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In the Heat of the Night

Murder mysteries were one of the most popular genres of theatre once, but rarely were they as political and action-packed as Matt Pelfrey’s 2010 adaptation of In the Heat of the Night. The novel by John Ball is today best known for being the source material of the film, directed by Norman Jewison and staring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, which won the Academy Award for best picture in 1967. But Pelfrey’s script and Louis Contey’s production with Shattered Globe are exciting, disturbing, and possess a stylistic flare perfect for the stage. Read more

Nominees Announced For the 43rd Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards (2016)

The Jeff Awards Committee today announced 121 nominations in 24 categories for the 43rd Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards for productions that opened between April 1, 2015, and March 31, 2016. The Non-Equity Awards honor excellence in Chicago theatres not under a union contract. Jeff judges attended opening nights of 148 productions offered by 67 Non-Equity producing organizations. The Jeff Committee recommended 65 of those shows (or 44%), making them eligible for Non-Equity Jeff Award nominations. Of the 65 Jeff Recommended productions, a record 53 (or 82%) received nominations, representing 32 theatre companies. Read more

A Splintered Soul

The story is mostly driven by Simon’s attempts to protect the other refugees, especially Elisa and Harold, regardless of what anyone else tells him is smart or right. However, the plays is mostly a character study. The problem with dedicating your life to revenge is that it requires there to always be someone to take revenge upon. Simon hears and sees what he wants to, justifies everything, and uses the Holocaust as his framework for understanding every situation he comes across. Of course, the result is not good, but he sincerely inquired about the philosophy of justice from his biggest critics, and tried to do what was right for the people who had been betrayed by everyone else. Read more

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Citadel Theatre

I can also tip my hat to Citadel’s current leading man, Tim Walsh, who thoroughly embodies all of the timing, rubber face expressions and comedic zeal of a seasoned burlesque Top Banana. Walsh has a tall order of keeping all of the plot machinations with its myriad of courtesans, soldiers, eunuchs, lovers, letches and company spinning within his control, and it is a heroic effort. Read more

In the Time of the Butterflies

As this is a memory play, locations are represented mostly through Liviu Pasare’s dazzling projections, which fit with Svich’s intimate focus on the sisters’ psychology. Teatro Vista will present In the Time of the Butterflies three times for schools, but this intensely personal account, mingled with exhortations on the importance of bearing witness, edifying and rewarding for people of all ages. Read more

The Producers at the Mercury Theater

In this production, I rediscovered Brooks' clever humor. There is so much going on in this nonstop show that it simply overwhelms us. Can a show have too many laughs? Comedy returns to musical comedy with The Producers. Mel Brooks is outrageous as he attempts to offend as many people, places, nationalities, genders and institutions as possible. He does it without regard to being ‘politically correct.’ Thank God for Brooks' chutzpah! Read more

Bullets Over Broadway National Tour

The show's cast of non-Equity players danced superbly and the main characters were first rate. Equity should do something about such terrific talent working for way under what their worth before all Equity tours disappear. But for Chicago audiences, Bullets Over Broadway plays as a nicely paced, well danced show with funny lines (Woody Allen at his funniest) and spot-on dancers particularly the dancing gangsters. Read more

One-Man Star Wars Trilogy

Ross's retellings of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are a lot more similar to the fan-work genre today known as “The Abridged Series.” He comments more about the absurdities of the story, and drops in a lot more humorous references to the prequels, but also makes a greater effort to capture the emotional heart of the trilogy. Ross also throws in references to the memes and other bits of fan activity that have emerged since he created this show, prior to the rise of the internet or Episodes II and III, but these moments seldom overwhelm the basic point of telling the story. Read more

Jesus Hopped the “A” Train

A new season for Eclipse Theatre means a new playwright to be spotlighted for a year, and Stephen Adly Guirgis is just the one to demonstrate theatre’s continuing relevance and vitality. From The Last Days of Judas Iscariot to The Motherfucker with the Hat, the New York-based Guirgis often wrestles with themes of responsibility, guilt, and justice in plays with a Christian framework and colorful language employed by a diverse array of urban characters. So, too, is the case with his early work, Jesus Hopped the “A” Train, which starts Eclipse’s season with an emotionally piercing production directed by Anish Jethmalani. Read more