Firebrand Theatre, the first musical theatre company committed to employing and empowering women by expanding opportunities on and off the stage, is pleased to announce the appointment of Kimberly Lawson as Managing Director. 
 
Comments Artistic Director Harmony France, “Kimberly has vast administrative experience from her time at Victory Gardens and Lookingglass Theatres. She believes strongly in our mission of employing and empowering women and for standing up for inclusion and diversity in theatre. Not to mention she is an inspiring artist herself. I think she is a perfect fit for Firebrand Theatre and look forward to what we will be able to achieve together.”
 
About Kimberly Lawson
 
Kimberly Lawson is thrilled to be joining the team of Firebrand Theatre. Originally from St. Louis, MO, Kimberly has worked with over 20 theaters in the Chicago area as a theater administrator and performer. Currently the Manager of Audience Services of Lookingglass Theatre, she previously held the position of Director of Audience and Venue Services at Victory Gardens Theater. As performer, she was most recently seen in Andre DeShields' Confessions of a P.I.M.P at Victory Gardens Theater. Kimberly is also an active cabaret singer, and is a member of Chicago Cabaret Professionals. Her latest show, WOZ, was nominated for a BroadwayWorld Chicago award after playing sold out performances at Davenport's Piano Bar, Victory Gardens and Stage 773. She will be returning to the Davenport's stage in August with her latest show, She Plays the Violin.
 
Firebrand Theatre’s inaugural season begins this fall with the Chicago premiere of LIZZIE, a rock musical based on the true-life story of accused axe-murderess Lizzie Borden, playing November 11 – December 17, 2017. The season concludes next spring with the musical comedy 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL, based on the hit movie of the same name about three working women fighting for equality in a sexist workplace, playing April 7 – May 20, 2018. Both productions will be presented at The Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. For tickets and additional information, visit firebrandtheatre.org.
 
Mission Statement
 
FIREBRAND THEATRE is a musical theatre company committed to employing and empowering women by expanding their opportunities on and off the stage. Firebrand is a 501(c)(3) Equity theatre.
 
Company members: Artistic Director: Harmony France, Managing Director: Kimberly Lawson, Advisory Board: Lili-Anne Brown, Brenda Didier, Kate Garassino, Emjoy Gavino, Amber Mak, Danni Smith, Company Members: Kasey Alfonso, Sydney Charles, Adelina Feldman-Schultz, Amanda Horvath, Jon Martinez, Eric Martin, Amelia Jo Parrish and Andra Velis-Simon.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Winner of four Jeff Awards, including Best Production, and fresh off a national tour, Moby Dick, adapted and directed by David Catlin from the book by Herman Melville, returns to the Lookingglass Theatre. The play is produced in association with The Actors Gymnasium, a circus and performing arts training center.


The story is narrated by adventurous Ishmael, a sailor en route to sign up with a whaling ship, Piqued. Ishmael (superbly played by Jamie Abelson at evening performances) first lands in an overcrowded hotel, where the innkeeper casually informs him that due to lack of room he’ll have to share a bed with another fellow. His muscular, tattoo covered bedmate, Queequeg (the absolutely splendid Anthony Fleming III), is a son of a Polynesian island king, who is on his own soul-searching journey. The two men bond and decide to board the ship together.


The rest of the show takes us onto Piqued. The ship is a testosterone infused man-cave; the sailors do what real men are supposed to do: they go out to dangerous sea to hunt down whales in order to obtain whale oil, a valuable commodity at the time. Their jaw-dropping circus-inspired acrobatic fits of agility (choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-Distasi) add to the feel of masculine energy and the everyday struggle to stay alive.


But Piqued’s disheveled and angry Captain Ahab (fiercely played by Nathan Hosner) is not interested in whale oil, he’s got a score to settle: the giant white whale named Moby Dick bit off his leg during their previous encounter. Captain has been at sea for a very long time, and in his insanity he imagines that the white whale represents all the evil in the world, and thus it must be destroyed. It’s pure all-consuming madness!


Costume designer Sully Ratke’s clever use of fabrics play games with our minds: an oversized woman’s skirt swallows drowning men, a vast piece of white silk brushing past our heads is a giant white whale.


The feminine energy in the play is very distinct. The three female actors (Kelley Abell, Mattie Hawkinson, Cordelia Dewdney) play all the female parts as well as the three Fates. They set the mood with their eerie presence and graceful movements, while their beautiful voices provide live score (sound designer/composer Rick Sims). Sometimes they are just lurking around, and other times they are the forces of nature and nature itself. One of them turns into a whale carcass being stripped of meat and drained of oil by sailors in a vaguely sexual way.


That feminine energy is of stark contrast to the mere mortal men’s struggles to survive. It’s Man vs. Nature, and nature can never be conquered. Spoiler alert: in the end, the Ill-fated ship is swallowed by the over-sized skirt. Vengeance is a two-way street.


About the venue: Lookingglass Theatre is housed in Water Tower Water Works, the historic still functioning water station built in 1869, which pumps 250,000 gallons of water to the north side of Chicago every day. Separated from the theatre space by a glass wall, it feels like a time warp, which sets the mood perfectly for this mid-19th century classic. For more information on this show or to purchase tickets, visit www.Lookingglasstheatre.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

Lookingglass Theatre Company announces a partnership with TodayTix—the free mobile app that provides on-demand access to theater tickets—to offer exclusive $25 Lottery tickets to the return of its award-winning production of Moby DickMoby Dick, adapted and directed by Ensemble Member David Catlin, from the book by Herman Melville, in association with The Actors Gymnasium, runs June 7 – September 3, 2017 at Lookingglass Theatre Company, located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson.
 
A limited number of $25 tickets will be available through the TodayTix mobile Lottery for all evening performances of Moby Dick beginning June 7, 2017. The lottery will open every performance day at midnight and all winners and non-winners will be notified 2 - 4 hours before the performance. Lottery winners may pick up their tickets at the Lookingglass box office one hour prior to show time.
 
“We had incredible audiences and sold-out performances during the first run of Moby Dick in 2015,” notes Director of Marketing, Anna Marie Wilharm. “Tickets were in high demand and often gone weeks in advance. We’re excited that our daily ticket lottery partnership with TodayTix will provide our patrons and TodayTix users a chance at securing great seats at a great price, and increase accessibility to this blockbuster show.”
 
Winner of four Jeff Awards, including Best Production, and fresh off a national tour, the critically-acclaimed Moby Dick returns to the Lookingglass stage in this harrowing and intoxicating exploration of revenge, obsession, and destiny.  Madness rages like the angry sea when man pits himself against leviathan in Herman Melville’s epic and poetic tale, furiously reimagined by director David Catlin (Lookingglass Alice). Climb aboard the Pequod with Ishmael, Starbuck, and the intrepid crew on a voyage into the darkest reaches of the human psyche with an insatiably driven Captain Ahab at the helm in reckless pursuit of the legendary white whale.
 
