WBEZ | Lucky Plush Productions http://www.wbez.org/tags/lucky-plush-productions Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 2011's funniest and best-dressed Chicago shows http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-21/2011s-funniest-and-best-dressed-chicago-shows-95076 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-21/funniest.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Being funny and looking good aren’t mutually exclusive (see below), but they don’t always go together either. Just think of your high school boyfriend.</p><p>Most of these dance and theater shows were new—because to me, though original work can be downright awful, it can also pay off big-time. Seems like, once all the creative juices get flowing, they flow into every corner of the work. (And, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/arena-stage-bans-media-public-from-new-play-conference/2011/11/02/gIQAqAhOmM_story.html?wprss=rss_style">as the <em>Washington Post</em>’s Peter Marks recently remarked</a>, what stage artists are creating right now is “the true measure of a nation’s artistic vitality.”)</p><p>Two of these shows—candidates in both categories—are currently running: the Hypocrites’ remount of <a href="http://www.the-hypocrites.com/"><em>The Pirates of Penzance</em></a> and the Neo-Futurists’ <a href="http://www.neofuturists.org/"><em>Burning Bluebeard</em></a>. Actually, so is perennial favorite <a href="http://www.barrelofmonkeys.org/"><em>That’s Weird, Grandma</em></a>.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong>2011’s Top 5 Funny Shows </strong></span></p><p><a href="http://www.dancemagazine.com/reviews/November-2011/Lucky-Plush-Productions">Lucky Plush Productions’ dance/theater hybrid <em>The Better Half </em></a>poked unmerciful fun at its source, George Cukor’s 1944 film noir <em>Gaslight</em>, and at marriage, theater, and the movies. Collaborating with 500 Clown’s Leslie Danzig, Julia Rhoads managed to nail the bittersweet tragicomedy of wedded (or unwedded) “bliss.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-21/funniest.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 300px; height: 214px; " title="Q Brothers' 'Funk It Up About Nuthin'">The Neo-Futurists’ <em>Burning Bluebeard</em> also inhabits the universe of high-spirited comic takes on tragic subjects. (And, though hardly dance-theater, it often conveys meaning and emotion through nonverbal means, including Mike Tutaj’s amazing sound design and the chair dance that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-14/jay-torrence-playwright-behind-latest-neo-futurist-sensation-burnin">playwright-performer-amateur choreographer Jay Torrence</a> cobbled together.)&nbsp;</p><p>Jumping from the sublime to the ridiculous: another <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-19/jill-valentine-heart-living-dead-93277">irreverent take on a film, <em>Musical of the Living Dead</em></a>. The campy Halloween hit, which had its second season at Logan Square’s Charnel House last fall, deserved every shred of its word-of-mouth fame. (And, in a unique take on set design, part of the décor is blood-spattered audience members.)</p><p>Moving on to the only slightly less ridiculous: the Q Brothers’ rap-a-thon <em>Funk It Up About Nothin’</em> at Chicago Shakes. The brothers themselves—Chicagoans JQ and GQ—compared it to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/q-brothers-re-funk-it">Brecht crossed with <em>The Simpsons</em></a>. And they were right.</p><p>And finally there’s Barrel of Monkeys’ ongoing <em>That’s Weird, Grandma</em>, which for ten years has been <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-05-11/monkeys-business-whats-behind-grandmas-success-86396">doing good in multiple ways,</a> including re-acquainting full-grown adults with the joys of spazzy childhood humor.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong>2011’s Top 5 Best-Dressed Productions</strong></span></p><p>As every fashionista knows, style has nothing to do with budget. All these shows substituted intense creativity for cold hard cash. (And by “dressed,” of course, I mean the overall stage design.)&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-21/best dressed.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 266px; height: 400px; " title="Nicole Wiesner in Trap Door Theatre's 'First Ladies' ">A commercial loft’s old refrigerator room, painted and lit in blinding white, served as the whistle-clean hellish set for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-19/theater-ys-melissa-hawkins-89356">Theatre Y’s <em>Vincent River</em></a>. A door allowed the audience to peer in at the story’s two victims, Laura Jones in a festive poppy-red dress and Kevin V. Smith in nondescript coat and tie. But somehow they radiated the horror of the story—especially given the beads of sweat visible on Smith’s face, illuminated by the harsh beam of a slide projector.