The two-year-old Refuge Theatre Project, who earned a Jeff Recommendation for their first eligible production, the remounted and extendedHigh Fidelity: The Musical; will continue its 2017 season with Things to Ruin: The Songs of Joe Iconis, playing May 12 – June 18, 2017.
As with their most recent productions,High Fidelity, performed in pop-up locations redesigned as record stores, and bare, staged in the sanctuary of Epworth United Methodist Church, the company will again mount its production in an unexpected venue: Exit Chicago, which describes itself as “Chicago’s Original Punk Bar since 1981." Exit Chicago is located at 1315 W. Chicago Avenue.
Described as a “theatrical rock concert,” Things to Ruin has been performed in New York City venues including the Second Stage and Joe’s Pub and features 19 songs by the 35-year-old Iconis, possibly the best and most famous musical theater songwriter you’ve never heard of. Iconis’s musicals include Be More Chill, Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter, Yo!; Bloodsong of Love, The Black Suits, ReWrite, The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks andWe The People. “The Untitled Hunter S. Thompson Project” is currently in development for La Jolla Playhouse and Broadway Across America. His concert act, “Joe Iconis and Family,” frequently plays the hot NYC clubs The Beechman Theater, 54 Below, and Joe’s Pub. Two of his songs were featured on the NBC-TV series Smash as part of that series’ fictitious musical “Hit List.” He’s been nominated for two Drama Desk Awards, a Lucille Lortel Award, and is the recipient of an Ed Kleban Award, a Jonathan Larson Award, a Doris Duke Grant, and several other awards.
The New York Times, in its review of Things to Ruin, described Iconis’s songs like this: “(the music) belongs to the mode of “Rent” and of Duncan Sheik’s more vigorous numbers in “Spring Awakening,” but the tunes are sparer, the beats harder.” Commenting on Iconis’s lyrics, Variety said “Things to Ruin” has Iconis’ lyrical ingenuity to recommend it — like Ben Folds or Joe Jackson, Iconis seems hell-bent on finding all the commonly shared emotional moments that nobody else has yet set to music…. For every song that sounds a little conventional, there are two that sound like a bet Iconis won (“I’ll give you 50 bucks if you can write a good song about your friends going to the bar and not calling you”).”
Things to Ruin will be directed by Matt Dominguez, director of Refuge’s bare from fall 2016 and Glory Days from fall 2015. Mike Evans, the company’s resident music director will provide music direction, with musical staging by Shelby Westart. Dominguez says, "Things to Ruin is filled with irresistibly catchy music that's messy, angry, conflicted but then can turn on a dime with dark, quirky humor that knows exactly how to have a good time. I'm thrilled to introduce Chicago to Joe's work, and incredibly excited we're partnering with Exit Chicago, which promises to be another standout venue for a Refuge production."
The cast will include Madison Kaufman (The Little Mermaid, Paramount), Jeff Meyer (Bat Boy, Griffin Theatre; Assassins, Kokandy Productions), Lauren Paris (Priscilla, Pride Films and Plays; Story of a Story, Underscore), Kedgrick Pullums Jr. (Refuge’s High Fidelity and bare), Deanalis Resto (Rent, Theo Ubique; The Wiz, Emerald City), Maisie Rose (Giggle, Giggle, Quack, Lifeline; Loving Repeating, Kokandy) and Thomas Squires (Little Me, Porchlight Revisits).