Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: Prowess/Jackalope Theatre Company

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews, World Premiere No Comments »
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

Midwest Premiere, Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
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: The Body of an American/ Stage Left Theatre

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
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

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
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: Discord/Northlight Theatre

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
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: The Secretaries/About Face Theatre

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
Kelli Simpkins, Meghan Reardon, Lauren Sivak, Erin Barlow and Sadieh Rifai/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Kelli Simpkins, Meghan Reardon, Lauren Sivak, Erin Barlow and Sadieh Rifai/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

“We don’t kill them because they’re bad. We kill them because we’re bad,” one of the seasoned vets of “The Secretaries” informs the new girl. As far as workplace bonding activities go, murder is a far cry from trust falls and happy hours. Of course, as a means of indoctrinating a sense of fidelity (or shared culpability) with your fellow employees, it is undeniably effective. About Face Theatre opts to go all the way with this raunchy feminist comedy and the results slay. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The House of Blue Leaves/Raven Theatre

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews 1 Comment »
/Photo: Tom McGrath/TCMcG Photography

Kelli Strickland and Jon Steinhagen/Photo: Tom McGrath/TCMcG Photography

RECOMMENDED

Raven Theatre’s production of “The House of Blue Leaves,” written by John Guare and directed by JoAnn Montemurro, begins almost unnoticed. The live audience chatters over the recorded audience chatter that plays while Artie (Jon Steinhagen) poses himself on a piano far stage left, singing lovely but forgettable tunes. Artie is nervous and unsure; not only is he performing in front of a disinterested fictional crowd, but the live audience itself seems to be unaware that the show has started. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window/Goodman Theatre

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews 2 Comments »
Chris Stack/Photo: Liz Lauren

Chris Stack/Photo: Liz Lauren

RECOMMENDED

“The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” is steeped in the political, artistic and intellectual soup of the sixties. While Lorraine Hansberry evidently had no love (and little respect) for absurdism, her follow-up to “A Raisin in the Sun” is not interested in the restoration of realism either. Instead it falls somewhere in the shady in-between, a work whose reference points have aged but whose message remains brighter and stronger than ever. Read the rest of this entry »

 Review: Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf: A Parody/ Writers Theatre and The Second City

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
Jennifer Engstrom and Marc Grapey/ Michael Brosilow

Jennifer Engstrom and Marc Grapey/ Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

What do you get when you take the dramatic sensibilities of Writers Theatre and mix it up with the comedic instincts of The Second City? The answer is a slick, funny and refreshingly silly mashup of epic proportions. Beginning with the Stage Manager from “Our Town” (Sean Fortunato, who puts the “folk” in folksy) through the still sweaty and rage-filled Stanley Kowalski (Michael Perez), this production has enough command of detail to be appreciated by theater buffs and enough laughs to satisfy everyone else. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mike Mother/The Neo-Futurists

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews, World Premiere No Comments »
Mike Hamilton and Jessica Anne/Photo: Joe Mazza @ Brave Lux

Mike Hamilton and Jessica Anne/Photo: Joe Mazza-Brave Lux

RECOMMENDED

Jessica Anne is a tactful truth-teller, performance artist and oathbreaker; Mike Hamilton is the best actor she knows. “Mike Mother” is ninety minutes of being locked in a room with them while you learn a lot about a lot. Yet everything about “Mike Mother” is tactically obscured through a lens of fiction, a nonfiction fog or a literal fog. Read the rest of this entry »