WBEZ | Julia Rae Antonick http://www.wbez.org/tags/julia-rae-antonick 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 Working for the Weekend: Critics picks for 4/22-4/24 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-21/working-weekend-critics-picks-422-424-85497 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-21/114.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p>First up is <strong><a href="http://www.victorygardens.org/onstage/tree.php"><em>Tree </em></a></strong>at Victory Gardens, a perfect pairing of director Andrea J. Dymond and playwright Julie Hebert, each known for powerful yet subtle examinations of painful subjects. This very long one-act traces the family connections (hence, "Tree") of two people from entirely different worlds: a black man in Chicago and a white woman from Baton Rouge who turn out to be siblings. Anchored by the utterly truthful performances of Aaron Todd Douglas and Elaine Rivkin as the brother and sister, and soaring on the work of Celeste Williams as their now-demented now-lucid mother, the play works on both macro and micro levels: as an examination of how racism continues to poison American discourse, and as a dissection of the strains of family--any family. Jacqueline and Rick Penrod's set is as full of twists and turns and dead-ends and opportunities for disaster as the plot itself. At the Victory Gardens Biograph through May 1--which is next weekend, so move fast or you'll miss it.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-21/114.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 750px;" title="Colm O'Reilly (John Sisson)"></p><p style="text-align: left;"><br> And now for something completely different: <strong><a href="http://theateroobleck.com/plays/there-is-a-happiness-that-morning-is"><em>There Is A Happiness That Morning Is</em></a></strong>, the latest from Theatre Oobleck, whose <em>The Strangerer</em> managed to connect Albert Camus and George W. Bush without diminishing either one--at least, not any more than they deserved to be diminished. This new piece is existential in its own way, weaving William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience around the fate of a hapless pair of college teachers whose decision to have sex on the quads leads to their delivering what are very probably their last lectures.&nbsp; By the time they were done, I was (in equal parts) rooting for them and resolving to read Blake.&nbsp; Find a stranger or more thought-provoking evening and it's bound to be another Oobleck show. Through May 22 at the Storefront Theatre on Randolph Street. &nbsp;</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p>Swing your partner, do-si-do! It may sound like a square dance, but <a href="http://juliaraeatonick.com/1/events">Julia Rae Antonick’s new <strong><em>Commissura</em></strong></a><em>&nbsp;</em>is far more elevated and intellectual—though the dancing can be riotous, and some of the audience is seated on moving platforms. (Don’t worry, they move slow.) Antonick’s piece for two couples, who are also couples off the dance floor, and two musicians, who sometimes move as well as play, explores the invisible connective tissue between two people. Sometimes that tissue is stretched to the breaking point, other times it works like lightning. Two weekends at the Fine Arts Building.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-21/709076_orig.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 400px;" title=""></p><p>Columbia College has been the gold standard for dance education for years, but Northwestern is making great strides. <a href="http://nugroup.weebly.com/index.html">A program by <strong>the NU group</strong></a>, all of them alums convened just for these performances, features new work by some outstanding choreographers and dancers: Julia Rhoads of <a href="http://www.luckyplush.com/">Lucky Plush</a> (whose new piece opens at the MCA in October), Peter Carpenter, Jeff Hancock, Annie Beserra of <a href="http://www.stridinglion.org/Home.html">Striding Lion</a>, Meghann Wilkinson of Lucky Plush, Adam Gauzza of <a href="http://www.spdwdance.org/">Same Planet Different World</a>, Michaela Stock of NYC’s Eyes of a Blue Dog, and Genevieve Garcia. Two weekends, the first at the lovely Building Stage.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p style="text-align: left; ">The nation’s leader is weak and the opposition whittles away his legislative majority vote-by-vote. There’s talk of radical reform, spend-thrift economics and vanishing surpluses as politics and health care clash. No, it’s not America in 2011, it’s England in 1793. Alan Bennett’s <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,51"><em><span style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold">The Madness of George III</span></em></a> remains both pertinent and vastly entertaining precisely because of its rather-modern take on old history. Go see this totally fabulous new production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (through June 12), and you’ll see why. Broadway veteran Harry Groener is masterful as King George III, who was not nearly as sympathetic in real life as he is in this play!</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/LVhv2_NLzfY" title="YouTube video player" width="560"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: left; "><br> For those unfamiliar with<span style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold"> <a href="http://www.oracletheatre.org/NowPlaying.htm"><em>Woyzeck</em></a></span>, it’s a never-completed early 19th Century play by German author Georg Buchner which became a tremendously influential fore-runner of realistic proletariat drama. Completed and adapted scores of times as a play, opera and ballet, there is no “true” version of the work. Right now, you can choose from several as Chicago enjoys a mini-<em><span style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold">Woyzeck</span></em> festival. Oracle Productions just extended their interpretation of the work at Oracle’s tiny Lakeview storefront, and The Hypocrites open their version this weekend, adapted and directed by Sean Graney. Then, About Face Theatre is offering the world premiere of Sylvan Oswald’s<span style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold"> <em>Pony</em></span>, inspired by <em><span style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold">Woyzeck</span> </em>and its themes. The Hypocrites and About Face are presenting their productions together in rep at the Chopin Theatre (through May 22).</p></p> Thu, 21 Apr 2011 16:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-21/working-weekend-critics-picks-422-424-85497