‘Packing’ at About Face Theatre is an Enthralling Queer Autobiography

Pictured: Scott Bradley. Photo by Cody Jolly.

Packing at About Face Theatre is a solo piece written and performed by Scott Bradley, and directed by Chay Yew. It is mostly autobiographical, as Scott tells his personal story of growing up in rural Iowa, discovering he was gay, dealing with bullying and abuse, living through the AIDS crisis of the 80’s, and continuing to struggle with depression, anxiety, and addiction, until present day. Despite the many dark moments, “Packing” is an empowering story: Scott writes with a deft and clever voice, and an eye towards themes of strength, persistence, and overcoming hardship.

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Key Reviews: ‘Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy’

The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program is back for our third year, and with a new format! This year’s cohort: Ada Alozie, Alisa Boland, Anyah Royale Akanni,  Hannah Antman, Mariah Schultz, and Yiwen Wu. The third show of our session was Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy produced by Teatro Vista at The Den Theatre. Read selections from each critic below, and click through to their author profiles to read the full critique and learn more about them! The Key is co-facilitated by Regina Victor and Oliver Sava. 

Hannah Antman: “Directors Bruce and Gutierrez landed some evocative and heartfelt moments. Hope is a true period piece, in the sense that it showcases the past in order to illuminate something about our world today. I found Betty’s deep fear of the atomic bomb to be especially prescient, reflecting many young people’s current fears about climate change – in 1961 or 2019, being a teenager comes with the threat of the world ending. As an extension of that fear, Betty (excellently portrayed by Caraballo), has a series of imagined phone calls between herself and JFK (and later, Fidel Castro). I found these fantasy phone calls to be particularly compelling, and I wish the rest of the play delved as deep in its theatrical risk-taking.” –  Read Hannah Antman’s full critique and learn more about the author!  Continue reading “Key Reviews: ‘Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy’”

‘Kentucky’ at the Gift Theatre Takes You on a Hilarious and Devastating Journey Back Home Again

(left to right) Ana Silva, Emjoy Gavino and Maryam Abdi. Photo by Claire Demos.

Kentucky begins with Hiro (Emjoy Gavino), a young New York professional, as she plans her first trip home to her small Kentucky town in years. Hiro’s abusive father (Paul D’Addario) has kept her away, but she is making an exception to travel home for her sister’s wedding. Or rather, as she reveals to her therapist (Ana Silva) in the opening scene, to sabotage her sister’s wedding; she believes that 22-year-old Sophie (Hannah Toriumi) is far too young to make such a decision. Throughout her journey, Hiro is serenaded by a Greek chorus of sorts, played by Ana Silva and Maryam Abdi, who alternate between singing about the events and playing background characters.

The tone here hews heightened and comedic despite the serious issues explored in the script; director Chika Ike has managed to weave together the two extremes quite well. Kentucky at The Gift Theatre is a delightful comic romp wrapped around a heart-rending family drama, that asks pressing questions about the long game of self-identity, and breaking cycles of abuse.

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‘Invisible’ at Her Story Theater Examines the Personal and Political Impacts of Racism

L to R: Lisa McConnell, Maddy Flemming. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Invisible by Mary Bonnett, produced by Her Story Theater, seeks to complicate our contemporary understandings of the KKK, and their lasting impact on the relationship between racism and political power in the US. Directed by Cecille Keenan, the play focuses on a white couple, Mabel (Morgan Laurel Cohen) and Tom (Brad Harbaugh), who are well established in their small town of Mounds.

As a well respected man in town, Tom is naturally part of Mounds’ Ku Klux Klan chapter. Mabel, meanwhile has taken the role of an officer in Mounds’ newly formed branch of the Women’s KKK. Mabel, however, is something of a misfit and struggles to get along with the other two WKKK officers, despite her commitment to the KKK’s values of Christianity and domesticity. Across town, Jubal (Lisa McConnell), a Black artist and activist, lives with Ghost Girl (Maddy Fleming), an albino girl she found abandoned as a baby. When Mr. Stein (Richard Covotsky), a Jewish reporter from Chicago, travels through Mounds, tension builds and leads to death and destruction.

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Key Reviews: The Brothers Size

The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program is back for our third year, and with a new format! This year’s cohort: Ada Alozie, Alisa Boland, Anyah Royale Akanni,  Hannah Antman, Mariah Schultz, and Yiwen Wu. The first show of our session was The Brothers Size at Steppenwolf for Young Adults. Read selections from each young critic below, and click through to their author profiles to read the full critique and learn more about them! The Key is co-facilitated by Regina Victor and Oliver Sava. 

