There are moments in everyone’s life of narrow misses; moments where you avoid a car accident by an inch or a quarter turn of a wheel or perhaps something which passes by without your noticing. But as quickly as these instances occur, just as swiftly do they oftentimes fade away, being pushed back into the realm of the unthinkable.
What happens to the kids at the end of the world? How would the unformed minds of children cope with the external horrors of a dying planet while dealing with their own internal horrors of puberty? With no adults in sight, how would they answer questions about sexual identity while also asking where the next meal is? The chaos of Treefall’s circumstances is fuel for its compelling, if disorganized, narrative about post-apocalyptic prepubescents.
When executed properly, farce is one of my favorite genres. I love the slow build of dramatic irony combined with ridiculous situations and exaggerated characters; a narrative cocktail that usually culminates in a catharsis that is as hilarious as it is endearing. When I heard that the latest production from Babes With Blades was farce paired with the company’s signature swordplay, I was sold. Molière meets The Three Musketeers. Oscar Wilde meets Zorro. The concept is stellar, but The Lady Demands Satisfaction only somewhat capitalizes on the potential of its idea: the swordsmanship is razor sharp, but the comedy is ultimately dull.
Thanks in large part to the “#MeToo” movement, conversations about female mistreatment in the workplace have been at the forefront of recent social discourse. Becoming ever-more relevant, then, is Penelope Skinner’s pre-”#metoo” 2015 dark comedy, Linda, about a woman fighting for visibility in the workplace in a male-dominated industry (serving, of course, primarily female clients). Steep Theatre’s production features an impressive cast with well-paced direction from ensemble member Robin Witt, but the script’s convoluted plot makes it difficult to connect fully with these characters.
The title of Ellen Farley’s world premiere Support Group for Men at Goodman Theatre is undeniably evocative. Like Steppenwolf’s Straight White Men in 2017, the name alone alludes to the possible derision of that particular sex. Yet instead of relying on laughs from a mocking of masculinity, Farley’s much more accepting play finds humor in the disparities, whether political or social, among its group of men, creating a humorous, heartfelt, and warm-hearted 90 minutes.
As the 2016 election reminded us, outside of our liberal Chicago bubble are small towns, differing ideas, and a plethora of mason jars filled with various canned goods. Such is the setting of Steppenwolf’s latest, The Roommate, as a progressive New Yorker moves in with an Iowan divorcee shocked by the introduction of her vegan, pot-smoking, queer roommate. An amusing series of antics ensue as this odd couple learns to live together, and while Jen Silverman’s play relies on a few too many stereotypes in its latter half to make the conclusion resonate emotionally, the dynamic acting duo of Ora Jones and Sandra Marquez succeed in making the play enjoyable if not entirely memorable.
Steppenwolf's latest production follows in the footsteps of many of theirs in that the audience is left completely polarized. The original actors (Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed) and director (Amy Morton) have reunited from the 2015 production of Rajiv Joseph's Off-Broadway play which went on to win the Obie Award for Best New American Play. If you can handle bouncing back and forth between gut-wrenching violence and buddy-comedy humor, Guards at the Taj may be the perfect fit for you.
Discussions on race and gender can often become complicated so quickly that they run the risk of becoming non-starters; conversations that can quickly morph into ignorant shouting matches or become neutered by easy platitudes. The issues of these conversations are often inadvertently carried over into works of art that attempt to create them. It can be difficult to portray these complexities in a work of art when art itself is a subset of the discussion at hand. Don’t Smoke In Bed, however, approaches these topics in such a fresh and uncompromising manner that allows it to gain enough traction to kickstart and challenge your perspectives on gender and race. Through incredibly sharp writing, expertly paced character building, and powerful performances, Chimera Ensemble’s production is well worth your time.
Tab Show is powerful. Lucky plush has created an accessible performance that gives you an inside look into dance, only to ask the audience about their relationship with art in the abstract. The technical proficiency of the dancers, combined with impactful themes and powerful light and sound make Tab Show a solid production, albeit somewhat heavy handed in delivery. However, you will ultimately leave the show with complex questions and intrigued with the production’s overall message.
In the past few years, Victory Gardens’ productions have, in my mind, become synonymous with consistency. Whenever I attend a show there, I go in confident that whatever I will see is bound to be good--their company produces shows with persistently great sets, talented actors, interesting scripts, etc. While their latest foray, playwright Boo Killebrew’s Lettie, did not disappoint, it also failed to dazzle. The well-written play succeeds in its attempts to present an array of characters which we can sympathize with, even as they come from extremely different points of views, but the somewhat choppy narrative and its focus on white woman (when rates of incarcerated women of color are much higher) diminished the play’s overall effect.