Tag: Tony Hernandez

Top 10 Chicago Plays of 2012

Taking into account the nearly 700 productions that we reviewed in 2012, here are our picks for the best of the best. Bravo!!  (FYI: We’re honored to have the national website Huffington Post use our choices for their Top 10 Chicago productions here)

Mary Beth Fisher and Rob Lindley star in Court Theatre's "Angels in America" by Tony Kushner, directed by Charles Newell. Molly Regan, Lusia Strus and Mariann Mayberry star in Steppenwolf Theatre's "Good People" by David Lindsay-Abaire, directed by K. Todd Freman. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) Rania Salem Manganaro stars in The Inconveniences' "Hit The Wall" by Ike Holter, directed by Eric Hoff. (photo credit: Ryan Borque) Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane star in Goodman Theatre's "The Iceman Cometh" by Eugene O'Neill, directed by Robert Falls. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) Brandon Dahlquist, Shannon Cochran and Jonathan Weir star in Writers' Theatre's "A Little Night Music" by Stephen Sondheim, directed by William Brown. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)
Adam Poss and Madrid St. Angelo star in star in Victory Gardens' "Oedipus el Rey" by Luis Alfaro, directed by Chay Yew. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) Chiara Mangiameli and Rick Bayless star in Lookingglass Theatre's "Rick Bayless in Cascabel" by Heidi Stillman and Tony Hernandez and Rick Bayless. (photo credit: Sean Williams) Lyric Opera of Chicago's "Show Boat", conducted by John DeMain, directed by Francesca Zambrello. (photo credit: Robert Kusel) Jason Danieley as George and Carmen Cusack as Dot, in Chicago Shakespeare's "Sunday in the Park with George" by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) Richard Cotovsky and Preston Tate Jr. star in Mary-Arrchie Theatre's "Superior Donuts" by Tracy Letts.  (photo credit: Greg Rothman)

 

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January 6, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Rick Bayless in Cascabel (Lookingglass Theatre)

Shenea Booth and Nicolas Besnard in Lookingglass Theatre's "Rick Bayless in Cascabel", co-created by Heidi Stillman, Tony Hernandez and Rick Bayless. (photo credit: Sean Williams)       
      
Rick Bayless in Cascabel

Written by Heidi Stillman, Tony Hernandez
    and Rick Bayless 
Directed by Heidi Stillman and Tony Hernandez
Lookingglass Thtr, 821 N. Michigan Ave. (map)
thru April 29   |  tickets: $225-$250   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
             Read entire review
     

   
April 8, 2012 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: Hephaestus, A Greek Circus Tale (Lookingglass)

A stunning display of physical artistry

hephaestus-7-man-pyramid

 
Lookingglass Theatre and Silverguy Entertainment presents
 
Hephaestus, A Greek Circus Tale
 
Adapted from the Greek myth by Tony Hernandez
Directed by
Tony Hernandez and Heidi Stillman
at the
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
through May 23rd  tickets: $25-$70  |  more info

By Catey Sullivan

Move over Billy Elliot. There’s a new kid in town, and he’s flying – without wires or harnesses – just a few blocks west of where the famed coal miner’s son is hoofing the light fantastic. ‘Tis the season, apparently, for jaw-droppingly talented pre-pubescent boys. In Hephaestus, a Greek Mythology Circus Tale, ninth-generation 39-iris7 circus performer Fabio Anastasini plays a show-stopping role as the Lookingglass/Silver Guy telling of the Greek myth biography of the God of the Forge unfurls. Flipping and flying so fast he’s a centrifugal blur while his partner (and older brother) flings him skyward on the soles of his feet, Fabio is a dazzling highlight in a series of dazzlers that comprise Hephaestus’ 90 breathtaking minutes.

Imagine the very best acts of Cirque du Soleil, played out in a space so small you could reach out and grab the acrobats as they fly by. (Don’t even think about it.) Oh – and there’s no net. Also – nobody is wearing a harness or any sort of other safety rigging. When a seven-person human pyramid makes its way across the high wire during the show’s climactic finale, it’s as if all the oxygen has been sucked out of the Goodman’s tiny Owen Theatre. You can feel the audience collectively holding its breath. Cell phone rings aren’t just an aggravation during this show – they pose a very real danger. Knock wood – were any of the aerialists to lose their concentration during Hephaestus, the results could be deadly.

