On a recent Throwback Thursday, a suggested playlist popped up on Spotify that caught my attention, “Oldies but Goodies.” I started the playlist enthusiastically, not having the ability to pre-screen the mix. The first song to play was Sisqo's "Thong Song." At that moment, I wasn't quite sure what offended me more, that a song from my middle school days was considered an oldie by some younger-than-me-millennial, or that Sisqo would be in a category of "Oldies but Goodies." An oldie evokes ideas of classics, songs that withstand the test of time and musical fads. Songs, bands, singers, and songwriters that make "Greatest Songs of All Time" lists by the most reputable industry minds. "Oldies but Goodies" are timeless, and the best example of this happened only one short week ago at Ravinia with The Temptations and The Beach Boys.

No better groups epitomize Golden Oldies than The Temptations and The Beach Boys. Together they represent an incredible era of music from the 50, the 60s, and 70s from the pop-like rhythm and blues of Motown to the surf sound with electric guitars and vocal harmonies. Both musical styles were on full display Sunday night at Ravinia.

The Temptations performed with the gusto of men half their age. Their glee was palpable as they breezed through their dancing arrangements in perfect unison to their major hits like "Ain't to proud to beg," "Papa was a rolling stone" and their anthem "My Girl." Accompanied by a big band and master of ceremony, the group moved seamlessly from song to song not breaking for more than a breath or a drink of water. For 45 minutes straight the five men put on a show that is simply unseen in today's music. They were charismatic and engaging, their vocals and showmanship from another era. Unfortunately, their performance was lost on the audience in the pavilion seats. With tickets running as high $150/seat you'd expect those spending the money to see the group up close would be eager to see them, sing with them, dance with them. On the contrary, the pavilion guests appeared by bored, almost inconvenienced when they were asked to get up and sing and dance along. It seemed like they were there more for nostalgia; not present as fans of the music or the musical legends, but in remembrance of a bygone era and in mourning for youth. The seats were lost on those that tried to buy their time back.

The Beach Boys' set, in contrast to the rhythm of Motown, played with the same ease of an ocean at sunset, each song getting its play and lazily meeting the next. "Good Vibrations" had plenty of time to crash across the lawn seats before the group started "Sloop John B" or "God Only Knows." I rode the sound waves out to the lawn to meet up with friends and stretch my legs from the pavilion seats. Perhaps it was the extra space and freedom of the lawn seats, or perhaps just The Beach Boys themselves, but people were up, dancing and belting out every word. Beach balls by the dozens were hit from fan group to fan group, smiling and laughing even when some were smacked into heads, or in my case, my wine. The evening really captured the surf sound, listening to wavy-like music against a setting summer sun with a cold drink and good friends. This vibe still couldn't penetrate the pavilion seats, and having left my seat I couldn't return until there was a designated break in the music set. Though the group took at least 4-5 minutes to get from song to song there wasn't enough time to get people to their seat. But watching the audience I was reminded of The Beach Boys' earliest days, performing in matching short-sleeved button up shirts, slouchy with their hands in their pockets. Most guests sat the same way, slouchy, hands in their pockets and grimaces on their face. I spent the rest of the show on the lawn hitting beach balls, drinking wine, and crooning along to "Kokomo."

You can classify Sisqo as an oldie to appeal to older millennials and get clicks on trendy music apps, but true oldies (songs and bands) live across generations, draw thousands of fans to a suburban music venue, and can be enjoyed by kids young and old. Those are the only songs that can be considered Oldies But Goodies, even if the goodies can't be enjoyed by the people who are now "oldies." Ravinia has shows that extend through September, see what they have to offer at www.ravinia.org.



Published in In Concert

Victory Gardens Theater announces the lineup for the 2017 IGNITION Festival of New Plays, including Tuvaluor The Saddest Song by Antoinette Nwandu; This Land Was Made by Tori Sampson; Spin Moves by Ken Weitzman; Tell Them I'm Still Young by Julia Doolittle; Wolf Play by Hansol Jung; and Suspension by Kristiana Rae Colón. The 2017 Festival runs August 4-6, 2017 at Victory Gardens Theater, located at 2433 N Lincoln Avenue. All readings will be free and open to the public, though a reservation is encouraged. For more information or to RSVP, visit www.victorygardens.org/ignition or call the Victory Gardens Box Office at 773.871.3000.
 
INGITION’s six selected plays will be presented in a festival of readings and will be directed by leading artists from Chicago. Following the readings, any number of the plays may be selected for intensive workshops during Victory Gardens Theater’s 2017-18 season, and Victory Gardens may produce these plays in an upcoming season.
 
“At Victory Gardens,​we bridge Chicago communities through innovative and challenging new plays by giving playwrights the time and space to develop their work. We are thrilled to welcome these six remarkable and unique voices in the American theater to our IGNITION Festival,” comments Artistic Director Chay Yew. “These playwrights not only reflects the challenges in our current political climate, but push us to imagine a greater future.”
 
"This year’s lineup exemplifies the current political and cultural zeitgeist of our city and country: a young girl’s journey to self-empowerment, a movement towards a revolution, the role basketball plays in international peace, how to recover from the loss of a child, America’s role in Korean adoptions, and the ancestral power of #blackgirlmagic. Come experience these new plays and hear what they have to say about the world in which we live," remarks Director of New play Development Isaac Gomez.  
 
