“Theater Oobleck, easily the most cerebral absurdist theater company (or absurdist cerebral company) in town, presents one of its most unlikely aesthetic and formal pairings of the company’s history… Mickle Maher’s The Hunchback Variations takes as its premise a panel discussion between the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Ludwig van Beethoven…
“And if The Hunchback Variations, which consists of 11 vignettes in which Quasimodo and Beethoven meditate on their failure, wasn’t heady enough, the play… has found a new incarnation as Oobleck’s first opera, opening this week at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre. The A.V. Club spoke with playwright Mickle Maher, author of the now-libretto, and composer Mark Messing (of Redmoon and co-founder of Mucca Pazza) about their own artistic collaboration and why opera suddenly seems to be so popular.”
Mia Clarke writes:
Two friends hatch a plan for a new kind of opera while at a birthday party for a billionaire.
“A billionaire’s birthday bash is not the most likely place for a pair of offbeat artists to have a meeting of creative minds. Yet, in 2008, when real estate magnate and Tribune owner Sam Zell threw himself a party, two of Chicago’s leading fringe creators found themselves mingling.”
Full story here
The Chicago Reader has listed Our top five theater picks for fall, including Baudelaire in A Box, Episode 3: Death and Other Excitements.
Tony Adler reports:
Buchen and Schoen plan to have all 126 poems boxed and ready by 2017, the sesquicentennial anniversary of Baudelaire’s death. You can gauge their progress this fall when they present cantastoria performances of the six poems that make up the “Death” section of Les Fleurs plus the magnificent “Anywhere Out of This World.”
Full article from the Reader
We love the lead of this review:
“If you’re in Chicago, and you’re looking for some brilliant comic juxtapositions, go see any show produced by the folks at Theater Oobleck; they are the Brilliant Comic Juxtapositions People.”
And the rest of it isn’t so bad either! (No, actually it’s good. Very good. You can read it here.
“In this amusing solo lecture-cum-farce, [David Isaacson] exposes the cupidity, stupidity, narcissism, and—most of all—magical thinking behind the crisis by showing how nicely it parallels the financial misadventures of a man who got in on the ground floor of laissez-faire capitalism: the legendary lover, Giacomo Casanova. . . . Charming and smart.” — Tony Adler, in the Chicago Reader
Read the full review.
“If the financial shenanigans that led to our economic meltdown still make your eyes glaze over, David Isaacson’s new one-man show, “Casanova Takes a Bath,” should go a long way toward rectifying that.” — or so sayeth Nina Metz in the Chicago Tribune
Read the full review
Rebecca Palmore, of Metromix, talks with David Isaacson about Casanova, bubbles, and the sensual pleasures of global finance through the ages.
Monica Westin chats with David Isaacson and Dave Buchen about Casanova and 6×6.
“It’s a notable month for Theater Oobleck. With the remount of the company’s recent Rhino Fest contribution, “Casanova Takes a Bath,” at Prop Thtr in late May, and their current ambitious cantastoria project in conjunction with Links Hall (along with recent performances at the Hideout and the Packer Schopf Gallery), the company’s various members are performing and collaborating all over town.”
Old Ideas: Theatre Oobleck finds contemporary resonance in ancient texts and techniques
“With all the talk about iPads and 3-D movies, I long for a great technological leap backward, and this looks like just the thing.”
The Reader’s Tony Adler is down with the crankies.
"One can see encapsulated in this passage not only Maher’s passionate engagement with language at diverse levels—from the rhetorical mastery of syntax and cadence to the semantic wizardry of words, their ability to conjure habitable worlds out of bare ice and air—but also two of the issues that drive Maher throughout his various theatrical follies. There is the idea of the impossible or meaningless project as not just an intellectual limit or an aesthetic curiosity, but an ethical necessity: a “life-duty.” And there is the sense of inescapable loneliness heightened by the attempt to communicate, as though the fundamental ethical task is to make one’s own singularity intelligible and thereby transcend it—a task which in Maher’s universe seems inevitably doomed to failure."
–John Beer, The Point
Read the whole thing.
“By far the best piece of theater I saw all year.”
“A decade ago, the initial run of this diabolically clever monologue established the singular genius of playwright Mickle Maher, insouciantly infecting the Western canon with his dark brand of whimsy. This time around, Colm O’Reilly’s indelible performance as the soul-selling scholar, whispering and ranting his way through Maher’s hauntingly absurd and slippery language, made the chilly Chopin basement space the Chicago fringe’s epicenter. When David Shapiro’s silent Mephistopheles turned off the lights at play’s end, he left audiences as speechless as his character.”
–Time Out Chicago (10 best plays of 2009)
“intellectually spry and surprisingly funny”
–Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune (best fringe of 2009)
Top 5 Shows, Top 5 Male Performances
“….the noise of a human mind, full of second thoughts and second-guesses…”
Tribune critic Nina Metz was in the house opening night; on the strength of her review lead theater critic Chris Jones popped in last weekend. He rereviews “An Apology …” on his blog:
“Most versions of the Faust legend concentrate on whether the good doctor’s decision to sell his soul to the devil was Medieval religious folly or the acute self-actualization of a Renaissance man. Back in 1996, the Chicago writer Mickle Maher tossed away all that in favor of a raw look at the state of mind of the whiny Dr. F., just before he hits the elevator down. As performed with deliciously retro and off-kilter eloquence by the inimitably grandiose Colm O’Reilly, this fascinating piece of avant-garde Chicago brain candy will put you in mind, terrifying mind, of your own last few minutes on terra firm, whether or not you bargained away eternity.”
Reina Hardy offers this brief assessment:
“Colm O’Reilly, one of the Fringe’s best and oddest miracles, reprises the show that kicked off his long collaboration with playwright Mickle Maher. As the time-trotting sorcerer Faust, addressing a quiet assembly of theater patrons on the precipice of hell, O’Reilly weaves a dingy but tangible magic.”
We think they liked it….
“Together Maher and O’Reilly create a combination of brilliance that is alchemical. They leave a permanent tattoo on your mind, like surviving a tornado, being bitten by a Great White Shark or achieving a perfect orgasm. It taps into something beyond theater or literature. It is transdimensional, ripping an intellectual hole in the rational fabric of perceived space, time and experience. It is the stuff that universes spring from on other planes of existence.”
Full review is here.
Another great review, this one courtesy Paige Listerud — who was one of the first critics to see the original production at Berger Park.
“I don’t know how many have tired yet of critics comparing O’Reilly with Orson Welles. But where that comparison works in the play’s favor is in his ability to portray a genius utterly absorbed with his own self-importance. The darkness O’Reilly brings to the role doesn’t just lend gravity to Faustus’ outbursts, but creates with them an inexorably magnetic pull toward madness. “I don’t need to apologize to the whole world. I’m sick of the world,” says Faustus. Lines that could sound like clichéd world-weariness from another actor emerge from O’Reilly like a black vortex of futility, making his Faustus the evil of which he speaks. It’s a performance that unifies the Devil and the Devil’s prey.”
Short, sweet, and recommended.
“While a silent, stone-faced Mephistopheles looks on, Doctor Faustus spends his final moments on earth telling us, ‘the people of the future,’ about his day. In brief: he woke up, wrangled with his demonic sidekick over a diary filled with meaningless hatch marks, traveled in time to a 7-Eleven for snacks, and . . . that’s about it. Playwright Mickle Maher brilliantly turns the soul-bartering magician’s bid for omniscience into a plea for meaning where there is none. The monologue is delivered by Colm O’Reilly, who looks and sounds like a shabby young Orson Welles as he conveys with mesmerizing intensity Faust’s intellect, desperation, dissoluteness, and determination.”
“Did we mention the play’s hilarious? O’Reilly, who created the role of Mephistopheles in Apology’s 1999 premiere, now plays Faustus to frantic perfection, utilizing his weathered baby face (here with comically dark circles under his eyes) to portray the quintessential academic, as frazzled as he is self-assured. His manic mocking of the silent, stone-still Mephistopheles (Shapiro)—the Donny to Faustus’s Dude—alone proves sidesplitting enough to make the evening unmissable.”
Complete with “Big Lebowski” reference, for the kids!
“This (Too Much Light) was the most exciting thing in Chicago
theater- this and Theater Oobleck’s, “The Spy Threw His Voice.” Those
two things blew me away.”
So sayeth Stephen Colbert, in an interview conducted by NeoFut intern Willy Applebaum, posted yesterday on John Pierson’s blog documenting the checkered history of the NeoFuturists, and (by inevitable extension) the Chicago fringe in general. Keep scrolling down for fantastically detailed interviews with Oobleck regular Diana Slickman and irregulars Heather Riordan and Scott Hermes.
The site Cheeky Chicago plugs our show.
John Beer previews Faustus in this week’s issue of Time Out Chicago. Thanks, John!