Tag: Marssie Mencotti

Review: Deirdre of the Sorrows (City Lit Theater)

Morgan McCabe and Natalie Joyce star in Deirdre of the Sorrows, City Lit Theater            


Deirdre of the Sorrows
Written by John Millington Synge  
City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr (map)
thru Oct 15  |  tix: $27-$32  |  more info    
Check for half-price tickets    

September 15, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Old Friends (Raven Theatre)

Lori Myers, Andy Monson, Ron Quade and Judy Lea Steele in The Old Friends, Raven Theatre          

The Old Friends

Written by Horton Foote 
Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map)
thru March 26  |  tix: $18-$42   |  more info 
Half-price tickets available  

March 5, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (Stage Left Theatre)

Piper Bailey stars in Stage Left Theatre's "A Day in the Life of Joe Egg" by Peter Nichols, directed by Greg Werstler. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)        
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

Written by Peter Nichols
Directed by Greg Werstler
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Feb 16  |  tickets: $20-$27   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

January 21, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Feast (Prop Thtr)

Prop Thtr's "The Feast" by Tony Fiorentino, directed by Brian Bell.        
The Feast 

Written by Tony Fiorentino
Directed by Brian Bell
at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston (map)
thru Dec 16  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

November 18, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Absolute Hell (The Gift Theatre)

Lynda Newton as Christine in The Gift Theatre's "Absolute Hell" by Rodney Ackland       
Absolute Hell 

Written by Rodney Ackland  
Directed by Sheldon Patinkin
The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru April 29  |  tickets: $22-$32   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

March 28, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Elling (Redtwist Theatre)

Peter Oyloe, Michael Sherwin - Elling

Adapted by Axel Hellstenius, Petter Naess 
Based on book by Ingvar Ambjornsen
Directed by Steve Scott 
at Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr (map)
thru Oct 30   |  tickets: $25-$30  |  more info

Check for half-price tickets
        Read entire review

September 29, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Man from Nebraska (Redtwist Theatre)


Broad collection of fervent scenes doesn’t quite make a whole


Michael Sherwin (Rev. Todd), Sam Perry (Bud)

Redtwist Theatre presents
Man From Nebraska
Written by Tracy Letts 
Directed by Andrew Jessop
at Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr (map)
through April 24  |  tickets: $25-$30  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Redtwist Theatre has pulled off wonders within the confines of its black box theater space, such as morphing into a cheerfully bland New York hotel lobby with Lobby Hero (our review ★★★½) or, for their production of The Pillowman (review ★★), a claustrophobic interrogation room adjoined by macabre mini-theaters at both ends. But they may have bit off more than they can chew staging Tracy Letts’ 2003 play Man From Nebraska. Stephen H. Carmody’s set design does all it can with movable stages that serve for car and hotel scenes; Christopher Burpee’s lighting design can be impressively transformative at the right moments; Andrew Jessop’s video provides sly and suggestive white noise when the television becomes an extra character in a scene. Still, the play’s stop-and-start shifts are hell for any director to draw a cohesive arc from. Though Jessop’s direction Adrian Snow (Tamyra), Andrew J. Pond (Harry), Chuck Spencer (Ken)crafts gorgeous, singular jewels with each theatrical moment, it cannot ameliorate the overriding fragmentary nature of Letts’ writing, which seems more relevant for the screen than the stage.

Only one abiding element comes close to binding the production—Chuck Spencer’s performance, authentic to the bones, as Ken Carpenter, a man who awakens in the middle of the night to question everything he once held true. Jan Ellen Graves provides quiet backup as Ken’s sorely tested helpmeet, Nancy, but the show remains Spencer’s in every way. One could consider his portrayal of Ken as the bookend to his 2009 triumph as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman at Raven Theatre (review). He seems born to play the quintessential life of quiet desperation.

The opening scenes do everything to depict Ken and Nancy’s somnambulant routines and corn-fed complacency, right down to silently shared dinners over chicken-fried steaks and mashed potatoes. But then Ken’s midnight crisis of faith hits hard and stands in abrupt, violent contrast to everything that’s gone before. Ken, Baptist born and raised, realizes to his horror that he does not believe in God–Spenser successfully sells every raw moment of Ken’s lifetime of belief pulled out from underneath him.

The rest of the play Ken searches for what he truly believes in; how various people respond to his earnest and heartfelt quest eventually reflects more on them than the protagonist. Small theatrical moments shine with humor, veracity, warm simplicity, yet sometimes we are never really far from a sharp Lettsian edge. Chuck Spencer (Ken), Marssie Mencotti (Cammie)Reverend Todd (Michael Sherwin) proves to be as cheerfully vapid and materialistic a clergyman as Satan could ever send to test the faithful, yet it is on his recommendation that Ken take a vacation that shapes his quest. Equally, daughter Ashley (Julie Dahlinger) seems too caught up in the things of this world to ever understand her father’s driven personal inquiry. In worldly company, Ken seems like an oddity—the guy who cares too much about spiritual matters that everyone else has let go of long ago.

Spencer is up to giving a performance that makes Ken more than an accidental tourist in the realms of moral ambiguity. Unfortunately, the script itself doesn’t plumb the depths of Ken’s emotional or spiritual quest but leaves a lot of it inchoate. Furthermore, the play’s fragmentary nature makes it difficult to tie in Ken’s search for truth with what is going on with Nancy at home. So many actors give strong and mature performances, it’s a shame that the whole struggles to gel. It’s worth it just to go and view the production as an assortment of excellent scenes in the hands of sure and capable craftsmen. Certainly, Ken and Nancy’s powerful reunion will stays long after the show is over. But, all in all, we have to accept Man From Nebraska as a lesser work of Chicago’s currently most successful playwright.

Rating: ★★★

Man From Nebraska continues through April 24th at the Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, with performances Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm and Sundays at 3pm.  Tickets are $25 on Thursdays, $27 on Fridays and Sundays, and $30 on Saturdays, and can be bought online or by calling 773-728-7529.  Reserve seats by e-mailing reserve@redtwist.org.

Michael Sherwin (Rev. Todd), Jan Ellen Graves (Nancy), Chuck Spencer (Ken)

Jane deLaubenfels (Pat), Chuck Spencer (Ken) Chuck Spencer (Ken), Jan Ellen Graves (Nancy)
April 2, 2011 | 0 Comments More