‘Fulton Street Sessions’ — this ain’t your mother’s experimental cabaret

Fulton Street Sessions is a cabaret-style production in the form of a collection of sketches, musical numbers, and interludes capturing the essence of current national and local news bulletins, social, cultural and political gossips.”

Sounds exhausting, right? I mean, one hears the phrase “cabaret-style production” and immediately thinks of pantomime, piano, poetry readings and pretension.

Thankfully, it’s none of these things, and I’m so glad I tagged along as The Fourth Walsh‘s plus one. Because Fulton Street Sessions rocks (that is, until the last 15 minutes, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

TUTA Theatre Chicago devised this wholly original piece — a first for the decade-old company — by assembling five of its ensemble members (Kirk Anderson, Jaimelyn Gray, Stacie Beth Green, Trey Maclin and Jacqueline Stone) together to spend a few months creating and workshopping. The result: an incredibly eclectic and high-energy 90-minute theatrical experience. (For more backstory on the genesis of this piece, check out this Time Out Chicago article).

The show works best when the inventive ensemble takes everyday events (such as sitting naked onstage in a large bucket) and builds on them (sitting naked onstage in a large bucket while people in snowsuits pour cold water over you).

There’s also a wonderful moment where the cast breaks into a karaoke-tastic rendition of “I Just Called To Say I Love You” that I think says something about the unifying force of Stevie Wonder, fleeting though it may be.

What else? Oh, there’s some heart-pumping percussion work, and an awesome, nearly cathartic rage rap that manages to pack in every overhyped media synonym for “snowstorm” (i.e., Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, Snowzilla, SnOMG, etc.)

Apparently, the snowtastrophy of February 2011 provided the inspiration for the piece — the notion of being stuck, trying to move forward, and what have you. The stark, industrial setting (think the torture room in the first Saw film, without all the blood) certainly implies some sort of metaphorical purgatory.

But, really, this eclectic, raw evening keeps you on your toes. That said, I wish I could have un-seen the last 15 minutes of the show, when things suddenly turned into an awkward orgy party — which sounds more exciting than it actually is.

“Fulton Street Sessions” plays through March 25 at Chicago Dramatists. More info here >

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