Theatre in Review

Barrel of Monkeys invites you to join student-authors, their classmates, family and educators for the annual CELEBRATION OF AUTHORS, featuring performances of student-written stories created at each of its partner schools and after-school program during the 2016-2017 season. Performed by more than 30 Barrel of Monkeys actors and musicians, and directed by Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach, this FREE event takes place Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 6:30 pm (6:30 pm pre-show reception and activities, 7 pm curtain) at the University of Chicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. in Chicago. For reservations, please visit barrelofmonkeys.org/coa or call (773) 506-7140. 
 
During 2016-17, Barrel of Monkeys worked with 17 school partners in 52 classrooms, plus an after-school program. The Chicago-based arts education theater ensemble, now celebrating its 20th season, conducts creative writing workshops with 3rd through 5th grade students in underserved Chicago Public Schools. The ensemble of actor-educators then turns their stories and words into professionally performed theater, presented both in-school and for the general public through its revues. Barrel of Monkeys annually performs more than 200 student-written stories for the students in their schools and 175 stories on the stage for the general public through its year-round variety show, THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA at The Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago.  For additional information on Barrel of Monkeys’ educational programs and public performances, please visit www.barrelofmonkeys.org
 
Chicago Public Schools served by Barrel of Monkeys during the 2016-17 season include: Willa Cather, Dewey School of Excellence, Herzl Elementary, Dvorak Elementary, Poe Classical, Columbia Explorers Academy, Peirce Elementary, Kinzie Elementary, Academy for Global Citizenship, Dixon Elementary, Morton School of Excellence, Sherman School of Excellence, Johnson Elementary and Chalmers Elementary, as well as Sheridan Elementary, Everett Elementary and Cherokee School in Lake Forest. Barrel of Monkeys is also an Arts Partner in Residence at the Loyola Park Field House through the Chicago Park District.
 
PERFORMANCE DETAILS:
 
Title: CELEBRATION OF AUTHORS 2017
Written by: Chicago Public School Students
Adapted for the stage by: Barrel of Monkeys Company Members
Director: Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach
Featuring: Barrel of Monkeys Company Members
Location: Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., Chicago
Date/time: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Time: 6:30 pm (6:30 pm pre-show reception and activities; 7 pm curtain)
Tickets: FREE. For reservations, please visit barrelofmonkeys.org/coa or call (773) 506-7140.
 
About the Director
Joseph Schupbach has directed shows for Barrel of Monkeys, North Park University, Murakami Sound Machine and InGen Productions – a company of which he is co-founder and former Artistic Director. Joseph has assistant directed for The Ruffians and The Neo-Futurists and has performed all over Chicago. In November 2014, he was appointed Barrel of Monkeys’ new Artistic Director, having served as the company’s Education Coordinator since 2011.
 
About Barrel of Monkeys
Since Barrel of Monkeys’ inception in 1997, its teaching artists have served more than 60 Chicago Public Schools. Over 15,000 elementary school students have participated in the Barrel of Monkeys programs, which aim to build students' writing skills, improve self-esteem, and instill confidence in their ideas and abilities. For additional information, visit barrelofmonkeys.org.
 
Celebration of Authors is sponsored in part by the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. 
 
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Stage 773 Director of Theatre Management Jill Valentine and co-producer Liz McArthur are thrilled to announce the highly anticipated lineup for the 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, taking place June 15 through June 18 at the comedy hub of Chicago, Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. The Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, the largest of its kind in the nation, features a melting pot of comedic genres, including everything from ‘highbrow musical improv’ to ‘relatable stand-up’ to ‘character driven sketch’. Blending long term veterans with fresh newcomers, the fest packs over 80 shows into four funny-filled days. Stage 773 has made it easier than ever to discover new groups to love, allowing patrons to filter through art forms, a rating and keywords to find their own taste in comedy. The full schedule and searchable calendar for the 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival can be viewed at www.stage773.com/WomensFestCalendar
 
“We are extremely excited to be celebrating the sixth year of the festival and to host some of the best women in comedy in the nation,” said Valentine. “Having women from all different comedic art forms come together and celebrate under one roof in Chicago is something that is very special to us and the community.”
 
Featuring both fresh and familiar faces, highlights for 2017 include the return of comedy powerhouse Kristen Toomey, who has packed the lineup with some of Chicago’s best talent for a series of stand-up showcases, Her Story Theater, which made its mark on the scene by creating original plays based on Chicago lives that reflect national concerns, Matt Damon Improv, comprised of all women of color “slaying improv comedy,” and Strip Joker, featuring a hilarious roster of stand-up comics who are willing to bare it all in the spirit of totally vulnerable, inclusive, and uncensored comedy. Stand-up favorites include the debut of Montreal-based D.J. Mausner, who at 22 years old she is already an award winning stand-up, sketch, and improv master, LA-based Jen Murray and winner of the IO West Comedy Festival's "Best Comedian" Award in 2015, and transgender standup comedian Dina Nina Martinez, who the Late Late Show’s James Corden hails as “…very funny.”
 
Additional highlights include the return of Katie Rich with former SC Mainstage/Consultant for Onion News Network, Holly Laurent, in their improv duo Joan and Ro; Chicago Sketchfest veteran groups Off Off Broadzway, The Cupid Players and Rehner and Nixon; Improv veterans Susan Messing and Rachel Mason in The Boys; Comedic dance troupe Matter Dance and much more.
 
Chicago Women’s Funny Festival was founded in 2012 when producers Jill Valentine and Liz McArthur wanted to build a comedy festival where women could come together and celebrate all art forms of comedy under one roof. The first festival boasted 66 shows and 400 performers in five days. Women’s Fest also hosted events throughout the week where women from across the country could network with each other and more importantly, celebrate one another’s work. The response from comediennes and audience members was overwhelmingly positive – which is why the festival is coming back for a sixth year.
 
Jill Valentine is a Chicago Southside native who has been the Executive Director of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival (also the largest of its kind in the nation) since the festival’s inception in 2000. She is also a founder of Stage 773, as well as the Director of Theatre Management. Jill performs in several popular and critically acclaimed groups in Chicago, including The Cupid Players, Off Off Broadzway and Feminine Gentleman who have performed all over the country.
 
Liz McArthur hails from St. Louis and has worked with The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival since 2005. McArthur can be seen with groups such as Off Off Broadzway, OneTwoThree Comedy, and Feminine Gentlemen. McArthur is also part of the hit zombie comedy Musical of the Living Dead.
 
All performances will take place at Chicago’s home for the city’s most innovative, creative and passionate off-Loop performing artists, Stage 773, located at 1225 W. Belmont. Stage 773 is a non-profit Chicago company that produces The Cupid Players, Bri-Ko, The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, education and program opportunities, as well as offering subsidized theater rental space to the hundreds of Chicago’s itinerant off-Loop companies and performers.
 
