Upcoming Theatre

Michael Washington Brown, in association with Athenaeum Theatre Productions, present “BLACK!,” July 20 – 30, in Studio 2 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Opening night is Thursday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m. The performance schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The running time is 100 minutes including a 10-minute intermission. Tickets are $25 and available at AthenaeumTheatre.org or 773.935.6875.
 
Brown, was born in England and created “BLACK!” in 2016. The production has been included in the Asheville Fringe Festival, the FRIGID Fringe Festival in New York City and the Seattle Fringe. It will be performed at the Tempe Center for the Arts and the San Francisco Fringe Festival in September 2017.
 
In “BLACK!,” Brown inhabits an array of characters from Africa, the United States, England and Jamaica, performing each person’s individual perspective and sharing his experiences. The production highlights the nuances and life perspectives of various people who are from the Black global community.  Many stereotypes currently exist which seem to ‘mesh’ all black people and their stories together.  The truth is that there are distinct differences and very definite similarities between Black people from all walks of life.  In addition, each carries their own distorted and often exaggerated opinions about the other, which is a way to distinguish a separation, even though in truth, they are more alike than they believe. “BLACK!” uses the power of language and performance to delve into these characters to reflect on this communities’ history and their future as well as what they do and do not share of the global Black experience.
 
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share this show, its voices and a global ‘Black’ perspective with the Chicago community,” Brown said.  “Chicago is embedded in a rich history filled with a melting pot of cultures, along with its extensive support of the theatre and arts. It is my mission and purpose to share this show as far and wide as I can.  Chicago is an obvious choice in my journey…I am grateful to have the Athenaeum Theatre, supporting my debut of “BLACK!” in this vibrant and intoxicating city, ” he concluded. 
 
ABOUT MICHAEL WASHINGTON BROWN
Michael Washington Brown was born in London, England. He is the first generation born outside of his family’s direct heritage of the Caribbean (Jamaica & Barbados). In 1992 at 19, he left London for the shores of California, a place he fell in love with from his initial visit as a child at age 10. He knew even at this young age that he would ‘one day’ make America his home.
 
In 1994, he began studying scene classes in San Francisco and knew instantly what he wanted to do and be…an actor. He gradually found himself working his way up the local scene and then eventually performing in productions at: The Magic Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Marin Theatre Company and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. He moved to New York City to continue his journey and landed a variety of New York City productions that began at the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Theatre has always been Brown’s passion, but deep down he always felt there was ‘more to give’. Brown wanted to tell stories that were not being told. It was at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 2012 when he saw a one-man show and was inspired beyond anything he had previously experienced. He realized in this moment what his ‘more to give’ would be: “To write and share my own stories and perspective.” Brown discovered that his love of reading had laid the foundation and allowed the ease of his own voice, to reveal itself to him. 

ABOUT ATHENAEUM THEATRE PRODUCTIONS
Athenaeum Theatre Productions, a not-for-profit 501c3 arts organization, is firmly committed to providing the Chicago non-profit performing arts community a welcoming shared space to incubate new projects and collaborations by providing high quality and below cost performance, rehearsal, office and reception space supported by a staff of theatre professionals. Founded in 1911, the Athenaeum Theatre is Chicago’s oldest, continuously operating off-loop theatre.  Home to 15 not-for-profit performing arts groups and four stages including its 984-seat main stage.
 
Michael Washington Brown, in association with Athenaeum Theatre Productions, present “BLACK!,” July 20 – 30, in Studio 2 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Opening night is Thursday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m. The performance schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The running time is 100 minutes including a 10-minute intermission. Tickets are $25 and available at AthenaeumTheatre.org or 773.935.6875.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

As soon as I saw the warm, rich lighting of a luxurious futuristic bedroom on the Space Ship Destiny lit and decorated by designers Heather Gilbert and Christopher Kriz and the set design by Arnel Sancianco, where the entire action of the play takes place, I thought this is going to be an interesting show. To the right of the set was a spaceship departure board with the names and photos of the passengers, along with their assigned room number, as they were headed to a planet three months away from Earth. The other ships had names like Fortune, Kismet, Prospect and Horizon suggesting that the people leaving earth are doing so willingly and must have enough money to do so. Smooch Medina’s spaceship flight calendar and wall projection also counts down the number of days the passengers have spent locked on this room together, which is a great tension builder as well. 

