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Preview: Theatre In Chicago

Theatre In Chicago

Your source for what's on stage in Chicago

Copyright: 2015

Ten Isn't Enough: Chicago Theater in 2015

Thu, 7 Jan 2016 15:20:19 -0600

It's the changing of another year, and that means retrospectives on the departing season—but how can anyone reduce our city's eight hundred-plus plays to a puny "top ten" list? When I think back on 2015, I recall several moments that don't fit the usual categories. Here, then, are my choices for recognition: Read More

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Hellcab's Endless Journey: Re-Tailoring Kern's Urban Odyssey

Tue, 15 Dec 2015 08:59:39 -0600

There's this taxicab driver in Chicago, you see, and today is Christmas Eve. From this simple premise, Will Kern forged a play (originally titled Hellcab Does Christmas, but soon re-christened just Hellcab) that appeared year-round from 1992 to 2002 under the auspices of the legendary Famous Door Company. The 1997 film version allowed audiences worldwide to follow the humble hackie on his odyssey through a bewildering urban underworld, but in 2012, Kern's vehicle-for-hire returned home to become Profiles Theatre's annual holiday gift to its mother city.... Read More

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What's That Voice? Baritones Unbound Celebrates the Everymen of Music

Tue, 1 Dec 2015 16:48:39 -0600

The show is called Baritones Unbound, but who first erected those boundaries? Was it the age of Romanticism that declared all heroes had to be young, blond and sing in tenor range? Was it the memory of the family patriarch's authoritative tones that rendered chest-based vocalizations the province of elders and villains? And when twentieth-century values bestowed heroic status upon men of worldly experience, was it the sexual threat implied in their soothing intonations that made parents wary of teen idols like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison?... Read More

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What Time Is This: Recreating Period Authenticity in The Time of Your Life

Wed, 4 Nov 2015 16:19:09 -0600

Some plays can be relocated to other periods and locales with relative ease, but others are inseparable from their original milieu. Try to imagine Of Mice and Men or Cat On a Hot Tin Roof anywhere but where their authors decided to set them..... Read More

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Spontaneous Coward (Noel, That Is): Unplanned Noel Coward Festival Welcomes in the Holidays

Tue, 27 Oct 2015 12:34:44 -0500

"All of Noel Coward's plays feature characters in—or out of—love." observes Derek Bertelsen, director of Pride Films and Plays production of Design For Living. While no one would ever mistake Coward's flagrantly unconventional lovers for your standard-issue Jack-and-Jill sweethearts, the cheerful amorality reflected in the English author's comedies appears to be responsible for Chicago's fall season boasting a thoroughly-unplanned festival of not one, but three, Coward comedies—the aforementioned Design For Living, ShawChicago's Private Lives and Remy Bumppo's Fallen Angels—running concurrently through the late fall season.... Read More

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Going Down Swinging: Training the Pugs in Sucker Punch

Thu, 8 Oct 2015 09:20:19 -0500

Despite the conspicuous presence of athletes wearing padded gloves and silk trunks, Roy Williams' Sucker Punch is a play about fighting, and not just boxing. When the slum-dwelling citizens seeking refuge from poverty and violence in Charlie Maggs' shabby gymnasium aren't mixing it up in the ring, they're practicing in anticipation of achieving their moment of glory, and when they're not practicing, they're rough-housing with each other—sometimes playfully, sometimes not. In this angry world, men who years earlier abandoned their hopes for a championship retain their scrappy defiance, and teenage girls in private-school uniforms smack the speed-bag in moments of frustration... Read More

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Prayer and Kitchens: Cooking with Steppenwolf in Grand Concourse

