Upcoming Theatre

Chicago has no shortage of Christmas traditions. In other words, if you’re looking for holiday fun it’s not very hard to find something to do with your friends, significant other or family. Rich traditions such as Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo, Joffrey’s Nutcracker, Christkindlmart, Christmas film classics at Music Box, and the official Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Millennium Park are fantastic choices that are sure to put a little zest into your holiday spirit, but Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol might have to top the list.

Celebrating its 40th year of warming hearts through the holidays, this year’s production of A Christmas Carol might just be the best yet. Larry Yando returns to Goodman as Ebenezer Scrooge, a role he has taken on with brilliance for the past nine years. Yando is just about as fun to watch as it gets from his miserable, miserly like behavior to his reborn childlike love of humanity after three spirits visit him to show him his past, present and future.

As the story by Charles Dickens goes, Scrooge is a man with little heart. He is a man who pinches every penny, treats his employee like a flunky without mercy, as he works his fingers to the bone, wants nothing to do with his remaining family and has nothing but miserable rebuttals for those who wish him a Merry Christmas, replying with “Bah Humbug!” When his former, and now deceased, partner, a man much like Scrooge appears to him on Christmas Eve to warn him of his horrid ways and the cost it has on so many and will on himself, we learn that Scrooge will be visited by three spirits – Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future.

As each spirit visits Scrooge, more and more is revealed about his nature. He remembers he didn’t start out as he is now. He was a good-natured boy with hopes and dreams once upon a time. In the present he sees how those who know him feel about him. Though mean and cruel to many, they still thank him and toast to him. He see’s the hardships his mistreated employee Bob Cratchit and his family face on his meek salary. He is obviously embarrassed as they still find reasons to be thankful to Scrooge. He sees a future that is bleak. He is just a miserly old man quickly forgotten.

“Are these the things that will be or the things that may happen?” He asks the spirit, hoping for a chance to redeem himself.

While Yando undoubtedly is a tour de force in the role as Scrooge, the entire cast is a powerhouse. Ron E. Rains is highly believable as the tenderhearted Bob Cratchit and is easy to feel for almost immediately. Joe Foust as Jacob Marley is also tremendous as is Lisa Gaye Dixon who wows the audience with her incredibly strong performance as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Kareem Bandealy also gives the production a strong assist as he skillfully fields a handful of roles including that as the show’s narrator, Topper and a hopeful young Scrooge who misses his chance at love choosing a chance at making more money instead -a decision that haunts him his entire life.

The ever-changing set is visually stunning as it changes from Scrooge’s house interior (curtains surrounding his bed and all) to the Cratchit’s humble kitchen where the room is crowded as the family sits around a table to eat a meager portion of roast duck for Christmas. Stars shine amongst the blackness as Christmas Present takes Scrooge on a ride he’ll never forget.

Goodman also breaks the mold casting a girl in the role of Tiny Tim Cratchit. Fourth grader Paris Strickland who delivers the famous line at show’s end “God bless us, every one” is excited to play Tiny Tim telling the Chicago Tribune, “I feel excited and proud of myself for getting a really inspiring role. Tiny Tim can bring hope to everyone, and I can bring hope to everyone.”

Goodman’s A Christmas Carol is not only rich tradition in Chicago, it is a fun-filled holiday treat that is sure to warm the heart and remind us that giving is better than receiving.

Highly recommended.

A Christmas Carol is being performed in the Albert Theatre at Goodman Theatre through December 31st. For more show information visit www.goodmantheatre.org.


Published in Theatre in Review
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 17:37

Yasmina's Necklace touches the heart

Playwright Rohina Malik and director Ann Filmer have reunited and have collaborated on something special. Goodman Theatre’s current run of Yasmina's Necklace is one of my favorite plays of 2017. Here's why. 

In Yasmina’s Necklace, we are treated to a uniquely told love story that is as moving as it is thoughtful. It is funny, and it is beautifully staged. A story this wonderfully crafted and so well acted that delivers such a poignant message only comes around so often.

Yasmina and her father, Musa, are refugees from Iraq and they meet an upper middle-class family in Chicago who are looking for a wife for their divorced son Sam. We are reminded that it is very common in the Muslim faith to have an arranged marriage, prompting one of my favorite lines from the play, "real love comes after marriage, not before." 

Sam, played to perfection by Michael Perez, had moved away from the Islamic faith and married a non-Muslim American. He talks a bit about the challenges he had after the marriage and the many medications he had to be on due to his infidelity. Yet he strives for all things you would see in someone who is first generation like acclimating to the Western culture by changing his name, as well as pushing himself in his career. 

The true magic happens in the connection Sam makes with Yasmina, who is wonderfully played by Susaan Jamshidi, but the two didn't start off so smoothly. Yasmina is a thirty-four-year-old woman who is empowered, self-aware, an artist. This is not a common perspective you see of Muslim woman and I loved how Yasmina pushed back on what she wanted and strived to help others not only in Baghdad but also in Chicago. 

What drew me to the play immediately was the simplicity and peace shown around the Islamic faith. In today's society, I believe this is the most misunderstood religion even with close to two billion followers globally. The journey Yasmina and her father made to the United States from war torn Baghdad was something no human should ever experience. War is ugly, cruel, and unjust. The play is able to highlight the challenges of being a refugee and painted a vividly raw picture of what they went through. 

You have a bit of everything in this play that I could go on and on about but want you to experience for yourself. All the ingredients are in place for a thoroughly engaging production that will touch your heart, make you laugh and is sure to enlighten. I highly recommend Yasmina's Necklace.

Yasmina’s Necklace is being performed at the Goodman's Theatre through November 19th. Tickets range from $10-40. Yasmina’s Necklace has an approximate running time of two hours including one intermission. Oh, there is a special surprise at the closing for all the Bruce Springsteen fans out there. 

For more show information visit www.goodmantheatre.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Tuesday, 19 September 2017 21:49

Review: Goodman's "A View from the Bridge"

The Goodman Theatre almost never includes a show in their subscriber season that they haven’t developed themselves. Dutch director Ivo van Hove began his vivid production of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” in London before bringing it to Broadway in 2016. It went on to win the Tony Award for best revival. Goodman artistic director Robert Falls requisitioned the work for Chicago prior to the Broadway run. Some may remember van Hove’s contribution to the Goodman’s 2009 Eugene O’Neill Fest. His arresting version of “Mourning Becomes Electra” performed entirely in Dutch was a sure stand out.

Ivo van Hove’s vision for Arthur Miller is uniquely his own in that it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen. If a standard Miller production bores you, then imagine an electric guitar version of Miller. The scenery and scene changes have been cut and what’s left is a minimalist masterclass in strong directorial choices. Minimalism doesn’t mean a lack of spectacle. The white cube contains the play to a small portion of the stage, allowing for audience members to sit right on stage. Each movement of this highly choreographed production creates a stunning visual.

Suffice it to say, you’ll never see “A View from the Bridge” like this again. van Hove’s intention is to create an “ultimate” version of classic American works through a European lens. What he reflects back is interesting. The concluding scene is a work of installation art, and leaves you with an unsettling feeling that we are but animals battling it out at the bottom. As with his interpretation of O’Neill’s “Mourning Becomes Electra”, van Hove is unafraid of heightening the subtle sexuality in the script. The blocking between Catherine (Catherine Combs) and Eddie Carbone (Ian Bedford) is highly suggestive and pushes the envelope even further than Miller had in 1953.

There’s no scenery, no costumes and no tricks for this cast to hide behind. Since the New York production, some of the parts have been recast, but many have not. Catherine Combs reprises her role as Catherine, but is no stranger to the Goodman stage. Combs’ performance is transfixing. She’s able to balance the juvenile qualities of a young girl in a falsetto, but convey the deep-voiced desires of a woman with an unexpected control. Playing her adoptive mother Beatrice, Andrus Nichols, commands each scene. The script would make this character a weakling, unable to stand up to her hulking husband. Nichols brings a hardened strength to the role that propels the final scenes to full throttle.

This production will stick with you. With our nation’s president touting severe immigration reform, this play comes at a critical point in history. Arthur Miller wrote plays that addressed social issues. In many ways Eddie Carbone is how Miller saw America, as something afraid of change. When we hear white supremacists chanting “You will not replace us” on national TV, it’s hard not to draw comparisons. This is an essential play for our times. Ivo van Hove has created a striking and extremely intense version of “A View from the Bridge” that Arthur Miller himself would applaud.

Through October 15th at the Goodman Theatre. 170 North Dearborn. 312-443-3811

*Now extended through October 22nd

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Casting is complete for the three “developmental productions” featured in Goodman Theatre’s 14thannual New Stages festival—a free celebration of new works by some of the country’s finest established and emerging playwrights. These three plays, which are staged in repertory following two weeks of rehearsal, include Lottery Day by Ike Holter, directed by Lili-Anne Brown; Continuity by Bess Wohl, directed by Annie Tippe; and Twilight Bowl by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Erica Weiss. Developmental productions are designed by Kevin Depinet (Set), Noël Huntzinger (Costumes for Lottery Day and Twilight Bowl), Birgit Rattenborg Wise (Costumes for Continuity), Jesse Klug (Lights) and Richard Woodbury (Sound). Full cast lists are included below. New Stages runs September 20 – October 8 in the 350-seat flexible Owen Theatre; to reserve FREE tickets, call 312.443.3800, visit GoodmanTheatre.org/NewStagesFestival or the box office (170 N. Dearborn). For more information about “Industry Professionals Weekend,” visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Professionals.