There are just three characters in the play. One a soldier who is suffering from PTSD from a previous mission in which he witnessed the killing of civilians that haunts him still in a variety of deep emotional ways. He has requested a private room because he cannot sleep well while struggling with his inner demons but somehow an attractive young woman passenger has been placed in the room with him, much to his disapproval. Ed Flynn portrays this sensitive, journal-writing soldier (previously referred to as “Grant”) who is also prone to violent mood changes and outbursts with great feeling and a sweaty intensity that is frightening at times. 

When you consider that he is locked into this “hotel room" for three full months due to a quarantine placed on certain sick members aboard the ship with a petite young female to whom he objects, it’s not difficult to imagine the strain that gradually surmounts. Janelle Villas does a wonderful job of showing the audience her fresh-faced bubbly enthusiasm while hiding a dark past that includes at least one rape, which has also left her in a state of PTSD. 


Co-directed by artistic director Michael Patrick Thornton and guest artist Jessica Thebus, the “Pilgrims” moves along quickly yet with subtle changes in the characters that seem very satisfying and real with a lot of emotional suspense and tension. We the audience wonder if these two characters will ever bond, or even reach their destination safely. We also ponder what will become of their edgy, ever-changing relationship once they are finally released from this artificial and close-quartered isolation into the general population of the new planet.  

The third character is a robot named Jasmine played with a great sense of humor and also an eerie, smiling menace by Brittany Burch. Jasmine has been programmed not only to answer all their questions and provide all their meals and cleaning services. She is also one of the older forms of “human-like robots” known for their ability to satisfy without any compunction - either member, male or female, with oral sex or intercourse if the human need arises.

The universality of two people meeting for the first time, learning about each other's baggage and foibles and being forced to overcome them in order to at least be friends if not lovers cannot be denied. This is a love story set in outer space plain and simple, even though it is suggested in the play that couples may have been placed together purposely to repopulate the new planet. 

I highly recommend this production for its unique retelling of a tale as old as time, when Fate meets Destiny and two very "human" human beings struggle to please each other while being true to their own individual dreams of the future but must in the end reveal the dark, undesirable places of their souls in order to overcome them and move into a deeper union free of mistakes or tragedies of the past.

Excellent performances and an imaginative script make Pilgrims a compelling and often humorous sci-fi love story that resonates. Pilgrims is being performed at Gift Theatre through July 30th. For more show information or to purchase tickets visit www.thegifttheatre.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

In Native Gardens, an ambitious young couple moves into a fixer-upper in an affluent DC neighborhood. Husband Pablo (Gabriel Ruiz) is a lawyer, his pregnant wife Tania (Paloma Nozicka) is working on her doctorate dissertation. Their nice and lively, albeit politically incorrect, neighbors are a defense contractor Virginia (Janet Ulrich Brooks) and her retired gardening-loving husband Frank (Patrick Clear). Shortly after moving in, Pablo has a bright idea to invite his entire law firm (all sixty people) to a barbeque in their embarrassingly unfinished yard, so the young couple gets to work. The old wire fence separating the neighbors’ properties (very nice design set by William Boles) has to go, but it soon becomes evident that Frank has been gardening on extra 23 inches of land that actually belongs to the new couple, according to the property plans.


Upon further calculations Pablo realizes that those 23 inches along the old fence translate into extra 80 sq feet of land which goes for “about $15,000 at a current market price”. Well, it’s a war then! Frank refuses to let go of his lovingly raised flowers right up against the ill-placed fence, while the young couple is on a mission to re-claim what’s rightfully theirs.


Who knew that an incorrectly placed fence would cause so much commotion? We all did, we saw it coming before the play even started. But despite its predictability, this comedy is still entertaining and somewhat thought provoking. Written by Karen Zacarias and directed by Marti Lyons, Native Gardens is more about generation clash, stereotypes, ageism and racism rather than the property lines. The older couple is from the pre-self-censorship era, and in their ignorance, they don’t always choose words carefully; they say what’s on their minds rather than hide behind politically correct words and ideas. But those words are often offensive to the delicate ears of Tania, whose proper opinions, frankly, make for sterile conversation, enough to put one to sleep. All in all, the two couples can’t effectively communicate, so they threaten each other instead. Will their peace be restored?


Native Gardens runs through July 2nd at Victory Gardens Theater. To find out more about this show visit www.VictoryGardens.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

The producers at Steppenwolf describe Pass Over as a “riff on Waiting for Godot” – and that’s true - except for this: Pass Over is not boring. In fact it is gripping and entertaining for every one of its 80 minutes of run time.

