With all the earmarks of a romantic comedy, First Floor Theater’s “Deer and the Lovers,” now playing at The Den Theatre, offers up of a barrel of laughs along with serious reflections threaded throughout.
Written by Emily Zemba and directed by Jesse Roth, the 100-minute play dives deep into the relationships of the four main characters that come face-to-face with death and betrayal while on a weekend retreat at a cottage house in the woods of New Hampshire.
Deer and the Lovers opens with Peter (Alex Stage) and Qiana (Shadee Vossoughi) arriving for a romantic get-away at her parents’ home. However, those plans were spoiled not only by the discovery of a dead deer that crashed through the front window but also the unexpected arrival of Peter’s sister Marnie (Kay Kron) and brother-in-law Felix (Tony Santiago).
With plenty of jokes and puns on the dearly departed animal, it becomes clear that Zemba intends for the deer to serve as a metaphor for Qiana and her path in life. For instance, while Peter is able to madly declare his love, Qiana seems less sure of her affections in comparison. And the later arrival of Marnie and Felix at the cottage shines a bright light on just why that is the case as we watch both couples deal with issues of love, commitment, secrecy and betrayal.
Qiana, in particular, seems obsessed with how to dispose of the deer and how it met its current fate: How did it get in the house and why? Where was it going and what was it running from? These are all questions that she can pose about her own path as well and the answers are equally elusive.
Later conversations with the mysterious local animal control agent Lenny (Matt Nikkila) in the second half of the play further illustrate Qiana’s connections with the deer.
After a dramatic reveal, we see her frantically taking matters in her own hands as she drags the deer into the woods in an attempt to bury it herself. It is almost as if she feels that finding a final resting place for the animal will bring it peace and free her from the soulless, emptiness she feels inside. And it is at that point that the symbolism of the setting in New Hampshire with its motto – Live Free or Die – becomes even more relevant.
Fascinating and quirky, Deer and the Lovers is time well spent. The talented cast meshes well and is effective in hitting all of the comedic points in rhythm while also delivering the soul-searching undercurrents.
Deer and the Lovers is currently playing at The Den Theatre until December 3. Tickets are available at www.firstfloortheater.com.
Las Vegas - Dazzling light displays, glitzy hotels with themes ranging from some of the planet’s most desired locations such as Paris, Venice and Egypt, exciting casinos filled with the sounds of cheering and the cha-chings of slot machines, energetic clubs with sexy dancers and, maybe best of all, some of the most colorful and original shows one could hope to see. When going to Vegas, it’s easy to check the show sites only to be barraged with so many options the task can become a bit frustrating. Well, the good news is the Buzz News Chicago staff makes a point to visit Las Vegas on an annual basis to keep our readers informed on some of the best shows the Strip has to offer. If we don’t like it, we won’t write about. Rather than tell you what not to see, we’d prefer to make recommendations on shows that deserve your attention.
This year, there were a few shows stood out as “must sees”, one of my personal favorites being Jabbawockeez, currently being performed at MGM Grand Hotel and Casino inside the Jabbawockeez Theater. The latest of the Jabbawockeez adventures “JREAMZ” is an amazing blend of hip-hop, break dance and dreamlike theatrics that is thrilling, interactive and best of all, completely original from any other production show. The show, voted three years running for “Best Family Show” and “Best All Ages Show” Jabbawockeez is not just a modern workshop of hypnotic dance moves and brilliant choreography, it is a throwback to mime to which a large amount of humor is injected into its dream sequenced series of events. Despite the lack of any dialogue, the Jabbawockeez dancers, faces hidden in white masks of varying degrees, have no problem communicating their point with their fellow performers and audience members. Considering the vast amount of people who travel to Vegas from around the world, this show gets extra points as a production everyone can follow.
Walking Dead fans will enjoy the show’s beginning that takes its audience through a full on zombie apocalypse, before gradually shifting to rotating successions of dreams that could either fall on the nightmare side, be a joyous, blissful experience or can be an adventure in itself. No matter the scenario of the moment, we always receive a heavy dose of stunning dance moves where you can only shake your head in disbelief or think, “What the…?”
