Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: Satchmo at the Waldorf/Court Theatre

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Barry Shabaka Henley/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Barry Shabaka Henley/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

A good rule of thumb for one-person plays: start with a joke. It reassures the audience that they are not in for a lot of solipsistic drivel. Being the drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout knows a thing or two about how plays start and where they go from there. So when we first hear that inimitable baritone warble, which arguably made Louis Armstrong one of the most famous musicians of all time, announce that the owner of that voice has shit himself, a tone is set that the rest of “Satchmo at the Waldorf” is not always able to replicate. Read the rest of this entry »

Players 2016: The Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago

Players 50 1 Comment »

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“Out with the old, in with the new,” is one of the many well-intentioned platitudes you hear frequently this time of year. Personally, I find that type of sharp-turn resolution a bit difficult to manage. As I see it, change is fluid; the past informs the present and portends the future. Newness grows organically out of the well-tilled soil of history. This also happens to be the way I think about Chicago’s arts community. The open terrain currently being transformed by our promising young upstarts would not exist had the heavy lifters of previous years not worked to cultivate it. And so it is in this space that we honor both parties by highlighting the artists who have served as great beacons and those whose stars are just beginning to rise. What follows is the current crop of our city’s fifty most moving, most shaking, most dream-making Players in theater, dance, comedy and opera.  Make a resolution you actually want to keep: check them out! (Kevin Greene)

Players was written by Zach Freeman, Kevin Greene, Sharon Hoyer, Aaron Hunt and Loy Webb
Photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2015: Stage

Theater, Top 5 Lists 1 Comment »

Top 5 Dramas of 2015
“Moby Dick,” Lookingglass Theatre Company
“Marjorie Prime,” Writers Theatre 
“Brilliant Adventures,” Steep Theatre Company
“How The World Began,” Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
“Love and Human Remains,” Cor Theatre
—Kevin Greene

Top 5 Comedies of 2015
“The Upstairs Concierge,” Goodman Theatre
“Lunacy!,” Jackalope Theatre
“Samsara,” Victory Gardens 
“With Love and a Major Organ,” Strawdog Theatre Company
“The Walk Across America For Mother Earth,” Red Tape Theatre 
—Kevin Greene Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Finding Your Song: Pegasus Flies Again with Nambi E. Kelley’s “For Her as a Piano”

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Piano-3

Toni Lynice Fountain, Toya Turner, Camille Robinson and Nadirah Bost/Photo: Emily Schwartz

By Loy Webb

Children have some of the most imaginative and exciting minds. Give them a cardboard box, they’ll create castles fit for any king and queen. Give them a blanket, and as it’s wrapped around their necks your world will be safer before bedtime. It is in watching these small, brilliant minds that we learn the secret to great ingenuity is really quite simple.

“When you don’t have much, you have to be imaginative and bold,” Ilesa Duncan, artistic director of Pegasus Theatre Chicago, says during our phone interview. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Gem of the Ocean/Court Theatre

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Jerod Haynes, A.C. Smith. Alfred Wilson

Jerod Haynes, A.C. Smith, Alfred Wilson/Photo: Michael Brosilow

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“Gem of the Ocean,” set at the beginning of the twentieth century, is chronologically the first in August Wilson’s Century Cycle, a one-play-per-decade examination of the African-American experience throughout the twentieth century. The Court Theatre does a beautiful job of presenting a turn-of-the-century façade—the furnishings on stage, the old cast-iron stove in the kitchen, the costumes—these make it easy for the audience to imagine themselves in 1904 Pittsburgh with the players on stage. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Secret Garden/Court Theatre

Musicals, Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews 1 Comment »
Jennie Sophia, Rob Lindley

Jennie Sophia, Rob Lindley/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

If winter plunged directly into summer and robbed us of a gentle rebirth, Court Theatre’s very new production of “The Secret Garden” reawakens optimism in life, and the state of lyric theater.

The 1991 Broadway production promised much, and delivered; the beautifully specific, wide-ranging voices of Mandy Patinkin and Rebecca Luker gave composer Lucy Simon free rein to expand on her folk/rock/pop songwriting past. Tony Award-winner Daisy Eagan essayed a protagonist devoid of the sickness of child-actor guile. Most importantly, the Broadway production managed to take an intimate story and deliver it in a Great White Way-manner without bruising the former or insulting the latter. But how has this affected the plight of regional theaters, with divergent spaces, talents, and financial resources? How to tell this story with honesty?

