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 »
Lisa Beasley and David Alan Anderson/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Has any American been so universally idolized in the last century as Martin Luther King, Jr?
On April 3, 1968, five years after “I Have A Dream” and almost a dozen years since the first of his three appearances at the University of Chicago, King delivered a speech in Memphis in support of striking sanitation workers that concluded:
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t really matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.”
Afterward, King returned to his regular Memphis lodging, the Lorraine Motel, where he spent the night in rather meager accommodations. The next day, he was assassinated on its balcony.
With “The Mountaintop,” playwright Katori Hall has written a fable about King’s final night at the Lorraine. An uneventful evening, in Hall’s construction, where the only real action is the reverend ordering a cup of coffee and its delivery by a comely young maid (based on the playwright’s then-young mother, who was prevented from attending King’s final speech by her own protective mother), who he cajoles into sharing a cigarette and a conversation and… Read the rest of this entry »
Travis Turner, Michael Pogue, Grace Gealey, Allen Gilmore/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Though its setting is seventeenth-century French aristocracy (it premiered in 1666, near the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign), Molière’s “Misanthrope” is a wholly contemporary play. The misanthrope, Alceste, is channeled in many people we all know, either professional critics or self-styled ones who see themselves as outside of and superior to prevailing society. And the coquettish Célimène, with her entourage of suitors and hints of promiscuity, is the very model of the contemporary female pop star.
Add to this the bracing wit in the text, delivered in rhyming couplets, and you have a work that derives its effectiveness in production from casting and pacing. In this regard, Court Theatre’s new rendition, directed by artistic director Charles Newell, succeeds rather well. Erik Hellman soars as Alceste, with a crisp sense of character undercut by a pervasive self-doubt often conveyed physically as well as in line delivery, and the court of suitors for both Alceste and Célimène are a grab bag of drama queens of various ilk, delivering laughs in gesture as well as word. 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 »
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
A night of tumult and passion or an average evening at home, lounging on the settee? In the case of “Skylight,” which opened at Court Theatre on Saturday night, the jury’s out on the matter. The text of British playwright David Hare’s 1994 play is rife with remarkable volatility and intellectual rigor. How could it not be? Hare has conceived two multi-generational adulterous (and tipsy) ex-lovers as the mouthpieces for his political conjecture. Sparks fly in the synopsis.
But director William Brown’s production placates the drama, landing on a casual atmosphere of monotonous awkward small-talk and the garlicky aromas of simmering pasta sauce, rather than those integral simmering tempers and libidos. So, when the duo’s anger does begin to escalate near the end of the two hour forty-five minute play, the aggression is difficult to believe. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Photo: Michael Brosilow
Playwright August Wilson, who sadly and prematurely passed away in 2005, was a master craftsman of both character and situation. Throughout his Pittsburgh Cycle, ten plays chronicling the black experience of the twentieth century, one encounters some of the most jovial, heart-wrenching, and frighteningly believable moments of the American theater.
Honestly, every single time I replay that gorgeous, aching scene in “Fences” in which husband Troy tells wife Rose, not only that he has been unfaithful to her, but that the woman he has been unfaithful with is pregnant, I close my eyes and exhale. It was during that same seismic scene in the Broadway revival that the enraged audience loudly and vocally condemned Denzel Washington’s Troy—an intense, binding feeling of community extending far offstage and into the balcony standing room where I was pleasantly engrossed. “Fences” is arguably the most popular and frequently performed part of the Pittsburgh Cycle, but a lesser-known and no-less-moving section is “Jitney,” which opened on Saturday evening at Court Theatre. 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 »