‘Lizzie’ Rocks Out at Firebrand: Key Reviews

The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program brings students to various productions around Chicago, teaching them about arts criticism as they try their hand at writing reviews. The opinions of the students are their own; we workshop the pieces in seminar every other week, and then they edit their reviews before publication. These reviews from our Fall session are edited by Oliver Sava and Regina Victor. 

Danielle Chmielewski

I loved this show. To be absolutely honest I am not sure if I can provide a measured and calculated analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Firebrand’s debut musical because the only thing that really comes to mind is that totally rocked. Continue reading “‘Lizzie’ Rocks Out at Firebrand: Key Reviews”

Calamity West’s ‘Hinter’ Combines Comedy and Suspense with a Dose of Social Commentary

Can you offer help to those who don’t ask for it? This is the central question of Calamity West’s Hinter, now in its world premiere at Steep Theatre. Directed by Brad DeFabo Akin, the play takes as its subject the unsolved murders of the Gruber family on the isolated Hinterkaifeck farm in 1922 Bavaria.  Continue reading “Calamity West’s ‘Hinter’ Combines Comedy and Suspense with a Dose of Social Commentary”

‘We’re Gonna Be Okay’ Makes Sense of Crisis

Note: The pronouns of the characters were used for this review, they do not necessarily reflect the pronouns of the artists.

We’re Gonna Be Okay at American Theater Company by Basil Kreimendahl directed by Will Davis perfectly captures what it feels like to be living in the midst of a crisis. In our current political climate, no matter which side of the debate you find yourself on, there is an undeniable sense of panic as we try to hold on to a life that feels like it’s trying to run away from us. America, a land of unlimited possibility, and paralyzing fear. In Will Davis’ production, that fear is palpable, but it is also accompanied by laughter, love, and hope.

Kriemendahl’s play follows two families during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 panicking about an impending bomb threat that may never come. In keeping with the American Theatre Company tradition of letting no aspect of the space go unused, we see the interior of a home when we first walk into the theatre behind the set where the actors lounge, though the play takes place largely in their backyards. Though both families are multiracial, as I watched scenes play out between the fathers of the two families, Efran (Kelli Simpkins) and Sul (Penelope Walker) I could not help but think: this is why you don’t get trapped in a bunker with your crazy white neighbor. Efran cannot handle the loss of the status quo, and Sul is simply trying to adapt to less than ideal conditions. These attitudes echo cultural realities of our time. I have to point out that Efran’s freak outs are a work of art as Simpkins brings a dangerous and boisterous quality to the character.

Efran can’t deal with anything that he can’t control, and it emerges in seemingly well-meaning tangents that can quickly turn sinister. His wife Lena (Adithi Chandrashekar) is an equally energetic woman who is really into crafting, and shares her gift with Sul’s wife Mag, played by BrittneyLove Smith. Mag’s journey in this play is particularly rewarding, she goes from a shy woman who barely dares to macrame to a fierce horseback-riding badass. Lena grows as well when her life is upended from being satisfied with crafts to wanting to put her biology degree to use and empower her friend Mag to go after her dreams as well. The introspective Sul is a man who works with his hands, and is given a wonderful performance by Walker, who delivers a very touching short monologue in act 2.

Each family has a single child, Jake is Efran and Lena’s son played by Avi Roque and Mag and Sul’s daughter played by Saraí Rodriguez. Both children have a secret that allows them to grow close, and it is ultimately their love for each other that inspires us to keep living in a seemingly chaotic world. The two share a hilarious and empowering scene I refuse to spoil, but they encourage us to revel in our personal joy, no matter where we find it.

There is a seriously phallic mushroom cloud behind the entire first act, and smaller phallic missiles hanging above the stage in William Boles’ set design, which I interpreted as a metaphor for how patriarchal dick-swinging is keeping us in chaos, but I could certainly be projecting that. Boles’ set transitions at intermission into a bomb shelter, complete with canned food and a view aboveground in a wonderful trick of perspective. It is well worth your time to stay and watch the transformation. In the bomb shelter, the lighting designer’s skills are highlighted as we enter a world lit with lanterns and footlights, creating shadows and intimacy in the small space.

