Upcoming Theatre

Strawdog theatre begins its 2017-2018, 30th Anniversary Season with a Chicago Premiere of Barbecue by Robert O’Hara. Barbecue is performed at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre as a LookOut Visiting Company.

In Strawdog’s Barbecue, a spirited trailer trash family is having a summer barbecue with an ulterior motive in mind: they want one of theirs, Barbara, to get help for her drug and alcohol problems. The most reasonable of them came up with the perfect rehab solution and wants other siblings to chime in. Squabbling around, as they normally do, smoking, drinking and calling each other names, the siblings can’t quite agree on most things except that their sister is an embarrassment to the whole family and definitely needs an intervention. They try to be considerate too, especially since the rehab might give Barbara “freezer burn”.

Without giving away too much, let’s just say that midway through the first Act there’s an intriguing race switch. The switching back and forth between the two races adds a fascinating dimension to the story and infuses the play with another cultural language; and plus, it’s cool to watch.

When Barbara finally shows up at the barbecue, everyone’s ready, albeit with a taser to subdue her if necessary. Taking turns, they present their arguments (mostly made up stories) to their bound and gagged sister, while making interesting bets for the outcome.

Robert O’Hara has such a great way with words; his characters are hilarious and wacky, they’re a fun bunch that’s keeping it real and holds nothing back. Director Damon Kiely chose a marvelously talented cast for the play that includes Strawdog Ensemble Members John Henry Roberts and Kamille Dawkins with guest artists Kristin Collins, Celeste Cooper, Anita Deely, Barbara Figgins, Deanna Reed Foster, Abby Pierce, Terence Simms and Ginneh Thomas. Minimalist set (set designer Joanna Iwanicka, props designer Leah Hummel) is to the point and doesn’t detract from the action on stage.

Act One ends with an unexpected twist. After the intermission, there’re more twists, the order of things gets changed, and the characters are propelled to fame and fortune. Enter Hollywood, wised up Barbara, a black movie star, and the race switch now makes sense. Second act’s takeaway message: “Everything is bullshit”. After all, life is all but a stage.

Barbecue is highly recommended and is being performed through September 30th. For more show information visit www.strawdog.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, presents the Chicago Premiere of The Legend of Georgia McBride, written by Matthew Lopez, directed by Lauren Shouse. The Legend of Georgia McBride runs September 14-October 22 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie. 

A down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator has an overdrawn checking account and a baby on the way. When a drag show takes over the entertainment at the Florida Panhandle bar where he performs, he’ll also be out of a job…unless he’s willing to step into some high heels. This heartwarming, music-filled comedy celebrates the unexpected path to finding your true voice.
 
“When Lauren Shouse brought The Legend of Georgia McBride to my attention, I could immediately see that it was fun, uplifting, musical, and written by one of our favorite authors, Matthew Lopez, who also wrote The Whipping Man,” comments BJ Jones. “It's a piece about outsiders who gradually bring us into their family—a family who celebrates our identities, our freedom, our uniqueness and our commonality. And this central notion is the vital message we need to hear right now in an atmosphere of dissonance, intolerance and hate.”
 
The cast of The Legend of Georgia McBride includes Sean Blake (Miss Tracy Mills), Keith Kupferer (Eddie), Jeff Kurysz (Rexy/Jason), Nate Santana (Casey) and Leslie Ann Sheppard (Jo). 
 
The creative team includes Chris Carter (Choreography), Richard and Jacqueline Penrod (Scenic Design), Rachel Laritz (Costume Design), JR Lederle (Lighting Design), Kevin O’Donnell (Sound Design). The production stage manager is Rita Vreeland.
 
Northlight’s production of The Legend of Georgia McBride is supported in part by Bob and Lisa Silverman.
 

The Box Office is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie.  Box Office hours are Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm, and Saturdays 12:00pm-5:00pm. On performance days, the box office hours are extended through showtime. The Box Office is closed on Sundays, except on performance days when it is open two hours prior to showtime.
 