In addition, four one-time-only staged readings and a first look at an immersive work-in-progress appear during the final weekend of the festival (“Professionals Weekend”), including How to Catch Creation by Christina Anderson, directed by Jess McLeod (October 6 at 10:30am); Eden Prairie, 1971 by Mat Smart, directed by Henry Wishcamper (October 6 at 2pm); a preview presentation of POSTNATION by Mikhael Tara Garver(October 6 at 4:30pm); The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona written and directed by José Rivera(October 7 at 10am); and We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time by David Cale, music by Matthew Dean Marsh and directed by Tony Speciale (October 7 at 2pm).

Since New Stages’ 2004 inception, more than 70 plays have been produced as a developmental production or staged reading. Nearly half of these plays were authored by playwrights of color and/or authored by female playwrights. More than one-third of all plays developed in New Stages have received a world premiere production at the Goodman or another leading U.S. theater. The Goodman’s 2017/2018 Season features the world premiere of Ellen Fairey’s Support Group for Men, which originated in New Stages in 2016. The Goodman’s immediate past season featured acclaimed works that began at the festival: The Magic Play by Andrew Hinderaker, King of the Yeesby Lauren Yee and Objects in the Mirror by Charles Smith.

The Goodman is grateful for the generosity of its New Work sponsors, including: the Time Warner Foundation, Lead Support of New Play Development; The Pritzker-Pucker Foundation, Major Support of New Play Development; The Glasser and Rosenthal Family and the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Support of New Work Development; and The Joyce Foundation, Principal Support for Diverse Artistic and Professional Development.

Casting for 2017 New Stages Festival Developmental Productions

Lottery Day
By Ike Holter, directed by Lili-Anne Brown
Appears in repertory, September 20 – October 7
In his latest play, acclaimed Chicago playwright Ike Holter integrates characters from his past works into a new story about the cost of belonging and the gift of community.
When an act of violence robs Mallory of her family, she creates a new one by opening her home to a wild array of neighbors, activists and artists. Tonight, she’s throwing them a party of her own invention—“Lottery Day”—where anyone could win, but everyone has something to lose.

CAST:
Aurora Adachi-Winter…………...Tori
Bear Bellinger…………………….Nunley
J. Nicole Brooks………………….Mallory
McKenzie Chinn……………….....Cassandra
Sydney Charles…………………..Zora
Robert Cornelius………………....Robinson
Anthony Irons……………………..Avery
Monica Orozco……………………Vivien
Tommy Rivera-Vega……………..Ezekiel
Pat Whalen………………………..Ricky

Continuity
By Bess Wohl, directed by Annie Tippe
Appears in repertory, September 22 – October 8
Bess Wohl’s startlingly funny new play examines what is worth saving and what isn’t—especially when facing the end of the world.
As her big budget thriller about climate change and eco-terrorism falls behind schedule, film director Maria attempts to salvage the production from the behind-the-scenes drama of its cast and screenwriter.

CAST:
Rammel Chan…………………....The PA
Amanda Drinkall………………...Nicole (Eve)
Marc Grapey……………………..David Claxton
Ryan McBride……………………Jake (George)
Bill McGough…………………….Larry
Rebecca Spence………………...Maria
Netta Walker……………………..Lily (Anna)
*This production also features voice-over roles portrayed by McKenzie Chinn (Second AD), Robert Cornelius(Sound Guy), Anthony Irons (Camera OP), Pat Whalen (First AD) and Aurora Adachi-Winter (2nd PA).

Twilight Bowl
By Rebecca Gilman, directed by Erica Weiss
Appears in repertory, September 24 – October 8

In her latest play, Goodman Artistic Associate Rebecca Gilman depicts six young women about to embark on their adult lives. But how do they—or we—define success?
Cousins Sam and Jaycee grew up together in a small Wisconsin town. Sam, who sharpened her bowling skills at the local alley, is now heading to college on scholarship. But Jaycee’s future isn’t looking so bright. As the young women and their friends face adulthood, the alley becomes a place to celebrate, mourn, and forge new identities. But can their bonds survive as their paths diverge? And is success always earned, or is it sometimes a matter of luck?

CAST:
Hayley Burgess………………...Clarice
Heather Chrisler………………..Jaycee
Angela Morris…………………...Maddy
Becca Savoy…………………….Sam
Mary Taylor………………………Brielle
Anne E. Thompson…………….Sharlene

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Collaboraction, Chicago's social issue-driven contemporary theater, announced today its line-up of 24 world premiere short pieces for PEACEBOOK, a free, collaborative city-wide festival of theater, dance, music, visual art and spoken word, all focused on cultivating peace in Chicago.

Actor David Dastmalchian (Twin Peaks), Sandra Delgado (La Havana Madrid), GQ (Q Brothers), Kevin Coval (Louder Than a Bomb), noted director Mignon McPherson Stewart, Sir Taylor (Example Setters) and Bril Barrett (Making a Difference Dance) are among the artists and activists creating fresh new works in support of Chicago's peace movement. 

