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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Ann Whitney, Abu Ansari, Mildred Langford, Michael McKeogh and Kelly O’Sullivan
I’ve little patience for dramas that paint scientists, mathematicians, and the like as cold, unfeeling androids. Such an empty storytelling approach is too uninspired and dishonest to reflect a relatable human struggle worth watching. Frequently the emotionless monsters, holed up in their laboratories, noses buried in textbooks, force out unearned sympathy via some debilitating disease or the sorrowful-but-manipulative deterioration of a loved one. It’s a contrived theatrical formula that has been stretched to its limit time and again by plays like David Auburn’s “Proof,” Moises Kaufman’s “33 Variations,” and now, M.E.H. Lewis’ heavy-handed new work, “Freshly Fallen Snow,” which opened on Friday night at Chicago Dramatists. Read the rest of this entry »
Peter DeFaria as Joey and Randy Steinmeyer as Denny/Photo: Jeff Pines
As many productions as I see, in a theater community as fertile as Chicago, I still miss many. And sometimes I miss shows that blow up with critical and audience acclaim, to my never-ending dismay. I did not see, for example, “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” at Victory Gardens, “An Iliad” at Court or even “August: Osage County” when it debuted at Steppenwolf. And many many other shows like these over the years. Fortunately, I’m going to get a second chance with some, thanks to the emergence of the Chicago Commercial Collective (CCC), a new company of local producers who hope to bridge the gap between Chicago’s mostly nonprofit theater world and the high-end, import-centric nature of the city’s top for-profit producer, Broadway In Chicago. Most nonprofits operate on a subscription-oriented season schedule which means even their biggest hits can often be extended just a week. CCC hopes to help these shows reach their fullest audience. Read the rest of this entry »
Nicholas Harazin/Photo: Jeff Pines
Did you ever reflect on a memory and find yourself doubting its reality, wondering if it was just a dream, just a product of your imagination?
I was drawn to the world premiere of Andrew Hinderaker’s “I Am Going to Change the World” by the premise that its central character was graduating from the University of Chicago and interviewing with Goldman Sachs before his life took an unexpected turn. Since I graduated from the University of Chicago and embarked on a career with Goldman Sachs before my life took an unexpected turn, I needed to see how it ends. The play is driven by some powerful early twists that I won’t spoil, but under the capable direction of Jonathan Berry, it achieves a highly believable exploration of aspiration, reality and the ramifications of a mind with a mind of its own. It wasn’t long before I found myself half-wondering if I’d actually worked at the investment bank those years ago, questioning the “facts” of my life as I remember them. Reality is a fragile construct when you start to think about it. Read the rest of this entry »
CHICAGO DRAMATISTS ANNOUNCES 2012-2013 SEASON INCLUDING THREE WORLD PREMIERE PRODUCTIONS
CHICAGO—Chicago Dramatists, known for producing innovative and award-winning new work, is proud to announce its 34th season featuring three world premiere productions by its Resident Playwrights. Chicago Dramatists continues to nurture the city’s most promising playwrights and to push the envelope with the newest plays, helping to advance Chicago’s reputation as a leader in American theatre new play development. The season begins with Freshly Fallen Snow, September 20 – October 28, by Resident Playwright M.E.H. Lewis and directed by Associate Artistic Director Meghan Beals McCarthy. The first show of 2013 is Southbridge, January 24 – March 13, by Resident Playwright Reginald Edmund and directed by Artistic Director Russ Tutterow. The Chicago Dramatists’ season concludes with Homecoming 1972, May 16 – June 23, by Resident Playwright Robert Koon and directed by Associate Artist Kimberly Senior. Tickets for the 2012-2013 season go on sale July 1, 2012. Chicago Dramatists is located at 1105 W. Chicago Avenue, performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. individual ticket prices are $32, and student tickets are $15 for all Thursday performances. For more information or reservations visit www.chicagodramatists.org or call 312.633.0630. Read the rest of this entry »
I hate winter. Sure, no Chicagoan really loves the season, but I truly hate it. So any play that depicts winter in its worst light has a leg up with me—just a caveat.