Curtain times are: Tuesdays: 7:30pm (September 19 and October 17 only); Wednesdays: 1:00pm (except October 11) and 7:30pm; Thursdays: 7:30pm; Fridays: 8:00pm; Saturdays: 2:30pm (except September 16) and 8:00pm; and Sundays: 2:30pm and 7:00pm (September 17 and October 8 only).
 
 
Northlight is continuing its popular special event series in conjunction with each production.  All events are free. 
 
Backstage with BJ: The Legend of Georgia McBride
September 8 at 12:00pm 
at Northlight Theatre
9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, IL
Backstage with BJ is a mid-day discussion with Artistic Director BJ Jones, featuring special guest artists, actors, directors and designers, offering behind-the-scenes insight into each production while it is still in rehearsal.  Backstage with BJ for The Legend of Georgia McBride will be held on September 8 at 12:00pm and will last approximately one hour. Event is free but reservations are required. Visit https://northlight.org/events/backstage-with-bj/ to reserve your spot.
 
Inside Look: The Legend of Georgia McBride
October 5 at 2:00-3:00pm
at Evanston Public Library
1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston, IL
Explore the context of the play, The Legend of Georgia McBride, through a discussion and a Q&A session with panelists related to the production.
 
Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community. 
 
Now entering its 43rd season, the organization has mounted over 200 productions, including nearly 40 world premieres. Northlight has earned 202 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 34 Awards. As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality. 
 

Fact Sheet / The Legend of Georgia McBride
 
Title:                      The Legend of Georgia McBride
Written by:              Matthew Lopez
Directed by:            Lauren Shouse
Featuring:               Sean Blake (Miss Tracy Mills), Keith Kupferer (Eddie), Jeff Kurysz(Rexy/Jason), Nate Santana (Casey) and Leslie Ann Sheppard (Jo). 
 
 
Creative Team:         Chris Carter (Choreography), Richard and Jacqueline Penrod (Scenic Design), Rachel Laritz (Costume Design), JR Lederle (Lighting Design), Kevin O’Donnell (Sound Design). The production stage manager is Rita Vreeland.
 
Dates:                     

Previews: September 14 – 21, 2017
                                          

Regular Run: September 23- October 22
 

Schedule:                

Tuesdays: 7:30pm (September 19 and October 17 only)

Wednesdays: 1:00pm (except October 11) and 7:30pm                   

Thursdays: 7:30pm
                                      

Fridays: 8:00pm
                                      

Saturdays: 2:30pm (except September 16) and 8:00pm

Sundays: 2:30pm and 7:00pm (September 17 and October 8 only).

 
Location:                Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore
                             Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd,
                             Skokie
 
Tickets:                  Previews: $30-$57
                             Regular run: $30-$81
                             Student tickets are $15, any performance (subject to availability)
 
Box Office:              The Box Office is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie.
                              847.673.6300; northlight.org
 
Notes of Interest:
 
⦁ This production of The Legend of Georgia McBride marks the second collaboration with playwright Matthew Lopez and Northlight Theatre. His first play, The Whipping Man, was produced by Northlight in their 2012-2013 season.
 
The Legend of Georgia McBride received its world premiere at Denver Center Theatre, with subsequent productions at the MCC Lucille Lortel Theatre and the Geffen Theater in LA.
 
⦁ About his diverse body of work, playwright Matthew Lopez comments, “They’re all about home, creating home and family — either blood family or manufactured family. 'Georgia McBride’ is about a group of people who don’t really fit in anywhere else. I call them my misfit toys, and they build a home together at the bar.
 
⦁ Director Lauren Shouse is ​the Artistic Associate and Literary Manager at Northlight Theatre. Her local directing credits include Betrayal at Raven and work at Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Rivendell Theatre, Sideshow Theatre, Route 66, Chicago Dramatists, and Stage Left Theatre. Prior to moving to Evanston, Lauren was Artistic Associate at Nashville Rep.
 
 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

These days – these days of fractured politics and fraudulent politicians and fake news, and all of the fear they’ve collectively caused our country – perhaps we could all use a little comfort food, be it literal or figurative. And for a couple hours on Sunday night at Ravinia, that’s what John Mellencamp and Carlene Carter dished out – American music that was comforting while still completely captivating.

