Category: Video

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: Fun Home (Victory Gardens Theater)

Stella Rose Hoyt stars as Small Alison Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater            
        

Fun Home
 
By Lisa Kron (book & lyrics)
   and Jeanine Tesori (music)
VG Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Nov 19  |  tix: $15-$75  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets
     


    
  

Intimate, ferocious ‘Home’ is as joyous as it is heart-wrenching

  

Rob Lindley (Bruce Bechdel) and Stella Rose Hoyt (Small Alison) star in Fun Home

    
Victory Gardens Theater presents
    
Fun Home

Review by Catey Sullivan

Toward the end of Fun Home, there’s a song called “Edges of the World.” It’s delivered by Bruce, a closeted man in his mid-50s. It’s a harrowing description of his life-long inability to embrace and celebrate his true self. Using his house as a metaphor, Bruce describes himself in terms of physical corruption and devastation. He’s “cracking, “shoddy,” “twisting” and finally, “falling into nothing.” It’s a devastating song of terror and rage at the realization you’ve wasted your life. It is also, in Rob Lindley’s virtuosic delivery, a song that will haunt you for weeks. Perhaps longer.

Hannah Starr stars as Medium Alison in Fun Home, Victory Gardens TheaterBased on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same name, Fun Home is centered on Bruce’s daughter, Alison. The autobiographical musical follows Alison from her days as a precocious pre-teen who loves drawing and loathes wearing dresses to a thoughtful, confident out-and-proud lesbian artist. But while Fun Home is ostensibly Alison’s story, it’s her father Bruce that shines through with the most ferocious intensity in Victory Gardens’ superb production.

Director Gary Griffin’s ensemble will break your heart with their ability to embody the characters in Bechdel’s story, but it is Lindley who delivers the final anvil blow that will shatter it to smithereens. In the 269-seat Victory Gardens, Fun Home has an intimacy it lacked when the national tour played the 2,253-seat Oriental Theatre last November. This is especially evident in the musical numbers, which often feel like they’re coming at you with the immediacy of your own immediate family.

If the above makes it sound like Fun Home will leave you popping Zoloft like Skittles, rest assured that the production is as triumphant as it is dark. Adapted by Lisa Kron (book) and Jeanine Tesori (music and lyrics), Fun Home is also consistently hilarious. The life and times of Alison and her family are hysterical, starting with the commercial that Small Alison (Sage Elliott Harper and Stella Rose Hoyt, alternating) and her brothers (Leo Gonzalez and Preetish Chakraborty) create for the family funeral (or “fun”) home. The ad has the aesthetic of a Partridge Family number, with shades of the Brady Bunch, Johnny Bravo era. It involves puppets and casket-choreography and is all kinds of brilliant.

  Stella Rose Hoyt stars as Small Alison Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater Joe Lino (Roy) and Rob Lindley (Bruce Bechdel) star in Fun Home, Victory GardensStella Rose Hoyt, Leo Gonzalez and Preetish Chakraborty star in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater

Alison’s travails as she matures into college-aged Medium Alison (Hannah Starr) and (adult) Alison (Danni Smith) are a pitch-perfect blend of humor and sorrow, always edged by a knife-blade of bittersweet sharpness. In Medium Alison’s post-coital “Changing My Major to Joan,” Starr embodies a glorious merger of vulnerability and overwhelming, unadulterated joy. It’s the feeling of falling in love for the first time, compressed into a single three-minute song. Starr is fearless, sending the joy to the rafters. She also captures the pride and dignity that comes with love – no small feat for a scene that has her wearing nothing but underpants, tube socks and a stomach-skimming T-shirt.

Small Alison gets her big moment in “Ring of Keys,” a number that turns a banal household item into an epiphany. The song is intentionally halting, as Small Alison chokes up trying to figure out how to articulate her feelings. Pulling off those precisely positioned tiny rests without sounding rehearsed is exceedingly difficult, but Harper simply nails it. Every meticulously inserted rest sounds utterly spontaneous.

Hannah Starr, Danielle Davis and Danni Smith star in Fun Home, Victory Gardens TheaterRob Lindley and McKinley Carter star as Bruce and Helen Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens

As grown-up Alison, Smith holds the show together, narrating flashbacks with the poignant hindsight that colors memory. Working at her drawing table. Alison struggles to put words and illustrations to her memories, flooded by a conflicting sea of emotions. From the gleam of an antique silver pitcher that her father bought at a barn sale, the family’s story spins out and fills in. There’s deception and denial alongside love; shards of anger spiking the sweetest memories.

