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Thursday, December 14

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A/C

Theater Wed Nov 11 2015

Preview: The Ventriloquists Convention at Museum of Contemporary Art

The Ventriloquists ConventionThis weekend, nine actors and 10 dummies from Europe will descend upon the Museum of Contemporary Art to perform a modern play called The Ventriloquists Convention. The piece is an international collaboration, written by American writer Dennis Cooper and directed by Franco-Austrian artist Gisèle Vienne, who studied music, puppetry and philosophy and who works as a choreographer and director.

I spoke with Vienne about the play, about the difference between puppetry and ventriloquism, and about our mysterious human need for idols, aka puppets. She has worked with Cooper before, directing his macabre one-man puppet show (Jerk, 2008) about a serial killer who reenacts his murders with his newfound prison puppeteering skills.

Vienne describes this new collaborative work, The Ventriloquists Convention as "a mixture of humor and loneliness. It's kind of funny and dark." When pressed to describe who the intended audience is for Ventriloquist Convention, Vienne's passion for the work shines through. "It got enthusiastic responses form audiences in Europe. It is very unconventional. The only important thing is to be very curious and open minded to discover something that you hopefully haven't seen before. Everyone who is curious should come because we will satisfy your curiosity!"

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Kim Campbell

Theater Fri Oct 16 2015

Unspeakable: The Life of Richard Pryor @ Broadway Playhouse

Unspeakable at Broadway Playhouse

The new production Unspeakable opened Tuesday night to a full house eager to understand the life and work of Richard Pryor, presented as a "dramatic fantasia." Film critic Pauline Kael once said of Pryor that he was "a master of lyrical obscenity; the only great poet-satirist among our comics."

Yet for all of the light he shone with his comedy, he was a broken and deeply flawed man. As a result of the abuse and neglect he suffered while young, Pryor continued the cycle, abusing women, becoming an addict and neglecting his children. So many things about Richard Pryor's life must have felt unspeakable to him, from his traumatic early experiences being raised in a brothel by his grandmother, abandoned by his alcoholic parents, to being sexually abused during his formative years. Maybe because he couldn't talk about those things, he needed to find an avenue for his outrage at the world. The prejudice and disadvantage he experienced gave him the courage to look beyond his comedic ambitions and address the rampant racism in society through the art of comedy. And he did it so well, breaking down taboos and holding a mirror up to humanity in turn.

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Kim Campbell

Comedy Wed Sep 09 2015

50 States of Gay: A LGBTQ Comedy Sketch Debut

Let Freedom (Cock) Ring!

As of June 26, 2015, the U.S. of A. now has given everyone the opportunity to marry whomever they like regardless of gender. As each state has had its battle with the decision on a different timeline, this five-person crew has created a new show called 50 States of Gay, produced by GayCo Productions. 50 States of Gay shows the fight for equality taking you through all 50 states in a series of shows, each of which is chosen by chance through the audience's selection. Picking a state from a hat each week, the cast creates original content that becomes the theme for the next show. The hybrid sketch-variety experience has many art forms (songs, puppetry, stand up, interpretative dance, lesbian break-up scenes and more), and presents the lingering truth (and penis/vagina jokes!) in its own patriotic style.

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Jen Kraakevik

Theatre Fri Jul 17 2015

Tellin' Tales Theatre Takes on Phobias @ Prop Thtr

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Tekki Lomnicki is both the art director and an actor in her upcoming show Phobias, A Solo Performance Complex, which runs for the next two weekends, July 17 through July 26, at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave. Tekki seems comfortable switching gears from playwright to director, then hopping on stage to tell us about her phobias and hang-ups. Perhaps she is brave because she has a mission, one that is stated clearly on the Tellin' Tales website, and which she happily shares: The mission is to shatter barriers between the disabled and able-bodied worlds through the transformative power of personal story.

Can you explain your mission and how it works?

We believe that by sharing our stories, we close the gaps between people. Once an able-bodied person hears that a person with a disability goes through some of the same things he or she does-- such as loss, love and insecurity--there is more of a connection and not so much "otherness."

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Kim Campbell

Theatre Sat Nov 22 2014

A Gorgeously Epic Porgy & Bess @ The Lyric Opera

 Porgy & Bess, photo by Todd Rosenberg
Eric Owens and Adina Aaron in Porgy & Bess. Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg.

Porgy & Bess, the George Gershwin opera that premiered in 1935, is currently in production at The Lyric Opera of Chicago for a 13-show run that opened Monday night. It is impossible to watch without considering its history; Gershwin drew inspiration for the opera while visiting Charleston, SC, and incorporated elements of southern black musical traditions into the piece. It was the first opera to feature an all-black cast, and it has weathered controversy ever since, with debate over its depiction of African-Americans, and was not generally accepted as legitimate opera until 1976. Nevertheless, it has entered the American cultural lexicon, with songs like "Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So," and "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'" becoming American standards.

The Lyric Opera production, directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Ward Stare, is gorgeously epic. As interpreted by bass-baritone Eric Owens, Porgy has a voice and a presence that are undeniable, and soprano Adina Aaron's portrayal of Bess is as heartbreaking as it is believable. With a supporting cast that includes Eric Greene as the menacing Crown, and Jermaine Smith as the charismatic Sportin' Life, the energy and pathos of the opera commands the attention of the audience for the entire three hours that it takes for the story to fully unfold.

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J.H. Palmer

Theater Mon Oct 06 2014

Reliving Scandals of the '80s in Timeline's Danny Casolaro Died for You

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Kyle Hatley, Demetrios Troy and Jamie Vann. Photo by Lara Goetsch.

The names and events are vaguely familiar, if you were consuming political news in the 1980s and '90s. Iran-contra. BCCI ("the world's sleaziest bank," according to a Time magazine cover). Bert Lance. The Church committee. Wackenhut Security. The CIA and Central American drug cartels. The Sandinistas. The Iran hostage crisis.

The governmental scandals those terms represent were linked by a software platform called PROMIS (owned by Inslaw, a not-for-profit software company), which was designed to connect various government agency databases. (Remember, this was in the 1980s. The lack of interagency connectivity was considered one of the flaws that left us vulnerable to the attacks of September 11, 2001.)

Timeline Theatre dredges up those memories in telling the tense and tightly wound story of a freelance journalist named Danny Casolaro, who tried to put the tangled pieces together for a big story. He ended up dead on the floor of a hotel room in Martinsburg, W.Va., in August 1991. The question asked in Danny Casolaro Died for You is: Was it suicide or murder?

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Nancy Bishop

Theatre Thu Jul 24 2014

Arm Wrestlers Test Their Strength at CLLAW XIX

CLLAW18-1.jpgChicago's strongest women will flex their muscles this weekend as they elbow their way through CLLAW XIX, a Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLLAW) competition.

Presented by the Sideshow Theatre Company, this marks the 19th CLLAW match, pitting the city's best female arm wrestlers against each other for a good cause. The bout features women arm wrestlers dressed in over-the-top get ups and promises shady referees and animated managers and entourages.

"The energy going into this CLLAW is really electric," said Karie Miller of Sideshow Theatre Company and a CLLAW organizer. "This match is unique in that about half of the wrestlers are new and about half are veterans."

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Miriam Finder

Theatre Fri Jul 11 2014

About Face Youth Debut Checking Boxes

CheckingBoxes.jpgThe Chicago Park District's "Night Out in the Parks" initiative has created opportunities for Chicagoans to experience theatre in outdoor spaces, but also for young Chicagoans to showcase their talents. Checking Boxes, an original production by Shannon Matesky in collaboration with the About Faces Youth Theatre Ensemble, is no exception.

The original play takes a deeper look into the all-American dream through the eyes of LGBTQIA immigrant youth. From coming out to growing up in a society where everyone is striving for the perfect job and the ideal white-picket fence, the characters show how their journeys don't follow a stereotypical path. "Checking Boxes" is based on real-life experiences of the ensemble as well as members of the LGBTQIA community.

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Megan Daley

Theatre Fri Jul 11 2014

Kokandy's Assassins Takes a Walk on the Darker Side

Assassins.jpgMost theater productions romanticize a fictional hero, exemplifying what it means to be a character fighting for something they believe in, finding their destined path or even leading a revolution. Dorothy finding her way home in Wizard of Oz. Harold Hill becoming the town hero in The Music Man. Tracy Turnbald taking a stand against racism in Hairspray. Rarely do we root for the villain. But Kokandy Productions revival of Sondheim's Assassins demonstrates why we should at least listen to them.

Assassins, originally produced in the early '90s, takes audiences inside the maniacal minds of well-known assassins (and several wannabes.) Real-life villains such as John Wilkes Booth (Eric Lindahl), Lee Harvey Oswald (Nathan Gardner) and Charles Guiteau (Greg Foster) use a carnival as the backdrop to tell the story of how they reached their breaking point. For some, it was out of their own despair and self-loathing, wanting to make a mark of their own on history. For others, it was about making a greater statement. But these people, while misguided, have their own stories to tell, making the overall theme of Assassins even more relevant today.

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Megan Daley / Comments (2)

Review Wed Jul 02 2014

Eat Your Heart Out: Something to Chew On

There are fine performances in Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's Eat Your Heart Out, directed by Hallie Gordon; more than a few are heartfelt, from a cast giving their gut-load of emotion, and grinding down the observer's derision into an empathy stew for her characters. Going forward, I'll try to keep the food analogies to a minimum, but bear me one more: there is much too much being served at playwright Courtney Baron's banquet.

Eat Your Heart Out - Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Andrew Goetten (Colin) and Anne Joy (Evie) Photo by Joe Mazza.

Eat Your Heart Out is a one-act play that has three full acts in full swing production, and works well until about three-quarters in, when it runs out of steam, veering from quietly compelling character study successfully intertwining the life events of six people in the tradition of Robert Altman to taking shelter in Marshall Zwick's "thirtysomething" self-righteous cul de sac. Even the background music selected for the closing scene seems chosen from the post-Crash of '87 sincerity bin at Benetton. But, that first three-quarters of the play is certainly something to chew on.

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Alice Singleton

Review Fri Jun 27 2014

Meet Cute: the Success of Dating: Adults Embracing Failure

Most romantic relationships are doomed to fail. It can happen instantly, over a doctored profile picture or a terrible first date. Or it can take years, as time, distance, and other worldly forces wear away the bond holding two people together.

Then we do it all over again.

And do it, and do it, and do it, do it, do it.

It's easy to get discouraged in the face of almost certain failure, but with quick-fire humor and surprising depth, Dating: Adults Embracing Failure shows that even heartbreak can be hilarious.

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Mike Ewing

Theatre Fri Jun 27 2014

Out of the Closets & Into the Streets: a Review of Hit the Wall

hit the wallIt's a shame that Hit the Wall ended its run early at the Greenhouse Theater, before its original closing date scheduled for the same day as the pride parade. Many people forget or are unaware that the pride parade in Chicago occurs the last weekend of June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Hit the Wall retells the story of the riots, reminding us of the power of queer resistance. The play first premiered as part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep in 2012 and played at Theater on the Lake before moving Off-Broadway to New York's Barrow Street Theatre. It returned home to Chicago this spring with most of the original cast intact.

As the audience entered the theater, it felt as if we were walking into a gay dive bar. The cast lured members of the audience onstage to dance along to a live band. Steve Lenz, who played a romantic beatnik traveler named Cliff, asked people if they had a cigarette. An energetic revolutionary played by Shannon Matesky handed out fliers to recruit people for WILD (Women Internationally Learning Divisiveness), whose rules were to "fight the man, fuck the pigs, and do not trust the gays." During the raid scene, a thick mustachioed, intimidating cop played by Walter Briggs shined his white flashlight on the audience, making us feel as vulnerable to policing as the characters themselves.

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A/C

Theatre Sun Jun 22 2014

Spectralia Theatre Brings Shakespeare to the Park

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There is so much to see and do in the Chicago Park District this summer and now you can add seeing Shakespeare to your list! Spectralia Theatre is bringing family-friendly theatre to your backyard with its adaptation of the comedic classic, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Performances will be popping up all over the city this summer, so if you're looking for a little light-hearted entertainment in a tranquil setting, bring your picnic basket and a blanket for a hilarious and relaxing evening.

Set during the 1896 Yukon Gold Rush, The Two Gentlemen of Verona is about friendship, betrayal and love with a "modern" twist. The 90-minute play, which opened this past weekend, casts a wild bunch of characters from prospectors to outlaws in search of more than just gold.

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Megan Daley

Theatre Fri Jun 06 2014

The Bridge Comes to Bridgeport

The Golf Ball.jpg

A new theatre company is coming to Bridgeport! The Bridge, founded by Chicago writer and performer Kestutis Nakas, will officially open its doors with a performance of The Golf Ball, an original adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.

"The goal is to provide professional theatre at movie ticket prices," said Nakas.

The first production is set for June 13 at the Community Center of First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, the host of the company. According to Nakas, there is a need in the community for the arts, specifically theatre, and hopes the art form will find growth there.

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Megan Daley

Theater Thu May 22 2014

The Sport vs. Art Battle Continues at Strawdog Theater

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Charles Ives Take Me Home at Strawdog Theater is a strong show with no lack of laughs or message. This is a three person show consisting of:
• Composer Charles Ives (Jamie Vann) who see the world from a Zen place of inner peace.
• John Starr (David Belden), whose life and surroundings need to be bent to his own ideas and as a father the social structure of dominating his daughter is well in place.
• Laura Starr (Stephanie Chavara), daughter of John and the energetic driving piece to puzzle.

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MartinJon

Theatre Fri May 16 2014

Shattered Globe's Mill Fire Misfires


Drew Schad and Kate LoConti in Shattered Globe Theatre's production of Mill Fire. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Playwright Sally Nemeth's Mill Fire would be perfect for these times and this place - if "these times" were 1996 and "this place" was the Lifetime for Women movie channel. Mill Fire was dated, stereotypical and melodramatic before Nemeth typed her last line.

The time is 1979, the place L.A. (Lower Alabama), and everyone knows everyone. All of the women stay at home, and all of the men work at the mill. We have our stereotypical young couple in Marlene (Kate LoConti, who happens to bare a striking resemblance to Deadwood's Molly Parker. Like Parker, LoConti shows a fine acting range and I hope she can find better parts moving forward in her career) and Champ (Drew Schad). Marlene and Champ are young, horny and in love. On the other end of the spectrum there's Sunny (Rebecca Jordan) and Bo (Ken Bradley). Sunny's a mean lush of a woman (though a tidy homemaker) married to a subtly implied impotent Bo; his impotence is blamed on a Vietnam War injury, but with a wife like Sunny to come home to, who really knows what the cause of Bo's impotence is?

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Alice Singleton

Theater Tue May 13 2014

Teatro Vista's A View from the Bridge Simmers with Tension

AViewFromtheBridge_1.jpgLongshoreman Eddie Carbone's (Ramon Camin) life is of simple décor. As with most working class sons of first generation immigrants, he wakes up early to chase the work. Some days the work at the docks is plentiful, some days, not so much. But Eddie and his friends and neighbors chase and gently push their way to some kind of an American Dream. After all, they're still better off than the word that comes from their ancestral homeland of Italy, which lies in a heap of destitution and desperation, the world's big "F-U" for being on the wrong side of World War II.

Matters not that his wage earning is catch-as-catch-can, Eddie carries on his grateful prose that his father set sail years before and saved him from the Neapolitan wretchedness that wife Beatrice's (Sandra Marquez) cousins, Rodolpho (Tommy Rivera-Vega) and Marco (Eddie Diaz) are running from when they arrive as illegal immigrants, living with the couple and their orphaned niece Catherine while things shake out for the better.

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Alice Singleton

Theatre Tue Apr 29 2014

Lay My Down Softly Packs a Punch

Lay Me Down Softly
(left to right) Dan Waller, Carolyn Klein, Michael Grant and Jamie L. Young in Lay Me Down Softly Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Playwright Billy Roche weaves a rough and intricate character study in Lay Me Down Softly, presented in its gristly, sawdust-laden glory by the Seanachaí Theatre Company through May 25.

Delaney's Traveling Roadshow hits every Irish countryside skid with its troupe of fake bearded ladies, fake rifle ranges, and the high-profit item of fake boxing ring challenges. It's the 1960s — somewhere else in the world, anyway. But for Theo (Jeff Christian) and his dysfunctional troupe of fools, the last 50 years never happened.

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Alice Singleton

Theater Thu Apr 17 2014

Memories Become Questions in The Great God Pan

"If you could kindly remember what we've told you to forget, please," is the undercurrent that takes hold of Jaime (Brett Schneider) in The Great God Pan just as he's settling into a new job as an internet wunderkind journalist and the idea of girlfriend Paige's (Kristina Valada-Vlars) "unplanned" pregnancy. The job is what he lives for, while he is still so unsure of committing to the woman he's been with for six years that upon Paige's pregnancy announcement, Jaime negotiates for "one week, just one week" before he will let her know if he's ready and willing to stay and be a permanent fixture in her and the child's life.

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Alice Singleton

Theatre Mon Mar 17 2014

Ghosts and Premonitions in Congo Square's King Hedley II

August Wilson's King Hedley II is a stroll down the memory lane of America's nightmare; you know, when "The Dream" — Horatio Alger's and Martin Luther King's — began the stroll down the sugar-to-shit American boulevard. For poor and working class blacks, most of whom had spent the '70s making catch-as-catch-can attempts to grasp the book-ended economic and social stability, as if those things were swirling money in one of those game show cash blowing machines. Some grabbed a little, some grabbed a lot, but then the Republican Southern Strategy, white flight/urban blight, Alan Bakke's anti-affirmative victory, and the election of Ronald Reagan roll in on a tsunami wave of hatred of "others" (no matter that the "others" ancestors built this nation-for free). Oh, and then came the crack and the Rockefeller drug laws. Yes, there were those that fought, and continue to fight, the good fight. But most gave up and gave in, turning over body and soul to the political and social ravages customized and perfected just for them.

King (Rob Connor) is scarred for life in every way imaginable. He's done prison time for killing a casual acquaintance who started off by "joking" with King (think Frank Vincent's Bobby Batts "joking around" with Joe Pesci's Tommy in Goodfellas) and a few days later delivers the punchline by slicing King's face open. Of course King responds with a hail of bullets. Black life and death (or, as Don King coined the phrase, "nigga' tragedies") not being worth much, King does seven years of time, and gets out to find the woman who raised him is dead. Neecy, his one true love, is also dead, but the woman who gave birth to him, the party girl who's gone to seed Ruby (Taron Patton), is still around. King moves in and makes do with consolation-prize wife Tonya (Tiffany Addison), a woman cursed with fighting against the ghost of the past in Neecy, and quite possibly a ghost of the future, her King.

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Alice Singleton

Theatre Tue Dec 31 2013

Three Young Playwrights Awarded by Pegasus Players

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Lauren Trifunovich is one of three winners of the 27th Annual Playwrights Festival - photo by Ilesa Duncan

Sometimes, procrastination pays off. Lincoln Park High School senior Lauren Trifunovich wrote one of the best original student plays of the year in a mere 20 minutes.

Ms. Kosari, Trifunovich's creative writing teacher at Lincoln Park, asked her students to write an original one-act play for class. She encouraged everyone to submit their best work, so she could enter the scripts in the 27th Annual Young Playwrights Festival competition. Trifunovich -- a self-proclaimed procrastinator -- started her piece on the day of the deadline and completed it in less time than it takes most high school students to eat lunch. Little did she know that the characters she penned would come to life in several months -- and she would be sitting in the director's chair.

The 18-year-old is one of three winners; she was awarded both $500 and the chance to work alongside a theater professional to put on a full production of her play at Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence, for a month-long run.

"I was speechless, it took me a while to wrap my head around actually winning something," Trifunovich says. "I haven't won many competitions or anything of that sort ever."

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Mina Bloom / Comments (4)

Theater Mon Dec 09 2013

Christmas Camp: Christmas Dearest and We Three Lizas

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Hell in a Handbag's Christmas Dearest and About Face Theatre's We Three Lizas share a basic premise: They are both based on the Charles Dickens classic tale A Christmas Carol. Both are original musicals, they fuse comedy, and they camp and drag with "traditional" holiday tropes to envision a holiday show that's off the beaten path. And that's where the similarities end.

Christmas Dearest, a sendup of A Christmas Carol starring David Cerda as Joan Crawford as the Virgin Mary (a meta-mashup of pop culture and Christmas themes), is a clever and campy alternative to the usual holiday fare, with the Garland-Rooney spirit of "Let's put on a show!" "Handbag" avoids the typical drag traps and creates an alternative reality that is at once surreal and lowbrow campy.

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Jeanne Newman

Interview Wed Nov 06 2013

Plucky and Friends Head to Gorilla Tango

plucky rosenthalThere are some performers that you just know you want to spend time with, from the very first moment you meet them. Plucky Rosenthal, the "Jewish Star of Stage and Stage," is one of those performers. Endlessly bubbly, charismatic and a darling throwback to vintage vaudeville, Plucky plays the banjo and ukulele, sings, cracks corny jokes and generally lights up a room. I had the opportunity to sit down with her about her upcoming show, Plucky and Friends, which opens tomorrow at Gorilla Tango.

Talk to me about the show -- what is it?

Plucky and Friends is an all-new original variety show. I host it as my vaudeville alter ego Plucky Rosenthal, backed by a killer band, and my friends come in an out of the show as hilarious characters that they've come up with to share their talents... whether Plucky wants them to or not. It's at Gorilla Tango Theatre in Bucktown, so you can hit up Margie's Candies or Belly Shack after the show!

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Jeanne Newman

Theatre Thu Oct 31 2013

Chicago Shakes and CPS Team Up to Stage Othello

For the past five weeks Chicago Public Schools teachers and students have rehearsed tirelessly to put on the production CPS Shakespeare! Othello. This year's performances, which take place on Nov. 1st and Nov. 2nd, is the eighth anniversary of the collaboration between the renowned Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Chicago Public Schools, but director Kirsten Kelly says Othello, in particular, explores unique themes like race, justice and revenge.

"They each get the opportunity to play both the judger and the judged since they switch characters throughout the play," Kelly says, who also adapted the play. "We do this so each ensemble member can look at the story form different points of view."

For the 21 CPS high school students that make up the ensemble, the classic play is not merely another after-school activity. It allows them to meet kids they might not have met otherwise, gain their trust and ultimately build strong lasting friendships; the students are from 11 CPS schools across the city, ranging from Mather High School in the West Ridge neighborhood to Prosser Career Academy in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. Above all else, the chance to work with theater professionals day in and day out for five weeks is such a fantastic opportunity for these kids in their formative years.

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Mina Bloom

Burlesque Thu Oct 17 2013

A Complete Guide to Halloween Performances & Theater

zombieprom2013.jpgThe weather is getting crisp, the leaves are turning colors and costumes of all kinds are festooning store windows. Must be getting close to Halloween! If you're like me, you want to start celebrating early. Check out some of these performances to whet your Halloween whistle.

For traditional spookiness, check out Nightfall with Edgar Allen Poe, theatrical adaptations of The Telltale Heart and The Raven, among others, at Center Stage Theater in Naperville now through Oct. 20 ($16) or Creature Feature Radio Hour: The Wolfman on Mummy Island -- a ghostly Halloween radioplay -- at Chemically Imbalanced Theater. If you're into camp, take yourself to Nightmares on Lincoln Avenue, B is for Blood at The Cornservatory Oct. 17 - Oct. 31 ($7-$15) or The Rocky Horror Show (the classic, sans "Picture", with a steampunk theme) at the Chopin Theatre Oct. 24-27 ($20).

If you like a side of showtunes with your horror? Check out Zombie Prom at Mayne Stage (Oct. 19, Oct. 25 and Oct. 31, $20) with a special zombie prom-themed afterparty on Halloween and The Musical of the Living Dead at Stage 773 now through 11/9 ($25).

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Jeanne Newman

Theatre Wed Oct 02 2013

Theatre Oobleck's "Baudelaire in a Box"

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At The Hideout last night most were drinking beer, some whiskey, but the drink of choice should have been absinthe as Theater Oobleck's performance of POSSESSION: Baudelaire in a Box, Episode #5 unfolded.

And "unfold" it did: as Jeff Dorchen, Ronnie Kuller and Chris Schoen sang 16 of the poems from French poet Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, artist Dave Buchen accompanied with scrolls of whimsical illustrations. His angular figures leaned on bars, smoking, their eyes wide; the faces of women beloved and lost to the poet stared out at the audience, crimson and green lips pouting; skulls, vampires, and the flames of hell were slowly unveiled as Buchen unwound the scrolls in time to the music. Like Baudelaire's poems, which connect profound urban ennui to sometimes bawdy, sometimes gory imagery, the illustrations linked one non-sequitur to the next with sometimes humorous, sometimes distressing strokes.

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Kara VanderBijl / Comments (1)

Theatre Fri May 10 2013

A Gazebo Among the Lemon Trees

A Red Orchid Theatre is presenting In a Garden by Howard Korder, a fast-moving and smartly written play in nine scenes spanning 15 years from 1989 to 2004. The play portrays the frustration of an ambitious American architect (played by Larry Grimm) proposing a design for a fictitious Middle Eastern country, which might be Iraq.

redorchid .jpgDirector Lou Contey keeps the action moving well, with quick scene changes made by a stage assistant, veiled and silent -- the only woman who appears. Broadcast news snippets between scenes set the time line. The tiny Red Orchid space is the office of the minister of culture (played by Rom Borkhardor), a man enamored of American pop culture and American architects. The architect and the minister develop an uneasy friendship over the years -- but the play, which starts out like a satire with many clever lines about truth and beauty, becomes darker as the scenes progress.

The architect is so desperate to see one of his designs built that he suffers through years of ambiguity and misdirection from his client (or patron, as the minister prefers). It's never clear who is making the decisions or if in fact a decision will ever be made to build the gazebo in a peaceful garden of lemon trees so desired by the minister.

In the final scene, everything has changed: the space, the architect's professional goals and the minister's status. The gazebo was finally built, but now is gone. The lemon trees remain--to be enjoyed by the office's new occupant: an American army officer.

The play runs through Sunday, May 19, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15-30 and may be purchased online. For more information, call 312-943-8722.

Photo by Michael Brosilow courtesy of A Red Orchid Theatre.

Nancy Bishop

Preview Wed Apr 24 2013

The Year of Othello

image005.jpgIt seems that the year's performing arts theme is the old Italian tale, Othello, popularized by Shakespeare. Chicago Shakespeare Theater offered up their own remixed version a few weeks ago, the Lyric Opera has included a production in their coming season, and now, it is brought to life in Lar Lubovitch's three act ballet at the Joffrey.

The ballet, created in 1997, begins its last stint in regular repertory this evening -- one day after Shakespeare's 449th birthday (and his death day), and the day deemed "Talk Like Shakespeare Day." Set to Lubovitch's choreography and music composed by Academy Award winner Elliot Goldenthal, the ballet tells the tale of the Venetian Moor, Othello, his love, Desdemona, and the web of lies spun by Iago that brings the entire cast of characters to a tragic end, wrought with betrayal and envy.

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Sarah Shuel

Performance Fri Apr 19 2013

Othello: the Remix: The New Prose Called Rap

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I've said before that Shakespeare was a man for all ages who wrote plays for all time. Sometimes, they were his own creation; other times, they were stories written by others that the bard simply made relevant to the time in which he lived. Othello is one of those stories. The original tale was written by Cinthio in 1565. I once made the popular but foolish mistake of thinking that this story was Shakespeare's own genius at work. I was promptly corrected by Lar Lubovitch, the choreographer for the upcoming performance of the play by the Joffrey Ballet. Now, Othello has been remade a third time. Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of the Q Brothers' Othello: The Remix, now extended through June 15, translates the sometimes tricky prose of Shakespeare's play into a language that the modern world understands: rap.

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Sarah Shuel

Performance Wed Apr 17 2013

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away: Head of Passes

HeadofPasses_Production07.jpgWhen Steppenwolf's house lights dimmed for the first act of Tarell Alvin McCraney's Head of Passes, I was immediately transported to the South, to the mouth of the Mississippi River, on an afternoon when the air was heavy in the way it can be only before a thunderstorm. This heaviness not only gave the play its setting, but also its tone, suspending the audience in a disbelief broken only once in two hours by the single 15-minute intermission.

Head of Passes begins on the eve of Shelah's (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) birthday, a date this spiritual woman and mother of three has been too busy to remember. Her middle son, Aubrey (Glenn Davis) is in high spirits as he seeks to make his mother's birthday one she'll never forget -- despite the leaks in the living room, representative of the cracks developing within their family -- complete with cake, scotch, laughter and family. However, these are not the reasons that Shelah will remember this night, and the tragic turn of events haunts her long into the future.

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Sarah Shuel / Comments (1)

Performance Fri Apr 05 2013

Columbinus at ATC Extends Its Stay

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It is a rare thing when a play comes around that captures true events so poignantly that it leaves its audience speechless. The American Theater Company's production of Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli's Columbinus is this rarity. The play retells the events of the Columbine High School shooting of April 20, 1999 using a simple set, incredible acting, and the journals and video tapes of the real-life shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. I saw and reviewed the play two months ago, and its power has stayed with me.

It is a shame that this production will not show for longer, as I believe every person in Chicago and the world has a duty to see it and understand its message. I am thrilled that ATC has decided to extend the show through this Sunday, April 7.

No single performance of this production should be discounted in any way, but this weekend's final performances offer an even greater experience. Tom Mauser, the father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser will attend the 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. performances on Saturday, April 6, as well as participate in a post-show talk back with the cast of Columbinus. Before Saturday evening's performance, ATC will co-host a reception for Mauser with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, a great opportunity to confront and discuss the relevant issues of gun control facing not only Columbine, Colorado, but also the United States of America in both legislation and our personal lives.

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Sarah Shuel

Theatre Thu Apr 04 2013

The City & The City: A Custom More Honored in Breach

By William Shunn

Our first introduction to the twin Eastern European city-states of Beszel and Ul Qoma comes in the company of two angry and grieving American travelers. Mr. and Mrs. Geary have arrived in Beszel to identify the body of their daughter Mahalia, a graduate student found bludgeoned to death. Because of the urgency of the ensuing police investigation, the Gearys have been admitted to Beszel without the weeks of cultural orientation most visitors must undergo. They have only a cursory grasp of the unconventional way in which Beszel and Ul Qoma coexist, but if they don't pay attention and adapt quickly they'll commit a breach of diplomacy that could put their lives at risk.

It's sink or swim for the audience, as well, in Lifeline Theatre's terrific production of The City & The City. Adapted from the brilliant 2009 novel by China Miéville, Christopher M. Walsh's brisk, effective script immerses us quickly and shrewdly in the protocols of life in Beszel, where a literal misstep can spell disaster. With the Gearys as our perplexed stand-ins, Walsh and director Dorothy Milne dare us to keep up, and one of the pleasures of this play lies in those "A-ha!" moments when the peculiar nature of these intertwined cities (which I will strive not to spoil) begins to clarify.

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A/C

Art Wed Apr 03 2013

Violence in Chicago is a Conversation

20130314110911-ProfilePhoto.jpgIf you live in the city, which I am assuming you do because you are reading this, then you have heard of, seen, or been involved in some sort of violent act, and that is the topic of Collaboraction's Crime Scene, as the title may suggest. Anthony Moseley is the visionary for this piece that tries to "do something" rather than just entertain or tell a story, and what it does is start the conversation. What is violence? How can it be controlled? Who is contributing to it? And whether your conversation after the show will be about the show or about real violence, which is what the show is about, it doesn't really matter because it gets you talking, and it absolutely will.

This is not a performance I want to touch in terms of artistic quality, although it is, by no stretch of the imagination, quality. It is not about the story though, it is not really even about violence,. I say that because it is a confrontational performance that uses violence to speak against violence, this is about the viewer 100%. How do you feel? How do you react? When I was there I heard laughter when someone was killed on stage, if that person walks away to think about that reaction, I think they would find their relationship to violence a little more easy to locate, or examine. There are no answers to violence, and none are presented to us save the song "Let Hope Rise" which recreates the whole "We Are The World" type sob story, and very directly show how little can be done.

This weekend may be your last chance to see it so make some room in your calendar on
Thursday April 4th 8pm
Friday April 5th 8pm
Saturday April 6th 8pm
Sunday April 7th 7pm

This show is a must see and I would like to plug their IndyGoGo Crowd-Funding campaign - please Help this show continue being seen by seeing it and funding it's becoming a traveling show. Click here to help them out financially.

MartinJon

Review Tue Apr 02 2013

Next Theater Company: "The Bitch and the Jew Will Share the Back Seat"

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Outside of Geneva, Switzerland, is a giant, revolutionary machine called the Large Hadron Collider. This machine is a particle accelerator that mocks the conditions directly following the Big Bang that supposedly created the universe. To operate the machine, physicists fire two beams of sub-atomic particles called hadrons (either protons or lead ions) directly at each other. The beams gain energy as they travel around the massive, circular tunnel and when they collide, newly created particles explode in every direction in a miniature representation of the beginnings of the galaxy. This whole concept is crazy but incredibly powerful. In the same way, Next Theater Company's production of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated is a play that forces extreme opposites to collide with spectacular results. The first act left the audience bent in half laughing, and yet in the second, there wasn't a dry eye in the theater.

This play, based on a novel, is a Holocaust tale, but unlike many movies and documentaries that have painted the picture of widespread horror, this story focuses on the tragedy within each individual who lost someone dear to them. It raises questions concerning the boundaries of courage and cowardice in the worst of times, when a man is forced to choose between his family and his neighbor. Although this genocide lies in the past, the wounds of those who remember never really heal.

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Sarah Shuel

Review Fri Mar 22 2013

Gjenganger: A Nordic Presence in Chicago Theater

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Gjenganger--a word I can't pronounce, no matter how hard I try; a word that is an adaptation of another difficult word: Gengangare--most often translated as "ghosts", but more exactly meaning "those who walk again." Gjenganger is a word that is the title of three unique plays by Jon Fosse, each of which is familiar to the other in the way that it seems they are different repetitions, again, walkers of each other, hence the title.

The plays are brought to the Chicago theater scene by Akvavit Theater Company, whose mission is to produce contemporary Nordic plays to encourage a discussion about how the culture is perceived and how it exists on a more global scale. Akvavit Theater's production of Gjenganger, composed respectively of William Bullion's A Summer's Day , Breahan Eve Pautsch's Autumn Dream, and Paul S. Holmquist's Winter, gives Chicago theatergoers a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to experience a type of theater quite different from anything else in the city.

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Sarah Shuel

Review Wed Mar 20 2013

Measure for Measure: Shakespeare's Comedic "Problem Play"

Measure.jpegWhere can you find a duke cleverly disguised as a priest, a cunning nun out to save her condemned brother by whatever means necessary, a handful of satirical plays-on-words, and enough whorehouses to be disreputable even by the lenient standards of the 1970s? Only in Robert Falls' production of William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at the Albert Theater at the Goodman.

After the final curtain and a standing ovation, the man sitting behind me, whose commentary I had been tuned into throughout the entire production, said that he felt as if he'd been assaulted by the theater. The smile on his face told me he meant this in the best way possible. In my own way, I felt the same. The on-stage events were a loud, blaring, spray-painted, bell-bottom-wearing, nothing-barred strike to the audience's sense of morality and righteousness, but we couldn't stop laughing.

If I had stars to give, I'd throw five to this production. From the set to the acting, the lighting design to the interpretation of the script, the play was nothing short of what I would expect from the Goodman.

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Sarah Shuel

Dance Mon Mar 18 2013

The Windy City Meets The Motor City @ Auditorium Theatre

MaryMo HR.jpgThe "Windy City" meets the "Motor City" at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University this April. Roosevelt University welcomes Detroit's Eisenhower Dance Ensemble for the Chicago premiere of "Motown in Motion." This upbeat dance performance guarantees to get you into the Motown mood at the Auditorium's Landmark Stage Sunday, April 14th at 3pm.

This Motor City premier dance company celebrates the songs that made Motown famous in an evening chock full of soulful dance and music. Playful, humorous, and wonderfully theatrical, Eisenhower's performers give a visual salute to the tunes that made Berry Gordy's Motown Records famous.

