By: Sandi Durell
TUTA Theatre Chicago’s current production at 59e59 Theaters, written by Jean-Luc Lagarce, translated by Joseph Long and directed by Zeljko Djukic, is the story of a fading artiste and his two stage sidekicks as they revive their reminiscences of days of old, when they played the music halls as drag artistes – – tossed and turned, abused and used trying to make a buck.
Jeffrey Binder stars as The Artiste, woefully and sadly living in the past when ‘she’ would enter on stage – ah, the hell of being a performer, ah, the electricity – with her two boys (Michael Doonan and Darren Hill) sometimes to applause, other times to boos of those smirking suburbanites, especially in Beaver Lick, Kentucky! Tales and stories prevail for 80 minutes of the pain, suffering and joys of such things as the intricacies and importance of the stool on which she would sit – it had to spin and be the right height – she couldn’t look like a ‘cow on a milking stool,’
With little other than a long curtain attached to a rod hanging from the ceiling in small Theater C, a trunk and a stool, the two sidekicks (in carny-looking costumes & set design by Natasha Djukic) explain their roles working with The Artiste, in song, in dance, with comic overtones, sometimes as lovers, occasionally jealous, as the three pour out their sensitivities and vulnerabilities.
With a spotlight (lighting by Keith Parham) that highlights the quick-turn costume change and make up of The Artiste into female dress, replete with feathers and boas, one can’t but think of how Norma Desmond pleaded to the camera “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
The three are talented and do get our attention for parts of the performance, but it seemed evident that Binder’s interaction with people in the audience made for some discomfort and should be reexamined by the director.
*Photos: Anthony La Penna
“Music Hall” continues thru April 12th. www.59e59.org Tickets: 212 279-4200