• David Zak

STAND UP And Clap For This Man!

Updated: Apr 10

When the actor says his first line and the audience roars with delight, you know you are in for a treat. STAND UP IF YOU'RE HERE TONIGHT by John Kolvenbach at American Blues Theater Company packs many zingers and laughs into an hour. The clever script crackles with timely wit, and a masterly comic, Jim Ortlieb, has the audience in the palm of his hand.

A great success story of the Chicago storefront scene, Ortlieb gives a master class, tempering his vocal attack with silences that bring us to him. His physicality is delightful whether leading a clap attack or having a sneaky drink. He is a winsome yet lonely huckster who needs a hug. Who can resist? Working with his author as director, the team delivers excellent moments.


Who is this man who pines for his mother? What is the program he promises to begin, but with echoes of Godot - never starts? Why the beautiful lantern-lit stairway to heaven of dilapidated chairs in Michael Trudeau's scenic design?


The first part of the show is compelling. The last bit - starting with a self-poisoning followed by flying playing cards - landed with more thud than punch. It doesn't have the emotional power of solo shows like Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia or Jefferson Mays' I Am My Own Wife. But it sure is fun.


Perhaps this is a script perfectly matched for this post-pandemic time. Are we changed by spending time here? After experiencing the show's golden final moments, the beauty of the dial tone may be more important than any answers.


Tickets are available at (773) 975-8150 and www.americanbluestheater.com.

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