Top 10 Chicago shows we’re looking forward to this spring

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Top 10 shows to see this spring!

 

A list of shows we’re looking forward to before summer

 

Written by Barry Eitel

March 20th marked the first day of spring, even if it feels like winter hasn’t loosened its grip at all. The theatre season is winding down, with most companies putting up the last shows of the 2010/2011. Over the summer, it would seem, Chicagoans choose outdoor activities over being stuffed in a hot theatre. But there is still plenty left to enjoy. The rising temperatures make leaving your home much more tempting, and Chicago theatre is ending the traditional season with a bang. Here, in no particular order, are Chicago Theatre Blog’s picks for Spring 2011.

 

   
Goat or Who Is Sylvia 001
The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?

Remy Bumppo Theatre
March 30 – May 8
more info

Playwright Edward Albee has gotten a lot of love this year, with major productions at Victory Gardens and Steppenwolf (for the first time). The season has been a sort of greatest hits collection spanning his career, including modern classics like Zoo Story, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Three Tall Women. Remy Bumppo ends their season with some late-period Albee, but The Goat never skimps on Albee’s honest dysfunction. In the 1994 drama, Albee takes a shockingly earnest look at bestiality, and questions everything we thought about love.


      

Porgy and Bess - Court Theatre - banner


Porgy and Bess
 

Court Theatre 
May 12 – June 19
more info

Musical-lovers have a true aural feast to enjoy this spring. Following their mission to produce classics, Court produces the most well-known American opera, Porgy and Bess. George Gershwin’s ode to folk music is grandiose, inspirational, and not without controversy. But the show, telling tales about African-American life in the rural South, features brilliant music (like “Summertime,” which has been recorded by such vastly different performers as Billie Holiday and Sublime). Charles Newell, Ron OJ Parsons, and an all-black cast will definitely have an interesting take on one of the most influential pieces of American literature.


           
Front Page - Timeline Theatre Chicago - logo
The Front Page
 

Timeline Theatre  
April 16 – June 12
more info

For their season closer, TimeLine Theatre selected a 80-year-old play with deep Chicago connections. Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur were well known journalists, reporting on the madness that was the Jazz Age. They turned their life into a farcical romp, The Front Page, which in turn served as the inspiration for the Cary Grant vehicle “His Girl Friday”. The play centers around several hardened newsmen as they await an execution; of course, things don’t go as planned. Along with loads of laughs, TimeLine provides an authentic Chicago voice sounding off about a legendary time.


     
Peter Pan - Chicago Tribune Freedom Center
Peter Pan

Broadway In Chicago and threesixty° entertainment
at Chicago Tribune Freedom Center (675 W. Chicago)
Begins April 29
more info

Imported from London, this high-flying envisioning of the J.M. Barrie play should cause many jaws to drop. We’ve seen high school productions where the boy who never wants to grow up flies around on wires (leading to some disastrous videos on Youtube). Threesixtyº’s show has flying, but it also has three hundred and sixty degrees of screen projections. Already a smash across the pond, this will probably be one of the top spectacles of the decade. WATCH VIDEO


     
Woyzeck - Hypocrites Theatre - banner
Pony - About Face Theatre - banner

Woyzeck
and Pony  

at Chopin Theatre
The Hypocrites and About Face Theatre 
in repertory April 15 – May 22
more info

I’m not exactly sure if Georg Buchner’s unfinished 1830s play can support a whole city-wide theatrical festival, but I’m excited to see the results. The Oracle Theatre already kickstarted the Buchner love-fest with a well-received production of Woyzeck directed by Max Truax. Now Sean Graney and his Hypocrites and a revived About Face get their chance, along with numerous other performers riffing on the play. Pony offers a semi-sequel to Woyzeck, tossing together Buchner’s characters with others in a brand new tale. The Hypocrites offer a more straightforward adaptation to the play. Well, straightforward for the Hypocrites. I’m sure their white-trash-avant-garde tendencies will make an appearance, and I’m sure I’ll love it. (ticket special: only $48 for both shows


     
American Theatre Company - The Original Grease
The Original Grease

American Theatre Company 
April 21 – June 5
 more info

American Theatre Company ends their season with a major theatrical event—a remount of the original 1971, foul-mouthed version of Grease. Before Broadway producers, Hollywood, and John Travolta cleaned up the ‘50s set musical, “Summer Nights” was “Foster Beach.” The story of this production is probably as interesting as the actual show, with lost manuscripts and brand new dialogue and song.


