Tag: Lincoln Center

Review: Domesticated (Steppenwolf Theatre)

Mary Beth Fisher and Tom Irwin star in Steppenwolf Theatre's "Domesticated," written and directed by Bruce Norris. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)          
      

    
Domesticated

Written & Directed by Bruce Norris
Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted (map)
thru Feb 7  |  tix: $20-$89  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
    

December 17, 2015 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Ten Unknowns (Will Act for Food)

No great truths revealed

 

10-unknowns

 
Will Act for Food presents
 
Ten Unknowns
 
By Jon Robin Baitz
Directed by
Scott Pasko, assisted by Sally LaRowe
Athenaeum Theatre, Studio 1, 2936 N. Southport Ave. (map)
Through May 29  |  Tickets: $20; $15 with food donation  |  more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

Jon Robin Baitz’s Ten Unknowns, now in Chicago premiere from Will Act for Food, debuted in 2001, and it’s set in 1992, but it feels even older, dated, like something out of the 1970s. I thought we’d got beyond gratuitous nude scenes and endless yelling about exploitation and the debasement of culture.

Its Lincoln Center premiere received handsome reviews, so possibly this complex drama fit better into 2001 than it does into 2010, or perhaps that production simply overcame the script’s flaws. Scott Pasko’s interpretation seems fine, though, and the cast does well, so I think the play has just not aged well.

The nature of art, the relationship of art and commerce, the roles of assistants vs. collaborators, the personal weaknesses of artists, generation gaps, homosexuality, ecology, the 10-unknowns-croppedugliness of American culture … Baitz packs all this and more, in rising volume, into his very talky story about a drunken old failure of a painter and three young people who come into his life without any understanding of where he’s come from.

Malcolm Raphelson, hailed as a promising figurative artist when his work featured as part of the 1949 exhibition "Ten Unknowns," soon vanished into obscurity with the rise of abstract impressionism. In 1963, he exiled himself to rural Mexico, mescal and a mean existence. Dennis Newport‘s gravel-voiced portrayal dances from grim bemusement to naughty charm to raw power, although he often seems too vigorous for a 75-year-old man who’s been living in a bottle most of three decades.

When some of Raphelson’s work surfaces to acclaim, New York art dealer Trevor Fabricant believes time is ripe for a retrospective and a lucrative comeback. He sends his own young assistant and sometime lover Judd Sturgess down to work with Raphelson and help him create some new work. When the dealer comes down to view the results and arrange the showing, however, the painter resists.

The polished but uptight Fabricant, for unaccountable reasons, is from South Africa (Baitz’s boyhood home). That’s distracting — not only because Ben Veatch, otherwise nicely smarmy, mangles the accent — and detracts from the Ugly American theme the rest of the play projects.

Judd, talented and anxious to learn from the older artist, is a junkie. Neil Huff, brimming with attitude, does his best to create a character but the script gives him little to build on. His rants and revelations seem to come out of nowhere.

Meanwhile, Raphelson picks up an unlikely fourth for this quartet, Julia Bryant, a Berkeley biology student researching nearly extinct frogs. Rachel Neuman‘s pretty, perky, wholesome Julia contrasts beautifully with the tormented and arty bunch — at least until the unraveling second act, when Judd loses it, Raphelson gives in, and Julia reveals her dark past and the rest of herself, too.

 
 
Rating: ★★½
 
 
April 25, 2010 | 0 Comments More

Review: “South Pacific” – a theatrical masterpiece

The Lincoln Center revival comes to the Rosemont Theatre, and perfection ensues.

SP_DavidCarmen1_cap

The Lincoln Center presents:

South Pacific

 

by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics)
Book by Hammerstein and
Joshua Logan
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Thru November 29th (ticket info)

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

sp3 Many would argue that the Lincoln Center‘s South Pacific is the best revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein wartime musical ever devised. Having never seen South Pacific on stage before, I cannot gauge how director Bartlett Sher’s interpretation compares to previous productions, but I will say this: it is one of the most beautiful and emotional musicals I have ever seen.

