The Santaland Diaries at Theater Wit
By Zach Freeman
As any denizen of the theater who’s been in this town for any amount of time knows, Chicago DOES theater. With more than 250 active theater companies and a constantly growing number of venues, if you can’t find a good show to attend on any given night, you’re just doing it wrong. And this holiday season Chicago is really throwing down the gauntlet of performance options with more than forty (yes, you read that right) holiday shows. And yes, almost all of them are Christmas-related. In fact, there are almost a dozen versions of “A Christmas Carol” alone.
But Chicago is a diverse city and our theater companies reflect that. We’re not talking about several dozen versions of the same old stuff, we’re talking about more than forty completely different takes on the holiday season. It’s a lot for any one person to take in, so we thought we’d help you determine which show (or shows) you should be seeing over the next month or so to get yourself into the appropriate holiday mood (whatever that means for you).
We can’t list them all, but here are twenty to get you started. Here we go… Read the rest of this entry »
I waited for it, and I wasn’t disappointed. I knew Neil LaBute’s latest could not be just a simple story about a man’s love for his late wife. There had to be a nasty wrench in there somewhere, some product of banal cruelty. And there it was, jammed in there and reconciled quickly in a kind of gentle concession. LaBute is consistently clever and his embrace of the direct-address monologue is an interesting exercise, but his attempt to rationalize his characters actions rings hollow.
Edward Carr (John Judd) comments on his own performance of his wife’s eulogy. The audience learns of the death of his beloved Mary Jo, a woman fifteen years his senior. The marriage started as the product of a painful affair, but blossomed into a great love. Several years, two children and a business empire later, Carr reveals himself as he mourns his loss. Read the rest of this entry »
Most family dynamics are difficult; they’re even tougher when family members are flawed beyond redemption. Playwright Rhett Rossi explores the difficulty of forgiveness, capturing an exquisite balance of absurd humor and heartfelt pathos.
Pedophile Mitch (Larry Neumann, Jr.) has just been released from prison. Much to his surprise, he finds brother Roy (Darrell W. Cox) waiting for him. Roy makes it clear that all is not well between them; he assures Mitch that their reunion may not end happily. It’s a family-drama premise that could become mired in cliché; fortunately, Rossi skips trite truisms and fleshes out the characters, embracing their complete humanity. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Michael Brosilow
Late in Neil LaBute’s ”In The Company of Men,” the most deplorable character I’ve ever seen in a domestic drama relaxedly watches “Seinfeld” after confessing to horrid acts of objectification and betrayal against a woman in the name of the masculine drive to dominate. “Seinfeld” is the head honcho of cruelty on television, going so far as to end its nine seasons with a courtroom condemnation of its characters’ collectively awful behavior. Punished or not, we loved every cruel nickname, prank and misadventure, regardless of the emotional casualties along the way. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Michael Brosilow
Plays that center around a person’s death are frequently written. What better way is there to showcase a contrast in characters’ points of view than by giving them a mutual target to each have a differing relationship and backstory with? On stage, deaths awaken dormant desires, battles and loves.
Chicago’s biggest theatrical success in recent memory, “August: Osage County” grabbed hold of that device, albeit with a humanity and refinement (a Valium-high, elbows-on-the-table refinement, but a refinement nonetheless). But “The Dream of The Burning Boy,” a lousy shock-and-aww drama at Profiles Theatre set in motion by the aneurysm death of a young man named Dane (Vic Kuligoski), obscures the nuances of grief and, instead, bluntly blurts out its selfishness—and all in that crucible of crucibles, a high school. 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
Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Michael Brosilow
While Michigan Avenue shops exchange the jack-o-lanterns and ghoulish cutouts of their window displays for fluffy cotton balls and cinnamon yuletide ornament, a far more pessimistic and unabashedly retro vision of the holidays is revving up onstage at Profiles Theatre.
Playwright Will Kern’s “Hellcab,” a contritely episodic depiction of one cabbie’s worst Christmas Eve shift ever, is told through interconnected, sometimes humorous vignettes that envision man at his most naked, despicable and stereotyped. First presented by Famous Door Theatre in 1992, Profiles is packing an unnecessarily gargantuan ensemble of thirty-four actors onstage for the twentieth anniversary of the classic Chicago-set play, resulting in a dramedy both frantic and diffuse. Read the rest of this entry »
J. Salome Martinez, Alice Da Cunha and Foster Williams/Photo: Michael Broslow.
Seemingly ripped from the headlines, “After” at Profiles Theatre tells the tale of a falsely accused man after he’s exonerated and released from prison. “After” is Profile Theatre’s second show this season and a Midwestern premiere for Chad Beckim’s 2011 play. Presented in the intimate new Alley Stage, this ninety-minute pressure cooker is sure to move audiences and will certainly get better throughout its run.
Read the rest of this entry »
The second in a series of four plays, Richard Nelson’s “Sweet and Sad” takes as its immediate subject a simple gathering of the Apple family for dinner—on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Nelson does well to hold this obviously significant plot point at bay for long stretches of the play, producing a much deeper exploration of American family life. To honor their dementia-ridden uncle when he’s to perform a small part in a 9-11 memorial service, three siblings, their mother and a significant other conduct the majority of the conversation. Entirely discursive, the plot quickly establishes a simmering level of frustration and awkwardness. Read the rest of this entry »
Profiles Theatre announces its 2012- 2013 Season
Midwest premieres by Neil LaBute, Tommy Nohilly, David West Read, Chad Beckim, and the 20th Anniversary of Hellcab by Will Kern
Chicago—Artistic Directors Joe Jahraus and Darrell W. Cox announce Profiles Theatre’s 2012 – 2013 Season. Profiles presents its 24th season of new and challenging works slated to premiere for the first time ever in its theatre complex on North Broadway. Five productions are planned for the upcoming season including the Midwest premieres of the award-winning Blood from a Stone in a newly revised version by playwright Tommy Nohilly, After by Chad Beckim, The Dream of the Burning Boy by David West Read and the Midwest premiere of Neil LaBute’s controversial 2010 play The Break of Noon revised exclusively for Profiles Theatre. Additionally, one of Chicago theatre’s longest running hits, Hellcab by Will Kern, returns for its 20th Anniversary production. Read the rest of this entry »