Tag: Rashaad Hall

Review: Electra (Court Theatre)

Emjoy Gavino and Kate Fry in Electra, Court Theatre           
      
  

Electra

Written by Sophocles
Translated by Nicholas Rudall 
Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis (map)
thru Dec 11  |  tix: $46-$68  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

December 2, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: Death and Harry Houdini (The House Theatre, 2016)

Dennis Watkins as Harry Houdini in Death and Harry Houdini at House Theatre          
      

   
Death and Harry Houdini 

Written and Directed by Nathan Allen
at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division (map)
thru Aug 21  |  tix: $45-$59   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

June 15, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: Teddy Ferrara (Goodman Theatre)

Liam Benzvi and Adam Poss star in Goodman Theatre's "Teddy Ferrara" by Christopher Shinn, directed by Evan Cabnet. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
       
Teddy Ferrara 

Written by Christopher Shinn 
Directed by Evan Cabnet
at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru March 3  |  tickets: $14-$45   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

February 14, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre)

Larry Yando and Matthew Abraham star in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, directed by Steve Scott. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
       
A Christmas Carol 

Written by Charles Dickens
Adapted by Tom Creamer
Directed by Steve Scott  
at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru Dec 29  |  tickets: $25-$82   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

November 29, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Marvin Gaye Story (Black Ensemble Theater)

Rashawn Thompson as Marvin Gaye in Black Ensemble Theater's "The Marvin Gaye Story", written by Jackie Taylor. (photo credit: Danny Nicholas)       
      
The Marvin Gaye Story 

Written and Directed by Jackie Taylor 
at BET Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark (map)
thru July 29  |  tickets: $55-$65   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
            Read entire review
     

May 22, 2012 | 2 Comments More

Review: Sonnets for an Old Century (UrbanTheater)

     
     

Like life, ‘Sonnets’ is a bumpy ride

     
     

Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century'.

   
UrbanTheater Company presents
 
Sonnets for an Old Century
  
Written by José Rivera
Directed by
Madrid St. Angelo i/a/w Juan Castaneda
at
Steppenwolf Garage Theatre, 1624 N. Halsted (map)
thru April 24 |  tickets: $20   |  more info  

Reviewed by Keith Ecker

Chicago has a vast and virtually unknown storytelling scene. Shows like The Moth, 2nd Story, Story Club, Stories at the Store, This Much Is True and Essay Fiesta feature the best writers and storytellers in the city. As a member of this scene (and Essay Fiesta producer), I see at least a dozen personal monologues performed each month. You would think that after hearing more than 100 narratives, I’d become jaded. However, I’d argue that the opposite is true. My appreciation for genuine and honest storytelling continues to grow and appears to be without bounds. Conversely, my bullshit detector has become highly attuned.

Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series. Photo: Peter CoombsI mention all this because Sonnets for an Old Century, the new UrbanTheater Company production that’s part of the Steppenwolf Garage Rep, is a storytelling showcase. The play, written by José Rivera, consists of a series of monologues told by the recently deceased. The stage is their purgatory, and it is here that each provides commentary on the life he or she has lived, both the good and the bad. So in essence, these monologues—or free-verse sonnets—are personal narratives, even if the narratives are fictional.

Overall, Sonnets is an incredibly inconsistent show. There are moments where the monologists hit their high notes, striking genuine emotion. In these rare scenes, you can sense the actor is digging deep, plucking an honest chord from within and relaying that to the audience from behind the mask of the character. It is also in these scenes where the dialogue rises above contrivance and overwroughtness to become something real and relatable.

Unfortunately, there are far too many monologues in which the diction is absurd, even spiraling into laughable territory. Lines like "ecology of the spirit" and "rhythm of vegetables" could work if they weren’t delivered with such grave seriousness. Nobody talks like this, not even poets—or at least good poets. The actors struggle when assuming these pretentious characters, often falling into the trap of indicating rather than acting. But can you blame them? Nobody can relate to a clunker of a line like the "fallopian tubes of her mind." How can the actors find a place of genuine feeling when lines like this are the antithesis of genuine feeling?

But let’s get back to the highlights. There’s a beautiful monologue delivered by actor Hank Hilbert. He plays an actor who, in life, kept his homosexuality and his AIDS diagnosis hidden from most of the world. The language of the piece is pedestrian, though it still retains its power. There is humor as well as poignancy. There is action as well as characterization. It has all the makings of a great narrative.

Another highlight is provided courtesy of Christian Kain Blackburn. His character talks about sin, and attempts to justify his earthly behavior, which in life included drug and alcohol abuse. He then gives a riveting speech about his invalid father and the pain of watching the man grow old, weak and helpless. Blackburn pulls from the gut and succeeds in delivering one of the most compelling sonnets of the production.

     
Gino Marconi in a scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series. Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series. Photo: Peter Coombs
Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century'.  Photo: Athony Aicardi Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series. Photo: Peter Coombs Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century', now playing in Steppenwolf's GarageRep series.

Despite these shining moments, and a few others, the play’s inconsistency detracts from its overall quality. Each character need not deliver his or her monologue in a similar voice – that would be a sign of a non-dynamic writer. But the style should remain consistent. You can’t go from real-world dialogue to slam poetry and expect us to think these characters exist in the same universe. Perhaps if director Madrid St. Angelo addressed these style shifts, there would be more cohesion and a better end product.

The reason why the aforementioned storytelling series are successful is because they strive to tap into a place of vulnerability without the protection of pretense. Sonnets for an Old Century will probably turn off quite a few audience members because of just how much it clings to its loftiness. If the actors and director could find a way to make each piece vulnerable, despite the laughable dialogue, this would be a much more powerful play.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

Scene from UrbanTheater's 'Sonnets for an Old Century'.  Photo: Athony Aicardi

GarageRep continues through April 24th, with performances Wednesdays through Sundays at 8 pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 4 pm; with a three-show marathon on Sunday, April 24 at 1 pm, 4pm & 8 pm.  For more info, go to Steppenwolf Theatre’s 2011 GarageRep page.

 

Artists

Featuring: Jennifer Walls, Alex Polcyn, Christian Kain Blackburn, Gino Marconi, Gabi Mayorga, Shannon Matesky, Hank Hilbert, Rashaad Hall, Marilyn Camacho, Paloma Nozicka, Dru Smith, Marvin Quijada, Meghann Tabor, Phillip E. Jones, Arthur Luis Soria, Sojourner Zenobia Wright, Mike Cherry, Whitney Hayes and Amrita Dhaliwal.

       
        

What is GarageRep??

February 26, 2011 | 3 Comments More