Tag Archives: Prop Thtr

See “Madman” Now!

My brilliant friend Rush Pearson is appearing for just one more week in his one-man show “Diary of a Madman” at The Prop Theatre in Chicago. If you live anywhere near the Chicagoland area — don’t miss it. It’s a compelling, entertaining, very funny show performed by a one-of-a-kind talent.

I’ve known Rush Pearson for 35 years. I’ve written, improvised, rocked and acted onstage with him many, many times. But “Diary of a Madman” just might be Rush’s finest theatrical moment. It is not to be missed.

Get your tickets now at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/227520

But don’t take my word for it. Though I rarely devote my blog posts to the words of others — I urge you to read Neil Steinberg’s review of Rush’s show in The Chicago Sun Times…

Neil Steinberg

Gogol’s Madman Challenges Us All


Chicago Sun Times February 28, 2012

Madness is a universal human condition. Wherever there are people, across the world and throughout history, there are also crazy people, though we don’t like to think about it. Hard enough to notice the insane right here, wandering the streets of Chicago, never mind trying to focus our attention on disturbed beggars in India, or to wonder about the deranged in 1725, lurching about London, their stockings around their ankles, their wigs askew.

Which is what makes “Diary of a Madman” such a treasure, because Nikolai Gogol wrote it in 1835, and it not only is a near-clinical rendition of gathering mental illness — the ballooning self-regard, the fading of reality, the bursts of anger then sudden calm. But it is madness in Czarist Russia almost 200 years ago, one preoccupied with rank, servants, quills, boots and coaches.

Saturday night I saw the one-man show of “Diary” performed by Rush Pearson at the Prop Theatre on Elston Avenue, and it is a disturbing delight. Anyone who knows Rush — and I met him 30 years ago when we were at Northwestern — will joke that his playing Gogol’s unhinged bureaucrat is type-casting. He wasn’t just an actor, but an edgy no-limits wildman, one of those permanent students lingering years after graduation, forgetting to become an adult. Longhaired and big-bearded at a time when people weren’t, particularly people at NU, he lived on cadged food and the sofas of friends, who valued his energy and inherent good humor, the twinkle behind the manic behavior.

He was the star of the Practical Theatre Company, acting in hysterically funny comic reviews along with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Kroeger, Brad Hall and Paul Barrosse. He also worked at Renaissance fairs, as a mud eater, and when producers from “Saturday Night Live” famously swept into Chicago to raid Practical, hiring Louis-Dreyfus and three others, Rush, the funniest of them all, was off in Texas, eating mud.

That became his career. His Sturdy Beggars are a fixture every summer at the Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Wis., a freewheeling three-man vaudeville performed in a pit of mud, a mix of surprisingly witty wordplay and pratfalls in oozing filth.

Needless to say, I leapt to see Rush perform Gogol. Not a common impulse, apparently — there were 15 others in the audience the night I saw him (and two were other Steinbergs, plus comic Aaron Freeman and his daughter Artemis). The week before, Rush performed for three people one night. That’s tragic itself.

The show is a 90-minute exploration of one man’s sad descent from being Poprishchin, a minor Russian clerk, beset by humiliations and in love above his rank, to Ferdinand the Eighth, King of Spain, in his own mind, desperately trying to maintain royal dignity in a lunatic asylum.

Pearson prowls the room, and a key pleasure of the show is watching his face collapse from beaming, glittery-eyed triumph, marveling at the brilliance of his own observations, into an elderly bewilderment and despair, his mouth a scowl, his eyes blank.

Some people don’t want to be challenged by drama — they want theater to be something pleasant happening on a stage 30 yards away. They do not want a sweaty, bearded maniac’s contorted face raving a foot from theirs. This play is not for them. I loved it.

To me, while we are not all mad, we share the madman’s dilemma. “Why am I clerk?” he cries. “On what grounds? For what reason should I be a clerk?” And then a terrible solution presents itself. “Perhaps I’m not a clerk . . .”

There is no profundity in saying the world has gone mad — it was a cliche centuries ago (“Mad world!” Shakespeare writes.) But I couldn’t help recognize in the twisted thinking of Poprishchin — the vanity, the dismissal of others, the imaginary threats, preferring to see a reality where dogs write letters rather than accept life as it is — the contours of our troubled political moment, where too many Americans embrace any conspiracy, cling to any delusion, rather than tolerate a world where they are not king.

The show runs weekends at Prop Theatre, 3502 N. Elston, until March 25. There’s a first-rate Irish place, Chief O’Neill’s Pub, almost directly across the street, and you might want to work that into your plans, too.

Have you ordered your tickets yet! Get them at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/227520


Filed under Art, Comedy, Truth

Rockme for the Holidays!

The Practical Theatre Company’s hard rocking house band — Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation — are coming to Chicago to play two fabulous, frenzied dance parties this holiday season.

Riffmaster Peter Van Wagner & The Rockmes are rocking the wrap party for The Vic & Paul Show at Mayne Stage on December 30th.  There’s no charge for those who buy a ticket to see The Vic & Paul Show that night – and there’s just a $10 cover charge if you show up after the show for the rock & roll dance party with the band at 10:30 pm.

It’ll be a rocking closing night bash to remember!

The next night, Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation will be playing a New Year’s Eve rock & roll celebration at The Prop Theatre.

There might be a cheap cover charge, we might pass the hat – but either way, it’ll be the most cost-effective way to rock in the New Year that you can possibly imagine.  If you truly love rock and roll, and you want to dance ‘til you drop – there can be no better way to ring in the New Year.

Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation.

Two great gigs in two nights.

A rock & roll marathon you’ll never forget.

Be there – or be square.


Filed under Art, Music

Sweet Home Chicago!

Come on,
Baby, don’t you wanna go home
Come on,
Baby, don’t you wanna go home
Back from the land of California
To my sweet home, Chicago.

The Vic & Paul Show came from California to sweet home Chicago – and it was good: a magical week of fun, friends, comedy & camaraderie.

Big thanks to Scott Vehill and Stefan Brun of The Prop Theatre for hosting us in their space – and to all of our Chicago friends (and all you out-of-towners) who made the trip to North Elston to share the fun with us.

Thanks especially to Tony Adler of The Chicago Reader whose fabulous article in the June 9th issue assured us of a successful run. (Click on the picture.)

Thanks, too, to Alex Baumgardner, who talked to me for this article in NewCity Stage. (Click on the graphic.)

Given the enthusiastic response to our limited Prop Theatre engagement, we’re planning a return to Chicago this December. This might be the year for comedy-loving Chicagoans to celebrate the holidays with The Vic & Paul Show.

Stay tuned for further details.

Victoria, Steve, and I would just like to say, “Thank you – and we love you” to everyone who showed up and laughed with us at The Prop last week.

More fun is on the way

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation, Music

Countdown to Chicago…

As of today, there are less than two weeks before The Vic & Paul Show opens in Chicago for a one-week engagement, June 9-12, at the Prop Theatre.

This past Sunday morning, May 29th, Vic and Steve Rashid and I had a great time on Rick Kogan’s WGN Radio show, The Sunday Papers. Journalist, author, and radio raconteur, Rick Kogan is a Chicago institution. He covered most of our big moments with The Practical Theatre for The Chicago Sun-Times and The Chicago Tribune back in the 80’s – and he was kind enough to invite us on The Sunday Papers to talk about The Vic & Paul Show. You can check out the podcast by clicking on this link: Vic & Paul on WGN

For tickets to The Vic & Paul Show go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/169351


Filed under Art, Comedy

The Practical Theatre Co. Returns to Chicago!

Just one month remains before The Practical Theatre Co. comes back to Chicago for a special one-week engagement at The Prop Theatre from June 9-12.

For Reservations go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/169351

After a two-decade absence from the Chicago stage, Paul Barrosse and Victoria Zielinski — veterans of The Practical Theatre’s hit comedy revues in the 1980’s — are bringing their original two-person improv comedy revue “The Vic & Paul Show” to The Prop Theatre, located at 3502 North Elston Avenue. (Just a few bocks East off the Addison Street exit on the 90/94.)

“The Vic & Paul Show” is “An Evening of Comedy, Music, Marriage & Martinis” featuring sophisticated comedy sketches and musical numbers in an intimate theatrical setting. It’s somewhere between Nick & Nora and Nichols & May (if those famous couples were over-50 parents with grown-up kids).

Vic & Paul are joined at The Prop by their longtime PTC musical director and Chicago area Emmy-winner, Steve Rashid. Chicago native Shelly Goldstein directed the show.

There will be one preview performance on Thursday, June 9th at 8:00 pm. (Tickets $10.) Shows are Friday June 10th at 8:00 pm ($20), Saturday June 11th at 8:00 pm ($20), Sunday, June 12th at 2:00 pm ($15) and at 7:00 pm ($20).

For Reservations go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/169351

Cash & checks only at the door. The Prop’s phone number is 773 539 7838.

Note: Paul & Victoria will also appear on Saturday, May 21st at The Chicago Theatre Symposium, to make a presentation on the history of The Practical Theatre. The presentation will be made between 11:15 AM – 12:30 PM in Room 801C at Columbia College Film Row Center, 1104 South Wabash, 8th Floor.

Vic & Paul are also scheduled to appear on Rick Kogan’s popular WGN radio, The Sunday Papers with Rick Koganon Sunday, May 29th at 8:00 AM.

It’s going to be great fun to reconnect with the wonderful city of Chicago!


Filed under Art, Comedy

A May Day Reminder!

It’s May Day! And that means that “The Vic & Paul Show” will be coming to Chicago in a little more than a month.

Get your tickets now!

For reservations, go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/169351

After a 22-year absence from the Chicago area stage, Paul Barrosse and Victoria Zielinski, both veterans of The Practical Theatre’s hit comedy revues in the 1980’s, will perform in “The Vic & Paul Show”, an original two-person comedy revue with music that will play June 9-12 at The Prop Theatre.

It’s “An Evening of Comedy, Music, Marriage & Martinis” — a special week of grown-up fun somewhere between Nick & Nora and Nichols & May (if those famous couples were over-50 parents with grown-up kids).

Vic & Paul are joined by their musical director, Chicago area Emmy-winner Steve Rashid, who will accompany them on keyboards and perform his own brand of satirical songwriting. The show was directed by Chicago native Shelly Goldstein.


Filed under Art, Comedy, Music

Practical Theatre: The Last Laugh

I’ve finally wrapped up my four-part personal history of The Practical Theatre Co. To read the final chapter of the Practical Theatre story click here — or click on the graphic above. You can also find a link to all four chapters under “Landmarks” on the right hand side of the home page.

It only took me two decades to finish this project — so please enjoy!

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