Fri, 14 Aug 2015 09:08:13 -0500

Nearly everything that happens in Heidi Schreck's Grand Concourse occurs in a kitchen—not a cozy gingham-curtained sanctuary of the kind often recreated in storefront theaters, but a stainless-steel urban-industrial scullery where meals for hoards of homeless diners are prepared daily by Sister Shelley and her assistants. Joey Wade's design for this oasis offering food for the body and for the soul includes a gas stove, a microwave oven, a double-wide refrigerator, a sink with running water, wall-mounted fire extinguishers and paper-towel dispensers, 40-quart soup cauldrons and an assortment of sharp knives. The results are a stage picture so accurate in every detail that you almost expect to see a tabby cat lingering at the back entrance.... Read More

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Pachydermal Puppetry: Creating the Hindu Elephant God in A Perfect Ganesh

Wed, 5 Aug 2015 09:31:55 -0500

The reason behind Terrence McNally's A Perfect Ganesh being so rarely performed is not its now-outdated fantasy of India, but that its story's narrator and facilitator is the Hindu deity Ganesha, remover of obstacles and, thus, patron of lovers and travelers. Why should so benevolent a spiritual icon present problems? Ganesha, you see, boasts a human body distinguished by multiple upper limbs and an elephant's head, complete with fan-shaped ears and elongated proboscis—facial characteristics with the potential to hamper both the visual and aural expressiveness of the actor cast as McNally's congenial ambassador—in this case, Michael Harris.... Read More

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Gateway Theater: Windy City Playhouse Welcomes First-Time Audiences

Thu, 25 Jun 2015 15:47:18 -0500

It's probably the most glamorous storefront theater in Chicago, its façade recalling a Sinatra-era Hollywood lounge. Buildings of this vintage are nowadays most often found in the suburbs, refurbished with an eye to providing nostalgic memories of weary grandparents..... Read More

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The Saints Go Marching On: Indispensable Theater Volunteers Continue Their Mission

Tue, 16 Jun 2015 12:51:17 -0500

They are most often seen at the theaters, performing front-of-the-house chores—checking coats, dispensing refreshments, passing out playbills, tearing tickets and guiding patrons to their seats. They are usually dressed in smart black-and-white ("full penguin" jackets at the Symphony Center, business casual khakis and henleys at Theater Wit, by request of its owner, Jeremy Wechsler). The majority of them look to be of AARP age, though younger representatives—in particular, students—have been spied wearing the badges identifying them as The Saints.... Read More

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Back-Porch Picnic On Fire Island: Cooking With Terrence McNally in Lips Together, Teeth Apart

Mon, 18 May 2015 09:00:01 -0500

Terrence McNally's Lips Together, Teeth Apart is located in and around a luxury beach house in the swankiest part of New York's Fire Island, occupied on a Fourth of July weekend by two couples sunk in their respective funks despite the revelry surrounding them. The Eclipse Theatre Company's production occupies a third-floor studio with a stage measuring a spartan twenty-four by twenty-eight feet, with nary a spare inch to hint at sand dunes or volleyball nets...... Read More

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TLC In The CCTV Room: Red Handed Otter's Night Shift

Thu, 7 May 2015 14:02:07 -0500

Patrons of A Red Orchid's off-the-street theater are accustomed to scenery unfolding like pop-up puzzles on a shallow stage featuring only a little over a hundred square feet of walk-around floor space. Even so, the scenic design for Ethan Lipton's Red Handed Otter, set in a basement security center for an unnamed property (most likely a mall), may present its biggest technical challenge to date...... Read More

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Head To Foot: Baubles, Bling and Big Hair in Marie Antoinette

Wed, 15 Apr 2015 09:39:51 -0500

Elton John, step aside! Liberace, eat your heart out! You, too, Cher! France's last royal highness and her posse in David Adjmi's Marie Antoinette take fashionable excess to new heights—literally, with yard-high hair-dos, eight inch-high heels and dazzling mirrors on every surface..... Read More

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The Birds And The Beasts Were There: Animal Puppets in The Hammer Trinity

