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The Ruffians Light up the stage in 'Burning Bluebeard' Theatre Wit

Burning Bluebeard, Theatre


Commedia Del Arte comes to life onstage, performed by the Ruffians, an amazing theatre collective who brings to Chicago audiences, the emotional revival of "Burning Bluebeard," the original matinee performance during the tragic fire at the Iroquois Theatre, downtown Chicago, on December 30, 1903. Theatre Wit allows for a larger space, with colorful acrobatics, choreography and physical acting. In a panel following the show I attended, the entire cast shared some of their experiences as a cohesive, talented ensemble. "Our abilities have gotten stronger...we've developed both in character and in a physical sense." Playwright Jay Torrence shared that "writing happens in the process of rehearsing." He did a ton of research on this horrific tragedy in Chicago theatre history, and miraculously created a show with magic, clowns, humor and joy. Eddie Foy, the star of the era, vaudeville comedian extraordinaire, impeccably played by Ryan Walters, was considered the heroic figure of the tragedy. He went on to pursue comedy, as the fire's few survivors praised and loved him. The mimes in Burning Bluebeard work from a pure physical sense, revealing how the the body is one's expressive language, a quiet yet strong presence. The show stopping magical fire dance also came from improvisation, a precise art form. The show is a true medieval entertainment extravaganza, with pantomimes performed by courtesans, clowns, and fairie queens. The entire cast is full of energy and verve, as they sensitively pay homage to this tragic event. Reminiscent of NYC's historic Triangle Fire, the fire at the Iroquois Theatre, is a tragic case, where people, mostly children, were in the midst of a performance, as the theatre's doors sealed shut. The show brought to mind last year's tragedy at Newtown, with innocent children's lives jeopardized and lost. Children are our most important commodity we have in life; there is not a worse tragedy than loss of children. "Burning Bluebeard" holds a poignant message, especially at the holiday season and start of the new year, when family is accented and relationships are near and dear.

"Burning Bluebeard" Theatre Wit 1229 W. Belmont

Through Jan. 5th

(773) 975-8150