Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Scarlet Letter needs one more actor!

And this is a hell of a part . . . they all are.

The male ensemble member will be changing characters 3-4 times (and all the characters are very juicy - it is, after all, Hawthorne's text) and will constantly be moving with his fellow ensemble members to represent rose bushes, water, etc. He'll be creating shadows behind one of the four white curtains hanging.

It should be really exciting.

And he'll be acting with this assembled confirmed cast of actors: Ron Kuzava, Toby Minor, Elizabeth Styles, Meredith Lyons, Lisa Baer, and Derek Jarvis. - Awesome actors, yo!

And we'll be performing at StageLeft. Music composed by Robert Filippo. Set design by Kim Katona and Heath Hays. Graphics: Sarah Stec. Assistant Directed by Stace Barra. Movement assistance by Melissa Kuhlmann. General support for sanity by Chris Riter. Directed by me, BZ!

So . . . spread the word, my friends, that we're on the hunt for a man. Not just any man. A movement oriented, ensemble joining man who loves experimentation and exploration - (I should put an ad out in the Reader! Heh heh)
And he should be comfortable with an english accent and classical text.

Rehearsals will begin on June 5th. I'd like to not have to hold a general audition in such a short time but I'd like to read the person first, if I don't know him.

Thank you so much for your help!!!!!!! This should be an incredible process and experience.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Review from Stead Style Chicago

Melissa Kuhlmann electrifies . . . Even in an unseasonably chilly May, Kuhlmann makes us feel the steam and perspiration of a stifling hot summer, and just as her character Abbie stakes her ground on the Cabot family farm, so does this superb actress make O'Neill's saga of forbidden desire her own.

O'Neill borrowed the Oedipal legend from the Ancient Greeks, while keeping his play firmly rooted in early 20th Century rural Americana. Crotchety old patriarch Ephraim Cabot has just taken his third wife, a young woman named Abbie, who is anxious to take over the family farm and make a new home and life for herself. She will have quite a fight on her hands, though, with Ephraim's youngest son, Eben, who believes the property belonged to his late mother and that he is its rightful beneficiary.

To stake his claim, Eben pays off his elder half brothers Peter and Simeon, who plan to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush. And while Abbie and Eben grapple over ownership rights to the family homestead, the inevitable sparks begin to fly and the tragic wheels of lust and fate begin to turn. And what of old Ephraim? Will he just roll over for the young 'uns without a good fight? Don't bet on it.

While the play is ostensibly set in O'Neill's New England, Director Chris Riter's staging seems rooted in West Virginia. Tom Gordon's earnest and folksy manner is credible . . . But it is Kuhlmann who walks away with the acting honors in an earthy, ripe and sensuous performance that is fully committed and riveting. There are moments in this small black box staging that are stirring and powerful . . .Kuhlmann's work is unforgettable.

"Desire Under the Elms" continues through June 3, 2006 at Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway in Chicago. The play runs 2 hours 10 minutes with intermission. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 and may be reserved by calling (773) 267-6293 or visit

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Reader Review - Highly Recommended

A domineering father, his calculating young bride, a resentful son, and a valuable estate create a situation ripe for uncontrolled greed and passion in Eugene O'Neill's 1924 shocker. Today the story risks coming off as hackneyed to audiences inured to steamy domestic intrigues. But under Chris Riter's perceptive direction, the GreyZelda Theatre Group uses its intimate storefront space to advantage, establishing the intensity of the characters' relationships. In a production running a tidy two hours with not a second wasted, Tom Gordon and Melissa J. Kuhlmann are suitably eros obsessed as the young lovers. But what rivets our attention is Aris Tompulis's bearish performance as the uncompromising patriarch. --Mary Shen Barnidge

And you know what people? After you see our show, go see Invasion of the Minnesota Normals. You might want to see a Graney wonder, a House rapteazler, but . . . there are other games in town, too.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Timeout Chicago's Review of Desire!


Desire Under the Elms

By Eugene O’Neill. Dir. Chris Riter. With Tom Gordon, Melissa Kuhlmann, Aris Tompoulis. GreyZelda Theatre Group at Oracle Theatre.

NIGHTMARE ON ELMS STREET Kuhlmann and Gordon get to the dark heart of O’Neill.

Who knew that O’Neill’s rarely produced tragedy—written in 1924, set in 1850, and drawing on classics like Ph├Ędre and Hippolytus (with a healthy dose of Freud’s version of Oedipus Rex)—could feel so contemporary? GreyZelda’s minimalist storefront treatment draws a direct line from O’Neill to more modern works like Shepard’s Buried Child and Romulus Linney’s dark Appalachian plays. O’Neill’s influence on said latter playwrights is clear in Riter’s bare-bones and basement-budget staging of the love affair between Eben (Gordon) and Abbie (Kuhlmann), doomed not least because Abbie’s the new wife of Eben’s hard-hearted religious tyrant father, Ephraim (Tompoulis), who’s built walls between himself and his son as impermeable as the stone walls surrounding his farm.

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The leads in this romantic tragedy are both terrific, especially Kuhlmann, who can be simultaneously coldly determined and confused with passion. She maintains this multiplicity of emotion until Abbie’s climactic breakdown, when she goes blank and weary, as though she’s run out of feelings. The character of Ephraim feels more kinship with his stony land, his livestock, and his idea of God than with his human family, but Riter allows Tompoulis too much free rein; he makes Ephraim a cartoonish, sneering ape, and sinks so deep into O’Neill’s cotton-mouthed dialect as to be unintelligible. Still, Riter’s physical, fast-paced staging makes things fresh, and scenic designer Heath Hays gets extra credit for evoking the vastly oppressive New England farmland without the benefit of stones, walls or indeed those onerous elms.—Kris Vire

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Desire in its Second Week!

Hi, everybody - We're coming upon the second week of Desire Under the Elms and we can't wait to see you in the audience. Our first week went very well - our audiences were decent and our actors and crew were dead on with their performances. I've said it before and I'll say it again - it's a beautiful show. O'Neill's story, the ensemble's acting, Heath's lighting and set, Robert's music . . . all of these aspects have combined to make something compelling and fascinating. To quote our friend, Lisa, it's "sickening . . . but in a good way. It'll stay with you for a couple of days." So, if that's the mark of a great show . . . come see Desire! (The GreyZelda crew has always been known for their morbidity. If we've been sickened, by god, our job has been done.) Or if "sickening" ain't your thang, gods forbid, there's a lot of luvvin', and kissin' and likker drinkin'. Fightin', funnin', and lolligaggin'. We feel it rocks, basically.

Word of mouth is key for any theatre company's success, so if you've seen the show and liked what you saw, tell everyone! If you've seen one of our shows in the past and were pleased you did, tell everyone! There are places online to do so as well - metromix, myspace, centerstage, etc. Let them know that you're GreyZelda fans! That's how the House does it . . . they've got tons of word of mouth power. . . and G comes before H, yo! I know that our GreyZelda Group can get the word out!!!!! Forward and paste this email anywhere you deem fit!!!! Talk about GreyZelda at work! Talk about the Group on the train! On your cell phone while you're on the train!!!! To your parents! To your grandparents! To anyone who watches crows as they fly by!

So, please call 773-267-6293 to make your reservations. Seating is very limited, so reservations will confirm that you'll get a seat.See you soon!

Rebecca and Chris

Friday, May 12, 2006

Happy Birthday, TG!

Today is dear Tommy G's birthday. I'm sure he loves that I'm proclaiming it blog style. I was going to honestly write about how we're into Day 3 of Desire Under the Elms and post this picture along with it, but looking at him in the picture reminded me that May 12th is his birthday. We shall be celebrating tonight after the show whether TG likes it or not.

So, yes, it's Friday of Desire's opening week. It's going really well. Last night we had a small but very appreciative audience. Two of the audience members had seen the show posted on and are big fans of O'Neill. You might recall the distinction I wrote about yesterday about there being two types of people in the world? Well, maybe it's true. We do shows for those people. People who are familiar with the text. Who are literary. Who appreciate amazing works of literature. I think GreyZelda is really falling into our own by the fact that the author comes first with us. When we adapt literature to the stage, we stay true to the author's vision and intent through the words. And we do the same with playwright's. Like we always say, "If the writing's good, acting's good, and staging's good, you should be able to perform a play anywhere." And I think we prove that again with Desire. The space might be a storefront, but I truly don't feel that that detracts from the power of the show. It makes it more powerful.

On the subject of "new versus old" . . . we had a conversation with this girl a couple of weeks ago about casting for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf". She had never seen the original movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but felt qualified to say that she thinks Kathleen Turner and Bill Owens are probably better. She also was the type that thinks movie remakes of originals are ok. I disagree on all those fronts. I think that Taylor and Burton were cast perfectly and made Albee's script live like nobody's business. I agree that Turner and Owens are excellent actors, but better than the latter? Absolutely not. And movie remakes are for hacks.

But I am still chuckling about Tom's statement that Desire Under the Elms is one of O'Neill's little known works. Lord. I think Desire is in most college theatre textbooks and is often mentioned first when speaking of O'Neill. Funny, funny, funny to me.

I'll let you in on a secret. We don't like shows that are too frightfully modern and all the rage. For example, Sarah Kane. I appreciate certain elements but if a show opens with a guy cumming into a sock, honestly ... not interested. It's momentary. Flavor of the month stuff. Shock sock theatre. Give me the classics anytime. I want to see the show that withstands the test of time. We have living playwrights that are doing that: Kushner, Wallace, Churchill, etc. We even have groups here in Chicago creating original shows that could withstand 100 years. I think WNEP is a good example. I was extremely impressed with their Soiree Dada. They took an old element and brought it around once more to the masses. I think some loved it, some hated it. But, I love that they took the risk with something that others (Tom) would say should be shut back into the vaults. I think their new show would be great to see, but we're doing this one. We'll see if we can fit it in.

Anyway . . . have an excellent weekend. If you're looking for something to inspire you and make you feel smarter, please come see Desire Under the Elms. You can't go wrong with the classics.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Thoughts on Tom Williams's Review of Desire - Heh heh heh.

So, we got our first review in for Desire Under the Elms and I just wanted to comment on the various elements put down, as well as the inaccuracies. My notes are in italicized parentheses.

1.Running time is 2 hrs, 45 min with 2 intermissions - (It actually ran 2 hours and 5 minutes last night with both intermissions included. Tom arrived around 7:15, so he must have included his lobby time. The fact that we did O'Neill in such a short amount of time is pretty GD good. So, being that the time check is completely off, please read the rest with that grain of salt.)

Through June 3, 2006

O’Neill work suffers from dramatic overload

Classics like Eugene O’Neill plays are dangerous grounds for storefront theatres. (GreyZelda likes Danger!) Desire Under Elms, O’Neill’s dream inspired 1924 play is seldom produced and plays out as much too dramatic, stilted and over written. (I guess "Bacon's bacon" and "Ayah" is too overwritten?) This isn’t one of O’Neill’s landmark plays. (It isn't????????? Hahahahahahahahahhahaha.)

Gray (Grey) zelda’s production has several problems. First the decision to make the rural farm accents sound like West Virginian hillbilly (Why must people regard West Virginians as hillbillies, I ask you? What isn't remembered is that West Virginia is closer to New England than Chicago is. AND, people have said that the cadence in Appalachian speach is closer to what Shakespeare originally wrote for than most other dialects. And Tom never would have said this if he didn't know that the director prides himself on being from West Virginia. That really has nothing to do with anything. It's like a gay reviewer ripping on the feminism in Mary Girard. Not a needed comment.) instead of the New England accent O’Neill used in the script didn’t work for me. (The actors made a point to follow O'Neill's script exactly as written. There are a couple of moments where things might accidentally get southern because the characters are rural, but . .. they're pretty eastern, in our opinions.) The uneven accents diminished the power of O’Neill’s words. Next, the decision to have Aris Tompoulis play the father as an overwhelming, intimidating wound-too-tight emotionally explosive character gave an almost farcical tone to the work. Tompoulis so over plays Ephraim that he telegraphs his wickedness unrealistically. (That is just crazy. Aris is one of the best actors we've ever had the good fortune to work with. He plays Ephraim as O'Neill intended and fucking rocks!!!!!!!!! We are so lucky to work with this man and feel that everybody should come see the show simply because of him. He's amazing. Everyone else that has seen the show has been blown away by him.) One wonders what Abbie (Melissa Kuhlmann) saw in him besides his farm to get her to marry him? (Abbie does marry him for the farm, number one. Number two . . . ARIS ROCKS!!!!!!!!)

The slow pace (Again - 2 hours and 5 minutes? Not bad.) and labored (They're farmers. They labor.) performances made this relic tedious. I have problems with O’Neill’s script that stretches our suspension of disbelief. I liked Tom Gordon’s take on Eben, the son who struggles with lust and conviction as he attempts to capture the farm away from his hated father. The location, both as to geographic area and era (1850’s ?) was unclear giving a strangeness to the accents. (We wanted it to be anytime, but kept it in New England. It's stated in the program.) The melodramatic style worked against the production. (Doesn't Tom Williams like musicals? He also liked Mary Girard which was WAY more melodramatic than our version of Desire Under the Elms. Plus . . . here's the basic story line: Father brings hot stepmother home. She pretends to be the sons' new mother even though they're her age. She gets into the youngest son right under the old skunk's nose. Things get hot and heavy. She kills to get her way. There's a lot of melodrama.) I guess the real Eugene O’Neill fans will find this work engaging, I didn’t. (We also make a point to cater to literary types. If O'Neill fans like the show, we've done our jobs. I didn't know that there were two types of fans but now I do - those who like O'Neill and those who don't. It's kind of like the Rolling Stones/Beatles controversy. Cool!) It seemed over acted and stiff. (OK, OK, everyone's entitled to their opinions.)

