Tag: Helen Young

Review: Caught (Sideshow Theatre)

Ben Chang, Ann James and Bob Kruse in Caught by Christopher Chen, Sideshow Theatre          


Written by Christopher Chen 
at Richard Christiansen Theater
  2433 N. Lincoln Ave. (map)
thru July 3  |  tix: $20-$30  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

June 7, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: Hamlet (Muse of Fire Theatre)

Alex Fthenakis stars as Hamlet in Muse of Fire Theatre's "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare, directed by Jemma Alix Levy. (photo credit: Teresa Foote)   


Written by William Shakespeare 
Ingraham Park, 2100 Ridge (map)
thru Aug 30  |  free  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets         


August 11, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: Macbeth (Polarity Ensemble Theatre)

Krystal Mosley stars in Polarity Ensemble Theatre's "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare, directed and adapted by Richard Engling.        

Written by William Shakespeare  
Adapted and Directed by Richard Engling 
at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru March 2  |  tickets: $10-$20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

February 7, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: Beaten (The Artistic Home)

Kristin Collins stars as Madelyn in the world premiere of The Artistic Home's "Beaten" by Scott Woldman, directed by Katherine Swan. (photo credit: Anthony Aicardi)        

Written by Scott Woldman  
Directed by Katherine Swan
at The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand (map)
thru Aug 11  |  tickets: $28-$32   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

July 12, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: My Asian Mom (A-Squared Theatre Workshop)

A scene from "Eight Turkey Sandwiches" by Mia Park. (photo credit:  Mari Ortiz-Shoda)       
My Asian Mom 

Conceived by Mia Park 
at Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru May 26 July 7 tickets: $15   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

May 5, 2012 | 3 Comments More

Review: Family Devotions (Halcyon Theatre)

Mia Park and Arvin Jalandoon in Family Devotions - Photo by To_0006
Family Devotions

Written by David Henry Hwang 
Directed by Jenn Adams
Greenhouse Thtr Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Sept 4  | tickets: $18-$25  | more info

Check for half-price tickets

      Read entire review

August 13, 2011 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Cherry Orchard (Raven Theatre)


Spastic antics level Raven’s ‘Cherry Orchard’


A dance in The Apple Orchard - Raven Theatre

Raven Theatre presents
The Cherry Orchard
Written by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Michael Menendian
at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map)
through July 23  |  tickets: $30  |  more info

Reviewed by Dan Jakes

Chekhov and Shakespeare frequently find themselves paired together in the same sentences, and for good reason. Look at their respective repertoires, and you’ll notice striking similarities: both writers layer styles, open-ended philosophical questions, tones, and character intentions, often in the same scenes. No two playwrights in theater history achieve more poignant insights into how people interact and tick; look no further for bodies of work that lend themselves to unique visions and interpretations. The Cherry Orchard–a work as melancholy as it is hilarious–calls out for inspired readings that highlight different aspects of the text.

A scene from Raven Theatre's "The Apple Orchard" by Anton Chekhov. (photo: Dean LaPrairie)Staging a play that’s so full of details, it’s a mystery why Raven Theatre Artistic Director Michael Menendian insists on a mad-cap, sketch comedy-inspired, thin-skinned production. By sketch, by the way, I don’t mean SNL–think something along the loud, grating lines of MAD TV.

The Cherry Orchard is indeed a comedy, but bumbling cannot substitute substance (Fernando S. Albiar aught to consider athletic gear for the all the time he spends flailing and falling as Yeikhodov). Chekhov’s story about a family’s inability to accept its fall from grace detours from traditional comedic conventions. Most comedies portray a collective character perception of high stakes in low-stake situations; Chekhov’s doomed romantics and spendthrifts suffer from the opposite and don’t take their imminent situation seriously enough. Raven’s production chooses neither, abandoning emotional authenticity in favor of outsize gestures and broad physical jokes. Even straight man Lopakhin (Frederick Harris)–The Cherry Orchard’s Michael Bluth–is subject the over-the-top, surface-skimming character choices. Here, necessary tragic elements gets steamrolled. Like a light switch, Varya (Helen Young) clicks instantly on and off, sobbing like an infant for humor one moment and then standing inexplicably content the next. The play’s philosophical speeches, which are usually uttered aloud with intentional ambiguity, are delivered stand-up soliloquy style to the audience. It’s as if Menendian is going out of his way to make sure we don’t feel anything, unaware that when the drama dies, so goes the levity.

A scene from Raven Theatre's "The Apple Orchard" by Anton Chekhov. (photo: Dean LaPrairie) A scene from Raven Theatre's "The Apple Orchard" by Anton Chekhov. (photo: Dean LaPrairie)

Already hindered conceptually by an over-simple interpretation, Raven’s production is marred by basic production elements. The preview performance I attended featured confused staging and stilted action–issues that aren’t commonly solved by another few runs. As Ranevskaya and Trofimov, Joann Montemurro and Michael Peters provide some heart to the otherwise shallow production. In that respect, they’re alone. If the rest of the family doesn’t really seem to care, why should we?

