Photo by Michael Brosilow
Quite simply, this is one of the great one-man shows. The story is the greatest, oldest ever told—literally, the start of Western civilization is in “An Iliad.” The Chicago actor Timothy Edward Kane is brilliant, nothing short of spectacular. The set design is intriguing, relevant and worthy in relationship to Kane’s high energy blocking with Charles Newell’s subtle and almost subliminal direction. And the fact that this magnetic piece is told at the Court Theatre, the University of Chicago’s theater, within the same blocks as “Iliad” scholars Nick Rudall, the recently passed Herman Sinaiko and James Redfield, makes for a symmetrical commingling of events in this 100-minute retelling through a transcendent, must-see performance.
It goes something like this: the historical event of Troy vs. Greece takes place somewhere around 1250 BCE. Homer’s bardic retelling is around 750 BCE. Plato and the other classic greats use the backdrop of “The Iliad” full-on by 399 BCE. Aristotle defined it as THE epic. Depending on the translation, the poem is more than 15,000 lines, twenty-four books—Homer would recite, sing and chant the piece for the polis in a twenty-four-hour session, or three eight-hour days. Imagine a fire, the town crowds gathered, maybe a bottle of something being passed around. The oral tradition begun by the poet, to entertain and educate and philosophize. Read the rest of this entry »
Court Theatre in Hyde Park has announced its 2013-2014 season (also its fifty-ninth), which notably features the Chicago premiere of 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner “Water By The Spoonful” by Quiara Alegria Hudes. Read the rest of this entry »
“Proof,” David Auburn’s 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the inspiring yet conflicted relationship between a University of Chicago mathematician and his daughter, is making a homecoming of sorts, returning to Hyde Park for a run at Court Theatre.
Director Charles Newell eloquently writes in the program about how the recent loss of a parent made him want to revisit the play and the way in which it deeply resonated with him based on that experience. One of the interesting aspects of “Proof” is that it is a play that can be appreciated from a variety of perspectives: a parent, a child, a sibling, a significant other.
What really jumps out in Newell’s production is the comic brutality of family relationships: how is it that people we love so deeply can so often drive us crazy? In the case of this show, that question is asked rather literally in the sense that the late Robert (Kevin Gudahl), who appears primarily in flashbacks, had a history of mental illness that affected his work and family life. His daughter Catherine (Chaon Cross) had been taking care of him with all of the inevitable curses and blessings that such domestic proximity generates. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux Chicago
By Johnny Oleksinski
White planks. What I’m staring at with the mischievous grin of a shifty-eyed child is a field of neatly lined-up boards with both a silver shimmer and the scratched-at exterior of birch bark—a little bit Chekhov’s Tuzenbach, a little bit “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” From the tall ceiling, metal chains stream down to a serene swing, also starkly white. There are two levels and no other furniture. During performances, no more than three props are ever onstage. Colored lights will create location.
“I hope it doesn’t come to bite us in the butt later on,” says Court Theatre artistic director Charles Newell, eating a quick dinner while enthusiastically chatting with me. I like it—both the impromptu meal and the reinvigorating perspective on a familiar play. Newell clearly understands the risks associated with what he’s doing. He’s staging David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Proof” in Hyde Park, the actual location it’s set in, without any realistic elements of the neighborhood. Hell, of any neighborhood.
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Though we publish a list of “players” every year, we alternate between those whose accomplishments are most visible on-stage (the artists, last year) and those who wield their influence behind the curtain (this year). Not only does this allow us to consider twice as many people, but it also puts some temporal distance between the lists. So, the last time we visited this cast of characters, two years ago, we were celebrating the end of the Richard M. Daley years in Chicago, fretting over a nation seemingly in the mood for a Tea Party and contemplating the possibility of a Latter Day Saint in the White House. Today, we’ve got a dancer in the mayor’s office, the most prominent Mormons are in a chorus line at the Bank of America Theatre and the Tea Cup runneth dry. Call us cockeyed optimists, but things sure look better from here. And so, meet the folks who, today, bring us the best theater, dance, comedy and opera in the nation.
