Category: New Work

Review: Bobby Pin Girls (Nothing Without A Company)

Debo Balogun (Tim), Peter Wilde (Danny), Emilie Modaff (Bree) and Grace Hutchins (Ana) star in Bobby Pin            
  
         

Bobby Pin Girls

Written by Janey Bell
Chicago Mosaic School, 1101 W. Granville (map)
thru Dec 3  |  tix: $20-$25  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets
     

November 3, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Taming of the Shrew (Chicago Shakespeare, 2017)

Crystal Lucas-Perry stars as Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne in Taming of the Shrew, Chicago Shakespeare Theater            
      

  

The Taming of the Shrew

Written by William Shakespeare 
Chicago Shakespeare, Navy Pier (map)
thru Nov 12  |  tix: $48-$88  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Despite stellar cast and intriguing framing device,
‘Shrew’ remains problematic

  

Crystal Lucas-Perry stars as Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne in Taming of the Shrew, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

    
Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents
    
The Taming of the Shrew

Review by Catey Sullivan

Here’s the thing about The Taming of the Shrew. It. Doesn’t. Work. It doesn’t matter how much text you add to reframe Shakespeare’s 400+-year-old story. It doesn’t matter where you transplant the tale of Kate the “shrew” and Petruchio, the man who “tames” her. It doesn’t matter if the play is cast with all women or all men or with complete disregard of the binary. The Taming of the Shrew remains a play of steadfast, undeniable misogyny. It closes with one of the most stunning passages this side of Leviticus.

Alexandra Henrikson (Katherine) and  Crystal Lucas-Perry (Petruchio) star in Taming of Shrew, Chicago Shakes2The play is centuries old, so I’m going to commence with the plot spoilers. In The Taming of the Shrew, the firebrand title character Kate is forced to marry Petruchio, very much against her will. Petruchio humiliates Kate at the wedding and abuses her psychologically and physically afterward. When his relentless gaslighting and screaming fail to properly “tame” Kate, Petruchio starves her into submission.

After several days of extreme mistreatment, Kate has been broken. She has become so subservient that she literally kneels at her husband’s feet so as to properly worship her “lord,” “keeper” and “sovereign.” She shames the women around her for failing to display similar reverence to their masters. After all, Kate preaches, while women are at home “safe and secure,” men must toil in “painful labor” to support the ostensibly indolent lives of their spouses.

There are only two ways this speech works in a contemporary context. One is if Kate has been replaced by a robot, a la “The Stepford Wives.” The other is if Kate delivers it in a long-sleeved garment, and then sheds said garment in the final moments to reveal that she’s just slashed her wrists because she’d rather die than succumb to Petruchio’s dehumanizing, soul-crushing demands. Director Barbara Gaines takes neither tack for the Chicago Shakespeare production. The monologue remains as an ugly, regressive peon to the idea that women exist solely for the purpose of serving men.

I’ll say this for Gaines’ all-female Taming of the Shrew: It has a cast that cannot be faulted. To a one, the actors are superb. They deserve a better play.

Gaines has moved Shrew into a setting that allows for an obvious rebuttal of sorts to Shakespeare’s text. With a framing device by Second City’s Ron West, the tale of Kate and Petruchio becomes a play-within-a-play, as a band of Chicago women stage the show in 1919, on the very day the U.S. Senate voted on women’s suffrage.

Olivia Washington, Tina Gluschenko, E. Faye Butler and Kate Marie Smith star in Taming Shrew

While riots and marches and protests clamor down Michigan Avenue, the ladies of the Columbia Women’s Club rehearse Shrew in an opulently appointed clubhouse reminiscent of the Chicago Cultural Center. As Kate struggles to cope with total domination by a husband and an institution she loathes, the ladies of the Columbia Women’s Club rehearse and fervently debate whether women should be allowed to vote.

