Theatre in Review

The House Theatre is currently performing one of its past productions, The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz, Phillip Klapperich’s 2005 spin on L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz. First produced by House Theatre of Chicago in their third season, Klappernich’s The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz is a darker version of the original, magnifying the story’s undercurrents while keeping the integrity of the Baum’s story intact. Modern touches are also added throughout the show that bring Dorothy and friends to present day. 

Most of us know the story of Dorothy, a teenage girl from Kansas who is magically transported from her family’s farm house (thanks to a massive tornado) to the enchanting and vividly colorful world of Oz, a magical place where almost anything can happen. Klapperich’s version gives us a whole new perspective on the classic.

Contemporary Dorothy (played by the talented Kara Davidson), armed with a cell phone and toting her beloved dog Toto, (animated by Joey Steakley, who truly makes the stuffed animal come to life) both land in the whimsical land of Oz (specifically Munchkinland) when a severe storm carries the two by means of the beforementioned powerful twister. Upon landing, we soon find out that Dorothy’s house ends up crushing the wicked witch. Dorothy is greeted and admired by the locals (Munchkins, played by Elana Elyce, Ben Hartej, Carlos Olmedo, and Tina Munoz Pandya) and The Good Witch Glinda (Amanda de la Guardia). Everyone wants their new hero to stay, after all, she killed the wicked witch. But Dorothy longs to get back home to her family in Kansas. The deceased witch however, had a sis who is very nasty and is out to get Dorothy to reclaim her sister’s magic boots that are now clinging to Dorothy’s feet. And so, Dorothy is given directions on how to the grand Emerald City to find the Wizard of Oz, who will hopefully help her get back home. While searching for the great wizard, Dorothy befriends our favorite characters from the classic: The Scarecrow (enchanting Christina Maryland Perkins), Tin Woodsman (Jeremy Sonkin), and Cowardly Lion (lively Michael E. Smith). 

But it’s not as easy as simply meeting the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy, now called the “Witch Slayer” thanks to the Munchkins, is asked by the Wizard to kill the wicked witch in exchange for passage home. 

The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz is beautifully directed and choreographed by Tommy Rapley and is very well cast. Kara Davidson transcends expectation as Dorothy while AnJi White is absolutely mesmerizing as The Wicked Witch of the West. White moves with grace, speaks with conviction and injects just the right amount of wicked into the wicked witch.

The show is delightful non-stop entertainment featuring live music, giant animated puppets, monsters and even flying monkeys soaring through the air, OH MY! Creative, energetic and colorful, it’s mostly joyful, occasionally dark and even sad, but always entertaining. 

Highly recommended.

The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz is being performed at Chopin Theatre through May 7th. The performance schedule is Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. and Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. Preview tickets (evenings March 17 – March 26, no performance March 25) are $15 and regular run tickets range from $25 – $45. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.TheHouseTheatre.com

*This show is not recommended for children under ten.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

The Neo-Futurists are proud to present a world premiere created and performed by Leah Urzendowski* and Anthony Courser The? Unicorn? Hour?, directed by Adrian Danzig, April 6  - May 13, at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland. Previews are Thursday, April 6 - Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. with opening night Monday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. Performances run Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices for previews and Thursdays are pay what you can; for the regular run, tickets are $10-25. Tickets and information are available at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255.

The? Unicorn? Hour? invites the audience to discover and grow in an atmosphere where joy can float freely. Inspired by childhood favorites like “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Peewee’s Playhouse,” this show claims joy as the core fantastical world of adventure within us.  Joy is an active choice, requiring a shift of perception of the world around you.   

“We became really obsessed and excited with the politics of joy; joy being an activism; that feeling joy, being joy, creating joy is a way to fight against the world and your oppressor.  Joy is a part of the resistance,” said Leah Urzendowski. “The? Unicorn? Hour? refers to the unicorn that lives within all of us - the mythical magical organ in your soul that can be tapped into at any moment you choose. You can “unicorn” at anytime! Seeking joy is refusing woe and accepting the beauty of an unbridled lifting of the spirit.”

“We want to give people the gift of saying yes and delighting in absurd choices; help people tap back into a time before the word ‘no’ was forced on them. We want to be a looking glass of what a world could look like when we choose to eliminate self-doubt and say yes to a sincere playfulness,” added Anthony Courser.   

ABOUT LEAH URZENDOWSKI* creator/performer

Leah Urzendowski* is a founding member of The Ruffians, and an ensemble member with The Neo-Futurists since 2011. Some of Urzendowski’s Chicago credits include Jeff recommended Mr. Burns (Theatre Wit); Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, Miss Neo Pageant, (both with The Neo- Futurists); Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians); 500 Clown Trapped, 500 Clown Frankenstein, 500 Clown Macbeth (all with 500 Clown); Moby Dick, Dustbowl Gothic ( both with The Building Stage) and Hunchback (Redmoon). Choreography and movement direction credits include The Magic Play (Goodman), Lord of The Flies (Steppenwolf), Ivywild (Hypocrites), Miss Neo Pageant (The Neo-Futurists) and Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians, The Neo-Futurists).  TV and film credits include “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Fire,” “ER” and “Operator.” Urzendowski is a teaching artist with The Ruffians, The Neo-Futurists and Team Awesome, specializing in physical theatre, ensemble and partnership building, clown, movement and movement consulting. She received her BFA from Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and is represented by Stewart Talent.

