Posted inTheater Review

West Virginia woes

Williamson, West Virginia, is in the heart of Hatfield-McCoy history, but the conflict driving apart a family in Madison Fiedler’s Spay, now in a world premiere at Rivendell under Georgette Verdin’s direction, is rooted in opioids, not moonshine. Kindergarten teacher Harper (Krystel McNeil) has just brought home her half-sister Noah (Rae Gray) from the hospital, […]

Posted inPerforming Arts Feature

The Rhino in spring

In January 2020, I checked in with Jenny Magnus about Rhinoceros Theater Festival (better known as Rhino Fest), the city’s longest running fringe theater festival. “The world is really hard right now,” Magnus said at the time. “All we have is each other and the intention to do something good. Aid and comfort. We just […]

Posted inGhost Light

A new home for American Blues

Like almost every long-running Chicago theater company, American Blues Theater has been through its share of ups and downs. Founded in 1985, ABT has long carried the banner for the classic Chicago-style ensemble, and they went Equity in 1988. They lost some money on a production of Keith Reddin’s Peacekeeper in 1990, but by 1993, […]

Posted inTheater Review

Chit-chat on the high wire

In his 1940 memoir, A Smattering of Ignorance, composer-raconteur-pharmaceuticals enthusiast Oscar Levant recalls a train journey he took with his idol, George Gershwin. After offering the talkative Gershwin a sleeping pill (“with the air of a man offering a friend an after-dinner mint”), Levant was mildly surprised that Gershwin commandeered the more comfortable lower berth […]

Posted inTheater Review

Meta Miller

Eleanor Burgess’s Wife of a Salesman, now in a world premiere at Writers Theatre under Jo Bonney’s direction, starts out with a “what if” premise: namely, what if Linda Loman, the long-suffering wife of Arthur Miller’s tragic American Everyman, Willy, met “the woman in Boston” with whom her husband had an affair and asked her […]

Posted inTheater Review

Far from a drag

It’s been nearly 50 years since the first iteration of La Cage aux Folles flew from the nest in the form of Jean Poiret’s 1973 play of that title. Since then, there’s been a 1978 French film, remade in Hollywood in 1996 as The Birdcage (starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane) and an oft-revived 1983 […]

Posted inGhost Light

Free Street celebrates Radical Love

Free Street Theater was founded in 1969 by Patrick Henry, an alum of the Goodman School of Drama whose vision was to create a multiracial ensemble that could tour neighborhoods and break down “the artificial barriers that divide us.” That mission has remained intact through many changes of leadership over the past 53 years and […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Sea changes

In his preshow speech, Court Theatre artistic director Charles Newell asked the audience how many had ever seen Henrik Ibsen’s 1888 play The Lady from the Sea before. “We’re at Court Theatre and we’re doing an Ibsen play only four people have seen,” he responded. That alone helps make the case for this production, which […]

Posted inTheater Review

Don’t look back

Hadestown, the 2019 Tony Award-winning musical that grew out of a 2010 concept album by Anaïs Mitchell, is an earnest and goodhearted show (now in a short run with Broadway in Chicago) that in some regards left me cold. (Or maybe lukewarm, as I imagine the temperature in purgatory might be.) This gloss on Greek […]

Posted inTheater Review

Cracking the code

First performed by Lookingglass in 1989 (with Ana Gasteyer in the original cast) and then in an expanded run at the now-gone Goodman studio theater in 1993, adapter/director Mary Zimmerman’s The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci is one of the landmark productions in Chicago theater history: long before she won the MacArthur “genius” grant and […]