West punctuates his framing device with audience-pleasing local references. Quips about the tourists and the Congress Hotel, the ever-losing Cubs, the popular vote having little impact on election outcomes – are all sure-fire laugh-generators.

Two things about using the women’s suffrage moment as a means toward leaching the misogyny out of The Taming of the Shrew:

First, it makes the whole production feel like it’s trying too hard. How to counterbalance the patriarchal odiousness of Shrew? Insert suffragettes. Fill the stage with women who, in between scenes of a woman getting mightily abused, cry out for equal rights and give ardent speeches about sisterhood. Short of casting Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm as Kate and Petruchio (or vice versa), it’s tough to imagine a tidier way to try and counter the women problems inherent in Shrew.

Second, Gaines has reduced the suffragette movement to a G-rated romp. In real life, the suffragettes were force-fed via horrifying means, locked up in asylums, beaten bloody and imprisoned. Here, the women seem to view the marches and the riots just outside the rehearsal doors as a lark or a grand adventure. The most serious problem anyone has post-march or post-riot is a bout of histrionic hyperventilating, played for laughs. It’s a maddeningly sanitized version of the era.

Alexandra Henrikson (Katherine) and  Crystal Lucas-Perry (Petruchio) star in Taming of Shrew, Chicago Shakes

Gaines’ cast is led by an engaging Heidi Kettenring as Mrs. Dorothy Mercer, who has taken on the directorial duties of the Columbia Women’s Club production of “Shrew.” Mrs. Mercer is adamantly pro-suffrage, and in Kettenring’s portrayal, a woman with a gift for building bridges and de-escalating fraught situations. Her nemesis is Mrs. Mildred Sherman (Rita Rehn, nailing the imperiously entitled tone of someone long used to being the most powerful person in the room) who direly predicts that giving women the vote could “destroy families.”

Within the world of the play-within-the-play, Kate is played by Mrs. Louise Harrison (Alexandra Henrikson). Mrs. Harrison starts rehearsals with great disdain for the pre-subdued Kate and the suffragette movement. Predictably, her views have been reversed by the final curtain. Petruchio is played with swagger and bravado by Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne (Crystal Lucas-Perry, who gives Petruchio the charm of a strutting peacock).

There are numerous supporting characters who stand out: As Mrs. Lucinda James (who plays Biondello), Lillian Castillo radiates light and laughter, bringing bumptious comedy to every scene she’s in. As a stagehand who plays the lascivious old man Gremio, Hollis Resnik is (respectively) hilariously harried and skeevy. As Dr. Fannie Emmanuel, E. Faye Butler plays a dentist with a killer sense of acerbic wit. Dr. Emmanuel’s observations about Alabama, Mississippi and Chicago cops are high points of the production. Cindy Gold also brings a bone-dry, razor-sharp sense of comedy as Mrs. Sarah Willoughby, a woman who yearns for a larger part. i

The design elements in Shrew are stunning. Kevin Depinet’s gorgeous set has the soaring, architectural beauty of a Louis Sullivan or the Burnham and Root building. The sumptuous interior of the Columbia Women’s Club is all vaulted ceilings and stained glass, with a graceful statuary that references the 1893 World’s Fair. Equally excellent are Susan E. Mickey’s elaborately detailed costumes, which pay homage to both the iconic bloomers of the suffragettes and the pantaloons favored by Elizabethan men. In color and cut, the garments also inform the characters who wear them.

This Taming of the Shrew is a fine production of a play that doesn’t deserve the resources lavished on it. For all the prodigious talent on stage, Shrew remains an endorsement of systems and attitudes that make the world unsafe for women. Nothing can change that, not even a room full of crusading suffragettes.

