Category: Review

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: 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: 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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