&nbsp;</p><p>Trap Door’s fussy set for <em>First Ladies</em> was at the opposite end of the design spectrum. But set designer Ewelina Dobiesz’s Old World parlor—complete with floral wallpaper and framed pictures of the Virgin—created a vivid contrast with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-01/holy-sht-nicole-wiesner-goes-home-trap-door-84611">Werner Schwab’s highly inappropriate script</a>.</p><p>The dance conglomerate of Jonathan Meyer and Julia Rae Antonick (aka Khecari, at least sometimes) has produced design magic three times over the last year alone, aided in particular by superb lighting. Whether it was the wild party of Antonick’s <em>Commissura</em>, set on the tenth floor of an old Loop building, the treasure hunt of Meyer’s <em>Whence</em> in a 15,000-square-foot Pilsen loft, or <a href="http://seechicagodance.com">the fractured fairytale of Khecari's <em>The Clinking</em></a> in the stodgy old Hamlin Park fieldhouse—these folks know how to transform a space.</p><p>So does Rachel Bunting. Her eerie, magical <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-humans/Event?oid=5092495"><em>Paper Shoes</em> transfigured the Hamlin Park stage</a> with shoes and toys painted white, Collin Bunting’s shredded white gowns, two tall stepladders (the base for an anomic “love” duet to the drippy yet stirring “Never My Love”), and horse heads—stuck backward on the dancers’ heads, thereby creating a threatening human/animal herd with oddly moving legs.</p><p>Like <em>First Ladies</em>, the Hypocrites’ <em>Pirates of Penzance </em>sets up a fruitful disjunct between script and stage design. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/music-whiz-kevin-odonnell">Treating the Gilbert &amp; Sullivan classic with the utmost disrespect</a>, costumer Alison Siple outfits the cast in flippers, retro bathing suits, and sunglasses. Docks and kiddie pools add to the “seaside” ambience of this sun-drenched visual feast staged, remarkably, in a basement.</p></p> Wed, 21 Dec 2011 15:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-21/2011s-funniest-and-best-dressed-chicago-shows-95076 Lucky Plush's 'The Better Half' at the MCA canceled tonight, running Saturday http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-28/lucky-plushs-better-half-mca-canceled-tonight-running-saturday-9358 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-28/Lucky Plush.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-28/luckyplush.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 334px; " title=""></p><p>Adrian Danzig, a member of 500 Clown playing in Lucky Plush's <em>The Better Half</em>, was injured last night, and the show has been canceled tonight, Friday. It will run tomorrow night, with <strike>an understudy</strike> Plasticene founding member Brian Shaw in Danzig's role, and <a href="http://mcachicago.org/performances/now/all/2011/740">then again November 3-6</a>. <em>The Better Half</em>, a take on the 1994 film <em>Gaslight</em>, was co-created and -directed by Leslie Buxbaum Danzig (Adrian's .... mmm, better half) and LP's Julia Rhoads.</p><p>Whether Danzig or <strike>the unnamed understudy</strike> Shaw will perform next weekend is still uncertain. Don't worry: Danzig's injury doesn't involve the tons of gore sometimes associated with 500 Clown shows.</p></p> Fri, 28 Oct 2011 19:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-28/lucky-plushs-better-half-mca-canceled-tonight-running-saturday-9358 Not-so-spooky theater picks for your Halloween weekend http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-27/not-so-spooky-theater-picks-your-halloween-weekend-93511 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-27/Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Water Stains on the Wall, photo by LIU Chen-hsiang 4.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-27/searching_for_peabodys_tomb.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 289px; height: 135px;" title="">Though most of this weekend's theatrical fun and games are covered in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-21/dueling-critics-creep-you-out-93377">the Dueling Critics' Halloween picks</a>, at least one remains.&nbsp;<strong><em>Searching for Peabody's Tomb</em></strong> is <a href="http://www.firstfolio.org/">First Folio Theatre</a>'s improvement on the traditional Halloween haunted house, taking the stout of heart through its Mayslake Mansion home to look for the spirit (and any earthly manifestations) of its founding coal profiteer George Peabody. Any excuse to be in that beautiful house, set on that beautiful lot out in the countryside, especially on a night when the moon's a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. Today through Halloween Monday only, with performance/tours on the half-hour beginning at 7 p.m., at the Forest Preserve in Oakbrook; all tickets only $10.