WHAT: The La Ronde Project (La Ronde, The Blue Room, Fucking Men)
WHEN: March 10 – April 14, 2013 (Schedule)
WHERE: Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont)
RUNTIME: Approximately 2 hours per show
WHO: Street Tempo Theatre
PRICE: $28 per play, or $60 for all three
OUR RATING: Do It!
Storefront City experienced a whirlwind day of theatre with Street Tempo Theatre’s La Ronde Project, a new three-play repertory presenting Arthur Schnitzler’s controversial 1903 erotic drama (La Ronde) along with other pieces it inspired: The Blue Room by David Hare and Fucking Men by Joe DiPietro. The repertory is also accompanied by an Improvised Musical Le Ronde that we unfortunately were unable to catch, but judging by director John Hildreth’s Second City credentials is sure to be hilarious. Controversial, witty and totally sexual, The La Ronde Project is sure to raise eyebrows.
La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler (script available here)
Arthur Schnitzler’s dizzyingly erotic play, first privately published in German in 1900 (he thought the subject matter would cause uproar – it wasn’t premiered until 1920) is a commentary on both sexual morals and class struggle at the turn of the 20th century. A set of ten dialogues, before and after sexual encounters, the play toys with idea of sexuality being an equalizer, as well as a method of control, carefully buried beneath the pomp of lovely Vienna.
With transitions that allow for but one character to progress in the circle of sex (the “ronde” itself), director Tim Curtis moves us between the worlds of soldiers and prostitutes, maids and masters, as well as actresses and aristocrats, for good measure. The whole scope of Viennese society is captured in vivid detail, especially through the use of period set pieces, as well as costumes from the talented Laura Wilson.
Ultimately, some of the more subtle aspects might be lost in the century that has passed since Schnitzler penned this promiscuous little piece, but it remains nonetheless a compelling example of expert storytelling.
The Blue Room by David Hare (script available here)
Updated for the modern day, The Blue Room tells the same scandalous tales as La Ronde, but with the astounding directorial touch of Brian Posen and Cody Spellman, you are truly watching a unique piece of theatre outstandingly different from its predecessor. This production also focuses on the difference between the sexes and their (and our) perception of sexual excitement, lust and libido in a modern world that is not always what it seems.
The cast is complete with characters from the 1990s (a cab driver, au pier, and politician put in an appearance). Although we are led through similar scenes as the original, one feels the raw energy more so, as well as the disturbing nature of gender relations that still seems to cling to society, even after one hundred years of progress. The actors are on top form from beginning to end and every second in between, even acting like fiends during transitions and when ‘off-stage.’ Remarkable in both its staging and sensitivity, the exemplary direction of The Blue Room makes it a pleasure to watch.
Fucking Men by Joe DiPietro
This very recent play (premiered 2009) deals with La Ronde’s subject matter, but placing the story entirely within the framework of the ups and downs of gay male life in the United States. By examining relationships, lust and the need to connect in a world which still does not fully accept homosexuality, DiPietro creates a work that shows this and more through powerful dialogue, humor and dramatic poise.
The play knits together a portrait of life between the sheets and within a world that has literal dangerous consequences, and which is complete with arguments for and against monogamy, extreme secrecy and the longing to be fully liberated from oppressive circumstances. Directed by Scott Olsen with particularly strong and provocative staging, and with impressive character acting from Jack Bourgeois (Sammy) and well-rounded performances from Scott Olson (Director/Donald), Street Tempo offers a fierce take on this contemporary work.
Final Thoughts: Once again, quality work has been presented at Stage 773, proving that this venue is perhaps the best in the city for both fringe and mainstream theatre that is readily accessible to everyone. With The La Ronde Project, Street Tempo continues to showcase work that has never, or rarely, been seen in Chicago and puts a fresh spin on old classics. We encourage you to see at least one of these daring and completely amourous productions, as it will give you a taste of the massive scope of this huge project. If you do want to see them all, there is a discount on bulk tickets, so make sure you ask about it at the box office or online.