In Concert

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

After a sell-out run last summer, this hilarious and inspiring story about the grit and passion required to 'make it' as an artist and the sweet rewards that come from never giving up on your dream returns.
 
Brad Zimmerman’s hit comedy My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy is returning to Chicago for a five-week engagement July 6 through August 13 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, IL 60077. One-part standup, one-part theatrical, My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy is the story of one man’s struggle to fulfill his dream and ‘make it’ as a comedic actor in New York.
 
The fact that Brad Zimmerman has put the time in to work on his craft is an understatement. He spent 29 years “temporarily” waiting tables in New York,while continuing to pursue his dream of comedic acting. In My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy, he tells the story of his journey, along with a chronicle about his childhood, family, and misbegotten love life with warmth, wit, self-deprecating humor, and wicked charm, and combines his years of training as an actor with his innate comedic talent.
 
In his 90-minute show, Zimmerman also reviews the trials and tribulations of waiting on tables – particularly for someone not exactly invested in that career, and with little tolerance for finicky diners:
 
“I don’t want 60 questions, get to the point!” he said he would tell restaurant patrons when he sat down for an interview for The New York Times. He joked that if diners prefaced their orders by saying they were in a hurry he would say “So go!” He says he did enjoy some of the bantering he did with diners, and often tried out material on them, however there were also ‘the bossy customers who would snap their fingers to get his attention… and the health-food obsessives who elaborately customized their orders and button-holed him over ingredients.’  As he says in My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy, he was convinced his epitaph would read “I’ll be right with you.” 
 
Eventually his determination and hard work paid off, and Zimmerman went on to act - he had a small part in “The Sopranos” playing Johnny Sack’s lawyer - and to become the opening act for a number of well-known entertainers, including George Carlin, Brad Garrett, Dennis Miller, Julio Iglesias, and 6 years with Joan Rivers who said “I’ve had three great opening acts in my lifetime: Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling, and Brad Zimmerman.”
 
Zimmerman worked on the script for My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy for nine years, and performed it in small venues all over the country, including a stint at Stage Door Theatre in Florida, where it came to the attention of producers Dana Matthow and Philip Roy (Respect: A Musical Journey of Women, Old Jews Telling Jokes, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy). Since then, My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy spent two years at Off-Broadway’s Stage 72 at the Triad Theatre in New York, and has toured the USA from coast-to-coast.
 
My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy will run from July 6 through August 13 at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets start at $46, and will be available online at MySonTheWaiter.com or by phone at 847-673-6300.  For group rates (10+) call 312-423-6612. For more information about My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy please visit http://mysonthewaiter.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

If you couldn't get a ticket during its sold-out run at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre, Teatro Vista is transferring its current smash hit La Havana Madrid for two additional weekends of performances at The Miracle Center, 2311 N. Pulaski Rd., in Chicago's Hermosa neighborhood. 

Tickets are going fast, however, for six shows only: June 2-11: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m. La Havana Madrid is recommended for ages 10 and up. Don't wait - all tickets are $25. For tickets and information, visit teatrovista.org.
La Havana Madrid is Teatro Vista ensemble member Sandra Delgado's world premiere play with music that reimagines a long-gone Caribbean nightclub that drew throngs of newly-arrived Latinos to Chicago's north side in the 1960s. 

The Chicago Tribune called it "a heartfelt and fascinating musical tribute...the best selling show in Teatro Vista history." 

The Chicago Sun-Times raved "Highly Recommended...(it) chronicles the many different and widely unfamiliar layers of Latino immigrant life and history in Chicago." 

Hoy wrote "La obra tiene la magia de conectar a la comunidad, de revivir recuerdos" ("the work has the magic of connecting to the community, of reliving memories.")
 
Inspired by real life stories of those who flocked to the club to celebrate and remember, Teatro Vista's theatrical recreation of the lively 1960s music club features live music and immerses audiences in the sounds of that decade from the mambo to the new sound of salsa. 

In addition to conceiving and writing the play, Sandra Delgado plays the title role of La Havana Madrid, a mystical woman who conjures vibrant songs and true stories that bring life back to the fabled nightclub. Chicago comedian and producer Mike Oquendo portrays a character inspired by Tony Quintana, one of Chicago's Spanish language radio and television pioneers.
 
