As a long-ago lapsed Catholic, this Spoletobuzz blogger should have known that anything with the word “Mass” in its title would have the same effect on him as an intravenous double-shot of NyQuil, especially considering the schedule he’s been keeping lately. You just don’t forget that kind of conditioning. And so it was. As much as I wanted to exult in the music of Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor last night, I was in sleepyland within minutes of plopping into my seat in the darkened back of the Gaillard. I may have remained there to this moment had it not been for soprano Ellie Dehn, who hit a high note — aimed directly at me, I suspect — and startled me awake, whereupon I found a river of drool the size of the Rhine leaking out of my face and into my lap. This I took to be my cue to slink out, confident that music critic Lindsay Koob was somewhere nearby, thrilling to the sounds of the Kyrie Eleison.
It was just as well, since I’d hoped to catch a performance from Chicago’s Improvised Shakespeare Company at Theatre 99 at 9 pm. So 30 minutes and one bracing double mochaccino later, I found myself above the Bicycle Shoppe on Meeting Street watching Blain Swen, Thomas Middleditch, and Ross Bryant play a dozen or so characters in an completely improvised Elizabethan play called South Korea Has Soul (don’t look at me — another audience member came up with the title).
As you might imagine, South Korea Has Soul opened with an exposition-filled soliloquy from a young man — the spindly son of a powerful Duke — who’s kneeling in prayer, sharing with God his concerns over leaving his childhood home at the local monastery and returning to his birthright and home. “I know you know all this already, God,” Bryant deadpanned. “I’m just saying.”
What followed was a mind-blowing 50-minute play about the effeminate young nobleman’s return to his house; his brutish, self-adoring father the Duke; his devoted, downtrodden mother who’s “like a flower whose petals are wilting,” a fraternal order of manly-men called The Elkish Society and a pair of Asian agents who scheme to corrupt England by infiltrating the Society; the Duke’s noble half-brother, now his servant and in love with his wife; and several diamond-studded codpieces — all of it delivered convincingly in the language of Shakespeare, often in iambic pentameter and rhymed couplets and sewn up neatly at the end. It was one of the funniest, most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
You have two more chances to see the Improvised Shakespeare Company create a play before they return to Chicago’s ImprovOlympic theatre. You better act quick. Indeed, if thou dost not avail thyself of this chance most rare, thou art pigeon-liver’d and lack gall.
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