"Motown in Motion" uses the music of top Motown recording artists including The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, The Supremes, and Stevie Wonder, among others. The music is set to dance vignettes choreographed by nationally and internationally renowned choreographers including Joel Hall, Ginger Thatcher, Stephanie Pizzo, Lindsey Thomas, Gregory Patterson, and acclaimed Eisenhower Dance Ensemble Artistic Director Laurie Eisenhower.

Tickets ($25 - $35) are on sale online and by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787) or stop into the Auditorium Theatre box office,50 E. Congress Pkwy., to purchase.

Photo Courtesy of The Auditorium Theatre

Lauren Haberman

Theatre Thu Feb 28 2013

The Neo-Futurists Present: Analog

Looking for something to do this weekend? Starting Friday, March 1, the Neo-Futurists will be debuting their newest production, Analog.

Analog-Illustration_v2-350x263.jpgCreated by Kurt Chiang and directed by Tif Harrison, this experimental play leads the audience through a writer's process. Based on Chiang's personal experience: his self-proscribed task of transcribing the entire 1954 novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Chiang explains the intricate details of the self-prescribed task- how long it took, where he performed the task, what color ink was used, the notebook he wrote in -- but as he delves further into the description of the transcription, the more the pressing question of "Why does this thing exist?" comes forth.

This play strives to theatrically display the solitude and darkness a writer must inhabit before he is able to find his voice. Twisting through a writer's process, it maps where we go when we write and how a work is created from this.

As the play continues the rest of the ensemble contribute their own voices to Chiang's work -- supporting or rejecting the thoughts Chiang has laid out. Following the writer's process, after Chiang's voice has been established in the piece, the outside world is invited to interpret and make the newly created piece of art their own.

Playing at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.
7:30pm Thurs-Sat.
March 1 - April 6, 2013
Order Tickets: $20 ($10 for students/ seniors with ID)

Lauren Haberman

Review Thu Feb 28 2013

Erotic & Operatic: The Fall of the House of Usher

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It seems that opera has always stood on ceremony. Chicago Opera Theater's performance of Philip Glass's The Fall of the House of Usher left me wondering why. This opera -- one of such macabre and erotic beauty -- had its audience in a riotous and soulful frenzy.

Every heart in the audience felt that frenzy after the first baritone notes rang out through the piercing silence of the theater. We met William (Lee Gregory), a modern man bathed in a square of nearly blinding white light, characteristic of the lighting design of the opera as a whole -- reminiscent of Caravaggio's chiaroscuro, the dramatic, high-contrast style made famous in paintings of old.

This modern man receives a message from his childhood friend, Roderick Usher (Ryan MacPherson), the namesake of the 1839 Edgar Allan Poe story on which the opera is based. Roderick has become ill with a madness imparted by the very house he lives in and the death of his twin sister Madeline (Suzan Hanson), and he begs William to save him from his insanity.

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Sarah Shuel

Review Fri Feb 22 2013

Bengal Tiger: The Quest for the Golden Toilet Seat

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I went into Lookingglass Theater Company's production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with high hopes. After all, I've heard great things about the company and Bengal Tiger was a 2011 Tony Award Recipient. I figured they don't just give those awards away to anyone. Robin Williams was also in the play at one point, and he's a pretty darn good actor. However, I came out of the production thoroughly offended and with a sour taste in my mouth.

It wasn't the acting, the lighting, or the set that did it for me -- all of these were incredible. It was the script itself. Maybe I missed something somewhere along the way.

I understand that theater has many purposes, some of which are expressing things that aren't so popular or attempting to reach a kind of conclusion about uncomfortable topics. Still, there is a certain amount of care that should come along with pushing the boundaries, and this play did not show it.

The issues brought up by the play do need to be discussed, but there's a thin line between raising questions and drawing conclusions. The latter is presumptuous, especially in a situation as delicate as the one in the show.

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Sarah Shuel / Comments (8)

Review Tue Feb 19 2013

Successors: A Chicago Play

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Signal Ensemble Theater's tenth season kicks off the new year with the production of Jon Steignhagen's Successors -- the quintessential Chicago play complete with Chicago humor, Chicago politics, and the intermittent rumbling of the Brown Line going by in the background.

The dialogue-laden play tells the story of the family behind the DeKoven political dynasty. When Kenton DeKoven, the third generation patriarch of the political machine, decides to step down, three of his obsessively office-hungry children fight tooth and nail for the position, threatening to tear the family apart for good, and exposing deeper emotional issues between its members. Successors offers a good amount of laughs with far-fetched ideas of how to continue the DeKoven political line.

The play's writer, Jon Steinhagen, also stars in the show as Lou Tedesco, the hilariously offensive cousin of the DeKovens. His snappy, quick, and over-the-line bickering with his mother, Mae DeKoven Tedesco (Barbara Roeder Harris) is one of the highlights of the play.

Successors plays through March 2 at Signal Ensemble Theater, 1802 W. Berenice Ave. Tickets are available for $20 ($15 for industry members, students, seniors and large groups).

Sarah Shuel

Review Mon Feb 18 2013

Julius Caesar: Munby's Modern Jewel

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Shakespeare's classic Julius Caesar is a tale so romanticized by time that few realize its modern relevance. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater's contemporary retelling of the tragedy shows it to be more than just pretty prose and togas, but an ancient allegory for current events.

At first, it's odd to hear tangled Shakespearean language coming from the mouths of senators in suits and traffic police, but with the seasoned cast's appropriate inflections and gestures, the Bard's script comes to life. The audience finds themselves in an ambiguous Rome, stranded somewhere in limbo between the past and the present, hearing the hushed beginnings of a revolution spoken by Marcus Brutus (John Light) and Caius Cassius (Jason Kolotouros). Election time nears, and an aged leader, Julius Caesar (David Darlow), is the popular incumbent. Caesar meets his senate on the marble steps of the curiam, the broad columns rising up on either side of him casting a tone of fascism and dictatorship into the air, and the bold red and gold banners giving a strength to the leader that his own bones no longer possess.

Dialogue permeates the entire first act, laying the ground work for the dramatic death of Caesar and the action-packed aftermath. The ghostly soothsayer utters her famous premonition to "beware the Ides of March," which triggers dreams and unrest on the part of Caesar's wife, Calpurnia. Cassius' cunning is revealed to the audience as he manages to convince the entire senate, with the exception of Brutus, of their duty to free their people from the despot that Caesar may become -- to "strike the serpent in the egg" before it has a chance to bite.

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Sarah Shuel

Preview Wed Feb 13 2013

Preview: Julius Caesar

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen" -- words familiar to each of us, although we may not know why. Marc Antony's famous speech begins this way in William Shakespeare's classic tragedy Julius Caesar. After years of studying English and literature, some have learned to decode Shakespeare's eloquent but sometimes seemingly archaic style of writing. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is offering a contemporary retelling of the play, directed by Jonathan Munby, to satisfy both the classical scholar and that part in all of us that seeks something relatable in a drama.

The play tells the story of Julius Caesar, consul of ancient Rome, who denies the warnings of a soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March." Caesar's fellow senators are the ones who do him in, and his death sparks the beginning of a new Rome.

The show plays through March 24 at CST's Jentes Family Auditorium, 800 E. Grand Ave., on Navy Pier. Tickets ($48-$78 with discounts for groups, students, and young professionals) can be purchased by calling the theater's box office at 312-595-5600 or by visiting the theater's website.

Sarah Shuel

Feature Thu Feb 07 2013

Columbinus: Silence is Deadly

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On April 20, 1999, when I was 9 years old, I arrived at my elementary school in Lakewood, CO early like I always did. I liked to play outside on the blacktop with my friends before class began. It was such a normal morning. By the end of the day, all of the doors to the school would be locked and none of us would be allowed to leave the building until our parents came in to get us.

On April 20, 1999, Colorado changed forever. At 11:19am, 10.3 miles south of my elementary school, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris began the massacre that claimed the lives of 12 students and one teacher, and injured countless others at Columbine High School. Before Columbine, a school shooting had never been heard of in Colorado. Since 1999, there have been many.

The shooting happened 13 years ago, but I woke up this morning feeling as though it was yesterday. Last night, I was a guest at the American Theater Company's performance of Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli's Columbinus, a three-act "theatrical discussion" of the tragedy based on old and new interviews with survivors and their parents, and one of the best productions I have ever seen.

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Sarah Shuel / Comments (5)

Review Wed Jan 23 2013

Miami Nice: A Tale of Good Golden Girls Gone Bad

miami nice"Who will wheel around my oxygen?" and "Will my mother ever die?" were among many important questions in the random, risqué and hilarious Miami Nice: A Golden Girls Musical.

In the Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown, within the small, 80-seat Gorilla Tango Theater, there's a charismatic pianist who begins every performance of Miami Nice by asking the audience for suggestions for specific nouns and verbs, an adult mad-lib of sorts, to be used later in the show for improv. Our suggestions ranged from "dirty sock" to the word "cantankerous." She set the tone for the show, leaving the audience laid back and ready to laugh even before the actors appeared on stage.

Then there were the actors -- men as women, and women as men -- dressed in their finest Golden Girls getup. The whole theater was bent over laughing before five minutes of the show had passed. Who knew that combining some real musical and acting talent with crossdressing, a wholesome 1980s television show, and a dash of melodrama could be so funny?

The characters are familiar to most of us. There's the awkwardly tall and mannish Dorothy Zbornak, whose sole goal in the play is to find a man who she can love and who can love her. Dorothy lives with her outspoken mother Sophia, the promiscuous Blanche Devereaux, and seemingly dull-witted Rose Nylund, whose lack of intellect is the perfect cover for her life as the mastermind of a cocaine ring. Through a high-energy series of lyrically cunning songs and a cheesecake business gone wrong, the four women's picturesque lives devolve into an every-man-for-himself style race to the finish.

Miami Nice has been extended by popular demand through Jan. 26. The musical plays at the Gorilla Tango Theater in Bucktown, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., this Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm. Tickets are $20.

Sarah Shuel

Dance Sat Jan 19 2013

Flights of Fancy: Double Edge Theatre takes on Columbia College

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Photo by Maria Baranova

Flight runs throughout the 20th century, both figuratively and literally. For the latter, the 20th century was an immense moment of technological advancements leading to flight for first the few and subsequently, the many. But also, the 20th century was a time of immense social and cultural change. For the United States, it was a moment of progression for the many and the change that especially runs through the latter half of the century still affects the policies and interactions between people today.

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Britt Julious

Review Mon Jan 14 2013

No Honor Among Thieves... Or Is There?

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Cold Basement Dramatic's production of Jenny Seidelman's Henry Moore is Melting makes its home at the historical Atheneaum Theater . The theater opened in 1911 as a part of the campus of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, which still stands majestically next to the theater. It houses a 950-seat main stage theater and three studio theaters, as well as a reception room.

A five minute walk took us down an awkwardly long and winding hallway to Studio One, a 67-seat black box theater and Henry Moore's temporary home. We sat down in the last row of chairs, which were reminiscent of those in an old airliner, and settled in to see a play about which I only knew three things: 1. It was about Irish gypsies; 2. It involved art; and 3. It was based on a true story.

The true story took place in 2005, when one of Moore's bronze statues, Reclining Figure, was stolen from the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds by a group of Irish Travelers. It is believed that the sculpture was melted down for scrap and sold for only a fraction of its estimated value. Seidelman's play brings these events and characters to life in a fast-paced, whiskey-filled, understatedly witty and passionate tale of a young man who loves art more than anything else in the world.

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Sarah Shuel

Review Thu Dec 20 2012

A Discussion of Fear on the "Last Day on Earth"

I woke up this morning and opened my computer for my regular routine, which involves checking Facebook, my email, and my always growing list of news sources and social media sites for anything strange or out of the ordinary.

Today, nearly every one of my Facebook friends has posted about the end of the world. Some are kidding, some are serious, and some, like me, joke around about it in that uneasy way that people do when they need to laugh at things that would be terrifying if they were real.

While tomorrow's Mayan-predicted end of the world is real or not is up for speculation, everyone in this world has more immediately pressing fears that are truly and paralyzingly absolute. Earlier this week, 40 individuals bared these fears to an audience of over 700 people in a production called Fear Experiment 3.

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Sarah Shuel

Comedy Mon Nov 26 2012

Review: Octavarius: Twilight vs The Hunger Games


Photograph by Taryn Goodge

In an independent comedy milieu that's over populated with producers and theaters trying to get rich quick by putting up shows with pre-existing characters (think burlesque shows featuring video games, or musical theater based on TV shows), Octavarius distinguishes itself by being creatively rich, stabbingly satirical and self-destructing (it's performed for one night only) in its production of The Hunger Games vs. Twilight. Octavarius are seasoned authors of amalgamating pop culture cultivations while injecting the fundamental element of what makes them the top improv-sketch group in Chicago; perpetual comedic motion. The performance on Nov. 18 answered the blogashapre's question of which young adult fiction series is better, Twilight or The Hunger Games? Spoiler alert: it's both in Octavarius' parody extravaganza.

The hour and a half long show started out with the group's viral video "Unlikely Quotes from Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (Parody)", sung to the tune of a "sh*t ____ says" YouTube archetype, where one-liners, jump cuts and subject-specific references insure white-hot laughs. The audience was vocally more pro-Hunger Games than team Twilight. The crowd itself was congregation of quirky-cute female Instagramers who most likely were all at the fun. concert held three days earlier at the Riviera, which is fitting because Octavarius mission objective is spreading fun.

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Donny Rodriguez

Burlesque Fri Oct 05 2012

Preview: Boobs of the Dead at Gorilla Tango

A strange virus known as "B1Z3" is infecting citizens of Chicago, with the CDC warning that "virus carriers have been observed performing elaborate dance routines while removing sequined corsetry before committing heinous assaults on confused onlookers." Can the Sheriff, Wife Lady, Old Dude, Best Friend and Southern Guy fend off the glitter-dusted ghouls long enough to survive?

'Boobs of the Dead' zombie burlesque

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Andrew Huff

Theatre Wed Oct 03 2012

MPAACT Kicks Off 2012-2013 Theater Season with Blackademics

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MPAACT, one of the city's premiere artistic companies for "Afrikan Centered Theatre," kicks off its lineup this month with three new works for the 2012-2013 theater season. Opening October 12 is Idris Goodwin's Blackademics, a "modern black psychology" story of two friends with differing political and personal views; capping off the season is Leaves, Trees, Forest, written by Paul Notice and directed by company member Carla Stillwell, and Reality Check, Kevin Douglas' sketch comedy that tells the story of how modern technology has altered reality in today's society.

Blackademics runs Thursdays through Sundays through Nov. 25 at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave; tickets are $15-$23 and are on sale at the box office, 773-404-7336. For more information on shows and scheduling, visit MPAACT.

LaShawn Williams

Preview Mon Oct 01 2012

Kinky Boots are Made for Walking

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Principal castmembers of Kinky Boots. Photo by Brianna Kelly

Kinky Boots is a highly anticipated, relevant new musical about acceptance that teaches "you change the world when you change your mind," according to castmember Billy Porter. It boasts a seriously talented cast and crew, with a combined plethora of various awards.

The musical is adapted from a 2005 independent British movie, which is based on a true story. When producer Daryl Roth saw Kinky Boots at a film festival, she immediately realized the potential of its "musical DNA." So she asked fellow producer Hal Luftig to help her bring it from the silver screen to the Broadway stage.

The pair enlisted Tony Award-winning writer and actor Harvey Fierstein (La Cage Aux Folles, Newsies, Torch Song Trilogy), to write the book adaptation. Beloved pop icon Cyndi Lauper was brought on as composer and lyricist to write the musical's original score, and Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, La Cage Aux Folles, The Full Monty) serves as both the director and choreographer.

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Brianna Kelly / Comments (1)

Preview Fri Aug 31 2012

More, More, More at the Chicago Fringe Festival

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With all the theater offerings that Chicago has year-round, a fringe festival doesn't exactly seem necessary. And yet, the Chicago Fringe Festival, an 11-day festival that runs through September 9 in Pilsen, charges on for a third year. Yes, 24 acts hail from the Chicagoland area, which seems a few too many and a byproduct of selecting by lottery instead of jury, but the presence of 22 acts from elsewhere in the US, as well as The Interpreters from South Korea and Le Petite Famille from France and Canada, should provide plenty of opportunities to catch a glimpse at what theater folk are doing away from the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. All told, a slate of more than 200 performances by about 180 performers, and the ability for patrons to show up just one day and get to see 5 or 6 groups, should serve to satiate even the heartiest of theater-going appetites.

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Tom Riemschneider

Theater Thu Aug 09 2012

A Theatrical Deal in Rogers Park

rogersparkflexpass.jpgFour Rogers Park theatre companies have teamed up to offer audiences a special deal this fall. The Rogers Park Flex Pass gets you into performances at Lifeline Theatre, Raven Theatre, the side project and Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre from Sept. 1, 2012 through Aug. 31, 2013. The Flex Pass also gets you discounts at the Heartland Cafe, Act One Pub, Charmers Cafe and Dagel & Beli, Gruppo di Amici, Morseland and the No Exit Cafe.

The Flex Pass is $50 and is available through the Lifeline's website or at the box office at all participating theaters. During the Glenwood Avenue Arts Festival Aug. 18-19, it will be available for just $45 at the Lifeline box office.

Andrew Huff

Review Thu Jun 28 2012

Review: The Gacy Play at Theater Wit

Gacy Play Poster Image.jpgJohn Wayne Gacy Jr. The name conjures images of a horrific clown-faced murderer. His legacy is a dark stain on Chicago's history. Gacy sexually assaulted and murdered 33 young men in the 1970's and was put to death for his crimes in 1994. Rarely does "Gacy" bring up the thought of a father, husband, businessman and politician with a congenial chuckle.

The Gacy Play is a re-imagined look at who John Wayne Gacy was. Director Jonathan L. Green said, "What is brave about this script is that there is no real violence in it, no blood, no murder: The Gacy Play is not directly about and does not try to depict the murders committed by John Wayne Gacy, Jr." It still doesn't discount or discredit the atrocities Gacy was responsible for, but takes a fresh perspective on his personal relationships, his view of himself, and the universal propensity for keeping secrets.

Creating a play that depicts the human side of such a monstrous character is no easy task. In researching her subject, playwright Calamity West said she found myriad reasons to be appalled by the man. However, as she delved into his pathology, she found aspects of his person that could be sympathized with.

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Janna Dons

Theatre Tue Jun 26 2012

Local Actor Returns to Chicago for RAIN! A Tribute to The Beatles

Local actor Jim Irizarry is returning to Chicago for tonight's Broadway In Chicago premier of the Beatles tribute RAIN! The show opens tonight and runs through July 1st; Jim recently took a few moments out of his schedule to talk to me about the Beatles and how it feels to be home in Chicago.

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Jim Irizarry as John Lennon in RAN! A Tribute To The Beatles

You are a long-time Beatles fan. How does it feel to be a part of "RAIN!"?
It's fantastic to be part of the cast of RAIN! Having been a Beatles fan from an early age and growing up listening to their music, it's the biggest thrill to be part of what I feel is the ultimate Beatles Tribute show.

Favorite Beatles album of all time?
Like most fans I really enjoy all the eras of the Beatles music and the same goes for all the eras we cover in our show. Portraying John in such a large-scale and exciting show as this has been such a fulfilling job, and with the experience of Broadway in New York City, nothing short of the thrill of a lifetime for me! Favorite Beatle albums? Well if you're talking about vinyl.. I'd have to say Yesterday and Today and Rubber Soul. If you mean the original British releases, A Hard Day's Night and With the Beatles!

What do you think John Lennon would think of the show?
If John had ever been given the opportunity to see our show, and had he taken it, I would think he would have been pleasantly surprised.

How does it feel to be back in Chicago, performing?
It's great to be back in Chicago and I'm so looking forward to finally performing here in my hometown with "Rain". Favorite haunts around town? The usual-- downtown, the lakefront, north Michigan Ave, Little Italy, Chinatown, Taylor St, and let's not forget that pizza! Which one you say? Too many good ones to name!

Tickets for RAIN! A Tribute To The Beatles are on sale now and can be purchased here.

Nellie Huggins

Theatre Tue May 29 2012

My Kind of Town Opens Conversation on Corruption with the Experts and the Victims

MyKindOfTown_Image245px.jpgAh Chicago! A town with many proud legacies; from championship sports teams, to shiny bean-shaped monuments and deep dish pizza, it's truly one of a kind. However, woven among the cultural tapestry that comprises Chicago, is the dark, blood-stained thread of corruption. It's a tradition well documented with every imprisoned official and unearthed scandal. TimeLine Theatre Company's new drama, My Kind of Town, reflects some of that seedy underbelly in its humanizing story of injustice, torture and innocence. The company is also offering several platforms for communal discussions with experts about today's culture of law and order as a whole.

Written by veteran investigative journalist John Conroy, My Kind of Town revolves around one imprisoned man's fight for justice. The play is inspired by real-life stories of victims, police officers, prosecutors and families who've been affected by allegations of torture and corruption.

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Janna Dons

Theatre Mon May 14 2012

Review: Collaboraction's Sixty Miles to Silver Lake

60milesfromsilverlake.jpgAs coincidence would have it, the day before I saw Collaboraction Theatre's presentation of Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, a close friend shared her teenaged son's physician's advice: "If you want to get a teenaged boy to talk to you, throw him in the car and drive around; he'll spill everything that's going on in his head."

Oy vey.

Precisely what dad Ky (Sean Bolger) does to son Denny (Ethan Dubin), though their Saturn sedan is more paddy wagon than therapist sofa in Dan LeFranc's two-man drama (2010 winner of the New York Times Outstanding Playwright). Divorce does strange things to families, first splitting them apart and at the same time placing the pieces of what's left in what can take the form of a Salvador Dali nightmare — all over the (confined) place, and throw in some added parts, damaged in a completely unrelated familial implosion.

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Alice Singleton

Review Fri Apr 20 2012

The March @ The Steppenwolf Theatre

TheMarch_Production01.jpgIn November and December of 1864 General William Tecumseh Sherman lead 62,000 Union soldiers through Georgia, from Atlanta to Savannah, on what came to be known as Sherman's March to the Sea. As the soldiers demolished everything in their path, refugees collected and joined the march so it became a swelling unit of black and white southerners and northerners, all with no one place to call home.

The history books will tell of General Sherman's campaign, which severely debilitated the south in the Civil War. However, The March, as adapted by Steppenwolf Ensemble Member Frank Galati from the book by E.L. Doctorow, tells the unrecorded chronicles of the individuals that didn't make history. This isn't a story of war; it's a story of people.

Consistent, but malleable, the characters show a sense of duality that allows them to survive. A high-class confederate woman becomes the assistant to a Union doctor; a mixed-race girl and newly freed slave passes as a white drummer boy; a confederate deserter teams up with a man whose loyalty can be swayed in amount of the time it takes to change his coat.

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Janna Dons

Theatre Tue Mar 27 2012

Lookingglass Theatre Announces 25th Anniversary Season

25th Season.jpgThe Lookingglass Theatre has announced its 2012-2013 season and is celebrating 25 years of successful, engaging and thought provoking performances. The year will feature the return of a critically acclaimed play and premiers of shows never before seen on the Chicago stage.

The season will commence in September with a Chicago revival of Metamorphoses, which debuted at Lookingglass in 2002 and quickly led to a run on Broadway. The show earned Ensemble Member and writer and director Mary Zimmerman the 2002 Tony Award for Best Director. Zimmerman draws from Ovid's myths to weave an intriguing story within an imaginative setting.

In January, the Lookingglass will host the Chicago premiere of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, written by Rajiv Joseph and directed by Ensemble Member Heidi Stillman. This 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist is a dark comedy that follows two US Marines and an Iraqi translator after an encounter with a now-deceased but still very pissed-off tiger.

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Janna Dons

Theatre Tue Feb 28 2012

Review: FJORDS @ The Poetry Foundation

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What's the best way to tell a story? Performing a set of carefully-selected words and painting a picture with your poetry? Or conveying that imagery with light, shadows, translucent photographs, music, movement and written text? I may never know the answer, but The Poetry Foundation's hosting of FJORDS deftly explores that question from both sides of the coin.

FJORDS is an interpretative collaboration between shadow puppet performance group Manual Cinema and string quartet Chicago Q Ensemble, based on the poems of Portland, OR-based author Zachary Schomburg.

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Jason Prechtel

Theatre Tue Feb 21 2012

Preview: Fulton Street Sessions @ Chicago Dramatists

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Photo credit: Anthony La Penna

Last year's infamous blizzard may have been a hassle to most Chicagoans, but to the TUTA Theatre Chicago ensemble, it served as an inspiration for their tenth anniversary show, Fulton Street Sessions.

Directed by Zeljko Djukic, the show is an original cabaret-style production in the form of a collection of sketches, musical numbers and interludes loosely-based around events past and present. I previously caught a preview of Fulton Street Sessions at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. What I saw was a work-in-progress collage of scenes and ideas woven together by emotion and feeling, and the grand sum of the ensemble's performances added up a production that was beautiful and poignant as a whole.

Fulton Street Sessions runs Thursdays - Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm from Feb. 23 - March 25, 2012, at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave. Preview performances are Tuesday, Feb. 21 and Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 8pm. Tickets are $30 and there is a $25 senior citizen and student ticket available for all performances at the door one hour before show time or online. To purchase tickets, call 847.217.0691 or www.tutato.com .

Jason Prechtel

Theatre Thu Feb 16 2012

Review: Hunger @ Lifeline Theatre

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Adapted from a novel by Elise Blackwell by Lifeline Theatre, Hunger is based on the true story of a team of Soviet Russian botanists struggling to preserve a collection of edible seeds during the 900-day siege of Leningrad by Nazi Germany. Bombings, food shortages, and the bureaucratic nightmares of Stalinism all test the physical and emotional limits of the scientists as they are forced to confront "hunger" in its multiple forms, and the unpleasant choices that hunger leads to.

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Jason Prechtel

Theatre Wed Feb 08 2012

Review: American Idiot

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Rock operas and punk rock concept albums have both been around for decades, but it took Green Day singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong to finally combine the two. Co-written and directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer, American Idiot -- based on the Green Day album of the same name -- follows three bored, 20-something friends and the differing life paths they take: one stays in the suburbs, one joins the army, and one moves to the big city to follow his rock 'n' roll dreams.

...At least, that's what I could make of the plot. Through choreographed song performances and the occasional non-musical monologue, the characters' storylines are told through a melodramatic collage of anti-Bush/pro-"revolutionary" sentiment, middle-class white male angst, and sloppy Christian allegory (a la "Jesus of Suburbia"). By the end of the production, I wasn't sure what exactly it was trying to say.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (1)

Theater Thu Nov 10 2011

tlhIngan QISmaS cha' 'oH DoH (A Klingon Christmas Carol is Back)

After a successful run last year, A Klingon Christmas Carol is back for the holidays. The first play ever to be produced entirely in the Klingon language, A Klingon Christmas Carol, Commedia Beauregard's production mixes the classic Dickens tale with the language and culture of the Star Trek warrior race to tell the story of SQuja' and three spirits who attempt to save him from a life of cowardice and dishonor. The play is performed entirely in tlhIngan Hol (aka Klingon), with English subtitles projected above the stage for those of us not fluent in the language.

A Klingon Christmas Carol runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 31, with previews Nov. 16, 18 and 19, at the Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $32 ($10 for the previews) and are available online or at the theater box office.

Andrew Huff

Review Fri Jul 29 2011

Review: Love Thy Neighbor... Till it Hurts & I Got Sick Then I Got Better @ Lifeline Theatre

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This year's Fillet of Solo lineup.

Julie Ganey's one-woman show, Love Thy Neighbor... Till it Hurts, is comprised of four interconnected stories of her neighborhood of Rogers Park. Inspired by an episode of This American Life in which Ira Glass visited the neighborhood and didn't have very promising things to say about it, Ganey took matters into her own hands in this very personal, wry, funny, and insightful look at what it means to be part of an often misunderstood community. Ganey's storytelling skills are mesmerizing, and her candor is disarming. Her performance is strengthened by a solo percussionist who underscores key moments, and by the clever use of minimal props. LTN runs during the Fillet of Solo festival this Sunday, July 31st at 3pm and Friday, August 5 at 7pm.

I Got Sick Then I Got Better chronicles the onset and remission of Jenny Allen's battle with cancer, with unexpected twists and turns along the way that give the audience a peek into the inner workings of Allen's mind. Her story is funny, difficult, extremely frank, and at times quite funny. She has performed this piece in theaters, hospitals, universities, and at cancer conferences, and will be performing it at Fillet of Solo tonight at 7pm.

Both pieces are part of the 15th annual Fillet of Solo festival, a showcase for one-person performance and storytelling. Festival runs through August 7, tickets are $10 for one show, $30 for the entire festival. For more information call 773.761.4477 or visit Fillet of Solo.

J.H. Palmer

Theatre Thu Jun 16 2011

Premier of Philip Dawkins' New Play, The Homosexuals

Playing at the About Face Theatre: Kick off GLBTQ Pride Month with the world premiere of The Homosexuals, by Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins. The play is a comedic love story that follows a young gay man who moves to the Midwest. During a party he meets a group new friends who will have a dramatic impact on his life and relationships. The play examines the fears, doubts and hopes that face the gay community.

The Homosexuals plays June 11 through July 24 at The Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are currently available at www.aboutfacetheatre.com or 773-871-3000.

Katie Richardson

Street Art Mon Jun 13 2011

Zombie March Chicago 2011

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There are a few things that make Chicago remarkable and one of those is the Zombie March every year. This year was a little cooler than last but still a pleasant day for The Walking Dead to gather at the Bean in Millennium Park. The greatness of this city was heightened when once again people of all ages and races were able to join together and march as undead beings united in their quest for brains. Of course, one really did have to feel sorry for all the actual live wedding parties trying to get photographs taken by the Bean, only to have their wedding invaded by two undead wedding parties and hordes of other reanimated corpses, making for a rather surreal scene.

Zombies this year re-enacted Michael Jackson's "Thriller" for the stunned and somewhat fearful tourists and marched throughout the loop, descending on the downtown area with vigor. Highlights of this year included Abe Lincoln zombies, Emergency Room zombies, a plethora of zombie children with their families, zombie couples in love, and punk zombies. If there was any doubt at all about how seriously some Chicagoans take the event, I'll remove all doubt with three words: Black. Swan. Zombie.


Click here to view the entire photoset.

Kirstie Shanley / Comments (5)

Theatre Sat May 14 2011

Watership Down Shines on Stage at Lifeline

WatershipDown3_web.jpgI was in sixth grade. The demanding teacher of my first honest-to-goodness honors class handed my classmates and me copies of a 500-page behemoth novel with a fuzzy rabbit on the cover. I was in disbelief. 500 pages! About bunnies? Somehow I was simultaneously too old and too young for this. But over a decade later, I find that Richard Adams' Watership Down has a special, sentimental place in my heart.

Lifeline, a theater that specializes in world-premiere adaptations of both adults' and children's books, has chosen to stage this strange classic that blurs the distinction between the two demographics. I'd seen them do some amazing, surprising things with their diminutive stage before, but a freaky and rather serious epic about the rabbit universe was hard to picture. I naively imagined there would be furry costumes; there were none. I thought there would be some kids in the audience; not a one, and the show didn't seem written with a youth audience in mind. I hoped against hope that, like the film version, it might include a song by Art Garfunkel; nope.

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Marissa Flaxbart

Theatre Sun May 08 2011

Review: 500 Clown Trapped

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500 Clown Trapped; Leah Urzendowski, Timothy Heck & Adrian Danzig.
Photo by Johnny Wright.

When people hear the word, "clown," typically, images of red noses, big, floppy shoes and heavy make-up come to mind; however, in 500 Clown Trapped , things are a little different. Here, the clowns don't wear the traditional garb, but improvisation, slapstick and antics are very much part of the show.

Directed by Paolo Coletto and written by Adrian Danzig, 500 Clown Trapped is the story of three clowns Bruce (Danzig), Lily (Leah Urzendowski ) and Stacy (Tim Heck) who, through a series of physical missteps, fall and lose their instruments. They then become physically trapped and take the audience along for the ride as they explore the various emotions and situations that accompany being trapped.

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LaShawn Williams

Theatre Tue Apr 19 2011

ShawChicago's Arms and the Man: Bare-Bones but Beautiful

When I arrived at the DCA's Studio Theater to see ShawChicago's Arms and the Man two things struck me right away: (1) the stage was essentially bare and (2) I was by far the youngest person in the room. By, like, 30 years. But while first impressions can be lasting, they rarely tell the whole story.

This production, like the vast majority of ShawChicago's, is done in a "concert" format, complete with music stands for the scripts. Actors perform in modestly evocative costume, with minimal props, and standing in a straight line. They react and interact as if they were looking at one another, but in reality they never turn from the audience. When they're not in a particular scene, they sit down in a row of chairs at the back of the stage.

If this all sounds a little strange, well, it is. At first. But there is a certain genius to this staging strategy. The brilliance of Shaw's writing takes center stage, and one can't help but be captivated by the actors' thrilling (and increasingly hilarious) interpretation. The performers are all excellent, with a larger-than-life delivery that, combined with Shaw's masterful words, makes one breathe a sigh of relief that no scenery is involved, lest it wind up chewed.

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Marissa Flaxbart

Theater Tue Mar 15 2011

Review: Hair @ Oriental Theatre

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The cast of Hair at the Oriental Theatre. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Before you ask -- yes, there are naked people in the Broadway in Chicago production of Hair, running through March 20. It was the first thing my theatergoing companion asked me about when I invited her to join me for last week's preview. Having grown up with the music of Hair, but never having seen the film or the stage production, I didn't know about the nudity. Sure enough, at the end of Act I, the stage lights dimmed to a predawn glow and the entire cast stood before us, naked as the day they were born. My friend Grace turned to me and whispered: "See, I told you there were naked people." And God bless them for keeping it true to the original hippie-dippie, freeloving original; if it was me up there I would have demanded a merkin. Who knows, maybe they were wearing merkins, I'm no expert on the subject. "Wow," I said to Grace, "that's more naked people than I've seen all year" (and I work in a gym).

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J.H. Palmer

Theatre Thu Mar 10 2011

So Many Days

Theater aficionados have quickly taken to The New Colony, a fledgling local company who've won fans over with their sharp, clever, devised works. Their play, That Sordid Little Story, was extremely well-received by both audiences and critics, and now New Colony has further explored the piece and produced a short film that follows some of the characters from the show. The film premiered at Collaboraction last month, and is now available for viewing online.

So Many Days from The New Colony on Vimeo.

Dyan Flores

Theatre Tue Feb 08 2011

Goodman's 'Trinity River Plays' Another Success For Regina Taylor

Playwright Regina Taylor has made a name for herself in Chicago theater through several productions with Goodman over the past few years. 2009's Magnolia was loosely based on Anton Chekov's The Cherry Orchard, and Taylor's interest in Chekov's style is evident in Goodman's current production, The Trinity River Plays, which closes on February 20th.

This is the Chicago premiere of Trinity River, which debuted in Dallas, where the play is set, last October. Through the course of three plays, Jar Fly, Rain and Ghoststory, we learn about Iris Spears (Karen Aldridge) and her family as they try to make the best of the various hardships that life has given them, occasionally letting their true feelings about each other and their shared histories burst forth. Jar Fly presents Iris as a nerdy but hopeful 17-year-old, and the latter two plays revisit Iris and her family 17 years later. The women in the cast dominate the action, but struggle with decisions about men, independence, and family, as well as the long-term results of such decisions made in their youth. Taylor, like Chekov, has an astonishing ability to let her characters speak at length and reveal very deep truths about their world and their emotions without seeming unnatural or didactic. Iris and her family members float from bubbly conversations to scathing arguments and back, but the movement always feels organic.

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Marissa Flaxbart

Theater Mon Jan 10 2011

DIY Theater Comes to Logan Square's Beloved DIY Music Venue

TMO.jpgBaltimore-based theater group, The Missoula Oblongata, is bringing their newest play, Clamlump, to Ball Hall on Monday, Feb. 14. The description of the play is pretty mindboggling except for the bit about it being set "deep in the hollows of a boarded up stadium," but if you check out TMO's website I think you will be convinced to go whether or not you understand what you're going for. The play will feature a live score performed by Travis Sehorn and an opening act by ventriloquist, April Camlin. BYOP(illow) to sit on. Click here to visit the Facebook event page, or here to visit The Missoula Oblongata's website. Ball Hall's address is secret because the city will try to get their hands into the venue's (empty) pockets if they are given the opportunity. If you wanna go, you've gotta find out where it is for yourself. You can thank the city for that. Admission will most likely require a small donation, but has not yet been specified.

