REVIEWSTheatre Reviews

True Life Tales from the Honeymoon Capital of the World (Some of Which are True)

True Life Tales 2
David Kodeski. Photos by Melinda Evans

Created by David Kodeski and Naomi Ashley

Directed by Edward Thomas-Herrera

Playing at Stage 773, Chicago

Some Favorite Memories of Childhood in a Tourist Trap

“When people hear that I’m from Niagara Falls, New York, they usually express surprise that people actually live and can be from there,” says David Kodeski, the writer and narrator of True Life Tales. Now at Stage 773 for a few evenings, the show features some amusing tales from Kodeski’s mid-century childhood in a rust-belt Catholic town, which he tells while accompanied by singer-guitarist Naomi Ashley and her small band. The set-up is similar to NPR’s This American Life, except True Life Tales is consistently amusing.

Kodeski introduces us to Niagara Falls through one of his grade school teacher’s lessons, which the band accents with the sort of music one associates with museums. He reassures us that he found this about as interesting as we do, but uses it to segue into his real topic of conversation: how bizarre and occasionally menacing the people around town often were. Take, for example, the filthy carpenter who lived with his mentally ill wife in a house all the children assumed was haunted, and later used as a hide-out in which to smoke weed while the housekeeper harangued them for blasphemy. Or consider the mailman who kept the coupons he was supposed to deliver for himself, and also had a faint whiff of disreputability for being divorced, and may have once wielded a two-by-four with a rusty nail. Despite their social conservativism and insularity, the people of Niagara Falls often turned to drugs out of sheer boredom, inspiring much of Kodeski’s material. After all, you’ve never recognized the presence of the Virgin Mary until you’ve dropped acid while listening to The Who.

True Life Tales 3
Naomi Ashley

Surreal cartoons by Lisa Barcy are projected onto the back wall, and change with the show’s eleven segments. Naomi Ashley steps in with an original song in between stories, joined by a band that includes an accordion and bass to create cabaret-style music. It works well with Kodeski’s mix of nostalgia and satire. He weaves the threads of his anecdotes together to establish a palpable sense of his setting, which is exaggerated through a child’s eyes, no doubt, but easily believable. Kodeski either has an excellent sense-memory or is enough of a master of prose to fake one, because he can generate not only entire scenes, but also smells and physical sensations just with his words. He saves the funniest story, about the horrible summer job he spent stuffed in a bear suit, for last, but all the fully-developed incidents earn at least guffaws. True Life Tales is always enjoyable, occasionally laugh-out-loud ridiculous, and an amusing way to spend the early part of a weekend evening.


Jacob Davis

Playing at Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave, Chicago. Tickets are $25, with discounts for students. For information, visit Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm through October 24. Running time is eighty minutes.