In Concert

Before I set foot in the Goodman’s Owen Theatre to see the Chicago premier of Sarah DeLappe’s acclaimed play The Wolves, I tried not to read or hear or learn too much about it. I knew it had been a finalist for a Pulitzer, and won other awards. I knew it was about a girls’ high school soccer team. And that was about it.

The first tidbit informed my own expectations – this ought to be good, I figured. And the second informed who I’d bring along – my own 14-year-old soccer-playing daughter. I was excited that the subject matter might excite her, sure, but was more intent on using her as a litmus test for not just the play’s quality, but its authenticity. And boy, did we both find that it delivered on both counts.

While the play’s 20-something playwright and cast might seem like whippersnappers to an old dude like me, their ilk are positively elderly to a teen. After the play, my daughter admitted she’d been worried that the presentation would be the usual – what old people think young life is like these days. But The Wolves portrayed young life – the young life of today, of yesterday, of time eternal – in a way both dad and daughter found realistic. That is, the play portrayed life realistically.

Sarah DeLappe’s script sets up this portrayal like a champ. After the play, I read that DeLappe was influenced by old war movies – the kind where a gang of guys gain personal revelations in the face of greater situations – and I can see that. I also sensed the influence of 12 Angry Men or Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs – art that finds greater truths by plopping a disparate troupe of characters into a script. But instead of machine guns and military rations, instead of a jury room or a bank heist, the troupe on the Goodman’s stage was armed with shin guards and phones and backpacks and headbands. But the idea was the same – flesh out a story by fleshing out the people telling it. DeLappe tells her story through her girls’ banter as they stretch and warmup before a series of soccer games. Her gift for said banter is something else – making it sound like how not just girls talk, but how people talk, as the characters flit from discussions of world events to feminine products, from hopes and dreams for the future to the sex and sexuality that seems so pressing in their present. Talk goes from Pol Pot to periods, from weirdoes who live in “yogurts” to punk rock chicks who lick coffeehouse microphones. The stuff real people talk about. And how real people talk about that stuff.

And, more than any play I can remember, director Vanessa Stalling’s production of a team shows it takes a team to pull it off. First off, the cast is great. Those grown-up ladies onstage could totally, like, pass as a gaggle of teen girls. And that’s not to belittle them or the material they’re working with. Most likely because I’m a nerd, myself, I connected with Sarah Price’s neurotic know-it-all, #11 (yes, the characters are only identified by jersey number, further enforcing the team concept, and further highlighting how both script and cast breathe life into these nameless roles). As the team captain, #25, Isa Arciniegas is – to continue the earlier war motif – Pattonesque in a Napoleanic package. Cydney Moody’s #8 is the moody one. Angela Alise’s #00 is the lonely goalkeeper. Erin O’Shea is the red-headed, homeschooled, yogurt-livin’ outsider (think Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, except with mad ball-handling skills). And the heart and soul of the team are Natalie Joyce and Aurora Real de Asua. Joyce’s #7 has the mouth of a sailor but the problems and insecurities of a girl, while #14 is the ego to 7’s adolescent id. The teammates kick around conversations as feverishly and randomly as they do their soccer balls, again making it sound not just like how high school girls talk, but how people interact.

The teamwork on display does not stop with the script and its interpreters, however. Collette Pollard’s set gave this soccer dad, who’s spent too much time hanging out at fields both outdoors and under domes, flashbacks. Lighting by Keith Parham is spot on, as are the musical choices by sound designer Mikhail Fiksel, both providing energy and intensity that match the actors’.

And so, this whole team comes together to not just tell a story of young girls, but of people. What starts as dissonant and diverse digressions between types and tropes turns into a realistic back-and-forth you’d hear not just on the field or in the mall or in a classroom, but at work, on the train, in the checkout line, on the street. Given great material to work with, the cast and crew of the Goodman Theatre’s production of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves give us something that’s funny, sad, uncomfortable, cute, ugly, and beautiful – that is, art that pulls off the rare feat of feeling like real life. And, like, my teen daughter seconds that!

Published in Theatre in Review

Gone are the days of traditional theatre when actors and audience members were politely separated by at least an imaginary buffer zone. Enter Southern Gothic, written by Leslie Liautaud, created by Carl Menninger and Amy Rubenstein, and directed by David H. Bell, with its concept of “immersive theatre” where the audience members (only 25 are allowed per each show) are given an opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” at a birthday cocktail party in Ashland, Georgia in the summer of 1961.

