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A Red Orchid Theatre concludes its 2016-2017 Season with the Chicago premiere of 3C, written by David Adjmi and directed by Ensemble Member Shade Murray. The production runs April 20 – June 4, 2017, at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells. The press opening is Monday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m.

Inspired by 70’s sitcoms and the political incorrectness of "jiggle television," 3C is a hilarious and horrifying look at identity and what lies beneath the homogeneous perky veneer. Brad lands in L.A. to start a new life. A wild night of partying finds him passed out in Connie and Linda’s kitchen and the three strike a deal that raises the suspicions of the landlords. Complications spiral out of control, taking the show from farce to something... unexpected. 

 “We could use a good laugh, an out-loud, roll-on-the floor, cringe-worthy, ugly-cry laugh,” notes Artistic Director Kirsten Fitzgerald.  “3C certainly brings that to the room along with much, much more. I am beyond thrilled to get to know David and for our artists and audiences alike to mine the deepest and darkest of identity questions both personal and public. Director Shade Murray has a knack for finding the hilarity in the darkest of interactions. I cannot wait to have them in the same room exploring and sharing the world and words with all.”  

The cast of 3C includes Ensemble Members Jennifer Engstrom (Mrs. Wicker), Lawrence Grimm (Mr. Wicker) and Steve Haggard (Terry), with Christina Gorman (Linda), Nick Mikula (Brad) and Sigrid Sutter (Connie).

The creative team includes Sarah Fabian (Set Designer), Myron Elliott (Costume Designer), Rachel Levy (Lighting Designer), Brando Triantafillou (Sound Designer), Lydia Hanchett (Props Designer) and Jon Martinez (Choreography). The Production Stage Manager is Christa van Baale.

About the Artists

David Adjmi (Playwright) was called "virtuosic" by the New York Times, one of the "best and most original theatre artists of a generation" by Vogue, and one of the Top Ten in Culture by The New Yorker magazine. 3C received its world premiere at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (with Rising Phoenix and Piece by Piece Productions) in June 2012, and was dubbed "revelatory" by the Times and “the most divisive and controversial play of the season” by the New York Post. 3C was selected as one of the top ten plays of 2012 by the Post, Time Out New York and the Advocate.  His other plays include Marie Antoinette (A.R.T. & Yale Rep, Soho Rep, Steppenwolf, Woolly Mammoth and more), Elective Affinities (Royal Shakespeare Company, Soho Rep with Rising Phoenix & Piece by Piece Productions), Stunning (LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company), The Evildoers (Sundance, Yale Repertory Theatre), Caligula (Soho Rep Studio Series), and Strange Attractors (Empty Space).  David was awarded a Mellon Foundation Playwrights Residency, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Kesselring Prize for Drama, the Steinberg Playwright Award (the “Mimi”), McKnight and Jerome fellowships, the Helen Merrill Award, the Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin Fellowship, the Fadiman Prize and the Bush Artists Fellowship, among others.  A collection of David’s work, Stunning and Other Plays, is published by TCG, and his work is included in The Methuen Drama Book of New American Plays. His memoir SAVE US, SUPERMAN! is forthcoming from HarperCollins as is a second collection of plays entitled 1789 / 1978.

Shade Murray (Director) is an ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theater, where he has directed the world premieres of Brett Neveu’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Ike Holter’s Sender, as well as productions of Marisa Wegrzyn’s Mud Blue Sky and The Butcher of Baraboo, Annie Baker’s The Aliens, Nick Jones’ Trevor, Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party and Kimberly Akimbo by David Lindsay-Abaire.  He also performed in the A Red Orchid production of The Mutilated.  Other directing credits include Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The House Theater, Steep Theater, Second City, Writers’ Theater and elsewhere.  Shade is a lecturer at University of Chicago and teaches at DePaul University and Actors’ Studio Chicago.

