Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Fall Theater & Opera Preview 2015

-News etc., Musicals, New Companies, Profiles, Theater 1 Comment »

HoneybunsYou know what they say: Every time a mime speaks a Dickensian orphan gets sucked into a jet turbine and blasted out the other side as just a scream. However, it is that cozy time of year when the hopes and dreams of summer die and we artists start making people go into weird rooms and watch us do and say things. Not every show can be the immersive interactive ever-changing theatrical wonderland tour de force that my show is. Newcity theater editor Zach Freeman has provided a fine fall stage preview. However, I feel I can offer a few tips—or rather “things”—to do to spice things up on a chilly fall evening at the theater (elaborate hand gesture).

If you don’t want to do my “things” I can understand. All you have to do is something that is even better. So long as you do something. Because, something must be done. Otherwise you would do nothing. Except maybe drink a box of wine, poke that old bag of mulch laying in bed next to you, and call it a night. (Honeybuns) Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Dance Preview 2015

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Onye Ozuzu

Onye Ozuzu

The invitation to contribute to this year’s “Artist Takeover” of the Fall Arts Preview got me thinking about what stimulates me to go see what I see. After a good twenty-five years as a dancer/choreographer/educator, what draws me to a seat in an audience these days? The answer to that question was satisfactorily familiar. It’s my people, my friends, other dancers and artists whose aesthetics, or minds, or footwork, or ability to keep a huge community of artists spellbound on Facebook, have captured my attention. When they are performing, I go see, and when they say “I’m going to this,” I go see… whenever I can because to experience is extended through knowing one another and seeing and feeling again and again in the retelling and the conversations and the references later over coffee or drinks or rehearsals. So this preview is a glimpse into those conversations and the recommendations of a sampling of richly talented and thoughtful Chicago artists. I asked each artist what stimulates them to go see dance, and what they are looking forward to seeing this season. In addition to whatever they recommend, I recommend Googling them if you don’t know them already, look out for them and their work whenever and where ever. (Onye Ozuzu) Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Comedy Preview 2015

-News etc., Comedy, Improv/Sketch/Revues 1 Comment »

HoneybunsYou know what they say: Every time a mime speaks a Dickensian orphan gets sucked into a jet turbine and blasted out the other side as just a scream. However, it is that cozy time of year when the hopes and dreams of summer die and we artists start making people go into weird rooms and watch us do and say things. Not every show can be the immersive interactive ever-changing theatrical wonderland tour-de-force that my show is. Newcity theater editor Zach Freeman has provided a fine fall stage preview. However, I feel I can offer a few tips—or rather “things”—to do to spice things up on a chilly fall evening at the theater (elaborate hand gesture).

If you don’t want to do my “things” I can understand. All you have to do is something that is even better. So long as you do something. Because, something must be done. Otherwise you would do nothing. Except maybe drink a box of wine, poke that old bag of mulch laying in bed next to you, and call it a night. (Honeybuns) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The History of Alcohol in Chicago: A Drinker’s Guide/The Public House Theatre

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Bailey Hayman, Shannon Lynch, Kevin Costello, Lee Brophy, Nathan Lustig/Photo: Andrew Thorp

Bailey Hayman, Shannon Lynch, Kevin Costello, Lee Brophy, Nathan Lustig/Photo: Andrew Thorp

Chicagoans love their booze. “The History of Alcohol in Chicago: A Drinker’s Guide” explores the days when gangsters ruled, prohibition was law, and the ways people still found to get themselves rather inebriated in spite of it all. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dust/lower case theatre

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Todd Michael Kiech and Skyler Schrempp/Photo courtesy of lower case theatre

Todd Michael Kiech and Skyler Schrempp

In music, an interval is the space between two notes. For various reasons certain intervals inspire pleasant emotions, positive reactions. Other intervals are more apt to be heard as conflicting, dissonant and unpleasant. Outside of the musical realm we may use the word interval to explain a period of time. Rob Smith’s “Dust” is about a non-musical interval that stands between two very musical people. The dissonance in this interval is palpable, and makes this a story about a daughter’s reconciliation with her father, or rather his attempted reconciliation with her. To steal another term from musical theory, this play is made up of many deceptive cadences on the way to its final rest. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Lyons/AstonRep Theatre Company

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Scott Olson and Susan Fay/Photo: Emily Schwartz

Scott Olson and Susan Fay/Photo: Emily Schwartz

Nicky Silver’s scripts are always a little bit absurd, focused on the dynamics of close personal relationships and absolutely brilliant. Over the past couple of years, AstonRep Theatre Company has consistently chosen scripts that are really well written. They have also consistently struggled to cast the shows well, or to match the scripts’ quality in their production values.

