Tag: Brett Neveu

Review: Her America (Greenhouse Theater, Solo Celebration)

Kate Buddeke stars in Her America by Brett Neveu, Greenhouse Theater Center 1           

Her America

Written by Brett Neveu
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Feb 12  |  tix: $42-$48  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

January 15, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Detective Partner Hero Villain (Strawdog Theatre)

Marc Rita stars as Partner in Strawdog Theatre's "Detective Partner Hero Villain" by Brett Neveu, directed by Gus Menary. (photo credit: Tom McGrath)        
Detective Partner
                Hero Villain

Written by Brett Neveu
Directed by Gus Menary
at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway (map)
thru Dec 17  |  tickets : $15   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
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December 4, 2013 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Opponent (A Red Orchid Theatre)

Kamal Angelo Bolden and Guy Van Swearingen star in A Red Orchid Theatre's "The Opponent" by Brett Neveu, directed by Karen Kessler. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        
The Opponent 

Written by Brett Neveu  
Directed by Karen Kessler
A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells (map)
thru Dec 2 Dec 15  |  tixckets: $25-$30   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
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October 25, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Next Stop (Route 66 Theatre Company)

Next Up post - Route 66 Theatre Company Chicago       
Next Stop 

Music and Lyrics by Diana Lawrence
Directed by Erica Weiss  
at Theater Wit, 1229 Welmont (map)
thru June 26  |  tickets: $25   |  more info
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June 19, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Megacosm (A Red Orchid Theatre)

Danny McCarthy as Britt in A Red Orchid Theatre's "Megacosm" by Brett Neveu. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)       

Written by Brett Neveu 
Directed by Dado 
A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells (map)
thru Feb 26  |  tickets: $25-$30   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
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January 16, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: twentyone (Side Project Theatre)

Brett Neveu, Side Project Theatre, twentyone       

Written by Brett Neveu  
Directed by Brant Russell
Side Project Theatre, 1439 N. Jarvis (map)
thru Dec 13  |  tickets: $20   |  more info

Check for half-price tickets 
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November 11, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Chicago Landmark Project (Theatre Seven)


Chicago: A city with a past


Joe Zarrow and Tracey Kaplan - Chicago Landmark Project

Theatre Seven of Chicago presents
The Chicago Landmark Project
at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. (map)
through July 10  |  tickets: $15-$30  |  more info 

Written by: Brooke Berman, J. Nicole Brooks, Aaron Carter, Lonnie Carter, Brian Golden, Laura Jacqmin, Jamil Khoury, Rob Koon, Brett Neveu, Yolanda Nieves, The Red Orchid Youth Ensemble and Marisa Wegrzyn.
Directed by
Jen Green, Lawrence Grimm, Jonathan Green, Brian Stojak, Ed Cisneros, Richard Perez, Rebekah Scallet, Eric Ziegenhagen, Jen Ellison, Megan Shuchman, Brian Golden, Vance Smith

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

I love my city. Chicago is a scrappy rough and tumble kind of town, and if the natives embrace you-you’re in like Flynn. Theatre Seven of Chicago presents the psyche and environs of Chicago with The Landmark Project. Through twelve vignettes written in collaboration with numerous artists and performers, Theatre Seven has successfully illuminated the diversity of Chicago’s history and people in a thoughtful and entertaining way.

The short plays go through a good representation of the diversity and quirks that are unique to Chicago. This is a neighborhood town. All of the glitz and hipster attitude is a recent occurrence. It used to be that when you met someone from another neighborhood, the first question was, "what parish do you belong to?" That sensibility still exists in spite of gentrification and all of the polishing that the investment class seems to think is needed for a ‘world class city.

"Lincoln & Webster: Oz Park," by The Red Orchid Youth Ensemble (l to r) Elenna Sindler, Elita Ernsteen, Alina Taber, Eden Strong, Jaiden Fallo Sauter. Part of the Chicago Landmark Project series. (Photo: Amanda Clifford)The cast is a big one, but the feeling of community glows from the stage. The Red Orchid Youth Ensemble were part of one of my favorite sections of the show. They represent a city kid’s eye view of "Lincoln and Webster" which is Oz Park. The ensemble hearkened back to the days of "Zoom" on PBS. I’m talking the 70’s version of the show with the secret language of Ubi Dubi and joy in being a kid. These kids were amazing. They were jubilant, wise, innocent, and quite funny.

“State & Madison: The Chicago Grid,” written by Marisa Wegrzyn, goes back to the origins of how Chicago got the grid street system. Tracy Kaplan and Joe Zarrow manage to convey the dirt street ruins from which arose this city as Irene and Edward Brennan in 1901.

