Friday, August 16, 2013

Namosaur by Scott Oken (Factory Theater)

In my opinion, there are 3 kinds of Factory Theater plays.

#1. Soldiers/Heroes face off against a maniacal bad guy.

#2. A bunch of people have dance battles against other people.

#3. Other.

My favorite has always been the first. There are a few reasons why, and let me tell them to you.

Factory plays have a great and storied history of making meandering, ridiculous sagas that travel to the ends of the Earth and back again. In the end, we laugh, we fear for our safety, and we bring our own beer. The quality is always high, but you will find yourself with favorites. For instance, Matt Engle has emerged as a first rate director who understands the nuances of comedy. Corri Pasko and Sara Sevigny write crazy popular woman based comedies, but my favorite director is Manny Tamayo. Tamayo understands the cinematic scope of the insane stories and brings a film maker's eye to the Prop Theater.

Namosaur is the story of a group of soldiers and 2 ladies who have to go through the jungle for some reason and there are dinosaurs there and some crazy Korean Baptist preacher named Nguyen Nguyen. This dude has some dinosaur eggs on a necklace and he trapped one of the ladies and told her about them or something and she wrote it down in a notebook. It's not important. What IS important is that there are DINOSAURS in VIETNAM!!

How has no one thought of this yet? It seems like a classic idea.
Well, good on you, Scott Oken. You are a visionary.

Usually in the hero/soldier plays, The Factory needs to bring in some talent that you haven't seen before on that stage (because their ensemble is too famous for themselves anymore), and gives people who you have seen in smaller roles a chance to shine. Case in point in Namosaur; Tim Amos. One of my favorite red-haired, dolphin-tattooed gentlemen has been seen as various unlikeables including pornographers, casino owners and Irish detectives. In Namosaur he finally gets his chance to shine as a leader of a bunch of ingrate soldiers in the middle of the harsh woodlands of Vietnam. Amos' cigar chomping Lieutenant is abrasive and noisy, while still being cuddly and having short hair. Sort of like Meg Ryan.

Tim Amos tells these broads what's what.

The Factory uses the role of "the villain" to showcase some of their incredible comic talent. I have seen Steve Walker in Top Shelf, Dan Granata in League Of Awesome, but never have I ever seen a villain played with the robust testicles as Eric Roach in Namosaur.

Here's the beautiful thing about Eric Roach as a comedian and something the rest of you need to learn: He doesn't even care of you are there or not. He does not need your laughs because his confidence in his performance does not rise and fall with audience approval.

In my opinion that is the greatest thing a comic can do.

This is from a different play, but Roach sort of looks the same!

Roach plays Nguyen Nguyen, a German dinosaur scientist that moves to Vietnam to make dinosaurs, I think. I was laughing too hard to hear what he was saying.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is, if you have never seen a Factory show, this is the one for you to see. If you have, then you know what I'm talking about.

After the show is out, I can finally ask you:



-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

4 Comparisons Of Other Shows to Orange Is The New Black According to One Person

1. Somewhere between Will & Grace and Oz lies Netflix's ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK


2. It's like Maude and Barney Miller met MSNBC's LOCKUP and three-wayed in the 

 +  +

3. If Seinfeld had a baby with Faces Of Death!

 + =

3. It's like Friends got shived by LA Law and then run over by Spenser: For Hire!

4. It's sort of like Miami Vice got married to Married with Children on the set of Ice Road Truckers!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

An Open Invitation to Hedy Weiss

Dear Aunt Hedy,

We have been noticing the amount of flack you have taken today just because you endorse racial profiling of Arabic people.

This is not a new thing with you. After the “Wicked” incident, you have had countless other slip ups that might not be considered “acceptable” by modern left-leaning Chicago society.

It’s hard for you to understand why they are upset. We know. I mean, it’s not like you are all that smart in the first place, so you are probably confused why all these Jews are drinking Haterade.

It used to be so much easier before the Internet, eh, Hedy? I mean, back then you could pound something relatively coherent on a stone tablet, have a Pterosaur fly it to the Editing cave, ol’ Gutenberg could get it on the printing press, and you could sling your racist missives at the stupid flyspecks you called readers and if someone was offended, why all they could do was yell at a switched-off radio until their house negro brought them a Moxie with Hershey’s syrup to calm down their nerves.

And while we still aren’t convinced that Arabs can read, we know for a fact that there are Blacks and Mexicans waiting with drooly lips for you to slip up. And slip up you have.

So, we have a solution to your problems:

We are making you a once in a lifetime offer to be Head Reviewer (this is just a title, you should know you are never better than us) at one of Chicago’s finest and most selective of theatre blogs: Eric & Andy’s Reviews You Can Iews!!!

See, Andy and Eric are super busy with parenting and actually doing art and catching up on House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, so we could use someone who seems to have the free time and wherewithal to really spread some ignorance and racism to the public at large!

A lot of people think we are joking when we pretend to be ignorant, but here is a little secret just for you:

We are just like you.

We love to drink wine and sleep in dark theaters. We love to leave without saying goodbye and we also made a deal with Broadway In Chicago for free hotel room stays just for saying that their plays are the best.

See? We will maybe even pay you better. It’s time for you to get out of the print game. Chris Jones is winning. HE ALREADY WON.

Staying at the Sun-Times will only prolong your inevitable downfall into...well, into something that is somehow worse than where you are right now. You’ll be left with an office filled with dusty plaques for great writing that you know don’t mean anything because you know in your heart of hearts you weren’t meant for the newspaper world. Too much drinking, too many late nights with Royko banging you up against a murphy bed that he didn’t even take the time to fold down so you could at least get off your bunions.

Anyway, enough of “This Is Your Life”. You have 24 hours. We are giving you 24 hours to come and be head critic for our blog. If you don’t, then the offer is going to Rom Rilliams and we heard he loves Arabs, so... what’s it gonna be?

