Tag: Laurie Larson

Review: The Taming of the Shrew (Chicago Shakespeare, 2017)

Crystal Lucas-Perry stars as Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne in Taming of the Shrew, Chicago Shakespeare Theater            
      

  

The Taming of the Shrew

Written by William Shakespeare 
Chicago Shakespeare, Navy Pier (map)
thru Nov 12  |  tix: $48-$88  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Despite stellar cast and intriguing framing device,
‘Shrew’ remains problematic

  

Crystal Lucas-Perry stars as Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne in Taming of the Shrew, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

    
Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents
    
The Taming of the Shrew

Review by Catey Sullivan

Here’s the thing about The Taming of the Shrew. It. Doesn’t. Work. It doesn’t matter how much text you add to reframe Shakespeare’s 400+-year-old story. It doesn’t matter where you transplant the tale of Kate the “shrew” and Petruchio, the man who “tames” her. It doesn’t matter if the play is cast with all women or all men or with complete disregard of the binary. The Taming of the Shrew remains a play of steadfast, undeniable misogyny. It closes with one of the most stunning passages this side of Leviticus.

Alexandra Henrikson (Katherine) and  Crystal Lucas-Perry (Petruchio) star in Taming of Shrew, Chicago Shakes2The play is centuries old, so I’m going to commence with the plot spoilers. In The Taming of the Shrew, the firebrand title character Kate is forced to marry Petruchio, very much against her will. Petruchio humiliates Kate at the wedding and abuses her psychologically and physically afterward. When his relentless gaslighting and screaming fail to properly “tame” Kate, Petruchio starves her into submission.

After several days of extreme mistreatment, Kate has been broken. She has become so subservient that she literally kneels at her husband’s feet so as to properly worship her “lord,” “keeper” and “sovereign.” She shames the women around her for failing to display similar reverence to their masters. After all, Kate preaches, while women are at home “safe and secure,” men must toil in “painful labor” to support the ostensibly indolent lives of their spouses.

There are only two ways this speech works in a contemporary context. One is if Kate has been replaced by a robot, a la “The Stepford Wives.” The other is if Kate delivers it in a long-sleeved garment, and then sheds said garment in the final moments to reveal that she’s just slashed her wrists because she’d rather die than succumb to Petruchio’s dehumanizing, soul-crushing demands. Director Barbara Gaines takes neither tack for the Chicago Shakespeare production. The monologue remains as an ugly, regressive peon to the idea that women exist solely for the purpose of serving men.

I’ll say this for Gaines’ all-female Taming of the Shrew: It has a cast that cannot be faulted. To a one, the actors are superb. They deserve a better play.

Gaines has moved Shrew into a setting that allows for an obvious rebuttal of sorts to Shakespeare’s text. With a framing device by Second City’s Ron West, the tale of Kate and Petruchio becomes a play-within-a-play, as a band of Chicago women stage the show in 1919, on the very day the U.S. Senate voted on women’s suffrage.

Olivia Washington, Tina Gluschenko, E. Faye Butler and Kate Marie Smith star in Taming Shrew

While riots and marches and protests clamor down Michigan Avenue, the ladies of the Columbia Women’s Club rehearse Shrew in an opulently appointed clubhouse reminiscent of the Chicago Cultural Center. As Kate struggles to cope with total domination by a husband and an institution she loathes, the ladies of the Columbia Women’s Club rehearse and fervently debate whether women should be allowed to vote.

West punctuates his framing device with audience-pleasing local references. Quips about the tourists and the Congress Hotel, the ever-losing Cubs, the popular vote having little impact on election outcomes – are all sure-fire laugh-generators.

Two things about using the women’s suffrage moment as a means toward leaching the misogyny out of The Taming of the Shrew:

First, it makes the whole production feel like it’s trying too hard. How to counterbalance the patriarchal odiousness of Shrew? Insert suffragettes. Fill the stage with women who, in between scenes of a woman getting mightily abused, cry out for equal rights and give ardent speeches about sisterhood. Short of casting Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm as Kate and Petruchio (or vice versa), it’s tough to imagine a tidier way to try and counter the women problems inherent in Shrew.

Second, Gaines has reduced the suffragette movement to a G-rated romp. In real life, the suffragettes were force-fed via horrifying means, locked up in asylums, beaten bloody and imprisoned. Here, the women seem to view the marches and the riots just outside the rehearsal doors as a lark or a grand adventure. The most serious problem anyone has post-march or post-riot is a bout of histrionic hyperventilating, played for laughs. It’s a maddeningly sanitized version of the era.

