‘The Mothers’ at The Gift Theatre is a Dystopian Sendup of Mommy Influencer Culture

The first act of The Mothers, now playing at The Gift Theatre, is a satirical knife, slipped between the ribs by playwright Anna Ouyang Moench. The second act unflinchingly twists that knife, resulting in an eviscerating theatrical experience adroitly directed by Halena Kays.

The Mothers begins as a dystopian sendup of mommy influencer culture. Set in a hyper-saturated magenta playroom (designed by Lauren Nichols), the caregivers coo at their unseen offspring, placed amongst the audience. At the center of the story is Meg (a propulsive Stephanie Shum), a former lawyer who left her high-powered career for suburban stay-at-home-mom bliss. Meg’s new BFF Ariana (Caren Blackmore, effervescent) exudes an aura of maternal expertise that’s immediately complicated by a casual anti-vaxxer quip. She clashes with Meg’s best friend from law school, Vick (an assured Krystel McNeil) who’s come to visit, leaving her own baby behind. Vick finds no solidarity in her attempts to juggle a demanding legal career and the early months of motherhood. McNeil’s grounded energy provides an effective countercurrent to the electric duo of Shum and Blackmore. Continue reading “‘The Mothers’ at The Gift Theatre is a Dystopian Sendup of Mommy Influencer Culture”

‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’ at The Gift Theatre is Larger than Life

Billie Holiday. Judy Garland. Amy Winehouse. The particulars change, but the contours are all too familiar: a talent is discovered, milked for all she’s worth, and then discarded. It’s a story that plays out again in Jim Cartwright’s 1992 The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, revived at the Gift Theatre. Thirty years later, a culture of disposability persists in the entertainment industry, as evidenced by this year’s historic WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, and that disposability undeniably compounds with gender, race, class, and other minoritized identities. Continue reading “‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’ at The Gift Theatre is Larger than Life”

‘Wolf Play’ Raises the Complexities of Adoption

The Gift Theatre’s world premiere of Wolf Play by Hansol Jung is a close up look at the politics of adoption and their personal impact on the children and families involved. Wolf Play follows a short period of time in the life of an adopted boy (Dan Lin), billed as “Wolf”, but variably called “Peter” and “Jeenu”. When the boy is re-homed with a biracial lesbian couple after being adopted from Korea by a white straight couple, he leans into his identity as an abandoned wolf for guidance and comfort. The present day wolf narrates his story, and embodies the child wolf through a Bunraku-style puppet (Stephanie Diaz). As new family tensions and power dynamics unfurl around the wolf in his new environment we watch him adjust and calculate. Continue reading “‘Wolf Play’ Raises the Complexities of Adoption”

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…”