2011 Non-Equity Jeff Award Winners!

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2011 Non-Equity Jeff Award Recipients

Monday, June 6th 2011

32 different companies were recognized going into the 2011 non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Awards. The Hypocrites, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre and Lifeline Theatre had the most nominations. Redtwist Theatre was close behind while scoring 3 out of the 6 Best Play Production nominations. The non-equity Jeff Awards got off to a bang at the Park West Monday night with a lively Red Carpet show broadcast online prior (pictures), hosted by Eric Roach and Anderson Lawfer. The awards show was hosted by Kevin Bellie of Circle Theatre. It kicked off with a musical number from Theo Ubique’s Cats. After the parade of nominees, and a Lady Gaga bit performed by Bellie, the awards were doled out. The awards did not go off without a hitch, as the Best Director of a Musical was at first awkwardly announced incorrectly. Here’s how everything played out:

2011 NON-EQUITY JEFF AWARD RECIPIENTS

PRODUCTION / PLAY

Man from Nebraska Redtwist Theatre 

PRODUCTION / MUSICAL

Cabaret – The Hypocrites

DIRECTOR / PLAY

Jimmy McDermott   (Three Faces of Doctor Crippen, The Strange Tree Group)
James Palmer   (The Love of the Nightingale, Red Tape Theatre

DIRECTOR / MUSICAL

Matt Hawkins   (Cabaret, The Hypocrites)

ENSEMBLE

Shakespeare’s King Phycus, The Strange Tree Group w/ Lord Chamberlain’s Men

ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE / PLAY

Chuck Spencer in Man from Nebraska, Redtwist Theatre

ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE / MUSICAL

Andrew Mueller in Big River, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble

ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE / PLAY

Caroline Neff in Helen of Troy, Steep Theatre Company
Nicole Wiesner in First Ladies, Trap Door Theatre

ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE / MUSICAL

Jessie Fisher in Cabaret, The Hypocrites

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE / PLAY

Brian Perry in Shining City, Redtwist Theatre

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE / MUSICAL

Courtney Crouse in Big River, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTNG ROLE / PLAY

Sara Pavlak in Agnes of God, Hubris Productions

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE / MUSICAL OR REVUE

Kate Harris in Cabaret, The Hypocrites

NEW WORK

Emily Schwartz for The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen, The Strange Tree Group

NEW ADAPTATION

Robert Kauzlaric for Neverwhere, Lifeline Theatre

CHOREOGRAPHY

Brenda Didier for Cats, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

ORIGINAL INCIDENTAL MUSIC

Chris Gingrich, Henry Riggs, Thea Lux, and Tara Sissom That Sordid Little Story,  The New Colony

MUSIC DIRECTION

Austin Cook for Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

SCENIC DESIGN

Alan Donahue for Neverwhere, Lifeline Theatre

LIGHTING DESIGN

Jared Moore for No Exit, The Hypocrites

COSTUME DESIGN

Matt Guthier for Cats, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
Alison Siple for Cabaret, The Hypocrites

SOUND DESIGN

Mikhail Fiksel for Neverwhere, Lifeline Theatre

ARTISTIC SPECIALIZATION

Glen Aduikas, Rick Buesing, Mike Fletcher, Salvador Garcia, Stuart Hecht, David Hyman, Terry Jackson, Don Kerste, Bruce Phillips, Al Schilling, Lisi Stoessel, Eddy Wright – Robot design and engineering for Heddatron, Sideshow Theatre Company

Izumi Inaba: Makeup Design for Cats, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

  
  

REVIEW: Departure Lounge (Bailiwick Chicago)

  
  

Best Friends For Now

 

Departure Lounge - Bailiwck Chicago  002

   
Bailiwick Chicago presents
   
Departure Lounge
   
Written by Dougal Irvine
Directed by
Tom Mullen
at
Royal George Cabaret, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
Through Dec 12  |  tickets: $35-$45   |  more info

reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

Turning points are more than just passages in life: They’re the meat and more of vibrant theater. We look back at those paths in the wood we didn’t take to wonder how different we’d be if we did. Or we realize that all along what seemed comforting and secure was just being held hostage by time. Memory and identity are inseparable, but they change at their own pace–and at our peril.

