Review "Yeast Nation": Needs Salt... flour, sugar, butter, etc.

Yeast Nation (The Triumph of Life)

American Theatre Company

Chicago, Illinois

September 25, 2009

In the very beginning, there was yeast. In fact, a whole world of yeast. Yeast Nation (The Triumph of Life) tells the story of the beginning of creation. For the religious, this play is about the first second of the first minute of Day 1, God created yeast. For the scientific, remember that evolution chart showing monkeys to apes to humans walking? This play is miles to the left of that first monkey depicted. From the creators of Urinetown, Yeast Nation is a musical about a group of microorganisms battling an anti-stasis movement. Whereas I do care about and can relate to the trials and tribulations of urine, I only am concerned about yeast when it’s missing from bread.

I wanted to care! Yeast Nation had all the storylines I love. Romeo and Juliet. Camelot. Ten Things I Hate About You. Put those plots in the middle ages or modern day, I’m engaged. Tell the tale from the initial Genesis moment, I struggle to be interested. Dress it up in glow in the dark ponchos with unappealing belly bulges or hot pink tight bodysuits with spiky things, I get distracted. Throw in a myriad of words like “fission” and “strictures,” I lose interest just as if it’s 2nd period biology all over again.

When I blocked out the science lesson, I could enjoy the multi-talented performances. Barbara Robertson (the unnamed) was a standout as a wise old woman breaking the 4th wall trying to relate the struggles of yeast to challenges of audience members. Unfortunately for me, that fission wasn’t happening. Star crossed lovers, Andrew Keltz (second) and Melanie Brezill (sweet), sang beautifully together. I wanted to root for them to get together in the end. But I didn’t care, they weren’t human. What do you call the people that hate on yeast? But I don’t really hate yeast, I just don’t want to consume it by itself. Although the singing and acting talent were there, Yeast Nation is missing some key ingredients to make it delicious.

The evolved microorganism to my right, Dick called it a “crazy staircase musical!”


Before the show, we went to Mrs. Murphy’s (3905 N. Lincoln) for the celebration of my favorite yeast, Guinness (and because I had a $25 coupon from a junk mail booklet). Mrs. M’s is offering a three-course Guinness inspired meal in honor of the 250th Anniversary for $25. Dick opted for this option topped off with a Guinness ice cream float. I went with the fish and chips salad. Clever idea but too much onion for my taste. The very friendly Bridget took care of us and ensured we made our curtain on time.

Post show, we headed to Tiny Lounge (4352 N. Leavitt). Unlike the original art deco version under the Addison brown line stop, Tiny Lounge has evolved into a contemporary, sleek modern establishment. The place was packed but we scored a table on the patio with the assistance of the owner. I enjoyed a hearty Lebanon red and Dick ordered up his favorite dirty martini with blue cheese olives. While reflecting on his own stasis, Dick was momentarily spooked by a table of cougars nearby. I assured him he was too old to be nervous about these highly evolved microorganisms. I did get a chuckle as I departed past their table and their candidiasis discussion. I realized I do care about the absence or presence of yeast just not the musical story of it.

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