ABOUT ANTHONY COURSER, creator/performer

Anthony Courser is a founding member of the Ruffians (2013), an artistic associate with The Neo-Futurists (2012) and a teaching artist with Barrel of Monkeys (2001).  Some of Courser’s favorite Chicago credits include Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians, The Neo-Futurists); Jeff Recommended Ivywild (The Hypocrites); Daredevils Hamlet, Picked Up, The Fool Returns to His Chair, Daredevils (The Neo-Futurists), That’s Weird, Grandma (Barrel of Monkeys); set designer for Analog (The Neo-Futurists).  He was in the performance ensemble of New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat and the Le Tigre Tent. He is a graduate of Dell Arte International School for Physical Theatre and a student of Panchinko Clowning with Sue Morrison at the Canadian Clown Institute.  Courser is a teacher of clown, Physical Theatre, and Ensemble and Partner Building.  He is also a carpenter, but he doesn’t have time to build you a table.

ABOUT ADRIAN DANZIG** director

Adrian Danzig was an early Neo-Futurist (1990) and a founding member of Redmoon Theater, Hubinspoke Theater and is the founding producing artistic director of 500 Clown. His direction/creation credits include Circle of Madness, Action, Not Dead Yet, 500 Clown Get Happy and the earliest versions of 500 Clown Macbeth. Danzig graduated from New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, received his BA from Oberlin College in Government and his MFA from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in Performance. He has studied clown with Ctibor Turba, Philippe Gaulier, Ronlin Foreman, Dominique Jando, Els Comediants, David Shiner, Avner the Eccentric and was a clown with Big Apple Circus Clown Care for seven years. 

   

* denotes an active member of The Neo-Futurist Ensemble

 

ABOUT THE NEO-FUTURISTS

The Neo-Futurists are a collective of wildly productive writer-director-performers that create theater that is fusion of sport, poetry and living-newspaper. Having created more than 9,775 plays within 28 years of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and over 65 original, full-length productions within their immediate, non-illusory aesthetic. The Neo-Futurists have grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in the United States. From humble beginnings as the first late-night theater production in Chicago, they launched what became Chicago’s longest running show and today sustain multifaceted programs such as Neo-Access, The Kitchen (a micro-festival on art and performance), Prime Time, Neo-Lab and their ongoing late night show 50 weekends every year. For more information visit www.neofuturists.org

The Neo-Futurists are proud to present a world premiere created and performed by Leah Urzendowski* and Anthony Courser The? Unicorn? Hour?, directed by Adrian Danzig, April 6 - May 13, at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland. Previews are Thursday, April 6 - Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. with opening night Monday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. Performances run Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices for previews and Thursdays are pay what you can; for the regular run, tickets are $10-25. Tickets and information are available at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Devastation permeates the set and plot of the Northlight Theatre’s Midwest premiere of By the Water – a powerful and moving production, written by Sharyn Rothstein and directed by Cody Estle, about a Staten Island, New York, family dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

 

Marty and Mary Murphy (Francis Guinan and Penny Slusher) fight to save in their storm-ravaged home and campaign to keep their neighborhood together even as their life-long neighbors and friends the Carters (Janet Ulrich Brooks and Patrick Clear) vow to leave and family secrets seep to the surface.

 

“In this play, natural disaster serves as a metaphor for the social and political change that forces generations to confront very real issues about their own lives – lives built on values that have become outmoded,” says Northlight Artistic Director BJ Jones. “Sharyn’s sharp sense of humor built on rich character development is sprinkled throughout, and the themes of justice and family values and loyalties emerge full-throated in her dialogue and her surprising plot.”

 

The Murphy’s are magnificently played by Guinan and Slusher, who give impressive performances imbuing the blue-collar couple with authenticity, humor and grit as they struggle to survive not only the brokenness of their community but the underlying betrayals within their family.

 

At the heart of this production is family and the idea that despite the mistakes and disloyalties as exemplified in the tattered relationship of brothers Sal Murphy (Jordan Brown) and Brian Murphy (Joel Reitsma), and the back-and-forth power struggle between Sal and his father Marty, that love and forgiveness can prevail and second chances are possible. Nowhere is this more evident than with Brian, who after a stint in jail, manages to find a second chance at love with Emily (played by Amanda Drinkall).

 

“[By the Water} is about confronting deep-seated personal problems in the face of a generational divide and finding a way to move forward,” Estle notes.

 

Rothstein developed the idea for the play after visiting Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy.

 

“Leaving behind a community, a lifetime of memories, seemed like an enormous leap of faith and an incredibly difficult decision, but the destruction was gut wrenching,” she says. “Yet, in front of one neat, clearly beloved house, a man who looked to be in his sixties was tending his lawn. With his whole neighborhood in ruins, with the majority of his neighbors already gone or figuring out how to leave, here was a man clearly standing firm. The image of him standing there amid so much loss was the genesis of my play.”

 

And that imagery is so indelibly visible in this production, which manages to peel back so many unexpected and complex layers while remaining thoroughly entertaining from its opening moments with the very effective sound effects to its poignant end. What makes this play so touching is not only the dynamic script and incredibly talented cast but the simple yet powerful stage design that evokes loss and pain as well a sense of home and place.