American music, of course, is Ms. Carter’s birthright. By nature and by nurture, the daughter of June Carter and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash was meant to grace the stage, and oh boy, did she ever. The strains of her guitar and twang of her voice filling the night air, Carter welcomed the crowd as they filed to their seats. Regaling us with stories of a life lived among musical royalty (one yarn involved a late-1960's Kris Kristofferson in leather pants and a helicopter), Carlene gifted us with her own God-given talent. Setting down her guitar to sit down at the piano, she shared the personal loss of her mother and stepdaddy with the hymnal “Lonesome Valley.” Leading us north shore folks in an acapella “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” she winkingly assured us that our rendition was alright, even though we’re no Carter Family.

This professionalism continued as members of the headlining band took the stage, decked out in black suits and armed with hollow-body guitars, a violin, faux-distressed drumkit, and even an accordion. The music of a newer number, “Lawless Times” from 2014’s Plain Spoken, began. And then that familiar face and comforting form of John Mellencamp strolled out, Telecaster guitar strapped over black duds that would’ve made the afore-mentioned Mr. Cash proud, as confident and cocksure as he was decades ago.

The opener was a newer song, but the weathered voice, the still-handsome face, and the populist politics – sentiments both working-class and progressive? How vintage! How quaint! – were anything but. This was the guy – the legend, the hall-of-famer, the working man’s musician – the crowd had come to see. And their hero delivered.

After another more recent number, Mellencamp dove into his back catalogue with renditions of “Minutes to Memories” and “Small Town” off the once-ubiquitous Scarecrow, the crowd eager to leap to its feet and sing along.

After introducing himself and his band, Mellencamp traveled back in time even further with a modern blues take – just vocals, slide guitar, and upright bass – on Robert Johnson’s haunting “Stones in My Passway.”

Again returning to his own work, Mellencamp sang “Pop Singer,” which could just as easily critique today’s fleeting and narcissistic culture as the one nearly three decades ago, as could 1987’s “Check It Out.” The only updates these songs got were thanks to the mature and polished backing band Mellencamp brought and the weathered rasp that age has brought him.

The next song didn’t need the stellar backing musicians or their bevy of instruments to make it powerful. Clutching his acoustic guitar, today’s John Mellencamp told the tale of how a 24-year-old version of himself penned “Jack and Diane” while torn between dreams of songwriting stardom and the more worldly concerns 20-somethings have always had. And strumming said guitar, he allowed the crowd of equally aged folks to take the lead, literally, singing the lead vocal we all know…or at least thought we did. When the crowd skipped the second verse, instead plowing into that beloved chorus, Mellencamp corrected us before continuing. But that chorus of voices made “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone” float through the summer air, sounding every bit the hymn or old standard it has become.

Carlene Carter then returned for a couple of tunes, including “My Soul’s Got Wings,” whose lyrics were once written by Woody Guthrie, only to be given the Mermaid Avenue treatment (given music and a proper recording) by Mellencamp on this year’s Sad Clowns & Hillbillies. A lovely overture by the band’s violinist and accordion player was played before the crowd again got the classics, in the form of “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “Crumblin’ Down.” When each of these was played, the audience leapt to its feet, especially going footloose for “Authority Song,” whose authoritative target most of them have become all these years later.

But that was not the point of the show. Who we were – and how that’s not so different than who we are now – was what mattered. And as we embraced John Mellencamp’s songs, singing with him, all together for one glorious night, he provided the comfort and familiarity that was underscored by the main set’s closer, “Pink Houses”: “Ain’t that America, somethin’ to see…”

For one night, we forgot about the world outside. It sure was somethin’ to see.

 

Published in In Concert

"Trevor the Musical" tells the tale of a beautiful young boy in the 1970's who is just discovering his love of choreography and dance. He is also lovesick for an older boy in his school during a time when same sex relationships were not as socially acceptable or acknowledged as the world at the time was much less gay friendly.