The cast of Moby Dick includes Ensemble Members Kareem Bandealy, Anthony Fleming III and Raymond Fox who return to reprise their roles as Starbuck, Queequeg and Stubb from the critically-acclaimed 2015 production. Also returning to the production are Jamie Abelson (Ishmael – evening performances), Micah Figueroa (Cabaco) and Javen Ulambayar (Mungun). Joining the cast are Kelly Abell (Fate #1), Walter Owen Briggs (Ishmael – matinee performances), Cordelia Dewdney (Fate #3), Mattie Hawkinson (Fate #2) and Nathan Hosner (Ahab).
 
Moby Dick, adapted and directed by Ensemble Member David Catlin, from the book by Herman Melville, in association with The Actors Gymnasium, runs June 7 – September 3, 2017 at Lookingglass Theatre Company, located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson. The press opening is Saturday, June 17 at 7:30 pm. The performance schedule is as follows: Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. (except June 8 & 15 and August 3) and 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. (except June 10 & 17) at 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. (except June 18) and 7:30 p.m. (except June 11 & 18). There is an additional performance on Tuesday, August 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, priced $35 - $80 are available at the box office, by phone at (312) 337-0655, or online at lookingglasstheatre.org.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Lookingglass Theatre Company, in association with Dark Harbor Stories, present the U.S. Premiere of Beyond Caring, written and directed by Alexander Zeldin. Beyond Caring runs March 22 – May 7, 2017 at Lookingglass Theatre Company, located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson. 

 

Unseen. Unheard. Unknown. At the margins of society, on the knife-edge of survival, they work for low wages, in harsh conditions. No safety net. No insurance or protections. No guarantee of work tomorrow.

 

This critically-acclaimed piece, most recently produced at the UK’s National Theatre and re-imagined for Chicago by writer/director Alexander Zeldin, is a gritty portrait of those who cling precariously to the bottom rung of the ladder. Full of life, humor, and tenderness, it sheds light on America’s shadow economy and shines an unflinching spotlight on the incendiary intersection of race and class.

 

Beyond Caring is produced in association with Dark Harbor Stories. Dark Harbor Stories is a company led by David Schwimmer and Tom Hodges dedicated to producing original stories with a social conscience in theatre, television and film. Lookingglass Ensemble Member David Schwimmer brought this project to Lookingglass, and is working closely with writer/director Alexander Zeldin on the production, and collaborating with Lookingglass to develop the necessary attention and funds for this exciting project.

 

Playwright and director Alexander Zeldin comments, “This opportunity in the US is a totally new one for me. I’ve found that looking at the lives of those working in the conditions of the temporary economy, the margins of society, says so much about the moral, spiritual, and emotional place that the country is in, much like it did the UK. It tells us about how the sentiment that lives are to be lived with dignity, respect and a sense of value is only a hollow set of words. But it says something else, too—here in the US, it tells us about race in this country. So we’re not just remaking the play with US actors. We’re continuing the inner work and the research to make a new Beyond Caring born out of these conditions in a deep collaboration with these actors, as well as with the deep involvement of workers here.”

 

The cast of the U.S. Premiere of Beyond Caring includes Caren Blackmore (Ebony-Grace), Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks (Tracy), Keith D. Gallagher (Ian), Edwin Lee Gibson (Phil) and Wendy Mateo (Sonia).

 

The creative team for Beyond Caring includes Ensemble Member Daniel Ostling (scenic and lighting design), Ensemble Member Mara Blumenfeld (costume design), Josh Anio Grigg (sound design and composition) and Amanda Herrmann (props design). Tess Golden is the Production Stage Manager.

 

Community Partners for Beyond Caring include: Chicago Humanities Festival, The Chicago Urban League, Chicago Worker’s Collaborative, The Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Latino Union of Chicago, Latinos Progresando, Leadership Greater Chicago, and Women Employed.

 

REFLECT Panels

REFLECT is a curated series of post-show discussions featuring panelists with a range of viewpoints and expertise on the content and context of the play. Discussions take place directly following the 2 p.m.­ matinee on select Sundays at Lookingglass Theatre. The discussions are free and open to the public.

 

April 9: Division Street: Race, Class, and Who’s in Charge

The temporary labor work force in Chicago relies upon division between races to help keep wages low and workers disunited. What are the strategies and techniques that achieve this? What are potential strategies and techniques for overcoming it? How have racial and ethnic hierarchies shifted over time?

 

April 16: The State of the Union: Will Collective Bargaining Survive?

Chicago has been a hub of union organizing and a stronghold of collective bargaining. At the same time, it remains one of the biggest open markets for temporary labor in the country. What are the obstacles to unionizing the temporary labor workforce? Would unionization be a good thing? How do other labor unions feel about temporary laborers? How do unions stay relevant? Should they?

 

April 23: Welcome to The Jungle: Chicago Workers Then and Now

Chicago has long used immigrant labor to populate its stockyards, mills, warehouses, and factories. Why has it historically been a destination for both people and goods? Who benefits from this system, and who suffers? Is upward mobility a reality? How long does it take for “the American dream” to become manifest, or alternately, to wither and die?

 

April 30: Power Dynamics: Women in Today’s Workforce

What are the obstacles and issues uniquely faced by women in the workplace? How has the societal view of working women changed, and is it changing still? In what ways do double-standards for men and women remain? How are our conversations about equal pay, family leave, sexual harassment, life/work balance and other issues evolving?

 

Wednesday, May 3 (following the 7:30 p.m. performance): The Ethics of Investigative Journalism

How do reporters serve their multiple constituents: their readers/audience, their sources, their media outlets? When should a reporter go “undercover” to get the “inside scoop” of the on-the-ground realities? And if they do, when should they disclose their true identity? How is this similar to the investigative process for artists or others researching a subject? The Ethics of Investigative Journalism panel discussion is moderated by Chicago Humanities Foundation’s Alison Cuddy.

 

May 7: Crossing the Atlantic: Beyond Caring in the U.K. and the U.S.

Beyond Caring was originally produced in England in response to the temporary labor force and working conditions there. In adapting the production to reflect Chicago realities, what was similar and what was different about the development process? Join the conceiver and director of the production, Alexander Zeldin, for a unique conversation.

 

 

About the Artists

ALEXANDER ZELDIN (Writer/Director) is a writer and director for theatre. His critically-acclaimed play Beyond Caring had its World Premiere at The Yard Theatre in Hackney in 2014, before transferring to the Temporary Theatre at the National Theatre in London in 2015. In 2015, Alex was the recipient of The Quercus Trust Award and was appointed as Associate Director at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Beyond Caring toured the UK in 2016 and his new play LOVE opened at the National Theatre in London in December 2016 to rave reviews. As of 2017, he will be resident director at the National Theatre where his upcoming work will premiere.