Jennifer Engstrom (Mrs. Wicker) returns to A Red Orchid Theatre in 3C. An ensemble member since 2003, Jennifer was most recently seen in AROT's The Mutilated, garnering a Jeff nomination for Outstanding Actress. Other Orchid productions include: Eric LaRue, The Fastest Clock in The Universe, The Hothouse, Weapons of Mass Impact, Fatboy, and Simpatico. Other credits include A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of A Streetcar named Virginia Woolf (Writers Theatre); Sweet Bird Of Youth (The Goodman Theatre); One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The North Plan (Steppenwolf Theatre); Skygirls (Northlight); The Incident, Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been... (Next Theatre); MacBeth (Notre Dame Shakespeare); Angels In America (Kansas City Rep).  This summer Jennifer will fill in for the mighty Amy Morton in Steppenwolf's Hir. Jennifer will be seen in the upcoming film Slice starring Chance The Rapper.

Christina Gorman (Linda) is an actor and fight choreographer, originally from the Hudson Valley region of upstate New York. Chicago acting credits include: Men Should Weep (Jeff Award for Best Production-Play) and Stage Door for Griffin Theatre; The Bottle Tree (Stage Left Theatre); Making God Laugh (Fox Valley Rep); Leading Ladies (Buffalo Theatre Ensemble); The Thin Man (City Lit); and The Tall Girls, In the Heat of the Night, The Grown Up, The Rose Tattoo, Our Country's Good, Happy Now, and Romeo and Juliet for Shattered Globe Theatre, where she is an ensemble member.

Lawrence Grimm (Mr. Wicker) is back at A Red Orchid where some of his favorite and more recent shows include Trevor (Jeff Nomination), Solstice, In a Garden, Pumpgirl, Abigail’s Party, The Meek, The Physicists, Mr. Kolpert, Caine-Mutiny Court Martial, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, and Born Guilty. Other recent Chicago credits: King Charles III and The Tempest (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), 2666 (Goodman Theatre), My Name is Asher Lev (Timeline Theatre), In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play (Victory Gardens), Maple and Vine, Welcome Home Jenny Sutter (Next Theatre), Orlando (Court Theatre),  King Lear, Two by Pinter (Piven Theater Workshop), The Balcony (New Crime), Apocalyptic Butterflies, Sketchbook, (Collaboraction), The Glass Menagerie (Raven Theatre – Jeff Award), The Brothers Karamazov, 1984, The Naked King (Lookingglass), I Never Sang for My Father, Wolf Lullaby (Steppenwolf). Film: Welcome to Me, Perfect Manhattan, Cicero in Winter and the upcoming Captive State. Television: Chicago PD, Chicago Med.

Steve Haggard (Terry) was last seen at A Red Orchid in Sender and The Mutilated. He has been an ensemble member since 2007. Other Orchid shows include Accidentally Like A Martyr, The Aliens, Kimberly Akimbo and The Mandrake. Chicago credits: Tribes (Steppenwolf); Funnyman and Season’s Greetings (Northlight); Doubt, Old Glory, The Subject Was Roses and Our Town (Writers); Wasteland (Timeline); King Lear, As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare). Regional Credits: R+ G are Dead, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Tempest, Hay Fever, Comedy of Errors and Ah Wilderness (American Players Theatre), Almost Maine (Milwaukee Repertory) and Fallen Angels (Indiana Repertory). Steve is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University. 

Nick Mikula (Brad) makes his A Red Orchid Theatre debut. Other credits include Warped, Joe Egg, All's Well that Ends Well, LeapFest's And Eat it Too (Stage Left Theatre) Luther (U/S Steep Theatre), The Brig, Cherrywood (Mary-Arrchie), The Improv Play (Infusion), Map of Virtue (Cor) The Dining Room, The Man Who Was Thursday (New Leaf), 44 Ways (Redtwist) SS! A Midsummer Nights Dream (U/S Chicago Shakespeare), Six Degrees of Separation (Signal), Macbeth (Greasy Joan), W;T (Gift), ROAD (Ka-Tet), Pretty Penny, Half Shut (Right Brain),  Paper City Phoenix (Tympanic Theatre), Radio Silence, Ping-Pong, The Gas Heart (The Nine), and 20%. Improv Credits include Octavarius and Sam Hill. Film credits include the web series Under Covers.