There’s really no stage, the entire set is a replica of a southern mid-century house; it is meticulously designed by Scott Davis and complete with the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom and a back porch. Every fabulously authentic detail of the house, including the furniture, dishes, the actors’ costumes, as well as the food and drinks, are spot on. And if going back in time sounds exciting, then being able to snoop around the house, open the kitchen cupboards and the fridge, and eavesdrop on intimate conversations is a dream come true!

And speaking of dream come true: just because the audience is “invisible”, doesn’t mean that they can’t sample that delightful mid-century American cocktail party fare: the spam-topped crackers, bright red jello dessert and the retro cocktails occasionally being passed around. All that is sure to put one in the mood for the unfolding drama; and there’s plenty of drama.

Four couples get together at Ellie and Beau Coutier’s house to celebrate Suzanne Wellington’s 40th birthday. Alcohol flows freely and guests are mostly enjoying themselves, when the good times turn sour once drunken guests start spilling their dirty secrets.
The hostess (beautifully played by Sarah Grant) is having an affair with one of the guests, Charles Lyon, a charming politician (Brian McCaskill), whose wife Lauren, a very wealthy woman with her own secret [or two] is pre-occupied with her problems. The birthday girl (a superbly colorful and lively Brianna Borger), whose reputation for being obnoxious precedes her… well, she is just very hungry because the party caterer was being held up and she’s reduced to dining on saltine crackers. It’s a very intimate play, made more so by being so physically close to the actors. There’re several plots going on, and as events intensify, it is virtually impossible to follow through on every one of them, which makes the entire experience sort of customizable. But as the sounds of crickets are heard outside the windows, cool 60’s vibes palpable throughout – it’s a good feeling to jump back to the simpler times. Just be sure not to bump into actors as you try to take it all in.

Opened in 2015, Windy City Playhouse prides itself on providing non-traditional high quality theater experience starting with a welcoming full-service bar in a luxurious lounge. Theatergoers are encouraged to stay after the show and mingle with the actors.

Southern Gothic is being performed as an open-ended run at Windy City Playhouse. For more show information visit http://windycityplayhouse.com.

Published in Theatre in Review

If you are a passionate fan of the original "Phantom of the Opera" musical, its sequel "Love Never Dies" will surely peak your curiosity and is a 'must see'.

The continuation to one of the greatest love stories of our time takes place in 1907, ten years later after the Paris Opera House fire. The Phantom fled at that time, escaping tragedy, but not before releasing Christine and Raoul, so moved by his love for her. Christine now resurfaces after receiving an invitation to travel from Paris to make her singing debut in New York and the Phantom is determined to win back her love. After so many years have gone by, we finally see a life changing reunion between the Phantom, Christine and other ghosts from the past.

Magnificently directed by Simon Phillips, the stunning musical includes a new set and costume designs by Gabriela Tylesova, choreography by 2011 Astaire Awards winner Graeme Murphy, lighting design by Nick Schlieper and sound design by Mick Potter. Together they produce what can be described no less than an enchanting theatre experience that is as haunting as it is seductive.

A handful of characters return from the first musical, including the Phantom portrayed with fierceness by Cardar Thor Cortes who was born in Iceland and is making his debut in the United States in this performance. Cardar Thor Cortes comes directly off the heels of a successful run of Love Never Dies in Hamburg, Germany. Christine is beautifully acted by Chicago native Meghan Picerno. The music and lyrics created by Andrew-Lloyd-Webber and Glenn Slater seem personally written for these two amazing singers who held the audience in awe.  Other return characters were Raoul (Sean Thompson), Madame Giry (Karen Mason) and Meg Giry (Mary Patterson).

The musical number impress one after another and are in many ways as powerful than those in the original “Phantom”. "Once Upon Another Time" will touch your heart while offering meaning to the story line of this play. Meghan Picerno, (Christine) and Gardar Cortes mesmerize the audience singing beautifully together, their words enhanced by every powerful note. "Love Never Dies", without question reveals Meghan's emotionally charged and extremely talented voice.  

Applause, applause and more applause...

“I have the great joy of being able to say that I think this production is probably the finest one I could ever, ever hope for,” said Andrew Lloyd Webber just minutes after seeing the musical’s first run through.

One of the play’s nice surprises was 13-year-old Casey Lyons native of Lake Forest who was a joy to watch sing and perform. Casey is a natural and has a wonderful gift of song.  

