Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

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: In the Penal Colony/Chicago Fringe Opera

Opera, Opera Reviews No Comments »
Zachary Vanderburg and Matthan Ring Black/Photo: Wendy Alas

Zachary Vanderburg and Matthan Ring Black/Photo: Wendy Alas

Franz Kafka and Philip Glass are a match made in heaven. They both experiment with form within the boundaries of classic genres, displacing the audience just slightly to the left or right of where their bodies are. This removal creates an uncanniness that allows for a reorientation of sensibilities. Glass does so with variations and repetition; Kafka creates realities adjacent to our own, alien yet unsettlingly familiar like having déjà vu during television static. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Twisted Knots/TTKD Productions

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Ryan Kitley and Mary Cross/Photo: Anthony Robert La Penna

Ryan Kitley and Mary Cross/Photo: Anthony Robert La Penna

Fortysomething Frank can’t free himself from business—the American religion. He’s so obsessed about his failing sales job that he won’t stop thinking about it even on New Year’s Eve, when he’s ensconced in a too-pricey hotel room with his sassy and provocatively semi-dressed wife, Carla. In an effort to excite, even save, their floundering marriage, the couple intend to spend the night role-playing; Carla will become Gina, a high-priced escort who will demand payment for her “services” in advance. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Discord/Northlight Theatre

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
Nathan Hosner, Mark Montgomery and Jeff Parker/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Nathan Hosner, Mark Montgomery and Jeff Parker/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

Dialectic—the creative interplay of seemingly opposing positions to produce advancement—is both the theme and structure of Scott Carter’s absorbing and illuminating play. The disputants are none other than Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and a fortunately English-fluent Leo Tolstoy. Posthumously assembled in a small, locked room reminiscent of Sartre’s “No Exit,” the three must duke it out intellectually, seeking to understand why they, of all souls, have been brought together and what they must do to be released from their claustrophobic limbo. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 3 Sisters/Theatre Y

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Melissa Lorraine, Kevlyn Hayes and Katie Stimpson/Photo: Devein Enarson

Melissa Lorraine, Kevlyn Hayes and Katie Stimpson/Photo: Devein Enarson

Theatre Y’s “3 Sisters” is both a continuation and adaptation of Chekhov’s play of the same name. Despite beginning at the end, we’re thrust right back into the original, albeit with all characters (apart from the sisters) physically absent though not gone. The stage, with its furniture shrouded in blue cloth, evokes a home so far gone that love and life can only be recalled through muscle memory or, as the adapters would like you to believe, by re-performing actions. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Secretaries/About Face Theatre

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Kelli Simpkins, Meghan Reardon, Lauren Sivak, Erin Barlow and Sadieh Rifai/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Kelli Simpkins, Meghan Reardon, Lauren Sivak, Erin Barlow and Sadieh Rifai/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

“We don’t kill them because they’re bad. We kill them because we’re bad,” one of the seasoned vets of “The Secretaries” informs the new girl. As far as workplace bonding activities go, murder is a far cry from trust falls and happy hours. Of course, as a means of indoctrinating a sense of fidelity (or shared culpability) with your fellow employees, it is undeniably effective. About Face Theatre opts to go all the way with this raunchy feminist comedy and the results slay. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The House of Blue Leaves/Raven Theatre

Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews 1 Comment »
/Photo: Tom McGrath/TCMcG Photography

Kelli Strickland and Jon Steinhagen/Photo: Tom McGrath/TCMcG Photography

RECOMMENDED

Raven Theatre’s production of “The House of Blue Leaves,” written by John Guare and directed by JoAnn Montemurro, begins almost unnoticed. The live audience chatters over the recorded audience chatter that plays while Artie (Jon Steinhagen) poses himself on a piano far stage left, singing lovely but forgettable tunes. Artie is nervous and unsure; not only is he performing in front of a disinterested fictional crowd, but the live audience itself seems to be unaware that the show has started. Read the rest of this entry »

Stage Top 5: May 16-May 31, 2016

-News etc., Midwest Premiere, Theater, Top 5 Lists No Comments »
Bryce Gangel, Jessica Ervin and Charlotte Thomas in "Dry Land" at Rivendell Ensemble Theatre/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Bryce Gangel, Jessica Ervin and Charlotte Thomas in “Dry Land” at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble/Photo: Michael Brosilow

1
Dry Land
(Rivendell Theatre Ensemble)
Take a deep breath, dive in and don’t stop till you reach the other side
Read the rest of this entry »

The Inescapable Past: Underscore Theatre Company’s Haymarket Musical

Profiles, Theater No Comments »
The cast of "Haymarket: The Anarchist Songbook"/Photo: Alex Higgin-Houser

The cast of “Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook”/Photo: Alex Higgin-Houser

By Hugh Iglarsh

The Haymarket affair remains not just a defining moment in Chicago history but also a contested and ambiguous one.

The basic facts are well-established: at the end of a labor protest on May 4, 1886, a dynamite bomb was thrown, killing seven police officers and an unknown number of workers. Later, eight “anarchists,” several of whom had not even been present at the protest, were found guilty by a kangaroo court not for what they had done but for what they believed. Three of the defendants were sentenced to prison and eventually pardoned. Four were hanged and one died in his cell, possibly at the hands of police. Seven of the eight were immigrants, six from Germany and another from England. The sole native Haymarket martyr was Albert Parsons, a Southerner and one-time Confederate soldier who underwent a change of heart, married a woman of color (Lucy Parsons, herself a celebrated radical) and became a revolutionary labor organizer during the Gilded Age, a time of starvation wages for many and unimaginable riches for few. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Venture by Esoteric Dance Project Dazzles In Three Parts

Dance, Dance Previews, Recommended Dance Shows No Comments »

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 12.20.49 PMRECOMMENDED

Much of the current offering from Esoteric Dance Project (EDP) centers on notions of the one and the many, the individual and masses, and of the permutations at the intersections between them. Presenting a pair of the latest works from Brenna Pierson-Tucker, co-artistic director of the Project, “Venture” will also feature a new work by Joanna Paul, the first produced under the group’s new choreography mentorship program. Drawing from notions of perception and social dynamics, the stated goal of Paul’s “Hints of Reality” is to examine the role of repression in interpersonal relationships, and the “power surrendered in hiding the most honest part of oneself.” Concerned as well with the effects of environment, “the eye,” and the attendant fluctuations in movement, the choreographic framework suggests a necessary degree of introspection even in the most public of interactions. Read the rest of this entry »