Bonnie and Clyde, Honeymoon in Vegas, and three more new stage shows | Performing Arts Feature | Chicago Reader

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Bonnie and Clyde, Honeymoon in Vegas, and three more new stage shows

A onetime Broadway flop and a ring-a-ding-ding musical comedy are among this week's notable productions.

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Bonnie and Clyde Kokandy Productions does all it can with Frank Wildhorn, Don Black, and Ivan Menchell's 2011 Broadway flop (it only ran for four weeks), here in a Chicago premiere. The performances crackle (in particular Desiree Gonzalez and Max DeTogne as the titular star-crossed outlaws), the score soars under John Cockerill's musical direction, and the pace moves at a fine clip under director Spencer Neiman. Sadly, however, Wildhorn and company have put some formidable roadblocks in the way of success: some of the ballads slow things to a crawl, and Menchell's book feels unfocused and fragmented at times. Most damning of all, the show can't decide whether it's an eager-to-please entertainment or a pointed commentary on hypocrisy and cruelty in Depression-era America. It tries to do both and fails to do either consistently or well. —Jack Helbig

[Recommended] Cicada Summer: When you're 13 and you learn that cicadas can crawl under your skin, in between your shoulder blades, and lay eggs that take years to hatch, the obvious next question, per the adolescent dream logic of this lovely piece from playwright and Rough House Theatre artistic director Claire Saxe, is whether a bug that drinks your blood (and "DNA") for that long, will, when it hatches, look anything like you. May (Jessie Ellingsen), who wears red plastic barrettes and is constantly in a tween huff, along with her neglected boy-buddy, Benjamin (Peter G. Andersen), are two halves of Saxe's attempt to embody how it feels to experience the natural world the way kids do. But the show's real star is May's monster mentor—an exquisite, scene-stealing reed-and-wire-frame puppet of a talking cicada nymph, designed by Emily Breyer. —Max Maller

Mary Williamson and Stef Tovar in Route 66 Theatre's A Funny Thing Happened . . .  - BRANDON DAHLQUIST
  • Brandon Dahlquist
  • Mary Williamson and Stef Tovar in Route 66 Theatre's A Funny Thing Happened . . .

[Recommended] A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City Karla is a stand-up. Don built a start-up. She's got a notebook full of jokes. He's got an all-but-empty five-bedroom apartment on Central Park West. Both are wounded souls who meet cute in a morbid sort of way because their mothers happen to be dying in the same double room at the title hospital. Halley Feiffer's 2016 comedy follows a conventional romantic arc despite the circumstances: Don and Karla start out hating each other, then thaw, then bare their souls, then suffer reversals that include some very poorly timed sex. What makes the arc feel other than conventional is, first, Karla's vividly blue humor and, second, engaging performances by Stef Tovar and Mary Williamson, the leads in this Route 66 Theatre staging directed by Keira Fromm. Williamson, in particular, demonstrates how a self-involved, potty-mouthed hard-ass like Karla might yet manage to feel and inspire love. —Tony Adler

Marriott Theatre's Honeymoon in Vegas - LIZ LAUREN
  • Liz Lauren
  • Marriott Theatre's Honeymoon in Vegas

[Recommended] Honeymoon in Vegas See, Jack's dying mother made him promise never to marry, but that was before he met perfect Betsy. They've been going together for five years now and he'd love to wed her, really he would, but he's stymied by the threat of his mother's curse. Finally, he figures, oh, what the hell. They go to Vegas for a quick ceremony, only Jack gets into a poker game with Tommy Korman, a very bad and handsome man who covets Betsy. Jack loses lots of money to Tommy and, well, you've got to suspend all your available stockpiles of disbelief to accept what goes on in this musical comedy by Andrew Bergman and Jason Robert Brown, based on Bergman's 1992 movie. Also any feminist scruples you may cherish. But if you do, you can spend 150 minutes having a great time with Gary Griffin's crack cast, a score that wittily parodies Vegas-style ring-a-ding-ding, and Denis Jones's smoothly athletic choreography. Michael Mahler and Samantha Pauly are good as Jack and Betsy, but Sean Allan Krill and Steven Strafford are consummate as Korman and his oily flunky, Johnny Sandwich (anglicized, he explains, from "Focaccia"). —Tony Adler

The Plagiarists' Ubu II: Electric Boog-Ubu or Free Ubu - JOE MAZZA
  • Joe Mazza
  • The Plagiarists' Ubu II: Electric Boog-Ubu or Free Ubu

Ubu II: Electric Boog-Ubu or Free Ubu Ubu Roi has become shorthand for an oaf who burps and farts his way into the highest office in the land, blending transparent lies with the most cynically invigorating of half-truths, only to reveal his total incompetence the moment he has his hands on some power. How this notion could appeal so much to playwrights and audiences right now is beyond me. Alfred Jarry wrote two more Ubu plays after the famous one, Ubu Roi; this production from the Plagiarists freely adapts the third, which finds Ma and Pa Ubu (Jessica Saxvik and Gregory Peters) in a new mode as, fed up with ruling Poland, they decide to try their hands at being servants. Once it plops them down into a political arena not unlike our own, this rendition, with already familiar Orwellian overtones and references ripped from the headlines, has loud, brash fun. Nick Freed directed. —Max Maller

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