The sound design by Jeffrey Levin is unique, with an active soundscape that involves percussion and a ticking sound that is reminiscent of the midnight clock that determines how close we are to doomsday.The costuming by Melissa Ng sets us clearly in the time period yet these modern bodies look at home and comfortable in what they wear. Deanna’s overalls are a highlight of Ng’s design.

We’re Gonna Be Okay is an appropriate piece for our current moment, and a more hopeful follow up to the last piece Welcome to Jesus. Davis has set an incredibly high bar for himself at ATC, which can make this production feel not as shiny as Picnic or Welcome to Jesus, but it still has important lessons that should not be ignored. At times, the show can feel as if it’s not grounded which can be unsettling in a Chicago theatre scene baked in realism. This choice to elevate the play almost to the point of absurdity still makes sense as the characters in the plot are constantly losing emotional and physical ground. Overall the ensemble performances are genuine and charming so it’s easy to accept the play in the style it’s presented. The work Davis is doing to highlight gender performance and re-defining what is normative is continued here and executed flawlessly. Ultimately, We’re Gonna Be Okay is a daring look at how we confine ourselves through fear, and what we have to gain by stepping bravely into the future.

BIAS ALERT: I am a queer artist with a weakness for absurd theatre, magical realism, and symbolism.

Photos by Michael Brosilow

CAST:
Mag – BrittneyLove Smith
Sul – Penelope Walker
Deanna – Saraí Rodriguez
Leena – Adithi Chandrashekar
Efran – Kelli Simpkins
Jake – Avi Roque

CREW:
Director – Will Davis
Playwright – Basil Kreimendahl
Scenic Designer – William Boles
Lighting Designer – Rachel Levy
Costume Designer – Melissa Ng
Sound Designer Jeffrey Levin
Props Designer – Jamie Karas
Assistant Directors – Julia Rufo, Topher Leon, Yinzhou-Peter Chen

Key Reviews: Multimedia Edition

The ability to write about different art forms is essential to making a living as an arts critic, so we wanted to encourage our students to write about whatever non-theatre art caught their interest. The following are reviews of Murder on the Orient Express, The Daily, and My Life As a Zucchini. The viewpoints of the authors are entirely their own. Edited by Oliver Sava and Regina Victor. 

Murder on the Orient Express (Film)
by Corbett Baratta

On its face, Murder on the Orient Express seems like it could be great. We have a great Shakespearean actor/director in Kenneth Branagh. An all-star cast including Dame Judi Dench (her holiness), Daisy Ridley straight outta Star Wars, and my favorite actress of all time Michelle Pfeiffer. Michael Green, the writer of this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic novel, co-wrote the movies Logan and Blade Runner 2049 this year, which probably makes him one of this generation’s best screenwriters (let’s just forget about Green Lantern ever existing).

As for Agatha Christie, I can see why Hollywood executives might greenlight a Hercule Poirot movie or even a series. Christie is the best selling author right behind Shakespeare and the Abrahamic God (and Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, etc.). And while Hercule Poirot might not be a household name in the vein of Spider-Man or the Geico Cavemen, he’s a notable literary figure at the very least.

However…let’s just say this movie wants to overcompensate. A lot. For one thing, it’s shot on 65mm film, and if you thought Tarantino was weird to shoot The Hateful Eight on such a big format, Kenny Boy has managed to find an even smaller set to shoot with it. This is probably why the film finds just about every excuse to stage things on top of the train, on the side of the train, and don’t forget right outside the train in the snow. You didn’t know how many landscape shots could be used for a movie that takes place on a train.

Thinking of things added, apparently finding a murderer wasn’t enough ACTION and EXCITEMENT for the average audience, so we get some nice additions. New fight scenes, including one where Poirot comes with a cane to a gunfight, feel out of place, almost like they snuck here from Justice League.
For Hercule Poirot himself, Kenneth Branagh would have you believe the dude is a superhero. It seems every character in the movie knows of Poirot’s detective work and is treated like a royal diplomat rather than the abrasive man he actually is. Ken isn’t helping himself here, he’s mastered the runway walk in every step he takes in the role, and this entire exercise can at times feel like an excuse for the dude to stroke his own ego.

