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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Griffin’s Tale: Bubble Bobble’s Game Show of Doom

Or: I am Joyful

Griffin’s Tale has done it again. Venturing out to Chicago’s Elementary schools to inspire memories, discussions, and stories in the youths and turn those in turn into scenes, songs, and interpretive dances, they have returned like merchantmen with their treasures to share their wealth with all. For the authors its an incentive to keep being creative, for the tellers its a chance to be frolicsome, and for me it’s been the right entrance into the summer months part Childish Bacchanal, part lighthearted Cabaret, part catharsis fest after which I drag myself home trying not to die from sweetness radiation or an overdose of snug and comfy feelings.

It’s been a very good crop this year, or rather a good crop has been taken through the mill and bakery to make a fine and fluffy loaf. Under direction of Gaby FeBland and Scott Egleston, and scored by Nick Day, Jason Shiuan and Noah Teplin, we are brought a lively review of imitations (Blue Man Group), weird performance art pieces (My Mouth Is Burning), Gothic Thrillers (Maggots), Wild Adventures (The Haunted Carnival House), to name but a few, each electrified. Though it must be noted that this year in particular the stories were rich with improving lessons on civility, not drinking potions you find on the ground, and how journaling is the best defense against the devil. You just need to know these things.

While all respect is to be payed to the authors for their fertile imaginations, this years show left me in more in awe of the performers themselves, not just for their boundless energy, highly evolved and adaptive sense of humor and generosity of spirit but just for the smartness with which staged each piece. The lovely lyrical lifts of “Potion” (contrasted by the farcically ominous conjoined narrators) congeal and sharpen into the poignant rap classic “Cuando te Veo” (“When I see you), which in turn melt to the gentle wetland joy of “Moose Trip”. But perhaps even more impressive is their ability to, without tampering with their authors material, create full and vibrant worlds out of not much at all. One of my favorite stories of the evening was “Untitled: I went on a pirate ship” a three line sea-shanty involving perfect use of mime, scottish accents, a movement sequence, a tristful reveal of cruelty and abuse, and a burgomasque.

And oh, for a proper program to list in full the marvelous performances. The whole score of them were well worth individual praise, but I need to medicate my snug overdose and so I I thank Will Sondheim’s horologist’s sense of comedic timing and a mime’s specificity of movement as Arnoldo The Russian Ninjitsu Master/Butler smoothing the way for his master (Jared Corak) whilst fending off his nemesis (Matt Dial). And I will thank Emma Cadd for her slick and stylish, spanish speaking Medusa looking for friends and finding only garden ornaments until confronted by child (Sarah Cartwright). And Abby Pajakowski for her zestful presence and outlandish dance moves her great tragedy of Mr. Sicko, the audiophile (ha). And Scott Egleston for his ghastly portrayal as Caroline the maggot mistress. And Izzy Gerasole for her mixture of the over the top and the understated. And Gabby FeBland, perhaps most of all, for her mastery of music, her way with words, and possessing most zany seriousness you are likely to see, the right mixture of childish impishness and fully grown sass. She captures the stage from the midst of her extremely talented fellows and holds it, whether as a dynamic math teacher, an alarm clock, or a mohawkéd cow.

For my own part Griffin’s Tale is an odd experience. I cannot deny that frenzy of it is sometimes daunting if not outright terrifying, and for all its lusty joy of life, for all its fantastic generosity of spirit and artistic clarity, there is something in celebrating these stories which makes me feel dried out and winnowed up. Like I’m seeing a last huzzah. But last night at the show I did not feel the least bit bitter or sad that these little fruits of brilliance would wither up. I was seated behind a long row of Griffin’s Tale alums, professional actors and some of the sharpest persons I’ve encountered. As much as I enjoyed watching the company excel it was more fun to see the Griffins of yore bob up and down like wooden birds at feeder, overcome with laughter and wonder and joy that their successors were succeeding them so well. So I am joyful that this voyage sails on out of port: a crucible for smelting out the finest and most honorable of artists, a light for younger hearts to follow towards enriching the world and an excellent display of artistry in its own right.

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