Dance 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

About Face Theatre is pleased to present the world premiere of BRAVE LIKE THEM, a punk-infused exploration of the underground “riot grrrl” movement of the 1990s, devised and performed by members of the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble and co-directed by AFT Education and Outreach Director Ali Hoefnagel and Education Coordinator Kieran Kredell. BRAVE LIKE THEM will play seven performances only, July 26 – August 6, 2017 at the Pride Arts Center (The Buena), 4147 N. Broadway in Chicago. Tickets for BRAVE LIKE THEM ($20 or Pay-What-You-Can) are currently available at aboutfacetheatre.com or by calling (773) 784-8565. 
 
This year, the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble, ages 13-23, investigates how systems of oppression function within queer subcultures – specifically the underground “riot grrrl” movement of the 1990s that gave rise to bands such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Sleater-Kinney. While the music and literature of this movement sought to forge a space for all girls – typically characterized by an unapologetic expression of female power and an aggressive dismantling of the patriarchy – the voices at its forefront were almost exclusively white and middle-class. BRAVE LIKE THEM aims to celebrate the “riot grrrl” movement for all the good that came out of it – but also dissect its inherent racial and class discrepancies.
 
Comments Co-Director Ali Hoefnagel, “This play is loud, sweaty and unapologetically queer as we shock ourselves with our own honesty, get messy with the truth and be brave like them.”
 
The production team for BRAVE LIKE THEM includes: Scott Penner (scenic design), Jeanine Fry (costume design), Kaili Story (lighting design), Brandon Reed (sound design), Meghan Erxleben (props design), Erin Kilmurray (movement direction), Nick Davio (music direction), Donny Acosta (asst. director), Liv Haman (asst. costume design), Kasey Trouba (stage manager) and Serena Dully (asst. stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: BRAVE LIKE THEM
Devised and performed by: About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble
Co-Directors: AFT Education and Outreach Director Ali Hoefnagel and Education Coordinator Kieran Kredell
 
Location: Pride Arts Center (The Buena), 4147 N. Broadway. Chicago
Dates: Previews: Wednesday, July 26 at 7 pm and Thursday, July 27 at 7 pm
Regular run: Saturday, July 29 – Sunday, August 6, 2017
Curtain Times: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 7 pm; Sunday at 3 pm
Tickets: $20 or Pay-What-You Can. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Tickets are currently available at aboutfacetheatre.com or by calling (773) 784-8565.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Get set for a scorching start to Chicago's summer theater season when Cor Theatre presents the Midwest premiere of  ”Late Company”, a shockingly funny, scathingly painful drama set on Chicago's North Shore about LGBTQ youth and the scourge of teen suicide.

Acclaimed director Jessica Fisch will stage the first Chicago production of this vitally important new work by Canadian playwright, director and filmmaker Jordan Tannahill - "the future of Canadian theatre" (NOW Magazine) and "the hottest name in Canadian theatre" (Montreal Gazette).

The raves continue for the just-opened European premiere of ”Late Company” at London's Finborough Theatre. Time Out London called ”Late Company” a "powerful new drama about the devastating aftershocks of cyber bullying. Superb." The Times hailed this "dinner party from hell serves up the full gamut of emotions. A terrific play. Go! This one deserves a West End transfer."
 
Like the controversial Netflix hit series 13 Reasons Why, ”Late Company” takes no prisoners with its vivid portrayal of the aftershocks of teen suicide. 

New dates for Cor Theater's Chicago debut of ”Late Company” are June 17 to July 16, 2017 at The Buena (Pride Arts Center), 4147 N. Broadway St. in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. Tickets, $18-$30, are on sale now at cortheatre.org, or by calling (866) 811-4111.

Updated schedule: Previews are Saturday June 17 at 3 p.m., and Sunday and Monday, June 18 and 19 at 8 p.m.
Performances continue through July 16: Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.
Exceptions: No shows Wednesday, June 21 or July 5. The show on Thursday, June 22 is sold out.

“Late Company” is for mature audiences. 

More about “Late Company”

One year after a gay teen's suicide, two North Shore families sit down to dinner. Pleasant mealtime chatter quickly turns into fierce interrogation as each person at the table confesses their real or imagined part in the tragedy. As blame shifts, layers of parental, sexual, and political hypocrisy are revealed. Scathingly funny and heartbreakingly real, award winning Jordan Tannahill's ”Late Company” asks, "How well can a parent ever really know their child?"
 
According to Cor Artistic Director and cast member Tosha Fowler, "“Late Company” is about wrestling with forgiveness. Two sets of parents are fighting desperately for closure from a suicide brought on by missed opportunities and misunderstandings on both sides. Nobody in the room is blameless - everyone is sparring like hell to find peace within themselves and each other."
 
