Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eric & Andy LIVE at the Jeff Awards!!!


Eric Roach and Anderson Lawfer, curators and founders of the insider Chicago Theatre blog Reviews You Can Iews! and writers for TheatreInChicago, will be hosting a “Red Carpet” style event from the Park West Theater at the 38th annual Joseph Jefferson Awards on June 6th, 2011 that will be streamed live and can be seen at TheatreInChicago.com.

The production will be handled by Brad Little and Ben Fuchsen from Oracle Theatre Productions who have live streamed other theatrical events in Chicago including a recent performance of Woyzeck from the Oracle Theatre. Mike Ooi will be directing the night’s festivities with the help of guest liason David Seeber.

With their irreverent blend of comedy and knowledge of the theatre world in Chicago, Eric & Andy, two working actors and sometimes critics, will be interviewing their peers and colleagues in a 1 hour interview special for the first time ever.

Never before has the Jeff Awards allowed coverage of this scope, as people at home will be able to tune in for free and watch the red carpet rituals in a meet-and-greet hour of the city’s most prestigious awards for the Theatre Arts.

Coverage will begin at 6:00pm from inside the fabulous Park West Theater and last for a non-stop action filled 60 minutes that will include interviews of presenters, nominees, theatre personalities and heavyweights.

You will have to tune in to see what happens, but be sure it will be exciting and add a level of distinction to these already revered awards!

Just tune in for free here at TheatreInChicago.com on June 6 at 6:00pm for all of the information and highlights as it will be live streamed and also available to watch afterwards.

The 38th Anniversary Non-Equity Jeff Awards Ceremony will be held on Monday, June 6, 2011, at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage, Chicago, IL. Doors open for a cash bar at 6:00pm., with a light buffet at 6:30pm., and the presentation ceremony at 7:30pm. Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 at the door. The ceremony will honor excellence in Chicago theatres not under a union contract for productions that opened between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011. A complete list of this year’s nominations can be found here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Big Love (Chicago Fusion Theatre) (Audience Review)

Upon entering the Royal George Theatre’s third-floor studio space, Chicago Fusion Theatre’s mostly non-Equity audience expertly contained its disappointment at the realization that the show it was attending would not, in fact, be an adaptation of the Bill Paxton multi-wife star vehicle, Big Love. That bold and impetuous effervescence was just one of many surprising treats gifted last Thursday at the mass’s five billionth appearance: Big Love.

Founded between 550 and 250 BC, audience has long upheld a proud tradition of listening to what is being said, occasionally reacting, and ultimately applauding upon completion of a given work. While only mildly distracted by cell phone usage and some late-game restroom sprinting, audienceBigLove grounded its assemblage in an honest enthusiasm that has long been the trademark of the Chicago style (prior digressions into the oft-imitated and experimental “non-appreciative” New York approach have never been entirely successful for the collective).

As expected, the dimming of the house lights roused audienceBigLove into an attentive state. With eyes and hearts taking in exposition after plot point after inciting incident, audienceBigLove proved how truly present it was (as always, clear boundaries were established with a lack of talking during those first, important moments). I must say, though: I feel (and pray) that audience is reaching the end of its love affair with pre and initial show respect. I would love to see audience taking some risks the next time out. AudienceBigLove proved itself to be memorable and supportive, but a few grunts and cat-calls may help audience reach new pinnacles of excellence in the craft (as seen during the golden age of Vaudeville/vegetable flinging).

All personal preference aside, audienceBigLove brought its biggest grins and most boisterous laughs to play with, last weekend. During a particularly exhilarating sequence, audienceBigLove, starting first with some scattered chortles, built a magnificent cascade of laughs around an especially arresting bout of tomato squeezing. Fresh varietals of joy were poured out during a bathtub-bound serenade as well. Moments like that really remind you why you go to the audience.

It’s comforting to know that after hundreds of tens of decades, audience still knows how to appreciate one heck of a show.

