‘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”

‘No Child’ Sparks A Conversation on Educational Injustice

No Child at Definition Theatre Company directed by Chika Ike takes an uncomfortable and hilarious dive into the inner workings of arts education in public schools. Nilaja Sun’s play investigates the disparities in our current school systems and its effect on both teachers and students with searing wit and no shortage of laughs. The audience is introduced to the school and its history by the dynamic and talented janitor, played with gusto by debrah kneal. Continue reading “‘No Child’ Sparks A Conversation on Educational Injustice”

Dear White Critics: Stop Being Transphobic!

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!”

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”

Nostalgia Consumes in a Fiery ‘Buried Child’

“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’”

Steppenwolf Fellows Present: Crafting a Cohort

Steppenwolf’s Fellowship Cohort Presents: Crafting a Cohort
Monday, April 30 at 7pm.

Free Community Event Explores the Question, “How do we, as POC and queer artists create space for ourselves in institutions where we are often ‘the only one’?”

CHICAGO (April 24, 2018) –Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 2017/18 Multicultural Fellows are proud to present Crafting a Cohort, a free event that aims to unite people of color and members of the queer community (POC/Queer Folx) in various levels of theatre career tracks by providing a space for discussion and connection. This event is curated by the 2017/18 Steppenwolf Multicultural Fellows cohort. The Steppenwolf Professional Leadership Program Fellowship is for early-career people of color working in various theatre disciplines and provides paid professional development opportunities both in and out of Steppenwolf Theatre. Jackie Taylor, Executive Artistic Director of Black Ensemble Theatre, will deliver the keynote address. This event takes place on Monday, April 30th from 7-9pm at the Merle Reskin Garage (1624 N. Halsted St.). Admission is free and snacks and drinks will be provided. RSVP by clicking here. Continue reading “Steppenwolf Fellows Present: Crafting a Cohort”

Dear White Critics: Please Stop Using the N-Word

What is wrong with white critics? I really want to know. Have you all lost your mind?? When critic Katy Walsh took a loss and set a dignified example for why the n-word is hurtful, apologized, and extricated herself from criticism to learn, were you listening?

In the space of a singular calendar year, we have had two white Chicago critics use the n-word in a review. Yesterday Justin Hayford put this sentence in a review of Court Theatre’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and legitimately thought it was a good idea: “At worst, it will leave him with a cracked skull, tormented children, and a wife who’ll come to believe he’s nothing but a n*gger.” (This is censored, the uncensored photo is below.) Now, I don’t know if Hayford wanted to get into a fight when he published this review, but I am a non-violent person and when I first read this sentence I was ready to throw hands. I immediately talked to some artists working on the play to get their thoughts. Continue reading “Dear White Critics: Please Stop Using the N-Word”

‘We’re Gonna Be Okay’ Makes Sense of Crisis

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”

Key Reviews: ‘In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play’

The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program brings students to various productions around Chicago, teaching them about arts criticism as they try their hand at writing reviews. The opinions of the students are their own; we workshop the pieces in seminar every other week, and then they edit their reviews before publication. These reviews from our Fall session are edited by Oliver Sava and Regina Victor

Danielle Chmielewski

The fact that somehow the existence of female sexuality is still up for debate is almost impressive in how narrow-minded it is. Not enough has been sad about the epidemic of “hysteria” in the 1800’s. The fact that a legitimate medical diagnosis was given to women who were experiencing the wide spectrum of basic human emotion and no longer living up to men’s expectations is nearly laughable. And yet, as off the wall as it sounds, it should only come as a shock to someone who hasn’t picked up a newspaper in the past month. Continue reading “Key Reviews: ‘In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play’”