Critic's Choice - Chicago Reader, #1 Show to See Now - Newcity
" Critic's Choice - Chicago Reader On any given night you'll see a different sampling of the 18 new plays, none longer than seven minutes, in Collaboraction's annual multidisciplinary festival, which also includes visual art, music, and film. But the opening lineup demonstrated the variety of effects created by very brief works--
6/14/05 - 6/26/05
Mon-Sat 7p. Sun 5p.
"If some loon erroneously booked a gallery opening at the same time, and place, as a one-act play festival?And if a live deejay showed up?And everybody hit the stage floor afterwards for some dancing’then there you'd be, at the Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park, in the merry thick of "Sketchbook 5," this year's edition of the Hydra-headed polyglot performance party produced annually by the company known as Collaboraction. For five years, Collaboraction artistic director Anthony Moseley has endeavored to ease the dull ache inherent in that dangerously familiar phrase, "an evening of one-acts." The quality of the plays selected for "Sketchbook" is hardly beside the point. But the party ambience is hardly beside the point, either. Each night of this year's Sketchbook presents nine out of the 18 total playlets. Tuesday night introduced the first nine; Wednesday the second. Tuesday's lineup seemed preoccupied with a few things: New York City, for one (characters in various pieces kept referring to Alphabet City in lower Manhattan), and for another, the possibilities of video integrated into live performance. In Tuesday's sole politically charged piece, "Live Tsunami Footage," writer/director Sean Graney of The Hypocrites troupe imagined an American (Kurt Ehrmann) working as a private contractor in Iraq about to be beheaded, at the same instant the world's attention is focused on a ferocious but apolitical natural disaster. The result was at once sharp and trancelike. In Seth Bockley's charming "The End of Time," a tiny puppet show takes the Chopin stage. Laura Grey plays Jane, daughter of a UFO?who knows, it could happen?whose adventures inside the toy theater are blown up via live video on a big screen. Much of the Tuesday's bill, a little less fun than previous Sketchbooks, drifted into inconsequence. But there's much to enjoy, including Adam Rapp's rueful comic depiction of the perils of a poetry slam. In "Should've Never" Michael Shannon takes the stage as a fledgling poet/storyteller. Rapp's character goes into some highly detailed chronicles of recent intestinal difficulties, and how he met his new girlfriend. Shannon, who has played his share of psychopaths, clearly enjoys inhabiting a more approachable sort of fellow here. Established writers such as Rapp and Graney shared the stage Tuesday with, among others, Tim Nordwind, bassist for the local band OK Go. Nordwind's play, "The Same Dream of Mr. Swifty Du Pont," which involves sumo wrestlers and giant ferrets, may be nothing more than a goof. But a Sketchbook wouldn't be a Sketchbook without a few of those" Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune 6/1805
"Collaboraction's stellar "Sketchbook 5" makes Sketchbooks 1 through 4 look like doodles. This slick, hip, savvy, newly mature Chicago thing is now a lot more interesting?and features more exciting writing’than the Actors Theatre of Louisville's famed but oft-dull annual fete of ten-minute plays. Collaboraction wisely limits the running times to seven minutes?attention spans, after all, are diminishing?and has the good sense to zip up the all-important transitions with live music, video montages and a patina of style. That's been in place for a while. But the plays have gotten a whole lot better. After some slim pickings in early years, Anthony Moseley's troupe now gets some 600 submissions, but only needs to pick 18. The result of all that choice is some very stimulating playlets on such themes as regret, revenge and, that good old standby, death. All you needed was a chorus line of dancing girls. But they showed up on Wednesday night, too. The best of the fast-moving, nine-show bill? Brett Neveu's rambunctious "The Pong," a twisted tale of a hopelessly limited game that once felt like simulation sina qua non?until the world left it behind. Laura Jacqmin's droll "Un Robot," wherein a French-speaking woman loses the one thing in the world for which she had "intense feelings." Emily Schwartz's sweet and clever "Sandy Simon in Her Backyard, circa 1989," composed of an older guy re-visiting his bemused teenage love?in her real time’to tell her to take some time to smell the roses, only to find that she (like all the young) has no use for nostalgia. And lastly, Stephen Cone's "I'll Never Tell You" (directed with bone-dry panache by the ever-more-impressive Jimmy McDermott), which features an elderly man telling his wife's corpse about his sad and pathetic infidelities. The other half of the bill was a good notch or two below this stellar quartet?but zilch embarrassments. Nine fresh shows, art on the walls, live music, a risk or two. Makes for a pretty great book" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 6/18/05
"Collaboraction is a theater-based artist collective with a demographic -- hip young theatergoers enthusiastic about both live performance and the whole range of visual and electronic arts -- that most arts groups would die for. The company stages full-fledged productions like this season's "Guinea Pig Solo" (a brilliant piece of work seen by far too few people), but it also capitalizes on the tastes and attention spans of its youthful followers with "Sketchbook," a project now in its fifth year. This is a festival that happily blends the talents of local performers and directors, a slew of multimedia experimenters (painters as well as video, computer graphics and installation artists, plus various musicians and spin masters), all working in the service of several new playlets. On Tuesday night at the Chopin Theatre, the collective presented the first installment of "Sketchbook 5," with productions of nine of the 18 different plays (drawn from 600 entries) to be showcased through June 26. There were a few duds among the nine pieces -- each of which ran seven minutes or less -- but that was to be expected. And it was well worth tolerating the lesser efforts in order to experience the really good work. Not incidentally, whatever the strengths or weaknesses of the writing, the design was invariably inventive and amusing. Two of the best works on the bill involved well-known, multitalented Chicago theater artists. In "Live Tsunami Footage," writer-director-designer Sean Graney plays straight off two major headlines from the past year to a create a harrowing moment of truth. His focus is Franky Dyckman (Kurt Ehrmann), a hostage facing beheading by an Islamic terrorist organization. Dyckman, a man with a checkered past -- rendered deftly in his own narration -- is robbed of even a brief bit of dark celebrity as last winter's catastrophic tsunami sweeps his fate off the front pages. Graney pulls no punches here, and the result is shattering. On a far more whimsical note there is "The End of Time," a winning collaboration between writer Seth Bockley and director and master Redmoon Theatre puppeteer Frank Maugeri (with puppets by Kass Copeland and Angie Tillges). The action takes place in the imaginative pre-sleep mind of a young girl (wonderful vocal magician Laura Grey), and as she spins her tales they are enacted in a tiny puppet theater that is magnified onto a video screen. Magic. Anthropomorphism is key to David Greig's wholly captivating "Magpie and the Cat," directed by Amanda Delheimer and played with enormous charm by Marilyn Bielby and Sean Kaplan. The cat and bird meet at a singles bar, engage in all the usual seduction rituals and end up in bed. Feathers fly before morning. Seduction also is the key to Lindsay Porter's playful "Baby Won't You Follow Me Down," about a punk girl (Carolyn Hoerdemann) and her glam pal (Jen Walls) on an East Village odyssey. Working with director John Moorman and choreographer Vanessa Stalling, the two actresses create a delightful mini-musical. There is a humane spirit to Philip Dawkins' film "The Outline" (directed by Jeff Christian), and Brett C. Leonard's finale, "Beauty and Light," perfectly staged by Anthony Mosely. Also on the program were Adam Rapp's "Should've Never" (good start, but it falls apart despite strong acting by Michael Shannon) and pieces by Wendy MacLeod and Tim Nordwind. A marvelous installation by Krista Peel -- a shelving unit displaying 18 shoebox-size dioramas evoking the spirit of each play -- adds tremendously to the sense of the lit-up verbal miniatures that comprise the festival itself. Each diorama will be part of a more extensive silent auction to be held at a Collaboraction benefit Friday" - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times 6/16/05
Lindsay Porter, Brett C. Leonoard, Mickle Maher, Seth Bockley, Stephen Cone, Jae Kramisen, Sean Graney, David Greig, Phillip Daw
Joel Moorman, Anthony Mosley, Chloe Johnston, Frank Maugeri, Jimmy McDermott, Dana Friedman, Sean Graney, Amanda Delheimer, Jeff
Carolyn Hoedermann, Jen Walls, Tony Castillo, Christopher Kuckenbaker, Brandon Campbell, Christian Breecher, Gregory Hardigan, Isaiah Brooms, Amelia Lorenz, Amy Speckien, Andra Cornett, Bryson Engelen, Carpacho, Cary Cronholm, Christina Irwin, Cynthia Castiglione, EJ Shaw, Edward Rebb, Hannah Sparagano, Holly Hofmann, Ian Alderman, Jayce Ryan, Jennifer White, Khanisha Foster, Kurt Chiang, Lainie Maresh, Leah Rose Orleans, Len Bajenski, Marsha Villanueva, Maryll Botula, Matthew Lachappelle, Meredith Maresh, Micah Smyth, Michael Bencic, Noe Jara, Noelle Hardy, Oba, Robbie O'Connor, Salena Hanrahan, Sean Fawcett, Stephanie Joseph, Tom Camacho, William Riley, Violet Martin, Yolanda Davis, Scott Kennedty, Jason Adams, Laura Grey, Adrian Monte, Rose Buckner, Bill McGough, Mary Winn Heider, Jay Lewis, Kurt Ehrman, Joe Calarco, Marilyn Bielby, Sean Kaplan, Brent Richey, Justin Parlmer, Miquela Cruz, John Roberts, Larry Grimm, Ed Dzialo, Anthony Moseley, Mary Mikva, Lilly Fortin, Ashley Dobson, Gina Gerardi, Kristan Graj, Stephanie Pfaff, Nicole Pompilus, Brenda Romito, Camille Vafakas, Rae Gray, Vance Smith, Fran Karbens, Sheilo O'Connor, Sam Porretta, Yadira Correa, Kirk Nortridge, Michael Shannon, Jake Armstrong, Torey Adkins, Manny Sosa, Denice Lee, Jennifer Shin, Mark Hicks, Ericka Ratcliff, Abigail Boucher, Brennan Buhl, Larry Garner, Pat Kane, Kathy Logelin, Jeff Alba, Keithan Carter;
Visual Artists: Carolyn Hoedermann, Jen Walls, Tony Castillo, Christopher Kuckenbaker, Brandon Campbell, Christian Breecher, Gregory Hardigan, Isaiah Brooms, Amelia Lorenz, Amy Speckien, Andra Cornett, Bryson Engelen, Carpacho, Cary Cronholm, Christina Irwin, Cynthia Castiglione, EJ Shaw, Edward Rebb, Hannah Sparagano, Holly Hofmann, Ian Alderman, Jayce Ryan, Jennifer White, Khanisha Foster, Kurt Chiang, Lainie Maresh, Leah Rose Orleans, Len Bajenski, Marsha Villanueva, Maryll Botula, Matthew Lachappelle, Meredith Maresh, Micah Smyth, Michael Bencic, Noe Jara, Noelle Hardy, Oba, Robbie O'Connor, Salena Hanrahan, Sean Fawcett, Stephanie Joseph, Tom Camacho, William Riley, Violet Martin, Yolanda Davis, Scott Kennedty, Jason Adams, Laura Grey, Adrian Monte, Rose Buckner, Bill McGough, Mary Winn Heider, Jay Lewis, Kurt Ehrman, Joe Calarco, Marilyn Bielby, Sean Kaplan, Brent Richey, Justin Parlmer, Miquela Cruz, John Roberts, Larry Grimm, Ed Dzialo, Anthony Moseley, Mary Mikva, Lilly Fortin, Ashley Dobson, Gina Gerardi, Kristan Graj, Stephanie Pfaff, Nicole Pompilus, Brenda Romito, Camille Vafakas, Rae Gray, Vance Smith, Fran Karbens, Sheilo O'Connor, Sam Porretta, Yadira Correa, Kirk Nortridge, Michael Shannon, Jake Armstrong, Torey Adkins, Manny Sosa, Denice Lee, Jennifer Shin, Mark Hicks, Ericka Ratcliff, Abigail Boucher, Brennan Buhl, Larry Garner, Pat Kane, Kathy Logelin, Jeff Alba, Keithan Carter
Musicians: Traxx, Mark Marzocco, Ryan Bockenfeld, Julio Bishop, Julia Miller & Friends, Bjak, DJ Joe Vortech, Fonotex, The BLTs (Beer Lovin Texans), Eric Zeigenhagen, Dad Factory, REO Chuckwagon, Yuri Lane, Tobias, JAQ, IG, The Butchershop Quartet, Steve Evans Quartet, Seeking Wonderland, Julius "The Mad Thinker"
Anthony Mosley, Sandra Delgado, Kimberly Senior, Brant Russell, Jonathan Templeton, Adam Ford, Sam Porretta, Jeremy Getz, Mikhail Fiksel, Michael Griggs, Jana Anderson, Caroline McCall, Vivian Pavlos, Krista Peel, Steve Clark, Scott Pillsbury, Erick Gelehrter, James Rondeau, Julie Rodrigues Widholm, Lorelei Steward, Brandon Cambpell, Kristen Kaza, Kyle Kratky, Mary Winn Heider, Tim Borntrager, Sharon Lanza, Meredith Miller, Zachary Starer, Shannon Garvey, Morgan Steinberg, Miles Polaski, Jason Shaddox, John Zinn, Jac Jemc, Saverio Truglia, Linda Solotaire, Michelle Mashon, Isabelle Libmann, Clare McDermott, Joe Rovner, Gia Decicco, Jacqueline Simon, Michael Oberholtzer, Matthew Lachappelle, Andrew Lenn, Vanessa Stalling, Cole Pencak, Christopher Furman, Laura Miracle, Maggie Goddard, Angela Tillges, Matt Marsden, Anthonty Courser, John Mossman, Rita Simon, Chris Walsh