Asalam a lakim, or whatever those people say. Namaste? Peace, love, hair grease? Who cares. Come work for us. We need those sweet hit counts, BRAH-dimir Putin.

Happy Ramadan,

Eric and Andy


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SCOTUS, Wendy Davis, World War Z (Review)

Congrats to my gay friends that happen to live in a select group of states! Congrats to Wendy Davis for making abortions accessible to the backwoods of Texas for another month! Congrats to Brad Pitt and the Human Race for surviving the Zombie Plague!! Suck it, Black People who live in the South!!

We have so many things to be thankful for this week, it's hard to pick one, but there are certainly similarities in all of them.

Let's start with the way our country works. In all cases, we are dealing directly with the laws of the land;

We have a Supreme Court, the nation's highest court of judges, that vote the same way on everything they do.  Will Antonin Scalia ever vote in favor of my new Gays For Marijuana Law? No. He won't. Is that the way a judge in our highest court should work? Even if it is totally Constitutional?

At the same time, will Ruth Bader Ginsburg ever vote in favor of my new Send All The Blacks and Jews To Work On Oil Rigs amendment? No.
So how can we begin to grow as a nation if our HIGHEST COURT is stagnant in their OWN opinions?

Wait a second, how does the law even work in the goddammed first place?

I heard that some lady in Texas didn't want a law to pass, so she just stood there yapping her fat mouth for 13 hours.

You can do that? You are telling me that in the most advanced country on Earth, you can literally just keep talking, and when the clock strikes midnight, a bill is dead in the water?

That can't be true.

Now listen, I am all for abortion clinics being everywhere. She was protecting nearly 30 abortion clinics all through Texas. I think everyone should have abortions all they want, and there should be some mandatory abortions all throughout Texas but doesn't this law seem a little bizarre?

First of all, how can the salaried people that we elect just call it quits on a bill they have spent months making because the clock strikes midnight? Can you imagine if you did that at your job?

"Hey Spencer, are you finished with the Henderson Account?"

"Oh man, I was working on it, and I realize it was due today, but unfortunately my wife started talking at me about abortions or some shit, the clock struck 12am,"

I don't know about you, but if Spencer worked for me, I would be pissed. Spencer, you can forget all about that $5 Starbucks Gift Card you thought you were gonna get.

Do our elected lawmakers give each other Starbucks Gift Cards?

But this all raises a much bigger point for those of us with no law degree and no understanding of the nuance of our insane political system...

None of us know what is actually happening.

How could we?

There is too much to know! Most of our elected officers don't know what's going on either!

Get ready for a fact:
38% of our elected officials have law degrees. The rest were carpenters, doctors, rich kids, actors, magicians, and candy makers. That's not even 40%. But almost 50% of both the House and the Senate are just career politicians. There is also a ski instructor, a female cosmetics saleswoman, a prison guard, a mountain guide and a casino dealer.

So, if we don't know what's happening, and THEY don't know what's happening, what are the real laws?

Well, in World War Z, we learn the greatest laws of all:

1. Don't Die
2. Find Water
3. Kill Everyone Who Fucks With Your Family
4. No One Is Going To Help You When The Shit Goes Down
5. Brad Pitt Is The Hottest Dude Ever

You cannot change these laws. They are from God.

World War Z is a movie based on a book by Max Brooks. It is sort of a Studs Terkel style "oral history" of how people survived the great zombie invasion and where we are socio-politically afterwards.
It gives us some lessons about what is truly important, including family, farmland, communication with others and not blindly letting a huge corporate government basically imprison us all and stop giving us information.

The movie makes none of these points, but is still super good. It is fast and the action is great. A lot of people are turned off of zombie style things because of the gore, and I can understand why. I don't need to see 10,000 people get beheaded in 90 minutes either, but because WWZ was such a huge budget flick, the corporation that made it won't allow for that sort of thing anyway, so we all win.

We can introduce our children to horrible nightmares of everyone they love turning into mindless eating machines and we can stare at Brad Pitt at the same time.

Holy god, have you seen the lady playing his wife?

Brad Pitt with Mirielle Enos

They look like if you put a can of cat food next to a Porterhouse.
Do they honestly think that we will believe that these 2 people would be married? Frankly, in WWZ, his handsomeness is the only downfall of the picture. It is seriously distracting. This part would be perfect for a Mark Ruffalo type or a John Goodman.

I am done convincing you to go see a $200 million budget movie.

BUT, if you are like me and are sick of Scalia and John Roberts swappin' deals for Popeye's Chicken then now is the time to act. Or next year, or maybe you can just wait to the Zombie Apocalypse comes.

Just hold on to those assault rifles and stay away from the WalMart.

Wendy Davis A-
World War Z A+

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel (movie review)

Superman is back in MAN OF STEEL, he has returned, he has blown away box office records already, there are sequels booked, toys made, shirts printed, and merchandise aplenty at your local CVS. it worth it? Did Snyder and co. do what they set out to do, which is wipe the slate clean and give us a new Supes for a modern age while sticking to the character and tropes that we are all familiar with?

The answer, like my attraction to Henry Cavill's chest rug, is very complicated.

