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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Rocky Horror Show - Underscore Theatre (GUEST THEATRICAL REVIEWER ELIZABETH SCHMESKI)

I appreciate theatre experiences in unexpected spaces. Especially those that allow me to drink to my heart’s content. And that feature ferocious talent, audience participation and glowsticks. All of these - and more - were satisfied at Underscore Theatre’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Under the brazen direction of Alex Higgins-Houser, Rocky Horror explodes from the catwalk of O’Malley’s Liquor Kitchen, and although there will remain only one performance by the time this review posts - Underscore Theatre’s live incarnation of the cult classic is not to be missed, and ought to be around for Chicago Halloween’s to come.

This cast puts out. Not only are they grinding - occasionally half-naked - up on a raised platform in the middle of a Wrigleyville bar, surrounded by spider web and demonic clown Halloween decor - but they perform the hell out of Richard O’Brien’s sexy, sci-fi, monster musical. Mere moments into “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” the three saucy Usherettes (Miki Byrne, Jillian Mayer, and Brittany Shock) led by the electric Magenta (Leah Isabel Tirado) entice us like cyberpunk Sirens into the world of Rocky Horror, welcoming shoutbacks and singing along. Now, The Rocky Horror Pictures Show has had a following of fishnet stockings-wearing, toast-throwing, rubber glove-snapping fans since midnight screenings started in New York City some thirty-six years ago - and their descendents are certainly present in the crowd at O’Malley’s. But for those of us with a lipstick letter “V” on our foreheads, Underscore Theatre provides a Virgin’s Guide to shoutbacks in their program, and offers $5 Prop Bags to encourage audience participation and “enhance pleasure.” In short, whether you’re a Rocky Horror virgin or seasoned deviant - all are welcome “Over at the Frankenstein Place.”

And new to the bizarre abode of Dr. Frank-N-Furter arrives the recently engaged, Brad Majors (Joe Zordan) and Janet Weiss (Sarah Hoch), who radiate the campy, virginal charm we expect and enjoy from the two characters around which this mad, dark world unfolds. Much credit is due to Zordan and Hoch, and not only for their stellar singing voices and comedic timing - but for their willingness to take off their clothes. Perhaps I’m overly self-conscious and cannot help but project myself into what it’s like having my fellow cast members strip me to my skivvys...but something about it puts anxiety in my imagination. And yet, I keep an appreciation laced with envy for the uninhibited joy of performing each and every Rocky Horror actor brings to this production. And it is a pleasure to behold.

As narrated by the eerily omniscient Criminologist (Harrison Gibbons), Janet and Brad are introduced to the Transylvanians, who wait with heaving breaths and maniacal smiles as the two approach, eager to corrupt them with their rambunctious revelry. As one might expect, “The Time Warp” becomes a jubilant dance party for all, led by the lovably crazed Riff Raff (Chad Michael Innis) and featuring a delightful tap dance from the bubbly, vivacious Columbia (Lianne Rodriguez). Riff Raff and his sister Magenta’s (Tirado) chemistry throughout the show pulses with such mischief and curious sexuality that I wished there existed a B-story of their relationship. But the true knave of the show is in Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who enters through the audience, stirring cat-calls and applause. And justly so. Anthony D’Amato demands the room in his “I Heart Chik-Fil-a” shirt, lace-up knee-highs, and dangling back-pocket hanky - crooning and shrieking and positively alluring.

To be frank, most of the story was lost on me, having only seen the film once. But I didn’t really care. Only vaguely recalling what Dr. Frank-N-Furter was doing with his creation, Rocky Horror (Jonas Davidow), I was a bit confused, but thoroughly enjoyed Davidow’s audacious dancing and upper body strength. Both Eddie (Aaron Stephenson) and Dr. Everett Scott’s (Dustin Rothbart) stories are mysteries to me, but damn could those fellas sing. Though at times the chatter in the bar made it hard to hear the actors, the cast held up, invested and vibrant, every one of them. And when it comes down to it, that’s what you come to The Rocky Horror Picture Show for - wild, raunchy, unabashed fun.

The final performance of Underscore Theatre’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show is next Wednesday, October 31st. Tickets are $29 and includes a drink package from 8-11PM. Attend this rousing holiday treat, and if not - better hope Underscore’s production becomes a Chicago Halloween staple for years to come.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Woman In White (Lifeline Theatre Company)




Let me preface this review with a little warning:
If you like to look at women’s legs, this is probably not the play for you.

Personally, I can do without legs for 3 hours, so this show was a great fit for me.

Lifeline Theater has a long history of turning long books into long plays and this time they really hit it out of the park!

Let’s start with a long synopsis of the classic “The Woman In White”. The Woman In White is the first modern mystery ever written. It was very popular in 1859 and was written by the legendary Wilkie Collins. The story centers on this girl named Laura and her art teacher, Walter. And her sister?

Well, Laura falls in love with Walter ( a valiant and artistic Nicholas Bailey), but since Walter is poor, she has to marry this guy played by the Acting Robot and Eldritch God of Dialect Robert Kauzlaric. I forgot his character’s name, but he is the bad guy, I think. Then there is this other guy from either Scotland or Italy and all these rats in birdcages on a stick was there, too. That guy was played with great gayness by Christopher Walsh.

