Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Have a Little “Too Much”: Neo-Futurists Ring in the New Year

Holiday, New Year's Eve, Profiles, Theater, World Premiere No Comments »
"Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind"/Photo: Joe Mazza, Brave Lux

“Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind”/Photo: Joe Mazza, Brave Lux

By Mary Kroeck

“Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” was first performed by the Neo-Futurists in Chicago on December 2, 1988. The premise of the show was (and still is) to perform thirty plays in sixty minutes. All plays are written and performed by the ensemble with occasional audience participation. Now in its twenty-seventh year, “Too Much Light” is the longest-running show in the city.

For the past several years, singles and those looking for an alternative to traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations have gathered at the Neo-Futurarium. The cast promptly begins their show at 11pm. Actors and audiences alike end one year and begin another with live theater.

Kirsten Riiber has been an ensemble member with the Neo-Futurists since 2012 and has performed in the New Year’s Eve show for the past two years. “It’s a great alternative to a lot of the other events that happen that night,” Riiber says. “It seems to focus less on getting totally blasted and more on looking forward to a new year and remembering how the last year was.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol/Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Christmas, Holiday, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
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GQ/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

‘Tis the season for tradition and “A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol,” now in its third year at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, is easily on its way to becoming just that. Mining the Dickens classic for parody, the show still manages to let some of the original’s sentimentality flow such that when Ebenezer Scrooge has his anticipated change of heart toward the play’s end, the audience lights up with the emotional payoff that comes from witnessing redemption.

Up until that point, viewers are sure to be tickled by the novelty of seeing such a familiar tale transformed into a modern hip-hop mash-up. Jacob Marley is damned to a hell of reggae music. Scrooge’s nephew is obsessed with “three words, four syllables… CHARADES ALL NIGHT!” while his nephew’s boyfriend uses hashtags like ubiquitous prefixes. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!/American Blues Theater

Christmas, Holiday, Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
James Joseph, Zach Kenney and John Mohrlein/Photo: Johnny Knight

James Joseph, Zach Kenney and John Mohrlein/Photo: Johnny Knight

RECOMMENDED

As you sift through the heaps of holiday shows, be sure you don’t leave American Blues Theater’s “It’s A Wonderful Life: Live In Chicago!” off your must-see list. More than a play, it’s an incredible overall experience. Grant Sabin (scenic design) as well as Christopher J. Neville and Samantha C. Jones (costume design) transport you to a cozy, cheery Chicago radio station circa 1940. This is where you, oh lucky audience member, have gained exclusive access to a live radio broadcast of Frank Capra’s holiday classic. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Christmas Carol/Goodman Theatre

Christmas, Holiday, Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
Larry Yando/Photo: Liz Lauren

Larry Yando/Photo: Liz Lauren

RECOMMENDED

Once again, Larry Yando takes the stage as Scrooge in the Goodman Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” It is the eighth year in a row he’s played the part. It’s also the same script that’s been performed there annually since 1989. So, as you might guess, seeing the production is like returning to a favorite old book or movie. Nostalgia reigns supreme in any presentation of Dickens’ masterpiece. How can it not? Even children who don’t celebrate Christmas know the story, and know who Scrooge is and what he represents.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Holiday Showdown: Ron Rains and Peter K. Rosenthal on “A Christmas Carol”

Christmas, Holiday, Profiles, Theater No Comments »

Ron-Peter vertical

By Kevin Greene

First published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol” has since gone on to be one of the most popular Christmas stories of all time. Furthermore, it has proved to be surprisingly adaptable to the stage and screen. To honor Dickens’ legacy and usher in the holiday season, I sat down with actor Ron Rains and his alter ego, film critic Peter K. Rosenthal, to talk about the lasting impact of the story, mercy and capitalism, and which Ghost of Christmas would win in a three way free-for-all.

