Extra Bonus Adventure: Richard III from Wayward Productions at the Den

This week has been a whirlwind of activity, and I am honestly exhausted, so I may not do this remarkable work of theater justice, but I’m going to try.

First a little back story; I do not like Richard III, it seems to me on paper to just be a lot of vile people being vile to each other and anyone even remotely likeable gets murdered, violently. As seemingly ancient royal rivalries don’t tend to mean much to me the brutality of this play always just felt a bit arbitrary. But director/star Carlo Lorenzo Garcia has made the crazy and brilliant choice to set the play in a biker gang, one of the few settings where random brutality makes emotional sense.

Biker Shakespeare on paper seems like a joke, and parts of the adaptation are funny, but the laughs are intentional, and they make the carnage all the more terrifying when it comes, seemingly out of nowhere.

The language is sort of half updated. For the most part Shakespeare’s script is intact, with a few well placed obscenities and they brilliant replacing of “my man” or the ubiquitous “my lord.”  And a truly perfect closing line that Shakespeare I’m sure would have written if he knew where Richard III would end up buried.

The real brilliance of this production comes down to the ensemble. It’s large, which is so rare in storefront theater, and committed. I believed these people loved and hated each other, even if the exact reasons as to why were always a little lost on me.Garcia is a lot more attractive than my traditional image of Richard III, but he manages to convince me at once that he is crazy, while believable as trustworthy to Buckingham (Jude Roche, who is my favorite Vin-Diesel-look-a-like/Shakespearean actor), though of course he’s wrong. The women were also amazing, strong, fully formed characters, which is not easy given this text.

This was a wonderfully intimate show, so intimate in fact that, because we chose to sit in the front row, and I was on the end, at 4 separate occasions I was asked direct questions by the cast. At one point the King seemed to be waiting for me to answer, it was awesome, and a bit intimidating.

Unfortunately the show closes in like 2 days, but if you can you should totally go.

It runs through Saturday at the Den Theater at 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave

Not Quite a Triple Digit Movie: Much Ado About Nothing

Yesterday actually wasn’t that hot, but it did start with an apocalypse-esque thunderstorm so I’m going to go ahead and say that my trip to the Landmark last evening was an escape from the weather. (Plus I promised Miro that I would review this movie so here we go.)

For those of you who don’t know Joss Whedon made an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which he filmed in a week, with a bunch of his friends, in his own house. This could have been a disaster honestly, but because it was Joss Whedon, it was magical.

Filmed in black and white with a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack, the movie feels like a dream. Alexis Dennisoff and Amy Acker (both Angel alums) are delightfully wry and lovely as Benedick and Beatrice.

The dream-like quality also makes it easier to adjust to the strange language, and uncontextualized political intrigue. They don’t need to be explained in the same way that a dream just makes sense while it’s happening.

The only issue, wasn’t Joss’s fault, the central struggle of second half of the play revolves around the importance of Hero (the gorgeous Jillian Morgese)’s virginity. (Like literally the message is it is better to be dead than have had sex before your wedding.) And it’s just hard to make that make sense in a modern setting. But Fran Kanz as Claudio manages the grief well, and mercifully Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk (who will always be Andrew to me) are fabulous comic relief.

In fact the whole cast was so perfectly chosen. And they looked like they were having so much fun, I want to hang out with them. Plus there was a truly amazing amount of alcohol consumed.

Seriously if you like Shakespeare or Joss Whedon, or whimsy, or black and white cinematography, go see this, it will make you happy.

Bonus Adventure: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story at the Cadillac Palace

I try really hard to stay positive about the things I review on this blog. I’m a big believer in art, and trying things even if they don’t really work in the end. But The Buddy Holly Story, currently running at the Cadillac Palace, is just, well, bad. Which is sad because I adore Buddy Holly. So instead of repeating the rant Justin and I went on for the entire Red Line trip to Belmont last night, I’ve made a list of my five biggest problems with the show and combined them with five of my favorite Buddy Holly songs.

  1. They completely ignored how innovative/subversive he was. Yes he was a big nerd, but he was also a genius (and I’m sure that even in 1958 a white guy knows what a high-five is, even when it’s coming from a “soulful” black singer.)