       
Voodoo Chalk Circle - State Theatre
The Voodoo Chalk Circle

State Theatre 
April 9 – May 8
more info

This month, Theatre Mir already took a highly-acclaimed stab at this intriguing piece of Brecht, which tears at Western views of justice. In true Brechtian style, the State’s production is shaking the narrative up, transferring the story from an Eastern European kingdom to a post-Katrina New Orleans, where law and order have broken with the levee. We’ll see if Chelsea Marcantel’s adaptation holds water, but she has plenty to pull from, including the region’s rich folk traditions and the general lawlessness seen after the storm.   WATCH VIDEO


         
hickorydickory - chicago dramatists - banner Hickorydickory

Chicago Dramatists 
May 13 – June 12
more info

To welcome spring, Chicago Dramatists will revisit one of their own, the 2009 Wendy Wasserstein Prize-winning Marisa Wegrzyn. Directed by artistic director Russ Tutterow, the darkly whimsical piece imagines a world where everyone has a literal internal clock that ticks away towards our demise. What happens when someone breaks their clock? Through a very odd window, Wegrzyn looks at tough, relevant questions.


     
Next to Normal - Broadway in Chicago - banner
Next to Normal

Broadway in Chicago 
at Bank of America Theatre 
April 26 – May 8
more info

The newly-minted Purlitzer Prize winner, Next to Normal rolls into town on its first national tour, three Tony Awards in hand.  Alice Ripley, who received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, will reprise her acclaimed performance at the Bank of America Theatre on Monroe. Contemporary in sound and subject matter, the work explores the effects of a mother’s bi-polar disease exacerbated by her child’s earlier death, Next to Normal will no doubt be anything close to normal for Chicago audiences.    (watch video)


     
White Noise - Royal George
White Noise

Royal George Theatre 
April 1 – June 5
more info

Like Next to Normal, the new White Noise promises to take the usually vapid rock musical genre and stuff it with some tough issues. A show focusing on an attractive female pop duo with ties to white supremacy? It ain’t Rock of Ages, that’s for sure. Produced by Whoopi Goldberg, Chicago was chosen as the show’s incubator before a Broadway debut. Perhaps the premise may overwhelm the story; either way, White Noise is going to inspire conversations.     [ Listen to the Music ]

  
  

The Neo-Futurists announce their 22nd Season

THE NEO-FUTURISTS ANNOUNCE THEIR 22nd SEASON OF ORIGINAL WORK

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Prime-Time Season

Prime-time shows run Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland (at Foster) in Andersonville. Tickets are $15, $10 for students/seniors with ID, or pay-what-you-can during previews and on Thursdays. For tickets or information, visit www.neofuturists.org or call The Neo-Futurist Hotline at 773-275-5255.

 

Aug 19 – Sept 25 Daredevils’ Hamlet
  Created and curated by Ryan Walters  (bio after the fold)
      
  Channeling the 2005 hit Daredevils, the men in jumpsuits take competition to a new level in this meta-destruction of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Director Halena Kays returns to direct this thematic adaptation of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, by challenging feats of revenge, passion, and failure. The Daredevils prove there’s no better way to feel alive than by exploring a show that deals with copious amounts of death.
     
   
Feb 5 – March 12 Laika Dog in Space
  by Rob Neill, Eevin Hartsough, Jill Beckman and Carl Riehl
    
  East meets Midwest when the NY Neos bring their 2009 Ontological Incubator hit to the Chicago stage. Part science lesson, part Russian folklore and part introspective interpretation, Laika Dog In Space uses original music, dance and puppetry to help tell the story of Laika, the first mammal in space, and to discuss the impact of her life. Arrive early to take advantage of a living installation takes the audience through various stations where they listen, confess, create and experiment. And of course, the step back in time to the mid-80’s Soviet space program wouldn’t be complete without a helping of borscht!
     