  
Rating: ★★½
  

The Taming of the Shrew continues through November 12th at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand (map), with performances Wednesdays 1:30pm & 7:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays 7:30pm, Saturdays 3pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $48-$88, and are available by phone (312-595-5600) or online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at ChicagoShakes.com(Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes, includes an intermission)

E. Faye Butler (Baptista) and Crystal Lucas-Perry (Petruchio) star in Taming of the Shrew, Chicago Shakes

Photos by Liz Lauren


  

artists

cast

E. Faye Butler (Dr. Fannie Emmanuel, Baptista, Nathaniel), Lillian Castillo (Mrs. Lucinda James, Biondello), Tina Gluschencko (Mrs. Beatrice Ivey Welles, Hortensio, u/s Mrs. Louise Harrison, Katherine), Cindy Gold (Mrs. Sarah Willoughby, Vincentio, Joseph), Alexandra Henrikson (Mrs. Louise Harrison, Katherine), Ann James (Mrs. Elizabeth Nicewinder, Pedant, Nicholas, u/s Mrs. Judith Smith, Gremio, Peter), Heidi Kettering (Mrs. Dorothy Mercer, Tranio, haberdasher), Crystal Lucas-Perry (Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne, Petruchio), Rita Rehn (Grumio, Mrs. Mildred Sherman, widow), Hollis Resnik (Mrs. Judith Smith, Gremio, Peter), Faith Servant (Mrs. Barbara Starkey, Curtis, tailor, officer, u/s Mrs. Emily Ingersoll, Bianca, Mrs. Lucinda James, Biondello), Katie Marie Smith (Miss Olivia Twist, Lucentio), Olivia Washington (Mrs. Emily Ingersoll, Bianca), Lynn Baber (u/s Mrs. Sarah Willoughby, Vincentio, Joseph, Mrs. Mildred Sherman, Grumio, widow), Sarah Dunnavant (u/s Miss Olivia Twist, Lucentio, Mrs. Dorothy Mercer, Tranio, haberdasher), Greyson Heyl (u/s Mrs. Beatrice Wells, Hortencia, Mrs. Barbara Starkey, Curtis, tailor, officer), Laurie Larson (u/s Dr. Fannie Emmanuel, Baptista, Nathaniel, Mrs. Elizabeth Nicewinder, Pedant, Nicholas), Patricia Lavery (u/s Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne, Petruchio, Mrs. Beatrice Wells, Hortensio).

behind the scenes

Barbara Gaines (director, conception), Ron West (additional text), Kevin Depinet (set design), Susan E. Mickey (costume design), Thomas C. Hase (lighting design), David Van Tieghem (sound design, original music), Richard Jarvie (wig, make-up design), Kevin Gudahl (verse coach), Roberta Duchamp (music director), Matt Hawkins (fight choreography), Deborah Acker, Dennis J. Conners (stage managers), Cassie Calderon (assistant stage manager), Rinska Carrasco (asst. director), Bob Mason, Nancy Piccione (casting), Liz Lauren (photos)

17-0958

October 13, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Punk (The New Colony)

Kyle Encinas, Aaron Sanchez, Evie Riojas and Daniel Shtivelberg star in Punk, The New Colony            
      

  

Punk

Written by Michael Allen Harris
The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru Nov 5  |  tix: $20  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

October 12, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Alias Grace (Rivendell Theatre)

Ashley Neal and Steve Haggard star as Grace Marks and Simon Jordan in Alias Grace, Rivendell Theatre            
      

  

Alias Grace

Adapted by Jennifer Blackmer
  from novel by Margaret Atwood
Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge (map)
thru Nov 4  |  tix: $38  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets    
     

September 26, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Invisible Scarlet O’Neil (Babes With Blades)

Elizabeth MacDougald and Ashley Fox star as Evanna Keil and Judy in The Invisible Scarlet O'Neil             
       
     

The Invisible Scarlet O’Neil

Written by Barbara Lhota
at Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard (map)
thru Oct 14  |  tix: $15-$25  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Heroine uses power of invisibility to champion
real-life visibility of women

  

Chloe Baldwin stars as Scarlet O'Neil in The Invisible Scarlet O'Neil, Babes With Blades