The 2017 Lineup Includes:
 
Friday, August 4, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuvalu, or The Saddest Song by Antoinette Nwandu
It is Los Angeles in the mid-nineties, and Jackie-girl is at a crossroads. This lyrical and powerful coming of age story with a soundtrack asks how the girls whose mothers’ lives have been tainted by abuse, violence, poverty and shame ever grow into healthy and empowered women. 
 
About Antoinette Nwandu
Antoinette Nwandu is a New York-based playwright via Los Angeles. Her play Pass Over is currently receiving its World Premiere production at Steppenwolf in June 2017, and her play Breach will receive a World Premiere at Victory Gardens in February 2018. She is currently under commission from Echo Theater Company in Los Angeles. Antoinette’s plays have been supported by the Cherry Lane Mentor Project (mentor: Katori Hall), Kennedy Center, Page73, Ars Nova, PlayPenn, Space on Ryder Farm, Southern Rep, The Flea, Naked Angels, Fire This Time, and The Movement Theater Company. Honors include a spot on the 2016 Kilroys list, the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, the Negro Ensemble Company’s Douglas Turner Ward Prize, and a Literary Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference. Antoinette is an alum of the Ars Nova Play Group, the Naked Angels Issues PlayLab, and Dramatists Guild Fellowship. Additional honors include being named a Ruby Prize finalist, PONY Fellowship finalist, Page73 Fellowship finalist, NBT’s I Am Soul Fellowship finalist, and two-time Princess Grace Award semi-finalist. Education: Harvard, The University of Edinburgh, Tisch School of the Arts.
 
IGNITION Opening Night Kick-Off at 9:30 p.m.
Victory Gardens Theater Lobby
Stick around for this opening night celebration with a live DJ, delicious appetizers, and complimentary drinks as we raise a glass to kick off our IGNITION Festival of New Plays.
 
Saturday, August 5, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.
This Land Was Made by Tori Sampson
Oakland in 1967 was a powder keg of social activism about to boil over into radical action that would soon change how the whole country engaged in politics. For the patrons of Miss Trish’s Bar, however, these ain’t nothing but talking points—that is, until the full seductive and explosive force of the revolution walks through the door.
 
About Tori Sampson
Tori Sampson is a recent graduate of Yale School of Drama, where her credits include This Land Was MadeSome Bodies Travel and If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must be a Muhfucka. Her plays have been developed at Great Plains National Theater Conference and Berkeley Repertory Theater’s The Ground Floor residency program. She holds an Honorable Mention from the 2016 Relentless Award, is the Kennedy Center’s 2016 Paula Vogel Playwright and second-place Lorraine Hansberry recipient. She is a 2017 finalist for the Alliance Theater’s Kendeda Prize. Tori’s other plays include, Cadillac Crew, Black Girl Nerd and Cottoned Like Candy. Her short play, She’s our President, will be produced by Baltimore Center Stage as part of the My America: She commission. Tori is currently working on a commission from Berkeley Repertory Theater and will spend the next year as a Jerome Fellow at The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis.  A native of Boston, Massachusetts, she holds a B.S. in sociology from Ball State University in Muncie, IN.
 
Bringing New Plays To Life at 5:00 p.m.
Panel Conversation
Richard Christiansen Theater
Victory Gardens is home to some of the richest and boldest new plays premiering across the country. In a city where audiences are hungry for new theatre work, what is the current state of new play development and its future? What are the best practices for new play collaborations? Join this timeless conversation on the new play process featuring IGNITION playwrights Antoinette Nwandu, Tori Sampson, Ken Weitzman, Julia Doolittle, Hansol Jung, and Kristiana Rae Colón.
 
Saturday, August 5, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Spin Moves by Ken Weitzman
It's 1996, the inaugural year of the WNBA, and Maja dreams of playing high school basketball - but having escaped to the U.S. from the war in Bosnia, panic attacks prevent her from playing the game she loves. That is, until a new coach appears at her high school. He helps Maja to face her fears, but his unorthodox tactics alarm Maja’s fiercely protective mother.
 
About Ken Weitzman
Ken Weitzman’s most recent play, Halftime with Don is in the midst of a 2017 National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere. Ken's previous productions include, among others, The Catch (The Denver Center Theatre Company), Fire in the Garden (Indiana Repertory Theatre), The As If Body Loop (Humana Festival), Arrangements (Atlantic Theatre Company). His devised work includes, Memorabilia (Alliance Theatre), Hominid (Out of Hand Theatre/Theatre Emory/Oerol Festival Netherlands), and Stadium 360 (Out of Hand Theatre).  Plays-in-progress include Spin Moves (New Harmony Project) and seal boy (Keen Company Playwrights Lab, The Lark’s Meeting of the Minds, (Playwrights’ Center of Minneapolis). National Awards include The L. Arnold Weissberger Award for Playwriting for Arrangements, TCG Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award for The Catch, the Fratti/Newman Political Play Contest Award for Fire in the Garden, and South Coast Repertory’s Elizabeth George Commission for an Outstanding Emerging Playwright Organizations who have commissioned Ken’s work include the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Arena Stage, the Alliance Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Theatre Emory, Out of Hand Theatre, and South Coast Repertory Theatre. Ken is a Core Writer at the Playwrights Center of Minneapolis, and a former board member of The New Harmony Project. Ken received his MFA from University of California, San Diego and has taught at UCSD, Emory University, Indiana University (head of MFA in Playwriting) and, currently, at Stony Brook University.  
 
