High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

El Bardo

Saturday we decided that, by gum, we were going to use that Lettuce Entertain You gift card we got for Christmas. M chose Vong's Thai Kitchen, which was ducky with me. I've only been there once before, about 2 years ago with the late, lamented Madeleine and my other pal M. Maddy had generously invited me to tag along on a coffee outing with her. I ended up having to pass on the outing itself because there was some family doing on that day, but we met up for dinner. It had been one of those particularly trying familial days, but the evening out could not have been a more perfect cure. Wonderful food, great conversation, complete relaxation. Saturday's dinner was excellent and that M is always good company, but I did feel a pang for Maddy. Likewise, this afternoon's escape from Gary took me up 41 and past Jackson Harbor restaurant where we also had lunch that weekend. Beautiful place that always slips my mind.

After dinner, we had tickets to Mexican Wrestling Macbeth at the Bailiwick Theatre on the North side. After a couple of false starts trying to have the car valet parked, we snagged a suspiciously near spot on the street and spent a good four seconds hoping it didn't get towed. Having picked up our tickets at the Will Call and realizing that (a) we were early and (b) the show would be starting late, we repaired to quite a nice bar across the street. I asked for an orange martini and the bartender apparently took me for someone who would accept a strange, weak screwdriver made with absolut mandarin as a substitute for said martini. He realized the error of his ways when I asked if they had charbay blood orange to match the meyer lemon and made me a second with belvedere orange and grand marnier. Good lad, ultimately. Prolly has no idea how close he was to death by sizzling laser eyebeams.

The show was quite a lot of fun, although it never quite seemed to be what it could have been. The basic set up was Senor Director's reimagining of Macbeth with Samson (aka El Santo, thank god you're here, you must leave immediately) in the title role. Casting the Lady is proving problematic. La Diabla Azul has worked up quite the routine on the ambition vault, but is passed over in favor of Venus. La Diabla talks the AD into killing Senor Director and Samson gets to fight crime. It's all good.

The best, most interesting, and most fully realized decision they made in staging was to have two actors doing all the voices, while those on stage lip synched. The voice actors (one male, on female), had a platform at house right and a single Old Time Radio mic. Sound like a recipe for disaster? Oh yes, yes it does. But boy howdy did they have it down. The synching was perfect and the voice actors were both incredibly talented. They completely captured the ridiculously bad dubbing of the Santo movies and still managed to show the range of characters they could create, even in parody. One decision that didn't work so well was to have the three witches menacing the front rows during the murder scene (accomplished with a folding chair in the ring, natch). They touched my shoes. Dude, don't fucking touch my shoes.

Venus was the only female in the on-stage cast, and by far the weakest link. She just didn't seem to "get" the whole thing, which, in a show like this, is sort of like watching bad stand up. Samson was about 3 feet tall, which worked wonderfully. La Diabla was very much a Divine-style drag act with a Bride of Frankenstein wig. The actor quite obviously was having the time of his life. The AD character borrowed a bit too heavily from Rick Moranis's Seymour, but he and Diabla played well off one another.

I think the gag had a lot more potential than they explored. The show only ran a little over an hour. Some of the best stuff in it were the more explicit borrowings from the Bard and I think they could have done a lot more with that. Still they did well with a joke that could've been tiresome after about four seconds.

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