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Friday, June 22, 2012

Horrors historical (Eastland) and theatrical (Dancing Queen): the week in performing arts

Posted By on 06.22.12 at 03:12 PM

Falling prey to a simplistic conceit: Exit, Pursued by a Bear
  • Amanda Clifford
  • Falling prey to a simplistic conceit: Exit, Pursued by a Bear

In honor of Pride Week, the Neo-Futurists present 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes, a greatest-LGBTQ-hits collection drawn from the hundreds of two-minute plays written for their long-running show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Reader intern Sharon Lurye advises audiences to expect the typical frenzied pace—plus lots more crossdressing than usual. Speaking of greatest hits, Dan Jakes recommends Time After Time, a Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre revue offering some of the best work (both well-known and obscure) by Broadway songwriting legend Jule Styne. Definitely not recommended are two touring jukebox musicals: (a) the schlocky, uninspired, and—given the existence of Mamma Mia!—just plain unnecessary pseudo-ABBA show Dancing Queen and (b) Rock of Ages, which, in its Broadway Playhouse incarnation, serves up racist stereotypes and casual misogyny along with 80s rock tunes.

But it's not only the bad stuff that comes in pairs. Reader critics suggest you see two musicals inspired by historical events. Albert Williams praises the “first-rate theatrical storytelling" of Lookingglass Theatre's new Eastland, based on the disastrous 1915 wreck of a steamer in the Chicago River. And Kerry Reid says strong acting and a lovely score distinguish BoHo Theatre’s revival of Floyd Collins, which recounts the media frenzy that ensued when the titular spelunker became trapped below ground in 1925.

Paris Opéra Ballet provides a taste of European cultural history (i.e., Giselle) along with newer works. Meanwhile, back in the USSR: Strange Tree Group is staging an excellent adaptation of Nikolai Erdman's 1928 satire The Suicide, about a regular Russian joe whose plan to off himself is exploited by others. The Strange Tree version is called Goodbye Cruel World.

Female playwrights figure big this week. Cheryl Hall's Dowager Daughters of Transcendence is a charmingly off-kilter all-female comedy, but Lauren Gunderson’s Exit Pursued by a Bear falls prey to an abundance of metatheatrical references and a simplistic conceit. And Crystal Skillman's Wild offers a rather pedestrian notion of what constitutes reckless behavior in modern romance (though Justin Hayford's capsule review has some hilarious passages).

Definition Theatre Company makes Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brothers Size the subject of its debut production, with mixed results. Having sat through its entirety, Keith Griffith knows that LiveWire Chicago Theatre’s annual Visionfest offers an uneven selection of short plays and performance works this year. Finally, the Mammals' Mexican Wrestling Macbeth suffers from soggy slapstick in Zac Thompson's estimation, but the central gag in this tale of luchadores vying for roles in the Scottish play is kind of delicious.

Allegra Kirkland contributed to this post.

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