Tag: Lea Tobin

Review: 1984 (AstonRep Theatre)

Ray Kasper, Nora Lisa Ulrey, Amy Kasper, Rory Jobst and Lauren Demerath star in 1984, AstonRep Theatre             


Adapted from novel by George Orwell 
  by Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall Jr.
  and William A. Miles Jr.
at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map)
thru Oct 8  |  tix: $20  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets    

September 19, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Time Stands Still (AstonRep Theatre)

Robert Tobin and Sara Pavlak McGuire star in Time Stands Still at AstonRep Theatre           


Time Stands Still

Written by Donald Margulies
at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map)
thru June 11  |  tix: $20  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

May 30, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Women of Lockerbie (AstonRep Theatre)

Sara Pavlak McGuire, Lorraine Freund, Morgan Manasa and Barbara Button in Women Lockerbie           

The Women of Lockerbie

Written by Deborah Brevoort
at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map)
thru May 8  |  tix: $20  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

April 27, 2016 | 2 Comments More

Review: Wit (AstonRep Theatre)

Alexandra Bennett stars as Vivian Bearing in AstonRep Theatre's "Wit" by Margaret Edson, directed by Derek Bertelsen. (photo credit: Emily Schwartz)        

Written by Margaret Edson  
Directed by Derek Bertelsen 
Raven Theatre West Stage, 6157 N. Clark (map)
thru June 8  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

May 23, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: God of Carnage (AstonRep Theatre)

Kelly Lynn Hogan, Amy Kasper, Ray Kasper and Robert Tobin star in AstonRep Theatre's "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, directed by Doug Long.        
God of Carnage 

Written by Yasmina Reza  
Directed by Doug Long
at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood (map)
thru Nov 17  |  tickets: $10-$25   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

October 25, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Doubt (AstonRep Theatre)

Julie Schroll as Sister James       

Written by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Derek Bertelsen  
at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood (map)
thru May 5  |  tickets: $10-$15   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

April 9, 2012 | 1 Comment More

Review: Rabbit Hole (AstonRep Theatre Company)

Roy J. Brown as Jason in AstonRep Theatre's "Rabbit Hole," by David Lindsay-Abaire.       
Rabbit Hole

Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by June Eubanks 
Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood (map)
thru Nov 19  |  tickets: $12-$15   |  more info

Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

October 24, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Closer (AstonRep Theatre)


Endless scene changes stifle strong ensemble work



AstonRep Theatre Company presents
Written by Patrick Marber
Directed by Rob Cramer
Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 N. Glenwood (map)
through March 5  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

Patrick Marber’s magnum opus Closer hits like a Classical tragedy with “Friends” era embellishment. Marber won a shelf-full of awards and recognition for the play, but has since gone on to craft such garbage as “The Tourist” screenplay. In 2004, he turned the play into a Julia Roberts/Jude Law vehicle and found raving mainstream audiences. Closer is now one of about five plays you’ll probably find on any given Borders’ drama section.

Despite the hype, the play packs a punch, drawing comparisons to Brits like Noel Coward and Harold Pinter. Unlike much of the schlock coming out of the late ‘90s/early aughts (Proof, anybody?), Marber writes harrowing thematic depth and dense, conflicted characters. The play does indeed feel like a period piece of the ‘90’s.

AstonRep Theatre Company’s mission is to bring theatre to non-theatre audiences, which perhaps explains choosing such a well-known piece for their second production. Snuggly fit in the BoHo space in Rogers Park, their production doesn’t seem to go anywhere conceptually. What saves the show from total destruction is Marber’s deft writing sensibilities and an incredibly talented cast.

Overall, the production feels like an acting class final. The talent on-stage contrasts starkly with the poor production values, creating a strange rift that never resolves.

The four-actor piece follows two men and two women over a few years. The characters meet, have sex, fall in love (or not), and inevitably break up and squash each others’ hearts, not always in that order. Dan (Ray Kasper), an obituary writer, meets Alice (newcomer Aja Wiltshire), an ex-stripper prone to falling in front of moving cars. As the months go on, Anna (Amy Kasper) and Larry (Robert Tobin) get thrown into the mix. Affairs spiral off in all sorts of directions, most end in emotional explosions. Then there is the making up, marriages, divorces, and long talks in strip clubs.

Ray Kasper, although too old for the part, works well against Wiltshire, easily the most charming member of the cast. Although he can’t nail Larry’s anger, Robert Tobin finds and plays up the humor. Amy Kasper makes bold choices from the beginning. The cast struggle with some of the weightier moments of the play, although they are always in sync with the dramatic arch of the piece.

Director Rob Cramer’s production is extremely hampered by amateurish stumbling blocks. The transitions are the most glaring issues, making a 90 minute script into well over 2 hours. There are twelve scenes in the play. Here, each transition is done in blackout, without any music, and without any creativity. The AstonRep gang forgets that this is all part of the show, too. Designer Lea Tobin’s set feels rushed and inadequate. We see all the wires, but we shouldn’t. I wish Cramer lessened everything and just focused on his cast. A simpler touch would make the show quicker, clearer, and more engaging.

I’ll be honest, considering the missteps, I thought this was going to be a groaner of a production. But the cast really pull the play together, forging the believably convoluted relationships that Marber requires. Even the scene where Dan and Larry interact in a sex chat room, for example, is hilariously crude yet Kasper and Tobin use it to reveal quite a lot about each character.

Marber’s writing dabbles a bit in romantic comedy, melodrama, and tragedy, but Closer defies any neat Hollywood genre placement. Unlike many writers of our time, he allows the story to drive itself in any direction it needs. The folks behind AstonRep understand this, but they aren’t able to articulate it.

Rating: ★★



CastAmy Kasper, Ray Kasper, Robert Tobin, and Aja Wiltshire.

Production: Rob Cramer (Director), Jeremiah Barr (Assistant Director), Samantha Barr (Lighting Design, Stage Manager) and Lea Tobin (Scenic Design, Graphic Designer).

February 10, 2011 | 0 Comments More