Colombian-American musician Roberto "Carpacho" Marin, joined by his band of 30 years, Carpacho y Su Super Combo, perform live at every show, chronicling the history of Caribbean Latino music from mambo to the birth of salsa. In fact, Carpacho's own story is one of the play's true vignettes.
 
Rounding out the cast as Cuban, Colombian and Puerto Rican patrons, staff and musicians who all met, danced, loved and lost at La Havana Madrid are Teatro Vista ensemble members Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Tommy Rivera-Vega and Marvin Quijada, and, in their Teatro Vista debuts, Donovan Diaz, Phoebe González and Krystal Ortiz. La Havana Madrid is directed by Teatro Vista ensemble member Cheryl Lynn Bruce. The design team includes Ashley Woods (set), Elsa Hiltner (costumes),Heather Sparling (lights), Misha Fiksel (sound), Liviu Pasare (projections and video design) and William Carlos Angulo (choreography).
 
The Miracle Center residency is funded by The Chicago Community Trust and is part of Teatro Vista's new program TEATRO VISTA, TEATRO VECINO (Spanish for "neighbor).
 
"We are counting the days in anticipation of bringing La Havana Madrid to The Miracle Center," said Delgado. "I wrote La Havana Madrid as a show to be shared across generations of Chicagoans, and I am thrilled to be able to share it with the families in the Hermosa neighborhood. See you there. It's going to be a special celebration of Latinx, Chicago and music history at The Miracle Center every night."

 
Some history about La Havana Madrid


In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Latinos from Caribbean countries such as Puerto Rico and Cuba settled all along Chicago's lakefront, from North Avenue to Devon.
Although from different countries, music brought them together. Their shared rhythms -  African rhythms - became the guaguanco, the mambo and the merengue. Now in the United States, these rhythms merged with traditional big band sounds and eventually became salsa.

On the North side of Chicago, a handful of Latino music clubs opened up: Coco Loco on Lincoln Avenue, The Mirror Lounge on North Avenue and La Havana Madrid on Belmont and Sheffield, in the second floor space now occupied by Milio's Hair Studio. While the history of La Havana Madrid may be fuzzy, what is known is Cubans opened it in the early 1960s and the club became a busy melting pot for newly arrived Latinos in Chicago. La Havana Madrid closed in the late 1960s and later became the popular folk club The Quiet Knight.
 

About Teatro Vista
 
Teatro Vista produces, develops and commissions plays that explore the wealth and variety of the human experience from a Latinx perspective. The company provides work and professional advancement opportunities for Latinx theatre artists, with special emphasis on the company's ensemble members, and seeks to enhance the curricular goals of Chicago students through theatre. Teatro Vista was recently celebrated as one of "Chicago's Cultural Leaders" by the Arts & Business Council of Chicago and received the League of Chicago Theatre's Artistic Leadership Award.

The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance is a production sponsor of La Havana Madrid. Delgado received support from The Chicago Community Trust, a 2015 Joyce Award and a 3Arts 3AP Project Grant to support the development of La Havana Madrid. She developed the script as a member of the 2015-16 Playwright's Unit at Goodman Theatre. Teatro Vista is supported by The Joyce Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, Alphawood Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events of the City of Chicago, The Shubert Foundation, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance and The Saints.
Purple Group, Cumberland Irving and Vidal & Associates, Inc. are Teatro Vista's Headline Season Sponsors. For more information, visit teatrovista.org.

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Thursday, 25 May 2017 16:15

Review: "T" at American Theater Company

The 90s really must be back because this is the second show about Tonya Harding and Nancy Karigan to debut in Chicago in the past year. American Theater Company's telling is a new play called "T" by Dan Aibel. "T" is a ninety-minute retelling of the infamous 1994 incident from the perspective of Tonya Harding's family. Margot Bordelon returned to Chicago to direct the conclusion of Will Davis' first as artistic director of American Theater Company.

