Both Melissa James Gibson’s play THIS and Windy City Playhouse’s production exist on a precipice. For the characters in Gibson’s script, they stand on the ledge approaching forty and the onset of middle age, while also waxing nostalgic about the good old college days.These college friends—Jane, Marrell, and Alan (plus Marrell’s spouse, Tom, and Jean-Pierre, a new, misplaced member of the circle)—stand firmly in that liminal space. The characters must navigate both the loss of a loved one (Jane is recently widowed) and the creation of new life (Marrell and Tom are parents to a newborn son). And while Gibson’s characters seem to be contemplating major life experiences, she also paints them as exceedingly privileged and self-absorbed—in such a way that it becomes rather difficult to sympathize with them. Similarly, Windy City Playhouse’s production (with direction by Artistic Associate Carl Menninger) occupies an in-between status—partly entertaining (with an occasional laugh-out-loud funny line delivery), partly striving towards deep emotional complexity. Unfortunately, THIS never swings far enough in either direction to be memorable.
Month: June 2016
Delightfully quirky and darkly comic, BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL makes its Chicago premiere in this Griffin Theatre production with direction by Scott Weinstein. The Den Theatre proves an ideal venue for this strange and wonderful musical with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming. And Griffin Theatre’s ensemble delivers with vocal expertise and keen acting, milking the show’s material for maximum comedic value and audience delight.
Broadway In Chicago’s engagement of THE SOUND OF MUSIC national tour makes for a pleasant and tuneful evening at this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Under the direction of Jack O’Brien, this production teems with a lively and joyful energy. In Kerstin Anderson, O’Brien has found a stunning anchor for the the leading role of Maria Rainer. Anderson, a current undergraduate studying Musical Theater at Pace University, exudes optimism and youthful vivacity onstage. And from the moment she begins singing the show’s title song, it becomes evident that audiences are in good hands.
In the opening moments of Nick Payne’s new play CONSTELLATIONS—now in its Chicago premiere in the Upstairs Theatre at Steppenwolf—the playwright presents audiences with an archetypal “Boy Meets Girl” story. But then that moment occurs again and again, each time playing out in a different universe. And thus, in a swift 80 minute run-time, Payne crafts the love story of Roland, a bee keeper (Jon Michael Hill), and Marianne, a theoretical physicist (Jessie Fisher). Each time Roland and Marianne “meet” in the first scene, the outcome varies—sometimes closely mirroring the first “universe” that audiences see, other times radically diverging from that first encounter. Over the span of the play, Payne plots seven sequences in Roland and Marianne’s relationship—from the awkward first moments to those of deep connection, heartbreak, and unimaginable suffering.
American Theater Company’s production of the musical XANADU (based upon the flop of a film bearing the same name) bursts with infectious energy and non-stop fun. The ensemble radiates joy throughout the show’s duration. And while the 1980 XANADU film may have been unsuccessful, the movie’s soundtrack proved a smash hit—Jeff Lynne and John Farrar’s songs are all here, with a book by Douglas Carter Beane. And the cast delivers each of these famous songs with aplomb. Under Lili-Anne Brown’s spirited direction, the ensemble takes many a gleeful spin around Arnel Sancianco’s groovy roller rink.