Friday, July 30, 2010


Don't even try and deny it
'Cos you're gonna have a Party tonight
And you know we're gonna do it tonight
We're gonna lose it all
When you open your door!
Party, Party, There's gonna be a party Tonight!

-Andrew WK, It's Time To Party
I wish Andrew WK was in Cherrywood.  Then he could have stopped in and helped everyone out with some really good party tips, like lining your chip bowls with paper towels for easy blood cleanup.

So, Cherrywood...I mean, if you're reading this you probably know what it is and what it "represents."  Apparently the hipsters are saving theater for 20 bucks a head over at the Angel Island theater on West Sheridan.  If by hipsters you mean a 47 year old director, a 25 year old storefront theatre stalwart, and a cast and crew with ages that range from 20 to 100 (Rich Cotovsky).
In the play werewolves stand in as a symbol for change as the all-night party is an opportunity for transformation. (I'm immediately reminded of hipster wolf t-shirt phenomenon from a few years ago.) But just like hipsters, it's a mistake to assume this play is concerned only with fashion disguised as politics or intellectualism. What is the play about at its heart? It's vaguely about change, especially, at the end, about the irony of being faced with the real possibility for change after you've been abstractly ruminating about it all night--but it's phrased as an inquiry and not an answer, which is basically what hipster culture is about. Which is a legitimate political position in its own right. We are the first generation of bohemian youth culture that's not going to look like idiots--like the hippies and the punks--later for pretending to have all the answers, when all we had was a new way of dressing stupid. ("I get depressed when I realize I'll never know how human history ends" one character says--we know the limits of our knowledge.) We know we dress like idiots and we know, as the play's characters do, that when they're talking about Aerosmith's disappointments as the play's characters do, they're also talking about our own failed (for now) potential if we refuse to be more than wittily, babblingly, unsubstantially uncommunicative.

-Monica Westin, Why Hipsters Will Save Theatre: Cherrywood
Monica, you are a good writer...and you are the first person I've ever met who ever WANTED to be a hipster.  I think you make some cogent points, disguised in a love letter to aloof skinny kids who shop at American Apparel, but tell people it's from Brown Elephant.  But, I think you may be experiencing what Aristotle and my dad called "hubris."  You seem to be claiming a play for a subculture, when the play desperately wants to be claimed by EVERYONE.  That's the point, and even after two viewings, you seem to have missed it.

There were two cool old lesbians sitting next to my wife and I at the top of the show.  About 20 minutes in, for reasons unknown to me or my wife (or God, since they are lesbians) they decided to leave.  It's not easy to leave Cherrywood once it's running.  The stage is basically an in-the-round set up with seats lining all four walls, and there is NO intermission.  So, they walked through the show.  One at a time...and what was interesting was that once they entered the playing field, I could not distinguish them from the rest of the crowd.  The second one almost got kicked in the face by a fight scene, but how could she have known it was coming?  It was untelegraphed, and sudden, just like a fight that might happen at a real party with real people.  This play was not for them, and they realized it right away.  That's fine...this play is not for everyone, even though it wants to be.  I'm not sure I've ever seen a play that was so desperate for people to like it, or at least accept it.  It's screaming that even if you hate me, you have to understand that I exist.  I matter, I happen, this is happening all the time.  All the time.

As I sat in my seat in the theatre house, about 5 minutes before the play began, I started to feel nauseous.  I began to sweat and feel very nervous.  The play began, and not 10 minutes in I leaned to my wife and said "Oh lord, I think I might have to vomit or defecate madly!  What will I do, love?"  She shrugged and suggested a possible exit and then I had a small epiphany.  "OH," I said to my brain, "This is exactly how I used to feel in high school right before I went to a party with strangers."  As soon as I realized this, I was totally fine.  So, kudos to Cherrywood for taking me back in time to an extremely awkward and terrible period in my life.

Cherrywood does have some things that don't work.  But, I have to ask, do they not work by design?  Is it boring and weird on purpose?  And the only answer is "Yes, of course, silly, are you a dummy guy?"  My inner voice hates stupid questions.  Yes, the acting is stilted...because when you have 49 people on stage they can't all be bad actors.  Statistically impossible...monkeys can do this job.  Yes, the dialogue is cringeworthy at points.  You will get tired of hearing statements that wouldn't ever get Liked on your News Feed...but once again, by design it is done (Yoda-style).  Haven't you been cornered at a party by Brian Amidei?  Just nonsense that most people keep nodding and nodding along with...ask Geoff Button about nodding, and what it's like to stare at Dereck Garner's chest.  Dear god, he's carved out of marble.  I want to know if he has a sister, so she can film us doing it.

The show does not have a narrative structure that resembles anything close to dramatic, but it is one of the most tension filled shows I have ever seen.  Almost to the point of dread...but then nothing really happens.  Also, by design...and a sign of the times.  It also plays off the idea of many horror films...put people in a bad situation in an enclosed space and make them sweat.  But, then again, modern life has sort of resembled a horror movie for a while now, with no payoff except more and more fear of the future.  So, let's watch some funny cat videos, because god forbid we confront that whole scenario of terror.

There are so many people in the show, and I know a few of them.  Some I've known for years, and some that I've met through the interwebs recently.  But, I do find it interesting that when I would tell people I was coming, I didn't get a standard response and no one ever begged me to come and see it.  It was always, "Well, I'll be interested to talk to you about it!"  What the hell does that mean?  It means, y'all, that there is a LOT to talk about in this show.  That it causes conversation.  I would love to have a chat with someone who absolutely hated it, just to find out why.  I mean, they'd be wrong, but it's always good to listen to people's opinions.  Especially haters, because haters gonna hate.

"But, Eric Roach, what does it all mean?" you shout, pissed off that this might actually be a real review and not as snarky and bitchy as you'd like, "What can you really say about it?"

It does not have a beginning, although the beginning already happened, and it does not have an ending, although we are all headed there.  There is nothing to be said, although if you listen really hard you can hear it.  And sometimes, every once in a blue moon, the best thing that can happen to you is to dance to The Animals at 6 in the morning and not care one bit how it looks or what people think.

Oh, and sometimes Lindsay Pearlman gets sick of your fucking shit and yells at you to shut up.  That actually has happened to me at every party I've ever been to, or will go to.  Good casting, Cromer.

Cherrywood: B+ (because I thought I might puke at the beginning, and that sucks)

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

49 Actors (Guest Reviewer MARK PRACHT)

'If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this particular show, and it may be the only thing, as I don’t know when the hell I’m gonna actually see it, is that if the “4” and “9” keys on your keyboard stopped working, it’d be absolutely impossible to write a review of this play.

“wrangling 49 will-bleed-for-Cromer actors—yep, 49” – Chris Jones

“jamming a cast of 49 into the intimate confines of Mary-Arrchie” – Hedy Weiss

“Cromer packs a cast of 49 into Mary-Arrchie Theatre's cramped space” - Justin Hayford

“the cast of this Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company production totals 49 bodies” - Mary Shen Barnidge

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I think we all get the idea. Big kudos to Kris Vire at Time Out Chicago for leaping to “around 50.” I guess we can always count on TOC to go outside the box. I salute your rebel ways, Kris.

Still, 49. I mean, forty-fucking-nine!

What a bunch of bullshit.

Seriously, Cromer, what? Was 48 not good enough for you? Was 50 just lame? Everyone on God’s green earth knows damn well how pretentious odd numbers are, so OF COURSE you had to go there.

48 would’ve made so much sense. 50 would’ve blown my mind with coolness. But OH NO, not for David Cromer!! He has to go right for that “I’m too avant-garde to go for a round number, buddy!! I’m making FUCKING ART here!!”

Well, you know what, Mr. David Cromer? The Earth is round. A Baseball, the AMERICAN pastime, is round. The fucking UNIVERSE? Y’know what it is? It’s a goddamn spiral. A Spiral! Y’know what that is? IT’S FUCKING ROUND!! Everybody likes round things, except for, I guess…YOU.

God! The only thing worse you could’ve done was use 42 actors, because then I’d have to beat ya with the complete works of Douglas Adams.'

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Cherrywood Nights or David Cromer Stole My Childhood (Guest Reviewer ZEV VALANCY)

Many of you, reading the various articles about Cherrywood (some of which are even based on fact, and interviews which actually took place) might have gotten the impression that David Cromer’s production is the Chicago premiere of Kirk Lynn’s 2004 Austin-set mindfuck. But it is not so. Shade Murray directed it as his first year directing project while getting his MFA at Northwestern. This is the production that Cromer saw, which got him interested in the script in the first place. Cromer then worked on it in a student production at Act One Studios, and now here it is at Mary-Arrchie, the Greatest Chicago Theatre Event In History.

But who remembers the previous productions? I do. I was in Shade Murray’s Cherrywood (and who hasn’t wanted to get in Shade Murray’s Cherrywood?), and I can tell the tale. Cromer used my experiences, from when I was a tender lad of 21, to create his play, and I feel used. And sort of exhilarated.

