Those who say punk rock is dead have been spending too much time at the Wicker Park Urban Outfitters and not enough time right down the street at the Flatiron Arts Building, where the spirit of ’77 is alive and well. Flatiron is the temporary home of The Inconvenience, an interdisciplinary company that takes all the pretension out of the term “interdisciplinary.”
The Inconvenience kicks off their promising 2015 season with a dynamic evening of dance billed simply as “The Salts.” As a collaboration between Erin Kilmurray (who also performs) and Molly Brennan, the performance’s reference points are intentionally iconic: Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Talking Heads. Yet the take is refreshingly modern, with frenetic choreography broken up by humorous interjections and politically charged vignettes. The routines themselves celebrate the spirit of punk: loose yet taut, zealous yet highly accessible. Read the rest of this entry »
Top row from left: Behzad Dabu, Todd Garcia, Emjoy Gavino, Barbara Robertson
Bottom row from left: Yunuen Pardo, Anthony Fleming III, Delia Kropp, Michael Patrick Thornton
Middle: Charin Alvarez, Bryan Bosque
By Mary Kroeck
Emjoy Gavino, Michael Patrick Thornton and Chay Yew are familiar names in the Chicago theater circuit. Gavino is a teaching artist with Barrel of Monkeys, ensemble member of Remy Bumppo and was recently in Court Theatre’s world premiere of “The Good Book.” Thornton had a recurring role on the television show “Private Practice” and is a Jeff Award-winning actor who recently appeared in Lookingglass’ production of “Title and Deed.” Yew is an Obie Award-winning director and the artistic director of Victory Gardens. Individually, these three have impressive resumes. However, one challenge they, and many others in and out of the theater profession, have struggled with, is how to create a more inclusive and diverse environment within the city of Chicago for artists to grow. So, along with other members of the theater community, Victory Gardens and the League of Chicago Theatres are joining together to launch The Chicago Inclusion Project.
“We have exceptional African-American theater companies and Latino companies and LGBTQ companies, but it’s rare for all these different, vibrant communities to have the chance to share the same stage or even be considered for the same project,” says Gavino, The Chicago Inclusion Project’s founder and producer. “That’s our aim. That’s why this initiative is necessary.” Read the rest of this entry »
Jess Godwin, Bri Sudia, Tiffany Topol and Johanna McKenzie Miller/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Radium has a half-life of about 1,600 years, losing half its radioactive potency over that period. If evil and infamy have a half-life, then the tale of the “radium girls” will still be red hot centuries from now. They were the teenagers and young women who ninety years ago painted glow-in-the-dark numbers on clock and watch dials. They used their lips to sharpen brushes dipped in lethal radium paint, instructed to do so by employers who figured it was cheaper to ignore and obfuscate the danger than to confront it honestly.
Maybe Arthur Miller could have summoned up the requisite insight and outrage to properly convey what was done to Catherine Donohue of Ottawa, Illinois—who at the time of her death weighed sixty-five pounds—and to so many others in the name of corporate profits.
But this world premiere musical adaptation of Melanie Marnich’s 2008 play by Jessica Thebus (who also directs) sprinkles saccharine on the radium, and so fails to do justice to the girls’ slow-motion murder. Marnich and Thebus present their protagonists as proto-Rosie the Riveters, who find fulfillment and solidarity in the rhythm of mass production under the oversight of bean-counting managers and corrupt company doctors. That is, until they sicken and are summarily fired, at which point they sue the company for knowingly poisoning them, leading to years of litigation. Read the rest of this entry »
Miriam Canfield, Layne Manzer, Killian Hughes, Sarah Chalcroft
With “Our New Girl,” a show that’s ostensibly about a nanny that shows up unexpectedly on an overwhelmed (and very pregnant) mother’s doorstep and then insinuates herself a little too far into the family, playwright Nancy Harris has crafted a many-layered script, touching on privilege and upward mobility, the challenges of being a career-oriented woman with children, the savior complex of some Westerners and a number of other interpersonal themes. There’s a lot to take in. Unfortunately, Profiles Theatre’s Midwest premiere, which certainly nails the slowly building dread and anxiety inherent to the script (Jeffrey Levin and Oliver Hickman’s music works frightening wonders here), doesn’t capture many of these deeper layers.
“The last thing I want is a nanny,” declares harried mom Hazel (Sarah Chalcroft, in a powerfully nuanced performance) when wide-eyed Annie (Miriam Canfield) arrives at her door in the opening scene. As it transpires, Hazel’s plastic-surgeon husband Richard (Layne Manzer) has hired Annie before going off the grid in Haiti for his latest round of humanitarian work. It seems the couple’s troubled (or maybe troubling?) son Daniel (a subtly stoic Killian Hughes) has become too much for Hazel to handle on her own. Read the rest of this entry »
Kirk Anderson, Shawna Franks/Photo: David A. Holcombe
Initially, Trap Door Theatre’s “The Woman Before” feels like a sitcom. Wife and husband Claudia and Frank (played by Loretta Rezos and Kirk Anderson, respectively) are packing their home for an overseas move when Romy (Shawna Franks), Frank’s lover from twenty-four years prior, shows up at the door. Like a Kramer or a Cousin Balki, Romy has the feel of a new presence that thrusts a mundane group of people into a series of wacky hijinks. Except… “The Woman Before” isn’t a comedy—it’s a monster story. When you invite a monster into your home, horrible things happen. Read the rest of this entry »
Atra Asdou and Demetrios Troy/Photo: Lara Goetsch.