"Jordan's writing is funny and searing. It has the kind of visceral energy that makes live theater unique," said director Jessica Fisch, adding, "In light of our current political climate, a play about people coming to the table to talk over their grievances feels both novel and inspirational. I want to believe it's possible for people with drastically different points of view to find common ground and healing.
“Late Company” challenges that belief and offers hope that it is possible."
 
The “Late Company” cast is Tony Bozzuto (so memorable in Cor's Skin Tight and Christina, The Girl King), Matthew Elam (a Chicago newcomer and third year acting major at DePaul), Paul Fagen (recently seen in About Face's The Tempermentals) and Tosha Fowler (co-founder and artistic director of Cor, stage credits include What of The Night? and Love and Human Remains, director of last season's A Map of Virtue, and one of New City's 2016 Players: The 50 People who Really Perform for Chicago.) New to the cast is Asia Jackson, most recently seen in Among All of This You Stand Like A Fine Brownstone at ETA Creative Arts Theatre.

The production team is Cole von Glahn (assistant director), Adam Gutkin (set and props), Alarie Hammock (costumes), Jeffrey Levin (sound), Eric Vigo (lights), Topher Kielbasa (dramaturg), Stefin Steberl (production manager) and Michael Starcher (stage manager).
 
Jordan Tannahill is a playwright, director, filmmaker and a leading figure in Canada's gay arts community. The Toronto Globe and Mail recently hailed him as "...the poster child of a new generation of (theatre? film? dance?) artists for whom 'interdisciplinary' is not a buzzword, but a way of life." His plays have been presented across Canada, his films have been widely exhibited at venues such as the Toronto International Film Festival, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the British Film Institute, and he received the 2014 Governor General's Literary Award for Drama for his book Age of Minority: Three Solo Plays. In collaboration with William Ellis, Tannahill runs the alternative art-space Videofag in Toronto. Currently he is partnering with the National Theatre of London and the National Film Board Canada to create Draw Me Close, an immersive technology memoir in which audiences experience a live, illustrated world as five-year-old Jordan during his mother's battle with cancer. The first chapter of Draw Me Close premieres April 21-29, 2017 at the Tribeca Film Festival. jordantannahill.com.

Jessica Fisch is a Chicago-based freelance director and professor. Chicago projects this season include directing the world premiere of Firebirds Take the Field for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and associate directing Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee at Steppenwolf. Other credits include Trudy, Carolyn, Martha and Regina Travel to Outer Space (Actors Theatre of Louisville, Humana Festival), Fefu and Her Friends (Goodman Theatre/Rivendell Latina/o Celebration), Opulent Complex and That Thing That Time (Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Tens), Far Away (SITE Festival, Northwestern), 42 Stories (Raven Theatre, [Working Title] series) and Machinal and Spike Heels (Northwestern University). Selected New York credits are
The Realm (The Wild Project), strive/seek/find (Abingdon Theatre), the 2009 Playwrights Horizons Stories on 5 Stories Benefit, Personal History (Ensemble Studio Theatre), The Redheaded Man (Barrow Street Theatre/Down Payment Productions/FringeNYC/ FringeEncores), and Dressed In Your Dreams (Public Theater/Emerging Writers Group), an adaptation of the cult 1960's gothic vampire soap opera Dark Shadows (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Prior to moving to Chicago, Fisch lived in New York City where she was the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Down Payment Productions (DPP). She was also a resident director at Ensemble Studio Theater, the 2008-2009 Playwrights Horizons Directing Resident and a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. She earned her MFA at Northwestern University. 

About Cor Theatre
 
Cor Theatre (cortheatre.org) debuted in September 2012 with a vision to create theatrical experiences that are rarely presented in Chicago by artists who seek to defy expectation. Today, Cor is one of Chicago's youngest and most ambitious professional theater companies with a growing board and strong experience behind it.

Cor's inaugural production, Skin Tight by Gary Henderson, was met with enthusiastic audiences, critical acclaim and made just enough money to establish a not-for-profit corporation. The company named itself Cor Theatre, deriving its name from the Latin root of courage - meaning heart.
 
Cor returned in 2015 with Erin Courtney's A Map of Virtue, named a top show to see in the Chicago Tribune and Most Promising Debut by Time Out Chicago. Cor triumphed again in 2015 with the first Chicago staging in 20 years of Brad Frasier's Love and Human Remains, which played to numerous sold-out houses and was named one of the top plays to see by Windy City Times and New City.

In March 2016, Cor presented the U.S. premiere of Christina, The Girl King by Michel Marc Bouchard, translated by Linda Gaboriau, telling the true story of the enigmatic, gender bending 17th century Queen of Sweden. Cor concluded its 2016 season in October with an epic production of Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan, translated by Tony Kushner, directed by ensemble member Ernie Nolan.
 
