Tag: David Eldridge

The best of Chicago theater in 2011

December’s end brings frantic resolutions, plans for heavy drinking and of course, a barrage of best/worst lists. Being the largest theater review site west of Broadway, Chicago Theater Beat covered over 600 shows in 2011, and the difficulty of choosing the top 25 speaks to the city’s vibrant cultural landscape. In alphabetical order, here are our choices for the year’s best:

Sadieh Rifai - American Theater Company - The Amish Project Mierka Girten, Susan Monts-Bologna - Becky Shaw, Red Orchid Theatre Mortensen, Leahy - The Big Meal, American Theater Company CST_BlackWatch_1 - Copy Jay Torrence, Dean Evans, Leah Urzendowski, Ryan Walters, Molly Plunk
Theatre Mir - Caucasian Chalk Circle - Production 1 Jennifer Lim and James Waterston - Chinglish Goodman Theatre Karen-Aldridge-Cliff-Chamberlain-Ste[3] East of Berlin, Russian Play - Signal Ensemble en-route---Chicago-Shakespeare-One-S[2]
Faust - TheMASSIVE - Chicago Festen_Lev_911 Chicago Shakespeare Theater's "Follies" About Face Theatre's "The Homosexuals" Timothy-Edward-Kane---Court-Theatre-[3]
CCTJackieMe_10 Frank, Fiffer, Bone Harry Groener, Ora Jones, by Peter Bosy Steve-Casillas-Jessie-David-Marvin-Q Andrea Prestinario and Nathan M. Hosner - My Fair Lady Paramount Theatre
Outgoing Tide - Northlight Theatre 011 004_Passing Strange by Bailiwick Chicago Plumpp-and-cast---H1 The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard - Writers Theatre 015 stef-tovar-and-projections-by-john-b[1]

 

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December 31, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Top 10 Chicago plays of 2011

After covering nearly 600 productions this year, here are our picks of the best of the best. Bravo!!  FYI: The national website Huffington Post has kindly posted our choices on their Chicago page, which you can see here.

Clybourne Park, Steppenwolf Theatre One Step At A Time, en route Festen - Steep Theatre Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's "Follies" The Homosexuals - About Face Theatre
Timothy Edward Kane - Court Theatre An Iliad 003 Jackie and Me - Chicago Children's Theatre Momma's Boyz - Teatro Vista Court Theatre's "Porgy and Bess" stef-tovar-and-projections-by-john-boesche

 

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December 26, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Under the Blue Sky (Steep Theatre)

       
Michael Salinas, Caroline Neff, Steep Theatre - Under the Blue Sky       
      
Under the Blue Sky 

Written by David Eldridge
Directed by Brad Akin
at Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn (map)
thru Nov 19  |  tickets: $20-$22   |  more info

Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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October 23, 2011 | 1 Comment More

Review: Festen (Steep Theatre)

Due to popular demand, ‘Festen’ extended thru July 10th!!

 

A party of full earth-shattering disclosure


A scene from Steep Theatre's "Festen", directed by Jonathan Berry. Photo by Lev Kalmens.

Steep Theatre presents

 

Festen


Dramatization by David Eldridge
Based on Dogme film/play
Directed by Jonathan Berry
at Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn (map)
through July 10  | tickets: $20-$22  | more info

Reviewed by Jason Rost

A young melancholy Danish man who is the eldest son and heir to his father’s fortune becomes racked with grief after the drowning suicide of the closest female companion in his life. His sanity is in question. The patriarch of this empire is being celebrated while the son, who knows of a terrible family secret, plots revenge against this man who has destroyed his and his family’s life. Oh, and there’s a ghost. Sound familiar? If you’re thinking: Festen, a dramatic adaptation of a film from the Dogme series, you’d be correct. Any connection to that older play about a Danish prince is purely coincidental—and what a fascinating layer of coincidence it is. Director Jonathan Berry ’s production of the Midwest premiere of this London hit is compelling from start to finish. Steep and artistic director Peter Moore have given Chicago audiences what’s sure to be a highlight of the season by bringing this hauntingly human piece to their intimate storefront space.

