Tag: Leslie Ann Sheppard

Review: The Legend of Georgia McBride (Northlight Theatre)

Nate Santana stars as Casey in The Legend of Georgia McBride, Northlight Theatre            

The Legend
  of Georgia McBride

Written by Matthew Lopez 
Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd. (map)
thru Oct 22  |  tix: $30-$81  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

October 4, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Scottsboro Boys (Porchlight Music Theatre)

Mark J.P. Hood stars as Mr Tambo in The Scottsboro Boys, Porchlight Music Theatre           

The Scottsboro Boys

John Kander & Fred Ebb (music, lyrics),
   David Thompson (book)
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru March 12  |  tix: $38-$51  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

March 1, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Chicago’s Best Theater of 2016


Miguel Cervantes stars as Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Broadway ChicagoDana Omar and Gay Glenn star in Cinderella at the Theater Potatotes, Hypocrites TheatreKaren Rodriguez stars in The Way She Spoke, Solo Celebration, Greenhouse Theater 3ETHL_ShowPageFINAL_450x665James Vincent Meredith and Bethany Jillard in Othello, Chicago Shakespeare TheatreBryce Gangel, Jessica Ervin and Charlotte Thomas in Dry Land, RivendellJulissa Contreras, Sarah Cartwright and Ada Grey in The Haven Place, Red Orchid TheatreEvan Linder and Liz Sharpe in Byhalia Mississippi, New Colony Definition TheatreBrian Parry and Aaron Kirby in The Drawer Boy, Redtwist TheatreChristian Castro and D’Wayne Taylor in Jesus Hopped A Train, Eclipse TheatreThomas Cox, Bolden. (Back) Ruiz, Sullivan, Brown. Photo by Michael Brosilow (2)Mary Beth Fisher and Harris Yulin in Long Day's Journey Into Night, Court TheatreEliza Stoughton and Sam Hubbard in A Loss of Roses, Raven TheatreBlair Brown and Alan Wilder in Mary Page Marlowe, Steppenwolf TheatreChristina Saliba with mirror from Learning Curve, Albany Park Theater ProjectThe Joffrey Ballet presents Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker, Auditorium TheatreJustin Keyes, Chris Sams, Tyrone L. Robinson, Will Skrip and Sean Blake in Smokey Joe's CafeDash Barber and Christopher Borek in Posh by Laura Wade, Steep Theatre LMSarah Goeden, Justine C. Turner and Nicole Bloomsmith in Once in a Lifetime, StrawdogSydney Charles and Julian Parker in Prowess, Jackalope TheatreIt’s the classic tale of the Sharks versus the Jets in West Side Story, one of the greatest musicals ever, playing March 16-April 24, 2016 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. For tickets and information, go to ParamountAurora.com or call (630) 896-6666. Photo credit: Liz Lauren.Brian Quijada in Where Do We Sit On the Bus, Teatro Vista Chicago 2Amy Stricker, Britain Gebhardt, Max DeTogne, Lizzie Schwarzrock, Kelly Baskin, Caitlin JacksonMonica Raymund stars in Thaddeus and Slocum, Lookingglass TheatreBrenda Barrie, James Doherty. Michael E Martin, Johnny Arena and Rudy Galvan in United Flight 232


See our picks below the fold

January 3, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes (The Hypocrites)

Leslie Ann Sheppard stars in Cinderella at the Theatre of Potatoes, The Hypocrites           

Cinderella at the
   Theater of Potatoes

Adapted by Andra Velis Simon
The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru Jan 8  |  tix: $36  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

November 26, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: Jabari Dreams of Freedom (Chicago Children’s Theatre)

13-year-old Cameron A. Goode (left) plays Jabari, whose dreams take him back to 1963 Birmingham, Alabama to meet members of the Birmingham Children’s Brigade (Leslie Ann Sheppard and Patrick Agada) in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s world premiere of Jabari Dreams of Freedom by Nambi E. Kelley. Performances are April 5-May 1 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. (Note: Cameron A. Goode alternates with another 13-year-old, Philip Cusic, as the title character in Jabari Dreams of Freedom.) Tickets: chicagochildrenstheatre.org or (872) 222-9555. Photo credit: Charles Osgood




Jabari Dreams of Freedom

Written by Nambi E. Kelley
Ruth Page Arts Ctr, 1016 N. Dearborn (map)
thru May 1  |  tix: $10-$39  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

April 20, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: Patria Libre (Prologue Theatre)

Prologue Theatre's "Patria Libre" by Zoë Miller Lee, directed by Tara Branham.        
Patria Libre 

Written by Zoë Miller Lee
Directed by Tara Branham
at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge (map)
thru May 4  |  tickets: $15   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review 

April 9, 2013 | 1 Comment 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: Tree (Victory Gardens Theater)


Uncovered secrets create new roots for a Chicago family


Celeste Williams as Jessalyn in Victory Garden's 'Tree', written by Julie Hébert. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Victory Gardens Theater presents
Written by Julie Hébert
Directed by Andrea J. Dymond
at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
through May 1  |  tickets: $20-$50  |  more info

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

What defines a family? Is it common blood? Shared experiences? In Julie Hébert’s Tree, this is the major question South-side Chicagoan Leo (Aaron Todd Douglas) faces when his half-sister Didi Marcantel (Elaine Rivkin) tells him his biological father has died. Didi has come up from Louisiana in hopes of retrieving the letters her father Ray wrote to Leo’s now-senile mother Jessalyn (Celeste Williams) when they were youths, hoping to find an emotional connection to her father’s past that was absent in their present relationship. As Didi tries to latch on to the last bit of family she has left, Leo’s contempt for his white father pushes her away, punishing Didi for her father’s abandonment. Anchored by a stunning central performance from Williams, Tree examines the effect one man had on the people he left behind, and how his death brings them together.