Fri, 10 Apr 2015 14:20:24 -0500

In The Hammer Trinity, Chris Mathews and Nathan Allen's Tolkeinesque three-part fantasy epic, there are two scenes where the entire audience rises in unison to cheer the action transpiring on stage. The villain getting his comeuppance is one, of course, but before that climactic victory, there is the moment where July of the Seven Foxes summons forth the animals of the kingdom to ride with her into battle...... Read More

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Springtime On The Frontier: Prairie Landscaping in Lifeline's One Came Home

Fri, 20 Mar 2015 19:36:40 -0500

You'd never guess to look at the Baraboo/Dells region nowadays, but central Wisconsin was once a seemingly endless expanse of rocky glacial terrain teeming with wildlife and dotted with remote farming settlements barely hinting at the nearby state capitol. This is the setting of Amy Timberlake's One Came Home, a saga of feisty Georgie Burkhardt's search for her missing older sister. Her odyssey will bring her into the company of liars and criminals before returning her to her family with a renewed understanding of human strengths and weaknesses..... Read More

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Star-Crossed In South Asia: Nice Indian Boy's Bollywood Connection

Fri, 20 Feb 2015 10:34:37 -0600

Despite having been written over four hundred years ago, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is still invoked by star-crossed young romantics confronted with family troubles. The myth underscoring the courtship of the interracial same-sex sweethearts in Madhuri Shekar's A Nice Indian Boy, currently playing under the auspices of the Rasaka Theatre Company, has a shorter history, but resonates no less vibrantly. .... Read More

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Mix-Master At Work: Tending Bar in Accidentally, Like a Martyr

Thu, 5 Feb 2015 14:33:00 -0600

The frontier traditions shaping our nation's culture declare a saloon to be more than simply a liquor dispensary, instead ranking alongside the town church as a community social center, serving as ballroom, hotel, dining hall and funeral parlor as needed. Its elevated status may account for the number of American plays set in barrooms, from The Iceman Cometh and The Time of Your Life to The Sea Horse.... Read More

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Sicilian Southern On The Gulf Coast: Dialect Instruction in The Rose Tattoo

Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:50:50 -0600

The upper coastline of the Mexican Gulf forming the southern boundaries of five states—Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida—comprises a diversity of languages, having been at various times a port-of-entry for French, Spanish, German, Irish and Scottish settlers. The verbal landscape surrounding the Italian colony lending Tennessee Williams his setting for The Rose Tattoo encompasses the native parlance of foreign-born immigrants, as well as those of English-speaking citizens whose idiomatic locutions, even over generations, are distinguishable by their origins.....Read More

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Cratchit's Christmas Dinner: Grocery Shopping in the Goodman Theatre's Christmas Carol

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 08:55:57 -0600

Nobody talks about food more than a hungry author, so who can blame Charles Dickens for incorporating so many descriptions of sumptuous meals into his novels? A Christmas Carol revels in Fezziwig's holiday feast for his employees, in the meager-but-sufficient repast of the Cratchits and the bounty of rich comestibles enthroning the Ghost of Christmas Present....Read More

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A Long Hellcab Ride: Richard Cotovsky Takes the Wheel Again After Twenty Years

Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:54:50 -0600

On the list of Chicago's longest-running holiday shows, Hellcab (originally titled Hellcab Does Christmas) falls fifteen years behind the Goodman's Christmas Carol, but a few years ahead of The Christmas Schooner. What distinguishes Hellcab from its seasonal compatriots, however, is its setting. Instead of Victorian London, or a turn-of-the-century Michigan logging community, Will Kern's play looks at our own city through the eyes of a humble taxi driver who witnesses the best and worst of humanity on a Christmas Eve as he goes about his duties....Read More

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Ring Dem Bells: Swinging Hammers in Il Trovatore's Anvil Chorus