AudienceBigLove: A-

-John Taflan

Murder for 2- A Killer Musical (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre)

You ever heard of this fella, Alan Schmuckler? Apparently he is the hottest shit in town. Everybody talks about him like he is the musical theatre equivalent to say... Joe Dempsey or sweet Jon Steinhagen.

In fact, they put on the press release something to the effect of, "Alan Schmuckler, creator of Musical Theatre"...

Anyway, this Alan Schmuckler character is the real deal. You can tell because he can play piano and sing at the same time. He can play piano, sing AND stay in character the whole time!

Did you ever hear of "Ten Little Indians"? It's sort of this high brow Agatha Christie style murder mystery where there has been a murder at a house and a detective comes over and has to figure out who the killer is. The suspects are usually people who were close to the victim but didn't like him (it's always a him).

I will give you an example.

Pembroke Jameson is a wealthy nightclub owner and mystery novelist who happens to be writing his final opus about a wealthy nightclub owner and novelist who is murdered by someone he is close to at his home at his surprise birthday party. When the detective arrives, his closest friends stand in complete disinterest at his filthy bullet ridden body on the floor before them.

There is the maid, a tramp named Tina who once dated Jameson's old high school teacher, but broke it off when Jameson took everything in a bank foreclosure. The wife, an aging starlet known around Hollywood for her engaging and elegant blowjob style. The nephew, next in line for the family business. A dirty hobo wanderer that happens to be staying with the family performing menial tasks like cleaning the weapon collection. A visiting baseball player/state senator that was holding an important secret about something. And a trained killer that is well known around the world for murdering important business men.

Which of these people is holding the secret to this unspeakable crime!?

So this is the sort of plot line that you find with these sorts of things. Let me tell you what makes this piece different.

There are only 2 actors, and it is a musical.

This dude Alan Schmuckler plays the detective through the whole thing, so... that's not super interesting, but he is really really really good at it. He wears this jacket and has this songbird voice and this sweet curly hair and he is just...oh man, I am shivering right now just thinking about him.

All the other characters are played by this bro from New York called Joe Kinosian. From what I can tell, Kinosian is about 7 feet tall and about 85 pounds. He looks sort of like the REALLY gay guy from "Will and Grace", Not the sort of gay guy, or the lady.
He sort of sounds like him too. Come to think of it, IS he the really gay guy from "Will and Grace"?
Whatever, no use worrying about it now.

Anyway, this man Kinosian plays all these characters and plays piano and has a good singing voice, but what makes him so special, is that he also wrote the music for the show. There's something about talent like that that you can not describe. Watching this dude run around and do these voices and sing and dance and have just fucking perfect comic timing, there's just no way to say what it is. Let's make up a word with Latin roots. Beneanthrodominator. That means the best master man.

Sure, the show is maybe 10 minutes too long. Sure, there isn't any real message. It's at Navy Pier, so nobody there really cares, they just want a few laughs and a few pretty songs and a dark theater to maybe get a nap in after a long day in the 3D maze or the dinner cruise on the Majestic.

I wish there was a way to get more actors to go out to Chicago Shakes because it is so fucking nice. It is big and clean and fancy and most of us feel totally out of place the minute you walk to the ticket window because there are all these old ladies in slacks, but if you think about it, we are all pretty uncomfortable in every aspect of our lives, so take a chance.

Go and see this play. You will have a fun time and maybe pick up a few pointers about how to be more likable!!


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Friday, May 20, 2011

Slaughter City (Jackalope Theatre)

"Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I am the most judgment-free human being on the earth. However, it has many interpretations but for me this evening. If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I am not a piece of meat."

-Lady Gaga

Like many of you, I’ve spent the better part of the 2010-2011 season combing my way through Target trying to find Lady Gaga’s new line of meat clothing. Shortly after the VMAs, I sniffed out rumors of the new line that led me from Macy’s to Banana Republic to the Cheesecake Factory. But the hunt always proved fruitless, and I’ve had to make do with Mossimo shirts stained with Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce. I could not fathom what was delaying the launch of this sizzling new line.

