Tag: Branimira Ivanova
New Works Festival
Choreography by Andrew Wright, Penny Saunders,
Hubbard Street Dance
Choreographed by Alonzo King
A Christmas Carol:
a silent bah-humbug
Adapted by Silent Theatre Company
Thornton and his cast earn their ‘applause light’
|The Gift Theatre presents|
|Night and Her Stars|
|Written by Richard Greenberg
Directed by Michael Patrick Thornton
at Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee (map)
through April 24 | tickets: $25-$30 | more info
Reviewed by Jason Rost
The effect of television on human civilization has been up for debate since the first flickering blue light emitted into people’s homes. “What was life like before television?” is a question that is repeated in Richard Greenberg’s 1995 play, Night and Her Stars, revolving around the 1950’s quiz show scandal involving academic Charles Van Doren and the Q&A show, “21”, now running at The Gift Theatre, directed with mastery by artistic director, Michael Patrick Thornton.
The vast majority of the American population can hardly fathom an existence without television. As this number increases, the debate on the social implications of television withers, being replaced by greater evils of technology. Nevertheless, this tale of America’s tested faith in television, and The Gift’s production, succeeds in reveling in nostalgia whilst finding immediacy, resonance and heart in its characters and their flaws.
As Greenberg himself notes, this play “must not be mistaken for history.” It is in this vain that the Gift takes us back to a skewed cold war era consumer driven television world of the 1950’s. Set designer Adam Veness does a remarkable job of transforming the tinderbox storefront space into a gaudy haunting replica of the notorious game show, “Twenty One”, complete with an “Applause” lighted sign and a four-sided blue glowing orb of a television set.
The first act primarily follows the rise and fall of the knowledgeable Jewish contestant Herb Stempel (played by Raymond Shoemaker with pitch perfect desperation, optimism and hamartia). Stempel is discovered by game show producer Dan Enright (Danny Ahlfeld) after being pressured by sponsors and execs to bring brighter contestants onto the show to avoid dead silence and stammering. Ed Flynn gives an entertaining supporting performance as the Geritol sponsor pleading with Enright, “I have to appeal to geriatrics.” These demands lead to Enright feeding answers to an initially hesitant Stempel resulting in his reigning championship run.
Stempel’s ethnicity and lack of on-camera charisma aren’t quite what the show’s audience is looking for, as Keith Neagle delivers the powerfully cringing line, “I hate him like rabies!” In one of the highlights of the play, Shoemaker is brilliant as Stempel pleading for any other question than the one he is given to go down on during his fall. As Stempel begins to reveal the truth to the press, Enright plays it off as “Jewish self-hatred.”
Along comes the more “all-American” contestant Charles Van Doren (Jay Worthington) who descends from a long line of famed academics. Van Doren is fed answers to replace Stempel on the show. Worthington gives a complex and exciting performance. As Charlie, he conveys a man who is given everything at once, yet happiness eludes him.
Charlie Van Doren’ can be considered a symbol of television stardom, be it quiz shows or reality shows. He embodies short lived fame and a lack of touch with the real world. Contrasting another Charlie amidst a modern day TV scandal, Van Doren finally exclaims, “I don’t want to win anymore.” Van Doren’s confession is staged effectively by Thornton with a chorus of the Christian congress instantly forgiving his sins.
Branimira Ivanova’s costumes are scrumptious, with many raided directly from the “Mad Men” wardrobe department, giving us glimpses into a range of rising movements in the late 50’s during the American Chorus’ interludes. The pinstriped suit and polka-dotted tie Enright gives to Stempel for his television debut is a sure laugh each night. Lighting designer Scott Pillsbury creates impressive effects and moods with the small space including an emotional lighting storm and perfectly placed moments in which the audience becomes lit. Miles Polaski’s sound design balances nicely between the atmospheric and the expressive spectrums.
While Shoemaker and Worthington carry the show, it is ultimately an ensemble production. Joe Mack may be the most perfect casting in his turn as the oblivious game show host Jack Berry. Thornton utilizes Greenberg’s American Chorus expertly, as these fine actors come into the light to play pivotal roles only to disappear into an ever watching amoeba. Katie Genualdi is charming and smart in her various appearances, especially at the top of the second act in an ad for cornflakes infused with caffeine. Erika Schmidt has a calm intensity as a reporter who finally brings Van Doren to the truth. Established Chicago actor Paul D’Addario, as the exec Al Freedman, is as powerful of a presence silent as he is during dialogue. Aemilia Scott, as Stempel’s wife, is fascinating in struggling with her doubts for her husband. Ahlfeld’s Enright occasionally has some pacing and timing issues that may get tighter during the run.
While Greenberg’s telling of this cautionary tale may not land quite as powerfully as a decade or two ago, it still stands the test of time as an historical account that has grown into legend. The heart and humanity of this play lies with a character I’ve yet to mention played with wonder and honesty by veteran actor Richard Henzel. Perhaps, do yourself a favor and save the reading of the program until after the show and be surprised by the final scene in which we finally see Van Doren in his natural setting.