The nod to the intelligentsia vibe of Hyde Park is given a sardonic and funny treatment in "63rd and Woodlawn: Robust Coffee Lounge", written by Brian Golden. It’s the land of University of Chicago and academic competitiveness. A man is faced with his past and a secret life that isn’t so secret. The dialogue is laced with the wry jostling of academia and an authentic bourgeois tilt that has always been Hyde Park.

Chicago has a complicated history with race and ethnicity. The story of "63rd and Kedzie: Arab American Community Center” turns the spotlight on a neighborhood that has been in flux for the last 40 plus years. It is known as the Marquette Park and Gage Park neighborhood. When I was in high school, it was the brewing ground for the neo-Nazi movement in Chicago; where Dr. King was hit in the head with a brick for protesting the virulent segregation policies. The story of "63rd and Kedzie" continues today with the Arab American community being the latest ethnic group under the microscope. This story is written by Jamil Khoury and the conflict is subtle yet powerful. The sense memory of that neighborhood back in 1975 comes to a fresh simmer. The dialogue is honest and there is no holding back on the confusion and anger of both sides. Peace and understanding can begin with one person. That is a lesson that still needs to be heard in some parts of Chicago.

"Division and California: Steel Flags" features a wonderful story of youthful awakening and the power of keeping secrets. A young Puerto Rican girl disappears and her sister keeps the secret that she ran away with a boy. The family is alarmed, putting up flyers, and agonizing over what could be a horrible fate. It is a finely paced story of the Puerto Rican community and the female bonds that are common in any ethnicity. This story features Marcel Asilis and Damariz Posadas as Cookie and Sonia whose bond is tested by a secret and defiance. There are some hilarious moments when the grandmother gets after Cookie with a shoe. She can sense that the truth is either a relief or the beginning of a long row to hoe.

Another favorite features two boys playing catch circa 1948 in "Devon and Kedzie: Thillens Stadium". This lovely story took me back to the days when baseball was not just the national pastime but the neighborhood pastime. The boys, played by Destin Teamer and Kevin Woodrow are tuned into the complexities of the game of baseball and barely notice that they are Black and White. They discuss which is the greatest Negro League player and who they pretend to be. The White boy says that the families are getting together for a picnic and it is only for a moment that the Black boy hesitates. This is his baseball buddy and not the enemy that they would be in some other part of the city. It should be noted that the Thillens Stadium is still going strong, proving the bonding power of sports.

"Logan & Milwaukee: Logan Square Farmer's Market," by Laura Jacqmin features (l to r) Greg Williams (Milton), Victoria Blade (Lizzie). Part of the Chicago Landmark Project series. Photo Credit: Amanda Clifford.

All of the stories in The Chicago Landmark Project are authentic renditions of the feel and history of the respective neighborhoods. For the most part, all of the places remain more or less as they are portrayed. However, the final story is called "Belmont and Western: Riverview Amusement Park". This is the story of a haunting where there now stands a police station, grocery store, and toy mega-mart. My grandpa would take me to Riverview, at the time the nation’s largest amusement park, almost every weekend. I remember the thrill of seeing the eyes of Aladdin’s Castle moving from side to side and knowing that it would soon be cotton candy and kiddie rides galore. Riverview closed in 1967 before I was tall enough to ride The Comet or the Bobs roller coasters. When we drove by after it closed without warning, it seemed haunted and lonely to me.

In the segment, three teenagers come to where Riverview once stood. Sam Bailey is brilliant in the role of Karen. She projects intelligence and maturity while in the company of two confused teenage boys. Andrew Raia plays Hunter and his character has a not so secret crush on Karen. Arthur Soria is hysterical as the hip hop spouting Alvaro who loves to razz on Hunter and then pull the ‘I’m a person of color and therefore hipper than thou’ card. Suddenly lights start to flash and amusement park noises are heard. A man appears from nowhere, holding a teddy bear which he gives to Karen. This is to the chagrin of both Hunter and Alvaro. Desmond Gray plays Elijah, a swain and apparent apparition. Elijah proceeds to school the trio on the darker history of Riverview – there was a dunking tank called ‘Dunk the Nigger’ at Riverview – and the full gamut of ethnic stereotypes. Yet everyone loved to go to Riverview. The amusement park is all about illusion and fantasy and the theory goes that there is something for everyone. (I recall hearing that in a Riverview commercial during the old ‘Family Classics’ show.)  Elijah asks Karen to accompany him and Hunter’s real feelings come out. Who will Karen choose? The fantasy man or the boy next door? Check out The Chicago Landmark Project to find out!

