Is it too soon to choose a favorite show of 2020? Though it’s only February, Steppenwolf’s production of Tracy Letts’ Bug has already claimed one of the top spots. Letts’ spine-tingling, nuanced work, which had critically acclaimed runs throughout the early 2000s and a film adaptation in 2006, is hauntingly memorable in its triumphant return to the Chicago stage. Like the aphids infesting the play’s main characters, Bug will get under your skin and stay with you long after you leave the theatre.
Denial is a powerful thing. With the state of the world blanketed in uncertainty, it is a modern day miracle that we can simultaneously hold a daily routine while being stalked by things like the specter of climate change. Even in the face of such morbid existential threats, we will often include in pleasantries: ‘nice to have warm weather for winter, isn’t it?’. To that, Rivendell’s new production responds, ‘no, it's not’. The Tasters has complacency in the crosshairs. Rivendell has created an incredibly strong production that will have you leaving the theatre ready to change the world.
Since Donald Trump’s inauguration and his appointment of two conservative judges to the Supreme Court, abortion has returned to the forefront of American conversation. Millions have marched for Roe v. Wade, whether protesting to uphold the 1973 decision or fighting to overturn it. But how familiar are we with the actual court case and the people behind it over which we’ve so vehemently fought?
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.
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