A scene from Steep Theatre's "Festen", directed by Jonathan Berry. Photo by Lev Kalmens.While the resemblance to Hamlet is resonant (as Berry himself notes) the play takes its cue from several resources. “Festen” was the first film in the Dogme 95 movement, a style of no-frills filmmaking that focuses on stripping away production elements and focusing on verisimilitude in acting, story and mise-en-scène. The setting is the 60th birthday party for Helge (a difficult role mastered by Norm Woodel), the patriarch of an enterprise where family, business and home become entangled. The arrival of the family members is somewhat reminiscent of those murder mysteries where the characters all arrive, and are introduced, each with their own eccentricities. The audience becomes familiar with them in a light-hearted fashion. However, something is quickly off kilter here as Helge’s son Michael (Michael Salinas) begins a profanity laden tirade against one of the servants, Lars (Alex Gillmor) while treating his wife (Sasha Gioppo ) like a slave, all in front of his young daughter (Julia Baker).

Some of the other party guests include Helge’s remaining children Christian (Kevin Stark) and Helene (Julia Siple), Helge’s brother Poul (Pete Esposito), his father (Toby Nicholson ), and wife Else (Melissa Riemer).This family, on the surface, is more of a well oiled corporation as a whole. When horrid accusations are made by Christian, they are at first mere chinks in the empire that Helge has built. Those more blindly loyal to Helge, like Poul and his personal manager Helmut (James Allen), remain unfazed and continue with routine artificial celebration. All the while, it is the servants on this estate who are clearly running the show. They act as the silent all-knowing purveyors of justice who can completely throw the chain of events off course by simply hiding a set of car keys or a reluctance to pour a glass of port.

To really delve into what’s at stake for the characters in this play would be to divulge certain revelations that you, as audience member, should avoid knowing beforehand if at all possible. The audience response was silent, yet palpable and electric on the night I attended. One of the more fascinating scenes of the evening involves a perfect amalgamation of direction, acting and design in which three separate interactions occur simultaneously in the same area of the stage. A husband and wife make violent love against a wall while a woman reads her sister’s suicide note while another man refuses sexual advances and contemplates his own contempt. All of these moments happen within feet from each other in a choreographed response and obliviousness of the others.

A scene from Steep Theatre's "Festen", directed by Jonathan Berry. Photo by Lev Kalmens.There is not a weak link in this ensemble. It is cast with precision and great care for each of these characters. It will be a crime if the Jeff committee doesn’t remember this ensemble come next year. Kevin Stark leads the cast with his perfect portrayal of repression and redemption. Reimer’s final line in the play is delivered with such calculated casualty that it seems to lift a spell off this wounded family. I could go through why each of these actors should receive recognition, but that’s not quite what this play is about. This is truly about actors providing a service to their audience and to the story. No one actor ever goes too far with the drama or heaviness of the situation, but rather respects these people and story to the fullest extent.

Berry adds the perfect amount of theatricality to grip the audience viscerally and emotionally. His attention to the rituals of this world and their subsequent collapse is telling and authentic. Christopher Kriz’s sound design provides a driving emotional soundscape that encompasses a vast spectrum proving to be ghostly, elegant, foreboding, and yet hopeful. Sarah Hughey’s lighting design creates magnificent shadow effects as well as separates areas of this small space to help convey the story ever that much clearer. The minimalism of Dan Stratton’s clean Scandinavian set design echoes Ibsen and Bergman. The white sterile ornate walls and furniture proves to be disturbing in both an ethereal manner as well as disgusting as a reflection of certain revelations. Prop designer Sarah Burnham’s glassware and table settings play a vital role as they are surgically set in place. Janice Pytel’s costume design is at its best in the contrast between the color in the final scene and the formal coldness in the rest of the production.

Festen is a sophisticated journey of both the emotional and the psychological. It’s a rare piece of theatre that gives the audience a physical reaction to events. There is a moment in the final scene where Michael’s daughter sits on one of the character’s laps. She simply wants a storybook read to her. Due to common knowledge, everyone in the audience shared a knee-jerk reaction along with Gioppo as her mother. In the end, the audience has witnessed first-hand the revelations made and the life altering changes of these characters. I can only imagine what it must be like to see this play and have repressed similar horrific events that are referenced, and it’s very likely more than one seat will be filled with these individuals. While this is beyond heartbreaking, it is also doubtless that we all have hurtful occurrences big or small we’ve suppressed rather than forgotten or healed from. Festen shines a light on the courage of people who confront these battles, many within the private walls of their homes or minds.

Rating: ★★★★


A scene from Steep Theatre's "Festen", directed by Jonathan Berry. Photo by Lev Kalmens.

Steep Theatre’s production of Festen, by David Eldridge continues through June 11th, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. The play runs 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. Tickets are $20 on Thursdays and $22 on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets may be purchased at www.steeptheatre.com or by calling 866-811-4111.

May 8, 2011 | 2 Comments More