Theatre in Review

Simply said, First Folio’s latest production hits on all cylinders. Women in Jeopardy, currently performed at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook, is a sharp comedy that successfully lands a very high percentage of its humor with the audience thanks in part to its funny script with plenty of the credit going to the play’s dynamic cast that makes good comic timing look much too easy. Written by Wendy MacLeod, who penned The House of Yes, Schoolgirl Figure and Things Being What They Are, Women in Jeopardy grabs the audience within minutes and refuses to let go.

The story revolves three forty-something women, Mary, Jo and Liz, who, having been longtime best friends, have supported each other during their divorces and now look out for each other – like best friends should. Perhaps it would have been just another day, but when a dental hygienist goes missing from the parking lot of Liz’ new boyfriend, Jackson’s, dental practice, Mary and Jo quickly piece together a series of circumstantial evidence and jump to their own conclusion. Suspecting Jackson as the abductor, Mary and Jo still need to exercise caution not wanting to outright accuse him in front of Liz while, at the same time, wanting to protect her. When Liz’ daughter and her spacey boyfriend get into the mix, the story jumps to another level of hilarity. Women in Jeopardy is a whodunnit that keeps you laughing as much as guessing.

Amy Montgomery (Mary), Lydia Berger Gray (Jo) and Melanie Keller (Liz) are dynamite – and very funny - as the three besties, displaying strong chemistry together making their friendship highly believable. Hayley Burgess puts forth a strong performance as Amanda while Chris Vizurraga is also well cast as Amanda’s dopey snowboard shop-working boyfriend, Trenner, who hilariously crushes badly for Mary. Stealing many well-deserved laughs is Joe Foust, who doubles as both Jackson and the town sheriff, Kirk. Women in Jeopardy goes to the perfect height of comedy without go so over the top that witty humor becomes sheer silliness.

Fiercely directed by Janice L. Blixt, Women in Jeopardy is a finely-crafted and superbly-acted comedy that delivers consistent laughs and just the right amount of intrigue. If you're looking for a great way to spend a delightfully entertaining evening during the Valentine's season, look no further. 

Highly recommended.

Women in Jeopardy is being performed at Mayslake Peabody Estate through February 25th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.firstfolio.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

Having seen the Donny Osmond and even the Patrick Cassidy productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber's colorful telling of the Joseph story years ago, I remember really enjoying them in a children's theater sort of way. The characters are colorful, the story has a good lesson and the songs catchy. Upon seeing Drury Lane’s spectacular re-imagining of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I couldn't even remember what the original story line was about. Which turns out to be a good thing! I got to relive the adventure all over again, and this time with several big changes to the traditional production.
 
The pyramids of Egypt are replaced with the pyramid of The Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas and much of the "dreamer’s dreams” dreamt by Joseph are played out with much talent right there in his decidedly low luxury level Luxor hotel room, complete with an overlooking view of The Strip.
 
The narrator has been replaced with the amazing singular talent of Christina Bianco, a world renown singer and impersonator of our generations greatest singers. Bianco blows the audience away with technically difficult and spot on - sometimes hilarious - impersonations of Britney Spears, Cher, Liza Minelli, Shania Twain, Bernadette Peters and even Edith Piaf! Having a woman narrator with such brilliant singing skills that she becomes literally "everywoman" is a very refreshing and funny delight throughout the show. 
 
Directed with ballsy style by Alan Souza with choreography by Grady M. Bowman, the dance numbers, which include Vegas style showgirls and Joseph’s brothers who double as "showgirls in drag" at one point, are absolutely fantastic! 
 
The effect of the many complicated and energetic dance numbers all dressed up in Ryan Park’s modern silk and Vegas-style costumes and Claire Moore's deliciously designed wigs is one of bewildering entertainment with almost too many great dancers to take in all at once. 
 
In another break from the traditional production, Elvis Presley was also replaced in this show with Elton John - perhaps a contemporary nod to the LGBTQ community. 
 
Evan Alexander Smith who plays Joseph as a nerdy, confused young man fell short for me. Although Smith has a great singing voice in general, his lackluster, befuddled portrayal of Joseph left me wanting someone with more star quality at any age in that role. Unfortunately for Smith, it would probably take someone with Donny Osmond's level of sex appeal and onstage charisma to have been be able to play the essential lead role in a way that wasn't dwarfed so completely by Christine Bianco's many talents. 
 