Artist Meet, Greet, & Ice Cream Social at 9:30 p.m.
Victory Gardens Theater Lobby
Hang out with the playwrights and artists while cooling off with boozy ice cream floats at this post-show artist meet & greet. 
 
Sunday, August 6, 2017 at 12:00 p.m.
Tell Them I'm Still Young by Julia Doolittle
Allen and Kay are approaching sixty-five when their only daughter is killed in a car crash. Now parents without children, the two struggle to renegotiate their identities and their marriage, as the entrance of two young people revives a painful longing for what's been lost: their family and their futures.  
 
About Julia Doolittle
Julia Doolittle is a Brooklyn-based playwright and screenwriter whose work has been developed at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Rattlestick Playwright's Theatre, The Tank, Tiny Rhino, The Women's Project, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Urban Stages, and Rogue Machine Theatre. She is a 2016 recipient of the Elizabeth George Commission from South Coast Rep. Upcoming, the Samuel French Off-Off-Broadway Play Festival.
 
Sunday, August 6, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.
Wolf Play by Hansol Jung
An American father un-adopts a Korean boy but just before he leaves the new house, the ex-father finds out that the new couple to whom he has “re-homed” his ex-son, is lesbian. This doesn't sit well with ex-father at all. The boy is actually not a real boy. He is a puppet. And his puppeteer is the Emcee of the evening, and spinner of the night’s tale: a lone wolf. 
 
About Hansol Jung
Hansol Jung is a playwright and director from South Korea. Productions include Cardboard Piano (Humana Festival at Actors Theater of Louisville), Among the Dead (Ma-Yi Theatre Company), and No More Sad Things (co-world premiere at Sideshow Theatre, and Boise Contemporary Theatre). Commissions from Playwrights Horizons, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Artists Repertory Theater, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation grant with Ma-Yi Theatre and a translation of Romeo and Juliet for Play On! at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Her work has been developed at The Public Theater, Royal Court, New York Theatre Workshop, Berkeley Repertory’s Ground Floor, Sundance Theatre Lab, O’Neill Theater Center’s New Play Conference, Lark Play Development Center, Salt Lake Acting Company, Boston Court Theatre, Bushwick Starr, Ma-Yi Theater Company, Asia Society New York, and Seven Devils Playwright Conference. She is the recipient of the Page 73 Playwright Fellowship, Rita Goldberg Playwrights’ Workshop Fellowship at the Lark, 2050 Fellowship at New York Theater Workshop, MacDowell Colony Artist Residency, and International Playwrights Residency at Royal Court. She has translated over thirty English musicals into Korean, including Evita, Dracula, Spamalot, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, while working on several award winning musical theatre productions as director, lyricist and translator in Seoul, South Korea. Hansol holds a Playwriting MFA from Yale School of Drama, and is a member of the Ma-Yi Theatre Writers Lab.
 
The Race Race at 5:00 p.m.
Panel Conversation
Richard Christiansen Theater
In a country so divided and polarized by topics of race, how are these conflicts reflected in the dramatic arts? What role does theater play in conversations around race and how can it begin the process of healing and understanding? Join IGNITION and Chicago-based playwrights as we begin to uncover the role race plays in creating new work. 
 
Sunday, August 6, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Suspension by Kristiana Rae Colón
On the 100th day of 45's first term, two Black teen girls stage a coup of the authoritarian regime of Climb & Succeed Charter Academy, a not-so-dystopian high school where campus security patrols the halls in riot gear and a new disciplinary code takes in-school suspension to a haunting extreme. Voltaire & Yansa, guided by a mystic teaching artist, learn to wield their ancestral magic and blackgirl badassery to combat the harrowing militarization of public education. 
 
Performances are at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Admission to all festival readings and events is free, though an RSVP is required. For more information or to RSVP, visit www.victorygardens.org/ignition/ or call the Victory Gardens Box Office at 773.871.3000.
 
For more information about Victory Gardens, visit www.victorygardens.org.  Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/victorygardens, Twitter @VictoryGardens and Instagram at instagram.com/victorygardenstheater/

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

 
Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, announces the addition of Cry It Out, written by Molly Smith Metzler, to close its 43rd season, May 10 – June 17, 2018. The previously announced The Legend of Georgia McBride, directed by Lauren Shouse, has been re-scheduled to open the season, playing September 14 - October 22, 2017, replacing Bruce Graham’s Sanctions. 
 
Cry It Out was commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville and premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in spring 2017. Northlight's production, directed by Jessica Fisch, will be the first outside of the Festival.
 