Naomi Wallace’s Slaughter City, directed by Kaiser Ahmed and produced by Jackalope Theatre in the Raven Theatre’s West Stage, seeks to answer that burning question, “Where are my porterhouse PJs? And what does it take to get them?” We’ve known for some time that a line of meat clothing would have to be off-the-rack to be profitable, and Slaughter City offers us a glimpse into what the hell is clogging up the bacon bikini pipeline. It seems some people aren’t treated well by other people, and something needs to be done about it. “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones,” said Lady Gaga. And apparently Naomi Wallace was listening, even though Slaughter City and Madonna’s Express Yourself came first.

The design elements are really strong – it took me a while to figure out that I was not in the secret meat sweatshop where Lady Gaga’s emperor’s clothes are made. At first glance, I thought that Eric and Andy had arranged a surprise Make-A-Wish party for me, but alas, it was an actual play, with acting and everything. The play centers on a group of delicious meatpackers (Kristin Anderson, Ryan Heindl, and Katherine Swan) and their malfeasant managers (Warren Feagins and John Milewski) and what happens when an ornery organ grinder and his mysterious monkey (Jack McCabe and AJ Ware) make a mess, leaving Irish Mary Poppins (Anne Sears) to clean it up, or at least explain it to us.

There were some tense, naughty scenes that made me think about tauntauns differently. I enjoyed the visceral use of the, well, viscera. And while the first act has chunks of gristle, the second act sizzles like fajitas. The more I watched, the more I became aware that Lady Gaga’s statements are utter tripe – that she IS a piece of meat to someone else, her body of work being cut up like a carcass and packaged into movable units, just like the rest of us. But what kind of accuracy can you expect from someone who judges themselves to be “the most judgment-free human being on the earth”? Or from a guy who desperately wanted a pair of sirloin slacks?

Ultimately, I have decided to abandon my search for Lady Gaga’s line of meat clothing. The near-perfect combo meal of American consumerism and pop activism had lost its lockjaw grip on me, thanks to the timely dissection made by the fine people of Jackalope Theatre Company. Thank Gaga her meat dress isn’t 4G and Flash-ready, or I’d be camped out at Best Buy, telling myself that factory workers don’t exist, or are at least un-American.

I’d like to thank the Saints for smiling at me demurely, and for showering me with Bacon Bits and glitter as I left the theatre.


-Mike Ooi

Monday, May 16, 2011

Easy Six (Factory Theatre)

The Factory Theatre is BACK with another EXTREME story of snowboarders taking the ULTIMATE trip to the UTTERMOST top of K2 when the most INTENSE avalanche ever AMBUSCADES them in a dark cave!

These 5 heroes led by the EFFULGENT Mickey Bocks (Songbird: Manny Tamayo) have to BATTLE for survival at all costs! As munitions expert Kenny (a RESPLENDENT Anthony Tournis) struggles to BLAST their way out of the white ABYSS, David ( Scott Pasko in his most UNCONTEMPTIBLE role to date) has to face his inner demons stemming from the loss of his little BROTHER to BREAST cancer.

The oxygen is BARREN. Life has become a TORMENTED SUCCUBUS! Mickey faces a series of hallucinations where he and his INAMORATA (a MESMERIC Allison Cain) tackle their past through a series of HYPERBOLIC masked dance scenes.

As Mickey and David slowly lose their minds, Lee (the PHYSICAL MASTERMIND Paul Metreyeon) hides his SOUL CLAWING EDEMA from the group, making a note wherein it tells the rest of the men how to eat his DISEASED body.

The group seems to have little HOPE. What can save them from this DISCONSOLATENESS?

A single PALADIN emerges in the form of Gary Thain (a luxurious Esteban Cruz) who carries his HEAVING friends to safety by GENTLY CARESSING the ice, which had never met a BLACK GAY GUY before either.

When they return to the lodge, life has kept moving, leaving the boys with new OUTRAGEOUS challenges to face. Returning from an event like that is hard.

They begin to drink away their DESPAIR. Life has become UNREASONABLE and CALLOUS.

