From the minute I stepped into Windy City Playhouse’s colorful, elegant the stage area designed by Courtney O’Neill with fantastic lights and sounds by Thomas Dixon, I knew I was in for a treat. 

King Liz is named for the beautiful, sexy and high-powered sports agent Liz Rico played superbly with real gusto and stage presence galore by Lanise Antoine Shelley. 

Liz Rico is a woman who grew up in the projects, overcame great poverty and rose to the top of a male dominated industry. Rico, one of the best sports agents in the business, is about to be promoted to the head of her firm by her retiring boss Mr. Candy (Frank Nall).

Mr. Candy's last offer to her to make her his new head of firm is based on her ability to sign a new and talented high school basketball player Freddie Luna (Eric Gerard). Luna is a true talent likened to Kobe Bryant but comes with a history of violence and temper tantrums as he too has been brought up in the projects and was doing his best to survive as he knew how. 

Eric Gerard is also great in his role, showing how deeply he feels about needing to escape his checkered past and the projects by riding his basketball gifts into the big time. Gerard also plays the role well in that the audience sees and feels great compassion for him as he uses his limited social skills to try and fit into the fast-paced media swirl he is placed in, sometimes causing his own downfall, his sometimes feral temper getting the best of him. Though Luna can often be charming and polite, prying journalists after the next big sports story target his unbridled emotions and get the best of him when digging into his past that he so desperately wants to put behind him.

Gabby (Jackie Alamillo) is Liz Rico’s assistant and though grateful for her highly valued mentorship has been made to "eat crow" so many times, every day at work, by Liz. Gabby is also eager for Liz to get the promotion, if only because she will then fill Rico’s job. Alamillo is perfect as the once meek but now hardened assistant who has given up everything including her own sense of self-worth at times in order to succeed in this male dominated field. 

In the meantime, Knick’s Coach Jones does his best with Luna hoping this new prodigy will cement his long time career. Coach Jones, played with great compassion of soul and accuracy by Phillip Edward Van Lear, really drives the play’s message home and is totally believable in the role of a big league coach who also has been beaten down somewhat by an industry which cares more about profit margins than human lives and protecting the players who make the game possible.  

We learn along the way that "King Liz" had a sexual relationship with the coach in the past when over dinner he states he “would like to make love to her again”, that “she needs affection” and "was making animal sounds" the last time they were together but Liz will only accept his offer if he realizes she wants no commitment involved or even romance. 

Liz, over the course of the show, begins to realize that she has isolated herself from the world of love and relationships for so long that even though she is rich and on all the most important people lists like Forbes Fortune 500, she has also given up her chances to have children and a husband among other things and is faced with the biggest decision of her life to try and salvage her soul and dignity as a human being.

The play is delivered fast and furiously with many exciting twists and turns and light and scene design changes. It reminded me of the film “Draft Day” starring Kevin Costner that shows just how much constant pressure and money is riding on these agents and their young, often inexperienced and naive clients – the promises made and the slugfests that occur between agencies and teams to sign elite talent. We learn how much athlete image control weighs into a successful sports career for those that have a hard time staying out of trouble.

King Liz is also the story of two completely different paths taken from two people, both African Americans, who grew up in the same projects. Ambitious, disciplined and determined, Liz carved a trail for herself to succeed in the business world by obtaining a Yale education and learning the social graces and toughness that positions herself to rise up the corporate ladder. She’s hard-nosed and no-nonsense and does not make excuses. At the same time, Luna, though mega-talented, struggles to mature or find a sense of responsibility. He blows up with little provocation and misses key business appointments to go shopping with his friends. We want so desperately to shake him and say, “Wake up! You have been given a golden opportunity to shine and become an example to others.”

Lanise Antoine Shelly is a powerhouse as Liz Rico and is surrounded by an impressive cast in this fast-paced, knockout punch production. I highly recommend Fernanda Coppel’s King Liz, directed with real style and exciting action and catharsis by Chuck Smith.

King Liz is being performed at Windy City Playhouse. For tickets visit www.WindyCityPlayhouse.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Drury Lane Theatre continues its 2017-2018 season with the Pulitzer-winning play The Gin Game written by D.L. Coburn, featuring Jeff Award winners Paula Scrofano and John Reeger, and directed by Ross Lehman. The Gin Game runs June 22 – August 13, 2017 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace.
 
Winner of the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and nominated for four Tony Awards, The Gin Game symbolizes life in the form of a card game in a two-act, two-character play starring Chicago theater legends Paula Scrofano and John Reeger. In The Gin Game, Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey strike up an acquaintance and begin to play gin. As the game progresses, intimate secrets of their lives are revealed and they begin to search for each other’s weaknesses in both the game and life itself.
 
