Weeks 32 & 33: Steam Heat, Movies Turned Musical
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Our summertime recap continues with a week of steamy, hot films followed by movies that stood on their own before being adapted into musicals. Part of this journey for me has been to not only hit a lot of shows, but cross a lot of classic films off my list which I was able to accomplish during these weeks. And also let's be honest, when they're about to be taken off your insert streaming platform name here the urgency becomes more prescient.
#TheatreCrushThursday was given to Mercury Theater and Black Button Eyes Productions. #FollowFriday went to National Youth Arts, Chicago Foundation for Education, the Performing Arts Medicine Association and Safer Foundation.
Oh, the woes of Southern livin'. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof provides a fun title, some snappy lines, but honestly I expected more. Having seen a National Theatre Live broadcast that was impressive and definitely turned up the fire between its dysfunctional couple, the film felt more unnecessarily dreary and at times boring. I couldn't believe that I was struggling to get through a Tennessee Williams play instead of feeling revived from it. It did allow me to reconsider how Williams depicts female characters through a modern gaze, especially with Elizabeth Taylor having to put up with a man who clearly doesn't love her. And isn't this the case in many of his plays? Talk about recurring themes. Next time, I'm gonna vie for The Glass Menagerie or Streetcar.
Reality TV can look at Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for paving the way of can't look away from your screen entertainment. This film was so satisfying to watch despite it being horrific, tragic and straight up cruel. I'm honestly surprised it's not shown during Halloween as it functions so well as a psychological thriller. And what's scarier than dealing with the reality of marriage, am I right? It truly capture the can't turn away from the car crash or fight mentality that in retrospect is probably not healthy to watch, but you can't not be intrigued by. It's wickedly funny, cleverly written and the irony of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton depicting George and Martha, which paralleled their own tumultuous relationship, makes it even more grating. Definitely one of the best films I've seen.
Medusa will make you green with envy of the story's gripping relevance today. This Greek myth unraveled shows that there's more to the Gorgon with snakes for hair and a freezing stare than we've been told. Performed by a fantastically femme and non-binary ensemble, each get a turn to tell her story as a lover, sister, and scared, young woman. Her cruel fate can't help but feel similar to the way our own government polices and punishes Medusa for being sexual, outspoken and free. And it's especially scary in the way other women bring down the hammer in condemning her instead of standing in solidarity. A soothing yet ensnaring show that takes your breath away.
May all your honeys always be fly. I've wanted to attend The Fly Honeys Show for years and the hype didn't disappoint. It only comes around once a year which is part of what it makes it a gift, but it's so worthy to have a year long residency of its own. After ten years, I'm surprised it hasn't considered marking out its own territory around here. Well, one can dream and dream you do surrounded by fits of fury, fabulosity and fierce ass dancing. What a treat to see The Den transformed to create a late evening, for your eyes only show that celebrates all bodies no matter what your body.
Be careful what you wish for. We joyously fell down the rabbit hole of Dave Molloy's fairy tale, dark literature mismatch Ghost Quartet at Black Button Eye Productions. Go back in time to read about this glorious tale.
This Kiss is not easily forgotten. Haven Theatre gives a mesmerizing performance that presents as one thing, than reveals a deeper, painful underbelly. A layered meta-commentary on theatre, Syrian politics and love.
Billy Elliot is a heartfelt, tender film that's highly regarded for a reason. Having only been privy to the musical adaptation, this was a film I couldn't wait to cover. It now is high on my list as a must-see in how it manages to tackle many necessary subjects. It deals with examining masculinity across three generations in a family, the importance of dismantling masculine versus feminine archetypes and set against the backdrop of England's working class politics. It's history, family drama, a dash of romance and the story of an underdog in that will he or won't he make it story. The cinematography is also stunning not only in its dancing sequences, but in its setting at the dance studio, boxing ring and various homes. It's a story that holds a lot of resonance today and comes highly recommended for any film lover, musical or not. (The soundtrack is sick though.)
Male dancers get maximized in Magic Mike. Coming from Billy Elliot to this felt like a natural arc in a way. I had heard tell of Magic Mike for so long that I didn't know what to expect. And in summation, I wasn't mad I was just a little disappointed. What made it worthwhile was when we were having fun in the club seeing Channing Tatum and his crew deliver some sweet, sweet moves. Almost all of the actual plot surrounding it felt unnecessary or hard to invest in. I didn't need to follow Channing be declined a loan at the bank to open his furniture business or follow this poor girl whose only plot was to fall in love with him at the very end. I did appreciate how it started with Alex Pettyfer being groomed to follow in Tatum's shoes and come into this world, but his messy drug habits and threesomes grew stale. I've heard Magic Mike XXL is the way to go, so perhaps the sequel here surpasses the original. Also, not enough nudity I gotta say.
Desperately Seeking Susan is a quiet little gem of a film. I'm sad I didn't know about it sooner. It's a great film that has an accidental friendship at the core, even though they only guest star in each other's lives until the end. This 1980s film holds a lot of relatable themes while also threading this idea of the road not taken.
It deals with the ideas of freedom, as Madonna would say "Express Yourself" through fashion and work, and not being afraid to go after what you want. Even if it was different than the path you had in mind, I really appreciated how it laid out that choosing to get married or not, traveling versus laying down roots, it wasn't a question of either or, but what you want to do. It somehow pulls off a tale of mistaken identity that brings delectable cheese with moments of meaning and overall a lot of fun.
Prepare to consider Iconography an iconic podcast. Hosts/BFFs Ayo Edebiri and Olivia Craighead gab and dissect what makes their and their guests' favorite pop culture icons so legendary from The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Audra McDonald. I find it reassuring to find podcasts that feel like I'm hanging out with friends or a positive only Twitter thread brought to life. This podcast gives me that sensation and an opportunity for me to unpack the latest events in pop culture without feeling ashamed.
Friendship gets complicated when inconvenient truths come out. Windy City Playhouse's The Recommendation presents a well acted, immersive experience that tackles surprisingly deep topics. Yet the question begs to be answered of who benefits from viewing this production? Read on to find out.
Dogfight is as underrated a film as it's a musical. I was very hesitant to watch as I am head over heels for the musical, but it didn't disappoint. In fact, I think similar to musicals like Billy Elliot and Once it enhances its original source material. It's a love story that could go oh so wrong, but I really appreciate how it starts off messy and only gets more complicated from there. It's not the typical boy meets girl, they fall in love and run off into the sunset together tale. They're young lovers, but the world around them is crumbling in war and destruction. It also equally gives the couple their own backstories and separate journeys which when joined together they find an unexpected source of meaning. A short, tender film that has a simple, but lovable story.
Out of Love is a love letter to long-time female friendship. There are some stories that seem one dimensional, but as time progresses build into something greater entirely. Jumping through various shifts in times, it's like a memory box of scattered photographs and mementos to sift through. There's wounds that once were closed that are reopened, tears of past losses and connection that was felt in the past and present. Bringing Elena Ferrante feels, Elinor Cook wonderfully captures the cruelty that can come from female friendship as well as the companionship.
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