Departure Lounge - Bailiwck Chicago  003There’s a big crossroads in Dougal Irvine’s invigorating Departure Lounge, an intimate coming-of-age musical about four 18-year-old Brits returning from a spree week on the Costa del Sol. (They’re one of many “ugly Englishmen” who – awaiting the “A-level” test scores that will determine their college careers or doom them – party hearty in escapist Mediterranean destinations.)

As a hilariously contrived flight delay forces them to wait impatiently in boarding area of the Malaga airport, the quartet of best friends raucously reprise the binge drinking and all-night pub-crawling they’ve inflicted on both themselves and the citizens of southern Spain. They are rich-boy, Oxford-bound JB, orphan lad and general jerk-off Pete, the comparatively quiet Ross who brought and, it seems has lost, his girl Sophie along the way, and closet-case Jordan who’s slept with the most girls and liked it the least.

Brimming over with testosterone and hangovers, these soccer-playing, wanna-be ”guys-gone-wild” celebrate the scary joy of being 18—which means not knowing what’s coming. The opening rouser “Brits on Tour” initially and instantly confirms every stereotype about loutish British hooligans unleashed and abroad. It’s hard to believe they’ve really been friends forever (which is very relative when you’re only 18), what with the Alpha-male rivalry and playful put-downs, especially the repeated use of “gay” as a standard for lameness or weakness. (It gets harder and harder for Jordan to join in the mean fun of “Why Do We Say Gay?”)

But the big question that these merry pranksters wrestle over, sometimes literally, is what happened with and to Sophie on Thursday night. They keep coming up with vastly differing, “Rashoman”-like variations on what went on—and an imaginary Sophie appears to suit each fantasy. The real story, as well as Jordan’s sexuality, tests their friendship and leaves its future in serious question. By the end Departure Lounge wisely sobers up along with the boys. Given this scene and these ex-schoolboys, it’s the only right resolution.

 

Departure Lounge - Bailiwck Chicago  001 Departure Lounge - Bailiwck Chicago  008 Departure Lounge - Bailiwck Chicago  006

Tom Mullen’s Bailiwick Chicago staging, the U.S. premiere of a work that only got its London premiere on Sept. 28, richly succeeds at conveying the transient confusions of high-stress adolescence, the forced and real camaraderie of chums behaving badly because it’s expected, and the pain of being in between a lot of stuff (Spain and England, a comforting past and unwritten future, boyhood and adulthood, sex and love, men and women, a gay guy and his childhood chums).

Well coached by music director Kevin Mayes, Mullen’s young quartet connect best in the music that unites them (rather than the dialogue that doesn’t). Their “Spanish Hospitality” is an anthem for all the obnoxious and xenophobic tourists who embarrass you abroad. Their “Fe-male” nails their reflexive misogyny as well. Departure Lounge - Bailiwck Chicago  005But their bittersweet “Leaving Spain” charts exactly how much they’ve changed because of this milestone-making stress test in a departure lounge.

Erik Kaiko and Dan Beno, as Ross and JB, share the evening’s loveliest moment in the beautifully harmonized duet “Do You Know What I Think of You”; it both confirms their male bonding and their doubts about the differences between them. Jay W. Cullen’s Pete revisits his fantasies of a real rather than foster family in “Picture Book.” Deeply conflicted Jordan, intricately lived in by Devin Archer, conveys his divided loyalty in the intricate solo “Secret.” Finally, as the mercurial Sophie, Andrea Larson stretches the most, as she conveys both the Sophies projected by her teenage suitors and the real deal.

When she comes into her own, it reunites them one last time. But that’s it, mates: We know what they only sense, that more has ended with this summer in Spain than they’ll know for years or forget for much longer.

   
   
Rating: ★★★
   
   

 

NOTE: Strong language and sexual content. May not be suitable for children under 16.

