Chicago Theatre Review

Daily Archives: November 25, 2013

Circles Around “Paulus”

November 25, 2013 Comments Off on Circles Around “Paulus”

Circles Around “Paulus”

THEATER REVIEW: “Paulus” by Silk Road Rising

A Review by Kazuko Golden

In the world premiere of the play, “Paulus,” by Motti Lerner, the lead character Paulus (played by Daniel Cantor) leads us into 58 C.E. where he witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Paulus is then tormented with determining his life’s path forward.  Having fantastical illusions about Jesus revisiting and spiritually motivating him to reinvent what he knows about Judaism and the Roman occupation of Judea, Paulus is internally conflicted and battles both religious and political forces that threaten to execute him if he either denies his traditional heritage and beliefs or rejects vowing faith to the Roman hierarchy.

If you are in need of “popcorn for the brain,” entertainment for the holidays, “Paulus” will not sit lightly with you.  Rather the highly academic nature of the history and religious studies that Lerner, an Israeli playwright and self-described atheist, presents through his script (translated from the original Hebrew by Hillel Halkin) is a pedagogical and philosophical debate about the doctrines of salvation and atonement, as grounded in the doctrine of Christian theology and represented in the crucifixion of Jesus (played by Torrey Hanson).  Further, the discussion about the psychological experiences of those who witnessed the crucifixion and its meaning is articulated fully by Paulus.  As a witness, Paulus is then tormented with how to move forward after this experience.  Those closest to him – Trophimos (Anthony DiNicola); ex-wife, Adima (Carolyn Hoerdemann); and nephew Eleazar (Glenn Stanton) -suffer as well.

The timing of this play is difficult.  Lerner has presented his thought-provoking play right before the beginning of the Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year seasonal celebrations.  As Chicago audiences wander in to take a load off from the hustle and bustle of the busy retail season, this play does not permit them t to rest their brains.   Every minute of this two-hour play is crammed with positioning the meaning of the history of Second Temple Judaism and the apostolic age of early Christianity.  According to Silk Road Rising, “(Lerner) is not interested in relaying facts but in revealing truths.”  The pauses between the political tumult and social upheaval and the fierce theological battles are slow and lingering.

The location of the play is breathtaking.  Pierce Hall is housed in The Historic Chicago Temple Building, home of the First Methodist Church. At one time long ago, the building in Chicago’s Loop area was the tallest skyscraper in the city.  The ornate interior of the church includes 16 stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible.

For those with questions about their theological positioning and for those that during this time of the year are interested in seeing a play that presents philosophical pedagogy about the reinvention of religion in the first century, “Paulus” will be an appropriate play to consider seeing.  What is admirable about Lerner’s approach is that his message raises questions from Paulus’s experience that are relevant to contemporary questions about universalism, radical modernization, and the conflicts that arise when individuals attempt to challenge norms and enter into worlds of monotheism and ethnic diversity.  Paulus’s questions about multicultural modes of practicing religion and pedagogical thought are drawn from and mirror Lerner’s questioning.

When: Through Dec. 15

Where: Silk Road Rising, Pierce Hall at Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St.

Running time: 2 hours

Tickets: $35 at 312-857-1234, ext. 201, or

Somewhat Recommended

Paulus - Anthony DiNicola and Daniel Cantor

Vengeance wears a Mullet

November 25, 2013 Comments Off on Vengeance wears a Mullet

Street Justice: Condition Red

Or: Vengeance wheres a Mullet


Imagine every trope you can think of from 80’s action movies. brutal, bruce lee inspired hand to hand combat, car-fu, double crossing East German agents, slow motion explosions, bazookas, dastardly english criminal masterminds with a penchant for sword play, and fire forged friends. Now dip all of these in a nice carmel drizzle of mysgoanist and sexual satire (at least we hope it’s satire, please let it be satire) and you have a good slice of Street Justice: Condition Red.


Chicago in the mid 80’s: Prim and by-the-book police officer Brad Truman (Colin Milroy) gets paired with hyper-violent and emotionally volatile cop Wade Dalton (Anthony Tournis) in order to teach the former about decisiveness and the latter about discipline. Though initially neither can stand the other in the slightest both are drawn personally into a murder case when the prime witness turns out to be Brad’s sister, Juliet (Lauren Bourke). With the help of aspiring detectives Danielle Dugan and Karen McLaren (Mandy Walsh and Laura Korn), whose natural talents are continually thwarted by the patriarchal CPD and their carnal-minded co-workers, Trumen and Dalton begin to trace the isolated murder to a nest of vipers. Now it’s up to them to stop the lecherous stazi-dominatrix/spy Ursela von Hodenesser (Sara Gorsky) and the suave and supremely evil Mr. Blade (Chris Walsh) before they not only take over the city but imperil the very nation.


I’m sure Street Justice would be a fun romp through high spirited violence and nostalgia if it were handled just a little more attention were payed to its presentation. It is harder to make comedy than to make drama, because you can’t just depend upon the material to speak for itself: you have to lead it out and show us its tricks yourself. Milroy and Tournis, who also penned the script together, have made a good send up of 80’s action, with a twisty plot and some solid story development but, contrary to popular belief, explicit anatomical humor, underlining feminine stereotypes, and long running gags about Rape Comas produce uncomfortable shifting and not gales of laughter. Director Mike Ooi also has knitted some wonderful action sequences but has neglected to police and tighten them for qualities sake. Let it be written: if, when driving an imaginary car at high speeds, the driver makes a swerving motion, the passengers must swerve in concordance with the direction the driver is swerving.


Sloppy mistakes aside the cast is obviously having a good time with this one. Milroy and Tournis take their archetypal characters up to eleven, with Milroy doing a very credible shock and terror expression when ever venturing into his dark and troubled past and Tournis taking on the voice of a young Keanu Rives and the gumption of an old Sylvester Stallone. Walsh and Korn outstrip them slightly in being able to switch between serious professionals facing a serious problem and trigger happy babes with blades. As is best fitting for an action film, the Villains capture our imaginations more than the heros: Gorsky has a blast investing von Hdenesser’s every movement with a provocative slink, from her maniacal laughing sessions to choke-holding someone between shin and thigh (she also gets to wield a pistol-cross bow, which is a definite bonus for any actor). For his part Chris Walsh takes a leaf from his wife’s book by playing over the top characters with as much earnestness as possible. Mr. Blade’s English charm is never too cheesy nor too sympathetic, but just menacing enough, and his skills with a Rapier provide the most thrilling stage violence in show packed with knives, gunshots and good ol’ straight-lefts.


Somewhat Recommended by Ben Kemper


Warning: Contains brief nudity, mature content, and shameless mullets.


Prop Thtr, 3502 W. Elston Ave

November 8- December 14

Tickets available at


For more information go to

Holiday Fun for Younger Audiences

November 25, 2013 Comments Off on Holiday Fun for Younger Audiences

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

rudolphThere’s no lack of holiday entertainment in the Chicago area, but sometimes it’s difficult to find a show that will appeal to and hold the attention of younger viewers. Adapted practically word for word, song for song and character for character from the 1964 animated television special, this musical Christmas confection is the perfect holiday event for children, ages 3-10. First Stage Milwaukee’s Artistic Director Jeff Frank conceived the idea of adapting the stop-action animated holiday classic for the stage. Working closely with Robert Penola, they devised a script that recreated the cartoon’s magic, while still honoring Robert L. May’s original children’s story and Johnny Marks‘ well-known holiday song. Add to this Brandon Kirkham’s spot-on production design, which includes costumes, scenery and puppets, and you have a stage production that looks and sounds as if the animated TV special has actually come to life.

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