 

The creative team behind By the Water includes: Jeffrey D. Kmiec (scenic design), JR Lederie (lighting design), Rachel Laritz (costume design), Lindsay Jones (sound design) and Mara Filler (stage manager).

 

Highly recommended.

 

By the Water is playing at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois, until April 23. Tickets are available at online at northlight.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

It's not often you'll hear cool and the play 'Picnic' in the same sentence, but director Will Davis' new version at American Theater Company is just that. This is William Inge's 1953 Pulitzer Prize winner as you've never seen it before. For many, 'Picnic' triggers high school boredom flashbacks. When traditionally produced, this play can tend to be a little dry. Not the case here, with unique staging and deconstructed notions of gender, Davis brings Inge's work into our century. 

 

William Inge was himself gay in a time period in which it was not acceptable. The theme of secret desire in 'Picnic' parallel Inge's own struggle with being other in a more straight-laced world. Though the Midwest has certainly changed since the 1950's, much of its close-mindedness still exists and that's what remains relevant about Inge's play. 

 

This is Will Davis' first full season as artistic director of American Theater Company and this production is bound to get noticed. This version of 'Picnic' begins as almost performance art; a woman takes a seat at a piano and the cast enters in the shadows. In look and feel, this production couldn't be more different from the traditional staging. While jarring at first, the cast immediately finds its footing and makes Inge's dialogue come to life. Artful and visually stunning effects are peppered throughout, which make for a memorable experience. 

 

Performances are impressive here. Davis' gender-blind casting forces you to focus not on what a performer looks like but rather how their performance makes you feel. In the role of transient stud Hal, is Molly Brennan. While it's apparent she is female, through costuming and attitude, Brennan delivers Hal with such sincerity, it brings to mind Mary Martin's Peter Pan. Malic White is striking in the role of Madge. White's petite and soft spoken Madge turns preconceived notions about feminine beauty on its head. Spinster school teacher Rosemary is played hilariously by Michael Turrentine whose physicality couldn’t be more spot on. 

 

Classic plays should be analyzed in every time for their relevance. These plays can only stay part of the cannon if they connect to a modern audience. It's important for theater companies to take risks and make bold choices to usher these works into a new millennium. Will Davis' 'Picnic' hints at a fearless future for American Theater Company. 

 

Through April 23 at American Theater Company. 1909 W Byron St. 773-409-4125

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Artistic Director Robert Falls announces Goodman Theatre’s new 2017/2018 Season, which builds on the theater’s 40-year commitment to producing works that are representative of American society. In announcing the new season, Falls serves up a dynamic mix of works from culturally and aesthetically diverse playwrights—new plays and revisited classics that address the most significant issues facing the country today. The 2017/2018 Season, beginning in September 2017 and continuing through July 2018, includes plays on both of the Goodman’s stages: the 856-seat Albert Theatre and 350-seat flexible Owen Theatre. New this season, the Goodman introduces a variety of “Membership” options for its audiences; 5-play Albert packages start at $100. Call 312.443.3800 or visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Power. Individual tickets go on sale in early August.  American Airlines is the Major Production Supporter, Exelon/ComEd is the Major Corporate Sponsor of Having Our Say, Mayer Brown is the Corporate Sponsor Partner for The Wolves and the Time Warner Foundation is the Lead Supporter of New Play Development.

 

“Heroic and hopeful, challenging and illuminating, Goodman Theatre’s 2017/2018 Season is a collection of plays that reflects the times in which we live—powerful works that hold up a mirror to who we are, what has brought us here and question where we will go in the future,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls. “These are plays that feel particularly relevant at this moment, as we face a darkly divided country and society. As a cultural institution devoted for four decades to the ideals of diversity and community, we must give voice to all ideas, all communities on our stages and in our engagement center programs—with a special eye to those who, because of their ethnicity, gender identification, sexual orientation, age or religious principles, might be marginalized or excluded altogether. The power of theater to unite, engage and inspire us is needed now more than ever.”

 

Continued Falls, “We open our Albert Theatre season with the Chicago premiere of one of the most thrilling and important recent revivals of a classic work, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, reimagined by director Ivo van Hove—a production that earned enormous acclaim on Broadway and in London’s West End. Miller writes about the marginalization of immigrant culture, and an America that may not be excluded from the tragedy of that. Next, I am excited to direct the world premiere of Blind Date by Rogelio Martinez, a fascinating backstage glimpse of one of history’s oddest couples—Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev—infused with sly humor and unexpected wisdom. Following Blind Date comes my new production of An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen—a play that addresses corruption, greed and destruction of the environment, and is, sadly, as timely today as when it was written in 1882. In the spring, we’ll revive the warm, human and altogether wonderful Having Our Say by Emily Mann, directed by Chuck Smith, which follows two remarkable centenarians—Sadie and Bessie Delany, sisters and Civil Rights pioneers—and their struggles for equality. The season concludes with the world premiere of Support Group for Men by Ellen Fairey, directed by Kimberly Senior—an uproarious, topical comedy about middle-aged men in a changing world, where traditional notions of gender are increasingly passé. Ellen’s new play was an audience favorite in our 2016 New Stages Festival, and is a perfect match for the talents of our frequent collaborator Kimberly Senior.”

