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Friday, 19 January 2018 22:54

Review: Boy at Timeline Theatre

Long before Jeffrey Eugenide’s novel 2003 ‘Middlesex’ brought intersexuality to the mainstream lexicon, there was David Reimer. ‘BOY’ by Anna Zeigler is a new play inspired by the real life story of a boy raised as a girl after a botched circumcision. Reimer was known only as the “John/Joan” case throughout the medical community until 1997, when he decided to make his story public. He has since committed suicide.

‘BOY’ makes its area premiere at TimeLine Theatre Company under the direction of Damon Kiely. In their intimate space, this small cast tells Zeigler’s version of the John/Joan case. The structure of the play is one its strongest assets. We first meet Adam (Theo Germaine), a shy young man trying to flirt with a girl named Jenny (Emily Marso). Starting here establishes the present tense, or in this case, the early 90s. In alternating scenes, we then meet Adam’s parents Doug and Trudy (Stef Tovar and Mechelle Moe) in the mid-60s. They’re new parents desperate for a way to make normal the life of their infant son whose penis is mutilated in a medical accident. They’re introduced to Dr. Wendell Barnes (David Parkes), the founder of the first American institute on gender. The two stories gradually meet in the middle when Adam must confront his past in order to move into his future.

The brisk pace tells a complete story, if only a little brief. A story as unique as this probably garners more questions than answers. The ensemble works well together to demystify this case study. The courtship between Theo Germaine’s Adam and Emily Morso’s Jenny is endearing. Morso perfectly embodies the dialogue of a tough-girl with a warm side. Whereas Theo Germaine gives one of their best performances yet. Theo swings from child to grown up in the blink of an eye throughout the play and yet, it’s through those swings we can see that Adam never really grows up. Stef Tovar and Mechelle Moe as the stereotypical Iowan family dealing with this surreal reality are impeccable. Moe has the mannerisms down. While Tovar’s character is pretty quiet throughout the play, his final moments on stage with Adam are some of the play’s most touching.

‘BOY’ will surprise many. As the National Geographic pointed out last year, we’re in the midst of a gender revolution. What is the most surprising is how accessible this play is. Unlike Taylor Mac’s comic masterpiece ‘HIR’ – there’s no tone of condescension here. The play is simply a well-structured, fictionalized account of the John/Joan case. It’s as juicy as an episode of the Phil Donahue show but there’s also a lot of heart here, and it begs the bigger question, what would you do? Zeigler’s version of the real life Dr. Money (who wrote about David Reimer extensively) – Wendell Barnes, is written in a way that will make some debate whether or not he genuinely cared for his patient or proving his extreme gender theory. Though, it’s through this (unfortunately) failed experiment that we know so much more about sexual science today.

Through March 18 at TimeLine Theatre Company. 615 W Wellington Ave. 773-281-8463

Published in Theatre in Review

Route 66 Theatre Company is pleased to conclude its ninth season with the Chicago premiere of Halley Feiffer’s dark comedy A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGY UNIT AT SLOAN-KETTERING MEMORIAL CANCER CENTER OF NEW YORK CITY, directed by Keira Fromm, playing August 24 – September 23, 2017 at The Den Theatre’s new Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at route66theatre.org. The press opening is Tuesday, August 29 at 7:30 pm.

A FUNNY THING… features Judy Lea Steele, Meg Thalken, Stef Tovar and Mary Williamson.
 
A foul-mouthed twenty-something comedienne and a middle-aged man embroiled in a nasty divorce are brought together unexpectedly when their cancer-stricken mothers become roommates in the hospital. Together, this unlikely duo must negotiate some of life’s biggest challenges... while making some of the world’s most inappropriate jokes. Can these two very lost people learn to laugh through their pain and lean on each other when all they really want to do is run away?
 
Director Keira Fromm comments, "A Funny Thing… is a play about the ways we use humor as both a balm and a barrier to protect us from the litany of life's discomforts. I'm drawn to plays about the ways in which we cope with life. When those plays involve surviving spiky family relationships, I'm all in. Halley Feiffer is no-holds-barred when it comes to showing extremely flawed individuals at their messiest. She's also completely fearless when it comes to exposing the raw spots that result from the friction of our most fragile family relationships. This play is unbelievably funny one moment and moving in the most throat-grabbing of ways the next. I can't wait to dig in."
 
Artistic Director Stef Tovar adds, “This play was a hit in New York last summer at MCC and the Geffen Playhouse in LA is producing it right after we open with Halley Feiffer playing the role of Karla... so for a theater company our size to secure the Chicago premiere is huge for us. We're so grateful to Halley for trusting us with her incredible script and this dynamite group of ladies are going to kill it. I can't wait to get started."
 
The production team team for FUNNY THING… includes: Courtney O’Neill (scenic design), Mieka Van der Ploeg (costume design), Claire Margaret Chrzan (lighting design), Christopher Kriz (sound design), Amanda Hermann (properties design), Sasha Smith (intimacy choreographer), Catherine Allen (production manager), Helen Lattyak (stage manager) and Matthew Bonaccorso (asst. stage manager)
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
Title: A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGY UNIT AT SLOAN-KETTERING MEMORIAL CANCER CENTER OF NEW YORK CITY
Playwright: Halley Feiffer
Director: Keira Fromm
Cast: Judy Lea Steele (Geena), Meg Thalken (Marcie), Stef Tovar (Don) and Mary Williamson (Karla).
 
Location: The Den Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Thursday, August 24 at 7:30 pm, Friday, August 25 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, August 26 at 3 pm & 7:30 pm and Sunday, August 26 at 3 pm
Regular run: Thursday, August 31 – Saturday, September 23, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm & 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm
Tickets: Previews: $25 adults. Regular run: $35 adults; $20 students. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more. Tickets are currently available at route66theatre.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Route 66 Theatre Company is pleased to announce the line-up for its 6th annual Mile Markers Benefit Concert: REVOLUTION: SONGS OF PROTEST AND EMPOWERMENT on Friday, March 10, 2017 at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave. in Chicago. Tickets for MILE MARKERS are currently available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2879219.

 

Featuring performances and music direction by acclaimed composer/lyricist Michael Mahler and directed by Tammy Mader, this year’s concert will also feature Missy Aguilar, Audrey Billings, Brianna Borger, Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, Dara Cameron, Vasily Deris, Devin DeSantis, Dina DiCostanzo, Don Forston, Lara Filip, Sophie Grimm, Heidi Kettenring, Diana Lawrence, Adam Michaels, Andrew Mueller, Matthew Mueller, Malcolm Ruhl, Stephen Schellhardt, Bethany Thomas, Stef Tovar, Keely Vasquez and Byron Willis. The all-star band includes Jim Barclay, Liam Davis, Bob Gilmartin and Scott Stephenson.

 

Door open at 7 pm for a cash bar, light bites, silent auction and raffle followed by a night filled with music from the '60s through today. Mile Markers is the cornerstone of Route 66 Theatre Company’s fundraising efforts and directly supports the 2017 season.

 

EVENT DETAILS:

 

Title: REVOLUTION: SONGS OF PROTEST AND EMPOWERMENT

Music Director: Michael Mahler

Director: Tammy Mader

Date/Time: Friday, March 10 at 8 pm. Doors open at 7 pm for cash bar, light bites, silent auction and raffle.

Location: Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave, Chicago

Tickets: General Admission: $45 (Balcony or Main Floor SIDE seating includes ONE standard drink ticket). Reserved Seating: $60 (Main Floor CENTER seating includes ONE standard drink ticket) Premium VIP Booth Seats $400 (includes 4 seats and 8 standard drink tickets and valet parking).Tickets are currently available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2879219.