But here listen to “Not Fade Away”

      2. They cast his wife as the Yoko Ono of the Crickets

Holly wanted to move to New York before he met Maria Elena Santiago, she was not a villain.

Here’s a beautiful love song that the show claims he wrote for her “True Love Ways”  

     3. They completely ignored that he was part of a group of early rockers.

Until the end, when they needed to have him together with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens…

So here’s him with Elvis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash

      4.  The show moved very slowly, there wasn’t really a narrative arc and the transitions were ridiculously long even when no scenery seemed to move.

But here’s “That’ll Be the Day”

       5. I know Buddy had a distinctive voice, but if you are playing him, you should be able to do the little vocal stops he was famous for

Like the ones in “Peggy Sue”

I could go on and on, but I won’t (I mean I don’t really even have words to describe how I feel about the fact that they announced his death in voice over and then had the whole cast sing “Johnny B. Goode” which isn’t even a Buddy Holly song…) Credit to Justin for the format of this post.


Credit to Justin for the idea for the format of this post.

The show runs through June 30th at the Cadillac Palace Theater at 151 W. Randolph

Ten Songs for My Busy Week

I know it hasn’t been as long as usual in between playlist posts, but I’ve been listening to a lot of good stuff lately, and I’m going to a lot of theater/movies this week and didn’t want the whole blog to be reviews. So here, have some songs:

We Own the Night – fun. covering Lady Antebellum

One of my favorite pop bands covering one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite country bands – what’s not to love?

Try Again – Big Star

When I was at the Music Box last week I saw a trailer for a documentary about Big Star. I can’t wait to see it, and I’m grateful for the excuse to listen to #1 Album.


Boys Round Here – Blake Shelton

Now, before you judge me, let me say that I am fully aware that this song is stupid. Really stupid, and probably actually bad, but I really enjoy the little joke about the Dougie & Kentucky. That’s the whole reason this song is on here.

Love Comes to Everyone – George Harrison

Sometimes I like to think of myself as a hippie. When I do, I listen to a lot of George Harrison.

Everything Has Changed – Taylor Swift feat. Ed Sheeran

The song is fine, but I’m in love with this video, especially the adorable hipster children doing yoga.

I’m A Keeper – The Band Perry

This song is my new mantra. Seriously. I cannot stop listening to it. (I especially love this live version, Kimberly Perry just has so much sass.)

Stepsister’s Lament – from the 1997 TV version

Because I’ve had this song in my head for reasons I can’t really figure out. And because I’m obsessed with the strange “color-blind” casting of this movie. I’m all for diversity, but there’s no world where Bernadette Peters gave birth to both of these daughters…

Right as Rain – Adele

This is my cleaning music, or as it’s been hot out this is my piling things up to clean them up later music.

Lookin’ For a Good Time – Lady Antebellum

Their ballads are great and everything, but I love when Lady A has fun.

Chelsea Dagger – played the CSO

Because it’s a damn good day to be a Chicagoan.

Weekly Adventure: The Pride from About Face Theater

First I must say that seeing this play was not truly the adventure of my weekend. That includes walking 3+ miles through Lincoln Park, and transporting a bookshelf from Lakeview to Ravenswood on public transportation. But I don’t really know how to write about that experience yet, plus Justin and I are going to turn it into a play and I wouldn’t want to ruin that for all of you.

So instead, my Sunday afternoon slightly less eventful adventure, was heading to Victory Gardens to see About Face’s new production of The Pride with Julia. I’ve been dying to see this play since it was in New York with Ben Winshaw and Hugh Dancy, because apparently I get really enthusiastic about shows that I know will break my heart. Over and over again. Because that’s what this show does.

Set in London in both 1958 and 2008, the play follows two gay men (Patrick Andrews and John Francisco), and the woman in their life (Jessie Fisher), through the different struggles that face them in the different eras. Of course the obstacles in 1958 are more external: complete social isolation, medical interventions, wives stuck in the middle, but 2008 (or today essentially) isn’t just shown as a paradise of freedom. In fact the freedom Oliver (Andrews – who is amazing in this, as he is in everything I’ve seen him in) enjoys, lots of random anonymous sex, holds him back from a functional relationship with Philip (Francisco).