Alexandra Henrikson (Katherine) and  Crystal Lucas-Perry (Petruchio) star in Taming of Shrew, Chicago Shakes

Gaines’ cast is led by an engaging Heidi Kettenring as Mrs. Dorothy Mercer, who has taken on the directorial duties of the Columbia Women’s Club production of “Shrew.” Mrs. Mercer is adamantly pro-suffrage, and in Kettenring’s portrayal, a woman with a gift for building bridges and de-escalating fraught situations. Her nemesis is Mrs. Mildred Sherman (Rita Rehn, nailing the imperiously entitled tone of someone long used to being the most powerful person in the room) who direly predicts that giving women the vote could “destroy families.”

Within the world of the play-within-the-play, Kate is played by Mrs. Louise Harrison (Alexandra Henrikson). Mrs. Harrison starts rehearsals with great disdain for the pre-subdued Kate and the suffragette movement. Predictably, her views have been reversed by the final curtain. Petruchio is played with swagger and bravado by Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne (Crystal Lucas-Perry, who gives Petruchio the charm of a strutting peacock).

There are numerous supporting characters who stand out: As Mrs. Lucinda James (who plays Biondello), Lillian Castillo radiates light and laughter, bringing bumptious comedy to every scene she’s in. As a stagehand who plays the lascivious old man Gremio, Hollis Resnik is (respectively) hilariously harried and skeevy. As Dr. Fannie Emmanuel, E. Faye Butler plays a dentist with a killer sense of acerbic wit. Dr. Emmanuel’s observations about Alabama, Mississippi and Chicago cops are high points of the production. Cindy Gold also brings a bone-dry, razor-sharp sense of comedy as Mrs. Sarah Willoughby, a woman who yearns for a larger part. i

The design elements in Shrew are stunning. Kevin Depinet’s gorgeous set has the soaring, architectural beauty of a Louis Sullivan or the Burnham and Root building. The sumptuous interior of the Columbia Women’s Club is all vaulted ceilings and stained glass, with a graceful statuary that references the 1893 World’s Fair. Equally excellent are Susan E. Mickey’s elaborately detailed costumes, which pay homage to both the iconic bloomers of the suffragettes and the pantaloons favored by Elizabethan men. In color and cut, the garments also inform the characters who wear them.

This Taming of the Shrew is a fine production of a play that doesn’t deserve the resources lavished on it. For all the prodigious talent on stage, Shrew remains an endorsement of systems and attitudes that make the world unsafe for women. Nothing can change that, not even a room full of crusading suffragettes.

  
Rating: ★★½
  

The Taming of the Shrew continues through November 12th at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand (map), with performances Wednesdays 1:30pm & 7:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays 7:30pm, Saturdays 3pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $48-$88, and are available by phone (312-595-5600) or online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at ChicagoShakes.com(Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes, includes an intermission)

E. Faye Butler (Baptista) and Crystal Lucas-Perry (Petruchio) star in Taming of the Shrew, Chicago Shakes

Photos by Liz Lauren


  

artists

cast

E. Faye Butler (Dr. Fannie Emmanuel, Baptista, Nathaniel), Lillian Castillo (Mrs. Lucinda James, Biondello), Tina Gluschencko (Mrs. Beatrice Ivey Welles, Hortensio, u/s Mrs. Louise Harrison, Katherine), Cindy Gold (Mrs. Sarah Willoughby, Vincentio, Joseph), Alexandra Henrikson (Mrs. Louise Harrison, Katherine), Ann James (Mrs. Elizabeth Nicewinder, Pedant, Nicholas, u/s Mrs. Judith Smith, Gremio, Peter), Heidi Kettering (Mrs. Dorothy Mercer, Tranio, haberdasher), Crystal Lucas-Perry (Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne, Petruchio), Rita Rehn (Grumio, Mrs. Mildred Sherman, widow), Hollis Resnik (Mrs. Judith Smith, Gremio, Peter), Faith Servant (Mrs. Barbara Starkey, Curtis, tailor, officer, u/s Mrs. Emily Ingersoll, Bianca, Mrs. Lucinda James, Biondello), Katie Marie Smith (Miss Olivia Twist, Lucentio), Olivia Washington (Mrs. Emily Ingersoll, Bianca), Lynn Baber (u/s Mrs. Sarah Willoughby, Vincentio, Joseph, Mrs. Mildred Sherman, Grumio, widow), Sarah Dunnavant (u/s Miss Olivia Twist, Lucentio, Mrs. Dorothy Mercer, Tranio, haberdasher), Greyson Heyl (u/s Mrs. Beatrice Wells, Hortencia, Mrs. Barbara Starkey, Curtis, tailor, officer), Laurie Larson (u/s Dr. Fannie Emmanuel, Baptista, Nathaniel, Mrs. Elizabeth Nicewinder, Pedant, Nicholas), Patricia Lavery (u/s Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne, Petruchio, Mrs. Beatrice Wells, Hortensio).