With this production, married couple Paula Scrofano and John Reeger join an elite history of famous duos who have previously battled in The Gin Game, including original stars Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn (the 1977 Broadway production and 1981 TV movie), Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke (the 2003 PBS television special), and Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones (the 2015 Broadway Revival). Jeff Award winner Ross Lehman directs the renowned acting couple.
 
“We have wanted to produce The Gin Game for years, specifically with Paula Scrofano and John Reeger in the roles of Fonsia and Weller,” says Kyle DeSantis, President of Drury Lane Productions. “This marks Drury Lane’s twelfth collaboration with this legendary pair of Chicago actors, and we’re so excited to welcome them back to our stage.”
 
The creative team for The Gin Game includes Katherine Ross (scenic design), Mathieu H. Ray (costume design), Lindsey Lyddan (lighting design), Ray Nardelli (sound design), Mike Tutaj (projection design), Cassy Schillo (props design) and Claire Moores (wig and hair design). The production stage manager is Lucia Lombardi.
 
The Gin Game is recommended for ages 13 and up.

For more show information or to purchase tickets, or visit DruryLaneTheatre.com.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Classical Music sounds so much better in person. Music is always better live in my opinion. And hearing magically composed sounds in a hall constructed for the occasion is the icing on the cake. The caliber of the musicians plays a huge part.

Vladimir Spivakov conducted the entire show this past weekend at Orchestra Hall that featured some of Russia’s highly talented musicians working together in a chamber orchestra. A chamber orchestra is a bit different than a symphony orchestra. At times, the music delivered was all strings, violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Some selections had French horn and oboe added.

Spivakov has been a respected musician since the 1960’s. He directed the ensemble with a high level of passion for what he was doing. The dynamics were flat out amazing – something you don’t get with your average Rock band. The softest of piano leads to the loudest of forte, all with a high level of grace.

Another interesting thing about seeing musicians play live is seeing the expression on their faces. Classical Music can on the surface appear stiff. Many might think classical musicians play straight off the page as written. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the notes are already chosen. Interpretation means a lot. The passion of the performance makes the page come alive. When the players do that, it is amazing.

The performance was divided into two sets. The first was mostly the chamber orchestra. Towards the middle of the set, Danielle Akta joined in on cello. She came out, looking like a kid of fourteen-years-old or so. The emotional intensity knocked the room out. I was watching the four other cellists on stage watching her. Two of them were at least double her age, yet she had their full attention. I can understand why. She took it to another level.

The second set featured Hibla Gerzmava. She is a soprano. It takes a strong voice to fill the hall with a microphone. I know there were mics set up, but I don’t believe they were being used as sound reinforcement. I couldn’t really tell from my vantage point. Having said that, I heard every inflection perfectly. Again, dynamics play a gigantic role in this type of music. It was very theatrical. Hibla at one point was singing to the lead violinist, other times to Spivakov. You can see why a good portion of the great Classical Music out there was written in the Romantic period. It is romantic. Almost, I dare say…erotic. Both Akta and Gerzmava had that quality at times. There was even a bit of humor, too. In a real quiet part of one of the songs sung by Hibla, someone dropped a bottle or something. Everyone heard it, but she kept a straight face. After the piece, she was all smiles.

I was impressed by the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra overall. I loved the vibe of the pieces played. There was a playful interaction between performers that truly resonates.

I have heard a lot of amateur chamber orchestras. Violins are very unforgiving in regard to the intonation of the instrument. What a treat it was to hear this group of in-tune stringed instruments. I have also been trying to hear music and not just listen to it. The idea is to listen without analysis, just hear the music. Musicians know this struggle. Sometimes it is easy to forget the joy that art like this brings to our lives. Anyone can be a critic. I would rather be a lover of the arts. From Russia With Love? Yes, I saw that completely.

 

Published in In Concert

A Red Orchid Theatre announces its 25th Anniversary Season, including Evening at the Talk House by Wallace Shawn, directed by Ensemble Member Shade Murray, and featuring Ensemble Members Lance Baker, Kirsten Fitzgerald and Natalie West; the World Premiere of Traitor, an adaption of Ibsen's Enemy of the People by Brett Neveu, directed by Ensemble Member Michael Shannon, and featuring Ensemble Members Dado, Larry Grimm, Danny McCarthy, Guy Van Swearingen and Natalie West, with lighting designed by Ensemble Member Mike Durst; and 33 to Nothing by Grant Varjas, featuring Ensemble Member Steve Haggard. In summer 2018 A Red Orchid will also present a bonus presentation of Victims of Duty by Eugene Ionesco, directed by Shira Piven, and featuring original cast members Michael Shannon and Guy Van Swearingen.
 
In addition to the company’s Chicago productions, A Red Orchid's 2013 production of Simpatico will open the season at the prestigious McCarter Center in Princeton, New Jersey. Simpatico will feature the original cast and creative team, directed by Dado and featuring Kristin Ellis, Jennifer Engstrom, Mierka Girten, Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen and Doug Vickers, with designs by Grant Sabin, Christine Pascual, Mike Durst, Joe Court and stage manager by Christa van Baale. 
 
“Our 25th anniversary season is full of landmark events for A Red Orchid,” comments Artistic Director Kirsten Fitzgerald. “In 2017-2018 we will see our first collaboration with an iconic playwright, our tenth world premiere with an ensemble member playwright, and a second collaboration with a local playwright. Ensemble is at the heart of everything we do, and we’re thrilled to present a 25th anniversary season packed with ensemble members both onstage and off. With an eye toward reaching out we are also over-the-moon to collaborate with Emily Mann and Debbie Bisno to bring A Red Orchid to the McCarter Center, as well as with Ike Holter, Tony Santiago and The Roustabouts in incubating new work right here at home."
 
A Red Orchid Theatre’s 2017-2018 Season includes:

Evening at the Talk House
by Wallace Shawn
Directed by Ensemble Member Shade Murray
Featuring Ensemble Members Lance Baker, Kirsten Fitzgerald and Natalie West
October 5 - November 19, 2017
Previews: October 5 - 8, 2017
Red Night Opening: Friday, October 13, 2017 at 8pm
 
Remember when you felt you could do anything, when there was still nothing to fear? Evening at the Talk House is a reunion at your favorite club, where old friends cozy up, raise a glass and remember gentler times when culture had value and terror wasn't the every day. This ultra-dark comedy invites us all to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening night of Robert's under-appreciated masterpiece, Midnight in a Clearing with Moon and Stars.  Please come. We need each other. 
 
The World Premiere of
Traitor
an adaption of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People
by Brett Neveu
Directed by Ensemble Member Michael Shannon
Featuring Ensemble Members Dado, Larry Grimm, Danny McCarthy, Guy Van Swearingen and Natalie West, with lighting designed by ensemble member Mike Durst
January 11 - February 25, 2018
Previews: January 11 - 14, 2018
Red Night Opening: Friday, January 19, 2018 at 8pm
 
In this world premiere adaptation of Heinrich Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, a small, North Chicago suburb finds the town's restart button with an investment in a newly opened charter school. After issues with the school grounds are discovered by its head of sciences, Dr. Stock, a quest to inform and correct is met with support.  But suspicion and rancor mount as truths bubble to the surface.  A play that mirrors our vital, absurd and often hilarious political times.
 
33 to Nothing
by Grant Varjas
Featuring Ensemble Member Steve Haggard
April 12 - May 27, 2018
Previews: April 12 - 15, 2018
Red Night Opening: Friday, April 20, 2018 at 8pm
 
Taking place during a real-time band practice, 33 to Nothing is a play that rocks hard and breaks hearts.  Feeling the incessant call of adulthood, individuals begin to question their role in the ensemble. Ultimately begging the question: to break up or to build stronger?  An anthem of forgiveness, loyalty and resilience when your world is being torn by the seams.
 
Summer Bonus 
Victims of Duty 
by Eugene Ionesco
Directed by Shira Piven
Featuring original cast members Michael Shannon and Guy Van Swearingen 
July-August 2018
 
Much of the original 1995 team come together to revisit Ionesco's absurd masterpiece. Choubert, the archetypal bourgeois everyman, and his wife Madeleine are spending a quiet evening at home when the Detective arrives to enlist their help in finding the previous tenant.  A roller-coaster ride of high comedy and horrific tragedy as Choubert examines his past present and future in a quest to find out where Mallot could be hiding.
 
Incubator
Also in 2017 A Red Orchid's Incubator hosts The Roustabouts inaugural production/pop-up. Founded by Ike Holter and Tony Santiago, The Roustabouts are responsible for Ike Holter's Stay Lit at Oracle and Steppenwolf theatres, and the Winehouse concert at Oracle. They will produce a new play by Ike Holter as part of A Red Orchid's Incubator series. Cast, production team and plot information are under wraps, but the project will premiere before the end of the year.
 
