Chicago Theatre Review

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Chalk Up Another One for Promethean Theatre Ensemble

January 15, 2013 Comments Off on Chalk Up Another One for Promethean Theatre Ensemble

By Lazlo Collins


The Promethean Theater Ensemble’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle “is a visual and auditory delight! The baby is never thrown out with the bathwater in this inventive telling of this well-trod Bertolt Brecht classic.

With lovely original music by Matt Kahler moving the tale along; this classic tale of a government’s fall, a servant’s journey, and love reunited is high energy fun. Director Ed Rutherford’s clever staging and new vision keep this story relevant.

The play is as relevant today as when it was written in 1944. Keeping all the socially relevant aspects, but keep the action moving was a great move for director and company. This is the story of an abandoned child of the wealthy rulers who is raised by a servant on the run. Ultimately, through time and troubles, the now toddler is brought to the court to determine who’s

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child it REALLY is (or should be). Is it the one who bore the child, or the one who brought up the child? The results will “tug” at your heartstrings.

A strong beginning and pleasant thread through the play was the likeable Cary Davenport as the Lead Singer. He has a lovely voice and gets the ball rolling and keeps things moving.

The talented cast of young energy and commitment was impressive. I loved the multi-player and multi orchestral aspect of the show. I was impressed with the acting and the musicianship that was displayed throughout the show.

Sara Gorsky as “Grusha” was an exceptional stand out. With a just a few moments to breathe throughout the show, Ms. Gorsky moves through her songs and story with ease and admirable commitment.

Also, Teddy Lance as “Azdak” was another high energy stand out. His delivery of the judge and other characters was unique. His tongue twisting prose kept me engaged during his turn on stage. His confidence was palpable.

“Corporal”, Alex Mauney, was great to watch and fear.

All the designers of the show should be very happy with all their efforts. The puppetry, props, and set design worked well. The wall of goods was especially effective. My kudos to the actors on opening night who improvised a hilarious bit of replacing a coffee pot that had fallen off the wall; well done.

Although the show moved swiftly and with high energy, the second act feels a little slow. I hope this cast keeps up the pace throughout the run of this sweet inventive offering from Promethean.

“The Caucasian Chalk Circle” runs through 9 February 2012 at City Lit Theater Space. For tickets go to or call 1-800-838-3006.

For more information on this and other shows please visit theatre in Chicago at

‘Hänsel un Gretel’ at Lyric Opera Gives Audiences A Lot To Chew On

January 13, 2013 Comments Off on ‘Hänsel un Gretel’ at Lyric Opera Gives Audiences A Lot To Chew On

Most people are familiar with the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’, with the sugary, enticing house and the evil witch who bakes children. But for the Christmas season, Chicago gets a special treat as Lyric Opera presents ‘Hänsel un Gretel’ as a coproduction with the Welsh National Opera.

The libretto was written at the very end of the nineteenth-century by Adelheid Wette, wife of opera composer Engelbert Humperdinck, as a Christmas present for her children. She asked him to write songs to go along with the story, and after many revisions, Humperdinck turned his work into a full opera, and it as first performed during the Christmas season in Weimar in 1893 conducted by Richard Strauss.

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The Millionairess

October 16, 2012 Comments Off on The Millionairess
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Artistic Director extraordinaire Robert Scogin ushers in ShawChicago’s 19th season of staged readings with their wittiest, most polished and entertaining production they’ve ever produced. The general consensus opening night, in fact, was that a fully staged production, adorned with lavish sets and costumes would be welcomed, but wouldn’t be any finer than this. Between Shaw’s wickedly clever script, Mr. Scogin’s smart, sensitive direction and the superb performances by a talented cast, this theatre supports the claim that it’s “the best-kept secret in Chicago.”
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A Hit from the Heart

October 15, 2012 Comments Off on A Hit from the Heart
Knuffle Bunny
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
When a play speaks from the heart it can’t help be a hit, and Emerald City Theatre’s latest children’s offering hits it out of the park. Mo Willems’ series of three picture books about a little girl and her stuffed animal (which include the original story, plus Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free) have become bookstore best sellers and perennial story time favorites. Willems dramatized his first book with music composed by Michael Silversher. The result is a sweetly sincere story about the relationship between 16-month-old Trixie, her mom and

(particularly) her dad and a floppy stuffed rabbit called Knuffle Bunny.

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‘The Rocky Horror Show’… A Theatrical One-Night Stand!

October 12, 2012 Comments Off on ‘The Rocky Horror Show’… A Theatrical One-Night Stand!

