If someone were to tell you that a theater company was doing a “holiday” play that depicts the tale of the Iroquois Theatre fire on Randolph Street, back in 1903, you would probably think them wacky, but, The Ruffians, a highly energetic and very physical company of players is doing just that! In fact, it is the return of last year’s big hit, “Burning Bluebeard” that may just become an annual holiday theater production in our fair city.
Inspired by an actual historical event, this is 90 plus minutes (no intermission, as it would ruin the effect) of history told by six amazingly talented performers under the skillful eye of director Halena Kays. Written by Jay Torrence, we begin at the very end- a bare stage with body bags on the stage and some dim lights. We then meet our stage manager, Robert Murray (playwright, Jay Torrence) who begins the tale of the “fire proof” Iroquois Theater wherein December of 1903, a fire started that changed the design of all theaters from that day forward. Six, somewhat singed actors take us through their experiences of that day in order to show us, the new audience that there indeed was a happy ending to the play that was supposed to bring cheer to Chicago audiences on that fateful day where over 600 audience members perished along with scores of actors and stage hands.
This is a whimsical romp through a historical story that is filled with comic touches, some interesting clowning and tumbling our playwright is indeed a triple threat man in that he does it all and with great skill) and his fellow cast members, Anthony Courser (as Henry Gilfoil/Bluebeard himself), Molly Plunk (The Fairie Queen), Ryan Walters ( Eddie Foy, the Chicago comedian), Leah Urzendowski (Nellie Reed) and newcomer Pam Chermansky taking on the Fancy Clown (adding a new twist to an important character) are all superb in not only the portrayal of their characters, but in playing off the very close audience members, several of whom end up being a part of the story itself.
This is what one would have to call a “theatrical experience”, that will become a memory and if they continue to present it each year, one day may be a production you will want to see again with your grandchildren. The original “Bluebeard” that was done that day was in fact a children’s play about a villain of a man who was to teach a moral to our young theater audiences in the end, good will always triumph over evil!
This is a solid production in every aspect. Dan Broberg’s set is unique in that we do feel that we are indeed in a theater ( which of course we are) and Joe Schermoly shared in this design along with being the tech designer. Mike Tutaj handled the sound, Lizzie Bracken the singed costumes , Mike Spatafora the technical rigging for the flying of objects and people as well as Maggie-Fullilove-Nugent for the lighting design and her production management. I am not sure who handled the props, but they should be given kudos for that as well. of 2015, or have to wait until next year (hopefully).
The performance schedule is as follows:
Thursdays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m and Sundays at 3 and 7 p.m.
Tickets range from $36-$50 and are available at the Theater Wit box office located at 129 West Belmont Avenue, by phone at 773-975-8150 or online at www.theaterwit.org
There are two special performances
Tuesday, December 30th at 3 p.m. (time of the actual fire) and 8 p.m.
There will be ADDED performances on: Saturday, 12/27 and on 1/3 at 3 p.m.
12/29 a Monday at 8 p.m. and on Wednesday 12/31 at 7 p.m.
Student rush tickets ( subject to availability) on day of performance ONLY!
To see what others are saying, visit wwwtheatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click “Burning Bluebeard”.