Cooped up on maternity leave and eager for conversation, Jessie invites the funny and forthright Lina for coffee in their neighboring backyards. They become fast friends, quickly bonding over their shared “new mom” experience—and arousing the interest of a wealthy neighbor hoping for a similar connection. This insightful comedy takes an honest look at the absurdities of new motherhood, the dilemma of returning to work versus staying at home, and how class impacts parenthood and friendship.
 
Molly Smith Metzler‘s plays include Elemeno PeaThe May Queen, Carve, Training Wisteria and Close Up Space (Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist).  Regional Theatre: South Coast Repertory, the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Chautauqua Theater Company, Geva Theatre Center, and City Theatre Company, among others. Off-Broadway: Manhattan Theatre Club. Awards include the Lecomte du Nouy Prize from Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center National Student Playwriting Award, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s David Mark Cohen Award, and the Mark Twain Comedy Prize. Metzler is an alum of Ars Nova’s Play Group and the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group at Primary Stages. She is currently under commission at Manhattan Theatre Club and South Coast Repertory. Television: Codes of Conduct (HBO); Casual (Hulu); Orange Is the New Black (Netflix). Metzler was educated at State University of New York Geneseo, Boston University, New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts, and The Juilliard School.
  
The 2017-18 Season is now as follows:
 
THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE
By Matthew Lopez
Directed by Lauren Shouse
September 14 - October 22, 2017

A down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator has an overdrawn checking account and a baby on the way. When a drag show takes over the entertainment at the Florida Panhandle bar where he performs, he’ll also be out of a job…unless he’s willing to step into some high heels. This heartwarming, music-filled comedy celebrates the unexpected path to finding your true voice.
 
THE BOOK OF WILL
By Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Jessica Thebus
November 9 – December 17, 2017

William Shakespeare wrote some of the world’s most beloved plays – but without his friends, they may have been lost to history! Follow the members of Shakespeare’s own company as they cunningly navigate the production of the First Folio in 1623. They may not have any money or clear-cut rights to his work, but they’re armed with wit, humor, a deep camaraderie and a passion to preserve the plays that shaped their lives. With the help of their wives and colleagues, two actors set out not only to print a collection, but to uphold a legacy for the world.
 
SKELETON CREW
By Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Ron OJ Parson
January 25 – March 4, 2018

At the start of the Great Recession, rumors of impending closure surround one of the last auto plants in Detroit. The nation’s financial crisis gets personal as each of the workers confronts the life-altering choices they must make if their plant goes under, while the supervisor is torn between allegiances to his makeshift family of co-workers and management’s “cost-saving” demands. When pushed to the limits of survival, how far over the lines are people willing to cross?
 
The third play in Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit trilogy, Skeleton Crew was named one of Time Magazine’s 10 Best Shows of the Year.
 
THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE
By Martin McDonagh
Directed by BJ Jones
Featuring Kate Fry
March 15 – April 22, 2018

This Tony Award-winning dark comedy is set in the provincial Irish town of Leenane. Forty-year-old spinster Maureen Folan lives with her manipulative aging mother Mag, stuck in a caretaking relationship that has them both seething with resentment. When a romantic encounter finally sparks Maureen’s hopes for an escape from her dreary existence, Mag’s interference sets in motion a chain of events that is as tragically funny as it is terrifying.
 
CRY IT OUT
By Molly Smith Metzler
Directed by Jessica Fisch
May 10 – June 17, 2018

Cooped up on maternity leave and eager for conversation, Jessie invites the funny and forthright Lina for coffee on their neighboring patios. They become fast friends, quickly bonding over their shared “new mom” experience—and arousing the interest of a wealthy neighbor hoping for a similar connection. This insightful comedy takes an honest look at the absurdities of new motherhood, the dilemma of returning to work versus staying at home, and how class impacts parenthood and friendship.
 
Curtain times are: Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
 
Subscriptions to the 2017-18 Northlight Season are available through the box office, 9501 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie, by phone at 847.673.6300 or online at northlight.org. With its wide range of ticket prices, discounted subscription packages and complimentary parking, Northlight remains of one of the best theatrical values in Chicagoland. 
 
Subscriptions range in price from $99-$250.  A limited number of season subscriptions for the Opening Night performances (also includes a reception with the cast) are available for $325, subject to availability.  Northlight subscribers will have the first chance to purchase additional tickets before they go on sale to the general public. For more information, visit northlight.org.
 
Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.
 
Now in its 42nd season, the organization has mounted over 200 productions, including nearly 40 world premieres. Northlight has earned 198 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 34 Awards. As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.
 
Northlight is supported in part by generous contributions from Allstate Insurance; the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation; Robert & Isabelle Bass Foundation; BMO Harris Bank; Henrietta Lange Burk Fund; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; The Chicago Community Trust; ComEd, An Exelon Company; The Davee Foundation; Edgerton Foundation for New American Plays Award; Evanston Community Foundation; Full Circle Foundation; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Kirkland & Ellis Foundation; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Melvoin Award for Playwriting; Modestus Bauer Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Niles Township; The Offield Family Foundation; The Pauls Foundation; Room & Board; Sanborn Family Foundation; Dr. Scholl Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; The Sullivan Family Foundation; and Tom Stringer Design Partners.
 

 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Red Theater Chicago announces the start of their 6th season with their upcoming production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by Jeremy Aluma. Performances run August 15 through September 16, 2017 at Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613.