Kelly Reaves

Theatre Wed Jan 05 2011

The Return of The Black Jew Dialogues

Actors Ron Jones and Larry Tish return to Chicago with the comedy The Black Jew Dialogues, in a one night only performance to kick off the show's 36-show Black History Month tour.

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Written and performed by both Jones and Tish, the show, comprised of sketch comedy, puppetry and improv, was featured on CNN and has received critical acclaim as well as commendations for its open and edgy dialogue about race and cultural awareness in society.

Catch the special Martin Luther King, Jr. performance of The Black Jew Dialogues on at 8pm, Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $17.50-$25 and can be purchased online. For more information, visit the theater's website or call 773-404-7336.

LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Theatre Tue Nov 30 2010

ETA Creative Arts Theater: Tearing Down the Walls

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Tearing Down the Walls. Photo courtesy of ETA.

Award-winning playwright and actor Daniel Beaty's Tearing Down the Walls is the second production in the ETA Creative Arts Theater's 2010-2011 season. Directed by Kemati J. Porter and Anthony Brooks, the play, opening next week, tells the story of a 30 year-old virgin who, during one night, lets her guard down and becomes involved in a steamy affair that changes her life forever.

Tearing Down the Walls opens Thursday, Dec. 9 at 8pm and runs through February 2011 at ETA Creative Arts Theater, 7558 S. South Chicago Ave. Show times are 8pm Thursdays through Saturdays; Sundays at 3pm. Take advantage of the special 40th season rate of $10 for all seats through December 19; regular tickets are $10-$30. No performances are scheduled December 20-31. For more information and to reserve tickets, call 773-752-3955.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Tue Nov 09 2010

New Suit Theatre Presents Trans Form

Trans Form is a brave and honest expression of what it means to be a transgender individual. The one-woman show, written and performed by Rebecca Kling and presented by New Suit Theatre, explores the confusing reality of living in a body that feels all wrong, and the frustration of living in a world that perpetually fails to understand.

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Britany Robinson

Theatre Thu Oct 28 2010

The Other Cinderella

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The Other Cinderella

Jackie Taylor's The Other Cinderella takes the classic fairytale "Cinderella" and gives it a serious serving of soul.

The Other Cinderella, a long-time staple of Taylor's Black Ensemble Theater repertoire (the show was originally performed in 1976), is the story of Cinderella, of course, but with a completely different twist: This Cinderella (Candace Edwards) grew up in public housing, bravely sasses her stepmother and stepsisters, and is in no way passive or timid as the original.

In The Other Cinderella, the core elements of the original story remain intact; the only difference is the kingdom dwellers are from "the 'hood."

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LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Theatre Tue Oct 26 2010

Halloween Weekend Horror Plays from Cock & Bull Theatre

AXE1.JPG Looking for a little spooky theatre this Halloween weekend? Cock & Bull Theatre presents the final weekend of splatter fest Axe Lizzie & The Possession of Alice Von Truskin, written and directed by Chris Garcia Peak. In these horror plays, audiiences will view the tale of Lizzie Borden who is stuck caring for a part-human sister, serpentine parents, and a morbid man with a bloody hatchet. Plus, the story of fifteen-year-old Alice Von Truskin who was said to have been possessed by the devil in 1890--but was it possession or just puberty?

Axe Lizzie & The Possession of Alice Von Truskin is for ages over 18 only, and runs Oct. 28-31 at 8 pm, with an additional 10 pm performance on Oct. 30. Performances take place at Prop Theatre, 3502 N Elston. Tickets are $20 -$25 (student discount available), and may be purchased at cockandbulltheatre.org, theatremania.com, or 866-811-4111.

Photo: Jake Carr & Sarah Jackson in Axe Lizzie. Puppet design by Sarah Bendix. Photo by Heinrick Haley.

Emily Disher

Dance Tue Oct 19 2010

Yakuo Yokoshi's "Tyler Tyler": A Contemporary Take on Kabuki Su-odori Dance

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A scene from Yasuko Yokoshi's "Tyler Tyler." Photo by Shimpei Takeda

The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago presents the Chicago debut of Hiroshima-born choreographer Yasuko Yokoshi, October 28-30. Yokoshi's work "Tyler Tyler," offers a contemporary perspective on Kabuki Su-odori dance, a stripped-down form of Kabuki that has been reverred for its purity and simplicity. Yokoshi's inspiration for the piece was The Tale of the Heike, a classic 12th-century Japanese epic of warring clans that documents desire for dominatin and the inevitable fall from power.

The cast consists of two U.S. dancers, a U.S. musician, and three Japanese dancers/actors who trained with Masumi Seyama, revered master teacher of Kabuki Su-odori dance. Yokoshi has deconstructed and rearranged Fujima's classic repertory with postmodern techniques and has created original choreography that examins the nature of a cultural identity.

Chicagoans can take advantage of the rare opportunity to view Kabuki Su-odori through a contemporary lens during one of three performances October 28-30 at 8 pm each evening. Performances take place at The Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets are $26-30, and may be purchased via The Dance Center website. There will be a post-performance discussion with the artists following the October 28 performance.

Emily Disher

Dance Mon Oct 04 2010

Innervation Dance Cooperative

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Artemis (Stephanie Anderson) and Orion (Brian Humpherys)

Fans of Greek mythology, theatre, and/or dance might just want to check out a new production by Innervation Dance Cooperative entitled "Gods, Monsters, and Heroes." The company has reinvented the colorful tales of Zeus and Hera, Demeter and Persephone, Odysseus, Medusa, Athena, the Amazons, and more through a variety of dance styles, set to contemporary rock music. The evening-long production illustrates these popular stories with a mix of tap, modern, and ballet influences. In this production, IDC adheres to the company's foundation as a blend of theatre and dance, through their expressive movement, all put together collaboratively between ten choreographers and 28 dancers.

Watching IDC rehearse Act I and portions of Act II, it is clear that the dancers are having a blast, and their energy translates to the viewer. The company does a great job of communicating comedy in the show, particularly in Apollo and Marsyas, and The Sirens. The "Tap Warriors" in Birth of Zeus nail some fancy footwork, and the interaction between Demeter (Rachel Doucet) and Persephone (Stephanie Unger) showcases some particularly lovely choreography. The music selection complements the storylines, including selections from artists such as Pink, Feist, Coldplay, and Beck.

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Emily Disher

Theatre Mon Sep 27 2010

Lifeline Theatre Presents Wuthering Heights

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Lifeline Theatre's 28th Anniversary season is presenting classic works of literature on stage. The series, "Big Stories, Up Close" has opened with a captivating rendition of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights."

Cathy and Heathcliff are an unlikely duo- Cathy coming from wealth and privilege, and Heathcliff from stables of the working class. The epic nature of their relationship is foreshadowed early on, as Cathy's nurse introduces the characters by name and the many troublesome relationships that tie them all together. Cameron Feagin plays Cathy's nurse, Nelly Dean, who subtley narrates the broken timeline of Cathy and Heathcliff's story. For unfamiliar viewers entering Bronte's world, the broken timelines would be confusing without the guidance of Feagan's character, and she succeeds at reigning in the rollercoaster plot.

The play opens with all characters joining together on stage with haunting chants to personify the moors of Yorkshire- a setting that creates the pulse of the love story that follows. This dramatization effectively mirrors the mystery of the Moors that fascinated Emily Bronte and motivated her tales.

Lifelife's presentation of Wuthering Heights, as adapted by Christina Calvit and directed by Elise Kauzlaric, is an inticing interpretation that takes a classic work of literature and breaks it down into an entertaining theatre production.

Wuthering Heights runs until October 31st on Lifeline Theatre's main stage.

Britany Robinson

Review Fri Sep 24 2010

Octavarius @ ComedySportz

octavarius-portrait-2.jpgImprov comedy is a pass/fail course; either you're good enough or you're not, and there's nothing worse than squirming through an improv performance that has bad timing, or a troupe that lacks the confidence to be onstage. Octavarius immediately put all my improv hang-ups at ease when they took the stage at last Sunday's performance at ComedySportz. I found myself asking questions like: how do they all know the lyrics to the same random songs? And: how does that guy keep bringing back the same thread of needing credentials in order to claim certain professions, and why is that so funny?

Octavarius' bio states that the troupe has been working together in one form or another since 2003, and it shows; the eight man + one woman group is completely at ease with each other, and I was never once worried about them, which is really the worst thing an improv troupe can do to their audience -- become cause for concern.

Octavarius will be performing at ComedySportz (929 W. Belmont) every Sunday at 7pm through October 24. Tickets are $10. For more info, call 773-549-8080 or visit ComedySportz.

J.H. Palmer

Theatre Thu Sep 23 2010

Ruined by Oprah Winfrey

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We all know what happens when Oprah Winfrey really likes something--authors' books become bestsellers, singers' CDs go double platinum, and if you're Lynn Nottage, well, your play just might be adapted for television.

Nottage, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for Ruined, will see her award-winning play hit the small screen via HBO and Winfrey's Harpo Productions.

Ruined, co-produced by the Goodman Theatre and which enjoyed its world premiere there in 2008, is the story of a tough madam who, despite the turmoil of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, manages her brothel all while confronting the physical and sexual abuse and other volatile situations her "workers" endure.

When the critically acclaimed play actually transitions to its telefilm version is unknown; according to a representative for Nottage who spoke to the L.A. Times, "The project is still in its early phases and no production dates or release dates have been announced."

Ruined joins a long line of other Pulitzer Prize winning works that have also gone to HBO including Angels in America.

Photo: Chicago Tribune

LaShawn Williams

Dance Mon Sep 20 2010

A Day of Free Dance at the Dance Center of Columbia College

1306.png In celebration of ten years at their 1306 S. Michigan Ave. location, the Dance Center of Columbia College will present 13 hours of free dance performances, workshops, and classes on Saturday, Sept. 25. The event, 1306 - Ten Years Later, will fill the studios, theater, hallways, and even the stairwells of 1306 S. Michigan Ave. with activity from 10 am until 11 pm. Whether looking to learn how to dance, or to sit down and enjoy innovative contemporary pieces, audiences of all ages will find something to enjoy at 1306 - Ten Years Later.

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Emily Disher

Architecture Thu Sep 16 2010

The Chicago Theatre Tour

Approaching the marquee at 175 North State Street at noon, 2500 light bulbs await dusk to emblazon the façade of The Chicago Theatre. A group of tourists pauses for pictures. The iconic structure, once home to silent films and impressive organ concerts, persists as one of Chicago's most-recognized landmarks, continuing to draw crowds, even during hours when the stage is quiet.

Thumbnail image for DSC00334.JPG A few steps into the main lobby quickly begins to confirm for visitors why this iconic building was dubbed "the Wonder Theatre of the World" upon its opening on Oct. 26, 1921. The lavish marble interior, intricate moldings, and grand chandelier provide the air of a luxurious and bygone era. The windows above the doorway boast the coat of arms of theatre builders Balaban and Katz in Tiffany stained glass. Visitors of the 1920s would have been greeted by professional ushers, trained at the Balaban and Katz School for Ushers, as well as local beauties, costumed in white coifs and elaborate gowns matching the French Baroque interior. Standing at the bottom of the grand staircase today, these details are not difficult to imagine.

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Emily Disher

Event Fri Aug 27 2010

Redmoon Would Like to Introduce You to J.O.E.

Redmoon J.O.E. lumenarium

Redmoon is, of course, well known for its large-scale theatrical events -- even they prefer to refer to them as spectacles, because "play" just doesn't capture what they do. Their latest is the Joyous Outdoor Event, aka J.O.E. It's being staged in South Belmont Harbor Park, at Belmont and Lake Shore Drive, in collaboration with the Metro/smartbar and Chicago Park District. Among the many goings-on are concerts by JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, My Gold Mask and others (curated by Metro); performances by Redmoon and other theatre troupes; a clown fashion show; games, races and tugs-of-war; soapbox speeches on Labor Day; and The Luminarium, the large explorable structure pictured above. Each evening culminates in a performance of Redmoon's Last of My Species II: The Perilous Songs of Bibi Merhdad, billed as a sequel to last year's spectacle.

J.O.E. runs Thursday, Sept. 2 from 6 to 10pm; Friday, Sept. 3 from 6 to 10pm; Saturday, Sept. 4 from 1 to 10pm; Sunday, Sept. 5 from 1 to 10pm; and Monday, Sept.6 from 1 to 6pm. Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for kids.

Andrew Huff

Theatre Tue Aug 17 2010

The Black Jew Dialogues

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Photo courtesy of: Eric Wells

The relationship among African-Americans and Jewish people has long been mired in complexities and tumult; from slavery and Holocaust comparisons to media relations, the history of these two groups has served as a major discussion about racism.

In The Black Jew Dialogues, directed by Margaret Ann Brady, the ups and downs of the black-Jew dynamic, and racism in general, are explored. Here, actors Larry Jay Tish and Ron Jones discuss the importance of having open, honest dialogue about race in America and why it should continue.

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LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Improv Sat Jul 17 2010

Second City Takes to Sea

I recently took a weeklong hiatus from Chicago to cruise to Bermuda with my family and Chicago followed me all the way to the Atlantic Ocean! Second City, Chicago's famous improvisational comedy troupe is in the middle of a four-month contract with the cruise boat I ventured out on- the Norwegian Dawn. On a boat dominated by East Coasters-- New Jersey and Long Island accents a-plenty-- I was so excited to see these hilarious Chicagoans on the list of entertainment for the week.

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Britany Robinson

Theatre Thu Jul 15 2010

Hesperia Makes us Sweat

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Nick Freed and Natalie DiCristofano as Trick and Claudia. Photo by Tom McGrath.

When you sit down at Right Brain Project's new play, Hesperia, you may notice an uber-friendly barefooted actress scampering around the hot little black box of a theater, introducing herself to the audience members and thanking them for coming. If you're like me, you may think to yourself, "Huh? Is this a cult? Have I stumbled in on some sort of church service?" Then, upon inspection of your program, when you find the hymn printed on the back, you'll really start to sweat.

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Kelly Reaves

Theatre Mon Jul 12 2010

Review: Daddy Long Legs @ Bruised Orange Theater Company

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Photo by Ann Sonneville

It's hard to write about Daddy Long Legs without commenting on the scenery. Bruised Orange has taken their latest out of the tight black boxes most other fringe companies call home and to the beach (Leone Beach, to be specific, just east of Touhy and Sheridan). Were this a frothy cocktail of beach-bum shenanigans this decision would seem natural, but artistic director Clint Sheffer's script is a pulpy, noirish period piece with twisty, tough-guy language and plenty of combat. It's a bold move, to be sure, offering delights and frustrations in equal measure.

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Randall Colburn

Literary Tue Jul 06 2010

Whores With Poems of Gold

Fulfill those fantasies of scantily clad women reading to you in iambic pentameter during The Poetry Brothel's "Voix De Ville," a Vaudeville-style cabaret that mixes private poetry readings with burlesque and comedy.

"In April of this year we held our first Brothel in LA at the House of Blues, it is organized and hosted by our former costume mistress, Molly Campbell. After doing two events at the House of Blues in LA, the management asked us to do an event at their venue in Chicago," said Nicholas Adamski, who created The Poetry Brothel with Stephanie Berger in 2007, while earning their MFAs in poetry from the New School in New York.

The stage for the whimsical event will be set in The Foundation Room of The House of Blues (take a gander here).

"It has always been our mission to create an event that is never boring or stuffy, where poetry and the poets who write it can have the opportunity to interact in a very intimate and personal way with the public, and vice versa of course," he said.

And remember, kids, even when you're surrounded by lovely ladies of the evening, it's still a classy event. Adamski said in the three years it has been done in New York, only one or two guests have gotten rowdy.

"We have security, but the seriousness of the art and the fun and whimsy of the event is pretty easy to get swept up in," he said.

The Poetry Brothel will be held from 8 pm to midnight on Saturday, July 10. It's $15 at the door, but $10 if you RSVP here. Use that extra $5 to pay for a private poetry reading.

Michelle Peterson

Stand-up Wed Jun 30 2010

The Fact That It's Free Makes It Even Funnier

Last Saturday the first installment of Second City's The Late Live Show premiered at their da Maat Theater. The show adopts the traditional "late night variety show" format made popular by the likes of Carson and Letterman, and is hosted by local comics Joe Kwaczala and C.J. Toledano.

Guests on the show will include graphic novelist Paul Hornschemeier, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, AV Club head writer Nathan Rabin, Mr. Skin, Gold Motel, The Heligoats and Joe Pug.

The Late Live Show will take place every Saturday night at midnight at Second City's da Maat Theater located at 1616 N Wells Ave. The show is free, but you can reserve tickets for $5 through secondcity.com or calling the Second City box office at 312-337-3992.

Kelly Reaves / Comments (5)

Feature Mon Jun 28 2010

A Theater Grows in Albany Park

"This is what I hope my theater work does for people: it takes them inside worlds they're curious about but have no real access to; it bears witness to truths that many folks -- both government leaders and lay people -- try aggressively to distort or to ignore; it makes beauty and meaning out of sometimes ugly, sometimes confusing strands of human experience; it is a creative act that, while often standing in for a memory, can actually become a new memory, can become a new truth -- that, while telling one story, can actually become a new story and inspire the creation of yet other stories."

- Laura Wiley, Albany Park Theatre Project co-founder

If anyone ever asks you to play Cat Needs a Corner, wear elbow pads; bring Gatorade--at least if you're playing like Albany Park Theatre Project (APTP). Despite the heat of this muggy June evening at APTP, Artistic Director David Feiner and a circle of 30 teenagers are playing for keeps. The game, essentially a high-stress version of musical chairs, requires one unlucky player to stand in the center of a circle of seated players, begging for a chair, while everyone else tries to switch seats at random. (No actual cats or corners are involved.) During just half an hour, the teens survive several giggle-filled collisions with each other and many battles for chairs won by desperate scooching. The game ends with a roar of cheers when Feiner loses his seat at last.

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Lindsay Muscato / Comments (1)

Stand-up Tue Jun 22 2010

It's a Hot D8 @ Hamburger Mary's

hotd8.jpgComedy isn't often both hip and queer, at least according to one of Chicago's hippest, queerest comedians, but it will be this weekend when The Hot D8 Campaign kicks off a mini tour in the midst of Gay Pride weekend.

"It's the opposite of that Gay Gays of Gay-type Tour," said Cameron Esposito, who performs with ukulele-strumming funnyman Ben Lerman and awkward-come-lovely comic Mo Welch in the queer-themed standup show.

"I think it's really hard for people to get on board if you're not also being like, 'Hey, here's something less shocking,'" Esposito said. "I like just getting into people's heads and rocking their world, but not making them feel uncomfortable while they're doing it."

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Michelle Peterson

Theatre Wed Jun 16 2010

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf

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Photo courtesy of: InnateVolution

Since its debut in 1974, Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has been regarded by many as the premiere story about the experience of women of color in America. Here, director Toma Langston talks about his modern adaptation of Shange's work, and how the story still resonates today.

Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf is probably one of the most popular literary works about women of color--why do you think this is so?

I think the poem--and each poem within it, is different and holds its own story. Each story is able to touch everyone and everyone is able to somehow relate somehow to the experiences that occur in the poem[s].

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LaShawn Williams

Theatre Mon Jun 14 2010

#$%* Hits the Fan in Dog and Pony's Dead Letter Office

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Susan Price and John Fenner Mays, photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

Excuse my language, but there's just no other way to put it: there is some fucked up shit going on in Dog & Pony Theater Company's newest production, Dead Letter Office. This play has everything from ghosts to incest to old fruitcake going on all at once in the dreary basement of a post office in Minnesota.

The play (directed by Dog and Pony's Dieterich Gray) opens with our star, scarred ex-boxer Christian (John Fenner Mays) sleepily descending the staircase into the dead letter office, where he's worked for god knows how long, and has trudged a deep path of habit and monotony, which he's happy with. Happy enough, at least.

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Kelly Reaves

Theatre Thu Jun 10 2010

Back in the Day

For playwright Eugene Dillanado, the 60s marked an era where families and communities were very close and supportive; in his musical stage play Back in the Day, Dillanado tells the story of family, fun times, and the importance of maintaining a strong community.

Set in Chicago in the 1960s, Back in the Day is the story of a family that, despite challenges that come along the way, remains very close-knit, something Dillanado feels is lacking today. "I want people to become more mindful that they have the responsibility to bring back the sense of family and community. The kinds of things happening on our blocks and in our communities [now] wouldn't have been tolerated then," he says.

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LaShawn Williams

Theatre Tue Jun 08 2010

This is Not a Support Group for Depressed Men

rotach03h.jpgIf you're feeling a little blue next Wednesday, you may want to test your luck at the open call auditions for the notorious Blue Man Group. Auditions are being held on June 16 from 11am to 5pm at the Briar Street Theatre, located at 3133 North Halsted St. Both blue men and women who are skilled drummers and actors are encouraged to audition, but beware the height requirement: 5'10" - 6'1" are all these look-a-likes will accept!

For more information on Blue Man casting, including how to prepare for an audition, visit www.bluemancasting.com.

Kerrianne O'Malley

Improv Thu Jun 03 2010

Chicago Live! Festival

Improv group Almost ATLANTA (Tj Jagodowski, Noah Gregoropoulos, Annie Calhoun, Annie Donley, Linda Orr, and Ted Tremper) kicks off the first Chicago Live! Festival tonight with a "Dream Team Thursdays" show at A Red Orchid Theater. With the Chicago Live! Festival, "Almost ATLANTA seeks to engage, delight and astound audiences by incorporating art from every medium with long form improvisation." The festival will test the bounds of improv by combining it with theatre, music, dance, and other art forms not typically associated with improv.

"Dream Team Thursdays" aims to showcase teams that are a mixture of veteran and novice improvisers, and artists from other disciplines. Amongst tonight's teams that are performing, there will be musical improv, improv that features spoken word poetry, and psychic improv, amongst other types of performance. These types of performance are a creative departure from what's typically seen on a Chicago improv stage, and the results will certainly be an entertaining and intriguing treat to watch.

"Dream Team Thursdays" starts tonight at 7 p.m. at A Red Orchid Theater (1531 North Wells Street). You can reserve tickets online or purchase them at the door. The Festival runs June 3-6 and June 10-13, and more details can be found here.

Dyan Flores

Theatre Tue Jun 01 2010

GL 2010 (Not Your Generic Latina) @ Teatro Luna

Teatro Luna, Chicago's first and only all-Latina theater ensemble, return this weekend with GL 2010 (Not Your Generic Latina), a riff on their inaugural piece from 2000, Generic Latina. The company has assembled a crop of Latina artists to construct this brand new play, which will use a smattering of original music, spoken word, and new autobiographical stories to further Teatro Luna's continuing examination of Latina identity and mission to break down cultural stereotypes.

"With everything that is currently going on in this country regarding immigration, the Arizona fiasco and human rights debates raging on everywhere you look, we knew the timing was right for this ensemble to create a show like GL 2010, which reflects the conversations, questions, and struggles our own community--along with those around the nation--is having right now, today!" says director and ensemble member Miranda Gonzalez.

This is the first show Teatro Luna has staged since they underwent some leadership changes after founding member and in-demand playwright Tanya Saracho left the company last February. The burgeoning theatre sees GL 2010 as a kickoff to a new era.

"We are shifting from a founder and personality driven organization to a mission-driven one," says managing director, Alex Meda.

GL 2010 (Not your Generic Latina) previews June 5, 6, 7, & 9 at 7:30pm and opens on June 10 at 7:30pm at Chicago Dramatists (1105 W. Chicago Ave). The show runs through July 11, 2010, with performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 3 and 6pm. Tickets are $12 for previews, $15 on Thursdays & Sundays and $20 on Fridays and Saturdays during the general run. Tickets can be purchased on their website and at Brown Paper Tickets. For group sales call 773-878-LUNA (5862).

Randall Colburn

Theatre Thu May 27 2010

Theatre Seven of Chicago Presents Hunting and Gathering


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Theatre Seven's production of Brooke Berman's Hunting and Gathering is a disappointing interpretation of an inviting storyline. Although the setting is New York City, this play could be plopped into any Chicago neighborhood as twenty and thirty-somethings repeatedly pack their life into boxes and search for new apartments and new beginnings. With the annual moving season descending upon our own city, I found myself immediately relating to the idea of searching for something through location- if only the characters had supported that connection.

Ruth, played by Tracey Kaplan, is a gatherer; translation- she's desperate. Desperate for love, and desperate for an escape from her nomadic lifestyle, she throws herself into relationships before they exist, and packs her things before a lease is signed. Ruth's quirkiness was endearing, but simultaneously annoying. Her path was leading to such an obvious place, that she became that oblivious friend who you just want to shake some sense into.

Bess, played by Paige Collins, is a hunter; translation- she's naïve enough to go after what she wants without any consideration for consequences. Bess is feisty and self-centered, and usually fun to watch- until she's making out with Marchael Salinas' character, Jesse, at which point the lack of chemistry is downright uncomfortable. Jesse is her nerdy, recently divorced professor. I suppose the relationship is supposed to be awkward- Bess is really just looking for an escape from her roommates and Jesse is rebounding from his recent affair and subsequent ex-wife, but some evidence of attraction would have been nice.

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Britany Robinson

Theatre Wed May 26 2010

Congo Square Theatre Presents: The Colored Museum

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Photo: nytimes.com

Stereotypes come in many forms; from social class to age to geographic locale, generalizations and perceptions about people have long been a part of the society.

When it comes to ethnic stereotypes, however, things are subject to go from the sublime to the ridiculous; in The Colored Museum, presented by the Congo Square Theatre, director and playwright George C. Wolfe addresses this concept by covering images of African-Americans in society.

This hilarious satire, comprised of eleven short plays, or 'playlets,' explores African-American images from both historical and modern perspectives, and promises to take audiences on a "hilarious romp through black history" while exploring the impact and effect of stereotypes and their indelible imprint in our culture.

The Colored Museum opens at 7:30pm, Sun., May 30 through Sun., June 27, at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green St. Tickets are $20-$25; show times vary. For more information, visit the theatre's website or call the box office at 312-733-6000.

LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Review Wed May 26 2010

Review: The Odd Couple @ Raven Theatre Company

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Erich Roach and Jon Steinhagen as Oscar and Felix, photo by Dean LaPrairie.

Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison are such an integral part of our cultural shorthand that most of us can't remember a time before they were brought to life in Neil Simon's 1965 play The Odd Couple. Chicago's own MeTV began broadcasting reruns of the 1970's sitcom of the same name a little over a year ago, and ever since I've been staying up too late to watch Jack Klugman and Tony Randall cohabit in their impossibly large and affordable New York apartment.

Raven Theatre Company, known for producing classic American theater, has brought The Odd Couple back to the stage for an eight week run. The play's vintage comes through in the set design and costuming, and in references to everyday expenses: a pack of cigarettes costs less than a dollar; cooking dinner for four instead of going out to a restaurant yields a savings of $30 to $40; and Felix's share of the rent is $120 a month. These nuggets remind the audience that they are watching a piece of cultural history, but the storyline of two divorced men splitting rent is one that could have been written yesterday.

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (2)

Theatre Wed May 26 2010

Broadway in Chicago honors U.S. Troops with Memorial Weekend Discount

This Memorial Day weekend, Broadway in Chicago will honor our troops by offering military personnel and veterans $35 tickets to Billy Elliot the Musical, Fuerza Bruta: Look Up, or The 39 Steps. The discounted ticket price applies to select performances of the three musicals from now through June 2. Show times and locations are as follows:

Billy Elliot the Musical
Ford Center/Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph Street
Tuesdays at 7:30pm
Wednesdays at 2pm and 7:30pm
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm

An uplifting tale of a young boy who trades boxing for ballet, Billy Elliot the Musical has been named "Musical of the Decade" by TIME Magazine and has won ten Tony Awards.

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Emily Disher

Theatre Tue May 25 2010

Review: Baal @ TUTA

"If someone understands a story," a character mutters during one of the more tedious stretches of Bertolt Brecht's 1918 play Baal, "it's been told badly." TUTA's production isn't told badly, necessarily. In fact, for its first hour, Baal is sloppy, riotous fun. But then it just keeps going. For a very long time. And once that first 60 minutes has passed, it's just not that horribly engaging. Once 90 minutes has passed, it's downright excruciating.

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Photo by Vojkan Radonjic, Actors (from L to R): Dana Black, Rachel Rizzuto, Lindsey Gavel, Ian Westerfer, Jacqueline Stone, and Stacie Beth Green

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Randall Colburn

Theatre Mon May 24 2010

Sex Marks the Spot: An Interview With Charles Grippo

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In the world of politics, sex scandals have seemingly become the norm; from local aldermen to the President of the United States and even the women who stand beside them, when it comes to sex and politics, anything and everything goes. Attorney and playwright Charles Grippo discusses the dynamic of politics and sex and his upcoming play, Sex Marks the Spot.

You are an entertainment and motion picture attorney--was playwriting a natural transition for you?

Actually, I started out as a playwright when I was in high school, before I even thought about becoming a lawyer. I was writing plays, short stories and novels, and sending them out to publishers and sending plays out to producers all the time. I did that long before becoming an attorney.

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LaShawn Williams

Theatre Wed May 19 2010

39 Steps: Like Hitchcock Meets Kabuki

I didn't know what to expect when I saw The 39 Steps at the beautiful Bank of America Theater, but I was ready to be entertained. My day was long and busy, and I needed to get my mind off such responsibilities.

So when I saw how silly and goofy it was, I had to adjust my mind's monitor. It seemed that the excellent performers (only four who play over 100 characters) were being smugly self-conscious, as if they were telling the audience and themselves, "Hey look! We're so clever! And we're fle-xi-ble!" And I was getting annoyed. Had I been so undernourished on Broadway that I couldn't recognize or appreciate its aesthetic?

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Margaret Larkin

Theatre Mon May 10 2010

Review: Neverwhere @ Lifeline Theatre

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Mr. Vandemar (Christopher M. Walsh, left) and Mr. Croup (Sean Sinitski, center) question Richard Mayhew (Robert Kauzlaric, right) about the whereabouts of their missing "sister," Photo by Suzanne Plunkett.


Through adaptations of classic novels, Lifeline Theatre aspires to tell "big stories, up close." With this in mind, it seems fitting for them to tackle the work of author Neil Gaiman, whose work isn't done justice by calling it "epic." His fantasy novels encompass countless worlds, with all stripes of the supernatural weaving in and out of the mundane lives of hapless everymen, all of whom are drawn with a playful, and often tragic, humanity. Lifeline's adaptation of the 1996 novel (and television miniseries) Neverwhere, which opens tonight, definitely feels like a work of Gaiman in tone and atmosphere, reveling in the cheeky dialogue, creeping menace, and murky ambiance that's intrinsic to his work.

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Randall Colburn

Theatre Sun May 09 2010

Review: The Ghost Sonata @ Oracle Theatre

There's plenty of crazy talk in Stringberg's modernist chamber play, The Ghost Sonata. Discussions of insanity, asylums and madness abound in this story of a wide-eyed student's descent into a hellish Stockholm apartment, but Max Truax's fearless production for Oracle Theatre does the masterful job of making Strindberg's batty, and at times impenetrable, language fresh, raucous, and most importantly, accessible.

"Accessible," though, should not be mistaken for "comprehensible." The Ghost Sonata will often baffle, but Truax shrouds Strindberg's psycho-babble in a ghostly fog that envelops the audience rather than distances them. It's so easy to get lost in the patterned surreality that accompanies the smoky projections, pulsing score, and heightened performances that the language itself almost becomes an extension of the music. Rich Logan's beautifully terrifying portrayal of the vampiric Jacob Hummel, who embodies a sort of toothy malevolence through his quaking voice and ghostly pallor, anchors an ensemble who, for the most part, feel pitch perfect. John Arthur Lewis could teach a master class in precision, making every gesture count, and Stephanie Polt, looking decidedly porcelain, acts the hell out of an underwritten role. Oracle company members Justin Warren and Sean Ewert, on the other hand, never truly earn their moments of madness, performing in a style that often feels too contemporary for this material.

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Randall Colburn

Stand-up Fri May 07 2010

A Pro"mo" For This Month's Madcap Mo Show

moshow.jpgOriginally conceived as a one-woman Internet series, The Mo Show, which goes up this weekend in its seventh inception, has evolved into a once-a-month comedy variety show blending some of Chicago's top standups, sketch comedians, musicians and circus performers.

"The best advice I've ever heard about doing things in Chicago is just to put up your own show, and then you can do whatever you want," said comedian and host Mo Welch, whose comic sensibilities can't be boxed into a four-minute open mic or even a regular standup showcase. "Since it's my show, I can do whatever. I can dress up like gangster if I want."

And she does. She also nabs a handful of performers from her big bag of comedy friends and/or performers she sees around the city and then hosts wild mix of comedy, music and insanity.

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Michelle Peterson

Theatre Wed May 05 2010

Brikenbrak Debuts in Chicago with Samaritan Syndrome

samaritansyndrome.jpgWhen you enter Bucktown's Gorilla Tango Theatre on Tuesdays this month, you'll find it transformed into a women's ward asylum. An asylum of victimized, broken souls ridden with guilt and codependency.

In every room there is a patient waiting to be "saved" as male clients pay top dollar to be the ones to save them. But who's more damaged? The audience follows Mr. Suit, a young, nervous man looking for someone specific. And it's not going to be easy.

In one room you meet Saint, she's cursed; the next, Ada, she's lonely; next door to her, Grace, who just can't help hurting herself. They're all dependent on salvation-- a savior. But that's not all that's going on here. Mr. Suit finds it's not just the patients that are needy but the clients visiting-- that and the night nurse, but, she's just in need of a good drink.

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John Lendman

Theatre Wed May 05 2010

Find Your Life's Direction Down On Avenue Q

aq.jpgUnemployed, coming out or battling the Bad Decision Bears? A trip down Avenue Q will set you straight. Presented in a very short run by Broadway in Chicago, the poignant, puppeteered romp through the hazy life maze of New Yorkers hurtling through their 30s spits smart and startling truths like, "The Internet is for porn" and "Everyone's a little bit racist," and reminds the audience that it's quite common for an English degree, a big heart or a dream to become your own albatross. The wry, sometimes filthy musical is alternative therapy for anyone questioning their purpose in life while engaged in a hunt for love (or at least a one-night stand). The Work Light Productions show, acted brilliantly in both human and furry form, also includes full-puppet nudity and swearing. How are you not in already? It runs through Sunday at the Bank of America Theater. For tickets and information, click here.

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Mon May 03 2010

American Blues Theater Revives Tobacco Road

In the Depression-stricken cotton fields of rural Georgia, the Lester family lives in poverty, struggling to pay for their land, clothed in tattered garments. Jeeter Lester, the patriarch, refuses to leave his land, claiming a job in the city would be impossible to bear. And so his family remains in their beat-up shack, scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to survive.

This is the premise for Tobacco Road, a horrific and honest portrayal of a struggling family during the worst years of the Great Depression. Based on the novel by Erskine Caldwell and adapted by Jack Kirkland, Tobacco Road is a darkly humorous play, featuring characters with unpleasant facial deformities and parents more concerned with what will happen to their bodies when they die than actually living their lives. Subtle humor aside, the play touches on serious issues, focusing on the shocking decisions the Lesters makes that ultimately leads to the decay of this once proud and profitable family.

Now this long-running play--the second-longest running drama in Broadway history--is coming to the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. Directed by Cecilie Keenan, Tobacco Road will be revived by American Blues Theater to celebrate the ensemble's 25th anniversary. Previews run May 21 - May 23; tickets cost $20. Opening night is set for Thursday, May 27 at 7pm; tickets are $50. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday matinees are $32; Friday and Saturday evenings, $40. Tobacco Road will run until June 20. For ticket information call 773-871-3000 or send an email to tickets@victorygardens.org.