Written by Antoinette Nwandu and premiering under the direction of Danya Taymor, Pass Over is at once funny, alarming, sickening, and frightening. With shades of Master Harold & the Boys and Miss Margarita’s Way, it portrays two young inner city black men – Moses (Jon Michael Hill) and Kitch (Julian Parker)  hanging out under a street lamp, hoping to get off “the block.” To say these two give knock out performances is an understatement.

Like Groundhog Day, each morning they resume the wait, their hours punctuated periodically by gunfire, and the appearance of the menacing policeman Ossifer (Ryan Hallahan in a searing performance; he also plays the white-suited Mister) whose role is to dispel their hope, and keep them in their place.

Moses and Kitch are condemned, suggests Nwandu, to be “waiting for Godot” their whole lives. Unlike Beckett’s duo, Moses and Kitch are not abstract constructs, but real people. The warmth and mutual fealty of these two young men captures your heart through their amusing word games and youthful horseplay.

Nwandu also plumbs the depths of the emotional link between Moses and Kitch, and we bear witness to their bond. As in Beckett’s play, these characters form a suicide pact, but cannot do it.  

They survive, somehow, and hope returns repeatedly – even against all odds. But the two never escape, either, and Pass Over faces us with our contemporary social challenge. By making Moses and Kitch so accessible to us, by humanizing them, Nwandu brings a fresh immediacy to the lament, that Black Lives Matter.   

Pass Over is both timeless, and a powerful commentary on contemporary conditions. Into this piece, Nwandu has squeezed a book. Fully deconstructed, it could easily fill a college semester of study.

Part of the vaunted excellence of Beckett’s 1953 Waiting for Godot - an existentialist reverie on the seemingly endless insufferableness of life, and perhaps the meaningless of that suffering – is that the audience also experiences the ennui of that endless wait, in real time. Frankly it’s a bore.

Not so with Pass Over. It is fully realized in this production. I might quibble with the end of the play – it seemed heavy handed from a first viewing. But I am going to have to trust and respect the playwright's and director’s judgements, given the excellence of all that comes before. The performances by Hill and Parker in fact are so perfectly delivered, hopefully it is exactly what the playwright intended – because it is tremendous. It runs through July 9 at Steppenwolf Theatre.

Published in Theatre in Review

From the minute I stepped into Windy City Playhouse’s colorful, elegant the stage area designed by Courtney O’Neill with fantastic lights and sounds by Thomas Dixon, I knew I was in for a treat. 

King Liz is named for the beautiful, sexy and high-powered sports agent Liz Rico played superbly with real gusto and stage presence galore by Lanise Antoine Shelley. 

Liz Rico is a woman who grew up in the projects, overcame great poverty and rose to the top of a male dominated industry. Rico, one of the best sports agents in the business, is about to be promoted to the head of her firm by her retiring boss Mr. Candy (Frank Nall).

Mr. Candy's last offer to her to make her his new head of firm is based on her ability to sign a new and talented high school basketball player Freddie Luna (Eric Gerard). Luna is a true talent likened to Kobe Bryant but comes with a history of violence and temper tantrums as he too has been brought up in the projects and was doing his best to survive as he knew how. 

Eric Gerard is also great in his role, showing how deeply he feels about needing to escape his checkered past and the projects by riding his basketball gifts into the big time. Gerard also plays the role well in that the audience sees and feels great compassion for him as he uses his limited social skills to try and fit into the fast-paced media swirl he is placed in, sometimes causing his own downfall, his sometimes feral temper getting the best of him. Though Luna can often be charming and polite, prying journalists after the next big sports story target his unbridled emotions and get the best of him when digging into his past that he so desperately wants to put behind him.

Gabby (Jackie Alamillo) is Liz Rico’s assistant and though grateful for her highly valued mentorship has been made to "eat crow" so many times, every day at work, by Liz. Gabby is also eager for Liz to get the promotion, if only because she will then fill Rico’s job. Alamillo is perfect as the once meek but now hardened assistant who has given up everything including her own sense of self-worth at times in order to succeed in this male dominated field. 

