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The Taming of the Shrew

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW Shakespeare Repertory at the Ruth Page Theater In the festive opening scene of Shakespeare Repertory’s production of The Taming of the Shrew a peasant couple dressed in rags yells and fights its way onstage, followed by a band of merrymakers adorned in a rainbow of shredded fabrics and bursting with […]

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Women’s Roles and Realities

WOMEN’S ROLES AND REALITIES Strawdog Theatre Company The people at Strawdog Theatre Company know the difference between a stage and a soapbox. However much it sounds like a doctoral thesis, Strawdog’s Women’s Roles and Realities–inaugurating the “Crossing Boundaries” off-night series–is simply a welcome excuse to gather some outstanding actresses and women directors. Rotating in repertory […]

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Drunkin Grownups/Lone Star/Laundry & Bourbon

DRUNKIN GROWNUPS Mettle Theatre at the Heartland Studio Theatre Drunkin Grownups (that rhymes with Dunkin Donuts) delivers what the title promises: fresh, tantalizing doughnuts, stale and inebriated characters. Served with an unbelievable, uninteresting plot about a father who meets the son he never knew he had, Mark Routhier’s Drunkin Grownups belabors its points about relationships, […]

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Rubber Dolly

RUBBER DOLLY M.P.D. Productions at Chicago Dramatists Workshop “I always thought being a killer was the worst thing you could be.” Fern, a young mother who’s murdered her five-year-old son, utters these words in disbelief. She admits that she killed the boy, but she just can’t see herself as evil. And watching Don Hannah’s effective […]

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The Bug

THE BUG Calumet Stage Productions at Centre East Studio Theatre Richard Strand’s The Bug in its staging at Centre East Studio Theatre has the same corporate setting, high-energy humor, and polished look as the 1992 Victory Gardens production of his Death of Zukasky. Both plays highlight the bunglings of corporate America. Both are fast and […]

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Dark of the Moon

DARK OF THE MOON Chi-Town Revelers at Puszh Studios Though Dark of the Moon, written by Howard Richardson and William Berney, won the Maxwell Anderson Award in its 1942 premiere, Richardson struggled for years before he could find a Broadway producer. The Theatre Guild considered it briefly but chose instead a musical adapted from a […]

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Maryam’s Pregnancy

MARYAM’S PREGNANCY Hidden Theatre at Splinter Group Studio Set in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, Maryam’s Pregnancy revolves around an unwed pregnant girl who is forced into hiding in order to stay alive because her moral crime is punishable by stoning. Staying alive means enduring the last seven months of her pregnancy in the dark, […]

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Food From Trash

FOOD FROM TRASH American Blues Theatre Gary Leon Hill’s Food From Trash marks a disappointing opening for American Blues Theatre’s new 150-seat performing space. First staged in 1983, the heavy-handed script revolves around a corrupt waste-disposal company and the men who make their living hauling trash. The result is an unglamorous soap opera–dominated not by […]

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Lillian

In last spring’s Interplay production of Lillian, a one-woman show based on Lillian Hellman’s autobiographical writings, playwright William Luce and performer Caitlin Hart not only did justice to Hellman, they captured something essential about her story telling. At the start of the play Lillian admonishes us, “The tales of former children are not to be […]

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The Diviners

THE DIVINERS Temporary Theatre Company at Mayfair United Methodist Church I’m not sure what business Jim Leonard Jr. has writing a John Steinbeck play, but he doesn’t do a half bad job of imitating the literary master of misfits, preachers, hired hands, and dust. The Diviners, Leonard’s first play, first performed in 1981, is set […]

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Bash/The Playhouse

BASH Real Work at Cafe Voltaire THE PLAYHOUSE at the Playwrights’ Center Ostensibly Neil Labute’s Bash is a young couple’s remembrance of a much-cherished trip to New York City for a bash at the Plaza. But even as Sue and John recall the most innocuous details of the weekend, a growing tension warns us that […]

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Valley of the Dolls/Act of Translation

VALLEY OF THE DOLLS Id/Ego Productions at Avenue Theater ACT OF TRANSLATION StreetSigns at Edgewater Theatre Center While I wouldn’t want all theater to be verbatim spoofs of old movies or television programs, there’s no denying that done right–and Id/Ego Productions’ Valley of the Dolls is–such parodies can be hilarious strolls down memory lane, making […]