Mickey finally sees a silver lining in the heart of Pepper (an ANGEL FACED Cat Dughi). Pepper has recently divorced the WICKED Ginger Pete (a NEFARIOUS turn by the legendary Timothy C. Amos) who has gone on an animated DRUG FUELED KILLING SPREE with his delirious henchmen Phillip and Bart ( the ENRAGED and VEHEMENT Blake Dalzin and Scott Minches)!

Mickey and the boys make COMPATRIOTS with a HOBO-WITH-A-HEART-OF-GOLD Foster Brooks (a MIRTHFUL John Moran) and a BLOODTHIRSTY Jerry Lewis (Ray Brazaski at his MEATY best).

Together with a group of Irish SLATTERNS (the incredible Robyn Coffin, Laura Korn, and Elizabeth Styles), they DEFEAT the Ginger Pete and make the small community safe for DRUNKEN GAMBLERS and JEZEBELS again!

Also there is some talk of a missing bottle opener or some shit.

This is not a play to be MISSED! This EXCEPTIONAL musical has VIGOROUS power and will make you feel VIBRANT and POTENT sexually.

A story of survival that shouldn't be IGNORED!!!


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Thursday, May 12, 2011

500 Clown Trapped (theatre review)

Hey, kids!

Do you like to laugh? To be scared? To contemplate empirical epistemology via social constructivism? I may have found the all-ages show you’ve been searching for.

To be sure, 500 Clown Trapped will dose you with enough wackiness, zaniness, and tomfoolery to keep even the sickliest ten-year-old buzzing around the house like a humming bird after a trip to the sugar globe. And if you kids love that sort of thing, boy are you in luck. Booger. But if you’ve been looking for a show to stoke your love of bleary-eyed nights spent awake in rigid contemplation, look no further. I’m sorry, munchkins, but unless you have a James Frederick Ferrier action figure in your toy chest, this show is going to go way over your head.

We meet our clowning friends, Adrian Danzig, Timothy Heck, and Leah Urzendowski as they are preparing a celebration of music and love. Our beloved trio enters through the audience banging drums, cymbals and each other. However, due to an “oversight” by “stage management” a massive white platform has been left onstage. Despite the clearly placed caution-tape, the clowns—full of whimsy and wonder—venture on to the stage with their instruments and are promptly trapped in a rather flimsy “cage.” Over the next sixty minutes, we watch these three hilariously attempt to escape the easiest trap imaginable via the most complicated solutions ever conceived. It is absolutely hilarious, but pause for a moment, children and ask yourself, “Why am I laughing?”

Your standard teleological argument could steer you away from modern tendencies towards belief in self-determinism. And you can retreat into that trope if you need to feel safe at night. You can say, “Some outside force has captured our heroes and is holding them against their will!” But what 500 Clown Trapped investigates so thoroughly, children, is the truth that you—in fact—trap yourself. And worse than that, you do it because you like it. And even worse than that: You do it better with friends.

Now go upstairs and do your homework.

500 Clown Trapped: A

-John Taflan

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Human Centipede & South Park Season 15 Episode 1 The Human CentiPad (compare/contrast review)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is a controversial 2009 horror movie from shock auteur Tom Six, and it is a colossal waste of time and effort.  I wasn't disgusted by the content of the film, because I'm from Missouri and have been inside a meth trailer.  Y'all ain't got nothing on the Show Me State, yo.  No, this movie is just terrible because it is more fun to talk about than it is to actually watch.  Let's break it down...oh, and Spoiler Alert for you perverts who might actually choose to ingest this poo through your anus-mouth.

There's an insane German doctor who is famous for separating conjoined twins and now he wants to join people together ass-to-mouth because why not?  His first experiment was joining 3 dogs together and he buried that failure in his yard under a headstone that reads "My Sweet 3 Dog."  Wait, it gets better.  So, there's these two American girls out to party and fuck Eurotrash and they get lost in the woods near this guy's house and they come in and ask for help and he roofies them and straps them down to....oh, blah blah BLAH.  Boom, he joins these 2 girls ass-to-mouth with some Japanese guy at the head of the centipede and the cops show up and there's a fight and really I should have spent my free time in a better way because I'm a father now and free time is hard to come by.  Oh, and there is a part where the Japanese guy shits in the girl's mouth and the doctor loves it and that was pretty funny.

