What Will ‘The Children’ Sacrifice for a Brighter Tomorrow?

The Children written by Lucy Kirkwood is making its Chicago premiere at Steppenwolf directed by ensemble member Jonathan Berry. The show is performed with a breathtaking set design (Chelsea M. Warren) that consists of a full scale house on the shore of an English cottage complete with sounds of seagulls and waves crashing on the shore (sound by Andre Pluess). This is where the entire show is set, and it juts out, making the audience feel small in comparison. This prominent house is where we meet three retired nuclear scientists who both share and keep secrets. Continue reading “What Will ‘The Children’ Sacrifice for a Brighter Tomorrow?”

‘Cambodian Rock Band’ Delivers Reality-Shattering Performances

Cambodian Rock Band written by Lauren Yee, is directed by Marti Lyons at Victory Gardens. The premise of the play is in the name, but the show encompasses so much more depth than the careers of a rock band. It’s about the trauma of genocide in Cambodia, family dynamics, and how one can repair themselves through music. Continue reading “‘Cambodian Rock Band’ Delivers Reality-Shattering Performances”

Minimal, Striking ‘Hamlet’ Gives Method to the Madness at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Hamlet introduces the Prince of Denmark (Maurice Jones) as a man standing at the foot of his father’s grave. The rain pours down and this macabre image resembles a superhero origin story. Only Hamlet is no hero. This revenge story has casualties. Barbara Gaines directs a massively skilled cast of players with nuance, intimacy, and the occasional dramatic flare. Continue reading “Minimal, Striking ‘Hamlet’ Gives Method to the Madness at Chicago Shakespeare Theater”

‘Corona’ Shines Bright at Otherworld Theatre Company

Elizabeth Ann Michaela Keel’s Corona takes place on a beautiful set designed by Hannah Beaudry; squarish, obsidian walls, accented with vibrantly lit-up panels that shine with different garish colors throughout. A raised white dais, which looks equal parts marble and futuristic, rises from the stage’s middle and invokes our collective idea of what a starship bridge looks like without mimicking it outright. In addition, right away we are treated to brilliant projections and lighting design from Claire Sangster; the contrast of the black set with monochromatic floods of blue, or pink, or orange create a lovely, spooky, and (pardon the pun) otherworldly feel. In director Tiffany Keane Schaefer’s production, the back wall and side panels show projections of stars and nebulae as they slowly drift by. Continue reading “‘Corona’ Shines Bright at Otherworld Theatre Company”

‘Small World’ Delivers a Sidesplitting End of Days at The New Colony

“No one dies at Disney,” Stephanie Shum screeches into the abyss during Small World at The New Colony, a show that may prove to be the funniest and simultaneously most disturbing theatrical event of 2019. When I say funny I do not mean elbow your friend and chuckle a few times in the first thirty minutes before things get serious. Jillian Leff and Joe Lino’s new play Small World made me and my guest guffaw for about 80 solid minutes. This is a refreshing structure, as there is still quite a lot of emotional depth provided by the text and Patriac Coakley, Stephanie Shum and Jackie Seijo, the cast of three that launches this production into the stratosphere of hold-on-to-your-stomach hilarity. Continue reading “‘Small World’ Delivers a Sidesplitting End of Days at The New Colony”

‘Detour Guide’ is A Sorely Needed Story That Stumbles in the Telling

Before the performance of Detour Guide that I saw began, a producer from Silk Road Rising came out to talk to the audience. Before the usual pre-show announcements, he began by acknowledging the terrorist attacks in New Zealand, the news of which had broken just that morning. The audience shared a moment of silence, and then Karim Nagi came onstage to tell us a story that sought, in all aspects, to humanize and demystify the Arab world. He delved into the music, culture, and history of Egypt, Syria, and many other Arabic-speaking nations. He analyzed portrayals of the Arab world in Hollywood movies and attempted to dismantle stereotypes. He told stories of his childhood, growing up in America as the son of Egyptian immigrants, and of his trips back there. Detour Guide is a screamingly necessary show in this political era, where racist and anti-Muslim stereotypes are being peddled by the most powerful people in the Western world to immediate and devastating effect, as the news that morning reminded us. This is a show that rightfully forced me to address and challenge my own biases. Nagi goes out of his way to make us uncomfortable, and make us examine why we like or dislike certain cultural narratives. Continue reading “‘Detour Guide’ is A Sorely Needed Story That Stumbles in the Telling”

A Grounded, Subtle, Sci-Fi Thrill Ride in ‘A Number’ at Writers Theatre

A Number, presented at Writers’ Theatre and directed by Robin Witt, takes place in a world designed by Courtney O’Neill — a spare yet expensive-looking living room, eerily clean, with just a few couches and tables and sculptures. The space feels erudite and smooth, yet the slightest bit empty and creepy. The stage is illuminated by four wall lights that shine a crystal-clear white, and a big window at the back that turns blue and gray and white at key moments in the show; lighting designer Brandon Wardell does admirable work creating tension in the space. Continue reading “A Grounded, Subtle, Sci-Fi Thrill Ride in ‘A Number’ at Writers Theatre”

‘For Colored Girls’ at Court Theatre Leads us to the end of our own Rainbows

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange is a vibrant tribute to the transitional power of the Black femme. The moment we step into the abandoned train station at Court Theatre, we know we are in a space full with the possibility of movement and growth. Directed by Seret Scott, who took over the role of Lady in Orange in the original Broadway production, this beautiful production moves with purpose. Continue reading “‘For Colored Girls’ at Court Theatre Leads us to the end of our own Rainbows”

Goodman Theatre’s ‘Sweat’ Lays Bare the Passions of Working America

Sweat, written by Lynn Nottage, is a Pulitzer prize winner that focuses on race, debt in America, capitalism, and the working class. Director Ron OJ Parson’s production of Sweat at the Goodman is, at its core, about humanity, power, and the fight for survival. It’s about what will humanity do when they are pushed to the breaking point and worked like a dog. Sadly, the answer is not as black and white as it seems as Brucie states “you think they give a damn about you?”   Continue reading “Goodman Theatre’s ‘Sweat’ Lays Bare the Passions of Working America”

Heritage, History, and Comedy in ‘Remember The Alamo’

Remember the Alamo is a world premiere Neo-Lab original being performed at The Neo-Futurist Theatre. The show is created by Neo-Futurist ensemble member: Nick Hart and directed by Neo-Futurist Artistic director Kurt Chiang. This production promises its audience that they will help the actors fully recreate the Alamo battle. This show contains more than that, it also has themes of death, interesting facts about Phil Collins, and a narrative of what it’s like to be mixed-race in America through individual personal narratives. Continue reading “Heritage, History, and Comedy in ‘Remember The Alamo’”