'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Thursday, May 03, 2007 ]

Recently, I recieved an email from a Chicago theater director named Bryan Cohen, who, like me, has been having trouble getting reviewers to see his show--so he's come up with an interesting solution: Invite reviewers and critics and have them do "community reviews," which I'll post here so that they can be found during a search or he can link to them.

It's actually a pretty good idea (one I may steal). It's a good way for not only for there to be some reviews out there, but for there to be a sense of communtiy among different theater groups through the internet. Here's the first review, just recieved today:

Something From Nothing
Directed by Bryan Cohen
A review by Paul Barile

Everyone who does improv should see "Something from Nothing" even if only to hear the theories that have gotten lost in the so much of today's gratuitously blue improv scene. The characters talk about – argue about – and understand the various reasons actors do improv.

The characters invoke the holy guru of improv – Del Close – to remind us that honesty and connections are more important than farts and boogers. There is an earnest air about most of these actors that leads the audience to believe they believe it as well. Their belief makes it an easy sell.

Another positive element is they find ways to work history and theory into conversation without being preachy. When one character gets completely wrapped up in theory and forget to just live life – the consequences are less than positive. It is also refreshing to watch a show that isn't peppered with insider humor as many sketch and improv shows tend to be. In fact – you don't need to be in the industry to enjoy most of this play.

Whether intentional – or not - the cast fairly reflects the 1985 film The Breakfast Club. Since the show is set in 1985 – and the improv team takes the name The Breakfast Tub, one is left to draw their own conclusions.

The standout performance by Lauren Q. Hearter – easily the most comfortable person on the stage - is worth the cost of admission. Her character's arc is so complete and uninterrupted that by act three (yes… act three) when she resolves her issues, the audience is completely seduced.

The rest of the cast is uneven – although most of them have great moments. Most of the problems they face are the result of two negative elements in the show. The first negative is the show is way too long. The second element is there are so many unnecessary plot twists – this could be two different plays.

Scripted from improv is a double-edged sword. While you are getting fresh real dialogue – you have to know when to stop the tape. Some of these scenes go on and on and take 15 minutes to say what could be said in 5. There are too many instances when two actors walk out on stage – pull up a chair – and talk. Sometimes they are drinking a beer. Sometimes they are playing a video game. Mostly there is a lot of sitting.

This thing comes in at 2 hours and 30 minutes when they could have told the entire story in 90 minutes. (Note from Rob: I have been informed by the director that this will actually been shortened down by about a half-hour, starting this Sunday.)

All of the subplots did was add time to the script. They didn't raise the stakes and they didn't make us feel more or less of anything toward the characters except – about half-way through act three we were feeling a little contempt that they could get up and walk around as they rambled on and we were planted in seats.

As a time-capsule Stephanie Solorio's costumes were on the money and Amy Gorelow's set was pioneering with its minimalist aesthetic.

Something from Nothing continues its run at the Apollo Studio Theater at 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., (nearest the Fullerton Red/Brown Line) through May 16th, playing Sunday through Wednesday nights at 8 PM. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $7 for students. Call (773) 935-6100 to make reservations.

posted by Rob on 11:58 PM | link



I remember that nobody reviewed "Psychos In Love"...has it been a big issue with your last two shows also?

By Blogger Chuck, at Thursday, May 24, 2007 6:41:00 AM  

Not since I left Broom Street, at any rate. We did get a couple of reviews for Sledgehammer Party--one from OnMilwaukee.com, and one from the now-defunct Core Weekly, and absolutely nothing from any of the other papers.

But, lately, The Isthmus has been reviewing the other BST shows, although the main papers haven't. Again, the way it was explained by two of the papers was that unless the show is spending some kind of money for ads in the paper, they don't really feel obligated to print a review.

Oh, and apparently, I may or may not have intimidated a few critics with my "Critical Blowback" feature. (Because God forbid a critic's feelings be hurt by someone's opinion.)

By Blogger Rob, at Thursday, May 24, 2007 6:56:00 AM  

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