behind the scenes

Barbara Gaines (director, conception), Ron West (additional text), Kevin Depinet (set design), Susan E. Mickey (costume design), Thomas C. Hase (lighting design), David Van Tieghem (sound design, original music), Richard Jarvie (wig, make-up design), Kevin Gudahl (verse coach), Roberta Duchamp (music director), Matt Hawkins (fight choreography), Deborah Acker, Dennis J. Conners (stage managers), Cassie Calderon (assistant stage manager), Rinska Carrasco (asst. director), Bob Mason, Nancy Piccione (casting), Liz Lauren (photos)

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October 13, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Pygmalion (Remy Bumppo Theatre)

Kelsey Brennan, Pygmalion, Remy Bumppo Theatre           
      
  

Pygmalion

Written by George Bernard Shaw
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Jan 8  |  tix: $42-$57  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

December 3, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: Through the Leaves (Side Project Theatre)

Laurie Larson and H.B. Ward star in Side Project Theatre's "Through the Leaves" by F.X. Kroetz, directed by Andy Hager. (photo credit: Scott Dray)        
      
Through the Leaves

Written by F.X. Kroetz
Translated by Roger Downey
Directed by Andy Hager
Side Project Theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis (map)
thru Feb 1  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info 
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review 
     

January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Silent Language (TUTA Theatre Chicago)

Carolyn Molloy stars as Snake in TUTA Theatre Chicago's "The Silent Language" by Miodrag Stanisavljevic, directed by Jacqueline Stone. (photo credit: Anthony Robert La Penna)        
       
The Silent Language 

Written by Miodrag Stanisaviljevic  
Directed by Jacqueline Stone
TUTA Studio Theatre, 2010 W. Fulton (map)
thru June 9   |   tickets: $25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

April 26, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Front Page (TimeLine Theatre)

  
  

Updated: Now extended through July 17th!!

TimeLine’s signature dramaturgy venerates classic media satire

  
  

Editor Walter Burns (Terry Hamilton, right) and reporter Hildy Johnson (PJ Powers, left) work the phones as the biggest story of the year breaks around them in TimeLine Theatre’s revival of the Chicago classic THE FRONT PAGE by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, directed by Nick Bowling. Photo by Lara Goetsch

  
TimeLine Theatre presents
  
The Front Page
      
Written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur
Directed by Nick Bowling
at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington (map
thru July 17 (extended!)  tickets: $18-$38  |  more info

Reviewed by Dan Jakes

Former Chicago newspaper men Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur took aim at city politics, print journalism, corrupt justice practices, and even themselves in their scathing 1928 comedy about a Windy City press room. So what was their ax to grind?
Far as I could tell, they didn’t have one. Even as they unmercifully and repeatedly jab at their subjects, most of which are barely sheathed caricatures of then-contemporary real-life figures, you can read some smiles between Hecht and MacArthur’s searing lines. The Front Page lampoons Jazz Age Chicago the way Trey Parker and Matt Stone eviscerate 21st century pop culture week after week on South Park—with a dash of anarchy and a palpable love for their targets. It’s one of the reasons why this TimeLine revival of a historic work is actually funny.

Peggy Grant (Bridgette Pechman Clarno, left) isn’t so sure that Hildy Johnson (PJ Powers, right) is ready to leave his life as a reporter to get married in TimeLine Theatre’s revival of the Chicago classic THE FRONT PAGE by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, directed by Nick Bowling. Photo by Lara GoetschAnother is director Nick Bowling and artistic director PJ Powers’ willingness to play up the show’s silliness without playing down the characters’ grotesque flaws; these journalists are brash, lazy, immature, dishonest, misogynistic, racist buffoons. Maybe it was my imagination, but at a few points, I swear some were audibly farting on stage. When the most sympathetic man in the office is an escaped murderer, you know you’re working with a real handful…

Hildy Johnson (PJ Powers) makes a break from the boy’s club and heads to New York with his fiancé (Bridgette Pechman Clarno), or at least tries to before a death row inmate escapes from his office’s neighboring jail. The ensuing chaos exposes incompetence and corruption at every level of the city, from the opportunistic editors, to the deal making politicians, to the incapable police officers, to the dishonest reporters. Hilariously, too absorbed in troubles of their own making, the actual threat of the killer on the loose ranks near the bottom of the characters’ group consciousness.

