‘Tangles and Plaques’ Demystifies Dementia

Tangles and Plaques at the Neo-Futurists, a Neo-Lab commission about the effects of dementia first seen in Fall of 2017, has returned for a three-week engagement at the Neo-Futurarium. Sourcing its name from Plaques and Tangles, deposits of protein that cause cell damage and death in the brain, Tangles and Plaques attempts to translate dementia into the language of theatre. This is inherently successful in the structure of the play. Sections of the script are repeated and intentionally disorient the audience. Neos ensemble member and creator of the piece Kirsten Riiber wrote the show based on her work in reminiscence therapy at a local retirement home. Reminiscence therapy is used to conjure the most relevant and clear memories to an aging person, those from their childhood. Therefore the meat of the show takes place in the “accumulated nostalgia-scape of seven artists on a budget.” Continue reading “‘Tangles and Plaques’ Demystifies Dementia”

‘No Child’ Sparks A Conversation on Educational Injustice

No Child at Definition Theatre Company directed by Chika Ike takes an uncomfortable and hilarious dive into the inner workings of arts education in public schools. Nilaja Sun’s play investigates the disparities in our current school systems and its effect on both teachers and students with searing wit and no shortage of laughs. The audience is introduced to the school and its history by the dynamic and talented janitor, played with gusto by debrah kneal. Continue reading “‘No Child’ Sparks A Conversation on Educational Injustice”

Finding Refuge in Love in ‘Vietgone’

I have long held that the most powerful art is that which is deeply personal. Vietgone by Qui Nguyen, in its current production at Writer’s Theatre, is one such piece. The latest in a long line of lovely work from local director Lavina Jadwani, Vietgone is a romp of a love story, but its real power lies not solely in the budding relationship between the two leads–but in the writer’s journey of understanding his own parents.

Continue reading “Finding Refuge in Love in ‘Vietgone’”

‘Pillowtalk’ Examines Love Under Oppression

Pillowtalk presented at Victory Gardens Theatre was a highly moving, visceral depiction of two complex and vibrant individuals striving to lead successful lives and love one another within the constraints of white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, capitalism. Buck (AJ Moraga) is a print journalist who wants to do “good work” and change the world. Sam (Basit Shittu) is grateful to be employed by the Republicans after losing his shot at being an Olympic swimmer after a public drug scandal. The couple lives in a pricey, one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, NY, represented on stage by a minimalist set built to focus on an untidy, upright bed downstage center. The white apartment walls that flank the bed are creatively represented by two long vertical neon lights connected by a long, horizontal “ceiling” light. Continue reading “‘Pillowtalk’ Examines Love Under Oppression”

Babes with Blades Serves Feminist Farce in ‘The Lady Demands Satisfaction’

**Please note: Pronouns used in direct reference to character are the pronouns the characters use.  This may or may not match the pronouns of the actor portraying the character. Pronouns used in direct reference to the actor are the pronouns the actor uses according to the program.**

If you are looking for a hilarious and exciting new work that is feminist and delightfully queer, look no further than The Lady Demands Satisfaction a farce written by Arthur Jolly and directed by Morgan Manasa.  This play deservedly won the Bi-Annual Joining Sword and Pen playwriting competition Babes with Blades holds to encourage the writing and development of plays that feature women’s stories center stage. This one hits that mark loud and proud. Continue reading “Babes with Blades Serves Feminist Farce in ‘The Lady Demands Satisfaction’”

‘Linda’ Subverts Society’s Expectations for Women

What does getting older mean when you’re a woman? In a world trying to stay youthful, Linda Wilde wants to embrace the opposite. Linda tells a story not often heard. The lights go up and you’re already a part of the show, the breaking of the fourth wall yanks the audience into this UK drama as Wilde tries to convince her colleagues that aging is natural and therefore something to embrace, but in this day and age (pun intended) the people want to stay supple. Continue reading “‘Linda’ Subverts Society’s Expectations for Women”

Flossyfluff: ‘Spirit Force Five’ at Factory Theater

The Factory Theater knows that sometimes we need to escape from the heaviness of the world, and producing a play like The Adventures of Spirit Force Five seemed like the pep rally we needed. The program contains a director’s note by Spenser Davis highlighting the inspiration for this show: the spirit of the 90’s. Saturday morning cartoons, bright music, and brighter colors of millenial youth where everything looked spun from sugar and anything was possible. As a 90’s kid fatigued by the brutal Nationalist landscape where families are torn apart, children are in cages, and there seems like no way out, I was thirsty for it. These shows and movies raised us to be our own heroes and well, we just need a reminder of how to do that every once in awhile to keep up the fight. Continue reading “Flossyfluff: ‘Spirit Force Five’ at Factory Theater”

Kristiana Rae Colón’s ‘Tilikum’ Reflects Humanity’s Misguided Priorities

There is a moment in the television show “Community” where a white girl says, “I can excuse racism but I draw the line at animal cruelty.” It’s one of the most succinct jabs at the tendency and ability of privileged white folks to dismiss the pain and oppression of their fellow human beings in favor of appearing “progressive” in other ways. And I couldn’t stop thinking about that quote as I was watching Kristiana Rae Colón’s “Tilikum” — the world premiere currently running  at Sideshow Theatre Company. Continue reading “Kristiana Rae Colón’s ‘Tilikum’ Reflects Humanity’s Misguided Priorities”

Guards at the Taj: A Tale of Tyranny, Trauma and Resistance

Rajiv Joseph’s GUARDS AT THE TAJ, currently in its Chicago premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre, and masterfully directed by Amy Morton, is as much a meditation on the soul’s need for beauty as it is a study of the mechanisms of tyranny. It’s 1648 in the city of Agra. Humayun and Babur are guarding the walled city-within-a-city where the Taj Mahal is being constructed. The all-powerful Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in mourning for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, has commissioned the most beautiful building in the world. At dawn he will finally reveal it. Will these two young men turn and steal a glimpse? This begins a cascade of questions about the bodily costs of exercising free will versus the psychological costs of suppressing it. Continue reading “Guards at the Taj: A Tale of Tyranny, Trauma and Resistance”