The musical is based on the Biblical story in Genesis of Joseph’s who receives nothing but jealously from his eleven brothers after their father, Jacob, gifts him with a colorful coat. Beaten and left for dead by his own siblings, Joseph is kidnapped up by slave traders and taken to Egypt. It is after his ability to translate dreams reaches the pharaoh, that his life takes an unexpected turn.
 
This production is absolutely nothing like the "Technicolor Dream Coat" Chicagoan's have been taking their kids to for decades, and at times is a bit confusing while following the quickly moving lyrics as they are now delivered in such a unique way especially by Bianco. But as an adult wanting to see a fresh, fun and sexy version of the Joseph story, I was really blown away by the blast of color, powerful sound and spectacle delivered by the entire cast and design team. 
 
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, currently being performed at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook through March 25th, is a lively musical that dazzles visually and includes all around excellent performances from its gifted cast. For more show information visit www.DruryLaneTheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Porchlight Music Theatre continues its fifth season of Chicago’s “lost” musicals in staged concert series with Porchlight Revisits They’re Playing Our Song, starring Sharriese Hamilton and James Earl Jones II, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and book by Neil Simon, with direction and choreography by Christopher Carter and musical direction by Andra Velis Simon. Porchlight Revisits They’re Playing our Song is presented for three-nights-only Tuesday, March 6 through Thursday, March 8 at 7:15 p.m. and is performed on the set of Porchlight’s Merrily We Roll Along (previews begin January 26) at Porchlight’s new home, The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street. Tickets for They’re Playing Our Song are $35. All tickets include access to the popular pre-performance event, Behind the Show Backstory, a multimedia presentation, created and hosted by Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Weber that discusses the evening’s production including the show’s creative history, juicy backstage gossip and the state of the art on Broadway that season. Single tickets to They’re Playing Our Song and subscriptions for the entire series are available at porchlightmusictheatre.org or by calling the Porchlight Music Theatre box office at 773.777.9884. 

They’re Playing Our Song is a romantic musical comedy about the affair (both professional and romantic) of a wisecracking composer and an aspiring, offbeat lyricist. Creatively, their relationship works great, but personal trials and tribulations lead them toward finding a new way to make harmonious music together in this laugh-a-minute romantic charmer. The show features musical hits “Fallin’,” “If He Really Knew Me” and “Just For Tonight.”
 
The cast of Porchlight Revisits They’re Playing Our Song includes: Sharriese Hamilton (Sonia Walsk), James Earl Jones II (Vernon Gersch) and Anastasia Arnold, (voice of Sonia Walsk); Kiersten Frumkin, (voice of Sonia Walsk); Yando Lopez,  (voice of Vernon Gersch); Billy Rude, (voice of Vernon Gersch); Tyler Symone, (voice of Sonia Walsk) and Koray Tarhan, (voice of Vernon Gersch).

The production team includes Christopher Carter, director; Andra Velis Simon, music director; Lucia Lombardi, stage manager; Joaquin Gomez, assistant stage manager and Samantha Treible, wardrobe supervisor.
 
The musicians are Chel Hernandez, bass; Tony Scandora, drums and Page Kallop, guitar. 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Performances began January 20th for Blind Date, Rogelio Martinez’s slyly comic, behind-the-scenes glimpse of two of the most powerful world leaders—Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev—directed by Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls. Martinez, “a fresh and funny talent” (Backstage) who “finds new twists on old topics” (Variety), continues his multi-play exploration of the Cold War Era with this Goodman world premiere, which features as characters some of the figures who shaped the political landscapes of the 1980s and beyond. In an era before Twitter, Tinder and 24/7 news, Ronald Reagan (Rob Riley) and Mikhail Gorbachev (William Dick) seek to thaw the seemingly intractable tension between the United States and Soviet Russia. Despite their advisors’ best efforts to keep them on track, a crafty game of one-upmanship ensues, as the world’s two most powerful leaders eschew conventional protocols to discuss pop culture and old movies—while Nancy Reagan (Deanna Dunagan) and Raisa Gorbachev (Mary Beth Fisher ) mirror their husbands’ negotiations in a passive-aggressive tango over tea and fashion choices. Blind Date appears January 20 – February 25, 2018 (opening night is Monday, January 29 at 7pm). Tickets ($20 - $75; subject to change) are available at GoodmanTheatre.org/BlindDate, by phone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 N. Dearborn). JPMorgan Chase is the Major Corporate Sponsor, Goodman Theatre Women’s Board is the Major Production Sponsor and the Chicago Tribune is the Media Partner. Blind Date earned a New Play Award by the Edgerton Foundation. Time Warner is the Lead Supporter of New Play Development for the 2017/2018 season.
 
