Saturday, September 09, 2017

Don't Miss Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Prairie Players

You will want to try and catch the Prairie Players production of Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike this weekend  in Galesburg.  The Tony award winner for best play in 2013 has been making the amateur rounds for a while now, but this is the first area production I have become aware of.

Durang is most noted for his parodies and scathing satires (Witness his Sister Mary Ignatius)  but this one takes it down a notch. It moderates without eliminating the social darts while adding genial humor, plenty of wild belly laughs, and a helping of true winsome emotion. You do not really need to know your Chekhov, Greek tragedy,  or Tennessee Williams to access the show, yet it does help to bring some of the more delicious moments from The Seagull to the surface.  (i.e. Sonia's  (Kim Wakefield Bullis) constant references to being a "wild turkey."    

The cast moved through opening night with a refreshing pace and remarkably few slips in spite of some of the (perhaps too long) 2nd act monologues.   It is there that the play can seem more like a mildly connected groups of set pieces rather than a unified dramatic work.

This is more than made up for by the uniformly well cast ensemble.  I found Vera Fornander's Cassandra to have the most punch. I would love to see her as Madam Arcati in  Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit.   Also appealing was Zachary Lenell Foster's stripper toy boy.  As he did his warm-ups prior to setting out for a run, he reminded me of the similar character type in Edward Albee's The Sandbox 

In sum, get on the internet and order your tickets.  You will not regret it.  It is a fine and pleasant evening of live theatre.  

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Ah Wilderness at the Goodman Theatre

The Goodman Theatre's new production of Eugene O'Neill's Ah Wilderness directed by Steve Scott hits a sweet spot of balance all around.  As the odd comedy out in the work of  Eugene O'Neill it stands alone as a beacon of what kind of family life Eugene might have wished for had he not been cursed with the tortured family we see in works like  Desire Under the Elms andLong Day's Journey Into Night.

The audience enters to see a pleasant blue-sky like screen functioning as the front curtain.  That rises at the opening of each act to expose a full stage scrim that gauzes over our view of the sea front cottage that contains most of the action.  It is this opening visual that  colors our view of the action.   It imparts a slightly misty and nostalgic tone to the innocent world of 1906.  Even without the scrim the earth and sky colors predominate to reinforce that slightly faded sepia memory ambiance.

We then embark on the maturational pains (both literary and sexual) of young Richard Miller played to naive perfection by Niall Cunningham.  The Miller family definitely has problems. There is a father who can't really communicate with his son about sexual matters, an over protective mother, and an uncle who drinks more and more often then he should.  Yet it is not a family that is fully lost to dysfunction and addiction.  The alcoholism that will destroy O'Neill and his real family is here treated with humor.  Love and sex, (which for the real O'Neill was filled with cruelty, divorce, abandonment, and infidelity) is here moderated by sensitive satire and youthful romanticism. Young Richard blunders comically through his first sweetheart and a proverbial prostitute with a semi-heart of gold to come out of his hangover with a reservoir of hope.  The final tableau places his loving parents--arm in arm--gazing at his reclining form on the beach.  There has been some pain, yet lessons have been learned.  The happy ending was certainly not in the future for O'Neill, but clearly it remains the wish of every parent for their offspring.

In sum, director Steve Scott had his finger on every pulse. He guided a uniformly excellent cast of true professionals and backed it up with a visual ambiance that was perfectly attuned to the script. My wife and I loved it.      

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Chicago R & R

Had the opportunity to take a short trip into Chicago earlier this week to visit with some good friends  (The Herolds's) who were on their way to a new job and home in Ohio from Hawaii.  You shall have to ask them why anyone would exchange Hawaii for Ohio.  :)

We had some good views at the Art Institute's just opening Gauguin  Exhibit.  It is fascinating and we hope to make another visit in a couple of weeks.  Beautifully arranged.

We had some good eats at Miller's Pub  (an Italian Omelet), the Greek Islands (Braised Lamb Shank), and the Art Institute Cafe (Lime Shrimp Taco's)  

Tuesday morning found us aboard Chicago's First Lady for a top notch architecture tour guided by a docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation.  We had not taken this cruise for a number of years and wow has the riverscape changed.  Lot's of new buildings, the expanded Riverwalk itself, and a pristine day made for a marvelous sailing.  Nothing still quite as impressive as the Chicago Skyline as viewed from the mouth of the river.

Hate to say it but the Trump Tower is an eyeful no matter your political leanings.

As is the European Renaissance inspired Wrigley Building.

Yet for just plain look at me originality the 1967 Marina City twin towers still get my vote for  a striking form that has lasted over the years.  

No doubt the older structures emanate  solidity and comfort,  but the new mirror clad behemoths  are just plain dazzling as they blend into and reflect the cloud puffy sky.  

 Flanked by some compatriots the Sears (or Willis) Tower still gets the prize for tallest of them all.

To get more information on The Chicago Architecture Foundation's walks and cruises go to

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Baseball is Here

Nothing like a little of America's pastime to ratchet up our summer excitement.  We traveled to see to our grandson play in a few games last weekend and I brought my camera along.

He plays a bit of first base.

and catcher.  

Then to top it off he pitched two innings.

  He did walk a couple, but only gave up one run so we counted it as a success.

It was also a pretty good day in the batter's box. 

Here he is legging out a double.

Going for second


He's my man!  Congrats.