Photo: Michael Brosilow
An onstage door left ajar has an unusual way of commanding an audience’s attention. Unspoken judgment accompanies gawking at the unattended entranceway as though a character from a different play might suddenly wander in and rudely unwrap a Jolly Rancher. The powerful wooden doors were left open a crack on Friday night at Northlight Theatre, while a realistic background rain poured. But in Matthew Lopez’s popular play, “The Whipping Man,” this is no mistake. The door is open for the Prophet Elijah.
Per the Passover tradition, a seat at the “table” is kept empty as well. Caleb (Derek Gaspar), Simon (Tim Edward Rhoze) and John (Sean Parris) sit around a repurposed crate, improvising a Seder in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. What could be more unexpected than a Civil War Seder? Even more shocking are the location and the participants. In the conflict-ravaged southern city of Richmond, Virginia, in a once opulent house pummeled by violence and looting (set by Jack Magaw), Caleb is a Confederate soldier, back at his all-but-empty home with a debilitating injury; John and Simon are his slaves, now free men, both of whom devoutly practice Judaism. It sounds like the setup to a historian’s “man walks into a bar” joke, but Lopez has written a visceral play of hardship, deep-rooted prejudice and prevailing strength of character.
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Borrowed from its own script, “it’s a blessing to be satisfied with so little” is an excellent way of describing “The Letters” at Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe. Short and sweet at just seventy-five minutes, John Lowell’s 2008 potboiler transforms the bookshop theater space into a 1930s Russian government office in its regional debut with direction by critically acclaimed Kimberly Senior. Set under the relentless rule of Stalin prior to WWII, the Orwellian fear of government institutions smothering its citizens was all too real.
“The Letters” is not necessarily a period piece, rather a study in dramatic structure. Relying on the interview device, Lowell delicately coaxes guilt out of his two characters. Immediately at unease, government transcriber Anna (Kate Fry) nervously fidgets while waiting in her boss’ office. Once the brazen and smug Director (Mark L. Montgomery) enters, tension starts to build. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Carolyn Mullany
By Johnny Oleksinski
The past few months have been mighty eventful for Theatre Seven of Chicago, to say the least. The six-year-old storefront company became this year’s recipient of Broadway in Chicago’s Emerging Theatre Award in April, and it was announced that they will present Christina Anderson’s “Blacktop Sky” as part of Steppenwolf’s Fourth Annual Garage Repertory in the Spring of 2013. Exciting achievements, to be sure, but regardless of the relative media glitz, this eager-yet-mature company’s steady goal remains, as artistic director Brian Golden told me, in “not just cranking out a hit, but in really trying to lift up our community.”
Beginning on November 16, Theatre Seven continues that valiant effort with the professional world premiere of Carter W. Lewis’ “American Storm,” a “big stinkin’ play” of politics, corporate business and a dwindling American pastime, at the Greenhouse Theater. The work is a challenge for any theater, let alone an itinerant storefront. It requires twelve actors over a broad spectrum of ages, uses constantly shifting locales and revolves around the wide-open sport of horse racing. But Golden felt compelled to put on the play since seeing it as a student at Washington University. Read the rest of this entry »
“Ireland isn’t idyllic, and the Aran Islands aren’t meant to be a tourist trap… Inishmaan isn’t supposed to be an escape but a prison–something nasty, brutal and short.” So says the dramaturg’s note on the playbill of Redtwist Theatre’s newest production. The near-claustrophobic theater space, with stark grey stone for the walls and floor and a spartan collection of set pieces, makes for an immediate confrontation with Inishmaan’s nastiness. 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 »
Northlight Theatre announces the final selection for its 2012-13 season, the World Premiere of Stella & Lou by Bruce Graham
Previously announced titles include Woody Sez—The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie, The Odd Couple, The Whipping Man and Stones in His Pockets
Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, announces the final selection for its 2012-13 season: the World Premiere of Bruce Graham’s Stella & Lou, directed by BJ Jones. Read the rest of this entry »
Kate Buddeke and Kevin Stark/Photo: Liz Lauren
A powerful work of dystopian agitprop, “The North Plan” depicts a grim and far too plausible nightmare in which America’s Department of Homeland Security is exercising totalitarian powers under the guise of restoring order after some unnamed “incident.” As disturbing as Jason Wells’ play is, it’s just as hilarious. That’s because, in a part that could have been written for her, Kate Buddeke roars and soars as Tanya, a South Missouri redneck who stumbles into a situation far more intense than she imagined when she soberly turned herself in for what would otherwise have been an unobserved act of drunk driving. Though her cellmate is far too serious to match her over-the-top antics, Kevin Stark’s Carlton manages to hold his own as the State Department official “gone rogue” in the name of preserving human rights. Tom Hickey and Brian King, as the DHS agents who take him into their “care,” are frighteningly stern feds channeling Laurel and Hardy. Read the rest of this entry »
Writers’ Theatre announces 2012/13 Season to feature Hamlet, Sweet Charity, Corneille’s The Liar adapted by David Ives and Midwest premieres by John W. Lowell and David Greig
Michael Halberstam, Stuart Carden, William Brown and Kimberly Senior slated to direct
Glencoe, IL—Writers’ Theatre Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma announce the 2012/13 Season, which includes Shakespeare’s Hamlet directed by Michael Halberstam with Scott Parkinson in the title role; the Midwest premiere of John W. Lowell’s play The Letters, directed by Kimberly Senior; Sweet Charity, directed by Michael Halberstam with Musical Direction by Doug Peck and choreography by Jessica Redish; the Midwest premiere of David Greig’s Yellow Moon directed by Stuart Carden; and David Ives’ modern adaptation of Corneille’s The Liar, directed by William Brown. Read the rest of this entry »
REMY BUMPPO ANNOUNCES 16TH SEASON AND FIRST UNDER ARTISTIC DIRECTOR NICK SANDYS
2012/2013 Season Theme is The Marriage Game: Truth and Consequence?
CHICAGO–Remy Bumppo Theatre Company announces its 16th season, the first under the new leadership of longtime company member Nick Sandys. The 2012/2013 season is replete with the type of plays that the group has become renowned for producing, modern classics full of thought-provoking ideas, passionate debates, and sophisticated wit. The season kicks off with the company’s third foray into the works of Edward Albee, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Seascape (rights pending), directed by Nick Sandys. Remy Bumppo returns for the holiday season to the dazzling wit and social critique of George Bernard Shaw and his delightful romantic comedy of mis-matched parents and children, You Never Can Tell. The production will be directed by Artistic Associate Shawn Douglass, who also helmed the company’s 2010 box-office hit, The Importance of Being Earnest. The season concludes with the Midwest premiere of David Greig’s critically-acclaimed new adaptation of the savagely witty “comedy,” Creditors, by August Strindberg. A smash hit in both London and New York, this taut psychosexual thriller will be directed by one of Chicago’s finest directors, Kimberly Senior. All shows will be presented at the Greenhouse Theater Center at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Subscriptions go on sale March 28, 2012 at www.remybumppo.org or by calling the box office at 773-404-7336. Single tickets go on sale Aug. 1, 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
Usman Ally, Alana Arenas, Lee Stark, Benim Foster/Photo: Michael Brosilow
Amir is an American of Islamic heritage, his parents from the part of the world now known as Pakistan. He seems fully assimilated in all the ways mainstream America would want him to be: he’s disavowed the religion of his people, married a white woman and, most important of all, become an asshole corporate lawyer who wears $600 shirts. For what aspiration is more American than to be an asshole corporate lawyer?
But no one wants the assimilated Amir. Not his nephew who still clings to the Koran. Nor his wife, who’s using Islam in a contemporary version of radical chic to establish her career as an artist. And in the ultimate act of identity suppression, he’s immersed himself, it seems, in a world of American Jews—at his law firm, among his social circle. Read the rest of this entry »