Ron, this is now your ninth year in a row playing Bob Cratchit at the Goodman. What’s changed between the first time and now? What’s new for Bob and for yourself?
Ron: Yes, it’s my ninth year, which makes my tenure as Mr. Cratchit the longest in the Goodman’s history. There’s a comfort to the role now. Bob is an old shoe I’m lucky enough to slip on every November. And every performance is new. It’s absolutely true that every performance is different, as every audience is different. I try to be as present and open as I can be and experience Mr. Cratchit’s track new and fresh each time. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Burning Bluebeard/The Ruffians & The Hypocrites

Christmas, Holiday, Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
BurningBluebeard-3

Jay Torrence, Anthony Courser, Pam Chermansky, Molly Plunk, Leah Urzendowski and Ryan Walters/Photo: Evan Hanover

RECOMMENDED

For all but the cult-like fans of “Mr. Show,” the appearance of “W/ Bob & David” on Netflix is likely little more than a curiosity. For the inquisitive, I recommend a quick scan of the infamous “Mr. Show” sketch “The Story of Everest,” wherein a young climber returns from his daring exploit only to ritualistically make himself a fool in a far more domestic setting. From there, “The Story of Everest” evolves into “The Story of ‘The Story of Everest’,” proving how the “reality” behind the fiction can often be far more entertaining than the fiction itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: It’s a Wonderful Santaland Miracle, Nut-Cracking Christmas Story… Jews Welcome!/Stage 773

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Santaland 2015

RECOMMENDED

What’s not to like about a holiday show that ushers you to your seat with a freshly made cookie in hand? The spirit that whisks you through the door into the Box Theatre at Stage 773 is relentlessly cheery. The energy peaked just before the scripted show began but the high that filled the house was enough to carry the audience through the clunky first number that stalled out and caused concern that perhaps this ninety-minute holiday revue was destined for lesser things. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ain’t Misbehavin’/Porchlight Music Theatre

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Robin DaSilva, Lorenzo Rush, Jr., Lina Wass, Donterrio Johnson and Sharriese Hamilton/Photo: Kelsey Jorissen

Robin DaSilva, Lorenzo Rush, Jr., Lina Wass, Donterrio Johnson and Sharriese Hamilton/Photo: Kelsey Jorissen

RECOMMENDED

There is something wonderful about watching a musical revue that doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. The folks over at Porchlight know when to let a good thing stand on its own and that’s exactly what they do with their treatment of “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Director and choreographer Brenda Didier guides her cast through the songs of Fats Waller with little to detract from the tremendous music and dance sequences. There’s not really a plot here and that’s just fine. In fact, if there were any sort of construct upon which these pieces were hung it would most certainly take away from the overall product. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Clara and the Nutcracker/Piccolo Theatre

Christmas, Holiday, Musicals, Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews, World Premiere No Comments »

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RECOMMENDED

If you’ve groused about Christmas decorations already taking over the seasonal aisle of Walgreens, grumbled about the Christmas tree already glistening from behind the draperies at the Jones’ house, or glared at a co-worker after overhearing that if they could just find that rare Etruscan urn Aunt Harriet covets all of their holiday shopping would be complete, you may have a pretty serious case of holiday-itis. Before this disease turns you into a bellowing Scrooge and you pass it along to innocent children, you should know that Evanston’s Piccolo Theatre has created the perfect cure. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Nutcracker/The House Theatre of Chicago

Christmas, Holiday, Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
TheNutcracker2015_005_TheHouseTheatreofChicago_photoMichaelBrosilow

Desmond Gray, Andrew Lund, Jaclyn Hennell, Rachel Shapiro, Chris Mathews, Marika Mashburn/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

Every person who sees blasphemy in a red Starbucks cup that lacks the adornment of decorated pine trees and jolly old St. Nicholas ought to sit down for a nice, long chat with those who believe that mid-November is far too early to be invoking the winter holidays. The rest of us in-between understand that context—and content—is everything. Such is the case with The House Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker,” a play of such finely balanced sentimentality that it would be welcome even in throes of a summer heat wave. Read the rest of this entry »