Not that there’s much chance of that. Tony Hernandez’ version of myth is enacted by the world’s elite circus performers, Flying Wallendas among them. These aren’t part-time buskers on summer break. They’re the best wire-walkers, acrobats, contortionists and stunt men and women on the planet. They’d be thrilling to watch 001731 under any circumstances. But in the intimate space of the Owen, they’re simply staggering. Get a seat in the third level of the courtyard space, and you’ll find yourself going eyeball-to-eyeball with that mind-blowing pyramid that ends the show. And prior to that, with Ares (Almas Miermanov) the God of War, as played by an impossibly chiseled gymnast doing his routine several stories up on the ends of furls of silk.

Since Hernandez (who also plays the title role with great emotional impact) debuted Hephaestus in 2005, he has tweaked it slightly. Aphrodite has lost her gleaming hula hoops and turned into a toe-dancing contortionist. A two-man hand-balancing act is now a single, silvery, spooky machine-man pulled by Hephaestus from the fires of his desert island forge. Then there’s the addition of the Anastasini brothers, who also start life as liquid metal beings formed by Hephaestus from molten metal. They’re a thrilling improvement.

The show’s primary flaw remains its narrative. The adaptation of Hephaestus’ myth is a flimsy coathanger draped in circus garments so richly spectacular you tend to first forgive and then forget that the myth even matters. Still, the individual acts could be put into the service of any story, and don’t feel especially integral to the story of Hephaestus.

Even so, there are moments when the story resonates powerfully. When his mother hurls Hephaestus from Mount Olympus, the fall is a gasp-inducing triumph of stagecraft and stuntwork. It’s a signature Lookingglass moment – the sort of indelible physical storytelling that nobody does better. The towering (Literally towering. There are drummers all the way up to the theater’s scaffolding) , immersive percussion makes you feel as if you are in a grand canyon echoing with drums, surrounded by an urgent, primal beat that drowns everything else out but the pure, raw, power of rhythm.

aphro-and-heph2 001748
39-iris7 001879 001819

As Hephaestus’ mother Hera, Lijana Wallenda Hernandez is an ethereal stunner, spinning high above the audience in a silver hoop. When Hephaestus falls to the bottom of an enchanted sea, the theater turns into a murky green eden of nymphs and bubbles hovering with liquid grace everywhere you turn. It’s an underwater paradise almost enough to make you weep at its watery, calming beauty.

And lest you discount that 7-person pyramid as just another circus stunt: Wallenda and Hernandez were among the artists who pioneered the act, and got it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1998. In other words, it’s a form of dangerous beauty that they actually invented. It was largely considered impossible before they did it. Watching Hephaestus, much of it seems impossible. The artistry is just that stunning.

 
Rating: ★★★½
 

NOTE: Many of these pictures were taken from previous years’ performances.

63-bungee1

April 18, 2010 | 4 Comments More

Review: Steppenwolf Theatre’s ‘Up’

To dream or to be responsible…

Up-1Ensemble member Ian Barford and Tony Hernandez in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of Up by Bridget Carpenter, directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro.  Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Up

By Bridget Carpenter
Directed by Anne D. Shapiro
Runs through August 23rd
Steppenwolf Theatre

Review by Timothy McGuire

We all struggle between our desire to chase after our dreams and personal aspirations, and the responsibilities we have to take care of our finances and personal relationships. Bridget Carpenter’s “Up” now playing at Steppenwolf Theatre follows the balancing act of a middle aged man with no specific conventional goals as he tries to turn his dreams into reality and support his family in the middle of a tough economic climate. Along with the “dream chaser,” Up follows an average middle-class family proudly in love with the unconventional passions of their husband/father, but questioning the practicality of such a lifestyle as they mature and their financial security is at stake.

Ensemble member Ian Barford and Lauren Katz in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of Up by Bridget Carpenter, directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro.  Photo by Michael Brosilow. Walter Griffin is thoughtfully played by Ian Barford. In Walter’s youth he once achieved “stardom” when he attached 45 helium balloons to a lawn chair and took flight solo, 16,000 feet in the air. Years later Walter is still chasing after those dreams of greatness and that sense of freedom. Now married and with a teenage son, Walter spends his time brainstorming and trying to think of his next big idea while his wife provides for the family by working as a mail carrier.

