Intense! AstonRep Theatre Company Presents 1984 at Raven Theatre (September 16, 2017)

A young couple falls in love and wants to get married. There’s just one problem, it’s illegal. In this dystopian world created by George Orwell, the totalitarian government controls everything and watches everyone in the party all the time. It’s even illegal to think bad thoughts against the government.

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This production is very well done and it is quite intense at times. It’s probably a good idea to leave the kids at home for this one. Even adults were squirming in their seats as the government tortured a man in order to get him to obey Big Brother. The agony is clearly visible in his face. “How many fingers am I holding up?” “2+2 = 4?” “No! 5!” This is repeated many times to break him.

The sound design by Samantha Barr successfully brought you into the dark future of the story. The alarms from the telescreen and the squeals of the rats were quite startling.  Also, using a Muse song was a good choice as a transition between scenes. Finally, “Karma Police” by Radiohead was spot on as the closing number. “This is what you’ll get, when you mess with us.”

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Quinn Delaney

Also, see our review of 1984 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica here.

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Food Review: Tommy Gun’s Garage (September 13, 2017)

The food at Tommy Gun’s Garage was delicious and the service was excellent. To start, the cream of chicken soup was very tasty. The Kingpin was an easy choice from their menu. It’s a 10 oz cut of roasted prime rib served with au juliene. It was very juicy and tender and tasted fantastic. Also great were the green beans on the side along with a baked potato, which is served with butter and sour cream on the side. Lastly, for dessert, cannoli was served. They were crunchy and sweet, the perfect combo to finish off a meal.

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Get tickets now for Tommy Gun’s Garage.

Quinn

Fantastic! Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native at Schubas (September 12, 2017)

Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native are a bluegrass band with an impressive resume. Julian Pinelli on fiddle is a recent Berkeley graduate. Bennett Sullivan was just on Broadway in Steve Martin’s “Bright Star”. Ben Sollee on cello has played with Otis Taylor, Abigail Washburn, Bela Fleck, and Jim James. Alex Browne on bass who just graduated with a Masters in Music in Bass Performance from UT Austin. Rounding out the group is Jordon Ellis on drums. They all play really well together and create music that sounds like Kentucky, where they are from. Also, Ben is a great storyteller. He told many tales about where the songs come from which create a great live experience.

For the penultimate song, Ben Sollee asks (“demands”, he jokes) that the fiddle player sing a little tune called “Drink Up and Go Home”. A verse goes “There stands a blind man, so blind he can’t see”. The crowd cracks up. The chorus is repeated many times and by the end of the song everyone is singing along: “Be thankful you’re living; drink up and go home!”

For the final song, they sing “Wild World” by Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf). Once again it’s a giant singalong: “Oh baby baby it’s a wild world, it’s hard to get by just upon a smile. Oh baby baby it’s a wild world. I’ll always remember you like a child, girl.” It’s a fantastic close to a great night music!

Catch Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native on tour now!

Quinn Delaney

Review: NightBlue Theatre Presents Bullets over Broadway at Stage 773 (September 11, 2017)

In the 1920s, Cole Porter released “Let’s Misbehave” and Hoagy Carmichael released “Up a Lazy River”. In 1994, Bullets over Broadway was released as a feature film, written and directed by Woody Allen, using those songs. Dianne Wiest won the Best Supporting Actress for playing Helen Sinclair. In 2014, it opened as a musical on Broadway. It was nominated for six Tony’s, though it didn’t win any. And now, in 2017, it opens for the first time by a Chicago company, NightBlue.

David Shayne is having a lot of trouble getting his play produced. So, when an offer from a gangster to finance a production comes in, he decides to take the money. He even accepts the condition that the gangster’s girlfriend will have a key part in the play. During rehearsals, her bodyguard becomes involved in changing the script which leads to dramatic results.

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Jonathan Rivera is fantastic as the bodyguard. He plays the role tough but cool. Also, he leads the rest of the henchmen in a great tap dance number that resulted in a huge applause from the audience. His character has a natural talent for playwriting and he has a natural talent for acting.

If you are nostalgic for the 20’s, or even the 90’s, this is the show for you! Get tickets now for Bullets over Broadway through October 8th.

Quinn Delaney

Fantastic! Young the Giant at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island (September 9, 2017)

The house lights go off and a melody of songs about America plays. “Born in the USA” and “American Idiot” are on the playlist. Next, the large screen at the back of the stage starts to glow like a sunrise. And then, sure enough, a sun rises on the screen as the band takes the stage. They launch into their song that matches the theme, “Amerika”. The lead singer, Sameer Gadhia, struts around the stage like a rock star in an orange one piece jumpsuit. This was a fantastic opening to the show and set the stage for a great set.

When they return to the stage for an encore, the audience is very excited to hear more. Sameer says that since they are in Chicago, and it is the weekend, they have to play the following song. He sings Ignition (Remix) as the crowd dances enthusiastically as a tribute to R. Kelley, who is from Chicago. Finally, to close out the night, they play their biggest hit, “My Body”. It’s a rocking number that gets everyone jumping up and down as they shout “My Body tells me no, but I won’t quit, cause I want more!” It was an excellent finish to a great night of music!

Quinn Delaney

Excellent and Unique! Strawdog Theatre Company presents Barbecue at Steppenwolf (September 2, 2017)

Three siblings decide to have an intervention for their sister at a summer barbecue. Their sister is on crack and they have had enough. They decide that she must either go to rehab or they will cut her off completely. In the production, after 10 minutes or so, the lights go out and the cast completely changes. However, the characters (wearing the same outfits) remain the same. It starts with an all-white family and then switches to an all-black family. After another 10 minutes, it switches back to the white family. It’s very unique and the audience’s minds are spinning while trying to figure out what is happening.

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The acting in this production is excellent. It doesn’t take long before we recognize this a family with some history trying to figure things out. It may seem like it would be confusing to switch the cast back and forth. However, the actors do such a good job becoming the characters that the story moves along smoothly. It doesn’t hurt that the writing is fantastic too.

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Get tickets now for Barbecue through September 30th!

Also, read a conversation with Playwright Robert O’Hara and Director Damon Kiely here.

Quinn Delaney

Incredibly Immersive! Machinal at Greenhouse Theatre (September 1, 2017)

A young woman feels trapped in life. She feels forced into marrying her boss, but she does it anyways. Eventually, she finds happiness with a new lover, but it doesn’t last.  Things quickly get out of hand as she tries to free herself from her situation.

This show is an incredibly immersive experience. It draws the audience in and they can’t help but root for the young woman. The 90 minutes go by in a flash as everyone pays close attention to each and every word.

The original music by Jeffrey Levin perfectly sets the mood. The music ranges from soft and delightful to eerie and spooky to dark and intense.

This play has many similarities to Adding Machine: A Musical, which was produced by The Hypocrites in March of 2016. In both stories, the main character feels stuck, like they are just a small part of a big machine. Also, both productions have a very dark and mysterious feel to them. This is expertly done through a mix of sharp lighting and fantastic sound design. Machinal was written in 1928 and The Adding Machine (which the musical was adapted from) was written in 1923. Fans of Adding Machine: A Musical should definitely see Machinal.

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The entire cast is superb. Especially Jonah Winston, who is an impressive presence on stage. At the Lyric Opera, he was both The Maitre’ D in The Merry Widow and Morgan in Longer! Louder! Wagner!

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Get tickets now for Machinal through September 24th!

Quinn Delaney