World War II is in full force, and the threat of Japanese invasion has resulted in U.S. Navy outposts throughout the Polynesian islands. Romance is in bloom for Ensign Nellie Forbush (Carmen Cusack) and French planter Emile de Becque (David Pittsinger), but Nellie’s prejudices threaten to tear them apart when she discovers his two mixed-race children. The two actors have incredible chemistry, immediately establishing their softly smoldering passion with "Twin Soliloquies," a transcendent duet that probes into the characters’ hopes and fears and sets the stage for their tumultuous relationship. Seconds later, Pittsinger begins "Some Enchanted Evening," arguably the musical’s most famous song, and the audience is as spellbound as Nellie; the  quality of Pittsinger’s voice is ethereal, as delicate and powerful as the character that it belongs to. His Act II solo "This Nearly Was Mine," a heartbreaking rumination on lost anderson_davis_as_lt_joseph_cable_and_sumie_maeda_as_liat___photo_by_peter_coombsopportunities, packs an emotional punch that left the audience with teary eyes and sniffling noses. There is simply not enough praise that can be showered on Pittsinger, whose portrayal of Emile de Becque belongs in a museum.

Cusack is no slouch in the vocals department either, showing amazing range with a great brassy belt that seems effortless. Her first solo, "A Cockeyed Optimist" has a youthful effervescence that captures Nellie’s naiveté, but Cusack then turns on the heat with the playfully sexy "I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," Charleston-ing in her bathing suit while splashing her giggling girlfriends with shampoo. The scene that immediately follows, an awkward confrontation between the half-naked Forbush and her renounced lover, is filled with tension as the audience watches the ingénue struggle with her combating emotions, but the payoff is glorious: "A Wonderful Guy" is a joyous exclamation of love that is heightened exponentially by Cusack’s commitment to her character, and watching her jump around the stage with unbridled glee is a fantastic release from the intensity of the scene that preceded it. After Nellie believes Emile to have died on a secret mission with Lt. Cable in Act II, she sings a reprise of "Some Enchanted Evening" with a lamentable sadness that makes her utterance of the line "Don’t die, Emile," incredibly tragic and heart-rending.

Pittsinger and Cusack are joined by a spot-on supporting cast, highlighted by Anderson Davis as Lt. Joseph Cable and Keala Settle as Bloody Mary. Davis has the voice of an angel, churning out incredibly high notes with ease, but he also brings fervent passion to his character. The intimacy between Cable and Bloody Mary’s daughter Liat (Sumie Maeda) is gentle, but there is a fire beneath the relationship that makes their inevitable split all the more heartbreaking. Davis also has great chemistry with Cusack, creating a strong bond of friendship during "My Girl Back Home" that comes from his understanding of Forbush’s troubles and the ways in which they reflect his own. As the injustices that have defined his beliefs become apparent to Cable, Anderson becomes increasingly fervid, culminating in the tragic "You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught," a raging criticism of how American society molds its citizens into hateful bigots.

sp2Settle has the unenviable task of taking the stereotypical Bloody Mary and finding the reality that defines the character, and she does a phenomenal job. While Mary is primarily used for comic relief, Settle makes her sensual, astute, and just the right amount of dangerous, creating three dimensions from a cardboard cutout of a character. Mary takes advantage of the sailors’ misconceptions of the native people, proving herself not only a cunning businesswoman, but a deviously effective matchmaker to boot. Her enchanting rendition of "Bali Ha’i" has the mystical air that has made the song a musical theater staple, and she is aided by the phenomenal design team who create a towering image of Bali Ha’i simply with color and shadow. Mary’s hopes for her daughter fuel her actions, and watching Settle cultivate Liat’s relationship with Cable during "Happy Talk" is a welcome contrast to the brash mischief of her earlier scenes.