The 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival runs June 15 – June 18, 2016. Performances are Thursday, June 15th at 8 - 10 p.m., Friday, June 16th at 8 - 11 p.m., Saturday, June 17th at 4:30 - 11 p.m., and Sunday, June 18th at 2 - 7 p.m.  Tickets go on sale Monday, May 15th. Individual ticket prices are $15, and festival passes are available for $37.50 (Thursday), $47.50 (Friday), $57.50 (Sunday) or $100 for an all festival pass (Thursday – Sunday). Sunday three show flex passes are available for $33.  All tickets and festival passes may be purchased at www.Stage773.com, by phone at 773.327.5252, and in person at the Stage 773 box office. 
 
ABOUT STAGE 773

Stage 773 is a vibrant anchor of the Belmont Theatre District and home to Chicago’s finest off-Loop talent. As a performance and tenant venue, our four stages provide entertainment for everyone: comedy, theatre, dance, musicals and more. We are a not-for- profit, connecting and catalyzing the theater community, while showcasing established artists and incubating up-and- coming talent.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

A new play inspired by the real life biker club, The Sirens of NYC (the biker gang that leads the Pride Parade in NYC each year), “The Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes” is a touching story concerning queer and trans characters forming their own biker club. “The Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes” performs Wednesdays at 8pm, through June 28, 2017, at Gorilla Tango Theatre (1919 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago IL 60647). Please visit www.gorillatango.com or call 773-598-4549 for tickets and information.
Smith has written a story about the family we choose, the family we don’t, and the development of an unlikely philanthropy for this motorcycle club that is able to unite them all together.


We are thrilled to be producing The Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes as part of Gorilla Tango’s “Gorilla Tango Originals” Series. GT Originals aims to support the voices of artists with untold stories, and to connect like-minded artists who share similar passions in storytelling. The Chicago stage has been so welcoming to the LGBTQ+ stories that need to be told.  The cast and crew feature some of Chicago’s greatest queer artists including North Rory Howard, a trans male actor playing his first trans male role. “I’ve played cisgender characters for years, and I’m sure I will continue to do so,” Howards says. “But to bring this story to life, to help people see a glimpse of my own history and struggles through this medium that I love so much, it’s an incredible feeling. I love, too, that this is not a play about being transgender, but rather an ensemble piece in which the trans character and his struggle are supported and balanced by other people without being overshadowed, which is honestly how the issue should be handled in our everyday lives. We need light, and the Valkyries help shine it.”


"The Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes" will play through Pride month in Chicago, so bring a group to celebrate any Wednesday in May and June at 8pm!


Katy Johnson (Skylight Music Theatre) returns from Gorilla Tango’s "The Blood Line: A CTA Horror Story" as, Deena, the president of the club. North Rory Howard (Black Box Studios) makes his Gorilla Tango debut as Quinn, the trans male partner of Club President, Deena. Also in the cast are Chicago and beyond improv star, Nate Curlott, as Jake and Chris, Elodie Senetra (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre) as Evie, Cat McKay (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) as Bella, Kate Souza (Hawaii Shakespeare Festival) as Kelly, and Chicago new comer Marie Tredway as Marie.

 
The production is directed by Magdalene Spanuello. Scenic/Lighting design by Mark Bracken, Choreography by Kati Schwaber, Costume/Tattoo design by Austin Winter, and stage managed by Teresa McCarthy.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Rehearsals are underway for Fernanda Coppel’s “King Liz,” Windy City Playhouse’s second show of the 2017 season, playing May 24 through July 16. Under the direction of Chuck Smith, the “fierce and compelling” (The New York Times) production stars Lanise Shelley as Liz Rico, a powerful NBA sports agent vying for a promotion to head her entire company. When Freddie Luna (played by Eric Gerard), a young, talented rookie, comes under her wing, Liz faces the biggest challenge of her career: trust her gut with the new player, or risk everything she’s built for herself. The cast of “King Liz” also features Philip Edward Van Lear as Coach Jones, Jackie Alamillo as Gabby Fuentes, Caron Buinis as Barbara Flowers and Frank Nall as Mr. Candy.

Performances for “King Liz” begin May 24 and run through July 16. Press Nights for the production are Wednesday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($15-$55) are on sale now and can be purchased at the Windy City Playhouse Box Office online or by calling the Box Office at (773) 891-8985.

“I was very drawn to the major themes in this production, especially focusing on Liz as an independent, self-reliant woman of color in a male-dominated field. It's not often that you get to see such a strong female character on stage, who owes no one anything,” said Windy City Playhouse Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein. “We’ve curated programming featuring the talented artists in the production to help our audiences connect with the material on a deeper level, while embracing the casual, fun atmosphere the Playhouse is known for.”

In conjunction with “King Liz,” Windy City Playhouse’s Talkback series offers patrons an intimate Q&A experience with an array of artists to learn more about the creative process behind each production. The series begins with “King Liz” playwright Fernanda Coppel, who will lead the discussion behind her inspiration for the play on Saturday, May 27 immediately following the 8 p.m. performance.   

Also new, the Playhouse begins the weekly post-performance Nightcap series, inviting patrons to grab a drink at the bar and partake in an intimate discussion around “King Liz” with a member of the cast or creative team. To kick off the series, cast member Caron Buinis will lead the discussion on Wednesday, June 7 and Philip Edward Van Lear will lead the discussion on Wednesday, June 14. The series takes place every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. through the duration of the run. For the complete schedule of special events at the Playhouse, visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com/King-Liz.

No experience at the Playhouse is complete without a trip to their signature bar, and “King Liz” is no different. The production-specific cocktails, available throughout the run, include:
·         Operation: Pump Up - Pimm’s, Sprite, Muddled Cucumber, Lemon
·         Very Cocky Chick - Amaretto, Luxardo Cherry Liquor, Sprite, Sweet and Sour, Grenadine
·         Dynamic Dunker - Bourbon, Ginger Liqueur, Hard Cider, Lime
·         Diamond in the Rough - Mezcal, Simple Syrup, Lime, Ginger Beer
·         Summer in a Glass (The Playhouse’s Signature Sangria) - Rosé, Vodka, Lemon, Strawberries, Sprite

“Wine Wednesdays” are returning to the Playhouse for “King Liz,” which includes $10 off all bottles of wine at the bar. For the complete beer, wine and cocktail menu, click here.

The performance schedule for “King Liz” is as follows: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. For a detailed performance schedule visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com/King-Liz. Tickets for “King Liz” are on sale now and range from $15-$55—with discounts available for seniors and students—and can be purchased by calling 773-891-8985 or visiting WindyCityPlayhouse.com.