By Cat Wilson

If you are at all familiar with the original musical, or the 1975 film adaptation, you know that there is absolutely nothing like ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, music, book, and lyrics by Richard O’Brien. This is a show designed to have full audience participation where you are instructed to yell out certain responses to frequently repeated lines, hold a mustache up to your nose when the narrator speaks, or even throw items at the stage at certain times. If you are new, it definitely helps to go with a buddy who knows the drill, however you will also be provided with a guide, or you can always follow everyone around you.

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Scent of Edna

October 7, 2012 Comments Off on Scent of Edna

By Kayland Smyth

LiveWire Chicago Theatre is starting off their 2012-2013 season with the Chicago premiere of THE MISTAKES MADELINE MADE. This wildly funny story of love and dirty people was written by creator and writer of the new hit FOX sitcom New Girl and Heddatron Elizabeth Meriwether and directed by LiveWire member Krista D’Agostino.
THE MISTAKES MADELINE MADE tells the story of Edna (Hilary Williams) a personal assistant who develops Ablutophobia, the fear of bathing. Struggling with her job and the unexpected loss of her brother, Buddy (Joel Ewing). She wages a furious and funny war against all things complacent, pampered and clean. As Edna’s smell starts to overwhelm her co-works, Beth (Krista Collins) and Wilson (Chris Zdenk), and many casual lovers, Drake, Blake and Jake (all played by Fred Geyer), the play raises the questions: is dirty living a political act? And is clean living even possible in these times of unrest.
There were a few things that I liked about this production. First, I liked the scenes that showed the interactions between Edna and Buddy. They showed that the two had a very tight and close bond, later giving a better understanding of the effect Buddy’s death had on Edna. And I found it interesting that the two siblings developed the same phobia due to similar causes. Second, I loved the character of Wilson, his crazy antics made for a great comedy release after intense scenes. I also loved the cast; I felt that they did a great job at bringing the characters to life. And lastly I like the use of the scrim (transparent stage curtain) where we could see Buddy working on his writing while sitting in Edna’s bathtub. It was something that quickly caught my eye and took me back to a theatre I took in college.
I would strongly recommend this play to the theatre goers who enjoy a good dramedy (drama and comedy).
THE MISTAKES MADELINE MADE runs October 3, 2012 November 3, 2012 at Greenhouse Theatre Center Upstairs Studio, 2257 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago. Performances run Thursday through Saturday at 8:00p and Sundays at 3:00p. Tickets are $20 online at


Sunday in the Park with Shakespeare Theater

October 6, 2012 Comments Off on Sunday in the Park with Shakespeare Theater

Sunday in the Park with George
By Colin Douglas

“Art isn’t easy.” This deceptively simple statement of the obvious is the single lyric from Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine’s multi award-winning score that crystalizes the essence of their 1985 Pulitzer Prize winning musical. For those unfamiliar with the piece, the musical fictionalizes the life of French Pointillist Georges Seurat, and was inspired by the artist’s towering masterpiece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Indeed, the musical, which focuses primarily on Seurat’s greatest creation, also examines the painter’s isolated, singleminded dedication to his art as well as its effect on those around him.

This musical sparkles with color, comedy and compassion speaking to audiences through very recognizable images and situations. Sondheim reduces the nature of creativity to its basic elements finding parallels between art and ardor. Prolific CST director Gary Griffin, who’s become Chicago’s go-to director for Sondheim’s musicals, follows his last year’s triumph, “Follies” (and a previous production of this very musical) with an emotional interpretation of this often controversial piece. Like Sondheim’s fairy tale-based “Into the Woods,” audiences sometimes view the musical’s two acts as separate plays. But, especially i

n the way Griffin has crafted this very personal production, collaborating with talented scenic artist Kevin Depinet, projection and lighting designers Mike Tutaj and Philip S. Rosenberg and costumer Mara Blumenfeld, the story of Seurat’s 1884 creation smoothly melds into Act II’s tale of a modern-day artist facing the same problems as his Great-Grandfather. The result is a well-balanced production in which the acts complement each other.

And Griffin’s company of actors are all top notch talents. Broadway’s Jason Danieley (“Curtains,” “The Full Monty”) plays both Georges with passion and sensitivity caressing each note and lyric with his beautifully rich baritone voice. Carmen Cusack (“Carrie,” “South Pacific”) is equally captivating as Dot, Georges’ spunky mistress, and Marie, George’s wise grandmother, singing with such clarity and range that audiences will forget anyone else in this role. A talented ensemble that includes Linda Stephens, Ora Jones, Heidi Kettenring, McKinley Carter, Sean Fortunato, Kevin Gudahl, Travis Taylor and many others, accompanied by Brad Haak’s lush, 11-member orchestra, propel this production to the top of Chicago’s must-see list for this Fall.