Vanessa Day

History Sun May 02 2010

Workers Take Back the 1877 Streets

Thirty people were killed and 100 injured when a mob clashed with Chicago police at Maxwell and Halsted streets Sunday afternoon. The melee formed south of Maxwell at 16th Street and traveled north to the site where the crowd exchanged flying bullets, hurled rocks and swinging clubs.

You can quit Google Newsing now. Sure, the rocks were made of sponges. And OK, the guns were filled with water. And you're right. Even the police mustache's were fake, and no one was hurt or killed. But I wouldn't have messed with this mob.

These players were re-enacting a July 1877 clash between blue-collar workers from Bridgeport and Pilsen and Chicago police, federal troops and state militia.

Like workers in other cities across the United States that year, these Chicago railroad, factory, streetcar and train workers refused to allow unfair treatment and stood up for workers' rights through strikes and protests.

The excellent and quite educational re-enactment of the Battle of the Halsted Viaduct was presented by Paul Durica's Pocket Guide to Hell Tours as part of the Version Festival 10.

Battle-goers were asked to play along by throwing soft rocks at police, stand aside as a blacklisted worker, fall to the ground as a casualty and behave generally rowdy and unruly.

Hopefully it's not the last time the 1877 12th Street district and Howling Mob meet.

Until then, workers unite!

Margo O'Hara

Theatre Thu Apr 29 2010

Going Through A Yellow Light

When it comes to affairs of the heart, things are not always simple, especially when it comes time to decide whether to step on the gas or put on the brakes in a relationship.

The Just Passing By Theatre Company explores this subject in Yellow Light, a comedy about love and relationships that will leave audience members wondering if the "yellow light" for them means to proceed with caution, switch lanes, or ride on cruise control.

Yellow Light is now playing at the Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Saturdays through May 8. Show times are 8pm; tickets, $15. For more information, contact the theatre at 773-598-4549.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Tue Apr 27 2010

Lookingglass Theatre's Hephaestus

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Photo courtesy of Lookingglass Theatre

Created by (and starring) Chicago circus performer, Tony Hernandez, Lookingglass Theatre's re-imagination of Hephaestus is a magical Cirque du Soleil-type adventure at the Goodman Theater. Although the show is centered around the stunts performed by many famed circus performers like The Flying Wallendas, a strong narrative provides the vehicle by which the stunts are performed. Hephaestus is the Greek myth about the crippled son of Zeus and Hera. Disgusted by his appearance, his mother hurled him from Mount Olympus when he was a baby. Hephaestus became a master blacksmith and is the god of craftsmen and metals.

The performance opens with a small, empty bed on stage. It belongs to a little girl whose parents are fighting off stage. The little girl climbs into bed with her teddy bear and begins to read the story of Hephaestus. She is played by Tatiana Ranallo, whose beautiful singing voice aids in the storytelling.

The beautiful fairy-like women that nurse Hephaestus back to health, dangle and dance from the ceiling in their silks piece. The tiny bubbles that float in the air and the women that appear to swim above the audience's heads produce a fantastic underwater sensation that leaves every audience member with their mouth open.

The talk of the show is the amazing record setting 8-person high wire pyramid but the most adrenaline-pumping portion belongs to The Anastasini Brothers. 18 year-old Guiliano flips his 10 year-old brother Fabio with his feet over and over again, landing a more difficult finish every time. The brothers belong to the ninth generation of circus performers and their moment in Hephaestus is both breathtaking and heart-stopping.

Hephaestus also had a sold-out run in 2005 and it is no wonder it's back again. The performances incorporate tons of props like the German wheel, tightropes, bungees, hoops and are they are all elegant, enthralling and sometimes even nerve-wracking for the audience. The non-stop excitement and beauty this show provides is a treasure.

Whitney Stoepel

Theatre Thu Apr 22 2010

Love Crimes: A Hate Story

Love Crimes kiss.jpgQuixotic is a gay-themed sketch comedy company, who, on April 9 began the month-long run of Love Crimes: A Hate Story. The collection of sketches brought together for this show was impressive to say the least. One of the nice things about sketch comedy is that there is often more to the punch lines than the laughs, and that is true about every aspect of this show.

As the cast tip their hats to old detective serials and vaudeville, we witness them taking jabs at the changes going on all around us. One of the greatest aspects of Quixotic could of very easily been its biggest Achilles heel, the gay thing. Love Crimes rides a line that is not often very easy to discern, like a good politician, they appeal to all sides. We laugh as we hear why it is a bad idea to leave you first lesbian experiments in the hands of the inexperienced. Soon after that we get a taste of the northwest suburbs as, the very talented Maria Wilson, shows us the birth of a young fag hag.

Finally I would like to say that everyone did an excellent job, Quixotic is truly in love with what they do, they are having a lot of fun and it shows.

MartinJon

Review Mon Apr 19 2010

The House Theatre's Girls vs. Boys


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For every time you've rolled your eyes at a self-indulgent teenager, The House Theatre of Chicago's latest endeavor, Girls vs. Boys, reminds you to remember a time when the emotional impact of first loves, first times, and broken hearts were enough to just kill you. It also reminds you how downright obnoxious teenagers can be.

Continue reading this entry »

Britany Robinson

Theatre Mon Apr 19 2010

The Pigeons @ Swim Cafe

The Pigeons, written by Joe Zarrow and directed by Cassy Sanders, asks, "Can artists, yuppies, pigeons or anybody escape gentrification?" The real estate farce set in Chicago's diverse, rapidly-gentrifying West Town neighborhood follows Martin after his girlfriend kicks him out of their apartment and he has to navigate his way through a torrent of unemployed artists, unscrupulous real estate agents, embittered baristas, rageaholic frat boys and terrifying, pierogi-selling old ladies to land his dream condo. Opening night starts at 8pm April 30 and performances continue Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays through June 7. Tickets are a suggested donation of $10 to $15 and the show goes up at Swim Cafe, 1357 W. Chicago Ave.

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Mon Apr 19 2010

Crisis @ The Neo-Futurarium

Crisis, the Neo-Futurists' new interactive live musical game show, is modeled after classic game shows of the '70s, '80s and '90s, challenging players in areas of corporate ethics, percentages, creative potential, economics, and pop culture for a chance to win part of the night's ticket sales. Want to play? Get there by 7:30pm to take a Scantron test, and the top eight scorers are the players for the night, scrapping it out to be king of the corporate hill. Opening night starts at 8pm Saturday, May 1, and regular performances continue Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through June 5. Each Thursday, audience members can stay for a catered dance party, part of the $15 admission. Find out more or get tickets here. All performances are at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland.

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Thu Apr 15 2010

For Small Theater Companies, a Question of Space

For small theater companies, finding a space to perform can be just as challenging as writing a stellar script or casting brilliant performers. Space costs money. But cold, hard cash is tough to come by (sometimes, just sometimes) in the off-Loop theater world.

Over at the League of Chicago Theatres blog, Executive Director Deb Clapp suggests that four theaters join forces and buy a building. (Which four theaters? Hopefully four that agree on whether it's "theater" or "theatre".) And during WBEZ's Lunchbox live chat this week, Chicago theater folk pondered similar questions.

Lindsay Muscato

Preview Wed Apr 14 2010

Moses comes to The Harris Theater

On Friday, the Chicago Opera Theater opens its 2010 season with Moses in Egypt, an opera by Gioachino Rossini that hasn't been performed in Chicago since 1863. The piece was chosen by supporters of Chicago Opera Theater through a fundraising initiative called The People's Opera in which supporters voted with their dollars on which opera to choose.

The story of Moses freeing the Hebrews from Egypt is told through the eyes of a young couple, who, like all great tragic lovers, are threatened by the conflict that surrounds them. Andrea Concetti plays the role of Moses, and the star-crossed lovers Elcia and Osiride are played by Manuela Bisceglie and Taylor Stayton. Anka Lupes designed the costumes and the set, which is dominated by a large skylight that holds the Israelites captive. Andrew Eggert, who directs, describes the dramatic ending of the piece: "we have taken a symbolic approach to the parting of the Red Sea. Rather than a literal separation of the waters, the audience can expect a surprise of light and motion that represents the progression of the Israelites towards their aspirations for the future."

Moses In Egypt is showing April 17, 21,23, and 25 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. For tickets and info call 312-704-8414 or visit Chicago Opera Theater or The Harris Theater for Music and Dance.

J.H. Palmer

Theatre Tue Apr 13 2010

Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South

Historically, African-Americans have always held close ties to church and religion; however, for African-Americans who are gay, especially in the Bible Belt, maintaining those ties is often met with many challenges.

For E. Patrick Johnson, professor at Northwestern University's Department of Performance Studies and author of Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South, gay black men are a unique, vibrant community with stories that prove that despite our differences, we are all more alike than we think.

In Sweet Tea, coming to Chicago later this month, Johnson is the lone star in this book adaptation directed by Daniel Alexander Jones and produced by Columbia College's Jane Saks, Executive Director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media and About Face Theatre.

Here, the three of them discuss Sweet Tea and its impact on gender, society and culture.

Continue reading this entry »

LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Review Sun Apr 11 2010

Review: You Took Away My Flag

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Jordan Phelps, Amy Steele and Shaun Nathan Baer in You Took Away My Flag.

You Took Away My Flag is the brainchild of Henry H. Perritt, Jr., whose extensive bio includes 28 years and counting as a law professor, 20 books, and numerous interviews on the subject of the Balkans. This is his first musical, and the subject matter is just as heavy as the rest of his oeuvre: YTAMF is set in Kosovo, and is presented in the unlikely format of a rock opera; its a high-risk scenario for musical theater. Having recently seen a performance of the very successful Signs Of Life, which takes on the equally risky subject of Theresienstadt, the Nazi camp designated for the academic and artistic Jews of Europe, I was willing to give it a shot -- sometimes high-risk theater reaps great rewards.

The cast is well trained and has some great voices, with standout individual performances that include: Amy Steele, Hillary Marren, Brian Birch, Jordan Phelps, and Patrick Cannon. Unfortunately, the performance is all but drowned out by the musical accompaniment, which is heavy on the drums and synthesizers, and is a constant presence -- almost no lines are delivered without musical backing. I'm not quite sure what genre of music it is, but its nothing I would call "rock." Adding to the dissonance is the incongruously upbeat nature of the music that accompanies battle scenes and other dramatic moments -- think Saving Private Ryan set to ice rink music. Fight choreographer Joey deBettencourt has a bio listed in the program alongside the cast and production crew, and rightly so; the fight scenes are well staged and expertly executed.

You Took Away My Flag
is showing Thursdays through Sundays at the Theater Building (1225 W. Belmont) through May 23. For information and tickets call 773-327-5252 or visit Ticketmaster

J.H. Palmer

Theatre Fri Apr 09 2010

Hello Human Female at Gorilla Tango Theatre

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If you've ever felt desperate for a romantic relationship, Hello Human Female will make you feel much better about yourself -- not only in comparing your own desperation to the main character's virginity at the age of 37, but in the nonstop hilarity of Gorilla Tango Theatre's latest production.

Continue reading this entry »

Britany Robinson

Theatre Fri Apr 09 2010

Chicago Dell'arte's The Literati @ The RBP Rorschach

Isn't there a stage adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby that runs more than eight hours? Yes, there is. Who thought that was a good idea? Someone who knows it's near impossible to capture the passion, heart, and depth of an epic novel in a couple hours, much less onstage where your resources are that much more limited. Look at Steppenwolf's beautiful, but ultimately frustrating, adaptation of Murakami's Kafka on the Shore last year: there was just simply too much source material to tell an adequate story in two hours.

Premiering tonight, Chicago dell'Arte's new show, The Literati, puts a spin on the idea of adaptation, valuing the art of performance above commitment to the story. Throughout their run, they won't be retelling one story, but 25. Every performance, five randomly selected audience members will roll a die, determining which five mini-adaptations will be performed that night. Incorporating a range of Commedia styles, classics such as Ulysses, Don Quixote, and Jane Eyre will be transformed into rock operas, puppet shows, and who knows what else.

According to the trio who make up Chicago dell'Arte, artistic director Ned Record, Derek Jarvis, and Nick Freed, "there is a 1 in 3125 chance of seeing the same show twice, and a 94% chance of seeing a majority of new material on a return visit." I like those odds.

The Literati opens tonight and runs through May 1 at the RBP Rorschach (4001 N. Ravenswood). Shows start at 8pm on Thursdays, 8pm and 10:30pm on Friday and Saturdays, and 7pm on Sundays. Reservations are highly recommended and admission is a $15 suggested donation. Reserve your tickets by calling the box office at 773-947-4191 or e-mailing tickets@chicagodellarte.com.

Randall Colburn

Theatre Thu Apr 08 2010

Theatre on the Lake Remounts Eight Shows This Summer

Each summer, thanks to Theatre on the Lake, a handful of Chicago theater productions get a second chance at new life and new audiences. This summer's shows have just been announced and will include productions by The Second City, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, A Red Orchid Theatre, Baby Wants Candy, Strawdog Theatre Company, Rivendell Theatre Company, The Gift Theatre Company and Caffeine Theatre.

More details on shows, times and tickets.

Lindsay Muscato

Theatre Wed Mar 31 2010

Introduction to Playwriting At Kennedy King College

Playwright Christine Houston, who wrote 227 (from which the 80s NBC sitcom of the same name was based), will be teaching a playwriting course through the City of Colleges of Chicago's continuing education program.

Held at Kennedy King College, 6343 S. Halsted St., Houston will teach aspiring playwrights the basics of playwriting and making the transition to television.

The course will be taught on Mondays, 6pm to 8pm, from April 5 through May 24; tuition is $69.To register or to get more information, contact KKC's Continuing Education Department at 773-602-5042 or kkccontinuingeducation@ccc.edu.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Wed Mar 31 2010

The Factory Theater's Hey! Dancin'!

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The cast of the TV show, photo courtesy of The Factory Theater

Hey! Dancin'! is a simple play. It is not meant to change your life but to make you smile. It is very much about the 80s, and whether you look back on the decade with nostalgia or disdain, you will have trouble keeping a straight face at this performance.

Hey! Dancin'! takes place in 1986 at the studio where a public access television dance show of the same name, reminiscent of "American Bandstand," is recorded. Our protagonist is a teenie bopper named Halle (played by Melissa Nedell) who, if not for her slut-wannabe best friend Trisha (played by Catherine Dughi), is probably the show's #1 fan.

Continue reading this entry »

Kelly Reaves

Theatre Wed Mar 31 2010

I Saw You @ Town Hall Pub

We're all lonely, right? Sure we are. That's why it's so much fun to make fun of lonely people. Bruised Orange Theatre Company understands this, exploiting it to hilarious degrees with I Saw You, running weekly at Lakeview's Town Hall Pub (3340 N Halsted).

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Photo by Cassandra Stadnicki

I Saw You lifts text taken verbatim from Chicago-area personal ads and places them into the mouths of a rotating slate of actors who bring these characters (and their sad, sad pleas) to life for our amusement. The show is broken into three parts, going from the cute innocence of I Saw You to the sadly serious Seeking to the almost unbearably perverse X-Matches (mature audiences only, please). The night I saw it gave us a professional wrestler looking for "something casual" and a "tall cowboy" looking for friendship (not to mention several X-rated fantasies that should never be repeated).

Continue reading this entry »

Randall Colburn

Theatre Wed Mar 31 2010

Congo Square Theatre Company's Legacy Festival

Join the Congo Square Ensemble at the Legacy Festival, a celebration of ten of their most popular shows. This two-weekend festival features performances and staged readings from shows such as The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, and Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

The Legacy Festival takes place at The Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green St. The festival dates are Friday-Sunday, April 23-25 and April 30-May 2; all Friday shows are at 7:30pm and Saturday and Sunday shows are at 3pm and 6pm. A $10 donation is suggested. For more information, call 773-296-1108.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Wed Mar 31 2010

Point Break Live! Makes a Splash in Chicago

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The surfers, photo courtesy of New Rock Theater

Everybody knows Keanu Reeves has a special way of acting... a certain je ne sais quoi... so it makes perfect sense that he would be played by a slightly bewildered audience member reading lines off of cue cards in the stage adaptation of Point Break.

Within the first ten minutes of Point Break Live!, Reeves' character, Johnny Utah, is chosen from audience volunteers based on his (or her) ability to mimic Reeves' vacant stare and recall his most popular lines while doing jumping jacks.

In case you're not familiar with Point Break, it's a movie about surfers who are also bank robbers and it stars Keanu Reeves as an ex-jock/FBI rookie and Patrick Swayze as a ripped surfer guru with Gary Busey and Lori Petty (Tank Girl) in supporting roles. As you might imagine, it's pretty over the top, but in an awesome, action packed, 1991 kind of way.

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Kelly Reaves / Comments (2)

Theatre Tue Mar 23 2010

Tympanic Theatre Company's Ozma and Harriet @ the side project

Ozma Post Card.jpgIt starts whimsically enough: Frank Younger builds a robot named Ozma (Final Fantasy, anyone?). Ozma and Frank's wife, Harriet, become friends. She introduces him to TV. Ozma becomes its disciple.

Then tragedy strikes, sending Ozma on a hedonistic journey through sex, death, and revenge. Sounds like my kind of left turn.

Playwright and Tympanic Theatre artistic director Daniel Caffrey chose to set his play in 1991, calling it a "memory play for the digital age." As a child of the "Saved By the Bell" sect (which was peaking around that year), I'm expecting heaps and heaps of the kind of nostalgia us twenty-somethings know best.

Ozma and Harriet opens March 25 and runs through April 18 at Rogers Park's side project theatre (1439 W. Jarvis Ave.). Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm. You can order tickets online or by calling 773-442-2882.

Randall Colburn

Theatre Mon Mar 22 2010

Magical Exploding Boy with Next Theatre's Dark Night Series

Evanston's Next Theatre inaugurated its Dark Night Series earlier this season with an excellent evening of experimental puppetry from Theatre Zarko. The series, which focuses on non-traditional forms of performance, will reignite this weekend when it presents Neo-Futurists ensemble member Dean Evans' comic mime show, Magical Exploding Boy.

A completely wordless one-man show, Magical Exploding Boy presents several darkly comic vignettes using the mime and clown techniques he learned under the tutelage of legends Marcel Marceau and Stephen Niedzialkowsky.

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Randall Colburn

Theatre Sun Mar 21 2010

Infamous Commonwealth Theatre's Production of The Crucible

crucible 2-Abbigal Williams (Elaine Ivy Harris) and John Procter (Craig C. Thompson) -Infamous Commonwealth Theatre.jpg

Abigail Williams and John Proctor, played by Elaine Ivy Harris and Craig C. Thompson

Arthur Miller's The Crucible is the first full production of Infamous Commonwealth Theatre's 2010, redemption-themed season. The classic telling of the 1692 Salem witch trials, with political parallels drawn in response to the McCarthy Trials of the 1950's, is a fitting choice for the topic of redemption, and with some great performances, it was a quality kick-off for ICT's season.

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Britany Robinson

Theatre Fri Mar 19 2010

Flames and Blazes

Like musical theatre, but hate that sacharin sweet fluff that keeps rolling through town? Then maybe "Flames and Blazes", playing tonight at 8 pm at The Annoyance (4830 N. Broadway), will be more up your alley. "Flames and Blazes" is set in the 1920s at an exclusive New Years Eve Party in a hotel that is in the process of burning to the ground. The blaze starts burning guests and servants left and right, but the revelers refuse to acknowledge that they might be in trouble.

Tickets are $15 and are available online, over the phone (773-562-HONK), or at the box office.

Dyan Flores

Theatre Thu Mar 11 2010

The Shipment

For some, the historic election of President Barack Obama signaled an end--or at least, somewhat--to the issue of racial inequality in America. Despite this age of Obama, racial stereotypes about African-Americans still persist; in The Shipment, which comes to Chicago later this month, director/playwright Young Jean Lee explains why discussions about race shouldn't end and why they must continue.

YOUNG JEAN LEE

Photo courtesy of Blaine Davis

In your mission, you note that you produce theater "that unsettles and challenges"--tell us more about this.
I don't like art where you see something and it reaffirms all your pre-existing beliefs [about things]. I prefer art that shakes me up a little bit, makes me questions myself and makes me think about things.

In your play The Shipment, the subject of race & stereotypes, mostly aimed at African-Americans, is thoroughly explored; however, many ethnic groups are stereotyped--what was it about African-Americans specifically that you wanted to tap into?
I started the show pre-Obama. During that time, people were nice when I talked about race. I also did an Asian-American show and people were still comfortable, but when racism against black people came up, they got defensive and weird.

Continue reading this entry »

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Wed Mar 10 2010

Love Won't Let Go

Relationships can be easy to get into, but in some cases, they are hard to get out of. In the stage play Love Won't Let Go, premiering this week in Chicago, playwright Damian Hines tells why it isn't always easy to let go.

You have a very artistic background--writing, directing, and producing--have you always had a deep love for the arts?
Absolutely. It all started back when I was in grade school, where I first started acting. From there, I acted in high school and later, wrote music when I was in college. But writing has always been one of my strongest suits and it paved the way for a neat transition to writing stage plays.

You have your own production company, LaurDon Entertainment--how did you get started?
My partner Vernard Lomax and I have been friends for 15 years. We met right out of college when we both worked in a corporate America job. We both had acting aspirations and together, decided to leave the company. Later, we became involved with a local playwright here in Chicago and did work for his production. After a while, we both realized, "Hey, we can do this, too!"

And LaurDon Entertainment was born.
Yes. But I have to say that Vernard is on the business side of things and I handle the creative side.

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LaShawn Williams / Comments (3)

Theatre Wed Mar 10 2010

The DNA Trail @ Pierce Hall

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Cora Vander Broek, Clayton Stamper and Anthony Peeples explore the meaning of mixed ancestry in The DNA Trail
.

What happens when science meets theater? To find out, seven playwrights took Q-Tips to the insides of their cheeks, swabbed, and mailed the results to a DNA analysis company. Six weeks later the results were mailed back, and the playwrights set to work on creating original pieces of theater inspired by the experience.

Silk Road Theatre Project is a kind of DNA trail unto itself; founded in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, its primary mission is to create a greater understanding of Middle Eastern and Muslim people. This idea quickly expanded to encompass the geographical landmass known as the silk road, the ancient trading route that stretches from Japan to Italy, and was responsible for cultural exchanges as well as silk and other commodities. Among the many cultural artifacts that were traded along the route were stories, narratives and poems. Silk Road Theatre Project continues this tradition by showcasing the works of playwrights of Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean backgrounds.

Continue reading this entry »

J.H. Palmer

Theatre Tue Mar 09 2010

The Building Stage's The Ring Cycle extends through March 21

It might seem odd for the masses to yearn for more of a six-hour adaptation of Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung, but the Building Stage's production is well worth its running time. If you missed it the first time, or are dying for a repeat viewing, the show has been extended.

Added shows are Saturday, March 20 at 3 p.m. and Sunday, March 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $40 ($32 for students/seniors) and may be purchased here or by calling (312) 491-1369. The Building Stage is located at 412 N. Carpenter and free parking is available.

The show's trailer is below and you can read my review here.

Randall Colburn

Theatre Sat Mar 06 2010

XIII Pocket's Adore with Steppenwolf's Garage Rep

There's a fine line between shock and intrigue. It's not necessarily the violence that makes people despise "torture porn" with such ferocity, it's that the creators have done nothing to earn the violence. Atmosphere and character is traded for string squeals and cocktail declarations, rendering the explosive moments of gore gimmicky and exploitative instead of visceral and cathartic. It's easy and lame and destroying the horror genre slowly but surely.

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But XIII Pocket artistic director Stephen Louis Grush's Adore, currently running at the Steppenwolf Garage, doesn't want to be a horror play (to it's benefit or detriment, I'm not sure); it wants to be a love story. Based off of true events, the play follows Armin (Eric Leonard), a cannibal, and Bernd (Paige Smith), who agrees to be his victim. The play's humorless first half desperately tries to show us that this act is rooted in love, that this is the only form of human connection that makes sense to them. Not a bad idea, necessarily, and Grush does a fine job of never judging his characters for their sexual perversions, but steeping the majority of it in excruciating, cliché-ridden memory monologues does little to establish this connection, let alone build the kind of dramatic drive the play urgently needs. Their meeting, a moment that should've been the tingling prelude to climax, feels perfunctory and bloodless, doing nothing to justify this "all-consuming" love that's driving this entire play.

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Randall Colburn / Comments (1)

Theatre Thu Mar 04 2010

Garage Rep's punkplay: Angry, Loud, Perverse

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Pavement Group's
production of punkplay namedrops Iggy, Rollins, Sid and Danzig, but an elitist punk would definitely take umbrage to this representation of his counterculture. For the rest of us, though, it's an accurate snapshot of how the world sees punk: angry, loud and perverse.

The show's illustrated - too infrequently - with punk anthems like Fear's Let's Have a War and The Ramones' Beat on the Brat, though New England playwright Gregory Moss specifically left out a lot of music, letting the dialogue tell his story.

The show's got some great scenes, including tripped out PeeWee's Playhouse type sequence, and it doesn't shy away from sex or violence. There's sometimes a disconnect between Moss's script, based on his own experience with punk, and how it comes off on stage. For example, calling a punk a cop - the C-word of the anti-establishment - might mean fisticuffs in the real world, but when it's from the bubblegum mouth of a kid in a tight T-shirt and rollerskates, it comes off like a minor threat.

Continue reading this entry »

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Thu Mar 04 2010

Agamemnon @ Dream Theatre Company

19961_291479113580_630768580_3544982_698883_n.jpgAgon is a Greek word for conflict, or as Dream Theatre artistic director Jeremy Menekseoglu puts it: "The Argument." This month, the company will be opening Agamemnon, the first play in Menekseoglu's Agon Trilogy. The trilogy is a riff on Aeschylus' classic Oresteia, the Greek epic chronicling Agamemnon's death by his wife's hand upon his return from the Trojan War, and the revenge sought by his children, Orestes and Electra. Menekseoglu's retelling seeks to broaden these worlds by digging into the unexplored nooks of each story.

Set "in a nowhere time reminiscent of the 20's and 40's," his Agamemnon begins in the days leading up to Aeschylus' story, following the King as he discovers and imprisons Cassandra, the Trojan Princess with a clairvoyant streak. What follows, according to Menekseoglu, who also stars in the production, "is a harrowing story of betrayal, barbarity and banishment to the monkey house." Sounds rife with agon to me.

The play opens Thursday, March 11 and runs through Sunday, April 11, at Dream Theatre (556 W 18th St.). Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are $15 - $18 and can be reserved by visiting online or by calling 773-552-8616.

Electra, the second play in the trilogy, opens May 6 and Orestes, the final play, opens July 8. Reserve now. If you miss the first one, how will you ever catch up?

Photo by Giau Trong.

Randall Colburn

Theatre Wed Mar 03 2010

The Twins Would Like to Say at Steppenwolf

Dog and Pony Theatre Company's The Twins Would Like to Say starts in the lobby, as the audience is greeted by Mr. Nobody (charmingly played by Nick Leininger)--the imaginary friend of a pair of twins who only speak to each other and spend their free time writing stories of Pepsi addictions and California beach parties on typewriters.

After a brief introduction to a couple parrot puppets--also products of the twins imaginations--the audience is led into a cramped hallway, flanked by mirrored walls. At the end of the hall, the twins (June and Jennifer Gibbons, played by Paige Collins, Ashleigh LaThrop) suddenly appear, dressed identically and holding hands--creepily reminiscent of the "come play with us" twins in The Shining. The crowd that is the audience then abruptly parts and pushes back against the walls (and each other) as the twins begin to march toward them in perfect unison, toward their nagging nemesis, a pair of blond girls with shrieking Welsch accents. We are immediately led to sympathize with the twins... of course they don't want to talk to anybody when everyone around them is so awful!

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The twins reading diaries, left to right: Teeny Lamothe, Ashleigh LaThrop, Paige Collins and Kathryn Hribar. Photo by Peter Coombs

Continue reading this entry »

Kelly Reaves

Theatre Tue Mar 02 2010

An Evening with Mandy Patinkin & Patti Lupone @ Cadillac Palace Theater

They haven't shared the stage since the early eighties, when she played the title character and he played Ché in the hit Broadway premiere of Evita (which ran for 1567 performances!), but for one week Chicagoans can can catch them for an evening of nostalgic Broadway classics and top-notch choreography by Tony Award-winner Ann Reinking.

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Randall Colburn

Theatre Sat Feb 27 2010

Evolution, Creation Share a Stage

evolutioncreation.jpgAt a theater space in Andersonville, thin curtains separate two fantastic, epic tales. On one side, a faceless being's mighty hands create a bright sun, compose a starry sky and plant a fruitful garden. On the other, a cosmic explosion of energy unleashes a daunting galaxy, orbs circle a ball of flaming gas and comets collide. One orchestra plays simultaneously for both, as each side of the curtain tells the same story.

In the beginning, ticket holders at the Quest Theatre Ensemble's "Evolution/Creation" performance are separated into two separate stages. There's no dialogue, just a nine-member orchestra playing an impressive score in between two lowered curtains. As a hymn chorus in Latin is chanted melodically from both sides of the total 18-member cast, both audiences are met with complete darkness.

Creator and director Andrew Park's production is both endearingly awkward and rationally self-aware. It boasts a grade-school-production style of surrealist papier-maché puppetry, mismatched quilted fabrics and exposed curtain ropes and pulleys, giving it a genuine grassroots theater aesthetic.

Continue reading this entry »

John Lendman

Theatre Sat Feb 27 2010

Point Break Live! @ New Rock Theater

It took ten minutes for a friend to convince me this was real. The deliriously idiotic cult action classic, Point Break, wherein Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze wax philosophical over surfboards and shotguns, has been adapted into an absurdist stage production with ponchos. After successful runs in Seattle, LA, and New York, Point Break Live! is coming to Chicago this March, and YOU could be playing the starring role. Reeve's Johnny Utah is chosen randomly from the audience, with the winner reading his/her lines from cue cards. The production apparently captures the explosions, car chases, and extended skydive sequences in its own ludicrous way. For a taste of the action, check out the video below.

This takes the raucous midnight screenings of cult classics like Troll 2 and The Room a step further, allowing the audience free reign to revise and refine those moments of unintentional hilarity.

Performances start March 19 and run through May 30 at New Rock Theater (3931 N. Elston Avenue). Tickets are $20 for Friday and Saturday ($25.00 Front Row) and
$15 for Sundays ($20.00 Front Row). Performances start at 9:30 Friday and Saturday and 6pm on Sunday.

Randall Colburn / Comments (1)

Theatre Thu Feb 25 2010

Still In Love with Hip-Hop

When it comes to hip-hop, even the most loyal enthusiasts would admit that the culture, despite its evolution, is mired in many social ills. Between the violent and misogynistic lyrics and the lack of creativity and diversity, it has become easy to fall out of love with hip hop--or has it?

Not according to writer/director Wendell Tucker.

Tucker, who hails from Chicago's South Side, explores the hip-hop culture in his latest production, I Still Love H.E.R. (atributetohiphop). Featuring an all-Chicago cast and titled similarly to fellow Chicago native Common's 1994 ode to hip-hop, "I Used to Love H.E.R." (Hip Hop in its Essence is Real), Tucker takes the audience on a journey that explores what "helped to create the cultural phenomena known as 'Hip-Hop'," as well as the challenges of and reasons for staying in love with the art, social issues notwithstanding.

I Still Love H.E.R. opens Friday and runs through March 27 at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green St. All showtimes are 8pm; tickets are $20-$25. Contact the theatre box office at 312-733-6714 for more information.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Wed Feb 24 2010

Review: The Ring Cycle @ The Building Stage

The first thing you'll probably hear about The Building Stage's re-imagining of Wagner's epic opera cycle is its length. I've witnessed several light up or laugh off the play's six-hour running time (which includes two intermissions and a dinner break), but The Neo-Futurists' loopy production of Strange Interlude for Goodman's O'Neill Festival last year ran seven and, just like The Ring Cycle, didn't feel nearly that long. But where Strange Interlude's length felt gimmicky (as did many parts of the mostly solid production), The Ring Cycle's is not. Blake Montgomery and Joanie Schultz's production for The Building Stage takes its source material seriously, and it's a scenic, if somewhat rocky, ride.

Continue reading this entry »

Randall Colburn

Art Thu Feb 18 2010

What the Twins Were Trying to Say

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The twins: Ashleigh LaThrop and Paige Collins. Photo by Peter Coombs

Something awesome is happening at Steppenwolf this week. Garage Rep, a theatrical program combining three productions from three of Chicago's most innovative theater companies, is opening. The three plays--Adore, punkplay, and The Twins Would Like to Say--are being presented in repertory through April 25.

This morning I spoke with Devon de Mayo and Seth Bockley about their play, The Twins Would Like to Say--the culmination of a lot of work between a troupe of enthusiastic and ambitious local creatives (Chicago-based Dog and Pony Theatre Company--which de Mayo is co-founder of). The Twins Would Like to Say is an interactive performance based on the true story of a pair of identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons, Caribbean immigrants trying to find their place in provincial Wales in the 1970s. At eight years old they made a pact to speak to no one but each other--a pact that lasted over 20 years. Because they were unable to express themselves verbally in their daily lives, they took to writing and their imaginary worlds blossomed into a collection of highly imaginative novels detailing provocative themes like teenage lust and rebellion.

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Kelly Reaves / Comments (2)

Theatre Wed Feb 17 2010

Pretty Penny @ The Right Brain Project

PPCard02.jpgWhile internet dating and "cybering", as the kids say, is predominant these days, phone sex stays a lucrative and ubiquitous industry. Just like dating websites, some people dive in for the thrill, some for the laughs and some for the connection. Local Chicago theater company The Right Brain Project will explore these ideas and more with artistic director Nathan Robbel's production of Pretty Penny, which opens this Thursday at 8pm.

A sexually charged tale of five individuals seeking validation and a sense of identity, Pretty Penny begins when a young girl takes on a career as a phone sex operator on a no-taboo line. What starts as an intriguing job and psychological experiment turns into a journey of self-discovery as reality and fantasy intermingle to the point of upheaval.

Pretty Penny opens this Thursday, February 18, and runs through March 20. Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm, presented at the RBP Rorschach, located at 4001 N. Ravenswood at the intersection of Irving Park & Ravenswood. Admission is a suggested $15 donation, and reservations are highly recommended, as seating is limited. Please call the RBP box office at 773-750-2033 or e-mail your ticket requests to tickets@therbp.org. And yes, it was written by me.

Photo by Tom McGrath

Randall Colburn / Comments (1)

Theatre Tue Feb 16 2010

Expressions of MJ: A Tribute to Michael Jackson

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The music of Michael Jackson will undoubtedly live forever--its impact on pop culture is undeniable. To celebrate the singer/entertainer's contribution to the music world, the For Children, By Children (FCBC) youth theater troupe will honor the "King of Pop" via its production, "Expressions of MJ."

"We wanted to pay tribute to Michael Jackson not only through song and dance, but also recognize his humanitarian efforts," said FCBC artistic director, Rod Lewis, who also wrote and directed the production.

Audience members will be treated to a medley of the entertainer's hits including "Dangerous," "Who's Loving You," "Dancing Machine," and "Remember the Time," which cover his days with The Jackson 5 as well as when he ruled the charts as a solo artist.

"Expressions of MJ" opens this Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7pm at the CICS-Longwood Auditorium, 1309 W. 95th St. Additional shows are Friday, Feb. 19, and Thursday and Friday, Mar. 4 and 5. All shows are at 7pm; tickets, $7-$10. Contact Rod Lewis at 708-769-9880 for further information.

Photo courtesy of Daryl Martin

LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Theatre Fri Feb 12 2010

Bernie Sahlins directs Lysistrata @ Victory Gardens

sahlins by Jane Nicholl Sahlins copy.jpgBernie Sahlins, well known as one of the founders of the original Second City in Chicago as well as for his work on SCTV, is collaborating with The Poetry Foundation to mount a staged reading of Aristophanes' Lysistrata later this month. This is not the first time that Sahlins has collaborated with The Poetry Foundation and won't be the last; a staged reading of Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy is scheduled in May.