Extra Credit:

  • Check out the Bailiwick Chicago blog
  • More info at Bailiwick’s Facebook page
            
            

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  • REVIEW: Big River (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)

     

    BoHo takes a heartwarming trip down the Mississippi

     

     A scene from Boho Theatre Ensemble's "Big River", performing now at Theater Wit thru October 10th

     
    Bohemian Theatre Ensemble presents
     
    Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
     
    Music/Lyrics: Roger Miller, Book: William Hauptman
    Adapted from the novel by Mark Twain
    Directed by
    P. Marston Sullivan
    Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago (map)
    Through Oct. 10 |
    Tickets: $25 |  more info

    Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

    Widely considered the greatest American novel ever written, Mark Twain’s 1884 coming-of-age tale, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, received a lively musical treatment 100 years after its publication in Big River. The Tony Award-winning musical, which ran 1,000 performances on Broadway, captures the charm and  A scene from Boho Theatre Ensemble's "Big River", performing now at Theater Wit thru October 10thpoignancy of the original, as we follow Huck and the escaped slave Jim down the "Muddy Water" of the Mississippi River, "Waitin’ for the Light to Shine" — as the songs put it. Although no stage production could possibly encompass all the nuances of Twain’s masterpiece, this well-cut adaptation by William Hauptman delivers the essence, paired with a fitting, catchy score by country-music star Roger Miller that blends foot-stompin’ bluegrass, powerful spirituals, vaudevillian comedy numbers and such memorable ballads as "River in the Rain."

    Bohemian Theatre Ensemble mounts a warm, intimate and beautifully sung revival in their handsome new home at Lakeview’s Theater Wit, full of bouyant humor and touching moments.

    Andrew Mueller gives us a gamin-faced, thoughtful Huck with a fine tenor. As Jim, the richly voiced Brian-Alwyn Newland provides the backbone of the music, smooth and soulful, combined with a dignified stage presence that reveals the mature and feeling man behind the tattered clothes and uneducated language of the slave.

    Sean Thomas makes a wicked Pap Finn, hilarious in his drunken denouncement of "Guv’ment," and a diabolical king and "Royal Nonesuch," aided by the elegant John B. Leen as the sly and histrionic duke. Courtney Crouse is boyishly mischievous as Tom Sawyer, always ready for adventure and adorable as he calls for a "Hand for the Hog."

    Rashada Dawan brings a soaring voice to gospel numbers such as "How Blest We Are," and Mike Tepeli adds a comic turn as the young fool, with a zany, washboard-accompanied rendition of "Arkansas."

    A scene from Boho Theatre Ensemble's "Big River", performing now at Theater Wit thru October 10th A scene from Boho Theatre Ensemble's "Big River", performing now at Theater Wit thru October 10th
    A scene from Boho Theatre Ensemble's "Big River", performing now at Theater Wit thru October 10th A scene from Boho Theatre Ensemble's "Big River", performing now at Theater Wit thru October 10th

    Much of the cast supplements the orchestra at different points, picking up guitars,box, or a tambourine to effectively back Musical Director Nicholas Davio playing a variety of instruments, Hilary Holbrook on fiddle and Cam McIntyre on bass. Davio and Holbrook also act small parts. Christa Buck, Anna Hammonds and James Williams fill out the ensemble.

    Director P. Marston Sullivan’s deceptively simple staging and Anders Jacobson and Judy Radovsky’s stylized set put the talented cast and Twain’s potent story foremost. You don’t need to have read "Huckleberry Finn" to enjoy this musical, although everybody ought to read it … again and again.

       
      
    Rating: ★★★½
      
      

    A scene from Boho Theatre Ensemble's "Big River", performing now at Theater Wit thru October 10th

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    REVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar (Theatre at the Center)

    Update: Due to a misrepresentation (i.e., error) in our critique of this production, this review has been adjusted to address the inaccuracy.  To Theatre at the Center and the production’s personnel, my apologies.  Scotty Zacher, Editor.

