‘Out of Love’ At Interrobang and the Friendships That Define Us

“Out of Love” is the story of Grace and Lorna, two young women living in the north of England, and of their lifelong, decades-spanning friendship. Scenes from their intertwining lives are presented out of chronological order, but in a perfectly correct emotional order. Details are teased slowly; exposition is planted carefully through tiny clues in the utterly realistic dialogue, which keeps the audience playing the detective, trying to figure out timelines and life details. The script from Elinor Cook is masterfully written; the decision to present scenes out of sequence is inspired. That’s what memories from such an intense, defining friendship feel like — and it keeps us on our toes, making us pay close attention to what’s going on. Continue reading “‘Out of Love’ At Interrobang and the Friendships That Define Us”

‘Bury Me’ A World Premiere at Dandelion Theatre

Bury Me, written by Brynne Frauenhoffer and receiving its world premiere with Dandelion Theatre, tells the story of a family making hard decisions about marriage, children, and death. By drawing its audience into the complicated lives of one family, Bury Me explores these hotly debated topics through moments of personal exploration.  Continue reading “‘Bury Me’ A World Premiere at Dandelion Theatre”

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”

‘Something Clean’ Explores the Reverberations of Assault at Sideshow Theatre

Something Clean by Selina Fillinger, tells the story of a woman trying to cope after her son is convicted and sent to prison on sexual assault charges. Produced by Sideshow Theatre Company and Rivendell Theatre Company in collaboration, directed by Lauren Shouse, Something Clean asks audiences to consider the trauma and attempts toward healing for the families of rapists. Continue reading “‘Something Clean’ Explores the Reverberations of Assault at Sideshow Theatre”

Cheeky Arias Drive A Queer Love Revolution in ‘GRINDR THE OPERA’

Luxuriously outfitted with delightful costumes by Shawn Quinlan, GRINDR THE OPERA at Pride Films and Plays follows the trials and tribulations of four gay men looking for love and/or no strings attached sex on the web. Their search invokes the siren Grindr, who guides the men through their journey of lust. A regal Bruno Rivera plays the goddess Grindr, narrating the tale through countless costume changes and wondrously soaring arias, with the help of her dazzling sidekicks Occulto (Andrew Flynn) and Dilectus (Brandon Krisko). Continue reading “Cheeky Arias Drive A Queer Love Revolution in ‘GRINDR THE OPERA’”

Pride is the Prerogative in ‘Ms. Blakk For President’ at Steppenwolf Theatre

Ms. Blakk For President is a world premiere play performed at Steppenwolf Theatre, co-written and directed by Tina Landau and written by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The show is about Chicago’s very own LGBTQ activist Terence Alan Smith,  better known as the drag queen Joan Jett Blakk, who decided to run a political campaign with Act Up and Queer Nation to bring visibility to the Gay community in crisis during the 90s. It’s a pretty unknown story to someone, like me, who was born in the very late 1990s without context on figures who are often censored in our pop culture. Steppenwolf’s lobby dramaturgy does a great job with filling the atmosphere and historical context about the show. The dramaturgy display (Polly Hubbard) is filled with an engaging Chicago timeline that traces Joan Jett Blakk and the AIDS crisis from the 1970s to present today. There are also a few art installations and a memorial to Marsha P. Johnson. Continue reading “Pride is the Prerogative in ‘Ms. Blakk For President’ at Steppenwolf Theatre”

Red Tape Theatre Delivers a Raucous History with ‘We Are Pussy Riot (or) Everything is P.R.’

Who gets to write the story when our present becomes the past? Does that privilege fall to the global leaders, historians, celebrities, or the revolutionaries? We Are Pussy Riot (or) Everything is P.R. by Barbara Hammond documents this struggle for historical authorship by looking at a recent moment in time. Not too long ago, Pussy Riot went to trial for their public protest of the 2012 Russian election. Everyone seemed to have something to say, and the truth of the matter is still up for debate. Director Kate Hendrickson uses Red Tape Theatre’s intimate space as a communal square where the public record is laid bare in ferocious fashion. We Are Pussy Riot (or) Everything is P.R. is just as raucous, satirical, and tragic as the group itself. Continue reading “Red Tape Theatre Delivers a Raucous History with ‘We Are Pussy Riot (or) Everything is P.R.’”

Inside Look – Free Street Youth Ensemble’s “Parched: Stories of Water, Pollution and Theft”

When did water become a privilege? This is one of the questions up for interrogation in Parched: Stories of Water, Pollution, and Theft, devised by Free Street’s HQ Youth Ensemble. For this nearly 50-year-old, historic theatre company, putting Chicago on stage rightfully includes youth—and they don’t come to play. Continue reading “Inside Look – Free Street Youth Ensemble’s “Parched: Stories of Water, Pollution and Theft””

‘Detour Guide’ is A Sorely Needed Story That Stumbles in the Telling

Before the performance of Detour Guide that I saw began, a producer from Silk Road Rising came out to talk to the audience. Before the usual pre-show announcements, he began by acknowledging the terrorist attacks in New Zealand, the news of which had broken just that morning. The audience shared a moment of silence, and then Karim Nagi came onstage to tell us a story that sought, in all aspects, to humanize and demystify the Arab world. He delved into the music, culture, and history of Egypt, Syria, and many other Arabic-speaking nations. He analyzed portrayals of the Arab world in Hollywood movies and attempted to dismantle stereotypes. He told stories of his childhood, growing up in America as the son of Egyptian immigrants, and of his trips back there. Detour Guide is a screamingly necessary show in this political era, where racist and anti-Muslim stereotypes are being peddled by the most powerful people in the Western world to immediate and devastating effect, as the news that morning reminded us. This is a show that rightfully forced me to address and challenge my own biases. Nagi goes out of his way to make us uncomfortable, and make us examine why we like or dislike certain cultural narratives. Continue reading “‘Detour Guide’ is A Sorely Needed Story That Stumbles in the Telling”