Monday, October 31, 2011

My Halloween Bathroom Experience

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

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

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

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

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

What is happening? Am I in a dream?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Massive's FAUST (theatre/dance review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Massive’s Faust: A

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

-Michael Dice, Jr.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Starting Here, Starting Now (theatre review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Michael Dice Jr.