“My interest in the Cold War is, in some ways, my desire to understand who I was before arriving here, and who I became after,” said playwright Rogelio Martinez, who grew up in Cuba not long after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and conducted countless hours of research to develop this production. “This is not speculative fiction, not a ‘what if’ story, the events in the play did occur, but maybe not exactly in the same way as they occur on stage. It’s my job to present a set of characters and let audiences arrive at a conclusion of their own. I hope audiences will leave the theater with some hope and not just hope but agency—they as individuals can do something about today’s problems.”
 
After receiving an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation New Science and Technology Initiative Grant, Martinez wrote When Tang Met Laika, a post-Cold War space exploration play that was subsequently produced by the Denver Center. This inspired him to bring the Cold War itself on stage in a three-play cycle about the time period—Ping Pong, the first play in the trilogy, is about U.S.-China relations during the Nixon administration and was presented at The Public Theater. The second play, Born in East Berlin, tackled the impact a Bruce Springsteen concert had on East Germans just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The play was workshopped at the Atlantic Theater Company and has since been translated into both Hungarian and Romanian. The Goodman production marks the conclusion of the trilogy.
 
Falls’ cast also features Jim Ortlieb as former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz; Steve Pickering as former Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Soviet Union Eduard Shevardnadze; and Thomas J. Cox as Reagan biographer Edmund Morris. The ensemble includes Torrey Hanson, Gregory Linington and Michael Milliganand extras David Besky, McKinley Carter, Chris Daley, James D. Farruggio Sam Krey, Joe Lino, Guy Massey, Nathan Simpson, Craig Spidle and Emilio Tirri, who round out the cast as Soviet Citizens, KGB Officers, Politburo Members, White House Staff, Secret Service, American Military Officers, Journalists and others. The Creative Team includes Riccardo Hernandez (Set Designer), Amy Clark (Costume Designer), Aaron Spivey (Lighting Designer) and Richard Woodbury (Sound Designer).
 
Following Blind Date, Falls will direct a new production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People (March 10 – April 15, 2018) at the Goodman, and also remount his Lyric Opera of Chicago production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni for the Dallas Opera (April 2018). Most recently, Falls directed the world premiere of Jim McGrath’s Pamplona, starring Stacy Keach as Ernest Hemingway, and a new production of Annie Baker’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya at the Goodman.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The parallels between "The Good Fight's” retelling of the British Suffrage Movement -  and the Women's March going on in all countries around the globe now are truly uncanny and a little bit frightening. The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).British women's suffrage movement coined the powerful phrase “Deeds, not words" in response to the 50-year-long refusal by Parliament to allow women to vote in the UK. 

Babes with Blades latest production, “The Good Fight” is a stark reminder of today’s issues at hand. History is doomed to repeat itself, and in Babes with Blades latest production, “The Good Fight” at City Lit Theatre the already revved up Chicago audience finds a thought provoking reminder of yesterday's issues which are still being fought for today. 

There are many interesting, and also tragic, scenes that are presented well in this production. WSPU members were regularly subjected to police brutality like being beaten and arrested while demonstrating peacefully or simply selling their Women's Press newspaper, "Votes for Women".  The aging leader of the WSPU, Emmeline Pankhurst (Jean Marie Koons), and other members were arrested repeatedly under an actual law with the degrading and disgusting title “The Cat and Mouse Act".

"The Cat and Mouse Act" allowed police to not only repeatedly arrest and imprison members like Pankhurst but also to brutally force feed them while in prison when they chose to go on hunger strikes. As one character in the play mentions, "You are never the same after the force feeding." 

Force feeding was done by restraining the female prisoner on a medical table by her arms and legs then applying metal clamps to her mouth and teeth to open them so that a feeding tube, which often tore open their vocal cords in the process, could be forcibly shoved down their throats in an effort to punish them. This created a hollow appeasement to the public that they were being "fed by prison guards" in order to save their lives. 

Another fascinating and little known story is told about the group of fighting Suffragette’s called "The Bodyguard", a group of specially trained women who learned the martial art of Jiu Jitsu in order to protect their leader from the police brutality and repeated arrests at each WSPU demonstration. 

The fact that these early suffragettes NEEDED to learn to fight using hand to hand combat just shows clearly how violently they were abused by the police and lawmakers at the time. It's too bad this production didn't get a mention in about the South Asian British suffragettes without whom this battle would not have been won. 

Some scenes were real reminders of how male autocrats use physical force to rule over their subjects. Playwright Anne Bertram includes scenes about Parliament arguments over whether to allow women the vote, which included arguments that the women's hats would be too large to see over if women were voted into government. Another argued the stressing of women's physical weakness as an indicator that they must be ruled over because men are born capable of physically subduing women, etc.  

Although this quote is not in the play it was one of these infuriating responses that served to agitate the movement completely when in June of 1908 the WSPU held a 300,000-strong "Women's Sunday" rally in Hyde Park. The suffragettes argued for women's suffrage with the Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. The Prime Minister agreed with their argument but "was obliged to do nothing at all about it" and so urged the women to "go on pestering" and to exercise "the virtue of patience".

Some of the women present had been virtuously patiently fighting for their rights for FIFTY years and so the advice to "go on pestering” was felt as an unbelievably patronizing and disgustingly inhumane response from the Prime Minister, which spawned the more militant actions to come. 

One of the most interesting things I did not know about the WSPU and the formation of " The Bodyguard" is that the WSPU members debated  among themselves whether or not to return violence with violence or continue to resist peacefully, doing only damage to abandoned buildings and closed stores in order to avoid using violence to defend their aging leader and other young members from  the  physical destruction of lives through the "Cat and Mouse" torture and release legislation.This production mentions the interesting and bitterly ironic fact that Parliament also passed another legislation protecting it's armed forces that forbade women attending WSPU peaceful marches or protests to wear "hat pins" to fasten their hats because so many police were "poked with hat pins while attempting to arrest protesters that the hat pins were now considered by baton and gun wielding policemen as weapons! 

Hence, the brilliant and necessary formation of " The Bodyguard" which utilized the peaceful art of jujitsu; one of the only martial arts in the world which uses ONLY the energy of an attacker’s momentum to respond to and end the attackers violent actions. 

The essential scenes for this production directed with passion by Elizabeth Lovelady and fight choreographer Gaby Labotka made great use of the relatively small space for so much physical action and complex action scenes. I loved the use of the sumptuous period costumes and official colors of the WSPU. As is stated, “In 1908 the WSPU adopted purple, white, and green as its official colours. These colours were chosen because Purple...stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette...white stands for purity in private and public life...green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring."

Some of the British accents could use some work because it was a little bit distracting to hear them come and go within a couple cast members. Each member of this ensemble did a great job expressing the fever, excitement and anguish of meeting each day’s challenges and humiliations. 

Emmeline Pankhurst was played beautifully with great wisdom and pride by Jean Marie Koon. Grace Roe, a jailed WSPU member and one of the founders of the movement, was played with wonderful sensitivity and forceful energy by Arielle Leverett. 

I enjoyed watching this play surrounded by Chicagoan's who are right now marching 300,000 strong downtown to protest all GOP of the human rights being eroded by the current Trump administration. 

The fact that in 2018, it has been less than 100 years since women have been given the right to vote and the fact that not only are women still fighting for equal pay, they are also still fighting to keep their rights to abortion, healthcare and protection from career ending sexual harassment while an accused sexual harasser of the worst kind  has been " voted" somehow into the highest office in the land, makes this production a must see for all who are struggling daily to keep up their own energy physically and emotionally to fight "the good fight".  

I highly recommend taking your sons and daughter to see this informative and sadly, still VERY relevant, production to show them how long it takes to win this type of good fight and also that the good fight has not yet been entirely won. 

