Weeks 38 & 39: Process is Performance, Shakes It Up
These weeks tested our physical limits and wits. First, we dove deeper into the bustling, beautiful underground theatre scene exploring nooks and crannies that aren't typically presented for performance. These performances came on the cusp of examining comebacks and how showing behind the scenes often offers entertainment in itself. Going off that, we visited with our good old reliable friend, the Bard. With so many adaptations to choose from, it was a tough choice, but we managed to find some bright spots and ones best left unseen.
#TheatreCrushThursday was granted to The Back Room Shakespeare Project and The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company. #FollowFriday went to Some Scripts, Chicago Women in Philanthropy, Self Care Chicago and Chicago Immigrant Transit Assistance.
Let's not tarry and get thee to reading our recap (you can skip the nunnery).
Lately, I've been feeling so cool. It may seem silly, but there's something immensely satisfying of getting to see a band you grew up with after you've grown up. The Jonas Brothers reunion was a long time coming, and it was worth the wait. Being surrounded by young women like myself and some who were married and had children (unlike myself) all were screaming and dancing their asses off to "Year 3000". It was next level and I've never been so happy to feel young, well slightly younger. I made middle school me proud that night.
The Storefront Project felt like a confetti cannon bursting out neon colored bits of innovation, vulnerability and humor. This successful collaboration between Prop Thtr and the MCA felt like a match made in heaven. Performing at both spaces and conforming to each of their needs and resources, it was fun to picture each slate of programming flipped in the other venue. It was a mind bender and you could feel the excitement walking into each new piece that each ensemble cultivated. An amazing experiment that proves what work our city is possible of curating when we work together and support each other's practice, even if it comes from a different focus.
Theatre Y's The Camino Project was a physical and emotional bridge of endurance. Five miles and seven hours later, it was an accomplishment to have made it and be able to tell the tale. I was delightfully surprised to have met so many people,, artists and audience members, alike along this journey. It was part performance, pilgrimage and excursion having to piece together where we'd been and where we needed to get to next. It was also a unique, once in a lifetime way to experience the city. Getting to explore hidden gems of Chicago and that are free resources to the community was simply magnificent. It was a wonderful way to take audience participation to the next level and allowed Theatre Y to show what makes their work so authentic and generous.
Miss our latest recap? Read up on what you missed now. Bad bitches are especially encouraged.
The Comeback is a level of cringe humor I can handle. Lisa Kudrow is an immensely underrated actress and here she gets to lead a comedic series on her own terms. There are many rose- tinted glass layers to Valerie Cherish as she tries to reclaim the narrative of her career as a comedic actress. As she battles ageism, ridiculously powerful, yet lazy male creatives, and younger generations who look up to her, she manages to walk the line of success and self-combustion. Cherish is a meaty role that in the hands of another could seem too grating or shallow. But Kudrow has the ability to show when she's putting on a happy face, it's to mask underneath that she wants to burst into tears or scream into an endless void. She models so well the spectrum of emotions women encounter on a daily basis in "having it all".
The recaps keep on coming. Feel the electricity from browsing through our next one. Read about it now.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is a short, but spirited read. Adichie has a remarkable way of articulating truths that are so obvious in an accessible, refreshing way. She never states that there's one way to view topics like feminism, masculinity and politics, but that the basic humanity we afford one another counts regardless of any belief system. She always prefaces with this is her own opinions and different beliefs work for others, especially when it comes to raising children. This book which comes from a letter she wrote to her best friend who sought her advice on how to raise her daughter as a feminist is personal and specific, as it should be with such a loaded subject.
Much Ado About Nothing has much to offer. This star studded adaptation feels like a whiff of breath air is taken with the text. It respects the language uplifting it while also making it feel common and that it can easily slip off the tongue. Emma Thompson of course brings all the snark and charm that comes with Beatrice and Kenneth Branaugh is a great flirt as Benedick coming in and out to spurn verbal battles (which makes for hella good foreplay). She brings the humor and heart as needed. The way she shines light despite her cynicism and betrayal she carries with her like a burden is watching a masterpiece be built over the course of the film.
