Rehearsals are underway for Fernanda Coppel’s “King Liz,” Windy City Playhouse’s second show of the 2017 season, playing May 24 through July 16. Under the direction of Chuck Smith, the “fierce and compelling” (The New York Times) production stars Lanise Shelley as Liz Rico, a powerful NBA sports agent vying for a promotion to head her entire company. When Freddie Luna (played by Eric Gerard), a young, talented rookie, comes under her wing, Liz faces the biggest challenge of her career: trust her gut with the new player, or risk everything she’s built for herself. The cast of “King Liz” also features Philip Edward Van Lear as Coach Jones, Jackie Alamillo as Gabby Fuentes, Caron Buinis as Barbara Flowers and Frank Nall as Mr. Candy.
Performances for “King Liz” begin May 24 and run through July 16. Press Nights for the production are Wednesday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($15-$55) are on sale now and can be purchased at the Windy City Playhouse Box Office online or by calling the Box Office at (773) 891-8985.
“I was very drawn to the major themes in this production, especially focusing on Liz as an independent, self-reliant woman of color in a male-dominated field. It's not often that you get to see such a strong female character on stage, who owes no one anything,” said Windy City Playhouse Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein. “We’ve curated programming featuring the talented artists in the production to help our audiences connect with the material on a deeper level, while embracing the casual, fun atmosphere the Playhouse is known for.”
In conjunction with “King Liz,” Windy City Playhouse’s Talkback series offers patrons an intimate Q&A experience with an array of artists to learn more about the creative process behind each production. The series begins with “King Liz” playwright Fernanda Coppel, who will lead the discussion behind her inspiration for the play on Saturday, May 27 immediately following the 8 p.m. performance.
Also new, the Playhouse begins the weekly post-performance Nightcap series, inviting patrons to grab a drink at the bar and partake in an intimate discussion around “King Liz” with a member of the cast or creative team. To kick off the series, cast member Caron Buinis will lead the discussion on Wednesday, June 7 and Philip Edward Van Lear will lead the discussion on Wednesday, June 14. The series takes place every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. through the duration of the run. For the complete schedule of special events at the Playhouse, visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com/King-Liz.
No experience at the Playhouse is complete without a trip to their signature bar, and “King Liz” is no different. The production-specific cocktails, available throughout the run, include:
· Operation: Pump Up - Pimm’s, Sprite, Muddled Cucumber, Lemon
· Very Cocky Chick - Amaretto, Luxardo Cherry Liquor, Sprite, Sweet and Sour, Grenadine
· Dynamic Dunker - Bourbon, Ginger Liqueur, Hard Cider, Lime
· Diamond in the Rough - Mezcal, Simple Syrup, Lime, Ginger Beer
· Summer in a Glass (The Playhouse’s Signature Sangria) - Rosé, Vodka, Lemon, Strawberries, Sprite
“Wine Wednesdays” are returning to the Playhouse for “King Liz,” which includes $10 off all bottles of wine at the bar. For the complete beer, wine and cocktail menu, click here.
The performance schedule for “King Liz” is as follows: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. For a detailed performance schedule visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com/King-Liz. Tickets for “King Liz” are on sale now and range from $15-$55—with discounts available for seniors and students—and can be purchased by calling 773-891-8985 or visiting WindyCityPlayhouse.com.
The creative team for “King Liz” includes Courtney O’Neill (Scenic Design), Elsa Hiltner (Costume Design), Jared Gooding (Lighting Design), Thomas Dixon (Sound Design) and Devon Green (Properties Design). Donald E. Claxon is the Production Stage Manager. The understudies for the production are Brianna Buckley, Joe Chazaray, David Goodloe, Will Casey, Marisol Doblado and Teri Schnaubelt.
About Windy City Playhouse
Windy City Playhouse, Chicago's most sophisticated not-for-profit Equity theater, aims to expand beyond the traditional theatergoing experience by offering audience members a night of high-quality entertainment with a full-service bar, in a lounge-like atmosphere. Windy City Playhouse premiered in March of 2015, with the inaugural production “End Days.” Lauded by audiences and critics alike, Windy City Playhouse promises to rock Chicago's theater scene.
The season continues at Windy City Playhouse with Gina Gionfriddo’s dark comedy, “Becky Shaw” directed by Jeff Award-winner Scott Weinstein. Performances begin September 21.
For more information, visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Bootycandy is about Sutter, an African American gay man’s experience from adolescence to adulthood. The play touches on many different aspects and felt like several puzzle pieces coming together throughout its duration, each falling perfectly into place to create a path whereas the production is able to end on a high note that is sensible and believable.
The play opens with Sutter, played by Travis Turner, asking his mother why she refers to his penis as a ‘bootycandy.’ The conversation that follows is comical and sets the tone for the rest of the play.
One of the best scenes is performed by Osiris Khepera where he is a pastor at a church and talks about “they heard folk”, whispering why some of the choir folks smile at one another and why he personally hasn’t taken up a wife. Many of the sentiments in this scene touches on the perspective of the black community on homosexuality. At the end of the powerful sermon, he reveals something he has been hiding underneath his gown.