    Uneven “Superstar” finishes strong

     

    Jesus Christ Superstar - Theatre at the Center 02

       
    Theatre at the Center presents
       
    Jesus Christ Superstar
      
    Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
    Lyrics by
    Tim Rice
    Directed by
    Stacey Flaster
    at
    Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge, Munster (map)
    through August 8th  |  tickets: $36-$40  |  more info

    reviewed by Michael L. Harris

    Sitting amongst the mostly 40+ crowd, gathered for the near capacity performance of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Theatre at the Center, I wanted to love this show. The stage-to-movie musical is certainly a familiar one, with two of the songs – the title song and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” – making it to the Top 10 in the 70’s when it first debuted. In the end, however, the show is a mixed bag.

    Jesus Christ Superstar - Theatre at the Center 06Musically, the range and quality of voices is quite amazing. Max Quinlan (Jesus) goes from low bass to high falsetto with amazing ease, as does Joe Tokarz as Judas Iscariot, the counter lead.  Problems arise, however, with the gigantic thrust space and the overzealous back-up orchestra that succeeds in swallowing up poor Jesus. These elements tacitly become the superstars; Jesus just a set piece. Given that the score is extremely challenging and the cast is vocally exquisite, it’s unfortunate that dynamically this disparity exists. The actors are isolated and disconnected, both from each other and from the audience. Experts say that much of acting is “reacting,” unfortunately there’s far too little of the latter in this Superstar.

    This distancing of the audience is more of a directorial decision than actor disconnection. Indeed, director Stacey Flaster seems to be aiming for distance rather than intimacy.  Objectively, this works with Sanhedrin. When it comes to Jesus, however, one never gets as close as preferred. Indeed, there are moments of splendor, but overall the sheen is more matte than glossy. 

    For the most part, the First Act lacks inspiration. After the introduction of the Apostles – which is staged more as a “love in” – there are signs of better performances to come. Audrey Billings‘ (Mary Magdalene) rendition of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” is warm and tender. Larry Adams’ Pontius Pilate is spot-on, giving a sense of both the character’s greatness and shortcomings. Adams’ professionalism and stage presence are quite commanding, accentuating what is missing from Quinlan, whose performance shows adroit characterization but seems better suited for film/TV than the stage. Additionally, Steve Genovese steals the show with his second act opener, “King of the Jews” and Jonathan Lee Cunningham delivers a solid rendition as Simon Peter in his credible “Denial” sequence .

     

    Jesus Christ Superstar - Theatre at the Center 04 Jesus Christ Superstar - Theatre at the Center 03

    The best staging exists within “Could We Start Again, Please.” Both Billings (Mary) and Cunningham (Peter) are at their best in this number, and the entire cast shines as an ensemble, including Quinlan (Jesus), making this by far the apex of the play.

    Barry G. Funderburg’s sound design is flawed.  The centralized speaker system – with no side speakers – creates a situation where the orchestra often overpowers the choral work.

    Nikki Delhomme’s costume’s are a mishmash – at times delightful; at other times confusing. Delhomme’s concept of universality through an ancient/modern mix generally works, but what’s up with the dress-with-a-funky-hat combo that the Jesus Christ Superstar - Theatre at the Center 08Sanhedrin wear??? I couldn’t help thinking, as the Sanhedrin descended the massive centralize staircase, of the old Lucille Ball sketch where she comes down the stairs with the huge pile of fruit on her head . (Thankfully these women are much more coordinated than Lucy!)

    The make-up design is equally confusing. There must be a method to the madness, but the painted kabuki masking on the Sanhedrin principals amounts to overkill.  Conversely, the quasi clown make-up donned by Herod works .

    Flaster’s choreography is generally exemplary, but doesn’t always fill the stage. And in some instances – notably during Judas’ famous negotiations with the Sanhedrin – actually blocks the action.

    Kudos to Ann N. Davis’ technical direction – rigging and scene changes move seamlessly.

    Deficiencies aside, if you’ve never seen the show, and/or are in a retro mood, Jesus Christ Superstar is worth two hours of your time – especially the powerful resurrection of the second act.