Shade chose twelve of the best and brightest—or at least twelve of the hardest to embarrass and least likely to ask “what’s the point of this?”—to be his intrepid cast. We viewpointed, we created unscripted moments, we did sun salutations, we didn’t know how the show was ending until about three nights before we opened. It was a little bit of a cult.

We had no budget for tech and no stage manager, so there were no light cues, the set was mostly made of cardboard boxes, the costumes were pulled from storage, and the sound cues came from Shade running his iPod from the booth, with speakers sitting on the back of the stage.

And it was pretty awesome. Yes, twelve people doesn’t make a realistic party, and yes, the script can get a little bogged down and/or weird. But I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same kind of ownership over a play again. We built that damn show with our bare hands. We had three performances in a hundred-some seat theatre and were done. (And it was the last show I did before my graduation the next month.)

But then Cromer saw it, and suddenly we weren’t so special any more. He just had to do it with a greater degree of difficulty: four times the cast size, an actual set, a reconfigured theatre, critics, and on and on. And of course he’s David Cromer, so he’s watched like a hawk by everyone, and doing something like this…well, that’s newsworthy.

So I’m torn between being happy that more people will get to know this show and being jealous that Cromer’s version has gotten way more attention. I’m no longer special for having in Cherrywood—in fact, theatre people in Chicago who haven’t are harder to find these days. And doubtless Cromer took some stuff from our production, or made some changes that feel wrong, or generally messed with my memories of the show. Things will doubtless drive my crazy about the production.

But fuck it. I’m still going.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cherrywood Partying this Weekend (Guest Reviewer POP TARPS)

Holla at’cha, Cherrywatchers! Party expert, Pop Tarps, here. Givin’ you the 411 on where to spot all the beautiful bods and hot messes of C-Wood when they wanna toss aside their playacting scripts, pop some psychostimulants, and dance a Friday night all the way into the following Monday around 9:30am. From the exclusive $900 plate galas to the cheeky, back alley kink clubs, these celebs will be the blip blip blip on my fun-o-finder and then the hummada hummada hummada in your day2day convos around the La Croix fountain.

If you plan on cashing in your Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer miles this holiday weekend to visit family in some boondock city in Minneapolis or Arlington Cemetery in wherever that is, cancel those dead end engagements. STAT. OMGawd. Chicago is about to get caliente hot. Like sriracha sauce hot. Like Efron/Hudgens lovechild hot. Like Great Chicago Fire II hot. Sick C-Wood party action is all the buzz this weekend and anybody who is anybody who has a sexybody is asking, “Where are these sexy soldiers of the stage supposed to be glad-handin’ and booty-bumpin” Well, a-ten-hut, Private. The one line you wanna be fallin’ into is the one outside of Le Passage this Saturday. If you have to ask, “Where’s that,” do yourself a service and stay at home with your chamomile and your Northern Exposure box set.

Sources tell me that some 8 or 9 members of the cast plan on rolling up to the sultry discotheque sometime around midnight. And in style, too! I’ve been told that the jet-black suits at Mary-Arrchie have reserved each bombshell and hunk-hound their own personal stretch Hummer for the trip down (or on? lol) LSD. Now that’s what I call fringe benefits! Oh, and did I mention who’s leading this anything but passé pose to the Gold Coast’s creme de la crème de las nightclubs. Let’s just say, no, ahhhhh, Simon says, “Shhhhhh”.

If you want to bump buns and kiss faces with these A-listers , B-warned, C-Wooders are no early birds. Be prepared to stay out late! And definitely bring some extra c-notes. Not only do they act big, but they spend big, too.

As always, I’ve said too much.

Pop Tarps

Thursday, July 8, 2010

An Interview with Mary Rose O'Connor! EXCLUSIVE!

I recently sat down with the gorgeous and eye-shadowed Mary Rose O'Connor to talk with her about all things Cherrywood!  Did she lose her cool, or was it fun for all?  Let's see!  NOW!

Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with a coworker whom you disliked or with whom you had trouble working. What did you do to make the relationship work so you could succeed for your company?

That's a great question Eric. It's hard to answer this because I'm the kind of person who really gets along with everyone. But let's say, for example I worked very closely with 49 people that I may or may not have disliked or had trouble working with. I've found that in large-group circumstances such as these, people really respond best to a nurturing figure in the room. It makes everyone feel like they're being thought of as individuals, taken care of, and most of all adorable.