Ticket Information
A Red Orchid continues the FLASHPASS. As always, FLASHPASS holders get reserved seats, ticket and date flexibility, no-fee ticket exchanges, discounts for friends & family tickets, and early access to events such as readings, panel discussions, and more. The Three-show FLASHPASS is $80 and includes one ticket to each of the 3 shows in our 25th Season, excluding Press Opening and Red Nights. The Three-show Red Night FLASHPASS is $150 and includes a ticket to each of the 3 show's Red Night Opening and post-show reception with the cast and creative team.  The Preview Saver FLASHPASS is $50 and includes one ticket to a preview performance of each of the 3 shows in our 25th season. Add a ticket for the Summer Bonus, Victims of Duty, to any FLASHPASS at the time of purchase.  
 
Flashpasses may be purchased from the Box Office at 1531 N. Wells Street, Monday through Friday from 12 pm to 5 pm, by telephone during office hours by dialing (312) 943-8722, or online at www.aredorchidtheatre.org. Individual tickets will go on sale at a later date.
 
With our 25th season of ambitious and powerful storytelling, we are thrilled to announce the launch of A Red Orchid Theatre’s Red League.  At $1k or more, The Red League represents a donor community of our most committed and impactful cultural investors. Every profound and shocking moment on our stage is made possible through their critical annual contributions. Their philanthropic leadership fosters the development of raw and relevant work, creates a platform for our talented ensemble to reach new audiences, and ensures that A Red Orchid Theatre remains a source for honest, compassionate, and aesthetically rigorous theatre.
 
About A Red Orchid
A Red Orchid Theatre has served as an artistic focal point in the heart of the Old Town community of Chicago since 1993 and was honored this year with a 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Over the past 24 years, its Resident Ensemble has welcomed into its fold an impressive array of award-winning actors, playwrights and theatre artists with the firm belief that live theatre is the greatest sustenance for the human spirit. A Red Orchid is well known and highly acclaimed for its fearless approach to performance and design in the service of unflinchingly intimate stories. In addition to its professional season, the company is also committed to an OrKids (youth) project and hosts The Incubator (providing artists with space and time to explore new work, new forms and new artistic collaborations).
 
A Red Orchid Theatre is: Lance Baker, Kamal Angelo Bolden, Dado, Mike Durst, Jennifer Engstrom, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Joseph Fosco, Steve Haggard, Mierka Girten, Larry Grimm, Karen Kawa, Karen Kessler, Danny McCarthy, Shade Murray, Brett Neveu, Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen, Doug Vickers and Natalie West.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Friday, 02 June 2017 17:10

Goodman Theatre Cancels "Pamplona" Run

Goodman Theatre announced today that it will cancel all remaining performances of Pamplona starring Stacy Keach as Ernest Hemingway—a world premiere by Jim McGrath, directed by Artistic Director Robert Falls. The decision comes after Keach underwent medical testing following his opening night performance, which was halted by Falls midway through when it became clear that Keach was struggling. According to Keach’s family, doctors treating the stage and screen star have advised a period of rest and recuperation; as such, the Goodman has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the run. Out of respect for Keach and his family’s wishes for privacy, there are no additional comments at this time.
 
Ticket holders will be offered a full refund, or one of the following options: a Goodman Gift Certificate equal to the value of the tickets; tickets to the upcoming Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O’Neill, directed by Steve Scott; or a tax deductible donation to benefit the theater’s Education and Engagement programs. A Goodman Theatre Ticket Services representative will be in touch with patrons to make arrangements.
 
Pamplona has been the rare, joyous process working with a friend and colleague to realize a passion project. Stacy Keach is one of America’s finest actors, and he and playwright Jim McGrath have rendered a beautiful and complex new piece of theater about an American icon that audiences in 11 preview performances had the opportunity to witness and reward with tremendous enthusiasm and standing ovations,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls. “I am in awe of the work Stacy has done, and especially of the courage he’s displayed in the face of adversity, and I look forward to our future collaborations. We also wish to thank our Chicago audiences and members of the media for their gracious support during this unusual circumstance.”
 
Pamplona, an 80-minute, one-man show starring Keach as the great American author Ernest Hemingway, was scheduled to run May 19 through June 25 in the Goodman’s 350-seat Owen Theatre. Keach, who has no understudy given the unique nature of the play and his extensive involvement in the project’s development, completed every preview performance from May 19-28. The May 30 opening night was halted mid-performance, and the following three performances were cancelled as Keach underwent medical testing.
 
The Goodman is grateful for its Pamplona sponsors, including The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation (Major Support) and Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP (Contributing Sponsor) with additional support from the Director’s Society.
 
