Rescripted Recognized – 2019 Edition

2019 was by no means an easy year, and yet so much progress was made in our artistic community both on and offstage. The Rightlynd Saga reached completion in the same year Lori Lightfoot was elected. Abuse was unearthed and community solutions provided, systemic changes are underway on many levels, as the energy of organizations like Not in Our House and ChiTac drive our individual work. As Editor for Rescripted, I laid out my Visions for 2020. This article is about looking back, and celebrating where we came from one last time. Below you will find the 10 Rescripted Recognized shows selected by our critics, and a new addition for this year – Rescripted Raves. There is too much great work in the city to limit it to ten shows, and there you will find the other projects that brought us joy or moved the conversation forward. Happy 2020!

Photo: Gregg Gilman

Red Rex at Steep Theatre. Directed by Jonathan Berry, written by Ike Holter. “Ike Holter’s Red Rex takes a deep dive into the underbelly of making theatre in Chicago, and a brave ensemble of people at Steep Theatre rose to the challenge. The sixth play in the Rightlynd Saga directed by Jonathan Berry gets its name from the fictional theatre company at the center of the narrative, Red Rex Theatre Company. After almost a decade of relatively mediocre production, Red Rex has recently taken up residence in the abandoned former home of the Three Lord Gang – one of many easter eggs from the rest of the Rightlynd Universe (the RU, you know, like MCU).” – Regina Victor, Editor In Chief

Photo: Jackalope Theatre

Dutch Masters at Jackalope Theatre. The first few scenes of Dutch Masters are fraught with uneasy tension, but Keller is just getting started. In 85 minutes, he packs both a gripping mystery and a harrowing commentary on 400 years of racism. Under Wardell Julius Clark’s laser-precise direction, the connection running from the 17th century slave trade to the play’s 1992 setting is unmistakable. The repercussions from the former reverberate through the latter with the spine-jarring, relentless monotony of the subway’s lurching progress.” – Catey Sullivan

Photo: Claire Demos

 Doubt at the Gift Theatre. “I will never get over the fact that this was legitimately a ‘read’,” says Regina Victor. “From the first echoes of the imposing Michael Patrick Thornton’s voice bringing the devastatingly charming Father Flynn’s voice into the space (a charismatic Michael Patrick Thornton), we are submerged in a flickering Catholic Church. The first moments of Doubt by John Patrick Shanley produced by the Gift in Steppenwolf’s 1700 space caused the audience to be simultaneously reaffirmed and frightened by Flynn’s sermons. His tone suggests that if we just listen close enough we will avoid the temptations of which he speaks. The spectators are few, two nuns and a dignified Black woman, she is notably separated from the rest, seated between the nuns and the Father. This is an intentional choice by director John Gawlik, manifested by Mike Durst’s deft lighting, that would later prove relevant.” – Regina Victor  

Photo: Liz Lauren

Sweat at The Goodman Theatre. Sweat, written by Lynn Nottage, is a Pulitzer prize winner that focuses on race, debt in America, capitalism, and the working class. Director Ron OJ Parson’s production of Sweat at the Goodman is, at its core, about humanity, power, and the fight for survival. It’s about what will humanity do when they are pushed to the breaking point and worked like a dog. Sadly, the answer is not as black and white as it seems as Brucie states ‘you think they give a damn about you?'”  – Lonnae Hickman

Photo: Michael Brosilow

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf at Court Theatre. “For Colored Girls… by Ntozake Shange is a vibrant tribute to the transitional power of the Black femme. The moment we step into the abandoned train station at Court Theatre, we know we are in a space full with the possibility of movement and growth. Directed by Seret Scott, who took over the role of Lady in Orange in the original Broadway production, this beautiful production moves with purpose. With the brilliant addition of the character of Lyric played by Melody Angel, it feels like For Colored Girls has taken a necessary step forward.” – Regina Victor

Photo: Liz Lauren

Lottery Day at The Goodman. Lottery Day at Goodman Theatre closed Ike Holter’s Rightlynd cycle with a bang!”- Yasmin Mikhaiel, who originally reviewed the piece for Rescripted.

“Everybody, anybody.” At first an unassuming call and response, the tonality morphs from raucous fun to crickets. We the audience are both the winners and the losers in Ike Holter’s new play Lottery Day at the Goodman Theatre. Under the exquisite direction of Lili-Anne Brown, the characters come to life and we want to join them. As the final chapter in his 7-play cycle, Holter doesn’t let us off easy—and rightly so when faced with our realities of gentrification, police brutality, political corruption, and trauma.”  – Yasmin Mikhaiel

Photo: Michael Brosilow

Hannah and Martin at Shattered Globe Theatre. Hannah and Martin is possibly the most tactful production I’ve seen all year,” says  Sierra Carlson who originally reviewed the piece. “Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of Hannah and Martin successfully presents a debate focused script without turning into trench warfare. The remarkable text by playwright Kate Fodor stands on its own two pillars of cerebral philosophizing and visceral desire. In his 24th collaboration with Shattered Globe Theatre, director Louis Contey leans on these two pillars to guide a willing audience into the gray area of a life or death debate.” – Sierra Carlson

