chairs, just levels for everyone to sit on and enjoy the show!

AND ENJOY THE SHOW I DID!!

You know sometimes when you see something and you can feel the greatness. Like it's just on the edge of becoming a reality, and for some reason or another, it doesn't. Sort of like Chris Kattan. You just knew he was gonna have David Spade's career and what happened? I like to think it was because he fell in love with sound design or something, but it's probably just because he fucked his boss' son.

This show is a collection of Sketchbook's greatest hits! Now I know we've all been in Sketchbook before and more often than not, our pieces weren't as great as we wished they were, so Collaboraction has taken the time to pick out the best 6 or 9 and put the same ensemble of 9 actors in all the sketches.

This show is really a celebration of the writers and their pieces, but in this context, these actors are really the reason to see it.

HB Ward has a sketch where he talks to his dead wife about all the anal sex cheating he did when she was alive, and it is sincerely very hilarious.

Dan Stearns and Alice Wedoff are stuck in the ocean for some reason in Deep Blue Sea and effectively create a sense of confusion and panic. Man, they are these two divers that are down in the ocean someplace, kind of like the Abyss, and then they have to leave one of them because dummy forgot to check his air meter thing. Ugh. One of my nightmares y'all!

But let's talk about the best scene in this whole damn thing. It is called The Lurker Radio Hour, and it features James Anthony Zoccoli and Amy Speckien. It's a great example of how to write a short 9 minutes piece because it throws you in, and over the course of the thing, releases enough information without bogging you down with all sorts of other non-sense like time and place and whatever. You get it all from the performances and junk or whatever. It's about this radio host and his foley artist on the day of his wife leaving him for his former foley artist.

But you know what? Sometimes your wife is a bitch and it's a blessing in disguise.

I had a little bit of an issue with the transitions, because they were very functional, but there's no art to them. Sometimes I like to see people moving shit around with a little grace or style, ya know gang?

All in all, I say this is a great date pick and you will definitely get laid because of it. Maybe only because the bathrooms are so gross there, that the girl will have to come back to your house just to pee, and then you can pounce on her like a urinating LION!

A

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach