We've loved producing this show. There have been some elements that have made it trying. More on that later. I keep saying that, but, there's a time and a place. If you must know all now, you can shoot us an email and we'll talk about this and that.
One thing I know is this: The Chicago Reader brought in our audiences. We polled our folks as they purchased their tickets, asking where they heard about the show. 99.9% have heard about it from the Reader. So. To those who sometimes bitch about the Reader, just know . . . that's where you're getting your audiences from, if our audiences are an example of the Chicago people's choices of publications and news of what theatre to see.
I love the Reader. Good reviews, bad reviews, I'm just happy that they've been the one consistent paper that has reviewed every single one of our shows from the beginning. We only had one reviewer for One Flea Spare. Mary Shen Barnidge. And it was such a pleasure having her there during our first show. It was great speaking Kafka with Jack Helbig after Metamorphosis. Jenn Vanasco was sick the first time she saw Thimbleberry and had to leave at the intermission. I quipped, "It's that bad, huh?", but she was as sick as dear MK. She came back and gave us a lukewarm review but nice things to say nonetheless. Zac Thompson didn't speak to us at all after Insanity. He didn't like the show, to say the least. From the jist of the review, it appeared that he had a problem with feminism, thus having a problem with the show altogether. And, now, we've come full circle with Mary returning for Desire. Very cool.
What's great about the Reader is their new system with the shows, letting readers know, just through a quick glance, what shows are Critic's Choice, Recommended, Opening, Closing, etc. They also keep a synopsis of the review throughout your show's run, which is nonstop press and updates for people. I really appreciate that. I mean, think about it - unless it's online, people who are picking up the Tribune and the Suntimes only have that issue for a day and then chuck it. That's it. Good review or bad. Please inform me if I'm wrong. Timeout is awesome and a classy magazine, but you have to pay for it. The Reader's free and is hefty enough to last for a week.
I love the Reader.
Have you ever checked out www.theatreinchicago.com? That's pretty cool, too, with their review roundups. It's very comprehensive and easy to navigate through, giving you the quick scoop on what show's to see or not see.
You know who needs to see a GreyZelda show? Chris Jones and Hedy Weiss. They seem tired of the H groups. They need to see fresh blood and what they've been unhappy with in their recent reviews of select current shows is something GreyZelda can fix. Or try to. Opinion is opinion, whether you're happy with a review or not. Speaking of - I don't think I ever included Kerry Reid's review here. I'm going to go over it with my Crow fork. I'm glad she came representing the Tribune, though, because to add fuel to my Reader fire - she also writes and works for the Reader.
Here it is:
Eugene O'Neill's 1924 New England tragedy "Desire Under the Elms," based on the Hippolytus and Phaedra (people keep throwing that around. We never released that with the press release. It's a time honored tale, yes, but it's our understanding that O'Neill wrote it because he dreamed it in its entirety one night. Maybe he was inspired by Phaedra tales. I don't know. I'm not as researched as some, I admit, and Phaedra's a hell of a heroine, but . . . it seems to quickly categorize the story into a Greek rip-off. Some people just want to sound very informed. . . ) story of a lustful woman and the stepson she ensnares, is tough going (Not really. Thanks for your concern, Kerry, but our actors really don't have a problem with that. We liked the womby feel of the whole thing. And I think our actors have been awesome with their use of the space. And the C-man has been awesome with his manipulation of the blocking. So, we don't find it tough. It's meaty, but not tough. Heh heh. ) in a small room. The titular (mmm, titular) elms in GreyZelda Theatre Group's production, directed by Chris Riter, are reduced to shadowy projections (it would have really been tough going if we had two draping elms - oh my gosh!!! Then there would have been no room, no sirree, bob jr. GreyZelda never likes to be blatantly obvious anyway. And when you're in a house, you don't see the elms directly. You see shadows in the room, so . . . that's what we simulated. She's a little pickyand not accounting for the fact of innovation-on-a-dime.) The over-the-top and across-the-board accents fall under the generic heading of Rural Bumpkin 101 (Doesn't this seem, once again, like she's attacking West Virginia? She can do no better than that sentence? We kind of wonder if people have read O'Neill's script and know that he wrote the dialect directly in there - h'aint is in there, whether or not you think it's a word or not . . . I admit that some of the accents aren't exactly on the nose, but the choice was made to not have that be the biggest concern. The C-Man wanted to tell the story and that technicality wasn't as important as some other things. Not that it's not important. Just a choice, and I think that the actors really pull the show off and do an admirable job with the dialect and what O'Neill wrote in the first place.) --while the central tragic romance, between Eben and his young stepmother Abbie, doesn't ignite with the all-consuming passion it requires. (Others have disagreed on that point as well. We disagree. Did you know Tom and Melissa are together? We think they achieved greater intimacy and hot and heavy passion than most actors can get to. Whatevah.) But at intermittent points, the actors find the wounded dignity that girds O'Neill's potboiler of a story, thanks mostly to Melissa Kuhlmann's quietly mesmerizing Abbie and to Aris Tompulis' ability to imbue Ephraim--her flinty old coot of a husband--with the wounded solitary pride that is the undoing of his troubled clan. (She liked Aris, which is awesome! We told you he rocks!!!! So, he got a shout out in the Tribune. Kick ass.)
So, you see, it's one of those lukewarm ones again. So it goes. I do think that for small theatre, the Reader is the one that prevails with helping to get folks in the seats. It didn't seem to matter one way or another that the Tribune came to the show. It was cool to finally get acknowledged by them and I hope our relationship can continue, but the Reader won this particular round.
We'll see what happens with Scarlet Letter.