Tackling Capitalism in ‘The Neo-Futurists Sell Out’

The first time I heard about Chicago’s Neo-Futurists was seven years ago, in a room full of playwrights, as an intern at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The Neo’s now-closed production of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind subsequently became my first Chicago Theatre-going experience as a newly-minted resident in 2016. Returning over the years to see multiple iterations of The Infinite Wrench, my favorite skit of all time was by Ensemble Member Leah Urzendowski, who kicked, punched, and stomped on a diagram of a vulva; a disturbingly accurate depiction of what it felt like to bike the gravel section of Clark Street between Foster and Montrose when it was under construction pre-pandemic. I have never laughed so hard in my life. While the Neo-Futurarium is the first spot I think of to introduce new friends and out-of-town visitors to the best-of Chicago Theatre, The Neofuturists Sell Out was my first time seeing a ‘prime-time’ show.

Hilarious and poignant as ever, the Neo-Futurists Sell Out is a skit-filled hour of entertainment with a special focus on capitalism, astutely directed by Lavina Jadhwani. Without the Neo’s typical greetings, menus, and nametags handed out at the door, the four performers instead rolled in chairs and desks on stage to launch straight into the action. But, with no greeting and minimal audience interaction until halfway through the show, this prime-time experience left me missing the performer-to-audience connection that usually drives the Neo’s pacing and energy; the connection that punches up their versed and starkly intimate sense of humor. Continue reading “Tackling Capitalism in ‘The Neo-Futurists Sell Out’”

Women take control in Remy Bumppo’s timeless remount of Anna in the Tropics

Marela, the youngest daughter of a Cuban Cigar Factory Owner, casts a spell to bring sweetness to Juan Julian’s journey from the island of Cuba to Ybor City, as she and her mother Ofelia (the expressive, incomparable Charín Álvarez) and sister, Conchita, anticipate his arrival. Juan Julian (in an affecting performance by Arash Fakhrabadi) whose voice is “like a Persian canary,” is the new lector. His job is to read books to the Cigar rollers as they work. The characters and a digital dramaturgy packet both note that this tradition comes from the customs of the Taino people (the Indigenous people of Cuba, a first-contact tribe) listening to storytellers as they roll tobacco leaves.

Nilo Cruz’s 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning play is a Cuban American adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Cruz deftly crafts character relationships and factory politics to examine many of the same industrial binaries Tolstoy obsessed over. Machine vs. tradition, speed vs. leisure, with cigarette vs. cigar taking center stage. All are so incredibly specific to the play’s 1929 setting while simultaneously resonant today. 

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Flip The Script: Theatre Down Under

This is a new theatre series covering artistic experiences outside the city of Chicago. Kristin Idaszak writes about the various works they saw at the Sydney Festival. 

A few weeks after the bomb cyclone deep froze Chicago and floods battered the southeast coast of Australia in late December 2022, I arrived at the Sydney Festival, an international festival of performance and culture in Australia. These meteorological events, as well as Australia’s massive brush fires of 2019 and 2020, were on my mind. I was thinking about the weather because I hoped traveling eight thousand miles from home and exploring unfamiliar aesthetic and literal landscapes would reinvigorate my own creative practice, which focuses largely on the environment and the climate crisis. 

Emerging from my own pandemic-induced artistic hibernation, I was eager to experience work that offered new creative methodologies, and reconceived the look, feel, and sound of environmental performance. My first week at the festival consisted of a double-header of pieces inspired by climate change, Sun  & Sea and Polar Force, followed by a dance theatre performance grounded in First Nations dramaturgy.

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An Open Letter to the Chicago Theatre Community about Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

Last month, Rescripted received an email from an anonymous theatre artist with the subject ‘Time’s Up Metropolis.’ In the email were anecdotes collected from a large number of actors, directors, and various other theatre artists, which spoke of the culture of harassment, intimidation, and unsafe working conditions at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.