The creative team for “King Liz” includes Courtney O’Neill (Scenic Design), Elsa Hiltner (Costume Design), Jared Gooding (Lighting Design), Thomas Dixon (Sound Design) and Devon Green (Properties Design). Donald E. Claxon is the Production Stage Manager. The understudies for the production are Brianna Buckley, Joe Chazaray, David Goodloe, Will Casey, Marisol Doblado and Teri Schnaubelt.

About Windy City Playhouse
Windy City Playhouse, Chicago's most sophisticated not-for-profit Equity theater, aims to expand beyond the traditional theatergoing experience by offering audience members a night of high-quality entertainment with a full-service bar, in a lounge-like atmosphere. Windy City Playhouse premiered in March of 2015, with the inaugural production “End Days.” Lauded by audiences and critics alike, Windy City Playhouse promises to rock Chicago's theater scene.

The season continues at Windy City Playhouse with Gina Gionfriddo’s dark comedy, “Becky Shaw” directed by Jeff Award-winner Scott Weinstein. Performances begin September 21.

For more information, visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

It’s the wild 1930’s in Berlin and it’s anything goes at the Kit Kat Klub where an impish Emcee feasts on making the haunt as alluring as possible to its guests. He loves the boys, he loves the girls and he loves the orchestra. Headliner Sally Bowles leads the cabaret dancers in the playful club where one can phone table to table if interested in another. Bowles is brassy, commanding and she flat out belts, leaving little doubt who runs the show. This is quickly evidenced in her racy opening number “Don’t Tell Mama”. It is a place of decadent carnival where boundaries do not exist and guests are endlessly entertained by its sexy performers. 

American writer Cliff Bradshaw soon arrives via train ride where he meets new friend Ernst Ludwig. The two quickly hit it off. While getting to know each other, Bradshaw reveals he is looking for a place to stay, so Ludwig recommends a boarding house run by Fraulien Schneider. Searching for inspiration for his second novel, Bradshaw visits the nearby Kit Kat Klub where he is opened to a world he never knew existed. 

While Bradshaw and Bowles get to know each other (and then some), Herr Schultz, an elderly German, regularly visits the boarding house where he shows his affections for Schneider by bringing her fruit from the nearby produce store that he owns. Soon Schultz and Schneider agree to marry, while Bowles and Bradshaw become cozier, the two now living together. The club is thriving and all seems well in 1930’s Berlin. 

But the shadow of the Nazi regime is gradually becoming much more apparent. Slowly, the danger of a growing Third Reich is affecting Berlin. Gradually, the carefree mood of many Berlin residents becomes that of one awaiting impending doom. Some sense a mounting tragedy afoot and fear a change for the worse in Germany. 

Yet, the threat is still in its infancy stage, whereas Schultz, a Jew, naively states, “Everything will be fine. After all, I am a German.” At the same time, Schneider fears her association with Schultz will put her business under as the hatred against Jewish-Germans becomes more apparent. 

Cabaret is the gripping account of how a circle of friends and businesses in Berlin are overcome by the inevitable Nazi threat, from the story's hopeful beginning full of modernization and progressive views to its haunting end. 

The production is seamlessly woven together. Throughout the musical, there is an ongoing collocation of dialogue scenes and songs that serve as explanation to the story while a series of distinct cabaret numbers provide a public observation for the times. 

Cabaret continues to attract both new audiences and return visitors more than fifty years after its initial Broadway production, because it has everything – fascinating characters, iconic music, a dazzling look that transports us to a different world that is still incredibly timely and relevant today,” says Artistic Director Linda Fortunato.

Her statement couldn’t bear more truth as the production has won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. 

The casting in Theatre at the Center’s Cabaret is very strong. Danni Smith, who recently impressed theatre goers in the leading role of “Donna” in Marriott Theatre’s Mamma Mia! is sensational as Sally Bowles. Smith’s robust, velvety vocals along with just the right air of confidence make for yet another successful leading role for the fetching stage star. Smith’s astounding performance alone is worth the ticket cost and drive to Munster, Indiana. Yet, the same impressionable effect on the audience can be said for co-lead Sean Fortunato as the mischievous Emcee, who is a pure delight to watch as he captures a changing Berlin within his character most effectively through a well-acted gamut of emotions. We watch on as the whimsical Master of Ceremonies is sincerely affected by what he recognizes is the beginning to the end of an era, yet we see his strength as he bravely presents an amusing appearance for his club-goers to distract from the imminent threat. 

Patrick Tierney (Bradshaw), Craig Spindle (Schultz), Iris Lieberman (Schneider), Christopher Davis (Ernst) and a very capable ensemble round out this talented cast that help in creating a magical Cabaret experience, along with an extraordinary creative team that so well brings the period to life. 

Based on a book written by Christopher Isherwood, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, Cabaret is loaded with wonderful show tunes that include “Perfectly Marvelous”, “The Money Song”, “Married”, "Willkommen", “If You Could See Her” and Bowles highly-charged title song “Cabaret”. 

Well-constructed, finely acted and beautifully sung, Cabaret is an epic theatre experience not to miss.   

Cabaret is being performed at Theatre at the Center (1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN) through June 4th. For show times, tickets and/or more show information, visit www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Writers Theatre, under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma, concludes its 2016/17 season with the musical Parade, with book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, co-conceived by Harold Prince.  The Writers Theatre production of Parade is directed by Gary Griffin and features musical direction by Michael Mahler and choreography by Ericka Mac.  Parade runs May 24 – July 2, 2017 in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. 

 

This stirring, Tony Award-winning musical explores the endurance of love and hope against seemingly insurmountable odds, telling the true story of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jewish man falsely accused of murder in 1913 Atlanta. Innovative and daring, and filled with soaring music, Parade is a moving love story, a riveting murder mystery, a gripping courtroom drama and a powerful exploration of innocence and naïveté coming face-to-face with ignorance and prejudice.

 

Acclaimed director Gary Griffin, who directed the original Broadway production of Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas and the world premiere of his The Trumpet of the Swan at the Kennedy Center, stages an intimate revival of this celebrated musical. With a book by playwright Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and a score by Brown (The Last Five Years, The Bridges of Madison County) that combines folk, rock, R&B and gospel, Parade ends WT’s 25th Anniversary Season with spectacular impact.

 

“I had the pleasure of being directed by Gary in a Writers Theatre production of Joe Orton's Loot. He is one of my favorite directors and one of my closest friends, and it is a privilege to be in collaboration with him again,” said Artistic Director Michael Halberstam.  “I have enjoyed many, many years of conversation with him over copious glasses of wine discussing masterwork musicals and how best to make them work. I cannot express how happy I am then to be working on supporting Gary’s vision for Parade, a musical that has suddenly become disturbingly relevant given the deeply unsettling swell of anti-semitism.  The Anti-Defamation League recently announced that cases of anti-semitism have spiked 86% in the first quarter of this year, proving the old adage that ‘the more things change the more they stay the same.’

