Review: TROUBLE IN MIND at TimeLine Theatre Company

Review: TROUBLE IN MIND at TimeLine Theatre Company

Though it took Alice Childress’s 1955 play TROUBLE IN MIND nearly 70 years to make its Broadway debut at Roundabout Theatre Company last year, the play is remarkably prescient. Director Ron OJ Parson helms TimeLIne’s production of Childress’s play about racial and gender dynamics on the Great White Way. TROUBLE IN MIND focuses on Broadway actor Wiletta Mayer, a middle-aged Black woman cast in the “anti-lynching” play CHAOS IN BELLEVILLE. While the show has a predominantly Black cast, Wiletta soon discovers that the play’s white male director has little concept that CHAOS IN BELLEVILLE is a deeply problematic and misrepresentative play. 

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Review: RENT at Porchlight Music Theatre 

Review: RENT at Porchlight Music Theatre 

Jonathan Larson’s 1996 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical RENT comes to life in a Porchlight production that captures the ethos of the original Broadway production. It also the fresh energy of the musical’s message about love, acceptance, and living in the moment. 

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Review: SWING STATE at Goodman Theatre

Review: SWING STATE at Goodman Theatre

Rebecca Gilman shows her deftness at writing “slice of life” plays in SWING STATE. In this latest collaboration with outgoing Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls, Gilman introduces four characters at a crossroads in a small town in rural Wisconsin during summer 2021. It’s marketed as a play about the pandemic, and indeed, SWING STATE contains some references to the COVID-19 pandemic, masks, and vaccines. Ultimately, though, SWING STATE is a pure character study with the notions of pandemic and extinction of the human race in the background, and notions of mortality and despair in the foreground. Yes, it’s a post-pandemic play, but really it’s just allowing us to peer into the lives of these characters at a moment in time. That’s not to say that Gilman’s play isn’t moving, but I found the overall execution to not be as overarching as the set-up purports. 

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Review: CLUE at Mercury Theater Chicago

Review: CLUE at Mercury Theater Chicago

Mercury Theater’s CLUE is a comedic delight of a production. The laughs flow freely and easily in this stage adaptation of the farce-meets-murder-mystery based on the iconic 1985 film by Jonathan Lynn and Sandy Rustin, with new material from Hunter Foster and Eric Price, and original music from Michael Holland. Director L. Walter Stearns’s ensemble lands each and every moment, maximizing the laughs but maintaining the integrity. These actors understand the assignment of both farce and murder mystery: The characters in CLUE take themselves and the outrageous situations of the play deeply seriously, and the ensemble finds the comedy in playing those truths. It’s a near masterclass in how farce should be performed. The fact that the play is only 90 minutes also means the stage adaptation doesn’t overstay its welcome: There’s just enough time to set up the mystery, play the antics, and send audiences home after a delightful, hilarious time.

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Review: World Premiere of THE NOTEBOOK at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Review: World Premiere of THE NOTEBOOK at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

The world premiere musical THE NOTEBOOK captures the sentimental energy of Nicholas’s Sparks all-encompassing love story about Allie and Noah, two young lovers who come from entirely different social strata, and has a distinct point of view on its source material. With music and lyrics by Ingrid Michaelson, book by Bekah Brunstetter, and direction by Michael Greif and Schele Williams, THE NOTEBOOK takes a narrative that I frankly found overly maudlin in movie form and softens it as a musical. Michaelson’s cohesive score and lyrics, while not necessarily catchy, provides a wistfulness that befits Allie and Noah’s star-crossed lover journey. Fans of Sparks’s original 1996 novel and the 2004 film will recall that THE NOTEBOOK operates on parallel timelines—We meet the elderly Allie and Noah in the nursing home; Allie suffers from dementia, and Noah diligently reads from a notebook recounting their epic love story in the hopes of helping her recover her memory. When I saw the film, I found it cheesy. But the musical’s intimate production values and lush harmonies make it more moving.

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Review: CABARET ZAZOU LUMINAIRE Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Review: CABARET ZAZOU LUMINAIRE Presented by Broadway In Chicago

The glittering indoor Spiegeltent ZaZou has unveiled another entertainment confection for downtown Chicago audiences: TEATRO ZINZANNI has now morphed into CABARET ZAZOU. The latest edition, CABARET ZAZOU’s LUMINAIRE, once again combines powerhouse vocals, breathtaking aerial acts, and a little bit of slapstick comedy for over two hours of dinner theater fun. 

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Review: CLYDE’S at Goodman Theatre

Review: CLYDE’S at Goodman Theatre

In CLYDE’S, playwright Lynn Nottage posits that salvation comes in the form of a sandwich…in more ways than one. Clyde, an ex-convict, runs her sandwich shop at a truck stop (expressively also referred to as a “liminal space” in the script) with an iron fist and a sharp attitude. She hires fellow formerly incarcerated employees to whip up sandwiches, and along the way, decide what they’re going to do next with their lives. Thus, CLYDE’S simultaneously pays homage to the transcendent nature of an excellent meal and also the transcendent experience of working at the sandwich shop. The former is a metaphor more grounded in realism; the latter takes the play into a more elusive state. 

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Review: THE MOST SPECTACULARLY LAMENTABLE TRIAL OF MIZ MARTHA WASHINGTON at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Review: THE MOST SPECTACULARLY LAMENTABLE TRIAL OF MIZ MARTHA WASHINGTON at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Steppenwolf’s season opener THE MOST SPECTACULARLY LAMENTABLE TRIAL OF MIZ MARTHA WASHINGTON is a wild fever dream of a play. James Ijames’s play asks audiences to grapple with the question of who is truly free in America and at what cost do we perpetuate cycles of oppression and abuse, even though they may fall under the guise of forward movement. 

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Review: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE at Court Theatre

Review: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE at Court Theatre

Joseph Kesselring’s 1941 play ARSENIC AND OLD LACE combines farce, explicitly dark comedy, and a little murder. Director Ron OJ Parson’s decision to envision the central Brewster family as a wealthy Black American family gives the play a modern twist. ARSENIC AND OLD LACE has historically been performed by mainly white actors—though there’s no reason in the text for this to be so. Seeing the mischievous and murderous sisters Abby and Martha Brewster played by TayLar and Celeste Williams adds to the power dynamic at play: Now it’s two elderly Black women who set on a mission to help elderly white men find peace—with help from some poisoned elderberry wine. 

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Review: THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Pre-Broadway Tryout

Review: THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Pre-Broadway Tryout

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA is a solidly entertaining musical, but much like florals for spring, it’s not exactly groundbreaking.

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