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