Rating: ★½

A scene from Raven Theatre's "The Apple Orchard" by Anton Chekhov. (photo: Dean LaPrairie)

The Cherry Orchard continues through July 23rd, with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Performances take place at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map).  Tickets are $30, and can be purchased by phone (box office: 773-338-2177) or online at TicketTurtle. Free parking is provided in a lot adjacent to the theatre; additional street parking is available. For more information, visit raventheatre.com.


June 9, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Trickster (Halcyon Theatre)


Epic tale propelled by audacious scope; uncompromising artistic vision


Riso Straley and Scott Allen Luke--Photo byTom McGrath

Halcyon Theatre presents
Written and Directed by Tony Adams
Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
through Jan 30  | 
tickets: $18 – $20 |  more info

Review by Catey Sullivan

With Trickster, Halcyon Theatre takes on a wildly ambitious epic of ancient Native American lore woven into a contemporary story of survival in apocalyptic world. Written and directed by Halcyon Theatre’s Artistic Director Tony Adams, the piece’s challenging, provocative sprawl of interlocking tales doesn’t always form the most coherent narrative. But what it lacks in clarity, it makes up for in sheer audacious scope and an uncompromising artistic vision.

Arch Harmon as Fox--Photo byTom McGrathWithin the animal world, the earth’s four-legged creatures battle a dark fate overseen by a cruel Wolf Master. At the same time, a rag-tag group of humans try to stay alive in a burned out landscape where water and food are scarce and marauding soldiers are everywhere. Think ‘The Road’ merged with a highly sexualized take on Aesop’s Fables merged with the intricate Native American belief system of Spirit Animals and you’ve got a good idea as to the ruling aesthetic that governs Trickster.

Adams’ wild ride begins with a slam poet cry to a muse, and a violently worded harbinger of what’s to come. From there, the audience lurches to a fever-dream of a sex scene where in two dimly lit bestial creatures are making the beast with two backs. The illicit union of Swan (Christine Lin) and Coyote (Scott Allen Luke) leads to Coyote being chased to river, where he jumps in and assumes the shape of a stone. Flash-forward 500 years: Coyote has emerged from the river and been restored to his regular shape, only to find a world in ruins.

Competing storylines ensue as the animals attempt to redeem a world that’s a burnt-out husk and the humans try to keep from starving or death or being gang-raped by soldiers. The primary trouble with Trickster lies in the editing process: plots and sub-plots branch out from each other like an endless root system continually stretching out, increasingly tiny branches moving ever farther from the primary trunk. The result is that Trickster becomes compartmentalized – defined by many different storylines that don’t always add up to an emotionally resonant, authentically connected whole. The piece would benefit from some judicious pruning. At almost three hours, Trickster sometimes rambles despite the truly streamlined pacing.

As for Adams’ epic-sized cast of 19, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. This is the rare ensemble that truly reflects Chicago. Despite the best of intentions, the vast majority of theater companies simply don’t look like the city they spring from: Color blind casting doesn’t happen with any degree of regularity in Chicago. Halcyon is fiercely committed to it and with ensembles such as the one in Trickster, offers proof that diversity and excellence are hardly mutually-exclusive concepts. Halcyon is leading towards the time when multi-ethnic casting is the norm and doesn’t even warrant a mention.

There are several beguiling performances within Trickster’s ranks – Yadira Correa is delicious as a predatory owl intent on eating children. Riso Straley absolutely gets the combination of vulnerability borne of irrecoverable heartbreak and untouchable toughness borne of surviving in a battle-hardened world.

Scott Allen Luke, Arch Harmon and Rafael Franco--Photo byTom McGrath (R to L) Riso Straley, Derrick York and Rudy Galvan in Trickster--Photo byTom McGrath

Others don’t fare quite so consistently well: It’s difficult to understand much of the dialogue that springs from Fox (Arch Harmon) – his words are muffled, his diction muddy. And despite the cast’s size, there’s some distracting double/triple casting going on: As the final scenes wore on, it felt like the same three or so characters kept getting killed. When an actor gets his throat cut, shows up a few scenes later to have his neck broken, and shows up still later to suffer a fatal gunshot wound, well, the impact of the violence is diminished.

The production benefits greatly from costume designer Izumi Inaba’s work, which is a playful, furry example of creativity triumphing the constraints of a small budget. Her canine creations are the strongest, wild and wooly headpieces that emulate the spirit of the animals the actors are depicting, if not their literal appearance. Adam’ spare, burnt orange scenic design evokes the blistering heat of the great southwest, as well as the ancient art of the cultures who lived there millennia before the white folks showed up.

Halcyon Theatre demands a lot of its audiences. This isn’t the theater of effortless escapism. Instead, Adams takes you down a dark and difficult path, demands that you pay attention and leaves you with a brain overloaded with questions of morality, philosophy and the intricate nature of the human condition.

Rating: ★★½

Helen Young and Jennifer Adams in Trickster-- Photo byTom McGrath

Featuring: Jenn Adams, Yadira Correa, Delicia Dunham, Rafael Franco, Rudy Galvan, Johnny Garcia, Kamal Hans, Arch Harmon, Arvin Jalandoon, Christine Lin, Scott Allen Luke, Goli Rahimi, Johanna Middleton, Julie Mitre, Ruth Schilling, Riso Straley, Helen Young and Derrick York. (Cast & Production Team bios after the jump)


January 11, 2011 | 0 Comments More