Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: Prowess/Jackalope Theatre Company

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Sydney Charles and Julian Parker/Photo: Joel Maisonet

Sydney Charles and Julian Parker/Photo: Joel Maisonet

RECOMMENDED

There are opposing impulses at war in Ike Holter’s “Prowess”: talking shit and talking about shit. The result of this conflict is the feeling that Holter has written two distinct plays. While not exactly oil and water, the two styles don’t always integrate successfully. The one involves entertaining, bit-heavy quipping. The other applies the brand of expositional melodrama familiar to anyone who’s watched a Marvel movie in the last five years. A psychological thriller that uses the tropes of action movies while also turning them on their head, “Prowess” aggressively attacks our culture of complacency while offering a portrait of vigilantism grounded in social realism. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: One Man, Two Guvnors/Court Theatre

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The cast of "One Man, Two Guvnors"/Photo: Michael Brosilow

The cast of “One Man, Two Guvnors”/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

The integration of improvisation, scripted text and fourth wall breaks is surprisingly smooth in Court Theatre’s Midwest premiere of “One Man, Two Guvnors” after its successes in London and on Broadway. Based on eighteenth century Comedia dell’Arte classic “Servant of Two Masters,” Richard Bean’s script incorporates satire, slapstick and music to create a consistently amusing farce. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Tug of War: Foreign Fire/Chicago Shakespeare Theater

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The cast of "Tug of War: Foreign Fire"/Photo: Liz Lauren

The cast of “Tug of War: Foreign Fire”/Photo: Liz Lauren

From a purely economic perspective, Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “Tug of War: Foreign Fire” is a pretty good deal. With a running time equivalent to three full-length plays (sans roughly seventy-five minutes worth of intermissions), the first half of Barbara Gaines’ newly-adapted saga is itself a trio of Shakespeare’s history plays strung together chronologically. While it falls squarely within the trend of endurance theater (whose exemplars range from stately to fantastical), “Tug of War” has a dad rock energy to it: out of touch and overcommitted. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Body of an American/ Stage Left Theatre

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Ryan Hallahan and Don Bender/Photo: Ian McLaren

Ryan Hallahan and Don Bender/Photo: Ian McLaren

RECOMMENDED

“Body of an American” begins in 2007 with playwright Dan O’Brien listening to photojournalist Paul Watson being interviewed by Terry Gross on “Fresh Air.” Depressed and anxiety ridden, O’Brien feels an immediate kinship with this accomplished but clearly damaged older journalist. O’Brien emails Watson which begins a correspondence that spans several continents and wars. Although quick to discuss his insecurities, Watson is remarkably elusive about meeting O’Brien in person. O’Brien for his part avoids any mention of his family and their role in his lingering depression. Eventually, in a small town deep in the Canadian Arctic, they do meet. Together they pop antidepressants while waiting out an epic blizzard. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Boys Upstairs/Pride Films & Plays

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Gary Henderson, Luke Meierdiercks, Nelson Rodriguez, Tristien M. Winfree, & Shaun Baer/Photo: Paul Goyette

Gary Henderson, Luke Meierdiercks, Nelson Rodriguez, Tristien Winfree and Shaun Baer/Photo: Paul Goyette

RECOMMENDED

Playwright Jason Mitchell’s farcical “The Boys Upstairs” sets up like a pitcher of vodka lemonades on a hot Sunday. Three college friends celebrate clothes, swanky parties, witty banter and men, using the same recipe as “Sex and the City” with just a pinch of “Designing Women” tossed in for zip. Of the three, one is lovable, pretty and Pollyanna-ish, another is a dedicated whore with a Southern-hospitality-heart, and in the center is our favorite nerdy Jewish writer, plug in anyone from Woody Allen to Jerry Seinfeld. Only make them gay. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Disenchanted!/Broadway In Chicago

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The cast of "Disenchanted!"/Photo: Dahlia Katz

The cast of “Disenchanted!”/Photo: Dahlia Katz

Disney’s princesses are breaking out of their stereotypes and telling the world what they really think of Walt—sort of. “Disenchanted!” with book, music and lyrics by Dennis T. Giacino, aims to break the proverbial glass slipper. With direction by Christopher Bond, there’s a lot of humor in the show, but it’s hard to feel that this musical actually serves its purpose. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook/Underscore Theatre Company

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The Cast of Haymarket: The Anarchist's Songbook/Photo: Evan Hanover

The cast of Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook/Photo: Evan Hanover

The making of a new musical is as daunting as a jigsaw puzzle. The challenge can be ratcheted up when all of the pieces seem to be the same color: a blue sky melting into a mountain stream.

Underscore Theatre Company comes up against this sameness when they tell the timely tale of the Haymarket Massacre. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Twisted Knots/TTKD Productions

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Ryan Kitley and Mary Cross/Photo: Anthony Robert La Penna

Ryan Kitley and Mary Cross/Photo: Anthony Robert La Penna

Fortysomething Frank can’t free himself from business—the American religion. He’s so obsessed about his failing sales job that he won’t stop thinking about it even on New Year’s Eve, when he’s ensconced in a too-pricey hotel room with his sassy and provocatively semi-dressed wife, Carla. In an effort to excite, even save, their floundering marriage, the couple intend to spend the night role-playing; Carla will become Gina, a high-priced escort who will demand payment for her “services” in advance. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Discord/Northlight Theatre

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Nathan Hosner, Mark Montgomery and Jeff Parker/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Nathan Hosner, Mark Montgomery and Jeff Parker/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

Dialectic—the creative interplay of seemingly opposing positions to produce advancement—is both the theme and structure of Scott Carter’s absorbing and illuminating play. The disputants are none other than Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and a fortunately English-fluent Leo Tolstoy. Posthumously assembled in a small, locked room reminiscent of Sartre’s “No Exit,” the three must duke it out intellectually, seeking to understand why they, of all souls, have been brought together and what they must do to be released from their claustrophobic limbo. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 3 Sisters/Theatre Y

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Melissa Lorraine, Kevlyn Hayes and Katie Stimpson/Photo: Devein Enarson

Melissa Lorraine, Kevlyn Hayes and Katie Stimpson/Photo: Devein Enarson

Theatre Y’s “3 Sisters” is both a continuation and adaptation of Chekhov’s play of the same name. Despite beginning at the end, we’re thrust right back into the original, albeit with all characters (apart from the sisters) physically absent though not gone. The stage, with its furniture shrouded in blue cloth, evokes a home so far gone that love and life can only be recalled through muscle memory or, as the adapters would like you to believe, by re-performing actions. Read the rest of this entry »