Lily and Evening At Club Means | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Lily and Evening At Club Means


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Lily, Stillpoint Theater Collective, at the Lunar Cabaret, and Evening at Club Means, at the Lunar Cabaret. Playwright-performer Karine Koret interviewed her grandmother Edna about her experiences during the Holocaust in order to create Lily, a one-woman show. Koret notes in the program that she had to let her grandmother tell the story her own way, but the result is a dramatic, sometimes funny piece distinguished by the naturalness of the storytelling.

The 16-year-old Lily (Edna is her Hebrew name) struggles to survive in concentration camps along with four other schoolgirls from her village in Hungary. Koret intersperses songs and humorous confessions with tales of her grandmother's fear, fatigue, and fight to hold on--and Koret can be captivating retelling and reliving this engaging story. Unfortunately she can also shortchange it by not fully inhabiting the moment. Some scenes beg for Koret to seem to visualize the vivid events she's describing--watching as family members are selected for the crematorium or climbing over corpses and limbs after a bombing.

But these are minor missed opportunities in an otherwise satisfying whole. Aided by director Beau O'Reilly, Koret at other moments gives even the smallest, simplest task the time it needs to have an impact.

The Holocaust is one of 16 topics touched on in Stephanie Kulke's 60-minute cabaret-style show, Evening at Club Means, also part of the Rhinoceros Theater Festival. She addresses her frustration with German-Americans and their work ethic throughout but slights potentially interesting side issues--neo-Nazis in her native "Fritzburg," Wisconsin, or the problems of a daughter whose father treats her as a surrogate son. And brassy, redheaded cabaret hostess Cleo Kessler (Kulke) fails to be provocative or even particularly funny.

Affixing vignette titles to a clothesline slows down the production, staged by Kerstin Broockmann. And Kulke forgetting lines on opening night didn't help the pace. Her hostess has potential, but Cleo and the handful of other characters Kulke portrays (with the exception of a boisterous "Bert Brecht") aren't fleshed out. Even Cleo's silently expressive guitar-playing sidekick Karl (Ben Benedict) upstages her. --Jenn Goddu

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