The Coney Island atmosphere freed the stage up to every kind of performer singing and dancing together to present a mystical, delightful and creative wonderland. The fluid stage changes were excellently done and the orchestra gets an A-plus in every way.

Not to give the plot away, I can say the story line is unique, a little unexpected, and keeps you wondering until the very end. "Love Never Dies" is well worth attending.  

“Love Never Dies” has a running time of two hours and twenty-five minutes with one intermission and is being performed at Cadillac Palace Theatre through March 4th. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to announce its 2018 season, kicking off this spring with a revival of its 2013 hit L’IMITATION OF LIFE, a dead on parody of the 1959 film Imitation of Life about race, mothers and daughters – and looking fabulous! Adapted by Ricky Graham and Running with Scissors and directed by ensemble member Stevie Love, ensemble member Ed Jones and Robert Williams reprise their roles as Lana Turner and Annie Johnson.
 
This summer, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia return for THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 2. Following last year’s sold-out, seven-month run, Handbag’s parody of the beloved TV sitcom is back with all new adventures written by Artistic Director David Cerda and directed by Becca Holloway. THE GOLDEN GIRLS will feature Chazie Bly, David Cerda, Adrian Hadlock, Ed Jones, Michael S. Miller and Grant Drager.
 
This fall, Handbag’s 16th season continues with Charles Ludlam’s comedic throwback to the age of film noir: THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE, directed by Shade Murray. The cast includes ensemble members David Cerda, Sydney Genco, Ed Jones and David Lipschutz 
 
For Halloween, Handbag conjures up a special treat: THE GOLDEN GIRLS: Bea Afraid! Our heroines return for seven spooky performances guaranteed to scare you out of your housecoat. 
 
The season will conclude with a soon-to-be-announced holiday production! 
 
Handbag’s 2018 Season will be staged at Mary’s Attic (5400 N. Clark St., Chicago) and Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago). Season subscriptions and single tickets will be available shortly at www.handbagproductions.org.
 
Hell in a Handbag Productions’ 2018 Season includes:
 
March 31 – May 6, 2018
L’IMITATION OF LIFE
By Ricky Graham and Running with Scissors
Directed by Stevie Love
Featuring ensemble member Ed Jones (Lana Turner) with Robert Williams (Annie Johnson). Additional casting to be announced.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
In this hilarious parody of the1959 film Imitation of Life, Lana Turner is determined white widow and single mother with aspirations of becoming a Broadway sensation. When Lana meets Annie Johnson, a struggling single African-American mother, the two team up and take on the world as Lana does “whatever it takes” to make it in show business – while Annie takes care of the homestead and raises both daughters.
 
The two women face insurmountable challenges led by their daughters. There's the blonde, perky and “so white it's frightening" Suzie, daughter of Lana Turner, and the raven-haired rebellious light-skinned beauty, Sara Jane, daughter of Annie. Sara Jane learns the hard truth about acceptance and the color of your skin- especially when she tries to “pass” as white. 
 
June 19 – September 7, 2018
THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 2
By David Cerda
Directed by Becca Holloway
Featuring ensemble members Chazie Bly (Ensemble), David Cerda (Dorothy), Adrian Hadlock (Sophia), Ed Jones (Rose), Michael S. Miller (Ensemble) and Grant Drager (Blanche).
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago
 
When Handbag opened THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES in June 2017, it was supposed to be short summer treat for Handbag audiences but quickly turned into a sold-out, seven month run! Now, these lovely women from the classic TV sitcom return with new stories of friendship, love and cheesecake – all with the Handbag twist audiences have come to love!
 
September 20 – October 28, 2018
THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE
By Charles Ludlam
Directed by Shade Murray
Featuring ensemble members David Cerda (Mother Nurdiger), Sydney Genco (Roxanna), Ed Jones (Chester Nurdiger) and David Lipschutz (Zachary Slade). Additional casting to be announced.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE is Charles Ludlam’s last play and a perfect vehicle for Hell in a Handbag! Chester Nurdiger is a mild-mannered fellow who lives in the back of the pet shop he runs with his sultry wife Roxanna and his overly protective mother. Roxanna is bored to death, but when a handsome drifter walks into their lives, things get interesting… perhaps even deadly?! Part Double Indemnity, part The Postman Always Rings Twice, THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE is throwback to the classic age of film noir by the master and founder of the Ridiculous Theater movement. 
 