Written by Zach Freeman, Brian Hieggelke, Sharon Hoyer and Johnny Oleksinski
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Photo: Michael Brosilow
The holidays are for many the most miserable time of the year, in contrast with their expressed wonderfulness. As family gathers together, so too do our painful memories and shameful habits, and a room full of people to bring them up.
Perhaps as a distraction from the cold hard truth, holiday entertainment tends to be as sickly sweet as those too many candy canes that weasel their way into every drawer and household crevice. Even Charles Dickens, the grand interpreter of dank Victorian grime, gave his novel’s villain, Ebenezer Scrooge, a spectacular moral turnaround worthy of a family-friendly Muppets dramatization. But “James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’,” a musical set in 1904 Dublin, is anything but optimistic, expressing the burdensome realities, joys and pitfalls of life and family. Read the rest of this entry »
Eddie Bennett and Rob Lindley/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Review: Angels in America/Court Theatre
Perhaps the best theatrical experience is always personal, but ever since I saw “Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches” during the premiere run of its national tour at the Royal George in 1994, I’ve had a particular attachment to this show, which I’ve long considered the best new play of my adult lifetime. Read the rest of this entry »
COURT THEATRE ANNOUNCES 2012-13 SEASON
COURT THEATRE’S 58TH SEASON TO FEATURE AUGUST WILSON’S JITNEY, JAMES JOYCE’S “THE DEAD,”
DAVID HARE’S SKYLIGHT, DAVID AUBURN’S PROOF,
AND MOLIERE’S THE MISANTHROPE & TARTUFFE
Chicago, IL – Court Theatre proudly announces its 2012/13 season under the continuing leadership of Artistic Director Charles Newell, Executive Director Stephen J. Albert, Board Chair Virginia Gerst and Deputy Provost of the Arts Larry Norman. The company’s 58th season will feature August Wilson’s Jitney, directed by Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson; a reimagining of James Joyce’s The Dead directed by Artistic Director Charles Newell with Musical Direction by Doug Peck; David Hare’s Skylight directed by William Brown in his Court Theatre debut; and University of Chicago alumnus David Auburn’s Proof, also directed by Charles Newell. Newell will close the season by returning to the world of French Baroque with Moliere’s The Misanthrope, followed by Tartuffe. Read the rest of this entry »
Darren Criss (#4) with Team StarKid
With our criteria shifted back to artistic accomplishment in theater, dance, comedy and opera this year, our task got infinitely tougher. Because while the number of performing venues grows at a steady rate, the increase in the number of noteworthy artists seems to grow exponentially. For everyone we name on the list below, we had to leave off five, an embarrassment of riches for Chicago. We made a conscious effort to introduce a meaningful number of new faces to the list this year; the necessary absences should not be construed as a loss of worthiness as a consequence. We often find trends when we do the research these lists require; this year we’re starting to see a more meaningful effort to redefine performance itself in the internet age, from the runaway success of StarKids, to the more calculated endeavors of Silk Road. So what defines a “player”? Consider it some complex stew of career achievement, recent “heat” and, in some cases, rising stardom.
Written by Zach Freeman, Brian Hieggelke, Sharon Hoyer and Dennis Polkow
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Here’s the press release from Court Theatre:
COURT THEATRE ANNOUNCES 2011-12 SEASON
COURT THEATRE’S 57TH SEASON TO FEATURE
TONY KUSHNER’S ANGELS IN AMERICA DIRECTED BY CHARLES NEWELL,
A WORLD PREMIERE ADAPTATION OF RALPH ELLISON’S INVISIBLE MAN DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER MCELROEN AND ADAPTATIONS OF WORKS BY ZORA NEALE HURSTON AND HOMER
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