In my employment history, I don't usually encounter a lot of one-on-one conflict, but in large groups, it is hard to manage, and even harder to predict. So as a precaution, a great strategy I've come up with, is plant a gorgeous shirtless man in the room every night, and then infect him with various undetectable strains of influenza. Force that man to share drinks or make physical contact with every fondle-worthy female in the room; they won't resist because WHY WOULD YOU. Over time, the illness will spread to the entire group. Once this has taken affect, I then have the ultimate advantage of playing Mama Hen. Also providing couches and beds for which these groups can snuggle or give back-rub trains has proven to be a really effective tool in keeping them cooperative, smiling, and semi-erect. I understand that this becomes a question of ethics, but I'm a non-confrontational person. I have to find ways around my (very few) shortcomings.

Tell me about a time when you disagreed with the actions or decisions of your manager or supervisor. How did you approach the situation? Was the situation resolved to your satisfaction or did nothing change?

I'm glad you brought up David Cromer. Listen, the man is brill. Have you even SEEN Cherrywood? BUT his love for Quiznos is something I could never stand behind. I'm a positive person, and as I said before, non-confrontational. So instead of calling him out on their unappealing commercials and dangerous location at the corner of Clarendon and Broadway, I decided to lead by example. On many occasions I came in with a Subway bag of delicious, steaming, meatbally goodness. Perhaps he thought I was indicating too much when I moaned with each bite, paused, and then watched to see if he noticed. I tried my best, but I guess that wasn't good enough. I'm not even 100% sure he noticed. Regardless, the fact remains that we never met half-way on the sandwich front. I don't think this necessarily hurt our working relationship, but lunch breaks were always a little bit tense, from my end of things.

Is Dereck Garner really that handsome?

I hired him for a very specific reason, and he gets the job done. [See also: Influenza strains.]

Tell me about a time when you worked with a friend or a coworker who became a friend. What did you do to ensure that the friendship bore positive results for your company?

Two words: Hinkles, HJs

Describe a conflict you were involved in at work. How did you resolve the conflict? What happened next with that coworker or team?

Well, a couple weeks ago, the cast killed Craig Cunningham. No one outside of Cherrywood has really noticed that he's been missing. I think they just assume he's been rehearsing, but I worry about the authorities stumbling onto the sign-in sheet and noticing his name isn't there. The cast is really good about not signing in for other people. No one's been questioned yet, and I actually haven't be able to talk about it until now. So again, thank you for interviewing me.

Do you think you are better than me?

No, you're the famous Eric Roach. I'm a huge fan of your work.

What are three examples of the kinds of behaviors, actions, or attitudes you are most likely to conflict with at work?

Being called lady as a term of endearment, PDMs (Public Displays of Massaging), "boy trouble"

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cherrywood (Review to Come)

We don't want to say what we think of this play yet, but a review in the works and we hope you are all proud of yourselves.


The night finally came.

This is a night I have waited for for years and years.

Basically since I've known David Cromer and Rich Cotovsky. We have been friends and drinking partners, respectfully, but now it was a chance to enjoy their art and the art of other actors I respect, admire and would like to kiss.

The remarkable Eric Roach and I have been half-assedly following this production with a real eye on the human stories behind this bohemoth, and tonight would be no different.

I had spent the day on the beach, quietly reflecting on what I expected from my experience, and what they could humanly offer me, for my expectations were great and impossible to meet.

But that's the thing with this world. You read about things you want to see or visit and watch on television advertisements that promise you a certain feeling of comfort for buying their product, but are often left with more questions than answers. Expectations are very rarely met.

And then I went to Gene's Sausage Shop. Sweet Lord Above I have never been transported to a planet filled with so much beauty. I had heard stories, but had been let down by my friends reccomendations in the past. For example: last week a friend told me to rent Twilight (the first one) and since there has been so much talk recently about these weirdo kids and that girl Kristen Stewart, that you just wanna hit so hard because she makes that useless emotionless face all girls have when they are 16 and thought that they couldn't get pregnant if they just acted like they didn't care enough, and man did that movie suck. Wait. Maybe it didn't. I couldn't tell you for sure, because I fell asleep when the VAMPIRE FAMILY SOFTBALL GAME started.

Anyway, I bought this premade sausage/mushroom/pepper thing at Gene's and it was safely in the fridge at home to either celebrate the great show, or to console me if I was let down by the Mary Arrchie ensemble.

I arrived at the theater in great style and was recieved immediately by the famed and beautiful Mary Rose O'Connor. I do not know if she is a Stage Manager or Body Wrangler or Whatever but man is she nice to see when you first get there. She was all smiling, and had a couple of chairs for me and my wife and my friend. She said that these were the best seats in the house and was sure I wouldn't be disappointed with her choice, lifting my expectations.