"T" steers clear of camp and tabloid. What this play is essentially about is how much T, or Tonya Harding was worth to the people around her. In quick-moving scenes, Dan Aibel calculates all the ways in which Tonya Harding's husband Jeff Gillooly could profit from endorsements. In other scenes, we see her only female companion is her coach who's desperate for a win.

There is something a little strange about "T"­--a slightly lyrical tempo to the dialogue. Sentences read like work emails, missing regular parts of speech. It's an interesting choice, but it often puts uncharacteristically poetic words into otherwise simple people's mouths. It takes for granted that most of us are probably too familiar with the particulars of this crime, and therefore breezes through events without much context. There's a lot to cover in this story and while it's brief, it sufficiently wraps up in a single act.

Leah Raidt plays Tonya Harding with fierce intensity. The look is perfect. There's a duality in her interpretation that strongly resembles the real Tonya Harding without resorting to impression. She's endearingly naive but also bullish and brash. Her coach, Joanne is played by Kelli Simpkins. Her performance is like a cross of Tilda Swinton and Jodi Foster. Her scenes are the most captivating. Her character, however flawed, proves to be the moral backbone of the play.

It makes you wonder what the relevance of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan feud is to today. Aibel tries to connect it to the beginning of the digital age, and maybe he's right. It was the last time in history that shlock news didn't go "viral." This story held a nation's attention at the speed of nightly news. Like the OJ Simpson trial, this time will always hold a special place in a certain generation's heart.

At American Theater Company through June 25th. 1909 W Byron St. 60613

Published in Theatre in Review

With an all Latino/Latina cast, Marisela Treviño Orta's 2014 one-act is brought to life with magic and wonder. The River Bride, set in a South American village along the murky and mysterious Amazon River is a romantic and touching production, which, thanks to director Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary and ingenious props created by Ellie Terrell, seems to have created a real river out of clever lighting, projection screens on the walls and a fourth wall-breaking set consisting of various docks and land areas with the audience seated so close. I could almost feel the water sweeping beneath my feet. 

In this tiny Brazilian village, we meet two sisters, Helena (Flavia Pallozi) and Belmira (Sofia Tew) who are preparing for the marriage of the younger sister Belmira to the older sister's childhood ex-boyfriend Duarte (Johnathan Nieves), which is a sad situation for the older sister.


But three days before the June wedding, Moises (Nico Fernandez U/S), a sensitive and mysteriously handsome stranger, is rescued from the river by Duarte and the girls’ kindly father, Sr. Costa, played with great love and gusto by Johnny Garcia. Once Moises is brought to the Costa’s home, life as the happy family knew begins to change as the young visitor has his eyes set on Helena.


Home to the Costa’s, their village is peaceful, charming and quite beautiful. It is the home of many fisherman, of which Sr. Costa and Duarte make their living. It is a simple place – a place where stories are shared. In this village, nested along the Amazon, an ancient myth is passed down from generation to generation regarding magical dolphins who are destined to find human love and become human in the process that are given the chance for three days each June to do the impossible! First these mermen must locate their true love, their destined human soulmate whom they will know instantly ONLY because "the very first sight of her looking into their eyes makes them feel true love in a place in their heart which has no words".  Secondly, they must convince the soulmate to marry them and third, they must place the magic wedding ring on the woman's finger by the side of the river in an act of secret marriage before sunset on the third day!


But the play is about more than such a grim fairy tale passed down, which dooms each merman to eternal and unbearable loneliness if they do not successfully seek out, find and grab hold of their own personal golden fleece, so to speak.


The play is about the complicated dynamic between sisters and the ability or inability to act for the sake of their own well-being. It's about the human in the fairy tale come true who is suddenly without notice faced with a magical, perfect love and her ingrained inability to recognize and seize the moment for herself. It’s also about the closeness of family.


I love the saucy, honeymooning chemistry between Sra. Costa and Sr. Costa, the sisters fun loving parents wonderfully played by Ana Maria Alvarez and Johnny Garcia. It should be noted that Nico Fernandez, Moises the stranger from the river, was understudying the role and had to step in with only 45-minutes notice before opening night! Fernandez, thrust into the role, did a great job creating chemistry with the two both Pollozi and Tew. The entire cast is delightful and believably creates the kind of welcoming nature one would hope to find in a close family from a quaint river village.