      
April 30 – June 4 Performing Tonight! Liza Minnelli’s Daughter
   Conceived by Mary Fons (bio after the fold)
     
  What would you do if you believed you were destined for greatness but fate screwed it up? Life is hard, and Mary knows it all too well, but she is positive that her one-woman theatrical spectacle (featuring a cast of three) is a one-way ticket to the extraordinary life that she was supposed to lead – life as the daughter of Broadway and big screen legend, Liza Minnelli. In Performing Tonight! Liza Minnelli’s Daughter, Mary Fons is Mary Minnelli, a woman with a shaky past, but a bright future. Enthusiasm, delusion, ambition and a little bit of obsession blur the lines of fact and fiction in the Neo-Futurist prime time season closer.
     
     
ONGOING SHOW Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
  The Neo-Futurists’ signature show, performed since 1988, is the longest-running production in Chicago history. Too Much Light… is an ever-changing attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. Each week the ensemble adds between two and twelve new plays to the menu. Every performance creates an unreproducible, living-newspaper collage of the comic and tragic, the political and personal, the visceral and experimental.
   
  TMLMTBGB runs Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30pm, Sundays at 7pm, Tickets $9 plus the roll of a six-sided die (so $10-$15)

tmlbgb-ensemble Ensemble for Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind

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Arthur Miller Project: Kimberly Senior talks ‘All My Sons’

The convergence of Arthur Miller and Anton Chekhov

2009 was an exceptionally busy and sterling year for Kimberly Senior, going from success to success, from Strawdog Theatre’s early spring production of The Cherry Orchard, to All My Sons at Timeline, to The Pillowman at Redtwist Theatre, to the Pegasus Players Young Playwrights Festival. Meeting us at the Strawdog Theatre rehearsal space, Kimberly generously gave a few minutes of her time to CTB reviewer Oliver Sava (minutes before rehearsal on Strawdog’s upcoming Uncle Vanya) to discuss the process of making Miller’s 1947 play, All My Sons, immediate and it’s additional resonance in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq War.

FYI: In a forthcoming interview, Nathaniel Swift, Artistic Director at Eclipse Theatre, will also discuss his process in securing the rights to produce Miller’s later works from the estate. The estate had also noticed the surge in requests for rights in Chicago and found it unusual.

 

Kimberly Senior Interview – Part One

 

Kimberly Senior Interview – Part Two

Audiences get a littler taste of *The Ring Cycle*

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Audiences Get a Little Taste of The Ring Cycle

by Paige Listerud

Time races mercilessly toward their February 13 opening, but both Joanie Schultz and Blake Montgomery looked as cool as cucumbers during an open rehearsal of The Ring Cycle — their 6 hour-long theatrical adaptation of the Wagnerian classic The Ring of the Nibelung. Someone wondered just what was Richard Wagner on when he wrote his Teutonic masterpiece and we, in our turn, could ask the same of The Building Stage’s co-directors. But since, quite obviously, Schultz and Montgomery have made no small plans, one must simply wait with bated breath for the finished product—bound to be either a theatrical extravaganza or a fiasco of epic proportions.

Open rehearsal baited us with only two scenes; one in which Rhinemaidens on aerial silks toy with the affections/lusts of Alberich the dwarf and another in which Wotan must come to terms with a colossal misstep–promising his sister-in-law, Freia, Goddess of Love, as payment to the Giants for building the fortress Valhalla. No doubt, part of this production’s fun will be its traffic in the most basic emotions—whether it’s an ugly guy getting spurned by unfeeling hotties or a frustrated wife’s attempts to rein in her not so bright, king-of-the-gods husband. Since we weren’t treated to any samples of the compositions by Kevin O’Donnell that are slated to accompany the action with a 4-piece rock band, it’s impossible to know just how much more visceral this show will get. It’s difficult not to over-anticipate pyrotechnic effects, ala KISS. Still, one must patiently restrain oneself.