“The Good Fight” is being performed through February 17th at City Lit Theatre - http://babeswithblades.org/winter-2018-good-fight/.

Published in Theatre in Review

Having spent a good majority of my adult life producing books and media for children, I like to think I’m a good judge of content directed at the young of year, as well as the young at heart. I’m also quite an exacting critic when it comes to such content, which is why I was worried I’d be a bit hard on the Chicago Children’s Theatre’s current production, My Wonderful Birthday Suit.

It’s also why – aside from the fact that I prefer dates that are both brainy and beautiful – I was accompanied by my five-year-old daughter to this past Sunday’s performance…I might consider myself a child at heart, but I wanted to see how the show connected with an actual child, too. So, in we walked to the theatre’s location at the near west side Station, this perky and perceptive young woman and her skeptical pops.

We arrived at the party early – she fashionably, me not so much – and were invited to sit at one of several tables covered in crayons and colorful paper leaves to decorate. I’ve gotta admit, as a father with an attention span equal to his preschooler’s, something to do while waiting was awfully thoughtful.

When the theater doors opened, we joined the flock of eager youngsters and Sunday morning oldsters finding seats and checking out the stage.

At first glance, I thought the set looked simple, but as my date and I studied it before the show started, it proved to be full of delights. A giant burlap tree in the center of a bright living room. Shining gifts to either side. Colorful picture frames on the walls. We were intrigued, the both of us. The jaunty ragtime piano playing over the PA system only added to the whimsy.

When the show started and the first character – Ooblahdee – appeared, her rainbow tights and sparkling smile welcomed us into her whimsical world. Our red-headed hostess Darci Nalepa was dolled up for children’s theater, sure, but from the get-go she showed she’s got the energy and openness for the job. Tossing herself Raggedy-Ann-like across the floor when needed, singing songs when called for, Nalepa most importantly avoids the mistake too many make when performing for kids – she doesn’t talk down, she doesn’t condescend. She inhabits this onstage world as if it’s a given and invites us – the audience – to join her there.

Soon enough, Nalepa’s Ooblahdee was joined by her best friend, Ooblahdah – a prancing, pouting, purple pal played by puckish scene-stealer Will Wilhelm. Wilhelm’s a great id for Nalepa’s girl-next-door protagonist, sneaking a peak at a present, worrying about friendships, the kind of stuff that all of us do but that only kids get to admit to.

And after Melanie Brezill’s Shebopshebe arrives for her birthday, her party, and her presents, Wilhelm’s next act of honesty is to question her being “brown.”

For such a complex thing, prejudice is really pretty simple. So simple that it’s perhaps best illustrated by a childlike character in a child-friendly setting.

And just like how us adults might sometimes ignore the uncomfortable, Brezill’s character seems to do so at first. But then, after Wilhelm again shows displeasure at the tone of her skin, Brezill shows her stuff. She’s brown, she’s proud, and despite her small size, she lets her fellow characters and the audience know just why she’s proud of being brown.

After this bit of birthday conflict, things of course wrap up nicely. There are bows, there are gifts, there are hugs. There’s even a bird puppet inside that burlap tree that lays birthday bows instead of eggs.
The children in the audience seemed riveted throughout the show – by the set, by the actors, by the story. My only suggestion is that kids are by nature interactive little critters. At the end of the show, there was a moment where the fourth wall was broken and the actors asked the audience for responses. The children were, naturally, eager to respond. But I thought the prompts and the interaction could perhaps be polished a bit, could perhaps be more naturally incorporated into the show.

But now, as I sit here thinking about what the children’s responses showed that they’d learned – and their responses to the show throughout – I realize that perhaps children aren’t the audience for the play’s message of inclusivity and acceptance. Perhaps children, despite their own honest opinions or maybe because of them, already innately know the lesson that Gloria Bond Clunie’s My Wonderful Birthday Suit is trying to teach us – that a gift’s wrapping doesn’t matter nearly as much as what’s inside. Maybe the show was meant to teach said lesson to those of us who are children no longer, even if we want to think we are. And so, while the trappings and theatrics might target the youngest in the crowd, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s latest production is really meant for children of all ages.

My Wonderful Birthday Suit is being performed at the Chicago Children's Theatre through February 18th. 