 

Continued Falls, “In the Owen Theatre, we begin with Yasmina’s Necklace by Rohina Malik, directed by Ann Filmer, a graceful, moving new play that invites audiences into the living rooms of Muslim families who themselves represent a collision of cultures and experiences—Latinx and Arab, immigrants and refugees—and celebrates our similarities. We are proud to produce this play, which we developed in the 2010 New Stages Festival and which enjoyed an extended world premiere production last year at 16th Street Theater, under Ann’s direction. Next is the Chicago premiere of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, directed by Vanessa Stalling—a thrilling new work fueled by the raw adolescence of a high school girls soccer team, whose off-Broadway premiere was counted among The New York Times’ ‘Best Theater of 2016.’ I’m excited for Vanessa, our former Goodman Maggio Fellow and one of the most exciting emerging directors in Chicago, to make her Goodman directing debut. We’ll conclude the Owen Theatre season with the epic Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Niegel Smith. It’s an honor to present the Chicago premiere of the brilliant and powerful new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Topdog/Underdog and host Niegel, the artistic director of New York’s Flea Theater, in his Goodman debut.”

 

Falls continued, “In addition, we will present a springtime limited engagement of the complex and provocative new play, Until the Flood by Dael Orlandersmith, about the ways trauma manifests itself in a community—in this case, Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager. Finally, we are proud to present the 14th annual New Stages Festival of new plays, which includes six new plays (three developmental productions in repertory + three staged readings, TBA), and celebrate the 40th anniversary of A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper and starring Larry Yando in his 10th turn as Ebenezer Scrooge.”

  

About the Productions and Events in Goodman Theatre’s 2017/2018 Season

 

New this season, the Goodman introduces a variety of “Membership” options for its audiences; call 312.443.3800 or visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Power to join or learn more. Individual tickets go on sale beginning in August. Plays, artists and dates are subject to change.

 

2017/2018 SUBSCRIPTION SEASON

                                                                                                                                                

The Young Vic Production of Arthur Miller’s View from the Bridge

Directed by Ivo van Hove

September 9 – October 15, 2017 in the Albert Theatre

A Chicago Debut 

 

Visionary Belgian director Ivo van Hove injects a raw, pulsating energy into Arthur Miller’s 1955 classic—“powerhouse theater that will leave you breathless!” (The Hollywood Reporter)—recipient of 2016 Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play and Best Director. Direct from sold-out runs on Broadway and the West End comes the Chicago debut of van Hove’s “magnetic, electrifying, astonishingly bold” (London Evening Standard), “radically reimagined” (The Washington Post) revival of Miller’s famed drama. Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone welcomes his immigrant cousins to America. But when one of them falls for Eddie’s young niece, his jealous mistrust exposes an unspeakable secret—one that drives him to commit the ultimate betrayal.

 

Yasmina’s Necklace

By Rohina Malik

Directed by Ann Filmer

October 20 – November 19, 2017 in the Owen Theatre

The refugee experience is illuminated by this “sweet and hopeful story” (Chicago Tribune) about love and renewal in the face of past devastation. Challenged by his Iraqi roots, Abdul Samee has obscured his Muslim identity in favor of assimilation—he’s changed his name to Sam, and even tells his co-workers that he’s Italian.

But his attitudes change when he meets Yasmina, a refugee from his father’s homeland whose own experiences have hardened her to the possibilities of love. As a tentative relationship between the two blossoms into something more, each begins to find hope in the future, buoyed by the power of family, connection and the embracing of their shared culture.

 

Blind Date

By Rogelio Martinez

Directed by Robert Falls

January 20 – February 25, 2018 in the Albert Theatre

A World Premiere

 

Blind Date is a backstage glimpse of one of the 20th century’s landmark historical events. In an era before Twitter and eHarmony, two of history’s oddest couples seek to thaw the seemingly intractable relationship between the United States and Soviet Russia. Despite their advisors’ efforts to keep them on track, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev eschew conventional protocols to discuss pop culture and old movies—while their wives mirror their husbands’ negotiations in a passive-aggressive tango over tea and fashion choices. A compelling and edgy comic journey through the intricacies of statesmanship.

 

The Wolves

By Sarah DeLappe

Directed by Vanessa Stalling

February 9 – March 11, 2018 in the Owen Theatre

A Chicago Premiere

 

The Wolves is an unconventional exploration of the pitfalls of friendship and coming maturity, as seen through the struggles of a girls’ athletic team. In this “incandescent portrait of an indoor soccer team” (The New York Times), nine teenage girls stretch, train, and argue about everything from the meaningful to the mundane as they try to make sense of the world from the relative safety of their suburban patch of AstroTurf. Infused with the raw jagged energy of adolescence, The Wolves offers a refreshingly complex depiction of girls navigating friendships, growing up, confronting the future—and trying to score a few goals.

 

An Enemy of the People

By Henrik Ibsen

Directed by Robert Falls

March 10 – April 15, 2018 in the Albert Theatre

 

Ibsen’s masterwork, “a play so necessary, so exhilarating to experience” (The Village Voice), finds renewed immediacy in a daring new production from Artistic Director Robert Falls. The contamination of a resort town’s water supply sets the stage for a battle involving the town’s respected mayor, Peter Stockmann, and his brother Thomas, a respected doctor. As the brothers become locked in a combative struggle between political wisdom and personal ethics, the economic fate of the community—and the unity of the town’s residents—hangs in the balance.

