Alma has dreamed about her daughter getting a perfect SAT score since first coming to the United States. On the evening before the big test, Angel reveals that she has other plans. With college around the corner and the 2016 election results looming overhead, Alma and Angel wrestle with an unknown future and the threat of deportation. Playwright Benjamin Benne captures the quotidian tension, dread, and overwhelming concerns that grip households with mixed citizenship status across the country. With heartfelt direction by Ana Velazquez, Alma finds power in the bond between mother and daughter.
All the Tucker women are under the same roof again and Mama is making her legendary recipe. Known simply as “The Stew,” this traditional dish is prepared for only the most special occasions. Director Malkia Stampley turns up the heat on this gripping kitchen-sink drama and brings simmering tensions to a rolling boil. Stew by Zora Howard is a 2021 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Drama that depicts the seemingly unbreakable patterns that connect three generations of women.
It was a dark and not-so-stormy night. A night desperate for deception. Without a cloud in the sky, I turned to a different kind of cumulonimbus: a sound cloud. I hit play on A Theater in the Dark’s A Matter of Red Herrings and found myself in the streets of a rainy 1920s Chicago. This 80-minute audio play by Greg Garrison harkens back to the crime novels that set the standard for fiction’s greatest detectives. Directed by Corey Bradberry, A Matter of Red Herrings cheerfully introduces Detective Stainless Steal to a prestigious line of fictional Chicago sleuths.
In the Appalachian town of Williamson, West Virginia, jobs are scarce and opioids are plentiful. Spay, a new play by Madison Fiedler, focuses on one Williamson family’s struggle with addiction at the height of the opioid epidemic. Sisters Harper and Noah Attridge, played by Krystel McNeil and Rae Gray respectively, are together again under the same roof after Noah’s public overdose at a youth baseball game. Over the course of one sober and sobering week, temptations come knocking at the door with the promise of relief. But at what cost? Rivendell Theatre’s world premiere production, directed by Georgette Verdin, is the promising introduction of a stellar script that deserves consideration from any theatre company currently planning their next season.
After 15 years behind bars, Lorraine (Linda Reiter) is a free woman, and she immediately sets out to reunite with her former cellmate Marie (Aila Ayilam Peck). It’s just like old times, which comes as both a relief and a concern for the two formerly incarcerated women struggling to rejoin society after imprisonment. This Wide Night by Chloë Moss is the story of a female friendship that was forged by unavoidable intimacy. Locked safely within the dingy walls of Marie’s studio apartment, Interrobang’s Managing Artistic Director Georgette Verdin joins Shattered Globe Theatre and taps into the lifesaving bonds that make it possible to survive life’s hardships.
Aila Ayilam Peck and Linda Reiter carry the weight of this two-woman play with remarkable skill and instinctive teamwork. Peck’s heartbreaking performance as an abandoned woman with a history of substance abuse has the power to pull the audience’s attention – until Reiter comes barreling onstage to break the tension with a hilariously jolting exclamation. Over the course of the play, the distance that has grown between the two after Marie’s release steadily closes. What at first seems like an almost comical inconvenience transforms into a codependent and deeply intimate relationship. Peck and Reiter establish a tragically beautiful connection that transcends their generational divide. Whenever one of them is missing from the stage, the world feels a little wrong.
An audience that has been stuck inside our homes for the past year is no stranger to the rewatch. There’s something comforting about revisiting a favorite show, especially when you’ve exhausted anything new that Netflix has to offer. After Disney+ fixed their terrible aspect ratio problem, that show for me was The Simpsons. There are some episodes that I know by heart, and others that I was thrilled to rediscover. There is something about a global collapse that just makes you want to curl up on the couch with your favorite four-fingered family. Theatre Wit takes this desire out of your living room and onto the stage with a colorful revival of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn.
Something seismic has happened and the power is gone. Without electricity, modern society crumbles. Survivors who have lost everything work together to salvage the only pieces of their world that remain, the episodes of The Simpsons that they kinda remember. Playwright Anne Washburn, with music by Michael Friedman, explores how stories and pop culture may evolve when society starts over. Washburn roots the script in what is arguably one of the greatest Simpsons episodes of all time: “Cape Fear.” What begins as a few strangers around a fire exchanging punchlines becomes a traveling theatre troupe, which in turn becomes an epic operetta.
Based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen, The Steadfast Tin Soldier is a bittersweet tale about love against all odds. This year the annual Lookingglass Theatre tradition is going digital with an on-demand recording of the 2019 production. Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman’s playful take on this holiday tale is a dazzling treat for the whole family. Invite a little magic into your home with this spellbinding hour of holiday entertainment.
Shotgun Players casts a real-life couple to play opposite each other for its production of The Light by Loy A. Webb, streamed live from the couple’s own living room. Genesis (Leigh Rondon-Davis) and Rashad (Kenny Scott) are celebrating their anniversary and Rashad has an important question to ask. The joyous evening turns sour as secrets are revealed and their shared future splinters. Directed by Nailah Harper-Malveaux, this 70-minute real-time production revisits 2018 to examine the intersection of race and gender.
I, like so many others around the world, am still coming to terms with the fact that I won’t see my family this holiday season. I won’t go home for the holidays, I won’t have anyone in my own home, and all those family traditions will have to be reimagined, if practiced at all. American Blues Theatre is reimagining some traditions of their own, adapting the second longest-running holiday play in Chicago for Zoom. It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! is a retelling of Frank Capra’s classic film about one man’s integral role in his community. This cheerful (and unapologetically digital) adaptation invites the audience to revel in the strangeness and find something to celebrate from their own little square.
A War of the Worlds adapts H.G. Wells’ classic tale of extraterrestrial invasion for the present day with a production designed for this new era of digital performance, inspired by the legendary 1938 Orson Welles broadcast. Theatre in the Dark’s hallmark style expertly translates a thrilling new piece originally planned for in-person performance to a purely audio medium. Rather than sitting in a darkened space with other theatergoers, audiences are invited to curate their own “dark and cozy” environment, pick up a drink, and listen in.
Set in and around modern-day Chicago, A War of the Worlds documents a battle for the planet between Earth forces and an invading Martian army. The script begins in retrospective, as The Professor (Ming Hudson) combs through artifacts left behind by a married couple separated while trying to flee the area. Science journalist H.G. Wells (Mack Gordon) and photographer Isabel Wells (Elizabeth McCoy) each capture world-ending events, described in gripping detail to the audience listening from home. This live virtual audio drama, co-authored by Corey Bradberry and Mack Gordon (and directed by Bradberry), skillfully adapts the novel with captivating language that matches the production’s renowned predecessors.