The play raises lots of interesting questions of sexuality and permissiveness, progress, and the idea of Pride itself. (“Is it a demonstration, a celebration, or a fashion show?”) And if you’re prepared for the darkness (and it’s a bit more intense than even I expected at times) it’s really a wonderful production of a powerful play.

The show runs through July 13th at Victory Gardens at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave

Ten Songs I’ve Been Overplaying

I know that every time I post a playlist I say my neighbors must be sick of these songs. I’m not sure if they can actually hear my music through the wall (I hope not), but the amount I’ve been playing these songs should mean that I’m sick of them. But I’m not.

I Don’t Really Love You Anymore – Magnetic Fields

Deceptively peppy sad song.

Jackson – Johnny & June Carter Cash

I work on the corner of Lasalle and Jackson. Lately every morning walking down Jackson from the train I get this song in my head. Honestly I’m just surprised it took this long.

What A Good Boy – Barenaked Ladies

Melancholy, but still a fave.

I Can Lift a Car – Walk the Moon

Love this band. Love this song. Love the Chicago shout out. Love the homemade videos.

Rose Garden – Lynn Anderson

The hair, the dress, the sass. I just love this whole thing so much.

The Auld Triangle – Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey version

Oh did I post this song last week? I don’t care.

Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful – Laura Osnes & Santino Fontana

Yeah, I know the “revisal” of Cinderella has a lot of issues. (I think that’s inherent in the idea of a ‘revisal,’ but I digress.) The original score of Cinderella and this song are incredibly important to me, and these two are just wonderful.

Fine – from Ordinary Days sung by

I cannot stop listening to this. I don’t even know why. (Except my total fancrush on Santino…)


Also you guys they’re actually dating. (I know I’m creepy, please ignore me.)

She’s Got A Way – Wesley Taylor Cover

Speaking of inappropriate theater crushes. This is my instant happiness fix this week.

Why Am I The One – FUN.

Because I don’t think they are capable of writing a not-catchy song. (Yes I’m annoyed by the double negative in that sentence too, but not annoyed enough to change it.)

(Not Quite a) Triple Digit Movie: The Source Family

So yesterday it was 95 degrees here in Chicago. I’m not going to repeat my hot weather rant for the 10,000th time here. But suffice to say when it gets above 85 I get grouchy, sweaty, tired, and lose my appetite. Naturally the only thing that fixes this is AC, more Diet Coke than any person should ever consume in one sitting, and Twizzlers for dinner, which of course means a trip to the movies.

Last night I went to the Music Box (one of my favorite places in Chicago) to see The Source Family, a documentary about health food guru turned actual guru Jim Baker and his “family” the Aquarians.

I am fascinated by cults, what makes some people who claim they can talk to God compelling and others committed to mental institutions? It has to go beyond simple charisma. This film makes the claim that with the Source Family, the formula for cult-success was a combination of time period, early 70s experimentation, and a bunch of lost kids who wanted a father (which they try to claim was a 70s phenomena, but I think has happened and will continue to happen throughout the ages), and music (yes the Family also started a rock band).

The film does a great job of showing the seduction of the “family’s” communal living, and Baker’s early philosophies. I particularly liked one film clip of him extolling his followers that “though they have been told to love every one, try to you will fail. So just be kind above all” even when loving is impossible. Not bad as commandments go, pragmatic but good-natured.

“Father Yod” and his ‘wives’

The rug of course gets pulled out though, when Baker, as cult leaders seem to inevitably do, suddenly announces to his wife, the beautiful 19-year-old Robin, renamed Mother Oh-Am, that he will now 13 wives. They were all of course also teenagers. (Kindness to himself apparently suddenly more important than kindness to his wife, and the husbands of his new wives.)

The movie doesn’t really come down as a condemnation of the Family, after all they weren’t Mansons, but it doesn’t laugh at them either. For many (Robin unfortunately excluded) of the former members their time in the Family was a learning experience. Though many of them are now members of other out-there spirituality movements, a few are highly successful, and with a few dramatic exceptions they seem to have their heads on right.

The one thing the film didn’t address that I really wish it had, was that 54 children were born to the family (we watch the first live on the screen), but there is only a passing mention of the fates of those kids. I really wish we could have heard from them.

