REVIEW: Private Lives [ShawChicago]

Private Lives

ShawChicago continues their 2015-2016 season of readings with Private Lives, a play by Noel Coward about a divorced couple who, on honeymoon with their respective new spouses, reunite and fall in love again. While the play never goes very deep, the dialogue-heavy play is perfect for a reading, and the actors shine.

Mary Michell, Doug MacKechnie, Leslie Ann Handelman (photo credit: Janine Pixley)

Mary Michell, Doug MacKechnie, Leslie Ann Handelman (photography by Janine Pixley)

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REVIEW: The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide [The Hypocrites]

The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide is a play written by All Our Tragic adaptor Sean Graney and produced by The Hypocrites in special collaboration with The Yard at Senn Arts Magnet High School. Between All Our Tragic and this, though wildly different at first glance (the former a 12-hour adaptation of Greek tragedies, the latter an original play about a group of children reenacting a play a fellow classmate left behind as a suicide note), Graney demonstrates an unmistakable talent for combining comedy and tragedy in a way that is both thoroughly entertaining and deeply moving.  Continue reading

REVIEW: Geneva [ShawChicago]

Geneva - ShawChicago

Photography by Dylan Stuckey

ShawChicago’s concert readings of mainly George Bernard Shaw plays remind me just how entertaining a reading can be in the hands of talented playwrights and actors. Their most recent production is Shaw’s Geneva, a satirical look at parodies of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco (Battler, Bombardone, and General Flanco, respectively) being brought before the International Court of the League of Nations in order to be held accountable for their crimes against humanity.

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Non-Equity Jeff Awards 2015

Twice a year, the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee honors theatrical productions and artists with “Jeff Awards” – one set of awards for Equity theatre and one set of awards for non-union theatre. The 2015 Non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony was held at Park West last Monday night, June 8th. Unlike the major awards show the night before (the Tonys), there were no official “winners,” no “Best Musical” or “Best Play.” That is because, as the Jeff Awards website puts it, “The Committee does not endorse the use of the words best or winner. There are no losers in the Chicago theatre community, and Jeff recipients are cited for outstanding achievement rather than the more competitive notion of best.” I admire that attitude, one that was displayed whole-heartedly at the Non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony, at which the various theatre companies cheered each other on. Continue reading

REVIEW: The Jungle [Oracle Theatre]

The director and adaptor of Oracle Theatre’s The Jungle, Matt Foss, writes in the director’s notes about Upton Sinclair’s disappointment that his book “led to sweeping pure-food laws, rather than to changes in the living and working conditions of America’s workers.” In comparison, Foss’s adaptation focuses tightly on the workers, creating the most disturbing, powerful, impactful piece of theatre I have seen all year.

In The Jungle, brutality and corruption reign supreme, particularly over the poor and unwary. While unions remain a shadowy specter around the edges of the play, the gains they have made are starkly obvious against the nigh impossible working conditions in the play. The Jungle follows a small group of Lithuanian immigrants who arrive in Chicago in the early 1900s, knowing no English beyond the city’s name. They have minimal savings and a friend who owns a delicatessen – very modest beginnings, but by the end of the play, their starting point seems unreachably high. Continue reading

Review: NoMI Kitchen (Chicago Chef’s Week 2015)

Lunch is often the best value for Restaurant Week and Chef’s Week – three courses for $22 – and NoMI’s lunch is no exception. Unfortunately, NoMI’s Chef’s Week offerings seem more half-hearted than my Restaurant Week experience. Also, service is distant, splashing water on my table without ever noticing, and dessert seems like an afterthought. Continue reading

Chicago Restaurant Week 2015: TETE Charcuterie

Tete Charcuterie

This year, my approach with Restaurant Week was to mostly visit restaurants I know and enjoy, along with one restaurant I’ve been wanting to visit for ages (NoMi) and two new restaurants. This Randolph Street restaurant is one of the latter. The service seemed pleasant, albeit a little absent-minded and a bit slow, and the courses were attractively plated, but the food didn’t live up to my expectations.

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Chicago Restaurant Week 2015: Nightwood

Nightwood

Given its Pilsen location, I’ve only made my way down to Nightwood* a few times. However, Nightwood’s executive chef and owner Jason Hammel is also the owner of Lula Cafe in Logan Square, which I like, so I’ve given it a few chances. Nightwood is a nice restaurant, but given how out of the way it is for me, and how many good restaurants there are much closer to where I work and live, I am not likely to be back very frequently.

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Chicago Restaurant Week 2015: Sepia

Sepia

Michelin-starred Sepia has a standing spot on my Restaurant Week list. Sepia’s Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman has, among his numerous distinctions, a James Beard Foundation Award nomination for Best Chef: Great Lakes and a win over Iron Chef Marc Forgione on Iron Chef America, so I jumped at the chance to visit during Restaurant Week last year. Then, as now, I enjoyed a pleasant meal in a polished surrounding, although I find myself not as impressed as I’d like to be.

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Chicago Restaurant Week 2015: NoMi Kitchen (Lunch)

Located at the Park Hyatt in Gold Coast, NoMI has a great view of the Chicago Water Tower and Michigan Avenue. Their lunch is one of the better deals of Restaurant Week (three courses for only $22, which is the typical price of their lunch entrees), and even better, they offer lunch during the weekend.

NoMi 1

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