Most recently, in January 2017, Cor gobsmacked Chicago audiences and critics alike with Carlos Murillo's daring staging of What of the Night? by María Irene Fornés.
Company members are Tony Bozzuto, Chris Brickhouse, Elyse Cowles, Tosha Fowler, Adam Gutkin, Alarie Hammock, Topher Kielbasa, Jeffrey Levin, Claire Meyers, Ernie Nolan, Stefin Steberl and Eric Vigo.

For more information, visit cortheatre.org, like Cor Theatre on Facebook, follow the company on Twitter, @CorTheatre, or call (866) 811-4111.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Wow! Get ready to be entertained and blown away by two men, with eighteen, yes eighteen, costume changes in a 105-minute play with lead mother figure Bertha Bumiller played by Anthony Whitaker in drag and Grant Drager playing most of the younger male and female characters (Arles, Didi, Stanley, Charlene, Jodi, Petey, Vera and Dixie). These two talents make for one hilarious and yet, at times, disturbing piece of theater now that Trump is President and the animal and human cruelty is perpetrated against each person who loves in the “the third smallest town in Texas”, a dump “where the Lion’s Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never died.”

 

As announced on the local radio show the winning school essays include “Human Rights—Why Bother?” and “The Other Side of Bigotry”. And so begins Deep in the Heart of Tuna, the latest in the “Tuna” series, currently running at Pride Arts Center in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

 

I was unaware that adapter Ed Howard and original author-performers Joe Sears and Jaston Williams (Greater Tuna, A Tuna Christmas, and Red, White, and Tuna) had revived this new play from pieces of the trilogy above though it didn't affect my understanding of the hard lives these people live while having little money to keep up with their neighbors. People wearing third generation hand me downs and living on a farm-like house where the youngest and most sensitive son has ten dogs and a few kitty cats literally following him to school and back until he can find them adoption homes.  

 

I found the staging and lighting brilliant with audience members on both sides of the intimate theater performing space, putting us right in Bertha’s kitchen. Adding the finishing touch, are the costumes and wigs which are truly amazing and used to their ultimate. When I found that neither actor had a dresser to help them make these quick changes, I was even more impressed. Still knowing there were only two cast members, they played the men and women so touchingly and realistically funny, I could have sworn there was a cast of five people or more hidden in the wings. 

 

The town of Tuna can sometimes be a scary place where the "smut snatchers" a local anti-porn group try to expose the dirty words in Dickens Christmas Carol, including "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman", because you know, "Merry Gentlemen" is a little too close to gay gentleman in Tuna, Texas. 

 

The smut snatchers are busy cutting apart the children’s' Christmas pageant, which they have worked on for months. It is eventually canceled by the local school official and local government because the school does not have the funds to pay its electric bill, despite pleas to let the children perform, in part because one child needs this performance to complete his reform school probation and leave town without a criminal record (for painting over street signs). The lights are shut off and the show does not go on. At the same time a Christmas Phantom is on the loose in the neighborhood destroying outdoor holiday displays. There’s a lot going on in this small town. 

 

Anthony Whitaker's multilayered characterization of the mother figure as she struggles to make ends meet in this piece reminds me so much of my dear friend Louie Anderson's spectacular mother characterization in his new hit show "Baskets". 

 

Grant Drager, a newcomer to the New American Folk Theatre ensemble, plays the rest of the male and female characters with mind blowing accuracy and such poignancy. For his outstanding work in this two-man show, Drager really is deserving of a Jeff Award, as well as Whitaker.

 

Though many of the characters are run-of-the-mill, low-income Southern folks with seemingly good hearts, at times, the extreme stereotype Texas hard core right wingers are also demonstrated in the play. It's mind boggling that the small-mindedness of the latter mentioned characters of this tiny town exist in real life, boasting about and bringing forth soul crushing ideas along with anti-gay sentiments and anti-animal rights, i.e. and "Tuna" takes a few good shots. A great line that represents that type of mentality in this play is when Didi, who runs the local gun shop for her mother, says, "If we don't have a gun (or poison) to kill what you want, that thing is supernatural!" This show can make great but serious fun of that particular group on a few occasions though it mainly celebrates small town warmth, kindness and simplicity. Though "Tuna" often pokes fun of small town life in the South, it is done with affection, actually endearing us to several of the characters even more so.  

 

This satire of rural life is highly recommended for two of the most versatile and thought provoking performances in this play about a dysfunctional family and the small town problems that arise. Directed by Derek Van Barham, New American Folk Theatre's Deep in the Heart of Tuna is being performed at Pride Arts Center through March 5th. For show information or tickets, click here. Y'all hurry now!

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

 

 

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