Five or ten minutes into “Period Piece,” I had nearly resigned myself to a show with little but its heart in the right place. Then, quite noticeably and suddenly, everything else clicked into place and I was off on a spirited, intelligent and emotionally true journey through time on a rather red river of hilarity.
Our hero Tammy DuPont has placed about as many pharmacological, intellectual and emotional dams between her and her monthly magic as playwrights Jenni Lamb and Lisa Linke have placed slang menstruation terms into this frequently uproarious script. A disastrous pitch to her longtime client from Forever Feminine hygiene products, the resultant falling out with her business partner and a surprise visit from her Aunt Flo (oh, that bothersome flow) conspire to force high-powered ad-exec Tammy to rethink her bitter, dismissive attitude about her period. The catalyst for this change of heart is a family heirloom gifted by Aunt Flo: a magical sanitary napkin belt which thrusts Tammy back and forth through time. On several stops through both world and DuPont family history (which generally intersect) Tammy confronts ridiculous, debunked “expertise” on women’s health, sexist doctrine on a woman’s place and her own unresolved feelings of personal loss and shame which are increasingly revealed to be the source of her views on menstruation. Read the rest of this entry »
Anthony Moseley/Photo: Anna Sodziak
Heartfelt and well-intentioned though it certainly seems, “This is Not a Cure for Cancer” is not an engaging or artful piece of theater. That is not to say it is without craft nor lacking in artifice; throughout the performance, video projections, props and costume changes shift the setting and the emotional tone—in a direct, unsubtle but efficient manner. The more-than-capable large supporting cast is more than game in ensemble moments as brain cells and cancer cells and even enjoyable in individual turns as health care practitioners and game-show hosts. The disparate scenes provide cursory introductions to facets of the disease and controversies over varying treatment options. Read the rest of this entry »
Carolyn Klein and Dan Granata/Photo: Suzanne Plunkett
Watching Lifeline Theatre’s “A Tale of Two Cities,” I found myself wondering what Charles Dickens would make of this adaptation of his novel about the French Revolution. Dickens himself was a man of the theater, and his novels often read like plays transformed into prose, brimming with dramatic exaggeration and an inimitable combination of melodrama and comedy. How hard could it be to turn the prose back into theater?
With its mixed success, this production shows that the process isn’t simple. Adapter Christopher Walsh and director Elise Kauzlaric capture the novel’s propulsive drive, the artful intricacy of its plotting, and its perfect balance and symmetry. What gets lost, however, in this tale of heroism, cruelty, romance and redemption during the best and worst of times is any sense of shading of character or complexity of situation. The adaptation—pared down of necessity and faithful to a fault—could use an occasional pause for reflection. While the story is told well, there isn’t quite enough effort to make it relevant and fully alive to today’s audience. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Paul Kolnik
In the 1990s, television veered into new programming territory with the show “The Real World,” offering a form of entertainment for which there was little scripting or preparation, where the viewing public could watch “real” people dealing with their life’s joys, sorrows and daily challenges; reality television was born. This genre ushered in an ostensibly new form of showbiz, where we were invited to see ourselves more directly than we might when experiencing the highly structured and polished presentation of a situation comedy or a weekly, episodic dramatic series. Beautiful, charismatic and opinionated women have been the principal performers—and even producers—of many of these popular spectacles. Names such as Hilton, Richie, Osbourne and Kardashian are folded into this recipe—along with those of real housewives of several major cities—regularly “trending” on the Internet. But it is hardly a new preoccupation to award the status of “celebrity” to someone else’s next-door neighbor. Read the rest of this entry »
Nate Santana and Nina O’Keefe/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Coming at you with the beauty of a well-placed left-hand hook, the Griffin Theatre presents Clifford Odets’ heavily metaphorical masterpiece “Golden Boy.” A cautionary tale on the perils of choosing the false gods of fame and fortune, this play has been staged many times since its initial 1937 production. A recent 2012 Lincoln Center revival earned eight Tony nominations. It is hard to imagine that performance in any way outclassing what is playing right now on Belmont.