CAREN BLACKMORE (Ebony-Grace) is making her Lookingglass debut with Beyond Caring. She was last seen in Court Theatre's production of Electra. Her Chicago theatre credits include: a one woman show, The MLK Project: The Fight For Civil Rights (Writers Theatre), Spill (TimeLine Theatre), Jitney! (Court Theatre), The Joe Tex Story (Black Ensemble Theater), and she has also worked with Pegasus Players, Stockyards Theatre Project, Theater Wit, The Loop Players, Congo Square Theatre Company, eta Creative Arts Foundation and MPAACT. Caren has attended New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia and is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Eugene O'Neill National Theater Institute

J. NICOLE BROOKS (Tracy/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) is an actor, wordsmith, and director. Recent stage credits include the acclaimed comedy Immediate Family directed by Phylicia Rashad (Goodman Theatre; Mark Taper Forum), and Lucas Hnath’s Death Tax (Lookingglass Theatre). She is author of Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten (published by Methuen), Fedra Queen of Haiti (published University of Illinois Press) and has several plays in development. Directing credits include Thaddeus & Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure, Black Diamond, and Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting (Lookingglass Theatre). Prized ribbons: TCG Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, LA Ovations, African American Theatre Alliance of Chicago, Jeff Award Nominations, and Black Theater Alliance Awards.

 

KEITH D. GALLAGHER (Ian) is making his Lookingglass debut. Chicago: Mary Page Marlowe, Marie Antoinette (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); The Gospel of Franklin, Man in Love (Steppenwolf First Look); Awake and Sing, The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Northlight Theatre); Shining City (Goodman Theatre); Tracks (TUTA Chicago); Arcadia (Court Theatre); The Real Thing (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company). Regional: A Raisin in the Sun (Geva Theatre Center); The Gospel According to James (Indiana Repertory Theatre); The Lieutenant of Inishmore (The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); Shining City (Huntington Theatre Company). TV: Chicago Fire; Chicago P.D.; Detroit 187.

 

EDWIN LEE GIBSON (Phil) is making his Lookingglass debut. Off Broadway: Love and Information, U.S. premiere (The Minetta Lane Theatre/New York Theatre Workshop); The Seven (New York Theatre Workshop); The Bellagio Fountain Has Been Known To Make Me Cry (Concrete Temple Theatre, NYC); Turquoise (Dixon Place, NYC); The Death of Bessie Smith (New Brooklyn Theatre); The Diary of Black Men (Fairfield Halls, London). Chicago credits: The Royale (American Theater Company); St. James Infirmary (Congo Square Theatre Company). Awards: OBIE Award - Outstanding Performance. TV: recurring role as Orton Freeman on Law and Order: SVU (NBC); Shameless (Showtime). Film: Mom and Dad (Armory Films/Brian Taylor); Marshall (Chestnut Ridge Prods/ Reginald Hudlin); Blood First (NaRa Films).

WENDY MATEO (Sonia) returns to the Lookingglass after last appearing as “Mother-in-Law” in Blood Wedding (2016) and “Maria” in Big Lake Big City (2013). Other Chicago credits include Tumbao: The Misadventures of la Familia Pilón at Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1700 Theatre and Don Chipotle produced by The Playground Theater. Wendy can also be seen on the many comedy stages around Chicago and at Mas Mejor online with the comedy duo, Dominizuelan. TV credits include: Shameless (Showtime), Chicago P.D. (NBC), and The Exorcist (FOX).

FACT SHEET/ Beyond Caring

 

Title:  Beyond Caring

In Association with:  Dark Harbor Stories, led by David Schwimmer and Tom Hodges

Written and Directed by:  Alexander Zeldin

Cast:  Caren Blackmore (Ebony-Grace), Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks (Tracy), Keith D. Gallagher (Ian), Edwin Lee Gibson (Phil) and Wendy Mateo.

 

Creative Team: Ensemble Member Daniel Ostling (scenic and lighting design), Ensemble Member Mara Blumenfeld (costume design), Josh Anio Grigg (sound design and composition) and Amanda Herrmann (props design). Tess Golden is the Production Stage Manager.

 

Dates:              Previews:  March 22 – March 31, 2017

                        Regular run: April 2 – May 7, 2017

 

Times:            

Wednesdays:  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays: 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Fridays: 7:30 p.m.

Saturdays:  2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays:  2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

           

Location:          Lookingglass Theatre Company, located inside Chicago's historic

Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson.

  

Prices:  Previews are $35 - $45

Regular Run is $40 - $75

Student tickets are available the day of the show for $20 with a valid student ID. Based on Availability.

Groups of 8 or more patrons save up to 20%. Call 773-477-9257 X 125 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. details.

 

Box Office:      Buy online at lookingglasstheatre.org

or by phone at (312) 337-0665

The Lookingglass box office is located at Water Tower Water Works,

821 N. Michigan Ave.

 

Age Recommendation: Beyond Caring is recommended for ages 18+. The production contains adult sexual situations, language and nudity.

 

Accessible

Performances: Open Captioned performance, Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.

Touch Tour/Audio Described performance, Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.

(Touch Tour begins at 6 p.m.).  More information: lookingglasstheatre.org/access

 

Additional Programs: REFLECTPost-Show Panel Series - Lookingglass’ REFLECT Series is a curated selection of post-show discussions featuring panelists with a range of viewpoints and expertise on the content and context of each production. These wide-ranging conversations, moderated by artistic staff, offer an opportunity for Lookingglass audiences and guests to engage with the vision and visionaries behind each show, get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the unique Lookingglass process, and hear from artists, academics and authorities with diverse perspectives on the material. REFLECT post-show panel discussions take place directly following the 2 p.m. matinees at Lookingglass Theatre. The discussions are free and open to the public. lookingglasstheatre.org/reflect

 

Theatre Night Out for Young Professionals – Thursday, April 20, 2017

Join members of the Lookingglass Junior Board and other young professionals at every production! With a complimentary pre or post-show reception at one of our partner restaurants, Theatre Night Out is a great way to meet other young people who are passionate about theatre. More details TBA. lookingglasstheatre.org/under35  

 

 

 

About Lookingglass Theatre Company

Inventive. Collaborative. Transformative. Lookingglass Theatre Company, recipient of the 2011 Regional Theatre Tony Award, was founded in 1988 by eight Northwestern University students. Now in its 29th season, Lookingglass is home to a multi-disciplined ensemble of artists who create story-centered theatrical work that is physical, aurally rich and visually metaphoric. The Company has staged 64 world premieres, received 143 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations, and work premiered at Lookingglass has been produced in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Berkeley, Philadelphia, Princeton, Hartford, Kansas City, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Louisville and St. Louis. Lookingglass original scripts have been produced across the United States. In 2016, Lookingglass received the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

 

The Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago's landmark Water Tower Water Works opened in June 2003. In addition to developing and presenting ensemble work, Lookingglass Education and Community programs encourage creativity, teamwork and confidence with thousands of community members each year.

