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 »
Sarah Price and Greg Matthew Anderson/Photo: Johnny Knight
“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine,” begins Jane Austen’s mock-gothic novel, “Northanger Abbey.” Catherine is no great beauty, her family of no particular distinction and her accomplishments and education far from special. “But from fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.”
Young Catherine’s gift—and weakness—is a well-heated imagination. This teenager making her social debut in the spa town/marriage market of Bath can engage with the realities of adulthood only through the medium of romance and fantasy.
Tim Luscombe’s adaptation, as capably directed by Joanie Schultz, captures the interplay of fact and fancy at the book’s heart. In a winsome play-within-the-play, the heroes and villains of Ann Radcliffe’s “Mysteries of Udolpho” morph into characters in Catherine’s life, rendering every ballroom nod and glance pregnant with mythic significance. Catherine’s own seventeen-year-old identity shifts moment by moment, as her shimmering Regency frocks are peeled off at every encounter, revealing another cloak and a deeper layer. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Johnny Knight
Strindberg and romantic comedy might sound like a strange combination, but in the case of “Creditors” at Remy Bumppo it’s incredibly satisfying. Closing out their season with a new adaptation by Scottish playwright David Greig, “Creditors” is as funny as it is searing. Though faithful to the original work, Greig sought to adapt as opposed to translate in an effort to modernize the piece, and the result is just that. In most aspects the only classical quality here are the costumes. The fresh dialogue remains accessible and exciting throughout its ninety minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
Eliza Stoughton and Greg Matthew Anderson/Photo: Johnny Knight
For a lively reprieve from the abundance of seasonal plays and pageants, Remy Bumppo offers up one of George Bernard Shaw’s few comedies, “You Never Can Tell.” In general, classic British plays can be a frightening notion; even more frightening is sitting through lengthy dialogue done poorly. Thankfully, this is not the case in director Shawn Douglass’ surprisingly modern production. The contemporary look and feel is perhaps more a credit to Shaw’s gift for timeless playwriting and keen social insight.
Initially written as a send-up to Oscar Wilde’s successful “Importance of Being Earnest,” Shaw employs a similar sense of romantic pluck, but pairs it with meatier themes and thicker lines. “You Never Can Tell” can almost be summed up in its own words, “it has been short, but it has been voluble.” The play, while brief by Shavian standards, is still every bit as juicy with social commentary as any of his more serious works. It’s especially new age in its forward ideas about divorce and gender equality in the late nineteenth century, a somewhat ironic theme in the current binders-full-of-women era.
Often overlooked in favor of Shaw’s more powerful pieces, this play is seldomly produced, even less so in Chicago. Remy Bumppo’s production marks an area first in more than thirty years, certainly a definitive version that will hopefully stir up some renewed regional interest in Shaw. As with most Remy Bumppo productions at The Greenhouse Theater, the scenic and costume team does an impeccable job of bringing this bygone period back to life in artful authenticity. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Johnny Knight
“You have had a good life,” the ready-for-retirement Charlie declares to his wife Nancy as they verbally joust during a beach vacation. In playwright Edward Albee’s hands, this off-the-cuff declaration is toxic, its past tense cutting to the heart of an emerging conflict between a seemingly content couple nearing their twilight years. After decades of working, raising children and so on, Charlie has “earned a little rest” and wants to do nothing. Nancy wants to do anything but nothing; she’s ready to take on the world’s glaciers, to live on its beaches. She recoils in anger at his choice of language and the conflict seems destined for impasse. It’s a universal concern that surfaces explicitly for this highly educated, upper-middle-class couple: we live this life, we follow its rules and do all the right things, and what does that earn us? Regress to an infantile state of rest and games until we die? Or “see the world twice” and what for?
The argument suddenly seems trivial (even if it is not) in the face of both jeopardy and childlike awe, when a couple of human-sized lizards wander in and open up a conversation about love, existentialism and matters both primal and conceptual. Albee’s cleverly playing with a duality of the escape impulse (“Seascape,” get it?)—the humans escaping the humdrum of life; the lizards the proverbial primordial soup. It’s not an equivalent quest of course, and the relatively smaller concerns of Charlie and Nancy fade mostly into the background. This brilliant play (a Pulitzer winner) manages to convincingly mix the personal story of Charlie and Nancy with universal questions—and talking lizards!—in a manner driven by sly shifts in semantics that both entertain and speak larger truths about progress and philosophy. 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 »
When Timothy Douglas resigned midway through his first season as Remy Bumppo Theatre’s artistic director, Nick Sandys stepped up to fill the role. Sandys had already been an Artistic Associate, helping to choose the seasons, running extra programming and essentially working as a literary manager, so the transition made sense.
“I have a working relationship with everyone involved, so I already start from a really good position,” Sandys says.
Usually Sandys holds down multiple jobs, like voiceover, teaching, acting and doing fight choreography, to make sure that if one falls through, he can make a living. Now he has a full-time year-round job as the artistic director, hiring directors, teams of designers, leading board meetings and guiding the future of the company. 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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Linda Gillum and Nicolas Gamboa/Photo: Johnny Knight
Remy Bumppo’s latest is like day-old champagne: light, sweet and a little flat. It’s missing the energy and inflection, the quick intrigue and the perfectly timed deception that make French farces so much fun.
Silvia (Alana Arenas) is in love with Harlequin (Nicolas Gamboa) but is abducted by the Prince (Steve Wojtas), who tries to win her away. The Prince’s loyal servant Flaminia (Linda Gillum) concocts a plan to drive the lovers apart and give everyone what they (unknowingly) want. Read the rest of this entry »
Annabel Armour and Scott Stangland/Photo: Johnny Knight
It’s telling that this 210-minute Gordon Edelstein adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s “Mourning Becomes Electra” (itself an update of a Greek myth) is marketed as “shortened” on Remy Bumppo’s website—a three-and-a-half-hour show can scare audiences off (at least it’s not five-and-a-half!). But split into three acts (each around an hour long) this gutsy debut by incoming artistic director Timothy Douglas is fast-paced and compelling throughout.
There’s not much by way of a set—a few chairs, some columns and a giant portrait—but this somewhat-blank slate serves as an ideal setting for the thick emotional backdrop the powerhouse cast manages to construct with the potent dialogue. Read the rest of this entry »