‘Sundown, Yellow Moon’ at Raven Theatre Exudes a Warm, Comforting Glow

As Sundown, Yellow Moon opens, two sisters in their twenties, Ray (Liz Chidester) and Joey (Diana Coates), have returned to their small hometown in Tennessee to support their father, Tom (Will Casey), as his life seems to be falling apart following his divorce. Ray is undergoing a bit of a reckoning herself after quitting her job — and Joey, petrified at the thought of leaving the country for a foreign study, takes comfort in long runs in the woods late at night.

The script from Rachel Bonds is extremely character-driven; there is not much plot to be found. I have heard some criticism calling this show a bit meandering and slow — which I can’t refute, exactly, except to say that slowness can soar to great heights when done with intention, and I found it absolutely sublime here. Director Cody Estle has managed to craft an evening of enthralling, intimate moments with attention and care, such that Sundown, Yellow Moon feels engrossing and urgent despite its quietness, and stillness.

Continue reading “‘Sundown, Yellow Moon’ at Raven Theatre Exudes a Warm, Comforting Glow”

‘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”

‘The Great Leap’ at Steppenwolf Theatre is a Collision of Passion, Sports, and Protest

Many Americans sitting in the audience for The Great Leap may have a basic knowledge of what happened at Tiananmen Square. Some of them watched the coverage on their televisions. Younger generations have read about the events in their textbooks. Some caught stories about that historic event during its 30th anniversary earlier this year. Almost all Americans have some working understanding, all with the privilege of distance. Lauren Yee closes that distance with her play The Great Leap, where an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game when relations between the two nations are anything but friendly. The game is scheduled for June 3, 1989, one day before the Tiananmen Square protests come to a violent end. Director Jesca Prudencio taps into the inherent tension of time and place with the kind of dramatic spectacle typically reserved for the stadium. At its heart, The Great Leap is a play about collision: sports and theatre, US and China, protesters and government. The court in Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre is the battlefield and the end of this collision course. Continue reading “‘The Great Leap’ at Steppenwolf Theatre is a Collision of Passion, Sports, and Protest”

‘Equivocation’ at Idle Muse Theatre Company, and the Purpose of Art in Times of Tyranny

What if King George had commissioned Shakespeare to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot?

It’s a fascinating question, and Equivocation at Idle Muse has the answer. After all, the famed Catholic plot to assassinate King James I happened in 1605, right around the time when William’s plays were at the height of popularity — as a mashup, it’s an entertaining and slightly scandalous idea that immediately grabs your attention. Playwright Bill Cain does a marvelous job of grounding the dialogue in the speech and politics of the era, such that the slowly unfolding conspiracy is both heightened and believable. The structure here is complex, interfolding, and lovely. Director Evan Jackson keeps things moving nicely; characters speak quickly and cleverly, taking us through emotional beats with efficiency and flair. There are lots of long scenes that could easily have dragged, but each one has a distinctive shape and feels like a journey through a big, empty house with lots of fascinating rooms. Continue reading “‘Equivocation’ at Idle Muse Theatre Company, and the Purpose of Art in Times of Tyranny”

Chicago Theatre Community Space for Healing, September 28th. CW: Assault

Content Warning: Sexual assault, Abuse, Sexual assault prevention

Members of The Chicago Theatre Community have created space this Saturday for the community to begin the process of healing in the wake of community member Joel Ewing’s arrest for sexual assault.

The space will be held at Victory Gardens’ upstairs Richard Christensen Theater, Saturday Sept 28th from 1-3pm at 2433 N Lincoln Ave.

In the organizers’ words: “This is not a panel or lecture, but an open conversation about how to support and heal our community and those affected. Experienced Sexual Assault Prevention Educators will be there to help guide the discussion if needed.”

The counselors are trained, and they are part of this resource and framework intended to empower and center community members who have been affected and are interested in beginning the healing journey, together.

See the organizers’ post below for more details:

‘At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen’ is an End-of-Summer Queer Celebration of Life

“When you know your name, you should hang on to it, for unless it is noted down and remembered, it will die when you die.”
–Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

Courtney Berringers was a drag queen who lived and died in Albany, Georgia, and Terry Guest is here to tell her tale. Far from being a somber affair, At The Wake of a Dead Drag Queen is the end-of-summer celebration of life and femme power you didn’t know you needed. Continue reading “‘At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen’ is an End-of-Summer Queer Celebration of Life”

Abuse Is Not Art: The Yard, CCPA, and Academic Atrocities

Trigger warning: sexual harassment and assault, racism, body shaming.

“Can we not force students to be around reported abusers? Students and otherwise.” – Anonymous Roosevelt University Student, June 17, 2019.

Just yesterday the news broke that Senn High School teacher and former co-Artistic Director of The Yard, Joel Ewing was charged with a count of sexual assault involving a minor.

Earlier this year The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University’s Associate Dean and Director of the Theatre Conservatory Sean Kelley was accused of repeatedly humiliating and sexually harassing his students. This was never reported, but as you can see from the cover photo of this article, students and faculty were quietly notified via e-mail that he was no longer employed at the university after months of outcry on social media.

These events, and the culture of every theatre program in America, are closely intertwined, and it’s time we acknowledge that. Continue reading “Abuse Is Not Art: The Yard, CCPA, and Academic Atrocities”

‘Casa Valentina’ is a Fascinating and Heart-Wrenching look into LGBTQ History

Casa Valentina takes place in a small resort hotel in the Catskills, a location based off a real historical place called Casa Susanna — which, in the 50’s and 60’s, became a sort of haven for both trans women and cross-dressing men. The hotel’s clientele consisted largely of middle-class white-collar workers who lived as married, heterosexual men for most of the week, but came to Casa Susanna on the weekends to put on women’s clothing, wigs, and makeup, and simply live as women for a short time before returning to their daily lives. Casa Valentina, which was written by Harvey Fierstein and debuted on Broadway in 2014, serves as an only slightly fictionalized glimpse of an oft-forgotten pocket of LGBT history — and this production in particular tackles the play’s issues with confidence and resolve that make the already relevant themes entrancingly urgent. Continue reading “‘Casa Valentina’ is a Fascinating and Heart-Wrenching look into LGBTQ History”

‘Out of Love’ At Interrobang and the Friendships That Define Us

“Out of Love” is the story of Grace and Lorna, two young women living in the north of England, and of their lifelong, decades-spanning friendship. Scenes from their intertwining lives are presented out of chronological order, but in a perfectly correct emotional order. Details are teased slowly; exposition is planted carefully through tiny clues in the utterly realistic dialogue, which keeps the audience playing the detective, trying to figure out timelines and life details. The script from Elinor Cook is masterfully written; the decision to present scenes out of sequence is inspired. That’s what memories from such an intense, defining friendship feel like — and it keeps us on our toes, making us pay close attention to what’s going on. Continue reading “‘Out of Love’ At Interrobang and the Friendships That Define Us”

Eclipse Theatre’s ‘Beyond Therapy’ Reminds Me Why I LOVE Farce

I love a good farce. It’s a style of comedy specific to theatre that we don’t get to see a lot of anymore. In my opinion a classic farce contains three key elements: exaggerated characters, stylized performances, and sex. Eclipse Theatre dives into this genre with Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy, the second production of their all-Durang season. Director Rachel Lambert choreographs chaos with a hilarious cast, combining all these elements that I’ve come to know and love. The production’s sporadic tempo, however, slows down the momentum necessary to push these outrageous situations to their breaking point.  Continue reading “Eclipse Theatre’s ‘Beyond Therapy’ Reminds Me Why I LOVE Farce”