IanBarford-JakecohenIn their youth Walter’s Wife Helen (Lauren Katz) fell in love with Walter due to his adventurist heart and his relentless pursuit for greatness. Their son Mikey (Jake Cohen) idolizes his father’s passion for the joys in life and his courage to pursue an unconventional lifestyle. They have always understood and respected their husband/father but when Helen’s hours get cut at the post office and Mikey meets a new friend that opens his eyes to the necessity of being able to financially provide, their patience with Walter wears thin.

With the daily stresses of bills and constantly having to be the rational mind in the family Helen asks Walter to get a job. Once smitten with the dream chaser inside her husband she now finds herself desiring the stability of a conventional man and pleads for just one day to relax and not have to worry. Helen speaks about her imaginary husband, which represents the change in her feelings towards the man that Walter is. In a flashback you hear Helen refer to her imaginary boyfriend as boring, being someone that is not as stimulating as the actual man she is with. Now married, she refers to her imaginary husband as a provider and a man that supports and takes care of his wife’s needs. Her imaginary husband represents the characteristics that Walter does not posses, but now she wishes he did.

Rachel-Brosnahan-Jake-Cohan Starting his sophomore year of high school Mikey meets a talkative pregnant classmate Maria (Rachel Brosnahan) who thoroughly makes an effort to get to know him through direct questions and honest interest. Rachel Brosnahan gives a wonderful performance of a non-stop curious teenage girl, to the point of driving you crazy as a teenage girl can do. As his relationship with Maria grows, Mikey recognizes the responsibilities that he would have to take on if he was to love her. Loosing faith in his father’s ethos of finding happiness outside of the “establishment,” Mikey wants to make plans to earn money and the stability that a 9-5 job can provide. Secret from his family, he takes on employment from Maria’s fiercely independent Aunt (Martha Lavey) and he finds a means to be a provider with his successful sales skills.

Lauren-Katz-Rachel-Brosnahan Eventually, to appease his wife and take care of his responsibilities as a father, Water accepts conventionality with a new job, and you can see his spirit breaking as he appears somber dressed in a suit and tie. Months later Walter appears up-beat and content with his new employment when he is on stage with Helen, but he demonstrates the overwhelming sense of defeat and depression when alone. His actions are peculiar for a hard working man, he still privately holds to his personal values and spits in the face of conventionality by burning and tearing-up his own money.

MarthaLavey-JakeCohen How does this family move forward as one when they all desire to walk in different paths? Can their love for one another overcome their differences in values?

Bridget Carpenter has written a creative story that captures the details of an average American family and brings to stage the struggles that occur as the demands of family life take precedent over one’s individual dreams and what to do when your life partner does not choose the same path as yourself as you mature. Each character’s situation in the play and their personality are used to explore the different viewpoints, and the direction that they desire to go.

tony-hernandez-tightropewalker The director, Anna D. Shapiro, does a fantastic job as usual taking the time to develop each character and constructing a performance that uses the details in the dialogue and the ability of the actors to capture the emotional states of their characters to build the turmoil this family is going through.

The end of the play might leave you a little lost as to what just happened to Walter, although the symbolism of the French tight-rope walker Philippe Petit (Tony Hernandez) being incorporated in the final scene points the audience in the direction of what is taking place on stage.

Rating: «««

Where: Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650
Through: August 23rd
Ticket Prices: $20-$70
For tickets and info: http://www.steppenwolf.org

A scene from Up featuring ensemble member Ian Barford with Lauren Katz

A select scene from Up featuring ensemble member Ian Barford with Tony Hernandez.

 

After the fold: Info regarding Steppenwolf’s Up, including all creators and personnel involved with the production, can be found after the jump (click on “read more”). Also an informative video featuring playwright Bridget Carpenter, explaining her inspirations for Up.

July 11, 2009 | 0 Comments More

Chicago theatre on YouTube – Lookingglass and Steppenwolf

A scene from the recently-closed “Hephaestus” at LookingGlass Theatre.

A scene from “Schadenfreude” at Steppenwolf.

April 28, 2008 | 0 Comments More