The Chicago Landmark Project is comprised of twelve short plays. They are divided in half as Part A and Part B. I recommend that you see both to get the full flavor of this wonderful project put together from the Chicago theater community. It is worth the time and the tickets to see the great young talent and the veterans portray Chicago. I came away feeling the grit of Chicago under my nails. Yes. it’s metaphorical but that is Chicago in a nutshell. It’s poetic, funny, solemn, hard working, and the city of big shoulders with just the right hint of danger.

Rating: ★★★

Chicago Landmark Project - Theatre Seven - poster"The Chicago Landmark Project" presented by Theatre Seven runs through July 10th at the Greenhouse Theater Center at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Program A will run Thursdays -Saturdays at 7:30pm. Program B will run Fridays and Saturdays at 9:00pm and Sundays at 2:30pm. For more information call 773-404-7336 or visit www.theatreseven.com

Note: It’s great as a child’s first exposure to grown up theater but the children should be 10 and up. Someone brought a baby to the show. I love babies and feel that children should be exposed as early as possible to the theater. However, if they are still wearing diapers and prone to cute monosyllabic babbling-please find a sitter. You deserve to enjoy both parts and hear every great line.

Photos by Amanda Clifford.

June 12, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Chicago One-Minute Play Festival (Victory Gardens)


OMPF - One Minute Play Festival - Victory Gardens - banner


New Festival Showcases Short Works by Local Artists, Sampler-style


by Dan Jakes and Oliver Sava

This May 15-16, Victory Gardens premiered Chicago’s first One-Minute Play Festival (OMPF), a benefit event that featured bite-sized works by an eclectic mix of prominent and upcoming local theater artists. Creator and “curator” Dominic D’Andrea originally debuted the series in New York in 2007, where it has since grown to San Francisco and Los Angeles . For its first ever stop in the Midwest, considering the event’s magnitude–50 playwrights, 10 directors, and nearly 60 actors–this year’s showcase demonstrated promising potential for an exciting annual Chicago theater institution.

That is, if it finds a stronger footing. Micro-plays are nothing new, especially in the Windy City, long-time home to the Neo-Futurists’ Too Much Light and Second City; one set the bar for two-minute plays, and the other made one-joke flash bits a sketch trademark. D’Andrea and producer Will Rogers’ OMPF also rides off the larger 10-minute play trend. Their efforts to boil down theater even further, though, prove to be fruitful–sometimes even enlightening. Below is a list of the night’s highlights.

Paper Airplane, Aaron Carter  

   The finest piece in the festival. A young boy expresses his anguish over his father’s looming death while tossing folded paper planes across the stage. His ability to speak is limited to the papers’ flight, leaving him choked and frustrated with each audible crash landing. In less than a minute, Carter encapsulates the panic of grief, and animates the cruel handicap children endure to express pain. Those planes approached visual poetry.

Two Vegans, Robert Tenges

   A couple engaged in love making–some of it hilariously acrobatic–get their kink on by dirty-talking their favorite (or to cool things off, least favorite: (“raw kale…raw kale!”) foods. At first, it’s funny nonsense. Then, after you uncomfortably internalize your own link between taste/sexual satisfaction, it’s hysterical.

A Play, Kristoffer Diaz

   You’re the hero in this monologue. The audience member to your right is the protagonist. Your left, the antagonist. Diaz’s simple, straight-forward instructions don’t feel like a gimmick. His inconclusive end ponders some sophisticated ideas about the broader implications of storytelling, ones that resonate long after the play’s 60 seconds are up.

The Last Walk, Lisa Dillman

   Sad pets are an easy go-to for emotional impact…but that doesn’t make using them any less effective. A dog reminisces about the good days with her very recently deceased owner. Confused, she brushes up against his dead body for affection…and if you don’t cry a little at the thought of that, then you’re a monster. Only a few high-pitched “aw’s” were heard in the house during an otherwise hushed fade-to-black.

Inequity, Jake Minton

   Penis envy comes early for two little boys (played by full-grown adults, of course) in a school bathroom: One stands proud, pants down and bare-butted at a urinal, while the other sits devastated, hiding his…well, you know. Minton makes a nice little joke about men’s biggest insecurity.

Haiku Fight, Caitlin Montanye Parrish

   A couple hashes out an argument by having a refereed 8 Mile-style slam, with Japanese poetry filling in for hip-hop. It’s a simple, wonderfully clever juxtaposition of the writing form’s serenity versus the needling aggravation of a relationship fight.