October 6, 2018 – November 3, 2018
The GOLDEN GIRLS: Bea Afraid – The Halloween Edition
By David Cerda
Directed by Becca Holloway
Featuring ensemble members Chazie Bly (Ensemble), David Cerda (Dorothy), Adrian Hadlock (Sophia), Ed Jones (Rose), Michael S. Miller (Ensemble) and Grant Drager (Blanche).
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
It’s not Halloween without a Handbag show, so Artistic Director David Cerda is conjuring up a special edition of its hit TV sitcom parody. Better get your tickets early – Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia are only back for seven wig-raising performances. Bea afraid, Bea very afraid!
 
About Hell in a Handbag Productions
 
Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Sideshow Theatre Company is pleased to launch its eleventh season with the Chicago premiere of Mia Chung’s absurdly inventive smash-hit YOU FOR ME FOR YOU, directed by ensemble member Elly Green*, playing March 4 – April 8, 2018 at Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Casting will be announced shortly. Tickets are currently available at www.victorygardens.org, by calling (773) 871-3000 or in person at the Victory Gardens Box Office. The press opening is Thursday, March 8 at 8 pm.
 
YOU FOR ME FOR YOU features Sideshow ensemble member Katy Carolina Collins* with Patrick Agada, Gordon Chow, Helen Joo Lee, John Lu and Jin Park.
 
Two North Korean sisters plan an elaborate escape from the “Best Nation in the World,” only to be separated at the border. Now in two strange and separate worlds filled with outrageous characters, they must navigate barriers of language and bureaucracy, reckon with the ways that culture and country can shape us, and discover that survival requires sacrifice. Playwright Mia Chung weaves myth and striking imagery into a deeply affecting and surprisingly funny adventure, portraying the endless lengths to which two sisters will go to find one another again.
 
Artistic Director Jonathan L. Green comments, “Mia's play is one we've been chasing for a few years. You for Me for You is fast-moving, funny and daring; in the hands of Sideshow's Elly Green, it's going to be a tour de force.”
 
The production team for YOU FOR ME FOR YOU includes: William Boles* (scenic design), Izumi Inaba (costume design), Cat Wilson (lighting design), Christopher M. LaPorte* (sound design), Jessica Mondres (properties design), Ben Chang (dramaturg), Chad Hain (technical director), Ellen Willett* (production manager) and Jean E. Compton (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: YOU FOR ME FOR YOU
Playwright: Mia Chung
Director: ensemble member Elly Green*
Cast (in alphabetical order): Patrick Agada (Man from the South), Gordon Chow (Doctor, Well, Rice Musician), Katy Carolina Collins* (Liz), Helen Joo Lee (Minhee), John Lu (Smuggler, Frog, Yongsup) and Jin Park (Junhee)
 
Location: Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Sunday, March 4 at 2:30 pm and Wednesday, March 7 at 8 pm
Press Performance: Thursday, March 8 at 8 pm
Regular run: Friday, March 9 – Sunday, April 8, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm
Tickets: Previews: Pay-what-you-can (online or at the door). Regular run: $20 – $30.  Students/seniors/industry: $15 for all performances (excluding opening). Tickets go on sale Monday, January 22, 2018 at www.victorygardens.org, by calling (773) 871-3000 or in person at the Victory Gardens Box Office.
 
*Denotes Sideshow Company Member.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The Gift Theatre is pleased to launch its 17th season with the world premiere of Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour’s haunting and often-humorous drama HANG MAN, directed by Jess McLeod, playing March 2 – April 29, 2018 at 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Single tickets and season subscriptions are currently available by calling the Gift’s box office at 773-283-7071 or visiting thegifttheatre.org. The press opening is Thursday, March 8 at 7:30 pm.

HANG MAN will feature ensemble members Paul D’Addario, Gregory Fenner and Martel Manning with Andy Fleischer, Jennifer Glasse, Mariah Sydnei Gordon andMariah Sydnei Gordon.
 
The community of a backwoods Southern town grapples with the murder of a black man who is found hanging in a tree. As events unfold, the hanging mystifies the people of the community, forcing them to confront their complicity in this man’s horrific demise. Osei-Kuffour’s darkly comical, heartbreaking play, which recently made the prestigious 2017 Kilroy’s List, uses absurdity to explore racism, sexuality and the parts of American history we would all like to forget.
 