      
       
    Rating: ★★½
      
       

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    Non-Equity Jeff Awards nominees announced

    chicagoatnight

    2010 Non-Equity Jeff Award Nominees

     

     

    Production – Play
      Busman’s Honeymoon Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
    Death of a Salesman Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Killer Joe Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½ )
    The PillowmanRedtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
    St. Crispin’s Day Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
    Wilson Wants It All The House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)

     

    Production – Musical
      Chess  Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre i/a/w Michael James (review ★★½)
    Evolution/Creation  -   Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
    The Glorious Ones   Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
    The Who’s Tommy Circle Theatre 

     

    Director – Play
      Aaron Todd Douglas: Twelve Angry Men Raven Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Michael Menendian: Death of a SalesmanRaven Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Michael Rohd: Wilson Wants It All House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
    Kimberly Senior: The PillowmanRedtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
    Rick Snyder: – Killer Joe Profiles Theatre  (review ★★★½)

      

    Director – Musical
      Fred Anzevino & Brenda Didier: Chess – Theo Ubique Theatre (review ★★½)
    Jeffrey CassThe Who’s TommyCircle Theatre
    Stephen M. Genovese: The Glorious Ones Boho Rep (review ★★★)
    Andrew Park: Evolution/CreationQuest Theatre Ensemble  (review ★★★)

     

    Ensemble
      The Glorious Ones Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
    Red Noses Strawdog Theatre Company
    Twelve Angry Men
    Raven Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Under Milk Wood  Caffeine Theatre  (review ★★)

     

    Actor in a Principal Role – Play
      Tony Bozzuto: On an Average DayBackStage Theatre Company 
    Darrell W. Cox: Killer Joe
    Profiles Theatre  (review ★★★½)
    Andrew Jessop: The PillowmanRedtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
    Peter Robel: I Am My Own Wife Bohemian Theatre  (review ★★★★)
    Chuck Spencer: Death of a Salesman Raven Theatre  (review ★★★½)

     

    Actor in a Principle Role – Musical
      Courtney Crouse: ChessTheo Ubique Cabaret Theatre  (review ★★½)
    Tom McGunn: The Who’s Tommy Circle Theatre
    Eric Damon SmithThe Glorious Ones
    Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
    Jeremy Trager: Chess Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre   (review ★★½)

       

    Actress in a Principle Role – Play
      Brenda BarrieMrs. CalibanLifeline Theatre  (review ★★★★)
    LaNisa FrederickThe Gimmick Pegasus Players (review ★★)
    Millicent HurleyLettice & Lovage Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★★)
    Kendra Thulin: Harper Regan Steep Theatre  (review ★★½ )
    Rebekah Ward-Hays: Aunt Dan and Lemon BackStage Theatre 

     

    Actress in a Principle Role – Musical
      Danielle Brothers: Man of La Mancha Theo Ubique Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Sarah Hayes: Man of La ManchaTheo Ubique Theatre   (review ★★★)
    Maggie PortmanChess  Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre  (review ★★½)

     

    Actor in a Supporting Role – Play
      Chance Bone: Cooperstown Theatre Seven of Chicago  (review ★★)
    Jason HuysmanDeath of a Salesman Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Edward KuffertThe CrucibleInfamous Commonwealth (review ★★★)
    Peter Oyloe: The Pillowman Redtwist Theatre   (review ★★★)
    Phil TimberlakeBusman’s Honeymoon Lifeline Theatre  (review ★★★)

     

    Actor in a Supporting Role – Musical
      Eric Lindahl: The Who’s Tommy Circle Theatre
    Steve Kimbrough:
    Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical Hell in a Handbag
    John B. LeenChess Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre  (review ★★½)

     

    Actress in a Supporting Role – Play
      Nancy Friedrich: The Crucible Infamous Commonwealth (review ★★★)
    Vanessa Greenway: The Night SeasonVitalist Theatre i/a/w Premiere Theatre & Performance (review ★★★★)
    Kelly Lynn HoganThe Night Season Vitalist Theatre i/a/w Premiere Theatre & Performance (review ★★★★)
    Kristy Johnson: A Song for Coretta Eclipse Theatre  (review ★★)
    Mary RedmonThe Analytical Engine  – Circle Theatre  (review ★★★)

     

    Actress in a Supporting Role – Musical
      Kate GarassinoBombs Away!  – Bailiwick Repertory Theatre  
    Danni Smith
    The Glorious Ones  -   Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
    Trista Smith: Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical  -  Hell in a Handbag
    Dana Tretta
    The Glorious Ones  Bohemian Theatre   (review ★★★)

