Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: Ain’t Misbehavin’/Porchlight Music Theatre

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Robin DaSilva, Lorenzo Rush, Jr., Lina Wass, Donterrio Johnson and Sharriese Hamilton/Photo: Kelsey Jorissen

Robin DaSilva, Lorenzo Rush, Jr., Lina Wass, Donterrio Johnson and Sharriese Hamilton/Photo: Kelsey Jorissen


There is something wonderful about watching a musical revue that doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. The folks over at Porchlight know when to let a good thing stand on its own and that’s exactly what they do with their treatment of “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Director and choreographer Brenda Didier guides her cast through the songs of Fats Waller with little to detract from the tremendous music and dance sequences. There’s not really a plot here and that’s just fine. In fact, if there were any sort of construct upon which these pieces were hung it would most certainly take away from the overall product. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: At the Table—A Conversational Dance/Links Hall

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This event, founded by the At the Table Collective, comprised of members Lindsay Hopkins, Mike Lahood, Jessie Marasa, Lara Oppenheimer and Bryan Saner, began in December 2013 at Hopkins and Saner’s home. Originally conceived of as using dinner conversation as a method of community building through open exchange of skill in the interest of collaboration, for its November dance event, the group turns to fungi as its social model. Starting from the presumption of natural adhesions between individuals and community, and drawing on art historical derivations of dematerialization concepts, At The Table’s conversational performance forms around the idea of “mycelial” structures as a way of offering the public a handle on situating this panel discussion in the context of a living performative space between language and dance, and equality between the concept of dancer as audience participant and audience member as dance participant. (Michael Workman)

At Links Hall, 3111 North Western, Monday, November 23 at 7pm. $5-$15. Tickets at

Review: Clara and the Nutcracker/Piccolo Theatre

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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 »

Preview: New Blood IX: SAIC Festival of Live Art/Links Hall

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Photo: Emerson Granillo

Photo: Emerson Granillo

Few of those who taught at the School of the Art Institute haunt this festival so much as the ghost of outré artist Barbara DeGenevieve, who died suddenly in 2014, and whose performance medium, largely a matter of reducing the body to sexuality in her boundary-pushing work, often centered within her practice on photography and video and went so far beyond her chosen, “allowed” media embodiments that she became a subject of consistent government and institutional oppression. Against that background, this ninth iteration of the program from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Department of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies, in collaboration with the SAIC Department of Performance, has a lot to live up to with regard to that reflection of the body in any kind of meaningful state, whether in motion or immobilized by inertia. With a largely lackluster showing at this year’s graduate open studios, hopefully this year’s performance works showcase will provide performance and motion studies devotees with something more than just the usual. 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 »

Review: The Merry Widow/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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11/11/15 2:49:33 PM -- The Lyric Opera of Chicago Presents "The Merry Widow" Renee Fleming © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson/Photo: Todd Rosenberg


Franz Lehár’s beloved, wildly successful operetta “The Merry Widow” will woo and then suspend in delicious wistfulness even the staunchest objector to its inclusion in the repertoire of a major opera company. With its melancholy yet hopeful waltz, ample opportunities for mazurkas, can-cans and polkas as well as a generous role for a cherished leading lady of a soprano-bent, “The Merry Widow” will, by the third act, require that handkerchiefs be located. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Pocatello/Griffin Theatre Company

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Lynda Shadrake, Nina O’Keefe, Michael McKeough, Sam Guinan-Nyhart, Allie Long, Mechelle Moe, Morgan Maher, Sandy Elias and Becca Savoy/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Misery: it’s what’s for dinner in “Pocatello,” MacArthur-winner Samuel D. Hunter’s play about the decline of a chain restaurant in the titular Idaho town. Opening with the familiar din of a family restaurant, cross-conversations drift in and out of focus as the desperate sounds of a dying town become more and more distinct. The cacophony intensifies the pain of failed relationships, willful addictions and callous family members.

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Review: Agamemnon/Court Theatre

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(f) Mark Montgomery, Sandra Marquez, (b) Gary Wingert, Thomas Cox, Alfred Wilson, Gabriel Ruiz, Michael Ghantous

Gary Wingert, Thomas Cox, Alfred Wilson, Mark Montgomery, Sandra Marquez, Gabriel Ruiz and Michael Ghantous/Photo: Michael Brosilow

With the holidays descending quickly upon us, you might be dreading all of the time you’ll be spending with your family in the next six weeks. Cousin Joey might corner you in the living room to explain why he got rid of all of his smoke detectors and replaced them with something better. Your mom may spend the entirety of Thanksgiving dinner loudly praising your sister for having her fourth child while the first sits next to you throwing peas into your pile of rancid mashed potatoes. Uncle Karl might drink too much and then sob into the cranberry sauce.

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Review: You Can’t Take It With You/Northlight Theatre

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The Cast of "You Can't Take It With You"/Photo: Michael Brosilow

The cast of “You Can’t Take It With You”/Photo: Michael Brosilow

From the program notes of Northlight Theatre’s “You Can’t Take It With You”: “The Sycamore family lives in Morningside Heights, which was a distinctly middle-class neighborhood in New York City’s Upper West Side. A stroll through this neighborhood might not have revealed obvious signs of the Depression.” As far as tone is concerned, the dramaturgy is as right as the production is wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Never the Sinner/Victory Gardens

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Jordan Brodess and Japhet Balaban/Photo: Michael Courier

Violence is a peculiar type of thoughtlessness. Even well-plotted attacks stem from the sheer failure to consider consequences, channel empathy or rationally question one’s own motives. Violence is most regrettable because the act itself only lasts an instant while the ramifications that tragically unfold in the lives of others go on forever.

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