Despite all of this, I have to say I love this movie. It’s cheesy and trying way too hard, but that gives it charm.

Plus there are genuinely great things about this movie too. Even if a bit fanciful, the cinematography from Haris Zambarloukos is gorgeous. I could stare at those shots of Hercule walking next to a train in the snowy mountains all day. There’s a shot near the end where all the suspects are lined up exactly like “The Last Supper” and it works great as a set-piece.

While the movie has indulgences, there are deeper themes touched on occasion. Poirot balancing his need for justice with newfound thoughts on morality, the treatment of people of color in the 1930s, the pain that grief brings to all those surrounding a death. Some of it does get lost in the WOWZA, but it’s present and can strike a chord in more idle moments.
Overall, Murder on the Orient Express is a good film trying like an excited child to be a great one. At moments it’s laughable but it’s always a good time. If you have two hours and want to just sit through a fun, inoffensive film, take a ride on the Orient Express. It will take you to some devious places.

My Life As A Zucchini (French Claymation)
by Logan McCullom

An image from the french film “My Life as a Zucchini” directed by Claude Barras

I often find myself compelled to watch animated projects with strange titles that give away nothing of the plot, and usually don’t have anything to do with it. This instance was no different. It is for this reason that sometime during the well deserved Thanksgiving break I sat down (or laid down, rather) and let My Life as A Zucchini (MLAZ) unfold before me. The title, naturally, was the first thing that drove me to this endearing tale, and upon further inspection I came to learn MLAZ was claymation! My favorite kind of “-mation”! By now you must be thinking, “Can it get any better?” It can. It’s in French! The whole thing! With English subtitles for you uncultured goons, of course.

The story follows nine-year-old Courgette (French for “zucchini”) to an orphanage where he meets several other… “others” like himself. At first glance it looks like your typical run-of-the-mill Annie in French without the singing, but I gathered more from it than that. This movie didn’t shake my world, but in the hour-and-six-minute-long moment it had me, it had me well. The band of kids could altogether be no more than 8-10 years old, yet they were so clever and so in tune with the world around them that they could’ve very well been older.

When we first see Courgette getting acquainted with the orphanage we quickly meet Simon. Simon falls perfectly into the Bully-projecting-all-their-insecurities-on-you Alpha trope, but that facade soon fades as we discover the other dimensions to him. Later on Simon and Courgette become good friends, and might I dare say, family?

On the other side of this coin we have Jujube. We don’t see as much of a character arc or focus on him, but he too is another classic trope. One I see quite frequently in French films: the Fat Boy. Now I see nothing wrong with this character type, but each time I have seen him (and it usually is a him), he’s not just big, but he’s a pig, always eating, literally always. Only stops to chew and sometimes not even that. Thankfully, it didn’t take my attention away too much but I feel I’ve seen enough films with this trope now that I may call B.S. It’s perfectly fine to have a heavyset character, delightful even as we don’t see these folks on screen nearly as much as we do our Angular Actors. But when we do see them, it’s about their weight. They are on screen to talk about their bodies, or call attention to them, or to avoid calling attention to them, which incidentally calls more attention to them.