I predict that this play will have a very good effect on young people who view it and anyone who has ever felt put down or shamed by others for their own creativity or uniqueness.

Although I agree with some of the other critics that there was a slightly "after school special" feel to this production, there is nothing wrong with that. It moved where it needed to be moving and celebrated those who feel different than others because of who they are.

The young star of the show Eli Tokash (also played in split performances by and Graydon Peter Yosowitz) is delightful and really does a great job with all of his numbers both musically and in terms of dance and comedy movement. The music is well written, often fun and catchy, and also includes various Diana Ross hits. "Trevor" has all the ingredients to become a smash hit.

Because most of the cast is in their teens this show will definitely be produced in high schools and colleges for years to come which is a great thing especially given the current climate reviving negativity towards the LGBTQ community.

“Trevor” comes with a slew of entertaining performances, including Declan Desmond’s as “Pinky”, the object of Trevor’s boy crush. I thoroughly enjoyed the costumes and creative set design as well.

The only note I have for this cast of very talented young people is to avoid becoming robotic in their quest for perfection. The emergence of such shows like American Idol and "So You Think You Can Dance" have both encouraged young people more than ever to follow their dreams in the arts, however I feel that they have put so much pressure on young people to hit every note perfectly and to strike every pose with almost robotic precision in order to win First Prize that many of their performances now seem stiff and over analyzed and micromanaged by their directors. So much so, that they make the audience feel nervous because they as young performers seem nervous and afraid to mess up or even let their characters messy emotions show through the facade of artistic perfection because they are trying so hard to live up to this Broadway standard placed on even the very youngest performers of today. Another perfect example of this public and private pressure can be seen clearly on the popular reality show for young performers called "Dance Moms,"as they scream and yell at their own eight-year-old daughters that they are not dancing well enough.

Other than the slightly uptight feeling which I think will be worked out over the course of this run and as the book of this show is revised and edited and cut for Broadway, I highly recommend this inspiring production. Everyone left the theater in a great mood feeling that they had seen the world premiere of a play with something timely, special and energetic to say to the world. “Trevor” is a play which encourages adults and children alike to be true to themselves in every way - no matter what the other kids say, even under scary opposition from groups of mean and ignorant "haters" who do not understand what it is like to be different from the pack, whether a dreamer or a believer in Unicorns or the healing power of Diana Ross.

“Trevor the Musical” is being performed at Writers Theatre in Glencoe through its newly extended date of October 8th. For tickets and further show information visit www.writerstheatre.org. 

Published in Theatre in Review

AstonRep Theatre Company is pleased to launch its 2017-18 season with 1984, a chilling view of a world controlled by a totalitarian government, based on George Orwell’s classic novel, adapted for the stage by Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall Jr. and William A. Miles and directed by Artistic Director Robert Tobin*. 1984 will play September 14 – October 8, 2017 at The Raven Theatre (West Stage), 6157 N. Clark St. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.astonrep.com or by calling (773) 828-9129. 
 
1984 features Ray Kasper* as Winston Smith, Sarah Lo as Julia, Amy Kasper* as O’Brien, Alexandra Bennett* as Parsons and Tim Larson* as Syme with Lauren Demerath, Lorraine Freund, Rory Jobst and Nora Lise Ulrey.
 
Based on the novel by George Orwell, 1984 is a terrifying and breathtaking view of a world controlled by a totalitarian government. Orwell asks what is left when freedom of speech, the press, love, and even the past are subject to authoritarian whims? Big Brother is watching. A theatrical event that is both powerful and disturbingly provocative.
 
The production team for 1984 includes: Jeremiah Barr* (scenic design, props design, technical director), Aja Wiltshire* (costume design), Samantha Barr* (lighting design, sound design, production manager), Robert Tobin* (projection/video design), Ian Harris and Sara Pavlak McGuire* (voice overs), Matthew Hahn (dramaturg), Dana Anderson* (asst. director) and Heather Branham Green (stage manager).
 