About Goodman Theatre
 
America’s “Best Regional Theatre” (Time magazine) and “Chicago’s flagship resident stage” (Chicago Tribune), Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit organization distinguished by the quality and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Founded in 1925, the Goodman is led by Robert Falls—“Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune), who marks 30 years as Artistic Director this season—and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, who is celebrated for his vision and leadership over nearly four decades. Dedicated to new plays, reimagined classics and large-scale musical theater works, Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned hundreds of awards for artistic excellence, including: two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, nearly 160 Jeff Awards and more. Over the past three decades, audiences have experienced more than 150 world or American premieres, 30 major musical productions, as well as nationally and internationally celebrated productions of classic works (including Falls’ productions of Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night, King Lear and The Iceman Cometh, many in collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy). In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” For nearly four decades, the annual holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol has created a new generation of theatergoers. 
 
The 2016 opening of the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (“the Alice”) launched the next phase in the Goodman’s decades-long commitment as an arts and community organization dedicated to educating Chicago youth and promoting lifelong learning. Programs are offered year-round and free of charge. Eighty-five percent of the Goodman’s youth program participants come from underserved communities.
 
Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.
 
Today, Goodman Theatre leadership includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Joan Clifford is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women’s Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals. 
 
Visit the Goodman virtually at GoodmanTheatre.org—including OnStage+ for insider information—and on Twitter (@GoodmanTheatre), Facebook and Instagram.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

From the picturesque covered bridges of 1965 Winterset, Iowa, comes the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, continuing Marriott Theatre’s spectacular 2017 Season, running June 21 through August 13, 2017 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Featuring one of Broadway’s most accomplished creative teams with music and lyrics by three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown and book by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Marsha Norman, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY first captured the nation’s heart as a best-selling novel by Robert James Waller and remains one of the most romantic stories ever written. Seven-time Jeff Award Winner Nick Bowling (Man of La Mancha, The King and I) returns to The Marriott Theatre to direct, with musical direction by Jeff Award Winner Ryan T. Nelson.
 
“When I first came across this piece, I was immediately drawn to the spectacular score. It’s the kind of music you fall in love with the first time you hear it, which can’t be said for all musicals,” says Director Nick Bowling. “I feel a strong personal connection to the story having grown up in a small town in Iowa similar to Winterset. Seeing my mother face the same challenges Francesca is going through in terms of navigating a world that is foreign to her, my focus is to keep the story as true to Iowa as can be. Every detail from the set design to the costumes will be inspired by Madison County’s beauty to capture the true essence of the story’s setting.”
 
A true sweeping romance, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is the heartbreaking and touching story of two people caught between duty and desire. A beautiful Italian war-bride who longs for the dreams of travel and excitement she once had as a girl, Francesca Johnson is a dedicated Iowa housewife living a simple, yet dispassionate life. When her family goes on a trip to the 1965 State Fair and leaves her behind to take care of the house, Francesca’s world is shattered as a ruggedly handsome National Geographic photographer, Robert Kincaid, pulls into her driveway seeking directions. A quick ride to photograph one of the famed covered bridges of Madison County sparks a soul-stirring, passionate affair for the couple, whose lives are forever altered by this chance encounter. Audiences will be swept away by Jason Robert Brown’s soulful score, drawing upon the rich textures of Americana and folk. 
 
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY stars Jeff Award Winner Kathy Voytko as “Francesca” (The Marriott Theatre: Les Misérables; Chicago Shakespeare Theatre: Passion; Broadway: Oklahoma!, Nine, The Frogs, The Pirate Queen and Next to Normal); Jeff Award Winner Nathaniel Stampley as “Robert” (The Marriott Theatre: Man of La Mancha; Broadway/National Tour: The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess; Broadway: The Color Purple and The Lion King; London: The Lion King; Apple Tree Theatre: Big River; Milwaukee Rep: Dreamgirls and Man of La Mancha); Bart Shatto as “Bud” (Broadway: Les Misérables, The Civil War, Dracula, Hands on a Hardbody; National Tours: Cats, The Civil War, Les Misérables); Wydetta Carter as “Marge” (The Marriott Theatre: Little Shop of Horrors); Terry Hamilton as “Charlie” (The Marriott Theatre: She Loves Me, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, October Sky); Tanner Hake as “Michael”; Brooke MacDougal as “Carolyn”; and Emily Berman as “Marian” (World Premiere: Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Northlight Theatre; Chicago Shakespeare Theatre: Sense and Sensibility). Also starring in THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY are Shea Coffman, Nick Cosgrove, Phoebe González, Allyson Graves, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Danni Smith and Brandon Springman.
 
The production will feature set design by Jeff Kmiec, costume design by Sally Dolembo, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Bob Gilmartin, projections design by Anthony Churchill, properties design by Sally Weiss, and musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.
 