Along with its fine cast, there are a handful of twists and turns in this adoringly, capturing story that surprise and keep us guessing.


I really can't say enough of the cleverness of this stage design and lighting effects, which shows lightning bolts and rain on the walls and turns what once was the top floor of a Chicago church into a convincing and romantically, sensual experience of real life on the Amazon river.


I highly recommend this thought provoking, stunningly raw and romantic play which has been lovingly and lushly produced to theatergoers of all ages that wish to be transported to a magical land where fairy tales can come true, for better or worse. 


Halcyon Theatre’s The River Bride is being performed at Christ Lutheran Church, 3255 W. Wilson Ave in Chicago through June 18th. Tickets are just $20 and can be purchased at https://halcyontheatre.org/.

Warning - Do not proceed if you have not yet seen the play - Spoiler alert!

This isn't a total spoiler but it's such a great choice by the authoress, Marisela Treviño Orta', which is so brilliant and deepens the messages in this deeply affecting one act so much that I need to acknowledge this plot twist in this review. 

Although never directly stated in the play, only implied, it turns out that the blissful, everlastingly youthful and passionate love of Sra. and Sr. Costa is most likely the actual result of a successful transformation of a “dolphin king” and his true love, 

What is made clear is that Sr. Costa was also a man who appeared mysteriously by the river, on a busy fishing dock one day in a new town and wooed and married their happy mother within exactly three days in the month of June so many years before. This is crucial to me because it not only shows how the Brazilian people's modern lives are enriched by their own mythology but implies that the authoress feels some magic and mystery may still be left in the world at least where true love is concerned.

Another reason why I loved the implication is that the two sisters are the result of a magical wedding that led to a life of true love and sweet contentment, because when the sisters each make their choice - no spoiler here - the audience is made to envision and feel clearly the heavy, very real consequences of the wrong choice. 

The disbeliever or doubtful lover who makes the wrong choice results in just the opposite, a truly disastrous result – “Disastrous” from the Greek meaning "being torn from the perfect orbits of one's own fate or stars", a never ending lifetime of sadness, loneliness and discontent, perhaps a fate worse than death to people who love and treasure marriage and  their family life so much. 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Willa is too old to live alone in her flat, and she has “accidents”. That’s why her well-meaning daughter brings her to a suburban London nursing home, “just to try it out”. Originally from Galway, Willa (convincingly played by Belinda Bremner) starts an unlikely friendship with a good-natured 24-year-old nursing home assistant Byron (very talented and highly animated Terry Bell). Byron, an illegal immigrant from South Africa, comes from extreme poverty and family tragedy, but, despite his hard life, he’s kind and funny, and the pair gets along oh so well, always laughing, telling each other stories and falling closer together. Meanwhile, Willa’s married daughter Catherine (Carolyn Kruse) has very little time for her mother; she’s busy carrying on an affair with a younger man. All in all, living at the nursing home wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the sadistic head nurse Sister Chang (Christine Bunuan). Sister Chang is a colorful character; she likes to “discipline” residents and doesn’t hesitate to go through their belongings to satisfy a sweet tooth.


The My Way Residential is a very charming play; it’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you cry too, but you will not be bored; far from it. The cast is fantastic, and writing wonderful. Not to mention the old-British-TV-show vibe to it that’s irresistible.


Directed by ensemble member Kevin Theis and written by Geraldine Aron, this tragi-comedy is a world premiere from Irish Theatre of Chicago that concludes its 2016-2017 Season. The My Way Residential is currently playing at The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage) through June 25th. For more show information and to purchase tickets visit http://irishtheatreofchicago.org/.

Published in Theatre in Review

In its 22nd season, First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is delighted to present a chilling, humorous and thought-provoking 2017-2018 season, beginning with the World Premiere of THE MAN-BEAST, which previews October 4-6, opens October 7 and runs through November 5, 2017, followed by the Chicago premiere of WOMEN IN JEOPARDY, which previews in January 24-26, opens January 27 and runs through February 25, 2018. The charming and emotional MARY’S WEDDING previews March 28-30, opens March 31 and runs through April 29, 2018 and the World Premiere musical, based on the classic “The Taming of the Shrew”, SHREW’D, is the featured production for the Shakespeare Under the Stars summer series, previewing July 11-13, opens July 14 and runs through August 19, 2018.
 
