The Hypocrites present the world premiere of IVYWILD.
Director Halena Kays and Playwright Jay Torrence team up together to make another historical spectacle. Last year, they re-imagined the fire at Chicago’s Iroquois Theatre with the highly successful Neo-futurists’ run of “Burning Bluebeard.” Now, the true tall tales of Bathhouse John is getting the Kays-Torrence treatment.
Upon arrival, I’m amazed by the big carousel in the room. Scenic Designer Lizzie Bracken has constructed a solid-wooden, yet worn, merry-go-round smack dab in the middle of the stage. Actually, it is the stage. The carousel’s movable platforms become props in the whimsical storytelling. The entire design team, Alison Siple (costume), Jared Moore (lighting), Kevin O’Donnell (sound), create the ambiance for a story Torrence calls, ’20% silly and 80% tragedy.‘ Siple dresses the ensemble in grimy carnie wear. The costumes hint at better days of stylish shimmer. Light bulbs are strung and plastered all around the stage. Lighting up the amusement park is an on-going shtick. So, Moore’s dazzling efforts is a two-sided bittersweet finale. And O’Donnell brings the audio to wake the ghosts. High-energy melodies help the carnies get their grooves back.
Torrence (Bathhouse John) narrates the story of the ill-fated Ivywild amusement park. He endears with a child-like zest to entertain. Torrence visibly transports into a delusional memory. His face lights up in a broad grin and his fingers signal a deep thought. Despite his questionable past, he charms with cotton candy innocence. The entire talented ensemble, Kurt Chiang, Anthony Courser, Tien Doman, Torrence and Ryan Waters, deliver circus theatrics to pull us into this faded, colorful amusement. In particular, Courser (Princess) is scene-stealing hilarious as a drunken elephant. He performs tricks and interacts with the audience in an improv bit. The show even turns virtual reality by using audience members to simulate roller coaster rides. All the antics have a dizzying impact. We’re never really sure where the ride is going but we’re enjoying the twists and turns.
IVYWILD is really 20% history and 80% lighted-hearted frolic. And it adds up to 100% entertainment from on another amusing Kays-Torrence ride.
Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division
Written by Jay Torrence
Directed by Halena Kays
Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Buy Tickets at www.the-hypocrites.com
Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis