Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: Evita/Marriott Theatre

Musicals, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
Larry Adams and Hannah Corneau/Photo: Liz Lauren

Larry Adams and Hannah Corneau/Photo: Liz Lauren

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock oratorio “Evita” sings a story that never tires in its retelling: the disenfranchised individual, working with their particular skill set and virtually on their own, can rise from obscurity to answer the largest dream they dare. The original Broadway production starred Patti LuPone as Eva and Mandy Patinkin as Che; their Tony Award-winning performances turned them into stars. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train/Eclipse Theatre

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D'Wayne Taylor and Johnathan Nieves/Photo: Scott Dray

D’Wayne Taylor and Johnathan Nieves/Photo: Scott Dray

RECOMMENDED

Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Stephen Adly Guirgis got his break in 2000 with “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train,” a play that in 2016 feels distressingly timeless. Part investigation of our broken criminal justice system, part examination of the corruptive influence of Judeo-Christian morality, “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” is a promising start to Eclipse Theatre’s 2016 season. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sender/A Red Orchid Theatre

Theater, Theater Reviews, World Premiere No Comments »
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: Don’t Make Me Over (In Tribute to Dionne Warwick)/Black Ensemble Theater

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Kylah Frye, Rose Marie Simmons and Renelle Nicole/Photo: Michael Courier

Kylah Frye, Rose Marie Simmons and Renelle Nicole/Photo: Michael Courier

Our memory can have a mind of its own. For example, our remembrance of things past sometimes involves things that never happened or—at the least—didn’t really happen the way we “recall” them. The past gets away from us and can be hard to recapture.

This idea of the independence and elusiveness of memory becomes an issue in the Black Ensemble Theater musical “Don’t Make Me Over.” It’s a spirited homage to Dionne Warwick, one of the greatest female vocalists of all time. She has been performing for more than fifty years but her golden period came in the sixties and seventies when she gave voice to a music often described as “sophisticated pop,” an oddly satisfying mix of soft rock, light jazz and subtle bossa nova usually penned by composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. Warwick brought a light, airy and somewhat exotic tremolo to their songs and her beautifully unique sound helped define that diverse era of music. “Don’t Make Me Over” gets the facts straight about Warwick’s life; the problem is that its memory of her music conjures up a different Dionne. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Secret Experiments in Ballet #4: Phantom Dance/Emily Stein Dance

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stein

RECOMMENDED

Emily Stein’s “Phantom Dance” is a reflection on how the ballet world always left her, a classically trained dancer, feeling “like a bit of a misfit intellectually.” Calling on her experiences as associate artistic director, choreographer and dancer for Michelle Kranicke’s Zephyr Dance for eighteen years, and with Deborah Hay in her Solo Performance Commissioning Project, Stein intends to use a blended choreographic approach as a way of forcing a critical realignment in the figure of the ballerina, as originated in the fairy-tale figures of “Wilis and sylphs, the supernatural incarnations of women that have become the underpinnings of the ‘ballerina’ identity.”

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Review: The Realm/The Other Theatre Company

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Abdu Hytrek, Savanna Rae and Carin Silkaitis/Photo: Ashlee Estabrook

Abdu Hytrek, Savanna Rae and Carin Silkaitis/Photo: Ashlee Estabrook

RECOMMENDED

Sarah Myers’ “The Realm” is not a perfect play but it is a perfect fit for the tiny Side Project space. Myers’ imaginative but unfinished portrait of a dystopian future where every resource–including intellect and emotion–is minutely rationed by an all-seeing bureaucracy is all about confinement. Director Kelly Howe and the clever design team at The Other Theatre Company have made a virtue out of austerity, transforming the cramped black box into a garishly colored, claustrophobic nightmare that does not merely engage the audience but engulfs them. Read the rest of this entry »

Opening This Week: April 18-24, 2016

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The cast of "Bullets Over Broadway"/Photo: Matthew Murphy

The cast of “Bullets Over Broadway”/Photo: Matthew Murphy

Monday

“Sender” at A Red Orchid Theatre. Local playwright Ike Holter examines whether growing up is even worth it. Through May 29. For tickets and more information visit aredorchidtheatre.org

“Even Longer and Farther Away” at The New Colony. A soul-searching exploration of family. Through May 15. For tickets and more information visit thenewcolony.org Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Othello: The Remix/Chicago Shakespeare Theater

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Postell Pringle and GQ/Photo: Michael Brosilow.

Postell Pringle and GQ/Photo: Michael Brosilow.

RECOMMENDED

William Shakespeare was the son of a leatherworker. Billy Shakes slanged the lingo with diction and confabulations like swagger, invulnerable, assassination, dexterous, madcap, mountaineer, moonbeam and gnarled. B. Shizzle banged out lines and rhymes with beats that spoke so hard they never stopped. Shazam was the first and best rapper and the Q Brothers pay respect to the one we call the Bard in “Othello: The Remix,” which returns to the turf on which it premiered in 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Few/Steep Theatre Company

Midwest Premiere, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
Peter Moore/Photo: Lee Miller

Peter Moore/Photo: Lee Miller

Samuel D. Hunter has established himself as one of the great chroniclers of the heartland. He locates bountiful riches in the endless stretches of untamed earth and splotches of modern commercialism, infusing both with poetic longing. “The Few” is unhinged from a specific location. Its characters occupy a trailer on a dirt road, past an interstate, two miles south of a gas station. For all its emphasis on geography, “The Few” might as well take place at the end of the world.
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Rutherford Sails Again: Pegasus Theatre Adapts Dr. Charles Johnson’s “Middle Passage”

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Dr. Charles Johnson

Dr. Charles Johnson with his grandson Emery/Photo: Zorn B. Taylor

By Loy Webb

Dr. Charles Johnson is more than an author. He is a literary icon. His historical novel “Middle Passage,” about the final voyage of an illegal American slave ship, has been ingrained into this country’s literary DNA. “Middle Passage” has gone on to become a “cultural artifact,” according to Johnson who in 1990 became the second African-American man to receive the National Book Award for Fiction.

When I call Dr. Johnson for our interview, I hear a small boy’s voice in the background. “Excuse me that’s my grandson. He’s playing around with my PC.” He proceeds to gently but sternly tell the four-year-old to take a breather. The young boy obliges for about ten seconds (as young boys do), then he’s on to whatever else in his grandfather’s study captures his attention.

Turns out even MacArthur Fellows have grandpa duty. Read the rest of this entry »