A dangerously romantic werewolf tale based on real events, THE MAN-BEAST starts the season, directed by Hayley Rice. From the playwright who wrote The Gravedigger and Dr. Seward’s Dracula, comes the final installment of his classic horror trilogy, a werewolf tale straight out of history. In the 18th century French countryside, a mysterious wild-animal is ravaging the livestock and citizenry, leaving behind a trail of blood and death. When Louis XVI puts a bounty on the animal, the mystery and horror only deepen. No one has seen the perpetrator, but the citizens have seen the gory results of its savage attacks and suspect that it’s a Loup-Garou, the savage werewolf of French legend. THE MAN-BEAST is a must-see show crafted by Joseph Zettelmaier, who is described as having “a gift for creating easily digested but emotionally resonant portraits of essential truth,” by The Chicago Tribune and noted for how he “creates tantalizing stories,” by The Sun-Times News Group. THE MAN-BEAST previews October 4-6, opens October 7 and runs through November 5, 2017.
 
WOMEN IN JEOPARDY is the comedy that results when Thelma and Louise meets The First Wives Club. When your best friend is dating a serial killer, do you tell her if she seems happy? Divorcees Mary, Jo, and Liz are best friends, always looking out for each other. So when Mary and Jo begin to suspect that Liz’s new boyfriend is a serial killer, they begin an investigation to prove it to her and save her life. Things go from humorously tricky to hilariously complex when Liz’s daughter Amanda and her boyfriend Trenner get involved. WOMEN IN JEOPARDY is written by Wendy MacLeod, author of The House of Yes (Miramax Films starring Parker Posey), Schoolgirl Figure (World Premiere at The Goodman) and Things Being What They Are (Steppenwolf), and features Artistic Associates Lydia Berger Gray, Melanie Keller and Joe Foust, with Gail Rastorfer. Boston Stages calls WOMEN IN JEOPARDY “pitch-perfect… a comedy romp,” and according to The Boston Globe, “the laughs come fast and furious… modern, lively, and loads of fun!”The show will begin previews January 24-26, open January 27 and run through February 25, 2018.
 
MARY’S WEDDING is an epic, unforgettable story of love, hope, and survival. In honor of the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I, First Folio presents a tale of the price that must be paid when innocence and youth collide on the eve of war. Written by Stephen Massicotte, the production will be directed by Melanie Keller and feature Artistic Associate Heather Chrisler. When Mary and Charlie fall in love one summer’s day, little do they know that they are already in the center of a collapsing, brutal world. Together they attempt to hide their love, galloping through the fields for a place and time where the tumultuous uncertainties of battle can’t find them. Variety says the show "weaves a theatrical spell of hope, regret and memory.” MARY’S WEDDING will begin to preview March 28-30, open March 31 and run through April 29, 2018.

This summer, First Folio Theatre presents the musical SHREW’D: Shakespeare’s Bawdiest Comedy… with a Modern Twist, marking the theatre’s 22nd summer of presenting Shakespeare Under the Stars. Adapted by David Rice from one of Shakespeare’s hilarious “The Taming of the Shrew,” SHREW’D, directed by Johanna McKenzie Miller, turns Shakespeare’s comic battle of the sexes on its head. SHREW’D, set in 1930’s jazz-infused Chicago with lyrics by David Rice and music by Michael Keefe, offers a Kate who is Petruchio’s equal, and makes him happy to discover it. From the team that brought the 2013, double Jeff-Award winning hit musical Cymbeline: A Musical Folktale, SHREW’D will preview July 11-13, open July 14 and run through August 19, 2018.
 
