Tag: Aja Wiltshire

Review: Little Fish (Kokandy Productions)

Nicole Laurenzi stars in Little Fish, Kokandy Productions             


Little Fish

Written by Michael John LaChiusa
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Aug 20  |  tix: $33-$38  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

August 3, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Chicago’s Best Theater of 2016


Miguel Cervantes stars as Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Broadway ChicagoDana Omar and Gay Glenn star in Cinderella at the Theater Potatotes, Hypocrites TheatreKaren Rodriguez stars in The Way She Spoke, Solo Celebration, Greenhouse Theater 3ETHL_ShowPageFINAL_450x665James Vincent Meredith and Bethany Jillard in Othello, Chicago Shakespeare TheatreBryce Gangel, Jessica Ervin and Charlotte Thomas in Dry Land, RivendellJulissa Contreras, Sarah Cartwright and Ada Grey in The Haven Place, Red Orchid TheatreEvan Linder and Liz Sharpe in Byhalia Mississippi, New Colony Definition TheatreBrian Parry and Aaron Kirby in The Drawer Boy, Redtwist TheatreChristian Castro and D’Wayne Taylor in Jesus Hopped A Train, Eclipse TheatreThomas Cox, Bolden. (Back) Ruiz, Sullivan, Brown. Photo by Michael Brosilow (2)Mary Beth Fisher and Harris Yulin in Long Day's Journey Into Night, Court TheatreEliza Stoughton and Sam Hubbard in A Loss of Roses, Raven TheatreBlair Brown and Alan Wilder in Mary Page Marlowe, Steppenwolf TheatreChristina Saliba with mirror from Learning Curve, Albany Park Theater ProjectThe Joffrey Ballet presents Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker, Auditorium TheatreJustin Keyes, Chris Sams, Tyrone L. Robinson, Will Skrip and Sean Blake in Smokey Joe's CafeDash Barber and Christopher Borek in Posh by Laura Wade, Steep Theatre LMSarah Goeden, Justine C. Turner and Nicole Bloomsmith in Once in a Lifetime, StrawdogSydney Charles and Julian Parker in Prowess, Jackalope TheatreIt’s the classic tale of the Sharks versus the Jets in West Side Story, one of the greatest musicals ever, playing March 16-April 24, 2016 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. For tickets and information, go to ParamountAurora.com or call (630) 896-6666. Photo credit: Liz Lauren.Brian Quijada in Where Do We Sit On the Bus, Teatro Vista Chicago 2Amy Stricker, Britain Gebhardt, Max DeTogne, Lizzie Schwarzrock, Kelly Baskin, Caitlin JacksonMonica Raymund stars in Thaddeus and Slocum, Lookingglass TheatreBrenda Barrie, James Doherty. Michael E Martin, Johnny Arena and Rudy Galvan in United Flight 232


See our picks below the fold

January 3, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes (The Hypocrites)

Leslie Ann Sheppard stars in Cinderella at the Theatre of Potatoes, The Hypocrites           

Cinderella at the
   Theater of Potatoes

Adapted by Andra Velis Simon
The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru Jan 8  |  tix: $36  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

November 26, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Bear (Adapt Theatre Productions)

Chris McGillivray, Laura Stephenson and Jack Bourgeois star in Adapt Theatre Productions' "The Bear", adapted from Anton Chekov by Shawn Bowers, directed by Amanda Lautermilch.        
The Bear

Written by Shawn Bowers
Adapted from Anton Chekov  
Directed by Amanda Lautermilch
at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood (map)
thru March 9  |  tickets: $10-$12   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

February 20, 2014 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Wedding Singer (Haven Theatre)

Aja Wiltshire and Jill Sesso star in Haven Theatre's "The Wedding Singer" by Chad Beguelin, Matthew Sklar and Tim Herlihy, directed by Jess McLeod. (photo credit: Dean LaPrairie)        
The Wedding Singer  

Book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy
Music by Matthew Sklar, Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Directed by Jess McLeod  
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Nov 17  |  tickets: $20-$42   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
               Read review

October 28, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Next Fall (AstonRep Theatre)

Mark Jacob Chaitin and Ryan Hamlin stars in AstonRep Theatre's "Next Fall" by Geoffrey Nauffts, directed by Derek Bertelsen. (photo credit: Jeremiah Barr)        
Next Fall 

