Tag: Kelli Simpkins

Review: T. (American Theater Company)

Leah Raidt stars as T. in T. at American Theater Company           


Written by Dan Aibel 
American Theater Co., 1909 W. Byron (map)
thru June 25  |  tix: $38  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

June 3, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Men on Boats (American Theater Company)

Lawren Carter, Stephanie Shum and Avi Roque star in Men on Boats, American Theater Co           

Men on Boats

Written by Jaclyn Backhaus
American Theater Co., 1909 W. Byron (map)
thru Feb 12  |  tix: $38  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

January 12, 2017 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Secretaries (About Face Theatre)

Sadieh Rifai and Meghan Reardon in The Secretaries, About Face           

The Secretaries 

By The Five Lesbian Brothers
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru June 12  |  tix: $20-$35  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

May 19, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: Cocked (Victory Gardens Theater)

Kelli Simpkins and Patrese D. McClain in Cocked, Victory Gardens          


Written by Sarah Gubbins
at VG Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Mar 13  |  tix: $15-$60  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 

March 12, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: Spill (TimeLine Theatre)

Chris Rickett and Justine C. Turner star in TimeLine Theatre's "Spill," written and directed by Leigh Fondakowski. (photo credit: Lara Goetsch)         

Written and Directed by Leigh Fondakowski
at Stage 773, 1225 N. Belmont (map)
thru Dec 19  | tix: $38-$51  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

October 30, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: Teddy Ferrara (Goodman Theatre)

Liam Benzvi and Adam Poss star in Goodman Theatre's "Teddy Ferrara" by Christopher Shinn, directed by Evan Cabnet. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
Teddy Ferrara 

Written by Christopher Shinn 
Directed by Evan Cabnet
at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru March 3  |  tickets: $14-$45   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

February 14, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Kid Thing (Chicago Dramatists, About Face)

Rebekah Ward-Hayes, Kelli Simpkins, Park Krausen, Halena Kays
The Kid Thing

Written by Sarah Gubbins
Directed by Joanie Schultz  
at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago (map)
thru Oct 16  |   tickets: $32   |   more info

Check for half-price tickets

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September 11, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Pony (About Face Theatre)


Brilliant, fully-committed cast can’t bridle Bruchner’s ‘Pony’


Kristina Valada-Viars (Marie) and Kelli Simpkins (Pony) in About Face Theatre’s production of PONY by Sylvan Oswald, directed by Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar.  Photo by Michael Brosilow.

About Face Theatre presents
Written by Sylvan Oswald
Directed by Bonnie Metzgar
at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division (map)
through May 22  |  tickets: $21-$28  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel 

Woyzeck was left unfinished when its author Georg Buchner died of typhus at the tender age of twenty-three in 1836. Buchner’s bleak depiction of working class life touched a nerve in 19th Century Germany. Since then, plenty of artists have taken it upon themselves to finish, adapt, and tweak the original, including composer Alban Berg and filmmaker Werner Herzog. Lucky for us, the Chicago theatre community is putting on a Woyzeck smorgasbord this spring, with plenty of chances to see new spins on the story. Oracle Theatre  and the Hypocrites have put on somewhat straightforward versions of the play, but About Face decided to move further away from the Buchner with Pony by Sylvan Oswald.

Kristina Valada-Viars (Marie) and Kelli Simpkins (Pony) in About Face Theatre’s production of PONY by Sylvan Oswald, directed by Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar.  Photo by Michael Brosilow.Superbly acted and wonderfully designed, I wished that Oswald had stuck closer to the primary source or had ventured further away. What director Bonnie Metzgar ends up with is a derivative tale that is usually engrossing and often funny, but doesn’t really make much sense.

While Buchner was writing about the proletariat, Oswald is writing about gender identification. Every character in the play is either transgendered or interested in one, including Oswald’s stand-in for Woyzeck, Pony (Kelli Simpkins). Added to his woes about money and love, Pony must also deal with being outted in a potentially hostile community.

Pony takes place in the town across the forest from Woyzeck’s world. Instead of Industrial-age Germany, though, Pony’s world looks like a grimy Pennsylvania coal mining town of the 1980s. Everyone is covered in grit and everyone is poor.

Pony rides into town and instantly falls for Marie (Kristina Valada-Viars), a waitress obsessed with the murder that happened on the other side of the woods to a certain other Marie. Marie’s best friend Stel (Jessica Hudson) warns Pony that he better stay out of Marie’s life, which the audience learns is because she also secretly pines for Marie. Looking out for Pony’s well-being is Cav (Janet Ulrich Brooks), an old-school lesbian and the only scientist in town. And while Pony is courting Marie, Heath (Matthew Sherbach) is searching for Pony, laden with family secrets.

Pony is clearly inspired by Woyzeck, but the play goes off on Oswald’s own tangents. Instead of force-feeding peas, Cav subjects Pony to psychological evaluations. Marie ponders how a man can reach the desperation needed to kill the one thing in the world he loves—pretty much the question Buchner sets out to answer in his play. And Pony, like the other titular character, finds himself battered by society. Unfortunately, Oswald is unable to tie these themes together and the play feels more like a musing on the original than its own entity. Pony has difficulty finding a job and is devastated when he finds himself robbed, but he never reaches the utter anguish of Woyzeck. The romance between Pony and Marie is budding, not self-destructing. Oswald doesn’t reach the lower-class rage of Buchner and Pony doesn’t have its inspiration’s weight. By the end, the plot unravels into confusion. The final scene is especially tepid.

The brilliant, fully-committed cast, however, does what they can to keep the story alive. Brooks grabs the audience attention and pulls us along wherever she goes. Simpkins carries the show well, bursting with anger or sheepishly talking to Marie, whatever the script requires. Sherbach, besides some overuse of his hands, adds a great, humorous balance to the mix.

Many of the modern adaptations of Woyzeck, like Collaboraction’s Guinea Pig Solo, focus on the militaristic aspects of the play. About Face takes a different route with taking a hard look at the personal side. But without Metzgar’s awesome cast, the play would fall apart.

Rating: ★★½

Matthew Sherbach (Heath) and Kelli Simpkins (Pony) in About Face Theatre’s production of PONY by Sylvan Oswald, directed by Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar.  Photo by Michael Brosilow.

All photos by Michael Brosilow 

April 27, 2011 | 0 Comments More