Comments Artistic Director Michael Patrick Thornton, "The Gift is honored to produce the world premiere of HANG MAN. Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour's voice is singular, bold, incisive and humorous. The moment we finished her play, we were shook, terrified, and knew we had to embrace it. HANG MAN demands to be experienced right now; experiencing it in the intimacy of The Gift will simply be unforgettable." 
 
The production team for HANG MAN includes: Arnel Sancianco (scenic design), Alarie Hammock (costume design), Mike Durst (lighting design), Stephen Ptacek (sound design), John Nichols III (props design), Rachel Flesher (violence/intimacy design) and Cori James (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
Title: HANG MAN
Playwright: Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour
Directed by: Jess McLeod
Cast (in alphabetical order): Paul D’Addario (Archie), Gregory Fenner (Darnell), Andy Fleischer (Wipp), Jennifer Glasse (Sage), Mariah Sydnei Gordon (G), Martel Manning (Jahaad) and Angela Morris (Margarie).
 
Location: The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Friday, March 2 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 pm, Sunday, March 4 at 2:30 pm and Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm
Press openings: Thursday, March 8 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Friday, March 9 – Sunday, April 29, 2018
Curtain Times: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 3:30 pm & 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm. Please note: there will not be a 3:30 pm performance on Saturday, March 10.
Tickets: $30 – $40. Single and season subscriptions are currently available by calling the Gift’s box office at 773-283-7071 or visiting thegifttheatre.org

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Broken Nose Theatre is pleased to launch its 2018 Season with the world premiere of resident playwright Michael Allen Harris’ kitchen sink comedy KINGDOM, directed by Kanome Jones. The new play about an all-LGBTQ African American family in Orlando will play March 2 – 31, 2018 at BNT’s new resident home, The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Tickets for KINGDOM go on sale Monday, January 29, 2018 at brokennosetheatre.com. Tickets for all Broken Nose Theatre productions are available on a “pay-what-you-can” basis, allowing patrons to set their own price and ensuring theatre remains economically accessible for all audiences. The press opening is Monday, March 5 at 7:30 pm.
 
KINGDOM features BNT company member Johnard Washington* and artistic associates Watson Swift+ and RjW Mays+ with Byron Coolie and Christopher K. McMorris.
 
When the state of Florida legalizes same sex marriage, Arthur and Henry (his partner of fifty years) come to terms with their differing opinions on the necessity of becoming husbands, even as their son Alexander finds himself wading through some rough new waters of his own. KINGDOM is the story of an entirely-LGBTQ African American family that lives in the near-literal shadow of Orlando’s magical kingdom, as they struggle to create a life together that captures a little bit of that same magic.
 
“We’ve been in love with this script for two years, and could not think of a better way to kick off our sixth season than a homegrown world premiere by one of our resident playwrights,” says BNT Founding Artistic Director Benjamin Brownson*. “Michael’s voice is Tenessee Williams meets August Wilson with a dash of Dan Savage for good measure. He has written a new kind of family dramedy that is lyrical, queer, fresh, timely, resonant and hilarious. We can’t wait to share it with Chicago.”
 
KINGDOM was developed in conjunction with The Paper Trail, BNT’s new play development program.
 
The production team for KINGDOM includes: Caswell James (scenic design, technical director), Marci Rodriguez (costume design), Michael Joseph (lighting design), Grover Hollway (sound design) Devon Green+ (props design), Rylee Freeman (hair and make-up design), Chloe Baldwin (fight director), Elizabeth Gomez (master electrician), Rose Hamill* (production manager), and Echaka Agba* (assistant director).
 
* Denotes BNT company member
+ Denotes BNT artistic associate
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: KINGDOM
Playwright: resident playwright Michael Allen Harris
Director: Kanome Jones
Cast (in alphabetical order): Byron Coolie (Malik), RjW Mays+ (Phaedra), Christopher K. McMorris (Arthur), Watson Swift+ (Henry) and Johnard Washington* (Alexander).
 