THE PLAY
How does one pursue the “American Dream” in a country that refuses to offer opportunity indiscriminately? That is the question at the heart of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, a flashy American satire set in the professional entertainment wrestling world. We follow Macedonio Guerra, an excellent Puerto Rican wrestler, as he rises from the bottom of the pecking order. In this interactive physical comedy, Mace talks directly to the audience as fans in his arena, drawing the viewer into the struggle, joy, and heart of the story. The play dissects race, xenophobia, ego, and our moral compass – topics even more relevant now than when it premiered eight years ago. Winner of the 2011 Obie Award for Best New American Play, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, and the 2008 National Latino Playwriting Award.


CALENDAR LISTING
WHO: Red Theater Chicago
WHAT: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by Jeremy Aluma.
WHERE: Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
WHEN:
Friday, August 18 at 8pm (press opening)
Saturday, August 19 at 8pm 
Sunday, August 20 at 4pm 
Thursday, August 24 at 8pm
Friday, August 25 at 8pm
Saturday, August 26 at 8pm 
Sunday, August 27 at 4pm (touch tour)
Monday, August 28 at 8pm (captions)
Thursday, August 31 at 8pm (captions)
Friday, September 1 at 8pm
Saturday, September 2 at 8pm 
Sunday, September 3 at 4pm 
Thursday, September 7 at 8pm
Friday, September 8 at 8pm
Saturday, September 9 at 8pm 
Sunday, September 10 at 8pm (understudy show)
Thursday, September 14 at 8pm
Friday, September 15 at 8pm
Saturday, September 16 at 8pm (closing)


TICKETS: Tickets go on sale online July 24, 2017 at redtheater.org

TICKETS, DATES & INFORMATION
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 4:00 PM August 15, through September 16, 2017, with an additional Monday performance on August 28 with captions. Captions will also be provided on Thursday, August 31 at 8:00 PM. A touch tour will be offered on Sunday, August 27 at 4:00 PM. Tickets go on sale online July 24, 2017 at redtheater.org. **Previews are Tuesday, August 15 through Thursday, August 17 at 8:00 PM. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity will be performed at Strawdog Theatre’s new home at 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613. The theater is fully accessible and CTA accessible via the Irving Park Brown Line train or the #11 Lincoln bus.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

If you saw "The Gin Game", a timely play about the coming together of two lonely but feisty seniors at a run-down nursing home, when you were younger - you should see it again now at Drury Lane. 

John Reeger and Paula Scrofano, a long-time married couple who met at Northwestern University and raised a family while carving out distinguished theatrical reputations for themselves, play these roles with gusto and finesse. 

Taking on the roles of Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey, like other great acting couples before them - Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy or Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke, John Reeger and Paula Scrofano pull out all the emotional stops to reveal the inner turmoil of seniors who have been left alone at the end of their lives to basically die in a dilapidated nursing home because they have both lost everything they own to their children or the state and are on Medicare.  

As they discuss and complain intermittently about all the problems seniors are still facing today, like poor nutrition, lack of stimulation in adult activities, and having their most precious belongings stolen, the audience sadly realizes that nothing has changed for seniors affected by catastrophic illness and the increasingly unreasonable, high costs of healthcare since "The Gin Game" first came out. 

Videographer Mike Tutaj, lights up the shabby, depressing and realistic set design by Katherine Ross with a series of beautiful and poignant slideshow type images from a variety of nursing homes that the audience can really identify with in how nursing homes are run today, especially if you are not wealthy enough to be placed in a fancier gated community.

Ross Lehman directs this very talented couple, Reeger and Scrofano, with an understanding and yet demanding pace that sets the characters on fire as their life stories come tumbling out one dealt card at a time. Over a series of gin games (often humorously played out), our characters get to know each other better and better while reluctantly revealing how their own personal tempers and foibles contributed in part to the broken relationships with their children. 

I saw the play years ago but this time, having dealt personally with the placement of four family members of different ages each with debilitating disabilities and dwindling financial resources beyond their control, I found it even more satisfying to watch. The crowd I joined at the opening was mostly between the ages of fifty and ninety-years-old and undoubtedly related to these very same, sad and lonely circumstances that are inevitable for so many senior citizens, as perhaps many younger audience members realized the same for their aging parents or grandparents. 

I can't rave enough about the fine performances by the semi-retired John Reeger and Paula Scrofano. The pair push each other’s buttons as only a real married couple can and display a sharp sense of timing and emotional flexibility rarely seen in younger actors. The couple also show off their fine comedic mastery.  

I highly recommend this thought provoking, totally timeless and relevant production in which Reeger and Scrofano use every single word, every gesture to brilliantly drive home the message that senior citizens are every bit as sharp and full of emotional and physical needs for fulfillment and daily entertainment as their younger counterparts.

This is a darkly funny and meaningful production the entire family young and old should see together, if only to wake up and realize we all will be old someday, and, if we don't make changes to preserve and increase the coverage of Medicare and Medicaid, we are dooming ourselves and our children to retirements that look more like "jails for those who have lived too long" instead of clean and comfortable homes to retire in. 

