Steppenwolf at Millenium Park – Free!

Dream Chicago

by Laura Eason

Steppenwolf Traffic presents Dream Chicago, a collection of short stories and songs exploring the “Chicago Dream.” Dream Chicago highlights the visionary dreams from the past that gave character to the “City of Big Shoulders” and inspired its people to imagine a collective future.

Dream Chicago will be presented Monday, September 8 at 6:30 p.m. at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion as part of the 4th annual Blockbuster Week. Admission is FREE.

millennium_park

Directed by associate artist Jessica Thebus; featuring ensemble members Alana Arenas, Ian Barford, Robert Breuler, K. Todd Freeman, Frank Galati, Ora Jones and Martha Lavey with Maggie Brown.

Review – “Carter’s Way” at Steppenwolf

Carter’s Way 1Carter’s Way

Producers: Steppenwolf Theatre  

Set-up: It’s 1935.  In America, it’s the middle of the Great Depression.  In Kansas City, it’s the peak of the city’s legendary jazz era.  The Kansas City jazz scene is hopping with recording deals and jam-packed clubs like Planet Mars, owned by Peewee Abernathy (ensemble member K. Todd Freeman).  Here at the Planet Mars, life revolves around Oriole Carter (James Vincent Meredith), a brilliant black saxophonist, who leads the house band.  Carter is falling head over heels for the white girlfriend Eunice (Anne Adams) of a local mobster, just as a brand new invention called the radio can possibly make Carter a nationally-recognized star.  Will this taboo relationship ruin Carter’s expectant success?

plus Great performances: Meredith’s Carter is dead-on as the talented, agonized saxophonist (and he plays the saxophone riffs himself); ensemble member Ora Jones’ portrayal of piano-playing caretaker Marilyn Stokes offers up nuanced surprises throughout; Freeman’s impersonation of Peewee adroitly displays the character’s struggles between running his nightclub at a profit all the while appreciating the talents of the club’s band.  Neil Patel’s set works wonderfully, most of the action taking place on the first floor of Planet Mars, with extra scenes using a room built directly above the club.  Darrell Leonard’s original music is remarkable in that one senses that the tunes must have been originally written during the 1920’s era.  Barry Funderburg’s sound design is exemplary and flawless.  Finally, this rave review would not be complete without mentioning the multi-talented ensemble-memberEric Simonson, the playwright and director of Carter’s Way – kudos in every definition of the word.

minus From my inspection, there are/were two weaknesses inherent in the production, although all of them can be remedied (though not during Steppenwolf’s run).  The first, less formidable weakness falls on the performance from Anne Adams, playing love-interest Eunice – she comes across second-rate when lined up with the rest of the ensemble powerhouse; unconvincing in presenting a case for her reckless and selfish behavior and choices.  Secondly, the role of the up-and-coming mobster Johnny Russo (Keith Kupferer) really demands a deeper exploration – the character, exhibiting an imaginative entrepreneurism that goes against the grain of the mobster culture, proves intriguing. 

Summary:  In the end, Carter’s Way is a well-crafted, moving play – one that effectively played games on my emotions, as I nervously told myself “Don’t do it.  Don’t screw this up”. The production looks and sounds great, and the overall talented, adept performances propel this drama tragically forward, much like a snowball rumbling down a hill.  Without hesitation, I proclaim Carter’s Way as highly recommended.

Rating: «««½

Related Links: Chicago Tribune review, Sun-Times review

UpdateIt appears that I made a mistake in my review regarding my misgivings with Peewee’s final dialogue.  I have thus made an adjustment. Carter’s Way at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre

Personnel and Show Times

Playwright: Eric Simonson
Director: Eric Simonson
Sets: Neil Patel
Lights: Keith Parham
Costumes: Karin Kopischke
Sound Design: Barry Funderburg
Dramaturg: Edward Sobel
Stage Manage: Malcolm Ewen
   
Featuring: K. Todd Freeman (Peewee Abernathy)
James Vincent Meredith (Oriole Carter)
Ora Jones (Marily Stokes)
Keith Kupferer (Johnny Russo)
Anne Adams (Eunice Fey)
Robert Breuler (Boss Jack Thorpe)
  Scott Cummins (Corky, Henry, Billings, Andy)
Calvin Dutton, Curtis M. Jackson, Michael Pogue (ensemble)
   
Dates: Through April 17, 2008
Show Times: Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30pmSaturday and Sunday matinees at 3pmAdditional matinees on April 9, 16 and 23 at 2:00pm (Wednesdays)
Tickets: $20 – $45
Producers: Steppenwolf Theatre


   

 

Sharon McGhee to perform at Steppenwolf Theatre

SharonMcGhee_PocketbookMonologues

Steppenwolf’s 2008 Traffic Series Continues With

The PocketBook Monologues

Continuing in their Traffic Series, whose goal is to illuminate the art of storytelling, Steppenwolf will present the multi-talented Sharon McGhee (picture above) in her show “The Pocketbook Monologues“.

As described by Steppenwolf:

The PocketBook Monologues is an engaging collection of stories from women of color that reveals their heartfelt emotions about intimacy, performed in the style of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, but from the Black female perspective.  The women’s brutally honest, funny and poignant recollections engage the audience in never-told stories about women’s connections to their “pocketbooks.”  “We talk about everything and have a lot of fun, but the underlying message is about the health of women and girls with an emphasis on HIV and AIDS awareness,” says WVON Radio personality Sharon K. McGhee, author and star of The PocketBook Monologues.  The one-night engagement also features La Donna Tittle, Deborah Crable, Ramsey Carey and Steppenwolf ensemble member Ora Jones, plus some surprise “celebrity” guests.

Tickets are $35, and the one performance will take place on Monday, January 14th at 8pm.  More information following the fold.

Continue reading