REVIEW: Mid-Winter’s Tales ‘09 (ShawChicago)

Unwrap This Holiday Present NOW!


ShawChicago presents

Mid-Winter’s Tales 09

At the Ruth Page Theatre (1016 N. Dearborn)
Adapted and directed by Belinda Bremner

December 18th-21st (ticket info: 312-587-7390) 

By Katy Walsh

Before the age of electronic entertainment, communities gathered around the fireplace to tell stories. With the wind howling outside and increased hours of darkness, families told tales to amuse themselves and brighten the long nights of winter. ShawChicago presents Mid-Winter’s Tales 09, a collection of multi-generational stories and songs. Mid-Winter’s Tales 09 mixes it up with a variety of author samplings from a W.B. Yeats’ poem followed by a column snippet from Chicago’s own Mike Royko to, of course, words of wisdom from George Bernard Shaw. Although the show celebrates the winter solstice with cultural representation leaning in an English direction, it balances out the traditional Christmas fruitcake focus with a double helping of lakes (pronounced la keys).

With the aid of DVDs to set the holiday mood, I’ve memorized many lines from the retelling of stories, like; “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and “Christmas in Connecticut.” To my delight, Mid-Winter’s Tales 09 shares an unfamiliar collection of holiday stories. “The Wise Men of Chelm and the Miracle Lakes” is a stone soup rofendition about potato pancakes entertainingly led by ensemble member John Francisco. Mary Michell is hilarious in corresponding with her true love and his clever gift-giving in “Not Another Partridge in a Pear Tree.” Living in the generation of holiday gluttony, the moments that melt icicle-hearts are the recalling of children’s holidays in “Hilda Sutt Polchek Remembers Christmas at the Hull House” and “Scarlett Ribbons.

Mid-Winter’s Tales 09 is performed on a bare stage with guitar (Rachel Schiff) and violin (Blake Hackler) accompaniment. This strings-only music adds an undertone of sad winter quiet – that at times the amplified music competes with the non-miked cast. The actors are a talented band of storytellers. In the dreary winter evening, without a Christmas tree and a menorah to look at, the audience focuses on the actors’ facial expressions and their words. Spoiled lately from the grandeur of big musical productions, it’s hard to adjust to the sparse stage. Because Mid-Winter’s Tales 09 represents simpler times of storytelling, the plainness has an authentic and intimate quality.

Although an exploration of multi-religious representation of winter solstice could prove to be even more interesting, this 2009 focus on Jewish folklore promotes both understanding of its traditions and strong cravings for lakes (even though and I don’t like potatoes!).


Rating: ★★★


Aside: ShawnChicago describes the show as “good Jewish humor.”


Preshow, we decide to try out happy hour at McCormick and Schmick’s (41 E. Chestnut). From 5:30pm-6:30pm, McCormick and Schmick’s offers food menu items under $5.00 in the bar area. I arrive at the crowded bar. Since the bar does not have a host, an informal line forms at the entrance to stalk the next available table. Fearing new arrivers may be more naughty than nice, I quickly stake my claim at a dirty table. Despite the chaotic crowd, a busser arrives momentarily to clean and clear the table. We order up the artichoke dip and a bbq turkey sandwich. Although the food portion of our bill is under $10, we also enjoyed a couple glasses of a nice Malbec wine bringing the bill up to $52 (with an un-scrooge-like tip).

Wanting to escape the dreary winter evening in a cozy locale, post show, we head to Angelina’s (3561 N Broadway Street). Although Angelina’s is a favorite restaurant of Shawn’s, I’ve always been a bit of a Grinch about it. But tonight, it was a Christmas miracle as my tiny heart grew three times larger. From arrival, greeting friends at various tables sets the festive atmosphere. Although there is only one seat vacant at the bar, the very attentive host offers to seat us at a table. Carl, our Abercrombie & Fitch model-like server, highly recommends the eggnog gelato on a chocolate torte. Even though it was apparent he rarely indulges in dessert, we take a chance and order it. WOW! It is so much better than a potato pancake! With Carl pouring the wine and Shawn telling tales, Angelina’s could be the new way Lakeview-ites celebrate winter solstice.

One Response

  1. […] Check out the rest of the review at Chicago Theater Blog […]

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