    
Babes With Blades Theatre Company presents
    
The Invisible Scarlet O’Neil

Review by Johanna Dalton

The Invisible Scarlet O’Neil is a light-hearted and highly entertaining tale that packs an important message as well as an action-packed punch. Based on the beloved 1940’s comic strip by Chicagoan Russell Stamm, the play takes place in post-WWII days. Through a mishap in her father’s top secret research lab, Scarlet O’Neil acquires the superpower of invisibility, promising Dr. O’Neil she would never use it. Much as she wants to honor that promise, Scarlet is faced with dire consequences only she can avert by putting her special power to work to save the day.

Ashley Fox (Mobster Judy), Lynne Baker (Doris) and  Elizabeth MacDougald (Evanna)In the opening scene it is revealed that Dr. O’Neil’s ground-breaking research includes a mind-control weapon embedded in a common women’s cosmetic. Though the project is scrapped as too dangerous, lab assistant Evanna Keil (Elizabeth MacDougald) concocts a scheme to sell it to the KGB, setting off a series of engaging and often hilarious events.

After her father’s death Scarlet (Chloe Baldwin) has taken a job at the City News when she learns of Evanna’s evil plan to steal the secret documents she needs to perfect her mind-control product. To protect her father’s reputation and foil Evanna’s plans, she also needs to protect the team that is trying to help her: her mysterious landlady Doris Carmichael (Lynne Baker) who gets kidnapped but has a few tricks up her sleeve; Hedy Labarr (Lisa Herceg) who takes Dr. O’Neil’s role of heading the project; Dr. Greta Hertzfeldt (also played by Baker), one of the scientists with a crush on her colleague, Dr. Percy Spencer (Kirk Osgood), who is lovable but no help; and a bright young prodigy Sarah Blue (Margaux Fournier, in her impressive acting debut) who wants to follow in Scarlet’s footsteps. Baldwin does an admirable job of portraying Scarlet’s bravery and vulnerability in the midst of many dangers.

Then there are her friends at the City News, including switchboard operator Marcie (Herceg) and reporter Jean Sharp (Aneisa Hicks). Jean Sharp is a talented reporter willing to put in the work to get a good story. Her efforts tend to be stymied, however, by fellow reporter Bobby Bragg (Osgood). Like Jean, City News switchboard operator Marcie sees her own contributions go unrecognized.

Lisa Herceg stars as Marcie in The Invisible Scarlet O'Neil, Babes With BladesElizabeth MacDougald and Ashley Fox star as Evanna Keil and Judy in The Invisible Scarlet O'Neil

Chris Cinereski shifts smoothly between a quartet of roles as Scarlet’s father, Dr. O’Neil; Bill Hackett, who runs the City News; and the somewhat bungling Guard and Cop who fall under the spell of mind control. Last but not least, Judy Butafuco (Ashley Fox) plays Evanna’s mobster side-kick, whose lines are generously sprinkled with amusing malaprops, such as “those scientific diaphragms are really gonna help” and “you mis-underestimated me.” In the end, Butafuco has a secret of her own to be revealed.

Babes With Blades Theater Company, seizing on the very relatable character of Scarlet O’Neil, commissioned playwright Barbara Lhota to explore the intangible ways that women have become “invisible” in the context of societal norms. In World War II, the role of women changed dramatically as the all-hands-on-deck mentality saw women take on crucial roles that had a great impact. That changed once the war ended. As playwright Lhota adds in the production’s script notes, “Women who were made visible during WWII, because they took over so many male-dominated jobs, were now asked to become, in effect, invisible as the men came home.” The results of this transition are acted out in the struggles of Jean Sharp and Marcie as well as Scarlet, while City News editor Bill Hackett offers a ray of hope.