In the meantime, Knick’s Coach Jones does his best with Luna hoping this new prodigy will cement his long time career. Coach Jones, played with great compassion of soul and accuracy by Phillip Edward Van Lear, really drives the play’s message home and is totally believable in the role of a big league coach who also has been beaten down somewhat by an industry which cares more about profit margins than human lives and protecting the players who make the game possible.  

We learn along the way that "King Liz" had a sexual relationship with the coach in the past when over dinner he states he “would like to make love to her again”, that “she needs affection” and "was making animal sounds" the last time they were together but Liz will only accept his offer if he realizes she wants no commitment involved or even romance. 

Liz, over the course of the show, begins to realize that she has isolated herself from the world of love and relationships for so long that even though she is rich and on all the most important people lists like Forbes Fortune 500, she has also given up her chances to have children and a husband among other things and is faced with the biggest decision of her life to try and salvage her soul and dignity as a human being.

The play is delivered fast and furiously with many exciting twists and turns and light and scene design changes. It reminded me of the film “Draft Day” starring Kevin Costner that shows just how much constant pressure and money is riding on these agents and their young, often inexperienced and naive clients – the promises made and the slugfests that occur between agencies and teams to sign elite talent. We learn how much athlete image control weighs into a successful sports career for those that have a hard time staying out of trouble.

King Liz is also the story of two completely different paths taken from two people, both African Americans, who grew up in the same projects. Ambitious, disciplined and determined, Liz carved a trail for herself to succeed in the business world by obtaining a Yale education and learning the social graces and toughness that positions herself to rise up the corporate ladder. She’s hard-nosed and no-nonsense and does not make excuses. At the same time, Luna, though mega-talented, struggles to mature or find a sense of responsibility. He blows up with little provocation and misses key business appointments to go shopping with his friends. We want so desperately to shake him and say, “Wake up! You have been given a golden opportunity to shine and become an example to others.”

Lanise Antoine Shelly is a powerhouse as Liz Rico and is surrounded by an impressive cast in this fast-paced, knockout punch production. I highly recommend Fernanda Coppel’s King Liz, directed with real style and exciting action and catharsis by Chuck Smith.

King Liz is being performed at Windy City Playhouse. For tickets visit www.WindyCityPlayhouse.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Drury Lane Theatre continues its 2017-2018 season with the Pulitzer-winning play The Gin Game written by D.L. Coburn, featuring Jeff Award winners Paula Scrofano and John Reeger, and directed by Ross Lehman. The Gin Game runs June 22 – August 13, 2017 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace.
 
Winner of the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and nominated for four Tony Awards, The Gin Game symbolizes life in the form of a card game in a two-act, two-character play starring Chicago theater legends Paula Scrofano and John Reeger. In The Gin Game, Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey strike up an acquaintance and begin to play gin. As the game progresses, intimate secrets of their lives are revealed and they begin to search for each other’s weaknesses in both the game and life itself.
 
With this production, married couple Paula Scrofano and John Reeger join an elite history of famous duos who have previously battled in The Gin Game, including original stars Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn (the 1977 Broadway production and 1981 TV movie), Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke (the 2003 PBS television special), and Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones (the 2015 Broadway Revival). Jeff Award winner Ross Lehman directs the renowned acting couple.
 
“We have wanted to produce The Gin Game for years, specifically with Paula Scrofano and John Reeger in the roles of Fonsia and Weller,” says Kyle DeSantis, President of Drury Lane Productions. “This marks Drury Lane’s twelfth collaboration with this legendary pair of Chicago actors, and we’re so excited to welcome them back to our stage.”
 
The creative team for The Gin Game includes Katherine Ross (scenic design), Mathieu H. Ray (costume design), Lindsey Lyddan (lighting design), Ray Nardelli (sound design), Mike Tutaj (projection design), Cassy Schillo (props design) and Claire Moores (wig and hair design). The production stage manager is Lucia Lombardi.
 
The Gin Game is recommended for ages 13 and up.

For more show information or to purchase tickets, or visit DruryLaneTheatre.com.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

A Red Orchid Theatre announces its 25th Anniversary Season, including Evening at the Talk House by Wallace Shawn, directed by Ensemble Member Shade Murray, and featuring Ensemble Members Lance Baker, Kirsten Fitzgerald and Natalie West; the World Premiere of Traitor, an adaption of Ibsen's Enemy of the People by Brett Neveu, directed by Ensemble Member Michael Shannon, and featuring Ensemble Members Dado, Larry Grimm, Danny McCarthy, Guy Van Swearingen and Natalie West, with lighting designed by Ensemble Member Mike Durst; and 33 to Nothing by Grant Varjas, featuring Ensemble Member Steve Haggard. In summer 2018 A Red Orchid will also present a bonus presentation of Victims of Duty by Eugene Ionesco, directed by Shira Piven, and featuring original cast members Michael Shannon and Guy Van Swearingen.
 
