Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

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 »

Teatro Vivo: Celebrating the Works of Latina/o Artists

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José Rivera in rehearsal for "Another Word for Beauty."/Photo Liz Lauren

José Rivera in rehearsal for “Another Word for Beauty”/Photo: Liz Lauren

Goodman Theatre’s Latino Festival began in 2003 as a way to highlight the often-silenced voices of Latinos in theater. This year, the now-biennial event is a “Celebration of Latina/o Artists” and highlights the work of two of the most powerful voices in the genre–José Rivera and María Irene Fornés–among others.

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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: Bel Canto/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Danielle de Niese/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Danielle de Niese/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RECOMMENDED

As the latest torrents of terrorism shatter our souls with their senseless deaths and enhanced suspicions, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s world-premiere production of “Bel Canto” could not be more poignantly opportune. Drawn from Ann Patchett’s bestselling novel, an opera diva in the center of a hostage situation orchestrates a truce that empowers both captors and captives to see that they are all detainees of a struggle that is void of personhood. Despite differences of race, gender, religion, language and social strata, an unsteady but palpable community emerges. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Robin Hood and Maid Marian/Strawdog Theatre Company

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/Photo: Tom McGrath

Andrew Bailes, Christian Stokes, Addison Heimann and Caleb Probst (on floor)/Photo: Tom McGrath

RECOMMENDED

When was the last time you familiarized yourself with the story of Robin Hood? Perhaps you’ve seen Disney’s foxy 1973 version or swooned over Kevin Costner in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” There’s also the more recent Ridley Scott version or the classic “Robin and Marian” starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. You should be able to easily find more than a few BBC miniseries as well. There’s no shortage of Robin Hoods available for you to watch (or read for that matter) but there is one version that you absolutely must see before its run is over and that is the world premiere of “Robin Hood and Maid Marian” at Strawdog Theatre. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Angina Pectoris/ShPIeL-Performing Identity

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ShPIeLAnginaPectoris3

Gary Saipe, Katie Bellantone and Michael Lomenick/Photo: Cassandra Kendall

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The Hebrew word hasbara literally means “explanation.” But to modern-day Israelis it connotes something more like spin: the massaging of facts or almost-facts into propaganda for the benefit of an outside world seen as implacably hostile and pitifully ignorant. Israeli playwright Michal Aharoni’s “Angina Pectoris,” receiving its world premiere here in Chicago, is a satirical exploration of the hasbara universe, where all psychic energy goes toward rationalizing one’s own meshugas and furiously denouncing everyone else’s. While ShPIel’s rough production of this not-quite-finished play is no comic masterpiece, its head and heart are very much in the right place. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Palace of the Occult/Eclectic Full Contact Theatre

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Carter Petray, Neil Tobin, Jack Dryden/Photo: Jonathan Cohon

Carter Petray, Neil Tobin, Jack Dryden/Photo: Jonathan Cohon

RECOMMENDED

I can happily report that this play is nothing like what I expected. A one-man show about a member of the Nazi party who aspires to become the Third Reich’s Minister of the Occult elicits imagined plotlines ranging from depressing to morbid. Instead, Neil Tobin’s “Palace of the Occult” is a fascinating examination of real-life Austrian/Czech Jewish performer Erik Jan Hanussen, an early advisor to Adolf Hitler. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: No More Sad Things/Sideshow Theatre Company

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NoMoreSadThings-3

RECOMMENDED

Economy drives creativity. That force is strong in Hansol Jung’s “No More Sad Things,” currently making its co-world premiere with Sideshow Theatre Company. This observation, of course, is not meant to imply cheapness: a gorgeous construction of a giant, Caribbean-blue wooden crescent and risers, poetically lit, occupies the stage at Victory Gardens’ Richard Christiansen Theatre. It is decadent in its own simplicity. Like the three-person cast that adorns it, it does quite a lot without giving too much away. 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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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 »

Looking Back, Moving Forward: Goodman Theatre’s New Stages Festival

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Charles Andrew Gardner and Jeff Parker in “Objects in the Mirror” by Charles Smith/Photo: Liz Lauren

By Kevin Greene

I’ll admit that there are still some parts of the theatrical creative process that I take for granted as a critic. Toward the top of that list is the anxiety a critic’s presence can invoke upon the artists and staff involved in a production. Perhaps I flatter myself but I’m certain there are a few names within our little community that lightly churn the stomach of even the most seasoned vet on opening night. Still, even I can detect a hint of hopeful distance whenever I mention that my tickets are probably filed under “Press.”

I mention this in order to acknowledge the privilege inherent in the role of the critic. Playwrights work on their plays for years in a steady stream of workshops, meetings, further workshops, casting and rehearsing that ultimately culminates in a live performance before an audience. It is at this last stage that we, the critics, enter the equation. Suffice it to say, even the most radiant reviews cannot fully acknowledge the sheer amount of time and effort that goes into producing even the most presentably basic play.

All of which makes the Goodman Theatre’s New Stages Festival such an eye-opening delight. A series of staged readings and developmental productions, New Stages offers a vision of the creative process that many of us make only the barest assumptions about. As a free event, it also offers unprecedented access to the artists involved. Read the rest of this entry »