‘Tedium and Other Sensations’ – Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

Tedium and Other Sensations, as featured in the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, is the product of a massive collaboration. Mocrep, The Neo-Futurists, and Theater Oobleck converge to explore and adapt the written work of Chicago playwright, Mickle Maher. The result, a two-part event that left me questioning everything I know about time, food, and theatre. Continue reading “‘Tedium and Other Sensations’ – Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival”

A Vital and Gritty ‘In The Blood’ at Red Tape Theatre

Red Tape Theatre performs In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks at The Ready in Ravenswood. The theatre is a narrow strip covered in graffiti. It’s fresh, and I can tell because the scent of paint is unmistakable. Among this jumble of tags, the word “SLUT” screams in a bright pink that adds to the cruelty of the word. Hester (Jyreika Guest) is a downtrodden mother of five who has made the space under an overpass her home, a home now defaced with this vile word she has no way of reading. It is under this bridge where Hester cares for her children and is cared for by no one. Continue reading “A Vital and Gritty ‘In The Blood’ at Red Tape Theatre”

‘We Found a Hat’ Takes the Wisdom of Sharing to the Preschool Crowd

Lifeline Theatre’s musical adaptation of Jon Klassen’s children’s book, We Found a Hat, shows a friendship put to the test. The play, adapted by Jessica Wright Buha and directed by Manny Tamayo follows two turtles, Sizi (Amanda Roeder) and Kai (Terry Bell), on a journey from their summer habitat to their winter burrow. To get there they must traverse a perilous desert. A meddling Cactus (Scott Sawa) makes a bet with the optimistic Sun (Gabriella Fernandez) that he can drive a wedge between these close friends. The setup has echoes of the devil betting God he can throw Job off his goodness game. The turtles unwittingly fall victim to this mean-spirited social experiment designed for The Cactus’s entertainment. The Cactus, personified as a menacing cowboy with a southern drawl and an excessively large hat, takes off said hat and leaves it in the path of the turtles, jumpstarting the conflict of the play. Continue reading “‘We Found a Hat’ Takes the Wisdom of Sharing to the Preschool Crowd”

‘Small Mouth Sounds,’ A Tender, Introspective Comedy

Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds, directed by Shade Murray at A Red Orchid Theatre, is set at a silent retreat. Four strangers and one couple, have gathered to learn from an unseen guru (Meighan Gerachis) heard only through the loudspeaker system at the retreat center. As these characters camp out on the shores of a wooded lake coping with bug bites and bears, they reflect, communicate and seek inner peace. Continue reading “‘Small Mouth Sounds,’ A Tender, Introspective Comedy”

‘In the Canyon’ of America’s Grim Future

Calamity West has written a play set in a near future so plausible it feels as though we’re already, inescapably, locked into it. Produced by the Jackalope Theatre Company, In the Canyon begins in 2007 with Hope (Liz Sharpe) and her dud of a boyfriend, Doug, (Andrew Burden Swanson) on the afternoon they’ve ended an unintentional pregnancy. It’s a rational decision made by an ordinary woman, but this choice sets off a lifelong chain of events that carries us all the way to 2067. As we leapfrog from decade to decade in each subsequent scene, we watch America dismantled by patriarchal nationalist fervor. Mother earth rebels.

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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”

Ike Holter’s ‘The Light Fantastic’ is Horror-Comedy at its Smartest

The Light Fantastic combines Ike Holter’s brilliantly funny writing with formidable production design that makes the play, directed by Gus Menary, work on several levels. It’s a deliciously spooky thriller with a reverse Faustian twist. It’s an endearing romantic comedy. It a clever send-up of horror genre tropes (I likely missed five references for every one that I caught). And it offers up a refreshingly empowering narrative that hinges on female agency as opposed to the female helplessness the genre has long relied upon. The play also has a strong moral point of view as it touches on subjects as wide ranging as bullying, homophobia, taking advantage of your friends and the grave error of ignoring your mother’s phone calls. On a more philosophical level this play is about characters asserting the right to face death on their own terms as they grapple with Kantian questions of moral duty. Continue reading “Ike Holter’s ‘The Light Fantastic’ is Horror-Comedy at its Smartest”

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’”

Dear White Critics: Please Stop Using the N-Word

What is wrong with white critics? I really want to know. Have you all lost your mind?? When critic Katy Walsh took a loss and set a dignified example for why the n-word is hurtful, apologized, and extricated herself from criticism to learn, were you listening?

In the space of a singular calendar year, we have had two white Chicago critics use the n-word in a review. Yesterday Justin Hayford put this sentence in a review of Court Theatre’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and legitimately thought it was a good idea: “At worst, it will leave him with a cracked skull, tormented children, and a wife who’ll come to believe he’s nothing but a n*gger.” (This is censored, the uncensored photo is below.) Now, I don’t know if Hayford wanted to get into a fight when he published this review, but I am a non-violent person and when I first read this sentence I was ready to throw hands. I immediately talked to some artists working on the play to get their thoughts. Continue reading “Dear White Critics: Please Stop Using the N-Word”