Bloodlines | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Bloodlines, Annoyance Theatre.

A decided change of pace from the giddy, sometimes snide pop-culture parodies they're famous for (The Real Live Brady Bunch, Coed Prison Sluts), the Annoyance folks' new ensemble-written show is a real, live, honest-to-goodness rock opera, just like the ones your friends made up (or made fun of) in high school. In fact there's a high school feel to this show: moments of real wit and talent compete with stretches of messy meandering and adolescent inanity.

This low-tech sci-fi effort tells of a world split into two societies, the fascist Order and the slacker Flow. Order queen Carol (an impressively imperious Ellen Stoneking) has decreed that the two groups must never mix, but of course they do--and her son and successor Richard (an appropriately sardonic Dave Summers) winds up with a Flow half brother, Jeff (limber-voiced Mark Sutton, who also directs), a messiah who seeks to shake up the established Order but is instead corrupted by it. (Tommy can you hear me?)

The hallmarks of rock opera are abundant: preachy and sometimes indecipherable lyrics, stiff stock characters, and long jams in a riff-packed late-60s classic-rock vein (the gifted keyboardist Lisa Yeargan leads a solid but sometimes bass-heavy band, though Joe Bill is credited as musical director). But so are Annoyance's improv elements--much of the dialogue seems made up on the spot--producing amusing passages of deadpan humor to lighten the potentially ponderous material. Too long at nearly two intermissionless hours, Bloodlines is nonetheless genuinely appealing for its unfashionable, idealistic ambition; with lots of work it may someday actually be good.

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