Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Star is Born in 'Crisis'

Theater Review

Crisis: A Musical Game Show
Through June 12

As incongruous as it sounds, last night I was on-stage--albeit without an actual stage--at one of Chicago's most famous theaters.

And even more shockingly--especially as I even did a bit of public singing--the audience gave me a nice hand when I was finished.

But alas, I still went home a loser.

You see, I went to see the Neo-Futurists current prime-time production, Crisis: A Musical Game Show (and also stuck around to see their longstanding late-night show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, which I'll review separately when time permits).

Before every performance of Crisis, a 25-question, Scantron-scored trivia test is given to all audience members. Out of about 80 people, I was one of the 8 top scorers and was selected to be in the game show, and thus on-stage.

Taking place amidst original musical numbers and some cheeky "ads," the first-round of game-playing was basically a take-off on Family Feud. As part of a team of four, I led off the game by beating my opponent to the punch in naming one of the "Things People Fear Most,"--public speaking was my answer--and then proceeded to help my team crush the other in all three rounds of the initial game.

After that, it was every man and woman for him or herself, and the second round wasn't knowledge-based, but more about thinking and moving quickly on your feet. This included musical chairs, having to vote out one of our teammates, watching a short movie, answering questions about it and then writing & singing a jingle about it. The silly movie was ostensibly about a Nigerian dictator who loved McDonalds, the Atlanta Braves and Woody Allen, and who needed to sell off his belongings. So my written-on-the-spot song went:

I love Woody Allen/But he lost Mia Farrow/So won't you buy my items/And you can be my hero

Although the actors and audience laughed, I was voted out and sent back to the audience, dubbed "The Losers' Lounge." My shot at stardom, and the $300 the winner eventually earned, was over. But after seeing the next round, which involved running around the stage, I'm glad my participation ended when it did.

I had fun, but as I was either on-stage or backstage for about half the show, it was hard to truly gauge its merits as a performance, especially to those only in the audience. But @@@ seems about right, as Crisis was enjoyable, and even a bit insightful in satirizing game shows and commenting on the economic meltdown, but the musical numbers were slight and the humor was fleeting.

I wasn't quite the best thing about Crisis, but in my mind, it wouldn't have been quite as good without me in it. Although to be fair, the winner--a Chicago-actor-turned-lawyer named John--was a good guy, the high scorer on the test and much better than I would've been on-stage in the last two rounds. He deserved the $300.

Anyway, if you go, I'd suggest trying to be in Crisis rather than simply seeing it.

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