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’”

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”

‘Surely Goodness and Mercy’ Showcases A Young Boy’s Staggering Act of Love

Chisa Hutchinson’s intimate four character drama Surely Goodness and Mercy at Redtwist Theatre takes on the difficult subject of child abuse and makes children its heroes. During a month when we are seeing young people in the news rising up to speak out against violence it’s inspiring to see the story of a young boy who is able to escape the violence in his own home while doing good for others. Continue reading “‘Surely Goodness and Mercy’ Showcases A Young Boy’s Staggering Act of Love”

‘We’re Gonna Be Okay’ Makes Sense of Crisis

Note: The pronouns of the characters were used for this review, they do not necessarily reflect the pronouns of the artists.

We’re Gonna Be Okay at American Theater Company by Basil Kreimendahl directed by Will Davis perfectly captures what it feels like to be living in the midst of a crisis. In our current political climate, no matter which side of the debate you find yourself on, there is an undeniable sense of panic as we try to hold on to a life that feels like it’s trying to run away from us. America, a land of unlimited possibility, and paralyzing fear. In Will Davis’ production, that fear is palpable, but it is also accompanied by laughter, love, and hope. Continue reading “‘We’re Gonna Be Okay’ Makes Sense of Crisis”