*Denotes AstonRep Company Members.
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
Title: 1984
Adapted by: Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall Jr. and William A. Miles
From the novel by: George Orwell
Directed by: Artistic Director Robert Tobin
Cast: Alexandra Bennett* (Parsons), Lauren Demerath (Ensemble), Lorraine Freund (Landlady), Rory Jobst (Martin, Ensemble), Amy Kasper* (O’Brien), Ray Kasper* (Winston Smith), Tim Larson* (Syme), Sarah Lo (Julia) and Nora Lise Ulrey (Ensemble).
 
Location: The Raven Theatre (West Stage), 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago
Dates: Preview: Thursday, September 14 at 8 pm
Regular run: Saturday, September 16 – Sunday, October 8, 2017
Curtain Times: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3:30 pm
Tickets: Regular run: $20. Student/seniors $15. Tickets are currently available at www.astonrep.com or by calling (773) 828-9129.

 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Friday, 18 August 2017 19:10

Red Tape Theatre announces new home

Red Tape Theatre announces their move to a new home, which will be shared with their artistic partner Theatre Y. Located in the heart of Lincoln Square, the new 3,300 square foot venue at 4546 N Western is steps off of the Brown Line and houses a flexible black box performance area, with an audience capacity of up to 75 seats, a spacious lobby, and rehearsal spaces. This move comes amidst a period of significant growth for the 14-year-old company, including a forthcoming transition to our Free Theatre Movement in 2018. Having a permanent artistic home enables Red Tape to focus on expanding their award-winning, immersive programming with additional main-stage productions, staged readings, off-night and late-night shows, and other events for the community at large.


This move also marks the start of an artistic partnership with Theatre Y. Opening in late October 2017, the two companies will co-produce the shared venue's inaugural production YERMA, by Frederico Garcia Lorca, directed by Red Tape's Artistic Director Max Truax and translated by Theatre Y's Hector Alvarez. YERMA will be followed by Red Tape's production of I SAW MYSELF, written by Howard Barker and directed by Jennifer Markowitz. The season will include a third show directed by Artistic Director Max Truax. The full season will be released later in August.

For more information about free ticket reservations, or to make a donation and become a member of #TEAMREDTAPE, please visit www.redtapetheatre.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Nearly fifty years since the start of an amazing rock band, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull takes up for another tour most recently making a stop at the Chicago Theater. With him, he brought his classic songs and jammed away. Needless to say, the night was filled with incredible music.

A few minutes after 8 p.m. the lights dimmed to let everyone know it was show time. People made their way to their seats excited in anticipation of an explosive show. The upscale Chicago Theater was an excellent setting for a night with a musical mastermind. The ushers were helpful, fans were happy, and then the lights faded.

The show started and the powerful rock band painted the canvas of music for the evening. The earlier portion of the show contained a couple gems; “Living in the Past” and “Nothing is Easy”. These crowd pleasers were just what everyone wanted. They kept nailing the riffs in a refined way and delivering the music.

Ian Anderson brought along some really sweet sounding flute to the theater. His musical ability and showmanship is second to none. Playing fast-paced flute while standing on one leg while making mischievous looks are all part of his unique skill set.

Up next was a rewritten version of “Heavy Horses” that had a different twist. New lyrics were added to the song, but there was also a virtual singer involved. Screens behind the band were in sync with the show and had singers on the screen that were pre-recorded.

A favorite among so many, “Thick as a Brick” was yet another a great selection from Jethro Tull. The current lineup of musicians did the piece justice duplicating it. The presentation of the edited version makes quite a nice show and demonstrates the musical insanity of Ian Anderson.

Band Members;
Ian Anderson – Guitar, Flute, Mandolin, and much more!
David Goodier - Bass
Scot Hammond – Drums and percussion
John O’Hara – Piano, keyboards, and accordion
Florian Opahle – Guitar
 
The night went along playing one Tull song after another. Ian’s magic flute shines on the song “Bourree”. The instrumental piece always makes the fans happy. The polished up version was a perfect selection for their set. It wouldn’t be an Ian Anderson show without a classical piece like this one from J.S. Bach. The only way to continue was with “Farm on the Freeway”, “Too old to Rock n’ Roll, Too Young to Die,” and “Songs From the Wood”. Then the band took a quick intermission.
 
