“Honest living! Honest living!” an ensemble member cries out, miming a window washer in this setting of grimy, mid-AIDS epidemic New York City. I don’t think I’ve ever really noticed this moment in RENT before. But isn’t that what RENT is? Honest. Living.
Armed with innovative storytelling tools, the Hypocrites can transport you through time and space with simple, committed magic, often leaving the wizardry at the tip of their fingers to ignite whenever they wish. It is no surprise they present epic stories in a modern, easy-to-connect-with style.
At the House, they take great care of their audience. I usually shrink down in my seat at the thought of audience participation, but under Nathan Allen’s direction and Watkins’ mastery, to participate feels like we might be in on the trick.
Richard Bean’s ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS—based on the 18th-century commedia dell’arte play The Servent of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni—is a laugh-out-loud, silly, whip-crack smart comedy, and probably the most fun I’ve had at the theater in a long time.
Unlike today, the working men of the 60s were not allowed to display vulnerability in their careers or marriage. This play revisits the era of yesterday in a modern setting where men believe they must always excel without fail in every aspect of life, especially career and family. Frank Mormon, a salesman on the brink of a midlife crisis, allows his neurotic superstitions to render him incapable of having the sexiest of New Year’s Eve celebrations with his prostitute for hire, who we quickly discover is his role playing wife. Dale Danner’s TWISTED KNOTS is a simple yet hilarious story, akin to an episodic sitcom, like the good ones I use to watch with my grandfather. The ones that always left the audience with metaphoric lessons of life.
There is quite a bit of harmony in DISCORD, Northlight’ 41st season closer: an intellectual discourse between three historical giants while they dissect theological and philosophical ideas accompanied by a dynamic mixture of highbrow and lowbrow humor.
NO MATTER HOW HARD WE TRY is staged exactly where it should be. Wedged behind a tiny door at the end of a dark alleyway, Trap Door Theatre’s space perfectly suits this absurd portrait of drab and depressing life in Poland after World War II. Joanna Iwanicka’s set, a single dull, monochromatic room flanked by electric blue refuse (think Sin City, but five feet away from you) spills ever so slightly into the audience. You’re simultaneously in the room and observing it. A tiny, glowing TV screen sitting downstage center faces the stage, muddling the notion of who is watching whom.
The Broadway in Chicago presentation of the musical revue DISENCHANTED! offers a 90-minute spoof of the classic fairy tale princesses, as made famous to most audiences by Walt Disney. With music, lyrics, and book by Dennis T. Giacino and direction by Christopher Bond, DISENCHANTED! provides some fun. That said, the satire stays surface-level—it’s more of a gentle poking than a true skewering of the gender stereotypes deeply embedded within Disney’s tales. DISENCHANTED! presents itself as a pro-feminist musical comedy, but despite some clever moments, the material doesn’t quite reach the level of sophisticated satire.
Men with big dreams, women fighting for visibility and love at the same time, while ignorance and bigotry divide people; though this sounds like the ingredients to contemporary mayhem, its roots are found in a play set in the 1960s.