Cities kind of hate winter, too. The blizzard of 1967 was the worst snowstorm in Chicago history, dumping twenty-three inches on the city, heaviest during rush hour and doing what Billy Sunday could not, that is shutting down the town. “Blizzard ’67,” the intriguing new play by Jon Steinhagen, depicts the impact of that fateful event on one carpool of four co-workers of varying rank and age at a faceless downtown corporation. The play’s framed in a faux-documentary fashion, with the actors occasionally narrating their own transitional voiceovers. Read the rest of this entry »
Whitney White and Brad Woodard/Photo: Kevin Viol
Muddled accents and a striking lack of chemistry take a lot of the zing out of this poignant and often hilarious exploration of class, culture and education by British playwright Willy Russell, in which Frank (Brad Woodard), a cynical, booze-addled professor is assigned to tutor Rita (Whitney White), an effusive hairdresser seeking to improve her life via higher education. Like any two-person script, “Educating Rita” relies heavily on the evolution of and the relationship between the characters. Over the course of the show, as Frank and Rita meet repeatedly in his shabby academic office (perfectly imagined by scenic designer Chelsea Warren) and the number of missed connections between the actors mounts, the two-hour-and-forty-minute running time begins to feel especially lengthy. The drawn-out scene changes don’t help. Tightening the pacing and injecting a healthy shot of urgency into the proceedings might bring out some of the excitement in the story. (Zach Freeman)
Shattered Globe Theatre at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 West Chicago, (773)236-0764. $28. Through August 14.
Here’s the press release from Chicago Dramatists:
CHICAGO DRAMATISTS ANNOUNCES 2011-2012 SEASON
AND NEW PLAYS PARTNERSHIP WITH GOODMAN THEATRE
Chicago’s Home to Playwrights Presents an Electric New Season including a co-production with About Face Theatre Read the rest of this entry »
Joanne Dubach, Thomas Gebbia and Gail Rastofer/Photo: Jeff Pines
Given its prevalence in film, television and books, it’s somewhat surprising how rare it is to see new plays incorporating science fiction and fantasy. Though special-effects challenges no doubt play a part, I suspect the reason is more a case of topical snobbery, never mind that Shakespeare routinely worked witches, ghosts and other magical creatures into his works. So Marisa Wegrzyn’s Wendy Wasserstein Prize-winning “Hickorydickory,” in its world-premiere production at Chicago Dramatists, works from a rather refreshing premise. Humans, it turns out, unknowingly have a “mortal clock” inside of us—a personally engraved pocket watch—set to the very minute of our inevitable death. For the family of multigenerational suburban Chicago watch smiths who secretly specialize in mortal-clock repairs, this provides ample fodder for family drama and musings about the nature of life and fate. And the processs of removing wayward clocks from the head brings a real splatter of gore to the stage. For most of this three-act, we’re captivated by the story: what horrible fate befell shop owner Jimmy’s parents? What does daughter Dale know about her perhaps-impending death? And how did Cari Lee manage to find eternal youth and, in doing so, turn out so annoyingly 17? Read the rest of this entry »
As the economy slowly lifts us back to our feet and we look around, we see a remarkable sight: a performance industry in Chicago that survived the worst recession since the Great Depression wholly intact. Sure, we had a few brushes with death, and no doubt a few very small, very new theater companies threw in the towel, as they do even in good years, but unlike many other cities across the country, we’re in pretty good shape. How good? The League of Chicago Theatres issued a press release last week proclaiming our town as America’s theater leader, with more than 250 professional theaters, including four Regional Tony Award winners, and a combined annual budget of $250 million serving five million audience members. Add in our thriving dance community, a comedy scene that’s the envy of the nation and two world-class opera companies and you’d have to say we’re doing pretty damn good. But neither the economy nor any cultural organization is fully out of the water yet, and the dramatic uncertainty injected into the political sea by Mayor Daley’s decision to call it a day means Chicago’s performance community will need some steady hands at the wheel these next few years. Accordingly, for this edition of The Players, we’ve broadened our horizon and taken a closer-than-ever look at the individuals in charge of the financial fitness of our local institutions. Read the rest of this entry »