 

Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years

By Emily Mann

Adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany, with Amy Hill Hearth

Directed by Chuck Smith

May 5 – June 10, 2018 in the Albert Theatre

 

Celebrate the story of a century as lived by “two strong, vibrant women dispensing joy and wisdom” (Chicago Tribune) in this funny and heartfelt family drama. The Delany sisters, Sadie and Bessie, remain best friends and roommates even as they pass their centennial birthdays. As they prepare a meal in honor of their late father, a former slave, they reminisce about the joys and challenges of their lives: coming to maturity in the Jim Crow South, experiencing the Harlem Renaissance and rising to unimagined professional prominence. Having Our Say showcases the sisters’ unique, indomitable spirits as they fondly recall meeting beloved historical figures and denounce prejudices that infect the country.

 

Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)

By Suzan-Lori Parks

Directed by Niegel Smith

May 25 – June 24, 2018 in the Owen Theatre

A Chicago Premiere

 

Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks’ “blazingly original” (The Washington Post) Civil War epic serves up “an American story as much about our present as it is about our past” (The Los Angeles Times). Hero, a Texas slave, faces a simple yet monumental choice: join his master in the Confederate army to win his freedom—or remain enslaved at the plantation. As he debates leaving his lover for what may be another empty promise, Hero must take charge of his life, even when much remains beyond his control. Filled with music, wit and poetic wisdom, the Pulitzer Prize finalist play Father Comes Home from the Wars challenges its audience to navigate their own moral compass in a country that both unites and divides.

 

Support Group for Men

By Ellen Fairey

Directed by Kimberly Senior

June 23 – July 29, 2018 in the Albert Theatre 

A World Premiere

 

A hilarious exploration of what happens when society’s new normal doesn’t seem so normal to everyone. Thursday night in Wrigleyville is “Guys’ Night” for a group of longtime pals. Instead of letting off steam over baseball they’ve formed a support group–with its “No Ladies” policy strictly enforced–in which they can vent about dashed romances, stalled careers and other middle-age maladies. But when an unexpected visitor crashes their party, the guys’ traditional notions of masculinity are exploded. This topical, Chicago-flavored comedy gleefully dissects the ever-changing role of gender in today’s culture—and proves that understanding is sometimes found in the least likely of places.

ADDITIONAL PLAYS AND EVENTS

 

New Stages Festival

Six New Plays (Three Developmental Productions + Three Staged Readings) TBA

September 20 – October 8, 2017 (“Industry Weekend” is October 6-8) in the Owen Theatre

 

The 14th annual New Stages festival of new plays includes three developmental productions in repertory and three staged readings. Three productions in the 2016/2017 Season emerged from New Stages, including The Magic Play, Objects in the Mirror and King of the Yees. Founded in 2004, the New Stages Festival is a celebration of innovative new plays designed to give playwrights an opportunity to take risks and experiment. New Stages offers Chicago theatergoers a first look at dozens of plays, many of which have gone on to become successful full productions—including Noah Haidle’s Smokefall and Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined.

 

Until the Flood

By Dael Orlandersmith

Directed by Neel Keller

April 27 – May 13, 2018 in the Owen Theatre

A Limited Engagement Chicago Premiere

 

The 2014 fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown brought international attention to the town of Ferguson, Missouri, and the festering history of race relations in America. Based on dozens of interviews with Ferguson residents, award-winning playwright, performer and Goodman Artistic Associate Dael Orlandersmith brings to life a riveting exploration of the tragedy and its aftermath, from the perspective of such disparate participants as a middle-aged black teacher, an elderly barbershop owner, and a white policeman.  The result:  a richly complex mosaic of a community—and a country—in trauma. 

 

A Christmas Carol (40th annual production)

Adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper

November 18 – December 31, 2017 in the Albert Theatre

 

Acclaimed Chicago actor Larry Yando returns for his 10th season at Goodman Theatre as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, directed for the fifth year by Artistic Associate Henry Wishcamper. Nearly 1.5 million theatergoers have attended “the crown jewel of the holiday season” (Daily Herald) since the Goodman established it as an annual offering in 1978—a time when only a handful of US theaters mounted the production. Dickens’ holiday classic is the iconic tale of greedy businessman Ebenezer Scrooge, whose sizable bank account is only matched by his disdain for the holidays. One Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by four ghosts who take him on a spectacular adventure through his past, present and future, helping him rediscover the joys of life, love and friendship. Former cast members include stage and screen notables Jessie Mueller, Joe Minoso, Del Close, Harry J. Lennix, Felicia P. Fields, Raul Esparza, Sally Murphy and Frank Galati.

 

About Goodman Theatre

 

America’s “Best Regional Theatre” (Time magazine) and “Chicago’s flagship resident stage” (Chicago Tribune), Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit organization distinguished by the quality and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Founded in 1925, the Goodman is led by Robert Falls—“Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune), who marked 30 years as Artistic Director in the 2016/2017 Season—and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, who is celebrated for his vision and leadership over nearly four decades. Dedicated to new plays, reimagined classics and large-scale musical theater works, Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned hundreds of awards for artistic excellence, including: two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, nearly 160 Jeff Awards and more. Over the past three decades, audiences have experienced more than 150 world or American premieres, 30 major musical productions, as well as nationally and internationally celebrated productions of classic works (including Falls’ productions of Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night, King Lear and The Iceman Cometh, many in collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy). In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” For nearly four decades, the annual holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol has created a new generation of theatergoers. 