     

    New Work
      Aaron CarterFirst Words  MPAACT (review ★★★)
    Ellen FaireyGraceland Profiles Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Tommy Lee JohnstonAura  Redtwist Theatre
    Andrew Park and Scott Lamps
    Evolution/Creation  -   Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
    Michael Rohd & Phillip C. KlapperichWilson Wants It All  -  The House Theatre of Chicago  (review ★★★)

     

    New Adaptation
      Bilal Dardai: The Man Who Was ThursdayNew Leaf Theatre  
    Sean Graney:  –
    Oedipus  The Hypocrites (review ★★★★)
    Frances LimoncelliBusman’s Honeymoon Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
    Frances Limoncelli:  – Mrs. Caliban  – Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
    William Massolia: Little Brother  Griffin Theatre

     

    Choreography
      Kevin BellieThe Who’s Tommy  Circle Theatre
    Brenda Didier
    Chess   Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
    James Brigitte DitmarsPoseidon! An Upside Down Musical  Hell in a Handbag Productions

     

    Original Incidental Music
      Andrew Hansen: Treasure Island  -  Lifeline Theatre  (review ★★★½)
    Kevin O’Donnell:   -  Wilson Wants It All  -   House Theatre   (review ★★★)
    Trevor WatkinThe Black Duckling  -  Dream Theatre

     

    Music Direction
      Ryan BrewsterChess  – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
    Gary PowellEvolution/Creation  Quest Theatre   (review ★★★)
    Nick SulaThe Glorious Ones  Bohemian Theatre   (review ★★★)

     

    Scenic Design
      Tom BurchUncle Vanya Strawdog Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Alan DonahueTreasure Island Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Heath HaysOn an Average Day  -   BackStage Theatre Company
    Bob Knuth
    The Analytical Engine  Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
    Bob KnuthLittle Women  -   Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
    John Zuiker:   I Am My Own Wife  -   Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)

     

    Lighting Design
      Diane FairchildThe Gimmick  -  Pegasus Players (review ★★)
    Kevin D. Gawley: Treasure Island Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Sean MallarySt. Crispin’s Day  – Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
    Jared B. MooreThe Man Who Was Thursday New Leaf Theatre
    Katy PetersonI Am My Own Wife
    Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)

     

    Costume Design
      Theresa HamThe Glorious Ones  -  Bohemian Theatre  (review ★★★)
    Branimira IvanovaTreasure Island  Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
    Joanna MelvilleSt. Crispin’s Day  -  Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★) Jill Van BrusselThe Taming of the Shrew  Theo Ubique  (review  ★★★)
    Elizabeth WislarThe Analytical Engine  – Circle Theatre (review ★★★)

     

    Sound Design
      Mikhail FikselOedipus The Hypocrites (review ★★★★)
    Michael GriggsWilson Wants It AllThe House Theatre (review ★★★)
    Andrew HansenTreasure Island Lifeline Theatre  (review ★★★½)  
    Joshua HorvathMrs. CalibanLifeline Theatre (review ★★★★)
    Miles PolaskiMouse in a Jar Red Tape Theatre  (review ★★)

     

    Artistic Specialization
      Kevin Bellie: Projection Design, The Who’s Tommy  -   Circle Theatre
    Elise Kauzlaric: Dialect Coach, 
    Busman’s Honeymoon  Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
    Lucas Merino: Video Design, Wilson Wants It AllThe House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
    James T. Scott:  Puppets, Evolution/Creation Quest Theatre (review ★★★)

     

    Fight Choreography
      Geoff Coates: On An Average Day  -  BackStage Theatre Company
    Geoff Coates
    Treasure Island  Lifeline Theatre   (review ★★★½)
    Matt HawkinsSt. Crispin’s DayStrawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
    R & D ChoreographyKiller Joe  Profiles Theatre  (review ★★★½  )

     

    More info at the Jeff Awards website.