Photo: Michael Brosilow

Head Over Heels by Kokandy Productions.Head Over Heels, infused with the classic pop hits of The Go-Go’s as well as original music, has instantly become a musical theater standard. Based on the pastoral prose-poem The Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney, this jubilant and thoroughly modern piece of theater delights and entertains on a grand scale. Replete with powerhouse songs, dance numbers, and an engaging story, Kokandy Productions’ Head Over Heels is a must-see summer musical.” – Sheri Flanders

Photo: Austin D. Oie

Kiss at Haven TheatreKiss at Haven. This pushed the bounds of what theatre could do on and off stage. Questions of ethics and activism were front and center, both calling out and calling in practices that have hurt real people and twisted history. With the rug ripped out from under the audience, we were left to sit with big thoughts and, soon, actionable next steps. Stellar performances made this switch even more tragic and heartening. #BiasAlert: On a more personal level, I love a show with shout-outs to dramaturgy and robust programming to back it up.”- Yasmin Mikhael

Photo: The Hagens

At The Wake of a Dead Drag Queen at The Story Theatre.At The Wake of a Dead Drag Queen has a deceptively simple plot: Berringers and Versailles meet at the club where they both perform drag. They hook up, fight, fall in love, and then Berringers dies; but the fact that we already know that Berringers will die at the end does not stop us as an audience from falling in love with her. It does not stop us from rooting with everything we have for the love affair between Berringers and Versailles to work out. Guest and Thomson’s chemistry is thick, pulsing, and palpable. Guest’s writing is poetic and sumptuous. With a heavy dose of humor, audience participation, and spectacular choreography executed to perfection, this lively play makes the audience forget we’re watching a ghost story.” – Tanuja Jagernauth

The Key Critics’ Rescripted Recognized, Hoodoo Love at Raven Theatre

Photo: Michael Brosilow

Hoodoo Love, directed by Wardell Julius Clark at Raven Theatre, adds a bit of extra enchantment to Katori Hall’s debut script, a cocktail of blues singing, conjure, and inevitable tragedy. Set in Memphis, Katori Hall’s play follows Toulou an aspiring singer, played with spirit and tenderness by Martasia Jones. The young country girl turns to the supernatural help of her friendly, grandmotherly neighbor and hoodoo practitioner Candylady (played by the audience favourite, Shariba Rivers) to hold down her lover Ace (Matthew James Elam), a restless blues artist. The situation is further complicated by the arrival of Toulou’s older brother Jib (Christopher Wayland Jones), a preacher with a wolfish eye and an appetite for unholy, distilled spirits.” – Alisa Boland

Photo: Michael Brosilow

The Key Young Critics’ Rescripted Rave, The Brothers’ Size at Steppenwolf Theatre The Brother’s Size, directed by Monty Cole, gives the audience a view into black masculinity like looking at the inside of a geode. Though masculinity is typically portrayed as being at odds with vulnerability and sensuality, the beauty of this play lies in bringing exposure to the softer relationships between the men. Brought to life by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, Oshoosi (Patrick Agada), Ogun (Manny Buckley), and Elegba (Rashaad Hall) skillfully showcase through friendship and brotherhood a nuanced view of masculinity, which allows the audience an insight that feels both vulnerable and private.” – Anyah Royale Akanni 

Rescripted Raves from 2019, more shows we loved:
I Call My Brothers at Interrobang Theatre
Cardboard Piano at Timeline Theatre
In the Blood at Red Tape Theatre
The Total Bent at Haven Theatre
Small World at The New Colony 
Cambodian Rock Band at Victory Gardens Theatre
Something Clean at Sideshow Theatre
Wolf Play at The Gift Theatre
Strange Heart Beating at Cloudgate Theatre
The Great Leap at Steppenwolf Theatre 
Sugar In Our Wounds at First Floor Theatre
Kentucky at the Gift Theatre 
P.Y.G. or The Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle at Jackalope Theatre
Good Grief at Free Street Theater
Always, Patsy Cline at Firebrand Theatre

Rescripted Cultural Responses & Essays of 2019:
A Critical Response of ‘Language Rooms’ at Broken Nose Theatre
Drury Lane Theatre Hangs Itself With its own Race Blindness
TCG Conference Coverage 2019: What is a Review(er) Good For?
Abuse Is Not Art: The Yard, CCPA, and Academic Atrocities
‘Oslo’ at Timeline Theatre Muddles the Message of Peacemaking
Why They Walked – Members of the Cast of ‘Starcatcher’ at Citadel Theatre Speak Out
Letter From the Editor: Artistic Visions for 2020 by Regina Victor




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