Let's start with the good and work our way down. There's plenty of ground to cover and you and I both have work to do so let's get on with it. Henry Cavill is a GREAT Superman. His physique is cut from the comic book pages themselves and his face is chiseled out of marble. He looks like what we all think Superman should look like...impossibly beautiful, a God on earth. Cavill also seems to get the inherent politeness and empathy that Supes possesses. Superman is not called the Big Blue Boy Scout for nothing...he's nicer than anyone you've ever met (unless you go with the Superman is a Dick theory, which they get at quite a bit in this film...Superman doesn't have to destroy a 12 million dollar surveillance drone, but he does...mostly because he thinks it's pretty funny) and is so charming that I thought Stabler wanted to make out with him. Stabler was pretty good in the movie too, but there were no special victims for him to unit so he seemed out of sorts. In fact, acting-wise, this ensemble is strong. Russel Crowe gets really into being science-Zen master Jor-El, Amy Adams is a pretty serviceable Lois (although she's basically around to get into scrapes that Superman has to save her from...but that's been her thing for years, so deal with it), and Michael Shannon as Zod does Chicago actors proud by treating this admittedly campy and hammy script like it's True fucking West. Get that cash, Shannon, you ever loving psychopath.

The film opens with a looooooong sequence on Krypton, and I gotta say, if you loved Flash Gordon you are gonna cream in your Ming the Merciless pantaloons over this shit. Luckily, I am a science fiction nerd, and this weirdo prog rock planetoid was just great. Uncanny bio-computers? Check! Dragonfly mounts? Check! A council of old freaks in Cher's outfits from the 80s? DOUBLE CHECK!

Oh, and Zod wants to take over the planet at the worst time and is sent to Dildo Jail.

All of the Kryptonian technology tiptoes right up to the campy line and then drops a skyscraper on it. Full-on stoned-out...and pretty show-offy really. But, hey, is it any stranger than the over-saturated crystal castle 70s Krypton, with its ultrawhite robes and hulahoop prisons? Not really, it's a wash. This film, more than any of the others in the Superman canon, is unapologetic science fiction (maybe more Space Opera, actually, but let's get nerdy later on, we're gonna have to) and very much underscores the idea that Superman is an alien and his presence on Earth will change everything.

But, before he changes everything, he's gotta grow up in Kansas with Ma and Pa Kent (adroitly played by Diane Lane and American hero Kevin Costner, in full baseball and apple pie mode here). The youth and adolescence of Clark Kent is played out in a series of flashback sequences, which some people may think of as sort of pretentious and art-housy what with the fragmented timeline. Well, those people are annoying. Although if Superman always has a flashback to a traumatic event from his childhood when he sees a yellow bus he better stay out of school zones, brahs.

Before he dons the tights, he humps it place to place looking for people to help, and then disappearing. See, Pa Kent makes it clear that the world is not ready for him. So, he's a little afraid to go full-on Supes just yet. It's fine, I get why they did it, but there is no SPOILERING way that Supes would not save his dad from being murdered by the world's most inconvenient tornado just cuz people might see his superspeed. Come on, Glenn Ford had a heart attack in Superman One and that showed Christopher Reeve that even with all of his power he still couldn't save him. A tornado killing Superman's father is inconceivable, and it's deviation from canon number one that I took umbrage with. UMBRAGE!!!!!!

Wait until we get to deviation from canon number two, gang. It's a doozy.

Well, Clark finds an old Kryptonian ship in the arctic ice and talks with his pop and gets the blue suit and learns to fly and all that jazz. By the by, Superman flying in this movie is astounding...Snyder's visuals in the flight scenes are impeccable and thrilling. You truly believe in it, which is ambrosia.

BUT, General Zod finds out where he is (Earth, for those not keeping up) and threatens the world with total destruction if Supes doesn't surrender. But, of course, Zod wants to remake Krypton on earth and get the codex and blah, blah, blah this is some REAL comic book nerd shit here...with big shades of The Matrix as well. A large theme in the film is predestined vs. free will. Of course, this is philosophy ala Zach Snyder and David Goyer, so you should never write a thesis paper on this film for your Ethics class because I will make sure you get an F PLUS. CLICK!

And then the REAL action begins. Superman punches things...a lot. He punches cars. Trains. People. Faces. Buildings. Lexcorp tanker trucks. Bank vaults. Corn. He punches more stuff in this movie than any Superman ever did. The battles in Smallville and Metropolis are gorgeous violence porn, and I do eat that stuff's pretty fun. But, a nitpick: Superman never really tries to save anyone during this. Maybe he could have flown Zod to Saturn and fought him there, where there were at least no people around. But, no, they fight in a city the size of New York and wreck the joint. And let's be perfectly clear here...


Now, usually, Superman cares about things like this. And with all the shit stuffed into this flick, they could have added a line or something to cover it. But, they didn't, and that was a bit weird. And I was mostly ok, until the deviation from canon number two:


Superman kills Zod. Straight up snaps his neck. Not often do you see that kind of behavior from the defender of truth, justice, and the American Way. I suppose a case could be made that that IS the American Way now-a-days, but I'm no philosopher. Zod threatens a family with his heat eyeballs, all of the sudden Supes gives a shit, and he drops Zod like a bag of potatoes. No sequels for this dude. I hope Shannon got a good back-end on his contract.

I wasn't really happy that Supes had to kill Zod...because he didn't have to. They jailed Magneto and Loki and SPOILERS Khan for Pete's sake...they couldn't figure out how to jail Zod? The script just wasn't good enough to justify that huge deviation from Superman's morality, and I won't make apologies or defend it like some nerd who just loves Superman too much. Not a brilliant choice, Goyer. I know from experience that snapping Michael Shannon's neck gets you NOWHERE.

Also, Snyder, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to knock down a bunch of skyscrapers. They could have tunnelled through the earth, had a brawl at the core, gotten sucked into an alternate universe, Zod could have transformed into a giant giraffe with Michael Shannon's face, Superman could have offered to rap battle him for ultimate supremacy, they could have thrown monkeys at each other for a really long time like something from Family Guy. I reject the fact that all you could conjure up was "Hey, derp...SKYSCRAPERS!"

But, all in all, this is a summer blockbuster and a lot of my complaints are nitpicks. I was very satisfied with this movie, it's the best onscreen Superman since Superman One, and it absolutely eliminates the sorry SUPERMAN RETURNS from America's memory banks.

