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’”
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’”
Mike Pence Sex Dream by Dan Giles at First Floor Theatre, directed by Hutch Pimentel, is a sometimes ruckus sometimes sobering depiction of the weight of capitalism and cancel culture in the face of animal cruelty and neoliberalism. A mouthful right? And yet, it’s shaping up to be one of the hottest, realest show of the season. Continue reading “‘Mike Pence Sex Dream’ Takes Morality for a Wild Ride”
Red Tape Theatre performs In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks at The Ready in Ravenswood. The theatre is a narrow strip covered in graffiti. It’s fresh, and I can tell because the scent of paint is unmistakable. Among this jumble of tags, the word “SLUT” screams in a bright pink that adds to the cruelty of the word. Hester (Jyreika Guest) is a downtrodden mother of five who has made the space under an overpass her home, a home now defaced with this vile word she has no way of reading. It is under this bridge where Hester cares for her children and is cared for by no one. Continue reading “A Vital and Gritty ‘In The Blood’ at Red Tape Theatre”
On Wednesday, September 19, several Chicago artists received an invitation to audition for a play called Angel by playwright Henry Naylor. Angel is the second production in a series called “Arabian Nightmares”. The invitation was sent by local Chicago theatre Akvavit on behalf of Urbanite Theatre, located in Sarasota, Florida. Angel is inspired by fake news tweeted by the English-language news outlet Slemani Times. The tweet contained a photo of a woman named Rehana who was rumored to have killed as many as 100 members of ISIS. It has since been proven that though the photo, taken by Swedish journalist Carl Drott, was of a real woman, she was not Rehana, or “The Angel of Kobane” as they claimed. This story of the “Angel” has no basis in fact, and was disproved by the BBC in 2014. Rehana, “The Angel of Kobane,” never existed at all. Continue reading “When The Show Must Not Go On: Chicago Artists Respond to Controversial Casting Notice”
You may remember my last article in what must now become a series, Dear White Critics: Stop Using the N-Word, when Justin Hayford decided racial slurs were appropriate for a theatre column. Yesterday, Ben Brantley of the New York Times decided it was appropriate to make a joke out of the unveiling of a trans character’s pronouns in the new Broadway musical Head Over Heels’. The character? Oracle and non-binary plural narrator Pythio, portrayed by drag performer Peppermint, who is a trans woman. What’s notable is that it’s the first time a trans actor has ever created a principle role in a Broadway show, and that Pythio is one of a handful of genderqueer characters ever seen on Broadway. Therefore, as a critic, one might think Brantley would use this opportunity to celebrate that fact. Alas, instead he decided to say this: Continue reading “Dear White Critics: Stop Being Transphobic!”
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”
“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’”
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’”
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”