The trials and tribulations of adolescence have longed served as fodder for adult comedy--having now (presumably) passed that threshold, it’s amusing to look back and remember how tragic losing that spelling bee trophy was. But there’s so much more to it than pimples and puberty, and Clare Barron’s Pulitzer Prize Finalist Dance Nation, now playing at Steppenwolf Theatre, understands and celebrates that. From its hilariously dark opening number to its reverberating conclusion, Barron’s exploration of the invincibility and vulnerability of a pre-teen dance troupe serves as a poignant reminder of how the past shapes the present.
There’s something to be said for the comfort of the familiar, particularly around the holidays. It’s what makes grandma’s homemade stuffing so delicious each year at Thanksgiving. It’s why we re-watch It’s a Wonderful Life for the millionth time each Christmas morning. And it’s what made my third annual viewing of Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol such a complete and utter delight.
The story behind the origins of TimeLine Theatre’s latest production Rutherford and Son is a fascinating one. Originally produced in 1912 at London’s Court Theatre, critics initially proclaimed the play a powerful new work, singing its praises. Until, that is, the writer’s true identity was uncovered: K.G. Sowerby was a pen name, and the show’s true author a woman.
‘For never was a story more oft told’ isn’t quite the final line from Shakespeare’s iconic Romeo and Juliet, but for all the play’s retellings and renditions, it might as well be. That’s why it’s so vital, when mounting yet another version, to bring something new and compelling to the table.
“We all go a little mad sometimes”--even more so in our current political moment. This idea serves as the driving force behind Second City’s 108th mainstage revue, Do You Believe in Madness?, a politically-charged 120 minutes exploring lunacy both in and out of the White House. With a timely concept and a talented cast, the show should be a home-run, but its sketches are plagued with underdeveloped ideas. A joke is only as good as its punchline, and the knockout rarely happens here.
Holmes and Watson are iconic. You’d be hard pressed to find someone unfamiliar with Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s famous detective duo. Ever since their creation in the nineteen hundreds, the characters have been adapted into different personas and time periods across decades of different media. The characters can take the shape of whatever artistic mold they find themselves in, but paramount to an accurate portrayal is the duo’s signature wit and deductive rapport with one another.
When’s the last time you felt that stupidly happy, twirling on a hill, singing in the shower with a shampoo-bottle microphone, kind of joy? For me, it was during Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing at Windy City Playhouse. Touted by many as one of this year’s best productions, I’ll lend my voice to its uproarious praise: this one-of-a-kind show is a joyous experience that unites strangers, makes each audience member feel valued, and inspires a wonderful sense of hope.
In 2019, “to wear the pants” is a common idiom signifying relational dominance. In 1899, when actress Sarah Bernhardt decided to don trousers and play Hamlet, such a phrase could be applied only to men. Theresa Rebeck’s dramedy Bernhardt/Hamlet begins in this “scandalous” moment, as Berhardt prepares to take center stage in the britches of the Bard’s most famous character, but its cultural significance extends well past its setting. Witty, poignant, and dynamic, Goodman Theatre’s Bernhardt/Hamlet is a thought-provoking show that reminds us not only how far we’ve come, but also how much further we have to go.
Sports dramas are never just about sports; before the game-winning shot swishes in at the final buzzer, coming of age lessons must be learned, emotions stifled must be unleashed, and decades of sexism must be unraveled. The Chicago premiere of Lauren Yee’s basketball drama The Great Leap embodies this approach, taking on a range of complex issues with audience members watching court-side. Yee’s dialogue is witty and moving, and the technical elements shine on Steppenwolf’s upstairs theatre turned basketball court. Yet The Great Leap stretches a bit too far in its reach, resulting in a show that’s engaging but slightly muddled.
In our darkest moments, we seek someone who will guide us toward light. From 2010-2012, writer Cheryl Strayed acted as such a glimmer to hundreds of strangers, overseeing an advice column called “Dear Sugar” with tremendous empathy, openness, and honesty. Now, thanks to a well-crafted adaptation of Strayed’s book (a collection of these letters and responses) by Nia Vardalos, audiences at Victory Gardens Theater have the opportunity to bask in Strayed’s glow as well. In a 90 minute journey filled with words powerful and profound, Victory Gardens’ production of Tiny Beautiful Things is a moving, cathartic theatrical experience.
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