If you’re looking for a spot of fun to end your week off right, look no further than Live! On Elgin now hosting the “theatre-y” double bill GRL PWR. Though you only have one more night (yes, that’s tonight) to catch Toasted Theatre Company’s Chocolate Cake and the musical comedy duo Rhythm & Burgundy, the tickets are $18 (food and drink are reasonably priced too) and totally worth it. The atmosphere of Live! (if you’ve never been) is super relaxed making for a great spot to kick back with a couple of friends and a couple of brews and just enjoy yourself for the evening.
First up, we have Chocolate Cake written and performed by Lauren Cauchy and Amanda Logan and directed by the talented Madeleine Boyes-Manseau. The story revolves around sisters Marsha and Marty who, after their mom’s passing, find comfort in the teachings of Martha Stewart. They eventually take on a YouTube channel and amass a bit of a following; however, the ethics of following Stewart’s famed recipes to the ‘t’ (in Marsha’s mind a proven ‘recipe for success’) versus the value in following your own palette and instincts serves to drive the sisters apart and the play culminates with a greatly unexpected twist ending.
Admittedly, I will say that there are some glaring dramaturgical issues and fine details (like using a pie plate as a cake pan) that still need to be worked out, but overall I think this piece has a lot of substance. Cauchy and Logan play off each other really nicely and last night they showed their chops during a pretty significant, or rather apparent, technical malfunction where both performers kept things cool as cucumbers and went on with the show like professionals (werk!). I think the analysis of Martha Stewart’s celebrity is particularly thought-provoking especially given her popularity rise during her time in prison. To put it bluntly, Stewart did hard time in 2004, is a convicted felon, and now she has a show with Snoop Dogg. Paula Deen said the “N-word” in 2013 and arguably still hasn’t bounced back from that (and, I mean, that’s probably for the best). If there’s one thing Chocolate Cake will convince you of, it’s that Martha Stewart is one bad ass lady who crushed traditional ways to achieving success and, on a deeper level, who challenged stereotypes about how women should seek out “perfection” in order to be successful.
All in all, I could see this show doing well at the Fringe where the artists would have the space and more performances to really work through all the kinks. It’s a clever piece that certainly speaks to the millennial generation and can also be seen through a feminist lens without ever coming across as too aggressive (whatever that even means). Chocolate Cake is sweet, yet dark…just like its namesake!
Next, Allison Harris and Kristine Shadid take the stage as Rhythm & Burgundy and their incredible set was more than enough to turn me into a fangirl. Presenting a musical anthology, their material is fresh and hilarious, speaking to the current generation with songs like “Lucy” where two older sisters exact revenge on their younger sibling by ‘catfishing’ her online. They also possess a keen sense of awareness as in the song “Prison is Going to be Like ‘Orange is the New Black’” where they satirize the romanticized perspective of women’s prisons in the popular Netflix series. And just to keep things spicy, they’ve thrown in some tunes that are more on the ridiculous side including a laugh-out-loud ballad about Voldemort’s inability to find people to play basketball with.
This duo has excellent stage presence and their use of stage props are a great addition to the pseudo-open mic vibe they’ve got going on. Stylistically speaking, there’s definitely a Tenacious D flavour but Rhythm & Burgundy is unique in its perspective on suburbia and feels much more grassroots. Moreover this female driven comedy displays a sense of maturity in that it doesn’t rely on cheap laughs. The song about the overbearing mothers, for instance, works on a deeper level than just the surface comedy of the stereotypes of angst-ridden teenager and nosy mom. The scene is ultimately funny because when the teen finally does open up to her mom (after about 3 or 4 verses of prodding) about her puberty woes, her mom can’t actually relate or help her. It also works on a satirical level as a comment on the current state of our sex ed. ciriculum which, up until very recently, was taught abysmally to generations of children resulting in widespread reluctance and/or an inability to discuss topics surrounding sex and reproduction.
It’s so nice seeing work on stage that’s written, performed, and composed by women (not to mention directed by the NOC’s very own past contributor Meaghan Flaherty!) and GRL PWR is the perfect avenue for it. Harris and Shadid present themselves as being equally talented performers (both played the guitar and have lovely, yet distinct, singing voices) and they vibe together beautifully on stage, guaranteeing the audience a good time. My only question for this company is: do they have a CD/MP3/Mixtape (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) and where can I buy one?
Despite the short run, I definitely recommend checking out GRL PWR. It’s offering up a lot of fun in a relaxed and laid back environment and, rumor has it, there might even be complimentary chocolate cake to be had! Don’t miss out on Chocolate Cake presented by Toasted Theatre Company and Rhythm & Burgundy, playing tonight at 8pm (P.S. the marquee at LIVE! says 7:15pm, but the shows start at 8pm)!
Show and venue info can be found here.