Adding to the comedy of the show, members of the audience are sometimes plucked by the dancers and guided to the stage for some good old fashioned embarrassment that create big laughs. Performed in a somewhat intimate venue for Vegas standards where every seat is a good seat, the audience gets slammed with an up close, in-the-face experience that is sure to be remembered. Jabbawockeez is a unique production that can be enjoyed over and over and suits just about any audience.
The dance troupe is not just recognized in Las Vegas, they have made a splash nationally appearing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, “Dancing with the Stars”. “So You Think You Can Dance” and “I Can Do That”. One of the most original dance productions recognized across the country, Jabbawockeez is a Vegas experience like no other - an experience that will inspire, make you laugh and leave you amazed.
Like most every show in Vegas you can purchase souvenirs of the performance, the main difference being that Jabbawockeez offers products from its own clothes line – and they’re cool!
Tickets for this fantastically entertaining production are very reasonable and in line with many of the other shows on The Strip. Performed at 7p.m. each night except Tuesday and Wednesday, prices range from $49.99-$82.99. For an additional $55 a VIP Package can be purchased which includes a photo op with the Jabbawockeez dancers, an after show meet and greet and a bag of goodies.
Some things were just meant to go together, even if they do sound a little odd at first. Like peanut butter and bananas, apple pie and cheddar cheese, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet; The Art of Falling is amazing collaboration between Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Second City. The unexpected pairing of the extremely original and unique contemporary dance company, and a Chicago improve comedy standard, both staples of Chicago entertainment in their own right, was a match made in theater heaven!
Hubbard Street Dance has done many interesting collaborations in the past, pushing the envelope of what a dance performance is and exposing new audiences to dance in creative ways. In 2014, Hubbard Street and Second City first got together and put together the energetic, unexpected and endlessly engaging performance entitled The Art of Falling. Now back at the Harris Theater by popular demand, the show is once again bringing laughter, joy and maybe even some tears to Chicago audiences.
This distinctive show incorporates so much more than simply dance and comedy. They leverage video - both pre-recorded and live footage, audience interaction, endless props and fantastic music – again both live and recorded. The sheer creativity of this production is mind-blowing. There are 20 pieces that make up this show, each different from the one before but just like a great comedy show, it circles around a primary story line and a few smaller secondary ones, making the whole show flow together seamlessly and move along effortlessly.
The primary story line is a love story of course, but it challenges the traditional silver screen romance as it is rooted in real life where relationships are bumpy and have awkward edges that need smoothing and love - or rather admitting you are in love - is scary. It challenges the audience to take that leap of faith and conquer the fear of falling. After all, what is the worst that can happen?
All of the performers, under the direction of Billy Bungeroth, were pure perfection and there certainly were a lot of them! This collaboration was made up of five choreographers, three writers, six actors and two dozen dancers. At times, it was difficult to tell the comedians from the dancers as each tried on the others role with dancers delivering well timed punch lines and comedians flexing their dancing muscles. The writing was witty and fun, and the choreography was exceptional, highlighting the extreme talents of the dance company as well as their humorous side. In a piece completely improved by both the comedians and the dancers, it draws some unexpected similarities between the art of improv comedy and improv dance.
Part of the appeal of this performance is that it continually surprises the audience with more and more creative, imaginative and inventive pieces. After the first act when you think they cannot top themselves, they prove you wrong with a second act that just keeps on impressing. All of that said, I leave this review here so as to not ruin the magic for you. You have to see this show for yourself. As it wows the audience with its cleverness, it also touches the heart and inspires the audience to take just let go, and not be afraid of falling.
Be sure to get your tickets now and catch The Art of Falling at the Harris Theater through June 19th!
