Each new scene in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ chronicle of family dysfunction and racism is greeted with the progressively louder sound of cicadas, the insects that rise to the surface to sing, mate and die. If you’ve ever seen the return of the cicadas, it is nature at its ugliest and most overwhelming.
The same can be said for the conduct of the LaFayette family as they gather at their ancestral home to settle their deceased father’s estate. Toni (Kirsten Fitzgerald in full force-of-nature mode) and her over-extended mover/shaker brother Bo (a dismissive and detached Keith Kupferer) bicker over who dropped the financial ball regarding their father’s estate. Their sleepy, airhead brother Franz (Stef Tovar) shows up with his eerily focused tree-hugger girlfriend River (Leah Karpel) for a shot at forgiveness and his share of the profits. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Magda Krance
By Johnny Oleksinski
David Adam Moore is an anomaly in the cast of Lyric Opera’s upcoming production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” A baritone who performs regularly with companies around the world, Moore is the only traditional opera singer of the pack, which quite impressively includes Broadway notables Ashley Brown (“Mary Poppins” and Lyric’s “Show Boat”) and John Cudia (“The Phantom of The Opera”), and is directed by Chicago and New York’s shared son, Gary Griffin.
Moore has come to “Oklahoma!” direct from Lyric’s recent, electrifying production of André Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” in which he played Stanley Kowalski during the student performance—a most memorable experience at a company he’s become incredibly fond of. You might expect a guy who regularly inhabits fearsome foes like Stanley and Jud to come across more intimidating than, say, a Curly or a Mitch, but Moore is as pleasant and easygoing as can be. He’s honored to be a part of this production, the first in a five-year series of Rodgers and Hammerstein shows at Lyric, and he doesn’t mind in the least being the only person onstage with an opera background. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johnny Oleksinski
The 37th Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville has come and gone. It was the first Festival of Les Waters’ artistic directorship, as well as my first visit to the theater (and city, truth be told). Although I only just lost my Humana virginity, the general hubbub around me indicated that this was the finest festival of the last several seasons. I saw six full-length productions over three days, an experience I think more Chicago theater aficionados should take in. It’s a cheap and easy trip too; I took the Megabus.
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Jason Danieley and Carmen Cusack/Photo: Liz Lauren
Following up on his spectacular production of “Follies” last spring, Gary Griffin returns to Sondheim to open Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s new season with a work he mounted at the venue a decade ago but which, this time around, has fittingly moved into the company’s larger downstairs theater.
Unlike works of the Sondheim canon with a clear narrative and straight-ahead musical numbers, “Sunday in the Park with George” is a more abstract and at times virtually operatic Sondheim opus about the genesis and contemporary significance of a major work of art that is a Chicago institution, namely, Georges Seurat’s “Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte” (“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”).
Sondheim, like everyone else, was fascinated with “La Grande Jatte,” and used to make trips to Chicago just to spend time with the painting in the Art Institute. Reading catalogs and anything else he could get his hands on about the work—which signaled a new style of Impressionism, dubbed Pointillism, that used precise dots rather than brush strokes—only to find himself sorely disappointed about how little was actually known about it. We do know it took Seurat two years to paint the giant canvas and that he created various studies for it that have survived. Sondheim combined these details with the curious fact that Seurat himself, who did paint self-portraits, did not include himself in the work and the mystery of his death at age thirty-one of unknown causes, to construct a speculative cross-generational fiction. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago Shakespeare Theater announces 2012/13 Season
Chicago—March 12, 2012—Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Hendersonannounced today CST’s 2012/13 Season, which begins with a major new production of Sunday in the Park with George by musical team Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, and also includes the Chicago premiere of The School for Lies by playwright David Ives and productions of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Henry VIII. The Theater’s extensive World’s Stage lineup of international programming for 2012/13 ranges from the American premiere of A History of Everything by Belgian company Ontroerend Goed to the return of the National Theatre of Scotland’s internationally acclaimed Black Watch and its inventive, supernatural The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. CST’s annual CST Family programming kicks off this summer with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Additional productions will be announced for the 2012/13 Season later this summer, including an ongoing collaboration between Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Australia’s one step at a time like this (en route) creating for the City of Chicago a world premiere pedestrian-based live art event inspired by Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and set in the city’s urban landscape. Read the rest of this entry »
Timothy Edward Kane and Tracy Michelle Arnold/Photo: Liz Lauren
Throughout Gary Griffin’s absorbing two-hour and twenty-minute production, Philip S. Rosenberg’s lights and Mike Tutaj’s projections coordinate with Mara Blumenfeld’s costumes to create an arresting wash of lush purples and oranges, working as much dreamy magic on the audience as Timothy Edward Kane’s gleeful fairy king Oberon and Elizabeth Ledo’s gender-bending Puck work on the four young lovers in the forest. 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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Brent Barrett, Jenny Guse, Christina Myers, Amanda Tanguay and Amanda Kroiss/ Photo: Liz Lauren
Back in the 1990s when Gary Griffin was artistic director of Drury Lane Oakbrook where he had directed some of his first musicals, he programmed Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies.” Curiously, despite his longtime love for that show, he allowed his associate director to take it. Thus, despite Griffin’s later reputation for directing Sondheim as associate artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, this much-anticipated production opening CST’s twenty-fifth-anniversary season is actually the first time that Griffin himself has directed “Follies.” Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s the press release from Chicago Shakespeare Theater:
Chicago Shakespeare Theater Celebrates 25th Anniversary
Ian McDiarmid Stars in Barbara Gaines’ Staging of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens
Gary Griffin Directs Sondheim and Goldman’s Follies
Artists from Arabic-speaking World in US Premiere of One Thousand and One Nights
Silver Jubilee Gala Launches Celebration June 6, 2011
Honoring Sir Peter Hall, Sir Derek Jacobi, John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe 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 »