Though film adaptations of popular musicals oftentimes miss the mark, there are a select few whose iconic renditions make bringing them back to the stage challenging. Do you emulate the film’s popular choices? Do you try a completely different approach? Can the Grease finale work without leather pants?!
If you’re like me, you might have heard about the Mars One mission in passing back in 2015. The concept was that kind of science-fiction that seemed tantalizingly close to reality; a one-way manned mission to Mars and the promise of being the first humans on the red rock. You might have read the People article interviewing the semi-finalists or potentially heard about the immediate financial troubles of the initiative. More likely, though, you might have asked yourself the more abstract, philosophical, and somewhat obvious question: if given the opportunity, would you give up everything to make history?
What would a play about the intimate details of you and your best friend’s lives include? Choreographed dance parties? Made up words? Passive aggressive fights? Morgan Gould’s I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apartticks off all these boxes in its twelve-month overview of friend soulmates Samantha and Leo. Packed with hilarious one-liners and touching moments, the script does a fantastic job of portraying the ups and downs of even the closest friendships, even if it’s final act seems somewhat misplaced.
Is a person’s success determined by innate biological forces or environmental variables? This question, the crux of the classic nature vs nurture dispute, serves as the driving force in Rebecca Gilman’s Twilight Bowl. Though perhaps not her most groundbreaking work, Gilman’s intensive character study of college-age women struggling against their circumstances is a nuanced, well-written play with social significance beyond its small-town setting.
In a boarded-up hotel room in the middle of nowhere, a desperate mother and private investigator join forces to bring a missing girl home. Over 90 minutes, more twists than a country road push these characters further and further from the expected, culminating in a nail-biting finale that satisfies - even if some of the narrative surprises are more confusing than clear.
It’s commonly known among Chicagoans that this particular time of the year is, inarguably, the worst; the post-holiday blues have hit in full force, and the once-picturesque snow has rendered the streets and sidewalks a slushy obstacle course. Enter Noises Off. Windy City Playhouse’s rendition of the ever-popular farce acts as the perfect antidote for the winter blues. Though its antics have not all aged well, there is still plenty to generate some much-needed laughter and warmth, and Windy City’s technical triumphs only add to the experience.
I find it pretty shocking how much of someone’s dating life is considered to be in the domain of polite small talk. Acquaintances, distant family relatives and even coworkers are prone to ask about romantic involvement at any given point in time; a reductionist check-up on a subject matter so personal and complex it's usually impossible to put into a single sound bite. Society can put a tremendous amount of pressure to be with someone, lauding it as a benchmark of emotional and social stability. All while having defined expectations as to how the opposite sexes should perceive each other romantically.
Cirque Dreams has many different productions and ensembles touring at once, apparently due to an audience demand for their theatrical circus hybrid. Their holiday offering, Holidaze, is playing through the weekend at the Chicago Theater. While you may find yourself awed by some of the physical endeavors, Cirque Dreams' production is more akin to theme park entertainment than anything resembling a tour with a premium price tag.
There are few things more ‘Chicago’ than the CTA. You’ve probably taken the red line to see a friend up in Rogers Park, the blue line to O’hare, or a bus to get to North Avenue Beach. You also most likely share in the city-wide love/hate relationship with the service. You can laud the convenience of the brown line and then curse a twenty minute delay in the same breath. Universal, though, is the ‘El Story’ - a tale of an odd scene witnessed by the teller while riding transit. These can be hopeful, funny, crazy, or (most likely) gross. El Stories: Holiday Train is a theatrical collection of these stories with a seasonal flavor to it, mixing in vignettes of the famous holiday train and tales of Santa on the flatbed car. While certain stories hit their stride and capture what makes an El Story engaging, the overall experience feels a little too disjointed to fully recommend.
At first glance, the premise of Danai Gurira’s Familiar is a well-known story; the challenges of uniting two families via marriage have served as fodder for many a romantic comedy or sitcom. In Gurira’s take, though, the conflict stems more from the generational, cultural, and religious differences within the bride’s family exclusively, as wedding nuptials force them to cope with long-unspoken beliefs and truths. With depth, humor, and warmth, Gurira’s nuanced exploration of evolving customs and culture elevates this classic tale into a wholly new story.