"The Gin Game" is being performed at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook through August 13th. For more information visit www.drurylanetheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

As Chicago Tap Theatre embarks upon their mission to “Shuffle off to Europe” where they will join tap dance companies Tapage and Tap Olé in their home countries to perform Liason, the talented outfit impresses upon its audience yet another fantastic production in its third remount of Changes, a sci-fi adventure set to the music of the late, great David Bowie. In reverence to 1940’s science fiction, seemingly with pages from the old Flash Gordon serials put in play, we get a nasty trio of futuristic villains who have made captive a host of dreamy angels, crippling each by removing their wings, and a hero who must set them free and may only be able to do so by teaching the imprisoned seraphs to fight back (via a tap dance-off, of course).


Artistic Director Mark Yonally’s creative vision is what makes this production such an amazing spectacle. It is visually compelling, thanks to the costume design by Emma Cullimore and its punch-packing choreography, and musically fulfilling as the music chosen behind each dance routine is wisely chosen by Music Director Kurt Schweitz to provide much impact. Kristen Uttich, well cast as the show’s hero, Jennifer Pfaff Yonally as the lead Alliange and Mark Yonally as Altego with Aimee Chase and Heather Latakas as his Henchpeople, lead a gifted ensemble in what turns out to be a pretty engaging story of good versus evil filled with touching moments of beauty, soul and hope and thrilling climaxes when powerful confrontation erupts.


Changes includes many Bowie favorites that are accompanied on strings by Molly Rife and violinist Anna Gillan, who oversee the dancers at the rear of the stage. “Life on Mars” opens the show followed by “Starman” and “Space Oddity” setting the tone for this energetic production that comes with many “wow” moments. Much of Bowie’s music is set to a house mix adding extra thump and larger-than-life tempo, of which I have to wonder was necessary, as opposed to playing the songs in their original recorded versions, my guess being the extra boost provided a clearer pocket for the dancers to perform within or perhaps may have been needed to hear the songs distinctly above the often-thunderous flurry of tap dancing. A feast for Bowie fans, the production also comprises such hits as “Under Pressure” “Changes”, “Ziggy Stardust” and other faves that will have you poking through Spotify to relive the production's many great moments upon exiting the theatre.


Chicago Tap Theatre keeps this commanding form of dance alive, and even in bloom, with one fantastic production after another, Changes being no exception. Thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end, Changes has the perfect combination of dance, music and visuals to make this retro-sci-fi rocket take off.


Changes is being performed at Stage 773 through July 16th. For tickets and/or more show information, or to find out how you can help get this talented dance company to Europe, visit ChicagoTapTheatre.com.

Published in Dance in Review

Experience one of Shakespeare’s classic romances, as First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83) presents AS YOU LIKE IT, previewing July 12, opening Saturday, July 15 at 8:15p.m.and closing August 20. Set in modern day Arden and directed by Skyler Schrempp, this delightful tale whisks audiences away to another world. During the summer season, First Folio’s productions are held outside on the grounds of the gorgeous Mayslake Peabody Estate mansion, and guests are invited to bring their picnic baskets, candelabras, blankets and chairs, and wine and cheese to enjoy the productions under the stars.

A timeless story, AS YOU LIKE IT, follows Rosalind who must disguise herself as a boy to survive in the Forest of Arden. She has little hope that she will ever meet the dashing Orlando again, but the Forest is full of surprises and unexpected visitors. When Rosalind finds the exiled Orlando hanging love poems on trees, she must keep her wits about her and her identity as secret as possible. Before long, she finds herself in the midst of one of the most complicated love triangles Shakespeare ever wrote for the stage. A story of love at first sight, AS YOU LIKE IT will leave you writing on trees and looking up at the stars.

The cast of AS YOU LIKE IT is led by Leslie Ann Sheppard as Rosalind, Nick Harazin as Orlando, Vahishta Vafadari as Celia, with Luke Daigle as Oliver, Courtney Abbott as Touchstone, Kevin McKillip as Jaques, Belinda Bremner as Duke Senior, Sarah Wisterman as Phebe, Micheal Angelo Smith as Silvius, Jim Morley as Adam, Philip Winston as Duke Frederick, Evan Michalic as Charles the Wrestler, Matthew Moore as Corin, Amanda Raquel Martinez as Amiens, and Sierra Schnack as Audrey. The ensemble includes Karly Hanna, Bailey Hayman, Robin Minkens and Jared Michael Sheldon.

The artistic team includes Scenic Designer Angela Weber Miller (Dr. Seward’s Dracula at First Folio Theatre), Lighting Designer Michael McNamara (The Turn of the Screw at First Folio); Original Music and Sound Design by Christopher Kriz (Roz and Ray at Victory Gardens Theatre), Costume Designer Mieka van der Ploeg, Properties Designer Cassandra Schillo. Stage Manager is Miranda Anderson, and Sarah West and Lina Benich serve as Assistant Stage Managers.

