Is There Anything Going On Upstairs? | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Is There Anything Going On Upstairs?


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Is There Anything Going On Upstairs?, Royal George Theatre Center, through December 19. The program says that Denise La Grassa has been developing and performing her nonlinear solo piece for at least two years. So why is it still in such a confused state? In this "jazz theater comedy" the writer plays a convoluted cast of multiethnic characters of all ages and social classes. What links them, often tenuously, is their association with an apartment building, where the piece is primarily set. They also share the inability to stay focused on a single idea, which results in stream-of-consciousness spurts that take in everything from a pregnant poodle to a scientist dressing in a pig suit to get the attention of Saint Francis to a yoga instructor with an over-the-top fear of hair balls.

La Grassa doesn't stay with any of her rambling characters long enough to make us care about them, the humor is sporadic, and any social commentary gets lost in the clutter. Dale Calandra directs this scattered night of monologues and songs performed to a jazzy sound track (listless video animation has recently been added). Some of the bits boast the kind of appealing rhythms and sharp insight into everyday life that might win out in a poetry slam. But overall it's a struggle to stay involved throughout this show's 80 interminable minutes.

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