 

The 2016 opening of the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (“the Alice”) launched the next phase in the Goodman’s decades-long commitment as an arts and community organization dedicated to educating Chicago youth and promoting lifelong learning. Programs are offered year-round and free of charge. Eighty-five percent of the Goodman’s youth program participants come from underserved communities.

 

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.

 

Today, Goodman Theatre leadership includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Joan E. Clifford is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women’s Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals. 

 

Visit the Goodman virtually at GoodmanTheatre.org—including OnStage+ for insider information—and on Twitter (@GoodmanTheatre), Facebook and Instagram.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Wednesday, 22 March 2017 13:48

Circus 1903 Brings the Kid Out in All of Us

After a 146-year run, Ringling Bros. Circus, is finally bringing down its curtain for what has been tabbed as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. That’s right. With final shows in May of 2017, one of the world’s most popular events will come to a close after nearly a century and a half of entertaining families from all walks of life. 

Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment recently told the Chicago Tribune regarding Ringling Bros. closing, “There isn’t any one thing. This has been a very difficult decision for me and my family.”  

Far away are the days when the circus would come to town and people would line the streets to watch the animals and performers enroute to the big top. But has circus excitement really fallen to the wayside? 

Several factors were included in closing the Ringling Bros. show including high operating costs and lengthy encounters with animal rights groups. And though a change in public taste is also blamed for the demise of the circus, it’s easy to argue against that. Live circus acts draw an excitement level like no other as proven by the success of Las Vegas Cirque Du Soliel’s Zarkana, a show that brings back classic feats such as death-defying aerial, trapeze, juggling and high-wire stunts. 

Others also realized the value in circus entertainment. Simon Painter, Tim Lawson and MagicSpace Entertainment have resurrected three-ring enthusiasm by putting their resources together to produce Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus. The team has an established track record with the world’s biggest magic show, The Illusionists, and War Horse under their belts already, the latter of which had won awards for its puppeteer work. 

Set in a grand circus tent at the turn of the 20th century, the show is narrated by the Ring Master, who introduces one breathtaking act after another, starting off with a team of acrobatics who propel each other high into the air by jumping on opposite ends of a large teeter totter. The higher they are launched, the more impressive their flips and twists. Other acts include a beautiful contortionist (Senayet Asefa Amare), an aerialist (Elena Gatilova), an amazing bicycle balancing routine by “The Cycling Cyclone” (Florian Blummel) and one of the best juggling performances you’ll ever see by Francois Borie, otherwise known as “The Great Gaston”.  

The second act opens with possibly the most impressive of the show’s acts as sixth generation circus performers Alejandro and Ricardo Rossi, more simply known as The Rossi Brothers, pulling off a “foot juggling” act to perfection that was perfected by Fratelli Rossi back in the early 20th century. As one brother juggles the other into the air who is being flipped at rapid speeds, we get a taste of the athleticism, precision and balance involved in an act than can only be described as “jaw-dropping”.     

Circus 1903 also contains a good amount of humor with The Ringmaster (David Williamson) often interacting with the crowd and creating plenty of very funny moments as he brings children to the stage as volunteers. Williamson, a renowned magician who has appeared on numerous top-rated prime-time network specials, gives the show its needed continuity, entertaining between acts, adding suspense and drawing several laughs from the audience each time he appears.  

Another highlight in the show is the use of puppeteers to create and bring to life both a full-grown elephant along with its playful baby. Taking place in 1903, I feared for a moment that this could turn into the sad story of Topsy, the circus elephant that was put down by electrocution that same year. Thankfully, the show did not go into that direction.

A daring high wire act featuring The Lopez Family brings the show to its grand finale, bicycle balancing along with stunning acrobatics tackled high above the stage from one end to the other. 

The circus is not dead, people. In fact, it’s an absolute blast. And this this circus holds no controversy when it comes to animal cruelty. With several amazing acts, Circus 1903 does a fantastic job at recreating the era with its costume and set design and is the perfect way to introduce new fans to the grandiose of big top entertainment. 

Recommended for adventure seekers of all ages.

Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus is currently touring nationally and will is being performed at Oriental Theatre through March 26th. For more info on this magnificent show, click here

     

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Ten years after their critically acclaimed collaboration on King Lear, Artistic Director Robert Falls and stage and screen star Stacy Keach—both 2015 Theater Hall of Fame inductees—reunite for the world premiere of Pamplona by Jim McGrath. Keach stars as Ernest Hemingway, one of the most acclaimed novelists and short story writers of the 20th century, in this explosive tour de force drama, set during the author’s haunted years following his Pulitzer and Nobel Prize honors. Pamplona marks Keach’s second exploration of the literary legend: he earned a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of Hemingway in the eponymous 1988 television mini-series. Pamplona appears May 19 – June 18 in the Owen Theatre (now extended through June 25th). Tickets ($20-60, subject to change) go on sale Monday, February 20 at 10am online at GoodmanTheatre.org and at 12 noon by telephone, 312.443.3800, or in person at the Goodman Box Office (170 N. Dearborn). Note: The previously-announced Lady in Denmark by Dael Orlandersmith will be rescheduled TBA; Goodman subscribers will receive tickets to Pamplona.   