In the language of pop psychology, the Bechdels are a “dysfunctional family.” In Fun Home, the more important classification is at the core: First and foremost, they are a family. Smith’s portrayal doesn’t play down the brutal tragedy that you can feel approaching like a freight train. But in her narration, you can see that family tragedies don’t necessarily define families. Among survivors, death yields healing, renaissance and even art.

Under music director Doug Peck, the Fun Home score is imbued with all the colors and emotion in the spectrum. Peck is to music as Griffin is to dialogue – which is to say, both get to the heart of the matter and make it gleam.

  
Rating: ★★★★
  

Fun Home continues through November 12 November 19th at VG Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Tuesdays-Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays 3pm & 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $15-$75, and are available by phone (773-871-3000) or online through PrintTixUSA.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More info at VictoryGardens.org(Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)

McKinley Carter, Preetish Chakraborty, Stella Rose Hoyt, Leo Gonzalez and Rob Lindley star in Fun Home

Photos by Liz Lauren


  

artists

cast

McKinley Carter (Helen Bechdel), Preetish Chakraborty (John Bechdel), Danielle Davis (Joan), Leo Gonzalez (Christian Bechdel), Sage Elliott Harper (Small Alison), Stella Rose Hoyt (Small Alison), Rob Lindley (Bruce Bechdel), Joe Lino (Roy, Mark, Pete, Bobby Jeremy), Danni Smith (Alison), Hannah Starr (Medium Alison).

orchestra

Doug Peck (music director), Charlotte Rivard-Hoster (conductor, keyboard), Corson Barnard (asst. music director), Lewis Rawlinson (cello), Brent Roman (percussion), Mike Matlock (flute, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor sax), Justin LaForte (guitar), Ethen Deppe (electronic music designer)

behind the scenes

Gary Griffin (director) Doug Peck (music director), Yu Shibagaki (scenic design), Melissa Ng (costume design), Paul Whitaker (lighting design), Ray Nardelli (sound design), Mealah Heidenreich, Alec Long (co-properties design), Jessica Forella (stage manager), Erica Daniels (managing director), Chay Yew (artistic director), Aaron Shapiro (production manager), Jessica Forella (production stage manager), Merle Reskin (production sponsor), Liz Lauren (photos)

Danni Smith stars as Alison Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens TheaterHannah Starr stars as Medium Alison in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater Stella Rose Hoyt stars as Small Alison Bechdel in Fun Home, Victory Gardens Theater

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October 24, 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)

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October 13, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Million Dollar Quartet (Paramount Theatre)

Kavan Hashemian and Adam Wesley Brown star as Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins in Million Dollar Quartet            
      

  

Million Dollar Quartet
 
Book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux
Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL (map)
thru Oct 29  |  tix: $36-$64  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

October 7, 2017 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Legend of Georgia McBride (Northlight Theatre)

Nate Santana stars as Casey in The Legend of Georgia McBride, Northlight Theatre            
      

The Legend
  of Georgia McBride

Written by Matthew Lopez 
Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd. (map)
thru Oct 22  |  tix: $30-$81  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

October 4, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Rev‪iew: Bullets Over Broadway (NightBlue Performing Arts)

Amanda Farmer stars in Bullets Over Broadway, NightBlue Performing Arts            
      

  

Bullets Over Broadway
   
Adapted by Woody Allen
   from screenplay by Douglas McGrath
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Oct 8  |  tix: $27-$35  |  more info    
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

September 25, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: A View from the Bridge (Goodman Theatre)

Ian Bedford (Eddie), Catherine Combs (Catherine) and Andrus Nichols (Beatrice) star in View from the Bridge (2)             
      

  

A View from the Bridge

Written by Arthur Miller
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru Oct 15  |  tix: $25-$95  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

September 23, 2017 | 2 Comments More

Review: Honeymoon in Vegas (Marriott Theatre)

Honeymoon in Vegas at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire 1            
      

  

Honeymoon in Vegas
   
Music/Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown 
Book by Andrew Bergman
Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (map)
thru Oct 15  |  tix: $50-$60  |  more info    
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

September 21, 2017 | 1 Comment More