Sherman Ave Review: “Ragtime”
THEATER IS DUMB AND STUPID WHY WOULD ANYONE EVER GO SEE IT OR DEDICATE THEIR LIVES TO IT IT’S NOT LIKE IT CAN ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING OR MAKE PEOPLE FEEL BETTER. WHY WOULD ANYONE PAY TO SEE ADULTS PUT ON COSTUMES AND PRETEND TO FEEL EMOTIONS AND SAY WORDS LIKE THEY’RE THEIR OWN I DON’T GET IT.
Now that all the theater majors have left, let’s get on with the review. Just so we’re clear, we enjoyed this show. “Ragtime” was, in fact, a good time. But good HEAVENS was it long. Time moves faster as you get older, but all of us in Cahn auditorium were moving through all 3 hours of the show at the same pace. Time flies by when you’re having fun, but holy shit that rule does not apply in this instance. The show should be renamed Rag-ExtendedPeriodOf-time if it wants to truly capture the essence of the experience.
This marathon of song-and-dance takes us back to America at the turn of the 20th century, a time defined by blatant racial prejudice, rampant xenophobia and oversized suit jackets. The stage was transformed to resemble an era when wearing suspenders meant you were either a newsie or a tough guy hanging by the docks. Ah, simpler times!
The world of “Ragtime” features famous American icons like Harry Houdini, known for escaping from handcuffs and chains, as well as J.P. Morgan, known for escaping the 2008 financial crisis without any criminal charges. There’s also a minor appearance made by Henry Ford, who was famous for making cars and questionable comments about Jews. The show’s artistic direction and characters truly make it feel like the early 1900s, which is almost like an escape from 2018 but not really.
The show explores three areas of American society at a time when they didn’t quite get along. In one corner is the pale American bourgeois, who have all the money and spend it exclusively on clothing that’s almost as white as they are. In another corner, we have immigrants, the tired, huddled masses who have just enough energy to perform meticulously choreographed dance routines. And finally, we have the black community, whose music is enjoyed and then stolen by the white characters.
The acting was superb in the show, even when blunders arose. There was a moment in the opening night’s performance when a loud buzz emanated from the speaker system, but the show went on. The actors continued to exist in the far-away world of 20th century American even as some sound technician completely fucked up. Now that’s talent.
The true star of the show, however, was the little boy who played the role of “Little Boy.” He was landing zingers that had the entire audience laughing. But one must ask why the role wasn’t offered to a Northwestern student. Surely we have plenty of small theater majors with falsettos itching for this type of opportunity. And on that note, why wasn’t the role of the abandoned baby offered to someone from our community instead of given to a lifeless doll? Surely we have plenty of teeny tiny theater majors with no hair and no motor control. What’s up with that, Dolphin Show?
“This is neither funny enough nor pointed enough to be satire” was a thought a lot of people had after our review of last year’s Dolphin Show. While that’s a tough bar to hit 2 years in a row, we tried our best. And we know that team behind “Ragtime” tried their best as well. 2/5 Sherman Ave signs.
Ragtime closes on February 3rd after an embarrassingly short 5-show run.