“The Football Play” at the Den Theatre is like when your attention-deprived five-year-old wants to put on a show in the living room. It’s incoherent and overloaded with misplaced energy. This experimental play conceived by Trent Creswell is loosely structured around the idea that theater is a lot like football. It’s an interesting concept to consider, but often the sketch-comedy style of this piece does not support this, or any argument. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Joshua Albanese Photography
When a chance meeting in a bar turns into an emotional landslide, it’s often called a one-night stand, or dating. In John Patrick Shanley’s one-act play “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,” we’re taken to the pits of desperation when tough guy Danny (Brandon Galatz) starts a casual conversation with tough gal Roberta (Jodi Kingsley) over a few beers. At once their interaction seems stunted but curious to the weary onlooker, however it’s fairly soon established that Danny is extremely unstable. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Gerard Van Halsema
When the first line of a play is “motherfucker,” you know you’re probably in for a good time. “Brewed” is a bizarre female-centric new play by local playwright Scott T Barsotti being presented in collaboration with The Ruckus and Tympanic Theatre Company. Tympanic is a relatively new company who specializes in developing odd and obscure works. Under the direction of Anna C. Bahow, “Brewed” is a lively production full of everything from ultra violence to the supernatural and even some dark family issues.
In “Brewed,” six sisters are mysteriously drawn together for a reunion. At once, there seems to be a strong animosity between them that remains unclear until the ending. From the start it’s fairly apparent this is an alternate reality, done well in that the boundaries of this universe are clearly defined and abided by in strong character development. There’s Juliette (Dana Black) the older one who seems to keep it all together, Collette (Charlotte Mae Ellison), the young ditz, Roxette (Susan Myburgh), who’s brought home a new friend, Nannette (Meredith Rae Lyons) the queen of Nascar, Paulette (Erin Myers) the angry one, and wheelchair-bound Babette (Stevie Chaddock Lambert), around whom the play revolves.
Read the rest of this entry »
Julie Proudfoot and David Blixt
Whenever a couple’s quarrel unexpectedly crashes its way onto my television screen, I fast-forward. Perhaps I do it because watching lovers fight is awkward. Or perhaps I do it because the heartbreak is a reflection of my own life. Maybe it’s awkward because it’s a reflection of my own life. I don’t know. But, whatever the reason, I usually skip on through. The scene is only a minute long, after all, and its effects will become apparent later. But, try though I might, there is still no “next” button at the theater.
During “Something Blue,” a world premiere by Artemisia, I was craving that glorious button with an addict’s one-track mindset. For Julie Proudfoot’s play is a ninety-minute force-feeding of grating couple fights. And, as in life, those tedious arguments onstage amount to absolutely nothing of dramatic consequence—only a whole lot of vain pettiness from all involved parties.
Read the rest of this entry »
LaRoyce Hawkins, Toni Lynice Fountain and Lynn Wactor/ Photo: Michael Brosilow
With Collective Theatre’s inaugural production of Katori Hall’s “HooDoo Love,” the new company has brought the extraordinary playwright, at last, to Chicago. Well, it’s about time! An Olivier Award winner, Hall is an emerging artist whose voice is unmatched in its savory language and resonating pulse. Her deep-rooted respect for the venerability of her hometown, Memphis, Tennessee, and of her African-American heritage is proudly and maternally apparent in her work, and has landed Hall a high-profile residency at the Signature Theatre Off-Broadway.
She won the West End Olivier in 2010 for her best-known play, “The Mountaintop,” whose Broadway production, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, got an unexpectedly cool reception. That play, an embellished imagining of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last night spent on earth, demonstrates Hall’s particular acuity for crafting tight-knit environments. Dr. King’s unremarkable Memphis hotel room in “The Mountaintop” envelops the audience as it takes a kaleidoscope of twists and turns. The richness of Hall’s fallible King and a sweetly down-to-earth angel establish place far better than any elaborate scenery ever could. And Hall’s formidable skill for building community through character bleeds into much of her other work like the hot-blooded “HooDoo Love.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Sooz Main
“As I was taking a shit just now, I suddenly realized that this can’t be just a coincidence that I’m sitting here taking a shit and at the same time thinking about it.”—The first line of “Kokkola”
In the “bald and bold” style of the Coen Brothers’ “Fargo,” as director Chad Eric Bergman describes it, Akvavit Theatre stages the United States premiere of the Finnish work “Kokkola,” translated by Nina Sallinen, with aplomb.