The most difficult aspect may be drawing in an audience willing to stay for 6 hours, even if the directors have culled the show down from 16 hours of full-scale opera. Joanie Schulz, who recently received the 2009 Denham Fellowship Award, conspired with Montgomery two years ago to stage the production and has been working on the script since September. “I think the experience would not be so different from taking a weekend day to watch your favorite TV series on a DVD set,” she says. “And having sat through all of it in rehearsal, I have to say there is something gratifying about spending all day in a different world. Plus, it’s the middle of winter and there will be food and blankets and hot cocoa. I’ll certainly make sure everyone gets a blanket.”

As for the potential over-the-top nature of the production, “Obviously, the language is very heightened. There’s a lot of alliteration. You get used to it. But as far as the theater experience being too heightened, I watched reruns of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and the emotions of that show are high melodrama. So I think most people are quite used to that. In theater you can worry whether that’s too much, too big, too far out. But on the other hand, we are going for a theatrical experience and consciously using very theatrical techniques to tell a story. Besides the aerial silks, we’ll be using shadow puppets and other kinds of puppetry. Essentially, we’ll be using very old theatrical effects—things theaters were using long before Mary Zimmerman.”

rackham_rhein_maidens_play_with_dwa Some of the more athletic performers, Rhinemaidens Lindsey Dorcus and Sarah Scanlon, meet the added difficulty of saying their lines while shifting themselves in various poses suspended 10 feet above ground. “We really intend to bring the sexy,” says Scanlon. “The stakes have to be high in our scene with Alberich. We’re stomping on his manhood. And from that he’s led to foreswear love and forge the Ring of the Nibelung—because that’s what sets up the rest of the action.”

“It’s really a lot of fun,” says Dorcus, “in that we’re seductive but also very childlike. We do not really comprehend the ramifications of what we’re doing. It’s all a game. We flirt and then reject him when we’re supposed to be guarding the gold. It’s also nice being otherworldly. There’s a certain freedom in not being human.”

That feeling seems common throughout the cast. Darci Nalepa, recently seen in Circle Theatre’s A Perfect Wedding, takes on a gender-bending role of the trickster Loge. “But more than playing a male, I’m playing an element, since my character is the embodiment of fire.” There is something rather superhero about the clan at Valhalla. Cast members further hint that there may be something tribal in the costuming, although none have actually seen anything from the costumes department. “That’s not because they’re keeping it secret. It’s that they’re as overwhelmed as we are.”

Indeed. Time speeds on. Updating an ancient myth for contemporary consumption demands maintaining a balance between making it accessible and keeping it eternal. (and keeping it in budget?) We’ll see how The Building Stage fares in its awesome adventure. Stay tuned.

 

Additional links:

About the Ring Cycle

Building Stage blog

Gorilla Tango Theatre: January 2010 schedule

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Leslie Nesbit as Nancy Kerrigan and Cassie Cushman as Tonya Harding in WHACK!


January 2010 Calendar Listings for Gorilla Tango:

Mark & Laura’s Couples Advice Christmas Special is a satire based on TV’s self-proclaimed counseling gurus and the dysfunctional American family. Will Mark & Laura’s volatile relationship get in the way of their primetime debut or will Christmas be officially over?    Produced by Ryan McChesney.

Wednesdays at 8pm, December 2, 2009 – January 20, 2010 (no performances Dec. 23 & 30, 2009). Tickets are $10; Rated R.  More info here.


Give Us Money – Every Monday night in January, GIVE US MONEY will present the 23rd hour of the 24 hour telethon raising money for various causes such as: Prevention of 2012, Douchebag Syndrome, Make the McRib Permanent, and Plasma TV for Prison Inmates. Each week will feature different talent acts, and your hosts will take you through an hour of pure telethon. So stop by and show your support, and make sure to Give Us Money.  Produced by Jenny Staben. More info here

Mondays at 8pm, January 4 – 25, 2010. Tickets are $10; Rated R.