 

Lookingglass Theatre Company continues to expand its artistic, financial and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Artistic Director Heidi Stillman, Executive Director Rachel Kraft, Producing Director Philip R. Smith, Connectivity and Engagement Director Andrew White, General Manager Michele Anderson, a 24 member artistic ensemble, 23 artistic associates, an administrative staff and a dedicated board of directors led by Chairman John McGowan of CTC| myCFO (a part of BMO Financial Group) and President Nancy Timmers, civic leader and philanthropist. For more information, visit lookingglasstheatre.org.

 

Published in Buzz Extra

Chicago, IL–Lookingglass Theatre Company announces casting for the final two shows of its 2016-2017 season, including the U.S. Premiere of Beyond Caring, written and directed by Beyond Caring in association with Dark Harbor Stories, a company led by Ensemble Member David Schwimmer and Tom Hodges, as well as the remount of the Jeff Award-winning Moby Dick, adapted from the novel by Herman Melvilleand directed by Ensemble Member David Catlin. Single tickets for Beyond Caring and Moby Dick will go on sale on Tuesday, January 17 at Noon and may be purchased through the box office at (312) 337-0665 or lookingglasstheatre.org.

 

The cast of the U.S. Premiere of Beyond Caring includes Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks (Becky), Edwin Lee Gibson (Phil), Wendy Mateo (Susan), Caren Blackmore (Grace) and Keith Gallagher (Ian).

 

The creative team for Beyond Caring includes Ensemble Member Daniel Ostling (scenic and lighting design), Ensemble Member Mara Blumenfeld (costume design), Josh Anio Grigg (sound design and composition) and Amanda Herman (props design). Tess Golden is the Production Stage Manager.

 

The cast of Moby Dick includes Ensemble Members Kareem Bandealy, Anthony Fleming III and Raymond Fox who return to reprise their roles as Starbuck, Queequeg and Stubb from the critically-acclaimed 2015 production. Also returning to the production is Artistic Associate Kasey Foster (Fate 2), along with Jamie Abelson (Ishmael) and Micah Figueroa (Cabaco). Joining the cast are Kelley Abell (Fate 3), Cordelia Dewdney (Fate 1) and Nathan Hosner (Ahab).

 

The creative team for Moby Dick includes Courtney O'Neill (scenic design), Sully Ratke (costume design), William C. Kirkman (lighting design), Artistic Associate Rick Sims (sound design), Isaac Schoepp (rigging design), Amanda Herrmann (props design) and Artistic Associate Sylvia Hernandez-Distasi (choreography).

 

About Beyond Caring and Moby Dick:

The U.S. Premiere of

Beyond Caring

March 22–May 7, 2017

Press opening:  Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 pm

Written and Directed by Alexander Zeldin

In Association with Dark Harbor Stories

Featuring Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks (Becky), Edwin Lee Gibson (Phil), Wendy Mateo (Susan), Caren Blackmore (Grace) and Keith Gallagher (Ian).

 

Unseen. Unheard. Unknown.

 

At the margins of society, on the knife-edge of survival, they work for low wages, in harsh conditions. No safety net. No insurance or protections. No guarantee of work tomorrow.

 

This critically-acclaimed piece, most recently produced at the UK’s National Theatre and re-imagined for Chicago by writer/director Alexander Zeldin, is a gritty portrait of those who cling precariously to the bottom rung of the ladder. Full of life, humor, and tenderness, it sheds light on America’s shadow economy and shines an unflinching spotlight on the incendiary intersection of race and class.

 

Beyond Caring will be produced in association with Dark Harbor Stories. Dark Harbor Stories is a company led by David Schwimmer and Tom Hodges dedicated to producing original stories with a social conscience in theatre, television and film. Lookingglass Ensemble Member David Schwimmer brought this project to Lookingglass, and is working closely with writer/director Alexander Zeldin on the production, and collaborating with Lookingglass to develop the necessary attention and funds for this exciting project.

 

ALEXANDER ZELDIN (Writer/Director)is a writer and director for theatre. He trained on the Jerwood Young Directors course at The Old Vic and has taken part in residencies at the Egyptian Centre for Culture and Art and at Studio Emad Eddin in Cairo. His critically-acclaimed play, Beyond Caring, which examined the effects of zero hours contracts had its World Premiere at The Yard Theatre in Hackney in 2014, before transferring to the Temporary Theatre at the National Theatre in London in 2015. In 2015, Alex was the recipient of The Quercus Trust Award and was appointed as Associate Director at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Beyond Caring toured the UK in 2016 and his new play LOVE just opened at the National Theatre in London.

CAREN BLACKMORE (Grace) is making her Lookingglass debut with Beyond Caring. She was last seen in Court Theatre's production of Electra. Her Chicago theatre credits include: a one woman show, The MLK Project: The Fight For Civil Rights (Writers Theatre), Spill (TimeLine Theatre), Jitney! (Court Theatre), The Joe Tex Story (Black Ensemble Theater), and she has also worked with Pegasus Players, Stockyards Theatre Project, Theater Wit, The Loop Players, Congo Square Theatre Company, eta Creative Arts Foundation and MPAACT. Caren has attended New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia and is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Eugene O'Neill National Theater Institute

J. NICOLE BROOKS (Becky/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) is an actor, wordsmith, and director. Recent stage credits include the acclaimed comedy Immediate Family directed by Phylicia Rashad (Goodman Theatre; Mark Taper Forum), and Lucas Hnath’s Death Tax (Lookingglass Theatre). She is author of Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten (published by Methuen), Fedra Queen of Haiti (published University of Illinois Press) and has several plays in development. Directing credits include Thaddeus & Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure, Black Diamond, and Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting (Lookingglass Theatre). Prized ribbons: TCG Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, LA Ovations, African American Theatre Alliance of Chicago, Jeff Award Nominations, and Black Theater Alliance Awards.

 

KEITH D. GALLAGHER (Ian) is making his Lookingglass debut. Chicago: Mary Page Marlowe, Marie Antoinette (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); The Gospel of Franklin, Man in Love (Steppenwolf First Look); Awake and Sing, The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Northlight Theatre); Shining City (Goodman Theatre); Tracks (TUTA Chicago); Arcadia (Court Theatre); The Real Thing (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company). Regional: A Raisin in the Sun (Geva Theatre Center); The Gospel According to James (Indiana Repertory Theatre); The Lieutenant of Inishmore (The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); Shining City (Huntington Theatre Company). TV: Chicago Fire; Chicago P.D.; Detroit 187.