AS YOU LIKE IT runs Wednesdays through Sundays with 8:15pm performances each evening. First Folio is easy to get to via the East-West Tollway (I-88) or the Stevenson Expressway (I-55). Free parking is available on the grounds. Preview tickets are $23. Regular priced tickets are $29 Wednesdays and Thursdays (seniors and students are $26), and $39 on Fridays through Sundays (seniors and students are $36). $10 tickets are available for children 13 and under. For Season subscriptions and tickets, call the box office at 630.986.8067 or visit www.firstfolio.org.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Pegasus Theatre Chicago is proud to announce MUSE 2017: Femmes Noires de la Resistance, July 13 - 23 at Pegasus’s resident home Chicago Dramatists, 773 N. Aberdeen. This year’s MUSE celebrates new works, new artists and new voices with this annual series of theatrical readings, panels and performances featuring female artists intersecting ideas, visions and artistic excellence. Tickets are $10 per performance and Festival passes ranging from $18-35, which allows for access to 2 events or unlimited MUSE events, and performances. All tickets and passes are available at PegasusTheatreChicago.com or by phone at 866.811.4111.
 
This year’s MUSE, Femmes Noires de la Resistance, focuses on black women holding their own power.  MUSE 2017 will feature storytelling duo In The Spirit, spoken word artists Surviving The Mic, Black Feminist Poetics, 3 Arts Awardee Candace Hunter, musicians K’hala Elizabeth and L11 and theatrical performances by Tasia Jones, with excerpts from the plays of Marsha Estell, Loy Webb and Kendeda Winner Tsehaye Hébert.
 
The 2017 MUSE: Femmes Noires de la Resistance, curated by Nikki Patin with Ilesa Duncan and Regina Victor, and hosted by Nikki Patin and guest host Melissa DuPrey. includes:
 
Theatre Showcase
Thursday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m.
The theatre Showcase includes theatre artists Tasia Jones and readings of new plays by Marsha Estell, Loy Webb and Kendeda winner Tsehaye Hebert.
 
Spoken Word Showcase
Friday, July 14 and July 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Featured in this spoken word showcase are Surviving the Mic and Black Feminist Poetics.
 
Storytelling with IN THE SPIRIT
Saturday, July 15 and July 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Starring Chicago’s premier storytelling duo comprised of Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana of IN THE SPIRIT. 

Music/Performance Showcase
Sunday, July 16 at 3 p.m. and Thursday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m.
These two performances in MUSE 2017 include music and film showcases featuring musicians L11 and the webseries “Seeds,” and on Thursday, July 20th, 3Arts Awardee Candace Hunter (Chlee Arts) and musician K’hala Elizabeth.
 
Panel Discussion
Sunday, July 23 at 3 p.m.
The final day of MUSE 2017 includes a panel discussion focuses on black women and women of color theatre leaders. Guests and audience members will discuss the topic with artists and performers from the Festival.
 
NIKKI PATÍN, HOST/CO-CURATOR
Nikki Patín has been featured in The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, HBO's “Def Poetry Jam” and on international television and radio. A Peabody Award-winning poet, Patín has been writing, performing and educating for almost 15 years. She has taught hundreds of workshops on spoken word, body image and interpersonal violence. Recently, she addressed the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of Black women survivors of sexual violence. She holds an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. Her work can be found at www.nikkipatin.com.
 
ABOUT PEGASUS THEATRE CHICAGO
Pegasus Theatre Chicago has been a mainstay in the Chicago theater community for nearly 38 years. Its recent rebranded mission is to produce boldly imaginative theatre, champion new and authentic voices and illuminate the human journey. The theatre adheres to the core values of community engagement, social relevance, boldness, adventure and excellence.
 
Pegasus is also committed to initiating important conversations through the arts with strong community engagement and socially relevant programming, including the Young Playwrights Festival for high school-age scribes, which celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2017. Pegasus Theatre Chicago has received seventy-seven Joseph Jefferson Citations since its inception.
 
Pegasus Theatre Chicago is proud to announce MUSE 2017, July 13 - 23 at Pegasus’s resident home Chicago Dramatists, 773 N. Aberdeen. This year’s MUSE celebrates new works, new artists and new voices with this annual series of theatrical readings, panels and performances featuring female artists intersecting ideas, visions and artistic excellence. Tickets are $10 per performance and $25 for a Festival pass, which allows unlimited access to all MUSE events, and performances. All tickets and passes are available at PegasusTheatreChicago.com or by phone at 866.811.4111.

 

Published in In Concert

Fun! Funny! Funnier! If you are fan of The Golden Girls TV show, then run, don't walk, to see Hell in a Handbag’s The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes at Mary's Attic before its special, recently extended, run is over. The show opens with a heart lifting, hug your best friend singalong of the sitcom’s famed theme song, "Thank you for being a Friend" - in its fantastic entirety! 

Plenty of fans arrive in costume to see the show and in between the hysterically funny, bawdy, R-Rated "Lost Episodes” theatre goers are entertained by Golden Girls trivia contests with fun prizes, so live it up. 

Hell in a Handbag Artistic Director David Cerda wrote the show which parodies the famed 1980’s sitcom where four women who share a home in a Miami Senior Community are not ready to stop living life to the fullest. Cerda is fantastic as the deadpan Dorothy even with the use of just one syllable – “Mah!" David, who recently won a well-deserved special Jeff Award (Congrats!) for all of his amazing contributions to theatre in Chicago with his much beloved production company Hell in a Handbag, evokes laughs with every shoulder-padded shrug and anchors the show with his dead-on funny accuracy in the role of Dorothy that actress Bea Arthur made famous. 

