‘Dance Nation’ at Steppenwolf Theatre Captures the Whimsical Terror of Tween Angst

Dance Nation, written by Clare Barron and directed by Lee Sunday Evans, captures the sweet, strange and uncomfortable aspects of growing up in and surviving the world of competitive tween dance, as we follow the adventures of six young girls preparing for a national tournament. A finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, the play received its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in 2018 and ran at the Almeida Theatre in London before coming to Steppenwolf for its regional premiere.

Armed with a multi-generational cast and a healthy dose of whimsy, this production succeeds in telling this story in a way that required the magic of a theatre. It invokes imagination, is anything but expected, and in this way subverts the classic coming of age story into something as weird, messy, and wonderful as actual puberty. The dances are less literal and more figurative, capturing each character’s essence. One that stood out in particular perfectly captures the importance of ‘dance face’, and puts it up front and center with the assistance of some impeccable tech. Transformative lighting by Heather Gilbert moves us seamlessly through time and space, guiding the audience along a non-linear plot. Sound design by Mikhail Fiksel perfectly underscores each dance, monologue, and transition; movement and sound feel intertwined into a well choreographed dance piece.

Continue reading “‘Dance Nation’ at Steppenwolf Theatre Captures the Whimsical Terror of Tween Angst”

‘Oslo’ at Timeline Theatre Muddles the Message of Peacemaking

Tony Award winning play Oslo is a partially fictional account of the events between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israeli officials leading up to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, dramatized for the stage by J.T. Rogers. Currently receiving its Chicago premiere, it initially premiered Off-Broadway in June 2016 directed by Bartlett Sher at the Lincoln Center. The original cast then moved to Broadway to reprise their roles in April 2017 receiving awards and acclaim from New York Critics, Outer Critics, Drama Desk, Drama League, Lucille Lortel, Obie awards and other nominations along the way.

Timeline’s highly anticipated co-production of Oslo with Broadway in Chicago seems to fit perfectly with its mission to present stories inspired by history that connect with today’s social and political issues. As a production, it aimed to explore sociologist Terje Rod-Larsen’s theory that trusting in each others’ inherent humanity and building interpersonal human connection is the only basis for healthy debate, and potentially peacemaking. The lobby display as well as a program insert provided a historical guide to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while a huge column scribbled with sharpie responses asked audience members to participate in the conversation Timeline chose to center: “How do you resolve conflict?” Continue reading “‘Oslo’ at Timeline Theatre Muddles the Message of Peacemaking”