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Tug of War: Foreign Fire

This spring’s six-hour long Tug of War: Foreign Fire is made up of the rarely-seen Edward III, Henry V, and Henry VI Part One. Next fall’s accompanying epic, Civil Strife, will consist of the other two parts of Henry VI, and Richard III. It’s an unusual combination, which massively re-contextualizes the Hundred Years War into an examination of personalities, and perhaps most significantly, transforms Henry V into a tragedy. The result, though in some way massive in scale, is also deeply intimate, and through the outstanding work of Gaines, her ensemble, and her production team, a long-ago conflict becomes vital again. Read more

One Man, Two Guvnors

Lovers of British comedy, lovers of classic commedia dell' arte, and patrons of fearless uninhibited acting will be impressed by the stage craft in this show. Laughs reign here. You'll be hard pressed to find a funnier comedy that One Man, Two Guvnors. This show begs for more commedial dell' arte physical comedy productions to be mounted in Chicago. Get to Court Theatre to see for yourself what smart comedy is all about. this is one of the finest shows of the year! Read more

Johanna Faustus

Over the past few years, The Hypocrites’ artistic director Sean Graney has produced a few Shakespeare adaptations that were only an hour long and were designed by their ensembles. But while those productions ran for the standard six weeks, his new adaptation with Emily Casey of Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is playing for a very limited engagement. Perhaps it’s being workshopped for another production later on. If so, it needs to be rethought in every aspect. Read more

Eurydice

As with the original myth, the heart of Eurydice is the love between Eurydice and Orpheus and, here, also between Eurydice and her father. If a production can’t make me feel this love in the actors, then 95 minutes of Sarah Ruhl’s sentimental poetry is a long time to endure just to see them all finally dunked in the oblivion of the River of Lethe. And by the end, I was just about dying to dunk myself. Read more

The Body of an American

It is well-known how easily a play about itself can go awry, especially when it contains heavy use of unusual performance techniques. However, writer Dan O’Brien knew that the story of his relationship with war photojournalist Paul Watson defied conventional narratives—it’s messy, inconclusive, and made up of snapshots taken from chaos. Fortunately, Stage Left director Jason A. Fleece knows just how to handle his two-man cast and team of designers to make each moment of the story clear and effective. Against the background of the shooting down of American Black Hawk helicopters in Somalia in 1993, as well as the threatened serenity of the Arctic, two men explore the ethics of their professions, and what drives them to keep on sharing theirs and other peoples’ dysfunctions with the world. Read more

Death and Harry Houdini (2016)

With their long-running escape room The Last Defender playing downstairs, and their first show, Death and Harry Houdini being revived upstairs, The House Theatre has decisively conquered The Chopin. Both are major hits for the highly innovative company, which use non-standard storytelling techniques, and both, it so happens, force people to rely on their ingenuity to escape mortal peril. Magician Dennis Watkins stands a far better chance of prevailing than the defenders in the basement. In this latest revival, Watkins is at total ease in the role of Houdini, but Nathan Allen’s writing incorporates the escape and magic tricks into a story as exciting as it is tragic and ironic. With the addition of The House’s always evocative music, composed by Kevin O’Donnell, Death and Harry Houdini is far more than a parade of illusions; it captures the magic of theatre, as well. Read more

The Secretaries

Take the premise of an all-female cult that butchers men, and fill it up with camp, gore, and crude humor, and you should have something that’s funny, scary, or at least, offensive. But no, About Face Theatre’s Chicago premiere production The Secretaries is simply dull, and plods along for two hours without any emotional resonance. Read more

Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook

We admire their spirit and determination; we feel their pain and we share Lucy Parsons' passion and grief. Once this marvelous musical is finished, we realize that we have witnessed fine art piece - a rarity for a musical. Haymarket: The Anarchist's Songbook is one of the finest new musicals mounted on a Chicago stage in years! This show is a polished, finished product that begs for a long Chicago run before it moves across the nation. Read more

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord

What happens when you throw together a dead president, the best-selling English-language author of the nineteenth century, and an aristocratic Christian anarchist? As it turns out, not much. Director Kimberly Senior and her three-man cast wring every bit of drama and humor they can out of Scott Carter’s dry idea-play, but the gospel according to these three people who have all faded into and been surpassed by history is long on premise and doesn’t delve much deeper into philosophy than most people are likely to have already gone on their own. Actually, upon examination, the premise is self-defeating, but more on that later. It does contain some fine performances though, and another round at the sort of questions Carter asks is what a lot of people consider leisure to be for. Read more