In addition to the company’s Chicago productions, A Red Orchid's 2013 production of Simpatico will open the season at the prestigious McCarter Center in Princeton, New Jersey. Simpatico will feature the original cast and creative team, directed by Dado and featuring Kristin Ellis, Jennifer Engstrom, Mierka Girten, Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen and Doug Vickers, with designs by Grant Sabin, Christine Pascual, Mike Durst, Joe Court and stage manager by Christa van Baale. 
 
“Our 25th anniversary season is full of landmark events for A Red Orchid,” comments Artistic Director Kirsten Fitzgerald. “In 2017-2018 we will see our first collaboration with an iconic playwright, our tenth world premiere with an ensemble member playwright, and a second collaboration with a local playwright. Ensemble is at the heart of everything we do, and we’re thrilled to present a 25th anniversary season packed with ensemble members both onstage and off. With an eye toward reaching out we are also over-the-moon to collaborate with Emily Mann and Debbie Bisno to bring A Red Orchid to the McCarter Center, as well as with Ike Holter, Tony Santiago and The Roustabouts in incubating new work right here at home."
 
A Red Orchid Theatre’s 2017-2018 Season includes:

Evening at the Talk House
by Wallace Shawn
Directed by Ensemble Member Shade Murray
Featuring Ensemble Members Lance Baker, Kirsten Fitzgerald and Natalie West
October 5 - November 19, 2017
Previews: October 5 - 8, 2017
Red Night Opening: Friday, October 13, 2017 at 8pm
 
Remember when you felt you could do anything, when there was still nothing to fear? Evening at the Talk House is a reunion at your favorite club, where old friends cozy up, raise a glass and remember gentler times when culture had value and terror wasn't the every day. This ultra-dark comedy invites us all to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening night of Robert's under-appreciated masterpiece, Midnight in a Clearing with Moon and Stars.  Please come. We need each other. 
 
The World Premiere of
Traitor
an adaption of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People
by Brett Neveu
Directed by Ensemble Member Michael Shannon
Featuring Ensemble Members Dado, Larry Grimm, Danny McCarthy, Guy Van Swearingen and Natalie West, with lighting designed by ensemble member Mike Durst
January 11 - February 25, 2018
Previews: January 11 - 14, 2018
Red Night Opening: Friday, January 19, 2018 at 8pm
 
In this world premiere adaptation of Heinrich Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, a small, North Chicago suburb finds the town's restart button with an investment in a newly opened charter school. After issues with the school grounds are discovered by its head of sciences, Dr. Stock, a quest to inform and correct is met with support.  But suspicion and rancor mount as truths bubble to the surface.  A play that mirrors our vital, absurd and often hilarious political times.
 
33 to Nothing
by Grant Varjas
Featuring Ensemble Member Steve Haggard
April 12 - May 27, 2018
Previews: April 12 - 15, 2018
Red Night Opening: Friday, April 20, 2018 at 8pm
 
Taking place during a real-time band practice, 33 to Nothing is a play that rocks hard and breaks hearts.  Feeling the incessant call of adulthood, individuals begin to question their role in the ensemble. Ultimately begging the question: to break up or to build stronger?  An anthem of forgiveness, loyalty and resilience when your world is being torn by the seams.
 
Summer Bonus 
Victims of Duty 
by Eugene Ionesco
Directed by Shira Piven
Featuring original cast members Michael Shannon and Guy Van Swearingen 
July-August 2018
 
Much of the original 1995 team come together to revisit Ionesco's absurd masterpiece. Choubert, the archetypal bourgeois everyman, and his wife Madeleine are spending a quiet evening at home when the Detective arrives to enlist their help in finding the previous tenant.  A roller-coaster ride of high comedy and horrific tragedy as Choubert examines his past present and future in a quest to find out where Mallot could be hiding.
 