Night and Her Stars continues at The Gift Theatre through April 24th, with performances Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30pm with Sunday matinees at 2:30. (no shows April 16 and 17). Running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes with one intermission. Tickets are $25 (Sundays) and $30 (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). Industry and senior prices: $20 (Sundays only). For more info visit thegifttheatre.org.
Gothic gone ghostly
|Lifeline Theatre presents|
|Adapted by Christina Calvit
From the novel by Emily Brontë
Directed by Elise Kauzlaric
Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood (map)
Through October 31 | tickets: $20–35 | more info
Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes
Yet in Lifeline Theatre’s disappointing version of Wuthering Heights, Lindsay Leopold as Cathy Earnshaw, spends way too much time creeping about the stage in a white gown, grasping hands out claw-like, while the rest of the company stands around dismally making "woo-woo" sounds in the background. Where’s the Halloween candy?
Adaptor Christina Calvit dumps the eminently dispensable Mr. Lockwood, who frames the original story, and leaves all of the narration in the hands of Nelly Dean (the capable Cameron Feagin), who does most of it in the novel, anyway. But Lockwood’s nightmare about Cathy at the start of the book makes it clear that the dead Cathy’s influence is psychological, not supernatural, paving the way for the dying Heathcliff’s visions of her. Here we have a very solid Cathy pounding at the window to get in, over and over again.
Calvit also excises the pious Joseph, removing the whole theme of religious intolerance and hypocrisy that’s in the novel. Even at that, the production runs nearly 2½ hours.
We’re left with the everlasting triangle of the brooding and increasingly dangerous Heathcliff (darkly handsome Gregory Isaac), the highly strung, self-centered Cathy and the prissy Edgar Linton (nicely played by Robert Kauzlaric), and the second-generation repetition of Cathy’s daughter (a straightforward performance by Lucy Carapetyan), Healthcliff’s sickly and selfish son (Nick Vidal) and the degraded Hareton Earnshaw (Christopher Chmelik), here turned into a kind of cringing Gollum.
The deteriorating Hindley Earnshaw (John Henry Roberts), Cathy’s mean and profligate brother, and Healthcliff’s unfortunate wife (Sarah Goeden) get short shrift. The comparison between Earnshaw’s decline at the death of his beloved wife and Heathcliff’s reaction to Cathy’s marriage and subsequent demise is all but buried.
For all their scenes together, we never really see the sensual attraction that so haunts Heathcliff that he spends his life plotting revenge over his lost love, or Cathy to say that Heathcliff is her self. (Which, of course, makes it OK for her to marry another guy.)
Calvit juxtaposes the two generations fairly well, but she introduces each character in such a way that audiences are never left in any suspense about what’s going to happen and who’s going wind up with whom. So she tells us that Cathy marries Linton, not Heathcliff, and that her daughter ends up with Hareton well before the scenes that show us. Perhaps Calvit assumed that no one would go to see this play who wasn’t familiar with the novel. She might be right.
Certainly, no one who isn’t already a fan of the Brontë will become one as a result of this very screechy play, in which the characters are constantly yelling at one another. (To be fair, some of that is straight out of Emily Brontë melodrama — but it’s not comfortable to hear.)
Stylized. dancelike sequences add nothing to our understanding of the story and only take up time and slow the action. So much of the script and Elise Kauzlaric direction get in the way, that it’s hard to tell whether the cast does a good job or not.
Alan Donahue’s platform set captures little of the vastness of the Yorkshire moors and the up and down slide of the window and door become tiresome quickly.
If you’re an avid fan of the novel, you might want to see this. If not, skip it.