A scene that was hilarious, but uncomfortable, was when Krystal McNeil and Debrah Neal played four different characters to talk about how someone in the community named their child Genitalia Lakeitha Shamala Abdul. Yes, Genitalia. Later in the play you see her as a lesbian having a ceremony to break up with her partner.
The heart of the play centers on Sutter’s experience when he was in his teens at the library. A man had been following him and talking to him for quite some time and he decides to tell his mother and stepfather over dinner who barely looked up from his magazine. The experience for Sutter shows a dark side of him when he takes home a drunk, straight white male (Rob Fenton) with his friend. This was one of the hardest scenes to watch; it was dark, dramatic, and felt too real.
Sutter’s character involves many layers. The play cuts to another scene right after to show Sutter visiting his grandmother in a nursing home. He decides to order some ribs for her on his iPhone. A more subdued Sutter who you can’t help but feel sorry for.
The cast works extremely well together, Turner leading the way. Five actors in this winning play act as several different characters, each providing a strong performance.
Catch Bootycandy, written and directed by Robert O’Hara, at Windy City Playhouse (3014 North Irving Park) through April 15th. Tickets range from $15-$55. The show does contain a scene with full-frontal nudity. Be sure to check out the catchy cocktails inspired by the play.
I thoroughly enjoy the Windy City Playhouse and it appears they did a renovation since I was there last. The seats are comfortable and a full bar is a fantastic feature to any theater, if you ask me. In addition, the staff are incredibly friendly and very caring. I will definitely try another play here but I have to say, This, left little to be desired.
This explores the ups and downs of life from a group of five friends in their upper thirties. The set opens up in Tom (Steve O'Connell) and Marrell's (Tania Richard) New York apartment. They are hosting friends Jane (Amy Rubenstein) and Alan (Joe Zarrow). It is quickly discovered that Jane is a widow and Marrell is looking to set her up with her French friend, Jean Pierre, who is played by Brian Gray. As this group of friends reminisce about the college days they had spent together we gradually care less and less about them as there is nothing about them that is really likable or pulls us in. Over magnifying the problems and "tough" life decisions of this privileged and highly educated collection of characters (yawn), playwright Melissa James Gibson falls short in creating individuals we want to identify with. This tends to drag and never really comes around, refusing to engage its audience.
I found the plot to be a bit predictable; maybe because it has been done before. I had a hard time connecting to this group of self-centered characters and found many of them to be a bit over the top. However, the best part of this play is Joe Zarrow. He played his witty character, Alan, perfectly and added just the right amount of comical relief when necessary. The only other plus besides Zarrow's performance, was in Katie-Bell Kenney's well-crafted set design to which we find ourselves peering into a believable apartment complex.
Even though I didn't enjoy the play as much as other treasures at Windy City Playhouse, I'd still recommend taking the time to see it for yourself, if for any reason to support this wonderful theatre that has a great track record of hitting its mark. This is being performed at Windy City Playhouse (3014 W Irving Park Rd) through August 28th. Tickets range from $25-$45.
"Stick Fly" is about the Levays, a wealthy African American family, who go to their beach house for a weekend getaway. What started off as two brothers bringing their significant others to meet their parents ends with revelations of deception, racial issues, and relationship woes.
The older brother, played by Michael Pogue, does an excellent job in his role as an arrogant plastic surgeon. He brings home his Italian girlfriend, Kimber, who is strong, independent, and aware of her own privilege. Tyrone Phillips plays the younger brother, Kent, who has definitely gone through a journey to find himself but finally settled into writing to which he shows some talent. His girlfriend, Taylor, is neurotic and comes from a lower class background although her father is a well-liked and respected anthropologist who has written several books. We later learn that he left her at a very young age and created his own family that didn't include her.
The family invites their longtime housekeeper to the beach house for the weekend but she asks her daughter Cheryl, played by Paige Collins, to fill in for her due to her illness. What we soon find out is that Cheryl went to a top tiered high school on scholarship and she is ready to attend college soon. It is apparent that she is out of place and clearly does not fit in.
I couldn't help but to be impressed with Phillip Edward Van Lear’s performance as Dr. Levay. He is the matriarch and does a great job at commanding the stage when he walks in.
I appreciate the playwright's attempt at bringing a very complex storyline to the theater. I was impressed with the fact that I was able to connect to a couple of characters as they all seemed to have some sort of problem. However, I felt at the end some of the characters were not fully developed and seemed a bit disjointed. Emotions were running high and it appeared that Cheryl just gave up at the end which was a bit of a disappointment.
"Stick Fly" is the play to see if you like dramas with some comedy. Not only does it touch on many things such as family abandonment as well as racial issues; it leaves you reflecting on some of the things you may have encountered in your own life, especially if you are African American. This play is worth checking out at Windy City Playhouse, a non-profit theater that supports local actors. To be honest, any play that opens with Stevie Wonder is good in my book.