Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: Nabucco/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Jesse Donner, Laura Wilde, Sergei Skorokhodov, Željko Lu?i?, Tatiana Serjan, Elizabeth DeShong

Jesse Donner, Laura Wilde, Sergey Skorokhodov, Željko Lucic, Tatiana Serjan, Elizabeth DeShong/Photo: Andrew Cioffi

 

RECOMMENDED

“Nabucco” established Verdi’s preeminence as an operatic composer not only with its winding melodies and passionate declamations but because it struck a nerve with a populace embroiled in the fierce pull-and-push of political unrest.

Director Matthew Ozawa and his design team stretch to frame the competing religions and nationalities with a cast of 120, most playing characters from both sects. Each group is costumed in long, simple robes of sharply contrasting colors with more natural movement for one faction and militaristic for the other. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Hairy Ape/Oracle Theatre

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The cast of "The Hairy Ape"/Photo: Joe Mazza, Brave Lux

Photo: Joe Mazza, Brave Lux

Despite levying criticisms at both sides of the capitalist/socialist divide, Eugene O’Neill’s 1922 play “The Hairy Ape” teems with Marxist zeal. One wonders what O’Neill’s anti-hero Yank would think of a presidential election cycle where a self-declared democratic socialist is challenging the advancing plutocratic influence in America. Oracle Theatre’s new interpretation folds in race with O’Neill’s classist concerns. In doing so, the production shines a spotlight on glaring fissures in the landscape of equality while inadvertently illuminating some gaps in its own beliefs. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Le Switch/About Face Theatre

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Collin Quinn Rice and Stephen Cone/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Collin Quinn Rice and Stephen Cone/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

For some people it’s about control. For others, simple pleasure. Many find it a chore though they’d rather not admit it. But we all do it. Even Republicans. Especially Republicans.

It’s classification.

Classification is, in many ways, a form of survival. Giving names to things helps us identify what they are and how we should act toward them. It’s how we know to only eat certain kinds of mushrooms or to not wear white to your best friend’s wedding. But classification also comes with negative side effects, too. It can demonstrate relationships but is more frequently used to delineate differences. The boundaries and rules of classification make up the thematic material of Philip Dawkins’ “Le Switch,” which opens About Face Theatre’s twentieth season. Like a brilliant composer, Dawkins takes ostensibly simple material and expands it exquisitely with restraint, counterpoint and, finally, catharsis. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Posh/Steep Theatre Company

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Sean Wiberg and Will Kinnear/Photo: Lee Miller

Sean Wiberg and Will Kinnear/Photo: Lee Miller

It is high time we put the expression “boys will be boys” to bed. Those still needing good reason to retire this persistent slogan of blatantly gendered rationalization need look no further than the U.S. premiere of Laura Wade’s “Posh” at Steep Theatre. Hoping for a repeat of their success in 2008 with Wade’s “Breathing Corpses,” “Posh” levies significant risks that pay off artistically but for which the audience foots the psychological bill. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sunset Baby/TimeLine Theatre Company

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Phillip Edward Van Lear and Anji White/Photo: Lara Goetsch

Phillip Edward Van Lear and Anji White/Photo: Lara Goetsch

RECOMMENDED

There has perhaps never been an artist better capable of expressing the eternal contradictions of hope and oppression than Nina Simone. From the deceptive jaunt of “Mississippi Goddamn”  to the soaring spirit of “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” Simone’s confrontations with injustice were often as emotionally unbearable for her as they were inspiring for others. Through her covers, spirituals and original songs, Simone transformed this paradox into a defining characteristic of what it meant to be black in America. Inspired by Simone, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Huey Newton, bell hooks and the unbroken circle of history, Dominique Morisseau’s “Sunset Baby” is an exquisitely damaged and devastating play about the personal cost of revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lion & The Lamb: Richard Cotovsky and the First and Last Days of Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company

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By David Witter

Richard Cotovsky is known as “The Godfather of Storefront Theater.” It’s a well-deserved title. For the last thirty years, the artistic director of the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company has produced, acted, directed, written, painted, nailed, cleaned, mailed, bribed and even had a lamb live in his truck, all in order to keep producing art. Yet after twenty-six years, the company has lost its lease on its space at Sheridan and Broadway. For what may be the first time in his life, the Joseph Jefferson Award winner is not putting up a fight. After mounting more than sixty productions at Mary-Arrchie and acting in dozens of others in theaters across town, Cotovsky says he needs a break. There isn’t one person in Chicago theater who says he doesn’t deserve it. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: London Wall/Griffin Theatre Company

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Rochelle Therrien and Vanessa Greenway/Photo: Michael Brosilow.

Rochelle Therrien and Vanessa Greenway/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Much of Griffin Theatre Company’s “London Wall” works quite well: a story of female connection in the male-dominated workspaces of the West End, a sentimental heart and the fiery tempo of a clever English drama. In the hands of this ensemble, it falls in to place easily. The play, written in 1931, seems almost prescient in its social awareness: playwright John Van Druten constantly asks what constitutes sexism, questions how one deals with oppression in public places and where responsibility stops. This is a world with a cruel, simple dichotomy for women: economic stability or love. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Animals Out of Paper/Shattered Globe Theatre

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Awate Serequeberhan and Cortney McKenna/Photo: Michael Brosilow.

Awate Serequeberhan and Cortney McKenna/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

Rajiv Joseph’s 2008 play, splendidly revived by Shattered Globe Theatre, manages to make compelling theater out of origami, transforming the ancient Japanese art of paper-folding into a richly extended metaphor for art, life and relationship.

At the heart of the play is esteemed origamist Ilana (played with brittle intensity by Cortney McKenna), whose life has collapsed into bitter isolation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Widow of No Importance/Rasaka Theatre Company

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Alka Nayyar, Vahishta Vafadari and Arif Yampolsky/Photo: Scott Dray

Alka Nayyar, Vahishta Vafadari and Arif Yampolsky/Photo: Scott Dray

RECOMMENDED

If you adore the satirical trivialities in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” you’re sure to enjoy Shane Sakhrani’s nod to the master of wit, “A Widow of No Importance,” playing at Victory Gardens. Exposing social customs, specifically conduct toward widows in India, as being claustrophobic and arbitrary, this successful comedy of manners also reveals, rather earnestly, the despair that those external expectations wreak when internalized.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sketchbook/Collaboraction

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The cast of “Spanx You Very Much”/Photo: Joel Maisonet

The cast of “Spanx You Very Much”/Photo: Joel Maisonet

RECOMMENDED

In its fifteenth and final festival, Collaboraction ensures that “Sketchbook” makes a lasting impression. The performances are separated into two programs: “Life” and “Death.”

Both “Life” and “Death” feature eight pieces. The “Life” program’s set is fairly light and comical. Highlights of this program include “Silenced” by Arlene Malinowski, a play with few words that captures tension on an El train, and “Spanx You Very Much” created by Dani Bryant and choreographed by Sheena Laird. Read the rest of this entry »