Tag: Frank Nall

Review: King Liz (Windy City Playhouse)

Eric Gerard and Lanise Antoine Shelley star as Freddie and Liz in King Liz, Windy City           


King Liz

Written by Fernanda Coppel
Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving (map)
thru July 16  |  tix: $15-$55  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

June 20, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: New Country (Fair Trade Productions)

Will Clinger, Michael Monroe Goodman and Frank Nall in New Country         

New Country

Written by Mark Roberts
The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru May 14  |  tix: $45  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

March 17, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Late Henry Moss (The Artistic Home)

Yadira Correa and Julian Hester star in The Artistic Home's "The Late Henry Moss" by Sam Shepard, directed by Kaiser Ahmed. (photo credit: Tim Knight)        
The Late Henry Moss

Written by Sam Shepard 
Directed by Kaiser Ahmed
at The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand (map)
thru Aug 3  |  tickets: $28-$32   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

July 12, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: Les Parents Terribles (The Artistic Home)

Frank Nall, Julian Hester and Kathy Scambiatterra star in The Artistic Home's "Les Parents Terribles" by Jean Cocteau, directed by John Mossman. (photo credit: Anthony Aicardi)        
Les Parents Terribles

Written by Jean Cocteau  
Directed by John Mossman 
at The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand (map)
thru April 13  |  tickets: $28-$32   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

March 14, 2014 | 1 Comment More

Review: A Touch of the Poet (The Artistic Home)

Elizabeth Argus and Sally Eames - The Artistic Home
A Touch of the Poet

Written by Eugene O’Neill  
Directed by Kathy Scambiatterra
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Nov 6  |  tickets: $28-$32  |  more info

Check for half-price tickets
        Read entire review

October 5, 2011 | 1 Comment More

Review: Only Kidding (Emergent Theatre)


Stale jokes, familiar story in need of serious update


Only Kidding

Emergent Theatre presents
Only Kidding
Written by Jim Geoghan
Directed by Frank Nall
at Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green (map)
through July 10  |  tickets: $10-$30  |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh 

‘Writers don’t know what it’s like under battle conditions.‘ A  seasoned comedian struggles to stay relevant in the ever-changing world of showbiz. A newbie writer is brought in to develop new jokes for him. The generational clash isn’t so funny. Emergent Theatre presents Only Kidding.  Jackie loves being a stand-up comedian.  He lives for the spotlight.  He enjoys his old-fashion, uncensored shtick.  His material is losing its audience.  Sheldon is recruited to freshen him up.  He writes politically-correct banter for a TV talk show host.  Their union isn’t civil.   In another dressing room, in another town, two partners debate their act.  Tom and Jerry have been doing the same routine.  Tom wants to bring in new material.  Jerry wants to bring in a manager.  The duet is not harmonious.  Three years later, the foursome meet up in the green room.  Who’s with whom?  Only Kidding is a bit already bitten.

Playwright Jim Geoghan writes a behind-the-scenes look at stand-up comedians.  Geoghan focuses on aging-out and dated material.  It’s not the premise, it’s the script.  The set-up is familiar.  The punchline is more of a pinchline. The jokes are old.  Director Frank Nall salvages the play by showcasing solid acting.  In the lead, Bobby Costanzo (Jackie) is perfect old-school comedian.  If Jackie Mason and Jerry Stiller had a love child, it would be Costanzo.  Although he’s crass, brass and a bit of an ass, he endears as the well-worn choice over the shiny, newer version.  Jim Saltouros (Tom) acts the part but doesn’t look the part.  In a play emphasizing *age*, Saltouros and A.J. Miller (Jerry) as a duo is a speed bump.  Visually, Saltouros seems more aligned with Costanzo.  Their chemistry is much more peer-oriented than an establishment-rookie scenario.  For his part, Miller plays out-of-control novice with energetic hi-jinx.  Eustace Allen (Sheldon) is a hoot as a buffoonish writer.  With animated facial gestures, Allen provides an amusing slapstick element. 

Geoghan wrote a character resistant to change.  It’s an art imitating life moment.  All kidding aside, Only Kidding is begging for an update.  To build the gap between washed-up and up-and-coming, the other characters need to be more humorous contemporaries.  The jokes need to be funnier, fresher, and farcical. For the age contrast between Jackie and Jerry to work, Tom and Jerry can’t have one.  Without the disparity, the point is lost and the joke is on us… Only kidding – but seriously!      

Rating: ★½

Running Time:  Two hours and ten minutes, which includes an intermission


June 19, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Trouble in Mind (The Artistic Home)


Race, Art collide in emotionally charged play



The Artistic Home presents
Trouble in Mind
Written Alice Childress
Directed by
Vaun Monroe
The Artistic Home, 3914 N. Clark (map)
through March 20  |  tickets: $28  |  more info

Reviewed by Keith Ecker 

While watching the Artistic Home’s engaging production of Trouble in Mind, I couldn’t help but think of Spike Lee‘s 2000 satire “Bamboozled. For those unfamiliar, the movie revolves around a black television writer who is frustrated with the depictions of African-Americans in entertainment. In an effort to sabotage his career and the network, he pitches the concept of a modern-day minstrel show to his colleagues. Rather than balk, they bite. Two inner-city black men are plucked from obscurity and shoved into the limelight to serve as the show’s stars. The sitcom is a hit, but not without ample psychic costs to those involved.

