Faculty, staff put on a grand show

By Tim Michaels

Step aboard the UCS Ratner for a wild and eccentric excursion to a Quadrangle Club far, far away. On the 100-year anniversary of the “Revels Performers,” a distinguished group of faculty, staff and Hyde Park residents presented “Cold Comfort,” a musical parody on the academic research at the University.

The musical begins at the University Quadrangle Club, as professor Peter Promo invites students Sally Sunbeam and Willie Wormwood to travel to the far regions of Antarctica, where they expect to learn about ongoing research by University professors in Antarctica.

Instead, they find a wacky adventure with dancing penguins, a ship shaped like the Ratner Athletic Center, and an arctic Quadrangle Club.

The play constantly mocks the intellectual pursuits of academia with songs such as “Know your cosmos” and “Observation, Demonstration, and Evaluation.” Hilarious, spontaneous, and jovial, the performance reminds audience members that even University professors can take a joke.

The Revels, who began performing at the Quadrangle club in 1904, celebrate a centennial of comedy performances. “Cold Comfort” is the last show scripted by the renowned team of Ned Rosenheim, professor emeritus in the College, and Bob Ashenhurst, Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School of Business.

“You could extract a notion of the issues, concepts or habits that invited parody over the course of the University’s history,” said Rosenheim, commenting on the last century of Revels performances.

“Cold Comfort” included songs from previous collaborations, with new lyrics written by Robert Ashenhurst. The Saturday night final performance ended with a standing ovation for Rosenheim, who plans to move to San Francisco. “This was a special year since it was also a sendoff for Ned and Peggy Rosenheim. Ned has been a major force behind the Revels, and the author of many a script and many a lyric,” said professor David Bevington, marking his third appearance in a Revels performance.

Bevington played the role of traveler in “Cold Comfort.” The Revels performances were revived in 2001 after nearly forty years of inactivity, marking the continuation of an important University tradition of involving the Hyde Park community in theatrical productions.

“The best thing about the Revels is that it’s such a community effort, not taking itself too seriously, having a good time, letting down the collective head of hair,” Bevington said. “It supports the Quadrangle Club and brings together patrons and staff, community and university, students and faculty, young and old.”

The majority of the “Cold Comfort” cast was University alumnae and local residents who are involved in theater programs all over Chicago.

Previous Revels performances have included the likes of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; James Redfield, the Edward Olson Distinguished Service Professor in classical languages and literatures and the College; Michael Behnke, vice president and dean of college enrollment.

Phil Hoffman, who played Willie Wormwood and in his off-stage career serves as a professor of hematology in the Department of Medicine, said that this year’s show marked the end of an era: “that of Ned Rosenheim’s talent and input”.

Hoffman, who was involved in the program in the early 80’s, added an in an e-mail interview that Ashenhurst and Rosenheim “are geniuses in their use of word play, rhymes, limericks, and clever rhythms.”