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Spent MLK evening at Southern Efficiency to see my friends at We Happy Few do their site-specific Poe piece A Midnight Dreary. Three stories told and acted by three Poes (Raven, Kerry, and Jon), strung together with some readings from his letters and "move to the next room" transitions signalled by The Bells. Very playful readings with a lot of delight in the source material. Plus the partnership with Southern Efficiency meant drink pairings! Each story was accompanied by a cocktail, all involving amontillado because we are all nerds. They pulled us through all three bars, so that of course Montresor ends up trapped inside Mockingbird Hill at the end of Cask of Amontillado (Mockingbird Hill being the sherry bar).

And then they were open for about an hour after for a final round of drinks and hanging out, which was great. Finally had a proper conversation with Josh Adams and really enjoyed hanging out and talking shop. There are frequent times I wonder if I'm actually part of all this or if they are just nice people who tolerate me, but no, these are my actual friends. We Happy Few and Faction of Fools are my actual friends.

Wednesday managed to slide in for final week of Charm at Mosaic. Script is deliberately twee "teacher changes life of oppressed students" style, and the thread of change isn't really upheld well, but the twist on it is that the teacher is not a saviour outsider: it's based on the work Gloria Allen, a transgender woman, did for several years at the Center on Halstead, Chicago's storied LGBT services center. The characters are composites of a number of the wide variety of students who attended her etiquette classes over the years. The characters are all highly vibrant personalities that are the real focus of the show, IMO, with particularly strong performances from Justin Weaks (who also killed in The Christians earlier this season at Theater J) and Nyla Rose, and I'm curious to see how Samy el-Nouri develops as well. This is a hard one to cast because the central authoritative character is 60-something trans woman, who needs to have enough craft to command the stage and enough stamina to do it six shows a week, and a number of other characters are trans but at least have less stage time as students. And without casting trans actors, no one's going to build the experience to do that at the level Mosaic demands. Early in rehearsals, they switched out casting so that the trans understudy took over as the lead and the originally-cast actor took on an assistant director role, so I deliberately waited until later in the run so B'Ellana Duquesne could get more into the rhythm of a run like this. And she was more than fine, would see her again in things, but I can also see how Kenyatta Rogers would have had a stronger audition. Being in its second season but coming out of the gate insisting on continuing the exact same level of quality Ari had in his decades building Theater J, Mosaic has a harder time than either a non-Equity company where people are starting their careers or a solid professional institution like Theater J where the history allows some stretches in programming an casting. I feel them on the representation arguments because their future in production overall is on the line, too. It worked out in all particulars, but I can't blame them for edging safe in initial lead casting (the ensemble of students always had two trans actors, and Duquesne was originally cast as understudy to help her develop more experience through the rehearsal process). But it worked out. I enjoyed my evening.


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Mme Bahorel

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