2010 Non-Equity Jeff Award Nominees
|Production – Play|
|Busman’s Honeymoon - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
Death of a Salesman - Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
Killer Joe - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½ )
The Pillowman - Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
St. Crispin’s Day - Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
Wilson Wants It All - The House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
|Production – Musical|
|Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre i/a/w Michael James (review ★★½)
Evolution/Creation - Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
|Director – Play|
|Aaron Todd Douglas: Twelve Angry Men - Raven Theatre (review ★★★)
Michael Menendian: Death of a Salesman – Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
Michael Rohd: Wilson Wants It All - House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
Kimberly Senior: The Pillowman – Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
Rick Snyder: – Killer Joe - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½)
|Director – Musical|
|Fred Anzevino & Brenda Didier: Chess – Theo Ubique Theatre (review ★★½)
Jeffrey Cass: The Who’s Tommy – Circle Theatre
Stephen M. Genovese: The Glorious Ones - Boho Rep (review ★★★)
Andrew Park: Evolution/Creation – Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
|The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
Red Noses - Strawdog Theatre Company
Twelve Angry Men - Raven Theatre (review ★★★)
Under Milk Wood - Caffeine Theatre (review ★★)
|Actor in a Principal Role – Play|
|Tony Bozzuto: On an Average Day – BackStage Theatre Company
Darrell W. Cox: Killer Joe - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½)
Andrew Jessop: The Pillowman – Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
Peter Robel: I Am My Own Wife - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)
Chuck Spencer: Death of a Salesman - Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
|Actor in a Principle Role – Musical|
|Courtney Crouse: Chess – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
Tom McGunn: The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
Eric Damon Smith: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
Jeremy Trager: Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
|Actress in a Principle Role – Play|
|Brenda Barrie: Mrs. Caliban – Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★★)
LaNisa Frederick: The Gimmick - Pegasus Players (review ★★)
Millicent Hurley: Lettice & Lovage - Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★★)
Kendra Thulin: Harper Regan - Steep Theatre (review ★★½ )
Rebekah Ward-Hays: Aunt Dan and Lemon - BackStage Theatre
|Actress in a Principle Role – Musical|
|Danielle Brothers: Man of La Mancha - Theo Ubique Theatre (review ★★★)
Sarah Hayes: Man of La Mancha – Theo Ubique Theatre (review ★★★)
Maggie Portman: Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
|Actor in a Supporting Role – Play|
|Chance Bone: Cooperstown - Theatre Seven of Chicago (review ★★)
Jason Huysman: Death of a Salesman - Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
Edward Kuffert: The Crucible - Infamous Commonwealth (review ★★★)
Peter Oyloe: The Pillowman - Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
Phil Timberlake: Busman’s Honeymoon - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
|Actor in a Supporting Role – Musical|
|Eric Lindahl: The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
Steve Kimbrough: Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical - Hell in a Handbag
John B. Leen: Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
|Actress in a Supporting Role – Play|
|Nancy Friedrich: The Crucible - Infamous Commonwealth (review ★★★)
Vanessa Greenway: The Night Season – Vitalist Theatre i/a/w Premiere Theatre & Performance (review ★★★★)
Kelly Lynn Hogan: The Night Season - Vitalist Theatre i/a/w Premiere Theatre & Performance (review ★★★★)
Kristy Johnson: A Song for Coretta - Eclipse Theatre (review ★★)
Mary Redmon: The Analytical Engine – Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
|Actress in a Supporting Role – Musical|
|Kate Garassino: Bombs Away! – Bailiwick Repertory Theatre
Danni Smith: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
Trista Smith: Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical - Hell in a Handbag
Dana Tretta: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
|Aaron Carter: First Words - MPAACT (review ★★★★)
Ellen Fairey: Graceland - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★)
Tommy Lee Johnston: Aura - Redtwist Theatre
Andrew Park and Scott Lamps: Evolution/Creation - Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
Michael Rohd & Phillip C. Klapperich: Wilson Wants It All - The House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
|Bilal Dardai: The Man Who Was Thursday - New Leaf Theatre
Sean Graney: – Oedipus - The Hypocrites (review ★★★★)
Frances Limoncelli: Busman’s Honeymoon - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
Frances Limoncelli: – Mrs. Caliban – Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★★)
William Massolia: Little Brother - Griffin Theatre
|Kevin Bellie: The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
Brenda Didier: Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
James Brigitte Ditmars: Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical - Hell in a Handbag Productions
|Original Incidental Music|
|Andrew Hansen: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Kevin O’Donnell: - Wilson Wants It All - House Theatre (review ★★★)
Trevor Watkin: The Black Duckling - Dream Theatre
|Ryan Brewster: Chess – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
Gary Powell: Evolution/Creation - Quest Theatre (review ★★★)
Nick Sula: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
|Tom Burch: Uncle Vanya - Strawdog Theatre (review ★★★)
Alan Donahue: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Heath Hays: On an Average Day - BackStage Theatre Company
Bob Knuth: The Analytical Engine - Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
Bob Knuth: Little Women - Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
John Zuiker: I Am My Own Wife - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)
|Diane Fairchild: The Gimmick - Pegasus Players (review ★★)
Kevin D. Gawley: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Sean Mallary: St. Crispin’s Day – Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
Jared B. Moore: The Man Who Was Thursday - New Leaf Theatre
Katy Peterson: I Am My Own Wife - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)
|Theresa Ham: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
Branimira Ivanova: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Joanna Melville: St. Crispin’s Day - Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★) Jill Van Brussel: The Taming of the Shrew - Theo Ubique (review ★★★)
Elizabeth Wislar: The Analytical Engine – Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
|Mikhail Fiksel: Oedipus - The Hypocrites (review ★★★★)
Michael Griggs: Wilson Wants It All - The House Theatre (review ★★★)
Andrew Hansen: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Joshua Horvath: Mrs. Caliban - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★★)
Miles Polaski: Mouse in a Jar - Red Tape Theatre (review ★★★)
|Kevin Bellie: Projection Design, The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
Elise Kauzlaric: Dialect Coach, Busman’s Honeymoon - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
Lucas Merino: Video Design, Wilson Wants It All – The House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
James T. Scott: Puppets, Evolution/Creation - Quest Theatre (review ★★★)
|Geoff Coates: On An Average Day - BackStage Theatre Company
Geoff Coates: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Matt Hawkins: St. Crispin’s Day - Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
R & D Choreography: Killer Joe - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½ )
More info at the Jeff Awards website.