 

Biographies:

 

Michael Mahler (Concept and Music Direction) is the Jeff Award-winning composer/lyricist of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, October Sky, The Man who Murdered Sherlock Holmes, Hero, Wonderland: Alice's Rock & Roll Adventure, Something in the Game, and others. He contributed additional lyrics to the new Broadway production of Miss Saigon and created the original English libretto for Boublil and Schönberg's La Revolution Francaise. Michael is a Jeff-Nominated actor most recently seen as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors at American Blues, and he plays guitar in his band The Lincoln Squares. www.michaelmahler.com

 

Tammy Mader (Director) occasionally puts her musical theatre foot into the waters of rock & roll, mostly directing Route 66 Mile Marker concerts, which include Joshua Tree, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Jagged Little Pill (+redux), The Nightmare Before Christmas and Purple Rain. Other rock & roll endeavors: directed and choreographed Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at Drury Lane Theatres in Oakbrook and Water Tower Place; directed and choreographed the musical Hairspray; belted out some ‘60s girl group ditties in Shout!; roller-skated in spandex & leather while singing Olivia Newton John hits in Xanadu; collected enough tip money during Pump Boys And Dinettes to buy beer for the company for the entire run; played Ernie the Keebler Elf in a rock-opera called Leo On Ice for the annual Leo Burnett Breakfast at the Chicago Theatre; played a ukulele in a band called Ethyl & The Mermen. 

 

Route 66 Theatre Company

 

Route 66 Theatre Company introduces, develops, produces, and exports new work for the stage. The road begins with our new play development process and reaches west, where our World and Chicago Premiere shows are given an advocate for further regional productions along the road less traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles. Since the company’s founding, Route 66 has produced 10 productions, 2 in two cities including an Off-Broadway premiere, been nominated for ten Jeff Awards and won two. Route 66 is now a resident company of The Den Theatre. www.route66theatre.org

 

Route 66 is Stef Tovar, Founder and Artistic Director; Rachel Wendte, Managing Director; Deborah Blumenthal, Director of New Play Development; Alana Parvey-Zalas, Business Manager; Matthew Bonaccorso, Company Manager and Kelly Parker, Casting Director

 

Route 66 Theatre Company Artistic Associates: Brian Sidney-Bembridge, Audrey Billings, Johnny Clark, Brandon Dahlquist, Raymond Fox, Damon Kiely, Ron Klier, Jenni Lamb, Tyler Meredith, John Mohrlein, Kelly Parker, Geoff Rice, Emily Rohm, Tricia Small, Jeremy Sonkin, Alex Stage, Nancy Staiger, Erica Stephan, Bethany Thomas, Rita Vreeland, Steven Wilson, Rachel Wendte and Emily Woods.

 

Route 66 Theatre Company Board of Directors: Jennifer Baumann, President; Deborah Haimes, Vice-President of Communications; Nicholas Stone, Treasurer; Molly Crabtree, Secretary; Elizabeth Derrico, David and Monica Byrd, Lee Dickson, James Frenzel, Laurie Hamilton, Tammy Rosenszweig, Pat Turnbull and Robert Veasey.

 

Route 66 Theatre Company’s 9th Season is presented by generous grants from MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency and DCASE CityArts. 

 

Published in Buzz Extra
Wednesday, 28 September 2016 15:54

It’s Partridge Vs. Brady in "The Bardy Bunch"

Who's doesn’t remember The Brady Bunch? Mike Brady who has three sons, marries Carol, who has three daughters, they bring in a live in housekeeper, Alice, and they quickly become one of America’s most beloved families of the 1970’s. We basically watch the kids grow up, getting into all kinds of hijinks along the way, before they finally do what makes the most sense - form a family band. Sure, they're creating a musical unit may have not come from an organic source, rather coming with the task to make a few bucks to replace the silver platter than Jan messed up. Still, the Gang was groovy enough to not only win first prize in the talent contest with their song and dance routine, but their brief musical career gave them a new identity to the show’s viewers that stuck. Oldest brother Greg even attempts a solo career in music as Johnny Bravo after being “recruited” by a record company, only to find out that he wasn’t very good and was only selected because the “jacket fit”, literally. 

 

Enter The Partridge Family, who debuted in homes shortly after The Brady Bunch. A widowed mother along with her five children tour both locally and nationally as a jammin’ rock band - and, yes, they all “play” their own instruments unlike the Brady’s. Leaving us a song per episode, The Partridge Family revolves around sappy love songs whereas the Brady’s dive into the music world is originated most certainly out of necessity and lasts but a couple random episodes. 

 

There is little doubt, The Partridge Family wins the cool prize of the two families. Led by mom on keyboards, Shirley Partridge is an attractive musician who like to wear her shorts high while son Keith is a teenage heartthrob and daughter Laurie is dreamt about by teenage boys all across America. Then there was Danny, a mischievous redhead who badly faked his way up and down the neck of a bass. The family could be found playing music to raise attention to just causes or simply getting their groove on rehearing in the garage.

 

So here’s the question - Brady’s or Partridges? You know it’s come up at one time or another.

 

In “The Bardy Bunch” we get a riotous clash of the two families who step outside of our TV sets to settle this dispute once and for all on the stage. Written by Stephen Garvey, we get a glimpse of the two families as the show begins, just before the Brady kids jump into a lively version of “Keep On” complete with the same cheesy dance moves performed on the TV show. Immediately we get a sense that Olivia Rentaria as Marcia Brady and Sawyer Smith as Greg are going to be entertaining as hell to watch. 

 

Though the story proves to be on the herky-jerky side where ghosts and murders are featured in rapid succession, it doesn’t really detract from the fact that audience members are in for an hour and forty-five minutes of campy fun, similar to The Brady Bunch movies that spoofed the family in the 1990’s. The fun to this show lies in the brilliant character lampooning done by this ultra-talented cast. This, in itself, makes the show a success. However, Garvey doesn’t want to live on camp alone, adding a plethora of Shakespeare references throughout the play, including the forbidden love of Keith, a Partridge, and Marsha, a hated Brady ala Romeo and Juliet. Of course, unlike the young Capulet and Montague, they are first obsessed with each other’s hair. 

 

While Skyler Adams as a hokey, exaggerated Keith Partridge draws continuous laughs throughout the play as the largest player involved, he is joined by a stellar ensemble, each one taking advantage of their ample opportunities. Erin McGrath is well cast as Laurie Partridge, perfectly capturing the blasé nature of the former teen model, while Carol and Mike Brady are wonderfully played by seasoned veterans Cory Goodrich and Stef Tovar, two true talents. Brianna Borger takes on the other head of the household as Shirley Partridge and does a bang up job, bobbing head and all.

 

The play revisits many humorous episode scenarios from both shows and plants a dismissiveness for Jan Brady as the middle child who never seems to get any attention while also portraying Danny Partridge as the calculating business man in a thirteen-year-old body. “The Bardy Bunch” also dishes out a boatload of seventies lingo from calling someone a “real crumb” to Greg calling Laurie a “real groovy chick”. This play is undoubtedly a feast of nostalgia down to its groovy threads. 

 

And with the humor comes the music, which if unfamiliar, is really good! Partridge hits dominate the show (obviously) with a nice selection including “I Woke Up in Love”, “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat”, “I Think I Love You” and the feel good, stand up singalong finale number, “Together We’re Better”.

 

“The Bardy Bunch” is jam-packed with laughs and fun memories for those who grew up watching the two families in action. With so much ugliness going on in the world today, we are given a wonderful escape to kick back and enjoy ourselves if just for an evening.

 

“The Bardy Bunch”, winner of the Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Ensemble at the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival, is currently being performed at Mercury Theater through November, and hopefully longer. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.MercuryTheater.com or www.TheBardyBunch.com.   

 

Super-duper recommended!

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

The dialogue flows so smoothly one might forget they are sitting in a play. Veteran Chicago area actor Stef Tovar, who also founded the Route 66 Theatre Company in 2008, leads the charge in this play full of emotional interchanges combined with sharp humor. 