 

“Gary has assembled a first-rate cast with breathtaking vocal prowess and a first-rate design team to create the world in which they bring Mr. Brown and Mr. Uhry’s bravura masterwork to life.  Parade is a fully cohesive musical voyage into the triumph of love and the dangers of what can happen when the fires of hatred are irresponsibly stoked within an unhappy and angry populace. Musically, it defies simple definition while maintaining accessibility and a deep emotional core. It is a fitting way to close the season and it passes a symbolic baton to Trevor, a brand new musical which opens next season and strikes open a whole new adventure of its own.”

 

The cast of Parade includes: Larry Adams (Old Soldier/Judge Roan/Ensemble), Patrick Andrews (Leo Frank), Brianna Borger (Lucille Frank), Jonathan Butler-Duplessis (Jim Conley), McKinley Carter (Mrs. Phagan/Sally Slaton), Devin DeSantis (Britt Craig/Young Soldier/Ensemble), Kevin Gudahl (Hugh Dorsey/Ensemble), Derek Hasenstab (Governor John Slaton/Ensemble), Nicole Michelle Haskins (Minola "Minnie" McKnight/Angela), Caroline Heffernan (Mary Phagan/Essie/Ensemble), Zoe Nadal (Monteen/Ensemble),Jake Nicholson (Frankie Epps/Ensemble), Jeff Parker (Tom Watson/Ensemble), Leryn Turlington (Iola Stover/Ensemble), andJonah D. Winston (Newt Lee/Riley).

 

The creative team includes: Matt Deitchman (Associate Music Director & Piano/Conductor), Scott Davis (Scenic Designer), Mara Blumenfeld(Costume Designer), Christine Binder (Lighting Designer), Ray Nardelli (Sound Designer) and Scott Dickens (Properties Master). Bobby Kennedy is the Dramaturg, David Castellanos is the Production Stage Manager and Nick Moran is the CFM Contractor.

 

Single tickets for Parade, priced $35 - $80, are available online at www.writerstheatre.org, by phone at 847-242-6000, or in person at the box office at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe.

 

PARADE On-stage Seating

For adventurous theatregoers who want to be part of the action, Writers Theatre is offering a limited number of special on-stage seats for every performance of Parade!

 

These special on-stage seats, reachable via curved staircases, will be on a raised platform at the back of the stage so that the audience will fully surround the action on stage. This exclusive vantage point provides audience members an immersive experience of Parade, as the area will be located near the orchestra and will also be used by actors during the performance…

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

American Theater Company (ATC) is proud to announce its Season 33, which kicks off this October with the world premiere of Janine Nabers’ Welcome to Jesus, directed by Artistic Director Will Davis, October 26–December 3, 2017. In the New Year, ATC presents Basil Kreimendahl’s We’re Gonna Be Okay, making its Chicago premiere, January 25–March 4, 2018, directed by Davis. The production premiered as part of Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays. Next spring brings another world premiere to ATC, Carlos Murillo’s Diagram of a Paper Airplane, May 3–June 10, 2018, directed by Bonnie Metzgar. Over the course of the entire season, ATC will host its second Chicago Open Residency Experiment (CORE), a series of week-long residencies for artists of all disciplines.

“At ATC, the artist comes first,” says Davis. “We select seasons of artists and then dialogue with them about the work they need to make and how we can champion it. To us that is the point of the arts institution; we provide a space where artists can interrogate their art and experiment with their work for the good of the American theater. Season 33 is an articulation of those values. As we built the season we've used a phrase I scribbled on the board above my desk as our programming compass. The phrase is: Laugh, Cry, & Hug Your Neighbor. As an institution, we are working on this concept of neighborliness through our support of artists in process, the youth we serve and the work we produce. This year we're presenting two world premieres, a second production and line up of artists in residence that all embrace bold theatricality, questions of identity and interrogations of power and belonging.”

Season subscriptions are on sale now and range from $40-$114, with special pricing available for members under the age of 35. To purchase a subscription or for more information, visit

www.atcweb.org or call the ATC Box Office at 773-409-4125.

ATC remains committed to its partnership with Chicago Inclusion Project, whose work creates inclusive theater experiences that bring together Chicago artists and audiences normally separated by physical ability, gender identity and/or ethnic background. The two companies partner on casting, giving diverse theater artists access to roles they might traditionally have been excluded from. Together with the Chicago Inclusion Project, ATC will continue its commitment to presenting works that boldly reflect the diversity of stories and experiences in America today.

Past world premiere productions at ATC include Stephen Karam’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play The Humans and Ayad Akhtar's Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced, both of which enjoyed acclaimed Broadway runs. In Season 32 ATC produced the regional premiere of Jaclyn Backhaus’ Men On Boats, immediately following its Off Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons; reimagined classic, Pulitzer Prize winner Picnic by William Inge; and will present Dan Aibel’s world premiere of T., an exploration of the competitive ice skating saga between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, later this month.

AMERICAN THEATER COMPANY’S SEASON 33:

World Premiere

Welcome to Jesus

Written by Janine Nabers

Directed by Will Davis

October 26–December 3, 2017

In fictional Hallelujah, TX, football reigns, and the quarterback is king. Janine Nabers’ darkly funny and powerful new play unearths the tyranny of small town life and the power of prejudice to define our fate. Staged in a field of wood chips, about a town in search of some good news, Welcome to Jesus fuses fable and horror in a twenty-first century take on the Southern Gothic tradition.

Chicago premiere

We’re Gonna Be Okay

Written by Basil Kreimendahl

Directed by Will Davis

January 25–March 4, 2018

In the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy addressed the nation, “My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out...But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.” Well, Efran and Leena and Mag and Sul are thinking about doing something. Something big. Straight from Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival of New American Plays, Basil Kreimendahl’s We’re Gonna Be Okay confronts the fears of the American middle class as two families wrestle with macrame, female empowerment and a shared property line.

 

World Premiere

Diagram of a Paper Airplane 

Written by Carlos Murillo

Directed by Bonnie Metzgar

May 3–June 10, 2018

Javier C. is dead, and in his wake are fragments and scraps of his magnum opus mailed mysteriously from New Mexico to his group of ex-friends in New York. Called "an absolutely extraordinary achievement from a writer at the height of his powers” by American Theatre Magazine, Carlos Murillo's Diagram of a Paper Airplane is the first in a trilogy of plays that examine the capacity of friendships to withstand the unimaginable. Director Bonnie Metzgar brings life to a night of mourning and celebration that will leave them wondering if Diagram of a Paper Airplane ever existed at all.