Location: The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Friday, March 2 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 pm
Opening: Sunday, March 4 at 3 pm
Press Opening: Monday, March 5 at 7:30 pm
Regular Run: Thursday, March 8 – Saturday, March 31, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm
Industry Night: Monday, March 12 at 7:30 pm
Understudy Night: Wednesday, March 21 at 7:30 pm
Tickets: Pay-what-you-can. Tickets go on sale Monday, January 29, 2018 at brokennosetheatre.com

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The Greenhouse Theater Center is pleased to announce the line-up for its 2018 SOLO PERFORMANCE LAB, featuring four world premiere solo works presented in two free programs: February 17 and March 3, 2018 in the Greenhouse Theatre Center’s Downstairs Mainstage, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Each presentation is followed by a short talkback with the artists. Reservations (free) can be made in advance at www.greenhousetheater.org.  
 
Curated by GTC Literary Manager Nick Thornton and GTC Artistic Associate Kate Cuellar, the SOLO PERFORMANCE LAB underscores the Greenhouse’s institutional commitment to creating solo works by offering local artists the space and support to develop new solo performance. This year, artists were encouraged to submit 30-minute plays proposals that focused on an unexamined facet of a historical event or illuminated the life of a little-known historical figure. SOLO PERFORMANCE LAB participants will receive institutional resources including space, dramaturgical support and production resources to develop these four innovative new solo performances.
 
“We could not be more thrilled with the artists that have been selected this year’s Solo Performance Lab,” comments Greenhouse Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. “By putting the varied identities and perspectives of these ensembles into conversation we hope to celebrate and underscore the necessity of telling our singular stories to reveal broader truths about the human condition.”
 
Program 1: Saturday, February 17 at 2:30 pm:
 
THE STRANGE PALE APE WITH THE PONYTAIL
Written and performed by Aurora Real de Asua
Directed by Mara Stern
 
How was it that one untrained secretary was able to communicate with a species overlooked by an entire scientific community? Much has been said about the brilliance behind Jane Goodall's work, but this new play seeks to illuminate an often overlooked factor of this extraordinary woman: her outrageously courageous compassion. Using a mixture of clowning, puppetry and animal work, THE STRANGE PALE APE WITH THE PONYTAIL takes you through the jungle and back to unearth the heart behind one of the 20th century's most influential scientists.
 
GRANDMA SCIENCE
Written and performed by Aidaa Peerzada
Directed by Am’Ber Montgomery
 
GRANDMA SCIENCE explores the life of the first African American medical illustrator Nadia Willette Page through the eyes of her granddaughter. The piece reflects on the psychological and familial impact of rising above prejudice through poetry and interview testimony.
 
Program 2: Saturday, March 3 at 2:30 pm:
 
MISS MAJOR CUSHMAN
Written by Erin Austin
Directed by Egla Kishta
Performed by Sarah Schol
 
She’s a wife, mother, actress and a failed union spy. Tonight, Pauline Cushman takes to the stage and tells her story. But how much of it is true is anyone’s guess.
 
SQUEAKY!
Written by Nora Leahy
Directed by Gus Menary
Performed by Angela Horn
 
Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme is notorious for her involvement with the Manson Family and her assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford, but before all of that she was a child performer who toured the country, performed at the White House, and appeared on The Lawrence Welk Show. In SQUEAKY!, we join Lynnette in her jail cell as she performs a variety show of her very own. A solo performance that is equal parts heartbreak, terror and glitter. 
 
The SOLO PERFORMANCE LAB is part of the Greenhouse's playwright-focused, professional development programming, which also includes The Trellis Residency Initiative, a professional development program for Chicago-area playwrights under 30, and the MC-10 Playwrights Ensemble, a collection of ten of the country’s most sought-after established and mid-career Chicago playwrights and theater-makers now in residence at the Greenhouse.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Sunday, 04 February 2018 19:31

Marriott's "Ragtime" Well Worth the Wait

Marriott Theatre’s Ragtime might just be one of the best adaptations to make its way through the Greater Chicago Area - ever. E.L. Dotorow wrote the novel in 1975, which has stormed theatre stages since 1996, snagging thirteen Tony Awards in 1996.

With lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty and a book by Terrence McNally, the highly-acclaimed musical follows three very dissimilar families beginning in 1906 New York. One family is a white, advantaged and wealthy, one consists of an immigrant Jewish father and his young daughter while the other is a young African-American couple following the birth of their new child. Throughout the story, the families become intertwined with each other as the story paints a vivid picture of privilege versus the struggles of those less fortunate. Ragtime is a moving story of hard times, prejudices and the will to survive by those who have been dealt a much tougher hand in life and also the understanding – and lack of understanding – that is had by those more prosperous. It is also the ultimate story of determination.

