The Anton Chekhov Book Club Returns Moving Dock follows up last year’s compilation of Chekhov’s short stories with this new set of seven. Using “From the Diary of a Violent-Tempered Man” as a framing device, a cast of four women bob between goofy vignettes like “A Work of Art” and richer, more nuanced romantic pieces like “A Joke.” Director Dawn Arnold’s reverence and affinity for the source material is clear, but the format—sort of a performance, sort of a staged reading—robs viewers of the stories’ intimacy without doing much to heighten their power. —Dan Jakes
Bloodshot Derek Eveleigh, hard-drinking former crime scene photographer, is washed up until an envelope arrives in the mail containing money and instructions: trail and photograph a particular woman, and expect more money. He bites, falls for his subject—who ends up dead—and suddenly he’s eyeballs deep in finding her killer. Douglas Post’s one-man noir is tightly constructed, well written, and calcified, so dependent on the well-worn conventions of midcentury crime dramas it may as well be an unproduced episode of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. As Eveleigh, British import Simon Slater, star of Bloodshot‘s original 2011 London production, gives a precise, detailed, impassioned performance, but by the time he’s played ukulele, saxophone, and done magic tricks—all before intermission—the evening feels more showcase than show. —Justin Hayford
Dementia Me A solo show can live or die by the energy of its performer. Dementia Me is nothing if not a high-energy display, as John Michael Colgin (who goes by “John Michael” professionally) brings quasi-manic levels of eagerness and intensity to his tale of two years spent working for a Texas “memory care center”—a nursing home for seniors suffering from dementia. In his time there, he says, he was known as “Mr. Smiles,” and it’s clear that exuberance is important to him, not only as an actor, but as someone whose job it was to shepherd the aged through impairment, forgetfulness, and terminal illness with a reassuring smile. Dementia Me makes a desperate case for joy in all things—as a palliative to intense suffering, as a meaningful distraction that can help if not heal sickness, and as good theater. John Michael heartens without making light of his subject matter. —Max Maller
The Fly Honey Show VII Pregamers ought to consider Irish coffee before attending this annual late-night marathon of burlesque rapture, which parties on until around last call. Accompanied by a live rock band, a rotating, diverse cast of performers celebrate bodies and self-love in a punk-styled, socially progressive variety show. Interdisciplinary collective the Inconvenience has cultivated a sizable community of artists and audience members over time, and there’s no question the show’s gender politics preach to the choir, but that’s one of its greatest values—in a year rife with disheartening stories, a little church does the mind and body some good. Emcee Mary Williamson is a razor-sharp firebrand when she yields a microphone, and this year’s run has the added bonus of soaking up some of the magical juju of the Chopin’s basement theater. —Dan Jakes
Mame Songwriter Jerry Herman and playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s 1966 musical—based on Lawrence and Lee’s 1956 stage adaptation of Evanston-bred novelist Patrick Dennis’s 1955 best seller—is an old-fashioned Broadway star vehicle. The actor playing the title character—a madcap Jazz Age socialite who finds new meaning in life when she becomes guardian of her orphaned nephew Patrick—must be a glamorous clotheshorse who can sing and dance up a storm. She must also be able to make lightning-fast emotional shifts, from screwball giddiness to pathos to crackling anger, as Auntie Mame fights to raise Patrick as a freethinker rather than a prep-school conformist. The leading lady of Light Opera Works’s 50th-anniversary revival of the show, belter Nancy Hays, looks good and sounds great, but under Rudy Hogenmiller’s by-the-numbers direction she’s dramatically bland; her battle for Patrick’s soul lacks any urgency. The result is a disappointingly conventional take on a wonderfully unconventional character. Kudos, however, to choreographer Clayton Cross and his high-stepping kicklines and cakewalks. —Albert Williams
Tall Girl and the Lightning Parade On the one hand, this bilingual Walkabout Theater show is performed outdoors, in parks, and that can be very pleasant. A beautiful moon hung in a clear sky the evening I attended. On the other hand, pretty much everything that happened under that moon was an amiable mess. Based on a Mayan creation myth, Tall Girl follows the cosmic troubles that ensue when the daughter of the Sun and Moon falls for the son of the Ocean and Hurricane. Director Thom Pasculli approaches it as neo-Redmoonian spectacle, with stilt walking, puppets, and implacable whimsy. But little seems to have been thought all the way through. Subsidiary characters are poorly differentiated. The choreography is vague. Aesthetic rules change arbitrarily. And why would Pasculli time the show so that the all-important final image comes after dark, when, thanks to a lack of man-made illumination, it’s hard to see?
—Tony Adler v