The New Coordinates, after a year of examining their internal practices and changing their previous name, brings to life Omer Abbas Salem’s Love in the Town of Jonestown, directed by Sophiyaa Nayar, as their first production since 2019. Salem is one of Chicago and American theatre’s rising voices if this past year is proof of anything. His play, The Secretaries, was workshopped earlier this year at Goodman Theatre’s Future Labs and will see its world premiere next spring with First Floor Theatre. His play Mosque4mosque saw a developmental production with Steppenwolf Theatre’s SCOUT department in March of this year. To list all his playwriting accomplishments in the last two years would run longer than the Bible! I mention this because The New Coordinates was smart to commission Salem right when his star is about to reach even higher- especially after listeners listen to this well-paced and devastatingly developed fictional recount of the events of Jonestown.
I arrived at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre about an hour before curtain for Songs For A New World.. I expected to grab my playbill and head to a local shop for a bite to eat before the play. Instead, I was seated at a round table and given a menu. The last time I had been to a live theatre show was February 2020. I let the nostalgia take hold and let myself bask in the quaintness of storefront theatre. I found myself content and satisfied that Songs for a New World, directed by Fred Anzevino, was my first show back.
Featuring a stripped back set (James Kolditz) with only a huge moon to background the performances, Anzevino’s production is an unembellished and sincere approach to a musical that could easily veer into the overwrought. By focusing on the actors’ chemistry and performances, Anzevino allows for the lyrics and music to take the foreground. The musical lacks a singular plot and neat-and-tidy character development. Instead, each number works as a stand-alone vignette. What ties the numbers together are that each character sings about moments in their lives that have shaped or affected them in significant ways. Whether on the cusp of a happy moment, or on the brink of a devastating tragedy, each number feels like an invitation. “The River Won’t Flow,” by Man 1 (Eustace J. Williams) and Man 2 (Matthew Hunter), reminded me of the moments in my life where I felt like nothing I did would change my bad outcomes, and “I’d Give It All For You,” sung by Man 2 & Woman 1 (Nora Navarro) reminded me of the loves in my life I could never turn my back on. In the last few months, I’ve only been able to think of all that I’ve lost. This production was an aesthetic prompting of all the life that has been lived and that will be lived in all the futures. Life has been more than this pandemic, and will be more than this pandemic.
Manuel Cinema, a studio known for its combination of shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music design, presents its adaptation of A Christmas Carol that artfully melds the iconic story of Ebenezer Scrooge with the contemporary situation of COVID-19. Dropping the English accents, this crisp-and-swift 60-minute adaptation succeeds in feeling both relevant and refreshing while staying faithful to the essence of the well-known story. To do this, the story introduces us to Aunt Trudy (N. LaQuis Harkin), a woman who has lost her husband to COVID-19 but decides to continue his storytelling holiday tradition of puppeting the story of A Christmas Carol.
Rescripted’s Revolution Glossary is our new series where we dive deeper into words which are part of the conversations about justice happening around all of us. The goal of this series is to provide a resource for people who want to expand their vocabulary around social justice topics, or people who want extra context and perspective on their word choices. Our hope is that this series can spark some important discussions, and help people jump into those discussions with enthusiasm.
Earlier this year, a group of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color theatremakers drafted a public letter to the White American Theatre establishment about the harm they have suffered working in institutions that have failed to address the racism internal to their practices. In this letter, the theatremakers sought to share ways theatre in all its forms can become more equitable and safe for all artists involved. In the letter, the drafters make use of the EDI terminology. EDI stands for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; it is a framework that has emerged in the last years to rectify the lack of representation in the workplace. Today, I’m going to focus on just the “D” of EDI: Diversity. The term “diversity” has been making its way across many of our news feeds in the past few months, where its overuse might make it seem more like a vapid buzzword than a useful concept. However, diversity and those calling for its intentional implementation in the workplace aren’t kicking up dust because they’re bored. The desire for diversity is the desire to have the workplace be more reflective of real world demographics.
How can a play feel both dated and relevant? Stereotypical yet viscerally authentic? Generic yet highly specific?
Coming off the heels of its 50th year anniversary revival run on Broadway, Boys in the Band, directed by Carl Menninger, is currently playing at Windy City Playhouse in an immersive theatre style. It is considered one of the first mainstream plays to depict gay men in earnest, without resorting to tokenization or jokes. The plot centers around five gay friends who throw a birthday party for their acerbic friend, Harold (Sam Bell Gurwitz), at Michael’s (Jackson Evans) apartment. Coupling Harold’s late arrival is an unsuspected visit by Michael’s college friend, Alan (Christian Edwin Cook), who does not know Michael is gay. As the night unravels, the friends gradually get more drunk and let their insecurities loose. Though the language is notably dated — like the use of “homosexual” instead of “gay” and several racialized comments — the feelings of ostracization and self-loathing from not being validated is a timeless sentiment. The play is timeless; the production feels dated, getting trapped in the time period and inhibiting the story’s ability to radiate its more universal themes.
Fresh out of Victory Garden’s 2019 IGNITION Festival, Meghan Brown’s The Tasters, has found an apt home in this World Premiere production at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. Set in a dystopia where food shortages are the norm and the markers of democracy are quickly fading away, this play, directed by RTE member Devon de Mayo, focuses on the “tasters,” the people of this world tasked with tasting food for poison before it is eaten by government leaders. The production excels at displaying this dystopia on stage; however, the direction seems more attentive to the worldbuilding and design than these women’s relationships or struggles.