I think the potential for sequels is incredible, and I'll gladly go watch more Cavill-as-Supes. Now that they got this bizarre, three act, disjointed, sci-fi fantasy origin story out of the way they can really make headway on making Superman truly great again. But, please, maybe Goyer should sit the next one out...buddy, it's called subtext. When your dialogue is just the themes of the movie over and over again, maybe you need a script doctor. Or a superpunch to your adrenal glands.


-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Carruth's first film PRIMER still manages to remain relevant today, a treatise on time and love and the lengths people will go to change something they regret. I'm not sure if his follow up UPSTREAM COLOR will have the same staying power, but it does stand alone as a supremely challenging piece of expirimental sci-fi. It is truly mind-bending, and I spent the first hour of the film with my mouth agape simply unable to make sense of a film that mostly works on a subconscious non-narrative level. Following the story is nearly impossible, but that doesn't stop the film from being an intense and hypnotic overload of ideas and emotional resonance. If you have ever been into Lynch, Cronenberg, Jodorosky, Tarkovsky, or even Gaspar Noe you might owe it to yourself to chill out with this one. Warning: it's a complete brainblower, so don't go STRAIGHT to the theatre for this one. Cheech & Chong-style, brahs. Available on the Netflix Streaming.


-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Mother (Oracle Productions)

You know how we are always talking about the Bolshevik Revolution?

Well, this play is about how it got started! Or ended? This is before it started, actually. I think?

Let's start at the beginning.

I have spent a lot of time at Oracle Theatre. They are a proud group of guys and gals that put on good plays and are dusting your theatre with technology. They are way ahead of you as far as use of technology in theatre goes, unless you are the Goodman or Blue Man Group. So it was disconcerting to walk into the theater and see lots of work tables and tons of actors dressed up like poor people sleeping everywhere.

"What the hell is this?" I said to the usher. It was sort of like I was in a work camp. I thought those were only in the Holocaust in Germany, so I thought that was where this play was set. There was this blonde lady dressed up like Else the Nazi from Indiana Jones (an incredible and chilling DeChantel Kosmatka) , and she was sort of walking around and telling these actors in poor people clothes to stop sleeping.

They were walking on these tables that are all over the  theater. Stepping over our heads. On the screens are projections of worker camps. Sick people on the screens, mean people on the tables. No drinks. "This is like a slow Tuesday night at Coyote Ugly, eh?!" I joked to a stranger next to me. No answer.

"Take off that Nazi uniform!" I screamed at Else from Indiana Jones. No answer. "Oh great." I laughed to another audience member, "This broad is stay in character for this whole show." Again, no answer. Am I even alive? Is this a dream?

Then they closed the door and the show started!

It started with this incredible song. I mean, it was really beautiful. It was about all the problems that these people have. Now, there are tons of people on stage. They are all dressed like Oliver with the gloves and grubby hats.

* A note to all costume designers- If you want to show us a poor old-timey white person, they MUST have fingerless gloves.  

So these guys are all singing about the problems in Russia (not Germany) and how poor they are. I don't know anything about Russian history, really so this was pretty interesting. What sort of problems do they have?

Once the song ended and the dialogue began, one lady (a super attractive for a poor old mother Katherine Kebelein)  explained to us that she only had a little tea left, and that if she had to make tea for everyone, it would probably be a little weak.

"What the hell? Is this going to be a show about white folks complaining about tea? Come ON."

But no. See, her son is a leader of this group that hands out leaflets to people at worker camps. The leaflets say things like, "Rise Up, Workers" and stuff. I am not totally sure why, but I think they weren't being paid well. Or they made them be there? Should you revolt from a place that you don't even have to be at?

Well, it sort of got me thinking about the leaflets. These little flyers that they are sneaking to people. These were often called "propaganda" because they spoke for a side of a political party. So it made me think about....what if we had propaganda things nowadays? They would have to be internet memes. So I made a few to show you what they are a little better.

People would really get behind this one:

and now that we know that people love cute animals more than crazy pictures of Stalin, this would have been  better:

and this one would still be useful even today:

So basically, these poor factory workers were spreading memes all over town and teaching people to read (which is an important step in the spreading of information), and the other political party were so sick of it, they decided to kill them. 

So that's what this play is about. It sounds heavy, I know. It WAS heavy, but it is also a Brecht play, so there are songs and familial relationships that make it seem...almost cartoonish in the best possible way.

Brecht (if done correctly) can tell us huge, complicated stories with standard 2 Dimensional characters. The names, the movements, the non rhyming songs, are all tools he uses to make everything seem familiar. That is why he has survived and also why people still love to do his work. Except for Mother Courage, because that play is boring as shit. 

These characters are larger than life and symbolize all of our struggles for all generations, not just these Bolsheviks.

Max Truax has cast this thing perfectly. The voices, faces and table walking abilities are second to none.

I wouldn't have minded a live band, but who am I? Burt Reynolds? I don't need a live band everywhere I go.

Go and see this play. Seriously. It is a really good time, disguised as a lousy time. Also, they hand out free paper at the end.


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Catch Me If You Can: The Musical (Guest Reviewer Tom McGrath)

Let me spoil the ending of this story for you: Catch Me If You Can was a catastrophically uninteresting way to convey interesting material.

The Lady of the House and I went Downtown for an Evening Out. On a Friday. You know, like Normal Adults Who Live In, Say, Barrington might. (However, They probably drove their Volvo and paid many Dollars, whereas we took the Brown Line, because we are not Cowards. Workers, put your bodies on the Gears, and all that. But I digress.) We even went to dinner at La Madia, after considering and discarding Rock Bottom, because, as I said, we're attempting to hold off the Icy, Creeping Hand of Suburbia. And because it was crowded.

