James Newcomb/Photo: Liz Lauren
As the curtain rises on a nun in rapturous reflection, with the pulsing sounds of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” scoring a sprawling, bawdy set of dirty neon and dirty sex behind her—various other states of rapture—and a man, post-coital with his hooker, holding a pistol to his head, the fever dreams of Calixto Bieito’s “Camino Real” so easily recur that you might feel like you’ve returned for another dose of the Spanish director’s controversial staging at the Goodman last season. But then, with its decadent seventies setting, its garish pimp clothes and graphic glimpses of illicit sex acts taking place upstairs, Steppenwolf’s recent “Hot L Baltimore” comes to mind as well. So too, with its moments of slow-motion choreographed ensemble entrances is a bit of Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” in the mix. But lest you think that this production of the Bard’s “problem play” is derivative, know this: It is all Robert Falls’ “Measure For Measure.” A fair bit of William Shakespeare, too, but I’d suggest that never in the history of this play has such a raw and raucous production been seen as Falls hoovers in a half millennium of influences and spits out something wholly original. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Liz Lauren
By Johnny Oleksinski
On January 28, @RobertFalls201 tweets, “Day before rehearsal begin & completely panicked; haven’t prepared enough, have no idea how to START & shouldn’t someone else be directing?”
Wait, the Robert Falls? The same Robert Falls whose “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play and whose “Iceman Cometh” made Chicago ticket-holders the envy of the theatergoing world? That Robert Falls is “completely panicked?”
Yes, the Goodman artistic director regularly tweets the kind of thought-provoking artistic insights that were once confined to program notes, posthumously published memoir-festos and lucky late-night exchanges at the bar, but are now available on the web browsers and mobile devices of anyone who cares to follow. Falls nostalgically compares the sensation of tweeting to his youthful passion for radio; It has certainly opened up the artistic process and personal life of a powerful and gifted director. Yet, despite this useful new conversational mechanism, it’s still rare for an artistic director to have a Twitter account let alone actually make use of it.
Falls and I sit down in the Goodman’s posh Patrons’ Lounge—a room he says he’s only been in a handful of times before and humorously compares to a W Hotel—to talk about his new production of Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” and about his second life on Twitter: two seemingly unrelated topics, but truthfully, all I know of Falls’ production up till now came from his funny and oft-probing tweets. 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
As yet another blistering Chicago summer commences, so too does an outgoing class of talented young theater artists–the future movers and shakers. Reveling in the spirit of commencement, each year Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents the culminating works of Northwestern University’s graduate directing and design students during their month-long “Next Up” festival in the scrappy Garage space. Consisting of three contrasting yet festively complementary works, “Life and Limb,” “South of Settling” and “The Glass Menagerie,” the lineup nicely subscribes to Steppenwolf’s seasonal “war at home” theme, and jointly muses on the nation’s temperamental job market. Graciously thanking the city that has nurtured their artistic growth, all of the plays performed, including one world premiere, actually began their lives right here in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Liz Lauren
When it was first announced that Nathan Lane would be taking on the lead role of Hickey in “The Iceman Cometh” at Goodman Theatre, a New York Times reader wondered aloud if this was for real, or an Onion article. Could one of the great song-and-dance men in musical comedy successfully transfer that prowess to epic, angst-ridden drama? Performing comedy has always been serious business and this was a part that Lane lobbied for when he learned that his colleague and friend Brian Dennehy—who played the role of Hickey at Goodman twenty-two years ago—was interested in taking on the role of Larry in the show. Never having worked together, Lane saw this as an opportunity to take on a new challenge with the additional incentive of working with Dennehy’s longtime Eugene O’Neill collaborator, Goodman artistic director Robert Falls.
