Big Sandy

Oak Park Festival Theatre’s fall fundraiser is a reprise of last year’s WVOP Radio Players “broadcast” format and a second dose of Oscar Wilde, following this summer’s successful production of The Importance of Being Earnest. 

Which is appropriate since The Picture of Dorian Gray, is Oscar Wilde at his most earnest. In fact, Dorian Gray was his only novel, initially serialized in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine.

It was a departure in form and in tone (more serious, less satiric), but not in public reaction. Tony Dobrowolski, the new artistic associate at Festival Theatre, reports that a reviewer of that era (late 1800s) described the novel as “heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction.” Now that’s dishing. For someone who liked to push the envelope of Victorian readers’ tolerance, as Dobrowolski puts it, this must have been a deeply satisfying reaction for Wilde.

The author himself wrote of his book, “I’m afraid it is rather like my own life — all conversation and no action … my people sit and chatter.”

Which is perfect for a theater company looking to adapt a novel to an old-time radio format.

The cast includes Festival stalwart Kevin Theis as the main character’s mentor, Sir Henry Wotton, Festival Artistic Director Jack Hickey as Basil Harwood (the painter of Gray’s portrait), and Michael McKeogh (who played Hamlet in last summer’s Festival production) as Dorian Gray. Dobrowolski, who plays Wilde in this adaptation, says the author once said that most people at the time thought Henry Wotton was most like him. Wilde saw himself as more like Harwood the painter but would like to have been Dorian Gray (“in other ages perhaps”).

Most are familiar with the story: The portrait ages but Gray doesn’t. You just know that scenario can’t end well.

But a story about a portrait assumes a visual and “radio” is not a visual medium.

“I grew up listening to radio,” said Festival mainstay Belinda Bremner (directing, acting and administrating) and loved ‘seeing’ the stories as I heard them. We have eyelids we can close but we don’t have earlids, so hearing is an exciting adventure. Yes, the painting is hideous — as hideous as Dorian and all his surroundings are beautiful. But nothing you can show me is more beautiful or hideous than what I can see in my imagination. The scariest things are those you don’t see with your eyes. There have been, I believe, radio adaptations of this story before. Wilde’s writing is so beautiful, so visually rich, that the scenes are there in the words.”

The broadcast takes place at the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association, 178 Forest Ave., at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 3, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5. But come an hour early to enjoy the pre-show reception.

Tickets are $30/adults, $25/seniors, $15/under 18. Tickets at the door or in advance at the Visitors Bureau, 1010 Lake St., or by phone at 708-445-4440 or online at

FitzGerald’s Oktoberfest

But if your tastes swing Western or Southern rockabilly or traditional country or good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, head over to FitzGerald’s, 6615 W. Roosevelt Road (Berwyn side), on Oct. 3 for their version of Oktoberfest. 

Outside or in, you can hear Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, the Red Elvises, and Kory Quinn in the tent, club and/or SideBar.

And since nothing says Oktoberfest like brats (or maybe beer steins), Big Guy’s Sausage Stand will be selling brats and other sausages, potato pancakes and other sides and the Kasseler, a sandwich with German smoked pork loin with bacon, sweet cabbage and horseradish mustard. In addition, check out the Pilsner Urquell van onsite with free tastings. 

The music starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 and available at the club and TicketWeb

Big Sandy will Fly-Rite into the tent for two sets, beginning at 9. The band is celebrating a quarter-century of rockabilly, rock & roll, honky-tonk, rhythm & blues, soul, doo-wop and even a little Jamaican Rocksteady. Big Sandy, big tent, big range.

Igor and the Red Elvises will play two sets in the club, starting at 9:30. Described as “a wild and crazy Russian interpretation of American rock and roll that somehow at once celebrates and satirizes,” this band not only has a great name but sings songs with great names, including “Drinking with Jesus,” “I Wanna See You Bellydance,” and “Surfing In Siberia” (which is something that we personally would like to see).

Finally, Portland songwriter Kory Quinn takes over the SideBar at 10 p.m. He is described as “a DIY contemporary hobo intellectual, [who] boils down red-dirt basics in a freewheeling roadhouse stew.”

You gotta admire whoever writes this stuff.

For more information on FitzGerald’s, go to

A summer to remember

According to Brad Bartels, president of the Festival Theatre board: “This summer continued Festival Theatre’s tradition of bringing an outstanding outdoor theater experience to the Oak Park area. We saw an overall increase in guests to the park and drew 4,358 attendees (over the age of 12). We are not sure on the exact number of dogs in attendance, but there were quite a few over both show runs. Our box office continues to grow as well. Revenue grew 1.5% over our record-breaking 2013 summer season and a 67% increase over 2012. We attribute our continued success to continuing to improve our guests’ experience — from the quality of the productions to an increase in the way guests can get tickets, and even the number of porta-potties. We are also excited by the future plans the Park District of Oak Park has for Austin Gardens. It is going to further enhance the park and our ability to deliver an outstanding outdoor theatre experience. As for rainouts (we consider a rainout when we cancel a performance prior to curtain time), only two were cancelled for Hamlet and one for Earnest.”

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