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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Review: Goodman Theatre’s Encore of SMOKEFALL (2013)

Review: Goodman Theatre’s Encore of SMOKEFALL (2013)

It seems most fitting that Goodman Theatre’s current encore streaming production of SMOKEFALL exists both in and out of time. Noah Haidle’s whimsical play, beloved by critics and audiences when it originally premiered at the Goodman in 2013 (and remounted in 2014), occupies an achronological space. While the play ostensibly lives in an undefined present in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it also pulls us into the past and propels us into the future. Thematically SMOKEFALL is a meditation on life —and how humanity may find purpose within it — told through the lens of various experimental storytelling methods.

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Review: Goodman Theatre’s Encore Streaming of PEDRO PARÁMO (2013)

Review: Goodman Theatre’s Encore Streaming of PEDRO PARÁMO (2013)

Although I don’t often preface my reviews, I think this particular write-up deserves one. As I reflect on my viewing of Goodman Theatre’s current Encore showing of PEDRO PARÁMO, I find it important to note that I’m writing about a production that took place eight years ago. The Goodman presented Cuban theater company Teatro Buendía’s PEDRO PARÁMO in 2013, in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art. The immense theatricality and experimental nature of Teatro Buendía’s production make clear why this was a fitting co-production between the Goodman, the MCA, and Teatro Buendía. And the Goodman’s decision to allow audiences to revisit (or experience for the first time) an international theater collaboration feels poignant at this time. The chance to see this collaboratively produced piece feels like both a nostalgic exercise and one that reminds us of the hope for such kinds of artistic collaborations in the future.

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Review: Porchlight Music Theatre’s BROADWAY BY THE DECADE

Review: Porchlight Music Theatre’s BROADWAY BY THE DECADE

Porchlight’s streaming program BROADWAY BY THE DECADE provides some much needed musical theater cheer in this unprecedented and challenging year for Chicago theater. This streaming offering is an enjoyable virtual take on the Porchlight Revisits series, in which the company mounts limited engagements of rarely produced musicals—complete with a pre-show briefing from Artistic Director Michael Weber. Weber now takes on the role as musical theater historian and revue emcee as he traces the history of the American musical from the late 1800s to the present—all in the span of 45 minutes. BROADWAY BY THE DECADE provides viewers with an insightful overview of American musical theater, without bogging down the program with details. 

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Review: HER HONOR JANE BYRNE at Lookingglass Theatre Company

Review: HER HONOR JANE BYRNE at Lookingglass Theatre Company

J. Nicole Brooks’s HER HONOR JANE BYRNE, now in a world premiere production at Lookingglass, is a play deeply rooted in Chicago’s not-too-distant history. Inspired by former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne (the first woman to serve as mayor here) and her decision to move into Cabrini-Green as a display of her desire to revitalize the city’s housing projects, the play introduces a cast of characters representing different perspectives in the city. Brooks (who also directs) has assembled an intriguing array of characters in HER HONOR JANE BYRNE, and she makes the pivotal choice to prominently feature residents of Cabrini-Green as much as Byrne and some of her fellow Chicago politicians. Yet the play becomes too cluttered in its various storylines and ideas. 

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