Weeks 42 & 43: Ghostlight, 'Til Death
Scary stories make up our October coverage. Ghosts, dancing demons and deranged couples come out to play when you most expect it. Sometimes there's nothing more terrifying than seeing reality break through unrealistic circumstances. Delving into how different horrors can feed into each other on and offstage proves there can be dire consequences. Love can be a real nightmare whether you choose a married man, ghost or murderer. And this was before online dating!
#TheatreCrushThursday went to Chicago International Puppet Fest and The Passage Theatre. #FollowFriday was given to Scenery Bags, A Silver Lining Foundation, ARTE and Chicago Cause.
Time to dig in to some tales of terror!
Dance, dance until you die! Suspiria is up to a whole bunch of hocus pocus. A 2018 remake of the Italian 1977 film puts this German dance studio into a tailspin. Dakota Johnson undergoes a metamorphosis from naive newcomer to HBIC aka head ballerina in charge. Her success sadly comes at the cost of her classmates' lives. Let's just say when there's hidden hallways and bodies behind your mirrors, it's time to consider a career change. The traditional coven gets a fun twist here in adding mesmerizing dance sequences that manage to satisfy and make your stomach churn at once. With Tilda Swinton at the helm of this hellfire company, you know you're safe in her twisted, luxurious hands. And for a tale that intensifies in torture, it surprisingly has a satisfying, happy ending.
Bloody Bathory is a bloodthirsty, immersive experience. The Barrens Theatre Co. takes you to church and you might not come back altogether. Feeling like a grand tragedy of epic proportions, suspected murderess Elizabeth Bathory is on trial and you decide her fate. I will say I've never been so winded from a play before. From running around, helping drop off supposed dead bodies, and creeping constantly around corners, it was the perfect amount of fitness and horror for this scaredy cat. Also in a city that constantly (and ahem incorrectly) advertises immersive experiences, The Barrens is the most authentic effort I've seen this year that delivers on that promise. Only The Passage Theatre's The Lessons gives its a serious run for its money. Here interactions are active instead of passive and feel less planned with an exciting spontaneity.
We put a spell on you...and now you must read our last recap. Catch up on our magical media coverage here.
When you finally get what you want, odds are it's not gonna pan out how you imagined. In a much more fitting lens of a star trying to make it---we're side eyeing you Vox Lox--Natalie Portman plays an ingenue who gets a chance to step out of the wings and into the spotlight as she lands the coveted, dual role of the White Swan, and her evil twin, the Black Swan. Black Swan is a fitting double bill with Suspiria as both effectively apply horror to the already dark world of ballet. While they're alluded to in Suspiria, this film does a fantastic job of exemplifying supernatural and human made horrors. Creepy, powerful male choreographers, dancers having to end their careers due to age, and the inherent force of putting women in competition with one another consume this piece whole. Having witnessed or been subjected to some of these pressures myself, it constantly made my skin crawl in their accurate presentation. This was on top of the mind games Portman undergoes as getting the role of a lifetime might end her career before it starts. A highly recommended, haunting film that succeeds in its terrifying tones and exposing pressing issues in the dancing world.
Is there ever a month where we don't make a visit to The Den? We pulled double duty this week with our first excursion in Teatro Vista's Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy. Previously unfamiliar with Evelina Fernandez's trilogy, her plays focus on different generations of the Morales family. Here takes us to the 1960s' where JFK, childish men and nuclear threats of war came in hot threatening to destroy everything--and everyone--in its path. Similar to its time period, it's hard to watch a play that struggles to liberate its female characters. The women really could have had it all if given the chance to shine and divert from traditional narratives that feel more like punishments. Perhaps the other plays explore this concept differently elsewhere.
There are some shows you just have a feeling are going to destroy you. First Floor Theater's Sugar in Our Wounds is welcome to do so anytime. As trilogies are on trend for playwrights, Donja R. Love explores black love across history. Here in the Civil War era, this play provides many blessings in a time of turbulence. Bisexuality, homosexuality and connecting to your ancestors are all facets that make the unbearable circumstances of these characters full of life and hope. A found family feels warm, relatable and strong in the face of cruel, dangerous indifference. Love is a gifted writer and this play on its own shows great promise in the necessary stories Love fearlessly explores with affection and urgency.
Seeing where this line got its start was oh so satisfying. Ghost is a film I thought I knew, but until watching realized I had no idea what I was in for. I expected more Lake House vibes rather than Lifetime murder mystery. A talented quartet in Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg and Tony Goldwyn prove there isn't a weak link in this unchained melody. There's genuine moments of humor, smart moves of Swayze going through the motions of ghost school and not gonna lie some sentimental moments that would make the iciest heart melt. It's mostly a win as a story yet its musical adaptation should have never come to pass. It uncomfortably associates race with villainy whereas here it's more subtle yet still upsetting.
For all its flaws, Fatal Attraction makes for a compelling watch. Glenn Close is one of the greatest actresses of all time and this is a pivotal performance of her career. In a role she was deemed too unattractive for, she proves she can seduce just as easily as she can scare you shitless. Most actors play roles that are villains from a place of sympathy or being misunderstood. You can feel Close model this method, but she also fights against the male gaze Alex is presented under. The crazy ex girlfriend trope certainly was shaped by this movie and by default raises sympathy for the plight of the hot, married man whose punished for one mistake. This psychological thriller is iconic, but should be watched with caution especially for those who have considered or experienced self-harm. It's handled extremely irresponsibility here.
The Good Place gets me every single time. It's a half hour comedy that knows what makes it so good yet doesn't get stunted from what makes it comfortable. Usually comedic series I encounter exist as pure joke vehicles, but here is a show where I'm equally invested in how the plot will thicken and what funny moments arise from the ensemble's mission. Mike Schur (Parks and Recreation, The Office) has assembled his strongest writing team yet and while this beloved, stress relieving show will conclude with its fourth season, there's no doubt it will be a fulfilling ending. Like all good things, it must come to end.
I Am Going to Die Alone and I Am Not Afraid gives new meaning to a hauntingly beautiful show. This furious reckoning of the Holocaust shows that devised storytelling and powerful femmes get shit done. Prop Thtr's latest harrowing production cements it as a highlight for the company's history. In making the security felt in a black box space feel unsettling, dramaturgy a core component in this play's success, and letting a constantly shifting form drive its narrative, this show takes enormous risk with rewarding resolution. Rarely do I want to see shows again after they just happened. This one without hesitation I would see again in a heartbeat.
WildClaw Theatre's Hell Followed With Her blends zombies, cowboys and western vibes into one hell of a story. Read about our thoughts now.
Gaslight is a cruel, but necessary film to watch. It captures what many Lifetime films attempt to demonstrate, but amplify to the point of extremity. Gaslight shows how the manipulation of women by male romantic partners can be subtle or practically go unnoticed. The amount of terrible things Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is subjected to by her new husband, Gregory (Charles Boyer), is deeply upsetting, and she feels her misery is a result of her psyche. Gregory convinces Paula to move into her old childhood home that her aunt was murdered in, makes her out as a monster to their staff, shamelessly flirts with their maid in front of her, causes her to be physically and mentally ill, and that all this new misfortune has nothing to do with him. Though from the 1940s, it highlights how domestic violence can be hidden and what happens when concern is mistaken for control. Bergman isn't able to take back power until the end, but after putting up with the all too familiar male mind games it's a triumphant, long awaited victory.
See you later boo!