The young Akvavit Theatre company, founded just last year, bills their production as similar to the darkly comic film because of its very Nordic “sisu,” which is Finnish for steely perseverance in the face of all adversity. “The film calls it as it sees it,” says Bergman, a Finnish characteristic shared by “Kokkola” a hilarious “arctic tragedy.” Read the rest of this entry »
Ravi Batista and Mick Weber/Photo: Johnny Knight
The works of Harold Pinter, even at their most absurd or domestically trivial, always wield a copious amount of underpinning conjecture and layer upon layer of enticing playable depth. The celebrated playwright, who passed away in 2008, was last explored on a large scale in Chicago a year ago in Belarus Free Theatre’s triumphant political protest, “Being Harold Pinter.” The power and timeliness of that company’s love letter to the playwright has been stirring up quite an international storm since then. Pinter has that astonishing capability.
Hal has once again returned to our stages, this time in Soul Theatre’s production of “The Lover” presented at A Red Orchid Theatre. However, in this effort to get their groove back, Soul has turned the potentially thrilling hour-long play into a mediocre, cringingly awkward striptease. Read the rest of this entry »
Miriam Reuter and Jon Matteson/Photo: Nicholas Gang
Chicago’s bustling theater scene might seem already saturated with companies, but the newly founded (re)discover theatre hopes their specific angle will help them find a bit of room in the city: Their mission is rediscovering classical theater while staying true to the ideals of the classic playwrights.
For their maiden production: Hamlet.
“Hamlet is so huge, you can’t get it right. Nobody can get it right, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business or how well you know Shakespeare,” executive director Miriam Reuter says. Read the rest of this entry »
Kevin Bishop, Casey Chapman/Photo: Emily Granata
It’s unfortunate it’s the case, but Black Elephant’s inaugural production of “Gross Indecency” couldn’t come at a more opportune moment. Given the spate of news stories involving gay-bashing and bullying, its message is more than timely. Director Michael Rashid’s eye for context makes the production all the more astounding.
In a gay bar in the modern day, a number of bar patrons decide to stage a production of “Gross Indecency,” eschewing English accents for the most part and making the best of their largely leather and tennis shoe wardrobes. Following Oscar Wilde’s litigious conflicts involving his alleged homosexual affairs, the play ends with his ultimate banishment from society and imprisonment.
What’s remarkable is that Rashid made sure the framing device follows a narrative arc as well. Rather than simply dressing his actors up as two-dimensional queeny barflies, he has them be moved by the story they tell as it ultimately reflects their own. Sometimes the two worlds collide awkwardly—for instance, it’s unclear why the bar patrons would have an intact copy of a period magazine—but details like that can be forgiven in an otherwise lovingly handled production. (Neal Ryan Shaw)
Black Elephant Theatre at the Raven Theatre, 6157 North Clark, (800)838-3006. Through November 14.
While anyone involved with theater is familiar with the concept of a stage whisper, what director David Fehr needs to introduce into Ka-Tet Theatre’s new show—the uneven and vaguely metaphorical “Sun, Stand Thou Still”—is the stage yell. Maybe it’s the tight quarters at Stage Left Theatre or the often sudden outbursts of the actors, but by the time the explosive finale of Steven Gridley’s meandering play is reached, it feels like far too much emotion is expressed through actors raising their voices to their maximum volumes rather than engaging each other.
There’s promise in this story of two men—a spastic hitchhiker and a half-blind driver—travelling eternally west on a straight road (so straight, in fact that the driver rarely needs to watch the road or hold the steering wheel), but too much time is spent following a bumbling cop and discussing how much liquid the human bladder can hold. (Seriously, there is a LOT of talk about urination.) The imaginative set design by Isabella Ng does add a touch of life to the proceedings. Perhaps run as a single act with thirty minutes cut from the often repetitive script, ”Sun, Stand Thou Still” would be much more engaging. (Zach Freeman)
Ka-Tet Theatre at Stage Left, 3408 North Sheffield, (800)838-3006, through June 5.