There is only one reason (and it's a pretty flimsy reason, at that) to watch this abortion.  The mad German doctor, played by DIETER LASER.  This guy will re-teach you how to act.  Throw out everything you know, and just bow at the feet of LASER.  I never knew what it looked like when a mad German poop-freak doctor decided to swim naked in front of his own human centipede, until DIETER FUCKING LASER showed me.  In all seriousness, this guy is pretty good and I'd like to see him and Udo Kier have a crazy-off.  Of course, Udo wins because he banged Warhol.  That always gives you the extra point, right Lou Reed?

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is terrible.  I guess it was a good choice to have the Japanese guy in front, because he could only speak Asian and the German guy didn't care what he said anyway.  The two girls were good once they shut the hell up (because their mouths were sewn to assholes).  I guess this could be a play, and it might be more interesting.  Or not, please don't get any ideas New Millenium Theatre Company.

This Tom Six guy is making a sequel called The Human Centipede (Full Sequence) in which there are 12 people joined ass-to-mouth in a long ass human bug thing.  Now, I'm no box office guru, but something tells me he should try a romantic comedy next.

But, but, BUT...if this film didn't exist, we wouldn't have South Park's extremely funny season opener "HUMAN CENTiPAD," a solid outing from Matt and Trey.  Not a classic episode by a long shot, but one with some great bits.

This episode pokes fun at the extremely long license agreements that everyone must agree to when downloading a new version of iTunes.  Unwittingly, Kyle clicks "I Agree" without reading the full agreement (which is just ludicrous, according to the show) and subjects himself to the business casual G-Men of Apple who take him away to be the middle part of the Human CentiPad.  Steve Jobs' plays the mad doctor in this case, and attaches 3 people ass-to-mouth and places an iPhone on the forehead of the Japanese head one (a funny nod to the film) and an iPad on the ass of the female rear one, leaving poor Kyle in the middle to eat shit in a very literal fashion.

The jokes were strong, and the social commentary about the Apple license agreements is pretty spot-on.  The only joke Trey and Matt missed was the chance to parody the insane DIETER LASER...a mad German poop-freak scientist?  Come on guys, you're slipping if you can't make fun of that.

But, we must circle back to what I originally said about The Human Centipede being more fun to talk about than to experience.  There really is no reason to watch the film...and I like gross horror movies!  Shit, I'm an apologist for HOSTEL, for God's sake.  But, when you get down to basics, the film is a 90 minute dirty joke with a horrible punch line.  At least South Park gives you a satisfying 20 minutes or so of good parody, which is all anyone asked for in the first place.  So, in closing, fuck you Tom Six.  Trey and Matt easily beat you at your own game.

The Human Centipede: D-
The Human CentiPad: B+

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Monday, May 9, 2011

Woyzeck (The Hypocrites)

I don’t mean to sound dumb or anything, but what is going on with The Hypocrites’ Woyzeck? I mean, I get it and all but like, what’s up with it? These are questions that are asked with Sean Graney’s super quirky adaptation of Woyzeck, presented by The Hypocrites, now playing at the Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park.

Now, I’m a little biased because I did this show at B.U.—I played the second male lead, the Drum Major—and I like to think I know it pretty well. It is seriously one of the most important pieces of theatre that has ever been written. It’s about this soldier, Woyzeck, who—in our version, at least—is driven to murder his girlfriend, Marie, when she cheats on him with (you guessed it) the Drum Major. Of course, other things happen too, but that’s the main one.