       
       

    REVIEW: Chess (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)

    Chess – an ’80s period piece

     IMG_0548

    Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre presents

    Chess

     Book by Richard Nelson, lyrics by Tim Rice
    music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus
    Directed by
    Fred Anzevino and Brenda Didier
    Musical direction by Ryan Brewster
    At
    No Exit Cafe, Rogers Park
    Through April 25
    (more info)

    Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

    Where you’re seated in a theater often has a big impact on your perception of a show. If, as I did at opening night at Theo Ubique’s Chess, you sit far to one side of the stage, 3 feet from the amps, with a post blocking your view, you’re apt to enjoy the production rather less than if you get to sit at a front-and-center table specially reserved for you.

    IMG_0580It’s rare that a 60-seat house has terrible seats, but this one does. The cramped cabaret set-up of No Exit Cafe assures that some people at the back will have heads blocking their view of the stage. Other lucky patrons must perch on barstools throughout the performance. As there are no reserved seats for anyone short of the critic from the Chicago Tribune, plan to arrive very early for a choice of decent views, and if you want to be assured of a table, book the pre-show dinner package for $20 above the $25 ticket price.

    Directors Fred Anzevino and Brenda Didier have done the best job possible in blocking the show against the handicaps of their setting, and the cast offers some first-rate performances, but from my seat this deeply flawed, overlong and dated musical perhaps seemed exceptionally askew.

    A largely unmemorable mishmash of Hungarian folk music, cheesy pop, dirgelike anthems, country-style ballads and ABBA-esque tunes by that band’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, with lyricist Tim Rice, the score originated as a concept album in 1984. Ryan Brewster‘s five-piece band and most of the singers do it full justice, but the musical style, like the Cold War plot, seems stale.

    IMG_0654 If you’ve heard of one of the songs, it’s likely to be the maudlin love song “I Know Him So Well,” which was covered by Barbra Streisand, Whitney and Cissy Houston, and most recently by Britain’s Got Talent phenomenon Susan Boyle in a TV duet with Elaine Paige, who sang it on the original concept album and in the 1986 West End production.

    Produced, to mixed reception, as a largely sung-through musical on the London stage, Chess was reworked, with a new book by Richard Nelson, for Broadway. Theo Ubique uses Nelson’s script, which was supposedly made nicer to Americans and added narrative and dialogue. The West End version played three years; the New York show folded after 68 performances in 1988, shortly before the Berlin Wall fell.

    The 1972 World Chess Championship match between American Bobby Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky inspired this study in black and white, which seems less like the three-dimensional chessboard than the flat cartoon Spy vs. Spy.

    We have the pure Russian chess champ, Anatoly, seeking freedom and love, and ultimately sacrificing them. The Ugly American challenger, Freddie, selfish and vain. Naive Florence, the Hungarian-refugee chess coach who fickly wavers between them, a smart woman who behaves stupidly for love. Stoic Svetlana, Anatoly’s deserted wife, seeking to regain her loveless marriage (or is it merely their revoked apartment?). The tricky Russian spy. His callous and conniving American counterpart. There are no likeable characters here.

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    Jeremy Trager’s Anatoly comes closest to being a real human being, with a beautiful voice to boot. As Florence, Maggie Portman brings a soulful country-western musical style and a bouncy stage presence befitting her role’s up-and-down character.

    The rest are pretty much comic-book figures, though Jon B. Leen offers some subtlety and a fine voice as Anatoly’s minder, Molokov. Stephanie Herman captures cool Russian beauty as Svetlana. Courtney Crouse, as Freddie, acts the jerk well but has some problems with pitch and volume; his vocals are often swallowed by the band. Anthony Apodaca and John Taflan ham it up as Freddie’s “agent,” Walter, and the tournament Arbiter, who somehow manages to do his job without the aid of a chess clock.

    The production has loads of talent, but not enough to bring this musty musical into the present. Those who sit staunchly among ABBA fans and ’80s nostalgia buffs will probably enjoy Chess more than others

    Rating: ★★½

     

    NOTE: Allow time to find parking. For some performances, theater patrons may use the lot at Christian Mission Elim, 1615 W. Morse Ave.