Each piece is seven minutes or less, and range from solos to large collaborations. 

In sum, the 24 "chapters" that comprise PEACEBOOK unite more than 200 artists, from household names to neighborhood peace activists, all intent on creating real connections with Chicagoans in communities around the city.
 
PEACEBOOK launches with a one-day, marathon premiere of all 24 chapters on Saturday, August 26, 2017 in the Goodman's 350-seat flexible Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Show times are 3 p.m. (PEACEBOOK Englewood), 5:30 p.m. (PEACEBOOK Hermosa) and 8 p.m. (PEACEBOOK Austin). 

All three programs are presented free of charge. Free ticket reservations, with an option to donate what you can, will launch Wednesday, July 19 at 10 a.m. To reserve tickets and for more information, visit collaboraction.org/peacebook2017, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Collaboraction, (312) 226-9633.
 
Following their Goodman debuts, the 24 acts will be divided into three programs of eight works that will tour to these south, west and north side neighborhoods next fall as part of the Chicago Park District's Nights Out in the Parks program:
 
PEACEBOOK Englewood
Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St.
Thursday and Friday, October 5 and 6 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 7   Dome of Dance competition at 3 p.m., community meal and peace panel at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m.
 
PEACEBOOK Hermosa
Kelvyn Park, 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.
Thursday and Friday, October 19 and 20 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 21   Dome of Dance competition at 3 p.m., community meal and peace panel at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m.
 
PEACEBOOK Austin
La Follette Park, 1333 N. Laramie Ave.
Thursday and Friday, November 2 and 3 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 4  Dome of Dance competition at 3 p.m., community meal and peace panel at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m. 

Park performances are free. Each night features a different musical guest. Before every Saturday show is a free community meal and peace fair with panels, workshops and community organizations from a diverse array of Chicago peacemakers.
 
"In these times of rising homicides and racial tension in Chicago, we believe in the power of theater to incite empathy, knowledge, dialogue and change around peace in Chicago," said Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley. "With over 200 artists from all throughout the city and partnerships with the Goodman Theatre and the Chicago Park District, we are establishing PEACEBOOK as a place for our city to come together around this most critical social issue with our future at stake." 
 
For PEACEBOOK updates, visit collaboraction.org, follow the company on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube or Instagram, or call the Collaboraction box office, (312) 226-9633.

More about the plays

The following 24 prayers for peace were selected from over 100 submissions of theater, dance and spoken word works, all envisioning a more peaceful Chicago:

PEACEBOOK Englewood (Hamilton Park):
 
Dandelions
by Marsha Estell, directed by Mignon McPherson Stewart
A heartfelt story about loss and how violence and peace are not always mutually exclusive.
 
Example Setters
by The Example Setters
A spoken word piece by teens who want to set the Example in the city of Chicago.
 
#Hashtag Who's Next The Musical
written and directed by Frederick Alphonso
A song that invites us to join/live the justice revolution through facing our constructed narratives around crime.
 
Hoods
by Kaye Winks, directed by Schoen Smith
The Chicago family, made up of different neighborhoods in the city, sits down for a group art therapy session to talk out their long-established communication problems.
 
June-Dastmalchian Collaboration (working title)
devised by David Dastmalchian and Aisha June
LA film, TV, and stage actor, David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight, Ant Man, Twin Peaks) returns to Chicago to team up with Collaboraction Teen Peacemaker ensemble member, Aisha June, to write and perform in a devised work about peace in Chicago.
 
Obama, the Musical
by Yuri Basho Lane, directed by Elizabeth Lovelady
A beat-box musical examining Barack Obama in three stages of his life.
 
Triumphs, Burdens, and Laughs
choreographed by Elysia Banks
South Side native, Elysia Banks, choreographed this dance piece to highlight the resilience of South Side communities and pay homage to their grit and fortitude.
 
What Do You See?
by Brian Keys, directed by Kristina Valada-Viars
Keys' solo show examines the confrontation between a black man and society that takes us to the core of our prejudices.

 
PEACEBOOK Hermosa (Kelvyn Park):
 

Barbarism
by Jason Grote, directed by Iris Sowalt
A woman with PTSD and apocalyptic survivor's guilt takes audiences on an exploration of the gilded cages in her mind as she reveals the fragility of the human spirit.
 
Conflict
devised by the Collaboraction Teen Peacemaker Ensemble, directed by Luis Crespo
The Collaboraction Teen Peacemaker Ensemble grapples with the real cost of hate in Chicago and its future.
 
Eckhart Park Echoes
by Nancy Garcia Loza, directed by Juan Castaneda
A peaceful protest by way of storytelling. Garcia Loza's solo show offers a snapshot of her aunt's life as it unfolded on a Chicago block for forty years in West Town.
 
