The art of the live storytelling monologue -- comic, dramatic, or otherwise -- has a long and mostly forgotten tradition: one of Ruth Draper, Anna Russell, Robert Benchley, and long before in Vaudeville. It survives in various permutations of contemporary stand-up. The basic and unembellished version recently received a lively resuscitation with Boo(zy) at the DR2 Theater in two pre-Halloween (the "boo" of the title) performances (October 29 and 30).
The youthful and bright-spirited performance consisted of five stories written by Chicago writers Margot Bordelon, Kim Morris, Bobby Biedrzycki, Molly Each, and Doug Whippo, and spoken by five fine young New York actors.
The evening was inspired by the work of the 2nd Story of Chicago group, which presents itself as "a hybrid performance event combining storytelling, wine and music" as its website says. Each story in Boo(zy) commences with an actor walking on stage with a particular drink in hand -- one chosen by each of the five writers to complement the story. Placing the drink on a nearby table, the actor proceeds to tell a story. Each tale is inventively punctuated by music and sounds from guitarist/sound designer Ryan Blotnick live on stage.
The stories are wonderfully written and all the actors presenting them expertly rise to the challenge of holding one's attention for a quarter-of-an-hour-plus with an easy grace. Director Jordana Kritzer certainly knows how to bring out the best in her troupe.
The evening opens with Kryptonite, written by Bordelon and performed by Stephanie Bratnick. She plops down her Bloody-Cranberry Vodka and proceeds to tell an elated story of attaining her erotic ideal, and its progression to something far less than elevating. This is a universal story of happy anticipations ending with disappointment. Ms. Bratnick's acting is excellent and powerful, and one can’t help feeling sorry along with her.
Next is The Line, written by Morris and told by Lena Hart. She enters with her Goose Bump-Gin & Tonic in hand and unfolds a tale of her passion for long-distance bicycle racing. The story, which put me on the edge of my seat, ends on a sad and poignant note, and not because she does not win. Ms. Hart is beautiful and portrays her character with breathtaking depth and precision.
After a brief intermission, actor Nathan Kaufman enters taking a swig from his Jack-o-Lantern & Coke, and rolls out Wanted Dead or Alive (by Biedryzki), which ends with a harrowing bartending experience while working his way through college. Mr. Kaufman's acting takes one from the prosaic to the exalted.
Kelly Warne (pictured above) follows, sipping her Sour-Apple Monster-Tini and performing Amsterdam (by Each), the story of a first crush while hanging out with other student travelers in Amsterdam’s red-light district. Ms. Warne's natural comedic style brings up images of what Alice Ghostly (the hilariously incompetent witch on TV's Bewitched) was like when she was in her twenties on Broadway in New Faces of 1952 singing "The Boston Beguine" (for the really curious, it is viewable on YouTube).
The evening concludes with Whippo's The Hawk, told by James Ryan Caldwell holding a solid brewski. This story concerns a trivial event, a large snowball that hits his car, which "snowballs" into revelations of what it means to be relatively young and getting "old" -- that is, thirty-five -- halfway into one's life, as he warily calls it. Mr. Caldwell delivers a fine and affecting performance.
Boo(zy) was an awesome evening of theater. I look forward to what each of the writers -- and each of the actors -- will do in the future. I am also inspired to see future productions by Bohemian Archaeology Productions, founded by Kritzer. - Jay Reisberg
Mr. Reisberg is a UCLA film school grad, professional singer, comedian, assistant to the founder of New York's Love Street Theatre and bon vivant at large.