MillieJohnHowever, where “Bamboozled” is deficient in summarizing the Catch-22 that is financial success and artistic compromise, trailblazing playwright Alice Childress succinctly and effectively attacks the matter—nearly 50 years before Lee’s attempt.

Trouble in Mind takes place in 1957. A mixed cast is about to start rehearsals for what the business terms a "colored" play. We are introduced to the passionate, self-taught Wiletta Mayer (Velma Austin), a black actress who will be filling the role of the mother. John Nevins (Armand Fields), an educated but green actor, enters. Mayer gives him tips on how to act around white theater professionals. Her advice amounts to doing what you’re told, laughing at the appropriate times and, in general, acting pleasant. It’s information she will later regret.

The play is directed by a domineering no-nonsense white director named Al Manners (John Mossman). Al exhibits every stereotypical laughable trait attributed to his ilk. He uses flowery, overwrought language and overly intellectualizes the dramatic process. Meanwhile, the content of the play is chock full of dumbed-down racist conventions with characters written to be pitied. It’s the kind of piece that leaves the presumably white audience feeling morally superior to their racist white brethren. But despite the fact that they play such laughably unrealistic characters, the black actors go along with the script because, unfortunately, a part is a part.

Trouble arises when Wiletta’s character instructs her son, who is on the run from an angry white lynch mob, to surrender. Wiletta feels the action is disingenuous. Al is unmoved by her requests to reconsider the script. Instead, the two get into a heated argument that serves as the emotionally charged climax of the play.

MannersJohn WilettaSheldon
WilettaManners MannersWilettachair

The actors in this production give it their all. Austin fills her role with a great passion, turning up the ferocity as Wiletta’s frustration mounts. Meanwhile, Mossman is repulsive, yet sympathetic and even likeable, as the blindly driven director. The actors all appear exceptionally present in their roles, constantly emoting and reacting to the slightest action on stage.

One qualm I have – I do wish the performers would pause a bit more during some of the audience’s heartier laughs. It is very easy to miss a line or two of dialogue, much of which is so rich in content and humor that it’s a shame for it to go unheard. In addition, some might find the play tedious due to its lack of external action. Instead, the story arc audience’s are accustomed to is relegated to Wiletta’s internal struggle with her role.

The Artistic Home‘s Trouble in Mind is a solid production. Thespians and lay audiences alike will enjoy the self-deprecating nature of the play’s humor. But the larger takeaway is the message that when it comes to race and entertainment, rarely are issues black and white.

Rating: ★★★½




Featuring Guest Artist Velma Austin and Ensemble Member John Mossman; as well as Ensemble Members Frank Nall and Eustace Allen; and Guest Artists Kim Chelf, Armand Fields, Tom Lally, Cola Needham and Kelly Owens.

Director: Vaun Monroe
Assistant Director: A.J. Ware
Stage Manager: Loretta Rode
Assistant Stage Manager: Maggie Neumeyer
Dramaturg: Matt Ciavarella
Set Designer: Joseph Riley
Lighting Designer: Jess Harpenau
Costume Designer: Lynn Sandburg
Prop Designer: Lindsay Monahan
Sound Designer: Adam Smith  

Playwright: Alice Childress


February 11, 2011 | 0 Comments More

INTERVIEW: Sweet Bird of Youth – now extended to Jan 16!


Sex and Power in Artistic Home’s ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’



Just how shocking was Tennessee William’s Sweet Bird of Youth to the average American in 1959? It certainly titillated New York audiences, as well as secured 3 Tony awards and an adaptation to the screen in 1962, with leads Paul Newman and Geraldine Page from the original production. The movie itself offers only expurgated Williams—no explicit mention of racism, syphilis, or castration. Thank goodness, The Artistic Home’s production recalls us to the play’s lusty roots and its lyrical interrogation of the psychology of desperation that leads to corruption (see our review here ★★★½.)

Sweet Bird of Youth may be William’s most political drama, slamming Southern racism and the South’s campaigns against desegregation during this era. Plus, he shows no end of contempt toward the moralizing hypocrisy that keeps corruption in place and blights all kinds of youthful promise. But we wanted to look at the sexual politics inherent in the text and the chanceprincessdiagonal_thumbunderlying constructions of youth, beauty, age, money and fame that mold the relationship between gigolo Chance Wayne (Josh Odor) and his aging actress sugar-momma, Alexandra del Lago (Kathy Scambiatterra). Who’s using whom, who really has the upper hand, and is their any hope for human interaction between these two demoralized sexual partners?

One warning: I commit a little faux pas at the end of the video. Going into the interview, I believed that Director Dale Calandra and actor Frank Nall, who plays Boss Finley, would be joining us for a second 15-minute segment. But Dale was knocked out by a fierce fever and Frank couldn’t get away from his construction job. Something about being stuck on a scaffold three stories up—and in some nasty, windy weather. We hope both are okay. Get well, Dale!

In the interview I talk with the Sweet Bird leads – Kathy Scambiattera (sugar-momma Alexandra de Lago) and Josh Odor (gigolo Chance Wayne).  Enjoy!!


November 11, 2010 | 0 Comments More