Sigrid Sutter (Connie) makes her debut at A Red Orchid Theatre. In Chicago, she’s worked with Northlight Theatre, Steep Theatre, Jackalope Theatre, Teatro Vista, Sideshow Theatre, Back Room Shakespeare Project, and others. Her film credits include Colma: The Musical and Strange Culture; her television credits include Chicago Justice and Ellen. She is represented by Actors Talent Group. 

Fact Sheet/ 3C

Title: 3C

Written by: David Adjmi

Directed by: Ensemble Member Shade Murray

Featuring: Ensemble Members Jennifer Engstrom, Larry Grimm and Steve Haggard with Christina Gorman, Nick Mikula,and Sigrid Sutter.

 

Dates:              

Previews: April 20 – 23, 2017

Red Night Opening: Friday, April 28, 2017 at 8 p.m.

Regular Run: April 29 – June 4, 2017 

Schedule:        

Thursdays: 8:00 p.m.

Fridays: 8:00 p.m.

Saturdays: 8:00 p.m.         

Sundays: 3:00 p.m. (except April 23).

Location: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Ave.

Tickets: $15-$25 previews, $30-$35 regular run.  ($30 Thurs, $35 Fri, Sat, Sun)

Box Office: Located at 1531 N. Wells Ave, Chicago, (312) 943-8722; or online www.aredorchidtheatre.org

 

About A Red Orchid

A Red Orchid Theatre has served as an artistic focal point in the heart of the Old Town community of Chicago since 1993 and was honored this year with a 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Over the past 23 years, its Resident Ensemble has welcomed into its fold an impressive array of award winning actors, playwrights and theatre artists with the firm belief that live theatre is the greatest sustenance for the human spirit. A Red Orchid is well known and highly acclaimed for its fearless approach to performance and design in the service of unflinchingly intimate stories. In addition to its professional season, the company also produces an annual OrKids (youth) project and hosts The Incubator (providing artists with space and time to explore new work, new forms and new artistic collaborations).

 

A Red Orchid Theatre is: Lance Baker, Kamal Angelo Bolden, Dado, Mike Durst, Jennifer Engstrom, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Joseph Fosco, Steve Haggard, Mierka Girten, Larry Grimm, Karen Kawa, Karen Kessler, Danny McCarthy, Shade Murray, Brett Neveu, Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen, Doug Vickers and Natalie West.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Brett Neveu is a playwright to watch. To call him up-and-coming would be unfair as his work has appeared at The Goodman, Writers Theatre and Red Orchid Threatre. His new play "Her America" is being presented by The Greenhouse Theater Center as part of their Solo Celebration Series. 

 

Directed by Linda Gillum, "Her America" is single character play starring Kate Buddeke. She gives a riveting performance as a not-all-there Midwestern housewife locked in a basement. Buddeke embodies the character effortlessly. Her delivery is familiar and in many lines, hauntingly real. 

 

In the hour we spend with this unnamed character, she uses objects in her basement to freely associate memories and stories from her childhood. To whom she is speaking remains a mystery throughout. Neveu's script is highly detailed which serves to dimensionalize Buddeke's character. Through random memories, she explains the various influences in her life and how she became the person she is.

 

"Her America" files down to a crushing revelation, but along the way uncovers something darker. It says a lot about what life is like in America for those with few options. It's rare when the theater gives a truly empathetic portrayal of rural life. "Her America" was written in a bitterly devisive time and its message is to say that we should be more understanding with each other. 

 

Through February 12 at The Greenhouse Theater Center. 2257 N Lincoln Ave. 

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Friday, 04 November 2016 02:47

Come to the Fun Home!

Fun Home is not merely a well-crafted, excellent musical in every sense of the word but an important one. Fittingly winning the Tony award for Best Musical the same year same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States, Fun Home is the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian protagonist. Beyond that, it is also the first musical to discuss homosexuality in such an open way. The main character, Alison, discovers and learns about her own sexuality the same time her father, Bruce, is battling with his. Her coming out of the closet coincides so aptly with his repression into it that it's amazing they didn't run into each other in the doorway. 

