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Comedy Fri Nov 16 2012
For the past few months I've been getting together my graduate school applications, because a) I'm a masochist and b) I'm a masochist. Most of the application deadlines are December 15, but being a fierce Capricorn, I wanted to get them in a month early. I've barely seen any light other than my computer screen and this whole process has been a constant flow of over-analyzing myself into self-hate (just kidding, kind of).
Last Friday I took a break from having panic attacks over my GRE scores to check out the new Chemically Imbalanced show To Thine Own Self Be Skewed. Part of CIC's Solo Series, To Thine Own Self is made up of two solo shows: "This is Me, This is You," by Patrick Rowland, and "Bede" by Brianna Baker.
This is Me, This is You
Patrick Rowland -- of Barack All Night -- plays a mix of characters that he's observed while living in Chicago. That's what good comedians do, they observe, and Rowland runs through a mix of characters that are not only hilarious but real. One of my favorite characters is a grade-school boy who has to get in front of the class and read his essay about how he spent his summer vacation -- mostly watching cable (I won't spoil the punch line but it's really clever). He knows how to keep a show moving and he makes the character-transitions high-energy. In another scene he plays a father whose son has just caught his parents "practicing baby-making." For most Americans, this topic is a cringe-inducing fear and Rowland manages to make it not-so-vomit-y.
There is a really fun section of the show where Rowland brings out a box of props and has audience members pick out a couple items for him to wear and improvise a character. He is a talented improviser, and in this part of the night we really get to see him do what he does.
"This is Me, This is You" ends on a high note -- literally. He sings a very catchy song and while I'm sure most of the audience had never heard it, by the end, we were all singing about our energy or something.
Solo shows are a hot-thing in Chicago, and Rowland uses his unique observations to really stand out.
OK, so I'm just going to get right to the point: "Bede" is good, like -- and I'm only supposed to curse when absolutely necessary -- really fucking good. "Bede" is Baker's autobiographical look at her gender-nonconforming childhood. I think some people would say "Bede" is about an extreme tomboy but I think it's a little more complicated but also simpler. I know my last statement seems counterintuitive, but the way Baker contextualizes her story is so rich and personal that only she can explain it.
The show starts off in a child psychiatry session where Baker plays her mom. She then goes through a whole cast of characters -- most of them family, one her first real boyfriend -- each funnier than the last. My hands down favorite part of the show is when Baker plays her "eccentric" white grandmother -- I could watch her play this character for a whole show and still want to see more of it. The characters are all talking about Bede --- the name Brianna went by as a child -- and how "boyish" she was. The way they talk about Bede is super effective, because we come to understand that the people around her had more of a problem with the way she was presenting herself than she did.
Baker is so smart in the way she uses simple but powerful visuals -- she timelines her grade-school pictures. The visual is important because, today, Baker is stunning. I had seen her perform a few times, and she always somehow manages to crush it while still looking put-together. Now, I, being a neurotic mess, am jealous of put-together people. It's like, oh, look, that person is put-together, and I can't even remember where I left my rent check for all the monies I own. Hearing Baker talk about her childhood and actually seeing her pictures really made me think about other peoples' stories and how they got to the point they're at today (#DEEP).
"Bede" is the type of comedy everyone in Chicago should see -- it's smart, thoughtful, and really fucking funny.
I had so much fun at To Thine Own Self Be Skewed that I'm going to try and celebrate my application submissions (if I ever finish) by going back to see it again later this month. The show is playing Friday nights in November at 8pm. Tickets are $10. Chemically Imbalanced Theater is located at 1422 W. Irving Park Rd..
Top photo courtesy of Chemically Imbalanced Comedy. Photos of Brianna courtesy of Carol Bontekoe of Colorful Cow Photography.