One thing MLAZ does well is address heavy topics such as death and pedophilia. The story opens with the death of Zucchini’s mother and from that point there is only more to come. These topics don’t faze the children; it is what makes them so intuitive and “other”. Despite the weightiness of their circumstances, they still manage to have fun, and even fall in love a little. It wouldn’t be a children’s movie if some naive little kid didn’t “fall in love”. Which brings me to my final qualm. Shortly after Zucchini arrives, a newcomer takes his place as The Big News. Her name is Camille and she is witty, charming and friendly. So naturally this must be Zucchini’s love interest, and he, hers. So blah blah blah all is well we’re having a jolly old time and–
BAM.
RECORD.
SCRATCH.
Camille’s got an evil aunt! Who woulda thunk it??? (Please note the sarcasm.) So now her evil aunt that beats her—again with the heavy topics—is trying to steal her back from the orphanage so she can make money off her. It’s the classic evil stepmom move. But (!) there’s this cop that comes to visit Zucchini from time to time, the same cop that befriended him after his mother’s sudden death. This cop, Raymond, offers to adopt Zucchini (classic) and what’s more, Camille! Yay! Happy ending right? Well… yes, you would be right but then I have a question. What happens now? Can Zucchini and Camille still love each other in this seemingly big way or will they have to stifle their young love in exchange for a shot at a real family? Or maybe they do it differently in France and life and love can resume as usual. If so, then bonne chance, mes amis!

The Daily (New York Times Podcast)
Danielle Chmielewski

It’s important to be informed. It’s vital. As uncomfortable as it is, we don’t really have a choice. To willfully choose ignorance because turning on the news makes you upset is cowardly and unfair. This is the world you live in. Real shit goes down here, whether you like it or not. But sometimes it’s difficult to keep up. There is so much going on, all the time. Everything is constantly shifting and it seems as though every week there is a fresh tragedy we must devote our sympathy towards. It’s easy to feel left behind.

The New York Times’ podcast The Daily, spearheaded by Michael Barbaros, is a thought-provoking and emotion-inducing breakdown to begin each day. At a slim 20 minutes, it is not a difficult commitment to make. A quick and thorough breakdown gives me everything I need to know, bringing to my attention to news that I have somehow missed. In a time where breaking news comes from your aunt’s status updates, it’s nice to have a level head to explain all of the insanity.

As a devoted listener from the very first episode, I have never grown tired of Barbaros’ soothing voice and insight into current events. I truly do learn something new everyday. Because it is about so much more than saying there is a leadership quarrel occurring in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is about going back and covering relevant past information, and working the way up to the new story so that the listener has a thorough understanding of the problem at hand, and managing to contain it all within half an hour or less. When names and fancy jargon are introduced and never explained, it can be difficult to ask for a definition for fear of sounding dumb. I never have to worry about that with The Daily. Barbaros is very much aware of the questions his listeners are going to have and answers them before you have a chance to realize you didn’t understand. Explaining these complex topics without making listeners feel condescended to is a difficult task to achieve, but he manages it every day.

Barbaros is simply a sublime interviewer. The emotional substance of some of these episodes is so profound they stick with you long past the morning. A two-part interview of a man living in Mosul, whose entire family was killed in an American drone strike for suspected involvement in ISIS, is presented simultaneously with statistics regarding the amount of civilian casualties that have gone dangerously unreported, going past the point of negligence and entering willful endangerment. Peppering this interview with overlapping snippets of assurances and pats on the back that this is the most precise air campaign in history made me absolutely sick to my stomach. As it should.

A special episode for kids details the story of twin sisters in Girl Scouts, and one who chose to join Boy Scouts instead. Hearing Barbaros converse with these kids generated a whole new level of respect for this man. He somehow manages to only interview the people who have the most fascinating insights. Hearing about gender inequality and the heavy-handed influence of the media’s flawed depiction of gender from two preteen girls was eye-opening.

I remember being fifteen, and sitting at dinner with my father and family friends. It’s during the Ferguson riots and I have spent the past couple days watching destruction on television and discussing decorum in the halls. The lead-up is fuzzy, but then my father turns to me and asks, “What do I have to say about it?” My response is something along the lines of, “Sure, you have the right to be upset but I don’t see the point in looting from your neighbors and tearing down homes.” My father, beaming, expresses his pride in me. At the time, inconsequential. But this sits with me. Because as I move farther away it, it was not me speaking my beliefs that evokes that expression, but rather trying to express beliefs that aligned with his.

