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Shoes

A series of brief, staccato scenes in Gloria Bond Clunie’s impressionistic script captures the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Like Toni Morrison in Song of Solomon, Clunie balances history and spirituality, using real-life events as a launching pad for exploring politics during the civil rights era and (less specifically) […]

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The Beatbox, Vol. 2

Audience members barely outnumbered performers at this super-sized remount of Dirty South Improv’s franchise piece, a no-holds-barred mix of hip-hop and improv comedy. Director Jay Olson–taking over the reins from the show’s originator, Zach Ward–has doubled the size of the ensemble and split it into two groups, each accompanied by a beatboxer. Unfortunately a lot […]

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Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

Director Frank Merle’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy for the Keyhole Theatre Company is shorter but strangely labored. Unthinkably, he omits the play within the play–a pivotal scene in which psychosexual tensions and revenge fantasies collide and are transformed into palpable menace. A few judicious cuts elsewhere cure the characters of their nasty habit of […]

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Mrs. Warren’s Profession

After attempts at writing novels and melodramas, George Bernard Shaw found solid footing with this 1893 critique of hypocrisy within polite society. Mrs. Warren–an entrepreneur who’s filled her coffers by franchising brothels throughout Europe–remains one of Shaw’s sharpest female creations, a huge ripple in his usual stream of dowdy spinsters and petulant schoolgirls. In keeping […]

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Save Me From Myself

Bob Fisher’s playwriting aesthetic owes a lot to the artifacts of his youth: comic books, Alfred Hitchcock’s British suspense films, ultra-low-budget horror flicks, and everything else Frederick Wertham warned parents to keep their kids away from. But there’s no denying that his continued entanglement in the throes of arrested adolescence can make for riveting theater: […]

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From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey

Monologuists tend to get obsessed with incorporating the banalities of performance into their performances–think Spalding Gray, pausing to sip from his omnipresent half-empty glass. But human beatbox/raconteur Yuri Lane doesn’t want you to consider his pauses; he wants to camouflage them: whenever he takes a swig of water during this hip-hop overview of Palestinian-Israeli relations, […]

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Menage a Trailer

In a nod to the disposable nature of the show, and as a wonderful reminder of Factory Theater’s ability to make ten dollars look like a million bucks, Nick Digilio’s cast peels the scenery off the walls in between Laura McKenzie’s and Mark Sam Rosenthal’s one-acts in this evening of three. The production has nowhere […]

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Middle-Aged White Guys

Jane Martin’s scathing critique of middle-American values offers a lesson in the art of taking responsibility and apologizing. Too bad Bush wasn’t at this Open Eye Productions show. In Martin’s 1994 script, three bumbling brothers gather in a toxic-waste dump to pay tribute to the girl that got away, but they end up prostrating themselves […]

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Shakespeare Kung Fu

Chicago playwright Will Kern claims to have discovered this long-lost work during an archaeological dig in China, and in a program note he advances a winning crackpot theory about William Shakespeare’s sojourn at a Shaolin temple. On the face of it, a postmodern appropriation of dialogue from all of Shakespeare’s plays staged in the context […]

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This Is Our Youth

Kenneth Lonergan’s inexplicably popular 1996 portrait of three disaffected college students meets its match here with a cast comprised of . . . disaffected Columbia College students. After suffering through the reign of George Bush II, the young Hipshot Theatre Company probably has a pretty good sense of what the Reagan administration was about and […]

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Les Mantastiques

The opener to the Mantasticks’ latest revue sets the bar high, as its six members let it all (well, most of it) hang out in a charmingly disheveled parody of Cirque du Soleil complete with nude bodysuits. But their aim isn’t as true in the rest of the show–audience members scrambled out of the theater […]

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A Long Way From Chicago

James E. Grote’s adaptation of Richard Peck’s Newbery-winning children’s novel gets bogged down in narrative sometimes, which is unfortunate given Peck’s imaginative prose. Still, Grote does well at creating a consistent tone in these tales of the yearly pilgrimages that Joey and Mary Alice make to visit their no-nonsense grandma during the Depression. As the […]

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A Dangerous Ornithology

James Owens’s treatise on the threat to personal freedoms posed by an autocratic government can be frustrating. The playwright’s intent seems to be to push us headfirst into a hyperparanoid reality and force us to grapple with a narrative that needs too much unpacking to be savored. The resourceful ensemble renders a few moments indelible: […]

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A Rosen by Any Other Name

Israel Horovitz’s adaptation of a Morley Torgov short story barely pushes beyond the point of transcription. And it’s curious there’s no mention of Torgov in Chicago Jewish Theatre’s program notes for A Rosen by Any Other Name, the second in a trilogy of plays set in the Canadian city of Sault Sainte Marie. Questions of […]