Three Shows – One Street! Don’t miss out!

Rogers Park Theater Renaissance

By Venus Zarris

When you think of Chicago Theater your first thoughts might go to The Loop. Between The Goodman Theatre on Dearborn and the big commercial venues that produce the Broadway in Chicago product, the other options can get easily lost. Little to no advertising money makes it impossible for them to compete for visibility but that doesn’t mean that their efforts are any less impressive or important.

There is theater being produced all around the city and suburbs, some streets even have a couple options within walking distance but Rogers Park is exploding with outstanding work. Earlier this summer The Side Project saw a production of Sweet Confinement by a new company called SiNNERMAN Ensemble. They formed after training together at the School at Steppenwolf and the fledgling company created bold, provocative, glaringly intimate and urgently powerful theater in a tiny black box.

Keep an eye on this exciting new company and the other eclectic offerings at The Side Project at 1439 W. Jarvis Ave. (map).

Now Showing On Glenwood!!!

Within about a three block radius on North Glenwood, just off the Red Line Train Morse stop, there are three plays by three very different and very impressive companies.

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The Mark Of Zorro

Seldom do you ride a continual and exhilarating wave of energetic entertainment during an entire production but Lifeline Theatre’s world premier adaptation of The Mark of Zorro delivers a tsunami of charming delight!

"Mark of Zorro" at the award-winning Lifeline Theatre This show has everything going for it, both creatively and technically, but the two elements that keep rising to the surface are the unbridled humor and the flawlessly swashbuckling fight scenes. It is always a treat to go to a comedy and giggle but it is an unexpected pleasure to go to an adventure tale and squeal with laughter.

Just when you have caught your breath from the whimsical comedy you are swept away by the exciting swordplay. Normally even the best staged fight scenes tend to break the suspension of disbelief. They look telegraphed, rehearsed and contrived. But Geoff Coates’s gifted and dazzling fight choreography delivers the most believable and invigorating swordplay that I have ever seen on stage, and he does it with a large cast in a relatively small space! Long hours of rehearsal dedicated exclusively to the fight scenes pay of in terms of childlike thrills for the audience. WARNING TO THE FRONT ROW: You might just soil yourselves because the action is so close and so real!

If you are looking for exciting exploits, dastardly villains and a handsome, lovable, laughable hero, run to see The Mark of Zorro!

Rating: ««««

(“The Mark of Zorro” extended through July 20 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood. 773-761-4477.)

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Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night

Theater is a pretty remarkable proposition. A group of people from varied backgrounds and disciplines come together with a unified goal of presenting a piece of work. One might think that this is a recipe for chaos, and sometimes that is the case. But miraculously it is often the ingredients for something entertaining and or evocative. Occasionally it transcends the normal conventions and expectations and the synchronicity of creation lends itself to something exceptionally compelling. It taps a vein of emotions in a way that is rare and unique. This is the case with Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night, produced by the award-winning theatre company Theo Ubique.

JacqueBrel You enter the wonderfully quaint little venue of No Exit Café, far north of the hustle and bustle of the Loop and nestled next to the Red Line elevated train tracks, and are relocated to another time and another place. But the time and place are more so the setting of altered emotions and atmosphere, rather than a specific location. You are transported to comradery, inebriation, celebration, passion, longing, betrayal, loss, and melancholy.

Director Fred Anzevino and his eloquent company create a rare gift to the audience and an exceptional contribution to the exclusive theatrical choices that Chicago has to offer. Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night is a lovely homage to Brel’s talent and the perfect vehicle for Theo Ubique’s incomparable imagination.

Rating: ««««

(“Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night “ extended through August 30 at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave. 773-743-3355.)

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Questa

People’s Theater of Chicago delivers a solid Midwest Premiere of  Questa, by “NYPD Blue” writer Victor Bumbalo. The urban landscape is simply and immediately rendered by Patricia Perez’s exceptional mural design, starkly yet warmly depicting a skyline in ruins, and also by James Scalfani’s explosive interior cityscape design of color on black box walls, creating an homage to the vibrancy of New York with a black light painting on black velvet effect. The contrast of vitality and desolation evokes the city’s heartbeat as well as the contrasting emotions in the lives of Bumbalo’s characters before the play even begins. Annah Zaman’s subtly lovely original music infuses the production with an appropriately overwhelming melancholy.

questa Director Madrid St. Angelo works wonders with his resources. He creates as much honesty and consistency as possible with an uneven cast and an overly ambitions script. Shaun F. Conway, as Nicholas, and Cliff London, as Daniel, deliver the productions most believable and emotionally realized performances.

The convoluted script is thought provoking, albeit not completely engaging, and the overall production proves to be a strong effort by an up-and-coming company with plenty of dedication, talent and potential.

Rating: ««

(“Questa” runs through July 19 at The Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 North Glenwood Ave. 773-371-1868.)

July 15, 2008 | 2 Comments More

Review: "A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Queer Tale"

Shakespeare, Never So Gay and Never So Fun!

By Venus Zarris

This midsummer seems to be chocked full of options for fans of the Bard. There are two productions currently running of Much Ado About Nothing, one under the starlight and trees of the First Folio Shakespeare Festival at the beautiful Mayslake Peabody Estate Forest Preserve in Oak Brook and the other at the Oak Park Festival Theatre. There is also Funk It Up About Nothin’ (weblink here), a world premiere “ad-rap-tation” of Much Ado About Nothing at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. (It can’t be Nothing if there are three productions going on at once. I call that Much Ado!)