    All photos by Johnny Knight

    Review: Boho Theatre’s “The Glorious Ones”

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    Bohemian Theatre Ensemble presents:

    The Glorious Ones

    by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens
    directed by Stephen M. Genovese
    thru November 21st  (buy tickets)

    Reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

    The Heartland Studio, home base for the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (Boho), is one of the smallest black boxes I have ever been to in Chicago. As you walk in off the street, you find yourself inside a box office not much bigger than a phone booth.  Finding your seat in the theater is more like squeezing your way into a crowded elevator than getting ready to experience high art. And on Friday night, as the lights went down in that small, communal space, and the actors took to the stage to begin performing the regional premiere of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’s glorious onesThe Glorious Ones it was the least lonely place in the world. What could be better, on a cold Chicago night, than to see a group of young, vibrant performers fill a small space with their white hot energy? This is a far from perfect production, but the dedication and energy of this vibrant cast is a treat.

    Director/set designer Stephen M. Genovese has created a fine and audacious set; a blank old-world-looking wood stage dressed with simple red curtains and the occasional charmingly low tech surprise. It’s a set that screams, “Fill me! Bring the best you’ve got!” – and Mr. Genovese and his cast make a wholehearted attempt…and sometimes succeed.

    The play is set in 16th century Venice, during the creation of Comedia del’ Arte. “The Glorious Ones” are a Comedia troupe, led by the pompous and egocentric Flaminio Scala (based on a real-life Comedia performer) played by Eric Damon Smith. The scenes of actual Comedia are great fun. One sketch is repeated three times, as a mapping device for what we know is going on behind the scenes. The best though, is “Armanda’s Tarantella,” slyly performed by the fearless Dana Tretta. Most of the large group scenes have merit. “Flaminio Scala’s Historical Journey to France” is a showstopper, and highlights the energy and force behind these performances that make this show worthwhile.

    John Taflan, Katie Siri, Danni Smith, Eric Damon Smith, Dana Tretta, Tom Weber The thing the show is missing, and it is sorely missed, is honesty. The one-dimensional character of Flaminio Scala is prouder than proud and intensely serious. He speaks of his work with dignity and pride, and yet, seems to have no relationship with it. The man as a comedian is never explored, or even dignified with attention. In a pivotal scene, Flaminio embraces a struggling street performer (Courtney Crouse), after watching him perform, and takes him under his wing. Flaminio didactically spells out his lesson plan to build the young raw talent into his protégé. Here, Flaminio gets the opportunity to talk about his work; instead of reveling in it’s humor like a comedian, he discuses it with the wistful dreaminess of a school girl recanting her favorite lines from Twilight. Mr., Smith has the most stage time, and so bears the burden of being an example, but I assure you the lack of truth on stage was a cast-wide epidemic. From the audience, it seems that Mr. Genovese focused too intently on the larger than life aspects of the show and forgot that a show needs honesty to be relatable.

    About two-thirds of the way through, Danni Smith as Coloumbina breaks the monotony of disconnected energy and hits one out of the park with “My Body Wasn’t Why,” an empowering and tear-jerking ballad about art, aging and womanhood.

    Lynn Ahrens’s interesting book races through the first half of the show, asking the audience to simply accept the characters without working for it. In the second half of the show, when the action finally slows down, it is difficult to muster empathy for anyone.

    The wonderful thing about it, though, is the subject matter. We are invited to experience the creation of Coloumbina, the sassy maid; Pantalone, the miserly old man; Dottore, the quack doctor, and Harlequin, the sly prankster, which is a real treat for a theater lover. Stephen Flaherty’s music is full-bodied and emotional, and paired with Lynn Ahrens’s lyrics makes for a great soundtrack. It is in this partnership that these two create strong work, but Lynn Ahrens’s book independently leaves much to be desired in terms of character development.

    The thing you have to do to enjoy this show is to understand that it is not a musical comedy. It is a musical about comedy. But the entire cast invites you warmly into their view of history, and you get to see a neat, shiny version of the creation of an art form. If you are a comedy lover (who isn’t?) go see this show. It’s a musical about the creation of something really important, and it is worthy of your attention. For a theater lover, this production is a historical journey worth taking, even if there are a few unintended pratfalls along the way.

    Rating: ★★★