‘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.

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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 Continue reading “Rescripted Recognized – 2019 Edition”

Letter From the Editor: Artistic Visions for 2020

Hello, Chicago.

We are at the precipice. Everything in our society could change tomorrow, simply because it cannot sustain its way of being any longer. How are we envisioning that future, in the arts and beyond? Here at Rescripted we are envisioning an empathetic future, driven by advocacy and dialogue, rather than this present cycle of trauma and fear. My vision for Rescripted was simple:  train and uplift voices that will make the industry a hospitable place for everyone to work. The impact of that vision, that intention, has been unbelievable. We have now trained critics in the double digits who are writing professionally, we are creating transparency and accountability in our work that established publications are beginning to echo. We highlighted communities and theatres that were habitually overlooked, causing other publications to pick up their stories as well. Ever so slightly, I see the viewpoints and the values of other critical institutions changing in response to the energy this group of artists has brought to the city through our writing. Therefore, I want to end 2019 by offering visions for our artistic future. Continue reading “Letter From the Editor: Artistic Visions for 2020”

‘Grace and the Hanukkah Miracle’ at Chicago Immersive is a Kid-Friendly, Time-Traveling Romp Through Jewish History

Grace and the Hanukkah Miracle is an immersive theatre piece in which an unnamed, protagonist in a cowboy hat (Anderson Lawfer) asks the audience to go on a wild time-traveling  adventure so as to retrieve his wife Grace’s (Nicole Bloomsmith) family menorah and present it to her as a Hanukkah gift. The rest of the show unfolds almost like a video game, as you and your fellow audience members progress through different rooms in the basement of Grace Lutheran Church in Evanston — collecting clues, solving basic puzzles, and interacting with characters from various points in Jewish history. Continue reading “‘Grace and the Hanukkah Miracle’ at Chicago Immersive is a Kid-Friendly, Time-Traveling Romp Through Jewish History”

‘Cold Town/ Hotline: A Chicago Holiday Story’ at Raven Theatre

(left to right) Jeanne T. Arrigo, Sam Linda, Dennis Garcia and Caroline Chu. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

The bitter cold and the holiday season are both barreling into Chicago, and no one is immune from the overwhelming combination. In an effort to combat this special brand of wintry blues, Raven Theatre’s Cold Town/ Hotline: A Chicago Holiday Story takes it back to 1983, where a ragtag group of Chicagoans volunteer their time at a holiday hotline called the Yule Connection. Folks are invited to call in and chat about their seasonal stressors, but when one young caller makes an in-person visit, the team bands together to find a little connection of their own. Like a lot of holiday memories, this world premiere, written and directed by Eli Newell, has bursts of heartwarming holiday sentiment that break through a series of meandering moments.

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Key Reviews: ‘Hoodoo Love’ at Raven Theatre

The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program is back with our fifth set of reviews, and this set is all about  Hoodoo Love at Raven Theatre! This year’s cohort: Ada Alozie, Alisa Boland, Anyah Royale Akanni,  Hannah Antman, Mariah Schultz, and Yiwen Wu. Read selections from each critic below, and click through to their author profiles to read the full critique and learn more about them! The Key is co-facilitated by Regina Victor and Oliver Sava. 

Alisa Boland: “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.” –  Read Alisa Boland’s full critique and learn more about the author!  Continue reading “Key Reviews: ‘Hoodoo Love’ at Raven Theatre”

Prop Thtr’s ‘I Am Going To Die Alone, and I Am Not Afraid’ Shares Stories of Love, Loss, and Resistance

L to R: Sarah Gionvannetti, Ariana Silvan-Grau, Zoe Savransky, Sonia Goldberg, Isabel Thompson and Lyle Sauer. Photo by Anna Gelman.

I Am Going To Die Alone, and I Am Not Afraid: A Furious History of the Holocaust, Prop Thtr’s newest devised play, crafts tales of the Holocaust with scenes, songs, and lectures. The Ensemble, directed by Anna Gelman, weaves these stories in and out of each other toward an inevitable collision. Some sections of this vignette-style performance are stronger than others, but the overarching consistency is found in the community on stage. The Ensemble reminds us that there is power in togetherness. When misused, that power is distorted and destructive. When cared, for that power is revolutionary.

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Key Reviews: Multimedia Edition

The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program is back with this year’s Multimedia Edition. After a class session with Vulture staff writer Angelica Jade Bastien, we encouraged our students to write about any piece of art that was not live theatre. The topics chosen range from the legacy of Breaking Bad in media, to the Joffrey Ballet’s Jane Eyre, to William Tyler’s album cover art. Finding your passion is a key component of a sustainable career in arts journalism!  This year’s cohort: Ada Alozie, Alisa Boland, Anyah Royale Akanni,  Hannah Antman, Mariah Schultz, and Yiwen Wu. The viewpoints of the authors are entirely their own. The Key is co-facilitated by Oliver Sava and Regina Victor. 

Ada Alozie, Breaking Bad: “When Breaking Bad was airing, it was hard to escape the personification of Walter White as an anti-hero: the word critics used to describe a white man with nebulous ethics, involved in shady (albeit) criminal activity. The anti-hero felt like it was everywhere in the early 2010s. I accepted the anti-hero label without thought when I was younger. As I was rewatching the series now, I couldn’t help thinking why the word anti-hero had been used to describe this character when it was so clear to me that Walter White was a straight-up villain.” – Read Ada Alozie’s full critique and learn more about the author!  Continue reading “Key Reviews: Multimedia Edition”

Firebrand Theatre Pays Tribute with Always… Patsy Cline

(left to right) Harmony France and Christina Hall. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Patsy Cline is comfort, love, and heartbreak. Her music charms you, wraps you in a blanket and slips you a little whiskey. In Firebrand Theatre’s production of Always… Patsy Cline, Houstonite Loiuse Seger knows this experience all too well. Louise is drawn to Patsy Cline, and on one fateful night, the two meet and forge a friendship that lasts the rest of Patsy Cline’s life. This is the story of a single incredible night when two women found a bit of themselves in each other and director Brigitte Ditmars invites the audience to find themselves in a country song.

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‘Packing’ at About Face Theatre is an Enthralling Queer Autobiography

Pictured: Scott Bradley. Photo by Cody Jolly.

Packing at About Face Theatre is a solo piece written and performed by Scott Bradley, and directed by Chay Yew. It is mostly autobiographical, as Scott tells his personal story of growing up in rural Iowa, discovering he was gay, dealing with bullying and abuse, living through the AIDS crisis of the 80’s, and continuing to struggle with depression, anxiety, and addiction, until present day. Despite the many dark moments, “Packing” is an empowering story: Scott writes with a deft and clever voice, and an eye towards themes of strength, persistence, and overcoming hardship.

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