Like I said, Sean’s show is super super quirky. And, the murder does happen in it, but it’s just different. It reminded me of Donnie Darko in some parts, Full Metal Jacket in others, and other times like those weirder movies that are out there sometimes. I don’t know. There are definitely certain things that characters do where you’re just like, what is going on here? But, they’re smart. I think it was really cool how they slapped the money when they got it. It shows you that the money is important, but also that it’s bad, too. Because, why would you hit something that you like? And Marie carries this rock around because she’s kind of crazy. She calls it her “baby” but I don’t think anyone was buying it. I know when we did this show at B.U. we had an actual fake baby that cried and that was really cool. (Actually, the money slapping thing was kind of offensive. We’re in a recession right now and I don’t think it’s right to show money—which some people don’t have—being treated like that. But that’s just me.)

Anyway, the set was really cool. And the costumes were really, really cool. But, I don’t know… I don’t want to come off as stupid or anything, but doesn’t Woyzeck take place in the 1800s? I mean, don’t get me wrong, the show is really cool, but like why was Woyzeck dressed in modern clothes? And, I’m sorry, the Drum Major didn’t even look like a drum major. Where was his hat? Where was his baton? I honestly didn’t even know he was the drum major until he was having sex with Marie (which only kind of happened). I mean, I get it, but I don’t know. And it sounded like they were using a different translation than we used when I did the show at B.U.

I liked Geoff Button a lot as Woyzeck, though. He reminded me of like, a really sad Ross from Friends. Especially, in that one episode where he gets in a fight with Rachel, and cheats on her but it’s not really cheating because they’re on a break. Lindsey Gavel is awesome as Marie, who isn’t really like Rachel all that much, actually. She’s kind of like, like Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up, but a little scarier. I mean, she’s really good. They’re both really good. In fact, everybody does great in this show:

Ryan Bollettino is so blonde and funny as the doctor. Erin Barlow is really funny as Marie’s friend and as the doctor’s girl. Ryan Bourque as Woyzeck’s friend, Andres, is really funny, too. Sean Patrick Fawcett is funny in a really great way as the Captain. Zeke Sulkes is not as funny as everyone else, but he doesn’t have to be because he’s supposed to be super scary, which he is! Walter Briggs definitely played the Drum Major differently than I did…but he was great and really funny.

I mean, I would definitely recommend being in a production of Woyzeck if you can, but this version was really cool and I would definitely go see it.

Woyzeck: A

-John Taflan

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Killing (Television Show AMC)

When was the last time you saw a show that made you miss "Twin Peaks"?
For me, it was last Sunday. The show that did this to me is entitled "The Killing" and it is on everybody who doesn't have HBO's favorite network, American Movie Classics or AMC as it is more widely known.
AMC is a network that goes back and forth between playing John Wayne movies and Scarface, and a few years ago, they decided that they were sick of movies and liked TV shows instead.

They have one show called Mad Men about this guy who lives in the 60's or 40's or whatever and he makes soap ads or some shit, I don't know. But I know there is substance abuse in it.

Then they have a show called Breaking Bad about the guy from Malcolm In The Middle where he is a meth dealer in chemo or something. More substance abuse.

They have another show, The Walking Dead, about a Police Officer and bunch of people on the run from zombies in the South. So you know all the zombies are racist and addicted to Oxycontin.

So you see, all of AMC's shows are about guys dealing with drugs and being in very adult situations. If this is the criteria we should use to judge The Killing, then the show is terrible.
If you compare this show against Twin Peaks, a similar storyline about a detectives solving one murder over the course of the series, then the show is terrible too, because it doesn't have any backwards talking midgets.

BUT, if you put it up against a show like According To Jim it is just fantastic.

The Killing starts with some cops finding a murdered girl named Rosie Larsen. This girl was like 16 years old. So these two detectives, one lady named Linden who has to move at the end of the week (ala Morgan Freeman in Se7en, or any old black man in any cop movie) and this young creep named Holder who was recently reassigned from Narcotics.
This guy Holder uses some tactics that maybe you would use in Narcotics investigation, but are probably uncouth when it comes to Homicide.

For example, he was trying to get some info from Rosie's classmates, so he hangs out at the school and smokes some weed and asks these girls if they wanna "party" with him. (We are all to assume that "party" means "fingerbang" by the way.) So they lead him down to the boiler room of the school, and that's where he finds the crime scene!

