Review: AS YOU LIKE IT at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Review: AS YOU LIKE IT at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Chicago Shakespeare Theater returns following its pandemic hiatus with director Daryl Cloran’s rad production of AS YOU LIKE IT. Cloran’s vision for this classic pastoral comedy combines the renowned lyricism of Shakespeare’s text with the songs of some more modern iconic British wordsmiths —  the Beatles. This take seamlessly interweaves the play’s text with the Beatles songs, and Cloran chose a play that fits naturally with the famous band’s music. Given that Shakespeare’s language is innately lyrical, it lends itself well to a pairing with other notable lyrics. At the same time, that can be a tricky balance. Not so with this production. Cloran balances text and song beautifully, and thus this is a show that’s sure to please fans of both Shakespeare and the Beatles. 

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Review: AMERICAN MARIACHI at Goodman Theatre

Review: AMERICAN MARIACHI at Goodman Theatre

Directed by Henry Godinez, Goodman Theatre’s production of AMERICAN MARIACHI, co-produced with Dallas Theater Center, exudes charm and makes impeccable use of its titular music; the five women who form the all-female American mariachi band in question are all outstanding vocalists. 

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Review: MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY at Theater Wit

Review: MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY at Theater Wit

I find it obvious to state that Theater Wit’s revival of Anne Washburn’s MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY is a prescient choice for the company’s first live production since March 2020. Washburn’s 2012 play takes place in three acts — in the very near future, seven years after that, and 75 years after that — in the wake of a mysterious illness and other disasters that have wiped out a substantial portion of the United States population. The parallels to the current pandemic moment are evident, even though the play was written well before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19. Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Weschler’s staging, however, primarily highlights another theme of MR. BURNS: The idea that we turn to art in times of immense pain and difficulty. 

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Review: SCHOOL GIRLS at Goodman Theatre

Review: SCHOOL GIRLS at Goodman Theatre

Live, in-person theater has returned to Goodman Theatre. And it could also be said that school’s back in session. After nearly 17 months, Jocelyn Bioh’s SCHOOL GIRLS; OR, THE AFRICAN MEAN GIRLS PLAY has finally opened. The production radiates Black girl joy. After such a long wait, it’s particularly magical to see this uproariously funny but also tender play that puts young Black women right at its center. 

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Review: TEATRO ZINZANNI Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Review: TEATRO ZINZANNI Presented by Broadway In Chicago

I must begin with the sheer delight of being back in a room with live performance inside the Spiegeltent Zazou at the Cambria Hotel on Randolph. The latest rendition of TEATRO ZINZANNI is the first production to reopen in the Loop following the pandemic shutdowns in March 2020. The energy is buzzing, and everyone involved in TEATRO ZINZANNI makes you feel it — down to every member of the staff. This edition of TEATRO ZINZANNI once again presents audiences with dinner theater entertainment, complete with a serviceable four-course meal and Goddess and the Baker owner Debbie Sharp’s latest menu.

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Review: I HATE IT HERE at Goodman Theatre

Review: I HATE IT HERE at Goodman Theatre

I didn’t hate I HATE IT HERE. In fact, Chicago playwright Ike Holter’s “concept album” play was both an uproariously funny and thought-provoking conclusion to Goodman Theatre’s LIVE series. Holter and director Lili-Anne Brown reimagined what was originally an audio play for this final installment, which artfully blends live theater and highly cinematic qualities (Christiana Tye returns as video director and Gabe Hatfield is director of photography). 

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Review: OHIO STATE MURDERS at Goodman Theatre

Review: OHIO STATE MURDERS at Goodman Theatre

Director Tiffany Nichole Greene stages esteemed playwright Adrienne Kennedy’s OHIO STATE MURDERS with a cinematic twist in this second installment in Goodman Theatre’s Live Series. OHIO STATE MURDERS centers on Suzanne (a harrowing Jacqueline Williams), an accomplished writer who returns to Ohio State University’s campus for the first time since her freshman year in 1949. There, Suzanne gives a lecture on the violent imagery in her work — and the origins of that imagery are much closer to the university than audiences may initially suspect. 

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Review: THE SOUND INSIDE at Goodman Theatre

Review: THE SOUND INSIDE at Goodman Theatre

Broadcast live from Goodman Theatre’s intimate Owen Theatre, THE SOUND INSIDE intrigues because of the twists and turns in Adam Rapp’s script, but also because it combines cinematic-quality streaming with the thrill of live theater. It’s been over a year since I last stepped inside a theater, and now with the first limited run production in its LIVE series, the Goodman has come extremely close to capturing the exhilaration of being live and in the room with theater. Running only for four more performances through Sunday, May 16, THE SOUND INSIDE is indeed a unique and limited-edition experience. 

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Review: THE LAST MATCH at Writers Theatre

Review: THE LAST MATCH at Writers Theatre

Writers Theatre’s THE LAST MATCH focuses on the interior lives of two world-famous tennis players, Tim Porter (Ryan Hallahan) of the United States and Sergei Sergeyev (Christopher Sheard) of Russia. The concept of interiority central to Anna Ziegler’s play — and the fact that THE LAST MATCH has only four characters — makes it a particularly keen theatrical production to stage for the purpose of streaming at home. Keira Fromm’s direction plays up the narrative elements in Ziegler’s script —  Tim and Sergei frequently use direct address to communicate with the audience. Matt Hoffman’s television direction nicely balances close-up shots and wider shots. 

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Review: Porchlight Music Theatre’s NEW FACES SING BROADWAY 1961

Review: Porchlight Music Theatre’s NEW FACES SING BROADWAY 1961

Porchlight Music Theatre’s latest virtual installment of their New Faces series (and the first this critic has seen) offers a delightful smorgasbord of musical theater entertainment. With direction by Brianna Borger and filmed at Chicago’s historic Studebaker Theater, NEW FACES SING BROADWAY 1961 offers 75 minutes of charming content. Like some of Porchlight’s other performance series, NEW FACES SING BROADWAY 1961 serves up both entertaining and informative value for audiences. Host Kelvin Roston Jr. guides audiences through the programming, offering up tidbits of context and history for each of the 1961 musicals showcased in the program.

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