I have always had difficulty recognizing my opinions as my own, rather than those of the people around me. This is true for news outlets too, as I am always worried and only sometimes aware of bias affecting my sources. I want all of my opinions to be grounded in a place of strictly personal decision. Of balancing the facts and choosing my side based on nobody’s input but my own. Listening to The Daily I have very rarely felt that I am being presented a skewed description of events in order to paint any one specific party in the right. Despite the occasional slightly biased diction that is impossible to avoid, I am always given explanation for current happenings without the sympathy for one side infiltrating the honesty/integrity of the story. When each episode ends with Barbaros’ promise that he will, “See you tomorrow,” I am alert and aware of what my world looks like, and ready to begin the day.

 

‘Franklinland’ Reimagines A Founding Father’s Fatherhood

Playwright Lloyd Suh has a unique gift for explicating the beautiful and excruciating nuances of parent-child relationships. The world premiere of his new play, Franklinland, directed by Chika Ike at Jackalope, offers a witty and playful reimagining of the relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his son, William. The story centers on pivotal moments in the Franklins’ fraught relationship during the years leading up to and after the American revolution. As we race through time we see William grow from a young man eager for his father’s approval, to a wounded and alienated adult bent on opposing him, though maybe not wholeheartedly. It’s complicated.

Ike’s thoughtful direction brings out the play’s idiosyncratic charms. She mines Suh’s script for all of its humor, while challenging our expectations of who these historical characters may or may not have been.

The play opens on the famous storm during which Franklin conducted his key on the kite experiment. Ben (Tom Hickey) describes to William (Kai Ealy) the intoxicating thrill he gets from pulling lightning from the sky. Indeed, thrill-seeking seems to be at the core of all Ben’s pursuits. As a scientist he loves to discover but most of all what Ben loves is to influence. His desire to influence nature parallels his desire to influence people and politics. The stakes escalate as the revolution looms. Ben drags William to England to lobby King George III, who installs him William as Governor of New Jersey. William finds himself at odds not just with his father but with the revolutionary cause.

Tom Hickey is mesmerizing as Ben whom he plays as a boundlessly charismatic narcissist. Ben is constantly congratulating himself for founding academies or conceptualizing new medical devices and happily takes most of the credit for “inventing” the United States of America. Ben is also powerfully aware of his status as living legend, continually invoking his own name as in “I’m Ben Franklin.” It’s obnoxious, but also we have to give props, the man is by all accounts extraordinary. A lot of what makes this play so riotously funny is the playwright’s commentary on the origins of our American notions of exceptionalism.

Kai Ealy’s William is immediately sympathetic. We bristle with him when his father is insulting and cheer when he stands up for himself. As the play progresses we watch William’s heart break and then harden. His father mocks all his decisions and seems to delight in watching him suffer. In one of the funniest scenes in the play, the two finally tussle in a hilarious fight scene where the ridiculousness of trying to oppose a father who seems to be a force of nature in his own right becomes comically apparent.

The set (Milo Bue) cleverly reinforces the emotional atmosphere for the play. Father and son are trapped together on a long, narrow alley stage, almost an island. There’s no escape for William from his emotionally needy father who makes sport of insulting and belittling him, all the while betraying how desperate he is for his son’s companionship. Suh uses contemporary vernacular to draw parallels between late 18th century Americans and todays. Ben’s speech and attitude are reminiscent of an aging sixties radical who extols the merits of free love and relishes in flaunting authority; William stews like a disaffected a gen-xer. It isn’t until late in the play we get to see Ben as vulnerable, in one of his few introspective moments he doubts his greatness as a scientist and finally shows a flash of insight into his limitations. But dwelling on limitations isn’t what America, or Ben is really about and once the wind starts to blow in his direction he’s back to his old self. In the play’s final moments a third character is introduced. Ben’s own son, Temple (Nik Kmiecik) and the play comes full circle to a poetic and deeply satisfying conclusion.

In one memorable speech Ben fantasizes about his new nation romantically declaring America will do both great and terrible things. Likewise Suh has written a play that effectively dramatizes and critiques many things, both great and terrible, about our nation’s founding myths.