The performance schedule for THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., with select Thursday 1:00 p.m. shows. Ticket prices range from $50 to $60, including tax and handling fees. Call for student, senior and military discounts. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of FREE dinners available with the purchase of a full-priced theatre ticket, which can only be purchased through the Marriott Theatre Box Office. To make a restaurant reservation, please call 847.634.0100. Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets, please call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or go to www.ticketmaster.com. Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for more information.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Friday, 26 May 2017 03:55

Review: Strawdog's "The Night Season"

A small theatre resides on the most unlikely of streets in Chicago. Just steps from the Howard Red Line stop sits the Factory theatre, with only fifty seats in its small storefront property, this little powerhouse has produced original work for nearly 25 years. Adding to its catalog of work is The Night Season by Rebecca Lenkiewwicz and currently performed by the cast of the Strawdog Theatre Company.

When the tiny, seaside hometown of W.B. Yeats gets occupied by an English film crew making his biopic, the Kennedy's figure giving lodging to the lead actor will put a few extra coins in their pockets. They do get plenty of change, and not just Euros, as the family's three sisters and their delusional grandmother all decide it's time to stop letting life pass them by. The mother who ran away, the father who can barely leave the house, a big pile of pent-up desire, it all gets confronted in this skewed romantic comedy.

At times, The Night Season relies too heavily on stereotypes; the drunk Irish father, the senile old grandmother, the romance between a sister and the visiting actor. But one can overlook these unoriginal plot points for witty one liners expertly delivered by the superb cast of Strawdog. Two performers in particular carried the show and commanded attention whenever they were on stage, particularly together. The grandmother, Lily, played by Janice O’Neill, and the middle daughter Rose, played by Michaela Petro. These two characters epitomized the central theme of the play, that they cannot let life pass them by. Both literally and figuratively embrace the English actor played by John Eastman and it becomes clear that Lily and Rose are mirror images of one another, separated by generations but seeing themselves in each other. Both share the same blunt, crass, forceful passion for life and love, and it is through the actor that they discover their similarities and deep understandings of what each woman wants and needs in their lives. Were the play to focus solely on these two characters it would have made for an even better theatre experience.

Overall, The Night Season is funny, honest, and holds its own amidst the incredible theatre in Chicago. The cast of Strawdog Theatre Company is well worth the CTA ride to Roger’s Park to see their plays at Factory Theater. Before Spring leads to Summer, see The Night Season this season. The Night Season runs through June 24th at Factory Theater. Tickets and more can be found at www.thefactorytheater.com.

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

The storyline in Relativity is a supposed to be a mystery. The great physicist and mathematical theoretician Albert Einstein fathered a daughter, Liserl, out of wedlock in Switzerland with Mileva Marić– but all mentions of her disappear after the age of two.


What happened to her? Several theories have been put forward – that she died of scarlet fever, that she was put up for adoption - but the historical track was largely obliterated with the destruction of many records during World War II. Though Einstein later married Marić, his daughter disappears from the historical record after 1904.


Mark St. Germaine’s Relativity poses one possibility on her whereabouts , and Einstein is confronted with it many years later, by a mysterious visitor to his quarters in Princeton. Margaret Harding (Katherine Keberlein), a journalist who has come to profile him for the Jewish Daily News – and to challenge him on his neglect of his daughter.


Suffice it to say we witness a fair amount of unresolved anger in the encounter, during which Einstein also learns he has a grandchild – also a genius - who is seeking his support in entering a top university. This colorful and intriguing tale is enticement enough to see Relativity. But an added bonus is the fact that the lead is played by the oldest working union actor in the U.S. – the indomitable Mike Nussbaum. Known for his skillful and intelligent delivery including some of David Mamet’s most challenging dramas, Nussbaum at 93 makes a striking appearance. That he can do it at all may be surprising, but Nussbaum delivers a textured and nuanced characterization of the great physicist. He is bring his all to the role, though he doesn’t project at the same intensity as in days of yore – or maybe it’s my hearing going.


The script is okay, with its once over lightly descriptions of Einstein’s unprecedented theorems, and the family angst grows tiresome pretty quickly. There is also a lot of exposition in which the reporter recounts famous quotes and anecdotes from Einstein, who fills in with one liners that elicit some laughs.


Ann Whitney plays a crotchety housekeeper and secretary, the real-life Helen Dukas, and her chemistry with Nussbaum is delightful. Their scenes provide insight into the suffering of an aging genius who is unlikely to discover new universal theories. Nussbaum brings an unusual gift to this aspect of the role, and a hunt for a piece of chalk to write a formula on a blackboard captures the essence of the matter, opening a window into the unsettling existential void.


As always Northlight delivers high production values (Jack Magaw on scenic design; JR Lederle on lighting; Stephen Mazurek fir Projection Design) and director BJ Jones does an excellent job orchestrating the production. Relativity runs through June 25 at Northlight Theatre in Skokie.