 

EDWIN LEE GIBSON (Phil) is making his Lookingglass debut. Off Broadway: Love and Information, U.S. premiere (The Minetta Lane Theatre/New York Theatre Workshop); The Seven (New York Theatre Workshop); The Bellagio Fountain Has Been Known To Make Me Cry (Concrete Temple Theatre, NYC); Turquoise (Dixon Place, NYC); The Death of Bessie Smith (New Brooklyn Theatre); The Diary of Black Men (Fairfield Halls, London). Chicago credits: The Royale (American Theater Company); St. James Infirmary (Congo Square Theatre Company). Awards: OBIE Award - Outstanding Performance. TV: recurring role as Orton Freeman on Law and Order: SVU (NBC); Shameless (Showtime). Film: Mom and Dad (Armory Films/Brian Taylor); Marshall (Chestnut Ridge Prods/ Reginald Hudlin); Blood First (NaRa Films).

WENDY MATEO (Susan) returns to the Lookingglass after last appearing as “Mother-in-Law” in Blood Wedding (2016) and “Maria” in Big Lake Big City (2013). Other Chicago credits include Tumbao: The Misadventures of la Familia Pilón at Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1700 Theatre and Don Chipotle produced by The Playground Theater. Wendy can also be seen on the many comedy stages around Chicago and at Mas Mejor online with the comedy duo, Dominizuelan. TV credits include: Shameless (Showtime), Chicago P.D. (NBC), and The Exorcist (FOX).

Moby Dick

June 7–September 3, 2017

Press Opening: Saturday, June 17 at 7:30 pm

Adapted and Directed by Ensemble Member David Catlin

 

From the book by Herman Melville

 

In Association with The Actors Gymnasium

 

Featuring Ensemble Members Kareem Bandealy as Starbuck, Anthony Fleming III as Queequeg (2015 Jeff Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role) and Raymond Fox as Stubb, and Artistic Associate Kasey Foster (Fate 2), with Jamie Abelson (Ishmael), Micah Figueroa (Cabaco), Kelley Abell (Fate 3), Cordelia Dewdney (Fate 1) and Nathan Hosner (Ahab).

 

Winner of four Jeff Awards, including Best Production, fresh off a national tour to the Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage and South Coast Repertory, the critically-acclaimed Moby Dick returns to the Lookingglass stage in this harrowing and intoxicating exploration of revenge, obsession, and destiny.

 

Madness rages like the angry sea when man pits himself against leviathan in Herman Melville’s epic and poetic tale, furiously reimagined by director David Catlin (Lookingglass Alice).

 

Climb aboard the Pequod with Ishmael, Starbuck, and the intrepid crew on a voyage into the darkest reaches of the human psyche with an insatiably driven Captain Ahab at the helm in reckless pursuit of the legendary white whale.

 

David Catlin(Adaptor/Director/Ensemble Member) Lookingglass directing credits include: Lookingglass Alice and The Little Prince. Other regional directing credits include: McCarter Theatre (Princeton, NJ), Arden Theatre (Philadelphia), New Victory Theater (NYC), Syracuse Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alliance Theatre (Atlanta) and The Getty Villa (Los Angeles). Other recent directing credits include: The Phantom Tollbooth (DePaul) and Moby Dick (Northwestern University). David teaches acting with Northwestern University’s theatre department.

 

KELLEY ABELL (Fate/Innkeeper) returns to Lookingglass after previous appearances in Peter Pan (A Play) and Moby Dick. Other credits include: Moby Dick (Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory Theatre, and Alliance Theatre); 42nd Street and Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre); Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play (Theater Wit); Dorian (The House Theatre of Chicago); Bat Boy: The Musical and Titanic (Griffin Theatre). She has also worked with Goodman Theatre, The Marriott Theatre, and Chicago Children’s Theatre, and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

 

JAMIE ABELSON (Ishmael) previously appeared at Lookingglass in the initial run of Moby Dick, as well as Peter Pan (A Play) and Treasure Island (Understudy). Other recent projects include Red Kite Treasure Adventure and Red Kite Blue Sky (Chicago Children’s Theatre); The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Northlight Theatre); Eurydice (Victory Gardens Theater); Scenes from the Big Picture (Irish Theatre of Chicago); As Told by the Vivian Girls (Dog and Pony Theatre Co.); columbinus (Raven Theatre); and Hope Springs Infernal & Dorian (The House Theatre of Chicago). Regional credits include Moby Dick (Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory). Jamie holds a BFA in Drama from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. 

 

KAREEM BANDEALY (Starbuck/Ensemble Member)has previously been seen at Lookingglass in Blood Wedding, Moby Dick, The Little Prince, Big Lake Big City, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, The Last Act of Lilka Kadison, and Peter Pan. Select Chicago credits: A Christmas Carol, Rock ‘N’ Roll, Gas For Less, King Lear (Goodman Theatre); The Wheel (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); Oklahoma! (Paramount Theatre); The Good Book, The Illusion (Court Theatre); Julius Caesar, Hamlet, The Caretaker, Heartbreak House (Writers Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Edward II, Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); A Disappearing Number, Blood and Gifts (TimeLine Theatre); Othello (The Gift Theatre). Regional: The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Three Musketeers, The Tempest (Illinois Shakespeare Festival); Love’s Labours Lost (Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival); Julius Caesar, Stuff Happens (PICT Classic Theatre), and four seasons at Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Film: several credits including The Merry Gentleman (dir. Michael Keaton). TV: Chicago Fire (NBC). Kareem is a recipient of the 2011 3Arts Artist Award.

 

CORDELIA DEWDNEY (Fate) returns to Lookingglass with Moby Dick after the National Tour this past year to Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, and South Coast Repertory). Last summer she appeared on Chicago Med. Cordelia is a graduate of Northwestern University with degrees in Theatre and English and a proud alum of the British American Dramatic Academy.

 

MICAH FIGUEROA (Cabaco/Captain of New Bedford Whaling Ship) returns to Lookingglass after appearing in the original production of Moby Dick in 2015, and in Lookingglass Alice. Chicago theatre credits include: Tall Girl and the Lightning Parade (Walkabout Theater); The Winter Pageant (Redmoon Theater); Distance to the Moon (First Floor Theater). Regional theatre credits include: Moby Dick (Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory); In the Beginning, Henry IV (Dallas Theater Center); The Farnsworth Invention, Wild Oats (Theatre Three); Coriolanus, Cyrano de Bergerac, Macbeth (Shakespeare Dallas); Titus Andronicus (Kitchen Dog Theater); Sense and Sensibility (Stolen Shakespeare Guild). He earned a BFA from Southern Methodist University and the British American Drama Academy.

 

Anthony Fleming III(Queequeg/Ensemble Member) was last seen at Lookingglass in Moby Dick in 2015 and Lookingglass Alice in 2014, which marked his tenth production of the show and where he completed 555 total performances. Other Lookingglass productions include Big Lake, Big City, Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting, Arabian Nights, 1984, Icarus, Fedra and Race. Select regional theater credits: Ma Rainey with Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Clybourne Park with Arizona Theatre Company. Anthony is a Chicagoan who has been working since 1997 on Chicago stages, including Victory Gardens Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Court Theatre, Chicago Theater Company, and Piven Theatre Workshop. 