SEASON 33 CORE PROJECTS INCLUDE:

Black Like Me

Adapted and directed by Monty Cole

Based on the book by John Howard Griffin

Kissing

Conceived by Abigail Boucher

Co-created by Abigail Boucher and Carolyn Defrin

With Brock Alter

Dig

By Theodore Germaine

Directed by Gina Marie Hayes

With Avi Roque

TBD Project

About Face Theatre

(saliva) things that i like about my partner that are not their mouth or genitals

By Jasmine Jordan and Valerie Gallucci

Show Boat

Music by Jerome Kern

Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Based on the novel “Show Boat” by Edna Ferber

Directed by Jess McLeod

Join us for a week of experimenting with the size and scope of this beloved musical.

Any of my Enemies

Molly Brennan (Lead Artist)

Diagram of a Paper Airplane

By Carlos Murillo

Directed by Bonnie Metzgar

As part of their process leading up to production, Metzgar and Murillo will receive a CORE pre-production week to explore a key element(s) of the play.

To The Moon

Written by Beth Kander

Artistic collaborators: Allyce Torres, Amanda Long, Arian Thigpen, Sallee Murphy

La Ronde

A reimagining based on the play by Arthur Schnitzler

Directed by Dani Wieder

Choreography by Andy Slavin

FARMED: The Orwell Radio

A song-setting by Trevor Bachman

Inspired by George Orwell's “Animal Farm”

Soot & Linen

By BrittneyLove Smith

SEASON 33 SUBSCRIPTION AND TICKET INFORMATION: 

The American Membership $114 (available until Jan. 31, 2018)

Includes reserved seating for each production

Early Bird 3-Ticket Membership $90 (before August 31, 2017)

3-Ticket Membership $105 (Sept. 1, 2017-Jan. 31, 2018)

Under-35 3-Ticket Membership $60 (available until Jan. 31, 2018)

Early Bird 2-Ticket Membership $60 (before August 31, 2017)

2-Ticket Membership $70 (Sept. 1, 2017-Jan. 31, 2018)

Under-35 2-Ticket Membership $40 (available until Jan. 31, 2018)

All Memberships allow you to choose your performance dates upon purchase. To purchase a subscription or for more information, please contact the ATC Box Office at 773-409-4125 or visit www.atcweb.org.

ARTIST BIOS:

Will Davis is a director and choreographer focused on physically adventurous new work and old plays in new ways. He is also the newly appointed artistic director of American Theater Company(ATC) where he has implemented a new residency program (CORE-Chicago Open Residency Experiment) supporting new ways of making new plays. Recent projects include: Duat by Daniel Alexander Jones for SohoRep. Evita, re-imagined for the Olney Theatre Center, Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus for ATC, Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks, and Playwrights Horizons; Orange Julius by Basil Kreimendahl; Mike Iveson’s Sorry Robot for PS122’s COIL Festival; and two productions of Colossal by Andrew Hinderaker for Mixed Blood Theater and the Olney Theatre Center, for which he won a Helen Hayes award for outstanding direction. Davis has developed, directed and performed his work with New York Theatre Workshop, Clubbed Thumb, the New Museum, the Olney Theatre Center, the Alliance Theatre, the Playwright’s Realm, the Fusebox Festival, New Harmony Project, the Orchard Project, the Ground Floor Residency at Berkeley Rep, Performance Studies International at Stanford University, and the Kennedy Center. He is an alum of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, the NYTW 2050 Directing Fellowship and the BAX (Brooklyn Art Exchange) artist in residence program. He holds a BFA in Theatre Studies from DePaul University and an MFA in Directing from UT Austin. Upcoming projects include Charm by Philip Dawkins at MCC.

Janine Nabers is a native of Houston, Texas and a 2013 graduate of the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellowship at Juilliard and winner of the 2014 Yale Drama Series Prize for her play Serial Black Face. She currently writes for Lifetime’s Unreal and Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce under Marti Noxon. Her play Annie Bosh is Missing premiered in August 2013 at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Janine won the 2013 NYFA Playwriting fellowship and was the 2013-2014 AETNA Playwriting Fellow at Hartford Stage, a 2012-2013 New York Theatre Workshop Playwriting Fellow, and Page 73’s 2011 Playwriting Fellow. Janine is working on commissions from Primary Stages, the Alley Theatre, and Hartford Stage. Her new musical Mrs. Hughes was developed as the 2012 Williamstown Theatre Festival fellowship musical and was part of the 2013 Yale Institute for Musical Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club’s 7@7 series, and the Theatreworks New Works Now Festival.

Basil Kreimendahlis a resident playwright at New Dramatists. Their plays have won several awards, including the Rella Lossy Playwright Award and a National Science Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Kreimendahl has been commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions program, and by Actors Theatre of Louisville for Remix 38 (2014 Humana Festival). We’re Gonna Be Okay had its world premiere at Actors Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival of New Plays in 2017. Their play Orange Julius was developed at the 2012 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and will have its New York premiere at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, in a co-production with P73. Kreimendahl’s plays have also been produced or developed by New York Theatre Workshop, American Theater Company, Victory Gardens Theater, The Lark, La Jolla Playhouse, and Labyrinth Theater Company. They have been a Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellow and a McKnight Fellow, won an Art Meets Activism grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and will be a visiting writer at Williams College in 2017. Kreimendahl’s work has been published by Dramatic Publishing and HowlRound. They received their M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 2013.

Carlos Murillo is a Chicago-based, internationally produced and award winning playwright, director and educator of Colombian and Puerto Rican descent. He is a recipient of a 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award for his work in the theatre and received a 2016 Mellon Foundation National Playwright Residency Program grant for a three-year residency at Adventure Stage in Chicago. In 2016 he was selected as one of 37 playwrights commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival for their historic American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle. His best known play Dark Play or Stories for Boys premiered at the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2007, and has been performed throughout the US, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Lithuania. The play appeared in the anthology New Playwrights: Best New Plays of 2007 (Smith & Kraus). His plays have been seen in New York at Repertorio Español, P73, the NYC Summer Playwrights Festival, En Garde Arts, The Public Theater New Work Now! Festival, and Soho Rep; in Chicago at The Goodman, Steppenwolf, Adventure Stage, Collaboraction, Walkabout Theatre, Theatre Seven and The Theatre School of DePaul University; and in Los Angeles at Theatre @ Boston Court, Circle X and Son of Semele. His plays have been commissioned by The Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis, The Goodman, the Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Berkeley Rep, South Coast Rep, Steppenwolf, Adventure Stage and the University of Iowa International Writing Program, and developed by The Sundance Theatre Lab, The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, New Dramatists and others. His book The Javier Plays, a trilogy of works including Diagram of a Paper Airplane, A Thick Description of Harry Smith and Your Name Will Follow You Home, was published by 53rd State Press and called “an absolutely extraordinary achievement from a writer at the height of his powers” by American Theatre.

