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Thursday, July 6, 2006 07:26 pm

For mature audiences only

Danger: Adult Content premiers at the Hoogland: Chicago at the Muni

Mary Young, in “Naomi in the Living Room”
Onstage this week is a two-performance bill of short plays titled Danger: Adult Content, featuring a group of local actors performing 10 short pieces by contemporary American playwrights. This ADHD Productions show, designated for “mature audiences only,” is directed by Jason Goodreau and performed by Goodreau, Hillary Gorrell, Jeff Nevins, Carrie Risdon, Patrick Russell, Grace Smith, Mac Warren, and Mary Young. I asked Goodreau to describe each of the plays that make up the show:  “Parade of the Nice Guys,” by Josh James: “What every decent guy wishes he could say to all the women in the world who say they want to date a nice guy but can’t find one.”
 “Women Rule,” also by James: “What women truly want to say to the men in their lives but usually don’t.”
 “Sure Thing,” by David Ives: “We’ve had all those first dates where we wish we could have a ‘do-over.’ ”
 “Speed-the-Play,” also by Ives: “Four plays by David Mamet in seven minutes!”
 “DMV Tyrant,” by Christopher Durang: “The universal angst of trying to get a license renewed at the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
 “Naomi in the Living Room,” also by Durang: “A very eccentric and possibly psychotic woman has a visit with her son and his wife, whom she can’t seem to remember ever meeting.”
 “At the Orgy,” by Rich Orloff: “A spoof of the classic ‘who’s on first?’ routine, only this one is at a couple’s first orgy.”
 “One Tennis Shoe,” by Shel Silverstein: “A husband has to intervene with his wife’s obsession — she’s turning into a bag lady.”
 “A Fork in the Bridge,” by Mark Kennealy: “A distraught woman stands on a bridge, ready to kill herself, when a woman out for a walk passes by, and they talk a little sense into each other.”
 “Howard Hopped the A-Train,” by Anthony Pennino: “A man ready to take drastic action after learning he’s lost his job meets Jesus on the subway, who teaches him that everything will be all right for him in the end. Whenever I direct, I like to leave the audience with a message, either one of hope or one that makes them think. This, I believe does both.”
This is an interesting new ensemble of actors and definitely worth checking out. I attended a rehearsal last week and there was a sense of fun and adventure with this group, and the feeling of possibility. That in itself is exciting. It’s good to be reminded that the American theater is still nurturing new works and this group is off to a good start. Danger: Adult Content is presented at 8:59 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 7 and 8, in the Club Room at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. Tickets are $10; a cash bar will be available. Call 217-523-2787.
Chicago has been a success story from the beginning — as a play in the 1920s by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a silent film in 1927, a 1942 remake (Roxie Hart, starring Ginger Rogers), a 1975 Broadway production, a revival on the Great White Way in 1996 (where it’s still running at the Ambassador Theater, 10 years later), and the recent Oscar-winning film version. And now the Muni just opened its new production directed by Doug Hahn and choreographed to the hilt by Gary Shull. Hahn and Shull must be very happy because when one thinks of Chicago one thinks of song and dance — and this delivers both. Mary Jo Curry and Kates Rotroff are a treat as Velma and Roxie, the two murderesses on death row who end up as a song-and-dance act in vaudeville. Gus Gordon is smooth, sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn; Lori Ann Fahnders is prison matron Mama Morton, who nails every note and elicits huge laughs at the same time. Shull has choreographed each and every moment of the show and his dancers are hot — all of them performing his steps with brilliant style. The show is staged in a semi-concert-style with the excellent band onstage. Another major contribution to the production is the stage design team. Nathan Cooke’s scenic design is a stylish backstage set with a nifty Chicago Theatre marquee overlooking the stage. The local theater community is mourning Cooke, who died June 27. The lighting design, by Jeff Nevins, is spectacular and is as choreographed as Shull’s dances. Nevins uses his palette of colors to full effect, and the result is bold and dramatic. Mary McDonald’s costumes are a huge success, keeping in line with the period and the concert-style staging. This production of Chicago is an audience-pleaser, though definitely not a show for young children. Chicago is presented at 8:30 p.m. daily through Sunday. Call 217-793-6864 for tickets, or go to the Muni Web site, www.themuni.org.
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