Now before you get all uppity about the word “gayness”, let me explain what I mean. If you are on the Jeff Committee, and you are watching an old timey play, the gayer the dudes act, the better the play is. So if you are playing a guy who wears a cape and rings and you have huge monologues that go nowhere, than you better put a little bit of wiggle in those big manly hips of yours. Christopher Walsh shakes those hips with the confidence of a 19 year old twink.

Our woman in white in this production is played with great attractiveness by Maggie Scrantom. This kid has it all. At first you think she is someone else because she is acting like somebody sewed her hands on backwards, but then you are like, “Oh, thank God her hands are on right. She was just doing that Brad Pitt crazy person hands thing.”

A note for actors: All crazy people have no control over their hands.

There is a goofy Frenchman named Louis (played with rawkus hilarity by Greg Wenz), there is a bossy sister (the deliberate and handsome Lucy Carapetyan) and a few different old guys (the always incredible and never bending Don Bender).

BUT, let me tell you where the real acting is in this show. There are 2 women who play 30 characters combined. They are the maids, the housekeepers, the church clerks, the mothers, the wives, and they might have even played the mice in the birdcages! Loretta Rezos and Anita Deely have a super hard job in this show, and they do an incredible job.

When you do plays like this, most theatre goers spend all their time trying to bang the leads, but we actors, we know where the honey is. It’s with the actors who play all the roles that need to be played. You can’t just trust those to anyone, and in my opinion, you save those roles for the most talented actors you can find. Anybody can play a screaming lady or a guy with a mustache, but not everyone can make each of their 6 characters diverse and believable and unrecognizable from the last.

If you are an actor, The Woman In White is a good play to see because it is a Master’s Class in this sort of stuff.

I learned a lot about England and I also had some cookies in their beautiful lobby!

Don’t miss this great show that will keep you thinking about what is happening and who the real killer is!!


A+

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Eric & Andy's DEBATE SHOW

Did you watch the debates at home alone last night?

Did you just watch Home Alone?

Well why don’t you quit being a ding-a-ling, get off your buns, and join Eric and Andy for their first ever Eric and Andy’s DEBATE SHOW!!

Life is made to be lived, and what better way to live then with America’s new favorite Political Pundits!!?

More like America’s new favorite Political FUNdits!

We are ready to host the 2nd Presidential Debate at Strawdog Theater on Tuesday October 16th!!

The doors will open at 7pm. At 7:30pm, we will discuss the rules of various games we will be playing during live coverage of the debate.

Immediately following the debate, stick around for our own town hall meeting to discuss the direction of our country and what Medicare is.

Don’t miss out on the excitement of LIVE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES fashioned into a DRUNKEN BLOODSPORT FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENTS!

A $5 suggested donation at the door will get you $3 PBR TALLBOYS and some of Strawdog’s famous craft beer menu items!

Why sit at home and weep into your hot dog soup? Come and join your heroes and weep into your BEER SOUP.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dirty (The Gift Theatre Company)






 Life can be overwhelming sometimes.
Especially in the Fall. As theatre people, Fall is usually our busiest time and we are all finishing planning our seasons and trying to book our final Spring shows. So, it has taken me a while to write about this play I saw a couple weeks ago called “Dirty” out at The Gift.

Not because I didn’t like it. I, in fact, REALLY liked it. The acting is great. 

But here's the thing:
This kid Michael Patrick Thornton has it all going on for him. He is a handsome TV star, so he doesn’t care what I think about it. Tom Hickey is in it, and he is always awesome, so HE doesn’t care what I think. The great Jon Berry directed, and the now hugely popular Andrew Hinderaker wrote it, so they could care less about my opinion, so it makes it harder for me to even get into it, because these 4 dudes are at the fucking TOP OF THE GAME.      

You all know it, too. You KNOW this play is good. It is an act too long. The story gets a little too complicated…whatever. It’s awesome and you all know it already without even seeing it.

The play is about making porno movies. See, the main couple likes to watch porno movies. The dude (Thornton) is unhappy with his life as a stock broker or something and his wife (the robust and comely Hillary Clemens) is a struggling…I wanna say…Not-For-Profit…Women’s shelter worker? Something like that. So the guy decides he hates his job and wants to start a porno movie company. The wife says she will help, but they have to have rules about the movies they make. No schoolgirl fantasies, nobody under 25, basically she doesn’t want these movies to have anything in them that makes you want to watch a porno.

If it was up to ladies, all of our porno movies would be middle aged women getting butt massages from Adrian Brody in a cake factory.

So this broad tries to get Mike Thornton to get down with this idea and of course he says yes because if your wife is letting you make porn, you have to agree to her rules, no matter how stupid they may be.

So then this lady (the Guatemalan and electrifying Mouzam Makkar) shows up who wants to be in the porno movies and she is only 20 years old.

Then it gets super complicated.

All the actors are awesome, of course. You know it and I know it. They are all probably better than you are.

Michael Patrick Thornton. Do you know about this guy? Of course you do. He’s great. His best quality though, is that he acts like he doesn’t care if anyone is there watching or not. Super relaxed, very casual. That is a cool trait to have in this city of stupid improvisers who cry if you don’t laugh at them because something went terribly wrong in their home life.

Anyway, you already want to see it, so go already. It is a very, very good play.




A+ 

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach