Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Review Posted: Mop Top Festival

Centerstage has posted another one of my reviews, of Mop Top Festival, presented by the Factory Theater at Prop Thtr, 3502 N Elston. It runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 7 through April 26. Tickets are $20-25 and can be purchased by calling (866) 811-4111 or visiting

You can follow the link to my review or just read it here:

The Beatles have inspired many works of art: covers of their songs, movies, theatre, novels, television, paintings…the list is endless. To that list, add "Mop Top Festival", Scott OKen’s fun but unfocused look at the culture of Beatles conventions.

The play is set at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare for the Mop Top Festival—a celebration of all things Beatles, with merchandise, cover bands, and film screenings. Twenty-one characters (played by 19 actors)—including guests, festival organizers, and hotel staff—all collide, displaying both Beatles geekery and personal drama. Guests seek precious merchandise, cover bands aspire to glory, the officious, origami-obsessed hotel manager (Christopher Marcum) tries to shut the festival down, and the first sparks of friendship and romance are struck.

To OKen’s great credit, the characters are memorable, and it’s never hard to follow who they are and what they want. A lot of the jokes are very funny. The problem is that the play is too in love with its eccentric characters and silly jokes, and not nearly concerned enough with plot and structure. Plenty of events happen, but the evening never quite works up a head of steam: every time the plot starts moving, it ambles to a halt for another scene of characters sitting around discussing the Beatles. The stakes stay low and the plot never becomes involving, while the show stretches at least 15 minutes too long.

Yet it’s hard to dislike this show. The excitement and brilliance of the music makes even the unnecessary scenes fun, and the cast ably incarnates the characters—though they can’t give them depth that’s not in the script. In the end, the show’s like spending an evening with a friend who loves talking about the Beatles, but can’t quite keep the thread: it’s frustrating, but still a good time.

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