Kirk Osgood and Chris Cinereski star as Bobby and Mr. Hackett in The Invisible Scarlet O'Neil

The physicality and action-oriented approach of the period drive the pace of the production and add to the comic success it achieves under Leigh Barrett’s direction. Barrett’s staging is simple and fluid, with Milo Bue’s set design, consisting of plain white blocks easily reconfigured to go from an office to a hotel scene, adding to the fluidity. A clever visual technique is used by G. “Max” Maxin IV (projection design) to simulate the thought and word bubbles of the comic strip genre that fill in jumps in the action.

Now in its 20th Anniversary season, Babes With Blades uses stage combat to place women and their stories center stage. Its Fighting Words Festival (FW) focuses on developing scripts that include fighting roles for female identified artists. This year’s festival, scheduled for May 2018, will showcase three new scripts aligned with their goal of creating theatre that explores the wide range of human experience and cultivates broader perspectives both in the arts and society as a whole.

While not without an occasional flaw, world-premiere The Invisible Scarlet O’Neil is a fresh and thoroughly enjoyable theater experience that gives the viewer good-natured laughs while putting a still too prevalent issue front and center.

  
Rating: ★★★
  

The Invisible Scarlet O’Neil continues through October 14th at Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $25 (seniors & students: $15), and are available at BrownPaperTickets.com or by phone at 773-904-0391 (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at BabesWithBlades.org(Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

Margaux Fournier and Chloe Baldwin star as Sarah and Scarlet O'Neil in Invisible of Scarlet O'Neil

Photos by Joe Mazza 


  

artists

cast

Chloe Baldwin (Scarlet O’Neil), Aneisa Hicks (Jean Sharp), Lisa Herceg (Marcie, Hedy Labarr), Lynne Baker (Dr. Greta Hertzfeldt, Doris Carmichael), Elizabeth MacDougald (Evanna Keil), Ashley Fox (Judy Butafuco), Margaux Fournier (Sarah Blue), Chris Cinereski (Bill Hacket, Dr. O’Neil, Guard, Cop), Kirk Osgood (Bobby Bragg, Dr. Percy Spencer), Patti Moore, Savanna Rae (understudies)

behind the scenes

Leigh Barrett (director), Libby Beyreis (violence design), Milo Bue (scenic design), Meghan Erxleben (lighting design), Kimberly G. Morris (costume design), Sarah Espinoza (sound design), The Sans N.E. Sleep Cooperative (props design), G. “Max” Maxin IV (projection design), Lindsey Miller (stage manager), Manuel Ortiz (technical director), Colleen Layton (production manager), Hannah Wolff (dramaturg), Chloe Baldwin (asst. violence design), Wolf Point Media (video), Joe Mazza (photos)

Chloe Baldwin and Elizabeth MacDougald star as Scarlet O'Neil and Evanna Keil

17-0913

September 19, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Ubu II–Electric Boog-Ubu, or Free Ubu (The Plagiarists)

Ubu II Electric Boogubu, or Free Ubu by The Plagiarists 6            
      

  

Ubu II
    
Adapted by Gregory Peters
   from play by Alfred Jarry 
at Berger Park, 6205 N. Sheridan (map)
thru Sept 30  |  tix: $15-$20  |  more info    
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

September 14, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: One Thousand Words (Theater Faction)

Garrett Wade Haley and Brandon Campbell star in One Thousand Words at Theater Faction            

          

One Thousand Words
 
Written by Curran Latas (music)
   and Michael Braud (book & lyrics)
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Sept 17  |  tix: $22-$27  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

September 12, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier (Permoveo Productions)

Katherine Condit as and Delia Kropp star as Old Albert and Nurse in Civility of Albert Cashier, Permoveo            
      
    

The CiviliTy
  of Albert Cashier

By Jay Paul Deratany (book/lyrics),
   Joe Stevens, Keaton Wooden (music/lyrics)
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Oct 15  |  tix: $40  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets    
     

September 10, 2017 | 0 Comments More