Thursday, July 26, 2012

Smartphones and Soirees: new performing art reviews

Posted By on 07.26.12 at 02:58 PM

La Soiree
  • La Soiree
Our esteemed arts editor Tony Adler is off on vacation this week, but the reviews must go on, and Reader critics have plenty of performances to recommend. First there's La Soiree, an astounding show that combines gravity-defying circus tricks with the comedy and sexiness of a burlesque. Then in The Vortex, a Noel Coward drama, a drug-addicted rich boy confronts his cheating, narcissistic mother. The show's dark comedy and a great lead performance from actor Kaelan Strouse make it worth watching.

There are less-recommended dramas as well. WTC View, about a New Yorker who places an ad for his apartment with a view of the World Trade Center on September 10, 2001, is "plodding [and] urgency-free." Kevin Theis certainly has a lot of fun as the scheming Richard III, and his devious asides to the audience are the star of the show, but the rest of the long and elaborate production flops. In Nickel History: The Nation of Heat at the Steppenwolf, actors and coauthors Tony Fitzpatrick and Stan Klein are accompanied by live jazz, video, and even a wandering a 1940s pinup girl. But they wander over too many topics and rarely hit an episode with psychological depth. Finally, in The American Plan, a scheming mother and a deceptive suitor gets in the way of love at a 1960s Catskills resort.

Smartphones: A Pocket-Sized Farce is a very clever, very modern one-act parody of Waiting for Godot, only now the characters have iPhones to stare into desperately as they wait in someone's living room. The Dumb Waiter, a suspenseful one-act by Harold Pinter, also features men sitting impatiently in a waiting room, only now they're two hit men waiting for instructions from "the organization." The stage is sunk down so that the characters look literally trapped, which is an interesting idea, but it's hard to act with just the top of your head.

Three musicals this week appeal to, respectively, our inner child, our inner stoner, and our inner drunk sorority sister. Sleeping Beauty is a lovely fairy tale with just a few elements from the Disney film, and Reefer Madness, based on the 1936 movie, is gleefully campy. Girls Night: The Musical is less recommended, unless you just can't get enough jokes about Shake Weights and back shots, but the cast undoubtedly has singing chops.

In the realm of dance, Thodos Dance Chicago's annual New Dances program gets high praise from critic Laura Molzahn, who says that "risk is the lifeblood" of the eight premiere performances. Dance company Khecari's quartet Pales is perhaps annoying—but in a good way: the 40-minute piece resolutely refuses easy interpretation, but it has strangely moving moments nonetheless. The quartet is paired with the wholly recommended The Clinking, Clanking Lowesleaf, based on an old German fairy tale.

Finally, the IFC talk show Comedy Bang! Bang! is tour at the Logan Square Auditorium. Host Scott Aukerman is adept at bantering with his comedian and celebrity guests. Comedians Matt Besser and James Adomian will be there, plus some locals talent, to provide a solidly entertaining hour of improvised shenanigans.

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