Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: The Glass Menagerie/The Hypocrites

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Joanne Dubach and Zach Wegner/Photo: Evan Hanover

Joanne Dubach and Zach Wegner/Photo: Evan Hanover

“The Glass Menagerie” comes with its own set of built-in values. Mounting it is like renting a vintage sports car. It is a luxurious, time-tested play that is bound to garner attention whether you launch it out a reputable regional playhouse or a metropolitan storefront. Yet it is easy to be too attentive to Williams’ anti-magic act, to swoon too deeply for the charms of his play. With their current production, The Hypocrites fall hard for this national treasure. The feelings, evidently, are not mutual.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mutt/Stage Left Theatre and Red Tape Theatre

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Daniel Smith and Mary Williamson/Photo: Tom McGrath.

Daniel Smith and Mary Williamson/Photo: Tom McGrath.

RECOMMENDED

It’s hard to say anything about anything especially if you’re trying to say something without offending anyone. Taking aim at the media machine that filters out crazy-making gobbledygook, “Mutt,” a Stage Left and Red Tape collaboration, skewers the politeness—stemming from each party’s intense desire for race to be a non-issue—that keeps the national conversation about race in such shallow shoals. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: American Buffalo/Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company

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Richard Cotovsky, Stephen Walker and Rudy Galvan/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Richard Cotovsky, Stephen Walker and Rudy Galvan/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

A junk shop: an assemblage of bric-a-brac, objects not all broken but beyond their first use—typewriters, two-headed ceramic aliens and toasters as well as other kitsch and fixer-uppers. Such a setting lays out the residue of human wishes, just as a theater shop accumulates the residue of its productions. It’s as the thick jumble of Don’s Resale Shop that Angel Island ends nearly three decades housing Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company. Their production of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” is their last before the unstoppable force of “urban renewal” trades a liquor shop lit like a roadside saloon fifty miles from Vegas and one of Chicago’s longest-standing storefront theaters for condominiums. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Last Defender/The House Theatre of Chicago

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Operations Department/Photo: Johnny Knight

Operations Department/Photo: Johnny Knight

RECOMMENDED

There are two words that can make almost any regular theatergoer flinch: audience participation. The irony is unmistakable. In an art form that lives and dies on vulnerability, our threshold for discomfort is set squarely at the fourth wall. This intolerance is the theatrical equivalent of avoiding eye contact with the petitioners outside your gym. So it inspires great humility and even greater pleasure to report that the most enjoyable show currently playing in Chicago not only encourages participation but requires it. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Body/Courage/Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

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Danielle Pinnock/Photo:

Danielle Pinnock/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

Obese. Plus size. Thick. Heavy. Big boned. Curvy. Overweight. Fat.

These are some of the politer words applied to people with bodies that don’t fit into our culture’s slim definition of beauty. Personal preferences aside, it would seem that we have unanimously, though perhaps unknowingly, agreed upon some vaguely tall, skinny, pale version of beauty. And yet how often do we consider the psychological effects and homogenizing implications of this pact? Cast off the island of conventional American beauty standards, Danielle Pinnock created her own life raft in performance. In doing so, she discovered that she was far from alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Old Friends/Raven Theatre

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Lori Myers, Andy Monson, Ron Quade, Judy Lea Steele/Photo: Dean La Prairie

Lori Myers, Andy Monson, Ron Quade, Judy Lea Steele/Photo: Dean La Prairie

The late Horton Foote’s “The Old Friends” is a play about people getting what they want. Whether jewels, booze or attention, any deprivation is fleeting. As a criticism of the privileged class, it falls short of being damning or offering much in the way of compassion. Its Midwest premiere at Raven Theatre lurches unpredictably between Miller-lite melodrama and Simon-esque satire. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Upstate/MPAACT

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UPSTATE

Juwan Lockett and Asia Martin

Waking up and turning on the news, we see the outrage over police killings and state terrorism of the black population. We do not see the mass media addressing the more insidious ways systemic racism affects minorities. One of these less-noticed cracks in the justice system: the excessive incarceration rates of young black men.

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Review: Mothers and Sons/Northlight Theatre

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Benjamin Sprunger, Jeff Parker, Ben Miiller, & Cindy Gold/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Benjamin Sprunger, Jeff Parker, Ben Miller and Cindy Gold/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

Memory is dampened by medical advances, giving succor to those who want to believe AIDS is now a manageable disease. With a generation erased, who is left to remember and tell the story? For those who remain, how much do they want to tell? Will their anger, sorrow and, yes, even their guilt allow them to power through? Who tutors subsequent generations of any minority scrambling for human rights about their history and about how much death it can take before a righteous militia insists on liberty? Is the pain that can never be transferred worth the struggle to share? Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes/Mercury Theater Chicago

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Nick Sandys and Michael Aaron Lindner/Photo: Brett Beiner

Nick Sandys and Michael Aaron Lindner/Photo: Brett Beiner

RECOMMENDED

As this sprightly new musical opens, Arthur Conan Doyle has just committed what his myriad readers see as the ultimate crime: killing off iconic super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes. “He’s been smashed to smithereens/And I don’t care a hill of beans,” flippantly sings the Scottish doctor turned writer, who is sick to death of the fictional construct who has overshadowed every other aspect of his existence. Now Holmes, along with his nemesis Professor Moriarty, lies drowned at the foot of the Reichenbach Falls, so that Doyle can live. What the good doctor fails to reckon with is the objections of his own creation, who materializes from a late-Victorian twilight zone to remonstrate with the writer about his premature demise and, incidentally, to help him solve a real-life mystery. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bruise Easy/American Theater Company

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Matt Farabee and Kelly O’Sullivan/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Matt Farabee and Kelly O’Sullivan/Photo: Michael Brosilow

If you ever wondered what “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” would look like as a Greek tragedy, this is your chance to find out. Set in post-housing bubble collapse California, Dan LeFranc’s “Bruise Easy” showcases a suburban world of unkempt lawns and disintegrated families. Against this backdrop, long-since-separated siblings reunite on a crumbling driveway to await the return of an absent parent. As the hours slip by they discover many an ugly truth about themselves. Read the rest of this entry »