Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Abbie Fest Aftermath

Photo by Gavin Robinson, taken from Mary-Arrchie Facebook Photo Album

Mary-Arrchie Theatre presented Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins XXI over the past weekend, and this annual festival showed no signs of losing steam. Having only seen a fraction of the performances this year, it’s hard to make a fully informed assessment, but the opening ceremonies on Friday literally set the stage for what was to follow. Audience members clapped, stamped their feet, and whooped it up in anticipation of Artistic Directory Richard Cotovsky’s arrival in the persona of Abbie Hoffman. His political ranting, flavored with a touch of stand-up comedy and delivered from a makeshift soapbox, was highly entertaining.

Team Venture Productions had the difficult task of following this mayhem. Just Us Two, their gentle sci-fi comedy about two socially awkward virgins being whisked off to populate another planet, won over the audience with appealing performances from its cast.

The Plagiarists have a well-deserved reputation at the fest for intellectually stimulating comedy, and their new parody American Stage Sessions was both clever and laugh out loud funny. This is a group that bears watching closely, as they engage in several sight gags.

Bruised Orange’s show I Saw You fell somewhere between improv and sketch comedy as the group drew inspiration from the classified section of The Chicago Reader. It wasn’t clear if these were actual or fictional ads, or if the cast members had seen the ads before bringing them to life, but the results were very funny.

The cast of Red Ink Theatre showed their singing and dancing chops as they reeled off a series of provocative songs and sketches about our current president’s effect on the country in their revue Obama Nation. Their material brought laughs at the expense of liberals as well as conservatives.

Mary-Arrchie Theatre performs Gas Mask 101, a politically-charged comedy set at Southern Illinois University during the Viet Nam War, every year, and this goofy and touching play is a welcome Abbie Fest tradition.

On the Fest’s second day, my old comedy group Famous In The Future surprised me by going back to basics with its all new revue Loose Animals rather than performing the more elaborate song and dance routines of recent years. Much of the material was driven by current events, featuring sketches about animal rights and the slow economy. As an FIF cast member for several years, I can’t give an unbiased critique, so I’ll simply say I enjoyed the show.

Black Forest’s performance of their original piece The Drugs, which was inspired by David Bowie’s Low album, found James Moeller dressed in a long black coat and Carla Hayden decked out in a white pants suit. The imaginative and funny show included Moeller’s guitar playing and a blast of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” on the sound system.

The Mary-Arrchie's crew of actors and actresses, more accustomed to performing onstage than selling tickets, did a super job of keeping things running smoothly. Pictures and more information on this year’s Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins can be found on the Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s website (www.maryarrchie.com). Also check out the blog http://jimmydumpssunnyjimmy.blogspot.com/


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