Ted Waltmire wrote “The Mighty Ted” as a result of his stroke. In some ways, it is a parody of the musical genre which he clearly knows and loves, and in some ways it is a parody of disability and healthcare in America which he knows and, at least at the bureaucratic level, hates. (Individual health-care workers are represented positively). The autobiographical narrative is pretty straightforward. One night, Ted has a stroke while watching television with his wife (Cheryl Szucsits). He is rushed to the hospital where he is well-taken care of, but the recovery proves to be hell.
Some healthcare workers are insensitive, and the social-security office is a bureaucratic mess, but Waltmire, who plays himself, ultimately deals with and overcomes his new limitations to write and star in this play. Waltmire clearly understands the musical genre, and is an excellent satirist. He mocks its absurdity which, unlike the indifference shown by the disability office is harmless, while still celebrating its appeal, and in collaboration with Stephanie McCollough Vleck, has penned some hilarious and memorable songs such as “The Saga of Social Security.” After his stroke, Waltmire took classes at Second City as part of his recovery where director, Jay Sukow, and the musical director, Stephanie Mccullough Vleck, are on staff, and it shows. This humor may not be high-brow, but it is still extremely funny. Ensemble member Natalie Monterastelli, in particular, is a very gifted comedian whose creation of the disability officer at the social security office helped make the show.
Despite the fact that Waltmire wrote and stars in this play about his own life, there is nothing egotistical about the script or his performance. I am sure it is very healing and helpful for him to perform, but he is able to do it in an entertaining manner, and the script gives as much credit to his wife, physical therapist, friends, and musical in helping him overcome his disability as does to his own resilience. The production I saw was a preview and, aside from music, there was very little technical work. There was no scenery to speak of: just a blue curtain and a live pianist. That said, these actors were talented enough to overcome the shows technical limits, and the choreographed (Holly Combita) musical numbers were executed with great skill, giving the sense of a much larger stage. Anybody watching this will know that it is a low budget production, but is a fun and exceptionally moving one.
The Mighty Ted is playing at the MLC Theatre which is located at 3110 N. Sheffield in Chicago. Shows are October 19, 26, and November 1, 8, 2, and 9. Saturday performances are 7p.m. and Sunday performances are 1p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the door or at MLCchicago.com. It runs for 80 minutes with a ten minute intermission.
This is considered a Cabaret type of performance in that it is short and in a setting that is far more Cabaret than theater. MCL Chicago (formerly known as STUDIO BE creates and fosters live music and comedy. Improv, comedians, performers can bring their original work to the forefront on their stage. It is a BYOB venue. Check them out at www.MCLChicago.com