Published in Theatre in Review

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 casting for its inaugural production, the Chicago premiere of LIZZIE, the rock musical based on the true-life story of accused axe-murderess Lizzie Borden. LIZZIE will play November 11 – December 17, 2017 at The Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Single tickets for LIZZIE are currently on sale at firebrandtheatre.org. Season subscriptions (including 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL) are currently available. The press opening is Tuesday, November 14 at 7:30 pm.
 
LIZZIE will feature Liz Chidester as Lizzie, Leah Davis as Bridget, Jacquelyne Jones as Alice and Camille Robinson as Emma. The late night cast/understudies, who will appear in four 11 pm performances, include Kyrie Anderson as Lizzie, Becca Brown as Emma, Amanda Horvath as Bridget and Elle Walker as Alice.
 
Directed by Victoria Bussert with music direction by Julia A. Miller and Andra Velis Simon and choreography by Janet Louer, LIZZIE features music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner, book by Tim Maner, additional music by Tim Maner, additional lyrics by Alan Stevens Hewitt, based on an original concept by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner with orchestrations by Alan Stevens Hewitt. 
 
"Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one." So goes the nursery rhyme describing the crime of the century that took the nation by storm when Lizzie Borden murdered her parents with an axe in 1892. Or did she? LIZZIE is a musical that reimagines that bloody legend with four women fronting a female rock band. LIZZIE is American mythology set to a blistering rock score with rage, sex, betrayal and bloody murder. 
 
"We thought casting Lizzie would be extremely difficult since the skillsets needed are so specific and challenging – yet it turned out to be the easiest casting I've ever done because Chicago is overflowing with talented women,” comments Founder and Artistic Director Harmony France. “It became immediately clear that one cast was not enough. Our regular Lizzie cast is going to blow you away, but our understudies are so incredible that we decided to add four special late-night performances so audiences can also enjoy their talents. Looking to the future, Firebrand will strive to empower both women and men, but for Lizzie we wanted to come out of the gate and flood the stage, the band and backstage with women in a way that hasn't been done before. There isn't a better show to do that with than Lizzie."
 
The production team for LIZZIE includes: Eleanor Kahn (scenic design), Charlotte M. Yetman (costume design), Maya Michele Fein (lighting design), Victoria Deiorio (sound design), Jeff Herrmann (props design) and Danielle Stack (production manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: LIZZIE
Music: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt
Lyrics: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner
Book: Tim Maner
Additional Music: Tim Maner
Additional Lyrics: Alan Stevens Hewitt
Based on an original concept by: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner
Orchestrations: Alan Stevens Hewitt
Director: Victoria Bussert
Music Directors: Julia A. Miller and Andra Velis Simon
Choreography: Janet Louer
 
Cast: Liz Chidester (Lizzie), Leah Davis (Bridget), Jacquelyne Jones (Alice) and Camille Robinson (Emma).
Late Night Cast/Understudies: Kyrie Anderson (Lizzie), Becca Brown (Emma), Amanda Horvath,  (Bridget) and Elle Walker (Alice).
 
Location: The Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Dates: Previews: Saturday, November 11 at 8 pm and Sunday, November 12 at 3 pm
Regular run: Thursday, November 16 – Sunday, December 17, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Thursday, November 23 (Thanksgiving Day).
Late Night Performances (featuring understudies): Friday, December 1 at 11 pm, Saturday, December 2 at 11 pm, Friday, December 8 at 11 pm and Saturday, December 9 at 11 pm
Open Captioned Performances (by Molly Brennan): Sunday, November 26 at 3 pm and Sunday, 
December 3 at 3 pm
Tickets: Previews $25. Regular run $45. Late night shows $30. Students $20. Tickets are currently available at firebrandtheatre.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The Neo-Futurists are proud to announce, in addition to a new HVAC system at The Neo-Futurarium, a special pre-season showing of Ensemble Member Kirsten Riiber's Neo-Lab production Tangles and Plaques, Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. In addition, June offers presentations of the ongoing The Infinite Wrench at Steppenwolf’s Summer LookOut Series, Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m. and during Pride Week, June 22 - 25. All performances are at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. (at Foster) in Andersonville, unless otherwise noted.
 
