Tag: Joan McGrath

Review: Gypsy (Music Theater Works)

Mary Robin Roth stars as Rose in Gypsy at Music Theater Works            



Arthur Laurents (book), Jule Styne (music),
   and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics)
at Cahn Auditorium, Evanston (map)
thru Sept 27  |  tix: $34-$69  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets    

August 21, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Design for Living (Pride Films and Plays)

Kevin Webb and Matthew Gall in Pride Films and Plays' "Design for Living" by Noel Coward, directed by Derek Bertelsen. (photo credit: Paul Goyette)         
Design for Living 

Written by Noel Coward
at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge (map)
thru Nov 22  |  tix: $22-$27  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

November 5, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: Angry Fags (Pride Films and Plays)

Kevin Webb and James Nedrud star as Bennett Riggs and Cooper Harlow in Pride Films and Plays' "Angry Fags" by Topher Payne, directed by Derek Van Barham. (photo credit: Michael Courier)        
Angry Fags

Written by Topher Payne  
Directed by Derek Van Barham 
at Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted (map)
thru April 26  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

April 22, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: The President (Oracle Theatre)

John Arthur Lewis stars as Mr. Norris in Oracle Theatre's "The President" by Ferenc Molnár, translated by Morwyn Brebner, and directed by Max Truax. (photo credit: Joe Mazza)        

The President

Written by Ferenc Molnár 
Adapted by Morwyn Brebner
Directed by Max Truax
at Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway (map)
thru May 31  |  tickets: $FREE   |  more info 
                   Read review 

April 16, 2014 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Children’s Hour (Pride Films and Plays)

Whitney Morse and Britni Tozzi star in Pride Films and Plays' "The Children's Hour" by Lillian Hellman, directed by Derek Bertelsen. (photo credit: David Zak)        
The Children’s Hour

Written by Lillian Hellman
Directed by Derek Bertelsen 
Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru Feb 9  |  tickets: $15-$30   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

January 13, 2014 | 1 Comment More

Review: Blithe Spirit (Piccolo Theatre)

Kate McDermott stars as Elvira Condomine in Piccolo Theatre's "Blithe Spirit" by Noël Coward, directed by Christopher Marino. (photo credit: Robert E. Potter III)        
Blithe Spirit 

Written by Noël Coward  
Directed by Christopher Marino
at Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main Street (map)
thru May 11  |  tickets: $10-$25   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

March 31, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Marisol (The Artistic Home)


Conveniently apocalyptic


Marta Evans as Marisol and Leslie Ann Sheppard as her guardian angel, in The Artistic Home's "Marisol" by Jose Rivera.  (photo credit: Tim Knight)

The Artistic Home presents
Written by Jose Rivera
Directed by John Mossman
at The Artistic Home, 3914 N. Clark (map)
through July 31  |  tickets: $20-$28  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel 

Coffee goes extinct. Neo-Nazis run around parks setting homeless people ablaze. Men give birth. According to playwright Jose Rivera, these are a few apocalyptic signs we should look out for. His 1993 work Marisol follows one woman’s journey in a New York City gone crazier than usual. Just in time for the summer, the play gets a gritty treatment from The Artistic Home.  Premiering, ironically, a month after Harold Camping’s rapture fail, the play explores modern ideas concerning the end of the world. While the play beautifully depicts the death of civilization, it tends to wander and ends up dipping into convoluted waters.

Rivera gained national attention with his screenplay for The Motorcycle Diaries and received a smart production of his Boleros for the Disenchanted at the Goodman a few years back. Marisol showcases a younger, angrier Rivera. His masterful grasp on language is evident. The vivid descriptions of the End of Days flow like graphically violent poetry.

A scene from The Artistic Home's "Marisol" by Jose Rivera.  (photo credit: Tim Knight)Marisol asks massive existential, theological, and social questions. Although we never see it onstage, the play revolves around a divine war. Rivera pits a senile God versus rebellious angels, with humans impotently caught in the middle (as usual). The battle causes civilization to break down and all sorts of wacky stuff to happen here on earth. One night, Marisol (a straightforward Marta Evans) is informed that her guardian angel (Leslie Ann Sheppard) is going to the front lines and won’t be able to protect her anymore. She goes out into the world and meets all sorts of friends/foes, including her co-worker June (Kristin Collins), June’s nutty housebound brother Lenny (Brandon Thompson), a man with an ice cream (Andrew Marikis), and a woman in furs who was tortured after going over her credit card limit (Joan McGrath). She sidesteps Nazis, urinates in the street, and helps Lenny give birth.

The cast plays Rivera’s lines simply and honestly. Director John Mossman doesn’t have to pull out a lot of tricks with his staging because the text is fantastical enough (although he uses levels to interesting ends). Evans’ Marisol carries the plot on her back and does an admirable job, although devoid of flash. Thompson is the most lively of the bunch, adding much needed comic spice to the soup. He can also dive into emotional territory, though. The scene in which he shows Marisol where all the street infants are buried is easily the most disturbing, touching, and memorable in the play. Marikis, who appears in three similar nutjob roles, strikes the right mix of nervous anger and violence. You never know what he’s capable of.