Design-wise, the show is a work of art, with Michael Yeargan‘s sets stretching out to an imaginary horizon that feels amazingly real. Donald Holder‘s lighting creating an ethereal atmosphere in the opening scenes with shades of blue and pink that pop off the stage, and stark monochromatic hues in the later moments reflect the dark turn of the storyline. Ted Sperling‘s musical direction is out of this world, and the 26 piece pit orchestra have such an amazing understanding of Robert Russell Bennett‘s orchestrations that it’s nigh impossible to not be completely enthralled in the music from the very first swelling of the overture.

matthew_saldivar_as_luther_billis_and_the_seabees_of_south_pacific_by_peter_coombs Sher‘s directing genius is clearly evident in the performances of his outstanding cast, but one specific directorial choice must be discussed in order to truly understand the wonder of his South Pacific. After Emile’s supposed death, Nellie becomes a caretaker to his two children, having overcome her prejudices when she realizes they pale in comparison to the love he has shown her. In the final scene, Emile reappears while Nellie shares dinner with his children, and his son and daughter rush to him as if he had just come home from a day on the fields, unaware of the moment’s gravity. Nellie does not rush to him, she does not wrap her arms around him and kiss him passionately. Rather, she is so overcome with emotion that she can think of nothing else to do but set the table for the returned patriarch, and as they all sit in silence, a family for the first time, Emile places his hand on the empty seat between his lover and he. The simple motion of Nellie putting her hand in his is done with such passion and intensity that it speaks louder than any words, and is the most subtle and absolute display of love that I have ever seen on stage.

If the opportunity to see South Pacific presents itself before its regrettable November 29th closing, drag yourself to the Rosemont Theater, whether that be by car, public transit, hitchhiking, or walking 20 miles in freezing rain. It’s a small price to pay for this theatrical masterpiece.

Rating: ★★★★

November 25, 2009 | 0 Comments More

David Pittsinger wows the crowd at Gibson’s Steakhouse

Big talent represents “South Pacific” at Gibson’s

 southPacific_david

By: Timothy McGuire

I recently had the opportunity to attend a media luncheon for the upcoming touring performance of Lincoln Center Theater’s production of South Pacific. Broadway’s successful tony award winning musical will be playing at the Rosemont Theatre for a limited one-week engagement November 24 – 29, 2009. (ticket info)

The passion and excitement for this specific production was evident in the enthusiasm expressed by the people involved in bringing this production from New York to Chicago. They sincerely believe that this is an extraordinary show offering the audience the rare opportunity to experience a performance done in the spectacular old Broadway fashion, featuring a huge full orchestra unlike anything seen in current Broadway productions today. The touring show of South Pacific promises to be a near replica of the prize-winning musical that started in New York.

The most impressive endorsement for this production was the opportunity to hear the astonishingly powerful and elegant voice of David Pittsinger, who will be playing Emile. The impact of Pittsinger’s romantically forceful bass-baritone voice just a few feet away brought the small audience at Gibson’s Steakhouse to emotional heights, and one can only imagine the magnificence of hearing the full production of his songs produced on Rosemont Theatre’s spacious stage.

southpacific_iconDavid Pittsinger also was a terrific speaker, appearing genuine in his belief in the significance and relevance of South Pacific to today’s audience. Pittsinger is the living embodiment of his character Emile. His wife is born of minority decent and he has interracial children (who he is bursting with pride to talk about.) His belief in love, unification and racial equality is evident in his actions and his loved ones around him.

