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”

Isaac Gomez’s ‘The Displaced’: A Gentrification Horror Story

The Displaced by Isaac Gomez is going into the final weekend of a phenomenal run at Haven Theatre this Friday. Gomez is a versatile writer who is using this script to explore the theme of home and gentrification with a razor sharp with and a lot of terror. The play opens with a young couple moving into a fixer upper apartment in Pilsen and trying to unpack. Marisa (Karen Rodriguez) is a young artist who takes her work very seriously and yet her rent is paid by her hard working parents. Lev (Rashaad Hall) is her sweet boyfriend who is working as a server but can’t quite make enough money to make ends meet. The absence of money creates a rift in their relationship that is quite relatable. Part of the myth of adulthood is having the income to establish our own space, something unachievable for many millennials and a conversation that we don’t have enough. Continue reading “Isaac Gomez’s ‘The Displaced’: A Gentrification Horror Story”

For Youth Inquiry’s ‘This Boat Called My Body’

For Youth Inquiry’s (FYI) world premiere multidisciplinary performance This Boat Called My Body was created by a team of devisors and youth who have shared their abortion stories with the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH). The play invites audience members to sail with Jane, played by Elena Victoria Feliz, as she navigates the troubled waters of seeking an abortion at 16.  This play loudly and publicly confronts the stigma around abortions as well as the clinical, legislative and personal challenges and hurdles that young people face along the way. Continue reading “For Youth Inquiry’s ‘This Boat Called My Body’”

Rescripted Reveal: Zev Valancy on Dramaturgy and Literary Management

Editor’s Note: Rescripted Reveal is a new essay series asking theatre professionals to give an inside look into their careers and create further transparency between audience and artist. Stage Left’s former Literary Manager Zev Valancy discusses his time with the company, new play development, advice on submitting plays, and what it takes to be a literary manager in today’s world.

It was the fall of 2012, and I was at the Broadway Armory, seeing Chicago Shakespeare’s imported production of the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch for the second time. In the audience was my friend Joe Zarrow. I congratulated him on the workshop his play Principal Principle had received in Providence a few months before. Stage Left, where I was Literary Manager, had done a reading of his play The Pigeons a few years earlier, and he’d submitted Principal Principle for development in our Residency. It hadn’t been chosen, but I remembered the script, and held Joe’s writing in high regard. It was only a month after the resolution of the Chicago Teachers Union strike, so a play about the struggles of teachers in Chicago seemed like it might connect with audiences. I asked him to send me a draft. Continue reading “Rescripted Reveal: Zev Valancy on Dramaturgy and Literary Management”

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”

Reinvention and Catastrophe Thrill in ‘Girl Found’

This review is penned by Logan McCullom, alumni of The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program. 

The lights had not been up for more than five minutes and already I knew this play was something else, something that was not being advertised, of course. Something dark. I find it hard to produce an effective horror play, and while Girl Found at Idle Muse is not one, it certainly had the potential to be because of its tendency to chill and thrill. Girl Found kept me on the edge of my seat as I tried to decipher what was not said but meant, and what was not felt but forgotten.  Continue reading “Reinvention and Catastrophe Thrill in ‘Girl Found’”

Nostalgia Consumes in a Fiery ‘Buried Child’

“I thought I was dying but I  just lost my voice.” – Tilden, Sam Shepard’s Buried Child.

This line perfectly describes the devastating loneliness that reverberates throughout Sam Shephard’s Buried Child, currently playing at Writers Theatre. The large house is empty at top of show except for the elderly Dodge (Larry Yando) who is coughing and watching TV all alone as rain falls outside. Dodge looks up at the roof to listen to the rain, which is wonderful because there is no roof in the living room of Jack Magaw’s set. In fact, the entire front of the home is excavated like an ancient archaeological site, preserved so we can see the relics inside. Adding to this jagged, exposed feeling is a massive crack that runs through the middle of the floor. Largely ignored by the family that resides in the house, I could not help but notice that the two outsiders in the play either noticed or tripped over the crack. Continue reading “Nostalgia Consumes in a Fiery ‘Buried Child’”