Fire and Phoenix

In this captivating drama, playwright Kate Glover has brought back the time and place, capturing not only the immensity of the event, but also the sometimes shocking human dramas it produced. Director Kenneth Michaels makes full use of the generous Bridewell Theatre stage, itself a victim of the fire back then. Unusually, the play consists of 22 short scenes, and while this does provide a framework for coverage of a wide number of issues, it does make the structure of the evening somewhat fragmented and stop start. However, (apart from a tendency in some to ‘ face front and play to the gallery’) the highly committed company overcome this with a dedication and relish for the meatiness of their roles and the unfolding story. Read more

Wild At Hear

The programme is a quartet of one-act plays seldom seen, dating from early in the playwright’s career, and is redolent of his preoccupation with the disintegration of hopes and dreams. The guillotine decends as the poor creatures finally face the shattering truth of their lives. Williams' masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire, comes to mind particularly. In the ironically named At Liberty, and in Hello From Bertha, facets of the early life of Blanche du Bois from Streetcar can be witnessed. Read more

Chastity Belt

The show is packed with sensational scenes and naughty but very nice suggestion, but principally, it is the last word in brilliant, devastatingly daring acting, singing and mime, in the highest tradition of burlesque. If burlesque is defined as ‘a humorous and provocative stage show featuring slapstick humor, comic skits, bawdy songs, striptease acts, and a scantily clad female chorus’, Chastity Belt is the most sublime burlesque show in this or any other town. Read more

Danger: Memory

Apparently an examination of a fading memory, plus alcohol (she) and a dropping off of professional skills (he), it was, in the end, none of this, merely a superficial recounting of the playwright’s words, with not a thought for any great depth. Arthur Miller did not become one of the giants of 20th century American drama by turning out shallow material. As a result, the supposed climax and highlight, the dance scene at the end, exemplified this. What could have been exquisite nostalgia was simply embarrassing. Read more

The 2 Sides Of Eddie Ramone

This is the second incarnation of The 2 Sides Of Eddie Ramone that I have seen. Previously, at its Edinburgh festival outing, it was Eddie on his own with his demons, and I was moved to write: ‘With flashes of brilliance, mixing comedy and pathos, and with his original and bitingly powerful writing, the redoubtable Chris Sullivan’s performance is his most memorable to date’. He has lost none of this winning emotional cocktail. This version of the play now features Shian Denovan, who plays his daughter, in a beautifully delivered and felt performance. Read more

Invitation To A Beheading

By Vladimir Nabokov Adapted and directed by Victor Sobchak Theatre Collection Baron’s Court Theatre 28a Comeragh Rd, London W149HR Call (0)20 8932 4747 Tickets £10 - £12 Wed - Sat 7.30pm Sun 6.30pm Running time 2 hrs with intermission Through April 24 2016 Trust Me, I’m An Executioner  *** This sparkling play derives from the book of the same name, by Vladimir Nabokov. It has provoked much analysis and much comparison with Kafka, whom he never read. Written in Nazi Germany and published in 1938, with the war around the corner, it does not seem such a mystery to find some poor sod banged up and awaiting execution for having nothing more than impure thoughts, or ‘gnostic turpitude’ as he called it. For the piece to work, the audience should be bewildered as to why he is being given the treatment a cat gives a mouse. And so I was. As  Cincinnatus, in the standout performance of the evening, Garry Voss earns his star billing handsomely. His depths and his hopes, his bewilderment and his frustrations told of his total immersion in the absurd cruelty of Nabokov’s  imagination. An impressive and magnetic performance. Distilling the author’s brilliance in his adaptation, and injecting this cocktail of the theatre of the absurd and theatre of cruelty into his cast, adaptor/director Victor Sobchak has  produced a ‘style’, perhaps intended to show, in each characterisation of the large cast, the surreal artificiality of the prisoner’s ‘friends’. Some effort has been spent on costume and the impressive sound, and maximum use is made of the most unusual layout of this three sided stage. This company continues to provide the London fringe with some of the most interesting drama ever written.   Recommended Saul Reichlin www.chicagocritic.com www.remotegoat.com… Read more