Route 66’s No Wake, currently running at The Greenhouse Theater Center in Lincoln Park, tells the story of a divorced couple Edward (Tovar) and Rebecca (Lia D. Mortensen) who are brought back together due to the suicide of their daughter, Sookie. Rebecca is now remarried to Roger (Raymond Fox) while Edward is kind of drifting along through life. As Edward and Rebecca spend more time together wondering what happened to their daughter and how they really lost her long before she killed herself, the situation becomes much more complex as past feelings come in to play and an attempt to mend the past is made. 

Directed by Kimberly Senior, No Wake explores the grieving process, which is understandably different for everyone. Countless questions on what could have been differently can be asked and scenarios traveled. In this case, taking on blame for negating their child the ability to develop coping skills weighs heavily on Edward just by simply buckling and giving Sookie toast with butter when she demanded before falling asleep rather than saying “No”. Giving your daughter toast at her command might sound trivial, but writer William Donnelly does a great job of finding these possible seeds of later behavior into a world where grieving parents desperately seek cause for such a tragedy, making the story quite realistic. Though the subject matter falls on the macabre side, the show is not without well-timed humor and even sports a very funny scene when Roger confronts Edward, suspecting that he and Rebecca did more than just reminisce about their daughter the night before. 

Thanks to a very finely acted and well-written story, it is easy to get lost in the dialogue and empathize with each of the three characters. The set, though simple, creates the prefect surrounding for these skilled actors to have at it. Tovar gets stronger and stronger as the show progresses, reminding theatre goers why it is always a joy to watch him in action. At the same time, Mortensen and Fox dish out lines with precision, zip and realism, completing a trio who flow together without a hitch in perfect unison.

The fact that we are presented with three such truly well-acted performances is reason alone to catch No Wake before its runs ends, but when you add its intriguing story and engaging topic matter this show is propelled onto the list of must see plays. 

No Wake is being performed at The Greenhouse Theater Center through February 7th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.Route66Theatre.org.          

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Fantastic stories filled with mermaids, giants, tornadoes and witches are told and Edward Bloom always comes out as the hero. These are the enchanted tales Edward has been telling his son, Will, since he was a child. Each story is more larger than life than the other and each act more heroic than the last. The only problem is that these stories have caused Will much embarrassment throughout life as they are told to anyone who will listen because Edward really seems to believe them as outlandish as they are. Years have gone by in a small Alabama town while Edward and Will have grown far apart. As traveling salesman Edward spends much of his time on the road, distancing himself from his son.

But as Edward’s life nears its end when his cancer advances, Will is determined to find out the truth about his father’s stories, and wanting to understand him better he carries out his own investigation and comes across a few surprises. Meanwhile, Will and his wife are planning for their first child.

“Big Fish”, currently playing at Theatre at the Center, is based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions” that was later turned into the popular 2003 Tim Burton film “Big Fish” starring Ewan McGreggor, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange and Billy Cruddup. The main difference here is the Broadway version being a musical –and it works…well.

From the first number “Be the Hero”, an enthusiastic piece on slaying dragons, defeating giants and, well, being a hero, we get a healthy taste of Edward’s zest for storytelling. Edward is brilliantly played by Stef Tovar, and, though quite a bit younger in appearance than the sixty-year-old-ish father we expect to see from the story, Tovar couldn’t be more perfect for the role. Tovar’s ability to transform from that of an excited, awestruck boy as he goes from story to story to a loving husband, or a father who desperately wants to be close to his son, is quite fun to watch. Tovar, a whirlwind of energy, makes Edward’s character believable seemingly effortlessly and we are easily able to identify with him. At the same time Colette Todd, who plays Edward’s loving wife, Sandra, also puts on a tremendous performance as his perfect support system. Todd is charming as can be as she dances as sings her way to our hearts. Tovar and Todd are well cast and together are a tour de force to be reckoned with.