Finding a Loving Motherland
devised by Sami Hussain Ismat
A satirical tragi-comedy about a refugee escaping Syria only to encounter ridiculous bureaucratic and racial discrimination, fear of white supremacy in Trump's America, and crime in his new neighborhood.
 
A People's History of the Block
by Kevin Coval
Coval, of Louder Than a Bomb, explores peace through the words of real Chicagoans he met while touring with his newest poetry book, "A People's History of Chicago."
 
Recipe for Peace
devised by Dionne Hawkins
Tune into this cooking show where the host prepares the ingredients to create peace, by the artistic director of the Austin Town Hall Theatre Company.
Rangel-Delgado Collaboration (working title)
adapted and directed by Sandra Delgado, from the writings of Sammy Rangel
Acclaimed Chicago actress Sandra Delgado collaborates with peace activist and TED Talk standout Sammy Rangel, author of "Fourbears: Myths of Forgiveness," to tell his inspirational story of hope and redemption.
 
We'll Be Doing This Together
by Ann Kreitman
This non-traditional, interactive theater piece asks the audience to create gentle and joyful connections between strangers.

 
PEACEBOOK Austin (La Follette Park):

17 to (New) Life
devised by GQ and Tyrone Taylor
GQ of the Q Brothers and Tyrone Taylor co-create and perform this ritual of healing based on Taylor's real life events, including murder, incarceration, freedom and search for transformation.
 
Some Thoughts On Race and Racism In Chicago From Some People Who Aren't Sure What To Do And Who Sat Down And Talked About It
by Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman, directed by Josh Sobel
This piece of verbatim theatre talks about race through white eyes, using words from a collection of interviews that shed light on how we see ourselves and each other as a community.
 
Dear Masculinity
by Eneale Pickett, directed by Rain Wilson
This play, by a west side native, is a collection of letters written by men to their masculinity.
 
EmpoWOMENt
devised by Bril Barrett
A team of female dancers proved tap-dance can be an effective form of protest and a powerful catalyst for change in this work choreographed by the acclaimed founder of M.A.D.D. (Making a Difference Dancing).
 
High and Dry
by Greg Hardigan, directed by Genevieve Fowler
A man has a chance encounter with a woman on the street and must confront his role in creating peace in Chicago.
 
The High Priestess
devised by Dr. Laura Biagi
Inspired by the two cards of the major Arcana of the Tarot, this performance art piece revolves around the power to give social meaning to sounds and the concept of failing and undoing by meditating on four alphabets: Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew and Latin.
 
The Making of an Example Setter
by Sir Taylor, directed by Anthony Moseley
Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley teams up with the leader of The Example Setters, former Jesse White Tumbler and member of the U.S. Olympics team, Sir Taylor, to tell a new story of healing in Chicago. 
 
Quiet Time
by Erica Mann Ramis, directed by Nat Swift
A woman's thoughts are played out on stage as she meditates in an effort to navigate the maze of her grief after the loss of her husband. 

About Collaboraction

Collaboraction (collaboraction.org) collaborates with artists, community activists, and citizens from throughout the city to create original theatrical experiences that push artistic boundaries and explore critical social issues with a diverse community of Chicagoans. Collaboraction has worked with over 3,000 artists to bring more than 60 productions and events to upwards of 250,000 audience members.

Production highlights include Collaboraction's acclaimed series of Crime Scene productions responding to Chicago's current crime epidemic, 15 years of the SKETCHBOOK Festival, Sarah Moeller's Forgotten Future: The Education Project in 2014, 2010's Chicago premiere of 1001 by Jason Grote, 2008's world premiere of Jon by George Saunders and directed by Seth Bockley, and 2007's The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow: an instant message with excitable music by Rolin Jones.
Collaboraction, based on the third floor of Wicker Park's historic Flat Iron Arts Building with three theatre spaces, is led by Artistic Director Anthony Moseley and a dedicated staff and board of directors. Collaboraction is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation via the MacArthur Foundation, and the Wicker Park & Bucktown SSA #33 Chamber of Commerce. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

For tickets and information, visit collaboraction.org or call (312) 226-9633. 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

In Ah Wilderness, Eugene O’Neill tackles the emotional struggles of an upper middle class family, with sibling rivalries and marital and romantic dynamics that ring true today.

Goodman Theatre’s current production struck gold, however, with Niall Cunningham - he's a TV star of Life in Pieces - in the lead role as a teenage boy struggling to establish his independence from his family, amid the discovery of romance.

The play is set on July 4, 1906, though it was written in 1932, and was said to be dashed off rather quickly by the playwriight. O’Neill is more familiar for his darker, plays like The Iceman Cometh, Mourning Becomes Electra, or Long Day’s Journey into Night. Ah Wilderness is a lighter affair, O’Neill’s only comedy and produced less frequently, it throws a different light on his mastery as a playwright.  