We are currently working on a long-form piece about Metropolis and will be applying our resources to investigate these matters more thoroughly. If you have worked at Metropolis and have a story you would like to share (anonymously or otherwise), please email us directly at rescriptedreviews@gmail.com. If you are a victim seeking community and support, you can also check out the Time’s Up Metropolis Facebook page.

Below is an open letter from Lauren Berman — a long-time director at Metropolis — who offers up her experience in the hopes of bringing these issues into the spotlight.


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REVIEW: Puppetry, Loneliness, and Family in Manual Cinema’s ‘Christmas Carol’

Manuel Cinema, a studio known for its combination of shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music design, presents its adaptation of A Christmas Carol that artfully melds the iconic story of Ebenezer Scrooge with the contemporary situation of COVID-19. Dropping the English accents, this crisp-and-swift 60-minute adaptation succeeds in feeling both relevant and refreshing while staying faithful to the essence of the well-known story. To do this, the story introduces us to Aunt Trudy (N. LaQuis Harkin), a woman who has lost her husband to COVID-19 but decides to continue his storytelling holiday tradition of puppeting the story of A Christmas Carol.

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REVIEW: ‘Wally World’ at Steppenwolf Meditates on Capitalism at Christmastime

Wally World, written by Issac Gómez and co-directed by Lili-Anne Brown, is a two act radio play produced by Steppenwolf Theatre. The show revolves around employees at the fictional superstore Wally World (akin to another actual large corporation with a similar name), who face the complicated tension and stress of having to work on Christmas Eve. While the store continues to be in complete chaos on the front end, things behind the scenes are just as bad if not worse as the store manager’s position of power is threatened and challenged throughout the hard workdays.

Wally World tries to give the realistic perspective of what it’s like for employees of a large company to be working over the holidays… least to say, it’s not ideal. If you’ve ever been forced to work retail during the holidays, this show is certain to bring memories flooding back. Beyond a reach for authenticity in what it’s like to work retail for a large corporation, this play seeks to ask poignant questions about capitalism, activism, harassment, white supremacy, and labor exhaustion. Wally World’s ideals are similar to other plays like Lynn Nottage’s Sweat or any similar “kitchen sink drama” that involves a variety of diverse characters who get chances to shine in beautifully written monologues about their internal struggles.

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REVIEW: ‘A Christmas Carol In the Dark’ Brings the Classic Tale Back to Its Ghostly Roots at Theatre in the Dark

I sat in my living room with my candles burning, lights dim, and a warm sugary cup filled with flavored tea, as suggested by the production team, and intently listened to the Theatre In The Dark’s A Christmas Carol. In this 70 minute live audio play, I was whisked away into the inhospitable world of Ebenezer Scrooge, guided by only my imagination and a team of talented actors and audio engineers .

Western culture is obsessed with adapting different versions of A Christmas Carol throughout the years, whether through the means of big spectacle plays, large budget films, or even comic books. However, as I’ve grown I’ve found that with every passing year I somehow still love this tale for its striking relevancy even as the holidays and I become more estranged from one another — as I’ve grown older and more cynical, and as they’ve grown more commercialistic and vapid year by year. This A Christmas Carol stays true to the same classic holiday ghost story written by Charles Dickens that has lived on for hundreds of years. This production doesn’t try to change the words, reimagine, or re-adapt the original because it doesn’t need to. It only strips down the well-known story to create a complex radio play that feels like a thrilling tale told around a fire. Theatre In The Dark even encourages its audience to have virtual listening parties for the performance to allow communal connection with others.

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REVIEW: ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’ at Lookingglass Theatre is a Whimsical Holiday Treat

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.

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REVIEW: Shotgun Players’ Multi-Cam Stream of ‘The Light’ is Another Promising Entry to the Digital Theatre Era

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.

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REVIEW: Holiday Tradition Meets Zoom Theatre with ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ at American Blues

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.

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