It may seem incongruous for a man known for his comic sensibility to be interested in bringing to the stage a piece of writing that uses the bloody Peloponnesian War as its background, and was first performed in Athens in 411 B.C.E. "It's a great play that has survived intact for over 3,000 years, and deserves to be done," Sahlins said of Lysistrata, "and deals with subject matter and events that could have been written yesterday. It's a feminist play; the female characters in it are worthwhile, it is not a museum piece." If you think the language used by Aristophanes will be a barrier to your twenty-first century ears, think again: "The language is interesting -- there are the same taboos on language in Lysistrata that we have today, it was written as a popular comedy and the language used is worthy of censorship on some current cable TV shows."

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J.H. Palmer

Theatre Fri Feb 12 2010

The House Theatre's Wilson Wants it All


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In a more gadget obsessed, fast-moving, politically dirty world than we live in now, hope is born. The House Theatre's production, Wilson Wants it All, written by Michael Rohd and Phillip Klapperich, presents a dark, yet hopeful interpretation of where our country could end up if political lines and politicians continue to split the country.

Wilson Wants it All incorporates technology in a believable and charming fashion, constantly drawing in the audience with multi-media extensions of the on-stage action. The complicated scene transitions move in and out with the speed of a Blackberry, and the fluidity of social media. But these models of communication are old news, in 2040, when the country has become fixated on a national savior- the daughter of an assassinated president who has been raised to save us from corruption, overpopulation, and depleted resources.

John Henry Roberts as Wilson, portrays a lovably overwhelmed political advisor who has good guy and bad guy wrapped into a bundle of moral confusion. Although his motives are seeped in political gain, Roberts allows charm and compassion to shine through the title character.

The theme of "Hope" flirts with cliche near the conclusion of the show, and audience members might be left wondering what exactly there is to be hopeful for, outside of the idealistic and unlikely chain of events that occur onstage. But the timeliness of the metaphors still manage to provoke comparisons to our own democracy and foreshadow the frightening possibility of the future of our country. The theme of family and nation, being one and the same, can give everyone something valuable to ponder, and will likely stick with you at the conclusion of the show. Wilson Wants it All is a successful statement that every American should consider.

Wilson Wants it All runs through March 27 at the Chopin Theatre.

Britany Robinson

Theatre Thu Feb 11 2010

The Cabinet @ Redmoon Theatre

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene's silent and spooky 1920 film about a deranged doctor and his sleepwalking servant is mostly remembered by cinephiles for its German Expressionist elements, mainly its distorted set design and jagged edges. Redmoon's The Cabinet, a live-actor-and-puppet retelling of the classic tale is so powerful because theirs is not just a feast for the eyes, it's a feast for the soul.

While it still traverses the same territory as the film, Redmoon's story shifts the focus to Cesare, Caligari's somnambulist slave, who croaks out his story through the rattle and crackle of an old gramophone. Narrator Colm O'Reilly's voice alone, bony and bathed in ash, evokes a metallic wasteland that is enhanced that much more by its labyrinthine set and the jerky, mechanical movements of the puppeteers, who seem to be more in fear of the evil doctor than the puppets they control. A slowburn of mounting tension, The Cabinet ratchets up the terror until the climactic scream, breathtaking in its near-endlessness, transforms the horror into something sublime, a moment of profound catharsis that united my packed theatre in one massive exhale.

Horror, puppets, spectacle and story -- there's something for everybody (as long as you're over 13).

The Cabinet runs at Redmoon Central (1463 W. Hubbard Street) Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 8pm and 10pm, Saturdays at 6pm and 9pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets range between $15 and $25 and can be purchased online or by calling 312.850.8440 x 111.

Randall Colburn / Comments (3)

Theatre Thu Feb 11 2010

Pavement Group's punkplay Turns Boys To Men

Everyone can relate to having that adolescent moment when they discover a life-changing type of music, and punkplay zeroes in on that slice of life for a couple of kids named Duck and Mickey.

"It's a play about two sort of marginal adolescent boys growing up in the suburbs who sort of latch on to punk rock and use it to find an identity outside of the mainstream," said New England playwright Gregory Moss, whose punkplay comes to Chicago as a Pavement Group production, part of Steppenwolf Theatre Company's new Visiting Company Initiative, Garage Rep.

When the two boys - played by Alexander Lane and Matt Farabee under the direction of Pavement Group's founding artistic director David Perez - have trouble adapting, bands like Black Flag and Sonic Youth give them a path to self-discovery. It's not a music-as-salvation story, though.

Continue reading this entry »

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Wed Feb 10 2010

Hollywood in Englewood

Many artists (i.e., actors, singers, producers) who start their career in Chicago often leave the Windy City for the bright lights of Hollywood--but not Mark Harris--for this director, producer and screenwriter from the South Side, Chicago will always be "home."
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Growing up in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, Harris always knew he would someday become a writer. "It's my gift," he said. Later, he left a job in corporate America to pursue his dream; for him, it was a risk he knew he had to take. "I had no fears at all. I knew I wanted to do it and I never looked back," said Harris.

Without any regrets, Harris began to hone his craft, and in 1997, wrote his first screenplay. Writing remained his passion; however, he yearned to do more: He wanted to spearhead his own films. "I started out as a writer and then branched out. I realized if I wanted my own projects, I had to do them myself."

And 1555 Filmworks was born.

Continue reading this entry »

LaShawn Williams

Review Tue Feb 09 2010

That's Weird, Grandma @ The Neo-Futurarium

barrel o monkeys.jpg Barrel of Monkeys is an organization who's mission is summed up in the tag line: "Kids Write it. We Do It. World Saved." Every one of the 16 acts in That's Weird, Grandma was written by a Chicago Public School student. The company uses different techniques for each act: in The Mystery Glasses, written by Alicjak V. of Loyola Park, actors hold up colored papers printed with key words that move the story along; in Untitled (Graffiti Argument) by Anita M. of Little Village, scraps of fabric are deftly used to represent graffiti; and My Happy Remember, by Naudia W. of Reavis, is a miniature musical unto itself.

Over the course of an hour or so, BOM entertains the audience and finds the inner meaning in children's writing without becoming cloying or condescending. This is primarily a kids show, but I never felt out of place, and I doubt that anyone really could. There is something happily familiar about watching an ensemble of actors take on stories with titles like: Superheroes; My Dad at Panda Express; and Man in Jam in dress-up closet costuming and a playful confidence. It reminded me of the television of my youth -- shows like The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, and Sesame Street, only more entertaining and much funnier.

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (1)

Theatre Tue Feb 09 2010

I Am A Camera @ The Neo-Futurarium

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Director Greg Allen's latest work explores our relationship to images, and how we see ourselves in photographs. The show opens with a darkened stage and a series of slides projected onto a screen. They are instantly recognizable as having come from the not so very distant past -- long enough ago that the average family owned just one camera, but recent enough that the images captured are in color. Whether they are slides from the personal collections of the cast and crew, or treasures found deep in the recesses of a thrift store, we don't know, and is beside the point. I couldn't help thinking about my own relationship to images like those being projected in front of me; when I was growing up a set of photo albums lined an entire shelf of the living room, and I pored over them intensely. Any moments captured in those images that I was too young to remember on my own were seared into my memory nonetheless by endless hours spent turning the pages of those unwieldy albums.

Throughout the piece, photography is used as a way to confront ideas about ourselves, and as a way to communicate. In one scene, actors Jeremy Sher and Caitlin Stainken sit at a table covered in photographs, and are relegated to either asking or answering questions of each other by selecting an image from the table and holding it up. In another scene, reminiscent of a party where guests look at digital photos that were taken of them moments earlier, the actors pose with audience members and take snapshots which are then projected onto a screen. It was at once unsettling and validating to see an image of myself projected onscreen during the performance, an experience I realized later was much like seeing myself tagged in other people's Facebook photos -- somehow showing up in a friend's snapshots of a fabulous evening gives me a greater sense of credibility than showing up in my own.

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J.H. Palmer

Theatre Sun Feb 07 2010

Avant-Garde in Chicago: Trap Door and Oracle Produce the Rarely Produced

I've often heard it said that Chicago's theatre scene lacks a strong avant-garde presence, that it can play things too safe, too simple. It's true that Chicago doesn't boast companies as committed to the radical avant-garde experiments of New York's Wooster Group or Richard Foreman's complex Ontological-Hysteric Theater, but there's plenty of boundary-pushing non-traditional fare lurking along Chicago's storefront scene to please those looking for more than just a good story.

Last night I attended Trap Door Theatre's excellent American premiere of Minna, a play by British author Howard Barker. Barker, the architect of the indigestible Theatre of Catastrophe, is a superstar in Europe where his plays are produced readily and lavishly, but his work is rarely seen in the States. Barker seems like a perfect fit for Trap Door, who are committed to producing challenging and obscure works, often by European authors, but they aren't the only Chicago company right now to take a chance on one of his plays; a few weeks ago I posted my review of Oracle Theatre's unhinged production of Barker's The Castle. For perhaps the first time ever, Chicago theatergoers can see not one, but two productions of Barker's work on the same weekend. I can't imagine another time in the foreseeable future where this will happen.

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Randall Colburn

Performance Wed Feb 03 2010

Last Chance to Submit Proposals for the Fringe Festival

If you are a performing artist, a set designer, a theater, a stage, a stagehand, a spotlight, or are in any other way involved in the Chicago performing arts community, you want to be part of the Fringe Festival in September. The deadline to apply is February 15. Get on it.

Kelly Reaves

Theatre Wed Jan 27 2010

The Wedding by Tuta Theatre

This article was submitted to us by Amy Ganser, a freelance writer in Chicago.

"Comedy is tragedy plus time," said Carol Burnet. The hodgepodge of characters gathered for the Bavarian comedy The Wedding may not sport lederhosen but are tragicomic figures at heart. Tuta Theatre presents the 1919 Bertolt Brecht classic (whose work is performed throughout Germany more often than Shakespeare) with a modernized approach featuring original music by Jesse Terrill (and a smidgen of Brittney Spears) mixed with flapper-style evening wear and tailored tweed suits in homage to the roaring 1920's bourgeoisie. The wedding party includes a contemptuous mother of the groom played by Laurie Larson who compulsively instructs her son which piece of fish to choose for dinner.

Throughout the 70-minute performance her dismal gaze and pathetic longing for her grown son reach the audience beyond the limits of comical one-liners. The groom's friend (Andy Hager) instigates a kind of sexual chess game among all guests, married or not, beginning with a hilarious and remarkably not exaggerated scene where Hager's character randomly pleasures a female wedding guest beneath the dinner table. As the wine flows ("It makes the conversation better!") the antics remain impressively understated with the casts' brilliant use of movement, expression, and time in this highly overstated satirical take on German bourgeois society.

The Wedding runs now through February 14 at Chopin Theatre Studio, 1543 W. Division. Tickets are $20 for students and seniors, $25 for everyone else.

A/C

Theatre Mon Jan 25 2010

Review: The Castle at Oracle Theatre

Howard Barker: Mission accomplished.

In my preview piece of this very production, I described Howard Barker's Theatre of Catastrophe as "rarely elicit[ing] the same response from any one audience member, creating a chaotic environment that is rife with dialogue." While a tad slipshod and borderline incoherent at times (keep in mind I saw a preview), Oracle Theatre's production of Barker's The Castle revels in its chaos, doing the audience no favors as they shriek and cackle their way through one of the most exciting shows I've seen this season. Mission accomplished, indeed.

Check out my preview piece for a plot synopsis, though it likely won't do much for you. There is a story here, but the strength of Oracle's production lies in the palpable sense of chaos created by this top-notch ensemble. Characters come and go, lingering on the sidelines as they play with the lights and interact with the audience, acknowledging every artifice with a grin as the most tragic of events play out in their midst. Interludes become frightening as the clatter and bang of the castle's builders echo clamorously from every corner of Oracle's tiny black box space. It's an unstable world that is enlivened further by the dedication of the performers, all of whom are occupying the same delirious universe.

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Randall Colburn / Comments (1)

Theatre Fri Jan 22 2010

The Castle @ Oracle Theatre

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When the boys are away, the women will play. Perhaps nowhere else is this sentiment more thoroughly lampooned than in Howard Barker's The Castle, opening this weekend at Oracle Theatre. The Castle explores the social and cultural unrest of 1980's Western civilization by way of the Crusades, following a pious knight, his retainer and a servant as they discover their once God-fearing estate has been turned into a free-love bastian of feminist ideals. The knight desperately tries to restore order by building walls, triggering a series of events best described as "absurd", "repulsive" and "nauseating".

Never beholden to an audience's roaring approval, Barker coined the term Theatre of Catastrophe to describe his work. Reveling in their instability and ambiguity, Barker's plays rarely elicit the same response from any one audience member, creating a chaotic environment that is rife with dialogue. Expect Oracle's production to be no different, presenting The Castle's harsh, deceptive characters with the sort of eccentric irony that will both confound and amuse.

The Castle previews tonight and opens tomorrow, running through March 6. Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm. Oracle Theatre is located at 3809 N. Broadway and admission is a $10 donation at the door.

Oh, and I hear there are lesbian anarchists.

Randall Colburn

Feature Mon Jan 18 2010

A Fever Dream Come True: Chicago's Dream Theatre Company Finds Its Audience

dreamtheatre.jpgMost theater companies define themselves by what they want. Jeremy Menekseoglu, artistic director of Chicago's Dream Theatre Company, knows exactly what he doesn't.

No fourth wall. No superfluous roles. No poor roles for women. No living rooms. No boundaries of realism. By articulating these rules, Dream Theatre is more efficiently able to arrive at what it is they do desire, a destruction of the barrier between actor and audience.

It began in Russia. As students at the Moscow Art Theatre in the late 90's, Menekseoglu and three friends started the company to explore this tricky relationship.

"We wanted a theatre in which the audience became a part of the story," Menekseoglu says. "A real part."

Originally dubbed the Theatre for Humanity, the company was interested in personal psychology over politics. In the midst of his struggle to find a common ground, a place where everyone could relate, Menekeseoglu had a dream. It turned out to be his revelation. "No matter who we were or how different we were, we all could relate to one another in our subconscious."

So...Dream Theatre. It begins.

Continue reading this entry »

Randall Colburn

Theatre Mon Jan 18 2010

Review: Mary's Wedding w/ Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

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Mary's Wedding is the first play in Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's 2010 season, a yearlong exploration of war as it is seen through the eyes of a woman. Unfortunately, Mary's Wedding is less a thoughtful exploration of war than a mildly effective, overly familiar period romance. The year is 1914, the country is Canada, and we find ourselves in a barn as British immigrant Mary forms a hesitant connection with "dirty farm boy" Charlie. As often happens in stories like these, Mary's mother doesn't approve...that is, until Charlie volunteers for the Canadian Calvary. Time becomes fluid in Stephen Massicotte's script as we drift back and forth from their early days to the trenches and their written correspondence. It's a clever convention that should probably feel fresher than it does here.

Not to say Rivendell's production doesn't have its moments. The set is simple and sufficient, neatly divided between the barn and the trenches, offering the actors plenty of space to play. Cassandra Bissel is warm and likeable as Mary, drawing an extra amount of pathos through her dual role as Sergeant Flowerdew, Charlie's commanding officer. Shane Kenyon's Charlie, on the other hand, is too much of a fragile creature, so cute and good-natured that he comes off as more of a stuffed animal than a flesh and blood person. The production does a fine job of highlighting the horrors of war, but since it all goes to serve their doomed romance it offers little modern resonance. It's sad, sure, but we get it, which gets at what really bothered me about Mary's Wedding: It all just feels so familiar. You'll be moved, but not too moved. You'll laugh, but not very hard. While pretty and well-intentioned, it's exactly the sort of play your jaded theatre-hating friend expect it to be. That's not a bad thing, of course, but is it your thing?

Mary's Wedding runs through February 20 at the Raven Theatre's West Stage (6157 N. Clark St). Tickets are $22 and may be purchased online or by calling 773-334-7728. Photo by Mark Campbell.

Randall Colburn

Performance Wed Jan 13 2010

Silent Screams

FCBC HOMELESS.jpgThe youth theatre company For Children, By Children (FCBC) is used to performing in shows that address a variety of subject matter, but this month, things are turned up a notch. In Silent Screams, the troupe will take on the teen homelessness, an issue that is affecting youth all over the nation.

Rod Lewis, FCBC artistic director and producer is aware of the heavy subject matter, but recognizes the importance of the issue and feels the story must be told. "I have a colleague who is affiliated with Stand Up For Kids, a non-profit organization for homeless and runaway teens. She asked me to write a play about homeless teens in Chicago to help raise awareness for their cause."

Continue reading this entry »

LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Theatre Wed Jan 13 2010

Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City

They're funny, they're smart, they're sassy, they're playing a run of shows at iO on Thursday nights at 8pm. Check them out!

Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City, Thursdays at 8pm at iO (3541 N. Clark St.)
Tickets are $10 and are available by calling 773-880-0199 or for sale at the door.

Dyan Flores

Theatre Wed Jan 06 2010

A Chat With SketchFest Creator Brian Posen

Thumbnail image for jerks.jpgA cavalcade of sketch comedians will bum rush The Theater Building on West Belmont on Thursday for the opening of SketchFest, a two-week sketch comedy festival featuring an amalgamation of comedy talent from across the country.

"Every hour on the hour you get to choose between one of three great shows," said Brian Posen, SketchFest's executive director. "You get to ask yourself, 'Should I go see the lesbians from Portland or the black and white group from New York or the group from here who sings?'"

The world's largest sketch comedy festival just keeps getting bigger, too. The ninth installment brought in more submissions than ever, plus 100 new groups wrangled for debut slots, according to Posen, who dreamt up the idea nearly a decade ago.

"It's just exploding," Posen said. "Flash back to the first three years when we had to research groups all over the country and heavily court them -- now we're in a position where the bar's so high and we're training people so well that we have to turn people away, which we hate to do, but that just builds the festival and makes it stronger."

Groups from all over -- Indy, North Carolina, LA, New York, Virginia, Maryland and Canada -- are in this year's mix. Check Slowdown for our daily SketchFest picks or see the full schedule here. But with 113 groups performing, you'll likely find something up your alley.

Continue reading this entry »

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Mon Jan 04 2010

SketchFest Starts Thursday

The ninth annual SketchFest -- the world's largest sketch comedy festival, covering two long weekends with 100 sketch groups and 125 shows -- descends on Chicago starting Thursday. Tickets are $12.50 for each timeslot and a limited number of festival passes are available. Buy tickets and see the entire schedule here. SketchFest runs Jan. 7 through Jan. 17, 2010 at the Theater Building, 1225 West Belmont.

We'll also post don't-miss shows in Slowdown, so keep an eye on oll'a that. (Tickets to buy now: Hey You Millionaires, Long Pork, Buffet Shark, BriTANick, Heavyweight, The Cool Table, 365 Sketches, Pangea 3000, Bri-Ko, Robot v. Dinosaur, The Reckoning, Jablonski!, Kerpatty, and Aemilia & Ed's One Man Show.)

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Thu Dec 17 2009

Festivus for the Rest-iv-us: Dramatis Personae's Feats of Strength @ Strawdog Theatre

Deer.jpegFestivus, Frank Costanza's deliriously made-up holiday on Seinfeld, wasn't over until The Feats of Strength, a wrestling match between the head of the household and one unlucky party guest. This Christmas season, Chicago-based theater company Dramatis Personae wants to keep the tradition alive.

OK, so there won't be any wrestling. But there will be a Reindeer revolution, an electric turkey carver duel and a birthday party for Jesus in these six short plays, all original works that were written with the prompt "surviving the holidays" in mind. Should be a wild night, a celebration of all the feuding and dysfunction that make us so warm inside.

Dramatis Personae presents The Feats of Strength: Six New Plays for Surviving the Holidays, this Friday & Saturday at 10:30 pm. Performances are held at Strawdog Theatre, Hugen Hall (3829 N. Broadway). Tickets are $15; for ticket reservations please call 773.633.6683 or email: info@dramatispersonaechicago.com. For more information visit dramatispersonaechicago.com or strawdog.org.

Randall Colburn / Comments (1)

Theatre Wed Dec 16 2009

Not Your Standard Holiday Fare: Cold @ Dream Theatre

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Christmas. The older you get, the lonelier it feels. It should come as no surprise that Dream Theatre, Pilsen's unflinching purveyors of the surreal, seem to understand this better than anyone. Cold, their annual holiday show, revels in what no one in your family will: sex, drugs, and disappointment.

Billed as a "A Beautifully Emo Christmas Love Story," Cold follows an agoraphobe and a sex addict as their chance meeting turns another lonely holiday into something wonderful.

"This is a Christmas show for everyone that has ever been alone on Christmas. This is about two people who are not just alone but are in a city where everyone is out having fun," says playwright, star, and Dream Theatre cofounder Jeremy Menekseoglu.

The show runs through this Sunday at Dream Theatre, which is located at 556 W 18th Street. Performances run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00PM, and Sundays at 7:00PM. Tickets are $15 ($12 if purchased online) and can be reserved by visiting www.dreamtheatrecompany.com or by calling 773-552-8616.

Don't miss out. These guys are on the rise.

Randall Colburn

Theatre Mon Dec 07 2009

This Friday Only, $10 tix to 1985 @ The Factory Theater

1985.jpgThe Factory Theater is so thrilled to be mentioned in these illustrious pages (well OK, in these illustrious electronic zeroes and ones) that for one night only they're offering half price tickets for Gapers Block readers!

Use the code "gapers" on the checkout page for this Friday's performance of 1985 to see the show for the low, low price of $10! Act quickly though, this code will only work for the first 20 responders.

J.H. Palmer

Theatre Mon Dec 07 2009

Redmoon's Annual Winter Pageant

redmoo1-1.jpgIt's that time of year again. Redmoon's Winter Pageant is already well in session, and is proving quite popular with critics and kids alike.

This annual celebration of the seasons is surrealistic and unconventional, in the Redmoon tradition, and promises to entertain folks of all ages.

The show is running through December 27 at Redmoon Central: 1463 W. Hubbard. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and kids under 10. Call 312-850-8440 for more information or visit Redmoon's website.


Kelly Reaves

Theatre Mon Dec 07 2009

Explore the World of "American Buffalo"

On Thursday December 17th Steppenwolf is transforming the Steppenwolf Garage into a 1975 dive bar in honor of the original premiere of David Mamet's "American Buffalo". There will be beer and snacks, as well as what Steppenwolf is calling a "throw-down" with two of Chicago's hottest actors. The event is free, but you must RSVP to Audience Services at 312-335-1650. More details can be found here.

This could be the perfect cultural pit stop before heading to the Gapers Block Holiday Party!

Dyan Flores

Theatre Sun Dec 06 2009

Fugard Plays Come to Chicago in 2010

Three of South African playwright Athol Fugard's performances are coming to Chicago in 2010: Sizwe Banzi is Dead, 'Master Harold' ...and the Boys and The Island. Fugard's dramas are known to confront character, motivation and the system apartheid. Get tickets to all three performances, which are playing in locations around Chicago, for $75 at www.fugardchicago.2010.

Margo O'Hara

Theatre Thu Dec 03 2009

Cold on Christmas

Cold.

A play about the inevitable in Chicago?

Not quite.

This work, written and directed by Jeremy Menekseoglu, focuses on the power of finding love during the holidays. In Cold, two people, completely mired in their loneliness (among other things), find each other on Christmas and fall in love.

Tis' the season, indeed.

Cold is playing through Dec. 20 at the Dream Theatre, 556 W. 18th St.; show times are Thursdays through Saturdays, 8pm; Sundays, 7pm. Tickets are $12-$15 and can be purchased online or by calling 773.552.8616.

LaShawn Williams

Review Thu Dec 03 2009

Review: 1985 @The Factory Theater

1985.jpgChas Vrba's original script deftly combines the eerie, mind-controlled state of George Orwell's 1984 with the eerie, mind-controlled state of Chicago during the 1985 Bears season run in this down-home, funny and thoroughly enjoyable production. Do yourself a favor and watch 1984 on Netflix before coming to the show -- at times the parody is shot-for-shot and line-for-line, with hilarious results.

Vrba not only wrote the script but portrays the lead character, Winston, with an Andy Richter-like boyishness that amps up the irony in the piece. With an outstanding supporting cast that includes Scott Oken as O'Brien, Ernie Deak as George Halas (aka Papa Bear), and Laura McKenzie as Julia, an evening spent watching 1985 is the perfect antidote to the onset of Chicago winter with it's bewilderingly early sunsets (4:20pm!), the forced gaiety of the holidays, and the Bears' current season.

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J.H. Palmer

Theatre Wed Dec 02 2009

Puppetry of the Penis Resurrects in Chicago

PuppetryPenisShow.jpgWith a marquee this eye-catching you would think it's a show filled with plushy sharp-tongued puppets. Spoiler alert: it's quite the contrary. There are no actual puppets of the conventional nature, and while the widely successful show isn't meant to be sexual, the humor is a bit below the belt.

Turns out, there's an ancient Australian art of genital origami. Think of it as organic instillations (with names like The Eiffel Tower, The Loch Ness Monster and The Hamburger) leaving little to the imagination but carrying many reviewers into "uncontrollable fits of hysterics."

The original show of more than 40, ahem, "instillations" was created by David Friend and Simon Morley and was at one point the only New York off-Broadway hit of the 2001-2002 season. It has been met with high praise at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Montreal's Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, London's West End and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. In the US, the show has traveled to sold-out crowds in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and will return to Chicago this weekend.

Puppetry of the Penis will be playing at Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, with Christopher J. Cannon and his puppetry partner Rich Binning with performance times on Friday, December 4; Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6 at 7:30pm. For ticket information visit the Lakeshore Theater site or call (773) 472-3492.

John Lendman / Comments (2)

Review Sun Nov 29 2009

Review: The D-Cup Diatribes @ Gorilla Tango Theatre

The strongest character in Melody Swink's play, a series of monologues performed by Sara Tode, is Penny -- an 11 year old who relates the embarrassing tale of misplacing a set of falsies on a bench during gym class where they are mistaken by her coach to be ice packs; he then puts them in a freezer and uses them to soothe a headache.

Swink uses captivating black and white footage of women being fitted for and modeling bras as an introduction to her piece, accompanied by "The D-Cups Theme Song," written and performed by Swink; the audience is then introduced to the first of seven characters portrayed by Tode.

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (1)

Theatre Wed Nov 25 2009

Review: South Pacific @ Rosemont Theatre

Last night's opening of South Pacific at the Rosemont Theatre was a tribute to American nostalgia; the costuming and set design were as striking as Carmen Cusak and David Pittsinger's portrayals of Ensign Nellie Forbush and Emile de Becque. If you like vintage clothes and choreographed musicals, this one's for you.

The last time I saw South Pacific onstage was at my sister's 1985 high school production, where I sat at rapt attention as the story of an army nurse from Little Rock and a mysterious Frenchman who met on an exotic island during Word War II unfolded before me, and has stayed with me ever since. The 1949 musical deals with race relations in a remarkably frank manner, as detailed in the song "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught," with lyrics like:

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

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J.H. Palmer

Theatre Sun Nov 22 2009

The Mystery of Irma Vep, the Funniest Horror on Stage

IrmaVep.jpgA quite ambitious play has taken residence at the University of Chicago's Court Theatre. Loaded with traitorous cover-ups, secret identities and murder, The Mystery of Irma Vep takes the audience into a whirlwind of calamity -- while introducing them to one of the funniest plays in American theater.

Director, Sean Graney (founder of The Hypocrites) fruitfully takes on the eccentric playwright and actor Charles Ludlam's satirical cult classic, originally performed in 1984's Greenwich Village. The campy spoof of the Victorian era gothic novel is a commentary of sorts, parodying literary references from William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, Emily Bronte, Edgar Allan Poe, Euripides and the Bible, to name a few (without being too literarily obscure, but more Monty Pythonesque).

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John Lendman

Improv Tue Nov 17 2009

The Hot Karl's Santa Claus Conquers the Nazis

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World War II is going poorly for Hitler and the Nazi party. So the Fueher decides the best way to turn the tide in the war is to kidnap Santa Claus and take control of Christmas and all of Santa's magical secrets. The only thing standing in the way of their evil plot is a misunderstood elf, a misfit toy and a couple of hit men reindeer. Will that be enough to save Christmas? Find out when The Hot Karl presents, "Santa Claus Conquers the Nazis: The Musical."

"People expect us to do a dirty funny show, so that's nothing new. But thanks to musical director Steph McCullough and a cast of thousands -- actually a nine-person chorus -- it's a real holiday musical with real songs," said Hot Karl member Zach Thompson. "You should really come see it." It's only going up five times, every Saturday from Nov. 21 to Dec. 19. Shows start at 11:59pm at Comedy Sportz, 929 West Belmont. Tickets are $10, and you can get 'em here or call 312-559-1212.

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Mon Nov 16 2009

It's (Not) Better to Disappear Than to Fade Away

Doctor-Charlie.jpgFin Kennedy came up with the idea for How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found after stumbling across the UK missing persons website, which features a gallery of faces with brief descriptions of what they were last seen doing. Curious, he contacted the people behind the site, and they told him that most of these cases are not the products of abductions or murders. Instead, most of these people wanted to disappear. They wanted to start over. When he asked what sorts of people do this, they told him that a lot of them are young professionals--usually men in their late twenties, early thirties, with good jobs. Sure, maybe a little depressed, but they seemed to live relatively charmed lives. Kennedy based the protagonist of his play on this model. Charlie, (played by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia,) is an average man with short brown hair who wears a suit to work at an ad agency.

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Kelly Reaves

Theatre Fri Nov 13 2009

Hopera: A Fallen Hero

When I first witnessed the union of hip-hop and opera years ago through violinist Miri Ben Ari, I remember being amazed at how beautifully the two genres of music blended together. In Hopera: A Fallen Hero, the magic of hip-hop and opera exists to tell the tale of the challenges faced by many inner-city youth.

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Hopera (hip hop and opera) is set in Chicago and centers around many of the struggles young inner-city families deal with on a regular basis. The story chiefly follows Obadiah (Donald Manuel) and the relationship he has with his single mother, Erica (Amanda Renee Davis). Theirs is a story that confronts the issues a single woman contends with trying to raise a teenage son. She frequently discourages and insults him ("You're lazy just like your daddy" and "You need to get a job to help out around here") but on the other hand laments, through a beautiful operatic number (that could only be heard intermittently due to the awesome live band playing a bit too loudly), "I can't raise him and teach him to be a man."

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LaShawn Williams / Comments (2)

Comics Thu Nov 12 2009

God's Pottery Advises, 'Get Stupid Drunk On Christ'

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Chicago's sinner concentration isn't any higher than say, San Francisco's, but God's Pottery will do their best to -- satirically -- save some souls when they hit The Lakeshore Theater on Thursday.

"It would be nice if we could say honestly that all the heathens were located in one place, but unfortunately, there are desperate souls spread out across the land," said Gideon Lamb, half of the screwball duo that spreads their God-fearing message through music and motivational spoofs.

"The truth is, there are people sprinkled all over this country who need our help and that's why we're on the road," said duo's other Christian caricature, Jeremiah Smallchild. "Really, our work is never done."

The real truth is that God's Pottery is promoting their new book, What Would God's Pottery Do? released on the heels of their attention-grabbing run on NBC's "Last Comic Standing." They've also been busy making "Christ'd" episodes, sort of like "Punk'd" but with good-natured pranks, and hitting audiences over the head with their twisted theology.

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Michelle Peterson

Theatre Sun Nov 08 2009

A Cure for the Bears Blues

The way the current season is going, Chicago Bears fans could certainly use a laugh right now, and the players at The Pub Theater Company have something in store that is sure to tackle the blues.

Bear Down! is a comedy based on super Bears fans (and some fairweather ones, too) and their faith in new quarterback Jay Cutler to take the team all the way; in fact, their faith is so strong they ask, "Have you accepted Jay Cutler as your personal savior?" JAY CUTLER

So, if you want to laugh with other diehard Bears fans who share your pain, rush to see Bear Down! when it opens at 8pm this Wednesday, Nov. 11 (through Wednesday, Dec. 16) at The Pub Theater, 3220 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $8-$10 and can be purchased through the box office or by calling 773.904.8777.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Thu Nov 05 2009

Not Your Average Teddy Bear

Typically, a mere mention of a teddy bear evokes smiles and happy childhood memories; however, this is not the case for everyone. In Reinaldo Povod's Cuba and His Teddy Bear, we learn the "bear" isn't always cuddly; sometimes, it can be downright grizzly.

"Cuba," a family drama with themes of "redemption, accountability and forgiveness," is the story of the relationship between a son and his drug-dealing father and the challenges they face with keeping their family together.

Although this story is being told via a theatrical performance, it is a harsh reality that exists for many families.

Cuba and His Teddy Bear opens Friday, Nov. 6 and runs through Dec. 13 at The Batey Urbano Performance Space, 2620 W. Division St. Show times are Thursday through Saturday, 7:30pm; Sundays, 6pm. No performance is scheduled Thanksgiving Day; instead, a performance will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10-$20 and can be purchased at the box office or by calling 773.347.1203.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Wed Nov 04 2009

A Glimpse of Isadora

A distinguished member of the dancing world, Isadora Duncan has touched the lives of millions. Known as the mother of modern dance, she rejected traditional ballet and stressed improv, emotion, and human form in her dance techniques. She thought ballet was too strict and focused on form and posture, so she created her own school of dance where her loyal followers could learn from the master.

In a new play from TimeLine Theatre Company, When She Danced is the story of Isadora Duncan portrayed in early 1920s Paris. In this heartfelt and humorous production, Isadora is a struggling artist trying to stay financially stable and figure out what to do when she retires from dance: Her hope is to inspire young dancers with her art. Playwright Martin Sherman mixes the comedic presence of the characters with the importance of art and dance to create an inspiring play that reminds one how influential Isadora was "when she danced."

Previews of the play begin tonight, Nov. 4 and continue through Friday, Nov. 6. The regular run starts Saturday night, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. and ends Dec. 20. Check the theatre's website for ticket and show time information.

Vanessa Day

Theatre Mon Nov 02 2009

Happy Family Series @ The Viaduct

Family members can be the hardest to love, but the easiest to hate, and performance pieces in The Happy Family Series explore those "harmonic antagonisms." Presented by The Magpies, the pieces all take their cues from P.T. Barnum's controversial American Museum exhibit, The Happy Family, originally sold as "a miscellaneous collection of predators and prey, living together harmoniously in one large cage, each of them being mortal enemy of every other, but contentedly playing and frolicking together, without injury or discord."

Curated by Shawn Reddy and emceed by H.B. Ward (aka "The Tamer"), the lineup showcases more than 30 artists in three weeks. Performances range from multi-media monologues to cabaret and country music to good old-fashioned acting. For a detailed list, click here.

Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm and Sundays at 3pm, Nov. 13 through Dec. 6 (except Thanksgiving weekend). Tickets -- $12 each or three shows for $30 -- are available from The Viaduct or at 773-296-6024.  

Michelle Peterson

Feature Mon Nov 02 2009

Dreams Deferred: an Interview with Messiah Equiano

EQUIANO 1.jpgIt is no secret that Chicago has experienced a major upsurge in youth violence; recently, I sat down with Messiah Equiano, filmmaker and founder of Operation Safe Passage, to find out what he and his organization are doing to address this issue.

Tell me about Operation Safe Passage.

Messiah Equiano: Operation Safe Passage was incorporated in June 2009. I'm also a filmmaker, and I did a documentary about a little girl who was killed in the Englewood neighborhood at her own birthday party. I've been following this youth violence issue for about three years now, which obviously, is continuing to be a problem, especially with hundreds of young people having been shot in Chicago the last two years. Seeing this devastation, I wanted to be a solution to the problem. I would see marches, rallies, etc., but in my opinion, with this generation, those things weren't necessarily working.

You came up with the idea to address this ugly reality through the theatre -- how do you hope to connect to youth in ways the marches and rallies have not?

No offense to anyone, but I wanted to try to reach them differently -- through scholarships, mentoring programs, and life-changing media productions, which is what drove my decision to write a stage play, Dreams Deferred. Also, people like to be entertained, so I wanted to create a message through entertainment.

In an "infotainment" sort of way?

Exactly.

