Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: REvisited/REnewed/Esoteric Dance Project

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esoteric

Now in its fifth season, this newest iteration of Brenna Pierson-Tucker and Christopher Tucker’s Esoteric Dance Project, with its half decade of extemporaneous choreography, provides a sense of the relationship between two distinctly active, evocative historical performances plus one more, yet to premiere. Aspects of the two earlier performances, “Unsilenced Thoughts of Two Women” and “iloveyouihateyou,” will be added into this new tapestried, as-yet untitled premiere. Also on the program is “Unsilenced Thoughts,” in which the duo presents the ongoing resonances that center their shared movement experience in the music of Ani DiFranco and Tom Waits, funneled into the ears of the audience in much the same manner as physical abuse, and with the same force as vampiric cultural capitalism–commonly condemned for valuing self-survival over a shared right of survival, especially in the artistic community. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sad Songs for Bad People/Rough House Theater

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Kay Kron, Maddy Low, Claire Saxe and Mike Oleon/Photo: Kaitie Saxe

Kay Kron, Maddy Low, Claire Saxe and Mike Oleon/Photo: Katie Saxe

RECOMMENDED

Rough House Theater’s “Sad Songs for Bad People” is titled correctly although, truth be told, I do not feel like a particularly bad person. Then again, anyone who enjoys hearing sad ballads focused on heartbreak and grief must be at least a little wicked. By that standard, then I am one bad man. And judging by society’s continued fascination with all things dead, we are indeed a rotten lot. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!/American Blues Theater

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James Joseph, Zach Kenney and John Mohrlein/Photo: Johnny Knight

James Joseph, Zach Kenney and John Mohrlein/Photo: Johnny Knight

RECOMMENDED

As you sift through the heaps of holiday shows, be sure you don’t leave American Blues Theater’s “It’s A Wonderful Life: Live In Chicago!” off your must-see list. More than a play, it’s an incredible overall experience. Grant Sabin (scenic design) as well as Christopher J. Neville and Samantha C. Jones (costume design) transport you to a cozy, cheery Chicago radio station circa 1940. This is where you, oh lucky audience member, have gained exclusive access to a live radio broadcast of Frank Capra’s holiday classic. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Seussical/Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences

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Michael Aaron Lindner, Landree Fleming/Photo: Amy Boyle

Michael Aaron Lindner, Landree Fleming/Photo: Amy Boyle

RECOMMENDED

If run-of-the-mill holiday fare has got you down, perhaps what you need is a bit of a pick-me-up courtesy of Dr. Seuss. If that’s the case, you’re in luck: Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences is putting the good Doctor’s creations onstage with “Seussical.” The Cat in the Hat (George Keating) and Horton the Elephant (Michael Aaron Lindner) are the central characters in this show. Along with a handful of other wild and weird individuals, they are thrown together in a mishmash of colorful stories set to music. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Angina Pectoris/ShPIeL-Performing Identity

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ShPIeLAnginaPectoris3

Gary Saipe, Katie Bellantone and Michael Lomenick/Photo: Cassandra Kendall

RECOMMENDED

The Hebrew word hasbara literally means “explanation.” But to modern-day Israelis it connotes something more like spin: the massaging of facts or almost-facts into propaganda for the benefit of an outside world seen as implacably hostile and pitifully ignorant. Israeli playwright Michal Aharoni’s “Angina Pectoris,” receiving its world premiere here in Chicago, is a satirical exploration of the hasbara universe, where all psychic energy goes toward rationalizing one’s own meshugas and furiously denouncing everyone else’s. While ShPIel’s rough production of this not-quite-finished play is no comic masterpiece, its head and heart are very much in the right place. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sherlock Holmes/Broadway In Chicago

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Renee Olstead, James Maslow, David Arquette and company members of "Sherlock Holmes"/Photo: Brian To

Renee Olstead, James Maslow, David Arquette and company members of “Sherlock Holmes”/Photo: Brian To

RECOMMENDED

The tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth wonderfully come to life in this new adaptation of “Sherlock Holmes” by Greg Kramer. Directed by Andrew Shaver with production, set and costume designs by James Lavoie (who has designed for Cirque du Soleil), this version of Sherlock Holmes is funny, fast-paced and most certainly a test of Holmes’ best-known skills: observation and deduction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Christmas Carol/Goodman Theatre

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Larry Yando/Photo: Liz Lauren

Larry Yando/Photo: Liz Lauren

RECOMMENDED

Once again, Larry Yando takes the stage as Scrooge in the Goodman Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” It is the eighth year in a row he’s played the part. It’s also the same script that’s been performed there annually since 1989. So, as you might guess, seeing the production is like returning to a favorite old book or movie. Nostalgia reigns supreme in any presentation of Dickens’ masterpiece. How can it not? Even children who don’t celebrate Christmas know the story, and know who Scrooge is and what he represents.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Holiday Showdown: Ron Rains and Peter K. Rosenthal on “A Christmas Carol”

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Ron-Peter vertical

By Kevin Greene

First published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol” has since gone on to be one of the most popular Christmas stories of all time. Furthermore, it has proved to be surprisingly adaptable to the stage and screen. To honor Dickens’ legacy and usher in the holiday season, I sat down with actor Ron Rains and his alter ego, film critic Peter K. Rosenthal, to talk about the lasting impact of the story, mercy and capitalism, and which Ghost of Christmas would win in a three way free-for-all.

Ron, this is now your ninth year in a row playing Bob Cratchit at the Goodman. What’s changed between the first time and now? What’s new for Bob and for yourself?
Ron: Yes, it’s my ninth year, which makes my tenure as Mr. Cratchit the longest in the Goodman’s history. There’s a comfort to the role now. Bob is an old shoe I’m lucky enough to slip on every November. And every performance is new. It’s absolutely true that every performance is different, as every audience is different. I try to be as present and open as I can be and experience Mr. Cratchit’s track new and fresh each time. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Burning Bluebeard/The Ruffians & The Hypocrites

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BurningBluebeard-3

Jay Torrence, Anthony Courser, Pam Chermansky, Molly Plunk, Leah Urzendowski and Ryan Walters/Photo: Evan Hanover

RECOMMENDED

For all but the cult-like fans of “Mr. Show,” the appearance of “W/ Bob & David” on Netflix is likely little more than a curiosity. For the inquisitive, I recommend a quick scan of the infamous “Mr. Show” sketch “The Story of Everest,” wherein a young climber returns from his daring exploit only to ritualistically make himself a fool in a far more domestic setting. From there, “The Story of Everest” evolves into “The Story of ‘The Story of Everest’,” proving how the “reality” behind the fiction can often be far more entertaining than the fiction itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Palace of the Occult/Eclectic Full Contact Theatre

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Carter Petray, Neil Tobin, Jack Dryden/Photo: Jonathan Cohon

Carter Petray, Neil Tobin, Jack Dryden/Photo: Jonathan Cohon

RECOMMENDED

I can happily report that this play is nothing like what I expected. A one-man show about a member of the Nazi party who aspires to become the Third Reich’s Minister of the Occult elicits imagined plotlines ranging from depressing to morbid. Instead, Neil Tobin’s “Palace of the Occult” is a fascinating examination of real-life Austrian/Czech Jewish performer Erik Jan Hanussen, an early advisor to Adolf Hitler. Read the rest of this entry »