Yiwen Wu:Present, but invisible. For over 2.3 million imprisoned Americans, their life and struggle against the profound racial and social-class biases in our criminal justice system are often overlooked. At Steppenwolf for Young Adults, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s poetically thrilling The Brothers Size strives to confront the brutal legacy of incarceration, through a tender story of brotherhood and love–how the intimate ties that bind us together can free us in a world that fails to be free.” – Read Yiwen Wu’s full critique and learn more about the author! Continue reading “Key Reviews: The Brothers Size”

‘Sundown, Yellow Moon’ at Raven Theatre Exudes a Warm, Comforting Glow

As Sundown, Yellow Moon opens, two sisters in their twenties, Ray (Liz Chidester) and Joey (Diana Coates), have returned to their small hometown in Tennessee to support their father, Tom (Will Casey), as his life seems to be falling apart following his divorce. Ray is undergoing a bit of a reckoning herself after quitting her job — and Joey, petrified at the thought of leaving the country for a foreign study, takes comfort in long runs in the woods late at night.

The script from Rachel Bonds is extremely character-driven; there is not much plot to be found. I have heard some criticism calling this show a bit meandering and slow — which I can’t refute, exactly, except to say that slowness can soar to great heights when done with intention, and I found it absolutely sublime here. Director Cody Estle has managed to craft an evening of enthralling, intimate moments with attention and care, such that Sundown, Yellow Moon feels engrossing and urgent despite its quietness, and stillness.

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‘Oslo’ at Timeline Theatre Muddles the Message of Peacemaking

Tony Award winning play Oslo is a partially fictional account of the events between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israeli officials leading up to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, dramatized for the stage by J.T. Rogers. Currently receiving its Chicago premiere, it initially premiered Off-Broadway in June 2016 directed by Bartlett Sher at the Lincoln Center. The original cast then moved to Broadway to reprise their roles in April 2017 receiving awards and acclaim from New York Critics, Outer Critics, Drama Desk, Drama League, Lucille Lortel, Obie awards and other nominations along the way.

Timeline’s highly anticipated co-production of Oslo with Broadway in Chicago seems to fit perfectly with its mission to present stories inspired by history that connect with today’s social and political issues. As a production, it aimed to explore sociologist Terje Rod-Larsen’s theory that trusting in each others’ inherent humanity and building interpersonal human connection is the only basis for healthy debate, and potentially peacemaking. The lobby display as well as a program insert provided a historical guide to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while a huge column scribbled with sharpie responses asked audience members to participate in the conversation Timeline chose to center: “How do you resolve conflict?” Continue reading “‘Oslo’ at Timeline Theatre Muddles the Message of Peacemaking”

‘Equivocation’ at Idle Muse Theatre Company, and the Purpose of Art in Times of Tyranny

What if King George had commissioned Shakespeare to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot?

It’s a fascinating question, and Equivocation at Idle Muse has the answer. After all, the famed Catholic plot to assassinate King James I happened in 1605, right around the time when William’s plays were at the height of popularity — as a mashup, it’s an entertaining and slightly scandalous idea that immediately grabs your attention. Playwright Bill Cain does a marvelous job of grounding the dialogue in the speech and politics of the era, such that the slowly unfolding conspiracy is both heightened and believable. The structure here is complex, interfolding, and lovely. Director Evan Jackson keeps things moving nicely; characters speak quickly and cleverly, taking us through emotional beats with efficiency and flair. There are lots of long scenes that could easily have dragged, but each one has a distinctive shape and feels like a journey through a big, empty house with lots of fascinating rooms. Continue reading “‘Equivocation’ at Idle Muse Theatre Company, and the Purpose of Art in Times of Tyranny”

Rescripted Announces Third Session of The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program

Rescripted is thrilled to announce the third session of The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program, September 25 – December 4 and hosted for the second year at Steppenwolf Theater, 1650 N. Halsted. Regina Victor, founder of the online arts journalism platform Rescripted, and entertainment critic Oliver Sava created the 10-week training program for Chicago youth in arts criticism. In league with The Chicago Inclusion Project, The Key has successfully held two sessions, educating young writers on the skills and industry knowledge needed to pursue careers in arts criticism. Alumni of The Key have written for outlets like Chicago Reader, Howlround, The Windy City Times, and Rescripted.

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Everyone Is Not Who They Seem in ‘On Clover Road’

On Clover Road is a Chicago premiere play written by Steven Dietz, performed at American Blues Theater and directed by Halena Kays. On Clover Road demands the audience to consider how far they would go to save those they love, and those terrible moments when you discover someone is not who they said they were. Dietz’s play show centers a woman who believes she will be reunited with her daughter, but she has become a member of a dangerous cult. The following twist and turns will leave you on the edge of your seat. Continue reading “Everyone Is Not Who They Seem in ‘On Clover Road’”