WBEZ | Khecari http://www.wbez.org/tags/khecari 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 The Don't-Miss List: A special Richard Pryor event http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-15/dont-miss-list-special-richard-pryor-event-94907 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-15/4182963569_35cb815190.jpg" alt="" /><p><div><p><strong><u>Kelly Kleiman</u></strong></p><p><span class="diffchange"><span><a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,64"><strong><em>Elizabeth Rex</em></strong></a>: The late Canadian novelist/playwright Timothy Findley teased every dramatic possibility out of the fact that Shakespeare's company performed for the mis-described Virgin Queen on the eve of the execution of her long-time lover Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex. The Queen is heartbroken over the beheading notwithstanding having ordered it herself, and she and the actors become locked in a competition over who is the greater performer of the role of man-dressed-as-woman. The gender-bending and feminism of the piece are right up director Barbara Gaines' alley, and Diane D'Aquila, who created the part at the Stratford Festival in Canade, hits every note and nuance in a performance so layered that my companion wondered whether Elizabeth was, in fact, being played by a man. Through January 22 at Chicago Shakespeare.</span></span></p><p><span class="diffchange"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/4182963569_35cb815190.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 250px; height: 250px; " title=""><span>Barbara Robertson is another woman who gives impeccable performances at Chicago Shakespeare, including an unforgettable turn as Kabuki Lady Macbeth, but on Monday night (the 19th) she'll be exercising a different part of her considerable talent, singing cabaret in a performance entitled "<a href="http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en/things_see_do/event_landing/events/dca_tourism/Cabaret_with_a_View_Presents_Barbara_Robertson.html"><strong>Stages of My Life</strong></a>." It begins at 7:30 onstage at the Pritzker Pavilion, with tickets $25 if you want to sit at stage level and drink, $15 if you're willing to be parched in the choir balcony. It's a one-night stand, so don't put off 'til tomorrow what's only available today.</span></span></p><p><span class="diffchange"><span>A very different sort of one-night stand will play tomorrow (Friday): an industry reading of <strong><em>Unspeakable</em></strong>, a work-in-progress biographical show about Richard Pryor. Co-author James Murray Jackson, Jr. plays Pryor, a role for which he won an Outstanding Actor Award at the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival. A number of other New York actors are participating in the reading, along with Chicagoans Wandachristine and Stef Tovar. The reading is free, but attendance is by confirmed reservation only. For reservations write to Unspeakablenyc@<span>mail</span>.com, providing your name, the number in your party and your industry affiliation. </span></span></p><p><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></p><p>I’m running out of non-<em>Nutcracker&nbsp;</em>options here—but please don’t assume that the following shows aren’t worthy. No matter what the season, <a href="http://seechicagodance.com/reviews/#review_539">these artists promise good things</a>. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/Khecari_photo_by_Dan_Merlo.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 399px; " title="Khecari"></p><p><a href="http://www.khecari.org/events.html">Khecari</a> deconstructs the fairytale (take that, <em>Nutcracker</em>!) in <strong><em>The Clinking</em></strong>, performed by Jonathan Meyer and Julia Rae Antonick—who are real-life as well as onstage partners. Accompanied by multi-instrumentalist (and frequent player of inanimate objects) Joe St. Charles, Meyer and Antonick will heighten, not sugarcoat, the anxieties inherent in fairytales. <a href="http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/210471">Thursday and Friday at the Hamlin Park Field House.</a></p><p>And to rouse yourself from any and all sugar-induced slumbers, try <strong><a href="http://www.tsukasataiko.com/">Tsukasa Taiko at JASC</a></strong>, performing its eighth annual show <a href="http://www.mcachicago.org/performances/now/all/2011/743">at the MCA Saturday and Sunday</a>. Chicago’s leading Japanese drumming ensemble this year also features a collaboration with AACM jazz musicians Edward Wilkerson and Coco Elysses-Hevia as well as “stylized kimono dance.”&nbsp;</p></div></p> Thu, 15 Dec 2011 10:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-15/dont-miss-list-special-richard-pryor-event-94907