Sunday, September 17, 2017

EFF 2017 Review Roundup 9-16-17 - Part 1

Minnesota SkyVault Theatre Company presents "Skirmish of Wit: Your Imaginary Forces" 
at First Uniwted Methodist Church

An appealing young ensemble of musicians/actors presents a thrillingly unique riff on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Seven talented teens play at least eight different musical instruments (I lost count during their astonishing performance) allowing for instrumental relays and duels. The musical score is reminiscent of the contemporary jazz style of La La Land. The clever and totally original production employs elements of jazz/folk music, musical comedy and slapstick to tell the parallel stories of two sets of young lovers. The actors portraying Beatrice and Benedick remain onstage throughout the performance with their collection of stringed instruments and musical commentary, and anchor the comedy with a maturity beyond their years. Despite their initial distaste for marriage, in one of the show's most surprising moments they are eventually, reluctantly compelled to play their own love song. The amusing, young actor playing Claudio is a physical comedian in the tradition of Jerry Lewis. The actress portraying Hero and the rest of the ensemble are equally charming and effective. Although there were a few acoustical problems in this space, they are outweighed by the hilarious, imaginative storytelling. I give this show my highest recommendation! Next show: Sun. 1:30pm.

 - Richard Pahl for Elgin Walkabout

Robert Frosty Theatre Co. presents "Andrew Jackson: An American Maniac"
at Elgin Art Showcase

The Robert Frosty Theatre Company presents a timely exploration of fame, notoriety, and braggadocio. This action-packed theatre piece incorporates its own unique mixture of music video, stage combat, slapstick and hirsute (at least at the performance I witnessed) comedy, film and pop culture references.  The cast of this profane comedy includes an enthusiastic narrator/historian, action hero Andrew Jackson, and a six-member ensemble who variously portray a gypsy woman, Vice President John Calhoun, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin, Jared Leto and many more. Like the Broadway phenomenon HAMILTON, this provocative performance examines the collision of American history and current events. Next show: Sun. 4:30pm.

- Richard Pahl for Elgin Walkabout

Sonder Productions presents "The Fainting Room"
at Side Street Studio Arts Theater

This elaborate examination of "female hysteria" features five characters (most of them human) over several centuries. A single actress, Becca Bernard, gives a zany bravura performance aided by musical instruments and her innovative use of props. This completely unique performance piece employs elements of song, broad comedy, audience participation, medicine and history to create clever and ambitious storytelling.

- Richard Pahl for Elgin Walkabout

Independent Players presents "The Interview"
at First United Methodist Church

Independent Players has produced a handsome revival of Interview, one of Jean-Claude van Itallie's 1966 trio of plays titled America Hurrah. This avant garde one-act play features a dynamic adult cast and excellent use of the theatre space in its depiction of the absurdity and dehumanization of contemporary life. Next show: Sun. 3pm.

- Richard Pahl for Elgin Walkabout

Party Cops featuring Kelly Bolton and Vicki Kunz
at Side Studio Arts Theater

Kelly Bolton and Vicki Kunz present their original brand of sketch comedy with an effective use of music and amusing use of props. They confidently play male characters as effectively as females. A good time was had by all!

- Richard Pahl for Elgin Walkabout

David Boyle presents "To Be Determined"
at Elgin Public House

An audience favorite since the very first Elgin Fringe Festival, Boyle seems to be undergoing a growth spurt. Rather than a single, comic, thematically-integrated narrative, Boyle is telling 12 shorter autobiographical stories over the course of the fourth Fringe. Saturday night's tales included a theatergoing anecdote, a reflection on his beloved 5th-grade science teacher, and the most satisfying, a touching tale of his church community. Viewers were also treated to his rendition of The Magnetic Fields' quirky love song, "The Book of Love." Next show: Sun. 1:30pm.

- Richard Pahl for Elgin Walkabout