Highly Recommended***** It’s that time of year- holiday shows at almost every theater in the city of Chicago and its suburbs. Many of the shows are “annual affairs”, each year, coming back for another visit to catch us while we are in that special mode and or mood. The Ruffians, a new “artistic collective” of theater makers ( clowns,daredevils,acrobats and dancers as well as writers and performers, in order to fulfill their Holiday dreams, has brought back its acclaimed piece” Burning Bluebeard” written by Jay Torrence, directed by Halena Kays and featuring the original cast ( and creative team) to Theater Wit ( stage three) for the Holidays.
For those of you who have not heard of this special play or perhaps it should be called a theatrical experience, it is based on some Chicago History. In 1903, The Iriquois Theatre, a brand new centerpiece on Randolph Street had a large and spectacular production of “Bluebeard”. On this fateful December 30th, 110 years ago, the theater, which was billed to be the first fully fireproof theater, burned and 600 audience members perished in the fire. Torrence’s play, 100 minutes in length, recounts the fateful evening as told by 5 members o fthe original company ( or it their ghosts/spirits telling us the events of the day?) as the show opnes with 5 of the six getting out of their “body bags” and creating the events to us, the new audience.
To these six artists, it is very important that they be allowed to present the story they were prepared to do on that fateful night. While it is a history lesson and involves some deep tragedy, it is in fact a romp of sorts with some very comical moments as these men and women work hard to get past the intermission of the original performance of 1903 and get us into the second act as it should have been.
It is a show filled with slapstick, music, vaudevillian moments and some wonderful tumbling as well as dance. The type of theater that was produced during these days, known as “pantomime” was very vaudeville, in that the actors spoke directly to the audience ( the fourth wall did not exist) and where they could, they allowed the audience to participate- thus, it is no surprise to see the Ruffians do likewise. Like “500 Clowns”,Barrel Of Minkeys, and Neo-Futurism Bouffant, The Ruffians are true risk-takers in their performance arts and each and every performer brings the heart and soul of this historical tale to life during the 100 minutes on stage.
Dan Broberg’s set is unique and while the lighting (Maggie Fullilove Nugent) is a bit dark and the costumes (Lizzie Bracken has produced some extraordinary clothing) are sheer perfection it is truly the work of the performers who under the guidance and leadership of Kays, makes this theatrical experience just that, an experience that you will hold dear to your heart for many years to come.
So , let’s hear it for the actors,dancers,singers, daring, risk takers who make this production so very special: Anthony Courser, Dean Evans ( a perfect clown), Molly Plunk( who is a very agile and flexible dancer- when she comes out of a trunk, you will be amazed at what you just witnessed, Jay Torrence ( who is the writer as well as “The Stage Manager” in the performance,Ryan Walters and the incredible Lea Urzendowski Courser. All six of these performers, with great energy make this a very special experience for young an dold ( although, I might watch the ages and say 10 and up).
“Burning Bluebeard” will continue at Theater Wit through January 5th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
ADDED” Sunday, 12/15 22nd and 29th at 7:30 p.m.
and ON MONDAY, December 30th, the actual anniversary at 3 p.m. ( ACTUAL TIME OF FIRE) and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $25-$36 and are available at the box office, 1229 West Belmont Street, by phone at 773-975-8150 or online at www.theaterwit.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Burning Bluebeard”