Review: Giselle (Joffrey Ballet)

Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili star in Giselle, Joffrey Ballet Chicago 4             
      

  

Giselle
  
Music by Adolph Adam
Adapted by Lola de Ávila 
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map)
thru Oct 29  |  tix: $34-$104  |  more info
       
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October 23, 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: 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
       
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October 12, 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
       
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October 7, 2017 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Heavens Are Hung in Black (Shattered Globe Theatre)

Darren Jones and Lawrence Grimm star as Dred Scott and Abraham Lincoln in Heavens Are Hung in Black             

           

The Heavens Are Hung in Black
   
Written by James Still
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Oct 21  |  tix: $35  |  more info
       
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October 6, 2017 | 0 Comments 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
       
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October 4, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Rembrandt (Steppenwolf Theatre)

John Mahoney stars as Homer in The Rembrandt at Steppenwolf Theatre            
      

   

The Rembrandt

Written by Jessica Dickey 
Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted (map)
thru Nov 11  |  tix: $20-$104  |  more info
       
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September 30, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Five Guys Named Moe (Court Theatre)

Kelvin Roston, Jr., Stephen Allen and James Earl Jones II star in Five Guys Named Moe, Court Theatre            
        

    

Five Guys Named Moe

Written by Clarke Peters
    with music by Louis Jordan
Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis (map)
thru Oct 15  |  tix: $44-$74  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets
     

September 26, 2017 | 0 Comments More