Here, I divert from the ostensible narrative and criticism of Catch Me if You Can in support of La Madia: they give you free Prosecco if you sit at the bar bit where you can watch people make the pizzas and salads and whatnot. Also, we had a delicious crisp, fresh salad to start - everyone should roast their grapes and that is not a euphemism - and followed that with a goat cheese pizza with prosciutto. The wine list was more than sufficient, the portions were sizable and well-presented, and all that good stuff that Padma et al talk about when they're not talking about Failures of Leadership or whatever on Top Chef.

Again, forgive the digression. (I digress, because I am loathe to talk about Catch Me If You Can, as it is difficult to describe a yawning, black expanse of Absence.) (Though I think I may have just done so.) (Anyway.)

Here's where our story takes a turn: the service was perhaps not the most brisk, and we were perhaps running a bit late. PERHAPS I saw a crostada being prepared in front of us for another table and PERHAPS I had an Old Fashioned (also recommended at La Madia, by the way), and PERHAPS I ordered that and had a 15 minute walk ahead of me, and therefore had to inhale a dessert (certainly above average, though I would've enjoyed a warmer pastry), stuffing several crumbs into my inelegant gob as we exited the restaurant.

Oh, I'm going to have to talk about this play now, aren't I? Well... we walked down Clark Street, and made fun of each other and passers-by, and we laughed at how I pretended like buying movie tickets for her parents when we were visiting was an act of Great Largesse... I got made fun of for my crostada. Which again, I do not regret.

In any event, we arrived at the Cadillac Palace where, as we climbed up to the furthest reaches of the building, we passed several deep lines at the concession areas. Yes, Consumers, purchase Cocktails: they will be required, if for nothing else, as an excuse for why you can't remember anything that happened in this noisy, bright, energetic quantum singularity of a musical, which may be remembered as beautiful while trapped inside the single atom of existence, but no light will ever escape to aid in the retelling. We found our seats just as the curtain grudgingly trudged up. The tune: catchyish? I can hum four notes for you, probably in the right order. The lights: extremely luminous. People were on stage! They were terribly energetic! There were kicklines! Empty, vacuous kicklines! Earned by ... I don't know! Just have a kickline to distract the masses from the Encroaching Darkness! 

The girls seemed pretty! The guys seemed handsome! (Though, due to our cutting-it-closeness, we just grabbed seats in the last row, so the girls could have been cleverly constructed bags of eels, and the guys could've been manatees in suits.)

(Don't steal that. That's my idea now.)

Listen: I saw the movie. You saw the movie. Your mom saw the movie twice, because it only has a little swearing in it, and Oh, But That Leonard Caprio Fellow Is Charming, and Tom Hanks Is In It! And That Unsettling Guy, No, Not Willem Dafoe, the One Who Talks Weird - Did You Know He Was a Dancer, No Not Christopher Walken. Oh, Yes! Christopher Walken. Yes.

Some of us read the book.
Some of us thought that the movie or the book would translate strangely to the stage, but whatever, it's the 60's! You throw a couple of tunes in - I'm always game for an orchestra on stage, by the way - and a couple clever chase-y bits, and away you go. The guy committed escaped custody twice before he was 21. He spent his late teens posing as a pilot and committing bank fraud. COME ON, HOW IS THIS PLAY SO BORING? How? Nothing is memorable. The actors will all get work forever, because they either have legs or pipes or just have that thing where there's no compunction against throwing themselves 110% into whatever multi-hour noisy 60's-ish-themed Zumba class they get paid to put on.

Note: Please, pay me to throw myself into a brightly-lit non-event with a bitchin' jazz ensemble.

Everybody is super-energetic and is clearly working really hard, but it's like you wanted to bake cookies, and took out all the ingredients, and made sure they were just so, and then, instead of baking cookies, you put all of the ingredients into the oven, and then buried the oven in a quarry somewhere, and when people asked where the cookies were, you found a lady to dress up in a Sexy Swiss Army Knife costume and shine bright lights in your eyes, and hand you a adorable, if dumb, puppy. Named "cookies."

You might ask, "What happened to my cookies?" And some guy would give you horse tranquilizers and throw you into a cab.

Full disclosure: we left at intermission. Be good. Hell, be bad, just don't commit the sin of being dull, because I have too much shit to do.

- D

-Tom McGrath

Monday, April 8, 2013

Big Fish (Broadway In Chicago)

"The sets were incredible!" "I loved the projections, I mean really loved them." "Look at how many people were here!"

These are things you should practice saying if you happen to know someone in Big Fish:The Musical playing now at the Oriental Theater.

Now, because all the big papers have a stake in Broadway In Chicago's success, you won't hear any truths from them about this show. In fact, I bet CJ throws this thing 2 1/2 stars.

The problem isn't with the acting, in fact, everyone seems mostly capable. The projections really are beautiful. The lights really are cool.

The problem with this show is in the hands of the composer, the script, and the director.
The staging is lazy, the songs are dumb, and the script is boring.

I remember liking the movie when it came out about 10 years ago. I think? I remember liking the previews and wanting to see it, but then, when the play started, I remember a little more clearly.

The advertise this thing like it is the dang Odyssey, the greatest collection of stories ever told, so let me tell you what it is really about.

This kid named Will comes home to marry some French lady and that means he has to spend time with his dad named Edward, whom he doesn't like because he likes to tell stories that may or may not be true.

"I'm not gonna die this way, because a witch told me differently"- cut to a scene where a witch is singing a song that no one could understand the words to, and then back to the story.

There are a lot of stories like this.
One is about a fish that ate his wedding ring, one is about seeing a mermaid in a pool, one is about meeting a giant, one is about joining a circus, one is about going to college at Auburn University, and then I left at intermission, so I don't know the rest.

