Jeremy Trager and Melanie Derleth/Photo: Johnny Knight
If “All’s Well That Ends Well” is, as some critics insist, a “problem comedy,” then director Drew Martin, by setting the play in the Mafia-land of television’s popular series, “The Sopranos,” has smeared, if not completely erased, the comedy’s challenges by darkening the dramatics and upping the merriment, giving Stage Left Theatre a most happy surprise.
In this contemporary setting, it is easier to believe that such a Shakespearian heroine as Helena would be not only allowed, but assisted by familial figures, to publicly pursue, marry and then trick into marital consummation the recalcitrant, reluctant, callow youth of her choosing. Melanie Derleth makes the momentous task of playing Helena seem like a walk in the park; every moment is real and sure, and for the little time she is offstage, the world is a gloomier place. Luke Daigle throws himself fervently at the playing of the most despicable leading youth in the canon; Daigle plays Bertram’s reformation from the heart. Read the rest of this entry »
Megan Delay and Joanna Riopelle/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Oscar Wilde is generally acknowledged as one of the most skillful wits to have written in the English language. His plays are filled with wicked jibes at the expense of British society of his day, and of human nature overall. While it isn’t as famous as “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” one of Wilde’s earlier works, contains much of the banter and barbed humor that makes for a pleasantly comedic evening.
And that’s exactly what one gets in this new production from Dead Writers Theatre Collective. Director Jim Schneider helms a show that is beautifully staged upon an impressive set by designer Moon Jung Kim. The whole evening is a feast for the eyes. Patti Roeder’s costumes are glorious to behold. Read the rest of this entry »
Lindsey Gavel, Joel Ewing, Mary Williamson and Hilary Williams/Photo: Evan Hanover
In college, the old adage goes: sleep, work, social life; choose two. For Anton Chekhov, a similarly triangular logic exists: happiness, knowledge, safety; choose two and constantly long for the third. Or better yet: choose all three, believe they are within your grasp, discover how wrong you were, become disillusioned, find an adequately expressive metaphor, sink into existential grief.
The Hypocrites adaptation of “Three Sisters” aims to bring Chekhov to a generation of “Downton Abbey” viewers. It is an honorable task that the company is more than equipped to handle. There are moments of audience-baiting—a casual “whatever” or two gets dropped—though things mostly stick to the script. There is a wedding, a fire, a couple of affairs and a duel, all of which take place offstage. Like a decadent feast, the real story takes place in the kitchen, not the dining room.
Naturally, this is Chekhov’s prerogative. Given the atmospheric nature of “Three Sisters,” the challenge is in staging. Director Geoff Button is undeniably talented in this regard. While the period and tableau may require rigidity, his actors remain fluid and graceful. They work harmoniously toward the play’s delightful anticlimax and dour conception of life constantly on the cusp of truly beginning. Read the rest of this entry »
Mitch Salm, Luke Michael Grimes, Kate Cornelius-Schecter and Amanda Fink/Photo: Subar
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” a new play by Emmett Rensin now premiering with First Floor Theater, takes its name from a famous 1964 essay by Richard Hofstadter. In the essay, Hofstadter surveys the Goldwater-era radical right and sees a raving bunch of loons convinced they are locked in an eternal struggle against the forces of darkness. It’s the sort of work that you could read and, minus a few period-specific references, be utterly convinced that it was written yesterday.
Rensin’s play doesn’t discover any further insights into the American Conservative mind, but it does employ the paranoia and ideological extremism therein to craft an enjoyable political whodunnit. Read the rest of this entry »
David Fink, Alex Glossman, Brian Bradford/Photo: Tom McGrath
Playwright Kristine Thatcher has written an important play, and it has landed in the hands of exactly the right theater company for its world premiere. Commissioned and produced as the fifth and final installment of City Lit’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Project, “The Bloodhound Law” examines Illinois’ abolitionist stance leading up to that war. Beginning with the story of journalist Elijah Lovejoy, who dared to print anti-slavery editorials and was subsequently shot to death in Alton, and ending the journey with Chicago’s Common Council’s internal skirmishes over enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, or The Bloodhound Law, Thatcher’s historical dramatization of this tale of human rights denied gallops all the way from downstate to Chicago’s City Hall.