NEO-LAB Presents: Tangles & Plaques – The Final Workshop Presentation
Created by Kirsten Riiber
Directed by Jen Ellison
The Final Workshop Presentation
Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m.
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.
Tickets: $8
 
Tangles & Plaques attempts to demystify the experience of dementia in the language of theatre— offering a vivid, poignant, participatory experience that is unique to each audience and different every performance. Ensemble Member Kirsten Riiber and Memory Care Therapist Alex Schwaninger discuss and demonstrate the process of memory loss through interviews and personal narrative about the life and death of memories; how they persist, when they depart and the ways they distort over time. Neo-Lab is an original works residency that annually commissions one new play anchored by innovative approaches to creation and shares public readings and presentations of the work in progress. Tangles & Plagues is directed by Jen Ellison and features Kaitlyn Andrews, Ida Cuttler, Justin Deming, Mike Hamilton, Nick Hart and Kirsten Riiber and a reception, with libations from Metropolitan Brewery, before and after the performance.
 
THE INFINITE WRENCH, NOW IN AN OPEN RUN, ANNOUNCES STEPPENWOLF ACCESSIBLE PERFORMANCES and PRIDE WEEKEND’S 30 QUEER PLAYS IN 60 STRAIGHT MINUTES
 
The Infinite Wrench
Open Run – Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.
At-the-door cash tickets are $9 plus the roll of a six-sided die; online pre-sales are available for $20 with a cash rollback at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255. 
 
The Infinite Wrench, The Neo-Futurists’ open run production, is a mechanism that unleashes a barrage of two-minute plays for a live audience. Each play offers something different—some are funny, others profound. Some are elegant, disgusting, topical, irrelevant, terrifying, or put to song. All of the plays are truthful and tackle the here-and-now, inspired by the lived experiences of the performers. The Infinite Wrench is The Neo-Futurists’ ongoing and ever-changing show, performed late-night every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 50 weeks of the year, with special performances: 
 
Steppenwolf’s LookOut Series presents The Infinite Wrench
Accessible Performances Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m.
Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre, 1700 N Halsted St.
Accessible Performances Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15 - available at steppenwolf.org and 312-335-1650.
 
Tickets are now on sale for The Neo-Futurists two performances of The Infinite Wrench featuring accessible services for people with disabilities. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the performance Friday, June 2 at 7 p.m. features Open Captioning and ASL interpretation; for people who are blind or have low vision, the performance Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m. features Audio Description and a pre-performance Touch Tour at 5:30 p.m. The cast features Neo-Futurist ensemble members Dan Kerr-Hobert, Lily Mooney, Kurt Chiang, and Jeewon Kim as well as Neo-Futurist alums John Pierson and Lisa Buscani.
 
The 1700 Theatre is wheelchair accessible and is equipped with an induction hearing loop for people who use personal hearing devices that have a T-coil. Front Bar, directly in front of the 1700 Theatre, has a push-button entrance, wheelchair accessible seating and multi-stall all-gender restrooms.
 
The Infinite Wrench presents 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes Announces YEPP as Beneficiary
Special Benefit Performance for Youth Empowerment Performance Project: Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 with no cash rollback
Additional Pride-Themed Performances: Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24 at 11:30 p.m.
and Sunday, June 25 at 7 p.m.
At-the-door cash tickets are $9 plus the roll of a six-sided die; online pre-sales are available for $20 with a cash rollback at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.
 
The Neo-Futurists present their annual Pride Weekend benefit: 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes, a special edition of The Infinite Wrench that corrals the queerest plays into one show, slaying gender roles and celebrating deviance. The cast features Neo-Futurist ensemble members Trevor Dawkins, Jeewon Kim, Ida Cuttler, Tif Harrison, Lily Mooney, Kirsten Riiber, Malic White and Neo-Alum John Pierson.
 
All proceeds of the Thursday, June 22 performance will be donated to YEPP (the Youth Empowerment Performance Project), whose mission is to create a safe environment for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness to address their struggles and celebrate their strengths through the process of developing a theatrical performance piece.  Executive and Artistic Director Bonsai Bermudez states, “YEPP is honored by The Neo-Futurists and their support of the mission of YEPP and our providing services for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness during this year’s Pride season.”
 
ABOUT THE NEO-FUTURISTS
The Neo-Futurists are a collective of writer-director-performers creating theater that is fusion of sport, poetry and living-newspaper. Originating nearly 10,000 plays within the newly launched The Infinite Wrench, 28 years of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, and over 65 full-length productions within their immediate, non-illusory aesthetic, The Neo-Futurists have grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in the United States. From humble beginnings as the first late-night theater production in Chicago, they launched what became Chicago’s longest running show and today sustain multifaceted programs such as Neo-Access, The Kitchen (a micro-festival on art and performance), Prime Time, Neo-Lab and The Infinite Wrench, the ongoing late night show running 50 weekends every year. For more information visit www.neofuturists.org.
 
# # #
 
The Neo-Futurists are partially supported by grants from Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Network for Ensemble Theaters, The Illinois Arts Council Agency, The Chicago Community Foundation, a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, The Field Foundation of Illinois, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Page 8 of 19

 

 

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