Tennessee William's A Streetcar Named Desire is a classic for a reason - and it's understandable that many people are hesitant to take in an update of one of their most beloved favorites. Luckily, playwright Novid Parsi has updated the story masterfully in Silk Road Rising's current production of Through the Elevated Line.
It is difficult to describe a show like The Brink! Or Nobody’s Ever Kissed Me Like That. Part performance art, part experimental cabaret, and all parts surreal, The Brink! is a high-concept production that continually subverts audience expectations to create a genuinely unique and unnerving experience. The show takes the familiar and warps it into the fantastic: old jazz standards and recognizable motown pop are distorted, sped up, and slowed down to provide an uneasy backdrop for inventive acting, dancing, and live music. The works of Gertrude Stein and Ann Carson create vignettes between songs that provide powerful context to the imagery created by the cast. The production is the 60’s pop music of Leslie Gore as directed by David Lynch - a surrealism unlike anything I have seen before.
The Neo-Futurists have no trouble dominating late-night with their long-running hit The Infinite Wrench. The company is known for featuring a diverse and energetic young ensemble while tackling challenging material with humor and humility. Their primetime offerings, however, are much more of a mixed bag, and A Story Told in Seven Fights, which features virtually no story and little fighting, lands somewhere near the least successful of their productions I've seen.
Upon entering the lobby of Windy City Playhouse, guests are given an invitation which stipulates the ‘rules’ for the evening. Basically, you’re attending a birthday party in 1961. You’re an invisible guest in the characters’ home, eating and drinking (and moving) along with them as the events unfold. Immersive theatre rarely pays off, but Southern Gothic is masterfully handled from start to finish.
There are few topics that can be universally agreed upon in 2018, but perhaps the horrific nature of online bullying is one of them. Whether in the form of ghosting via online dating, trolling through twitter, or personal attacks on Facebook, most of us have felt the painful effects caused by the sense of anonymity and distance that technology creates. But, if this issue is universally accepted as a negative thing, why do we perpetuate this culture? Why do we use online platforms as means of saying what we would not in person?
You may not have heard of Chimera Ensemble - the young company is currently beginning its second year in Chicago, and much of the ensemble is comprised of artists that have recently transplanted from other cities. Their slight production of Cam Baby may be buried amongst the many other productions opening across the city, but the new script by Jessica Moss is one of the most promising I've seen in some time.
A three hour play written in 1943 seems like a tough sell in our current moment, where daily political upheavals and violence perpetuate an intense ‘now more than ever’ feeling. And yet, this play about facing truth, about coming to terms with self-delusion, is so brilliantly written that both my companion and I left the theatre feeling like it was speaking directly to us--like it knew something about each of us that even we did not. For these little unspoken truths dictate how we act and react to the world around us, and it is for that reason that this decades old drama manages to resonate so intensely in 2018.
Ever find yourself being consumed in sexual thoughts while spending time with your ailing parents? This, in a nutshell, is the premise of Claire Baron’s You Got Older, a darkly comic play about a young woman returning home to care for her father amidst a slew of personal and professional upheavals. Though the script explores powerful themes like intimacy, connectedness, and how we deal with and process grief, the play’s disjointed nature makes it difficult to empathize with our main character, resulting in a production with moving moments but no long-lasting effect.
William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is widely known as one of the most accessible works in the bard's canon for its clear plot and easy-to-follow characters. Chicago Shakespeare's current Short Shakes! presentation, which cuts the play down to a brisk 75 minutes, had children and adults alike cackling at the cast's energetic antics.
Clean, moral, and pure. Three words that perfectly sum up the fabric of the community. Strawdog Theatre's Pillars of the Community opens on a meeting of the “Society for Lacerated Moralities,” a
discussion group that reinforces traditional, puritan beliefs while admonishing the moral decay of the outside world. The female congregation sews away while being lectured by Rorlund, the town's wanna-be pastor, regarding a book on the clearly defined gender roles of society.