I know I’ll be thinking about this movie for a long time. (Also it rained while I was in the theater and is in the high 60s today, which is my favorite weather…)

Weekly Adventure: Kiss of the Spider Woman from Boho Theater

You know how sometimes the one line synopsis of a show can totally put you off? Like for instance, “it’s a musical about prisoners in a fascist regime.” Even with a score by Kander and Ebb that was enough to make me completely avoid Kiss of the Spider Woman, in all its forms. The novel, play, movie, and musical have all been on my “I should get around to that at some point” list for a long time now.

I’m glad I waited, because I think Boho’s production running now at Theater Wit, was the best way to be introduced to this story. The musical format actually makes more sense than I initially thought, because of the prisoners, the apolitical “window dresser” (which of course is euphemism for gay) Molina, uses his memories of old movies to escape the Hell of prison. His escapes all revolve around Aurora, his favorite actress and all her movies but one, the Spider Woman, a villain who kills with her kiss.

Jennifer T. Grubb as the spider woman is a strong presence, but the joy of this production is Nathan Carroll as Molina and Evan Tyrone Martin as his Communist cell mate Valentine. Carroll imbues Molina with a lovely innocence, despite revelations about his character are revealed throughout at the show. And Martin does my favorite thing, which is play quiet strength so well that he almost blends in until BANG his solo comes and I was blown away.


This is a small production of what could be a huge spectacle of a show, but I loved the intimacy of the audience blending in the prison set (though I’m very glad I didn’t choose to sit under the cells.) The raw emotion on the prisoner’s faces as they sang about what they missed “Over the Wall” was incredibly powerful, especially because they were literally looking me in the eye while they sang it. In a show that’s all about captivity and escape the almost claustrophobia of having the show all around the audience worked really well.


The show runs through June 30th  at Theater Wit 1229 W Belmont Ave

Five Star Book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Despite being told by a bunch of people whose taste I totally trust that I will love John Green, I had never read one of his novels until my book club chose The Fault in Our Stars this month. I had been meaning to read it since The Tournament of Books this year, but it’s really hard to motivate yourself to pick up a book about teenagers with cancer. But I really shouldn’t have waited.

There are two choices when writing about characters with terminal illness. You can write the Lifetime movie version, or you can actively not write the Lifetime version. (Side note: I don’t know why but Lifetime Television for Women seems like it should always be italicized in my mind.) This novel definitely takes the anti-movie of the week stance, but it does become a tear-jerker. If you’re a crier at all you’ll want to read the last sections not in public. I particularly warn against the northbound 22 bus during rush hour on a Friday, just a random example.

The reason I loved this book all comes down to the narrator, Hazel Grace, otherwise known as Just Hazel. She sounds like the best teenage girl in the world, but rather than being the cancer heroine that inspires those around her through constant strength, she is a human being. Green allows her to feel real pain and anger at her fate, and be a real teenager as much as that fate allows. (I was particularly charmed by her America’s Next Top Model viewing habits, who of my generation hasn’t stayed glued to an ANTM marathon even when they know they’ve seen the entire season before?)

I have so much I want to say about the love story between Hazel and Augustus Waters, but I promised Justin and Julia last night that this review wouldn’t have any major spoilers. So instead I’m just going to tell you all to read the book.

One thing that came up at my book club that I would like to address. The few people who genuinely disliked the book, and they did so virulently, made a lot of the fact that no real teenagers talk this way. One, I think there probably are, because (two) these are teenagers who are facing their mortality. They are trying to be both kids and adults at the same time, living life on a really shortened scale. They are, in other words, kids trying to act like the adults they think they will be if they get the chance. So yeah, Gus’s metaphorical “smoking” – hokey, sure. His obsession with metaphor, a bit heavy-handed maybe, but in the end I found it really beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Green’s Author’s Note warning readers against reading the book as a thinly veiled memoir, because made up stories matter. Symbols matter to Augustus, and they matter to me too.

Non-Required Reading: Rachel’s List

This is my last Non-Required Reading List I have waiting in my inbox to share with you guys. Rachel, a soon to be fellow Northwestern alum, sent her list a long months ago, and I must say it’s very impressive. I’m intimidated by the length of Gone with the Wind today let alone in high school…

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen


Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander


So that’s it guys, unless you send me your list! (Please I really love reading them…) E-mail: igetabitobsessive@gmail.com