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 […]

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Brothers on the run

In Exal Iraheta’s Last Hermanos, a pair of Latinx half-brothers find themselves at a crucible somewhere in the hot, hostile wilderness of a Texas state park. The “pick-up” that was to ferry them to the next spot on their journey doesn’t show. Julio (Roberto Jay) and Miguel (Esteban Andres Cruz) are rapidly running out of […]

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My old Kentucky home

The Gift Theatre marks its return to live performance after a two-year absence with the Chicago premiere of Naomi Iizuka’s bittersweet ode to memory and place. Directed by Lavina Jadhwhani, it is a series of sometimes wistful, sometimes nostalgic, but always affecting monologues told by a succession of related characters in a Kentucky town, over […]

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He’s just not that into you

Its title and structure clearly classify William Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well as a comedy. By definition, tragedies end in death, comedies with weddings. Nobody dies during All’s Well, but the climactic wedding in the final act hardly ends with the happy couple basking in the rosy romantic glow of a strongly implied happily […]

Posted inDance

Binary ballets

The evening begins with Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk’s melancholy Melody meandering through the auditorium, a haunting tune that invites contemplation. Curtain down, panels bordering the stage lit in blue and yellow, vines rise in relief where pillars would seem to stand: a ruin retaken by foliage or a reminder of the interdependence of nature and […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Julie Doucet is back

In 2018, the Reader ran a cover story: “Julie Doucet is done making comics.” The underground artist famously abandoned the scene in 2006, leaving fans of her cult-classic series Dirty Plotte and graphic novels like My New York Diary bereft. Through the years, her autobiographical comics became renowned in the canon. She explored other art […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The big world of Brandon Breaux

Yes, Chance the Rapper did give a big push to artist Brandon Breaux’s career when Breaux designed the covers for three of the singer’s mixtapes: 10 Day, Acid Rap, and Coloring Book. Breaux also recently landed two high-profile commissions—the February 2022 Ebony cover honoring editor André Leon Talley, and the cover of Carry On: Reflections […]

Posted inTheater Review

Space and race on the Chicago Metra

Tina Fakhrid-Deen’s latest play, Pulled Punches, gives audiences a close-up of a developing relationship between two characters, Isis (Melanie Victoria) and Charles (Brad Harbaugh), over the course of their 90-minute Metra ride. As Isis, a Black woman, eagerly looks forward to returning home to watch Scandal, Charles, a white adjunct African American studies professor from […]

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Check yourself

Every once in a while you encounter a show that makes you laugh so much it hurts. But rarely do you get a show that, sometimes seconds later, causes painful silence in the crowd. The fact that the late Joel Drake Johnson’s Rasheeda Speaking first premiered in 2014 (at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble) is an all-too-pointed […]

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Some favorite things

Banish all thoughts of Julie Andrews and the classic film The Sound of Music and take in the stage version at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. From top to bottom, from eldest to first-grader Reese Bella, the voices are stunning. Whether standards such as “My Favorite Things” or the lesser-known “How Can Love Survive,” the songs […]

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Special needs

Kristine Thatcher’s drama about a couple adopting (or not adopting, as it turns out) a child born with profound disabilities kickstarted Thatcher’s profile as a playwright in its 1996 Victory Gardens premiere. It’s back at City Lit, once again under Terry McCabe’s direction. And while some parts don’t hold up well, the production builds to […]