‘The Dark At The Top of The Stairs’ Challenges Life, Love and Companionship

The Dark at The Top of The Stairs by William Inge  holds a universal theme– life is hard, love is hard, but if you have the right people it’s all worth it. Directed by Jerell Henderson, it focuses on a family of four; a begrudged father, an abiding yet willful mother, the bratty younger brother and his closed off sister.  We live in their home, more specifically their living room, for the entirety of this three-act production, it is littered with decor bringing an added authenticity to every moment (set design Sam Rausch). Continue reading “‘The Dark At The Top of The Stairs’ Challenges Life, Love and Companionship”

‘Small Mouth Sounds,’ A Tender, Introspective Comedy

Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds, directed by Shade Murray at A Red Orchid Theatre, is set at a silent retreat. Four strangers and one couple, have gathered to learn from an unseen guru (Meighan Gerachis) heard only through the loudspeaker system at the retreat center. As these characters camp out on the shores of a wooded lake coping with bug bites and bears, they reflect, communicate and seek inner peace. Continue reading “‘Small Mouth Sounds,’ A Tender, Introspective Comedy”

The Scope of Blackness in ‘This Bitter Earth’

This Bitter Earth by Harrison David Rivers and directed by Mihkail Burke is currently running at About Face Theatre. This two person show follows an interracial gay couple through the most agonizing police violence events of our time. It is a treat to witness the gifted Sheldon Brown return to the stage again after an impressive turn in the Shipment. Especially in a role that is all about taking risks and attempting to live life to the fullest. Continue reading “The Scope of Blackness in ‘This Bitter Earth’”

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”

Babes with Blades Serves Feminist Farce in ‘The Lady Demands Satisfaction’

**Please note: Pronouns used in direct reference to character are the pronouns the characters use.  This may or may not match the pronouns of the actor portraying the character. Pronouns used in direct reference to the actor are the pronouns the actor uses according to the program.**

If you are looking for a hilarious and exciting new work that is feminist and delightfully queer, look no further than The Lady Demands Satisfaction a farce written by Arthur Jolly and directed by Morgan Manasa.  This play deservedly won the Bi-Annual Joining Sword and Pen playwriting competition Babes with Blades holds to encourage the writing and development of plays that feature women’s stories center stage. This one hits that mark loud and proud. Continue reading “Babes with Blades Serves Feminist Farce in ‘The Lady Demands Satisfaction’”

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’”

‘A Story Told in Seven Fights’ Investigates the Neo-Futurists Founding Myths

The energy at the Neo-Futurarium holds a lot of history for Chicago audiences and just being in a space where you’ve come to expect the unexpected generates anticipation. A Story Told in Seven Fights begins with a comic teaser fight in the lobby as the audience is waiting to be ushered into the theater. This cold open establishes the show’s major theme: the relationship between performer and performance. The show, a devised work created by Trevor Dawkins and directed by Tony Santiago, explores the explosive birth of Dadaism and its later clash with Surrealism. The throughline is an exploration of what founders contribute to a movement. The play asks: at what point does a movement become bigger than its founding vision and, perhaps also, at what point does a movement morph into something entirely different? Continue reading “‘A Story Told in Seven Fights’ Investigates the Neo-Futurists Founding Myths”

‘Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea’ Is a Beautiful Invitation to Heal

Simply stepping into First Floor Theater’s Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea is already a theatrical experience unto its own, to say nothing of the magnetic performance to follow. Director Chika Ike’s vision for the play is immediately palpable, and impresses upon audience members from the very first moment that they are entering what will become sacred ground. The inventive and highly successful scenic design of Eleanor Kahn and associate designer Samantha Myers immediately compels the audience to look up, down, and all around them. With Viking and Adinkra symbols adorning the walls of the theater, as well as the scattered pieces of shattered wood that encapsulate the audience, the space evokes a reverent spirituality. Each of the symbols has a meaning, and cast a net of wishes, intentions, and hopes around the playing space. As for the wood, one’s mind goes instantly to the memory of the ships that carried slaves from West Africa to North America. As the house lights drop, and we enter the poetic world of playwright Nathan Alan Davis, the promise of the space unfolds. Continue reading “‘Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea’ Is a Beautiful Invitation to Heal”

‘Surely Goodness and Mercy’ Showcases A Young Boy’s Staggering Act of Love

Chisa Hutchinson’s intimate four character drama Surely Goodness and Mercy at Redtwist Theatre takes on the difficult subject of child abuse and makes children its heroes. During a month when we are seeing young people in the news rising up to speak out against violence it’s inspiring to see the story of a young boy who is able to escape the violence in his own home while doing good for others. Continue reading “‘Surely Goodness and Mercy’ Showcases A Young Boy’s Staggering Act of Love”