What if Adam and Eve started life in outer space? What if The Holy Spirit was artificial intelligence? What if billionaires were forced to listen to the working class? What if some prominent activists are able to take social risks due to class privilege? What if you had the opportunity to change the lives of those most at risk? These are just a few of the world bending questions that playwright Paul Michael Thomson is posing in his new play, brother sister cyborg space.
At the top of the show, the world is cracked open. We are struck with one extraterrestrial image after another (projections Michael Commendatore), with a silhouetted astronaut waving at us from far, far away upstage. Set pieces (designed by Steven Abbott) move in and out of view revealing new worlds, accompanied by a tectonic, booming aural landscape (sound, Jeffrey Levin). This visual world building by director Terry Guest defines the play’s scope – the use of magical realism signals to us that this will not simply be a living room play. Thomson’s play, brother sister cyborg space creates room for the emotional, the visual, and the visceral. Movement utilized inside the play is essential, whether it comes from the set or the actors, as the intellectual text would be impenetrable without it. Continue reading “a nod to Shaw, ‘brother sister cyborg space’ explores moral responsibility and societal ills”
Antigone, the final installment of Sophocles’ Oedipus cycle translated by Nicholas Rudall, running at Court Theatre reminds us that the Greeks did not know the meaning of “a living room play.” I have spent the early part of the year in rehearsals for my own show, and not seeing many plays. But, if you read my review of The Gospel At Colonus, you know there’s nothing like a Black Greek Tragedy to get me into the streets and back to my other craft of criticism. I love them so much because Greek Tragedies were meant to hold multidisciplinary storytelling approaches such as music, movement, spectacle and text all at once.
This Greek polymathic, multilayered approach to storytelling is picked up by director Gabrielle Randle-Bent in the present day, as visual art, fashion, poetry, vocal arrangements and body percussion work together to give us the emotional experience of Antigone. There is so much to eat in this production. Antigone is a whole meal, and I commend Randle-Bent for serving it up. There are places where it can feel like I’m trying to swallow too much, at times I was frustrated – yet Antigone’s world is frustrating. To me, great art isn’t perfect, but it does make me think, and enjoy the process of wrestling with it and making meaning. I appreciate the risks taken in this production. Without them, I’d have nothing to write about. Continue reading “‘Antigone’ at Court Theatre is a Feast for Theatre Lovers”
The Lion In Winter is the latest offering from Court Theatre, directed by one of Chicago’s most established maestros – Ron OJ Parson. Though James Goldman’s script was penned in 1966, its subject matter takes us almost a millenia prior, to Christmas Day, 1183 in King Henry II’s Castle in France. King Henry II, played with robust fervor and soft tenderness in equal measure by John Hookenager, finds himself surrounded by jackals who thirst for his throne on all sides. The jackals in this case, just so happen to be his immediate family. Continue reading “A Kingdom Held in the Jaws of ‘The Lion in Winter’ at Court Theatre”
Sultry sounds, smooth moves, and sumptuous outfits are all hallmarks of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical directed by Jessica Fisch at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire Illinois. This family-friendly musical is presented just in time for the holiday season. The musical is the life story of popular singer/songwriter Carole King, played with heartfelt sincerity by Kaitlyn Davis. We follow King’s whirlwind romance with her husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin (Andrew Mueller) and their chart-topping rivalry with frenemies Cynthia Weil (Erica Stephan) and Barry Mann (Justin Albinder). Continue reading “‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ is Dynamic Family Fun”
Snap. Crackle. Pop. If you listen close enough, you can almost hear the bones crunching in the walls of the house of Bernarda Alba; echoes of the sacrifices and secrets on which the house’s foundation was built. The women who reside there are barely holding themselves together under the immense pressure that threatens to break them. In the wake of the death of Bernarda’s second husband, the doors are closed, the windows shut, and mourners left to boil outside the home in the oppressive heat. In spite of the weather, Bernarda insists that all her daughters wear “rigorous black” to honor their father’s memory.
Traditionally, adaptations of Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, originally published in 1936 two months before Lorca’s assassination, take their design inspiration from the macabre attire of the bereaved. By contrast, this adaptation titled ¡Bernarda!, authored by Emilio Williams and directed by Wendy Mateo, boldly uses light, color, and comedy to showcase the darker parts of humanity. Continue reading “In Teatro Vista’s ‘¡Bernarda!’ Blood is Thicker Than Truth”
Watching The Gospel at Colonus at The Getty Villa is like watching a live resurrection. A theatre piece becomes a fossil on closing day, an antiquity to be dusted off and given new life. Mark J.P. Hood and Charlie Newell have rolled their stone all the way from Chicago, IL to the mountains of Los Angeles, California. It’s a muscular act that requires the utmost attention, and like a resurrection, no one knows quite what to expect. The performers glide gently down the stone steps of the aisles, greeting us individually as the congregation gathers to testify to Theseus’ (Mark Spates Smith) tale of Oedipus. As an audience we feel a sense of comfort and home as we’re encouraged to talk back to the production. We’re a part of the story. Continue reading “The Death of Oedipus and The Departure of Charlie Newell: ‘The Gospel at Colonus’ Heralds The Court Theatre Into a New Age”
The Fly Honey Show returned to Thalia Hall for its 13th season Labor Day weekend, and it did not disappoint. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the institution that is The Fly Honey Show, for the past thirteen years this burlesque, comedy, and variety show has entertained Chicago audiences. Continue reading “The Fly Honey Show is a Seductive Smash Hit at Thalia Hall”
Suspended in front of a blank white slate is a proscenium inside a proscenium (scenic, Andrew Boyce). Two men sit inside, each uniquely unpleasant, each reaching desperately to the other for an emotional connection. Hirst (Jeff Perry), the rich “man of letters” and owner of the decadent home, and Spooner (Mark Ulrich), a random man he met in a bar, proceed to engage in a battle of words. As the scene goes on, I become keenly aware Spooner is taking more than his fair share of the conversation. I seriously thought Spooner was going to grow horns at some point, he’s so whimsical it is hardly trustworthy, but it is fantastic to watch. As Spooner gets more animated, seemingly feeding on Hirst’s apathy, Hirst gets quieter, and harder to understand. I suddenly realize what is happening – he is extremely drunk and slowly shutting down.
Continue reading “The Devil’s in the Walls – No Man’s Land at Steppenwolf Theatre”
The Fly Honeys are back and the bees are a-buzzing baby! If you have a pulse and live in Chicago, you should know who the Honeys are by now, but let me tell the new post-panorama generation what’s good. The Fly Honeys are a femme-led, party-starting, ass-shaking, glitter-bombing, sex-positive queer punk performance group born from a legendary annual event, The Fly Honey Show, founded in Chicago in 2010. They are best known for their saying “everybody, no matter what your body.” Having personally experienced the Hive as a dancer prior to the pandemic, they practice what they preach!
Continue reading “The Fly Honeys 2023 Labor Day Weekend Lineup”
The Art of Bowing by Nathan Alan Davis presented by Haven Chicago is an experimental must-see and galvanizing production for anyone uncertain about their role in the performing arts, whether patron or performer. Directed by Haven’s Artistic Director Ian Damont Martin, The Art of Bowing honors and eviscerates the theatre in equal measure, and left me thinking about my role as an artist, critic, and patron in theatre’s survival. Continue reading “Haven Chicago Presents ‘The Art of Bowing’ A Muscular and Engaging Ode to Artists”