Desire Under the Elms needs to be put back into the archives with other outdated works. (I strongly disagree. Great works should live. And GreyZelda will help them do so. We proudly live in the outdated. We will always make great literature live. Thank you, Eugene O'Neill!!!!!)

Not Recommended (GreyZelda recommends it!!!! As does great literature! If you want to sit at home and watch American Idol, please do so, but if you'd like to give your brain a good, pleasurable workout . . . come see this show!)

Tom Williams ( Tom's a great guy and we love him coming to our show, but I think this particular review is really off. I often don't argue with the reviews and just let them be, but . . . If you've seen the show and would like to discuss your opinions further with this critic - here's his email address: for comments

Make your reservations now for Desire Under the Elms!

Hello, everybody -
Our opening night went by without a hitch and we're proud of our actors for being phenomenal.

We encourage you to make reservations earlier in the run than later in the run because the seating is quite limited.

It's a good show! Great script! Great acting! Great directing! It's Eugene O'Neill, motherfuckers. Eugene O'Neill done in 2 hours and 15 minutes. The reviewers in the house last night commented us on that fact. O'Neill shows have a tendency to go on and on . . . not so with our version due to the staging.

So, come one. Come All!!!! Give me a call at 773-267-6293 with your reservations!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Desire Under the Elms opens tomorrow!

It's looking good, everyone. The acting is dead on. The lights and the costumes look terrific. The house appears as if it's going to fall down around the actors, as it should. The lines get my gut everytime I hear them. I mean, how can you go wrong with "Bacon's bacon"? Bacon is bacon and it always will be.

We're close to selling out for tomorrow. It's easy to do with limited seating, but, hey, I'd rather have a full house every night then empty seats. It's a hell of a show. We have a hell of a crew. And Mulch is a hell of a director. And a sexy one , too.

So, make your reservations, friends, family, and neighbors. You won't be disappointed. It's one of those special little packages that you'll remember for a long time, I hope.

And I dance drunk. Say no more. Say no more.


And I want to send a shout out to Brandon and Cheryle. They taught me many things today and I thank them for being friends that can go up, around, and back again with me. I can't wait to see them at the show.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Desire is almost ready!

Press photos for Desire. Melissa and Tom as Abbie and Eben.

We open May 10th. Coming up fast! Tonight's our last rehearsal at GreyZelda studios before moving into Oracle's space on Sunday morning.

Last night's rehearsal was amazing. The actors got to where they needed to be emotionally and were completely connected to each other. It turned into something absolutely fascinating and compelling. It's such a show that you might start laughing and then crying two seconds later. O'Neill was a powerhouse and we're lucky to be able to play with the show.

We can't wait to see you there. Call 773-267-6293 for reservations.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Congratulations to Rebekah Ward-Hays!!!!!

Rebekah got her first Jeff nomination for Best Actress. Her role as Sabina in Skin of our Teeth garnered her a nod and she definitely deserves it. She's a fireball of a person and an actor. If you know Mrs. Rebekah, please give her a hearty congratulations and know that she'll probably thank Natasha in her acceptance speech!!! For those of you who don't know Rebekah, you should. And for those of you needing more of an explanation . . .

Rebekah contacted us long ago and far away when we put an audition announcement out for Thimbleberry Gallows. She's a West Virginia girl, you see, and loved knowing that we were from West Virginia. We got to talking. I threw Denise Giardina out there for conversation's sake. She got what I was talking about. Seemed super keen. I wanted her to audition. Alas, she was in a wedding during the performance dates. (This girl has a lot of weddings to attend, let me tell you.)

So, we told her we'd keep in touch and vice versa. Fast forward to a month later. We were in need for a scenic designer. We heard from Mrs. Ward-Hays again and she nominated her husband, Heath, saying that he was an amazingly talented scenic designer and we would be fools not to use him. Well, she didn't say that exactly, but you get my drift. We called Heath up, met him for drinks, he pulled out his laptop and showed us some topnotch designs, and he was in. He created our tree landscape and Thimbleberry and the legend of Fanny Hooe thanks him.

We've become great friends with this power duo and I wish the best in everything for them. Great Happiness. Great Love. Great Success.

We're so excited for you, Rebekah!!!!! A little validation and acknowledgement for jobs well done go a million miles sometimes and this is the top honor here in Chicago. The sky's the limit!!!