On July 26th Bohemian Theatre Ensemble opens The Merchant of Venice at BoHo Theatre @ Heartland Studio and on the 27th The Mill Theatre opens Paula Vogel’s Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief, a reimagining of Othello, at Stage Left Theatre.

midsummer nights dream - a queer tale But if you are looking to satisfy your iambic pentameter cravings with a delightfully decadent deviation, MidTangent Productions A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Queer Tale is the show for you! Director/Adaptor Tony Lewis takes Shakespeare’s romantic comedy of young lovers and mischievous fairies and infuses it with a red light cabaret complete with some of the best dance numbers you’ll see in any musical. Filled with writhing bodies engaged in undulating erotic naughtiness, this spin on the Bard’s classic will make you wish that all of the Shakespeare library could be retold with as much homoerotic delight.

In the struggle to gain mainstream acceptance, the gay community has taken to homogenized representations. Many of us are settling down, pairing off in committed relationships, buying homes and/or having or adopting children. On the surface it might even be construed that being straight is so great, we are attempting to imitate or emulate. But Queer Tale stands as not only a wonderful adaptation of Shakespeare, it also stands as an unapologetically sexual solute to the daring divergence and darling debauchery at the roots of gay liberation and expression.

With forbidden lesbian and gay relationships, a Drag Queen Titania lip-syncing to Cher and Madonna and an outrageously erotic dance party fueled by euphoric intoxicants, this show celebrates the ‘old school’ joie de vivre of the community while, at the same time, illustrating the ongoing struggles for acceptance and equality. With a charming cast, fantastic soundtrack and the most playful choreography in town, this will reinvent your notions of Shakespeare in love to include sophisticated and stylized same sex subversion.

“How now faggots?” Asks Puck. “We are but tricks and treats!” Answers the Fairyz of the Hood. From the brilliant dance opening to the bittersweet end, MidTangent’s ‘Queer Tale’ is filled with tricks and treats and then some!

The outstanding direction, conceptual ingenuity and adorably enthusiastic cast shine through to make this a production that transcends sexual orientation or identification. You can’t help but be enchanted by this midsummer dream.

“Some are born gay. Some achieve gayness. And some have gayness thrust upon them.”

Regardless of your sexual proclivity, Queer Tale makes for amazingly entertaining Shakespeare and ambitiously excellent theater!

Rating: «««½

(“A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Queer Tale ” runs through August 3 at National Pastime Theater, 4139 North Broadway (map). 800-595-4849)

July 15, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Cirque du Soleil’s "Kooza" – 40% off tickets!

 Koozaheader

Great news – Cirque du Soleil is offing 40% off tickets of their newest production – Kooza

40% off “Kooza” tickets!!

Special offer for all you Cirqu du Soleil fans!

 

kooza Cirque du Soleil presents its newest touring show, KOOZA. The story of an innocent who enters a world full of kings, thieves, and other archetypal characters, KOOZA is a return to Cirque du Soleil‘s roots: a combination of classic circus acrobatics and broad slapstick clowning.  “Kooza” runs through August 24th at the United Center.  For more info, click here.

July 14, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Chicago Trib: Revise the Smoking Ban!

Looks like the Chicago Tribune agrees with me – that the smoking ban that effectively squelched the smoking scenes in Jersey Boys should be revised so that smoking ban exemptions can be made for dramatic performances.  Alderman Brendan Reilly, whose district includes Chicago’s theatre district, has introduced just such a measure that would require theater companies to apply for a smoking ban waiver from the city’s health department.

Money quote:

Chicago’s smoking ban is a sound public health policy, and no request to sidestep it should be taken lightly.  But it’s silly to handcuff artistic expression for such a miniscule health risk.  It’s an awful lot of huffing about a negligible amount of puffing.

Hopefully both the city council and the state legislature will follow the Trib’s advice and enact smoking exemptions for dramatic performances.

Entire editorial here.

July 12, 2008 | 2 Comments More

Mental Health Break: Florence Henderson shows kinky side!

Ran across this video the other day, and thought I’d share it with my readers.  Who knew Mrs. Brady was so nasty…

July 10, 2008 | 0 Comments More

"Jersey Boys" – no smoking allowed!

It’s official – all smoking scenes in Chicago’s long-running Broadway hit, Jersey Boys, have been snuffed out.  Chicago’s smoking ban does not offer exemptions for indoor performances, and – unlike many American cities – also does not allow for any type of substitutions, such as clove cigarettes (which is a common practice in many theatres around the country). 

A theatrical telling of the rise of Frankie Valli and his singing group, it is natural that the characters would smoke in certain scenes, just as they did in real life.  Unfortunately a theatre patron lodged a complaint with the city, so the smoking scenes had to be rewritten and restaged.  (some people just need to have something to complain about, you know?)

The New York and London version of Jersey Boys cast will continue with the smoking scenes, as these cities have indoor smoking bans that offer exemptions for theatrical performances

"Jersey Boys", now playing at the Bank of America Theatre in downtown Chicago .

July 9, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Sunday Sondheim – Betty Buckley and Harlem Boys Choir

This is an absolutely beautiful arrangement of Sondheim’s “Our Time” and “Children Will Listen” from Merrily We Roll Along and Into The Woods respectively.  Enjoy

July 6, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Chicago-to-NYC theatre happenings

Critically-acclaimed The Strangerer (our review), produced by Theatre Oobleck and Scott Morfee, will be pulling up stakes and moving to New York’s Barrow Street Theatre, opening there on July 13th.

The minimalistic new musical The Adding Machine, produced by Next Theatre and Scott Morfee, will be ending their long run at New York’s Minetta Lane Theatre, accumulating a run of 16 previews and 149 regular performances.

July 4, 2008 | 0 Comments More