&nbsp; Call 630-986-8067 for reservations; some performances are sold out. For ages 12 and up.</p><p>And for those of you who want to skip right to the next holiday, <strong><em>Irving Berlin's White Christmas</em></strong> has just opened at <a href="http://www.marriotttheatre.com/">Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire</a>. There's no particular hurry, though: this smartly-produced stage adaptation of the beloved holiday film runs through New Year's Day. Tickets $40-$48.</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-27/Cloud%20Gate%20Dance%20Theatre%20of%20Taiwan%2C%20Water%20Stains%20on%20the%20Wall%2C%20photo%20by%20LIU%20Chen-hsiang%204.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 312px; height: 400px;" title="Cloud Gate ">Viewers have been known to fall asleep at performances. Sometimes twice. (Eric Futran, I’m talking to you.) Despite that, or because of it, <strong><a href="http://www.colum.edu/dance_center/performances/Cloud_Gate_Dance_Theatre_of_Taiwan/index.php">Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan</a></strong> is not to be missed. Choreographer Lin Hwai-min aims for a meditative effect, but at the same time the dancing is so expert, so exhilarating, that you walk out feeling twice as alive as when you went in. <em>Water Stains on the Wall</em>might not sound scintillating, but believe me, God is in the details of this hour-long piece. Friday and Saturday at the Harris.</p><p>What performance isn’t improvised? But when choreographers leave the door wide open to improv, the results can be more dramatic than in the best-laid plans. I have high hopes for <a href="http://www.synapsearts.com/index.php?s=events">Rachel Damon’s <strong><em>Factor Ricochet</em></strong></a>, which she developed with her dancers over many months, exploring the many personas within each one. The resulting work—made up of choreography and “improvography”—opens tonight, Thursday, at Bucktown’s Holstein Park and runs through November 4.</p><p>Also tonight: <a href="http://mcachicago.org/performances/now/all">Lucky Plush Productions opens <strong><em>The Better Half</em></strong></a> at the MCA. Choreographer Julia Rhoads collaborated with 500 Clown members Adrian and Leslie Danzig to create this seriocomic movement-theater riff on the 1944 noir <em>Gaslight</em>, with glimmerings of <em>The Bourne Identity</em>and Ingmar Bergman’s <em>Scenes From a Marriage</em>. Two weekends, through November 6.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p>As Kelly said before, this is Halloween Weekend, of course, and the truly wise will seek out the recommendations of Chicago Public Media’s Dueling Critics with regard to Halloween-themed shows, posted last Friday on this site. As for the truly unwise . . . .</p><p>Teatro Vista, celebrating its 22<sup>nd</sup> season, starts things rolling with <a href="http://www.teatrovista.org/stage/26-miles.html"><strong><em>Momma’s Boyz</em></strong></a>, the first of two plays by Candido Tirado the Latino-American troupe will produce this season. The troupe produces plays in English (or mostly English) exploring the urban landscape, and <em>Momma’s Boyz</em> is a tough-as-nails tale of three friends in The Projects who sell drugs. Twist is, it moves backwards in time to give the three a second chance with the help of hindsight that reality rarely offers. It’s running at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Avenue, through Dec. 4.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-27/MV-Full.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 240px; height: 250px;" title="">My other choice just might fit the Halloween mold, although that’s not the specific intention of Jordan Harrison’s <a href="http://www.nexttheatre.org/maple-and-vine-shows-16.php"><strong><em>Maple and Vine</em></strong></a>, which opens the 30<sup>th</sup> season of the Next Theatre Company in Evanston. This Midwest premiere concerns an under-pressure, 21<sup>st</sup> century urban couple who retrogress by giving up iPhones and multi-tasking to join a community of 1950’s re-enactors, and live in a world of cigarettes, black and white TV, Eisenhower and Tupperware parties. But will it bring them happiness? Rod Serling, where are you? The estimable Damon Kiely is the director. <em>Maple and Vine</em> continues at Next Theatre, 927 Noyes Street, Evanston, through Dec. 4.