Next Theatre announces their 30th-Anniversary Season

Next Theatre - War With Newts 

Scene from last season’s “The War With the Newts ★★★½

Next Theatre announces their

 

30th-Anniversary Season

 

Next Theatre Company announces their 30th  anniversary season, complete with three main stage plays receiving their Midwest premieres, along with their What’s Next Series focusing on new Chicago artists.  All productions, plus the What’s Next Series, are presented at Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes Street in Evanston.

 

Main Stage Shows

 

November 4 – December 5, 2010

 

  The Piano Teacher
   
  Written by Julia Cho
Directed by Lisa Portes
   
  Midwest Premiere
   
  When the sweet, cookie loving Mrs. K, the epitome of the caring grandmotherly piano teacher, reaches out to her old students, she discovers a chain of startling secrets that she can no longer keep hidden inside her piano bench. With breath-taking theatricality and stunning language, Julio Cho takes us on a journey of discovery that brings international responsibility into the sanctity of our family kitchen.
   

 

January 20 – February 20, 2011

 

  Madagascar
   
  Written by J.T. Rogers
Directed by Kimberly Senior
   
  Midwest Premiere
   
  Director Kimberly Senior and internationally recognized playwright J.T. Rogers, the pair who brought you The Overwhelming, team up again to offer audiences another gripping thriller. In the same hotel room overlooking the Spanish steps in Rome, three Americans across three different moments in time find themselves alone.  A sister, a mother and a family friend grapple with loss, regret, and the nature of truth. Using his trademark cunning insight and grippingly eloquent characters, J.T. Rogers weaves a haunting story about the mysterious disappearance of a loved one, and the unexpected consequences that bring a family closer together.
   

 

April 14 – May 8, 2010

 

  The Metal Children
   
  Written by Adam Rapp
Directed by Joanie Schultz
   
  Midwest Premiere
   
  What responsibility do artists have for the impact of their work? Provocative New York playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist Adam Rapp offers a powerful portrait of small-town censorship and the American divide over family values in his newest play fresh from a sold-out Off-Broadway run, The Metal Children. A gifted New York writer attempts to defend his young adult novel to the same small American town hell bent on banning his work, causing an explosive encounter from which no one in the small Midwestern town will recover.
   

Tickets

All tickets for Main Stage shows are $20 – $40 with subscriber and student discounts available. Tickets may be purchased at nexttheatre.org or by calling 847-475-1875 x2.

 

After the fold (click on “Read more”):

  • 30th Anniversary Season new programming
  • “What’s Next Series” schedule
  • What’s Next” Lab
  • Panel Discussions

Next Theatre - Magical Exploding BoyDean Evans in last season’s “Magical Exploding Boy”  ★★★

  

     
     

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REVIEW: Sketchbook X (Collaboraction)

Collaboraction celebrates the creative spirit with Sketchbook X

 Pictured (left to right): Beth Stelling, Maari Suorsa, Mary Hollis Inboden and Meg Johns in The New Colony Ensemble’s world premiere “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche,” one of the 19 original short works in SKETCHBOOK  X, a mixed media festival of theatre, music and video presented by Collaboraction, now in its 10th year. The show runs through June 27, 2010 at The Chopin Theatre. http://www.collaboraction.org

   
Collaboraction presents
   
Sketchbook X:   People’s Choice
   
at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division (map)
through June 27th  |  tickets: $20-$35   |  more info

reviewed by Keith Ecker 

What is a play exactly? Is it a dramatic staging of a story? Is it people moving around in a physical space in front of an audience? And furthermore, what separates a play from a sketch or a scene or even a performance art installation?

Pictured (left to right): Jeffrey Gitelle, Ian McLaren and Emily Shain in “Eighty Four” written by Cory Tamler, directed by Dan Stermer. “Eighty Four” is one of the 19 original short works in SKETCHBOOK  X, a mixed media festival of theatre, music and video presented by Collaboraction, now in its 10th year. The show runs through June 27 at The Chopin Theatre These are the questions I was left pondering after seeing Collaboraction’s tenth annual Sketchbook festival, a showcase of original mixed media performances. This  year’s theme was “exponential.” Yes, it is fairly nebulous, and this is perhaps one reason why the output lacks a certain concreteness and cohesion. Characters and plot become secondary to evoking visceral emotions. Sketchbook X in many ways is more circus than drama.

This isn’t to say that the finished product is all spectacle and no substance. There are some standout pieces.

The one that clearly stands out the most is Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche. Unlike other pieces that become crushed under their own weight, Five Lesbians is a witty, stylized comedy. Devised by Evan Linder, the play features five women (Sarah Gitenstein, Mary Hollis Inboden, Beth Stelling, Maari Suorsa and Megan Johns) who head a local social club centered around a shared love of quiche. The women click and cluck like 1950s southern church ladies and harass the audience. When communist Russia bombs the outside world, all quiche is destroyed. The women go into a tizzy, which leads to their outings.

