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: 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 »

Opening This Week: May 23-29, 2016

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Layne Manzer and Abigail Boucher in Haven Theatre's "The Distance"/Photo: Austin D. Oie

Layne Manzer and Abigail Boucher in Haven Theatre’s “The Distance”/Photo: Austin D. Oie

Monday

“The Distance” at Haven Theatre. A show that explores the outer limits of “no matter what.” Through June 26. For tickets and more information visit haventheatrechicago.com

Wednesday 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: Even Longer and Farther Away/The New Colony

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Amanda Raquel Martinez, Patriac Coakley, Joe Lino, Morgan McNaught and Omer Abbas Salem/Photo: Evan Hanover

Amanda Raquel Martinez, Patriac Coakley, Joe Lino, Morgan McNaught and Omer Abbas Salem/Photo: Evan Hanover

The wanderer’s dream, a haven in the moment of need, dims any disbelief the moment you walk into the 100 Miles Inn of The New Colony’s “Even Longer and Farther Away.” Seated at tables with three or four chairs apiece, the immersion is immediate as waiters and hikers weave between the audience. As one of the keepers begins telling a story about her sister, the tree who fell in love with the sun, my smile grows like a child on a summer beach. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mike Mother/The Neo-Futurists

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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 »

Review: Connected/Collaboraction

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The cast of "Connected" at Collaboraction/Credit: Joel Maisonet

The cast of “Connected” at Collaboraction/Photo: Joel Maisonet

In celebration of its twentieth anniversary, Collaboraction mounts a production as grand in scale as humanly possible. Spanning the birth of the universe to post-apocalyptic America, “Connected” wrangles with perhaps the most hotly contested issue of all time: the nature of the human spirit. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sender/A Red Orchid Theatre

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Mary Williamson/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Mary Williamson/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Currently receiving its world premiere at A Red Orchid, Ike Holter’s “Sender” scrapes the bottom of the millennial barrel for inspiration. What it dredges up is grody and a shade despicable. Selfish, indulgent, vampiric and tragically hip, his characters certainly deserve each other. And yet, if the play’s second half is any indication, Holter and company have real affection for this collection of heedless deadbeats. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Hazel, A Musical Maid in America/Drury Lane Theatre

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Tyler Martin, Casey Lyons, Ava Morse/Photo: Brett Beiner

Tyler Martin, Casey Lyons and Ava Morse/Photo: Brett Beiner

RECOMMENDED

Hazel, that spunky maid with more heart than tact, was first introduced to the public as a single-panel cartoon in 1943. Immensely popular, the cartoon later became a sitcom starring Shirley Booth. The latest incarnation of Hazel, a world-premiere musical, opens Drury Lane’s 2016-17 season and is set in the mid-sixties. This “Hazel” focuses on the titular character’s entry into the Baxter household.

The Baxter’s need for a maid stems from Mrs. Baxter’s decision to enter the workforce. Mr. Baxter, in turn, would prefer that the missus stay home. His feelings echo the general insecurity of men at a time when they discovered it was no longer exclusively their right to wear the pants in the relationship.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Hillary and Clinton/Victory Gardens Theater

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John Apicella and Cheryl Lynn Bruce/Photo: Michael Courier

John Apicella and Cheryl Lynn Bruce/Photo: Michael Courier

When you write and stage a play about famous people, you’re taking a big gamble. Your audiences will not only expect the usual strong storytelling of any good drama but also demand authenticity, a sense that the story’s characters are at least somewhat like their publicly perceived selves. Read the rest of this entry »