Based on writer and cartoonist Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir of the same name, the story told in Fun Home -- already dramatic and engaging on its own -- becomes that much more poignant due to the fact that it is true. This was Bechdel's life, and it is an extremely personal tale that requires a paradoxical balance of vulnerability and courage to tell.

Non-linear, like Bechdel's memoir, and brimming with intelligence, humor, and frustration, Fun Home is less a typical musical than it is a dramatic play with songs sprinkled in. Where you won't find big bawdy show-stopping numbers that burst onto the scene, you'll find elegant, pretty melodies that extend organically from significant moments in the story. The protagonist, Alison, is portrayed by three actresses to encompass her lifespan thus far: Small Al, Middle Al, and Big Al -- or just Al, who is present-day Alison writing and narrating her story.

Image result for fun home musical

Her father Bruce serves as both a mirror of and partial antagonist to Alison. As is said in the musical a couple of times, the heart of Fun Home is that Alison and Bruce are "nothing alike" and "exactly alike." Al's relationship with her father is set against the backdrop of their functionally dysfunctional family, with Al's two brothers playing a part as well as Helen, their mother and the long-suffering wife of Bruce. An English teacher, intellectual, and funeral director -- their house doubles as a funeral home, from where the title is derived -- Bruce fusses over every aspect of their family house, improving and embellishing every detail in a clear projection of the lack of control he feels he has over his own life, all the while subjecting the rest of the family to his obsession.

Fun Home doesn't shy away from anything. Big ideas are conveyed through small details, which include everything from the seemingly most mundane aspects of life (like cleaning the house) to the most intimate and even somewhat embarrassing (like after Al's first sexual experience with a girl when she adorably and giddily freaks out, declaring she's "changing [her] major to Joan.") It's funny, poignant, sad, and most of all, honest.

It is the least cheesy musical you will ever see.

On top of its artistic integrity alone, Fun Home is an extremely important musical for LGBT awareness. It brings the (to some, distant or fearsome) ideas of homosexuality and "coming out" to the stage and airs them out in a way that demystifies them and, by default, normalizes them. This is the first step to achieving acceptance: removing fear and saying, "Yes. This is normal. This messed up family that happens to include some gay people is just like your messed up family that happens to include some straight people." It can really be that simple, thanks to shows like Fun Home that are unafraid to be real.

Image result for fun home musical

Fun Home is playing at the Oriental Theater through November 13th.

Published in Theatre in Review
Tuesday, 04 October 2016 23:38

Rise Up, Chicago: Hamilton is Here!

What more can be said about the phenomenon that is Hamilton: An American Musical? The ever-growing hype, not to mention the genius content, speak for themselves. It was nothing less than an absolute thrill to finally sit down to see this musical after nearly a year of obsessing over the 46 - yes, forty-six - song soundtrack. Who ever knew that textbook American history could be so exciting and jarringly relevant?

The nearly three hour, entirely sung/rapped performance takes the audience through the life of the "ten dollar founding father" Alexander Hamilton. Before creator Lin-Manuel Miranda masterfully brought Hamilton's biography to the stage, everyone who isn't a history teacher likely only knew Hamilton from the ten dollar bill, but, contrary to a recurring lyric in the show, there were a million things he did for the country. Namely, he created a financial plan that saved America in a time of major debt as well as established the first national bank. If that sounds dry, it's only because you haven't heard "The Room Where It Happens" yet.

 Not only does the story cover Hamilton's achievements and downfalls, but it paints a vivid portrait of colonial life, the complications of war during the American Revolution, and the messy aftermath of establishing a new nation. Other important historical figures we'd normally associate with flat images in books or on paper money are also presented as fully-fledged and in the flesh, such as George Washington, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, among others. Central to the story as well are the two female leads of the show, Eliza and Angelica Schuyler, who were daughters of a wealthy revolutionary-turned-senator and may not have been widely known before but are certainly getting the recognition they deserve now. To top it off, these exclusively white historical figures are portrayed by people of color, keenly driving home the show's message regarding immigrants' roles in the founding of our country and representing a current snapshot of American life.