I don't know how he does it but every single show David writes is unique, displays every cast members talents superbly, heartfelt and funnier than the last. In this show, he takes the iconic TV show and brings it to a new level, creating hysterically campy “lost episodes” that one could only wish took to the air during the series’ heyday.  

Blanche is played with true southern sex appeal by A. J. Wright. Wright is mind-blowingly accurate in his portrayal of the flirty man-eater. Wright is so convincing, I had to occasionally close my eyes and just listen with delight, because I really felt he was a woman channeling Rue Clanahan, not a man in drag. The razor-sharp tongued Sophia played by Adrian Hadlock is also right on the mark with his dry as a martini, machine gun-like delivery of every single one-liner.

Ed Jones rounds out this fearsomely funny foursome with his always gentle, never forced portrayal of the delicate and ditzy, Rose, often forced to do and say indelicate things! Handbag favorite Ed Jones is - as ever, roaringly funny and true to Betty White's every gesture, even to her dazed and confused looks of naivety. As in all of Handbag’s productions, Golden Girls is equipped with a stellar ensemble, this show including hilarious performances by Chazie Bly, Kristopher Bottrall, Grant Drager, Lori Lee, David Lipschutz, Terry McCarthy, Michael S. Miller and Robert Williams.

Not ignoring the other fine touches that make this such a fun experience, Myron Elliot’s costumes and Keith Ryan's wigs and makeup are a laugh riot in themselves and really help each actor achieve the eerie accuracy that makes this a true golden fest for fans of the show. 

David Cerda and I have some kind of strange psychic connection in that his shows always seem to coincide in some synchronistic way with things going on in my life and family, and Golden Girls was just what I needed to see. My mother and I lived in Miami Florida throughout my whole young adult life and the week I saw this production of Golden Girls (one of my mom's favorite shows to watch with me) she was in the hospital and I was extremely stressed and worried about losing her. When David says as Dorothy about her mother Sophia, "She's probably thinking back to her youth in the fields of Sicily," and then sighs, "God, I'd wish she'd just die," I had to let out a cathartic laugh because it was just such a perfectly funny, subtext of compassion coupled with frustration of the statement of all mother/daughter love when stretched to its limits. I loved it. Naturally, I don’t wish such a thing, but Cerda’s writing has a way of somehow finding love and humor in even such a statement.  

I didn't stop laughing or smiling from start to finish of this uproariously funny take on the Golden Girls that no fan should miss. Even if you are not familiar with the show, it’s worth checking out. Don't worry, you’ll pick it up quickly. And like many Hell in a Handbag shows, there is an intermission long enough to stretch, grab a drink and use the restroom which allows you to really allow the funniness of the first act to sink in. Increasingly I find myself enduring 90-minute or longer shows with no intermission as if the audience is trapped in some kind of marathon endurance test of our concentration and bladders! But not at Hell in a Handbag shows, which proves yet again that David Cerda is in tune with everything a Golden Girl needs to truly enjoy a laugh packed night out with your best friends. Much Thanks to David Cerda for "being a friend!”

Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes is being performed at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville on Wednesday and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m now extended through September 16th. Saturday dates have been added for August. Tickets are $20, but are just $16 if purchased in advance. To purchase tickets or to find out more about this hilarious show wonderfully directed by Shade Murray, visit handbagproductions.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

“Late Company” is the fairly literal title of a new play by Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill. Presented by COR Theatre, Jessica Fisch directs the regional premiere at Pride Arts Center. The 80-minute play is a response to the uptick in teen suicides triggered by cyberbullying.

“Late Company” takes on the weighty issue of LGBT teen suicide. The play begins with political couple Michael (Paul Fagen) and Debora (Tosha Fowler) setting up for some dinner guests. Over the course of their cryptic conversation, we glean that their son has killed himself and the dinner guests are the parents of the bully they blame for their son’s suicide.

The implausibility of the situation is troubling. It’s hard to imagine that a grieving family would cordially invite over the parents of the bully they blame for the loss of their son. It’s even harder to imagine anyone taking that invitation. What transpires over the course of 80 minutes is a structurally unsound one-liner competition. Some highlights include “you were always more interested in the spin, than the spin cycle.”

This is not a play without heart. This is a play without a clear message. While most of us can generally agree that suicide is a heartbreaking thing to happen to any loved one, this play treats it as nearly incidental. The playwright struggles to flesh out a clear central argument. These characters are rarely having conversations, sometimes they’re just reading letters to each other. Great plays are exchanges of revelatory dialogue in which bigger issues are addressed. “Late Company” stays so specific to its own characters that it rarely acknowledges the outside world.

Tannahill’s play is ambitious and maybe more remarkable in other productions. The storyline is very relevant and has the opportunity to say much more than it does in its current form. There’s a lot to discuss on this topic and plenty of work still to do to prevent teen suicide. The playwright would be wise to dig a little deeper than anger in order to express that moral.

At COR Theatre through July 16th at Pride Arts Center. 4147 N Broadway St

 

Published in Theatre in Review
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