Jackalope at the Broadway Armory
Through Feb. 24th
Photos by Maisonet Photography

CAST:
Tom Hickey (Ben)
Kai Ealy (William)
Nik Kmiecik (Temple)

CREATIVE TEAM:

Lloyd Suh (playwright)
Chika Ike (director)
Milo Bue (scenic designer)
Catharine Young (costume designer)
Lacie Hexom (props designer)
Steve LaBedz (projection designer)
Claire Chzran (lighting designer)
Emily Loppolo (stage manager)
Sabina Dzelilovic (dramaturg)
Shain Longbehn (sound designer)
Sammi Grant (voice coach)
Almanya Narula (fight choreographer)
Andrew Swanson (technical director)
Alon Stotter (master electrician)
Eleanor Axt (casting director)
Kathleen Gullion (assistant director)
Danielle Stack (production manager)
Kelly Cosgrove (assistant stage manager)

‘Montauciel Takes Flight’ Makes Science Soar at Lifeline Theatre

Montauciel Takes Flight at Lifeline celebrates science and the spirit of invention. You know a children’s show is successful if the kids are singing the songs on the car ride home. The charming original musical Montauciel Takes Flight, by James E. Grote (book) and Russell J. Coutinho (music and lyrics), directed by Aileen McGroddy, is based on the true story of the first living creatures to ride in a hot air balloon. The play tells the story of the Montgolfier brothers, paper manufacturers in 1783 France who launched a balloon containing a duck, a rooster and a sheep named Montauciel, a name that means “climb-to-the-sky.” The balloon and its animal occupants landed safely after traveling over two miles, ushering in a new era of manned flight.

The heroine of the musical Montauciel (Kirra Silver), is a curious young sheep who loves science. Silver communicates a youthful enthusiasm for science and learning that immediately draws children into the narrative. Her genuineness makes her character relatable to kids. She never plays down to them, rather she invites them to share in her excitement. Silver is well supported by the cheery ensemble playing her human and animal compatriots: Jordan Arrendondo (Joseph Montgolfier), Carisa Gonzales (Bessie), Scott Ray Merchant (Etienne Montgolfier) and Jennifer Vance (Rooster).

There’s a strong opening number about “the age of enlightenment” during which Montauciel muses that some folks fall in love with science and learning, while others seem afraid of science, preferring the old ways. Embracing the wonders of science is part of the show’s message. When Montauciel hears intriguing explosions coming from the Montgolfier paper mill she leaves home in hopes of meeting a fellow science enthusiast. When she arrives she discovers the sounds were coming from Joseph’s lab. He’d rather do science than make paper and so he hires her to work in his place so he can spend his time experimenting. She’s disappointed but soon learns making paper involves science too. After a quick lesson in how old rags are turned into paper pulp it’s her turn to instruct her new employers (some human and some animal) about “the six simple machines” in the show’s most memorable number. The song admirably manages to turn this unwieldy list into a catchy tune. Indeed, my children were singing about “the wheel and the axle, the lever and the pulley, the inclined plane and the screw (and the wedge)” the rest of the afternoon.

Montauciel also covers the scientific method, teaching her friends to formulate and test a hypothesis. She gently coaxes Joseph Montgolfier toward understanding science is more than just setting off cool explosions and he invites to join him in his work. Soon their experiments attract royal attention and the inventors go on an adventure to meet King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, played by a talking portrait with mouth holes, much to the delighted squeals of the children in the audience.

Lifeline’s signature aesthetic features costumes and design elements that elevate everyday things with a little theater magic. I appreciate this because it shows children how simple it is to take the objects around them and transform them into elements of a story. It’s thrilling when the characters create their wondrous balloon from found objects. The blue sheet backdrop representing the sky starts to billow when the animals start their journey and suddenly we are all  flying. After the show my children were excitedly discussing the types of paper and fabric the Montgolfiers used to make their balloons and speculating how they might conduct their own hot air experiments. Montauciel Takes Flight makes both science and theater accessible to kids.