“It’s a good show. It’s got a lot of heart. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry”, says director William Pullinsi.

Pullinsi couldn’t be more correct. There are plenty of funny moments but also a great sadness as we see people who love each other so greatly have so much difficulty connecting.   

The song and dance numbers and uniquely choreographed and sang to perfection. Nathan Gardner, who plays Will, is among the talented singers in this amazing cast and really lets it go in “Stranger”, an emotional number where he describes the distance that has become between him and his father.  

Besides its enriched song and dance numbers, captivating story and strong acting performances, theatre-goers are treated to a colorful set and a display of dazzling costumes. Some of the scenic displays are simply breathtaking - one in particular invoking "oohs" and 'aaahs" from the audience.

Says Todd on the massive set and costumes, “There was one day when an actual semi-truck arrived to the theatre and all of these remarkable costumes were unloaded and unpacked.”

“Big Fish” is a beautiful story about father and son relationships that should not be missed. It is a heartwarming story filled with hope and living life as large as you can. “Big Fish” is being performed just thirty-five or so minutes from downtown Chicago at Theatre at the Center (1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN) through June 7th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.theatreatthecenter.com.  

Published in Theatre Reviews

Akvavit Theatre Presents the U.S. Premiere of Bad Girls: The Stylists

22 February 2018 in Upcoming Shows

Akvavit Theatre will present the U.S. premiere of the madcap Danish comedy Bad Girls: The Stylists by Danish playwright Astrid…

Teamwork and Tampons and Yogurt, Oh @#%! – "The Wolves" at Goodman Theatre

22 February 2018 in Theatre in Review

Before I set foot in the Goodman’s Owen Theatre to see the Chicago premier of Sarah DeLappe’s acclaimed play The…

"Southern Gothic" is a 4-D theatre experience with a flare

20 February 2018 in Theatre in Review

Gone are the days of traditional theatre when actors and audience members were politely separated by at least an imaginary…

Cubanismo brings mambo time to McAninch Arts Center

19 February 2018 in In Concert

Cuban Jazz was the flavor at McAninch Arts Center (The MAC) this past weekend, but the band’s labeled genre might…

Excellent Production of The Burn Captures the 'Crucible' That Is High School

18 February 2018 in Theatre in Review

The Burn, a lively tale of a high school drama class putting on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, is spectacularly good.…

Review: ‘Cosi fan tutte’ at Lyric Opera

18 February 2018 in Theatre in Review

“No woman ever died for love” says Despina in Mozart’s charming little opera ‘Cosi fan tutte’. There may not be…

The Phantom returns in well-worth-the-wait "Love Never Dies"

17 February 2018 in Theatre in Review

If you are a passionate fan of the original "Phantom of the Opera" musical, its sequel "Love Never Dies" will…

Midwest Premier for Time is On Our Side at About Face Theatre

15 February 2018 in Upcoming Theatre

About Face Theatre will present the Midwest premiere of R. Eric Thomas’ gleeful mystery, Time Is On Our Side, directed…

Andrés Enriquez Named Casting Director at Lifeline Theatre

15 February 2018 in Upcoming Theatre

Lifeline Theatre named one of its ensemble member, Andrés Enriquez, to the new staff position of casting director, beginning February…

Steppenwolf Theatre Adds Two New Ensemble Members Celeste M. Cooper and Cliff Chamberlain

15 February 2018 in Upcoming Theatre

Steppenwolf Theatre Company Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro announced the additions of Celeste M. Cooper and Cliff Chamberlain to its…

Hell in a Handbag Productions Announces 2018 Season

14 February 2018 in Upcoming Theatre

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to announce its 2018 season, kicking off this spring with a revival of…

Postmodern Jukebox and tUnE-yArDs artists join Broadway talent for North American premiere of Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera

13 February 2018 in Upcoming Theatre

Artists from the bands Postmodern Jukebox, tUnE-yArDs and Diane Coffee join Broadway and West End talent for Lyric Opera’s North…

 

 

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