With a 15-member cast, Ah Wilderness centers on the tribulations of the 16-year-old Richard Miller (Niall Cunningham's role), whose fevered passions have been ignited by emotionally charged and sexually suggestive writing of Byron and Wilde. Their poetry was considered risqué in small town America. At the time the country was swept up in efforts at prohibition, driven by the rise of evangelical Protestantism and its view of saloon culture as corrupt and ungodly.

It’s a perfect summer play, set at a waterside cottage, and Ah Wilderness contrasts this young love with the unrequited passion by the teen’s Uncle, and the mature and settled love of his parents. The show is a major production, and Steve Scott’s direction is pitch perfect.

The big score, though, is Cunningham as a poetry-obsessed teenager who is driven to a night of rebellion, expressed in this case by accompanying a buddy of his older brother (Travis Knight plays that pretentious, pipe-smoking collegiate brother, Arthur Miller) to a bawdy house – where he drinks and gets himself into trouble.

Cunningham, 22 in real life, gives a most credible and informed performance to the conflicted teenager riddled with angst. He is butting against the newly found hypocrisy of everyday life, and has been driven off the edge when his young neighbor and romantic interest, Muriel McComber (Ayssette Muñoz) sends a Dear John letter. As we suspect, her father made her write it, and the two are later reconciled, with Shakespearean-flavored romantic jousting.   

The rest of the cast is evenly excellent. While the characters on some levels must play foils for Cunningham's Miller, O'Neill explores with some tenderness the seasoned love of the family patriarch (Randall Newsome as Nat Miller) and matriarch (Ora Jones is wonderful as Essie Miller), and that of the unrequited love of the maternal uncle (Larry Bates as Sid Davis) and paternal aunt (Kate Fry brings depth to Lily Miller).  

The set (Todd Rosenthal) is classic and beautifully portrays its time, while also functioning seamlessly (along with lighting by Aaron Spivey) to move us from scene to scene. Costumes (Amy Clark) are exquisitely detailed.

Ah, Wilderness!, which runs at the Goodman through July 23, shows off O'Neill's skillfulness and his ability to charm the audience. It is highly recommended.

Published in Theatre in Review

On the heels of critically-acclaimed sold-out runs at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and The Miracle Center in Logan Square, Teatro Vista’s La Havana Madrid by Sandra Delgado extends its run at Goodman Theatre this summer, July 21 – August 20. Chicago’s fabled 1960's nightclub, La Havana Madrid, comes bursting back to life in “an immersive, wholly enjoyable experience” (Chicago Reader) complete with live music and “enough dancing and bonhomie to tempt you away from your little table down front” (Chicago Tribune). Directed by Teatro Vista ensemble member Cheryl Lynn Bruce, the production was inspired by true stories of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Colombian immigrants who found refuge in the nightclub. Delgado leads the eight-member cast (a full list appears below) as a mystical woman who conjures stories and vibrant songs performed live onstage each night by Colombian-American musician Roberto "Carpacho" Marin and his band of 30 years, Carpacho y Su Super Combo.

La Havana Madrid appears July 21 - August 20 in the Owen Theatre (Opening Night is Wednesday, July 26 at 7:30pm). Tickets ($30-$50; subject to change) go on sale Wednesday, June 28; visit GoodmanTheatre.org/LaHavanaMadrid or call the box office at (312) 443-3800. La Havana Madrid is recommended for ages 12 and up.
 
“My journey with La Havana Madrid is a dream come true. It has been an absolute joy and honor to share this story with my fellow Chicagoans and I am incredibly grateful that we get to keep the love alive this summer,” said playwright and co-star Sandra Delgado. “It is especially sweet to come home to Goodman Theatre, where I wrote La Havana Madrid as part of the Playwright's Unit in the 2015/2016 Season. I cannot wait to invite audiences into the Owen Theatre, which will be transformed into the La Havana Madrid nightclub, night after night.”
 
In addition to Delgado, the eight-member cast also includes Teatro Vista ensemble members Tommy Rivera-Vega and Marvin Quijada; and newcomers Mike Oquendo, Donovan Diaz and Krystal Ortiz, who round out the cast as Cuban, Colombian and Puerto Rican patrons, staff and musicians who all met, danced, loved and lost at La Havana Madrid. Original cast members Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel and Phoebe González are unable to continue with the production and their roles are being recast for the Goodman remount. The design team includes Ashley Woods (set), Elsa Hiltner (costumes), Heather Sparling (lights), Mikhail Fiksel (sound), Liviu Pasare (projections and video design) and William Carlos Angulo (choreography).
 