Celeste Williams as Jessalyn and Leslie Ann Sheppard as JJ in Victory Garden's 'Tree', written by Julie Hébert. Photo by Liz Lauren.Hébert’s script combines lush lyricism with realistic, intellectual discourse to create a strong distinction between the emotional experience of Jessalyn remembering her letters with the conflict between Leo and Didi. In an incredibly difficult role, Williams does a complete transformation when she revisits her past, altering her voice and body to suggest a woman considerably younger. Although her exact illness isn’t revealed, Jessalyn shows signs of Alzheimer’s, experiencing the occasional moment of clarity but largely forgetful and confused. There’s a scattered energy to Jessalyn’s older characterization that becomes focused when she remembers Ray, and the audience is transported by Hébert’s rich imagery and romantic prose, making the reality of Jessalyn’s illness all the more heartbreaking. Williams’ performance takes us inside the car where she had her first accident (without a license) and to that all-important lake where Ray snuck into the tree without her looking. We fly and fall with her, and she’s the standout in a production full of stellar performances.

Race relations are a large part of Tree, but they never overshadow the larger theme of family. It reminds me of another great play from this season, Route 66’s Twist Of Water (which reopened this week at the Mercury Theatre), sharing a Chicago setting along with a similar ability to tackle racial and gender issues in that is smart but still emotionally powerful. They’re both concerned with finding a definition of family that goes beyond the traditional ideas, and perhaps most significantly, they’re both very funny. More than anything, these plays are saved from melodrama by the humor the playwrights put in the script. Watching fish-out-of-water Didi try to adapt to Leo’s South side hospitality is consistently amusing, and Rivkin’s sweet, amiable portrayal of the good-natured Didi makes Leo’s lashing out against her especially unfair.

Celeste Williams, Aaron Todd Douglas and Elaine Rivkin in Victory Garden's 'Tree', written by Julie Hébert. Photo by Liz Lauren. Celeste Williams and Aaron Todd Douglas in Victory Garden's 'Tree', written by Julie Hébert. Photo by Liz Lauren.
Celeste Williams as Jessalyn and Leslie Ann Sheppard as JJ in Victory Garden's 'Tree', written by Julie Hébert. Photo by Liz Lauren. Elaine Rivkin in a scene from Victory Garden's 'Tree', written by Julie Hébert. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Douglas captures the pain that lies underneath Leo’s anger, but his character flaw is that he is constantly jumping to conclusions without all the facts. Didi is trying to connect with her half-brother, the only blood kin she has left, and Leo accuses her of needing to assuage her white liberal guilt. He passes judgments on her lifestyle without any real knowledge about it, but can’t take it when Didi dishes it right back at him. The two performers have wonderful chemistry together, and they aggravate each other so easily it’s easy to see a sibling resemblance. Leo, Didi, and Jessalyn are all looking for a Ray Mercantel that doesn’t exist anymore, and their frustrations push them to react aggressively, both in positive and negative ways. Didi pushes a relationship on Leo, Leo forces Didi away, and Jessalyn – well, you never know what Jessalyn is going to do next.

Elaine Rivkin and Aaron Todd Douglas in Victory Garden's 'Tree', written by Julie Hébert. Photo by Liz Lauren.While the older characters are reeling from Ray’s death, Leo’s daughter JJ (Leslie Ann Sheppard) serves as a witness to the growing instability among them and a voice of reason in the emotional whirlwind of Leo’s home. The consistently wonderful Sheppard gives JJ a cheerful disposition that is immediately welcoming, but she also gives JJ some grit. She doesn’t share her father’s prejudice toward Didi, but when Didi starts snooping around for Ray’s letters, JJ goes into a rage that reveals how protective she is of her fragile father and grandmother.

Andrea J. Dymond directs a deeply moving, incredibly funny production (seriously, Jessalyn gets some amazing one liners) with an integrity in acting and design that elevates Hébert’s script. Jacqueline and Rick Penrod’s set design evokes the title of the play with fanned wooden planks above the actors and a stack of boxes creating a tree trunk through Leo’s home, making Didi’s inspection of the containers a literal dig through her family roots. Charlie Cooper’s lighting evokes the different settings of Jessalyn’s monologues, and beautifully reflects her changing moods, switching from cool blues and warm oranges for her past to stark red for her most extreme moments of confusion and terror. All the elements combine for one powerful examination of the meaning of family, and in the end, family is who will be there for you when times are hardest. Family isn’t blood or experience, it’s compassion.

Rating: ★★★½

Celeste Williams, Aaron Todd Douglas and Elaine Rivkin in Victory Garden's 'Tree', written by Julie Hébert. Photo by Liz Lauren.

April 14, 2011 | 0 Comments More