Photo: Claire Demos
“You’ll have plenty of time to hold her tomorrow. You’ll have the whole rest of your life.”
So says brand-new daddy and eager-to-sleep husband Peter (Gabriel Franken) to his excited but exhausted wife Mari (Hillary Clemens) late on the eve of the birth of their first child. After a few minutes of doting indecision and loving worry, their newborn baby daughter (delivered at home by a midwife only two hours earlier in a big blue Birth Pool in a Box a few feet away) is carefully put to rest in a bassinet next to their bed, where she will lie safely till morning. Maybe.
Clemens and Franken adeptly capture the heady mix of emotions that confronts every new parent in these first life-changing hours after the birth of a child: the deepened connection with each other along with the overpowering feelings of love, concern and protectiveness that now connect parent and child. And in Laura Marks’ troubled and troubling “Mine,” currently receiving its Chicago premiere at The Gift Theatre, the young couple has more than just the uncertainty of first-time parenting to be concerned about. Read the rest of this entry »
Ryan G. Dunkin/ Photo: Hilary Camilleri
By Johnny Oleksinski
“Even if you think you don’t know Buddy Holly’s songs, you probably do,” says actor Ryan G. Dunkin reassuringly. He knows them better than most people. Dunkin plays the role of The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.) in the twenty-fifth anniversary tour of “Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story,” which begins in Chicago this week. But beyond that, this tour is the actor’s seventh production of the popular show to date, so he’s been hearing the music of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and friends near-nightly for years.
While he says “touring life can be exhausting,” Dunkin is not tired of it yet—actually quite the contrary. The Big Bopper’s enduring hit, “Chantilly Lace,” which he gets to perform in the show, “is a song everybody knows,” and he says the audience’s enthusiasm for the character and for the entire musical never diminishes from city to city.
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“You make the world lousy,” says Doc after a group of Jets rapes Anita, girlfriend of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. “That’s the way we found it,” shoots back Riff, a Jet, wiping the sweat off his brow.
If there was ever an endeavor to name the quintessential New York musical, you’d be hard-pressed to crown any other show than “West Side Story,” Arthur Laurents, Steven Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins’ Shakespearean love story displaced to a now unrecognizable New York City. I first saw deceased director Laurents’ (also the show’s book writer) revival, currently represented in Chicago by a teetering Non-Equity tour, in 2009. Read the rest of this entry »
As the gay community inches toward legalized marriage in the Illinois legislature, it cannot escape the fact that no amount of social sanction will save it from the melancholia of longing. Alexi Kaye Campbell’s muscular script captures relationship circumstances set fifty years apart, and the different ways we want what we cannot (or should not) have. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Lev Kalmens
Stewing alone in his cramped, book-filled apartment in New York City, smug yet self-loathing Bob (Richard Cotovsky) has vague plans to write, think and generally just complain during the final stage of a life he has recently discovered will be cut short by the deadly AIDS he’s contracted. He declares “I don’t want to die fatuously!” even as he realizes that that may, in fact, be the only way he can go. But when his wayward nephew, the equally smug and perhaps more deeply self-loathing college dropout Josh (Rudy Galvan) appears at his doorstep uninvited, well, Bob doesn’t change his plans too much. Read the rest of this entry »
“The Most Delicious”/Photo: Anna Sodziak
By Johnny Oleksinski
Last year’s Sketchbook, Collaboraction’s annual festival of new work, was remarkably impressive. The unexpectedly profound and profoundly enjoyable “Honeybuns” by Dean Evans emerged from that collection, earning itself widespread critical affection, a fall 2012 remount and an upcoming run at Theater On the Lake. Even the space’s memorable design was tremendously special. Stacks of colorful building blocks were situated in the room’s corners for seating and patrons lounged around, drinks in hand, casually enjoying the calamities of such an ambitious undertaking. This year, though, none of the full-length plays sparkled with the ravenous creativity of Evans’ one-man mime comedy, leaving much to be desired. Honoring Sketchbook’s origins in brevity, this year’s selection of seven-minute plays, titled “The Brown Line,” is the heartiest section of the four-part festival. The theme for its thirteenth year is “Destination,” the buzzword is “devised” and each of the groupings are named after a CTA train route: Green, Black, Brown and Blue. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Suzanne Plunkett
A Hawaiian shirt and a cowboy hat! That’s surely not what writer Alexandre Dumas had pictured in his mind’s eye when he penned “The Three Musketeers” in 1844. When Porthos (Christopher M. Walsh), the biggest and daftest of the storied musketeers, first takes stage, decked out in a Floridian crocodile wrangler’s best attire, it’s clear that this rowdy pack isn’t the usual trio of swashbucklers. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Scott Dray
Although the writer Sherod Santos is known in literary circles for his body of poetry, his words are taking the stage in “Lives of the Pigeons,” receiving a world premiere at The Side Project. The theater is fertile ground for poets, and many playwrights will tell you they’re actually a poet at heart. Even American classicists like Tennessee Williams were more poetically than naturally driven. “For nowadays the world is lit by lightning!” Poetry and drama go hand in hand.
And then there are those instances when the lyrical dialogue amounts to mush, neither driving nor evoking anything of substance. It’s an unfortunate occurrence that mars “Lives of the Pigeons,” a humdrum most-exciting-day-in-the-life-of piece that occurs over an intermission-less seventy-five minutes. Santos’ play is little more than an ill-conceived “Waiting for Godot,” over-appreciative of its own subtleties, however unsubtle they may be.
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With their popular and tuneful musicals, John Kander and the late Fred Ebb fashioned a storied career essentially from derivation. That’s not to slight the duo’s awesome achievements because their order was a tall one. What they did was invoke yesteryear’s entertainments as their muse, and bathed society’s worst tragic memories in a glamorous light. The results, as you probably are aware, were both terrifying and insightful. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Andrew Cioffi
There are a couple playwright-screenwriters that are of particular interest at the moment. One is Elizabeth Meriwether, scribe of the hilarious and twisted “Heddatron” and the far less funny “Mistakes Madeline Made.” Another is Rachel Axler, a writer for “The Daily Show” and other programs, whose “Smudge” is onstage at the Athenaeum Theatre, courtesy of Ka-Tet Theatre. Axler has also written for “New Girl,” the show Meriwether created about an offbeat twentysomething teacher named Jess. Read the rest of this entry »