The crowd was very pleased at the start of the first set with “Sweet Dream”. Florian Opahle had his guitar tone set just right to mimic the record. Everything he does shows he can handle the guitar work produced on Jethro Tull albums. He nails the riffs and sound all while making it his own.

“Dharma for One” is a jam that ends up in a drum solo. Scott Hammond played some of the most incredible rolls going all over the kit in what was a seriously hard piece to play. His style and ability match, or surpass, that of any drummer around.

The deep bass feeling from David Goodier on “A New Day Yesterday” was the start of the blues jam that got some people moving. He blended well with John O’hara on keyboards. All of the musicians have some seriously good chops.

“Aqualung”! The opening guitar riff is one that stands out well. The heavy guitar-based song had the crowd on their feet and moving. The solo was incredible as well as the rhythm section. Once the song was over with the cheering didn’t stop and unfortunately the words, “Bye-bye! Bye-bye!” were said. No one was going to let them leave without playing one more song.

The band did not let their fans down. The song began and the audience was happy. The FM hit, “Locomotive Breath” gave a final punch to the show. The bug eyes and over the top leadership within Ian provided a memorable show. His song writing and musical styling was a pleasure within a live setting to see. The man is way beyond a flute player. He is a showman.

After almost fifty years of being involved with music, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull continues to tour with no signs of stopping and no reason to. The Chicago Theater was a perfect setting for the magic flute work of Ian and his amazing band. As always, they were a delight to see.

 

Published in In Concert

Roomful of Blues is celebrating fifty years this year. That’s a long time playing together. Not all the members go back that far, but the history of the band does.

Opening for Roomful of Blues at City Winery Chicago was Corey Dennison and his band. I think fans of Freddie King would dig this cat. I don’t see Dennison as a King imitator, but I did see some similarities in his appearance and the guitar he played. Dennison has a four-piece band - two guitars, bass and drums. The band pulls off some fun choreographed stage moves and display a ton of energy. Corey even did the Buddy Guy trick of walking through the crowd while playing. The difference being that Dennison started singing without a microphone in the middle of the club. Still, you could hear his strong voice without a problem. Sometimes Blues singing is almost like a holler, just shouting more or less. You can really feel it.

Dennison proved to be a decent Chicago Blues guitar player. He plays without a pick like a lot of the older players, using a lot of thumb. It seems primitive but it’s a great sound.

Roomful of Blues is a bigger band - three horns, keys, guitar, bass, drums and vocals and the crowd was responsive. Together, they present a powerful sound. The horns give more melodic information to chew on. Everything about the band was musically excellent. Well-seasoned players are such a treat to watch. The energy of the band was good but did not match Dennison and crew.

I have heard a lot of Blues music in Chicago. Having said that, I am dying to hear something new. I know a lot is tradition. The twelve-bar form does have limitations. I don’t really hear songs anymore. It’s all the same song. You can speed it up, slow it down…change keys…it’s still the same song. The Blues bands of yesterday had more going on. The missing ingredient is the dancing.

Once upon a time, bands were there so people could dance. Even Classical Music was based on the dances of the day. Dancing has been replaced by sitting. Blues bands of yesteryear would never have held a gig doing whole sets of twelve bar. Tough to dance to a shuffle beat.

Roomful of Blues started towards the end of the sixties Blues movement. Then it stopped moving. The Psychedlic era killed it and I don’t see it being much more than a novelty now. Stevie Ray Vaughan brought it back thirty years ago and that was really Rock disguised as Blues. In no way am I saying that I am down on The Blues. It is still a valid form of music but it needs to grow. This genre of music spawned Rock and Jazz and a lot of other styles. And I think there is more that can come from it in the future. But that will not come from repeating the past.

