‘The Dark At The Top of The Stairs’ Challenges Life, Love and Companionship

The Dark at The Top of The Stairs by William Inge  holds a universal theme– life is hard, love is hard, but if you have the right people it’s all worth it. Directed by Jerell Henderson, it focuses on a family of four; a begrudged father, an abiding yet willful mother, the bratty younger brother and his closed off sister.  We live in their home, more specifically their living room, for the entirety of this three-act production, it is littered with decor bringing an added authenticity to every moment (set design Sam Rausch). Continue reading “‘The Dark At The Top of The Stairs’ Challenges Life, Love and Companionship”

The Scope of Blackness in ‘This Bitter Earth’

This Bitter Earth by Harrison David Rivers and directed by Mihkail Burke is currently running at About Face Theatre. This two person show follows an interracial gay couple through the most agonizing police violence events of our time. It is a treat to witness the gifted Sheldon Brown return to the stage again after an impressive turn in the Shipment. Especially in a role that is all about taking risks and attempting to live life to the fullest. Continue reading “The Scope of Blackness in ‘This Bitter Earth’”

Male Fragility Fuels The Explosive ‘Fun Harmless Warmachine’

This review was penned by one of our current writers in The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program. They are able to sign up for additional shows to grow their criticism portfolio with us. Read The Key Reviews from Fall 2018 here. 

Upon reading the synopsis, many would wonder if Fun Harmless Warmachine is the play we need right now. It’s the tale of the supposed “nice guy,” a gamer working a job he hates in a world where the words of women leave him baffled and angry. With this formula in mind, it is not too hard to believe Tom gets sucked into a toxic online community, known as the Order of the Sword, which first functions as a digital place of refuge, a place to confide in like-minded gamers. This story is based on #Gamergate, a notable controversy you should look up before the show—though the program offers a list of videogame definitions to fill in some of the blanks. Continue reading “Male Fragility Fuels The Explosive ‘Fun Harmless Warmachine’”

The 2018 ALTA Awards: A Night of Celebration for Latinx Artists

Pictured: The core team of organizers for the ALTA Awards being thanked by Isaac Gomez, co-Creative Director of the Awards (the other co-creator Nancy Garcia Loza).

“Just look at this turn-out! And we’re only 15 minutes into the night. Like WE’RE always running late!” – Laura Alcalá Baker, casting director and artistic programs manager at Victory Gardens.  The crowd attending the ALTA awards that evening at Victory Gardens Theater had packed the lobby barely 20 minutes into the cocktail hour! Continue reading “The 2018 ALTA Awards: A Night of Celebration for Latinx Artists”

Black Women Forgotten By History Soar in “Flyin’ West”

Opening with the calming sound of wind sweeping across the plains, Flyin’ West is pure Americana, evoking the broad grandeur of big skies and big hearts full of freedom. It is 1898, and a chosen family of black women have settled in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas. American history in most classroom settings rarely acknowledges the existence of African-Americans outside of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, yet the Backstage Guide provided by American Blues Theatre in conjunction with the production, does a wonderful job of correcting this history of erasure. Continue reading “Black Women Forgotten By History Soar in “Flyin’ West””

‘Indecent’ A True Story of Breaking Artistic Barriers from 1900s-Present

Paula Vogel’s Indecent now playing at Victory Gardens begins with the cast of performers sitting upstage, almost blending into the set that transports you to an old Broadway style house, outlined with bright lights similar to a marquee. Upon first glance, the set appears to be a deep mahogany. But once the house lights go down, and the stage lights come up, the set is a cool cinder block grey. When the cast rises, ashes gush from the insides of their coats, hauntingly reflecting and foreshadowing the persecution Jews have faced. This opening image is so beautiful, it’s almost dream-like and sets the tone for the rest that will follow. Continue reading “‘Indecent’ A True Story of Breaking Artistic Barriers from 1900s-Present”

‘Tangles and Plaques’ Demystifies Dementia

Tangles and Plaques at the Neo-Futurists, a Neo-Lab commission about the effects of dementia first seen in Fall of 2017, has returned for a three-week engagement at the Neo-Futurarium. Sourcing its name from Plaques and Tangles, deposits of protein that cause cell damage and death in the brain, Tangles and Plaques attempts to translate dementia into the language of theatre. This is inherently successful in the structure of the play. Sections of the script are repeated and intentionally disorient the audience. Neos ensemble member and creator of the piece Kirsten Riiber wrote the show based on her work in reminiscence therapy at a local retirement home. Reminiscence therapy is used to conjure the most relevant and clear memories to an aging person, those from their childhood. Therefore the meat of the show takes place in the “accumulated nostalgia-scape of seven artists on a budget.” Continue reading “‘Tangles and Plaques’ Demystifies Dementia”

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’”