War with the Newts Review - Slippery Metaphor

Sometimes a work of art is so loaded with ideas both consistent, concurrent, contemporary and classic that it's nearly impossible to sort them out.

Mr. Povondra (Joseph Wycoff) is overwhelmed by the mounting news of the newts.

That's my dilemma with War with the Newts. It's so evocative, so suggestive of so many pivotal historical events and so many telling current events, since seeing the play, I can't get it out of my head. It was weird in places, funny in others and depressing, annoying, or satisfying in others.

Mr. Povondra (Joseph Wycoff--left)and Captain Von Toch(Steve Pickering--right) look on as G H Bondy (Will Zahn-front)reveals his plans to exploit the newts.

Based on Karel Capek's 1934 novel, War with the Newts was adapted and directed by former Next Artistic Director Jason Loewith,and Next Artistic Associate Justin D.M. Palmer. Jeff Award-winning puppet designer Michael Montenegro created the newt puppets.

During intermission, just to add one more wry twist, a Professor Czerny (Will Zahrn) reads a monograph about the rise of the newts even though obviously no one is listening.  It doesn't phase him.  He's used to it.

The battle for humanity begins in War with the Newts. Pictured are Steve Pickering (center), Joseph Wycoff (left), and Eddie Bennet (right).

War with the Newts tells of the discovery of a highly-intelligent breed of newts enslaved and exploited by wealthy Czech industrialist, G.H. Bondy. These giant salamanders acquire human knowledge and rebel, leading to a global war for supremacy. Told from the point of view of Bondy’s butler, Mr. Povondra, the story is set against the backdrop of the onset of World War II and serves as a timely satire of a global economy planting the seeds of its own destruction.

The Next creative team made the right decision by moving to the Mullady theater. Collette Pollard's set and Michael Tutaj's projections, lighting design by Keith Parham, costume design by Kristine Knanishu-Engel and sound design by Misha Fiskel place us in an eerie, foreboding, wet world. But I'm not sure if the sacrifice of intimacy was worth it. At least in my case, it was hard to feel involved in such a surreal plot that also seemed remote.

Captain Von Toch (Steve Pickering) looks on sadly as his precious newts are mocked by ventriloquist duo Oswald (Joel Ewing) and Trash (puppet by Michael Montenegro.

War with the Newts showcases a variety of Chicagoland talent including Next Artistic Associates Joseph Wycoff as Mr. Povandra and Jennifer Avery as long- suffering Mrs. Povandra. 

Crooked circus carnies (Mildred Langford and James Anthony Zocoli)give Mr.Povondra (Joseph Wycoff, center right) and his son, Frankie (Joel Ewing, center left) a glimpse of a new breed of salamander.

The Newts ensemble also includes Eddie Bennet, Joel Ewing, and James Zoccoli, along with Will Zahrn as GH Bondy, and former Next Artistic Director Steve Pickering as Captain Von Toch.

Siren of the Newt Follies, Miss Lily Valley (Jennifer Avery).

War with the Newts is presented in association with the Department of Theater at Loyola University Chicago and performed at the Mullady Theatre, 1125 W. Loyola Ave. Chicago, (located on the lakeshore campus in Rogers Park), until June 20, 2010.

Performance Schedule
Wednesday matinee (June 9/16 only), 1:00 p.m.
Thursday evening, 7:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday evening, 8:00 p.m.
Sunday matinee, 2:00 p.m.

“Artist Talk Back” Every Sunday

Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission

Tickets, priced from $20 to $40, may be purchased online at www.nexttheatre.org, by calling (847) 475-1875, and in person at Next Theatre Company, 927 Noyes Street in Evanston from Noon to 6 p.m, Tuesday through Saturday. 

Please note that the box office at Next is only open on Saturdays with performances. On performance days, tickets may also be purchased at the Mullady Theater Box Office one hour prior to curtain. Student rush tickets are also available at the box office one hour prior to curtain.

For additional information please visit www.nexttheatre.org.

Discount Tickets:  
Discounts are offered to groups, patrons 25 years and younger, and full-time students. Discount tickets are available online at www.nexttheatre.org, by calling (847) 475-1875 x2 and at the Next Box Office.

Theatre Information:
Kathleen Mullady Theatre at Loyola University
1125 West Loyola Ave, Chicago (Rogers Park)   

Proceed through the main entrance of campus toward the parking structure. The cost to park in the parking structure is $6, although no fee is required if the gate is up. Visitor lots close nightly at 12:30 a.m.

Metered parking in the area as well as substantial free street parking on West Loyola Avenue.

Public Transport:
Loyola’s Lake Shore campus is easily accessible by the CTA Red Line. Simply take the red line to the Loyola stop and the Mullady Theatre is just across the street.

Wheelchair Accessible. Please call box office for more information.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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