But let me tell you, if the craziest story that happens is that a southern guy in the 1950's joins a circus and then goes to Auburn, then you need a couple new stories, brah.

And that kid Will needs to take it easy on his Dad, who is also dying of cancer.

Is this play about a man's love for his father and the complicated way look up to them?
Beats me. It seemed like it was about this whiny kid who has had everything he ever wanted complaining about stuff.

Now, I do understand that this is a preview, which is why they stopped and restarted once, and that maybe the staging isn't done yet (I hope), but I also know what tickets cost ($200 for a couple) and if anybody came to see my show that cost $200 and saw that thing, I would be very upset with myself.

The first act ends with the dad singing a song to the mom about daffodil flowers. Do you know what the words to the song are?

"Daffodiiiiiiiiiiiils, Daffodiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiils, Daffodiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiils" and then daffodils pop up out of the stage.


There ya go.
I can't spend any more time talking about this.


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Stark Perspective: Things I Will Not Do (Kevin Stark)

Local Actor/Drunk Kevin Stark first warmed our hearts in the role of Screw Up Son in some play with Ora Jones at Steppenwolf and warmed our hearts again in the role of Screw Up Son in some play with accents at Steep. His new column "A Stark Perspective" will be a chance to catch up weekly with this huge talent before he moves on to bigger and weirder things.

Did he steal that watch off a bum?

First Off, I do NOT do Shakespeare. If you ask me for a pair of contrasting monologues, I WILL NOT BE PLEASED! I don't work for free anymore and refuse to perform in cafes, or God forbid, someone's apartment. Also, I don't do open mikes. Also, I will not be expected to memorize lines.

 I will not work at a theatre that isn't directly off the red or brown line without compensation for my travel, or you could pick me up.

 I do not do stylized violence or learn lines “verbatim”, as I go strictly on impulse.  I do not take direction from assholes with degrees from Northwestern, that whack off to hanging with Liev Schreiber and
rapping about his "process", you piece of shit.

 I will not cow-tow to Stage Managers with their various “line notes”.

 I am a real motherfucker with balls of steel, that understands that stage sex is part of the game, dude. I am SO SICK of stealing the spotlight. No one cares how you hold the fucking teacup, hit your mark and tell the fucking truth! Don't be one of those pussy actors in the corner beating their limp, taffy dick, asking if they can stick it in too.


 You get that dick hard and fuck the stage with me, pussyboy.

 -Kevin Stark

 From your lips to God's ears, Kev.
Join us next week for A Stark Perspective: Surefire Ways To Bang Your CoStar


Thursday, March 28, 2013

What the Bulls Win Meant For Me (A Personal Essay)

Sometimes in your adulthood you doubt everything you have decided to do with your life. Your life in the arts (or whatever it is for you) that is seemingly going nowhere, your career choices, what blue jeans you wore that day, etc.

You may stay up all night worrying about a single decision you made the day before. Maybe you said something that could be construed as impolite or rude to a colleague. Maybe you are getting too old for all this bullshit. Why are you still getting zits at this age? Why is everyone that you are PAYING for their services so fucking unreliable? Why can't it just be the weekend so I can be home, not look in a mirror and I can cover my head with a blanket for a few days and just try to recuperate from my own self doubt the constant let down of others. Why did the CTA prices go up if they are just going to cut service? Why are they closing all these goddammed public schools? Where are these kids gonna go? Why is this Gay Marriage thing a big deal?


and why is it still so cold? Cloudy and cold and dark all the time. Is it worth living in this city at all? I know there are other places to live that probably would be HAPPY to have a guy like me in their town. Someplace warm with a nice little community theater and people willing to help you achieve.

Selfless, reliable, happy.

You get home from another rough fucking day full of disappointing phone calls and more headaches.

"Well sir, we still can't tell ya what's wrong with your car, but we charge $80 a day in storage."

"That package you ordered got lost in the mail AGAIN, so expect it to be another 3 weeks."

"This CTA train will be delayed for another 30 minutes."

You get home and just want to watch your Chicago Bulls play a game so you can relax and what do you hear?

"At a press conference, Derrick Rose said that while he is ready to play, he still will not."

"Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli, who were expected to be game time decisions, will be sitting out tonight."   

"Rip Hamilton's old ass is hurt again."

Which sounds like a typical end to a Chicago sports team season.
Our motto should be:

"Everyone is hurt, the future looks terrible."

Well, that's just par for the course, I guess.
What's that? Oh, we are playing the Miami Heat on a 27 game winning streak? Oh great. That sounds about right for our city right now.

Then what happens?

Nate Robinson hits a couple threes. Luol Deng matches rebounds and assists with LeBron James. Carlos Boozer pushes back for once. Kirk Hinrich rips that fucking ball out of Chris Bosh's hands!

Wait, are we winning? Are we going to win?
Why is everyone cheering? Did something good happen?

And then the buzzer sounds, and the game is over, and the Chicago Bulls have
beaten the unbeatable Miami Heat.

For the first time in a month you can go to sleep without worrying because you saw what can happen when you just stick it out with your team. When you fight, you can win.

Just don't give up. Quit thinking about giving up. Stick to the plan, however impossible or ridiculous it may seem.

Just grow some balls and elbow a motherfucker in the chest and keep walking.

and what's this?

The sunshine is out.

-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kill Shakespeare (Strawdog Hugen Hall) (Review by Anthony Tournis)

I was sitting on a beach drinking a Margarita. I was out. Gone. Never going to write
another review again. “Good riddance” I mumbled. It had been a while since my last review but
the image was still burned in my mind. The deadlines…the screaming…the sexual harassment.
As the sound of the surf gently lulled me into a much anticipated slumber I could make out a
man in a white suit coming towards me. This did not bode well. The concierge approached, my
palms started to sweat. “Phone for you, senor” he said with an almost innocent quality. He
didn’t know who was on the other line, and if he did he would probably pray to the god that he
held so dear that this phone call was quick. As he handed me the phone I could see a bead of
sweat trickle down the side of his forehead. That bead of sweat sealed my fate. I put the
receiver to my ear, “It’s time.” That was all that was said. The concierge looked at me with pity.
I looked at him as I rose from my cabana chair, grim determination in my eyes. “Pray for me,
Joaquim. Pray for me.”