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LaShawn Williams / Comments (9)

Performance Mon Nov 02 2009

Carny Love

large2.jpgI don't think I'm the only person who has a deep philosophical interest in carny culture. Otherwise, why would the Department of Cultural Affairs organize a month of carny-related arts programming? The DCA, in conjunction with Silent Theatre Company, is putting on a play of sorts, called Carnivale Nocturne, surrealistically recreating the underground world of a traveling carnival. With a live band and physical acts of carnival performance, this original dark fable by the STC ensemble, directed by Tonika Tordova, combines the styles of Tim Burton and Edward Gorey, telling the story of a curse between a group of fire breathers, fortune tellers, bestial tamers and natural freaks.

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Kelly Reaves

Improv Mon Nov 02 2009

Improvised Shakespeare in NYT

A New York Times article features Lisa Leingang, a senior vice president at Comedy Central, saying great things about Chicago's own Improvised Shakespeare Company.

In case you aren't registered on the NYT site, here's how it goes down: The Q&A has turned to what Leingang looks for when she's scouting for talent:

Q. How do you keep from becoming jaded?

A. You just see one performer for every 50 who is just bizarre, irreverent, who has some sort of take that you have never seen. Not to sound Mary Sunshine, but it's rejuvenating. It reaffirms why I do it.

Q. Who was the last person who made you have that reaction?

A. The group Improvised Shakespeare; I brought them to Bumbershoot. They improvise a Shakespeare play based on a suggestion by the audience. It starts with rhyming couplet; it ends with rhyming couplet. The way they worked together is amazing. Every show had a standing ovation. It was one of those things where I'm crying laughing: just, how did they do it? That's the feeling that I like to have, and it's very validating. You can't translate that to TV. But we can try.

Michelle Peterson / Comments (1)

Theatre Sat Oct 31 2009

Get Your Souvenir Here

The story: A socialite determined to be famous by any means necessary, despite her talent (or lack thereof)...

"The Paris Hilton Story," you ask?

Not quite--instead, it's Souvenir, "a touching and comic tribute" about socialite Florence Foster-Jenkins, a singer who would be, if she were alive today, ripped to shreds by "American Idol's" Simon Cowell. Not convinced? Here's a listen:

Even though Foster-Jenkins' voice was uh, "pitchy," this soprano somehow managed to endear audiences with her "deep love of music" that had them crying (figuratively speaking) for more.

Souvenir begins Thursday, Nov. 12 and runs through Sunday, Dec. 20 (show times vary) at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts (Northlight Theatre), 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie. For ticket information, visit the theatre's website or call 847.673.6300.

LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Theatre Thu Oct 29 2009

Preview: South Pacific @ Rosemont Theatre

I'll admit it, I know all the words to There Is Nothin' Like A Dame, and the ones that I don't know to Bali Ha'i I add lib as I go along. I grew up in a household where Rodgers & Hammerstein provided a near-constant soundtrack, becoming to me what sad violin music was to Frankenstein's monster - whenever I hear it I am compelled to find the source.

New York's Lincoln Center Theater has revived the 60 year-old musical, with its eerily current storyline of a country at war and the ever-relevant theme of race relations, and is bringing it to the Rosemont Theatre for one glorious week in November. I attended Tuesday's preview of the show at Gibson's Steakhouse, where a select audience was serenaded by bass-baritone David Pittsinger, who plays the part of Emile de Becque, and who previously appeared in Tosca at the Met playing the part of Angelotti. Oh yeah, he's got the pipes. As he sang Some Enchanted Evening we made eye contact, and it was like he was singing only to me. Later he broke into the heartbreaking This Nearly Was Mine, and I swear I saw real tears welling up in his eyes.

Bring your hankies, this one is going to be good.

South Pacific is playing at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road for a limited one-week engagement, November 24-29. Tickets are $39.50-$79.50 and can be purchased at the Rosemont Theatre Box Office and at Ticketmaster. For information and tickets call 877-447-7849, or visit Rosemont Theatre or South Pacific On Tour.

J.H. Palmer

Theatre Sat Oct 17 2009

Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School @ Gorilla Tango Theatre

Gruber3 copy.jpgRobot vs. Dinosaur, a writer-centric improv ensemble that originated in New York and was brought to Chicago in 2007, is enjoying a run of their show: Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School, at Gorilla Tango Theatre. A series of sketches loosely based around a preschool classroom, the show opens strong but loses focus. The premise of a school as a reference point seemed unnecessary, and even the best sketches ran too long, losing steam before they ended.

Some genuinely funny moments were had, but if this show were a national holiday it would be Canada Day, not the 4th of July - no fireworks but plenty of sparklers, and a few standout roman candles in the forms of Erin Morrill, Andrew Kraft, and Anthony Ellison, who came across like younger versions of Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell and Bill Murray.

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J.H. Palmer

Theatre Sat Oct 17 2009

Hell-raising Fundraiser for Split Pillow

Stop by a haunted fundraiser gala on Oct. 22 to support Split Pillow, a non-profit motion picture production and media literacy education company.

The ghoulish benefit takes place from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 22 at the home of Split Pillow's founder, Jason Stephens (400 E. Randolph #40A, Chicago) and will feature a meet and greet with cast members, a silent auction, cocktails, hors d'ouvres and maybe some special and otherworldly guests.

The evening also celebrates the upcoming release of Split Pillow's feature films, Eye of the Sandman and Life as Lincoln.

Tickets are $60. Reserve yours or find out more information at www.splitpillow.com.

Margo O'Hara

Theatre Thu Oct 15 2009

Little Bar of Awesome is more like it...

lsohAudrey.jpgThis should be fun- the folks down at The Hideout are putting on their own, probably even more twisted, version of Little Shop Of Horrors, produced, directed by, and starring Hideout staff, friends, and family. I am particuarly exited to see local poet and incredible soul/funk/Americana singer Marvin Tate play Audrey II "The Plant."

There will be six showings, one every evening Oct. 22-25th, and 3pm showings on the 24th and 25th. Tickets are $15. The Hideout: 1354 W. Wabansia. 773-227-4433. 21+

Kelly Reaves

Theatre Wed Oct 14 2009

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at Court Theatre

_dsf2205__large.jpgEvery good play should have sex, drugs, and timeless moral lessons. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has all three, plus good jokes and even better music.

August Wilson's 1984 play, part of his Pittsburgh cycle, describes the plight of the black musician in depression-era Chicago. The story is masterfully directed by Ron OJ Parson and equally well executed by a small team of talented actors. Wilson's story is a quintessential drama, simultaneously timeless and modern, drawing from traditions of storytelling that go back to biblical times, and building up to an explosive ending.

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Kelly Reaves

Theatre Mon Oct 12 2009

A Musical Message


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Jackie Taylor is definitely a legend in the Chicago theater community; from writing to directing to producing to acting, this Windy City native and founder of the Black Ensemble Theater does it again with her latest production, The Message Is In the Music (God Is A Black Man Named Ricky).

The play tells the story of "the fight of good against evil and the struggle between love and hate" and features classic soul music including The Drifters,
Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield.

Preview performances will be held on Oct. 16 and 17; the official opening is Sunday, Oct 18 at 3pm. Thereafter, the show will run indefinitely on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets can be purchased ($40.00 for preview shows; $45.00 for regular shows) by calling the Black Ensemble Theater at 773.769.4451 or via Ticketmaster.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Thu Oct 08 2009

Put a Little "Free" in your Theater

Free fun like the beach, parks and festivals are packing up and leaving town for the winter. Luckily, chilly frugal times can be just as fun as mild frugal times.

Free Night of Theater starts Oct. 15. It is your ticket to plenty of free performances in Chicago.

Here is how it works: Visit www.freenightoftheater.net, click on "Find a Show" and search for shows playing in and near Chicago. You reserve your free tickets and pick them up at the door.

Free Night of Theater is nationwide, so even if you go out of town, you can still enjoy an entertaining evening on the cheap.

Margo O'Hara / Comments (2)

Theatre Wed Oct 07 2009

Journey to the Center of the Uterus: Adventures Infertility!

Kathleen Puls AndradeKathleen Puls Andrade's one-woman show, currently running at the Greenhouse Theater Center, is a biographical account of her experience with infertility, but she stresses that its not just for couples who struggle with the issue. Kathleen, who can also be seen in Put The Nuns In Charge, the long-running sequel to Late Night Catechism, hopes that by exploring the issue of infertility onstage it will start to lose some of its stigma and begin to make its way into more discussions. "It's a comedy meant to entertain although it does have a message," she says, "and it's not just for women either. It has a universal appeal with universal themes of hope, frustration, regrouping and moving on."

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (2)

Theatre Sun Oct 04 2009

The Cycle

In life, we all go through various phases that affect us; if we're lucky, we even learn a thing or two along the way. In the play "The Cycle", a perspective on "why every individual acts, thinks and chooses different paths in life" is explored.

"The Cycle," written and produced by Chicago native Kenya Renee, is playing one day only, with two shows on Saturday, Oct. 10, at 3pm and 7pm, at the Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive. Tickets are $25 for general admission (buy 3, get 1 free) and $10 for seniors. This is the show's final run in Chicago before it goes on tour.

For more information, please contact producer Kenya Renee at 773.406.7663 or by email, fambreaksthecycle@hotmail.com.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Thu Oct 01 2009

Ivanov: High Class Problems

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I arrived at the ViaDuct Theater ready to see a Russian play. Even though I had known Ivanov had some comic flavor, I was very much prepared for something tragic and depressing. Ivanov did not disappoint in the least. A midlife crisis story, written in the late 1800s about a landowner and his high-faulting friends, Ivanov is riddled with bad love, greed, betrayal, and lots of Vodka. This is not the play to attend if Blue Man happens to be sold out, but it is definitely worth a once over.

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MartinJon / Comments (2)

Theatre Tue Sep 29 2009

It's a Fake World After All

"Fake," written and directed by Eric Simonson, is currently showing at the Steppenwolf Theatre; to celebrate the play's run, Simonson and other Steppenwolf ensemble members present: "The World of Fake."

This event is part of a series that celebrates all the fake concepts from their various shows, and will also feature "tales of fake" from Field and Chicago History Museum experts, stories from The Onion and performances by Chicago's own, The Handsome Devilz.

Bonus: The event is free--and there will be free food and drink, too!

"The World of Fake" is playing Friday, Oct. 2, at 5:30pm, at The Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted. Although the event has complimentary admission, you must RSVP with the Steppenwolf Audience Services at 312.335.1650.

LaShawn Williams / Comments (1)

Performance Mon Sep 28 2009

Catastic

If you enjoyed harassing cats as a child, you're going to love this. Samantha Martin, a Chicago based animal trainer, has created a feline circus in which cats begrudgingly perform tasks for treats. She has trained cats to jump through hoops, ride skateboards, and even play in a band, the RockCats. Martin and her Amazing Acro-Cats will perform Saturday, October 10 (2pm & 4pm) and Sunday, October 11 (1pm & 3pm), at Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $12; to purrrchase tickets in advance, call (773) 598 4549 or visit the theater's website.
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Kelly Reaves

Theatre Sun Sep 27 2009

Putting the Fun Back In Fear

Fear is a fantastic hour of anxiety. The Neo-Futurists' season opener dredges up unease, tension, apprehension and concern but does it in such an interesting and well-executed way that even the most lily-livered of ticket holders will love the thrill.

Creator and curator Noelle Krimm -- and the countless people involved in the production -- do great work to "put the fun back into being completely creeped out." Tours of about 20 are led from room to haunted room of The Neo-Futurarium, from a forlorn boudoir to a raving slaughterhouse. There are three hosts who lead the tours, which start at set times throughout the night. Sophie Ostlund plays up tragic honesty as a gauze-masked, makeup-smeared bride, and Aimee McKay and Rawson Vint put their own spins on human affliction.

Fear leads the audience through the world of Edgar Allen Poe, but doesn't rest on "gotcha" gimmicks to make the audience squirm. Its horror profile, from anthropomorphized pigs to frigid rooms and unsettling illuminations, is layer upon layer of madness and sin and horror.

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Michelle Peterson / Comments (1)

Theatre Sat Sep 26 2009

An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening

TheaterOobleck_Apology_1#AB45 copy.jpgYou couldn't find a better venue for Theater Oobleck's An Apology For the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening than the lower level of the Chopin Theatre. From the comfort of an anteroom filled with overstuffed chairs and eclectic art, the audience waits and watches for the door of the theatre - a huge thing on rollers, to rumble open revealing a spare set of two chairs placed at a distance of about fifteen feet, facing each other, and two hanging lamps lighting the actors - Colm O'Reilly in the role of John Faustus, and David Shapiro as his servant of twenty-four years, Mephistopheles. There are only four rows of seating, two on either side of the set, limiting the choice of where to spend the next ninety minutes of your life to either: close to the stage, or even closer.

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J.H. Palmer

Theatre Wed Sep 23 2009

An Epilogue to The Laramie Project

In October, About Face Theatre will take on a one-night-only production of historic proportions. Just one month after the 1998 death of Matthew Shepherd, playwright Moises Kaufman and Tectonic Theater traveled to Laramie, Wyo. and created the Laramie Project based on what they learned, a play that was both a tribute and an artistic and political response to the tragedy. (Since 2000, more than 50 million people have seen the play, which was also made into an HBO film.)

A decade after the murder, Tectonic's artists returned to Wyoming and interviewed dozens of residents about the long-term impact of the killing. The result is The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later. According to the press release "it explores how the town has changed and how the murder continues to reverberate in the community. The play... includes new interviews with Matthew's mother Judy Shepard and Matthew's murderer Aaron McKinney, who's serving two consecutive life sentences. The writers also conducted many follow-up interviews Laramie residents from the original piece. "
(More in the New York Times.)

About Face will represent Chicago by performing a reading at The Goodman, simultaneously with Tectonic at Lincoln Center in New York, and more than 100 other theaters across the country. Mayor Daley acts as honorary chair of the event, and proceeds benefit About Face Theatre.

Performance details:

About Face Theatre presents
A one-night only world premiere reading
October 12, 2009
Reading begins promptly at 6:45pm Central time
VIP reception begins at 5:30pm
Owen Theater at the Goodman
170 North Dearborn Street
For ticket information, visit www.aboutfacetheatre.com or call (773)784-8565.

Lindsay Muscato

Performance Tue Sep 22 2009

A Pirate's Life for Me

Lifeline Theater opened its 27th season Tuesday night with its adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

Treasure Island is a fantastic story, and the Lifeline ensemble fills out the roles for each of the vibrant characters.

Treasure Island holds buried treasure, and everybody knows it. The road to get there is riddled with double-crossing pirates, greed and rum.

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Margo O'Hara

Theatre Tue Sep 22 2009

King Kong Radio Drama

Project 891 is going to perform "King Kong, the Radio Show" this Thursday, September 24th at 7:00 pm at The Spot, 4437 N. Broadway. Tickets are $10 at the door. They promise "live sound effects and commercials" so it should be fun!

Margaret Larkin

Theatre Tue Sep 22 2009

Good Deal on Rogers Park Theaters and Food

Rogers Park is offering a pass via Rogersparkflexpass.com to see four plays at four theaters for just $50, and you can get discounts at dining places around there too. The season runs through July 31, 2010.

The participating theaters are: Lifeline, Raven Theatre, the side project, and Theo Ubique.

Get a pass from any of the theaters' box offices, or go to www.thesideproject.net/tickets.php.

Margaret Larkin

Theatre Tue Sep 22 2009

In Defense of Ticketmaster

The League of Chicago Theatres uses Ticketmaster for its half-price ticket program, Hot Tix.

Ticketmaster, being Ticketmaster, charges fees for this service. And for small storefronts offering cheap tickets to begin with, a half-price ticket starts looking like an almost-full-price ticket. The League's Deb Clapp explains why Ticketmaster is still The One. Read the comments for alternate solutions.

Lindsay Muscato / Comments (1)

Theatre Mon Sep 21 2009

Theater Thursdays

If you want to spend an evening enjoying laughter--and free cocktails with appetizers--the Annoyance Theatre has something for you.

This week marks the first run of Lights Out Alma!, a "spooky, dark comedy" that depicts the story of three women who engage in "betrayal and murder in the name of sisterhood". In addition to the treats, audience members are invited to stay after the show for a conversation about the production with director Irene Marquette and the cast.

The show starts this Thursday, Sept. 24 at 8pm (food and cocktails begin at 7pm) at the Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N. Broadway in Chicago. The show runs every Thursday thereafter through Oct. 29.

Tickets to Lights Out Alma! are $10 and can be purchased online or by calling 773-561-4664. Be sure to say "Theater Thursdays" if you buy your tickets by phone.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Thu Sep 17 2009

A Real Knee-Slapper

Get your dose of laughter and giveaways this Friday at Macy's on State Street for Laugh Out Loud Day.

Cast members from Goodman Theatre's Animal Crackers will deliver a sneak peak of the new show at noon this Friday at the State Street Macy's for Laugh Out Loud Day.

As if the merriment wasn't enough, meet Groucho Marx and get a free pair of his signature glasses. Other treats include Animal Crackers-inspired balloon animals and a free Estee Lauder consultation and gift with any purchase. Laughers enter a raffle to win a four-pack of tickets to the show when they buy anything at the Macy's Express Desk.

The Marx mayhem continues around the Loop --including Borders and Petterino's--throughout the day before Groucho makes his way for the first performance of Animal Crackers at Goodman Theatre at 8 p.m. that night.

Animal Crackers runs September 18 - October 25, 2009 in the Goodman's Albert Theatre.

Tickets range from $25 to $76. Buy them at www.goodmantheatre.org, at the box office at 170 N Dearborn or by calling 312-443-3800. Student and group rates are also available.

Margo O'Hara

Dance Tue Sep 15 2009

Fondly Do We Hope: Lincoln's Legacy Through Song & Dance

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company's "Fondly Do We Hope...Fervently Do We Pray" is making its world premiere in Chicago.

"Fondly Do We Hope" showcases Tony award-winning dancer Bill T. Jones' interpretation of the many complexities and contributions of Abraham Lincoln, as told through interpretative dance and song. The performance will examine Lincoln's legacy and "will expose the great distance between what is and what could have been."

The show will be held at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Sept. 17 and 19, 2009, at 8pm; gates open at 5pm. Reserved tickets are from $25-$65; lawn tickets are $10 and can be purchased through Ravinia or by calling 847-266-5100.

LaShawn Williams

Theatre Tue Sep 15 2009

More Bang for Theater Oobleck's Buck

Since An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening only runs weekend nights, Theater Oobleck is using the performance space on Thursdays to showcase a rotating lineup of musicians and performers.

Cabaret Oobleck starts Oct. 1 with Eric Ziegenhagen and wraps Nov. 5 with the acoustic pop-punk band Even in Blackouts. Other performers include: BoyGirlBoyGirl; Elvisbride: The Band; percussionist Michael Zerang; Jenny Magnus and Chris Schoen; Naomi Ashley with David Kodeski; Beau O'Reilly; the Crooked Mouth String Band; and John Szymanski.

Each show is $12 (more if you've got it, free if you're broke) and will be held at 7:30pm in The Chopin Theater's opulent downstairs foyer. Keep tabs on the subject-to-change schedule and get tickets here.

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Thu Sep 10 2009

Ballet, Not Boxing

How does a scrappy British scamp rise above the hardships of poverty and support his father in the midst of a mining strike? Ballet, obviously. (With a little help from Elton John.) Watch it unfold for yourself when Billy Elliot lands in Chicago this March.

Tommy Batchelor, Giuseppe Bausilio and Cesar Corrales beat out 1,500 boys to play the lead character. If your kid didn't make it the cut, there's another chance to fulfill stage mom fantasies at this weekend's open auditions.

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Wed Sep 09 2009

Stoop Stories: Joan's Loss is Chicago's Gain

Let's take a quick straw poll. Would you rather see:
A) A complex adaptation of Friedrich Schiller's Die Jungfrau Von Orléans.
B) A dynamic black actress show off an astounding range, from a Polish Holocaust survivor to a poetic junkie to a teenage Puerto Rican punk.

If you picked A, you're out of luck. The Goodman Theatre scrapped Joan D'Arc because it "needed time for artistic development." In its place, they slotted Stoop Stories.

Playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith takes the stage on her own playing 11 characters in a sizzling, fierce symphony of voices that make up her Harlem neighborhood. The show's coming off a white-hot Washington, D.C. debut, where critics threw around words like "spellbinding" and "triumph."

Stoop Stories opens at the Goodman's Owen Bruner Theatre on Sept. 12 for a month-long run. Tickets are $10 to $40 and available from The Goodman Theatre.

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Mon Sep 07 2009

Making an MPAACT

MPAACT (MAAT Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre) is a theatre troupe based in Chicago who notes in its mission that, "It is important to us as a company that we, in everything we do, pull from the disparate cultural elements which unite artists in the Afrikan Diaspora."

If you're a fan of films from the 1970s "blaxploitation" era, you'll definitely want to check out MPAACT's "You Know How We Deux, The Best of Blax."The play, directed by Kevin Douglas and Jonathan Keaton, is billed as "a collection of original sketch performances that are unabashedly courageous and provocative in their take on race, class, and American politics."

The last run of "You Know How We Deux" is playing this Saturday, September 12, 10pm, at The Playground Theater (3209 N. Halsted). Tickets are only $10 and are available at the box office or by calling (312) 409-6724.

LaShawn Williams

Feature Sat Sep 05 2009

Vaudzilla's "Rollin' Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque"

whambampam3.jpgPhotograph by Joe Marinaro

Have you ever wondered what Walter from The Big Lebowski (the angry Vietnam vet played by John Goodman) would look like wearing pasties? Well, how about if Walter were played by a burlesque professional by the name of Wham Bam Pam? Titillating, perhaps?

Continue reading this entry »

Rachel Zanders / Comments (2)

Review Thu Sep 03 2009

"Texas Sheen" at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy

If "Texas Sheen" were an hour-long show, it would be absolutely delightful, however at an hour-and-a-half it overstays its welcome just a bit. "Texas Sheen" is Chemically Imbalanced Comedy's latest production, a goofy melodramatic western cum romance novel. The show is full of punchy jokes, however they're given too much breathing room and the show lags at times. Director Karisa Bruin is terrific at making the most of writer Anthony Ellison's most over the top moments, giving a wink and a nod to popular western and sex scene clichés, and they prevent the show from feeling nearly as long as it could.

The cast is full of piss and vinegar, all of them eager to jump on the fun that's going on onstage. Though they are given exaggerated caricatures to play with, they still manage to deliver the goods while giving their characters an air of humanity. The show's romantic leads, Scott Morehead and Sarah Tolan-Mee are both charmingly charismatic- Morehead is like a clean-cut 50's dreamboat and Tolan-Mee is like the ingénue of a Rodgers and Hammerstein show.

Though the show runs a tad on the long side, it picks up whenever you think things are slipping, so it still makes for a fun night of entertainment. Chemically Imbalanced Comedy is BYOB, so there's no reason not to throw a few back while you're having a laugh. CIC is one of a few theatre companies who make a commitment to producing original comedic works, so it's always a pleasure to see what they'll come up with next.

"Texas Sheen" is playing at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy (1420 W. Irving Park) through October 3rd. Tickets are available online or by calling (800)838-3006.

Dyan Flores

Theatre Thu Sep 03 2009

Time for Some Kosher Fun

What could be more fun than Hebrew school? How about a bunch of naughty Jewish girls displaying a heck of a lot of chutzpah?

"Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad," a humorous mix of comedy, music, and burlesque, is playing at Lakeshore Theater this weekend. The show includes a rotating cast of women who have been featured on Comedy Central, HBO, and MTV, and have been wowing crowds everywhere with this over-the-top performance.

The show follows the "badass chosen chicks" as they deconstruct years of tradition, rebeling against the expectations of their religion. These are the girls who smoked at Hebrew school, got drunk at BatMitzvahs, and prefer schtuppa rather than the chupah. And if that is not enough to entice a crowd, their rendition of "L'chaim" will certainly do it.

The show begins Friday, September 4 at 7:30 p.m. There will be two performances on Saturday, September 5, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. These girls have been selling out shows everywhere, so get your tickets quick! Lakeshore Theater: 3175 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657, 773-472-3492

Vanessa Day

Theatre Wed Sep 02 2009

Presenting ... The Color Purple

Oprah Winfrey Presents...The Color Purple returns to Chicago -- this time, with "American Idol" alum Fantasia in tow.

When the musical debuted in Chicago in 2007, the role of Celie, first made famous in the film version by actress Whoopi Goldberg, was played by actress Jeannette Bayardelle; however, Fantasia returns to the stage to reprise the starring role.

If you missed the show in 2007, you'll have to hurry if you want to catch it this time around; it is only in Chicago for a limited run.

The Color Purple opens today, September 2, at the Arie Crown Theater, and will run through Sunday, September 6. Showtimes vary; tickets are $47.50-$83 and may be purchased through Ticketmaster or 800-745-3000, or colorpurple.com.

The weekend also includes two shows on Saturday and Sunday.

LaShawn Williams / Comments (3)

Theatre Sat Aug 29 2009

The Thin Man Comes to Chicago

Dashiell Hammett's fifth and final novel, The Thin Man, was and is a significant piece of literature. Known for his hardboiled detective novels, Hammett is regarded as one of the best mystery writers of all time. Now his final masterpiece is being presented on the stage in the world premiere City Lit Theatre Company adaptation of the novel.

The story takes place in prohibition-era New York City and follows the lives of former private detective Nick Charles and his young wife, Nora. Against his will, Nick is pulled into investigating a murder, forcing him to interact with a slightly grotesque family, the Wynants. Throughout the story, Nick and Nora attempt to solve the case while sharing witty banter and dialogue, as well as lots of alcohol.

The play version, adapted by artistic director Terry McCabe and directed by Adrienne Cury, previews this weekend, August 28-30. The regular run starts September 1 and goes until October 11. It shows on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. City Lit Theatre: 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, Chicago, IL 60660. Phone number: 773-293-3682

Vanessa Day / Comments (1)

Review Sat Aug 22 2009

High Fidelity: Like Putting a Tron T-Shirt on a Pig

It takes High Fidelity's anti-hero nearly two hours to figure out that he's dangerously close to being "The Most Pathetic Man In The World," but to anyone watching it's pretty clear from the first curtain.

Scrounging up sympathy for Rob, this guy who cheats on his girlfriend, whines about his record store and makes inconsequential lists about music and other ways life has done him wrong is not only impossible, it's infuriating — especially when all the interesting stuff is going on behind him.

That's the rub about High Fidelity, the "rock musical about falling in love, hating your job and your all-time 'Top Five.'" You're supposed to find some humanity in this prick and root for him to reunite with his upwardly mobile ex-girlfriend, but what you really want to do is fast-forward for more hijinks from his entourage of awkward audiophiles.

Continue reading this entry »

Michelle Peterson

Theatre Fri Aug 21 2009

Everything Must Be Hunky-Dory!

Don't miss a David Bowie-inspired inter-planetary rock 'n roll revolutionary love story, inspired by his 1971 album Hunky Dory. That sounds like Bowie.

Hunky Dory plays at the Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway, on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28 and 29, at 11pm and Sunday and Monday, Aug. 30 and 31, at 8pm. $5 donation.

Let's hope the it has also been inspired by those tight pants.

Margo O'Hara

Theatre Fri Aug 21 2009

You Are Cordially Invited...

To the Noble Fool Theater this weekend to witness the marriage of Erin and Paul. Come ready to sing and dance as Married ALIVE, A Love & Marriage Musical takes the stage. Just opening this week, Married ALIVE has received high praise for its humorous and witty portrayal of married life. The play follows two couples--newlyweds Erin and Paul and a more seasoned couple--as they deal with the trials and tribulations of modern marriage. Audiences will enjoy laughing at the pleasures and downfalls all too familiar in the life of a married couple, including babies, jobs, sex, and empty nests.

Showtimes are Thursdays & Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $28-$39, and there are also dinner packages available from $44. Call the box office for tickets: 630-584-6342. Noble Fool Theater: 4051 East Main Street St Charles, IL 60174

Vanessa Day

Theatre Wed Aug 19 2009

The New Colony's Big Goals for Chicago Theater

The New Colony, a recent arrival to the Chicago storefront theater scene, is urging fellow Chicago theaters: Buck up. Think big. The New Colony's blog is publishing Goals for the Future of Chicago Theater, which thus far is a call-to-arms for Chicago theater companies to dust off their economy-addled selves, stop playing it safe, and make new work that matters.

Follow along here, and look out for their upcoming season.

Lindsay Muscato / Comments (1)

Theatre Wed Aug 05 2009

Much Needed Salvation Comes to Lakeview

Baptism1_1.jpg If you're sick of fake-speaking in tongues to impress your fundamentalist friends at small group pot-lucks or anti-gay protests, look no further. The Best Church of God has come to save your soul from eternal damnation--and it's Boystown adjacent in case that doesn't take.

The church*, whose letterhead reads, "We read the bible, so you don't have to," returns to Chicago with a rapture-ready, apocalypse-retardant word of God starting Sunday, September 20th and will run through October at Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway.

Fresh off their Chicago protests with the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, BCOG has been on a literal-bible-translation-salvation binge, protesting the abomination that is yeast at a local Dominick's (that's Exodus 12: 20, for you heathens). But, if you can't wait until the Lakeshore Theater Shows, BestChurchOfGod.org features Rapture Updates, Godcasts, Viral Videos, Survival Blogs and a Holy Forum with a "110 percent Jesus-approval rating," to keep you duly sanctified.

For ticket information on the critically acclaimed *religious satire Sunday services, visit BestChurchofGod.org. The "suggested tithing" is $10 and shows are "open to all of God's children--even the unborn."

John Lendman

Performance Tue Aug 04 2009

A Dog Show with Some New Tricks

LifesRuff2.jpg
You could describe it as "Dancing with the Stars" and the "The Price is Right" meets the American Kennel Club.

Local non-profit canine rescue shelter, The Dog Saving Network (DSN), has quite a show for Chicago this month, entitled, "Life's Ruff," packed with basketball-playing Beagles, trivia question-answering Australian Shepherds and a prize wheel-spinning Shar-Pei mix, to name a few. The "game show" style dog show had DSN training not only amateur dogs, but their owners as well--the goal being to show regular dog owners of Chicago the benefits of positive-reinforcement training.

The performances, set at the intimate Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., took DSN three months to train for as they rehearsed in parking garages and city parks all over the city. With a new reality-based dog show in the works to generate awareness, DSN hopes to develop a state-of-the-art "Rescue and Rehabilitation Center" to expand on their outreach programs and services.

"Life's Ruff," rated G for ages 5 and up, will be on Saturdays at 4 pm and 6 pm, August 15 - 29. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone: (773)598-4549.

John Lendman

Performance Thu Jul 23 2009

Empty Wallet

In today's cash-strapped climate, trying to get some good cultural bang for your buck can be a daunting task. You can only second act "Jersey Boys" so many times, and after frequenting the Art Institute on one of its free days, sometimes it can feel as if you've exhausted your possibilities for artistic enlightenment. Enter emptywallet.org.

Empty Wallet bills itself as a catch-all for Chicago area free and pay-what-you-can art and performance events. The site hopes to, "encourage and enable a wider range of individuals to take part in and experience art in all forms," and though its still in its infancy, it boasts a rather comprehensive listing that includes listings that range from family events to acting master classes. The site separates listings by category, and also has a handy searchable calendar that lets you see events by date.

Dyan Flores

Theatre Wed Jul 22 2009

Steppenwolf Theatre Gives Audiences a First Look

The 5th Annual First Look Repertory of New Work begins tonight at Steppenwolf Theatre. The theatre is committed to finding new plays for American Theatre, and this event helps showcase three productions in rotating repertory from July 22 to August 9. The repertory consists of: Honest, Sex with Strangers, and Ski Dubai. The first of the three plays premiering tonight, Honest, written by ensemble member Eric Simonson, tells the story of Guy, a best-selling memoir author who comes face-to-face with a prying reporter keen on uncovering a scandal. The argument between these two characters about truth and creative license leads to some interesting revelations about both their lives.

Sex with Strangers, showing tomorrow night July 23, is a romance for the blogosphere. Ethan, a young scenester who documents his sexual encounters in an online journal, hooks up with Olivia, a writer whose career has come to a screeching halt. Their relationship develops from purely sexual to something more, but their internet lives may interfere with their newfound bond.

The final play, showing on Friday July 24, is Ski Dubai. The play documents the story of Rachel, an environmentalist who moves to Dubai to live on a man-made island. While trying to maintain her "green" morals, she deals with numerous internationals traveling through as they face loneliness in this capitalist and fast paced modern city.

All three plays will be showcased in the Garage Theatre, and will switch nightly except on weekends when all three will play on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets for each show are $20. Steppenwolf Theatre 1650 N. Halsted St. Chicago, IL 60614 312-335-1650.

Vanessa Day

Theatre Wed Jul 15 2009

A Media Preview for MCA Stage 2009-10 Season

The Museum of Contemporary Art has announced the 2009-10 schedule for its MCA Stage series:

Oct. 1, 3-4 -- Nora Chipaumire with Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited: lions will roar, swans will fly, angels will wrestle heaven, rains will break: gukurahundi

Oct. 15-17 -- Lucinda Childs: DANCE

Oct. 16 -- Philip Glass: An Evening of Solo Piano

Oct. 21-Nov. 1 -- The Hypocrites' Frankenstein

Nov. 5, 7-8 -- Anna Halprin / Anne Collod & Guests: parades & changes, replays

Nov. 14 -- Don Byron: The Music of Mickey Katz

Nov. 19 -- International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE): Kaija Saariaho

2010
Feb. 26-28 -- Akram Khan Company & National Ballet of China: bahok

March 12-24 -- The Seldoms with Fraser Taylor: Marchland

March 26-28 -- Young Jean Lee: The Shipment

April 9-11 -- John Jasperse Company: Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat Out Lies

April 30 -- Nicole Mitchell: Intergalactic Beings

All the performances take place in the first floor performance space at the museum; enter at the north end of the building. Tickets are available online or at the museum.

Vanessa Day

Performance Thu Jul 09 2009

Calling All Hilarious Heretics

Are you a Doubting Thomas with a sharp tongue and a penchant for reilgious satire? If so, the Best Church of God may be looking for you!

The local sketch comedy group has been a favorite of audiences and critics alike, and they recently were part of Chicago's inaugural Just for Laughs festival. They're hoping to expand their congregation of writer/performers as they prepare to begin a run at the Lakeshore Theater. Audition information is below:

Auditions for Best Church of God

Monday, July 20th from 6-10pm
Location: The Theater Building at 1225 W Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL 60657
Call Backs: July 21st from 6-8pm at the Theater Building
Email resume to: auditions@BestChurchofGod.org

Best Church of God, the critically acclaimed, hard-hitting religious satire is adding ensemble members. You must have at least 1 year of improv and/or professional theater experience. Comedic writing skills a plus. Prepare two (2) contrasting 1-minute comedic pieces; at least one must be original. You may also prepare 30 seconds of a song (optional). Accompanist provided. Email resume (include any writing credits) and availability to secure a spot. BCOG will run Sundays at 1pm beginning September 6th at the Lakeshore Theater. No pay.

Dyan Flores

News Mon Jul 06 2009

Website Helps Working Actors Find Auditions

It is hard enough to break into the acting scene without having to deal with searching for and deciphering audition requests. Now Chicago actors and actresses are getting some help from TheatreInChicago.com and its new Auditions Page. A comprehensive list provides Equity and Non-equity theater and film auditions throughout Chicago, making it easy for actors to find job opportunities.

The Auditions Page is updated frequently, and each listing shows all the information actors need such as audition material, time commitment, locations, play and character summary, and who to contact. Right now there are auditions separated into Equity, Non-equity, Dance, and Film, but another section for technicians, directors, etc. will be debuted soon. On top of auditions and job postings, there will be a Resources Page available to locate head-shot photographers, acting classes, and various other networking tools.

No sign-up or registration is necessary to use this web page, so actors can start using it today. For further questions, inquiries, or suggestions, please email auditions@theatreinchicago.com.

Vanessa Day

Theatre Tue Jun 30 2009

Blackbird Brings Raw Emotion to the Stage

Love knows no age. But when a passionate affair occurs between a 12-year-old girl and a 40-year-old man, love is questioned. Blackbird, written by Scottish playwright David Harrower, is the story of two unlikely lovers reunited 15 years after their forbidden relationship. After six years in prison, Ray changed his name and moved to another area away from Una, the young girl with whom he became sexually involved. When she sees his picture in a magazine, she traces him to where he works. The two are confronted with old feelings, pain, and resentment about their past. The play raises questions and confusion about sexual abuse, as well as the dynamic relationship between these two tormented individuals.