Five Lesbians works because it is the most refined piece of the festival. The script feels fully fleshed out, the actors are well aware of their characters and the comedic timing is impeccable. There is a lot of commitment, and there is little ambiguity. It has an aesthetic all its own that is so engaging I’d pay to see a full-length production.

Pictured (left to right): Beth Stelling, Maari Suorsa, Mary Hollis Inboden and Meg Johns in The New Colony Ensemble’s world premiere “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche,” one of the 19 original short works in SKETCHBOOK  X, a mixed media festival of theatre, music and video presented by Collaboraction, now in its 10th year. The show runs through June 27, 2010 at The Chopin Theatre

Other standouts include Sacrebleu (devised and performed by Dean Evans, Molly Plunk and Anthony Courser), a pantomimed, slapstick comedy about two eccentric French fur trappers. The short monologue The Blueberry (written by Sean Graney and featuring Celeste Januszewski) is a thoughtful meditation on existence that explains string theory with blueberry imagery.

Other pieces, however, just don’t pan out. What I’m Looking For (written by Brett C. Leonard and featuring Joel Gross and Heather Bodie) is little more than a heavy-handed music video for a Rufus Wainwright song. Meanwhile, The Untimely Death of  Adolf Hitler (written by Andy Grigg and featuring Eddie Karch, Anthony Moseley, Erin Myers, Greg Hardigan and Dan Krall) lacks enough wit to drive the piece beyond its premise. But you can’t expect all the pieces to be gems. Besides, if you don’t like something, just wait 7 to 10 minutes for another play.

Sketchbook-Four-Women As usual, Collaboraction has succeeded in making the festival feel like a big event. The interior of the Chopin Theatre is awash in glowing light and fog. Two large screens flank the sides of the stage and streamers stretch from the floor to the ceiling. It all makes for a breath-taking first impression.

If you want to see all 19 pieces in a row, you’ll have to see the show on a Saturday. Be warned, though. It’s a 4.5-hour long journey, though you are encouraged to come and go as you please.

Overall, Sketchbook X is a mixed bag of intriguing works. The majority of the pieces lack refinement, but there are a few plays that are polished treasures. The theme gets lost among the many productions, but I don’t think that’s the point. Rather, Sketchbook is more of a party that aims to celebrate the creative spirit, and in that sense, it succeeds.

   
   
Rating:  ★★★
   
   

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REVIEW: Magical Exploding Boy (Next Theatre)

Transcending the need for words

 

magical-exploding-boy

 
Next Theatre presents
 
Magical Exploding Boy
 
Written and performed by Dean Evans
Next Theatre, Evanston
through April 3rd
(more info)

By Barry Eitel

For all those out there who are sick and tired of all the shows in Chicago filled with all those darn words in them, there is a production out there just for you. As part of their Dark Night Series, Next Theatre brings you Magical Exploding Boy, concocted by Dean Evans. And for those of us who enjoy vocabulary in our theatres, this wordless piece is still a wonderful time.

dean-suitcase Evans, ensemble member of The Neo-Futurists and Chicago Physical Theater, knows his miming. He studied at the School for Mime Theater at Kenyon College, and learned from master mimes Marcel Marceau and Stephen Niedzialkowsky. Magical Exploding Boy is his major piece, which he wrote and performs. He has taken the work to several theatres around the city over the past few years (as well as the Bahamas a few months ago). The fantastical one-man show integrates mime, clowning, props, great physical comedy, as well as more interpretive moments.

Considering the nature of the piece, it makes sense that Magical Exploding Boy doesn’t really follow much of a narrative arc. A lot of time is focused on a baby doll with removable limbs and several stock facial expressions. Like some sort of weird toy demon, the baby has the ability to take over part of Evans’ body. Sometimes the baby is mischievous, other times it’s a bit hornier. Evans takes on multiple personas in the piece. At one moment he is victim to the doll’s wishes, at another he plays both 4th Grade bully and wimp, later he is an amoeba, and he ends up in space dealing with botany experiments gone awry. These episodes follow each other pretty erratically; characters in one section don’t really relate to what just happened in the preceding story. It’s like flipping through channels late at night (when everything gets a bit stranger) – except Evans is the remote. The title of the work no doubt alludes to this—Evans “explodes” into these varied situations, and there is a fair amount of magic working in each little vignette.

dean-evans-dolphins2 It’s easier to plug into the funnier moments, like when Evans deals with the doll or when he beats himself up (and then defeats himself). When he is traveling in deep space or struggling underwater, it’s harder to relate. Evans’ performances are mesmerizing, but the length and depth in which he explores these scenes can drag the show down. They can also get confusing. Evans never loses sight, however. When he is underwater, he actually looks like a jellyfish or amoeba, and you earnestly believed that he is stuck alone in the far reaches of outer space. It’s really a matter of whether you are more into mimes or clowns.  (I guess I’m more on the goofy side.) And even though they might put you in a daze, the interpretive sections are dazzling and fun.