On Monday night I saw the latest offering by Strawdog Theater in the form of a graphic
novel come to life…Kill Shakespeare. I read the Kill Shakespeare books when they first came
out. In fact, I reviewed them. I liked them a lot. Read my original view if you want my take on
the story. This version of Kill Shakespeare is unique in its own right. I have never seen anything
like it before. It has the charm of a radio play, the beauty of an art exhibit, and the communal
feeling of a silent film. A lot of thought and technical prowess went into developing this
experience and it really shows. This show is a multi media monster which is tamed by the
incredibly capable designers and crew. From the top notch vocal performances to the insanely
great original music, I and my fellow audience members were thoroughly entertained. This is
the point in the review when I would single out certain performances that I enjoyed more than
others but I can’t do that. Everyone who lent their vocal talents to this show should be
commended on a fantastic job. This is the true definition of an ensemble. The art is absolutely
stunning as well because it is the original art from the graphic novel, only projected in HD. It’s
beautiful. The staging is interesting to say the least. The audience faces two white screens
which have the panels of the comic book projected upon them. The actors stand at the back of
the space and watch the panels as they give their lines to match the panels. It does take a
second to get used to if your brain isn’t trained to read the panels of a comic book, but you pick
up on it quickly and are really able to follow the story.

This shittiest part of this show is that it is coming to an end. I wish that I had seen this
show sooner so I could tell you all to go and see it right now. If this show ever has a second
incarnation, run to see it. If you don’t, then you’re dumb.

Pulling me out of retirement – D

Show rating – A

-Anthony Tournis

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sugarward (The Side Project) JOHN TAFLAN REVIEWER

Sugarward, the boringly mesmerizing new play by Sean Graney (though not directed by Sean Graney; directed by Geoff Button), strikes that delicate balance of being almost impossible to follow if you aren’t paying attention at all and being about several things it’s not ostensibly about.

In four terrible but excellent performances, John Henry Roberts (as Colonel Parke) and Joel Ewing (as manservant Thomas Kirby, former Governor Christopher Codrington, and corrupt sugar baron Edward Chester) have obviously memorized their lines.  And what lines they are!  To be honest though, I didn’t immediately understand some of the words in those lines until I thought about the context in which they were used.  Having then gleaned their meaning via a process of brain engagement, it was exciting because the writer (Sean Graney, who didn’t direct the play) would use them again and again and it was like getting a little treat every time you heard them because you had learned something earlier that you didn’t know before but now that you had learned it it was fun to be in on the joke and all of the sudden realize that a play can be about something other than people just sitting around complaining about a playwright’s loosely fictionalized friends and relatives.  (Also: don’t worry if you’re hard of hearing or feeling, because Joel Ewing projects at Metallica concert-like levels, accompanying every plosive with a justly infused shower of spittle.  [As alluded to above, Joel Ewing does play several different parts which is confusing unless you just accept it.]) 

Geoff Button directed this play as well as he could…which was actually really, really, really well.  He did an awesome job with it.  He spots Roberts and Ewing’s verbal calisthenics when they’re at the polysyllabic pull-up bar and holds their feet when they’re doing emotional sit ups.

Alright.  Let’s get down to brass tacks here.  No more smarming around.

There’s no need for a plot summary, just go see the play and know that what makes it so damn interesting is it’s assertion that the drive to obtain and ultimately possess power is, in fact, less dangerous than the desire men and women have to believe in those who pursue that power.  Oh, and it’s also about sugar.


-John Taflan

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Daisey/Williams War of 2013

There is a new controversy stirring in our precious Chicago Theatre blogosphere and this one goes all the way to the top. The people involved are some of the most important players in American Theatre and the web of intrigue will affect us all.

It’s like an episode of REVENGE mixed with an episode of DECEPTION mixed with an episode of WORLD’S FATTEST PEOPLE!

So, our favorite monologist and Kool Aid Man impressionist, Mike Daisey is up to his old tricks in the world of deceit. His new work “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” created quite a stir among white people when lithpy radio host Ira Glass announced ON PUBLIC RADIO airwaves that it was, in fact, not true!

Everyone piled on Daisey (which believe me, takes some effort and some rope) accusing him of basically raping American theater...even though all he really did is make a bunch of Mac nerd fanboys feel bad for about 30 seconds.

To be honest, we don’t even know what the controversy was about. The dude sits at a table and talks at you for 2 hours. If I expected every dude who sat at a table and told me stories about iphones to tell the truth every time, then... I would be legendary theatre critic Ton “The Fawn” Williands!

See, here in Chicago, legendary stage actor Lance “Pants” Baker has taken it upon himself to perform Daisey’s piece in an effort to change peoples’ minds 30 souls at a time. He’s performed the show repeatedly since Daisey’s Truthsexuality Outing on NPR, with the current production taking place at the 16th Street Theater. Tom “The Glomb” has reviewed the show on his site, and noted that there are STILL some errors in the script, even though Baker is performing the “redacted version,” which takes note of the Glass/Daisey tete a tete.

This is all fine and good. Maybe some Chinaman hurt his arm at a phone factory, maybe he didn’t. Do you care, Audience? Have you ever even SEEN a Chinaman before? Do you even know what an “arm” is?

Torn “The Dragonborn” Billsims obviously takes umbrage with the thought that this piece of theater is guilty of lying to him, but to defend our colleague here...Mr. Billsims thinks that everyone on stage, in movies, on TV, and at the grocery store is lying to him. He may not be sure what lying actually is, you guys.

