In its short history so far, the Windy City Playhouse has become known for making its comfortable, upscale venue with its well-stocked bar an integral part of every show performed there. And though the fledgling company has staged a wide variety of work, the most common theme of its plays are the relationship problems of well-to-do East Coasters. It’s not a bad combination of atmosphere and play selection, but the company could doubtlessly do better than Melissa James Gibson’s This, a 2009 play with detestable characters and overly indulgent dialogue. Read more

An Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse Songbook

This cast creates a spell both with their acting/singing skill making this 80 minute show into a polished art piece that Beckett would enjoy as well as Newley and Brisusse. An Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse Songbook is a most entertaining revue with energetic singers covering a sophisticated songbook of almost forgotten composers. This review is a showcase for a fresh, youthful and amazingly talented newbie - Graham Thomas Heacock. Read more

The Unfortunates

Mary Jane Kelly is considered by scholars to be the last definite victim of Jack the Ripper, and what few details of her life are known are sketchy and contradictory. In a truly marvelous performance which spans hilarious satire and social commentary to the deepest pain and sorrow, Gail Rastorfer imagines who Kelly might have been, and restores a living face to someone who is remembered only for being a victim. Read more

Company at Writers Theatre

Company rests on the shoulders of Bobby and I must state that Thom Miller played him with a proper detached and enigmatic turn just as the script necessitated. Miller has the good looks and the reserved smile that women find alluring. Miller's strong vocals made “Someone is Waiting” and the pivotal “Mary Me a Little” his benchmark. Miller's Bobby contains charm, comic aplomb and a controlled distance from his married counterparts. “Being Alive” demonstrated Miller's vocal acumen. This anthem made Company truly Bobby's show! Read more

Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn

William Finn is one of the most accomplished living Broadway composers, and therefore, making a revue of his songs is a reasonable proposition. However, while the Golden Age Broadway composers such as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter normally wrote songs without any context, and mid-late-century figures such as Stephen Sondheim wrote songs that were highly entertaining in their own right, William Finn’s modern chamber operettas and song cycles are dependent on the whole of their presentation for emotional impact. Read more

The Sponge Bob Musical

So what would you do if there was only one day left to live and the world was going to be taken over by an unpredictable overflowing volcano? This is the premise of the show. There are scammers like Plankton (Nick Blaemire) who claims to want to save the world in order to make money. The hoarders of money like Mr. Krabs (Carlos Lopez) who thinks money is more important than family and tries to claw his way to the top (no pun intended-no yes it was). His daughter Pearl (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is always trying to get his attention without much success. However, when in sync, the two of them together can really belt out a tune Daddy Knows Best (Alex Ebert of Edward Share and the Magnetic Zeros). Read more

The Seedbed

While American plays like Buried Child, August: Osage County, and especially The Lyons often adopt a blackly humorous approach to self-destructive households, The Seedbed is much quieter and sympathetic to its characters. It’s no bore, though, since Delaney makes the play into a mystery for the audience, as we are first kept in the dark about the exact nature of the incident which caused this family’s crises, and then confused about which of them, if any, can be trusted. Read more

The House That Will Not Stand

Last year, Victory Gardens audiences saw the world premiere of Marcus Gardley’s An Issue of Blood. Set during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, the play examined the birth of institutional racism in England’s North American colonies, which is an important part of history to remember, since racism is often excused as natural and inevitable. Now, audiences have the chance to see the Midwest premiere of The House That Will Not Stand, which shows how racial relationships were upended in Louisiana following the transition from French to American control. Read more

Savage in Limbo

That being said, I did find myself wanting more from the play emotionally at the end, and while I suspect the issue lies in the protagonist, I’m more suspect of the characters themselves than the acting — which, again, I admired. Though, I am told, Shanley was very close to these characters (he grew up with them, so to speak), the slight contrivance of the lonely-hearts-bar conceit here works for the play’s metaphysical mood just as much as it ends up diluting the characters’ histories into thinly drawn, expositional clichés (again, tending toward the parabolic). Nevertheless, The Poor Theatre’s production of Savage in Limbo offers something both poetically and artistically substantial for anyone who appreciates fine acting in close quarters and an intense examination of the savage desperation lurking in unsatisfied lives. Read more