In both the play’s structure and its presentation this is a tale of two very different acts. Within the play’s text, the story’s first act is about Ben (Scott Olson), a man who is dying, and his wife’s (Susan Fay) harsh and seemingly unreasonable reaction to the situation that surrounds her. Act Two features Matthew Harris as Curtis, the son of the couple who makes up most of the first act. He struggles with loneliness and the destruction of his family. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Glory Days/Refuge Theatre Project

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HUnter LIndner, Billy Rude, Roy Brown, and Brad Atkinson/Photo: Matt Arauz

Hunter Lindner, Billy Rude, Roy Brown and Brad Atkinson/Photo: Matt Arauz

There is a generation of theatrical composers who have now been raised on the sounds of “Rent.” And not unlike those young playwrights who have for years been trying to emulate David Mamet’s rapid-fire emulation of real speech, these composers create musicals that pale in comparison to the works that they seek to be like.

Refuge Theatre Project’s current offering, “Glory Days,” is a piece whose melodies (or lack thereof) are reminiscent of the style that came out in the late nineties. It’s repetitive, percussive, with limited harmonies; characters overlap lines on the same note, all the voice parts are tenors, and the contemporary speech patterns create occasionally clever lyrics, but tend to flounder about in the realm of awkwardness. Read the rest of this entry »

Cultural Sharing: Visión Latino Theatre Company Debuts with “Yellow Eyes”

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IMG_0747

Playwright Migdalia Cruz and the Cast of “Yellow Eyes”

By Elle Metz

On a warm, sunny Tuesday night, the founders of a new theater company have retreated into the cool, dark Jackalope Theatre in Edgewater. The large storefront windows are covered with black material and rows of chairs cluster around a small stage. It is the second week of rehearsals for Visión Latino Theatre Company’s inaugural play and the show’s actors will arrive soon.

Xavier M. Custodio, Yajaira Custodio and Johnathan Nieves—the founders of Visión Latino—sit around a table onstage and tell how the company began. Their passion for the venture is palpable—all lit-up eyes and fast talking. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Don Chipotle/terraNOVA Collective and The Playground Theater

Theater, Theater Reviews, World Premiere No Comments »
(left to right) Karen Rodriguez, Angelica Roque and Isabel Quintero/Photo: Joel Maisonet

Karen Rodriguez, Angelica Roque and Isabel Quintero/Photo: Joel Maisonet

In the world premiere of Juan Francisco Villa’s “Don Chipotle” it’s difficult to distinguish between the real and the fantastical. And while that may work for Cervantes in “Don Quixote,” it is mostly bewildering in this production. The circumstances surrounding eleven year-old Celestino, who (thanks to Angelica Roque’s theatrical chops) slips comically in and out of his alter-ego Don Chipotle, are a little too horrible to be subjected to the episodic parodies that ensue.

Through an overwhelming use of multimedia (think: children’s choir, video/animation art, rap/musical numbers, xylophone…) we witness Celestino/Don Chipotle come to terms with the fact that his uncles are gangsters, that he has been deceived throughout his childhood about the bloody acts that keep his family afloat. Celestino’s discovery of a couple of bricks of cocaine in his mailbox kicks off his knightly adventures as he runs away to hide the contraband. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Outfit/Piccolo Theatre

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Ross Compton, Nicola Rinow, and Morgan Sutter/Photo: Courtesy of Piccolo Theatre

Ross Compton, Nicola Rinow, and Morgan Sutter

RECOMMENDED

Nikolai Gogol wrote a short story entitled “The Overcoat” in the mid-nineteenth century about a Russian bureaucrat whose cloak is ratty and in need of replacement if his career is to go places. “The Outfit,” which is loosely based upon Gogol’s masterpiece, changes the gender of the main character and deviates heavily from the plot of the work that inspired it. While Gogol’s work is classic literature, it is heavy and dark. Laura Schellhardt’s cultural translation of the piece relocates the action, changes the country of origin and makes the show into a comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

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