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Monday, 22 January 2018 07:58

Review: All My Sons at Court Theatre

Whenever things get hot in America, Arthur Miller comes back in vogue. It's hard to fathom what he would think of today's world though. Court Theatre features Miller's first hit play 'All My Sons' . Directed by Charles Newell, this provocative new production is vibrant and exceedingly well acted.

'All My Sons' first appeared on Broadway in 1947, establishing Arthur Miller as a major playwright. Though considered among his best, there's an amount of melodrama here that later Miller works would shed. In this dark play, he examines the moral and psychological effects of WWII on ordinary Americans.

John Judd plays Joe Keller, the good-guy neighbor type who has just arrived home from prison. He's been acquitted of manufacturing faulty airplane parts that caused plane crashes in WWII. His partner remains in jail having accepted all responsibility. His adult son Chris, played by Timothy Edward Kane survived the war while his brother Larry did not. On an ordinary summer day Chris invites Larry's former fiance and daughter of Joe's business partner, Annie (Heidi Kettenring) for a visit. Chris' mother Kate (Kate Collins) cannot reconcile that Larry is dead and is slowly unraveling.

Newell takes this script in an interesting direction. The central conflict is Joe, a normal guy with a huge moral dilemma. "I know you're no worse than most men, but I thought you were better." Miller writes. It's through Kate Collins that Newell puts the emphasizes on the women's narrative of this play though. Kate's dialogue swings from reality and delusion so rapidly. Collins' interpretation has an eerie Blanche DuBois quality to it. This is also a story about a woman losing her grip in a time when life was supposed to be cheerful.

Heidi Kettenring brings Annie to the foreground in this version. With 'All My Sons' Miller wanted to show how aspects of the war effected all parts of America. Many women were left widows. Social constructs made finding love more challenging for women. Kettenring captures every scene she's in. Her portrayal of a lonely woman with few options is haunting.

Newell's production is artful. The staging is vivid and unique. When every theater company is offering Arthur Miller, it's cool to see how these works are being reinterprated to appeal to a new generation. For some, two and a half hours of classic American theater sounds like a school field trip. Newell's production proves that there's always a new way to see a play.

Through February 11th at Court Theatre. 5535 S Ellis Ave. 773-753-4472

Published in Theatre in Review
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

Haven Theatre is pleased to continue its 2017-18 Season with Bertolt Brecht’s unsettling and unflinching drama FEAR AND MISERY IN THE THIRD REICH, translated by Eric Bentley and directed by Artistic Director Josh Sobel, playing February 8 – March 11, 2018 at The Den Theatre's Janet Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently availale at haventheatrechicago.com
 
FEAR AND MISERY IN THE THIRD REICH features Joe Bianco, Amanda De La Guardia, Alys Dickerson, Elizabeth Dowling, Simon Hedger, Niko Kourtis, Kyla Norton, Siddhartha Rajan, Alexis Randolph and Jessica Dean Turner.
 
As Germany careens toward war, an entire society begins to crack, and the seeds of chaos and tragedy take root in the minds of its citizens. Josh Sobel (We're Gonna Die) helms an ensemble-driven production of Brecht's 1938 classic with a contemporary eye – a warning of how insidiously a culture can make space for atrocity, and a call to never allow it to happen again. 
 
Comments Artistic Director Josh Sobel, "As the world finds itself in the midst of its next great cultural shift, Brecht's examination of the common citizen and how a society can be led to accept the inhumane feels strikingly immediate. Brecht wrote this play reflecting and pulling back the curtain on the news of the day as it was happening around him, providing an unnerving and – in our current moment – all too important call to confront injustice as it happens and to firmly and proudly say: No. With this production we seek to serve one of Haven's core values – the Future – through an intimate and personal look at our past and how such fatal mistakes were allowed to take place."
 