Written by Geoffrey Nauffts  
Directed by Derek Bertelsen
at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood (map)
thru May 25  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

April 30, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Spring Awakening (Griffin Theatre)

A scene from the song "Totally F*cked" in Griffin Theatre's "Spring Awakening," directed by Jonathan Berry.      
Spring Awakening 

Book/Lyrics by Steven Sater
Music by Duncan Sheik 
Directed by Jonathan Berry  
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Jan 8  |  tickets: $38   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

December 5, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Closer (AstonRep Theatre)


Endless scene changes stifle strong ensemble work



AstonRep Theatre Company presents
Written by Patrick Marber
Directed by Rob Cramer
Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 N. Glenwood (map)
through March 5  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

Patrick Marber’s magnum opus Closer hits like a Classical tragedy with “Friends” era embellishment. Marber won a shelf-full of awards and recognition for the play, but has since gone on to craft such garbage as “The Tourist” screenplay. In 2004, he turned the play into a Julia Roberts/Jude Law vehicle and found raving mainstream audiences. Closer is now one of about five plays you’ll probably find on any given Borders’ drama section.

Despite the hype, the play packs a punch, drawing comparisons to Brits like Noel Coward and Harold Pinter. Unlike much of the schlock coming out of the late ‘90s/early aughts (Proof, anybody?), Marber writes harrowing thematic depth and dense, conflicted characters. The play does indeed feel like a period piece of the ‘90’s.

AstonRep Theatre Company’s mission is to bring theatre to non-theatre audiences, which perhaps explains choosing such a well-known piece for their second production. Snuggly fit in the BoHo space in Rogers Park, their production doesn’t seem to go anywhere conceptually. What saves the show from total destruction is Marber’s deft writing sensibilities and an incredibly talented cast.

Overall, the production feels like an acting class final. The talent on-stage contrasts starkly with the poor production values, creating a strange rift that never resolves.

The four-actor piece follows two men and two women over a few years. The characters meet, have sex, fall in love (or not), and inevitably break up and squash each others’ hearts, not always in that order. Dan (Ray Kasper), an obituary writer, meets Alice (newcomer Aja Wiltshire), an ex-stripper prone to falling in front of moving cars. As the months go on, Anna (Amy Kasper) and Larry (Robert Tobin) get thrown into the mix. Affairs spiral off in all sorts of directions, most end in emotional explosions. Then there is the making up, marriages, divorces, and long talks in strip clubs.

Ray Kasper, although too old for the part, works well against Wiltshire, easily the most charming member of the cast. Although he can’t nail Larry’s anger, Robert Tobin finds and plays up the humor. Amy Kasper makes bold choices from the beginning. The cast struggle with some of the weightier moments of the play, although they are always in sync with the dramatic arch of the piece.

Director Rob Cramer’s production is extremely hampered by amateurish stumbling blocks. The transitions are the most glaring issues, making a 90 minute script into well over 2 hours. There are twelve scenes in the play. Here, each transition is done in blackout, without any music, and without any creativity. The AstonRep gang forgets that this is all part of the show, too. Designer Lea Tobin’s set feels rushed and inadequate. We see all the wires, but we shouldn’t. I wish Cramer lessened everything and just focused on his cast. A simpler touch would make the show quicker, clearer, and more engaging.

I’ll be honest, considering the missteps, I thought this was going to be a groaner of a production. But the cast really pull the play together, forging the believably convoluted relationships that Marber requires. Even the scene where Dan and Larry interact in a sex chat room, for example, is hilariously crude yet Kasper and Tobin use it to reveal quite a lot about each character.

Marber’s writing dabbles a bit in romantic comedy, melodrama, and tragedy, but Closer defies any neat Hollywood genre placement. Unlike many writers of our time, he allows the story to drive itself in any direction it needs. The folks behind AstonRep understand this, but they aren’t able to articulate it.

Rating: ★★



CastAmy Kasper, Ray Kasper, Robert Tobin, and Aja Wiltshire.

Production: Rob Cramer (Director), Jeremiah Barr (Assistant Director), Samantha Barr (Lighting Design, Stage Manager) and Lea Tobin (Scenic Design, Graphic Designer).

February 10, 2011 | 0 Comments More