Game of Thrones, breasts, and booty: if you're an admirer of any of these three -- scratch that, four -- things, then you are well-suited to play the Game of Thongs. A burlesque revue of the wildly popular HBO show and book series by George R. R. Martin, Game of Thongs is an hour-long adventure through the land of Breasteros and across an overwhelming Narrow Sea of pasties.
Things are awry in the kingdom of Breasteros when Ned of House Stark-Naked is appointed the new Hand Job of the King and must travel to the capitol, King's Landing Strip, to assist his old friend King Robert of House Bare-ass-eon. As the tale unwinds, we meet the other members of House Stark-Naked, the closer-than-appropriate Lannister sibling duo, a pack of dancing direwolves, the sensitive Jon Snow ("the only bastard hot enough to melt the Wall"), the hilariously petulant to-be-king Joffrey, and as many other GoT characters that could be crammed into sixty minutes as imaginably possible.
("Wait, who died?" "Jon Arryn." "Who's that, again?" "The old Hand Job of the King! His death started all these shenanigans!" "Oh, right, right." Even the characters can't keep the characters straight.)
We also meet Daenerys Tits-bare-yen and her brute of a fiancé Drogo. Their marital bliss is interrupted by the insufferable Viserys who, when receiving his final punishment, a vat of golden glitter dumped on his head, realizes he "will never be royal!" (You guessed it; queue the Lorde track.)
A tribute as well as a parody, Game of Thongs affectionately makes fun of the well-loved drama everyone can't seem to get enough of. As a burlesque, it's less erotic than it is cheeky -- after all, you will find more nudity in the TV show than you will in the burlesque -- but if you're a fan of Game of Thrones, exuberant camp, or can appreciate a well-placed set of glittering pasties, you will certainly survive the Game. For in the Game of Thongs, you strip or you die.
Game of Thongs is playing at the Gorilla Tango Theatre every Friday at 10:30PM until June 26th. Call (773) 598-4549 or visit gorillatango.com to purchase tickets. #TittiesAreComing
What's more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys? Milton Bradley has asked this question for decades and now a Chicago-based arts education theater ensemble, aptly named “Barrel of Monkeys,” begs the same question of their audiences. After seeing their newest performance of “That’s Weird Grandma: Behind the [Monkey] Music,” I think you will be inclined to admit that there is indeed nothing more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys.
Barrel of Monkeys is first and foremost an arts-education group that conducts creative writing workshops for 3rd-5th grade students in underserved Chicago Public Schools. The group then becomes a theater ensemble, turning the children’s stories into performances performed at the school for the children and for general audiences at various venues around the city. The performances have a “Whose Line is it Anyway?” quality, only the shots are called by kids which is an amazing feat for this ensemble of actor-educators. If you aren’t impressed yet, Barrel of Monkeys’ performance of “That’s Weird Grandma” takes children’s stories and turns them into musical numbers, creating the first all musical performance by Barrel of Monkeys.
With such adorably written pieces as “Flower Argument,” an argumentative piece debating whether or not a flower should be picked from the point of view of the flower, to “Not So Much Pressure,” about Batman needing a break from saving the world, “Barrel of Monkeys” ensemble cast takes these pieces and turns them into musically hilarious gold. The audience, made up of adults, teenagers, and adults who act like children, was in stiches. The clean humor, awww worthy moments, incredible musical talent of the cast, and the honest and touching children’s’ stories was a perfect storm of perfection. What’s even more extraordinary is the show is never the same. Audience members vote on their favorite pieces from the hour-long show (roughly 12-14 pieces) and the most popular make the cut and are included in the next week, the rest of the showed being filled with new pieces.
This is a fantastic organization to support. Arts, music, and theater programs are typically the first to get cut in school budgets and the CPS system is no exception. The benefits of having a creative outlet for kids can be infinite. “That’s Weird Grandma: Behind the [Monkey] Music” runs through March 31st at the Neo-Futurist Theater (5100 block of N Ashland Ave.). I double-dog-dare you to not enjoy this Barrel of Monkeys.
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