 

“I am honored to work with Stacy on the world premiere of Jim McGrath’s beautifully rendered work about one of our most charismatic yet complicated literary titans—and a Chicagoland native—Ernest Hemingway,” said Robert Falls who, in addition to King Lear (2006), also directed Keach in Arthur Miller’s Finishing the Picture (2004). “Stacy is a voracious reader, and Hemingway has fascinated him for a long time. The opportunity to dive deep with him to reveal this troubled artist and amazing man—at once a father, husband, lover, wartime correspondent and adventurer—is thrilling.”

 

In McGrath’s new play, after the prize comes the pressure. Basking in the glory of career-defining awards—the 1953 Pulitzer Prize and the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954—legendary writer Ernest Hemingway insists his best work is yet to come. Five years later, holed up in a Spanish hotel with a looming deadline, he struggles to knock out a story about the rivalrous matadors of Pamplona. But his real battles lie outside the bullfighting arena; in declining health, consumed by his troubled fourth marriage and tormented by the specter of past glories, he must now conquer the deepening despair that threatens to engulf him.  

 

“My fascination with Hemingway began when I was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, where I read In Our Time. I felt as if the author was inside my head, expressing himself with words and attitudes that reflected how I felt—and I became inspired to read everything he wrote,” said Stacy Keach. “When I played him in the 1980s, I was somewhat intimidated; I felt simply too young to fully appreciate the emotional turmoil he had experienced, due to his failing health and his inability to continue writing. This is why I am so excited with the prospect of revisiting this literary giant now, at the right age to fully explore the essence of his later years. The opportunity to work with Bob, with whom I’ve been blessed to collaborate twice before, and work again at Goodman Theatre—so close to where Hemingway grew up—is perfect.”

 

Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) was born in Oak Park, IL, and got his start as a journalist writing for The Kansas City Star after attending Oak Park and River Forest High School. Shortly after, he joined the Red Cross during World War I, receiving the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery in 1918 for assisting soldiers, an experience that would inspire one of his most beloved works A Farewell to Arms (1929). Following the war, he spent time in Paris, befriending the likes of Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and published his first collection of stories Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923). Next came his first novel The Sun Also Rises (1926), about a group of British and American expatriates traveling to Pamplona, Spain. Among his many other great works are the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea, For the Whom Bell Tolls (Pulitzer Prize nomination), Green Hills of Africa, Death in the Afternoon and To Have and Have Not. On assignment, Hemingway was also present for some of World War II’s most noted events including the liberation of Paris, and received a Bronze Star for bravery for his coverage of the war. Following the war, he spent an extensive amount of time in Cuba and in 1954, shortly after publishing The Old Man and the Sea, received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Hemingway was married four times, often tumultuously, to Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gelhorn and Mary Welsh Hemingway. He had three sons, Jack, Patrick and Gregory. Troubled by financial issues, familial burdens and alcohol abuse, Hemingway took his own life in Idaho in 1961.

 

Stacy Keach has maintained a series of performances in motion picture and television projects while continuing to add to his significant achievements on the stage—both classical and Broadway. His most recent motion pictures are director Stephen Gaghan’s Gold, starring Matthew McConaughy, Edgar Ramirez, and Bryce Dallas Howard, and Gotti with John Travolta. Other recent films are Truth (with Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford), Stephen King’s, Cell, (with John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson,) and Netflix’s Girlfriend’s Day, starring and directed by Bob Odenkirk. His filmography includes John Huston’s Fat City, co-starring Jeff Bridges, Alexander Payne’s Academy Award nominated big screen drama, Nebraska, If I Stay, Bourne Supremacy, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, The Ninth Configuration, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, Doc, Up In Smoke, American History and the classic western, The Long-Riders, which he produced with his brother James Keach. Keach was one of the stars of the NBC comedy series, Crowded.  He recently finished filming a few episodes of award winning Man With A Plan alongside Matt LeBlanc and Kevin Nealon. Prior television includes: Showtime’s Ray Donovan, Starz’s Blunt Talk, CBS’s, Blue Bloods, Fox’s Titus, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Two and a half Men, Prison Break, NCIS: New Orleans, and Hot In Cleveland. As a narrator his voice has been heard in countless documentaries and numerous books on tape. He is the narrator on CNBC’s American Greed. Keach has portrayed a constellation of the classic and contemporary stage's greatest roles, and he is considered a pre-eminent American interpreter of Shakespeare. His Shakespearian roles include Hamlet, Henry V, Coriolanus, Falstaff, Macbeth, Richard 3, and King Lear. He also headed the national touring company cast of Frost/Nixon, portraying Richard M. Nixon. Keach’s memoir All in All: An Actor’s Life On and Off the stage, received the Prism Literary Award. Other awards include: Golden Globe, three Obies, three Vernon Rices, two Drama Desks, three Helen Hayes, Emmy and Tony Award nominations, and he won the Prestigious Millineum Recognition Award, the Will Award. Keach was recently inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame, and received a Hollywood Film Award for Best Ensemble in the film Gold. He also received the 2016 Best Narrator from The Society of Voice Arts and Sciences in the category of Crime and Thriller for his work on Mike Hammer audio novels. Keach was a Fulbright scholar to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, attended the University of California at Berkeley and the Yale Drama School. Of his many accomplishments, Keach claims that his greatest accomplishment is his family: his wife of 30 years, Malgosia, and children Shannon and Karolina.

