Clowns, Goddesses & Tough Guys | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Clowns, Goddesses & Tough Guys 

Clowns, Goddesses & tough guys, at Live Bait Theater. With his cockiness, polished delivery, melodious singing voice, and knack for crafting listenable pop tunes reminiscent of Billy Joel and Randy Newman, James Schneider is certainly capable of carrying a one-man show. The one thing that detracts from his 90-minute collection of autobiographical songs and monologues is his showbiz polish, which makes even the most heartfelt of anecdotes seem somewhat disingenuous. Under Jeremy Wechsler's overprecise direction, there's hardly a movement or vocal inflection in Schneider's confessional that doesn't seem carefully planned. Though the show's PR materials invite comparison with Spalding Gray and Tom Waits, Schneider never approaches their honesty or idiosyncrasy.

Schneider is witty and affecting when he discusses his adolescent autograph-hunting encounters, and the one spontaneous moment in the show, when he calls upon audience members to test his knowledge of American presidents, is genuinely funny. But his self-consciously naive narration and fascination with trivia, most notably lousy 70s TV shows, are wearying. One keeps hoping for something more profound than these glib reminiscences, but Schneider's songs and stories never venture beyond elementary observation and self-analysis. --Adam Langer

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
May 28
Performing Arts
July 15

Popular Stories