Ownership vs. Authorship: The Responsibility of the Storyteller in ‘Kiss’

Damascus 2014. 

What images come to mind? This city and year may feel distant to an American audience, especially one quietly observing the opening moments of Haven’s production of Kiss at The Den. Whatever your mind conjured about Damascus, you’ll soon forget this context or question it. Written by Guillermo Calderón, the play follows two couples attempting to hang out with their weekend soaps. But their lives quickly descend into a soap opera of their own. And we watch, amused by the apparent drama and familiar music underscoring moments of cliché passion and momentary rejection (sound design and original music Jeffrey Levin).  Continue reading “Ownership vs. Authorship: The Responsibility of the Storyteller in ‘Kiss’”

‘Bury Me’ A World Premiere at Dandelion Theatre

Bury Me, written by Brynne Frauenhoffer and receiving its world premiere with Dandelion Theatre, tells the story of a family making hard decisions about marriage, children, and death. By drawing its audience into the complicated lives of one family, Bury Me explores these hotly debated topics through moments of personal exploration.  Continue reading “‘Bury Me’ A World Premiere at Dandelion Theatre”

The Human Experience Rings True in Passionate Fairytale ‘Head Over Heels’

Head Over Heels, infused with the classic pop hits of The Go-Go’s as well as original music, has instantly become a musical theater standard. Based on the pastoral prose-poem The Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney, this jubilant and thoroughly modern piece of theater delights and entertains on a grand scale. Replete with powerhouse songs, dance numbers, and an engaging story, Kokandy Productions’ Head Over Heels is a must-see summer musical. Continue reading “The Human Experience Rings True in Passionate Fairytale ‘Head Over Heels’”

Nature Reckons with Power, History, and Violence in ‘Strange Heart Beating’

Weaving together hints of noir, small town angst, and overwhelming structures of power, Cloudgate Theatre’s production of Strange Heart Beating is a powerful play with a magical feel to it. Written by Kristin Idaszak, Strange Heart Beating tells the story of two best friends. One, Leeny (Leah Raidt) is a local single mother whose daughter disappears and is murdered one summer. The other, Teeny ( Jyreika Guest) , is the sheriff of the town and one of the few Black people in town. Narrated by the town lake ( Stephanie Shum ) who is intimately familiar with the town’s histories of violence. Strange Heart Beating makes thoughtful connections between individual and systemic violence, without feeling narrow or didactic. Continue reading “Nature Reckons with Power, History, and Violence in ‘Strange Heart Beating’”

Midsommer Flight Is Bringing the Magic of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ to a Park Near You

Midsommer Flight features the best combination of elements one can find in the theatre: Free, and Quality. William Shakespeare’s The Tempest marks the company’s eighth summer of free Shakespeare performances as an Arts Partner in Chicago. Many productions of this revenge tale/ comedy can get bogged down in all the alternative readings and academia. Under the clever direction of Beth Wolf, however, Midsommer Flight revels in theatricality and proves that The Tempest has a role in our daily lives. Continue reading “Midsommer Flight Is Bringing the Magic of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ to a Park Near You”

‘Wolf Play’ Raises the Complexities of Adoption

The Gift Theatre’s world premiere of Wolf Play by Hansol Jung is a close up look at the politics of adoption and their personal impact on the children and families involved. Wolf Play follows a short period of time in the life of an adopted boy (Dan Lin), billed as “Wolf”, but variably called “Peter” and “Jeenu”. When the boy is re-homed with a biracial lesbian couple after being adopted from Korea by a white straight couple, he leans into his identity as an abandoned wolf for guidance and comfort. The present day wolf narrates his story, and embodies the child wolf through a Bunraku-style puppet (Stephanie Diaz). As new family tensions and power dynamics unfurl around the wolf in his new environment we watch him adjust and calculate. Continue reading “‘Wolf Play’ Raises the Complexities of Adoption”

‘Now and Then,’ Paints A Queer Love Story

Now and Then is a musical gay love story that tells the tale of one relationship between two men, Greg and Daniel, over forty years. Three different pairs of actors play the two men at different points in their lives: Will Fulgintini and Benjamin Walton play the young Dan and Greg when they’re first meeting in college; Alex Smith and Carl Herzog play the couple in their thirties, as the relationship has grown stale and must be saved; and Skip Sams and Dennis Manning play the couple in their sixties, having reached a steady equilibrium in the relationship, which is challenged by Greg’s battle with cancer. Continue reading “‘Now and Then,’ Paints A Queer Love Story”

‘True West’ at Steppenwolf Honors the Classic and Shows Shepard a New Frontier

Sibling rivalry and resentment is the golden thread that runs through Sam Shepard’s classic play, True West. What begins as a standard tale of bickering between the Golden Child and the Black Sheep quickly takes a hard left turn when we realize that this Black Sheep may be mentally disturbed and harboring violent tendencies. Namir Smallwood plays an arrestingly intense Lee, toggling with ease between a playful and jovial energy and a cold, detached dominance without a moment’s notice. His presence as an aloof angry drunk drives this play, bringing a kinetic element of fear and excitement to an otherwise pedestrian moment. Breaking away from the tenor of Malkovich’s intense performance in the 1984 film, Smallwood’s portrayal of the grifter is still creepy but also somewhat charming and endearing, which helps contextualize why his brother simply wouldn’t call the police on sight. Continue reading “‘True West’ at Steppenwolf Honors the Classic and Shows Shepard a New Frontier”

‘Something Clean’ Explores the Reverberations of Assault at Sideshow Theatre

Something Clean by Selina Fillinger, tells the story of a woman trying to cope after her son is convicted and sent to prison on sexual assault charges. Produced by Sideshow Theatre Company and Rivendell Theatre Company in collaboration, directed by Lauren Shouse, Something Clean asks audiences to consider the trauma and attempts toward healing for the families of rapists. Continue reading “‘Something Clean’ Explores the Reverberations of Assault at Sideshow Theatre”

‘King Lear’ at Redtwist Theatre Lacks Thematic Imagination

Why do we keep coming back to Shakespeare?

In the past, I’ve posited that, since we love these stories so much, we want to see what our modern artists think of it, how one’s favorite director or actor or designer interprets this line, or that plot twist. I still believe this, but it does presuppose that Shakespeare’s plays are inherently a good force in the world, and deserving of our love and attention. I have heard several critics of color bemoan the fact that so much of our pop culture and theatre draws so heavily from a white guy who died four hundred years ago – and that we should mindfully attempt to wean ourselves off our culture’s single-minded obsession with trusty old Will. Continue reading “‘King Lear’ at Redtwist Theatre Lacks Thematic Imagination”