Beautifully directed by Nick Bowling, the story includes several colorful characters that really make a strong impact such as Tateh, the Jewish immigrant from Latvia, played impeccably with much intensity by Benjamin Magnusun. Tateh, a portrait artist, is inspired to succeed in America after watching the great Harry Houdini (Alexander Aguilar), another immigrant, make his rise to fame. Marriott Theatre veteran and actor/singer extraordinaire Nathanial Stampley once again rises to the challenge this time as Colehouse Walker Jr. the show’s champion and pioneer of “ragtime” piano-driven music. Katherine Thomas compliments Stampley well as Walker’s fiancé, Sarah, her role as powerful as any in the story that holds such a political relevance in today’s current state.

Ragtime was a long time coming for Marriott and this staging is well-worth the wait. Bowling decides to change the play’s ending, a decision for audience members to take home and ponder.

Chicago favorites Larry Adams and James Earl Jones II this time find themselves leading a highly gifted ensemble, adding even more punch to this influential musical. Brilliant performances run rampant in this production with riveting work from Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as Booker T. Washington and Kirsten Hodgens, known only as “Sarah’s Friend” in the program. Hodgens has show-stopping vocals that are certainly highlighted in this production.

With a running time of two hours and forty minutes, the production’s high engagement level from beginning to end without lull is testament to its quality. For those who have seen the musical before, just seeing it from another perspective, that of its in-the-round staging, is entertaining in itself. With spot on costume and set design, moving musical numbers and tremendous acting and vocal efforts, Marriott’s Ragtime should be in line for a Jeff Award nomination.

Highly recommended - a perfect piece of musical theatre.

Ragtime is being performed at Marriott Theatre through March 18th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Buffalo Theatre Ensemble presented a two act play at the McIninch Art Center in Glen Ellyn titled Time Stands Still this past weekend and I was fortunate enough to see the opening night performance. The entire play is set in a Brooklyn loft apartment that really serves well in creating a New York feel. The cast is power packed though small as four actors take on the roles of two couples in this story that mostly centers around the pair living in the loft though the other couple is still strongly placed in the story line.

As the story is described, Sarah, a photo journalist, is recovering in the Brooklyn apartment she shares with her foreign correspondent boyfriend James after being injured by a roadside bomb while covering the Iraq war. When they receive a visit from their photo editor friend Richard and his young new girlfriend Mandy, it forces Sarah and James to re-examine their relationship, and address the ethics of journalism in a world torn by conflict and suffering.

Times Stand Still is powerful and comes with acting is of very high caliber, each actor as impressive as the next. I never actually felt like I was watching actors, which in itself is testament to the players’ convincing performances. This play provides four very believable characters, and all decidedly different. It is also thought-provoking a play that prompts some very interesting conversations going on during the intermission. Written by Donald Margulies with Connie Canaday Howard serving as the production and artistic director, Time Stands Still is well-produced in every way. College of DuPage alumni Chris Kriz handles the play’s original music as sound composer and designer while Michael W. Moon does a fantastic job with scenic design, and Claire Chrzan with lighting design.

The central character, if you could say there was one, was Sarah Goodwin, played by Lisa Dawn, who has done work with BTE before. I found her character the most controversial in many ways. Having said that, the audience may have disagreed. In talking to, and overhearing, audience members afterward it appeared many had differences of opinions, the play encouraging some good conversation – always the mark of a good script.

Amanda Raudabaugh, played by Mandy Bloom, is also a provocative character. She is the new wife of Richard Ehrlich, played by another BTE veteran, Kurt Naebig. Brad Lawrence played James Dodd, who was the other half of the couple with Goodwin.

I don’t think two people could walk away with the same description of what they took from this play. Personal and moral values are questioned by the characters in the cast, as well as the audience. There are also some light-hearted moments, though the subject matter was anything but light. The story really makes you think and really puts into question your own thinking. How would you handle yourself if you were put in the position of the central character?

If you are looking for something light and funny, check out another play. If you do enjoy pondering over real issues, get yourself a ticket. Actually, go see it for yourself. Not everyone is going to walk away with the same perspective of this engaging story. The talented Buffalo Theater Ensemble does yet another a great job with this one. Time Stands Still show will be at The MAC on the grounds of the College of DuPage until March 4th and comes highly recommend. It just might make you think.

For more info on this play visit http://www.atthemac.org/.

Published in Theatre in Review
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