The play starts in darkness with only the slightest bit of light showing on Dennehy’s granite face and his other booze-soaked companions sprawled out at a bar. All is usual, at least in an O’Neill universe, as we learn of their various squashed pipe-dreams, those delusional hopes of the hopeless that keep them going but which have no basis in reality. Read the rest of this entry »
FOUR WORLD AND TWO CHICAGO PREMIERES HIGHLIGHT GOODMAN THEATRE’S 2012/2013 SEASON
***NEW SEASON OPENS WITH DAVID CROMER’S GOODMAN DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, INCLUDES JON ROBIN BAITZ’S BROADWAY HIT, LYNN NOTTAGE’S LATEST WORK, THE 35th ANNIVERSARY PRODUCTION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL AND CULMINATES WITH MARY ZIMMERMAN’S WORLD-PREMIERE MUSICAL ADAPTATION OF DISNEY’S THE JUNGLE BOOK***
(Chicago, IL) Artistic Director Robert Falls announced Goodman Theatre’s 2012/2013 subscription season today, featuring four world- and two Chicago-premiere productions. The new season begins in September with Chicago native David Cromer’s revival of Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams. Next up in the Albert Theatre are two consecutive Chicago premieres: Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities directed by Henry Wishcamper, and By the Way, Meet Vera Stark by Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage, directed by Chuck Smith. The season culminates with the world-premiere production of The Jungle Book, a new musical based on the Disney animated film and the stories by Rudyard Kipling, adapted and directed by Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman. Three Goodman-commissioned plays take the stage in the Owen Theatre: Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men, written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, directed by Chay Yew; Christopher Shinn’s Teddy Ferrara, directed by Evan Cabnet; and The Happiest Song Plays Last by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The 2012/2013 Season also includes the 35th annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, directed by Steve Scott. NOTE: one play in the Albert Theatre (in spring 2013) is to be announced. Call now to subscribe to the Goodman’s 2012/2013 Season: 312.443.3800; online subscription sales (GoodmanTheatre.org) start March 6. Individual tickets go on sale beginning in August. 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
Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Gero/Photo: Liz Lauren
John Logan’s play is intentionally tricky: it both valorizes and occasionally gently undermines our hyperbolic image of the artist as a visionary, rebel, philosopher and spiritual guide all in one. For no period in recent art history has this stereotype been more reified than in abstract-expressionism, where the personalities of artists like Pollock, de Kooning and Rothko were fetishized through creation myths fueled by their hyper-subjective creative work. And Logan plays right into the urge to personify the emotional intensity of the ab-ex canvas by presenting us with a larger-than-life Mark Rothko, nee Marcus Rothkowitz, who faces in the play the difficult decision of whether to sell out—literally—a set of exquisite color-field paintings commissioned by a fancy restaurant. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dennis Polkow
Although his diverse career spans more than thirty years and has encompassed television, movies, performance art, opera and musicals, 53-year old playwright and Los Angeles native David Henry Hwang is best known for his 1988 Tony Award-winning Broadway play “M. Butterfly” and as the preeminent voice of the Asian-American experience. His words both on and off the page tend to attract controversy, including his role in the protest of the casting of Jonathan Pryce as a Eurasian in “Miss Saigon.” That incident sparked his 1993 play “Face Value” which closed on Broadway before it was out of previews, but was somewhat reincarnated as the successful 2007 “Yellow Face,” a play which is receiving its Chicago premiere by the Silk Road Theatre Project this summer—where Hwang has collaborated previously—along with two other Hwang works: the world premiere of “Chinglish” at Goodman Theatre, and the first revival in two decades of an early work from 1981, “Family Devotions” at Halcyon Theatre. On a lunch break from “Chinglish” rehearsals at Goodman Theatre, which has reunited Hwang with his collaborator on the book for Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida,” Robert Falls, we walked around the downtown theater district discussing these works and what inspired them before landing at a sandwich shop. We would likely still be there if an SOS hadn’t been sent out that he was needed back for a run-through.
Why did you want to have the world premiere of “Chinglish” in Chicago?
I always wanted to have more of a presence here. It’s arguably the most vital theater town in the country in terms of energy and people doing things for good and the right reasons. I got to know the community and the community got to know me through my working with Silk Road [Theatre Project] on a couple of projects. When I wrote “Chinglish” and finished it off, I thought, “Where do I want to start this show? And I thought, “This is a play that could really work in Chicago.” So I sent it to Bob [Falls] and he was immediately responsive. He read it really quickly and committed to doing it. I finished the first draft in January of 2010, and I sent it to him in February, so it all happened pretty quick. Malik [Gillani] and Jamil [Khoury] were already planning to do “Yellow Face” at Silk Road this season anyway, and I think the decision was made to have them happen at roughly the same time. And then Halcyon came in and decided to do “Family Devotions” this summer too, so that’s kind of how it all came together. Read the rest of this entry »
Stephanie Umoh and Jared Zirilli
This is the second local production of Elton John’s “Aida” programmed in the wake of last year’s “Billy Elliot” mania—ironically, “Billy” did not even last long enough to be around for this déjà vu vu vu, if you count the fact that the original work gestated in Chicago over a decade ago.
“Aida” represents the third and final collaboration between Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, all for animated Disney films: “The Lion King,” “The Road to El Dorado” and “Aida,” which was never made. Based on the Verdi opera as it was adapted for a children’s book by soprano Leontyne Price, the definitive “Aida” of her generation, an “Aida” concept album was recorded in 1998, much as Rice had done with his longtime collaborator Andrew Lloyd Webber for properties such as “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita” before they became stage works.
When the animated version fell through, Disney Theatrical put together a mammoth stage adaptation with Goodman Theatre’s Robert Falls as director and one of three credited co-writers, always the signal of a troubled past. It was that version that previewed in Chicago with Heather Headley (Nala in the Broadway “Lion King”) and Adam Pascal (the original Roger in “Rent”) in late 1999 before hitting Broadway in March of 2000, though not before the elephantine scenery that had so many problems—even infamously injuring Headley and Pascal here in Chicago—was simplified before opening on the Great White Way. Read the rest of this entry »