 

KASEY FOSTER (Fate/Artistic Associate) has been performing, producing, and directing in Chicago since 2004. She recently returned to Chicago after performing in the National Tour of Moby Dick and was newly named an Artistic Associate with Lookingglass. Kasey has appeared regionally at Arena Stage (Washington, D.C.), Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), Berkeley Repertory Theatre (CA), and most recently in Chicago with Lookingglass' Treasure Island, and Manual Cinema's Mementos Mori. She sings with Chicago bands: Grood, Babe-alon 5, Old Timey, and This Must be the Band. She has directed/choreographed over thirty original works, and produces an annual series called Dance Tribute. 

 

RAYMOND FOX (Mr. Stubb/Captain Boomer/Captain Gardiner/Ensemble Member) last appeared at Lookingglass in Thaddeus and Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure. Off-Broadway/Broadway: Metamorphoses (Second Stage Theatre, Circle in the Square Theatre). Regional Credits: Goodman Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, Arden Theatre, South Coast Repertory Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Route 66 Theatre, Hartford Stage, American Repertory Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, The House Theatre of Chicago, Mark Taper Forum, Court Theatre, McCarter Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, First Folio Theatre, Canada’s Stratford Festival and TimeLine Theatre (Blood and Gifts, 2013 Equity Jeff Award for Supporting Actor). Education: Northwestern University and the A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University.

 

NATHAN HOSNER (Captain Ahab) makes his Lookingglass debut. He recently played Lord Aster in the first national tour of Peter and the Starcatcher. Chicago credits include productions with Writers Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Paramount Theatre, About Face Theatre, and First Folio Theatre. Regional credits include productions with American Players Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory Theatre, New Theatre, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Door Shakespeare, and The BoarsHead Theater. Nathan is a graduate of The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. 

 

About Lookingglass Theatre Company

Inventive. Collaborative. Transformative. Lookingglass Theatre Company, recipient of the 2011 Regional Theatre Tony Award, was founded in 1988 by eight Northwestern University students. Now in its 29th season, Lookingglass is home to a multi-disciplined ensemble of artists who create story-centered theatrical work that is physical, aurally rich and visually metaphoric. The Company has staged 66 world premieres, received 116 Joseph Jefferson awards and nominations, and work premiered at Lookingglass has been produced in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Berkeley, Philadelphia, Princeton, Hartford, Kansas City, Washington D.C., and St. Louis. Lookingglass original scripts have been produced across the United States. In 2016, Lookingglass received the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

 

The Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago's landmark Water Tower Water Works opened in June 2003. In addition to developing and presenting ensemble work, Lookingglass Education and Community programs encourage creativity, teamwork and confidence with thousands of community members each year.

 

Lookingglass Theatre Company continues to expand its artistic, financial and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Artistic Director Heidi Stillman, Executive Director Rachel Kraft, Producing Director Philip R. Smith, Connectivity and Engagement Director Andrew White, General Manager Michele Anderson, a 25 member artistic ensemble, 23 artistic associates, an administrative staff and a dedicated board of directors led by Chairman John McGowan of CTC| myCFO (a part of BMO Financial Group) and President Nancy Timmers, civic leader and philanthropist. For more information, visit lookingglasstheatre.org.

 

Published in Buzz Extra

Just two actors share the credits, yet the stage is crowded with characters in Lookingglass Theatre’s Mr. & Mrs. Pennyworth. This fabulist romp is delightful and fully satisfying, conjuring up characters with artful stagecraft and puppetry that remind us of Red Moon Theatre when it was really cranking.

The puppetry of Blair Thomas is indeed impressive - the animated inanimates range from a mini-replica of Mrs. Pennyworth (Lindsey Noel Whiting) to stage-filling boar. And though puppets are plentiful in Mr. & Mrs. Pennyworth, it is the astounding shadow animations that make this such an amazing experience. Both Whiting and Samuel Taylor are outstanding in their many roles (and stage formats).

Shadow characters grow and diminish, the moving silhouettes created by actors, puppets, and cut-outs on a stick playing against a backlights. Shadow animations by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, and Julia Miller for Manual Cinema Studios, and projection designs by Mike Tutaj, are stunning as they work this magic.  

Hidden behind screens, actors and puppeteers move fro and aft, upstage and down, shape shifting and changing in size. Going in every dimension, using the full depth of the stage, the actors and puppet masters play against the backlight to generate a unique images. (If there were an award for blocking, someone must nominate this show.)

Mr. & Mrs. Pennyworth has a steampunk flavor to it, as the ostensibly Victorian-era buskers take a portable stage on the road across Europe, with performance-art renderings of classic fairy tales, after which they pass the hat.

 

The plot thickens as some of the characters disappear from the tales - notably the Big Bad Wolf. Mr. & Mrs. Pennyworth set out to solve the mystery, which also creates a social crisis - children, Red Riding Hood, even the three little pigs, are losing track of these stories.

Lookingglass Theatre has long mined traditional tales for its line-ups - rendering memorable, and dark, versions of Grimm's Fairy Tales, for example. Hara broadens the source material, with appearances of the familiar (Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz) and less so (Sæhrímnir, a boar killed and eaten nightly by the Norse goods). The show lags a little as some of the Norse saga was being unpacked. But there was enough momentum to sustain it. 

Written and directed by Lookinglass Ensemble member Doug Hara, this work is said to be influenced by Neil Gaiman, whose American Gods characters struggle through similar travails.

This is not just for kids - or maybe it's not even for them. I found myself wondering where it was a little too dark at times, but that is true in the Grimm tales as well.

Hara is entertaining us, but there is something reminding us that people lose hold of their culture when they lose their stories.The Pennyworth’s life work helps secure these stories - tales that keeps us all tethered to the collective memories that are the touchstones of civilization.

Mr. & Mrs. Pennyworth runs through February 19, 2017 at Lookingglass Theatre

Published in Theatre in Review

As soon as you enter the beautiful set that designer Brian Sidney Bembridge, has created for “Life Sucks", you are tip-toeing through what feels like a real forest of delicately lit white birch trees in the light of early evening in Autumn. 

 

The action then proceeds mostly on the front porch, and dining room/kitchen of a quaint country style house, complete with a small dock and row boat mired in mud, to indicate this is the log cabin style home of someone wealthy enough to live on a lake but not doing well enough any longer to afford a real boat, which turns out to be true.  

 

The seven characters enter the stage with house lights up and immediately break the fourth wall by letting the audience know a few things about the play, it has four acts with one intermission, and asking insightful questions like, "Do you think people in a hundred years will care how hard we worked?" Which immediately reminded me of the old joke, "What's the opposite of a nymphomaniac?" with the punchline, "a workaholic."

 

The next question, for the cast only, has them throwing out an enticing list of their "favorite things" ..."the feel of ice cubes swirling around in a heavy crystal drink glass filled with brandy...and what comes after", "a beautiful sunset over the water" and the adorable, "Kittens!" And once more for emphasis, "KITTENS!" and lest we think this is going to be a saccharine sweet play i.e. "The Sound of Music" - "the feeling of anticipation when you know that you are about to have an orgasm".