Even near the brink, Powers and Terry Hamilton (Walter Burns) are grounded and convincing, while Bill McGough and Rob Riley get to have a little more fun as Chester Gould-type cartoons.        

Bowling’s production is brisk, clean, driven at just the right speed, and refined with an eye for details, both big—his cast is just right; it’s enough of a challenge to appropriately fill roles in a standard-sized show, and The Front Page is huge; and small—a 100 percent grease-saturated translucent hamburger bag evokes a reminder of why we’re the City of Broad Shoulders.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Hildy Johnson (PJ Powers, right) and Mollie Malloy (Mechelle Moe, left) are determined to hide escaped killer Earl Williams (Rob Fagin, center) before he can be discovered by the police in TimeLine Theatre’s revival of the Chicago classic THE FRONT PAGE by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, directed by Nick Bowling.  Photo by Lara Goetsch

Editor Walter Burns (Terry Hamilton, right) doesn’t want Hildy Johnson (PJ Powers, left) to quit his job as a reporter for the Herald-Examiner in TimeLine Theatre’s revival of the Chicago classic THE FRONT PAGE by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, directed by Nick Bowling. Photo by Lara Goetsch. Reporter Hildy Johnson (PJ Powers) calls the news desk at his paper the Herald-Examiner to report a scoop on the biggest story of the year in TimeLine Theatre’s revival of the Chicago classic THE FRONT PAGE by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, directed by Nick Bowling. Photo by Lara Goetsch
   

The Front Page continues through June 12th at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington, with performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8:30pm, and Sundays at 7pm.  Tickets are $28-$38 ($18 for students), and can be purchased by phone (773-281-8436 x6) or online. More info at timelinetheatre.com.

All photos by Lara Goetsch.

        
April 22, 2011 | 2 Comments More

REVIEW: The New Electric Ballroom (A Red Orchid Theatre)

  
  

The once-in-a-lifetime chance at pure love

  
  

Buddeke, Larson and Fitzgerald in A Red Orchid Theatre's 'The New Electric Ballroom". Photo credit: Michael Brosilow.

  
A Red Orchid Theatre presents
  
The New Electric Ballroom
  
Written by Enda Walsh
Directed by
Robin Witt
at
A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells (map)
through March 6  |  tickets: $25-$30  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

“Stamped by story, aren’t we Patsy?”

                                –Breda

To attend A Red Orchid Theatre’s production of The New Electric Ballroom is to feel Enda Walsh’s sea of language wash over you, wave upon wave, repetitive yet morphing into new constructions, building to exhilarating maximum impact, then receding to leave an inconspicuously altered shore. Here, within the borders of this abstract play, language is king. Words–“idle words, as if there could be anything idle about them,” says Breda—and stories continuously retold, mark and mold each character by repetition as constant as the monotonous, everyday routines that support and curtail daily life. Clara (Laurie Larson), Breda (Kate Buddeke), and Ada (Kirsten Fitzgerald) are like Three Sisters without a Moscow to which to escape or dream of escape. What they have are Clara and Breda’s stories, which Ada directs them to tell over and over again.

Guy VanSwearingen and Kate Buddeke in A Red Orchid Theatre's 'The New Electric Ballroom". Photo credit: Michael Brosilow.If life in their coastal Irish town is bleak, then so, ultimately are Clara and Breda’s tales of young, hopeful love, crushed by betrayal and lost chances. Only Patsy (Guy Van Swearingen), the fisherman, disturbs their telling by his regular and comic fish deliveries. But Patsy himself is haunted by his dull, meaningless routine, imagining that even the seagulls inquire of him: “What is the purpose of you, Patsy?” Walsh owes an immense debt to Samuel Beckett, yet he manages to construct yet another level of existential drama onto Beckett’s cathedral.

Now all that director Robin Witt requires is an acting ensemble of steel to carry and drive the weight of Walsh’s language—and to have fun with it. She has that witty, mature, and polished ensemble in Buddeke, Fitzgerald, Larson and Swearingen. Won’t somebody please get them Superman T-shirts to commemorate their achievement? (Although, I’m quite sure getting yourself to the show would be reward enough.) The play’s beginning is bleak, sometimes so bleak it’s comic, but the action heats up when Patsy is finally allowed into the house, where he allows himself to be transformed into the kind of crooning performer who won Clara and Breda’s hearts years before at the New Electric. The strategic ease with which the play’s atmosphere swings from oppressive melancholy to exuberant, magical fantasy attests to Witt’s mastery of the material and the cast’s ability to submit completely to the theatricality of the work.

