The script by Matt Foss is a tribute to Erich Maria Remargue’s novel—a no-holds-barred criticism of war as seen through the eyes of WW1 soldiers, who have accepted that their survival means nothing to the unseen figures calling the shots. Elena Victoria Feliz as Paul moves through the most inventive staging of the year—war is played out on top of old pianos, and colored powders communicate the impact of bombs and bullets.
I was skeptical about a rock musical starring the wives of Henry VIII until I learned that my friend’s teenage daughters were already devoted fans. Six (like Hamilton before it) is a testament to the power of using reimagined history to tell a story that reflects our contemporary world. Every song is a winner—particularly “Don’t Lose Ur Head” and “All You Wanna Do”—in this fun, inventive musical with a powerful feminist conclusion.
Samuel Hunter sits among my favorite playwrights based on the strength of The Whale and Pocatello. One can make a sure bet that a Hunter play will build to a mesmerizing, semi-tragic climax as characters push themselves beyond their own limitations.
The Niceties is a dramatic tennis match of ideas with two characters scoring points in their increasingly intense back-and-forth exchanges.
Janine (Mary Beth Fisher)—a respected history professor teaching an upper-level course on revolutions—begins by offering criticisms to Zoe (Ayanna Bria Bakari) regarding her 20-page thesis essay. The ensuing discussion is fraught with conflicts framed by both race and the generation gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Before the play’s start, a Writer’s Theater Associate encouraged the audience to consider both points of view—particularly when we felt a strong allegiance to one character’s perspective. In that spirit, I am going to present my reactions to The Niceties by referencing the more convincing points scores by both Janine and Zoe.
With The Recommendation, Windy City Playhouse solidifies itself as a theater company at the forefront of immersive theater.
I admit that I was more dismissive than intrigued in early 2018 when the Playhouse started promoting Southern Gothic. The experience promised to take theatergoers into the heart of a Southern dinner party in the 1960’s. Immersive theater? I kept picturing moments from Cats when actors walk into the aisles and start rubbing their heads against patrons’ bodies.*Continue reading “The Recommendation—Windy City Playhouse (7/28/19)”
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bloomsday are two literary adaptions which might seem diametrically opposed in subject matter, yet their prominent similarity is they both prove the importance of capturing the respective tones of their source material.
Frankenstein, produced at Lookingglass with the company’s usual emphasis on staging, plays with the conceit that the non-fiction behind the novel could induce more chills than the ubiquitous story of a mad scientist and the life he creates. The origins of Mary Shelley’s novel are well known, and the play begins in a cramped but lush sitting room with five affluent pre-Victorians killing boredom with a contest to see who could tell the best ghost story. Using the same theatrical technique as the musical Man of La Mancha, Mary Shelley (Cordelia Dewdney) and her four listeners begin to perform her tale. Bits of the “actors ” egos and insecurities add depth to their play within the play.Continue reading “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—Lookingglass (6/12/19) & Bloomsday—Remy Bumppo (6/20/19)”
Back in the winter of 2014, I was entranced by Chicago Shakespeare’s production of Pericles. The play follows a cast of characters (Pericles, Prince of Tyre, among them) as they voyage around the Greek islands. There are death sentences, murder plots, shipwrecks, pirates, mistaken identities. David H. Bell’s production played out like a modern adventure film set within the soft, aquatic colors of ancient Greece.
I bring up Pericles mostly to explore a question: how do we choose which of Shakespeare’s plays are “cannon” and which are “the lesser works”? The website shakespearences.com has made a study of logging the regularity with which Shakespeare’s works are produced. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet are ranked as the top three—Pericles is right in the middle at 24, underneath the prominent comedies and tragedies and above most of the histories.