Bonnie Metzgar is a Chicago-based playwright, director, dramaturg and producer. In 2015, Metzgar stepped in as interim Artistic Director of American Theater Company after the death of PJ Paparelli. From 2008-2013, Metzgar served as Artistic Director of About Face Theatre. Recent directing credits include Let Me Down Easy by Anna Deavere Smith starring Usman Ally at American Theater Company, The Secretaries by the Five Lesbian Brothers at About Face and Walk Across America for Mother Earth by Taylor Mac for Red Tape as part of the 2015 Garage Rep at Steppenwolf. Metzgar was invited to develop CJ, a new piece co-created with Jesse Morgan Young for ATC’s 2016 CORE residency program. Her commission for Sideshow Theater’s 2016 Freshness Initiative, Liberty Tree, was given a reading at Victory Gardens last spring. As a member of the Goodman's 2014-15 Playwrights Unit, she wrote 5 More, which was selected for the 2016 Great Plains Theater Conference. Her plays have been finalists for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Festival, and selected for the Great Plains Theater Conference in Omaha. In 2013-2014, Metzgar was awarded the Carl Djerassi Fellowship in Playwriting at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Previously, Metzgar produced the 365 Festival with Suzan-Lori Parks and was Associate Producer at the Public Theater where she founded Joe’s Pub. Metzgar is on the National Advisory Committee for Howlround and has taught at a number of universities including Northwestern, University of Chicago, Purdue, DePaul and Brown.

About American Theater Company

American Theater Company (ATC) challenges and inspires its community by exploring stories that ask the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" ATC’s Ensemble includes Patrick Andrews, Kareem Bandealy, Jaime Castañeda, Kelly O’Sullivan, Tyler Ravelson, and Sadieh Rifai.

American Theater Company is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, ArtsWork Fund, Lagunitas Breweing Co, Actors’ Equity Foundation,

The Pauls Foundation and Robert & Isabelle Bass Foundation.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The Greenhouse Theater Center is pleased to announce its 2017-18 Season, kicking off this summer with Artistic Director Jacob Harvey and Elizabeth Margolius’ bold reimagining of Sophie Treadwell's most celebrated play MACHINAL, inspired by the first woman to be executed by the electric chair. MACHINAL will be presented through an educational partnership with North Central College, allowing students to shadow professional actors as the production’s understudy cast. Students will be immersed in every facet of the production, in a program that serves as an extension of classroom work and a springboard into the Chicago theatre community.

Next winter, best-selling author Laurence Leamer's critically acclaimed drama ROSE is back by popular demand! Following a sold-out run during last season's Solo Celebration! Series, celebrated Chicago actress Linda Reiter reprises her role as matriarch Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy in this intimate piece directed by Steve Scott. “Following the success of last year’s series, the Greenhouse is continuing its commitment to solo performance in both its production and education efforts,” comments Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. “We will offer a series of workshops and events throughout the run of Rose, as well as partner with solo artists whose work explores social justice themes to co-produce their work on our stages as supplements to our season.”

The Greenhouse's 2017-18 Season concludes next spring with the Chicago premiere of Marc Acito’s BIRDS OF A FEATHER, directed by Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. Based on one of America’s most banned books, Acito’s hit comedy brings to life the story of the Central Park Zoo’s gay penguins to tell a truly hilarious human story.

Season subscriptions packages are currently on-sale at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the Greenhouse box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. Three-play assigned seating package: $93. Two-play flex pass: $63. Subscribers enjoy discounted tickets, unlimited ticket exchanges, first choice for seats and additional exclusive benefits. Single tickets will go on sale at a later date.

“As one of Chicago’s newest Equity companies, the Greenhouse is thrilled to bring audiences a consciously curated season of true stories. In times of great change, elevating the individual’s journey allows us a deeper understanding of the collective,” comments Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. “This concept also defines our new education and revitalized Trellis Residency Initiative. We are excited to begin growing tomorrow's artists and audiences today.”

The Greenhouse Theater Center’s 2017-18 Season:

August 11 – September 24, 2017

MACHINAL

By Sophie Treadwell

Directed by Jacob Harvey

Movement by Elizabeth Margolius

Presented in association with North Central College

How do you escape the machine? One young woman must break out in this exhilarating reimagining of MACHINAL, the American classic inspired by the first woman to face the electric chair. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, Helen finds a thrill in the arms of a flyby lover. But when reality returns, how far will her fight for freedom take her? And who will pay the ultimate price? 

January 12 – March 11, 2018

ROSE

By Laurence Leamer

Directed by Steve Scott

Starring Linda Reiter

Press opening: Monday, January 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm

An intimate portrait of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Camelot’s “queen mother,” as she retraces the rise and fall of her great family. A break-out hit during the 2016 Solo Celebration! Series following its successful Off-Broadway run, ROSE is based on never-before-heard interviews compiled by distinguished Kennedy biographer Laurence Leamer. 

April 27 – June 10, 2018

BIRDS OF A FEATHER – Chicago Premiere!

By Marc Acito

Directed by Jacob Harvey

It takes two to Tango. Roy and Silo are your typical gay American dads with one noticeable exception: they’re penguins! No strangers to the spotlight, these two Central Park Zoo chinstrap penguins have partnered and adopted an egg, but will they be able to raise little Tango together? BIRDS OF A FEATHER is a heartwarming and surprising tale, based on the true story that became one of the most banned books in the U.S.

Artist Biographies

Sophie Treadwell (Playwright, Machinal) Best remembered today for her acclaimed 1928 expressionist drama Machinal, based in part on the infamous murder trial of Ruth Snyder, Sophie Treadwell was an innovative American dramatist whose career spanned almost 60 years and nearly 40 plays. A relentless experimenter in dramatic subjects, styles and forms, Treadwell was one of a select number of American women playwrights who also actively produced and directed their own works. She was also a professional journalist, and she constantly used her writings to explore women's personal and social struggles for independence and equality. (From: Sophie Treadwell. A Research and Production Sourcebook by Jerry Dickey).

