Tintypes | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Tintypes, American Theater Company. It would be entertainment enough to be regaled with inexhaustible delights like "Toyland," "You're a Grand Old Flag," and "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" as well as other swell stuff by Sousa, Joplin, and Cohan. But this knowing revue also roots these classics and others from the Civil War to the early 1900s in the grim realities they sought to prettify.

Five figures personify the era's contradictions: Teddy Roosevelt, with his bumptious optimism and bully pulpit; passionate radical Emma Goldman; graceful immigrant Charlie Chaplin; glitzy star Anna Held; and the melancholy Bert Williams. Yet the conditional patriotism peddled in this melting-pot musical seems very contemporary--just substitute "Iraq" and "Afghanistan" for "Cuba" and "Panama."

The show's songs celebrate the promise of youth. And 24-year-old director Mikhael Tara Garver gives it the kind of bounce that Bounce could have used. Danielle Treuberg as Held caresses Victor Herbert's sublime "Kiss Me Again," its sheer sweetness a contrast to the unprocessed pain of Neda Spears's devastating rendition of "Nobody." John Sterchi blusters and struts splendidly through Roosevelt's "El Capitan" while Patrick Sarb is endearing as a self-effacing Chaplin. Playing Goldman, Cathryn Wooley is less than a firebrand, but when she tears into "Jonah Man" she incarnates the heartbreak of hard times.

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