 

Ensemble member Andrew White directs deftly with a light hand, keeping the pace of the play moving in an enjoyable way and flowing from act to act naturally, sensually, without the feeling of rushing.

 

So many directors charged with productions that exceed two hours or are under ninety minutes with no intermission seem to be rushing the actor’s monologues and dialogue. In some cases you can imagine them standing offstage tapping their feet saying, "Pick up the pace people!", which can actually ruin the show, but Andrew White does just the opposite, calming the audience into actually receiving the message this play is trying to deliver. 

  

“Life Sucks” is an updated version of the Checkov play "Uncle Vanya" and every single one of the seven characters really holds their own throughout.

 

Eddie Jemison best known for his work from "Ocean's Eleven", "Waitress" and "Hung" is proof that dynamite comes in small packages as he takes on the role of the middle aged, depressed Vanya. 

 

The entire cast sprinkle the play with so many humorous Yiddish slang terms with adorable ease like the term "ferkocta" which means crazy in the head, or Vanya declaring over and over that Ella is his "beshert" and soulmate, meaning a person's destined love or a love that was meant to be, a love of heavenly creation. All the while Vanya’s pathos as his obsession with The Professor's beautiful, young wife Ella grows out of control. This leads to a hysterical attack on The Professors life as he describes in a monologue how vile, disgusting and unnatural it is to him that she (Ella) should be with such an "old man".  

 

The Professor is played perfectly by Jim Ortlieb (Billy Elliot) whose great monologue about how even small signs of aging in a man can ultimately ruin a perfectly good relationship is fantastic. We rarely hear the male point of view on this.

 

The Professor describes while comically, yet realistically, sliding and crawling down the front steps of the cabin in complete exhaustion after a fight with his young wife Ella - how a man sees in the mirror one day. He now sees his soft belly or some new wrinkles or gray hair and feels insecure leading him to take it out on his partner and she in turn becomes more insecure herself - resulting in more fighting and insecurity or his worst fear of all as she "becomes disengaged" from him entirely.

 

Chaon Cross as Ella is excellent as the young Master's Degree student who "married the smartest Professor in the whole college" and is hit on by every middle aged loser in this small town. Cross delivers a great monologue ala - don't hate me because I'm beautiful because my brilliant husband turned out to be an aging, ego-maniacal alcoholic. 

 

Ella asks the audience flat out how many of them want to sleep with her with no strings attached by a show of hands, then asks how many are dying to sleep with someone other than whom they are with - and it is a well delivered, very funny and telling moment for the audience. 

 

Danielle Zuckerman as Sonia seems to be the opposite of Ella. She is The Professors' only daughter and honestly describes how in her family, "It's like everyone is hard-wired to upset everyone else. Like we each have a bunch of buttons on our back that each one of us knows how to push." 

 

Sonia knows she is not beautiful, or even pretty, she knows that her weight and height, glasses and curly hair are never featured in the magazines she reads and Zuckerman gives a great, breath of fresh air feeling to the entire production that it inherently needs. In one scene with Ella she admits to actually "hating" Ella for her beauty and attractiveness to ALL the nearby men and Ella forces her to "slap her right in the face" which Sonia does. After the "enjoyable" catharsis of the slap in the face they pour rum and Cokes together and begin to bond as both stepmother and friends. 

 

Another great scene between Sonia and Dr. Aster, a middle-aged Lothario who wants to change the world - but only talks about it, occurs when Sonia tries to tell the doctor she has a crush on him. When she realizes Dr. Aster is 'in love" with Ella too, she delivers a great monologue after his exit about how she talked with him about "mystical butterflies' when she really wanted to say, "Take me upstairs and f-ck me, f-ck me so well and so hard the whole universe stops to watch ... and the stars stop in their orbits and her whole body finally understands what it is to be truly alive...but instead I talked about mystical butterflies."

 

Ensemble member, Philip R. Smith, best known for his roles in "High Fidelity" and “Since You've Been Gone" is very funny in the role of Dr. Aster, an admitted alcoholic who rambles on about the very real dangers of climate change and other depressing subjects that remind us these characters are living in the present day.

 

Another example of the timeliness and universality of this play is when at one point an audience member is asked what his deepest, darkest fear is and he answered without hesitation, "Donald Trump", which got a huge laugh.

 

Penelope Walker plays "Pickles", a lesbian (who ALSO flirts with Ella). Pickles is a neighbor and friend of Sonia's late mother who wanted to be a real artist but ended up crafting what looked like leg warmers for the birch trees to wear and hand puppets made of yarn. Walker is funny and upbeat as the character whose age we can't quite tell, the free-spirited loser we all love who would never say life sucks even if hers does.

 

At the end of the show, Vanya and the cast break the fourth wall for the last time and confront the entire audience with the question, "Does life suck?" Some people shouted “yes”, or “no”, I shouted “sometimes”. Then Vanya called specifically out to the woman sitting two seats away from me (his wife) and asked her, she poignantly answered, "No it does not suck because life is beautiful – there is even beauty in its pain." I had to agree with her. 

 

Highly recommended.

 

“Life Sucks is being performed at Lookingglass Theatre through November 6th – www.Lookingglasstheatre.org.  

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Shiver me timbers! Child actor John Francis Babbo delivers a knockout performance to lead, what can be called nothing less than a stellar cast, in Lookingglass Theatre’s world premiere production of “Treasure Island”. Based on the classic children’s novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1883, Mary Zimmerman vividly adapts and directs this famous tale to encompass all the excitement and high seas adventure originally created by its original author.

In one of the most famous pirate tales known to date (the one that made Long John Silver a household name), we embark on a journey with young Jim Hawkins (Babbo) whose heroics and level headedness make him one of the most mature characters in the story despite a handful of motley swashbucklers and a crew of ship mates in search of hidden treasure.

For those who might be unfamiliar, the story takes place somewhere in the mid-1700s, when Hawkins is approached by Billy Bones, a drunken pirate wonderfully played by Christopher Donahue, while working at the inn with his mother. Bones soon offers Hawkins money to keep his eyes peeled for a one-legged pirate (guess who?), but not long after dies leaving behind a treasure map. After Hawkins delivers the map to trustworthy Squire Trelawney, a crew is assembled led by the fearless Captain Smollett aboard the reliable sea vessel, the Hispaniola. However, Long John Silver and a degenerate band of his faithful have infiltrated such crew and the excitement really begins as they head out to see in search of Treasure Island.  

Walking into the theatre, the audience is met with a stunning set, thanks to scenic designer Todd Rosenthal. Centered within the seating area sits a large ship with all the fixings to send one to the appropriate mindset before the play even begins. As the story progresses, when called for, the ship even rocks back and forth, so be sure to take your Dramamine ahead of time to avoid sea sickness (but not really).

