I don’t particularly enjoy focusing on the negative, but lists are fun, so let’s get to it. You’ll notice I’m only mentioning six shows. Each one warrants being on this list for different reasons — some were flat-out bad, and some were just huge disappointments. If I went past these six, I’d really be stretching. So, six it is. Click on the show title to read my original thoughts (many of the links point directly to my EDGE review).
(If you haven’t already, check out my top ten for 2009.)
1) Banana Shpeel @ The Chicago Theatre: This is the only show in this list I’ve seen twice: once at the final dress, and once a month later after it had officially opened. And, despite the frantic changes Cirque has apparently been making to get the show ready for New York next year, it was actually WORSE the second time. Unfunny, slightly offensive, visually unappealing, confounding, and just, overall, a mess. The only saving grace were the amazing, yet woefully underused, stunt performers. Cirque should be ashamed.
2) Earth: TTFN?! @ The Greenhouse Theatre Center: I remember leaving the Greenhouse Theatre mad after seeing this show. Yes, mad. A campy parody of sci-fi ’60s B movies, or so it liked to consider itself, this show was a remarkable waste of time. Nothing about it worked. The actors and the audience seemed equally uncomfortable. In fact, it was so painful to sit through, you could actually see the audience squirm in their seats. The worst part is the physical design was great, meaning a ton of money was dumped into this crapfest.
3) The Marvelous Wonderettes @ Northlight Theatre: I have a pretty high tolerance for cheesy musicals with thin plots. The Marvelous Wonderettes stretched that tolerance to the breaking point. It was a jukebox musical of the worse kind: a threadbare plot, eye-rolling lead-ins to obvious songs, and canned music. OMG the canned (i.e. pre-recorded) music. I couldn’t stand it, especially when a classy place like Northlight is producing it. And those poor talented actresses who were forced to deliver this treacle — it should be against the law.
4) Frankenstein @ The Hypocrites’: As you can see by reading my original post, I was nonplussed by this production. It wasn’t horrible, but it just didn’t work on many levels. However, I applaud the group for taking a risk. I just think they needed more time to work on it. What we saw wasn’t ready for prime-time.
5) All the Fame of Lofty Deeds @ The House Theatre of Chicago: Again, I don’t fault House Theatre for taking a risk with this highly unique material. But more time was needed to streamline the narrative and more effectively integrate Jon Langford’s great catalogue of music into the script. Also, a recasting of the title character was desperately in order. What I saw seemed half-baked. Sadly, I nearly fell asleep in the first act, and I wasn’t even tired going into the show.
6) Art @ Steppenwolf: My inclusion of this show in this list has nothing to do with Steppenwolf’s production. It was first-rate, as is mostly everything Steppenwolf does. I just extremely disliked Yasmina Reza’s play. I found it whiny, irritating and preachy. I originally described it as an episode of Frasier, minus the funny. And what’s left after that? Bickering white guys intensely discussing snobbish things. Snore.