Performing Arts Weekly: March 30, 2017
‘The Iliad, the Odyssey’ and All That Jazz
Racine Theatre Guild’s crash course on Greek mythology
By John Jahn
Actor, director and producer Jay Hopkins and sketch comedy writer John Hunter have known each other and performed together for a quarter century now. One of their most well-known collaborations comes to Racine this week—a play that delivers ancient Greek mythology in a highly creative and entertaining way replete with modern touches and accessible dialogue and familiar themes. This is The Iliad, the Odyssey and All of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less, which premiered at the Studio Theatre in Hopkins’ and Hunter’s home base of Orlando, Fla., almost exactly a decade ago.
Orlando media loved the production; the Orlando Sentinel proclaiming that, in their new play, “Hopkins and Hunter use pop culture to spoof some of the more overly dramatic Greek moments and do a wonderful job of picking up on all the things that never made sense in these traditional stories.” The characters are familiar to anyone who went to high school or college (or who’s seen any of a number of sword and sandals epics), but even so, there’s no required reading list to understand and enjoy them. And what characters! There’s everything from hip hop-pattering Mercury messengers to a geeky and Spock-eared Vulcan.
A cast of six—Kristin Althoff, Ayla Christian, Barb Davis, Petr Jaros, Mike Kishline and Mona Lewis—will, in a veritable rush, blast through a swath of Greek, Roman and Biblical legend and lore. The play’s overall tone is goofy (i.e., Hermes to Zeus: “You da man!” Zeus to Hermes: “I’m the god!”). It all sounds a great deal like something one might take to much more enthusiastically than, say, a lecture in Greek Myths 101.
March 31-April 9 at Racine Theatre Guild, 2519 Northwestern Ave, Racine. For tickets, call 262-633-4218 or visit racinetheatre.org.
What the World Needs Now: A Tribute to Burt Bacharach
American composer, songwriter, record producer, pianist and singer Burt Bacharach is the composer of hundreds of pop songs (many with lyrics by Hal David) and winner of six Grammy Awards and three Academy Awards. To date, he’s composed 73 songs that hit the U.S. Top-40 singles chart. Bacharach has written songs for some of the greatest singers of the past half-century—singers like Perry Como, Gene Pitney, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Jackie DeShannon, Karen Carpenter and, most notably, Dionne Warwick. Indeed, one can scarcely imagine Warwick’s career without the songs Bacharach wrote for her. Sunset Playhouse’s cabaret-style tribute show honors his immortal songbook, featuring vocals by Cynthia Cobb and Brian Myers.
March 30-April 2 at the Furlan Auditorium, 800 Elm Grove Road. For tickets, call 262-782-4430 or visit sunsetplayhouse.com.
Last Yiddish Heroes: Lost and Found Songs of Soviet Jews During World War II @ UWM Recital Hall, April 5
Throughout World War II, the Soviet Union saw the death of over 2.7 million Jews but Yiddish culture and customs from this time prevailed and live on today. Professor Ana Shternshis of the University of Toronto and New York singer-songwriter Psoy Korolenko collaborate to bring back “lost” Yiddish songs from World War II. Under the auspices of UWM’s department of Jewish Studies, they will perform and speak about songs that were written by both victims and survivors from this time and that tell the most rich of histories. According to Ana Shternshis, the audience should be prepared to “laugh, be outraged, cry and be fascinated.” The performance is at 7 p.m. (Evan Casey)
“We are working to meet our community where it’s at as far as seeing the arts,” says Andrea Burkholder, one of Real Time’s creators, “and from there we hope to develop together as performers, audience and as a larger community.” The Real Time series changes from event to event and, while you never quite know what you’re in for at one of Andrea and Daniel Burkholder’s shows, each in some way is focused on the art of movement. This may take the form of aerial art, dance, music, improvisation, theater or conversation. All Real Time shows last about an hour and are followed by artist-audience hobnobbing (with free beverages). They also have a welcoming pay-what-you-will ticket structure. This, their second performance at Washington Park, features 19-year-old guest artist (and avid ballroom dancer) Wanyah Frazier, who will showcase several forms of ballroom and offer attendees insight into each of her dance forms and routines.
The performance takes place at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 7 at the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park, 1859 N. 40th St. For more information, visit andreaburkholder.com/real-time.