All performances take place at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, located at 1717 W 31st St., off Rt. 83, in Oak Brook. First Folio is easy to get to from via the East-West Tollway (I-88) or the Stevenson Expressway (I-55). Free parking is available on the grounds. Preview tickets are $25. Regular priced tickets are $34 Wednesdays and Thursdays (seniors and students are $29), and $44 on Fridays through Sundays (seniors and students are $39). Three and four show subscriptions are available for $63-$115. During the summer show, a special pricing of $10 will also be offered for children age 14 and under who are accompanied by a parent. Season subscriptions and individual tickets go on sale on June 1, 2017 and may be purchased by calling the box office at 630.986.8067 or online at www.firstfolio.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

American Blues Theater, Chicago’s second oldest Equity Ensemble, under the continued leadership of Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, announces the 2017 Blue Ink Playwriting Festival.  The Blue Ink Festival will feature staged readings of four exceptional new plays held May 22 – 25, 2017 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont or American Blues Theater, 4809 N. Ravenswood, in Chicago.
 
This year’s Blue Ink Playwriting Festival features staged readings of four new works, including Hype Man by Idris Goodwin, winner of the 2017 National Blue Ink Playwriting Award. The festival also includes readings of featured finalists Flying by Sheila Cowley, Mynx & Savage by Rebecca Gorman O’Neill, and This Thing of Ours by Caridad Svich.
 
The 2017 Blue Ink Playwriting Festival schedule and ticket information is as follows:
 
Monday, May 22 at 7pm
HYPE MAN (winner of the 2017 Blue Ink Award)
Written by Idris Goodwin
Directed by Jess McLeod
Featuring Walter Briggs, Rashaad Hall, and Kimberly Vaughn
Location: Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont, Chicago
Tickets: $10
Purchase tickets by calling (773) 654-3103 or online at americanbluestheater.com.
 
HYPE MAN is a story about a controversial police shooting inflaming tensions between an interracial hip hop trio. It is a rhythmically woven drama exploring race, representation, fame and friendship.  A post-reading discussion with playwright Idris Goodwin will follow the performance.
 
American Blues previously named Idris Goodwin the winner of the 2017 National Blue Ink Playwriting Award. Goodwin’s play, HYPE MAN, was selected from a pool 543 submissions. As part of the award, Goodwin receives a $1,000 cash prize and the opportunity to further develop his script with American Blues Theater.
 
Tuesday, May 23 at 7pm
FLYING (featured finalist)
Written by Sheila Cowley
Directed by Heather Meyers
Featuring Ian Paul Custer, Jazmin Corona, Lisa Herceg, John Mohrlein, and Patricia Patton
Location: American Blues Theater, 4809 N. Ravenswood, Chicago
Tickets: FREE (Limited Seating, RSVP Recommended)
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (773) 654-3103.
 
Susan flew military planes in WWII, so men could go and fight. Now she’s been sent home to get back to normal, while the town waits for her local hero husband to come home.
 
Wednesday, May 24 at 7pm
MYNX & SAVAGE (featured finalist)
Written by Rebecca Gorman O’Neill
Directed by Elyse Dolan
Featuring Clara Byczkowski, Jennifer Cheung, Jesse Massaro, and Nelson Rodriguez
Location: American Blues Theater, 4809 N. Ravenswood, Chicago
Tickets: FREE (Limited Seating, RSVP Recommended)
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (773) 654-3103.
 
MYNX & SAVAGE is a tri-level story of a comic book writer, the characters of his superhero story, and the creatures of his “serious” work. When corporate powers start pushing him to produce, he is torn between the comfort of fantasy and the necessary truth.
 
Thursday, May 25 at 7pm
THIS THING OF OURS (featured finalist)
Written by Caridad Svich
Directed by Isaac Gomez
Featuring Debbie Banos, Andrew Goetten, Rashaad Hall, Priya Mohanty, and Avi Roque
Location: American Blues Theater, 4809 N. Ravenswood, Chicago
Tickets: FREE (Limited Seating, RSVP Recommended)
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (773) 654-3103.
 
An act of violence struck our city. This has happened before. We say we will put our lives back together. Years will go by. We will grow apart, come together, have children, and some of us, will wonder how to keep going, as we turn to myths and seek lessons there. In our theaters of memory, in our songs of transcendence, perhaps we will find peace.
 