Also, there is a political campaign happening. You see, Rosie's body was found in the trunk of this guy, Darren Richmond's campaign car. Richmond is trying to be Mayor, so you know this isn't looking good for him.

Well, there are lots of suspects. There's her teacher (the front runner) named Bennet, Rosie's best friend Sterling (too stupid to do it), Rosie's uncle and dad's best friend Belko Royce (he probably just made out with her), and as we are just finding out now, the dad used to be a hitman for the mafia.

So maybe it was revenge?
Maybe he owed someone his firstborn child.

Anyway, listen. This show is pretty good. It's sort of slow and you can tell the writers didn't know it would get this far, so they are starting to sort of make some shit up to fill time.

The show was originally done in Danish and called Forbrydelsen.

*This show takes place in Seattle and it is always raining, so if you are scared of rain, or feeling a little blue, this will not put you in a better mood, but you can also catch Welcome To Mooseport on AMC and that will make you feel great.


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Conquest To The South Pole (Strawdog Theater)

It’s never been a better time to be alive. Change is sweeping the world, the sun is waking up from its long slumber, and the fast food chicken nugget wars have finally brought us the reasonably priced 20-piece McNugget meal from McDonalds. I can’t get enough of them, and now that they can be purchased for $4.99 (or the Meal Deal for $9.99, which also comes with two medium fries and two medium drinks), this treasure trove of delight is now within reach of the unemployed, who have long dreamed of something to distract them from the defeat of standing in line at the unemployment office.

Manfred Karge’s The Conquest of the South Pole, translated by Calvin McLean, Caron Cadle, & Ralf Remshardt, directed by Kimberly Senior, and produced by Strawdog Theatre Company, seeks to explain what every unemployed person did before Chicken McNuggets were invented – apparently engaging in reenactments in their attics. It makes sense to me, as this is what all Chicago theatre artists do while not getting paid – play make-em-ups in the attics, basements, lofts, and garages of more important buildings filled with employed people.

Senior commands an impressive design team to turn the Strawdog space - the attic above Tutto Fresco – into the attic of an unemployed dude and his lady. As I opened up my McNugget Meal Deal, I began to appreciate that I had two cup holders at my disposal – one for my medium Diet Coke, and one for my medium sweet tea. I get 2 different drinks to make it seem like I’m sharing the Meal Deal with someone else, so that the McDonalds employees don’t think that I’m a fatty. Sometimes I even pretend to be on the phone with the person I’m going to share it with, asking them their beverage preference. I get Sweet and Sour sauce with my nuggets as a precautionary measure, in case the nuggets are dry. Otherwise I prefer them au naturel.

The play starts strangely, the first few exploratory bites always being cautious – no one wants to bite into a dry McNugget. Thankfully, no Sweet and Sour was needed. The cast is pretty juicy and fresh – Jennifer Avery is a real stand-out here, though her character’s connection to fast food might have tipped the scales for me. But she’s also pretty and she acts good, which might be more important. The use of the space is great – functional and elegant – using two 10-piece McNugget boxes both provides an easily measurable benchmark in one’s race for the South Pole of satiety, as well as helping to maintain the illusion that someone is going to share their 20-piece McNugget Meal Deal with someone who is just about to show up.

Karge and his translators throw in a couple of dry nuggets towards the end, but Senior’s choice of sauces, the Sweet and Sour Justine Turner and the Hot Mustard Anderson Lawfer, help to finish off the box. I was glad that my grade-school cafeteria training of eating my French fries first saved me from having to share with the red-tinged gentleman to my right, who thoroughly enjoyed the play and none of my fries. My unwillingness to share my meal is fully validated by the message of the play – that while someone will eat McNuggets that are given to them, they will never be happy unless they can get their own, and will be forced to play make-em-ups in which they dream of reaching the Golden Arches of the South Pole, probably in your attic.

I’d like to thank the Saints for handing me my program in a pleasant manner, and for turning a blind eye to my enormous McDonalds bag.


-Mike Ooi