The original role of Emile de Becque was written for an opera singer, and David Pittsinger is a talented, internationally acclaimed opera performer working with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City (most recently portrayed Angelotti in “Tosca”at the Metropolitan Opera) and living and working most of the year in France. The advantage that Pittsinger is also a world-class actor increases the quality of his role and greatly supports the well-written book that goes along with the classically entertaining music in South Pacific. With themes of war and racial conflict, along with the joyous uplifting story and cleverly catchy songs, this year is a fantastic time to enjoy Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

November 6, 2009 | 2 Comments More

Bailiwick announces change in management – Kevin Mayes takes on David Zak’s position of Executive Director

KevinMayes Bailiwick Repertory Theatre’s Artistic Director, David Zak, and its Board President, Don Cortelyou, have announced that Artistic Associate Kevin Mayes has assumed management of the company as Executive Director. Mayes will be leading a group of dedicated Bailiwick artists to reorganize the company and reenergize its artistic mission. David Zak will continue to be involved in the company, and will transition into the role of Artistic Director Emeritus.

“We are excited that Kevin has agreed take on this challenge,” said Board President Don Cortelyou, “and look forward to supporting him, along with a core team of Artistic Associates, as they work together to continue Bailiwick’s remarkable 27-year legacy.”

Says David Zak:

Running the Bailiwick has been an incredible life experience, and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done, especially the world premieres we’ve produced with artists like Larry Kramer, Dennis DeYoung, and Claudia Allen, among many, many others. But I look forward to handing the reigns over to Kevin. He has worked closely with me over the past five years, and he cares deeply about the mission of the Bailiwick. I know that he, along with the other extremely talented and motivated Artistic Associates who have stepped up to the plate, will do great things together. I look forward to working with them as a close advisor and director of future productions.

Kevin Mayes has been an active member of the Chicago theater scene for the last decade. He has twice been nominated for Best Actor in a Musical by the Jeff Committee (My Favorite Year and A Man of No Importance), and has worked as a Director and Musical Director in both Chicago and New York. He worked closely with Lloyd Richards at the O’Neill Theater’s National Playwrights Conference, and with Wendy Wasserstein on the original production of The Sisters Rosensweig at Lincoln Center. He has his degree in Theater and Music from Yale University, and has more than 15 years executive management experience working with large corporations as well as small start-ups.

Says Kevin Mayes:

We’ve had our challenges over the past few years, many related to the state of the economy, and others due to the dynamic nature of the Chicago theater market,” said Mayes.  “But I’m extremely excited by the opportunity to lead this organization forward. My initial focus will be on improving our operations and fiscal stability. Meanwhile, I hope that the artistic community and our faithful audiences will support us as we redefine – and recommit to – our artistic mission. I’m very excited to work with this passionate group of actors, directors, designers, and stage managers. I’m also extremely thankful to David for his vote of confidence, and look forward to his advice and counsel over the coming months in his new role.

Plans for the 2009-2010 season are currently under review, and will be announced at a later date.

September 19, 2009 | 0 Comments More

The Obamas are Broadway-bound

 Obama_family

According to Politico.com:

The Obamas will fly to New York City Saturday to take in a performance of the August Wilson play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone [NY Times review], which chronicles African Americans’ search for identity after the end slavery. Details weren’t provided on the weekend public schedule, which said only that the Obamas would pay a “personal visit to New York City.

 

Chad L. Coleman, Roger Robinson, and company

Productions info after the fold.

May 29, 2009 | 0 Comments More

Theater Thursday: Mozart’s "La Clemenza di Tito"

Thursday, April 16

Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito

Chicago Opera Theater
Harris Theater in Millenium Park
205 E. Randolph St., Chicago

titoimageYour evening will include a pre-opera reception at Tavern at the Park (130 E. Randolph) with 2 free drinks (wine or beer only) and light appetizers followed by the final dress rehearsal of La Clemenza di Tito. Don’t miss this Wolfang Amadeus Mozart masterpiece. While absent from Chicago for more than a generation, this towering tour de force has made a resurgence in the rest of the world, most notably at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center.
Event begins at 6 p.m., show at 7:30pm
TICKETS ONLY $30
For reservations call 312.704.8414 and mention “Theater Thursdays.”

 

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All Theater Thursday postings sponsored by this fine entertainment accessory retailer.

April 14, 2009 | 0 Comments More