I saw him yell at a flat soda for lying to him about bubbles. He yelled at Mario when he found out that Luigi wasn’t really his brother.

There was a horribly embarrassing moment once when I saw him repeatedly accuse the Puppet Bike guy of lying to children and him because those animals were dancing too well, and everyone knows that animals don’t dance that well and what the hell was he trying to prove.

So we can sit around and place blame on Toom “The Room” Swilldims for acting like a crazy person, OR, we can blame Mike Daisey for feeding the dragon.

Now, here’s what Mike Daisey wrote on his own blog to Mr. Swilldims, basically calling him out for being a terrible reviewer and a bullshit artist. Now, if anyone knows bullshit artists, it’s definitely Mike “Twinkies4Life” Daisey.

America's Greatest Entertainer
The only guy who walks out of this thing scot free is the man we can all get behind Lance Baker. His handsome eyes would never lie to us. His deep and swarthy baritone voice would never utter a word of hurt.

As for these other goofballs, they need to quit fighting. Neither of them are right. Mike, you got busted for lying on NPR, Todd “The Clod” Fillsom, you are a lunatic.

And, on top of that, you are acting like 14 year olds on YouTube flaming each other. Just look at that comments section y’all! This is a sad state of affairs, because no one gives a rats’ ass except for you two and some d-bag named Eric. Daisey, you have the potential to let go of this crap and go redeem yourself. Do we have to start calling you “The Fat Neil LaBute”? Because, I have no problem with that, I have NOTHING to lose, I am playing Skyrim tonight!

Daisey, why don’t you write a monologue about creepy reviewers? Or what about a hard hitting expose on the handsomeness of Eric and Andy? I would watch you sit at a table and talk about that for 90 minutes at least.

Please, drop this whole “defending” yourself thing. You aren’t Lance Armstrong, even though just as many people give a shit about cycling as one-man shows. I’m telling you, it’s gonna burn you up inside, all this hate. You’ll be headed for a Spaulding GRAVE.

And as for you, Thom “The Mom” Willham, go review a Lookingglass show and yell at the acrobats for lying to you about gravity.



-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer
-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Friday, January 11, 2013

Daniel Day Lewis is a PHONY (Person Review)

Well everyone, the Oscars nominations were released yesterday and everyone is abuzz about some little girl and some movie from France or something and why Ben Affleck didn’t get a handjob for his incredible work in Fargo.

So much controversy and so many things to talk about!

I would like to address something that always seems to bother me and it’s name is Daniel Day Lewis. Lewis is generally considered by everyone to be Earth’s greatest actor because of his transformative properties and intoxicating dialect work, but as I grow older and more interested in the art of acting, I have a few problems with that.

For the sake of comparison, I will only be referencing other white actors, ages 40-60 years old in this article, so if you tuned in to hear me compare Lewis to Angela Basset, then come back another day.

Ultimately, what I am going to try to prove to you through comparisons is that Daniel Day Lewis is a PHONY that should never be nominated for an Oscar and should probably only be doing Children’s Television shows.

Ok, let’s start with a scene that most of us are familiar with. Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia. As his character explains the meaning of an opera song to Denzel Washington. In this scene, Tom has a little makeup on and his hair has been lightened. He looks a little sick, but through his own voice, and human facial expressions and script words, we were all brought to tears.

What if Daniel Day Lewis played Andrew Beckett?

Andrew Beckett would have a limp, a thick mustache, he would have lost 45 pounds, an earring and probably a very bad cough, maybe a cane AND the IV thing.

The script would have been the same, so he would be saying the same words, just putting more obstacles in his way and this is where Daniel Day Lewis has us all fooled.

What about Ray Liotta in Goodfellas? There is a very simple and very affective scene where the gig is up and Liotta’s character Henry Hill is driving and behind him, he can see the helicopters coming over the horizon to arrest him. He clears the coke off the dashboard and panics and the scene is incredible. Literally one of the most intense and impressive scenes in film because of it’s simplicity.

What if Daniel Day Lewis was Henry Hill?

Lewis would have gone undercover in the mafia for 2 years to get this scene just right. Hill would have an eye patch and a big mustache. He would be wearing lots of jewelry and they would have to model a special car seat to make him very uncomfortable in the car for this scene, and he would probably need to use real cocaine for the scene and have been addicted for a few months as to not “fake” the emotions he would be feeling in his specially modeled car. Living as Henry Hill would be very hard on Lewis and he would have to retreat to his cobbler shop in Ireland for 3 years after this film to recuperate from his exhaustive performance and all encompassing transformation.

In America, we reward people who overcome obstacles, but in acting this shouldn’t be the way. We look for performances that are true and powerful but we also love the grandeur of disguise and illusion.

So, if you have a scene where you need to walk up to somebody and say “I love you”, the trick is in making your feeling believable, not in making YOU believable. The more crutches you give your character, the more obstacles you are giving your scene mate as well.

So walk over and say “I love you”.

Don’t limp over and whisper it in a South African accent. 

Now, what makes DDL special is his ability to convey anything with all that shit on his face. He is good at it. I am simply saying that we put too much weight into an actor’s ability to go to a costume shop and  spend 3 months living like a Civil War General or whatever.

Do you think DDL could do a romantic comedy like Paul Rudd or Bradley Cooper?

No. But I bet you that Bradley Cooper can put on a bunch of scars and a mustache and take a few voice lessons and be some dirty Irish hillbilly.

Because all actors can play a pirate or a Navajo Warrior for the right amount of money and time, but DDL can’t play a normal dude.

So basically, don’t fall for it. You are as good of an actor as Daniel Day Lewis. You just don’t have the money to get as weird.


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach