Chicago Theatre Review
A Puck-ing Queer Cabaret
Bite – Pride Films and Plays
There’s a stimulating, sensual and strikingly entertaining piece of immersive theatre happening upstairs at Mary’s Attic this summer. The Andersonville cabaret has turned into a 21st century version of the Athenian forest, where fairies and mortals meet, mix and mingle with wild abandon. Cleverly adapted and sharply directed and choreographed, with a particular pulse on the youthful LGBT way of life, this musical revue uses every inch of the popular second floor venue as its playground.
Based upon one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Oberon and his (drag) queen Titania are once again quarreling, and it’s affecting the other Chicago fairy folk. The royal couple is squelching everyone’s fun and it’s Midsummer’s Eve, an evening of intense frolicking and revelry around the Windy City. Up the steep stairway stumble Mia, Liz, Demi and Lin, four mortal lovers out on the town and having their own disagreement. When Puck, the perky master of ceremonies of the evening, secretly slips something into their drinks, romantic allegiances shift and it becomes difficult to tell the fairy folk from the mortals. An orgy erupts, new notions of love transpire and everyone learns something new about himself.
Set to the pulsating beat of nearly two dozen high-voltage, contemporary dance hits, this talented cast of singer/dancers offer an evening of adult entertainment that makes it difficult to remain seated. Choreographed by Van Barham, ably assisted by Christopher Young and Topher Leon, this show resembles a miniature Cirque du Soleil, with color, light and synchronized movement everywhere. Brad Caleb Lee’s costumes add a new dimension to each character. Club lighting and projection designs are by G “Max” Maxin, and Jeff Bouthiette (as Whiskey) flamboyantly provides musical direction, backup vocals and accompaniment. It’s a production filled with familiar songs performed with polish and flair, exciting dance moves, style and attitude. In the end, audiences are left with a sincere message about the importance of learning to love yourself.
There is so much talent in this Pucking-Queer Cabaret, that all twelve actors must be congratulated for their exciting performances. Leading the ensemble is Nathan Maurice Cooper as Puck. With an impressive background as a cruise ship performer, Mr. Cooper opens the show with a bang, offering Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment.” He continues with “Dirty Night Clowns,” “YOUTH” and “Between the Bars.” The performer moves about the room with the agility of a gymnast, projecting the look and debauchery of a young Alan Cumming. Talented Chicago musical theatre veteran, Kevin Webb brings arrogance and a certain vulnerability to his portrayal of Oberon. His performance of “King,” by Years & Years and Scissor Sister’s “She’s My Man,” are standouts. Raymond K. Cleveland, sweeping majestically around the stage in her silvery kaftan and a black teddy, is a statuesque and sassy Titania. Together with Webb, Mr. Cleveland sings the perfect “Swings Both Ways,” and croons the Mamas & the Papas’ appropriate, “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
The mortal lovers are represented by four talented performers. Powerful actor/singer Melanie Vitaterna, as Mia, backed by Cooper and Bouthiette, offers an electrifying performance of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” She also brings down the house with “Here,” by Alessia Cara. Will Kazda, as Lin, provides a great version of “Call Your Girlfriend,” and Jennifer Ledesma, as Demi, sings with fervor about her “Girl Crush,” by Little Big Town. As Liz, dancer Caitlin Aase delivers a sexy striptease that really heats up the room. The ensemble of sprightly and skilled fairies who romp and rejoice throughout this Midsummer Eve include Jordan Shomer (Peaseblossom), Jacob McKenzie Gilchrist (Cobweb), David Mor (Moth) and the terrifically expressive Kathleen Hoil (Mustardseed).
For audiences who like their summer entertainment hot and steamy, with more than a touch of magic and mindless mayhem, this is the perfect show. Shrewdly adapted and directed with wit and wonder by Derek Van Barham, this tantalizing, 85-minute cabaret is near perfection. Flashy, trashy and performed with energetic elance, this highly entertaining musical revue, laced with adult humor, revisits the universal themes of Shakespeare’s most popular comedy and takes a Bite out of the Midsummer Night.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented July 11-August 14 by Pride Films & Plays at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark, Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling 800-737-0984 or by going to www.pridefilmsandplays.com.
Additional information about this other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.