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The real Maenads of Monmouth

Back in 2014, Theater Wit presented Madeleine George’s acerbic but aching comedy, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, in which the denizens of a small New England college town wrestle with the dusty past, as represented by the display of the title creatures in the campus museum—which no one ever visits. George’s play wove in […]

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An Antigone for our times

The central characters of Redtwist Theatre’s current production are a conservative male government leader determined to impose his laws on everyone around him and a radical young woman passionately driven to defy those laws as unjust. This is no up-to-the-minute new drama about abortion rights in America, but rather a Greek tragedy from the fifth […]

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Girl, interrupted

Maybe it’s a sign of our times that musicals about the aftermath of loss and grief have become so prominent in 21st-century life, from Next to Normal to Dear Evan Hansen. But while both those shows relied on plot devices that hinged on audience misdirection in the case of the former (the better to illustrate […]

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The magic is gone

Every piece of art has a timeliness. When it is born and put into the world, it becomes part of its identity for better or worse. For Godspell, that time has come and gone. First staged in 1971, this musical by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak is painfully dated. That cannot be fixed no matter […]

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The celluloid closet

The Chicago premiere of British playwright Chris Woodley’s Tommy on Top, now playing at Pride Arts Center, is a witty farce that elevates crucial questions about representation and authenticity in contemporary media.  The show is centered on Tommy Miller (Ryan Cason), a closeted actor who’s just been nominated for his first Academy Award. He’s the […]

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Big-box blues

On the wall of the big-box retail warehouse that forms the setting for Eboni Booth’s Paris, now in a midwest premiere at Steep Theatre under Jonathan Berry’s direction, there’s a sign reading: NOBODY CARES. WORK HARDER. It’s a stark enunciation of the realities of late-stage capitalism and consumerism. Paris Through 7/23: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun […]

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Shameless nostalgia

We all remember where we were when we saw Cruel Intentions. Its iconic soundtrack (anyone else melt to Counting Crows’ “Colorblind”?) and “shameless perversity” (thank you, Buzzfeed, for this spot-on description) have become canon in many a millennial’s coming of age and sexual maturity. Directed by Adrian Abel Azevedo, Kokandy Productions’s Chicago storefront premiere of […]

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Pleasant posies

My daughter tells me she likes the 1989 movie version of Steel Magnolias because you can have it running in the background while you do other things, and still more or less follow the plot. The 1987 play the movie is based on has the same virtue. You don’t really have to use all your […]

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Lead in the water

I hardly ever start reviews this way, but trust me: stop reading this and hop online to get tickets for Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s cullud wattah, now in its local premiere at Victory Gardens under Lili-Anne Brown’s direction. It’s a profound, poetic, scabrous (and beautifully acted) piece of theater that hits at so many levels that I […]

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The political is personal

Like the rest of the world, Second City has been through its share of upheavals in the past two years. Longtime owner, CEO, and executive producer Andrew Alexander stepped down in June 2020 in the wake of increasing public allegations about institutional racism at the comedy powerhouse. Anthony LeBlanc stepped in as interim executive director, […]

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Hell on wheels

Nealshow Productions premieres Pat Radke’s and Dave Satterwhite’s malaprop-fueled road-trip comedy. Candyce (Lee Satterwhite), in WWI helmet and goggles, is at the wheel of a middle-school-art-project stand-in for an automobile. While nominally a rideshare driver, he doesn’t seem to be especially savvy about geography, money making, or anything worldly. Candyce is going through some sort […]

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Just skating by

The year is 1994, and rock star Jacqueline Miller (Diana DeGarmo) is zigzagging the country on a tour. Her dishonest manager has absconded with her earnings, her deadbeat saxophonist boyfriend (Ace Young) is either cheating or has forgotten her birthday, and she’s going on Oprah tomorrow but just lost the cover of Rolling Stone to […]

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Sea legs

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, “The Little Mermaid,” is a load of hooey. Consider: The titular mermaid throws herself on a dagger in the end, because she can’t bear to go on after some dude she first encountered days earlier marries someone else. Also, she gives up her voice in exchange for legs so she […]

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Home is where the heart is

Samm-Art Williams’s Home, first produced in 1979 with the seminal Negro Ensemble Company and then in a Tony-nominated run on Broadway in 1980, is considered a contemporary American classic, but it doesn’t get revived as much as it probably should. This feels especially self-evident when viewing Tim Rhoze’s stellar production for Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. Staged simply […]

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Puppet revelations

Puppets are cool, but they are also creepy. Very creepy. Even the cute ones, like Kermit the Frog or Ollie the Dragon. There is just something deeply unnerving about how puppets seem like autonomous beings, even when their puppeteers are right there on stage with them. I think there is something deep and primal in […]