It takes me, on average, a minimum of 18 hours to write a play review—that is, to compose an articulate, informative, and entertaining essay of 400 words that both describes the play in question and comments on the experience of being in the room with it. While the performance is in progress, however, my responses are more likely to be emotional, inspecific and sometimes so pronounced that I feel as if I'd blurted them out loud. Here's what was on the stage during the 2004 season when I suddenly said—to myself, I hope:
These kids are all RIGHT: GreyZelda Theatre Group's One Flea Spare. The Hypocrites' Camille/La Traviata. House Productions' San Valentino And The Melancholy Kid. Dog And Pony's Clouds. Artistic Home's Street Scene.
I feel so much smarter than when I came in: Timeline Theatre's Hannah And Martin. Caffeine Theatre's Sailing To Byzantium. Victory Gardens' A Free Man Of Color. Remy Bumppo's Some Americans Abroad, Hidden Laughter, A Delicate Balance and Arcadia.
Literally, awesome: Goodman's Electricidad and Crowns. A Red Orchid's The Fastest Clock In The Universe.
As agile as dancing on the head of a pin: Defiant Theatre's Clockwork Orange. Irish Repertory's A Dublin Bloom. Artistic Home's Peer Gynt. City Lit's The Rivals. Aggravated Assault Ensemble's Mustapha's Bride.
Now THAT wasn't at ALL what I expected: Burning Doll Theatre's No Exit. The Mammals' No Sexit. Northlight's The Good War. Oak Park Festival's Romeo And Juliet. The Utopian Theatre Asylum's The Sweet Little Prince. DueEast's Seven Out. Greta Mae Productions' A Lesbian In The Pantry. The International Theatre Of Chicago's Iphigenia In Kingman.
Like the fingers of a single hand: David Parkes and Elizabeth Rich in Hannah And Martin at Timeline. Gary Houston and Anthony Fleming III in Free Man Of Color at Victory Gardens. Peter Greenberg and Jenifer Tyler in Strong Poison at Lifeline. Joe Mack and Jim Tifft in A Walk In The Woods for Perfect Note Productions. Donna Blue Lachman and Rula Sirhan Gardenier in For You Were A Stranger at the Hothouse. Carol Enoch and Kara Klein in The Dastardly Ficus for Scott Dray Productions. Yasen Peyankov and Laurie Metcalf in Frankie And Johnny At The Clair De Lune for Steppenwolf. Tarell Alvin McCraney, BJ Jones and David Matthew Warren in Blue/Orange at Northlight. The entire cast of Pulp for About Face.
I wish I'd said that: Frances Limoncelli's adaptation of Strong Poison for Lifeline. Curt Columbus' translation of The Cherry Orchard for Steppenwolf.
This director couldn't make a play look stupid if you paid them to do it: David Cromer, for Mary-Arrchie's Mojo and Northlight's Blue/Orange. Henry Godinez, for Goodman's Electricidad. Virginia Smith, for Oak Park Festival's Romeo And Juliet. Kimberly Senior, for Rivendell's Knowing Cairo.
Why haven't I seen this actor before/more often?: Maggie Speer, for Azusa Productions' French Gray. Mark Vallarta, Alexandra Blatt and Vanessa Greenway for Live Bait's Paramount Girl. Roger Ainslie, for The Journeymen's Für Beethoven. Harry Eddleman, for Walkabout's A Human Interest Story.
I don't think we're in Chicago anymore: Jacqueline and Richard Penrod's belle époque Paris apartment for Apple Tree's My Old Lady. Brian Sidney Bembridge's 18th-century hospital for Umalleniay's The Pool At Bethesda. Riccardo Hernández' barren flatlands for Goodman's Electricidad. Christopher Ashe's sun-baked café for International Theatre of Chicago's Iphigenia In Kingman. Mickey York's rocket launch for Brown Couch's Defying Gravity. Matt Harding's dialects in Blue/Orange at Northlight, Martin Aistrope's dialects in Dealer's Choice for Steep Theatre, and the uncredited dialects in Burying The Bones at Stage Left.
Somebody should give an award to: Next Theatre for NOT scheduling Yellowman during Black History Month. David Blixt for his old-lady-with-a-cane fight in A Clockwork Orange. The marketing department at the Goodman for the Crowns ads in the Tribune. And to the whole production company of Lifeline's The Killer Angels, for fitting the entire Battle of Gettysburg onto a stage measuring a mere 28 X 30 feet.
And there oughta be a prize called: The Beyond-The-Call-Of-Duty award, to Dale Benson for his performance in Remy Bumppo's Hidden Laughter. The Seventy-Six Trombones award, to musicians Eugene Dizon, Vanessa Jayne, Nick Sula and Derek Weihofen for sounding like a full-fucking philharmonic in Porchlight's Sweeney Todd. The Glenda Jackson Soundalike award, to Linda Reiter and Rebecca Finnegan for their performances in ( respectively ) Remy Bumppo's Arcadia and Theo Ubique's Kurt Weill Revue. And the AARP Pin-Up award, to Fritz Weaver, Ivonne Coll, Don Bender and Ann Whitney for their appearances in ( respectively ) Trying, Electricidad, The Judas Kiss and The Old Lady.
And how about special recognition to: The potted plant in The Dastardly Ficus and the vulture puppet in The Fastest Clock In The Universe, for the year's most charismatic flora and fauna? And one for 2004's most charming villain, Bunnicula, the titular vampire rabbit, created by Dan Crowley for Lifeline?
Looking forward to ( stifled ) outbursts at House Productions' Curse Of The Crying Heart—aka San Valentino And the Melancholy Kid, part two—and Red Orchid's Gagarin Way, starring west-coast refugees Michael Shannon and Paul Dillon. See you at the theatre!