</p></p> Thu, 27 Oct 2011 15:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-27/not-so-spooky-theater-picks-your-halloween-weekend-93511 Theater and film classics inspiring Chicago's dance scene http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-13/theater-and-film-classics-inspiring-chicagos-dance-scene-93116 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-13/Lucky Plush productions.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Two upcoming dance performances involve unusual theatrical twists: One takes inspiration from a classic noir film, the other looks to Shakespeare’s <em>Henry V</em>. Both ask whether all is fair in love and war. For WBEZ, Lucia Mauro gave a preview on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>.</p><p>Pick Up Performance Co(s) performs <a href="http://www.colum.edu/dance_center/performances/pickupperformance/index.php" target="_blank"><em>Dancing Henry V</em> </a>Thrusday through Saturday at the Dance Center of Columbia College. <a href="http://luckyplush.com/" target="_blank">Lucky Plush Productions’ </a><a href="http://mcachicago.org/performances/now/all/2011/740" target="_blank"><em>The Better Half </em></a>will be at the Museum of Contemporary Art later this month and in early November.</p><p>In the 1940s thriller, <em>Gaslight</em>, things are not what they seem. Charles Boyer as a murderous thief marries Ingrid Bergman, the niece of one of his victims. His intention is to return to his victim’s home for her priceless jewels. Throughout the movie, Boyer methodically tries to drive Bergman crazy so that he can eventually get her out of the way by committing her to a mental institution. Lucky Plush Productions, a local dance-theater company, uses ideas from <em>Gaslight</em> to comment on modern marriage—but that doesn’t mean all marriages are fraught with deadly schemes.</p><p>Choreographer Julia Rhoads and director Leslie Buxbaum Danzig have something lighter, but no less profound, in mind. Their world premiere titled, <em>The Better Half</em>, humorously cuts between elements from the movie <em>Gaslight</em> and an alternate reality in which an ordinary couple cave under the weight of life’s mundane challenges. The artists employ a meta-theatrical conceit, similar to Thornton Wilder’s <em>Our Town</em>, in which a stage manager oversees—and even manipulates—the proceedings. With guest artists from Chicago’s acrobatic 500 Clown group, <em>The Better Half</em> favors a dangerous, tumbling sense of movement, with high shoulder balances and aggressive lifts. They also use mime and abstract movement, together with text from Ingmar Bergman’s introspective Swedish TV series, <em>Scenes from a Marriage</em>.</p><p>In one sequence, the wife and husband get into a tiff over a set of misplaced keys, with the husband circling and backtracking to the point of mad frustration. His wife, who alternates between affectionate and wary, searches for a way to escape her boring routine while the man can’t seem to get out of the house. Through architectural lighting that suggests film noir and absurdist entanglements involving a detective and hidden jewels in the attic like the movie, the piece switches between real-life anxiety and theatrical contrivance. In subtle nods to the film, the five performers play around with simple props. The wife, for instance, rolls up her pants at the waist like a corset; one of the maids takes the plastic off the dry cleaning and wraps it around her hips to form a bustle.</p><p>In the end, these constrained characters in search of an escape route learn the virtue of compromise and raise the question: How much control do we have over our own stories?</p><p>New York-based Pick Up Performance Co(s), headed by witty post-modern dance excavator David Gordon, looks at warfare through a similar stripped-down lens. His hour-long movement reflection, titled <em>Dancing Henry V</em>, reevaluates Shakespeare’s beloved but questionably patriotic history play. It centers on the English monarch’s invasion of France in the early 15th century. The <em>Cliff Notes</em>-inspired staging transforms bed sheets into sails and sticks into broad swords against wry narrator Valda Setterfield’s chorus-like proclamations. A real mixed-bag of styles, <em>Dancing Henry V</em> pairs William Walton’s heraldic music from Laurence Olivier’s film version with semi-formal, royal court dance steps and dramatic voiceovers. The dancers are a ragtag band of storytellers in rugby shirts and wool caps—something of a blank canvas reenacting global conflict.</p><p>Both Lucky Plush Productions and Pick Up Performance Co(s) mine the classics for insight into the current state of love and war.</p></p> Thu, 13 Oct 2011 14:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-13/theater-and-film-classics-inspiring-chicagos-dance-scene-93116