 A scene from The Artistic Home's "Marisol" by Jose Rivera.  (photo credit: Tim Knight) A scene from The Artistic Home's "Marisol" by Jose Rivera.  (photo credit: Tim Knight)

Although the program states that the play is set in the present, it is clearly a relic from the pre-Millennium era. It’s almost a period piece in that way, exuding an uncertain jitteriness about the future. Rivera’s two-hour epic is never dull, but you start to wonder where he’s leading us. His final thesis doesn’t answer any questions. I was unsure whether he’s making an impassioned call for atheism or giving a thumbs-up to organized religion’s better parts. He wants to make a statement about the inherent nature of human beings—characters constantly worry about being “eaten” by the human animals outside their door. Yet, Marisol is clearly good of heart. Rivera and Mossman present a series of ideas but don’t follow through.

Marisol jumpstarts with a great hook, but then the stakes evaporate. Rivera overcompensates with his lyricism and eerie characters. It’s not enough to make this play great, but it makes for an entertaining trip. Aaron Menninga’s innovative set is fascinating, covered with graffiti and aphorisms. Marisol may not be a great tale, but it’s a startling vision.

Rating: ★★½

A scene from The Artistic Home's "Marisol" by Jose Rivera.  (photo credit: Tim Knight)

   All photos by Tim Knight

June 22, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Timeline Theatre’s “All My Sons”

Timeline tackles Miller with outstanding results.


Timeline Theatre presents:

All My Sons
by Arthur Miller
directed by Kimberly Senior
Greenhouse Theatre Center 
Running thru October 4th (buy tickets)

 Reviewed by Oliver Sava

All_My_Sons5 Timeline’s All My Sons is a beautiful, haunting piece of theater. Arthur Miller‘s masterpiece is the story of the Keller family, rocked after the disappearance of son Larry during World War II and patriarch Joe’s (Roger Mueller) trial for shipping defective airplane parts that led to the death of 20 pilots. When Larry’s brother Chris (Erik Hellman) invites Ann (Cora Vander Broek), Larry’s sweetheart, to the Keller house to propose to her, tensions rise as mother Kate (Janet Ulrich Brooks) interprets the gesture as a confirmation of Larry’s death. Meanwhile, Ann’s brother George (P.J. Powers) arrives with shocking revelations from the man that went to jail for Joe Keller, their father.

Exquisitely directed by Kimberly Senior, the cast captures the sense of family that is essential to a successful production by finding a comfort with each other that allows the language to flow naturally. The rhythm of Senior’s production is like a heartbeat: when the stakes are high the show moves at a rapid pace, taking the audience on an emotional sprint as the characters watch their world collapse, but there are also quiet moments when the actors can slow down and absorb the changing circumstances around them. Silence is used remarkably well, such as when Chris struggles to find the words to express his love for Ann (or does he know the words and is afraid to say them?), and when these pauses are broken, intense reality rushes in to fill the gap. The perfect balance of these moments is what ultimately makes the production so captivating, mimicking the diversity of the everyday.

All_My_Sons3Janet Ulrich Brooks shows why she’s been nominated for two Jeff Awards this year with her portrayal of the delusionally optimistic Kate, perfectly capturing the pain of a mother’s loss underneath a facade of hopefulness. From the moment she takes the stage, Brooks exudes a welcoming presence that pulls the audience firmly into Miller’s world, and it is no surprise when she is able to calm the infuriated George and make him feel like a child in her home again. Brooks seems to bring out the best in her costars, and the scenes that she shares with Mueller are bristling with the chemistry of a couple that has been married for decades.
In the earlier scenes of the play Mueller and Hellman establish the father/son dynamic that lies at the heart of All My Sons, a relationship that revolves around their understanding of war and what it means regarding their missing family member. Hellman plays Chris with a youthful exuberance, but underneath his calm exterior is a man that is haunted by the death he has seen, and caused, in his short life. Conversely, Joe lives in a semi-denial regarding the amount of responsibility he had with the defective airplane parts, and when these two characters’ vastly different emotional states come out in full force the results are explosive.

All_My_Sons6Initially, Cora Vander Broek‘s Ann does not seem to fit in with the rhythm that the company has created. She speaks with a calm confidence that is a stark contrast to the other women in the play, but when she consoles Chris as he confesses his survivor’s guilt, it becomes apparent why Ann is different: she has control. Surrounded by women that have chosen to be subservient to the men in their lives, Anne refuses to compromise for what she wants, and the strength of her convictions ultimately leads to the play’s tragic conclusion. The only person that is able to put a dent in Ann’s steely demeanor is her brother, and Powers plays George with just the right mix of compassion for his sister and disdain for the Kellers so as to never make him seem malicious.

Timeline can proudly add another success to their already hefty list with All My Sons. From the fabulous cast, including the heretofore unmentioned neighbors that establish the world around the Keller home, to the revelatory direction, Miller’s classic is done the justice it deserves. Just ask all the audience members reaching for their tissues at the end of the show.

Rating: ««««


View Arthur Miller's -All My Sons- at Timeline Theatre
September 3, 2009 | 8 Comments More