Results tagged “Chicago” from ARTicles

I can't wait for the battle that will break out on Broadway when the Desirees of this world realize that there's another delicious role in the works. There is nothing wrong with the aging actress that a really great role can't fix, and Sarah Ruhl's "Stage Kiss" is just the cure for that long dry agony of waiting between Juliet and Lady Macbeth, as Ruhl's leading lady puts it.

We first meet her as she is struggling to keep it together, in a priceless audition setpiece that has the audience screaming with laughter and wide open to all that follows. (The production's enjoying its world premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, where the summer fireworks have obviously begun.) "Stage Kiss" is a sly and loving ode to the life of the stage, distilled to comic absurdity, but ever so deftly, retaining a seductively sober whiff of the real thing. 

The plot in brief: She gets the romantic lead in a bad '30s chestnut, only to discover that her old flame in the play is also her old flame in real life. The romp that follows is an exquisite send-up of the actor's dutiful struggle to make the imaginary seem really-really real, resulting in the classic absurdities that Ruhl explores with gusto. In effect, she is doubling down -- creating a play about a play for characters fighting demons who play characters fighting demons ... 

Anyway, it's a funhouse, but a funhouse with a warm heart. There's a delicious thread of farce in the backstage and rehearsal scenes, and yet the show is lyrical at its core. "Stage Kiss" has the kind of balance between a two-character romance and a superb ensemble of stock supporting characters that one finds in the best Astaire-Rogers movies. The stage director's a cheerful nebbish with closet acting pretensions; the male understudy's a preener, the daughter spits knives. One and all, you gotta love 'em. 

My guess is that the show will tighten somewhat on its inevitable path to Broadway, but the Goodman has done very well by Ruhl in "Stage Kiss," which has been nearly two years in development.

A pitch-perfect trio of veteran actors in the lead roles -- Jenny Bacon as She, Mark L. Montgomery as He, Ross Lehman as the Director -- has captured the humor, both broad and delicate. The show's creative team -- director Jessica Thebus, designer Todd Rosenthal and fight choreographer Nick Sandys -- have made a stylish, high-energy showcase for this delightful new work. If you have a chance to see it, by all means go.

Photo by Liz Lauren: He (Mark L. Montgomery) and She (Jenny Bacon) in Sarah Ruhl's "Stage Kiss" at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. 
May 10, 2011 8:21 AM |

PrometheusPHOTO.jpgMaybe it's true of all botched vacations: There can be a silver lining. To paraphrase Dorothy, sometimes when you're looking for your heart's desire, you may not have to go any further than your own backyard. Which is a good thing because that's how far I got when I had to abandon plans to spend spring break in Chile visiting my brother and reporting on the arts. I ended up staying in the Boston area where the arts chops are pretty sharp these days. And yeah, it's true: I didn't have to go more than four T stops to find my heart's desire.

1. Prometheus Bound directed by Diane Paulus at American Repertory Theater's Club Oberon in Cambridge.

Do you like your revolutions Greek style? Diane Paulus does. Her decision to focus American Repertory Theater's season on classics - as in Aeschylus and Sophocles (add her touring Broadway revival of Hair which, coincidentally, stops in Boston this month) - has turned out to be prescient given the headlines in Africa and the Middle East. Prometheus is another example of Paulus' gift for musical spectacle with gender-social-political-choreographic (did I leave anything out?) commentary glinting from a disco ball. For a show in which the protagonist is chained to a rock for most of the story, there's a lot going on here. There's no escaping the action whether you're with the groundlings - the throngs of fist-pumping youths on the center floor - or seated off to the side in a banquette where a trio of hauntingly pale chorus angels in combat boots might nudge you aside to use your table for a scene. Paulus had a dream team in script and lyrics writer Steven Sater (Spring Awakening) and composer Serj Tankian (System of a Down). The storyline may feel Greek to our ears because of the volume, but the production is rousing - and features the usual lineup of hyper talented performers who seem to give their souls to Paulus' vision of Outsiders Are Powerful. Thank you, Prometheus, for the bright ideas. We have some people in Wisconsin who would have found you very inspiring.

2. The Sun Also Rises by Elevator Repair Service at Arts Emerson's Paramount Theater.

After last year's Gatz, which ranks in the Top Ten Performances I've seen in three decades of theater going, I hoped Elevator Repair Service wasn't going to be a one-trick pony. It isn't. Select14_sm.jpgDirector John Collins has three important talents: He understands pacing - and isn't afraid to take it slow. He understands humor - and isn't afraid to combine the nuance of the aforementioned pacing with the nonsense of stagecraft. And he loves literature enough to know that a book is one thing and a stage play is quite another and that the two are related but not pathologically. If anything, Collins is a master of the remix. Purists may have walked away saying, "This isn't Hemingway!" Fine. That is fine. But I walked away wondering if I got the cultural wink in the Ferrante & Teicher poster on the wall - and not caring much for the answer because, well, it seemed very Hemingway not to overwork a symbol. In the end - and Collins crafts one of the

March 23, 2011 12:31 PM |


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