"F--- You, I Love You, Bye: The Rahm Emanuel Story"
There are plenty of jokes that land solidly in this good-natured, necessarily profanity-laden skewering of Chicago's current mayor, which flashes forward to the year 2081 when visitors to the Museum of Science and Industry are treated to an interactive holographic Rahm Emanuel exhibit.
A semi-thorough biographical look at the man who stepped into Daley's shoes, the show has a holographic Rahm (Tim McKendrick, who may lack Emanuel's tough charisma but makes up for it with a loose sense of abandon) take us back through the key signposts that would turn him into the man who would become the city's 55th mayor.
His home life as a boy is rendered as a Borscht Belt-inflected game show "where the (Emanuel) brothers compete for their mother's love — and the last piece of challah!"
"I thought Emanuels ate their young," goes one of the funnier lines of the night, a worthy nod to the mayor's brother, the take-no-prisoners Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel. But some of the funniest lines are the simplest: "Look at it!" Emanuel demands, holding up his hand with the truncated digit.
Individually, the quips in Marc Warzecha and Andy Cobb's script work best when they come fast and furious (including a terrific throw-away Larry Summers gag). But what's missing is a larger, more cohesively satiric characterization. "Yeah, you're done, I'm next," he says to Daley, who responds: "Be good to Chicago, she's a pretty little gal — for a whore!" — an exchange that says worlds about Daley's reign as mayor. The show could use more of that kind of thing when it comes to Emanuel.
This was something Second City did quite well a few years back with "Rod Blagojevich Superstar," which offered a plainly fictional and comedic (if persuasive) interpretation of how the former governor actually viewed himself.
Director Paul Turner's production at the Annoyance, however, doesn't quite rise to that level. Emanuel isn't a fully fledged character here, so much as a series of traits — the "fun, personable leader" on one end of the spectrum, versus the "rascal, angry Rahm taking up space just because he can" on the other. If these are indeed two sides of the same coin, and I think you could make the argument that they are, Warzecha and Cobb never quite drill down far enough to suggest what this guy's inner life looks like. He's power-hungry, yes. But what is driving him beyond, you know, nabbing the last piece of metaphorical challah?
The show's writers come closest when Emanuel informs those around him that 'I say 'f----' when in fact I mean 'love.'" That's an inspired observation and no doubt half-true in some twisted sort of way.
Through Nov. 26 at the Annoyance Theater, 4820 N. Broadway; tickets are $20 at 773-561-4665 or annoyanceproductions.com
First performed in 1867, "Brand" was one of the earliest of Henrik Ibsen's plays to achieve critical acclaim. It is rarely staged today and it's no wonder why; the original version is apparently more than six hours long. Even at just over two, Red Tape Theatre's production is a slog.
As insightful as Ibsen could be, he also wrote plays that are absolutely bonkers or just inexplicable. (Playwright Greg Allen got plenty of mileage from this fact six years ago with the Neo-Futurists' "The Last Two Minutes of The Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen.") But director Max Truax's plodding, shadows-and-fog, self-serious approach to this unwieldy material never makes a case for itself.
The story follows a preacher whose claim to spiritual superiority renders him incapable of tolerating human imperfections. Written in a stilted, distancing verse as harsh and unforgiving as the glacier it's set on, Truax's static blocking does nothing to liven up this impenetrable translation.
Through Oct. 29 at Red Tape Theatre, 621 W. Belmont Ave.; tickets are $25 at redtapetheatre.orgCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun