Chicago Theatre Review

Chicago Theatre Review

A Welcome Return to World of Wodehouse 

February 21, 2018 Reviews No Comments

Jeeves in Bloom – ShawChicago

 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “Jeeves” as a generic term for any useful and reliable person. That understated entry is derived from the name of the leading character from

Read More

House and Garden

February 21, 2018 Reviews No Comments

Southern Gothic – Windy City Playhouse

 

Walk into the Windy City Playhouse and, if you’ve reserved your tickets for their current production, you’ll receive your own glossy, formal invitation to the birthday celebration for

Read More

Cyberbullying Witch Hunts 

February 19, 2018 Reviews No Comments

The Burn – Steppenwolf Theatre

 

Arthur Miller wrote his epic masterpiece drama about the paranoia generated by several children, in late 17th century Salem, Massachusetts, during which adults were accused of

Read More

The Internet is For Porn

February 18, 2018 Reviews No Comments

GRINDR The Opera: An Unauthorized Parody – Underscore Theatre Company

 

The lights gradually dim and out of the hazy darkness steps GRINDR, a glittering, over-the-top personification of the popular hookup app that’s used by thousands of gay men

Read More

Connection in the Digital Age

February 17, 2018 Reviews No Comments

Sex With Strangers – Citadel Theatre

 

Two very different writers meet, by chance, at a rural snowbound writers retreat in Michigan. Olivia Lago, an attractive, 40-something author of real, honest-to-goodness books, who swoons under the spell and smell of a great novel, is curled up on a couch with a blanket and a bottle of wine. While proofing a manuscript for her new novel, Ethan Kane, a hunky, 20-something young blog writer, unexpectedly arrives in the middle of the night, looking for his room. Olivia is, at first cautious. Then, as the wine and Ethan’s unabashed charm seduces her, Olivia finds herself drawn to this brash, self-confident Millennial. After kicking off his boots, raiding the kitchen for something to eat and taking over Olivia’s couch and bottle of wine, it suddenly occurs to Ethan that he may be, as he puts it, “acting like a dick.”

After throwing a fit because he can’t retrieve his iPhone emails or texts, and coming to realize that the wifi is down, and there’s not even a TV in the place, Ethan soon realizes that he and Olivia will have to make their own fun. But what makes Olivia fall for this young man? And why does Ethan put the moves on this “older woman”? Olivia, who would appeal more to a cultured, educated scholar, learns that this guy is a huge fan of her first book. Despite it now being out of print, the novel was given to Ethan by a mutual friend, who’s also a big supporter of Olivia’s work. When Ethan calls her book “brilliant” she’s hooked.

Ethan confesses that he’s also a writer, albeit a blogger, but who’s written the highly popular, yet extremely raunchy autobiographical eBook entitled, Sex With Strangers. Ethan composed it under the pseudonym of Ethan Strange, and is currently in discussions with an LA studio to turn it into a movie. Thus it is that Olivia becomes seduced, not just by the sexy, shirtless stud making all the right moves, but by the commercial success that she longs for. Ethan, in turn, lusts after this talented writer’s literary talent, as well as her body, her brains and her desperate need for a kindred spirit.

New York-based playwright Laura Eason is best known for her four seasons as an Emmy Award-nominated writer on Netflix’s “House of Cards.” This two-hander is a love story for intelligent theatergoers who’ve pondered the bleak future of bookstores and real, paperbound books in favor of today’s electronic tomes, tweets and blogs. Ms. Eason’s romantic drama was originally developed and premiered to high acclaim at Steppenwolf Theatre. In the Citadel’s intimate production, skillfully guided and kept on track by freelance director Scott Westerman, the stakes seem even higher. With the actors not more than a few feet away, their story is as immediate as ever.

Westerman’s cast is excellent. Equity actress Nina O’Keefe, seen recently in Steppenwolf’s “Mary Page Marlow,” gives a bravura performance as Olivia. The Jeff Award-nominated actor  brings eloquence and an honesty and toughness to this role that skillfully hides her character’s vulnerability and insecurity. Ms. O’Keefe can command the stage as she demonstrates in Act II, when the tables begin to turn. Rich Holton is charming, yet macho, as Ethan. He seems at home with all the fast dialogue, comfortable with the situation and makes it easy for audiences to see why Olivia so quickly falls for him. Sometimes Holton swallows his lines, making it difficult to understand everything he’s saying; but he more than makes up for that with his body language. Together this couple make believable music together.

The script’s second act holds a few problems with the way things ultimately pan out. But the talented cast and Mr. Westerman’s skillful direction wins out, smoothing over all the bumps. For theatergoers easily offended by four-letter words, or some tame, onstage love-making, this might not be their cup of tea. But for smart audiences who enjoy watching two intelligent characters spar, attract each other and learn from their experiences, this is the play for them.

Highly Recommended

Reviewed by Colin Douglas

 

Presented January 30-March 4 by Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, IL.

Tickets are available in person at the theatre box office, by calling 847-735-8554 or by going to www.CitadelTheatre.org.

Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.


Once Upon Another Time

February 16, 2018 News, Reviews No Comments

Love Never Dies – Broadway in Chicago

 

Can’t beautiful, inspiring works of art exist by themselves without trying to cash in on their popularity with a sequel? Sometimes sequels work and are masterful, in their own right; at

Read More

Is the Past Repeating Itself

February 16, 2018 Reviews No Comments

Fear and Misery of the Third Reich – Haven Theatre

 

Bertolt Brecht wrote this play between 1935-38 as a reaction to the spread of Nazism. Originally a montage of 24 individual scenes, Brecht’s theatrical piece collectively adds up to

Read More

Living Life to the Fullest

February 14, 2018 Reviews No Comments

Gilda Radner—A Sort of Love Story – Mercury Theatre

 

Once upon a time there was a very funny woman who met and fell for a very funny man. Strangely, at the time, the man, Alan, was hiding behind a potted plant and the woman, Gilda, was working on her impersonation of Julie Andrews’ parakeet. They immediately connected and formed a lifelong, creative bond that took Alan and Gilda into realms of

Read More

Life Does Go On

February 10, 2018 Reviews No Comments

You Got Older – Steppenwolf Theatre 

 

Mae has returned from Minneapolis to her Seattle area home to take care of Dad. Her father is

Read More

Cue the Orchestra, Light the Lights!

February 8, 2018 Reviews No Comments

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival

 

Presented February 5, 2018, at the Greenhouse Theater Center, Underscore Theatre Company

Read More