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Chicago Scene
by Michael Van Kerckhove
February 2004

Hello! I’ve finally cracked through winter’s icey prison, softened by a late February “heat wave” of temps in the 40s, to bring you this, my 10th “Chicago Scene” for your reading enjoyment.

Christmas Roundup:
Plenty of Holiday Gay favorites were offered up this past Christmas season. Here’s a run down:

The Journeymen once again revived their holiday hit, The Eight: Reindeer Monologues by Jeff Goode. Cupid (the gay one) and company reveal the dark underbelly of the Santa’s workshop.

Hell in a Handbag Productions was busy this holiday season. First, they presented Rudolph the Red Hosed Reindeer for its 6th season. The show featured Brannen Daugherty as the red stocking clad Rudolph in this parody of the beloved TV special. The show includes holiday favorites such as “Christmas Makes Me Bitter,” “They’ll Hate You If You’re Different,” and “It’s Tough to be a Toy.” You can now hear them on the just released cast recording CD available on their Web site.

They also presented Fa La La This 2, an evening of monologues by David Cerda, Brooke Allen, Chad McLaughlin, and Richard Bluestein.

Roadworks Productions presented its annual offering of Joe Mantello’s adaptation of David Sedaris’s The Santaland Diaries in which Lance Stuart Baker recounts Sedaris’ experiences as a Macy’s Elf. Jack Helbig said in his Chicago Reader review, “Creating a compelling facsimile of the writer-performer, Baker could tour America with a one-man show based on the life and opinions of Sedaris if Sedaris weren’t currently doing that himself.” The production also featured Cyndi Rhoads performing “Season’s Greetings.”

A Tale of Two Twelfths:
Also in December, Ernie and I had the pleasure of visiting Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier to experience Shakespeare’s Globe’s production of Twelfth Night. The amazing Mark Rylance led this all-male London-based cast as Illyria’s Olivia where he seemed to literally float just above the ground as he walked. This traditional production featured beautiful Elizabethan costumes, music, and a simple set, in addition to the no-girls-allowed casting. Wonderful!

This Feb-March, Ernie Nolan (yes, my Ernie) presents his 1980’s re-mix of Twelfth Night as part of the New Directors Series at The Theatre School, DePaul University. Illyria meets Studio 54 as a Princess Diana-esque Viola disguises herself as a club kid sailor in her servitude to a Prince-like Duke Orsino and mistakenly wins the heart of Olivia-as-Bianca Jagger. With an original rock score by onstage band Limozeen, “celebutants” partying it up, and plenty of red velvet, this show will be one of Chicago’s little gems of the season. And I’m not just saying that.

Party Like It’s 1962:
On New Year’s Eve, Ernie and I went to see the National Touring production of Hairspray as it stops at the Loop’s Oriental Theatre this winter. Bruce Vilanch filled into Harvey Fierstein’s hefty shoes as Edna Turnblad, and my fellow Michigander Carly Jibson belted out “Good Morning, Baltimore” as Tracy Turnblad. Vilanch, in true form, played to his Chicago audience with some local humor, which was cause for celebration in both city dwellers and suburbanites alike.

A Light at the Goodman:
After a series of musicals that didn’t quite live up their expectations, Chicago’s “The Best Regional Theatre in the Nation” Goodman Theatre finally has a hit (co-produced with Seattle’s Intiman Theatre) with The Light in the Piazza by Adam Guettel (Floyd Collins) and Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss). The show, set in the Florence, Italy of 1953, tells the story of an American woman, Margaret (Victoria Clark) whose twenty-something daughter, Clara (Celia Keenan-Bolger), is wooed by Fabrizio (Wayne Wilcox), young Italian man. The problem is Clara has the mental age of 12. Margaret is torn between protecting Clara and watching her find happiness. Rave reviews and an extended run offer hope that this jewel of a show will find its way to New York and life in Regional Theatres into the future.

Pulpy Face:
This winter, About Face Theatre presents Patricia Kane’s (Seven Moves) homage to the lesbian pulp fiction novels of the 1950’s in Pulp. The scene takes place in a Chicago lesbian bar “full of booze, broads, and drag kings” in 1956. The music is jazzy and loungey, and the spirit of Barbara Stanwyck is alive. In a Windy City Times interview, Kane said she was drawn to the covers of these books because the art is “sexy and beautiful and campy and extremely fun.” She also points out what makes her play different than other, much more campy, plays dealing with the subject: “I wanted to enjoy the style, but not make fun of it. I call Pulp a revisionist homage.” Through March 7.

A Tale of Two Couples:
Bailiwick Repertory Theatre presents the world premiere production of Dan Clancy and Lynn Portas’ 108 Waverly. This intimate musical tells the stories of two couple who live in this one bedroom Greenwich Village apartment-one in 1998 and one in 1928-and “navigate against the social and political mainstream to find the only place where they can be and love themselves: home.” A fitting theme as the headlines fill with words for and against gay marriage. Featuring Rodrigo Ignacio Cruz, Nich Radcliffe, Richie Matthews, and a red-stocking-less Brannen Daugherty. Through March 7.

Wrestling with the Issues:
This winter, The Theatre School, DePaul University teams up with YWCA Chicago for a production of Laurie Brooks’ The Wrestling Season. The play features a cast of high school aged characters confronting issues of gossip and rumors, gay bashing, sexual identity, and the politics of identity in general all in the literal and metaphorical contexts of a wrestling match. The production also featured Lauren Pretnaur, a YWCA violence prevention educator who acted as the referee during the play, as well as the post-show discussion. The show enjoyed a brief run at the Athenaeum Theatre, and then is now touring high schools.

And Finally:
NewTown Writers presented a reading of my play, Losing Lulu Drayton, at Theatre Building on February 19, 2004. It was directed by Domenick Danza, and featured the wonderful talents of Derrick Cole, Michael Rashid, Joshua Sumner, and Michelle X. Taylor.

Love to all. See you in even warmer days.

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