Posted inArts & Culture

Susan Nussbaum, 1953-2022

Editor’s note: Chicago playwright, novelist, actor, director, and disability rights activist Susan Nussbaum died April 28 of pneumonia at 68. Playwright Mike Ervin, who collaborated with Nussbaum as cowriter on the comedy revue The Plucky and Spunky Show and whose 1999 play, The History of Bowling, was directed by Nussbaum, remembers his friend and mentor. […]

Posted inTheater Review

Reunion and regret

Like several post-pandemic shows in Chicago, the Artistic Home’s production of The Pavilion, written by Craig Wright and directed by Julian Hester, is about an intimate relationship between two people over time. It is also about the creation of the universe, being tethered to the past, and literally burning down sentimentality. High school sweethearts Peter […]

Posted inTheater Review

The bones of grief

Laura Schellhardt’s Digging Up Dessa was commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center as part of its Theater for Young Audiences program in 2018. But this play, now in its Chicago premiere with Theatre Above the Law, is like a lot of great YA fiction—relevant to many audiences.  Digging Up Dessa Through 5/22: Fri-Sat 8 […]

Posted inTheater Review

People who need people

When everyone on the stage is excellent, it shows a director fully in command of the material. That’s the case with Cody Estle’s production of The Luckiest by Melissa Ross, receiving its Chicago premiere at the Raven Theatre. Plays about a young woman’s disability and impending death always risk straying into Love Story-style bathos, while […]

Posted inTheater Review

War cries

A wooden rowboat and plastic sheets lining two back walls are the only decorations for Sarah Tolan-Mee’s English-language adaptation of Heiner Müller’s 1982 cry-of-anguish riff on war, betrayal, and the messiness of identity. Using the Greek legends of Medea and Jason as a jumping-off point, this is a raging, poetic rant against tyranny and fate […]

Posted inTheater Review

Steppenwolf’s Seagull opens a lovely new space

“Here is a theater. No curtain, no wings, no scenery. Just an empty space.” Konstantin Treplev, the young and hungry artist manqué in Anton Chekhov’s Seagull, intones these words before the disastrous and abortive premiere of his play-within-the-play for his family. But at the Saturday opening of ensemble member Yasen Peyankov’s production at Steppenwolf, it […]

Posted inDance

Light drives the story in TAKE

On an industrial strip of Rockwell just off Elston, beyond a white door with numbers painted in red, past a makeshift bar, through a dark curtain lies a white brick room filled with smoke. Through the haze, folding chairs line each wall, leaving bare an expanse of concrete, above which soar long sheets of white […]

Posted inArts & Culture

‘Afong Moy was a real person’

The year was 1834. Indigenous communities were being displaced from their ancestral homelands on the forced march known as the Trail of Tears. Over two million people of African descent were enslaved. And America’s first model minority, Afong Moy, was imported to New York: a 14-year-old girl with bound feet, made to perform for the […]

Posted inTheater Review

Reflecting pools

I saw a lot of old friends and acquaintances I hadn’t seen in quite some time last weekend. And as sometimes happens for people of a certain age, shades of sorrow and remembrance for those no longer here crept into the conversation. No matter how much we try to play whack-a-mole with the Reaper, he’s […]

Posted inTheater Review

Haitian history

Aimé Césaire’s 1970 play about Haiti’s little-known and brief period of monarchy gets a better production than it deserves from adapter and director Lanise Antoine Shelley and her cast. Césaire created not characters but mouthpieces for points of view about Haiti’s government in the years after its hard-won independence, and not even effective ones: without […]

Posted inTheater Review

Literary rivals

Donald Margulies’s 1996 literary two-hander, Collected Stories, treads cozy if familiar territory for the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright: wry, self-conscious intellectuals from opposite ends of the beleaguered New York cultural elite debate the differences between ethics and morals in crafting fiction. Tired of commuting to her university office, celebrated author Ruth (Jacqueline Grandt) hosts one-on-one tutoring […]

Posted inTheater Review

Sex education

The Chicago production of off-Broadway’s longest running comedy is a fun, interactive night out with some surprisingly touching, and even useful, takeaways. The 75-minute show is based on a 1997 book of the same title (by Dan Anderson and Maggie Berman), which the program reminds us was ahead of its time—before Will & Grace, Sex […]

Posted inTheater Review

The bitch of living—1891 and today

This rock musical by librettist Steven Sater and composer Duncan Sheik debuted off-Broadway in 2006, and the play it’s based on, Frank Wedekind’s Frühlings Erwachen, dates back to 1891. But Porchlight Music Theatre’s moving new production feels troublingly timely in director/choreographer Brenda Didier’s taut, intimate staging, due both to the heartfelt performances of its excellent […]