About American Blues Theater
Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious 2016 National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.
 
The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 37-member Ensemble has 530+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2016, the theater and artists received 186 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 31 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.  
 
The American Blues Theater Ensemble includes all four Founders Ed Blatchford, Rick Cleveland, James Leaming, and William Payne with Dawn Bach, Matthew Brumlow, Manny Buckley, Kate Buddeke, Sarah Burnham, Dara Cameron, Casey Campbell, Darren Canady, Brian Claggett, Dennis Cockrum, Austin Cook, Laura Coover, Ian Paul Custer, Lauri Dahl, Joe Foust, Cheryl Graeff, Marty Higginbotham, Jaclyn Holsey, Lindsay Jones, Nambi E. Kelley, Kevin R. Kelly, Steve Key, Ed Kross, Warren Levon, Michael Mahler, Heather Meyers, John Mohrlein, Christopher J. Neville, Suzanne Petri, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, Sarah E. Ross, and Gwendolyn Whiteside.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Objects in the Mirror, an outstanding play having its premier at Goodman Theatre, will soon have you wanting to know more about its author, Charles Smith, a Chicago playwright.  

Starring Daniel Kyri as Shedrick Yarkpai, this play springs from the true story of the real life Yarkpai, a refugee who fled Liberia in the aftermath of its first Civil War, struggling for 12 years across hostile terrain and through refugee camps in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

Excellent performances and a creative set and lighting make this a show not to miss, especially for the wonderful writing of Charles Smith. Breon Arzell plays cousin Zaza Workolo; Ryan Kitley is Rob Mosher; and Lily Mojekwu as Shedrick’s mother Luopu Workolo is just spectacular – she steals all her scenes.

The real life Shedrick Yarkpai eventually made his way to Adelaide, Australia, and as fate would have it became an actor. And so, playwright Smith met him and heard his tale while staging another of his plays there - Free Man of Color (it won a 2004 Jeff Award and has been staged widely, including the Goodman).

Shedrick Yarkpai’s passage through the wilderness alone would be a worthy story, bringing our attention to the privation in Liberia wrought by years of civil chaos. But this play would not succeed as it does, unless it can hold our attention and keep us in our seats. 

And here Smith’s skillful craft shines through, along with director Chuck Smith and the creative team, who have turned the years-long odyssey of the protagonists, Shedrick and his uncle John Workolo (Allen Gilmore is terrific) – they ate grass, lived in the bush, both life and limbs, literally, endangered by violent, machete wielding warriors – and condensed it into an engaging trek, showing geography, educating us on the history, but all in an entertaining way, unlikely as this may seem.

Objects in the Mirror is so much more than a topical recount of Liberian suffering and struggle. Smith also puts before us the psychological and emotional toll on all refugees who must give up so much of their culture, and themselves, in resettling. Among the things so striking about Smith’s play is how he holds our interest in Shedrick’s odyssey. But he subordinates it to a more charged dramatic concern: the personal compromises refugees must make in escaping, and losses that can never be reclaimed.

In a way that only theater can, we engage and experience the personal emotional stress. And while we know of the trauma, what Smith conveys is the suffering from loss of identity, and of dreams. Shedrick has adopted a false identity to make it through border crossings – but he regrets the loss of his name.

Shedrick is a dreamer. He is also a storyteller, as is Smith, and the characters he has created. "Through storytelling, the play ascends to a powerful examination of truth and falsity, and the powers of persuasion. All good stories tell a strand of the truth," says Uncle John.

Once in Adelaide, Yarkpai finds work with a supportive Australian government agent – but Shedrick’s uncle John is fearful it will blow their cover. The debate through several scenes in which different characters tell their version of the parts of Shedrick's story is the stuff of great theater. 

The creative team includes Riccardo Hernandez (set design), Mike Tutaj (projection design), John Culbert (lighting design), Birgit Rattenborg Wise (costume design), Ray Nardelli (sound design). Briana J. Fahey is the production stage manager.

Objects in the Mirror runs through June 4 at the Goodman Theatre. It is highly recommended.

Published in Theatre in Review
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