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.
Writers Theatre’s 2019/20 season opener, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, is on its surface a fairytale--but these woods are much darker, and what starts as a collection of well-known fables turns into a deep reflection on life, relationships, and what happens beyond “happily ever after.” This depth elevates the musical beyond that of a punchy fairy tale mashup, but it also creates challenges: how do you find the balance between the show’s humor and its didacticism, its whimsy and its sensibility? Magically, under the direction of Gary Griffin, Writers Theatre manages just that. With an extraordinarily talented cast and a unique artistic re-imagining, WT’s Into the Woods conjures up both levity and depth in its enchanting spell.
Pomona opens with a question: is it a boon or a burden to know the horrific things that happen behind closed doors? Is it better to know how the sausage gets made or does ignorance of it keep us sane? And in our friend Ollie’s case, is it wise to find out what really happens in the dark underground of Pomona?
Steppenwolf Theatre’s 1982 production of True West is arguably one of the most significant events in Chicago theatre history. The company’s original production, starring Gary Sinise and John Malcovich, was the first show in the company’s history to go on national tour and established Chicago as one of the premier cities for theatre work. Since Steppenwolf’s production, True West has seen countless revivals across the country, including the legendary role-switching performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly on Broadway in early 2000.
It’s all about who you know. From getting into the right college to securing the perfect post-graduate job, having connections can make all the difference...but at what cost will you use these to get ahead? This is the driving question behind Windy City Playhouse’s newest immersive offering, Jonathan Caren’s The Recommendation. While the play itself was not written to be immersive, Windy City’s bold transformation heightens the tension within the text, and the end result is a riveting production of what otherwise might have been a somewhat lackluster play.
It’s easy to understand why Goodman Theatre’s production of Meredith Wilson’s 1957 Broadway hit The Music Man, just a week into its original run, has already been extended for a second time. The feel-good show has mass appeal and a recognizable name--one of those plays that falls into the “timeless classic” category (even if there’s nothing “timeless” about its outdated jokes and gender politics). But as far as Goodman’s production itself goes, there’s not much new to draw audiences in; despite a few high notes and standout performances, Mary Zimmerman’s revival overall lacks the essential chemistry and magic that has historically helped 21st century audiences overlook the show’s flaws.
In a 2012 interview with RadioFreeEurope, the three founding members of Pussy Riot stated that the only performances they would ever put on were illegal ones. Even after an outpouring of support from world renowned musicians and dozens of offers to share their message on stage with the likes of Madonna and Bjork, Pussy Riot stayed steadfast in their idea that their music was that of protest and rebellion.
History, it’s said, is written by the victors. It’s no surprise, then, that in the gentrification of Chicago neighborhoods, displacement has created (and continues to create) a wealth of lost stories, an erasure of places and people whose lives were shaped by their community. Teatro Vista and Collaboraction’s production of Sandra Delgado’s La Havana Madrid, though, is thankfully here to remind us of a few.
Fear is the strongest human emotion. Even a modicum of it can pierce our most base intellectual faculties and lead us to think (or worse, do) truly horrible things. Left unchecked, fear can grow in to a devouring madness that devolves us to base instincts. Despite the sophistication and elegance of modern society, every person always carries with them a simple set of animalistic drives: companionship, protectiveness, lust, aggression. Steve Yockey's Wolves is a deliciously dark contemporary fairy-tale that illustrates what happens when we let these impulses consume us and the damage done in the process. Exit 63 Theatre’s telling of this tale is a fantastic rendition that will leave you devastated and horrified in the best possible way.
Heading into Goodman Theatre’s production of The Winter’s Tale, I knew little about the play save for its reputation as one of William Shakespeare’s most confounding works. Written in the Bard’s later years, its drastic tonal shifts refuse neat categorization into “tragedy” or “comedy,” and critics have endlessly pondered both Shakespeare’s intentions and the play’s performance value as a result. Under the artful direction of Robert Falls, though, Goodman’s production takes this Shakespearean challenge head-on, embracing both its intense drama and humor. Falls’ take is stylistically stunning and wonderfully acted, but the adaptations’ own inconsistencies diminish its overall effect.
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