All of this is fueled by the exquisitely-crafted music and intelligent lyrics that have astounded listeners of all ages and creeds. With most of the lyrics rapped, there is room for an incredible amount of detail, proving further that Miranda is nothing less than a creative genius. Only rap would allow literal paragraphs of information to fit into a single song, and this style serves the purpose of the musical brilliantly in conjunction with the more traditionally-sung parts that, in turn, give the audience small breaks to digest everything.

The Chicago cast is immensely talented - imagine all the actors who auditioned for these coveted roles - and can easily hold a candle to its Broadway equivalent. Many of the actors play multiple roles, impressively switching characters from Act One to Act Two. Favorites for me included Chris Lee as a hilariously arrogant Jefferson, Ari Afsar as a strong yet vulnerable Eliza, and Joshua Henry as the smooth-voiced nemesis to Hamilton, Aaron Burr (sir).

It's hard to say when the last time a musical of this magnitude and social significance came around, as nothing that has been done before can really compare to Hamilton. Truly unique, engaging, educational, sharp, funny, heartbreaking, and moving, we should appreciate getting to witness this watershed moment in Broadway history and heed advice from the repeated Hamilton lyric to "look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!"

Hamilton is playing at the Private Bank Theater at 18 W Monroe St. now and indefinitely. Tickets can be purchased on Ticketmaster, or you can enter the daily ticket lottery here.

Published in Theatre Reviews
Saturday, 17 September 2016 20:27

Review: In the Heights

Before the colonial history of New York City was hip hop-ified by outrageously talented Broadway composer/writer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, a small portion of the city had its own hip hop story to tell. In the Heights, which premiered on Broadway in 2008 and subsequently won the Tony for Best Musical (among four total wins) and Grammy for Best Musical Show album, features a lively ensemble who collectively share the story of their own corner of Manhattan. 

It's appropriate that Chicago's Porchlight Music Theatre chose Miranda's first musical to perform through October, as it will overlap the Chicago premiere of his second musical, the cultural phenomenon Hamilton, which gets its own Loop theater at the end of the month. Like Hamilton, In the Heights is a mixture of brilliantly-crafted rap, (as well as merengue and salsa), powerful singing, and rich, often funny, dialogue. 

The story, set in Manhattan's predominantly Latino neighborhood Washington Heights, centers around the neighborhood bodega where the members of the community congregate, whether to grab their morning coffee, flirt, gossip, or discuss their dreams, their conversations painting a complicated portrait of the "barrio" life. Some of them, like the willful and stubborn Vanessa, see the Heights as a prison sentence and hope for a better future, wishing to get out by any means. Others, like Abuela Claudia, immigrated to the utopian New York City when they were young and dearly love the neighborhood in which they have lived most of their lives. Meanwhile, others struggle with both love and disdain for the Heights, like college dropout Nina who wrestles with the shame of losing her scholarship and breaking the bittersweet news to her parents that she must return home. 

                                              

On top of the drama, humor, romance, heartbreak, and impossible hopes passionately sung and rapped about by the various characters -- Porchlight's modest 18-person cast showcases extreme talent, the powerful female voices in particular could easily be heard on a professional Broadway stage -- the authenticity of a real New York community shines through. From the "piragua" (flavored shaved ice) seller carting through town, to the close-knit gossipy hair salon, to the shop owners chasing away graffiti artists, to the fierce Puerto Rican and Dominican pride on display, In the Heights realistically captures the essence of a colorful, cultural community. It entices and welcomes you with open arms, making you feel like you could be right at home if you found yourself at the edge of northern Manhattan getting off the A train at 181st Street.

In the Heights is playing at Stage 773 now through Sunday, October 23rd. Tickets can be purchased at Porchlight Music Theatre.

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