City Lit regularly produces adaptations of literary works, making this type of project particular to their province, and their team’s steady hand is very much in evidence. Director Terry McCabe wisely keeps his nine actors onstage throughout, giving them the freedom to rise from their seats, don a hat or a vest, and undertake another of the multiple characters assigned to all without the shuffling of entrances and exits. Liz Cooper’s lighting design keeps the focus of the narrative distinct, and dialect coach Catherine Gillespie succeeds with a yeoman’s assignment of forty-two characters. Read the rest of this entry »
(l to r) Lorenzo Rush Jr and Bill Larkin/Photo: Anthony La Pena
Coming on the heels of their insightful production of “Sondheim on Sondheim,” Porchlight Music Theatre provides just enough silly to make “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” work. To make up for the lack of memorable hit numbers (although “Comedy Tonight” will keep you humming the next day), director Michael Weber keeps the pace and antics high. Flourishes include a very funny amount of tragedy in the opening number (as if to prove this is indeed a comedy) as well as a decidedly “cheeky” Miles Blim (as Hero) at the beginning of the second act. These fresh ideas go a long way in ensuring that the redundancy of characters dressing in drag, dressing as each other, or dressing as each other in drag is funnier than it is stale. Read the rest of this entry »
Kristin Collins, Dennis Grimes, Carin Silkaitis, Nathaniel Swift/Photo: Scott Dray
Since their 1997/98 season, Eclipse Theatre Company has focused on one particular playwright for all of their adventures, or revisited a group of previously examined authors for one of their two Celebration seasons. Eclipse often explores the playwright’s less familiar work, and they have done exactly that with their first production in a season devoted to fecund playwright Terrence McNally. “Lips Together, Teeth Apart” never opened on Broadway, but enjoyed a respectable run off-Broadway, with formidable actors Christine Baranski and Swoosie Kurtz in the cast. While McNally may seem to wax over-long (the evening comes in at three hours, with two intermissions) for his somewhat dated subject matter, it is difficult to discern what pieces of the puzzle could have been dispensed with, while leaving the myriad, interlocking themes intact.
Read the rest of this entry »
Brendan Meyer and Lily Mojekwu/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Just because someone’s died doesn’t make their death a martyrdom. It doesn’t mean they were a saint. Complicated or downright negative feelings that a person had for someone when they were alive—whether they were a son, a student, an awkward teenage lover—can persist even after that person is dead. In fact, they can become even more complicated, more negative. Yet the thought that maybe, just maybe, the deceased was kind of a dumb jerk is not the kind of thing one says aloud at parties. And definitely not at wakes.
In her new play “Look, we are breathing” playwright Laura Jacqmin takes the audience on a deep dive through these post-tragedy feelings of ambivalence, bitterness and an inability to mourn. The play, which is currently receiving its world premiere at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble under director Megan Shuchman, begins with the death of Mike (Brendan Meyer), a high schooler who crashes his car while driving home high and drunk from a hockey party. Read the rest of this entry »
Ayssette Muñoz and Sandra Marquez/Photo: Joel Maisonet
We all have secrets. Some bind us to others; some keep us bound in silence to ourselves; very few remain concealed. “Between You, Me and the Lampshade,” a world premiere written by Raúl Castillo, explores the lengths some go to hide the truth and the comedy that goes along with trying to keep something (or in this case, someone) in the closet.
Teatro Vista’s executive artistic director, Ricardo Gutierrez, clearly had a vision for this show. The cast, led by Teatro Vista ensemble member and Jeff Award-winning actress Sandra Marquez, brilliantly takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster exploring family, love, immigration and the powerful (yet sometimes frightening) idea of what it can mean to be free.
In southern Texas, Jesse (Marquez) struggles to take care of her son Woody (Tommy Rivera-Vega), while also maintaining a career. When Amparo (Ayssette Muñoz), a stranger with a bad snakebite, breaks into her home in the middle of the night, Jesse decides to help her rather than shoot her and a series of unpredictable events unfold. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s always an event when Chicago can steal director/choreographer Marc Robin away from his duties as artistic director of Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s Fulton Theatre to work his special magic within a theater community that still considers him their own, and Marriott’s “Anything Goes” shows Robin’s gifts at full sail. Just never mind comparing this 1987 version with other productions, revivals or films with which you’re familiar, in terms of musical numbers, characters or plot lines. You’re on a ship, and you left all your cast albums at home. Pull up a deck chair.
Stephanie Binetti’s Reno Sweeney tap dances away from the Merman model, and ups the ante on Ethel’s Broadway successors of sexier sensibilities. Binetti scorches with legs that won’t quit, a voice with a burnishing belt and a warming mix, and a playful way with the character’s brassier lines; this is a performance to see and hear. Summer Naomi Smart is achingly vulnerable as Hope Harcourt. Although this version robs Hope of her introduction-ballad and tosses her Latin-flavored, edifying, eleven o’clock number to one of the boys for comic fodder, Smart delivers a fully fleshed character; her vibrant soprano makes much of the single, slight ballad afforded. Read the rest of this entry »