This Just In, Stephen Louis Grush

  Liberal sensibilities about prejudice get turned over on their heads when one easily dismissible stereotype gets paired with one that’s equally unfair, but–for many viewers–may hit a little closer to home. Those might sound like the makings for a didactic issues play. With the right amounts of humor and levity here, they aren’t.

Bag Thief, Laura Jacqmin

   A mix-up at an airport luggage carousel leads to suspicion and accusations. Jacqmin doesn’t quite know how to end her play–what she settles for lets the air out of its balloon and betrays her otherwise solid work. Up until the final seconds, though, it’s fun stuff watching two men calmly navigate each other’s logic and contemplate one another’s mind games.

Blackout, Chisa Hutchinson

   As the name suggests, Hutchinson’s play takes place with the house and stage lights off. Her monologue discusses nyctophobia (fear of darkness) in friendly, clinical terms. Once she starts in about the ghastly things you could be imagining, it’s hard not to nervously giggle and realize you’re an adult who’s once again–briefly–afraid of the dark.

In Not Our Finest Hour, Andrew Hinderaker

   You can spot a gag coming within the first few seconds of this context-free comedy. A line of actors take a swig from a water bottle and pass it on. Anticipation builds; titters slip. The fact that the punch line is exactly what you’d expect compounds the simple humor in this satisfying, straightforward piece.

Wisconsin, Andrew Hinderaker 

   Anyone who’s experienced the unique isolation of a rural Midwest winter can attest to the truth and melancholy spoken in this eloquent monologue. A young man describes a blackened hand rising out of the snow. Hinderaker’s vivid image is striking on conflicting levels–it’s unsettling, somber, and in its own way, serene.

Free, Zayd Dohrn

   A United States Marine quietly bemoans the chaos of modern war and rejects America’s authoritative façade. His speech is upsetting for all the obvious reasons, and for some less common: notably, the futility of humanitarian efforts and the false hope instilled by the military’s hierarchy.

A Short Story, Emily Schwartz 

   A narrator gives up on his own story, much to the protagonist’s chagrin. Schwartz’s non-story leaves the nameless hero waiting and frustrated as the nonchalant storyteller signs off on her would-be adventure. Smart, funny metatheater.

Love Play for Two Chairs, Seth Bockley 

   When you think about chairs having sex (though in any other context, why would you?) the word “whimsical” probably doesn’t come to mind. And yet, like an x-rated Fantasia, Bockley and director Jeffrey Stanton achieve just that. Annoyed by the noise of his enchanted furniture getting it on, an apartment owner sets out to end his two chairs’ tryst. His solution is delightfully absurd–the fact that it’s irresistibly adorable makes matters even stranger.

Unsolicited Advice for Next Year’s Fest

Now that the One-Minute Play Festival has taken its first entertaining, successful baby steps in Chicago, here’s what we at we’d would like to see from the show in its future incarnations…

A Greater Assortment of Styles:

Only a few plays in 2011 were noteworthy for really bucking traditional conventions. The message in Gloria Bond Clunie’s Falling about resilience in the face of natural disasters, for instance, wasn’t particularly moving or inspired, but her play stood out from its peers for its striking use of projections and puppetry. That left us with a question: How can the other works of 50 unique artists have looked so homogeneous? Talking animals, inner-monologues, contentless scenes and gripes about public transit bore the brunt of too many shows. No movement pieces? No one-minute musicals? Festival organizers take pride in the lack of dictated thematic guidelines for the playwrights (as they should). Still, there has to be a way to commission a more diverse body of work.


Many of the short plays benefited from having the names of the shows known; some even took on new light. Dimmed houselights and tiny program font made seeing them impractical–unless you were really straining, you had to do without. An inexpensive or creative way to integrate the show names could further enrich the work.

Clear Intent Behind Curation:

Was there or was there not an intended arc to the evening? We couldn’t tell. Directors took on about 10 plays each, and their pieces were presented together in ten unique “clumps.” The order that clumps were presented in and the plays within them, though, did not have an obvious flow. Perhaps one wasn’t intended–regardless, having one might keep the night as a whole engaging.

The Chicago One-Minute Play Festival is produced as a benefit for Victory Gardens Fresh Squeezed, their alternative programming and audience engagement initiative. With a shared mission, both Fresh Squeezed and the festival aim to represent a wide and diverse range of playwrights, actors, and directors working in the great city of Chicago.

Reviewers: Dan Jakes and Oliver Sava

May 26, 2011 | 0 Comments More