‘Small World’ Delivers a Sidesplitting End of Days at The New Colony

“No one dies at Disney,” Stephanie Shum screeches into the abyss during Small World at The New Colony, a show that may prove to be the funniest and simultaneously most disturbing theatrical event of 2019. When I say funny I do not mean elbow your friend and chuckle a few times in the first thirty minutes before things get serious. Jillian Leff and Joe Lino’s new play Small World made me and my guest guffaw for about 80 solid minutes. This is a refreshing structure, as there is still quite a lot of emotional depth provided by the text and Patriac Coakley, Stephanie Shum and Jackie Seijo, the cast of three that launches this production into the stratosphere of hold-on-to-your-stomach hilarity. Continue reading “‘Small World’ Delivers a Sidesplitting End of Days at The New Colony”

‘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”

A Grounded, Subtle, Sci-Fi Thrill Ride in ‘A Number’ at Writers Theatre

A Number, presented at Writers’ Theatre and directed by Robin Witt, takes place in a world designed by Courtney O’Neill — a spare yet expensive-looking living room, eerily clean, with just a few couches and tables and sculptures. The space feels erudite and smooth, yet the slightest bit empty and creepy. The stage is illuminated by four wall lights that shine a crystal-clear white, and a big window at the back that turns blue and gray and white at key moments in the show; lighting designer Brandon Wardell does admirable work creating tension in the space. Continue reading “A Grounded, Subtle, Sci-Fi Thrill Ride in ‘A Number’ at Writers Theatre”

‘For Colored Girls’ at Court Theatre Leads us to the end of our own Rainbows

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange is a vibrant tribute to the transitional power of the Black femme. The moment we step into the abandoned train station at Court Theatre, we know we are in a space full with the possibility of movement and growth. Directed by Seret Scott, who took over the role of Lady in Orange in the original Broadway production, this beautiful production moves with purpose. Continue reading “‘For Colored Girls’ at Court Theatre Leads us to the end of our own Rainbows”

Goodman Theatre’s ‘Sweat’ Lays Bare the Passions of Working America

Sweat, written by Lynn Nottage, is a Pulitzer prize winner that focuses on race, debt in America, capitalism, and the working class. Director Ron OJ Parson’s production of Sweat at the Goodman is, at its core, about humanity, power, and the fight for survival. It’s about what will humanity do when they are pushed to the breaking point and worked like a dog. Sadly, the answer is not as black and white as it seems as Brucie states “you think they give a damn about you?”   Continue reading “Goodman Theatre’s ‘Sweat’ Lays Bare the Passions of Working America”

Heritage, History, and Comedy in ‘Remember The Alamo’

Remember the Alamo is a world premiere Neo-Lab original being performed at The Neo-Futurist Theatre. The show is created by Neo-Futurist ensemble member: Nick Hart and directed by Neo-Futurist Artistic director Kurt Chiang. This production promises its audience that they will help the actors fully recreate the Alamo battle. This show contains more than that, it also has themes of death, interesting facts about Phil Collins, and a narrative of what it’s like to be mixed-race in America through individual personal narratives. Continue reading “Heritage, History, and Comedy in ‘Remember The Alamo’”

‘2 Unfortunate 2 Travel’ Does Not Make The Journey

2 Unfortunate 2 Travel is a show by and for bleeding heart B.A. liberals raised on pop-culture. This devised work by director and adaptor Zach Weinberg takes Thomas Nashe’s novella The Unfortunate Traveler and brings the tale of a young man exploring the world into the post-Trump era. In this adaptation, protagonist Jack Wilton wants to relive his exploits across the globe through a variety show featuring a skilled group of women. Prop Thtr’s production of 2 Unfortunate 2 Travel caps off a 2-year workshop period and clearly wants to start a conversation. Despite several stand-out moments, the play leaves me more confused than conversive. Continue reading “‘2 Unfortunate 2 Travel’ Does Not Make The Journey”

Dear White Critics: I ‘Doubt’ You Meant to be Ableist…

“When it became clear that our ensemble member Mary Ann Thebus’ consistent retention of the script was challenging due to side-effects from medication, we chose to see it as an opportunity to remind ourselves and Chicago what makes us who we are.” – an excerpt from The Gift Theatre Company program insert.

Dear White Critics,

We’re baaaaaaack. Much like Johnny in The Shining y’all don’t know how to quit. This is the third installment in “Dear White Critics,” the series that never should have been, and unfortunately it focuses on a couple of beloved Chicago critics who each made a really offensive judgement call in different ways. Doubt presented by the Gift Theatre is a formidable production, please see my full review of that enthralling piece of theatre by clicking here. Many critics enjoyed the show, but some critics decided to focus on the fact that Mary Ann Thebus was holding a script for her performance due to a side-effect of medication that made memorization difficult. Then a storm of ageism, sexism, and ableism was unleashed on Chicago courtesy of primarily Chris Jones at the Chicago Tribune. Continue reading “Dear White Critics: I ‘Doubt’ You Meant to be Ableist…”

Fire and Brimstone Outweigh ‘Doubt’ in Gift Theatre Production

From the first echoes of the imposing Michael Patrick Thornton’s voice bringing the devastatingly charming Father Flynn’s voice into the space (a charismatic Michael Patrick Thornton), we are submerged in a flickering Catholic Church. The first moments of Doubt by John Patrick Shanley produced by the Gift in Steppenwolf’s 1700 space caused the audience to be simultaneously reaffirmed and frightened by Flynn’s sermons. His tone suggests that if we just listen close enough we will avoid the temptations of which he speaks. The spectators are few, two nuns and a dignified Black woman, she is notably separated from the rest, seated between the nuns and the Father. This is an intentional choice by director John Gawlik, manifested by Mike Durst’s deft lighting, that would later prove relevant. Continue reading “Fire and Brimstone Outweigh ‘Doubt’ in Gift Theatre Production”

‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ is a Pitch-Perfect Mix of Intrigue, Nostalgia, and Innovation

The Man Who Was Thursday is adapted from a novel originally published in 1908, but I went into it knowing nothing and I cannot recommend this approach enough. Currently running at Lifeline Theatre, The Man Who was Thursday is a lovely byzantine maze of subterfuge, false identities, and plot twists, and the less you know going in, the more fun you’ll have. Continue reading “‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ is a Pitch-Perfect Mix of Intrigue, Nostalgia, and Innovation”