LOLITA

by Vladimir Nabokov Adapted by Victor Sobchak Theatre Collection directed by Victor Sobchak and Chris Diacopoulos at Baron’s Court Theatre, 28a Comeragh Rd London W14 9HR Call 00 44 (0) 208 932 4747 April 9,16, 23 at 3pm April 11, 12, 18, 19 at 7.30pm Running time 2 hours with intermission This won’t hurt, darling. Promise! Vladimir Nabokov’s sensational 1955 novel arrived at The Rabbit Hole Theatre, Hampstead via an excellent adaptation by Director Victor Sobchak. The first season of Theatre Collection’s residency at this intimate North London venue is well launched with one of their most popular productions, which will transfer to The Baron Court Theatre, from April 9th. In the past, other versions of this story, notably Stanley Kubrik’s 1962 film, the age of the young girl and the emphasis on just how perverse Humbert is in his obsession with the ‘nymphet’ Charlotte (Lolita) is adjusted according to the permissions of censors, and the mores of the time. In this highly original version of the story, the young girl goes to great lengths to flaunt her charms at the lodger, Humbert, who also provides a target for the girl’s mother (a man-eating performance by Chloe Fontaine). In Sobchak’s adaptation, the fresh and modern feel is enhanced by the appearance by none other than Vladimir Nabokov himself, a constant alter ego, tormentor, and co-accused in their alternating appearances at a trial in which the audience are cast as jurors. A fuller exploration of this conceipt might have heightened tension even further than it did. In the title role, Katie Joyce travels a rich path, from the daring young tease, to the manipulating, but vulnerable sexual adventuress, to the woman of depth and sadness, in an utterly believable and compelling performance. Mark Aldridge as Humbert presents a seemingly confused, weak, but driven man, unable to resist the girl. Sassy Clyde provided a marvellous characterisation as the drunken vamp, Constance. In this day and age, when trials of men who have abused and molested children are a regular news item, this is a tricky plot to traverse, but the treatment in this constantly absorbing production is theatrically superbly handled. An evening of quality drama. Highly recommended. Saul Reichlin… Read more

A MARVIN HAMLISCH SONGBOOK

Conceived by  Courtney Crouse and Aaron Benham,   Directed by Courtney Crouse   Musical arrangements by  Aaron Benham   Choreography by Christopher Logan   Produced by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre   At No Exit Cafe, Chicago   They're playing his songs - darn well, too! This original revue is slick, smart and engaging   You may not know who MARVIN HAMLISCH (1944-2012) was but you do know many of his songs. "The Sting, " "The Way We were, " "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" - sound familiar? This versatile composer/conductor/pianist wrote for seven musicals, 32 films. He was among only a dozen folks to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards  and in 1974 he won three Oscars in one night (one for The Sting and two for The Way We Were ).  Hamlisch was a prolific composer, conductor, and a talented pianist whose life was music both creating and performing.  He was able to nimbly create sophisticated music with an assortment of lyricists including–Tim Rice, Craig Carnelia, Howard Ashman, Carole Bayer Sager, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Ed Kleban, David Zippel, and Howard Liebling.   Hamlisch's style contained reflective ballads, bittersweet laments as well as witty whimsical tunes with many haunting questioning songs. Serious, even contemplative, tunes rolled out from his piano. His sweet and often ironic tunes graced and underscored most emotional moods making Marvin Hamlisch an important composer from the late 20th century.   The artists at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre sure have the key to making musical revues work. The performers don't just walk out with a mic in hand and sing - no mics here ever! As in all revues at Theo Ubique, projection and articulation and the ability to "sell" a song is the hallmark of their revues. With A MARVIN HAMLISCH SONGBOOK , Courtney Crouse and Aaron Benham with the help from choreographer Christopher Logan, have created a fluid, engaging and well sung tribute to Hamlisch's genius. Besides selecting a 29 song sampling from Hamlisch's songbook, the order and transitions including tunes from various films and musicals to create and enhance a mood worked wonderfully.   Of course, to make that happen, the cast must contain talented singers. Caleb Baze, Sarah Larson, Patrick Byrnes, Garrett Lutz, Stephanie Hansen and Sarah Wasserman were equal to the challenge. "If You Remember Me" is sweetly delivered by Caleb Baze.  Sarah Larson nails "Rita's Tune" and Patrick Byrnes  examines "If You Really Knew Me." Garrett Lutz and Stephanie Hansen combine to land "When You're in My Arms."  Sarah Larson and Sarah Wasserman join Garrett in the telling “That’s How I Say Goodbye” heard in the show’s Chicago tryout but cut from The Goodbye Girl on Broadway.  One of the delights of this revue was the tribute to A Chorus Line with "One." The clever set-up that has the women singing terrific harmonies to "The Way We Were" and the men singing "What I Did For Love" showcased Hamlisch's two greatest hits.   Among the clever song organization was pianist Aaron Benham's entr’acte where he blends Hamlisch's ode to Scott Joplin from the movie The Sting with other Hamlisch songs.  The fun old pop hit from a 21 year old Hamlisch, "Sunshine, Lollypops & Rainbows (by Lesley Gore) to his glowing "Nobody Does It Better" from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me , we hear and see six young talents belt their songs brilliantly as they create rich harmonies in various combinations from duets to sextets.   The sheer variety of songs will fit any mood from goofy fun to serious contemplative and from familiar classics to smart obscure  power ballads give all tastes something to enjoy. Both Hamlisch fans those unfamiliar with his genius will be blown away by this wonderfully staged and sung musical revue. Nobody does it better that Theo Ubique with musical revues. See this revue and you'll agree.   Highly Recommended   Tom Williams   Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast   Date Reviewed:June 5, 2015   Jeff Recommended   For more info checkout the A MARVIN HAMLISCH SONGBOOK page at theatreinchicago.com   At No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago, IL, call 800-595-4849, www.theo-u,org , tickets $29 - $34, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through July 12, 2015 … Read more