Jeff Awards announced for 2008-2009 season

PRODUCTION — PLAY – LARGE
Ruined Goodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club
The SeafarerSteppenwolf Theatre 

PRODUCTION — PLAY – MIDSIZE
The History Boys TimeLine Theatre 

PRODUCTION — MUSICAL – LARGE
Caroline, or Change Court Theatre

PRODUCTION — MUSICAL – MIDSIZE
Tomorrow Morning – Hilary A. Williams, LLC

PRODUCTION — REVUE
Studs Terkel’s Not Working The Second City e.t.c.

ENSEMBLE
The History BoysTimeLine Theatre 

NEW WORK — PLAY
Lynn NottageRuined Goodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club

NEW ADAPTATION — PLAY
Seth BockleyJonCollaboraction

NEW WORK OR ADAPTATION – MUSICAL
Josh Schmidt, Jan Tranen & Austin PendletonA Minister’s Wife Writers’ Theatre 

DIRECTOR – PLAY
Nick BowlingThe History BoysTimeLine Theatre

DIRECTOR – MUSICAL
Charles NewellCaroline, or Change Court Theatre

DIRECTOR — REVUE
Matt HovdeStuds Terkel’s Not WorkingThe Second City e.t.c.

ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE — PLAY
Larry Neumann, Jr. – A Moon for the MisbegottenFirst Folio Theatre
William L. PetersenBlackbirdVictory Gardens Theatre 

ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE — MUSICAL
Joseph Anthony ForondaMiss Saigon Drury Lane Oakbrook

ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY
Saidah Arrika EkulonaRuinedGoodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club

ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE — MUSICAL
E. Faye ButlerCaroline, or Change Court Theatre

SOLO PERFORMANCE
Max McLeanMark’s GospelFellowship for the Performing Arts

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE — PLAY
Alex WeismanThe History Boys TimeLine Theatre

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE — MUSICAL
Max Quinlan – The Light in the PiazzaMarriott Theatre

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE — PLAY
Spencer KaydenDon’t Dress for Dinner – The British Stage Company

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL
Liz Baltes – A Minister’s WifeWriters’ Theatre
Summer SmartThe Light in the Piazza Marriott Theatre

ACTOR IN A REVUE
Mark David KaplanForbidden Broadway: Dances with the StarsJohn Freedson, Harriet Yellin and Margaret Cotter

ACTRESS IN A REVUE
Amanda Blake DavisStuds Terkel’s Not WorkingThe Second City e.t.c.

SCENIC DESIGN – LARGE
Lucy OsborneTwelfth NightChicago Shakespeare Theater

SCENIC DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Brian Sidney BembridgeThe History Boys TimeLine Theatre

COSTUME DESIGN – LARGE
Mara BlumenfeldThe Arabian NightsLookingglass Theatre

COSTUME DESIGN — MIDSIZE
Rachel LaritzThe Voysey Inheritance Remy Bumppo Theatre

SOUND DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Lindsay JonesThe K of D: An Urban LegendRoute 66 Theatre

LIGHTING DESIGN — LARGE
Christopher AkerlindRock ‘n’ Roll Goodman Theatre

LIGHTING DESIGN — MIDSIZE
Jesse Klug – Hedwig and the Angry InchAmerican Theater Company

CHOREOGRAPHY
David H. BellThe Boys from Syracuse Drury Lane Oakbrook

ORIGINAL INCIDENTAL MUSIC
Dominic KanzaRuinedGoodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club

MUSIC DIRECTION
Doug PeckCaroline, or Change Court Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN SPECIAL EFFECTS
Steve Tolin – Special Effects – The Lieutenant of Inishmore Northlight Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN VIDEO DESIGN
Mike Tutaj – Film & Video Design – Tomorrow Morning – Hillary A. Williams

Updates: Steppenwolf’s “Superior Donuts” on Broadway

Tracy Letts’ most recent play, Superior Donuts, just opened on Broadway with the same Steppenwolf cast.  After receiving moderate to warm reviews here in Chicago, the NYC reviews so far appear mixed.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

 

The NY Post gives Superior Donuts a very positive review – 3.5 stars:

After Superior Donuts, Tracy Letts‘ follow-up to August: Osage County, premiered in Chicago last year, the play was deemed entertaining but minor.

Either this Steppenwolf production has been drastically reworked on its way to New York, or we live in a cynical world where a show as tender and honest, as beautifully written, acted and directed as this one can be blithely dismissed.

 

 

While the New York Times produces a review that is so-so:

Mr. Letts has mothballed his angst and tossed the deadly weapons in the back drawer. Superior Donuts, a gentle comedy that unfolds like an extended episode of a 1970s sitcom, is a warm bath of a play that will leave Broadway audiences with satisfied smiles rather than rattled nerves.

Superior Donuts may be familiar and unchallenging, but it’s also comfortable — and no, there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

Below, Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones interviews playwright Tracy Letts (“August: Osage County“) and lead actor Michael McKean (“Laverne and Shirley“, “Saturday Night Live“, “This is Spinal Tap“) about Superior Donuts, Letts’ new play premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater. Letts’ 2007 play August: Osage County won the Pultizer Prize and Tony Award in 2008.