A Brief History about La Havana Madrid Nightclub (Originally Located on Belmont and Sheffield)
 
In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Latinos from Caribbean countries such as Puerto Rico and Cuba settled all along Chicago's lakefront, from North Avenue to Devon. Although from different countries, music brought them together. Their shared rhythms—African rhythms—became the guaguanco, the mambo and the merengue. Now in the United States, these rhythms merged with traditional big band sounds and eventually became salsa. On the North side of Chicago, a handful of Latino music clubs opened up: Coco Loco on Lincoln Avenue, The Mirror Lounge on North Avenue and La Havana Madrid on Belmont and Sheffield. Luis “Witto” Aloma, a Cuban-born player for the Chicago White Sox, opened the club in the early 1960s to create a place for his Cuban friends to drink coffee and play cards and dominoes. Along the way, La Havana Madrid grew into a more lavish supper club with live Cuban musical acts, before it changed hands and Puerto Rican TV and radio host took over the club. La Havana Madrid closed in the late 1960s and later became the popular folk club The Quiet Knight. Today, the same second floor space is occupied by Milio’s Hair Studio.
 
About Teatro Vista

Teatro Vista’s 2017/2018 season opens with The Goodman Theatre remount of La Havana Madrid. Teatro Vista produces, develops and commissions plays that explore the wealth and variety of the human experience from a Latinx perspective. The company provides work and professional advancement opportunities for Latinx theater artists, with special emphasis on the company’s ensemble members, and seeks to enhance the curricular goals of Chicago students through theatre. Teatro Vista was recently celebrated as one of “Chicago’s Cultural Leaders” by the Arts & Business Council of Chicago and received the League of Chicago Theatre’s Artistic Leadership Award.

For the development of La Havana Madrid, Teatro Vista and Delgado received from The Chicago Community Trust, and the 2015 Joyce Award. Delgado also received a 3Arts 3AP Project Grant and developed the script as a member of the 2015/2016 Playwright’s Unit at Goodman Theatre.

Teatro Vista is supported by The Joyce Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, Alphawood Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events of the City of Chicago, The Shubert Foundation, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, Purple Group, Cumberland Irving and Vidal & Associates, Inc. and The Saints.

For more information, visit TeatroVista.org, on Twitter (@TeatroVista), Facebook and Instagram.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Friday, 02 June 2017 17:10

Goodman Theatre Cancels "Pamplona" Run

Goodman Theatre announced today that it will cancel all remaining performances of Pamplona starring Stacy Keach as Ernest Hemingway—a world premiere by Jim McGrath, directed by Artistic Director Robert Falls. The decision comes after Keach underwent medical testing following his opening night performance, which was halted by Falls midway through when it became clear that Keach was struggling. According to Keach’s family, doctors treating the stage and screen star have advised a period of rest and recuperation; as such, the Goodman has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the run. Out of respect for Keach and his family’s wishes for privacy, there are no additional comments at this time.
 
Ticket holders will be offered a full refund, or one of the following options: a Goodman Gift Certificate equal to the value of the tickets; tickets to the upcoming Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O’Neill, directed by Steve Scott; or a tax deductible donation to benefit the theater’s Education and Engagement programs. A Goodman Theatre Ticket Services representative will be in touch with patrons to make arrangements.
 
Pamplona has been the rare, joyous process working with a friend and colleague to realize a passion project. Stacy Keach is one of America’s finest actors, and he and playwright Jim McGrath have rendered a beautiful and complex new piece of theater about an American icon that audiences in 11 preview performances had the opportunity to witness and reward with tremendous enthusiasm and standing ovations,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls. “I am in awe of the work Stacy has done, and especially of the courage he’s displayed in the face of adversity, and I look forward to our future collaborations. We also wish to thank our Chicago audiences and members of the media for their gracious support during this unusual circumstance.”
 
Pamplona, an 80-minute, one-man show starring Keach as the great American author Ernest Hemingway, was scheduled to run May 19 through June 25 in the Goodman’s 350-seat Owen Theatre. Keach, who has no understudy given the unique nature of the play and his extensive involvement in the project’s development, completed every preview performance from May 19-28. The May 30 opening night was halted mid-performance, and the following three performances were cancelled as Keach underwent medical testing.
 
The Goodman is grateful for its Pamplona sponsors, including The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation (Major Support) and Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP (Contributing Sponsor) with additional support from the Director’s Society.
 
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 Upcoming Theatre

Objects in the Mirror, an outstanding play having its premier at Goodman Theatre, will soon have you wanting to know more about its author, Charles Smith, a Chicago playwright.  

Starring Daniel Kyri as Shedrick Yarkpai, this play springs from the true story of the real life Yarkpai, a refugee who fled Liberia in the aftermath of its first Civil War, struggling for 12 years across hostile terrain and through refugee camps in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

Excellent performances and a creative set and lighting make this a show not to miss, especially for the wonderful writing of Charles Smith. Breon Arzell plays cousin Zaza Workolo; Ryan Kitley is Rob Mosher; and Lily Mojekwu as Shedrick’s mother Luopu Workolo is just spectacular – she steals all her scenes.