Incubator
Also in 2017 A Red Orchid's Incubator hosts The Roustabouts inaugural production/pop-up. Founded by Ike Holter and Tony Santiago, The Roustabouts are responsible for Ike Holter's Stay Lit at Oracle and Steppenwolf theatres, and the Winehouse concert at Oracle. They will produce a new play by Ike Holter as part of A Red Orchid's Incubator series. Cast, production team and plot information are under wraps, but the project will premiere before the end of the year.
 
Ticket Information
A Red Orchid continues the FLASHPASS. As always, FLASHPASS holders get reserved seats, ticket and date flexibility, no-fee ticket exchanges, discounts for friends & family tickets, and early access to events such as readings, panel discussions, and more. The Three-show FLASHPASS is $80 and includes one ticket to each of the 3 shows in our 25th Season, excluding Press Opening and Red Nights. The Three-show Red Night FLASHPASS is $150 and includes a ticket to each of the 3 show's Red Night Opening and post-show reception with the cast and creative team.  The Preview Saver FLASHPASS is $50 and includes one ticket to a preview performance of each of the 3 shows in our 25th season. Add a ticket for the Summer Bonus, Victims of Duty, to any FLASHPASS at the time of purchase.  
 
Flashpasses may be purchased from the Box Office at 1531 N. Wells Street, Monday through Friday from 12 pm to 5 pm, by telephone during office hours by dialing (312) 943-8722, or online at www.aredorchidtheatre.org. Individual tickets will go on sale at a later date.
 
With our 25th season of ambitious and powerful storytelling, we are thrilled to announce the launch of A Red Orchid Theatre’s Red League.  At $1k or more, The Red League represents a donor community of our most committed and impactful cultural investors. Every profound and shocking moment on our stage is made possible through their critical annual contributions. Their philanthropic leadership fosters the development of raw and relevant work, creates a platform for our talented ensemble to reach new audiences, and ensures that A Red Orchid Theatre remains a source for honest, compassionate, and aesthetically rigorous theatre.
 
About A Red Orchid
A Red Orchid Theatre has served as an artistic focal point in the heart of the Old Town community of Chicago since 1993 and was honored this year with a 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Over the past 24 years, its Resident Ensemble has welcomed into its fold an impressive array of award-winning actors, playwrights and theatre artists with the firm belief that live theatre is the greatest sustenance for the human spirit. A Red Orchid is well known and highly acclaimed for its fearless approach to performance and design in the service of unflinchingly intimate stories. In addition to its professional season, the company is also committed to an OrKids (youth) project and hosts The Incubator (providing artists with space and time to explore new work, new forms and new artistic collaborations).
 
A Red Orchid Theatre is: Lance Baker, Kamal Angelo Bolden, Dado, Mike Durst, Jennifer Engstrom, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Joseph Fosco, Steve Haggard, Mierka Girten, Larry Grimm, Karen Kawa, Karen Kessler, Danny McCarthy, Shade Murray, Brett Neveu, Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen, Doug Vickers and Natalie West.

 

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

From the picturesque covered bridges of 1965 Winterset, Iowa, comes the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, continuing Marriott Theatre’s spectacular 2017 Season, running June 21 through August 13, 2017 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Featuring one of Broadway’s most accomplished creative teams with music and lyrics by three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown and book by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Marsha Norman, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY first captured the nation’s heart as a best-selling novel by Robert James Waller and remains one of the most romantic stories ever written. Seven-time Jeff Award Winner Nick Bowling (Man of La Mancha, The King and I) returns to The Marriott Theatre to direct, with musical direction by Jeff Award Winner Ryan T. Nelson.
 
“When I first came across this piece, I was immediately drawn to the spectacular score. It’s the kind of music you fall in love with the first time you hear it, which can’t be said for all musicals,” says Director Nick Bowling. “I feel a strong personal connection to the story having grown up in a small town in Iowa similar to Winterset. Seeing my mother face the same challenges Francesca is going through in terms of navigating a world that is foreign to her, my focus is to keep the story as true to Iowa as can be. Every detail from the set design to the costumes will be inspired by Madison County’s beauty to capture the true essence of the story’s setting.”
 
A true sweeping romance, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is the heartbreaking and touching story of two people caught between duty and desire. A beautiful Italian war-bride who longs for the dreams of travel and excitement she once had as a girl, Francesca Johnson is a dedicated Iowa housewife living a simple, yet dispassionate life. When her family goes on a trip to the 1965 State Fair and leaves her behind to take care of the house, Francesca’s world is shattered as a ruggedly handsome National Geographic photographer, Robert Kincaid, pulls into her driveway seeking directions. A quick ride to photograph one of the famed covered bridges of Madison County sparks a soul-stirring, passionate affair for the couple, whose lives are forever altered by this chance encounter. Audiences will be swept away by Jason Robert Brown’s soulful score, drawing upon the rich textures of Americana and folk. 
 
