Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Hat Trick of Quick Theater Reviews

Merrily We Roll Along
a musical by Stephen Sondheim
The Music Theatre Company
at the Karger Center, Highland Park, IL
Run Ended (saw on May 13)

It distresses me to no end that among Americans under 50, Kim Kardashian undoubtedly has a higher Q Rating than Stephen Sondheim. I still don't know what she's ever done; he's simply the greatest composer and lyricist musical theater has ever known. This 1981 show was his notorious flop, but the score is still sumptuously sublime, with typical Sondheim sophistication in the music and lyrics. And the backward sequencing of the plot is an interesting narrative device. The cast was a bit young, but quite talented and the show rolled along quite merrily, indeed.

Photo Credit: Joel Moorman, Steppenwolf.org
The Hot L Baltimore
a play by Lanford Wilson
Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago
Thru May 29, 2011

I liked the premise of this 1974 play by the recently-deceased Wilson: a bunch of social misfits demonstrating camaraderie, dignity and perseverance in the dying days of a once-grand Baltimore flophouse. The set design at Steppenwolf was fantastic and the '70s music that accompanied the show was a lot of fun. The acting by the large ensemble cast was excellent and the beautiful Kate Arrington shedding all her clothes at one point was quite, uh, eye-opening. But while it added up to a worthwhile show, the highly splintered focus (or lack thereof) was a bit hard to follow, rendering the Hot L Baltimore not wholeheartedly worth checking into.

Stage Kiss
a world premiere play by Sarah Ruhl
Goodman Theatre, Chicago

This show was quite funny and therefore enjoyably entertaining. But in addition to dragging on way too long, it didn't seem to provide any shrewd insights or say much more than "actors often turn on-stage passion into off-stage romance, but it often winds up being a superficial, unsustainable relationship."

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