The real life Shedrick Yarkpai eventually made his way to Adelaide, Australia, and as fate would have it became an actor. And so, playwright Smith met him and heard his tale while staging another of his plays there - Free Man of Color (it won a 2004 Jeff Award and has been staged widely, including the Goodman).

Shedrick Yarkpai’s passage through the wilderness alone would be a worthy story, bringing our attention to the privation in Liberia wrought by years of civil chaos. But this play would not succeed as it does, unless it can hold our attention and keep us in our seats. 

And here Smith’s skillful craft shines through, along with director Chuck Smith and the creative team, who have turned the years-long odyssey of the protagonists, Shedrick and his uncle John Workolo (Allen Gilmore is terrific) – they ate grass, lived in the bush, both life and limbs, literally, endangered by violent, machete wielding warriors – and condensed it into an engaging trek, showing geography, educating us on the history, but all in an entertaining way, unlikely as this may seem.

Objects in the Mirror is so much more than a topical recount of Liberian suffering and struggle. Smith also puts before us the psychological and emotional toll on all refugees who must give up so much of their culture, and themselves, in resettling. Among the things so striking about Smith’s play is how he holds our interest in Shedrick’s odyssey. But he subordinates it to a more charged dramatic concern: the personal compromises refugees must make in escaping, and losses that can never be reclaimed.

In a way that only theater can, we engage and experience the personal emotional stress. And while we know of the trauma, what Smith conveys is the suffering from loss of identity, and of dreams. Shedrick has adopted a false identity to make it through border crossings – but he regrets the loss of his name.

Shedrick is a dreamer. He is also a storyteller, as is Smith, and the characters he has created. "Through storytelling, the play ascends to a powerful examination of truth and falsity, and the powers of persuasion. All good stories tell a strand of the truth," says Uncle John.

Once in Adelaide, Yarkpai finds work with a supportive Australian government agent – but Shedrick’s uncle John is fearful it will blow their cover. The debate through several scenes in which different characters tell their version of the parts of Shedrick's story is the stuff of great theater. 

The creative team includes Riccardo Hernandez (set design), Mike Tutaj (projection design), John Culbert (lighting design), Birgit Rattenborg Wise (costume design), Ray Nardelli (sound design). Briana J. Fahey is the production stage manager.

Objects in the Mirror runs through June 4 at the Goodman Theatre. It is highly recommended.

Published in Theatre in Review

King of the Yees, now playing at the Goodman Theatre through April 30, is full of laughs and wisdom. Both touching and endearing, the play - with themes of family, community and tradition - takes a look at one Chinese-American family’s attempt to bridge the generation gap.

 

Written by Lauren Yee and directed by Joshua Kahan Brody, King of the Yees features Lauren and her father Larry Yee as central characters in this off-beat, quirky, yet totally relevant production that explores the history of patriarchal family groups like the Yee Fung Toy association in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

 

King of the Yees is only kind of true—just like the stories your father once told you as a child,” said Lauren. “Growing up, I never understood what the Yee Fung Toy – a club of Yees – was, or why people were a part of it. With this play, I’ve been able to explore not only my own self-consciousness within my community, but it’s also shed light on how that is a universal experience. With every generation, there is a feeling of being unworthy and being unprepared to take up the cultural mantle. In a way, this play is a hero’s quest that celebrates those feelings of inadequacy.”

 

Established hundreds of years ago, family associations were a way to provide resources and community in the face of the discrimination that so many Chinese-American families experienced. These mainly men’s clubs became very powerful over the years. However, as a new generation began to take its place in world, these groups that limited the roles of women among other things, were often viewed as obsolete and unappealing.

 

King of the Yees examines that waning influence and the emotional impact on families in a performance that is infectious, interactive, metaphysical but always heartfelt.

 

Larry Yee, brilliantly played by Francis Jue, is the gregarious and engaging head of the Yee family association, which is dedicated to the preservation of the Yee line. Lauren (Stephenie Soohyun Park) is dismissive of the purpose and necessity of such a club and to the surprise and dismay of her father plans to move to Berlin with her Jewish husband. A disappointed Larry suddenly goes missing and Lauren’s frantic search for him takes her to an abstract world full of symbolism from the past with lessons for the future. That journey leads her not only to her father but to a better understanding of the family association and the community and traditions he is trying to preserve.

 

King of the Yees is filled with a small but versatile cast (Daniel Smith, Angel Lin and Rammel Chan) who capably play a variety of roles during the two-act production.

 

The set design is simple but effective, mainly consisting of a large ceremonial door that is very significant to the storyline. Also, the use of projections on the back wall of the stage was very creative. The design team includes William Boles (set), Izumi Inaba (costumes), Heather Gilbert (lighting), Mikhail Fiksel (sound) and Mike Tutaj (projections).  

 

Recommended.

 

King of the Yees runs through April 30 in the Owen Theatre at the Goodman. Tickets are available online at GoodmanTheatre.org/Yees.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
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