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An Embarrassment Of Riches, MORTIFIED! Live At Lincoln Hall

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 9, 2014 10:00PM

Sam Gruette reads at MORTIFIED! Live at Lincoln Hall. Photo by Marielle Shaw

When you perform a sweeping, Sound-of-Music-esque hand gesture, and end up face first on the floor of a Denny's first thing in the morning ... what do you get out of it? Certainly, there's bruises. Your friends, after checking to see if you’re O.K., get a couple of laughs, and you might too. But is there anything else that can be extracted from full on embarrassment?

The answer is yes, and this was abundantly clear Saturday night when we saw MORTIFIED: LIVE! at Lincoln Hall. After a fantastic opening musical set by School of Rock: Hinsdale, person after person got up onstage to tell tales of abject humiliation. The show focused on “adolescent angst” and while we heard many tales, one that stuck out came from Christine Wolf who unfurled the saga of Peter, her high school sweetheart, and the struggles she had with being a good girl going to church as a teenager under attack by an onrush of hormones.

We also loved Sam Gruette, whose reading started out with the classic “Do you like me? Circle yes or no” notes that so many of us passed back and forth in grade school displayed on screen. Mortified! does a great job of finding just the right “artifacts” from a person’s life to highlight the awkwardness and lend that all-too-trueness to the story.

Her story was a hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking one of many “maybes,”, a band called A Second Too Late, and songs about math. She brought a guitar up on stage and we were treated to some incredibly angsty lyrics she penned while pining for her fellow bandmate. It was a heartfelt, laugh-at-yourself, silly sing-a-long, and though we knew the real pain of your crush finding someone else to be with, and felt it in the moment she told about it, going over the hand scrawled heartache in a group sing seemed to wash away the sadness.

Tyler Snodgrass was another musical mortifi-ee. He too struggled with the God / high school / hormone dilemma that Wolf had mentioned earlier. He channeled his music into a Weird-Al-esque metal place, with a love for Stryper and a tendency to turn Twisted Sister towards Jesus with re-imagined lyrics. He brought out a guitar and regaled us with his remaking of I Wanna RockI wanna Pray. It was all we could do not to tear up laughing as we saw the lyrics projected in all their glory on the big screen in Lincoln Hall, and this continued with his "Christian Parody" of Cream's White Room, "The Youth Room."

So what do you get, when you regale a room with some of your most painfully awkward, strange and silly moments?

A smaller room. The space between people seems to evaporate when you realize, as host Shay deGrandis reminded us as the night wrapped up, that we all survived. Mullets and boyfriends and metal aside, we made it. And we’re all normal now (of course!). What’s amazing about telling a room full of strangers about the stupid things you did, the bad haircuts you had, or true loves lost, is that it’s not just about people having a laugh at your expense. It’s about rehashing those awkward moments years later with a battalion of supporters who fought the same angsty fight that you did, made it through, and know what it felt like. We certainly felt a connection to the performers telling their stories, and hope they felt the warmth of the room even as we laughed at their youthful indiscretions. It’s getting a chance to revisit your past with allies, and realize that even if it was bad then, it’s behind you. It’s a bonding experience, and it’s what we loved about the show.

This past Saturday’s shows were sold out weeks ahead of time, so if you want a piece of the Mortified action, make sure to get in on it ahead of time. The next show, “Valentines, Schmalentines” will be Feb. 14 at Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. And if you’re brave enough to showcase your own past, apply to be a reader for the show here.