Director Charles Newell and musical director Doug Peck succeed fantastically. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking Barriers: The Chicago Inclusion Project Makes its Debut

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Top row from left: Behzad Dabu, Todd Garcia, Emjoy Gavino, Barbara Robertson Bottom row from left: Yunuen Pardo, Anthony Fleming III, Delia Kropp, Michael Patrick Thornton Middle: Charin Alvarez, Bryan Bosque

Top row from left: Behzad Dabu, Todd Garcia, Emjoy Gavino, Barbara Robertson
Bottom row from left: Yunuen Pardo, Anthony Fleming III, Delia Kropp, Michael Patrick Thornton
Middle: Charin Alvarez, Bryan Bosque

By Mary Kroeck

Emjoy Gavino, Michael Patrick Thornton and Chay Yew are familiar names in the Chicago theater circuit. Gavino is a teaching artist with Barrel of Monkeys, ensemble member of Remy Bumppo and was recently in Court Theatre’s world premiere of “The Good Book.” Thornton had a recurring role on the television show “Private Practice” and is a Jeff Award-winning actor who recently appeared in Lookingglass’ production of “Title and Deed.” Yew is an Obie Award-winning director and the artistic director of Victory Gardens. Individually, these three have impressive resumes. However, one challenge they, and many others in and out of the theater profession, have struggled with, is how to create a more inclusive and diverse environment within the city of Chicago for artists to grow. So, along with other members of the theater community, Victory Gardens and the League of Chicago Theatres are joining together to launch The Chicago Inclusion Project.

“We have exceptional African-American theater companies and Latino companies and LGBTQ companies, but it’s rare for all these different, vibrant communities to have the chance to share the same stage or even be considered for the same project,” says Gavino, The Chicago Inclusion Project’s founder and producer. “That’s our aim. That’s why this initiative is necessary.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Travesties/Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

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Meg Warner, Greg Matthew Anderson and Jeff Cummings

Meg Warner, Greg Matthew Anderson and Jeff Cummings

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There is more than one lens through which to experience Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties:” One can know everything there is to know about James Joyce, Lenin, Dadaist Tristan Tzara and 1917 Switzerland, and die to revisit it, adore “The Importance of Being Earnest” enough to see it mucked about with, and all technically without Lady Bracknell, or one can throw back the draught of champagne that Stoppard serves up with this word-operetta, and attempt to follow the various hounds.

Director Nick Sandys’ hand is so deft as to be invisible, save for moments when an actor must be sent to a mostly front corner of the rather three-quarters playing space, turn their backs to many, and give their faces to the few who have purchased a ticket for a less advantageous seat. Joe Schermoly’s books-books-more-books set is so right that one hardly notices the increasingly asthma-producing, begrudgingly disturbed mold wafting from the spaces’ carpeting. Playing everyman Henry Carr, Jeff Cummings is in an impish high-tenor; to experience his performance is to be jealous not to be in his shoes, alternated by thankfulness that the responsibility for that warren of verbal and physical dance is not our own. Becoming both a new member of the core company of American Players Theatre and the Remy Bumppo ensemble must make this a heady time for Kelsey Brennan, but her lace-gloved, iron-fisted Gwendolen seems in no need of smelling salts; she commands where she may. If still damp-eared artistic director Sandys is the obvious successor to the retired James Bohnen, artistic associate Greg Matthew Anderson is Bumppo’s new Sandys, and models that mantle’s delicate combination of insouciance and pedantry with his faultless Tzara. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Good Book/Court Theatre

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Hollis Resnik/Photo: Michael Brosilow

Hollis Resnik/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

In Court Theatre’s world premiere of “The Good Book” we follow the lives of Miriam (Hollis Resnik) and Connor (Alex Weisman) as they struggle with their personal faith. Miriam, who ironically has a biblical name, is an atheist biblical scholar and college professor. She tells a zealous Christian student who is opposed to her teachings, “We have to build separate rooms, one for the mind and one for the heart.” In Miriam’s class and life, she thinks of the Bible and faith strictly from an intellectual viewpoint. That heart stuff she left behind a long time ago, until she is faced with a tragedy and has to look inward.

Connor, on the other hand, is a fifteen-year-old boy with hopes of being a priest. His devotion to both the Bible and his faith is evident. Yet when he struggles with his identity, he must reconcile whether this particular faith is for him. Interwoven throughout these two stories are historical reenactments of what went into the creation of the Bible from ancient times until now. Read the rest of this entry »