Triassic Parq: The Musical, A Fool’s Journey, and five more new stage shows to see (or avoid) | Performing Arts Feature | Chicago Reader

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Triassic Parq: The Musical, A Fool’s Journey, and five more new stage shows to see (or avoid)

A remounted spoof with singing dinosaurs and a Misfit Circus cabaret are among this week's best bets.

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Black! In his unfortunately titled solo show, Michael Washington Brown performs monologues purporting to demonstrate the "distinct differences" and "very definite similarity between Black people from all walks of life." Well, just four, and all men: a music-loving African-American, a brainy Londoner, a paternal Jamaican, and a generic African, all primarily concerned with local, national, and global disunity among black people. Their musings range from provocative (can a Britisher ever feel "black enough?") to insupportable (black people have a "natural sense of danger"). Whatever the case, they do little but hold forth during their extended, discursive speeches; they're bundles of convictions and concerns rather than people. Brown is a graceful performer with a knack for accents, but he never lets us gets below his characters' skin. —Justin Hayford

Harrison Weger and Megan Schemmel in Fight City - COURTESY FACTORY THEATER
  • Courtesy Factory Theater
  • Harrison Weger and Megan Schemmel in Fight City

Fight City In 2077, a virus that makes men sterile has flipped the social order, making the male population superfluous and placing all civil and domestic authority in women's hands. I counted fully ten fights in this angry, juvenile play by Scott OKen, which pits a brutal police force made up mostly of women against a platoon of lady outlaws in war paint, headed up by the sadistic Erica Burdon (Kim Boler). The many slow and repetitive melees that ensue make this Factory Theater show an extremely predictable live-action beat 'em up. The final showdown between Burdon and Barb Davies (Jennifer Betancourt), a second-generation cop with a chip on her shoulder, has two fights' worth of exposition and feels like what's called a boss battle. Jill Oliver directs her first full production. —Max Maller

A Fool's Journey, at the Chopin Theatre - BRETT NADAL
  • Brett Nadal
  • A Fool's Journey, at the Chopin Theatre

[Recommended] A Fool's Journey: A Misfit Circus Cabaret The hey, hipster friends, let's put on a show vibe throughout Misfit Circus's 90-minute cabaret is both its greatest weakness and its notable strength. While the general lack of aesthetic rigor turns the opening and closing dance numbers into mush and repeatedly strands a ragged three-piece band in limbo, it also gives the evening a relaxed, welcoming air that makes occasional sloppiness feel positively homey. Each of the dozen circus acts is nominally inspired by a tarot card, cursorily explicated by the show's cunningly naive hostess, Divinity Price. The relationship between card and act ranges from tenuous to nonexistent, but once a few performers have done their beguiling routines—and none more beguiling than Brian P. Dailey's elegant work with Indian clubs—the question of thematic coherence becomes a niggling distraction. —Justin Hayford

Fuck You, John Lennon, at the Cornservatory - ROSS CHRISTIAN
  • Ross Christian
  • Fuck You, John Lennon, at the Cornservatory

Fuck You, John Lennon In Sarah Ruhl's Passion Play, fish are a surreal motif, memorably realized in the Goodman's 2007 production by lifelike puppets paraded across the stage, shimmering and obscure. A similar image, perverted and diminished, adorns the interludes of writer-director Kallie Rolinson's Fuck You, John Lennon, where humans with goldfish headpieces singing, cavorting, and playing ukulele are the highlight of a production that includes some appalling acting and dancing only partially redeemed by a blockbuster drag performance of the Beatles' "Let It Be." The premise is one that plagues many a regrettable creation: May is an artist in crisis about her art. Here, her funk summons the ghost of John Lennon, who doesn't take to whiny May but hotboxes and scarfs Hot Pockets with shiny Christian, aka Yoko Homo, her BFF. And the fish play on. —Irene Hsiao

Michael Manning in Sad Clown, at the Annoyance - NIKKI LOEHR
  • Nikki Loehr
  • Michael Manning in Sad Clown, at the Annoyance

[Recommended] Sad Clown Directed and hosted by comedic improviser and psychiatric nurse Matthew Manning, this hour of inspiring personal essays, each launching subsequent improv, highlights experiences with mental illness. Manning kicks off with a classic joke, where a doctor recommends that a depressed patient see a clown, Pagliacci, who's come to town, only to learn that the titular sad clown himself is the patient. On the night I attended, Bryson Howard, Chelsea Hunter, and Toby Yount shared stories about their struggles and triumphs over illnesses including anxiety, depression and autism, displaying vulnerability and courage rarely seen in a comedic setting. Manning says his mission is to loosen up the way we talk about mental illness, and this heartbreaking and frequently funny show takes an admirable stab at "unclogging the pipes." —Marissa Oberlander

They're Playing Our Song - COURTESY BROWN PAPER BOX CO.
  • Courtesy Brown Paper Box Co.
  • They're Playing Our Song

They're Playing Our Song Just about every number by Broadway legend Marvin Hamlisch in this 1978 semiautobiographical romantic comedy, loosely based on his real-life courtship with collaborator Carole Bayer Sager, sounds like a sitcom theme song. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if the kitsch factor is embraced, but this Brown Paper Box Co. production, directed and choreographed by Daniel Spagnuolo, attempts to play it straight, with chintzy, piped-in keyboards and downplayed variations on book writer Neil Simon's zingers. In an attempt to mitigate the script's cheesiness, actor Dan Gold transforms Hamlisch from a nerdy savant into a sarcastic jackass, and as Sager, Carmen Risi doesn't fare much better, stuck with rake-effect gags that offer diminishing returns. The vocals in a few ensemble numbers shine, surrounded by two hours of schmaltz. —Dan Jakes

Circle Theatre's Triassic Parq: The Musical - FLAMING CITY PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Flaming City Photography
  • Circle Theatre's Triassic Parq: The Musical

[Recommended] Triassic Parq: The Musical This clever 90-minute musical by Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Steve Wargo—composed in the pop-rock style of such shows as Wicked, Carrie, Batboy, and Spring Awakening—takes Jurassic Park's premise of genetically engineered dinosaurs as the basis of a campy yet surprisingly thoughtful fable about religion, science, and gender identity. An all-female tribe of singing and dancing dinos, who worship "the Lab" that bred them and feeds them their daily goats, is thrown into chaos when some of its, um, members begin to sexually mutate in order to reproduce—because, as we all know, "life will find a way." Circle Theatre's intimate production, a remount of its 2015 hit, is driven by Tommy Bullington and Nicholas Reinhart's gag-packed, high-energy staging and by flamboyant, polished performances by an eight-person ensemble headed by Parker Guidry as the knowledge-seeking "Velociraptor of Innocence" and the wonderful Veronica Garza as a horny T. rex. —Albert Williams

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