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Friday, April 20, 2012

Soft-focused and ham-fisted: Reader critics' new performing arts reviews

Posted By on 04.20.12 at 10:36 AM

Larry Yandos Scrooge--er, Roy Cohn, explains it all to his disciple in Angels in America
  • Michael Brosilow
  • Larry Yando's Scrooge—er, Roy Cohn, explains it all to his disciple in Angels in America
The two biggest openings of the week left our Reader critics feeling unsatisfied. Kerry Reid says some triage might benefit The March, Frank Galati’s stage adaptation of the Civil War novel by E.L. Doctorow. With 26 cast members and numerous intertwining narratives, the play lacks focus. Meanwhile, Tony Adler argues that Angels in America has aged into a period piece, and Court Theatre's production does it no favors.

Other shows with strong temporal ties get more love. Though Jersey Boys plays on 60s nostalgia, it doesn't gloss over the rocky relationships among Frankie Valli and his fellow Four Seasons. And Marriott Theatre manages to preserve the spirit of the 1879 Gilbert & Sullivan romp The Pirates of Penzance while appealing to contemporary audiences.

The Improv Play also earns our stamp of approval. Zac Thompson likes InFusion Theatre Company's funny, poignant treatment of this Randall Colburn script about Chicago improvisers. Both The Receptionist and The Butcher of Baraboo combine comedy with menace. And silent clown trio Bri-Ko keep the laughs coming.

Speaking of laughs, the 15th Chicago Improv Festival runs April 23-29, offering shows by more than 75 troupes ranging from local legends to expats from Moscow. Another expat—Daniel Alexander Jones's soul diva alter ego, Jomama Jones—charms in Radiate.

According to Laura Molzahn, the four works presented in Hedwig Dance's new program, "Vanishing Points," can be as disturbing as they are compelling. Directors Brian Posen and Kory Danielson try too hard at times, but their Street Tempo Theatre production of Little Shop of Horrors is legitimately edgy. And Albert Williams says BoHo Theatre has come up with an "intimate, earnest, plainspoken" revival of N. Richard Nash's The Rainmaker. On the other hand, the chess-as-life metaphors wear thin in Teatro Vista's Fish Men, and Motherhood the Musical, though good-natured, won't win any awards for originality.

A sparkling supporting cast can't keep Tanya Saracho's Enfrascada from bludgeoning the audience with an obvious central image and a boilerplate breakup plot. Next Theatre's After the Revolution could use just a touch of that hamfistedness: it fails to elucidate what's eating the main character. Keith Griffith notes that Liberal Arts: The Musical! is as obnoxiously cutesy as the exclamation point in the title implies, and Justin Hayford suggests that Alex in Wonderland would be twice as successful at half the length.

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