Circle Mirror Transformation

Circle Mirror Transformation is a quiet and subtle study of broken lives—not unlike a condensed time-lapse of the imperceptible migration of landmasses across the oceans. It is not the raucous dramas of the 20th century with defined and high-stakes conflicts. The stakes and conflicts here are personal and hidden, like an iceberg below an ocean surface (if I may stretch the geographical analogy just once more).

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The Great & Terrible Wizard of Oz – 2017 production

First produced in their 3rd season, The House Theatre of Chicago’s The Great & Terrible Wizard of Oz—their own adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book with a “modern twist”—returned this past week to close their 15th season. An elaborate set design (by Collette Pollard) complete with life-size puppets (designed by Jesse Mooney-Bullock) and actual flying monkeys (choreographed by Ryan Bourque) give this staging an uncommonly high production value. However, for a classic tale that was epitomized in its Broadway and film productions and has since gone on to saturate our American culture this charmingly cute production with a “modern twist” brings nothing remarkably new to experience: the Broadway hits are absent, replaced by a few lame indi-folk ballads; and the story itself is strangely circuitous, plodding, and lacking in dramatic excitement. My lasting impression: Why was this made?

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Fatelessness

I would call Theatre Y’s production of Fatelessness daring, not least because it challenges its audience’s casual investment of attention and intellect, but especially because it offers no extraneous, aesthetic pretentions to disguise the challenge: it is sincerely—that is on principle, for a purpose—unsentimental. Personally, I found the casual and welcoming discussion after the performance more cultivating than the performance itself, but for admirers of avant-garde productions that imagine outside the (black)box, Fatelessness is a singular and fascinating theatrical experience.

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The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Most noticeable of the effects in the production, however, are the red clown noses that adorn every character. These are, at once, richly and effectively symbolic, and symptomatic of the unrelenting comedic style that robs the production of its underlying “horror.” The world to which these red noses introduce us is one in which everyone is, to some conscious degree, implicated in the corruption. When a character dies, his or her red nose is torn from their face and they are (as I interpret it) forced to breathe the noxious, corrupt, “fishy” odor that pervades this world—a reality they had denied; indeed, it may be assumed that it is of this that they finally die. In the production’s most poignant moment, Ui and his henchmen remove their red noses and their caricature-esque gestures fall away to reveal the real, dimensional criminals that they are. This moment has a visceral quality to it, as if one awoke from a circus dream to find it were only a gaudy gild on a harrowing reality.

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The Source

The principle problem with McKinley’s story is that his story is not a story: it’s a situation. The real story—that is, the drama—never manifests because nothing happens: no one actually acts. They wait and talk and debate and talk and fret but never do anything of consequence. What conflict there is—and a middling conflict at that—is entirely between the two journalists, their rather irritating personalities, and their ethical ideas. That’s the “story”—and it’s boring.

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Gentle

By today’s psychological and social standards the Pawnbroker is—a narcissist—a misogynist—a cruel and autocratic husband! To Dostoevsky—perhaps the same. But there is something more to him, Dostoevsky shows us, as he compassionately winds us through the inchoate abyss of his modern soul—a soul modern psychology and sociology has since imperialized like topographers with signs and calculations and categories

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Blue Man Group – 2017

Blue Man Group is for everyone: kids, couples, visiting in-laws, clients, fun people, boring people, people with taste, people without taste. It’s an immersive, multi-media, comedy-rock-dance-party-show spectacle for all! If you haven’t seen it, you should; if you haven’t seen it recently, bring the kids, the new girlfriend, the family you have nothing to talk about with; if you have seen it recently, you might just as well wait a couple years, it’ll be around.

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Death of a Salesman – 2017

Death of a Salesman so permeates our American subconscious, it hardly needs any introduction. Willy Loman (Brain Parry) is a husk of a man who has staked his life of 30-plus years of traveling salesmanship in the fruitless soil of unrealistic hopes and impractical principles—the pedestrian virtues of being well-liked and wearing a charming smile—to which the world has responded with brutal indifference, literally bricking-out the sun from alighting on his small, urban domain.

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High Fidelity – 2017

Set in a tiny found space converted to look and feel like a real record shop (wonderfully realized by Michelle Manni), and accompanied by an impressive live band, Refuge Theatre Project’s immersive remount of High Fidelity lives up to its last-year’s acclaim: it is infectiously catchy, cleverly comedic, and distractingly entertaining. Those more interested in heart than spectacle, however, will find themselves bored by intermission and disappointed by the end. The biggest joke, though, is that High Fidelity was made into a musical at all—a genre derided by the spirit of the film. But too few will mind this irony amidst the rollicking pop-rock and belly laughs of its musical successor.

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