Tue, 11 Nov 2014 11:39:33 -0600

People who profess to know nothing of grand opera recognize the "Anvil Chorus" from Verdi's Il Trovatore immediately—if only the Marx Brothers and Bugs Bunny versions. This rousing ensemble number (properly called "Vedi! Le Fosche Notturne"), set in a Romani encampment, features two eight-measure passages where the orchestra mimics the ring of the blacksmiths' hammers as they work.... Read More

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Irish Cats Have Nine Lives: Feline Cameo in AstonRep Lieutenant of Inishmore

Tue, 4 Nov 2014 14:40:45 -0600

The words "dead cat" will likely inspire amusement in all but the most devout aelurophiles, but in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, the untimely demise of two felines launches a chain of events that will end in their bereaved owners enacting terrible vengeance on the murderers of innocent creatures. More difficult than the quantities of simulated gore, gunfire and furry corpses mandated by Martin McDonagh's scathing satire of Irish partisanship, though, is the eleventh-hour entrance of the hitherto deceased pet—alive, unharmed and blissfully unaware of the bloodshed initiated on his behalf... Read More

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Congressional Expectations: Baby On Board in Both Your Houses

Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:37:40 -0500

Maxwell Anderson, writing in 1931, probably never anticipated married women, let alone expectant mothers, holding down executive positions in Washington DC, but when Linda Gillum-cast as Greta "Bus" Nillson, the savvy secretary who helps the idealistic crusader of Both Your Houses battle his weasely colleagues—announced that she would be visibly pregnant on opening night, the creative staff at Remy Bumppo Theater Company sat down to discuss what this news might entail in dramatic terms. Read More

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Fight Like A Fish: Swimming Against the Current in The Clean House

Wed, 15 Oct 2014 09:52:06 -0500

"Life is a joke, so why not die laughing?" is the moral of The Clean House, as well as the rallying cry of the newlywed cancer-stricken Ana—whose recently-acquired family encompasses her doctor/husband, his ex-wife, his former sister-in-law, and their housekeeper. Her rejection of the depression associated with lingering disease is symbolized by her pet fish ("a fighting fish" she declares defiantly) whose bowl is granted pride of place, downstage of the couch upon which the invalid is bedded. With audience seated barely four feet away in the smallest of the Athenaeum's studios, there is no mistaking the live Beta fish swimming at energetic pace under the high-wattage lights. Read More

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Jeff Awards Announces 2014 Equity Awards Recipients

Wed, 15 Oct 2014 09:23:22 -0500

At the gala 46th Annual Equity Jeff Awards held at Drury Lane Oakbrook on Monday, October 13, awards were spread among numerous theatres honoring a season of outstanding productions. From Writers Theatre, The Dance of Death, a battle of wits between a tyrant and his manipulative wife, received the Production-Play award for a large theatre, along with its two principal actors Larry Yando and Shannon Cochran. The Normal Heart, Larry Kramers tale of the early indifference in N.Y. about the HIV/Aids crisis, presented by TimeLine Theatre Company, was honored with awards for Production-Play for a midsize theatre and for Director Nick Bowling. Read More

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Lyric Opera of Chicago initiates new Lyric Rush tickets program

Thu, 9 Oct 2014 08:03:33 -0500

New this season, Lyric Opera of Chicago has created Lyric Rush, a program for discounted same-day ticket sales. Fifty tickets will be made available at 50% off for select performances when inventory allows. When available, the tickets will go on sale two hours before each performance and can be purchased through the Lyric Opera website: or in person at Lyric's Box Office, located at 20 N Wacker Drive. The Lyric Rush web page is updated daily with performance availability. Read More

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An Eye For An Eye: The Wounded Hero of Jane Eyre

Tue, 7 Oct 2014 09:48:48 -0500

The Romantic sensibility reflected in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre mandates that the title character's final step toward conquering her horrific early childhood memories is the rescue of her chosen consort from his demons, the latter manifested, literally, upon his physical being. Edward Rochester, we are told, refused to flee the fiery destruction of his unhappy home until the rest of the household had been evacuated, only to find himself trapped beneath the burning ceiling. Though he survives, he is left with a crushed hand that must be amputated, a missing eye torn from its socket and the loss of sight in the one remaining. ... Read More

