Posted inArts & Culture

The Music Man

Ray Frewen’s production of Meredith Willson’s quintessential middle-American musical–aided by Gregory Slawko’s colorful, period-perfect costumes and James Zager’s sassy choreography–captures its exuberance, tartness, and mischief. Gene Weygandt is the lovable Professor Harold Hill, sauntering through River City with a great sense of rhythm and self-assured charm as he rips off the citizens for uniforms and […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Patty Red Pants

In Trista Baldwin’s Red Riding Hood-derived erotic allegory, Patty and her friend Becky grapple with their awakening sexuality while processing a peer’s murder in the woods. Baldwin’s snappy teen vernacular and winding poetic images allow Blackbird Productions’ expert cast–Lois Mathilda Atkins, Salena Hanrahan, and Wil Fleming as various manifestations of the wolf–to express the allure […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The Odd Couple

Neil Simon’s 1965 comedy about the postdivorce cohabitation of a neurotic neat freak and a hopeless slob holds up well enough to justify 40 years of revival. Most of the jokes still sing, and we can still relate to poker buddies, bitter ex-husbands, and giddy young women. However, even if you can manage to forget […]

Posted inArts & Culture

I’m a Female . . . Seeking a Male

Diana Mucci-Beauchamp’s interviews with 100 single men distinguish her debut script from other ruminations on the ruminated-to-death subject of dating. The guys at the play’s central location–an airport bar–alternately reinforce and disprove the notion that men want only sex, food, and football, relaying stories that range from surreal (one man gets sex when he dresses […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940

The victims in John Bishop’s spoof of 1930s mystery comedies are Broadway show people preparing for an audition in their benefactor’s cavernous home. With campy fervor they chase one another through secret passageways (of course), reveal secret identities (of course), and eventually explain the murderous spree’s convoluted whys and hows. Under Ray Frewen’s direction the […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The Importance of Being Earnest

Mayslake Hall provides an appropriately posh setting for Oscar Wilde’s comedy about the tribulations of 19th-century England’s upper crust. When two bachelors take the same alter ego named Ernest–one to avoid responsibility (“Ernest did it!”), the other to trick a young woman–the resulting misunderstandings make for amusing farce and for plenty of Wilde’s catty observations […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The Second City’s 45th Anniversary Tour

While not the towering retrospective that the title suggests, this is a finely tuned revue of sketches from the Second City’s vast repertoire plus a smidgen of improv. Director Jim Carlson mixes and matches an impressive variety of diverse but identifiable characters: the ingenue (Rebecca Sage Allen), hunk (Alex Fendrich), imp (Nicky Margolis), Belushi-ish dude […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Collected Stories

Are writers entitled to use others’ real-life stories? When does artistic license become soul stealing? This dilemma drives a wedge between an aspiring author and her aging mentor when the young protegee overshadows her professor using material that the older woman shared in confidence. The production is part of Circle Theatre’s Black Box Series, in […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Macbeth; The Tempest

MACBETH and THE TEMPEST, Talisman Theatre, at Wing Park in Elgin. This Shakespeare doubleheader offers lively productions, alternating nightly, that engage the crowd but fall short of the darkness and magic they aspire to. Director Mark Hardiman has set Macbeth in “a misconception of the Middle East,” by which he seems to mean a locale […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Durang 4Play

DURANG 4PLAY, A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company, at Theatre Building Chicago. This sampler offers an introduction to prolific American playwright Christopher Durang, showcasing his mischievous, dreamy style and two of his favorite subjects: the devouring mother and theater classics. Alternately demonic and saccharine matriarchs whirl through ‘Dentity Crisis and Death Comes to Us All, Mary […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Supernatural Chicago

SUPERNATURAL CHICAGO, at Excalibur. Necromancer Neil Tobin shares some well-known stories of Chicago’s spirit life in this one-man show, performed in the narrow attic of the reputedly haunted nightclub Excalibur. Adopting a simple lecture format complete with illustrations on easels, Tobin tells tales of the city’s famous undead: the Italian Bride, Resurrection Mary, Al Capone […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The Romance of Magno Rubio

THE ROMANCE OF MAGNIO RUBIO, Victory Gardens Theater. Standing tall at four feet, six inches, the hero of Lonnie Carter’s play (adapted from Carlos Bulosan’s short story) demonstrates that hope and a sense of humor can carry human beings through the darkest circumstances. The setting is 1930s California, where young Magno–a barely literate Filipino laborer–shares […]

Posted inArts & Culture

A3: This Time It’s Awesome

A3: THIS TIME IT’S AWESOME, Awesome Show, at ImprovOlympic. Peter Gwinn and Meagan O’Brien’s 45-minute revue suggests what can be great and not so great about sketch comedy. What’s great is its plethora of fresh ideas: acting students working at Starbucks, serving up lattes and Meisner exercises; two Abu Ghraib prisoners laughing at guards so […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Christopher Carter Keeps Messing With Your Mind!

It’s freaky. With silver dollars duct-taped to his eyelids under a four-layer blindfold, mentalist Christopher Carter holds up cards submitted by audience members and shouts out their names and detailed personal information–childhood addresses, driver’s license numbers. And this is his least astounding trick. Carter swears that his only tools are an acute awareness of body […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Biloxi Blues

BILOXI BLUES, New World Repertory Theater, at the Mason’s Building. The second installment of Neil Simon’s autobiographical trilogy covers his time in the army during World War II. Private Eugene Jerome, Simon’s alter ego, and five other young men in his platoon negotiate boot camp politics and challenging food under a sadistic sergeant who motivates […]