Runs through November 4
Chicago Shakespeare Theater 800 E. Grand Avenue
Tickets – 312-595-5600


‘Equivocation’ is a Beautiful Use of Timing and Wordplay

September 26, 2012 Comments Off on ‘Equivocation’ is a Beautiful Use of Timing and Wordplay

By Cat Wilson

The witty, sharp-tongued, and fast-paced Equivocation, by Bill Cain, comes to Victory Gardens. While a troupe of actors, led by the great writer Master Shagspeare (played by Marc Grapey) is presented with the challenge of producing a play commissioned by the King’s right hand man, Cecil (cleverly characterized by Mark Montgomery), they are faced with the hard decision of telling the truth and potentially facing execution, or masking history. The play is supposed to promote the government’s perception of Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot, a failed attempt to blow up Parliament and assassinate King James I in 1605, however as Shagspeaare interviews the men involved, he discovers the government’s attempt to cover up the real proceedings. Equivocation, meaning the use of language especially with the intent to deceive, or avoiding committing oneself in what one says, becomes the troupe’s saving grace.

In addition to Grapey and Montgomery, the cast includes Minita Gandhi as Judith (Shagspeare’s daughter), Matt Kahler as Armin, Arturo Soria as Sharpe, and Bruce A. Young as Richard. The whole cast brings an amazing energy to the stage as they dart in and out of their characters, dawning a new side character with such conviction. In true troupe style, costume pieces are thrown on and off to transport an actor into a new chara

cter, but they have also captured a personality quirk such as a limp or a flamboyant Scottish accent to separate each persona.

The design elements follow a similarly fast-paced leap between worlds. The audience is thrown from Shagspeare’s rehearsals to performances to Cecil’s offices. With the show’s constant nods to the art of theatre making, the designers embrace theatricality and present a beautifully unified environment. William Boles’ scenic design allows the space to move and flow with the whirling of the action, and provides dramatic entrances aided by Heather Gilbert’s stunning lighting design. The lights provided the instant shift between performance and rehearsal, aided by the intense sound design by Kevin O’Donnell. Janice Pytel created a fun array of costumes that the actors could throw about as they whipped between characters.

With so much political rhetoric today, Equivocation is a great reminder that the theatre can, and often does, capture history and outlast political agendas. Director Sean Graney leads a talented cast and crew in this brilliant production sure to make you laugh, empathize, and celebrate the sometimes morally difficult process of theater making.

Equivocation, by Bill Cain
Directed by Sean Graney
Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre
2433 N. Lincoln Ave


Book of Matthew Crash Course

September 23, 2012 Comments Off on Book of Matthew Crash Course

By: Kayland Smyth

In Christianity there are two types of people: those who believe in a God and intensively study the Bible, and those who believe in a God but do not really study the bible. If you fall into the category of believing in a God but do not study the Bible then GODSPELL is a great refresher or crash course on learning the book of Matthew.

GODSPELL is a modern day take on the Gospel According to Matthew. Its score is by Academy and Grammy Award winner and six- time Tony Award nominee Stephen Schwartz and book by John Michael Tebelak. GODSPELL uses improvisation and contemporary themes to illustrate a message of kindness, community and hope that still resonates today. The cast, whom all embodied different biblical characters, includes: TJ Anderson, Jeanne T. Arrigo, Megan Ensley, Veronica Garza, Michelle Limon, Andrew Lund, Jake Mahier, Pavi Proczko, Stephanie Rohr and Nick Shoda.

I found this production to be very unique in a couple of ways

starting with the cast. The members of the cast not only acted and sang they also played the music for each song. Rarely do you see actors playing the musical’s score in a musical production. Normally, the actors just sing and act but I enjoyed hearing live music instead of a pre-recorded instrumental.  I also liked the size and location of the stage.  The stage was small and in the middle of the audience.  It felt as though the audience was a part of the production. It also felt more intimate, giving the actors more to play around with while improvising.

GODSPELL, put on by the Brown Paper Box Company, runs from September 20, 2012 to October 7, 2012 at Collaboraction Studio 300 in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 North Milwaukee Ave. Performances run Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3:00p.Tickets are $20 on Thursday, $25 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Industry cost is $15 at the door with headshot and resume. For tickets visit


When Was the Last Time You Met a Lizard at the Beach?

September 18, 2012 Comments Off on When Was the Last Time You Met a Lizard at the Beach?

Nick Sandys introduces himself as the new Artistic Director of Remy Bumppo with a strong, comical and eye-catching play. Edward Albee’s Seascape looks at the interpersonal relationships of two couples entering transitional periods in their lives. A human couple bickers over what to do now that their children are grown, and whether that means life is over or just beginning. So logically, Albee introduces them to a giant lizard couple, also debating their future; they are exploring the possibility of evolving to become land creatures. This makes for a witty parallel between the couples and the difference between men and women, despite their species.

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