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY stars Jeff Award Winner Kathy Voytko as “Francesca” (The Marriott Theatre: Les Misérables; Chicago Shakespeare Theatre: Passion; Broadway: Oklahoma!, Nine, The Frogs, The Pirate Queen and Next to Normal); Jeff Award Winner Nathaniel Stampley as “Robert” (The Marriott Theatre: Man of La Mancha; Broadway/National Tour: The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess; Broadway: The Color Purple and The Lion King; London: The Lion King; Apple Tree Theatre: Big River; Milwaukee Rep: Dreamgirls and Man of La Mancha); Bart Shatto as “Bud” (Broadway: Les Misérables, The Civil War, Dracula, Hands on a Hardbody; National Tours: Cats, The Civil War, Les Misérables); Wydetta Carter as “Marge” (The Marriott Theatre: Little Shop of Horrors); Terry Hamilton as “Charlie” (The Marriott Theatre: She Loves Me, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, October Sky); Tanner Hake as “Michael”; Brooke MacDougal as “Carolyn”; and Emily Berman as “Marian” (World Premiere: Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Northlight Theatre; Chicago Shakespeare Theatre: Sense and Sensibility). Also starring in THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY are Shea Coffman, Nick Cosgrove, Phoebe González, Allyson Graves, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Danni Smith and Brandon Springman.
 
The production will feature set design by Jeff Kmiec, costume design by Sally Dolembo, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Bob Gilmartin, projections design by Anthony Churchill, properties design by Sally Weiss, and musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.
 
The performance schedule for THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., with select Thursday 1:00 p.m. shows. Ticket prices range from $50 to $60, including tax and handling fees. Call for student, senior and military discounts. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of FREE dinners available with the purchase of a full-priced theatre ticket, which can only be purchased through the Marriott Theatre Box Office. To make a restaurant reservation, please call 847.634.0100. Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets, please call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or go to www.ticketmaster.com. Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for more information.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Friday, 26 May 2017 03:55

Review: Strawdog's "The Night Season"

A small theatre resides on the most unlikely of streets in Chicago. Just steps from the Howard Red Line stop sits the Factory theatre, with only fifty seats in its small storefront property, this little powerhouse has produced original work for nearly 25 years. Adding to its catalog of work is The Night Season by Rebecca Lenkiewwicz and currently performed by the cast of the Strawdog Theatre Company.

When the tiny, seaside hometown of W.B. Yeats gets occupied by an English film crew making his biopic, the Kennedy's figure giving lodging to the lead actor will put a few extra coins in their pockets. They do get plenty of change, and not just Euros, as the family's three sisters and their delusional grandmother all decide it's time to stop letting life pass them by. The mother who ran away, the father who can barely leave the house, a big pile of pent-up desire, it all gets confronted in this skewed romantic comedy.

At times, The Night Season relies too heavily on stereotypes; the drunk Irish father, the senile old grandmother, the romance between a sister and the visiting actor. But one can overlook these unoriginal plot points for witty one liners expertly delivered by the superb cast of Strawdog. Two performers in particular carried the show and commanded attention whenever they were on stage, particularly together. The grandmother, Lily, played by Janice O’Neill, and the middle daughter Rose, played by Michaela Petro. These two characters epitomized the central theme of the play, that they cannot let life pass them by. Both literally and figuratively embrace the English actor played by John Eastman and it becomes clear that Lily and Rose are mirror images of one another, separated by generations but seeing themselves in each other. Both share the same blunt, crass, forceful passion for life and love, and it is through the actor that they discover their similarities and deep understandings of what each woman wants and needs in their lives. Were the play to focus solely on these two characters it would have made for an even better theatre experience.

Overall, The Night Season is funny, honest, and holds its own amidst the incredible theatre in Chicago. The cast of Strawdog Theatre Company is well worth the CTA ride to Roger’s Park to see their plays at Factory Theater. Before Spring leads to Summer, see The Night Season this season. The Night Season runs through June 24th at Factory Theater. Tickets and more can be found at www.thefactorytheater.com.

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Page 10 of 14

 

 

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