The production team for FEAR AND MISERY IN THE THIRD REICH includes Yu Shibagaki (scenic design), Izumi Inaba (costume design), Claire Chrzan (lighting design), Sarah D. Espinoza (sound design), Jeffrey Levin (original music), Sasha Smith (movement design), Abhi Shrestha (dramaturg, associate movement director), Angela Salinas (production manager), Madisen Dempsey (assistant director), Anna Sung-En Medill (assistant director) and Corbin Paulino (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: FEAR AND MISERY IN THE THIRD REICH
Playwright: Bertolt Brecht
Translator: Eric Bentley
Director: Artistic Director Josh Sobel
Cast: Joe Bianco (Ensemble), Amanda De La Guardia (Ensemble), Alys Dickerson (Ensemble), Elizabeth Dowling (Ensemble), Simon Hedger (Ensemble), Niko Kourtis (Ensemble), Kyla Norton (Ensemble), Siddhartha Rajan (Ensemble), Alexis Randolph (Ensemble) and Jessica Dean Turner (Ensemble).
 
Location: The Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Dates: Previews: Thursday, February 8 at 8 pm, Friday, February 9 at 8 pm, Saturday, February 10 at 8 pm and Monday, February 12 at 8 pm
Regular run: Thursday, February 15 – Sunday, March 11, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm
Tickets: Previews: pay-what-you-can. Regular run $18. Tickets are currently available at haventheatrechicago.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Porchlight Music Theatre and Artistic Director Michael Weber are proud to announce the second production in its 2017 – 2018 season of Chicago’s hit musical revue series, New Faces Sing Broadway 1959, hosted by Gene Weygandt, directed by Adrian Abel Azevedo with music direction by David Fiorello, Monday, Feb. 26 at Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave in Skokie at 7:30 p.m.  In tribute to the original New Faces series that ran on Broadway and on film from 1934 – 1968, Porchlight Music Theatre created the Chicago musical revue series, New Faces Sing Broadway as a showcase for the best emerging music talent now performing on Chicago stages. Each edition is a “time–machine” journey from the start to the finish of an entire musical season from the classic days of Broadway, peppered with photos and films of the era in an exciting multimedia presentation with a favorite Chicago theatre veteran hosting and introducing the next generation of music theatre artists while acting as your guide through a vintage year on the Great White Way. Seating is general admission; tickets are $22 and are available at porchlightmusictheatre.org or from the Porchlight Music Theatre box office, 773.777.9884.

In addition to the performances on stage, the host engages the audience to sing along as the “Broadway chorus” of some of the best-known production numbers from that classic musical season and challenges them to “Name that Showtune,” a fun and fast-moving music theatre trivia game where participants win Porchlight prizes.

New Faces Sings Broadway’s spring edition celebrates the start to the finish of the year 1959 on Broadway, peppered with photos and films of the era in an exciting multimedia presentation with, Gene Weygandt, a favorite Chicago theatre veteran hosting and introducing the next generation of music theatre artists and acting as your guide through a past season on the Great White Way.
Featuring songs from A Party With Comden and Green, Destry Rides Again, Fiorello!, First Impressions, Flower Drum Song, Goldilocks, Gypsy, Juno, The Most Happy Fella, The Nervous Set, Once Upon a Mattress, Redhead, Saratoga, The Sound of Music, Take Me Along, Whoop-Up and others.

The original New Faces series via Broadway and movies was instrumental in introducing the public to emerging talent such as June Carroll, Robert Clary, Imogene Coca, Jane Connell, “Professor” Irwin Corey, Henry Fonda, Alice Ghostley, Ronny Graham, Tiger Haynes, Van Johnson, Madeline Kahn, Eartha Kitt, Robert Klein, Carol Lawrence, Paul Lynde, Virginia Martin, John Reardon, Maggie Smith, Inga Swenson and many, many others.

The cast of New Faces Sing Broadway 1959 includes: Anastasia Arnold, last seen in Gypsy at Music Theatre Works; Curtis Bannister, who recently appeared in Marie Christine at BoHo Theatre; Katherine Bourne, also seen in Marie Christine;  Roy Brown, just seen in Porchlight’s Billy Elliot the Musical; Charlie Ingram, recently seen in Les Miserables at The Muny; Jacquelyne Jones, who appeared in Honky Tonk Angels at Theo Ubique; Bernell Lassai III, who is also appeared in Billy Elliot; Mallory Maedke, recently seen in Hair at The Mercury Theatre; Jeff Pierpoint, last seen in Newsies at Marriott Theatre and Maisie Rose, who appeared in Lysistrata Jones with Refuge Theatre Project. The stage manager is Joaquin Gomez.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
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