Baudelaire in a Box, King of Rain | Hideout | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Baudelaire in a Box, King of Rain Agenda Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Tue., Dec. 16, 9 p.m. 2014

This seventh episode of Theater Oobleck’s Baudelaire in a Box sets lively new English translations of poems from the 1861 edition of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil to witty acoustic songs played by a six-piece ensemble fronted in turn by Emmy Bean, T-Roy Martin, Oobleck regular Chris Schoen, and Sad Brad Smith (the first three collectively call themselves 80 Foots Per Minute). Oobleck cofounder Dave Buchen accompanies the music with his “crankies”—starkly whimsical, mostly black-and-white paintings on a pair of hand-cranked three-foot-high scrolls. Such moving panoramas were a popular pastime in the 1830s and ’40s, and “cantastorias”—songs or stories keyed to a series of pictures—arguably date back 1,400 years. King of Rain, which consists of 15 new cantastorias (Oobleck plans on ten episodes total, so as to get to all 126 poems by 2017, the sesquicentennial of Baudelaire’s death), debuted in October with four shows at a former funeral home called the Charnel House; this remount at the Hideout is for one night only. The tunes borrow indiscriminately from Tin Pan Alley pop, vintage country, and coffeehouse folk (they’re scored for varying combinations of guitar, mandolin, banjo, violin, accordion, keyboard, upright bass, and hand percussion), and they often feel self-consciously maudlin or perversely jaunty, as though they’re tweaking the turbid angst of Baudelaire’s poetry. (Suffice it to say that Bean’s take on “The Litanies of Satan” is significantly less harrowing than the Diamanda Galas version.) The translations can be playful too—somehow I doubt Baudelaire’s original text uses “hummus” for a rhyme. Only once, on Sad Brad Smith’s rendition of “Grieving and Wandering,” does the troupe match bleak music to bleak verses, and the effect is so wrenchingly mournful it’s almost startling. —Philip Montoro

Price: $10

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