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Fantastic beast

When Luis Carreon takes the stage at the Chicago Magic Lounge, he’s pure old-school vaudeville, an elegant throwback in silver-toed boots and a tuxedo subtly imprinted with crushed velvet roses. He swoops around the stage to the beat of swirling music, spinning gold from fire and pulling rose petals from a fluttering deep-purple handkerchief. It’s […]

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Home at last

There’s a scene near the end of Albany Park Theater Project’s Homecoming (the company’s first live show since the pandemic began) where the cast sings “With a Little Help From My Friends.” That’s about where I wished I, like the audience members seated across from me, had remembered to bring tissues. Sure, music is designed […]

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A ‘fully flavoured’ Playboy

“In a good play every speech should be as fully flavoured as a nut or apple,” wrote Irish playwright John Millington Synge in the preface to his 1907 comedy The Playboy of the Western World. By that standard, Playboy is a very good play—indeed, one of the greatest and most entertaining works in 20th-century English-language […]

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Dimming of the day

“When people die, they move from the first person to the third person. They also move from the present tense to the past tense.” These words are spoken by Christine (Kendra Thulin), who opens Simon Stephens’s Light Falls, directed by Robin Witt, by narrating her own death—sudden, solitary, and mundane in a liquor store in […]

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Heat in August

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it’s actually harder to write a rave review than it is to write a pan. How to communicate the thrill of seeing a show that’s just exactly what it should be without simply saying GO SEE THIS SHOW? Fences Through 8/6: Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 2:30 and 7:30 […]

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Q for quaint

When it took the Tony triumvirate of best musical, original score, and original book in 2004, Avenue Q (music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, book by Jeff Whitty, and based on an original concept by Lopez and Marx) had a satirical edge that seemed sharp enough to slice floating silk. That’s no […]

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Southern gothic heat

For their inaugural production, Violet Sky Theatre company has chosen Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke from 1948. As is expected with any of Williams’s canonical works, Summer and Smoke is a portrait of the delicious agony of unrequited love. Alma Winemiller, the minister’s daughter, has been in love with John Buchanan, the boy next door, […]

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Fields of glory

In Pearl’s Rollin’ With the Blues, Felicia P. Fields gets a showcase for her indomitable vocals. The Tony nominee (for The Color Purple) is a bona fide star in the land of musical theater, her voice an irresistible mix of low-down growling blues and clarion-clear belt. As the titular chanteuse in Writers Theatre’s world premiere […]

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You say you want a revolution?

On one wall of the set for Terry Guest’s Marie Antoinette and the Magical Negroes, now in a local premiere with Story Theatre under Guest’s direction, a large sign tells us “THIS IS NOT HISTORY.” True: what Guest’s skillfully rendered sardonic political comedy offers is a funhouse view (with not always so much fun, given […]

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Out of this world fun

Last year, Chicago Shakespeare offered We Are Out There, a digital sneak peek of Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair’s goofy musical adaptation of the 1953 Universal Pictures sci-fi film, It Came From Outer Space, which was itself based on an original story by Ray Bradbury. Now it’s finally onstage at Chicago Shakes’s cozy upstairs studio […]

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Choice debates

Natalie Y. Moore’s play The Billboard, now in a world premiere with 16th Street Theater, is subtitled “A Play About Abortion.” In the spirit of Chicago improv, allow me to say: Yes, and. The setup is as simple as it is powerful: a neighborhood gadfly puts up a billboard near the [fictional] Black Women’s Health […]

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Indulgence and illusions

Back in the Before Times, I saw Carisa Hendrix perform as her alter ego, dipsomaniacal Lucy Darling, at the Chicago Magic Lounge. Combining va-va-voom Golden Age of Screwball Comedy glitz and sass with sleight-of-hand involving making bottles of whiskey appear and disappear, Hendrix/Darling’s act both celebrates and upends the “sexy assistant” trope in magic. She’s […]

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Native tongues

The grounds are defined by meandering turns of grass and dirt, a rainfall of lightbulbs, a shining blue curve that sometimes picks up projections and reflections of what might be ghosts or clouds, and a dotted line made of glass bottles of water. Amid these clear and reflective surfaces, natural elements and their simulations curbed […]

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Flying feathers

There are a lot of substantive and weighty criticisms to be levied at the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise and its global juggernaut influence over drag culture. Then there are petty ones, like mine: the series sucks at showcasing scripted camp. Nothing hushes even the most raucous, shoulder-to-shoulder packed bar viewing parties quite like the competition’s […]

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A school full of song

The four years that young adults spend in high school are widely recognized as some of the most formative (and cringeworthy) years of their lives. It’s a space where they come face to face with their insecurities on a daily basis. For many, this space is a common site for first-time struggles related to academics, […]