Jacob Harvey (Director, Machinal and Birds of a Feather) is the Artistic Director of the Greenhouse Theater Center, beginning his tenure by launching the organization’s producing arm with the Solo Celebration!, a series of 16 solo plays and events over eight months. He also contributed to the series as a director, helming the Chicago premier of Circumference of a Squirrel, as well as the co-production I Do Today (The Other Theater Company.) Locally, he has taught for American Theatre Company’s Bridge Program, and was named one of Newcity’s “Players 2017.” A freelance director, teaching artist and producer, Harvey was awarded the Bret C. Harte Director/Producer Fellowship for Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s 2013/14 Season; served as Associate Producer and Interim Director of Programming for the Drama Desk Award Winning New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF); and served as the Co-Artistic Director of the Ovation Award-Nominated Mechanicals Theatre Group in Los Angeles. He is also a Producer for Your Theatrics International, and was the Co-Producer of Ladyhawks (NYMF 2013 Best of Fest under the title Volleygirls) and the Associate Producer of Ryan Scott Oliver’s 35MM: A Musical Exhibition. Other regional directing credits include, Mr. Marmalade (The Theatricians), The Shape of Things (Silver Bell Productions) and the world premiere of the new musical The Many Selves of Mia Scott (Carrie Hamilton Theater). He is also the creator of the upcoming musical web series currently in development, The Cycle. He attended the BFA program at Marymount Manhattan College and is a graduate of The Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

Elizabeth Margolius (Movement Director, Machinal) is a stage and movement director with a primary focus in developing and directing new and rarely produced musical theatre, operetta and opera. She has worked with theatres in various capacities throughout the country, including the Santa Fe Opera, Florida Studio Theatre, the Virginia Shakespeare Festival and New York’s Encompass New Opera Theatre. Her Chicago directorial credits include: Uncle Philip’s Coat for Greenhouse Theater, code name: CYNTHIA for FWD Theatre Project, Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook for Underscore Theatre, The Girl in the Train for Chicago Folks Operetta, Goldstar, Ohio for American Theater Company, The Merry Wives of Windsor for Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Assistant Director to Barbara Gaines), Opus 1861 for City Lit Theater, nominated for three Joseph Jefferson Awards, Violet for Bailiwick Chicago nominated for five Joseph Jefferson Awards, among others. Margolius is an alumna of the 2004 and 2005 Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York, a 2007 recipient of a full directorial scholarship at the Wesley Balk Opera-Music Theater Institute in Minneapolis, a 2009 respondent and workshop artist for the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival, and a 2010 finalist for the Charles Abbott Fellowship. She is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of DirectorsLabChicago. Elizabeth is an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

Laurence Leamer (Playwright, Rose) Rose is Laurence Leamer’s first play. Leamer is an award-winning journalist and historian who has written 14 books, many of them bestsellers. He has experienced many different lives. As a college student, he worked in a French factory. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal stationed two days from a road. As a young journalist, Leamer worked in a coal mine in West Virginia and covered the war in Bangladesh for Harper’s. His one novel, Assignment, is about drug trafficking in Peru, where Leamer lived for two years. Most of his career Leamer has written nonfiction. His trilogy on the Kennedys – The Kennedy Women, The Kennedy Men and Sons of Camelot – were all New York Times best sellers. John Grisham called Leamer’s most recent book, The Price of Justice: A True Story of Greed and Corruption, “superb…This is a book I wish I had written.” The journalist’s new book, The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan, was published in June. 

Steve Scott (Director, Rose) is the Producer of Goodman Theatre, where he has overseen more than 200 productions; he is also a member of Goodman's Artistic Collective. His Goodman directing credits include Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Horton Foote's Blind Date, Rabbit Hole, Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock and No One Will Be Immune for the David Mamet Festival, Dinner With Friends, Wit, the world premiere of Tom Mula's Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, A Midsummer Night's Dream (co-directed with Michael Maggio) and the 2011 and 2012 editions of A Christmas Carol. He also has directed at Silk Road Rising, American Blues Theatre, A Red Orchid Theatre, Redtwist Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, The Next Theatre Company, and many others. He is the recipient of five Jeff nominations, an After Dark Award, the Illinois Theatre Association's Award of Honor and Eclipse Theatre Company's Corona Award.

Marc Acito (Author, Birds of a Feather) wrote the book of the Broadway musical Allegiance, which New York Newsday recognized for its “well-structured book” and “fully developed characters.” Acito’s comedy Birds of a Feather won Washington D.C.’s Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play. He won the Ken Kesey award for his novel How I Paid for College, which he adapted as a one-man musical starring Alex Brightman. Other projects include A Room with a View (Old Globe and 5th Avenue Theaters), Chasing Rainbows, about the adolescence of Judy Garland (Goodspeed Musicals) and It’s a Secret, a musical in Mandarin for Broadway Asia in China. This June, he’ll direct his rock musical comedy Bastard Jones at the cell theatre in New York. A former commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered, Acito now writes regularly for Playbill and teaches Musical Theater History and Story Structure at NYU. He’s a proud member of the Dramatists Guild, MENSA and Weight Watchers.

About the Greenhouse Theater Center

The Greenhouse Theater Center is a producing theater company, performance venue and theatre bookstore located at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Our mission is first and foremost to grow local theatre.

The Greenhouse Theater began its producing life in 2014 with the smash hit Churchhill, after which came 2016’s much-lauded Solo Celebration!, an eight month, 16 event series highlighting the breadth and depth of the solo play form. With a focus on our community, the Greenhouse is also launching the Trellis playwriting residency, an initiative designed to cultivate the next generation of Chicago theatre creators and a two-tiered education program for college and high school students.

As a performance venue, our complex offers two newly remodeled 190-seat main stage spaces, two 60-seat studio theaters, two high-capacity lobbies, and an in-house rehearsal room. We strive to cultivate a fertile environment for local artists, from individual renters to our bevy of resident companies, and to develop and produce their work. In 2016, the Greenhouse announced a new residency program, which offers a reduced rate to local storefront companies while giving the Greenhouse a stake in the resident’s success. We also offer the community affordable access to our work by housing Chicago’s only dedicated used theatre bookstore, located on the second floor of our complex. 

With new ideas always incubating, the Greenhouse Theater Center is flourishing. Come grow with us!

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Try to remember a time before the Internet, before dating sites, before personal ads and instant cameras and you will eventually discover the age-old path of finding love and dating for men and women called "Lonely Hearts Clubs". 

 

In Marriott Theatre’s “She Loves Me", a musical with a book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock, two co-workers at the quaint Maraczek’s Parfumerie shop have unwittingly fallen in love with each other by the “Dear Friend” letters they have sent and received through their lonely hearts club connection. Though Georg and Amalia have not seen even a single photo of the other they each are certain by the written words of the other that they are truly in love and are ready to finally meet. 

 

Alex Goodrich’s Georg, the male half of this love match starts out as a bit of a jerk. Goodrich, who puts forth a very strong performance, makes Georg very sympathetic, albeit a bit of a boor though he is likable to his co-workers. He is earnestly content with his fifteen-year-plus job at the store. Although he has lots of girls who are real friends, it turns out Georg is completely insecure and out of touch with his feelings towards the opposite sex when it comes to romance. 

