Pushin' Up Roses | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Pushin' Up Roses

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Pushin' Up Roses, Nomenil, at Frankie J's MethaDome Theatre. Allen Conkle, cofounder of the outrageously campy and depraved Nomenil, recently had a crisis of artistic faith. His main collaborator--Courtney Evans, who wrote most of the company's scripts with him and then acted the stuffing out of them--moved to Nashville earlier this year. Unsure if he wanted to continue, Conkle decided to go back to their first play, Pushin' Up Roses, initially presented in 1994. "I wanted to see if I still love this kind of work," he says. "And I do."

The fragmented punk/glam story--childhood friends Billy and Rose grow up to become queer free spirits in a world hell-bent on commodifying individuality--is as idiosyncratic, impudent, and heartfelt as ever. But while Conkle has added some valuable newcomers--Adam Cook is a charming Billy, and Josh Middleton offers pure, untutored charisma in a variety of roles--the production is uncharacteristically restrained. The bold fuck-you-and-everyone-else tone that became the company's hallmark has been replaced by a kind of well-behaved legitimacy. Even the live band, Three Dollar Bill, plays quietly enough to keep your grandmother happy.

If this remounting does nothing but recharge Conkle's batteries it will have served its purpose. And if it motivates him to produce Nomenil's long-anticipated "techno popera" Love Pollution, which has languished in storage for two years, it will be a godsend.

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