A Hard-Earned Hope in ‘How I Learned to Drive’

How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel is a series of recollections and rememberings from the perspective of a grown woman who was sexually abused by her uncle throughout her childhood. Presented by Raven Theatre Company, the character known as “L’il Bit” – a name she hates to be called – narrates her journey along with a chorus of three people. Together they chronicle L’il Bit coming to terms with her trauma and her complex feelings about her uncle and family. Throughout the performance, the narrator grapples with forgiveness, desire, fear, dependence, trust and love. There is never a question that her uncle is a pedophile with a pattern of abusive behavior who groomed and manipulated her (and perhaps her cousin) for his own erotic and emotional satisfaction. Continue reading “A Hard-Earned Hope in ‘How I Learned to Drive’”

Court Theatre’s ‘Photograph 51’ asks “What if?”

Dr. Rosalind Franklin in Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51, is an exacting and brilliant scientist, one whose vital contributions to the world might have been all the more exciting had the field of science made room for her. Court Theatre’s production of Ziegler’s play is a stylish examination of the prejudice and misogyny that Dr. Franklin confronted while researching DNA at King’s College in London, England post World War II. Continue reading “Court Theatre’s ‘Photograph 51’ asks “What if?””

Queer Regency Reigns in ‘I Know My Own Heart’ at Pride Films and Plays

“I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like anyone I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work.”

– Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions (1782)

Queer people, folks who defy expectations and bring vital complexity to life simply by being, have always existed. In every part of the world, wherever there were people, there were also queer people. How these ancestors are remembered, if at all, is a matter of who is telling their story. Directed by Elizabeth Swanson, I Know My Own Heart is drawn from the life of Anne Lister, an early 19th century British landowner and traveller, and told in her  words. It is a ritual of remembering. Continue reading “Queer Regency Reigns in ‘I Know My Own Heart’ at Pride Films and Plays”

For Youth Inquiry’s ‘This Boat Called My Body’

For Youth Inquiry’s (FYI) world premiere multidisciplinary performance This Boat Called My Body was created by a team of devisors and youth who have shared their abortion stories with the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH). The play invites audience members to sail with Jane, played by Elena Victoria Feliz, as she navigates the troubled waters of seeking an abortion at 16.  This play loudly and publicly confronts the stigma around abortions as well as the clinical, legislative and personal challenges and hurdles that young people face along the way. Continue reading “For Youth Inquiry’s ‘This Boat Called My Body’”

The Spectacle of Suffering in ‘Through the Elevated Line’

 

Set in Chicago, the play centers on the arrival of Razi Gol (Salar Ardebili)  to his sister’s apartment in Uptown, right off of the Lawrence CTA Red Line. Soraya (Catherine Dildilian), Razi’s sister, has been in the United States for more than a decade after leaving her family in Shiraz, Iran to attend school and lives with her white Irish-American husband Chuck (Joshua K. Volkers).   Continue reading “The Spectacle of Suffering in ‘Through the Elevated Line’”

‘Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea’ Is a Beautiful Invitation to Heal

Simply stepping into First Floor Theater’s Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea is already a theatrical experience unto its own, to say nothing of the magnetic performance to follow. Director Chika Ike’s vision for the play is immediately palpable, and impresses upon audience members from the very first moment that they are entering what will become sacred ground. The inventive and highly successful scenic design of Eleanor Kahn and associate designer Samantha Myers immediately compels the audience to look up, down, and all around them. With Viking and Adinkra symbols adorning the walls of the theater, as well as the scattered pieces of shattered wood that encapsulate the audience, the space evokes a reverent spirituality. Each of the symbols has a meaning, and cast a net of wishes, intentions, and hopes around the playing space. As for the wood, one’s mind goes instantly to the memory of the ships that carried slaves from West Africa to North America. As the house lights drop, and we enter the poetic world of playwright Nathan Alan Davis, the promise of the space unfolds. Continue reading “‘Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea’ Is a Beautiful Invitation to Heal”

‘Fade’ Explores A Poignant Friendship Where Race But Not Class Intersect

Victory Gardens Theater and Teatro Vista’s co-production of Fade, by Tanya Saracho, directed by Sandra Marquez is a compelling journey through class, race, and ambition.  Marquez’s finely tuned direction enriches Saracho’s nuanced approach to the heightened and complicated world of power that these characters navigate. Continue reading “‘Fade’ Explores A Poignant Friendship Where Race But Not Class Intersect”

A New Translation of ‘Yerma’ Misses the Point

Federico García Lorca’s rural tragedy Yerma, is a deeply poetic exploration of a country woman’s isolation in mid-1930s Spain, and offers a cutting and emotional critique of Spanish Catholic Orthodoxy while the specter of Franco’s fascism looms; Lorca would be assassinated by Franco’s fascist supporters two years after the premiere of Yerma in his home province of Granada. Theatre Y and Red Tape’s co-production of a new English translation, adapted by ensemble member Héctor Álvarez and directed by Max Truax, is a confusing and perhaps unsuccessful update on Lorca’s classic text. Continue reading “A New Translation of ‘Yerma’ Misses the Point”

Steppenwolf’s ‘The Crucible’ Is a Classic That Still Has Something to Say

When does a truth become a lie? 

That is the question posed by Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ 17/18 season, a question that we are invited to grapple with in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, directed by Jonathan Berry. Brimming with talent, Steppenwolf’s production offers a heart-pounding and potent take on a familiar piece of theatre, whose themes comment sharply on many aspects of our current political climate.

Continue reading “Steppenwolf’s ‘The Crucible’ Is a Classic That Still Has Something to Say”