Continue reading

Review: Goodman Theatre’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” – triumphantly captivating and celebratory

Goodman Theatre molds Tom Stoppard’s harrowing play into an incredibly human package

Review by Barry Eitel

 

Pictured in Goodman Theatre's production of Rock 'n' Roll by Tom Stoppard, directed by Charles Newell are (l to r) Timothy Edward Kane (Jan) and Mary Beth Fisher (Esme (older)).

If anyone knows about the transitive power of music, it would be the Czechs. In 1989, the oppressive Communist government of Czechoslovakia was peacefully overthrown in the “Velvet Revolution,” termed after the band The Velvet Underground. The subversive yet inspiring properties of rock music played a major role in bringing democracy to the country.

In his newest play, Rock ‘n’ Roll, produced by the Goodman Theatre, Tom Stoppard depicts the events leading up to the Velvet Revolution. The play begins amid Soviet tanks rolling into Prague to switch out the progressive government, ending the reformative “Prague Spring” of 1968. However, the play does far more than document Czech history; winding over twenty-two turbulent years, Stoppard intertwines the lives of characters that span different nations, political systems, generations, and ideologies. The Chicago premier of the play, directed by the inspired Charles Newell, stuffs all of the love, loss, and intense intellectual debate into an incredibly human package. And with the best soundtrack on-stage right now, the Goodman production leaves plenty of room for a little rock and roll along the way.

Pictured in Goodman Theatre's production of Rock 'n' Roll by Tom Stoppard, directed by Charles Newell are (l to r) Gregory Matthew Anderson (Stephen), Mattie Hawkinson (Alice), Thomas J. Cox (Nigel), Susie McMonagle (Candida), Amy J. Carle (Lenka) and Stephen Yoakam (Max).

Set designer John Culbert transformed the massive Albert Stage into a concert venue, complete with scaffolding and speakers so massive they could make every ear in the audience bleed. The colossal scale of the set matches the epic tone of the play, which can move thousands of miles from scene to scene. In order to switch from location to location quickly, furniture on platforms is rolled out from the wings and sometimes huge pieces are dropped from the flies. Christopher Akerlind’s lighting design accentuates Culbert’s set smartly. All of the design melds brilliantly together—the space seems more like a Bonnaroo stage than the Goodman theatre.

Pictured in Goodman Theatre's production of Rock 'n' Roll by Tom Stoppard, directed by Charles Newell is Timothy Edward Kane (Jan). Rock 'n' Roll begins performances on May 2 (Opening Night is May 11) and runs through June 7 in the Goodman's Albert Theatre. Timothy Edward Kane is an expressive, vivacious Jan, the Czech doctor of philosophy/rock’n’roll fanatic that the play follows. Kane’s performance captures all of the forces tugging at Jan’s psyche as he attempts to balance his ideals, his relationships with those around him, and his harsh reality under the suppressive regime. Perhaps most importantly, Kane bursts with Jan’s intense passion for music. As Jan’s mentor in Marxism, Max, Stephen Yoakam is fiery. It is heart-wrenching to watch as he clutches to obsolete ideologies as his English world, including his family, abandons them as the Cold War thaws. Another stand-out performance is Goodman veteran Mary Beth Fisher, who plays Max’s wife Eleanor and, twenty years later, his daughter Esme. She differentiates and contrasts the generational gap clearly, as well as having some of the most emotional intense moments in the production.

Rock-n-Roll7 Newell nails the theatricality of Stoppard’s play, punching up the classic rock world as much as possible. He uses a mysterious piper (a limber Greg Matthew Anderson) to string the story together, having him weave himself among the scaffolding. The “enlightened” Esme confuses the Robert Smith look-a-like for the god Pan. It turns out the ghostly figure might be Pink Floyd’s estranged frontman, Syd Barrett. But the piper maintains a spritely aspect about him, staying eternally young as everyone else ages. This is just one of many examples of how the production captures the imagination instead of sticking inside realistic world. Newell’s daring stylistic choices really pay off, keeping the play exciting while also preserving the human struggle.

Like most Stoppard, the play is highly intellectual and not for everybody, and occasionally the pace slackens during the debates. But even if you don’t understand the Sappho references or Socialist theory, the vibrant relationships linking the characters are still extremely powerful. The captivating language also maintains a tight grip on the audience, even if some of the content requires a masters degree.

This is arguably Stoppard’s finest work, and the Goodman’s production celebrates both the rock spectacle and the inspiring humanity of the story. The audience is left reminded that our world is constantly warping and flowing, like a deep ocean of ideas, cultures, and human connections.

Rating: ««««

Video:

 

View Tom Stoppards Rock n Roll

 

Below: Stark differences between “Prague Spring” and the “Velvet Revolution”

Tanks moving in during "Prague Spring", 1968  Policemen_and_flowers

On the left – Molotov Cocktails thrown during the bloody Prague Spring uprising.  On the right, flowers (given to policemen) are used in the peaceful overthrow of the Czech/Soviet Republic in what is now known as the “Velvet Revolution