Walsh’s surreal and existential play may not be for everyone. However, as a meditation on life’s possibilities being just as overwhelming and personally threatening as its stultifying daily grind, few other works are its equal. Ada has a chance at first love with the transformed Patsy, only to watch that chance melt away because of Patsy’s own failure of nerve. That’s an everyday story–a story that marks and molds a lot of people. A Red Orchid delivers Walsh’s heightened version of that story consummately, professionally, and superlatively. Perhaps that is all we can demand of art.

  
  
Rating: ★★★½
  
  

Laurie Larson and Kate Buddeke in A Red Orchid Theatre's 'The New Electric Ballroom". Photo credit: Michael Brosilow.

Laurie Larson, Kirsten Fitzgerald and Kate Buddeke in A Red Orchid Theatre's 'The New Electric Ballroom". Photo credit: Michael Brosilow. Guy VanSwearingen, Laurie Larson, Kate Buddeke and Kirsten Fitzgerald in A Red Orchid Theatre's 'The New Electric Ballroom". Photo credit: Michael Brosilow.
     

All photos by Michael Brosilow.

     
     
January 28, 2011 | 2 Comments More

REVIEW: The Wedding (TUTA Theatre Chicago)

Over the Top and Into Your Panties

 wedding1

TUTA Theatre presents:

The Wedding

 

By Bertolt Brecht
Translated by Martin and Rose Kastner
Directed by Zeljko Djukic
thru February 14th (ticket info)

by Paige Listerud

You can keep Mother Courage or The Threepenny Opera—for me, right now nothing expresses Bertolt Brecht’s rage against the bourgeoisie like The Wedding, his early 70-minute lampoon of the middle class at play. But then, the folks at TUTA really know how to bring it. Their production onstage at Chopin Theatre’s downstairs studio is an almost ceaseless cascade of escalating inappropriateness. Like so many over-the-top family get-togethers, once drinking is in full swing, the loosing of social bounds leads to some pretty dark places.

wedding4 It’s a show to return to again and again. Zeljko Djukic’s superb cast wrings high schadenfreude out of every moment of humiliation and disappointment. Meticulous is the word that could describe each ensemble member’s performance—the most minor reactions between them give both humor and weight to wedding party developments–only it’s too dry and sanitized a term to describe all that really goes on. No, satire evolves both naturally and perversely from both unspoken and exposed disillusionments with relationships, marriage, and family. More essentially, they know how to play people both bored and boring, utterly irritated with each other from start to finish, doing everything to break each awkward silence and reaching extremes to fill each oppressively meaningless minute.

For sheer outrageousness, Andy Hager takes the crown, mostly because his character’s voyeuristic craving for poon tang doesn’t know the meaning of discretion and, since Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan are nowhere in sight, he must do the best he can with women in present company. Add a down-low tango, mixed with a naughty little ditty about bangin’ girls and you’ve got the kind of depraved degenerate you’d like to pass the time with at the next stultifying wedding you must attend—if only you could keep him far away from your sister.

wedding2 Djukic’s direction is a confident but invisible hand in the middle of all the mania, allowing mischief to blossom in the most unexpected corners while never allowing it to distract focus. And he knows how to coax the action back to its comic center once things have gone too far and Brechtian darkness beneath the levity shows its ugly head. Original music by Jesse Terrill contemporizes Brecht’s farce and provides the characteristic distancing necessary to comment on the action. A Greek chorus unto herself, aided by only scant few lines, the Bridegroom’s Mother (Laurie Larson) comments on the action by the force of baleful looks alone.

But an otherwise unstoppable production grinds to a clunking pace once Bride (Jennifer Byers) and Bridegroom (Trey Maclin) finally have been relieved of their obnoxious guests. If the dramatic choice is to show lack of chemistry between the newlyweds, it might be well to reconsider it. After all, passion is always a two-edged sword with Brecht. Love suffers from entropy as surely as any edifice and passionate hatred often emerges from the same messy, primordial, and unpredictable place as passionate love.

 

Rating: ★★★½

The Wedding runs January 14 – February 14, 2010, at Chopin Theatre Studio, 1543 W. Division, Chicago. For tickets call 847-217-0691 or go online to www.tutato.com

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January 21, 2010 | 4 Comments More