Monthly Archives: July 2011
In with the new: Remy Bumppo’s new artistic director, new season
By Kaylee Holt
July 1st marked the first day on the job for Remy Bumppo’s new artistic director, Timothy Douglas. Douglas is replacing James Bohnen, the company founder, who announced that he was stepping down in 2009. Douglas has worked as a stage director, actor, and educator at a variety of prestigious theaters, and recently wrapped up a season of directing projects all across the country, including work with Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Studio Theatre Company in D.C. The decision to hire Douglas was unanimous among the theater’s artistic associates, board, and administrative staff. Douglas says that he cares about representing ethnically diverse playwrights, as well as diverse casting. This is evidenced by the theme of his inaugural season: “The American Evolution: from Civil War to Civil Rights to Civil Disobedience.” Douglas will be directing all three plays this season: Eugene O’Neill’s Morning Becomes Electra, Marivaux’s Changes of Heart, and Lee Blessing’s Chesapeake.
Morning Becomes Electra is a tragedy based on The Oresteia, in which a young woman takes a lover and murders her husband, leaving her daughter committed to revenge. Douglas says the revision, set at the end of the Civil War, cuts down on the chorus aspect of the original and fills the story with more action. It opens September 26th.
Changes of Heart, set to open November 28th, is a complex comedy about love between the classes. The play was written in pre-revolutionary France, when class divisions were viewed as much more significant than they are today. As such, Douglas was afraid that the audience might not have the same visceral reaction to what’s happening as audiences in Marivaux’s time. In an attempt to remedy this, Douglas is setting the play in Chicago during the 1960’s and playing up the tensions between the North and South sides in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. Still, though, he insists the story isn’t about race: “I just want to do justice to Marivaux’s play.”
Finally is Chesapeake, a one-man comedy about a performance artist who’s had his funding cut; he attempts a dog-napping in a plot to reveal the injustices of funding in the town. “It’s a play about redemption,” says Douglas. He also says some people may be able to relate to the political side of the story, the troubles of getting funding. Chesapeake opens April 2nd.
Tickets for Remy Bumppo’s productions can be purchased at www.remybumppo.org or by calling the Greenhouse Theater Center’s box office at (773) 404-7336.
Cirque Shanghai EXTREME at Navy Pier's Skyline Stage
Runs June 19-September 5
Cirque Shanghai takes each act one step further…or three
By Darcy Rose Coussens
Between its fantastic stunts, ornate costumes, and majestic music, Cirque Shanghai EXTREME has brought a real spectacle to Navy Pier. Everything in the show glitters and shimmers, and despite all of the risky endeavors, these performers never stop smiling. The show begins with Chinese dragons parading down the aisles and performers bounding onstage and into the air; it is merely a preview of what is to come, though!
I was impressed that the same performers rotate acts– they each have many specialties instead of just one. Even the tiniest little girl appears in several different acts, from contortion, to ladder balancing, to lyra (aerial rings suspended in the air). Many of the acts are beautiful, such as the silks. The performers fly gracefully and seemingly effortlessly, and the costumes are magnificent. Overall, the costumes in every act are incredibly detailed, right down to the glittery eyeshadow.
Some acts are funny, as well. During hat juggling, the performers wordlessly teach audience vol
unteers how to stretch, and then how to execute the most basic version of hat juggling, all while clapping enthusiastically to the beat. I think the audience had even more fun watching this than the volunteers did onstage. Even when the performers dropped a hat or two, they covered the mistake with such speed that I hardly noticed.
The show keeps a pretty fast pace between the different acts, all of which were very impressive. I have never been so enthralled watching roller-skating. Originally, I had thought one man balancing on a ladder was commendable, yet another climbed on top of him, and then the little girl topped them off! Something of this sort happens in every act: I would think they were finished, when they would top themselves yet again (and sometimes again…and again). Finally, the motorcycles. Cirque Shanghai sure likes their motorcycles. Performers ride them on the high wires above the audience, but that's really just a warm up to the finale, which I'll leave a surprise for you to marvel at properly.
All in all, this was more fun to watch than the Olympics or another sporting event. The stunts were excellent, but they were also presented gracefully and with fantastic flair. Cirque Shanghai EXTREME has landed a near-perfect balance between sport and art.
The Women is fun and clever
The Women by Clare Booth Luce
Directed by Jim Schneider
Circle Theatre, 1010 W. Madison, Oak Park 60302
Runs June 29 – August 14, 2011
Tickets $22 – $26, available at www.circle-theatre.org, (708) 660-9540
Review by Kaylee Holt
The Women, written in the 30’s by Clare Booth Luce, is like an early version of Desperate Housewives; it follows a group of rich socialites and the ups and downs of their love lives. One woman, Mary Haines, is content with what she thinks is a perfect marriage until she discovers that her husband is cheating on her with a shop girl. Madness ensues. Much like Desperate Housewives, The Women may not make any grand, earth-shattering statements about the world; however, it is witty and enjoyable.
The cast of characters is fun, and, quite fittingly, entirely women: though the play centers around women’s relationships with men, not a single male character ever actually appears on stage. Though the play may run a little longer than necessary, the rapport between characters is consistently rapid and clever, keeping the story from dragging. There are also a few fight scenes thrown in, which are entertaining, if a bit over-choreographed. The saga plays out against a beautiful set, complete with genuine art deco props.
It’s noted in the director’s note that the play has been accused of being misogynistic, and, it’s true, it won’t be winning any awards for feminism. However, the story seems so aware of this fact that I didn’t find it offensive. The Women is just a fun, light way to spend an evening, full of beauty and wit.
Pine Box returns from hiatus with original police suspense story
A Girl With Sun in Her Eyes by Joshua Rollins
Directed by Matt Miller
Pine Box Theater at the Second Stage, 3408 N. Sheffield, Chicago 60657
Runs June 30 – August 7, 2011
Tickets $35, available at www.pineboxtheater.org
Review by Kaylee Holt
After a three-year hiatus, Pine Box Theater is back with the world premiere of Joshua Rollins’s A Girl With Sun in Her Eyes. The story follows one night in the investigation of a missing police officer, and slowly reveals the missing girl’s relationship to both the officers investigating the disappearance and the suspects brought in for interrogation. While the play gets off to a rocky start, eventually it finds its stride and demonstrates some quality storytelling.
The dialogue is slightly awkward in the beginning; however, often just as a line feels awkward, it’s followed up by a joke that cuts the discomfort. Plus, Vincent Teninty carries the play along and keeps the audience interested as William, the average guy you continue to pull for even when you know you shouldn’t. As the play goes on, the other actors come into their own; Steve Pickering does a solid job as Landy, the rough but secretly emotional officer, as does Sean Parris as Darnel, the nonchalant suspect with an attitude. Both manage to be funny and convincing.
The structure of the play was effective and suspenseful; it alternated between interrogation scenes and scenes of what actually happened leading up to the crime. Rollins constantly introduces new information, but does so slowly enough to build suspense and keep the audience guessing. Though there are a few too many long, confessional monologues, Rollins’s talent shines through in the scenes with rowdy, overlapping dialogue.
Second Stage is an intimate theater, and the space is utilized well; there’s seating on both sides of the stage area, so that the audience surrounds the action. A Girl With Sun in Her Eyes gradually sucks its audience in, and is an interesting look at the domino effect each of our decisions can have. I’m curious to see what Pine Box Theater has to offer in the time to come.