Midway through Michele Lowe’s “Inana,” an Iraqi museum curator (Demetrios Troy) argues that the value of art cannot be properly assessed without historical context. His interloper, a renowned forger and his future father-in-law (Anish Jethmalani), contests that beauty affects those who perceive it regardless of circumstance. As a disagreement seemingly without the possibility of resolution, this argument captures the conflict at the heart of Lowe’s play and TimeLine Theatre Company’s production of it.
An ambitious and engrossing love story under the guise of a historical thriller, “Inana” is about the romance between a man and his country, seeking to articulate a specific and yet sadly familiar political context—a grossly misunderstood country on the verge of becoming the focal point of a misguided, self-righteous and not altogether coveted emancipation—while simultaneously exploring the intersections of history, religion and art. Read the rest of this entry »
Nicholas Dromard, Keith Hines, Hayden Milanes and Drew Seeley/Photo: Jeremy Daniel
The Baby Boomers grew up in one of the longest periods of affluence in American history, lulled by a soundtrack of Elvis, Johnny Cash, ABBA and Frankie Valli. The Great Recession of 2007/9 caused a recalibration of retirement plans for many. The arts, always the last bastion to recover from a sweeping financial crisis, needed to streamline their product. If the Boomers wanted to regroup to the tunes of their youth, while theater producers looked to create musicals without singing-and-dancing choruses, with singers/instrumentalists providing their own accompaniment, the answer was the “jukebox musical.” These thrifty shows make use of previously popular songs, recorded by either a solo artist or a group, knit together by a documentary-style script, or by slipping the tunes into a new storyline. “All Shook Up” and “Ring of Fire” are ubiquitous in regional theaters the country over, and “Mamma Mia” spawned a Meryl Streep-led movie, and is only this fall closing on Broadway after fourteen years. Read the rest of this entry »
Shannon Cochran, Steve Pickering and Larry Yando/Photo: Liz Lauren
There is nothing little about Lillian Hellman’s 1939 potboiler “The Little Foxes.” The characters, the drama, the incestuous pairing of family and greed, it is all larger than life. Director Henry Wishcamper’s new revival at the Goodman, one with a knockout cast, doesn’t try to make the play smaller or more human than it is. This is a play about monsters—Southern, wealthy, money-grubbing monsters. Best to get out of the way and let them fight.
Set at the turn of the century, “The Little Foxes” opens on a dinner party being hosted by the Hubbard siblings: Regina (Shannon Cochran), Ben (Larry Yando) and Oscar (Steve Pickering). They have enticed a wealthy northerner (Michael Canavan) to partner with them on a cotton mill and, since they own most of the cotton in town, this mill is going to make them filthy rich. However, Regina’s share actually belongs to her absent husband Horace (John Judd) who might not play along, so Regina sends her daughter Zan (Rae Gray) to Baltimore to fetch him. This sets in motion a series of betrayals and counter betrayals that unfold luxuriously over the play’s nearly three-hour running time. Read the rest of this entry »
Background: Nikki Klix, Paul Fagen, Sarah Goeden and Foreground: Anderson Lawfer/Photo: Chris Ocken
“You are all complicit in our little adventure,” intones the smarmy MC of the hit game show “False,” where “perception is reality.” Indeed, viewers become part of the act in British playwright Rob Drummond’s darkly riveting examination of celebrity culture, transformed into a submissive, infantilized studio audience that applauds and chants the show’s mantra—“the truth can be cruel”—on cue. But over the course of the play’s ninety minutes, these seemingly innocent rituals of engineered enthusiasm turn hollow and strange, as the game becomes deadly serious.
Obviously inspired by the Jimmy Savile scandal in England, in which a media personality was revealed posthumously as a serial sexual predator, “Quiz Show” expands the celeb-gone-bad premise into a many-leveled meditation on repressed memories, denial and social complicity. The Jimmy Savile story isn’t widely known hereabouts, but our own examples of willed blindness—such as the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State, pedophile priests and the CPD’s Jon Burge—differ only in details. As one quiz show contestant declares, “The perfect conspiracy happens in the collective subconscious of a nation.” Read the rest of this entry »
Elizabeth Antonucci, Will Crouse and Amanda Powell/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Beth Henley’s modern classic “Crimes of the Heart” won a Pulitzer Prize and is a perennial favorite at theaters across the country. So the final show of Step Up Production’s season starts on a good foundation. And in director Brad Akin’s hands, this tale of three Southern sisters goes from solid start to beautifully rendered whole.
Set in 1974, the play never seems dated. It sits comfortably in its intended time. Though the costumes (designed by Raquel Adorno) and set (Sarah Watkins) create a picture of rural life forty years ago, it is how the actors inhabit the play’s universe that makes it seem so real. Clearly immense care has been taken to make every move fit naturally into the play. Sarah-Jayne Ashenhurst and Amanda Powell (playing Lenny and Meg, respectively) seem especially at home on this stage. Read the rest of this entry »