GRAY AREAS: Comedy, Music or Neither is a scripted experimental two-person comedic exploration of music. In terms of genre, style, and approach, there are no restrictions or boundaries; the only goal is to perform songs that can hold their weight both comedically and musically. Expect the following: a girl, a guy, vocals, keyboards, guitars, ukuleles, violins, xylophones, plus anything a computer can recreate and more!   Produced by Joe Kwaczala and Chelsea Devantez.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 8pm. Tickets are $10; Rated R.  More info here

$1,000 GTT Improv Thing

$1,000 GTT Improv Thing: Improv teams from throughout Chicago duke it out for:

  • A $1000 prize (possibly paid with one of those giant novelty checks)
  • A spot at the 2010 Chicago Improv Festival
  • A package of six Big Ass Hot Dogs (42lbs) from BigAssHotDog.com

Produced by GTT.

Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, January 8 – 30, 2010. Tickets are $12; Rated R. More info here


A Look Through Our Eyes

“A Look Through Our Eyes: An Experimental Production about Citizens’ Views, Struggles, Experiences and Reactions to 9/11.”  Written & Directed by Darius “T.Q.” Colquitt

Loosely based on actual interviews, “A Look Through Our Eyes“ steps into the lives of 8 individuals who were directly and indirectly affected by the 9/11 Tragedy. The Social, Economic, Religious, Mental and Generational Differences of the world are highlighted in this production, filled with thought-provokingly real points-of-view on a subject that most are afraid to discuss. Produced by Nu Xpression Theatrics.

Friday, January 8 and Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 10pm and Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 6pm. Tickets are $10; Rated R.  More info here


Improvised Simpsons: Television’s most beloved animated family comes to life on stage! Anything can happen in the town of Springfield, especially when there isn’t a script. The performance mixes long-form improvisation with classic characters from the show, new locations and situations, and audience suggestions.  Produced by Jonathan Silver.

Saturdays at 11:30pm, January 9 – 30, 2010. Tickets are $10; Rated R. More info here


Sketch & Sniff: We sketched, now you sniff! Don’t miss SKETCH AND SNIFF if you enjoy watching awkward relationships unfold! Glimpses into romances, bromances, dysfunctional family moments, and uncomfortable office situations are just a few comic gems that S&S has to offer. Don’t miss out on this aromatic opportunity.  Produced by Derick Lengwenus.

Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 10pm. Tickets are $10; Rated R. More info here


WHACK! The Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Story, A Karaoke Musical: From the creators of the Tabloid Musical Series (including the Mary Kay Letourneau and Amy Fisher karaoke musicals) comes this delightful tale, just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver! Featuring tunes in the style of Disney, WHACK! delves deep behind the scenes to discover what REALLY lead up to the 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan’s knee. Tonya Harding – Crazy Psycho or Underestimated Heroine? Nancy Kerrigan – Perfect Princess or Evil Genius? You decide.

Produced by Gorilla Tango Theatre.

Thursdays at 9:30pm, January 21 – February 25, 2010. Tickets are $15; Rated R. More info here

Picture at top of this posting is from Whack!  See more pictures by clicking on each of the numbers: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Real Bro’s of DuPage County takes you on a journey of the Bro mind. From outrageous choices in clothing, to relationships and borderline sociopathy, Real Bro’s will knock your socks off with our roofie brand of comedy!   Produced by Christian Weber

Saturdays at 10pm, January 23 & 30, 2010. Tickets are $10; Rated R. More info here


All photos except "QueenNancy" by Kelly Williams; "Queen Nancy" by Bryan Cohen.

Banana Shpeel – Offering up a new take on tap

Directed by David Shiner, Cirque du Soleil is putting a contemporary twist on Vaudeville by infusing this classic form of theatre with a modern flair. Http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/vaudeville  Banana Shpeel is currently playing its world-premiere at The Chicago Theatre on State Street

Finding Billy Elliot – what an exciting and beautiful video.

 

Can’t wait to see it!!