Most children’s productions at Lifeline are adaptations of well-known books making Montauciel  a slight departure, though a well-executed one. As a parent I celebrated that this play links science to everyday problem solving and brings to life an exciting but oft overlooked historical event, the invention of the hot air balloon. Parents may well find themselves just as inspired by the show’s spirit as their kids.

 

BIAS ALERT: My children are close friends with Lifeline House Manager, Susan Tecktiel, a beloved babysitter to them since they were toddlers.

Performances: Saturday and Sundays at 11am & 1pm Through Feb 18, 2018

* This show is recommended for kids 5 and up. Children under 2 are not permitted.

Photos by Suzanne Plunkett

Book by James E. Grote
Music & Lyrics by Russell J. Coutinho
Directed by Aileen McGroddy

CAST AND CREW
Jordan Arredondo (Joseph & ensemble)
Carisa Gonzalez (Bessie & ensemble)
Scott Ray Merchant (Étienne & ensemble)
Kirra Silver (Montauciel)
Jennifer Vance (Rooster & ensemble)
Ty Carter (Understudy)
Whitney Dottery (Understudy)
Suzanna Ziko (Understudy)
Russell J. Coutinho (Music & Lyrics)
Aileen McGroddy (Director)
Jacqueline Marschke (Stage Manager)
Megan Elk (Music Director)
Amanda Herrmann (Properties Designer)
Eleanor Kahn (Scenic Designer)
Jeffrey Levin Jeffrey Levin (Sound Designer)
Emily Swanson (Costume Designer)
Eric Watkins (Lighting Designer)

‘The Light’ At the New Colony Is Rallying Cry for Radical Love

In one of the most dramatically effective moments of Loy Webb’s, The Light, Genesis (Tiffany Oglesby) describes to her fiancé, Rashad (Jeffery Owen Freelon Jr.), how black women have been socialized to believe they have just two options in the wake of trauma: be strong or fall apart. In response, Rashad suggests he can carry some of that burden and offers his love as “option three.” With this Webb embarks on illuminating not only a series of important emotional truths but also some serious political ones. But, as the play’s title would suggest, for all its weighty content, at its heart this play is an uplifting character driven romance.

Continue reading “‘The Light’ At the New Colony Is Rallying Cry for Radical Love”

Rescripted Recognized: 2017 in Review

This has been an incredible year for the team at Rescripted. As we embark on 2018, we’d like to take some time to revisit not only some theatre highlights of the year, but accomplishments we have made as an organization in our first six months! The plays mentioned below are honored as Rescripted Recognized, productions that were memorable for their cultural standouts, for their artistic achievements, for their strong performances, and in some cases even for their controversies. 

Continue reading “Rescripted Recognized: 2017 in Review”

Aziza Barnes’ ‘BLKS’ Gets Up Close and Personal

This review is written by Logan McCullom, an alumni of The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program.

Stumbling through the seemingly unending crowds and stairs that make up Steppenwolf’s theatre, I was frazzled and bewildered by how many folks I saw waiting to be seated for the opening night of BLKS. At first glance I found the title to be easy and not very enticing at all, but it was quickly redeemed as I saw the set. Like the title would prove to be, it was comprised of… well… everything. There was no shortage of couches, there were even couches on the walls! Set designer Sibyl Wickersheimer draped long blue curtains on the stage, making distinct isolations that served as different rooms within the same stage. It was messy, chaotic, a perfect representation of life on your own, and I loved it. Continue reading “Aziza Barnes’ ‘BLKS’ Gets Up Close and Personal”

Northlight Theatre’s Artistic Director Statement on ‘Book of Will’

The following is a response and public statement from Artistic Director of Northlight Theatre, BJ Jones. There have been concerns shared from the artistic community on the composition of the cast, see local casting director Lavina Jadhwani’s editorial here. Rescripted encourages artists to respond to discussion generated by our website, in the hopes of facilitating a more open dialogue between institutions and artists. As noted below, the conversation will continue with a panel in late January co-hosted by Jessica Thebus and Aaron Todd Douglas. Continue reading “Northlight Theatre’s Artistic Director Statement on ‘Book of Will’”