Friday, May 4, 2012

High tea and white trash: the Reader's latest performing arts reviews

Posted By on 05.04.12 at 01:57 PM

Fourteen of the numberless (including that guitarist in the corner), from Rise of the Numberless
  • Anne Petersen
  • Fourteen of the "numberless" (including that guitarist in the corner) from Rise of the Numberless

The "pilot episode" of Maggie and Coco Save the World mimics the form of a sitcom but steers clear of the white-bread stereotypes of that genre. Keith Griffith recommends that you tune in next time—Coriolis Theater plans to stage a new installment every month.

Drawing on another facet of pop culture, Tympanic Theatre spins the ten tracks of Bruce Springsteen's bleak 1982 album Nebraska into a gritty series of short plays, Deliver Us From Nowhere: Tales From Nebraska. It too earns a Reader rave.

Where Springsteen and Tympanic find pathos, White Trash Wedding and a Funeral finds hilarity. Its hero, a cussing septic tank "king" named Earl, leads a band of down-and-outs through a grotesquely funny trailer-park soap opera. Equally over the top: the burlesque comedy show Day Drinking and Sleep Eating, which fulfills its promise to "funny you until you can't walk right" with songs like "Long Sex Is Overrated" and "Sluts for Sale." Far more restrained but equally engaging is the Piven Theatre Workshop's Encores: After the Theatre and Other Stories, in which three Anton Chekov stories are given minimalist, emotionally intense stagings. Director Joyce Piven uses the story-theater style originated here in Chicago by her mentor, Paul Sills.

Our Kevin Warwick recommends former Chicago stand-up Kumail Nanjiani, commenting that Nanjiani makes light of his experiences as a Pakistani-American in a compassionate, conversational way. And Laura Molzahn suggests the Ballet Chicago Studio Company's "Balanchine Masterworks" for an evening of dance that couples technical rigor with powerful feeling.

If you just can't wait for Downton Abbey's third season to start, Lifeline Theatre's production of the surprisingly similar Pride and Prejudice might help tide you over. Christina Calvit's adaptation hews closely to the Jane Austen novel . . . maybe a little too closely in that it ignores the lower classes and offers cartoonish portrayals of its less cultivated characters. Fans of The Hunger Games, meanwhile, might turn to Rise of the Numberless, which features youthful protagonists in a dystopian world. Unfortunately, writes Zac Thompson in this week's long review, it too often opts for mythmaking and melodrama over human feeling.

Sixty Miles to Silver Lake gains, er, mileage from the talent of its actors. But according to Tony Adler, writer Dan LeFranc's attempt to shoehorn an entire father-son relationship into a long car trip becomes gimmicky and confusing. Katy Colloton's one-woman sketch show What Would Carol Do? is likewise halfway there, says Dan Jakes, with Colloton's great delivery going a ways to redeem the predictable writing.

The painfully punny title of Comm-80s-a reflects its conflation of 1980s John Hughes tropes with stock characters from 1580s commedia dell'arte. Lecherous high-school principal Pantalone and class clown Sarcastino have their moments, but the improvised humor is slow to kick in. And the angelic singing of Train Is Comin' doesn't quite compensate for the fact that writer McKinley Johnson's script about the Fisk University Jubilee Singers plays like a book report.

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