Evans is charming and inventive in his performance. The show, set on a more or less blank stage in front of a curtain, revolves totally around him; his charisma and personality drive the whole thing forward. His choice of props is both mundane and brilliant. They don’t take away from him at all but remain completely relatable. For example, at one point he has to throw away a tidbit of paper and he drags out a giant trashcan with ‘City of Evanston’ stamped on the front!

Although nothing is said, Evans envelops the nonverbal human experience, transcending the need for words. Although terms like “mimes” and “clowns” usually bring up ideas about lame street performers or wacky circus antics, Evans’ work reminds us that these are both established art forms with a ton to offer artistically. Magical Exploding Boy is a rare treat for a Chicago audience, a chance to see a trained physical actor perform without the crutch of words for a little over an hour.

 
Rating: ★★★
 

 

Review: Silent Theatre’s “Carnival Nocturne”

Quirky, Murky, Malarkey

 SilentTheatre_CarnivalNocturne_5 

The Silent Theatre Company presents

Carnival Nocturne

At DCA Storefront Theatre
Conceived and written by Gillian Hastings
Directed by Tonika Todorova
Thru December 20th (ticket info)

review by Katy Walsh

SilentTheatre_CarnivalNocturne_6 Words cannot express… because there are none. The Silent Theatre Company presents Carnival Nocturne, the story of a traveling circus plagued by a curse. Carnival Nocturne is the last of the three theatre company 2009 series produced by Chicago’s Department of Culture Affairs (DCA) Theatre and performed at the Store Front Theatre. The play is performed with the music accompaniment of a live band and minimal vocal narration. It’s a creative and challenging genre that is reliant on body language to convey the tale. There are no words to answer the questions that Carnival Nocturne provokes.

Gillian Hastings has conceived and written the Carnival Nocturne. One gets that there is indeed a curse, but its origin is unclear. A woman is killed in the very beginning by her husband. Why? He loves her, right? Did someone switch knives? Who? And why? Did the girl run away to join the circus? Or did she grow up with the circus? Does the Ring Master fall in love with her? What about his wife? Wait, she’s dead – or is she? Is that guy a dog? Or does he just think he’s a dog? Is this the end of the show? Though the plot is disjointed, do you go to the carnival for the story?

SilentTheatre_CarnivalNocturne_8 SilentTheatre_CarnivalNocturne_4

Nonetheless, Carnival Nocturne has many whimsical and colorful moments. Costumes designed by Barb Staples are an explosion of vibrant imagination. It’s old school carnie with an underworld twist. Lindsey Marks and Taylor Bibat play Siamese twins. Mostly their synchronicity is flawless yet eerie. During an aerial bit, they do get out of sync and the clunkiness breaks the spell. The barker (played by Marvin Eduardo Quijada) is pure animated entertainment from his surprise entrance to his curtain pulling ending. The cat act, Flim and Flam, (played by Dean Evans and Molly Plunk) is playful antics; Evans is exceptionally expressive. Yohanna (played by SilentTheatre_CarnivalNocturne_11Rachel Rizzuto) delivers a vulnerable performance as the girl who runs away to join the circus (…or grew up with the circus?).

Clever and imaginative are the perfect words to describe this Silent Theatre Company experience. I admit that I’d probably need a to see this a few more times to completely understand the story-line. Unfortunately the program doesn’t help decipher the components of Carnival Nocturne. Without dialogue or program pictures, we’re left to guess: Who is who? What is what? What’s going on? Talk to me, Silent Theatre Company!

 

Rating: ★★

 

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“Picked Up” at the Neo-Futurists

What: The Neo-Futurists’ Picked Up, opening Saturday, April 12th at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153. Ashland.

Teaser: Dean Evans, Jay Torrence and Ryan Walters lead a team of skilled comedy writers in creating a series of six never-before-seen television pilots performed live onstage.  A new pilot premieres each week, with audience reactions determining the winner. 

Michael Govier as Bed Pan, Brendan Donaldson as Tea Bag, Briggs Hatton as Woody, and Leah Urzendowski as Sheila, taken by Ryan Ward Thompson

Michael Govier as Bed Pan, Brendan Donaldson as Tea Bag, Briggs Hatton as Woody, and Leah Urzendowski as Sheila

Michael Govier as Bed Pan, taken by Ryan Ward Thompson

Michael Govier as Bed Pan

Ryan Walters, Laura McKenzie, Dean Evans and Jay Torrence, taken by Andrew Collings

 Ryan Walters, Laura McKenzie, Dean Evans and Jay Torrence