2019 was by no means an easy year, and yet so much progress was made in our artistic community both on and offstage. The Rightlynd Saga reached completion in the same year Lori Lightfoot was elected. Abuse was unearthed and community solutions provided, systemic changes are underway on many levels, as the energy of organizations like Not in Our House and ChiTac drive our individual work. As Editor for Rescripted, I laid out my Visions for 2020. This article is about looking back, and celebrating where we came from one last time. Below you will find the 10 Rescripted Recognized shows selected by our critics, and a new addition for this year – Rescripted Raves. There is too much great work in the city to limit it to ten shows, and there you will find the other projects that brought us joy or moved the conversation forward. Happy 2020!
Red Rex at Steep Theatre. Directed by Jonathan Berry, written by Ike Holter. “Ike Holter’s Red Rex takes a deep dive into the underbelly of making theatre in Chicago, and a brave ensemble of people at Steep Theatre rose to the challenge. The sixth play in the Rightlynd Saga directed by Jonathan Berry gets its name from the fictional theatre company at the center of the narrative, Red Rex Theatre Company. After almost a decade of relatively mediocre production, Red Rex has recently taken up residence in the abandoned former home of the Three Lord Gang – one of many easter eggs from the rest of the Rightlynd Universe (the RU, you know, like MCU).” – Regina Victor, Editor In ChiefContinue reading “Rescripted Recognized – 2019 Edition”
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’”
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.
What images come to mind? This city and year may feel distant to an American audience, especially one quietly observing the opening moments of Haven’s production of Kiss at The Den. Whatever your mind conjured about Damascus, you’ll soon forget this context or question it. Written by Guillermo Calderón, the play follows two couples attempting to hang out with their weekend soaps. But their lives quickly descend into a soap opera of their own. And we watch, amused by the apparent drama and familiar music underscoring moments of cliché passion and momentary rejection (sound design and original music Jeffrey Levin). Continue reading “Ownership vs. Authorship: The Responsibility of the Storyteller in ‘Kiss’”
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’”
Ada and The Engine by Lauren Gunderson retells the life of feminist hero Ada Lovelace, often called the first computer programmer, as a romance. The play weaves a love story between Lovelace, played by Brooklyn Hébert, and Charles Babbage (Rich Holton) who invented two hypothetical machines capable of taking commands to solve mathematical problems as computers do now. It also explores how Ada may have been haunted by the life her father Lord Byron (John LaFlamboy) lived, especially how his absence and philandering affected her relationship with her mother.Continue reading “‘Ada and The Engine’ Doesn’t Get Where It’s Going”
The Undeniable Sound of Right Now by Laura Eason is not about the present. “Now” in the play’s title refers to Chicago in 1992. Grunge is spreading across the country and House Music shakes nightclubs with its electric tune. Hank’s Bar was the place to be during the 70s wave of Rock n’ Roll, but in 1992 “Now” and “Then” clash within the walls of this cultural relic. BJ Jones directs the Chicago premiere at Raven Theatre and this project on paper promises something worthwhile. The final product, however, is unsatisfying. Continue reading “‘The Undeniable Sound of Right Now’ is a Nostalgia Trip That Doesn’t Reach its Destination”
The Crowd You’re InWith at AstonRep takes place on an evocative set designed by Jeremiah Barr, the deck and backyard of a rundown suburban house that is set out for a 4th of July barbecue. Small accents, like deck chairs, fairy lights, and a tacky tablecloth, create a very lived-in feel. The lighting from Samantha Barr is atmospheric and welcoming; the yellow light from inside spills out through a screen door, and the fading blue ambience captures the feeling of a warm summer evening quite well.
We open at the barbecue of married couple Jasper (Martin Diaz-Valdes) and Melinda (Sara Pavlak McGuire) — consisting of another mid-thirties couple, the pregnant Windsong (Maggie Antonijevic) and the slightly obnoxious Dan (Nick Freed), the older married couple and landlords who live upstairs, Tom and Karen (Javier Carmona and Lynne Baker), and their single musician friend Darcy (Erin O’Brien). As it is slowly revealed that Jasper and Melinda are trying to get pregnant, the conversation turns to the subject of why some people choose to have kids, and why some don’t. Continue reading “Pontifications on Pregnancy in ‘The Crowd You’re In With’”
I don’t need to tell you how good of a musical Next to Normal is; it won a Pulitzer. Nor is it a surprise that Tony-winning director David Cromer has created a masterful evening of small and terrifyingly intimate moments with a deft, spare, and nuanced hand. Instead, I’d like to focus on why this show had me weeping uncontrollably for most of its second act, and how I think it got there.