Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Radical Night Of Fun

Anna Rose li-Epstein's photo of Famous In The Future outside the
Mary-Arrchie Theatre from the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Facebook page.

August 14 - 16 was one of those rare and exciting three-wristband weekends in which I came home late each night with a different ribbon around my wrist signifying that I had been out having fun. On Friday and Saturday night, I was at Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre, and I spent 12 hours on Sunday at The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. Tough choices have to be made when these two summertime favorites occur simultaneously, which means that I wind up missing some cool stuff. The ideal would be to have enough time (and money) to fully experience each of these annual celebrations. 

One of several memorable moments at Abbie Fest 27 came right at the start of the Opening Ceremony. A simple living room set on the Mary-Arrchie stage featured windows and a front door that suggested a suburban neighborhood existed just outside. As the audience eagerly waited for Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky to enter in his beloved role of Abbie Hoffman, he suddenly appeared outside the door, peering in through a small window at the top. Cotovsky held this pose for a few minutes, like a burglar waiting to break in, until it was clear from the laughter and applause that everyone could see him. What a concept: Abbie Hoffman on your doorstep.

In addition to Cotovsky/Hoffman's inflammatory intro, other highlights on Friday night included Rush Pearson (an Abbie Fest veteran) literally throwing himself into a solo performance of Nicolai Gogol's Diary Of A Madman. Otherworld Theatre Company's witty and crisply acted staging of Jonathan Cook's Transferring Kyle, a supernatural tale of people being replaced with better versions of themselves if they don't live up to their potential, was another winner.

Saturday evening found long-time Abbie Fest performers Black Forest swapping out their customary off-kilter and comedic endeavors for a stirring reflection on mourning that involved live music, poetry, and monologues. Famous In The Future followed a short time later. Having been a cast member of this sketch comedy group for 20 years, I wonder about the journalistic integrity of giving them a favorable review. Still, they went over really well again this year; with imaginative concepts, clever songs, and fun costumes.

Transportation logistics kept me from staying late on Friday or Saturday, so I'm sure I missed a lot of other good shows. I've seen posts on Facebook stating this may have been the last time we'll see Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins, at least at the Mary-Archie's current space on Sheridan Road. It would be a shame to lose this annual event that brings together performers from across Chicago's theatre community for three days of virtually non-stop, freewheeling entertainment. Mary-Arrchie held its 25th Anniversary Abbie Fest at The Den Theatre a few years ago, so hopefully that venue would still be an option in the future.

Coming up next: I've Just Seen A Fest.


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