Blackbird received immense praise after its premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2005, and it even won the 2007 Olivier Award, beating out competitors like Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll, and Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon. Now the play is coming to Chicago. And with it the return of Chicago native William Peterson. This is only the second theater production Peterson has done since leaving CSI:Crime Scene Investigation, and now he is joining director Dennis Zacek (The Old Man's Friend) to perform as the guilt-ridden character of Ray. Joining him on-stage as Una is Mattie Hawkinson, a talented actress with a long list of credits in Chicago, including The Snow Queen and Half and Half.

Previews of Blackbird will start this weekend, July 3, at Victory Gardens Theater, and run until July 12. Regular showtimes will begin July 13 and go until August 9. For more information about this play or other productions visit the Victory Gardens website.

Vanessa Day

Review Sun Jun 28 2009

Review of 500 Clown and the Elephant Deal

It doesn't take much to imagine a play date. Everyone has at least one in their memory.
Depending on where you lived or who was present, several elements might be guaranteed: dress-up, singing, cops and robbers, changing the rules halfway into the game and little regard for tomorrow.

500 Clown and the Elephant Deal, loosely based on Bertolt Brecht's Man is Man, seems also to be based on one of these play dates gone just slightly wrong.

Continue reading this entry »

Margo O'Hara / Comments (1)

Theatre Wed Jun 03 2009

Qweirdo!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 123PhotoA.jpgThis Thursday at iO (3541 N. Clark St), local improv group 1,2,3, Fag! begins their run of Qweirdo, a totally gay, totally hilarious showcase that features homosexual performers from Chicago's comedy scene. The men of 1,2,3, Fag! are Kellen Alexander, Seth Dodson, and John Hartman, who met at The Playground and began improvising together this spring. Though the members of 1, 2, 3, Fag! are all gay, they do not set out to promote any type of political agenda when they perform. "1, 2, 3, Fag! sets out to entertain the audience and make them laugh, just like any other comedy group," says Dodson. "However, being three young gay men in a scene where we are a minority, our own viewpoints, opinions and feelings are undoubtedly going to be expressed."

Continue reading this entry »

Dyan Flores

Theatre Tue Jun 02 2009

TUTA's Gala: Food, Drink & Balkan Rock

Says the Chicago Reader: "Few shows I've ever seen have sent me into a deeper swoon than TUTA's Uncle Vanya." Translation: TUTA Theatre Chicago puts on an effing good show. Get a peek at their upcoming season, plus hear live music, score some raffle or auction goodness and imbibe some culture at the Mars Gallery (a bona fide energy vortex) this Sunday.

Tickets are $50 for the gala, or $70 for the gala plus a 3pm performance of Uncle Vanya at the Chopin. More info.

Sunday, June 7, 2009
6:30pm - 10:00pm
Mars Gallery
1139 W. Fulton Market (in the West Loop)
Ample free street parking is available.

Lindsay Muscato

Theatre Wed May 27 2009

A Little Blood Never Hurt Anybody

Pets are important to their owner, but when the beloved cat of a fanatical INLA member is killed love is taken to a new extreme. Martin McDonagh, writer and director of the Oscar-nominated film In Bruges, presents a deviant yet comedic look into the reactions of death with his 2001 play The Lieutenant of Inishmore. A hit in London, the Skokie theater Northlight has brought McDonagh's hit play stateside for it's Illinois premiere. A family struggles as they try to find creative ways to soften the blow of the death of Padriac's best feline friend Wee Thomas. Padriac himself is a reckless man, who finds the tactics of the IRA "too soft" and readily dismembers people for selling weed to good Catholic children. Is there any good way around the situation? What follows is a bloody trail of severed limbs, cow mutilation, and solid black comedy. If you like the violence of Quentin Tarantino films and good Shakespearean drama, it might be worth scooting out to Skokie to catch one of the play's final screenings.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore has been playing at the Northlight since April and closes June 7th. Tickets range from $25-45. With performances Tuesday through Sunday, there's still plenty of time to catch it before it's run ends.

Amy Dittmeier

Theatre Tue May 26 2009

Free Tickets to Mud People

The Mary-Arrchie Theatre company has a new glimmer of hope for our cynical world with the Midwest debut of Kevin Huff's play Mud People. Set in a small-town diner in the middle of rural town USA, Mud People tells a story of a disparaged community whose life is turned around when a mysterious stranger enters their lives. Huff's work has played elsewhere in Chicago including the Steppenwolf, LiveBait, and Chicago Dramatists. The play itself has won numerous awards, including an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for playwriting. Mud People runs through July 12th from Thursday through Sunday at Angel Island (735 W. Sheridan Rd.).

Gapers Block and Mary Arrchie Theater are giving away two pairs of tickets to Mud People's preview performances, one to the June 2nd performance and one to June 3rd. Email contests@gapersblock.com with "Mud People" in the subject line with your date preference. Two winners will be selected at random at 5pm Wednesday, May 27. Good luck! UPDATE: Congratulations to Casey and Jeremy, our winners!

Amy Dittmeier

Theatre Mon May 11 2009

STATIC: A headphones tour

IPod? On. Earbuds? Firmly inserted. One, two, three -- press play. And you're off on a winding, interactive journey through a house on the lake, guided by voices through the twists and turns of a ghost story.

The basic story: The eccentric Walter Burke recorded every sound in his life -- washing machine, grandfather clock, refrigerator -- and after his death, his entire cassette tape collection was found by a young couple, Margaret and Will. The mystery of Walter Burke and his wife Millie unravels as Margaret and Will listen to each tape, leading listeners on a guided tour of Walter and Millie's unusual life and ghostly encounters.

It's kind of like being inside an episode of This American Life, except the people on the radio are talking directly to you. The production quality of the headphones tour is outstanding, and the performances of the storytellers are so good that I forgot I was listening to fiction. I won't say more, because small treats and surprises are scattered throughout the tour.

The performance, by Sansculottes Theater Company, takes place at the North Lakeside Cultural Center and runs most Fridays and Saturdays through May 30th, with tours starting on the half hour from 7:30 pm onward. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

Lindsay Muscato

Theatre Tue May 05 2009

Mo' Money for... What?

In the wake of the American Theater Company ensemble's walkout, the theater blogosphere has been buzzing with even more talk of priorities. Buying a building vs. paying artists more is a recent debate, started at the New York City-based 99Seats with chime-ins from several Chicagoans and others around the country.

Lindsay Muscato

Theatre Tue Apr 28 2009

Lady MacBeth ... Wait ... They're All ladies!

It has been quite some time since I have seen a stage performance as exciting, engaging, and as well performed as Babes With Blades rendering of Macbeth. I am not going to spend anytime speaking to the plot; Macbeth is pretty standard fare for high school English class. What made this performance was the cast. I suppose I'm supposed to mention that the cast is comprised entirely of ladies; that is, however, irrelevant. These are really good actors.

I was pulled into the story from the first scene and it remained this way throughout the performance. Macbeth offers intrigue, excitement, and tragedy, and this cast delivered that--in spades. I found myself leaning forward in my seat, totally engrossed in the action, hanging on each word between each actor in every scene. The acting is a wonderful mix of physical and emotional; the sword play was excellent (and not overdone); the actors created emotional believability with their characters and the interaction between them was very believable. I was upset when the play stopped for an intermission, and paced around impatiently for fifteen minutes until it resumed.

While I believe the entire cast was wonderful, I would like to point out three actors for their exceptional performances. Nika Ericson (Lady Macbeth) was the anchor of this performance. She was raw and emotional, and although the character of Lady Macbeth is hard to like, I connected with her. She commanded the stage whenever she was present and gave the performance a "soul" if you will. Kathrynne Wolf (Macbeth), Stephanie Repin (Banquo) and Amy E. Harmon (Macduff) also stand out brightly. The interactions between these three actors throughout the performance were very solid. The final scene in which Macbeth and Macduff fight to the death was a wonderful interaction (with great sword play) between Kathrynne and Amy.

In short, go see this performance. It is well worth it.

When: Opens on Monday, April 27, 2009, 8 p.m. (reception following)
Closes on Saturday, May 30, 2009

Where: La Costa Theatre (note venue change from Dream Theatre)
3931 N. Elston Ave., 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60618
Street parking; CTA: Blue Line L Irving Park/Pulaski stop, #80 Irving Park bus

Tickets: $20 for general admission
$13 for students and seniors with ID
773-880-0016, Babes With Blades Box Office; HotTix
Pay-What-You-Can Thursdays (except closing weekend May 28)
Play Money accepted (good at multiple theatres throughout Chicagoland - available
through the League of Chicago Theatres, chicagoplays.com)

Norman Doucet

Theatre Mon Apr 27 2009

Catch The 2nd Story Festival

Serendipity Theatre's 2nd Story Festival is on now, and as always, it involves great stories told over great wine on the second floor of Webster Wine Bar, 1480 W. Webster. The second week of the festival starts Thursday, April 30, with four pieces on the theme of "The Story I'll Never Tell." Performances run the 30th through May 2nd and May 7 through May 10. Here's a little taste of what you might expect:

Andrew Huff

Theatre Mon Apr 20 2009

Bible B-Sides

The Sinnerman Ensemble, comprised of a group of the school at Steppenwolf, put on a sometimes wonderful, sometimes audacious, and sometimes "reaching" performance of their production, Bible B-Sides, which is a collection of lesser known Old Testament stories.

The performance consists of 10 of these stories, plus an opening sequence. My personal favorites were the Story of Lot and his daughters, the Story of David and Bathsheba, and the Story of Hosea, Gomer and God. The strongest piece is the Story of Deborah, which is done to a rock and roll theme and features a musical performance at its conclusion which was very exciting.

At times this performance was very strong; at other times it had a contrived "over the top" feel to it. The talent of the actors varies, which accounts for the variance in pieces. However, I think that this troupe has a bright future and this show is definitely worth seeing. It closes this week, so go check it out!

Where: Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western Ave.
When: Closes April 25th - Runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm
Tickets: $20 (student/industry discount $15)

Norman Doucet

Theatre Tue Apr 07 2009

Union Actors Get New Digs

Actor's Equity Association, the union that represents stage actors and stage managers in the US, has purchased a four story building near the downtown theatre district to house the Central region's operations. Chris Jones in the Trib reports that AEA may even move some of the national office's activity to our fair city. Who would have guessed that an actor's pension might be safer than the UAW?

Christine Blumer

Review Mon Apr 06 2009

Check out "Cartoon" at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy

CartoonPoster.jpgChemically Imbalanced Comedy's latest production, Cartoon, runs about an hour long, which seems too short to showcase all of the talent in its young cast. There is a rich cast of performers, but author Steve Yockey's busy script fails to deliver sufficient opportunities for the players to showcase their stuff. He comes close with his development of the character Winston, but he is helped greatly by the endearing but oh-so-sad performance of Chris Froseth. It's also hard to take your eyes off of Brian Kash as the mischevious instigator Trouble, who commands the stage anytime he enters a scene. Another standout is Leslie Nesbit, whose anime girl Yumi is as vulnerable as she is tough as she is funny.

Though the stage is small for a cast of eight, director Angie McMahon and combat choreographer Elizabeth Styles never overwhelm the audience. McMahon is skilled at creating stage pictures that add subtext to what's going on, and Styles staged an epic anime battle that was fast and funny without overpowering the intimate performance space. Composer Jay Gish provides some catchy tunes, as well as designing some delightfully crude stage projections. Steve Yockey's script reads like an odd cross between Mao's Little Red Book and Toy Story, which is amusing at times and confusing at others. The author has created the foundation for some very dynamic characters, and perhaps he would benefit from further fleshing them out instead of chasing the plot.

Cartoon is running through May 10th at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy (1420 W. Irving Park). You can find their performance schedule and order tickets through their website.

Dyan Flores / Comments (1)

Music Wed Mar 04 2009

Chicago Opera Theater After Dentist

The Chicago Opera Theater is offering a free pair of season subscriptions in its first ever YouTube contest. Contestants have to upload a video explaining why they deserve free COT tickets, and the video that gets "favorited" most wins.

COT is so Web 2.0 right now it hurts -- from their bloggy-fresh web design to their presence on Twitter. And it's kind of refreshing, especially when general director Brian Dickie is slightly self-effacing about it on his blog. He called the contest a "marketing gimmick," but then quickly added, "We shall see what happens with this little bit of fun... Someone has to be the smart one who wins free tickets for COT."

And with a limited number of entrants so far (the contest ends April 1), why shouldn't it be you?

Katherine Raz

Theatre Thu Feb 26 2009

Neo-Futurists: One Play in 5 1/2 Hours!

Greg Allen could do 165 plays in the time it takes to get through Strange Interlude, the 5-1/2 hour saga that will conclude the Eugene O'Neill Festival at the Goodman Theatre this March. The founding director of the Neo-Futurists, whose signature show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind runs through 30 plays in 60 minutes, is at the helm of O'Neill's epic about Nina Leeds, a woman who falls in love with the doctor who aborted her possibly-mentally-ill baby, then impregnated her as a cover up. Characters in the play regularly reveal their inner thoughts as asides to the audience -- hence the length.

"No director in his right mind would take this on," Allen says. "Therefore it's the perfect impossible task for me." Allen spent three months rehearsing the show, which stars Neo-Futurists Joe Dempsey and Dean Evans, Barrel of Monkeys company member Brennan Buhl, and Merrie Greenfield and Jeremy Sher as Nina Leeds and the doctor.

The play won a Pulitzer Prize in 1928 but hasn't been seen on stage since the 1980s, probably due to its massive length. The March 6 show at the Goodman's Owen Theatre has three intermissions, the March 7 and 8 performances start at 2pm and include a dinner break. A dinner break!

Tickets are still available for all three performances. You can get them online or by calling 312-443-3800.

Katherine Raz

Theatre Fri Feb 20 2009

Legally Blonde Is Upon Us

That Elle Woods just won't quit! Broadway In Chicago is bringing the tenacious blonde to the Chicago stage for a four week engagement. Yes, folks: Legally Blonde the Musical will play at the Oriental Theater from May 12 to June 6. Tickets go on sale March 6.legallyblonde.jpg

If you weren't already aware of the MTV reality series documenting the search for the Broadway version of Reese Witherspoon, now might be a good time to catch up. Spoiler alert: the show winner doesn't perform in the touring cast, but two of the show's runners up do (though not as Elle). Can't stop torturing yourself with pug-nosed, kill-em-with-kindness blondes? Check out the touring Elle's blog.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Katherine Raz

Theatre Thu Feb 19 2009

Dennehy Falls, Gets Back Up

Brian Dennehy practiced a lot of banana-peel-induced near-pratfalls this summer in Krapp's Last Tape in Stratford, Canada. Maybe that's what prepared him for Tuesday night's performance in Desire Under the Elms at the Goodman. During a pivotal scene, with a baby in his arms, Dennehy took a step too far and fell off the stage. Stage construction prevented him from landing in the audience and the "baby" in the scene was just a doll. Still, house lights came up and stage hands rushed out, but the tenacious Dennehy (he's 70!) waved them away and continued with the show. He did two shows on Wednesday, too. As one poster so eloquently summed up yesterday on Chris Jones' blog, "You won't catch Jeremy Piven doing that."

Katherine Raz

Theatre Wed Feb 11 2009

Off the Couch to Go Get Slaphappy

The main reason for going out to see a play is getting yourself away from TV land, from Facebook, from yourself, and from the diseases of the postmodern age that haunt you and debilitate your humanity (think Internet-infused meltdown by way of believing that the world you encounter online is real). That's why I went and saw the play Slaphappy recently. Written by Gary Slezak and directed by Richard Shavzin, the show is mounted at the Theatre Building Chicago until March 15. Although the three-act play contains none of movingly cathartic or deeply thoughtful elements I gravitate towards I enjoyed its whimsical element. And like every former (or current) American expat in Europe or frequent traveler to Paris I got a kick out of poking fun at the pate-obsessed French.

The story wraps itself around two middle-aged American expatriates in Paris coming to terms with lost love, divorce, binge drinking and overdoses on pessimistic nihilism and depression. The fact that the play confronts these heavy issues through the lens of light comic farce deserves merits.

Here's what I liked:

* The set. It's a pretty picture of a Paris hotel, with the token French windows leading out to a balcony view of the Eiffel Tower. All of my visits to Paris were spent at crappy hotels, which while cheap and dingy, afforded some kind of awesome view, either a tiny window balcony, or picturesque view of street scene.
* I like how the play through its characters appeals to all ages. Older folks can relate to the middle-aged divorcees -- the boozy and beautiful Lauren (Judy Blue) and her anguished, intellectual ex-husband Stanek (Mitchell Joseph). For younger viewers, the strapping young Philippe, the French bellboy played by Lucas Neff is easy on the eyes and does a smashing good accent and convincing character portrayal. Barely dressed French Cherie (Annie DiMaria) appeals to men of all ages and women who secretly fantasize of running around a French hotel in various revealing negligees throwing themselves at men.
* The interwoven story about saving the ducks from the evil French who don't care enough about the cruelty involved in fattening the livers of male ducks and geese for their beloved foie gras. I don't care what anybody says -- I agree with Philippe. Let's save the ducks!
* I loved the character of Philippe, who asks everyone "How can I make you happy?" then does his utmost to live up to this life mission.
* The point that tortured artists like to be tortured and in fact derive a kind of bizarre happiness from it.

What I didn't like:

* It's a busy play, with the characters all over the stage. And I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies, unless there's some black comedy or intellectual pondering involved. Yet I took heart in the play's message. "Better than being careful is to be pure in art!"

Marla Seidell / Comments (1)

Theatre Wed Feb 11 2009

500 Clown Goes Cabaret

500 Clown Theater, founded in 2000 and made a non-profit in 2007, presents "500 Clown Madame Barker's Cabaret," a celebration of Chicago talent hosted by Molly Brennan as Madame Barker of "500 Clown and the Elephant Deal," as a lead-up to the full production opening at Steppenwolf in June.

Those of you with coulrophobia can relax, as there are NOT 500 clowns in in a 500 Clown show. Generally performing feats of derring-do with an ensemble of three(ish), this cabaret evening brings a variety of new performers into the crazy 500 Clown world, including: John Fournier (piano/vocals), Dennis Watkins (magic), Happenstance (DC vaudeville), Jessica Hudson (burlesque), Cliff Chamberlain (guitar/voice), Tim Simeone (clown solo), Marika Mashburn (torch song), Pam Chermansky (original music), Galaxie Girls (dance), and Joseph Schupbach (as JonBenet Ramsey).

In most of their shows, 500 Clown uses action-based performance, improvisation, and circus arts to produce theatre that (quite literally) catapults the performers into extreme physical and emotional risk. The work shifts the audience from passive to active observers and creates a charged environment that celebrates the unpredictable power of the moment. It'll be interesting to see what happens when you throw in burlesque dancers and musicians into the mix.

The cabaret takes place one night only on Saturday, Feb. 28, 10:00 p.m. at the Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are $5 at the door.

Becky Brett

Theatre Mon Feb 09 2009

Review: Scoundrel Time at City Lit

In 1952, playwright Lillian Hellman was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Unwilling to name names of those she knew with Communist affiliations or plead the fifth, thereby incriminating them, Hellman wrote a personal statement that read in part, "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashion."

That statement's resonance in the days of Guantanamo is not lost on the audience at Scoundrel Time, City Lit Theatre's recent adaptation of Hellman's play recounting her time during the Hollywood blacklist.  But some of Scoundrel's subtleties do get lost in City Lit's adaptation of the text-heavy script, which becomes a mouthful at times for actress Sheila Willis (playing Hellman). Granted, the script is ripe with semicolons and appositives and thus reads more like a written memoir than a play, but monologue-driven, prose-ish selections is what City Lit is known for, so you'd think they'd do a better job of animating Hellman's work.

Artistic director Terry McCabe decided to do Scoundrel with a cast of two: Willis as Hellman, and Jerry Bloom as a pantheon of blacklist-era players -- Dashiell Hammet, Elia Kazan, Joseph Rauh, Clifford Odets, and others. Bloom does his best with the changes and cuts an eerily accurate Hammet, but some characters get lost in the shuffle: the audience is sometimes unsure just who is refilling Hellman's whiskey glass at the moment.

Continue reading this entry »

Katherine Raz

Theatre Tue Feb 03 2009

Jon Langford's Goldbrick

Goldbrick Yando 3.jpg

In a theatrical collaboration with Walkabout Theater Company and Collaboraction, Chicago's own ageless indie rock icon Jon Langford pulled together pieces of his solo work, a Mekons song and a folk tune to create the story of an immigrant Everyman in the musical Goldbrick. The result is a moving and effective statement on the promise and peril of immigrating to America.

Larry Yando as Everyman inhabits a heartbreakingly optimistic Welshman who, after his mother's death, decides to stake his fortunes on a trip to the New World. I will admit to a swell of patriotism as upon his arrival in New York, the recitation of "Give me your tired, your poor..." had me a bit misty.

Through the ages and a series of hard manual labor jobs (including one critical job in Florida, "home of the newly wed and the nearly dead," Everyman finds himself on the wrong side of the job market, and in desperation takes a position along The Fence -- an immigrant working to keep out immigrants. His cool is finally blown by the sight of a young woman and her infant, both dead from the passage.

His partner, his foil and his conscience are all portrayed by Tawny Newsome, whose voice is a beautiful contrast to Yando's and who accurately speaks in more dialects than Chicago has neighborhoods.

The grimy, sparse set designed by rising talent Courtney O'Neil is enhanced with projections on the back wall and floor, along with a gratuitous live camera shot from a sink of water. Neat to watch, but I'm unsure how much it enhanced the storytelling. Plus it provided us with a bit too close a look at Yando's head cold, as a drop of snot clung perilously to the tip of his nose while he hovered over the sink/camera. But, one must admire his commitment to the moment.

Although watching someone traverse the path from idealist to cynic can be disheartening, Langford's music provides enough edge and bounce to keep us out of the pit of despair, while the book, written by Loren Crawford, is able to make effective grand political statements by deeply personalizing the experience.

Goldbrick is running at The Building Stage, 1044 W. Kinzie St., until March 1. Visit Collaboraction's website for tickets.

Becky Brett / Comments (2)

Theatre Fri Jan 30 2009

Extra Show Added for These Shining Lives

These Shining Lives, the Jeff-recommended play directed by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's Rachel Walshe, closes this weekend. Shows are sold out, but an additional show has been added, today at 4pm. Tickets can be purchased until 3pm today. Go to the website to purchase tickets online.

If you can make it, I highly recommend attending. Throughout the play's over two-hour duration my eyes were glued to the stage, my ears listening attentively. Even if theater is not your thing, you will enjoy this show. Based on Ross Mulner's book, Deadly Glow: The Radium Dial Worker Tragedy, appropriately published by the American Public Health Association, the play written by Melanie Marnich chronicles the story of four women affected by what is known as the radium dial worker tragedy.

Although the tragedy is perhaps not as commonly known as the epidemic of human immunodeficiency virus, it's an important chapter of American history, especially pertinent due to the fact that the last radium dial worker that died from radium poisoning is documented as 1983 in Mulner's book.

Discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in the early 1900s, radium was heralded for its astonishing ability to glow in the dark. In 1902, William J. Hammer, an American electrical engineer, invented a paint using minute amounts of radium that when used on watches and scientific instruments, could be read in the dark. Due to its high cost, however, the commercial benefits of this discovery were not pursued until 1917, when America's entry into WWI created the demand for radium-treated devices.

Hundreds of women gained lucrative employment as dial painters, using a finely pointed brush to apply the paint to watches and other instruments. To speed up the application, the women commonly tipped the brush to their tongue, which over time led to them absorbing the radium that caused their premature deaths.

In These Shining Lives, the story centers on Catherine, a young mother and wife who finds happiness, good pay, and friendship through her work as a radium dial worker at an Ottawa factory during the 1920s, but who ultimately becomes poisoned with radium. Faced with an inevitable fatality, Catherine has to decide between telling the truth to the public about her employer's misdeeds, or accepting her lot with resignation.

Ultimately, the play's theme of "shining" examines the paradoxical beautiful and tragic nature of life. Rebecca Spence (Catherine) shows her husband that her skin is actually glowing in the dark, a foreshadowing of further debilitation, yet the four women enjoying the glowing sun at Lake Michigan suggest that life and death are intrinsically interwoven. Spence conveys a luminosity in this role, with a gentle smile and affecting grace. All the actors are superbly cast and highly endowed performers, with the women in particular successful in drawing audience sympathy.

Clearly director Walshe pays close attention to the development of character. Spence admirably "shines" as the seemingly gentle but surprisingly strong Catherine and Justine C. Turner displays noteworthy acting chops as Charlotte, the tough-as-nails but ultimately vulnerable friend and co-worker.

"You're my hero," Charlotte tells Catherine, in a scene that culminates the play's exploration of how women are affected by history.

The Rivendell Theatre, which focuses on plays about women, has two plays in store for the next half year: The Walls, directed by Lisa Dillman, to debut April 8, 2009, and Fresh Produce, coming in July 2009.

Marla Seidell

Theatre Thu Jan 22 2009

August Returning to Chicago, Broadway-style

In case you missed it at Steppenwolf in 2007, Broadway in Chicago says it's bringing back Tracy Letts' Pulizer-Prize winning August, Osage County in 2010 for a limited run at the Oriental Theatre. The planned dates are Feb. 2-14 (yeah, that's 2010 -- you have a two-year planner, don't you?) and Estelle Parsons, who does the role on Broadway, will play the drug-ravaged matriarch Violet Weston.

Katherine Raz

Theatre Sun Jan 18 2009

ATC and Congo Square Team Up with True West, Topdog/Underdog

The first time anyone saw True West in Chicago, John Malkovich and Gary Sinise were playing the lead roles at Steppenwolf. It's your classic Sam Shepard family odyssey: two brothers come together, innocuously at first, but after 70 minutes one obliterates a typewriter with a golf club and the other tries to strangle him. And while one version of American Theater Company's True West is probably similar to the 1982 Steppenwolf production (just replace the word "typewriter" with "MacBook"), the other is decidedly different: the two brothers are black.

Okay, I know what you're thinking, and fear not: this isn't exactly a case of an all-white ensemble attempting a shot at diversity by simply casting black actors in a typically all-white play. ATC and Congo Square Theatre have collaborated on two plays, one with a typically all-white cast, the other all-black, presenting two versions of each: one traditional, the "alternate" with the races reversed.

Continue reading this entry »

Katherine Raz

Theatre Thu Jan 15 2009

Executive Exits

Is the volatile arts climate is having its effect on Chicago theater administrations? Last week Court Theatre executive director Dawn Helsing announced her resignation. On Tuesday Redmoon Theater's executive and artistic directors, Jim Lasko and Christopher Schram, announced theirs.

While it may be easy to blame the recent moves on today's shaky financial scene, it should be noted that under Helsing's direction Court increased its annual budget from $2.5 to $3.2 million and saw its biggest hit to date in Caroline, or Change (which was on seemingly everyone's top 10 list last year). Redmoon may not be sitting as pretty -- the company announced it is contracting in size and will produce fewer shows on their home stage this year -- but its current production, Winter Pageant Redux, recently extended.

It's no picnic to lead an arts organization through an economic downturn, especially for administrators who'd rather focus on making plays for audiences than making spreadsheets for board members. (As Lasko's open resignation letter states, "I relish the opportunity to focus more purely on my artistic practice. Organizational leadership, like parenting, is a heavy load.") So it seems likely that this recent trilogy of arts administrators won't be the only ones to get shaken out of the trees, nor will their successors be the only fresh faces on the Chicago theater scene once this crisis is behind us.

Katherine Raz

Review Fri Jan 09 2009

Review: Look, What I Don't Understand

One-man show.  To the casual theater-goer the phrase is an immediate buzzkill: it conjures images of a spotlight, an endless monologue, perhaps some pointless nudity.  It also screams vanity project.

lookwhatidont.jpg

And upon entering the Athenaeum and seeing the elevated box, framed in chicken wire, where Anthony Nikolchev begins his self-written one-man show, you think, "Is he going to do the entire play from inside there?"

But within the first two minutes Nikolchev jumps out and flips the 10-foot-tall contraption loudly on its side, revealing the kind of stage instrument that dialogue can transform into a podium, a gallows, a jail cell, or a truck.

Continue reading this entry »

Katherine Raz

Theatre Wed Jan 07 2009

Rob Roy 'Postponed'

It looks like now Rob Roy: The Musical may not be making its North American debut at the Arie Crown Theatre, 2301 South Lake Shore Drive, this February. Chris Jones reported today that a spokesperson for the performance, "refused to comment on whether the show was still going to happen."

Ticketmaster, which has been selling tickets to the performance since December, lists the show as canceled.

As one Theater Loop commenter suggested, "The Celtic-wave thing is so 90s. Maybe they can transplant the story from Scotland to turn of the century Mexico and rename it Zapata: The Musical. I'd give that a better chance of survival than a story set in cold, soggy Scotland."

Either way, patrons who purchased the $52-$82 tickets may want to review Ticketmaster's cancellation policy, or call the Arie Crown Theatre box office at 312-279-6190.

Katherine Raz

Performance Tue Jan 06 2009

The Wooster Group in Town This Week

If you haven't seen The Wooster Group, they're in Chicago this week only, waiting for your sweet little eyes to pop open wide at their interpretation of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones. Based in New York, this ensemble has influenced theater companies around the nation (including our hometown Neo-Futurists) with their carefully calibrated anarchy and their smart mixture of low-tech/high-concept/anything goes/yes even that too. The production is part of the Goodman's O'Neill festival, which continues into the spring.

Tickets and info are on the Goodman's web site.

Lindsay Muscato

Theatre Fri Dec 19 2008

Jeremy Piven Poisoned Out Of "Plow"

Chicago actor and "Entourage" star Jeremy Piven has dropped out of the current Broadway revival of Speed-the-Plow by David Mamet due to mercury poisoning, after missing the Tuesday night show and Wednesday matinee. Apparently Piven's regular sushi consumption has left the Emmy Award-winning actor too sick to fulfill his commitment to the run, for which he was scheduled until Feb. 2009.

In the Dec. 17th online version of Variety, playwright David Mamet was quoted saying, "I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury...So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer."

No word yet on celebrity replacements and whether or not he'll be recuperating at his mom's place in Evanston.

Becky Brett

Theatre Sat Dec 13 2008

Cromer's Our Town : Broadway Bound

David Cromer's hit adaptation of Our Town most recently mounted by the Hypocrites' in The Chopin Theatre's basement space, appears headed for the NYC stage. Cromer is teaming up with NY producer Scott Morfee, it is reported, to bring his critically acclaimed, surprisingly caustic version of Thorton Wilder's classic to New York. The Chicago actors involved in the Hypocrites' production have "been invited to come" to NY, says Cromer. For more info about the potential move, check out Chris Jones' article in The Trib.

Julianna Mendelsohn / Comments (1)

Theatre Fri Dec 05 2008

William Petersen joins Steppenwolf's Ensemble

William Petersen, the native Evanstonian actor better known to most as "that dude from CSI" (didja know he's also an Executive Producer?) has been named as a new member of Steppenwolf's prestigious ensemble, which includes other Chicago theatre and film luminaries such as Joan Allen, Frank Galati, John Mahoney, John Malkovitch, Gary Sinise and a host of others.

"We are delighted to welcome our long-time friend, William Petersen, into the Steppenwolf ensemble," comments Steppenwolf Artistic Director Martha Lavey. "Billy was one of the founding members of Chicago's Remains Theatre, an ensemble theater that, like Steppenwolf, helped define the storefront theater life of Chicago in the 1980s. He currently appears in Steppenwolf's Dublin Carol and previously appeared in our productions of Balm in Gilead and Fool for Love. We are delighted that Billy is a friend from our past, present and a part of our future."

For more info about Steppenwolf's Ensemble including a full list of ensemble members past and present, check out the 'Wolf's website.

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Thu Dec 04 2008

Infamous Commonwealth Has 24 Hours

To write, stage and perform a collection of original plays. Their Fourth Annual 24 Hour Project begins at 9 PM on Friday, January 9th, and culminates in a performance at 8 PM at Vittum Theatre on January 10th.
This seasons 24 Hour Project topic is nature-- four playwrights have 12 hours to write four plays, and four musicians also take 12 hours to compose original works to precede each play. In the remaining 12 hours, the actors and directors rehearse their play to prepare for the performance.
For more info or to purchase tickets, check out Infamous Commonwealth's website or call 312-458-9780

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Wed Nov 19 2008

Holidays, Schmolidays

Each year, as the holiday season approaches, theatre goers are inundated by a number of holiday themed performance options. There's always the standard fare: Scrooge this and that, nuts cracking, etcetera. Wouldn't it be nice to see an unusual holiday themed show? This is an option well within reach of Chicago theatre fans. Some non-traditional holiday performance options for this season include:

A Red Orchid Theatre's A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant

500 Clown Christmas

Hell in a Handbag's Silent Night of the Lambs

And many, many more. Don't write off the theatre this holiday season just because you're sick of Santa. For a full listing of upcoming holiday shows, check out Theatre in Chicago's comprehensive list of upcoming "seasonally appropriate" performances. And, if you find yourself stuck at some overly schmaltzy holiday show, a flask of egg nog always helps.

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Wed Nov 19 2008

Collaboraction's 9th Annual Sketchbook Festival Now Accepting Submissions

Collaboraction announces its call for submissions for their 9th Annual Sketchbook short play festival, this year to include a special Sketchbook Jr. component, highlighting works intended for young audiences. Collaboraction is also looking for directors, choreographers, and various other artists for the festival. The deadline for submissions for the 9th annual SKETCHBOOK Festival is Monday, Dec. 22, 2008 at 11:59 p.m. To submit your work, visit Collaboraction's website.

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Mon Nov 17 2008

Be a Broadway Star

Well, the star part isn't guaranteed, but you have an opportunity to play a walk-on role during a performance of Wicked. To be eligible, go to the Oriental Theatre lobby on November 19 or December 3 from 5:30pm-6:30pm and make a $20 donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. As a bonus, you'll get $20 off that evening's show. Full details at Broadway in Chicago's website.

David Schalliol

Theatre Wed Nov 05 2008

Chris Jones Has A Bone to Pick

With Chicago Theatres' level of customer service. "In this rough economy," he says, "you'd think theaters would take care of their paying customers. But as with airlines and restaurants, the level of customer service at Chicago theaters varies. Drastically." To read his full assessment of the situation and leave him your own $.02, check out The Tribune's website.

Julianna Mendelsohn / Comments (1)

Theatre Thu Oct 30 2008

The Addams Family in Chicago

Broadway in Chicago will announce today the world premiere of "The Addams Family," a new musical based on the original Addams Family cartoons. Check out the suitably creepy photo of Mr. Addams himself below for a taste of what's in store. It opens on November 13, 2009. For more information, check out Broadway in Chicago's website.

addams.jpg

David Schalliol

Theatre Tue Oct 28 2008

Victory Gardens Auctions off Stardom

If you're a dedicated shower-singer, karaoke enthusiast, or recall fondly your star turn as "Tree #4" in your 3rd grade play, Victory Gardens is offering a chance to show the whole world your stellar talent. Grab your checkbook and and buy your way to stardom at Victory Gardens Theater's 27th Annual Casting Auction, Saturday, November 15th at 6 pm at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. This year, Mame is the classic musical up for bid, with more than 50 roles up for grabs to the highest bidder. After all, isn't buying your way to stardom the American Way? You won't even have to visit the Casting Couch. For more information or to purchase tickets visit Victory Gardens' website.

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Thu Oct 23 2008

Exits and Entrances at Stage Left

A fter eight years, Stage Left Theatre's Artistic Director Kevin Heckman is now the Managing Director for Evanston's Next Theatre. Taking Heckman's place at Stage Left are "Interim Co-Artistic Directors" Drew Martin and David Alan Moore. Martin held the position for eight years prior to Heckman, who remains an active member of the Stage Left ensemble. At the same time, John Sanders, who served as Director of New Play Development, has moved on to focus on his own acting career, and Laura Blegen has been hired as the theatre's new full-time Managing Director in charge of all business operations. As Stage Left gears up for its 27th season with the Chicago premiere of After Ashley by Gina Gionfriddo on October 14, Moore and "After Ashley" director Greg Werstler spoke with Joe Stead of the website Theatre in Chicago about the artistic shakeup, the challenges and rewards of collaboration, and the mission of producing new and exciting work in Chicago. For the full scoop and other Chicago theatre news, add Theatre in Chicago to your daily web jaunts.

