Directed by Lilli-Anne Brown
Produced by Bailiwick Chicago Theater
At Victory Gardens Theatre, Chicago
Strange campy comedy comes with loads of disco, drag performances
I’m not sure what to make of Aaron Holland’s Princess Mary Demands Your Attention. Director Lili-Anne Brown uses much theatricality including a muse-like drag queen, Princess Mary (Baron L. Clay, Jr.), to shadow and indirectly comment on/motivate on the action of this strange show. The show is also peopled by gay club kids who act both over-the-top and speak a sub-culture language all their own.
But the main character, Amari Bolkonski (Armand Fields) is a gay, black man (with a Russian last name??) who is a hen-pecked son of a domineering mother, Countess Bolkonski (Pam Mack). Amari is a daydreamer ‘stuck’ in life. He is a weak person who comes off quite unsympathetic as he wallows in his laziness and inertia. One day on his way to his job, he meets the three flamboyant club kids: Nathaniel (TJ Crawford), Bastian (Omer Abbas Salem) and Christian Nikolas Parlucci (David Kaplinsky). These three flirt and entice Amari into inviting them to his house to smoke pot. A friendship ensues.
Amari’s job is with his father-figure mentor Stacy Neighbors (Rus Rainer), himself a gay man with a flare for hats. The storytelling has loads of canned disco and pop music danced to by the club kids and the muse Princess Mary. During act one we are suppose to grow to like and care about Amari but I simply couldn’t care for such a weakling.
Act two switches tone as it turns into a melodrama that finds Amari spending more than ten years pouting over the loss of his mother. It takes the muse Princess Mary and the chance reuniting from Christiano and the club kids to inspired Amari to ‘live’ life to the fullest. It only took Amari until his thirtieth birthday to ‘find’ himself. Long before that I lost interest in this hybrid show. I did admire Armand Fields performance, he worked hard to make us like Amari.
I keep asking myself, who is the audience for this show? Possibly younger gay men and women could find this show funny, but older gay men could be offended by the club kids. As theatre, Princess Mary Demands Your Attention is a raw, unclear story with a less than endearing lead character. It is also cluttered with songs, dances, and silliness with a major tone shift in act two that comes of as a cliche-ridden melodrama. Parts of this show are funny, yet the story is weak and confusing.
Bailiwick Chicago Theater has mounted terrific show (like The Wild Party) so we’ll forgive them for this show. Their loyalty to their resident playwright Aaron Holland is to be admired. I look forward to their next show.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 31, 2015
For more info checkout the Princess Mary Demands Your Attention page at theatreinchicago.com
At Victory Gardens Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-871-3000, www.victorygardens.org, tickets $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through February 21, 2015