 

When Elizabeth Telford enters the store as Amalia (who is both seeking employment and unsuspectingly the other half of the lonely hearts club love letters), Georg is utterly irritated by her natural instinct for sales. Georg treats her with disdain even though she is cute and eminently qualified for the job she gets from the boss after selling a new product, a musical cigarette box, in record time. 

 

Both Goodrich and Telford endear you to their stubborn characters over the course of the show. As delivery boy, Arpad, played with youthful cheer, by Grant Kilian says to another clerk at the store with wonder, "Do they like each other?” The other clerk says, " Yes, they like each other very much," to which Arpad says, "Well shouldn't someone tell them?"  

 

Elizabeth Telford really knocks it put of the park emotionally and vocally with the number “Will He Like Me?", as she muses about all the different qualities he may or may not find attractive about her once they finally meet. Also, her genuinely joyous and girlish rendition of "Vanilla Ice Cream" lifts the audience to believe in true love again as Georg, who has already stood her up once, breaking her heart so badly that she cannot return to work that day, delivers a pint of Amalias' favorite vanilla ice cream. The thoughtful gesture makes her happy at his consideration in a way that begins to dimly realize what might be real love despite his earlier disdainful and brutish treatment of her feelings at work.  

 

Yes, it's like a period piece version of " You've Got Mail" that plays with a very modern feel as couples STILL face these challenges trying to find their mate today despite the Internet dating revolution. 

 

(Above) Jessica Naimy as "Ilona" and Jame Earl Jones II as "Sipos"

Jessica Naimy as Ilona steals the show with two of her numbers as the sexy, single gal at the Parfumerie who lets her desire for Mr. Right get in the way of finding her Mr. Right. In “I Resolve”, Naimy sings with genuine force and power that she resolves to let go of her destructive purely sexual relationship with the lothario of the drugstore and rather stand up for the truly lovable and deserving-of-respect woman she really is. In the number “Trip to the Library", Ilona seems to unconsciously know that a trip to a place of higher learning for the evening instead of to the local drinking hole will eventually lead to her meeting a man of substance and intelligence who loves her the way she was meant to be loved. 

 

James Earl Jones II as Sipos, the clerk with a family who will kiss anyone's butt to save his boring but dependable job, delivers a very funny, dry performance and his singing voice is both comical and deeply resounding. Great job!  And David Schlumpf as Steven Kodaly, the womanizing and insensitive clerk who'll sleep with anyone, really makes you want to slap him in the face, but his number “Grand Knowing You" shows the audience his sexist honesty is what finally pushes Ilona over the brink to find her own self-respect again, even if it means being alone for a while. 

 

Shop owner Mr. Maraczek is also well played by Terry Hamilton, as he is able to finely capture both the character’s storminess as that of a demanding boss and the good heartedness that hides beneath his exterior. 

 

The slicked back hair and black tails of The Headwaiter who serves Georg and Amalia at their very first meeting at a "romantic hideaway" is hysterically portrayed by Steven Strafford who has great physical comedy skills with his spot on facial expressions and timing. 

 

Directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Aaron Thielen, “She Loves Me” is a cute love story that features many charming characters and fun numbers including the adorable “Thank You, Madam” a goodbye the store employees sing together whenever a customer leaves the shop.

 

Thank you, madam. 

Please call again. 

Do call again, 

Madam

 

I highly recommend this heartwarming, fresh and fun production which is brought to life by Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s sets, Jesse Klug’s soft and lovely period lighting and especially Sally Dolembo’s really delicious, color-rich costumes for both the leads and the wonderful ensemble of players who portray shoppers in the store. Altogether with this superb cast, "She Loves Me" brings the art of lovemaking in this long past period to life in a delightful modern way. 

 

“She Loves Me” is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through June 18th. For tickets and show information click here

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Tuesday, 09 May 2017 13:40

"We're Gonna Die" But We're Not Alone

There was so much energy when I went into The Den Theatre, which I will rightfully chalk up to Haven Theatre Company’s infectious vibe. Upon entering, patrons were greeted with ear plugs before being thrust into a cloud of fog, as though attending a rock show. Curious, yet anxious, the crowd seemed spunky and exhibited a healthy amount of excitement in simply just being present. Unique and bold, “We’re Gonna Die” is the latest Haven Theatre Company production, and it’s engaging from the word “Go”.  

 

“We’re Gonna Die” features a live band, riveting storytelling and even some stand up comedy as the cast share true to life experiences in order to connect with the audience on a subject that not many choose to talk about – death. Its message is direct. Despite our darkest hours and personal tragedies, we are not alone.

 

When the show begins, Spencer Meeks who plays the guitar, gives us a brief history of the play and how it is part of a 12-part series. With his eyeliner meticulously applied, Meeks promptly kicks off the evening with a loud beat. 

 

Soon after, the main singer played by Isa Arciniegas emerges. She talks about her Uncle John and the experiences she shared with him when she was younger. The band breaks out into a song and it is quickly apparent that Isa is a natural entertainer. Arciniegas’ energy is contagious as she runs back and forth on the stage. She proceeds to tell the audience a couple more stories and concludes with a moving song about the death of her father. 

 

Soon, everything comes together. Many people are uncomfortable with death, and to be fair, death is sad. We miss the people we lost and are swiftly enveloped with so many different emotions, first asking ourselves how something so tragic could happen to questioning the fairness in death. As Arciniegas continues to sing, she profoundly exclaims, "We're all going to die!" 

 

In Young Jean Lee's “We’re Gonna Die” it is somehow made okay to be comfortable with death, a point made while jamming along with the show’s kick ass drummer played by Sarah Giovannetti. "We're all going to die!" is repeated over and over as confetti pours out from the ceiling along with balloons everywhere. Simply put, the play is a true celebration of life and a reminder that we all should live each day to the fullest since - we are all going to die. 

 

The talented cast and team for "We’re Gonna Die" includes: Isa Arciniegas (singers), Sarah Giovannetti (band), Jordan Harris (band), Elle Walker (band), Spencer Meeks (band) and Kamille Dawkins (singer u/s). The production team for We’re Gonna Die includes: Josh Sobel (director), Abhi Shrestha (assistant director), Julie Leghorn (stage manager), Krista Mickelson (production manager), Spencer Meeks (music director), Claire Chrzan (light designer), Izumi Inaba (costume designer), Mike Mroch (scenic designer), and Jon Martinez (choreographer).

 

Well-directed by Josh Shobel, “We’re Gonna Die” is an interesting play that sheds light on a scary subject. It is a play that really gave me a chance to reflect, as I am sure would be true with the rest of its audience. All in all, I left smiling and excited that I went to the newly renovated Den Theatre (1335 North Milwaukee) to see this very original and thought-provoking play. I recommend checking it out while you can as it will be performed through June 4th. Tickets are priced at $18 and can be purchased at www.haventheatrechicago.com

 

Published in Theatre in Review

 

 

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