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Tue Oct 21 2008

Elect to See a Play

This news just crossed our desk:

Broadway In Chicago is encouraging all Chicagoans to vote and celebrate the election of the 44th President by offering theater patrons an opportunity to purchase any seat for $44 on Election Day, November 4, 2008, by using the code VOTE. The special ticket price applies to the international stage hits Dirty Dancing, Jersey Boys and Wicked. Theater goers will be able to hear election returns during intermission and at the close of the show. Performances for all shows on Tuesday, November 4th begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at Broadway In Chicago box offices (18 W. Monroe St., 24 W. Randolph St. and 151 W. Randolph St.), through the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at 312-902-1400, and via Ticketmaster. More details here.

Andrew Huff

Theatre Tue Oct 21 2008

Jeff Awards '08: Like the Tonys, but in Skokie

The 2007-2008 Jeff Awards ceremony, held last night at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, honored the best of the best from the 07-08 theatre seasons. Awards were presented in 35 categories for Chicago Equity theatrical productions which opened between August 1, 2007 and July 31, 2008. Beginning with this season, the Jeff Awards acknowledged the work of Large and Midsize theatres in separate categories for productions and technical elements. For a full list of nominees and winners, visit the Jeff Awards website.

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Sun Oct 12 2008

Victory Gardens Solves the Ultimate Parental Problem

Victory Gardens Theatre's Family Saturday series aims to solve the age-old dilemma of finding a sitter for your kids so you can get out to see some theatre. The Family Saturday series kicks off Saturday, October 18 at 5 pm with Victory Gardens' season opener, Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl. VGT education professionals will keep children 4 and up entertained, while their parents watch the show and have some much needed grown-up time .

Continue reading this entry »

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Sun Oct 12 2008

Apple Tree's Boevers to Receive Special Jeff Award

Apple Tree Theatre's Eileen Boevers will be receiving a special Jeff Award in recognition of her dedication to fostering Apple Tree's educational outreach program. Boevers, who recently retired as Apple Tree's Executive Artistic Director, will be honored for her work at the Jeff Awards' ceremony at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie on October 20th. For more information about the Jeff Awards or to purchase tickets to the ceremony, visit the Jeff Awards' website . Stay tuned to A/C for a full roundup of the Jeff Awards' the day after the ceremony.

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Wed Oct 08 2008

Scooty and JoJo's Carpenters Halloween

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must begin this review with a troubling admission: I have never seen any of the Halloween movies. Not a one. That being said, I went into the performance of Scooty and JoJo's Carpenters Halloween hoping that my lack of knowledge of the films wouldn't hamper my enjoyment of the show. You see, Carpenters Halloween is the story of the original Halloween film, set to the music of The Carpenters. As in, Karen and Richard Carpenter. If that isn't enough to pique your curiosity, here's a few other facts about this show: there are puppets, men in drag, and the show takes place in Mary's Attic, the small space above Hamburger Mary's in Andersonville, on Clark. That means, that while you are watching a man in drag singing "Rainy Days and Mondays" to a puppet, while being leered at by a dude in a hockey mask, you can also have a drink, or two. And order off the appetizer menu. During the show. Need I go on?

Continue reading this entry »

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Tue Oct 07 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Sell the lemons at a discount!

Collaboraction, a Chicago theatre institution known best for their annual Sketchbook short play festival, has clearly been watching their CNN recently. In light of the current economic conditions, which can be best described as sucky, they are offering $50 "Bail Out" tickets to their upcoming annual fundraiser Beggar's Banquet on October 11th, which offers a good portion of the night's excitement for a more "budget friendly" price. After all, did any of you all get checks from that $700 Billion Dollar bailout? I sure didn't--and neither did any Chicago theatre companies.

One part fundraiser, and several parts gloriously debaucherous bacchanalia, this year's Beggar's Banquet at Park West features "The Greatest Rock Songs of All Times performed by Prairie Cartel and Scott Lucas of Local H, Over 40 interactive groupies and rock stylists treating you like the rock star you are! As well as an Open Bar and Trolley service to Rednofive for After party of debauchery!!!!!", according to their website. The $50 tix get you in the door at 9:00 for the booze and groupies, and into the afterparty as well. Hit up their website for tickets and more information.

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Thu Oct 02 2008

Spookshow at the Cultural Center

countorlock.jpg
Looking for some fun Halloween-y theatre? The Incurable Theater is staging the world premier of In the Curious Hold of the Demeter: Count Orlock at Sea at Studio Theater Chicago Cultural Center, 77 East Randolph St., tonight through Oct. 25.

The play, inspired by F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent film Nosferatu, was written by Jill Summers. Follow the struggles of Count Orlock as he travels by sea, stowed away on the Russian schooner "The Demeter." As he travels to a foreign land to begin life anew, his debilitating insomnia brings to life his insecurities and nightmares. The show combines puppetry, masks, live actors, shadowplay and projections to tell its darkly comic tale.

Tonight's preview performance is just $10. Friday and Saturday performances Oct. 3 through Oct. 25 are $15 (students and seniors are $10). All shows are at 7:30pm. Purchase tickets here.

Andrew Huff

Theatre Fri Sep 26 2008

Impress These Apes @ the Lakeshore Theater

Season three has begun! Impress These Apes is an eight week talent competition cruelly masterminded by three hyperintelligent apes from the future (long story). It's no big deal, really -- it's just the future of humanity at stake. Each week eight contestants (drawn from Chicago's rich pool of improv, sketch, and stand-up talent) must rise to the occasion of a new talent challenge.

In seasons past, those talents have included short film projects, favorite movie scene re-enactments, biographical songs, music videos, and stand-up with puppets. (Yeah, puppets.) The show's winner waltzes off with $500, a grab bag of prizes, and the distinction of being called "least pitiful human."

Season one winner Jamie Buell has nothing but great things to say about his experience as a contestant. "Apes was great. It was one of the most rewarding things I've done creatively. Plus it was exciting to have to be so focused to get each challenge done, it didn't leave any room to doubt or second guess." Was it weird to be judged by three giant simians in a comedy context? Yes. "I was surprised by how hard I took it the first time I didn't get a good score from the Apes," Buell said. "Even though the judging aspect is totally ridiculous - three guys in ape masks - it still stung when they didn't like something I'd done."

Season two winner Kristen Studard agrees that Apes was a great experience. What was her favorite week? "Stand-up with a puppet. It was a lot of work making the puppet and I had no idea how my act would go over, but it was really fun to perform. Someone told me after the show that week, 'I've never seen someone sexually harass themselves.' I'll take that as a compliment."

Impress These Apes is a production of Chicago's own Blewt! Productions, who capped off a four year run of the comedy game show Don't Spit the Water with a trip to Los Angeles, where they pitched that show and other ideas to execs at Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and other networks.

Impress These Apes season three continues for the next seven Mondays at 8:30 at the Lakeshore Theater. Tickets are $15.

Cruel ape overlords Steve Gadlin, Paul Luikart, Tyler Lansdown:
Steve Gadlin, Paul Luikart, Tyler Lansdown

Season three contestants:
Impress These Apes Season Three Contestants

More photos and videos from last Monday's season opening show after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Elizabeth McQuern

Theatre Thu Sep 25 2008

Brace, Yourself Chicagoans: Xanadu Is Coming

Continuing the grand tradition of turning a campy movie into an even campier musical, Xanadu is rollerskating its way towards the Windy City. The musical, which opened on Broadway in 2007 to surprisingly favorable reviews, and reached its peak popularity when Whoopi Goldberg was a cast member this summer, is closing at the Helen Hayes Theatre in NYC two weeks early. Producers cited general economic sluggishness as the reason for the early closing. It will open in Chicago in January for a six-month run at Drury Lane Water Tower. My recommendation? Hit the storied Coq D'Or bar at the nearby Drake Hotel pre-show for an interesting contrast between the stoic class of the Coq D'or and the glittery disco explosion that is Xanadu.

For those interested in checking it out for themselves, tickets for the Chicago engagement are $67.50 to $87.50 and may be purchased through Ticketmaster or Broadway in Chicago's website

Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Tue Sep 23 2008

"Big Stories, Up Close" Indeed

DORIANPLUNKETTPROD1.jpgIn Lifeline Theatre's production of The Picture of Dorian Gray -- a world premiere of the adaptation by Robert Kauzlaric from Oscar Wilde's novel -- the eponymous character (played by Nick Vidal, pictured here, left, with the elder Lord Henry [Sean Sinitski]) manages to stay forever young by sloughing off the painful consequences of his many and increasingly detestable sins onto a painting of himself. Everyone around him ages, and everyone he touches is drawn into "the depths of depravity," but he remains unchanged. It seems that in such a story, the audience must be fascinated with Dorian, but I found myself focusing on everyone but. I left the theater feeling that the play was an extraordinary success, but I never felt Dorian's charisma, which is really the linchpin of the story. In theory, nothing makes sense without understanding the world's unshakable adoration of Dorian Gray; but Lifeline certainly pulled through.

Continue reading this entry »

Rachel Zanders

Theatre Mon Sep 22 2008

People's Temple at American Theatre Company

People's Temple, currently running at American Theatre Company and written and directed by Leigh Fondakowski, provides a more detailed look at an American tragedy which has oft been condensed to a mere soundbite. The deaths of hundreds of People's Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana has been reduced to a catchphrase in our culture: "drinking the kool aid". Fondakowski's docudrama, cleanly and minimally staged at ATC, explores the heartwrenching details of this event which have been sadly overlooked.

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Julianna Mendelsohn

Theatre Fri Sep 05 2008

A Wig Maker for Shakespeare

Melissa Veal, known as "Maloo" to her friends, makes wigs. Lots of them. Like, she has a room full of 360 wigs. And she's very much in demand backstage at Chicago Shakespeare's latest production, Amadeus. Time Out Chicago profiles her cool job, and teaches us terms like "wig lace" and why yak hair is awesome.

Lindsay Muscato

Theatre Wed Sep 03 2008

Temporary Artist Commune in Wicker Park

Creativity will thrive 24 hours a day in Wicker Park next week.

From September 7 through 13, theatre artists and alumni from the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Theater Institute (NTI) will collaborate with established members of Chicago's theater community for Element: A New Plays Festival, a script development intensive that was conceived and produced by recent NTI graduates Taylor Bibat and Alexis Randolph.

And creative energy and activity for 24 hours a day is the goal, as the artists will spend the week in a communal living and working environment at the newly-opened St. Paul's Cultural Center in Wicker Park. The space includes a kitchen, rehearsal rooms (or "think tanks"), and performance space. The rare communal aspect of the festival is meant to encourage and establish a heightened level of intensity, intimacy, and focus.

Element kicks off with a workshop and orientation, followed by six days of rehearsals and nightly public readings. Doors open to the public each night at 7 p.m. Highlights of each evening will include a pre-reading activity where the audience and other festival participants may plant sunflower seeds they received as publicity material; a post-reading talkback; and an eat, drink, meet, and greet.

The festival hopes to encourage and support continued relations that will result in future full-scale productions by theater companies across the country.

Schedule is here.

Alison Hamm

Dance Sun Aug 24 2008

DE-evolution of MUDWOMAN

We could get into a long conversation on the subject of why I'm not usually drawn to dance that promises to "de-mystify" and "de-titillate" the "objectification of women." But when Breakbone DanceCo promises to mock themselves, mock a lot of the heavy-handed social commentary out there, and encourage the audience to laugh during this de-titillation, my interest is piqued. The "De-evolution of MUDWOMAN (an evening of dance exile, fashion, and humor)" begins with a "superficial poptart diva"--representing today's female role models--who de-evolves into the primordial female, complete with head-to-toe mud. The show is filled with entertainment, including a couture fashion show and videography, and is punctuated by commentary from three "expositors" who critique the goings-on throughout the evening.

Breakbone uses a unique, athletic style, and the MUDWOMAN choreography explores a movement-as-language standpoint with diverse sources, from sign language to "primal body posturing" to more standard dance techniques. The concert features work by award-winning choreographers Colleen Halloran and Atalee Judy, and former Hubbard Street Chicago dancer Cheryl Mann.

So if you want to participate in a high-energy and humorous journey toward the appreciation of the female form in its "most beautiful, raw, and primal state," go check out Breakbone at the Viaduct Theater, 3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago. It's running for two more weeks: August 28, 29, 30, and September 4, 5, 6, all shows at 9:00. $18 ($15 students and seniors). Click here for tickets or visit Breakbone's website for more information.

Rachel Zanders

Theatre Fri Aug 22 2008

Who Says Comedians Are Completely Self-Involved?

This weekend, some of Chicago's most beloved local stand-ups will be getting together to throw a farewell and benefit show for Angelica Busque and the Illinois chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America. Busque is a local artist and stand-up superfan well known to the many who comics who make their bones in Chicago's backroom stand-up comedy scene. Ms Busque suffers from chronic lupus and is leaving our lovely city and her adopted home to convalesce among family in Michigan. And local luminary stand-ups like Ricky Carmona, the screamingly funny C.J. Sullivan and Sean Flannery (who host the best sports-in-quotes, or "sports" talk show on the internet, Visitor's Locker Room), among others like recent emigre Renee Gauthier are all coming out to honor a super fan and have some fun raising money for a good cause. So what're you gonna do on Saturday?

Doors for "Angel's Farewell Show" open at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. on August 23, 2008, in the back of the Lincoln Restaurant (4008 N. Lincoln Ave.). Suggested donation is $10; all proceeds go to benefit the Lupus Foundation of America, Illinois Chapter. Raffle tickets for tons of good swag from Early to Bed, the Comic Vault, the Lincoln Lodge, 42 Degrees N. Latitude, The Amazing Tomas, Adventure Stage Chicago (Vittum Theater), and Michelle L'Amour will be available for purchase. Angel will also be raffling off an original piece of her art. This particular work was featured as the main promotional piece for Artwalk Ravenswood 2007.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Theatre Thu Aug 07 2008

Hypocrites, Plagiarists, Bruised Oranges, and Nonstop Theatre

In a couple weeks, the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co. will stage it's 20th annual free-spirited "performance mashup" known as the Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins Theatre Festival. Beginning Friday, August 22, at 2 p.m. and ending late on Sunday, August 24 (or, let's be honest, Monday morning), this action-packed, pleasantly absurd theatre extravaganza pays tribute to the spirit of Woodstock. No, not this Woodstock. This Woodstock.

This year's lineup features more than 30 theatre companies and performers, including Mary-Arrchie, A Red Orchid Theatre, The Hypocrites, The Plagiarists, The Telepaths, Speaking Ring Theatre, Bruised Orange Theatre, and many more. The fest takes place at the Angel Island Theatre (kind of like the Yasgur's Farm of East Lakeview). Tickets range from $10-$20 and can be purchased on Ticketweb.

Laura Pearson

Theatre Wed Aug 06 2008

Chicago Theater Database

Metroblogging Chicago has posted an interview with one of the founders of the Chicago Theater Database, a site that aspires to be the IMDB of local dramatic endeavors. A labor of love since 2007, the site has gradually accumulated profiles on more than 200 companies and 700 productions, in addition to information about venues, reviews, awards, and all kinds of things that someone interested in theater may be interested in knowing about. The database recently went into Beta and its creators are working to develop an interface through which users can contribute content. Currently, however, it's only open for browsing. If you're interested in learning more about the creation of the CTDB and what's still to come, check out the blogs of founders Dan Granata and Nick Keenan.

Jamie Smith

Theatre Mon Jul 14 2008

Sing D@mm^t!

There's a new sketch comedy (with music da@mm^t) opening at the Conservatory in August. It is entitled, "Sing D@mm^t" and features six actors (all Chicago sketch and improv veterans), one piano, and nine songs. They will cover, among other things, sex, political corruption, marital dysfunction, and uh, sex. You'll have to wait for about a month, d@mm^t, but tickets go on sale July 18th. This troupe will be worth the wait. By the way, this production is put on by Backe Productions and Corn Productions.

Where: The Conservatory 4210 N. Lincoln Ave. (312) 409-6435 (BYOB)
When: Fridays from August 8th to September 12th at 8:00 p.m. on the first three Fridays and 11 p.m. on the last three Fridays.
Cost: $12 for adults; $10 for students (with valid ID) and groups over 8.

Norman Doucet

Theatre Mon Jul 07 2008

Where There's Smoke...

Chris Jones, the Tribune's theater critic and blogger, was in a tizzy today about the news that Jersey Boys has removed all depictions of smoking from their show. There's currently no artistic exception to the smoking ban (though one was considered) and apparently an audience member complained about the characters lighting up. Cue the police, entering stage left, to warn the production about being in violation of the law.

Jones huffs and puffs about this injustice more than a two-pack-a-day addict. He throws around words like "authenticity" and "truth" and claims that enforcement of this law not only injures Chicago's reputation as a world-class cultural center but also violates artists' constitutional right to freedom of expression. Methinks this drama critic is being overly dramatic.

Continue reading this entry »

Jamie Smith

Theatre Tue Jul 01 2008

Review: Superior Donuts

Superior Donuts, the new Tracy Letts play now running at Steppenwolf, has all the components of a fine piece of theatre. Fine acting chops, yes. A stunning set design that appears vividly, crisply real. Yet something is strangely lacking.

The story centers on a Polish donut storeowner's struggle to hold onto the past and resist the temptation to sell his store to a very persistent Russian who dreams of opening the electronics emporium of the neighborhood. The setting is Uptown, in the present, yet there's something distinctly retro about this story. The female cop who lusts after the protagonist feels reminiscently Hill Street Blues. And the donut lady — the shop’s one consistent customer — is funny but in a predictable way, like a character on the hit '70s T.V. show "Alice."

What’s missing in this play is some emotional bravery. The first act develops nicely, and the juicy dialogue (“Is Anyone Paying Attention in America?”) is entertaining. Yet there’s not a character like Deanna Dugan from Letts’s superior play, August Osage Country, that swept the audience into her tidal wave of debilitation and psychotic derangement. What we have here is a man that Letts slowly exposes as weak and ultimately uninteresting. Even when he sticks up for himself in the fight scene (the most compelling scene of the play), you can’t help but feel sorry for him. It’s a universal story of what happens to someone when they let their life pass them by yet this story fails to stir the audience or provide a resolution. And Franco (Jon Michael Hill), the African American co-worker who gets maimed by the bookie thugs and has his Great American novel torn to shreds, feels clichéd.

Marla Seidell / Comments (1)

Theatre Fri Jun 27 2008

Termen Vox Machina at the Oracle

No, this is not a lost play by Horace. It is a wonderful, radio-style play that is being put on by the Oracle Theatre. Inspired by the life of Lev Termen, a Russian inventor and spy no less, the play utilizes a pre-recorded sound, pantomime and other on-stage devices to portray a fantastic and fictional dramatization of its subject. You'll have to wait until Saturday to see it, but I believe it's worth the wait. Go check it out!

Where: The Oracle Theatre 3809 N. Broadway (773) 244-2980
When: June 28th through August 3rd
Price: $18

Norman Doucet

Theatre Fri Jun 20 2008

Another Local Play Makes Good

Watch out Steppenwolf, here comes Theater Oobleck. Yes, The Strangerer is heading to New York this summer, to debut at the off-Broadway Barrow Street Theatre on July 9. The show, which ran last year at venues like Links Hall (where I saw it), currently has an extended run at the Chopin Theatre (Thu, Fri, Sat at 8pm; Sun 3pm) until June 29.

The play takes a stab at the strangely void and inexplicable psyche of Mr. George W. Centered on a surreal Bush/ Kerry debate in 2004, it's revealed that Bush is the type of man that kills without purpose or knowledge. If you’ve read The Stranger by Albert Camus (apparently Bush did summer of '06) you’ll understand playwright Mickle Maher’s attempt to draw parallels between the President and the main protagonist in the book, a man who commits a senseless murder and is incapable of showing remorse. If you haven’t read the book, you’ll still have plenty to sink your teeth into. Original cast members Maher, Guy Massey, Colm O’Reilly, and Brian Shaw star in the local show as well as the one that's hitching a ride to the Big Apple next month. Go see it here before it's gone.

Marla Seidell

Theatre Thu Jun 05 2008

Tiny Plays, All in a Blog

Brett Neveu's newest play Gas for Less, up now at The Goodman, chronicles one family's struggles to maintain a small business amidst a sea of gentrification. Neveu got his start in Chicago, and for more of his work, or for some bite-sized reading during your lunch break, check out his blog, Little Scripts.

Lindsay Muscato

Theatre Wed Jun 04 2008

New Season at the Strawdog!

The Strawdog Theatre is gearing up for their twenty-first season. The season is entitled "The Whole Wide World in a Little Black Box" and is comprised of three mainstage plays, all of which center around catastrophic events. The season's first play, "Rossum's Universal Robots," by Karl Capec, is about a robot rebellion and how that relates to the twilight of humanity. "All My Sons" by Arthur Miller focuses on the destruction of a family triggered by a suicide, and "Red Roses" by Peter Barnes deals with the devastation and dread of the Black Plague.

Strawdog has been around since 1988 and is centered on performing strong human stories. Their current venue in Lakeview provides the type of theatre that I love; the intimate kind. It seats seventy people, so if you really want to connect with the action, this is your type of experience. In addition to the mainstage performances, the Strawdog also offers a variety of late-night performances including live music, improv, and comedy for all of you night-owls.

The details:

3829 N. Broadway (773) 528-9696
Ticket prices vary, so visit the website or contact the box office.

"R.U.R." by Karel Capek, directed by Shade Murray, runs September 18–October 25, 2008 (previews September 18 and 19 at 8 p.m., gala benefit on September 20 at 7 p.m., opens September 21 at 7 p.m.)

"All My Sons" by Arthur Miller, directed by Kimberly Senior, runs February 19–March 28, 2009 (previews February 19 and 20 at 8 p.m., gala benefit on February 21 at 7 p.m., opens February 22 at 7 p.m.)

"Red Noses" by Peter Barnes, directed by Matthew Hawkins, runs April 16–May 23, 2009 (previews April 16 and 17 at 8 p.m., gala benefit on April 18 at 7 p.m., opens April 19 at 7 p.m.)

Late Night: Friday and Saturday night mainstage performance at 11 p.m. Admission for Late Night is free with paid mainstage ticket (or $5 for just the Late Night).

Norman Doucet

Theatre Tue May 27 2008

A Bitter but Very Sweet Taste

Considered one of the most bold and pivotal plays of its time, "A Taste of Honey," written by the famous British playwright Shalegh Delany is a bold and avant guard piece about poverty, sex, race and family that pushes the boundaries about acceptable societal norms. It was earth shattering when it debuted on the big stage in 1959 and Shattered Globe's rendition of this riveting and socially provocative work is absolutely solid.

The play centers around Josephine or Jo (Helen Sadler), a seventeen year old girl from a working class home and her mother, Helen (Linda Reiter) a sexually indiscriminate and vulgar person who leaves Jo for a wealthy, younger man, Peter (Jeremy Van Meter. Add to the mix Jo's relationship to and subsequent pregnancy with a black sailor, Boy (Bryson Engelen), her temporary destitution, and Jo's relationship with her gay roommate, Geoff (Kevin Viol), an art student who becomes a father figure for Jo during her pregnancy.

The Shattered Globe troupe does a tremendous job presenting the conflict and emotional strain of the various social taboos addressed in this work. A danger of a play of this nature is that it may not seem realistic; that is not the case here. Helen Sadler's performance is simply riveting. She is both fragile and powerful as she navigates through crisis after crisis, demonstrating the duality that exists in women confronted with abandonment, forbidden love, privation and hope. She anchors the performance and allows the audience to identify with her by giving them a glimpse into her core being.

Linda Reiter is adorably deplorable as a self-absorbed and opportunistic bad mother. Just as you begin to completely despise her, she shows glimpses of love for her daughter that demonstrate the complexities of her character. Kevin Viol's performance is brilliant as he serves as Jo's societal father figure while living a bohemian and socially unaccepted lifestyle. Bryson Engelen rounds out the performance as a young, passionate lover who due to his profession, is unavailable to Jo during her greatest time of need.

Everything about this play is wonderful. The British accents are authentic and good throughout, the set is well done and the jazz music played throughout adds the perfect underscore to the story and to the characters. You'll feel for Jo, cry with Jo, and hope for Jo. This is absolutely a must see.

When: Through July 5th
Where: Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theatre
2257 North Lincoln Ave. (773) 549-5788
Price: $27-$35

Norman Doucet

Dance Fri May 16 2008

Dancing with Giant Lampshades

This weekend and next, you'll get the chance to see some acrobatic dancers create a story in the air using ... giant lampshades. And picture frames and clotheslines and boots, oh my! Aloft Aerial Dance presents The Dinner of our Discontent, in which they tell the story--which "veers from heartbreaking to hilarious"--of five estranged sisters returning home after the sudden deaths of their parents. The company has spent some time in China since their last full-length show, and they picked up some tricks from Chinese acrobats who make use of every-day objects to create their art.
The show is May 16-18 and 23-25, 8:00 p.m. at the Aloft Loft, 941 N California Ave. (down the alley, in the back). Go to Brown Paper Tickets for...well...tickets at $20-$30.
As a side note--if you've ever wanted to join the circus but don't want to leave Chicago, you can learn how to be a trapezist right here! Check out the Aloft Loft for all the classes Aloft has to offer.

Rachel Zanders

Theatre Thu May 08 2008

"Your Show Sucked" = Honest or Unnecessary?

Over at the theater blog An Angry White Guy in Chicago, a debate rages about the nature of art criticism. Blogger Don Hall claims that "most theater people just want affirmation and aren't really interested in criticism, constructive or otherwise but we all claim to want honest evaluation from our peers." Check the comments section for the response from the theater community.

Lindsay Muscato

Theatre Wed Apr 23 2008

Stage Left...in Wrigleyville!

The Cubs will not be in town this weekend, but you still have a reason to experience wonderful Wrigleyville in the spring. Stage Left Theatre, known for tackling tough social issues in its productions is currently performing Omniscience, a play about the psychological and emotional trauma suffered by living in a quasi police state. The play follows a documentary producer and his military officer wife as he attempts to bring to light the truth of war and the suppression of expression by corporate and government forces intent on maintaining "control" of its populace.

When: Through May 24th; Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 3:00pm
Where: Stage Left Theatre, 3408 N. Sheffield Ave.
Price: $20.00
Box Office: (773) 883-8830

Norman Doucet

Performance Fri Apr 18 2008

Hip Hop Live + Reel

If you haven’t cleared your calendar for the MCA’s upcoming Hip Hop Live + Reel, you might want to get on that. Born of New York City’s Hip Hop Theater Festival, Live + Reel is a four-day bonanza of hip hop culture. Artists from both coasts – including New York’s Reggie Watts and Bay Area lyricists The Suicide Kings – will be joining forces with local performers like Deja Taylor, whose work from Louder Than a Bomb has been recorded for Chicago Public Radio, and Teatro Luna, Chicago’s all-Latina theater company.

“This new format – two days of film and two days of live performances – creates a mini-festival atmosphere,” says MCA House Manager Surinder Martignetti. “The strength of combining local artists with national performers offers people such a great opportunity to see what’s happening out there and to really get involved.”

With all four days boasting a packed line up of spoken word performances, outstandingly original films and, of course, music (and only $5 for tickets to the films! Five! For the whole night!), the MCA is encouraging everyone to try to make the whole series. If you can only make one, though, I recommend aiming for Saturday, when The Suicide Kings’ In Spite of Everything, a startlingly timely play revolving around a school shooting, will be performed. Louder Than a Bomb 2008 winner Kuumba Lynx will also perform, and beatboxer Yuri Lane will close the night with an excerpt from his show From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey.

Film night tickets are $5 for all screeings; performance nights are $16 member/$20 non-member. Student pricing is available. To see the full list of performances or to buy tickets on line, visit the MCA’s website, or call the box office at 312.397.4010 for more information.

Jaime Calder

Performance Fri Apr 11 2008

What's Your Crazy?

Tonight (April 11) marks the kick-off of comedienne/writer/actress Sarah King's new one-woman show, "good crazy/bad crazy," which runs at the Apollo Studio Theater every Friday until May 2. In addition to dancing, lots of audience interaction, and a general exploration of the idea that "everyone is crazy, but some people are just better at hiding it," the show features words of wisdom from King's parents, who hail from Sugar Land, Texas (whose Town Crazy isTom DeLay) and provide their own insights on what "crazy" means. For a preview, here's a video featuring King's mom and dad, clad in matching pink sport shirts, chatting about "bad crazy drivers" and picking up cans. 8 p.m. $12, $10 for students. 2540 N. Lincoln Ave. For more info, call 773-935-6100 or visit the Website.

Lauri Apple

Dance Thu Apr 10 2008

Bill T. Jones Comes to the MCA

This weekend at the MCA, you can see what one of America's great modern dance companies has to say about our "mediatized" world, touching on morality, humanity, and violence, the judicial process, and prison. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company has been a major force in American modern dance for nearly 25 years. In this visit to Chicago, they will be presenting Chapel/Chapter, a performance that retells two "high-visibility" news stories and one company member's "reminiscence/confession." The music is performed live, the set plays a role, and video and spoken words are involved, all contributing to the choreographer's desire to create a "self-enclosed world." The show promises to be both intellectually and visually fascinating.

Shows are at the MCA, 220 E. Chicago Ave., on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30. Tickets are $35-$40 ($28-$32 for MCA members). For tickets and more information, including a video preview, visit the MCA's website.

Rachel Zanders

Theatre Thu Apr 03 2008

Last Chance to See Some Spinsters!

This is your last chance to see a great play, Next Stop Spinsterland, showing at the Athenaeum Theatre in Lakeview. Two single girls are teleported to Spinsterland where they have 24 hours to find a husband or else spend eternity there. It closes April 6th. Go check it out!

Where: Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave (312) 902-1500
When: Sat, April 5th at 8pm. and Sunday April 6th (final show) at 3pm.

Tickets: $18.00

Norman Doucet

Theatre Wed Apr 02 2008

Heat Wave

For the next few days, the Live Bait Theatre is staging Heat Wave, a dark comedy chronicling the events of the 1995 Chicago weather disaster. Based on Eric Klineberg's book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, it is a moving examination of the tragedy that took the lives of over 700 Chicagoans. A must see.

You can catch it Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday at 3:00pm in the Pegasus Player's Theatre, 1145 W. Wilson Ave. Tickets run from $17-25.

Norman Doucet

Dance Thu Mar 27 2008

The Weekend in Dance

Here are some options for this weekend (starting tonight!).


  • Chicago Moving Company presents Dance Shelter, CMC's annual artist-in-residence concert. March 27, 28 and April 3, 4 @ 7:30. $15 ($12 students), Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater, 3035 N Hoyne Ave. Click here for more info and to purchase tickets.

  • Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Spring Series opens tonight. If you were to see only one Chicago company this year, I'd say these are the folks to see. Consistently fantastic performances, consistently accessible to a wide audience. Various dates, tonight through April 5. Their site has all the info you could need.

  • The final event in Links Hall's Choreographing Coalitions (see earlier GB entries about the series here and here) is Denise Uyehara's Big Head, an interdisciplinary performance piece that "revisits the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II and considers current-day treatment of those perceived as 'the enemy now.'" March 28, 29 @ 8:00, March 30 @ 7:00. $15 ($12 students). 3435 N. Sheffield, #207

Rachel Zanders

Theatre Wed Mar 19 2008

Does Theater Matter?

Chicago's storefront theater scene rivals that of anywhere in the country. But still, critically acclaimed shows struggle to fill their houses and actors keep on eating rice with soy sauce for every meal. A group of theater bloggers, here and around the country, chose today to tackle the big question, "What is the value of theater?" -- and they attempt to dissect why theater matters to people who aren't in the industry.

Don Hall of WNEP Theater posts here, and links to other bloggers, too.

Lindsay Muscato

Theatre Thu Mar 13 2008

Q&A With a Young Playwright

Chicago-based In These Times magazine features an interview with a young, up-and-coming playwright, Christopher Shinn. When asked his advice about where an artist should begin, he responded in a way that made me think about my own artistic perspective, saying: "Any artist needs to come up with a theory of human nature. And mine has to do with an inherent vulnerability in people, and their attempt to escape that vulnerability through a narcissistic denial of reality. That’s been around since the Greeks and Shakespeare’s tragedies."

Lindsay Muscato

Performance Mon Mar 10 2008

What Adlai Stevenson and Butoh Dancing Have in Common

This weekend, nine companies and artists will present their interpretation of this year's Full Circle Danztheatre Festival theme, Milestones. Performing new works will be: Kate McIlvain, Shabam! Productions, The Core Project, Shahina, Christy Munch, Soul Theatre, Perceptual Motion, Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble, and Wannapa Pimtong-Eubanks.

The festival aims to "blend all forms of art, dance, text, music, and visual art into performances that capture and stimulate the mind." And media isn't the only diverse aspect of the festival. Take a peek at the subject matter. McIlvain's "dance for the camera," Three Men in Two Parts, follows three young men through a night in a bar. Shabam!'s West Side Story Redux views today's racism and division through the lens of the eponymous musical. Munch's Rubber Coated Chlorine takes a stab at "political speak" while the audience hears recordings of Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations in 1962. Performances will range from political and serious to light and warm-hearted, while subjects range from a Baptist church, to mid-life discovery, to death. There are even promises of belly dancing and traditional Butoh dancing!
Tickets are $15 ($10 students). Shows are March 13 and 14 at 7:30 at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater, 3035 N. Hoyne. 773-486-8261

Rachel Zanders

Theatre Wed Mar 05 2008

"Making the Beast with Two Backs"

There is still time to see the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) on Navy Pier's presentation of Othello, which ends on April 6th. It is not as easy as it looks to adapt Shakespeare to a modern audience, but having seen the CST in action during their production of Troilus and Cressida in 2006, I can tell you that this Chicago troupe makes it happen in a big way.

They deliver engaging and exciting performances that captivate their audiences and keep them coming back for more. If you haven't seen a Shakespearean play performed live, this would be a great introduction. If you're a Shakespeare veteran, the CST will provide a great "shot in the arm."

If you want to see great acting, great costumes and a wonderful production, go check them out!

When: Saturdays : 8pm
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays : 7:30pm (ends April 6)

Where: Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier: 800 E. Grand Ave.

Norman Doucet

Theatre Mon Mar 03 2008

Get Your Patriotism On! 1776 at the Chopin Theatre

Presented by the Signal Ensemble Theater, a Chicago nonprofit professional company, this performance of the Tony Award-winning musical was commendable. The story is well known. It is the summer of 1776 and the Continental Congress is debating what will become the seminal moment of our nation: the signing of the Declaration of Independence. There is bitter division and political infighting. The outcome is unclear and the future of the colonies and a nation hangs in the balance.

What makes 1776 amazing is two-fold. The acting and singing in this performance were both strong and seamless. I was pleasantly surprised to see that neither the singing nor acting was compromised by the other. The performance was strong and engaging throughout the nearly three-hour event. I immediately connected with the plight of John Adams (played by Phillip Winston) as he struggles to convince the holdouts in the Congress to share in his ideal vision of a free America, all the while longing to be reunited with his wife Abigail (Lindsay Naas). Benjamin Franklin (Vincent Lonergan) added humor to the performance as well the pragmatism that Adams desperately needs. All of the actors were exceptional but there was a standout performance by Jeremy Trager who sang "Molasses to Rum" as Edward Rutledge of South Carolina. The song was complex, required a tremendous amount of range and energy, and Trager nailed it cold. Although the song was essentially a defense of slavery, it mas a moving reminder of what regrettably helped build this nation. I felt that the audience was uncomfortable with the subject, but that they, too, were amazed at the execution.

The venue was also integral to the performance. The intimacy of the Chopin Theater made me feel that I was a part of the action. The actors were so close you could see them sweat. They moved on and off of the stage via the audience entries, which made it feel even more familiar. This is a great way to see great theater.

Norman Doucet

GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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