I walked into the theater that I immediately noticed was in a different shape than usual. Also, there were so many famous audience members! I was surrounded by the likes of Bryson Engleson, Manny Tammayo, Anita Deely, Mark Jeffries, Nikki Klix, Scott Oken, Sam Szigeti, Zach Bloomfield, James Elly, Kim Boler, Kevin Alves, Ryan Palmer, Shannon O'Neil and basically if you had an All Star team of rocking fucking dudes and chicks, this is it and they were all there to see this play!

This awesome awesome play (I had heard).

The lights went out. The play had begun.

Out comes this dude with a beard named Ryan Borque, I think. It's hard to guess everyones names, so from here on out, I might just make up some people's names, or even just call everyone Jenn Santanello, because I think she is so nice and great in this show. So Beardy comes in and stands by this lamp and starts talking about some crazy shit about what it's like to be him and how parties are all like this chance to change.

Then Carlo Garca and Shannon Clausen come out, and I guess they are roommates with Beardy, and they keep wanting to talk about fucking each other and bands that start with the letter "A" and I wonder what kind of peppers are in the sausage and mushroom thing I got at home because I bet the mushroom are baby portabella even though they were advertised as crimini.

That's the thing sometimes with plays with hippie kids in them. Sometimes while you are watching it, and they are talking about the Buzzcocks or the dangers of WalMart, you start to wonder about what you have in your refridgerator.

The doorbell rings and who is behind it? None other than the incredible Caroline Neff, dressed like the other hippies, maybe to fit in, or maybe she is a spy, or maybe they have the same costume designer.

Neff brought the milk. "What does that mean?" you ask. It means that Caroline Neff brings on this jar of milk and they all start drinking from it. Is this milk an awesome metaphor for...say..."adulthood" or..."alcoholism"? Let's get to that later.

Next is a beautiful little vignette between two older gentlemen named Noah Simon and Raymond Shoemaker. They talk about going to parties and what kinds of questions people ask each other at parties and man I hope they used a lot of garlic in the marinade and what kind of sausage do you think it is because I like pork sausage the most and oh my god Geoff Button is here.

Geoff Button is talking to a person named Dereck Garner. Dereck Garner is a dude that your mom tried to steal away if you are a girl, or a guy that you experimented with in college if you are a guy because he really gets it you know?

He never wears a shirt and he's always trippin' on ecstacy and giving you milk. Geoff Button wanted to fuck him, and so will you. Nothing is more attractive than knit caps and bare chests on the same guy at the same time. Dereck Garner is the Mayor of Bonerdelphia.

Well, it was Geoff Button's turn to give me a monologue. It was about how he feels dead inside and all he does is wag his head at people and he will gladly bang a dude just to feel alive again because his soul is crying and I wonder if lemonade goes good with that style of mushrooms and sausage and what if I really like it and want some more but they are sold out and the doorbell rings again and then everyone on the planet who isn't in the audience walks in.

It is magical.

Dudes, I see a lot of plays and there are some moments that you just can't beat, and this has that.

You can tell no one in the cast is sleeping together, because they all dance like they want to see each other naked, but are too shy to ask.

For example, if Nick Mikula would just ask Brianna De Giulio to get naked, you know she would. That isn't here nor there, though.

What is here and there is Geoff Button crowd surfing around the room, and holy Lord is it cool.

Rich Cotovsky got shot, too. I think that was just in the show I saw though, because it was so believable, I am pretty sure, he really got shot. Probably by one of the Jenn Santanellos out there.

Mob justice takes over and everyone has a box of something and the gun is somewhere in the fridge or whatever and I wonder if my sausage salad is in there too.

Get back to the dancing, you beautiful children!

It was not to be though, we talked some more about WalMart and right when things were about to maybe turn into an orgy, somebody invited a black guy. Everyone eats pizza!

Molly Reynolds ate some. Marika Englehardt ate some. You know who didn't?

Have you ever been to a party where there WASN'T a creepy guy in the bathroom bleeding everywhere and breaking up with his girlfriend?

Me niether. At this party, it was none other than Michael Dice Jr., gettin' weird on some Santanello about...I don't know, but that didn't matter, because not everything is for us to know all the time. Plus, the bathroom moves around the house, so...

Listen, I have much more to say about this play, but let's use this as a jumping off point for conversations about Cherrywood, Geoff Button, and Gene's Sausage Shoppe.

Let's talk more about this later. If you are looking for a pull quote though, let's just say...


Fuck You, WalMart!!!