Outside of playing his role as cabin boy Jim Hawkins, fifteen-year-old Babbo also provides an emotionally charged narrative while Lawrence E. Distasi delivers a colorful and highly fervent performance as the Scourge of the Seven Seas, Long John Silver, our favorite rapscallion. Philip R. Smith also gives us a noteworthy enactment of Captain Smollett, adding a good deal of humor to role of the duty bound skipper.

There are plenty of laughs and suspenseful moments amidst this adventurous story that contains its fair share of hornswoggling, picaroons and scallywags. Lookingglass decided to stick with a high seas classic after their successful run of “Moby Dick” that featured a brilliant performance by the same Christopher Donahue, and they could be in line for yet another Jeff Award. Perfect for the entire family, “Treasure Island” is engaging, visually spectacular, funny and exciting.

Arr! You’re not going to want to let this thoroughly enjoyable production slip by. “Treasure Island” is being performed at Lookingglass Theatre through January 31st.

 

For tickets and more show information, visit www.lookingglasstheatre.org.    

Published in Theatre Reviews

Lasting imagery, profound acting and exciting characters set the stage for Lookingglass Theatre Company’s latest production, Moby Dick, the classic tale of the monomaniacal plight of Caption Ahab who is hell bent on destroying a fierce sperm whale who cost him his leg, even at the expense of his own crew. As the story goes, a crew is assembled for a whaling expedition only to find out their captain has another agenda – revenge. Though the play successfully conveys a sense of unity we also feel a dark loneliness that feels foreboding from the story’s beginning.

Lookingglass Theatre is brilliantly transformed to effectively capture the essence of the ocean with the use of flowing fabrics and strategic lighting and uses more than a touch of creative genius in order to pull off a believable whale. As the story unfolds, three stoic red-headed women become part of the set sometimes enhancing the dialogue with their ghostly words of warning and at other times representing the stormy waters or the whale itself. The three are as haunting as they are graceful, dreamily heightening the story’s focus at just the right moments.

Still, it would be difficult to present a plausible production of Moby Dick without a fiery Captain Ahab, but, thankfully, Lookingglass has found their man in Christopher Donahue. Donahue, seemingly born for the role, is as blistering as they come and brings the doomed captain to life with the vigor and fervor deserved for such a classic character.  

mobydick-magnum 

Jamie Abelson excels as character/narrator Ishmael. A seasoned sailor who has served on a number of merchant ships, Ishmael finds himself aboard a whaling ship for the first time and plunged in the midst of Ahab’s quest.  Also, outstanding is Anthony Fleming III as Ishmael’s faithful companion, Queequeg, a South Pacific Ocean native whose loyalty is to truly be admired.

Along with the tremendous acting performances and scenic bliss that thrusts us into an imaginative world of high seas adventure, several acrobatics feats also play large in creating such a high level of excitement in this play. Actors are able to utilize the large stage area as they scurry up the walls, balancing high above the crowd, or performs stunts on the enormous whale skeleton that envelops the theatre’s interior.

Splendidly adapted and directed by ensemble member David Caitlin, Moby Dick is a true homage to the classic tale of revenge written by Herman Melville in 1851. A production for the entire family to enjoy, Moby Dick is being performed at Lookingglass Theatre through August 28th. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.LookingglassTheatre.org.

Published in Theatre Reviews

Title and Deed is a one man show, a 65 minute monologue delivered on a bare stage with a few subtle lighting changes and the gentle rolling of the lead actor’s wheelchair to signal movement throughout the play.  Will Eno’s writing is often compared to Beckett but I found Eno’s work to be much more sensitive, compassionate and outright funny than Beckett’s plays. 

Chicago actor, Michael Patrick Thornton, (one of the founders of The Gift Theatre Co.) is brilliantly cast in the role of the “Traveler” from another world who is traveling feeling estranged from his own homeland, hoping that “the change of locale that comes with international air travel will somehow change him”.

Thornton is confined to a wheelchair - although the play does not call for the use of a wheelchair, and once seeing the play with him at the helm, one cannot imagine the play succeeding as well in its message without the lead character being disabled. Thornton has a remarkable sense of humor and a sad voice, rough with heartfelt regret, which lobs Eno’s long poetic sentences at the audience with a casual yet thoughtful pinpoint accuracy that evoked laughter and sometimes tears in a way that a lesser actor could not achieve. I was totally surprised to find out that the play was not written to be played by an actor in a wheelchair because much of the understanding we feel towards the Traveler comes naturally from seeing a young-ish man confined to a wheelchair - not from seeing a poor wanderer describing his mother’s death and his alienation from the world now that he has no real connection to his home and it’s joyful traditions.

 We all know instantly when we see the young man rolling up the small hill to the stage that because he is in a wheelchair he has suffered permanent and irreversible losses regarding his own lifestyle.  It almost doesn’t make sense to me to see this play cast with an actor without the wheelchair because so much of the truth about the character is implied and is true about the alienation from daily life, the shrinking of your whole world and fortune, which occurs when you are permanently disabled.

I absolutely adored Eno’s sparing, yet lyrical use of words.  What rolls off Thornton’s tongue like ear candy, comes off as true poetry, prose poetry, and paints vibrant, multidimensional scenes in your mind without the use of any set pieces, a painted backdrop or even additional characters.

Eno describes life as basically a “series of funerals” and perfectly describes the universality of how human life begins, “We all come from blood and saltwater and a screaming mother begging us to leave." I actually nodded in agreement and sensed a strong group nod from the entire audience - or as the traveler called us “a clump” of humans gathered to hear him speak - when he said we all know that feeling that life begins triumphantly, but as we lose more and more of the people who constitute our memories of what “home” is, we experience"the human cannonball feeling at the beginning; the sickening thump at the end."

Before the play, I had recently flown to attend the funeral of a very close immediate family member and was not in the mood for something that addressed the issue of death in any way - but I was won over and in the end transformed by the self denigrating humor, common sense and hopeful poetic beauty of this piece.

There was a tremendously universal line in the script, just a heartbreaking and truthful line when the traveler describes the last moment of his mother’s life in the hospital room, “her voice made this sound, this horrible raspy sound and … she just wasn’t my mother anymore.”

I literally walked in to this production feeling shaken with grief, trembling inside, feeling all alone while trying to make sense of my sudden and recent loss but  left feeling that everyone in the mostly middle aged or older audience and indeed everyone in the world must be suffering from many of the same deeply depressing feelings and thoughts.

I highly recommend seeing this extraordinarily written and performed production especially when you are feeling that “life is a series of funerals until the last funeral which is your own” because Eno has created a powerful and profoundly funny monologue about self acceptance, life and compassion which has a very healing effect.

Title and Deed is being performed at Lookingglass Theatre through May 3rd. For tickets and/or more show information visit http://lookingglasstheatre.org/

Published in Theatre Reviews
Page 1 of 2

 

 

10 Years! Fave Issue Covers

Register

Latest Articles