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’”

‘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”

The Audience Wins at the Goodman’s ‘Lottery Day’

“Everybody, anybody.” At first an unassuming call and response, the tonality morphs from raucous fun to crickets. We the audience are both the winners and the losers in Ike Holter’s new play Lottery Day at the Goodman Theatre. Under the exquisite direction of Lili-Anne Brown, the characters come to life and we want to join them. As the final chapter in his 7-play cycle, Holter doesn’t let us off easy—and rightly so when faced with our realities of gentrification, police brutality, political corruption, and trauma. Continue reading “The Audience Wins at the Goodman’s ‘Lottery Day’”

The Gospel Truth in ‘The Total Bent’

Haven Theatre and About Face Theatre partnered on The Total Bent, producing a  stellar production depicting a strained relationship between a Black father and son clashing on modes of survival and music. Directed by the stellar Lili-Anne Brown and written by frequent Tony Award winning collaborators Stew and Heidi Rodewald, this immersive musical is an expressionistic homage to Black bodies, the LGBTQ community, and freedom. Continue reading “The Gospel Truth in ‘The Total Bent’”

‘Girl in the Red Corner’ at Broken Nose Theatre

Broken Nose Theatre’s production of Girl in the Red Corner by Stephen Spotswood brings the long and complicated relationship women have with rage to the mat. Newly free from an abusive relationship yet trapped in her mother’s house, the now unemployed Halo (Elise Marie Davis) steps into a mixed martial arts gym for the first time. Under the expertise of her trainer, Halo discovers a new passion that allows her to break away from the family drama constantly at her heels. Elizabeth Laidlaw directs the Midwest premiere of Spotswood’s script, and the result is a ferocious heroine’s journey. Continue reading “‘Girl in the Red Corner’ at Broken Nose Theatre”

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is Rib-Cracking Fun

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, takes place in London at the turn of the 20th century, and concerns the adventures of middle-class stockbroker Monty Navarro (Andrés Enriquez) — who, upon learning that his recently deceased mother was disinherited from the obscenely wealthy D’Ysquith family (all played by Matt Crowle), sets out to murder his relatives as revenge. And also so that he can, not uncoincidentally, become next in line to be the Earl of Highhurst. Continue reading “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is Rib-Cracking Fun”

‘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”