Nate Santana is impressive as violinist turned pugilist Joe. On the eve of his twenty-first birthday, Joe burns with a desire to truly begin his life, to move forward “like a bullet.” His Italian immigrant father, Bonaparte (Norm Woodel in an emotional performance that hits every mark) sees that future consisting of Joe’s continued mastery of the violin and spends a fortune on one for his birthday. Others, like Bonaparte’s good friend Carp (Jerry Bloom), are not so sure and wonder if “muses put bread and butter on the table.” Joe echoes that sentiment and is quick to turn his back on his family in order to pursue fame and glory in the boxing ring. Read the rest of this entry »
Eleanor Marx (Dana Black) is the heir to her father Karl’s throne, if such a thing is possible in socialism. She translates her father’s work and travels the lecture circuit, stumping for the cause. Marx also acts and translates novels and plays, starring in Ibsen’s groundbreaking work, “A Doll’s House.” But even the most preoccupied souls suffer loneliness, and Marx starts a relationship with married writer and philosopher Edward Aveling (John Ferrick). The two attempt to defy convention by living together outside matrimony, even when Aveling’s infidelities and fiscal imprudence plague the relationship. Even the most unconventional relationships face traditional problems. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Paul Kolnik
In his third year at the helm of Alvin Ailey’s renowned troupe, Robert Battle has admirably continued to honor the tradition and ethos of the company while challenging its boundaries with relevant and unexpected new works. The new pieces presented in Ailey’s two-week run at the Auditorium Theatre strike a complementary contrast in both aesthetic and approach. Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma” is a sleek, high-speed, minimalist ballet demanding contortionist flexibility and razor-sharp precision. Contrast that to Aszure Barton, who didn’t begin choreographing her commissioned “LIFT” until she had met and observed the dancers for a few days in the studio. Both music, by Barton’s collaborator Curtis Macdonald, and the joyful choreography were built for and inspired by the dancers. Read the rest of this entry »
Joe Giovannetti and Breahan Eve Pautsch/Photo: Sooz Main
Billed as a psychological thriller, “Mishap!” is a mannered but engaging rumination on human relations, contrasting the genuinely dramatic tragedies and complexities of family life with the glib shenanigans of morning-news television programming. Or does it contrast cliched realities of the personal lives of public figures with the laughably melodramatic flourishes of soap operas? Presented in its U.S. premiere by Akvavit Theatre as the final installment of their “Nordic Cycle,” Bjarni Jónsson’s short and spirited play jumps back and forth over the line between public and private life, all the while spotlighting the confined theatrical setting used to great effect by director Chad Eric Bergman and his cast who seem always in uneasily close proximity to each other. Read the rest of this entry »
Stephen Schellhardt, Megan Sikora and cast/Photo: Peter Coombs
The Marriott Theatre kicks off its 2014 season with “Cabaret,” the eight-time Tony Award-winning musical, under the direction of David H. Bell.
The show centers on a young American writer, Clifford Bradshaw (Patrick Sarb), who comes to Berlin in 1929 in search of material for a novel he wants to produce. The Emcee (Stephen Schellhardt) is also a narrator of sorts who playfully invites all to forget any troubles of the outside world and simply enjoy the “beautiful” music, song and dancing of the girls and boys inside the Kit Kat Klub. Schellhardt’s charisma and allure continually keep the show moving. Even in the cutting and cleverly penned song, “If You Could See Her,” he successfully walks a fine line between humor and gutting insult.
Although British showgirl Sally Bowles (Megan Sikora) becomes enamored with Bradshaw and the two become “Perfectly Marvelous” partners in love and life, it is the elder characters of this production, Fraulein Schneider (Annabel Armour) and Herr Schultz (Craig Spidle), who are more fascinating than virtually anything that happens within the Klub. Armour and Spidle brilliantly balance each other’s characters out and emit sparks of true romance. Their enticing chemistry is particularly ironic since sexual innuendo is apparent in dialogue, a chunk of choreography and the costuming of the majority of the cast. Yet, the lethargic energy of it all comes across as much more PG-13 than R-rated (or for audience members sixteen and older, as the theater recommends). Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Angela Sterling
This performance has been postponed. Check back for updated performance dates and times.
Expect crossover crowds at the Friday night performance of Alonzo King LINES: some to see virtuosic contemporary ballet at its height and some to hear live the legendary classical and jazz bassist Edgar Meyer. San Francisco-based King and his company are known for fertile collaborative projects—last year with Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance—and for this visit, they bring an impressive set of collaborators in tow: Meyer, who will accompany with a piece he composed for LINES Ballet’s thirtieth anniversary and, on Thursday night, Israeli mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani in her Chicago debut. Lahyani sings part of the score of King’s “Constellation,” an evening-length work woven through a thousand points of light. Read the rest of this entry »