Published in In Concert
Wednesday, 16 August 2017 03:49

Review: Machinal at Greenhouse Theater Center

Machinal refers to an automated or mechanical system. Sophie Treadwell's 1929 play "Machinal" takes its styling from this theme. Directed by Jacob Harvey, Greenhouse Theater Center brings this work back to Chicago for the first time in many years.

Maybe not as well known as Lillian Hellman, but Sophie Treadwell was once a popular playwright on Broadway during the height of expressionism in theater. She wrote some forty plays and often directed them, nearly unheard of in those times.

"Machinal" is a retelling of the murder trial of Ruth Snyder who was eventually executed by electric chair. The play is an expressionist interpretation. The dialogue is written in a way that feels like the innerworkings of a machine. There's a sparse greyness to the costumes by Christina Leinicke that would also suggest the joylessness the protagonist lives.

Heather Chrisler plays the young woman. Chrisler interprets the staccato dialogue with a human quality. Her performance brings up the intensity by breaking through the repetitive and unpoetic lines. She brings life to them and elicits an emotional response. This woman is pleading for her life as her societal system of steamrolls her.

Doubtful that Treadwell saw the real life Ruth Snyder as a villain. "Machinal" shows the the pressure of getting married, of having financial security and living in a ever-moving world. The young woman in Treadwell's play can't keep up. She's pushed into an advantageous, but unsatisfying marriage. She finds happiness in the arms of a lover. She does what she has to do to feel free and pays the ultimate price.

Eleanor Kahn's set mirrors the starkness of the play. Presented in a near black box with the exception of some strobe lighting, there's an eeriness from the beginning. There's an atmospheric quality in Kahn's setting, and it's working.

Life may seem a little more liberated for today's women but Jacob Harvey's point in mounting this work, is that maybe it's not? And maybe it's not even limited to just women. Treadwell's play is about the mechanics of being a adult human in this world, and how that conveyor-belt life makes us all animals destined for slaughter.

Through September 24 at The Greenhouse Theater Center. 2257 N Lincoln Ave.

Published in Theatre in Review

Steppenwolf Theatre Company opens its 42nd Season with the Chicago premiere of The Rembrandt, written by Jessica Dickey and directed by Hallie Gordon. Currently in rehearsals, this subtle and elegant play features ensemble members Francis Guinan as Henry/Rembrandt and John Mahoney as Simon/Homer with Ty Olwin (Dodger/Titus), Karen Rodriguez (Madeline/Henny) and Gabriel Ruiz (Jonny/Martin). Previews begin September 7, opening is September 17 and the show has already been extended through November 5 due to popular demand. The Rembrandt takes place in Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted St. Single tickets ($20 - $99) are available through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.

When a museum guard decides to touch a famous Rembrandt painting, a remarkable journey across the ages ensues. Spanning centuries of human experience, Jessica Dickey’s The Rembrandt movingly explores the power of creative expression and the sacrifices we make in the pursuit of love and beauty, reminding us that though our beliefs may die with the sound of our voice, it’s the love we share—and the art that love inspires—that finds eternity.

Director Hallie Gordon shares, “The Rembrandt asks you step into the painting and its different worlds. What we find is beauty and meaning in the understanding that no matter where we are, art allows us to unravel the mysteries of being. It could be in a temple or it could be in a dark apartment. We are all attracted to and seeking after that elemental spark of genius, and ultimately that which we leave behind.”

In regards to her process playwright Jessica Dickey shares, “Researching the world of museum guards was a fascinating window into a very particular subculture. The result is an examination of the eternal and the ephemeral that is funny, surprising and filled with yearning. The Rembrandt explores how encountering a work of art can be practice for the real thing—really seeing one another.”  
Jessica Dickey is an award-winning actor and playwright most known for her play, The Amish Project, which opened Off-Broadway at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Helen Hayes Award, Barrymore Award, among others). The Rembrandt was commissioned and produced (then titled The Guard) by the Ford’s Theatre as part of the Women’s Voices Festival and was awarded the Stavis Award for Playwriting.