Desdemona, or The Handkerchief Play by Paula Vogel is a must read for those who love a good spin on old tales. Vogel lifts Emilia, Desdemona and Bianca out of Othello and into a parallel version where they can plainly discuss sex, society and their desires. All of them are related to men and have to depend on men for their livelihood, but they are far from victims. They are survivors. They are afforded many dimensions to be salacious, gossips, and striking in their convictions. It's a juicy play told through vignettes that offers many descriptive, engaging possibilities for a director.
Evil has never looked so fashionable than it does on Jessica Lange. In Titus, she's quite the titan manning new hubby king Alan Cumming, two beyond monstrous sons, and taking a lover in the woods for a "stroll" as needed. And of course she does this all with a dead set of eyes behind her turned up smile and dressed in the most scarlet red, sensual garb. Lange certainly shines in Julie Taymor's riveting, gruesome view on Shakespeare's bloodiest, most violent play where heads are chopped up and served as party favors (as well as some other body parts). It would be easy to make this blood bath all gore with no care for serving the plot. Taymor brings a well spirited, energizing forcefulness that you can take or leave where if you can muster a strong stomach you can soldier on till the end.
O had the promise of a successful, modern Othello, but could have used more of a makeover. Trading war zones for basketball courts, this adaptation is transported to a posh high school which comes with a lot of stakes and privilege. For a play with a lot to dissect with race and gun violence, it's handled irresponsibly. It makes it seem like the only way for adults to listen is by picking up a gun (which was also felt when watching Romeo + Juliet ). While extremely resonant and relevant in that high school shootings have only grown in popularity since this film's release, it feels like there's a way to show these topics in the negative light that they are without being exploitative or giving credence to their cause. I also don't know if I've seen a Shakespeare film adaptation handle the portrayal and conversation of rape in a manner that's to bring awareness and education on the topic rather than using it as a plot point or for artistic spectacle. From Titus and O to other productions I've seen, this remains a recurring problem in our modern presentations of the Bard today.
Drunk Shakespeare brings the booze and Bard to create a night out you won't forget. Hidden in the library of The Lion Theatre, it's a cozy gathering place to watch amazing actors shine while throwing back a shot or two. It's definitely
recommended for those who are skeptical of Shakespeare or would feel more comfortable at an improv show than in a traditional proscenium theatre. If you want to go for drinks with a quick show (around ninety minutes, no intermission) you still have some time to spare if you want to stay out longer.
Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet is a jam packed, star bursting dreamscape of sex, drugs and rock and rolling youngsters. A beloved adaptation that polarized critics, it's hard to resist this dreamy, dramatic 90s' spin on star crossed lovers. You'd have to be a real cynic to not melt just a little between the chemistry of baby faced Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio. And Mercutio is a questioning, queer iconic jokester who's as well dressed as he is clever. There are so many captivating images that breeze over you, it's worth going back to see all of the finely woven in details. Every piece of scenery, costume and choreographed movement pays respect to the text. It's a dramaturgical wet dream in bringing a highly creative, inspired vision while still telling the story that needs to be told.
Hamlet gets a highly stylized, Wall Street level lift. This 2000 film is designed quite well with wonderful nods to its modern innovations like floppy disks, video surveillance, and Blockbuster. Sadly, the casting and text feel lifeless before the film even can get off the ground. It almost felt haunted by its premise like it was doing all the heavy lifting upstaging the action of the film. I so wanted this film to do well, but it seems like the direction was so focused on making the dress settings shine that it forgot to focus on making the pacing and tone of the film feel just as lively. If we're going to make Ophelia a photographer, really use that as a character trait. If Hamlet's gonna be a hipster, artsy sad boi, let's play with that and find the layers beneath that rich shtick. I was here for the concept, but it had such a weak pay off.
What better way is there to finish the week than with a recap? Brush up on your Dolly and escape that 9 to 5 life.
Fear not and dig right into that Bard!