 

Jim McGrath’s first short play, Trail of the Westwoods Pewee, was presented at the West Bank Theatre in New York City in 1987. The next year saw the production of his first full-length play, Bob’s Guns, at the Director’s Company in New York. In 1992, New Jersey’s Passage Theatre produced his play Roebling Steel. In 1995, the Met Theatre in Los Angeles premiered The Ellis Jump, which won McGrath the Ovation Award for Best Writing of a World Premier Play. For television, he wrote detective stories for Simon & Simon, The Father Dowling Mysteries, Matlock, Mike Hammer and Over My Dead Body, as well as the children’s series Wishbone and Liberty Kids, science fiction series Quantum Leap, Codename Eternity and Dark Realm and the television films Elvis: The Early Years and Silver Bells (starring Anne Heche). He also co-wrote the screenplay for the feature film Kickboxer: Vengeance. In 2012, he produced and wrote the documentary Momo: The Sam Giancana Story, which won Best Documentary Awards at the Bel Air Film Festival and The Monaco International Film Festival. He has taught creative writing courses at Patton State Prison in San Bernardino, California State Home for Veterans in Los Angeles and The Center Theater in Chicago. He was trained as an artist leader with Imagination Workshop, by founders Margaret Ladd and Lyle Kessler in 1983, for which he worked with mentally ill and homeless clients for decades as a theater artist. In 2010, he became Executive Director of Imagination Workshop. McGrath is a native of Dallas, Texas. After graduating SMU, he attended Princeton Theological Seminary for two years before embarking on his playwriting career.

 

Robert Falls is celebrating 30 years as Goodman Theatre Artistic Director this season. His current production, Annie Baker’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya, is on stage now in the Owen Theatre through March 12. Last season, he directed Rebecca Gilman’s Soups, Stews, and Casseroles: 1976, and co-adapted/directed the world premiere of 2666, based on Roberto Bolaño’s internationally celebrated novel, earning a Jeff Award for Best Adaptation. Previous credits include the critically acclaimed production of The Iceman Cometh at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Gilman’s Luna Gale at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles; and a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Other recent productions include Measure for Measure and the world premiere of Beth Henley’s The Jacksonian. Among his other credits are The Seagull, King Lear, Desire Under the Elms, John Logan’s Red, Jon Robin Baitz’s Three Hotels, Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio and Conor McPherson’s Shining City; the world premieres of Richard Nelson’s Frank’s Home, Arthur Miller’s Finishing the Picture (his last play), Eric Bogosian’s Griller, Steve Tesich’s The Speed of Darkness and On the Open Road, John Logan’s Riverview: A Melodrama with Music and Gilman’s A True History of the Johnstown Flood, Blue Surge and Dollhouse; the American premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s House and Garden and the Broadway production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida. Falls’ honors for directing include, among others, a Tony Award (Death of a Salesman), a Drama Desk Award (Long Day’s Journey Into Night), an Obie Award (subUrbia), a Helen Hayes Award (King Lear) and multiple Jeff Awards (including a 2012 Jeff Award for The Iceman Cometh). For “outstanding contributions to theater,” Mr. Falls has also been recognized with such prestigious honors as the Savva Morozov Diamond Award (Moscow Art Theatre), the O’Neill Medallion (Eugene O’Neill Society), the Distinguished Service to the Arts Award (Lawyers for the Creative Arts) and the Illinois Arts Council Governor’s Award.

 

About Goodman Theatre

 

America’s “Best Regional Theatre” (Time magazine) and “Chicago’s flagship resident stage” (Chicago Tribune), Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit organization distinguished by the quality and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Founded in 1925, the Goodman is led by Robert Falls—“Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune), who marks 30 years as Artistic Director this season—and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, who is celebrated for his vision and leadership over nearly four decades. Dedicated to new plays, reimagined classics and large-scale musical theater works, Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned hundreds of awards for artistic excellence, including: two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, nearly 160 Jeff Awards and more. Over the past three decades, audiences have experienced more than 150 world or American premieres, 30 major musical productions, as well as nationally and internationally celebrated productions of classic works (including Falls’ productions of Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night, King Lear and The Iceman Cometh, many in collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy). In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” For nearly four decades, the annual holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol has created a new generation of theatergoers. 

 

The 2016 opening of the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (“the Alice”) launched the next phase in the Goodman’s decades-long commitment as an arts and community organization dedicated to educating Chicago youth and promoting lifelong learning. Programs are offered year-round and free of charge. Eighty-five percent of the Goodman’s youth program participants come from underserved communities.

 

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.

 

Today, Goodman Theatre leadership includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Joan Clifford is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women’s Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals. 

 

Visit the Goodman virtually at GoodmanTheatre.org—including OnStage+ for insider information—and on Twitter (@GoodmanTheatre), Facebook and Instagram.

 

Published in Buzz Extra
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