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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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: Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella [Broadway In Chicago]

Cinderella

The First National Tour of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is as fun and frothy as the ball gowns they wear. The recent Broadway production adds an updated, Tony-nominated book by Douglas Carter Beane with a sly, clever sense of humor to the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein score. Gorgeous costumes, a talented cast, high production values, and a script far funnier than I’d anticipated all contribute to a stellar tour.

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REVIEW: Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale

Dee Snider's Rock & Roll Christmas Tale

My first introduction to Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale was at the Broadway In Chicago summer preview concert – although the premise sounded a little questionable, Dee Snider’s energy made me cautiously optimistic about the musical’s prospects. The first night of previews, however, dashed those hopes, and the opening night did not go nearly far enough to make up for that. Continue reading

REVIEW: Season on the Line [The House Theatre of Chicago]

I, too, come here to be entertained. I come here to be moved. But my favorite nights in the theatre at not the ones where I left thinking about how much I loved it. . . . My favorite nights in the theatre are the ones where I left asking questions. Maybe getting into an argument – not about whether the show was good or not, but about whether we are good or not.

That is how Season on the Line begins, and to be perfectly frank, The House Theatre of Chicago‘s world premiere production of Season on the Line was one of my favorite theatrical experiences thus far in my life. I was entertained; I was moved; I loved it from the start – and it did make me ask questions. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but it also caused me to think more deeply – about whether honesty is always truth, when it’s time to say no, what the theatre is for, the role of a director and the qualities of leadership, the relationship between art and critic, the relationship between art and ego in a theatre company, the impact that a review can have, and what happens when a chasing a review becomes more important than an artistic vision. Continue reading