Forty-Two Stories: A High-Rise Condo Comedy

Forty-Two Stories’ first two performances were as radio plays. Given how many meaningless, tangential stories are told by the characters—from how one woman is faking a leak in her apartment, to how this guy stabbed this woman and some other woman jumped off the roof because of it—I can imagine how listening to this while sitting in a car on LSD in the middle of rush-hour traffic might be entertaining. Unfortunately, it is not so while sitting in a theatre for two hours. In a theatre, it is boring—not unlike sitting in a car on LSD in the middle of rush-hour traffic with the radio turned off.

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The Liar

I myself am not a fan of stiltedly “period,” ribald farces—but this one won me over rather quickly. Some of this may be due to Ives’ adaptation, but I’m more inclined to give credit to Director Rutherford’s direction and the cast’s performances that kept the acting grounded even in the midst of the patently ridiculous. Josh Hambrock’s Dorante is remarkable: he gets into his role body and soul with the sweat and agility of a boxer, blotting his brow between rounds of his full-contact performance. Other notables include Michael Hagedorn, the father, whose eyes and face are a book on acting credulity; and Megan Delay, who plays two twins of polar personalities with comedic gusto—and quick costume changes.

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The Perfect American

Glass, however, ultimately offers us a sympathetic perspective on Disney—and one not difficult to accept. Disney struggles with accepting his own death and preserving his legacy—a legacy we see (and to this day experience) grow larger than the man who inspired it. While he envisions his name growing as renown as Jesus and Muhammad, Disney laments how “Disney,” as the name of his brand, has usurped his individual identity. His remedy for death and obscurity is to be cryogenically frozen, so that he may yet survive and come back as a figure of hope to proclaim that even death is not an end to the dream.

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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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