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’”

‘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”

Finding Refuge in Love in ‘Vietgone’

I have long held that the most powerful art is that which is deeply personal. Vietgone by Qui Nguyen, in its current production at Writer’s Theatre, is one such piece. The latest in a long line of lovely work from local director Lavina Jadwani, Vietgone is a romp of a love story, but its real power lies not solely in the budding relationship between the two leads–but in the writer’s journey of understanding his own parents.

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‘Linda’ Subverts Society’s Expectations for Women

What does getting older mean when you’re a woman? In a world trying to stay youthful, Linda Wilde wants to embrace the opposite. Linda tells a story not often heard. The lights go up and you’re already a part of the show, the breaking of the fourth wall yanks the audience into this UK drama as Wilde tries to convince her colleagues that aging is natural and therefore something to embrace, but in this day and age (pun intended) the people want to stay supple. Continue reading “‘Linda’ Subverts Society’s Expectations for Women”

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”

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”

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’”

Brett Neveu’s ‘To Catch a Fish’ Dramatizes a Real Life Tale of Entrapment

Brett Neveu’s world premiere TO CATCH A FISH, developed at Timeline and directed by Ron OJ Parson, takes on the morally repugnant practice of police entrapment. Neveu takes us to the peaceful Milwaukee neighborhood of Riverwest where in 2012 officers from the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau set-up a phony shop with an aim to lure the community into selling guns by offering to purchase them at triple their street value. This perverse incentive created a gun market where there wasn’t one. People started buying guns at local stores to turn around and sell them to the ATF, even going so far as to dredge up antiques and family heirlooms to cash in on the offer. Later, community members entrapped by this scheme were rounded up to face criminal charges. Continue reading “Brett Neveu’s ‘To Catch a Fish’ Dramatizes a Real Life Tale of Entrapment”

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’”