Hallie Gordon is an Artistic Producer at Steppenwolf and the Artistic Director for Steppenwolf for Young Adults, where she has directed many productions for the program including Monster by Walter Dean Myers; George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm; The Book Thief; To Kill a Mockingbird; and the world premiere of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. She’s also directed for Northlight Theatre and is an ensemble member for Rivendell Theatre where she directed the critically acclaimed Dry land and Eat Your Heart Out. Most recently for Steppenwolf, she directed Taylor Mac’s Hir, now playing through August 20, 2017.

About the Cast & Creative Team

Ensemble member Francis Guinan has appeared in more than 30 shows, currently in Taylor Mac’s Hir. Ensemble member John Mahoney also has appeared in more than 30 Steppenwolf productions, most recently The Herd, The Birthday Party and The Seafarer. Mahoney won a Tony Award for his performance in The House of Blue Leaves and is well-known for his role on the hit TV series, Frasier. Ty Olwin is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf, currently in Taylor Mac’s Hir and was in Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ productions of The Burials and Lord of the Flies. Olwin was featured in the 2016 film Personal Shopper starring Kristen Stewart. Karen Rodriguez is making her Steppenwolf debut, and was recently featured in the solo show The Way She Spoke: A Docu-Mythologia at the Greenhouse Theatre and Hookman at Steep Theatre. Gabriel Ruiz is a graduate of the DePaul Theatre School and an ensemble member of Teatro Vista. Previous Steppenwolf Theatre Company credits include How Long Will I Cry?, Motherfucker with the Hat and The Way West. He has appeared in the TV series Boss, Chicago Fire and Chicago Justice.
The Rembrandt production team includes Regina Garcia (scenic design), Jenny Mannis (costume design), Ann G. Wrightson (lighting design), Elisheba Ittoop (sound design and original music) and Gigi Buffington (company vocal coach). Other credits include Aaron Carter (artistic producer), JC Clementz (casting director), Laura D. Glenn (stage manager) and Brian Maschka (assistant stage manager).

Tickets & Production Info

Single tickets ($20-$99) available at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org. Previews: $20 – $54 and Regular Run: $20 – $99. Prices subject to change. Note: There is limited availability Sept 7-Oct 22, but open availability during extension weeks Oct 24 – Nov 5. Rush Tickets: half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show. Student Discounts: a limited number of $15 student tickets are available online. Limit 2 tickets per student; must present a valid student ID for each ticket; steppenwolf.org/students. Group Tickets: all groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance throughout the season; steppenwolf.org/groups. Classic Subscription Memberships offer 7-Play Packages securing dates and seats for the full Steppenwolf experience, as well as Create-Your-Own Packages with 5 or 6 plays. Perks include discount prices, easy and free exchanges and more. Black Card Memberships are for audiences interested in extreme flexibility with six tickets for use any time for any production. Black Card ticket credits are valid for one year with the option to add additional tickets as needed. Perks include easy and free exchanges, access to seats before the general public, savings on single ticket prices and bar and restaurant discounts for pre- and post-show socializing. Red Card memberships are available for theatergoers under 30.  To purchase a Card Membership, visit Audience Services at 1650 N Halsted St, call 312-335-1650 or visit steppenwolf.org.

Accessible performances include an American Sign Language interpretation on Sunday, October 1 at 7:30pm, Open Captioning on Saturday, October 7 at 3pm and a Touch Tour on Sunday, October 15 at 1:30pm. For more information, visit steppenwolf.org/access. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance. An induction loop is installed in the Downstairs Theatre and the 1700 Theatre.

Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks

Connected to the main lobby is Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks, offering a warm, creative space to grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. Open daily from 8am to midnight, Front Bar serves artisanal coffee and espresso is provided by La Colombe and food prepared by Goddess and Grocer. The menu focuses on fresh, accessible fare, featuring grab-and-go salads and sandwiches for lunch and adding shareable small plates and desserts for evening and post show service. www.front-bar.com

Sponsor Information

Northern Trust is a sponsor on The Rembrandt. United Airlines is the Exclusive Airline of Steppenwolf and ComEd is the Official Lighting Sponsor for the 17/18 season.

Published in Upcoming Theatre
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