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Newsies Tickets go on sale Friday, October 10

Mon, 6 Oct 2014 20:00:05 -0500

Broadway In Chicago announced that individual tickets for the Tony Award-winning smash hit musical, Disney's NEWSIES, will go on sale to the public this Friday, October 10, at 10 AM. NEWSIES will play Chicago's Oriental Theatre (24 W Randolph) December 10, 2014 through January 4, 2015. Read More

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Steppenwolf Theatre Announcing Leadership Transition and Campus Expansion

Thu, 2 Oct 2014 12:34:46 -0500

Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the nation's longest-standing, most distinguished ensemble theater, announced today new leadership and unveiled plans for a future campus expansion. Steppenwolf ensemble member and Tony Award-winning director Anna D. Shapiro will succeed Martha Lavey as artistic director at the conclusion of the current season in fall 2015. Lavey will remain a Steppenwolf ensemble member and focus on the expansion. In addition, Steppenwolf Managing Director David M. Schmitz will succeed David Hawkanson in January 2015 and oversee the management and operations of the theater. Hawkanson, too, will work with Steppenwolf to facilitate the company's campus expansion. Read More

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Annie Tickets On Sale This Friday, September 19

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:46:11 -0500

Broadway In Chicago announced that individual tickets for the new U.S. National Tour of ANNIE will go on sale to the public Friday, Sept. 19 at 10 AM.   Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin for the 19th time, this production of ANNIE will be a brand new physical incarnation of the iconic Tony Award-winning original. ANNIE will play Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W Randolph) for a limited two-week engagement November 18 through 30, 2014. ... Read More

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Second-Hand Smoke: Acting Tobacco Consumption in Cole Theatre's Ecstasy

Tue, 16 Sep 2014 09:59:43 -0500

Audiences are usually willing to suspend disbelief for whiskey decanters filled with tea or beer bottles containing diluted coca-cola, but the working-class youths in Ecstasy, Mike Leigh's time-capsule portrait of England in 1979, also consume copious quantities of tobacco, a substance nowadays inspiring such alarm-despite its legal status and widespread popularity in the United States-that special care must be taken, lest playgoers in the close quarters of the Red Orchid theater become distressed at their proximity to the botanical surpassing even marijuana as heir to the epithet "evil weed." ... Read More

Tragic Repasts: Feeding the Audiences at All Our Tragic

Sun, 14 Sep 2014 10:32:05 -0500

Though the tradition dates from antiquity, for modern audiences, it all started in 1980 with the Royal Shakespeare Company's eight-and-a-half-hour Nicholas Nickleby, a sprawling adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel that launched a fashion for marathon productions of duration sufficient to require at least one extended intermission for playgoers to fortify themselves with nutrition more substantial than lobby snacks. In order to prevent customers straying too far on their foraging expeditions, theaters began to offer in-house provender—an amenity rendering menu selection an important element for undertakings like The Hypocrites' current staging of Sean Graney's All Our Tragic, inaugurating the multiple-story Den theater's new first floor storefront auditorium. ... Read More

Stitchery Ex Machina: Old-Fashioned Sewing in Intimate Apparel

Tue, 5 Aug 2014 10:33:05 -0500

It commands the stage picture, positioned firmly downstage center where you can't miss it—an iron-filigree, treadle-propelled Singer sewing machine of the sort nowadays most often found in rural attics, disabled and rusted-out, useful only as a trellis for climbing house plants. Not this one, however! No, this vintage homemaker's helper gleams as temptingly as when first sent forth from its factory, probably sometime between 1877 and 1920. Even more astonishing, its current owner—Esther Mills, the heroine of Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel—actually sews on it during the course of the play. ... Read More