Blue Man Group – 2017

Blue Man Group is for everyone: kids, couples, visiting in-laws, clients, fun people, boring people, people with taste, people without taste. It’s an immersive, multi-media, comedy-rock-dance-party-show spectacle for all! If you haven’t seen it, you should; if you haven’t seen it recently, bring the kids, the new girlfriend, the family you have nothing to talk about with; if you have seen it recently, you might just as well wait a couple years, it’ll be around. Read more

Death of a Salesman – 2017

Death of a Salesman so permeates our American subconscious, it hardly needs any introduction. Willy Loman (Brain Parry) is a husk of a man who has staked his life of 30-plus years of traveling salesmanship in the fruitless soil of unrealistic hopes and impractical principles—the pedestrian virtues of being well-liked and wearing a charming smile—to which the world has responded with brutal indifference, literally bricking-out the sun from alighting on his small, urban domain. Read more

High Fidelity – 2017

Set in a tiny found space converted to look and feel like a real record shop (wonderfully realized by Michelle Manni), and accompanied by an impressive live band, Refuge Theatre Project’s immersive remount of High Fidelity lives up to its last-year’s acclaim: it is infectiously catchy, cleverly comedic, and distractingly entertaining. Those more interested in heart than spectacle, however, will find themselves bored by intermission and disappointed by the end. The biggest joke, though, is that High Fidelity was made into a musical at all—a genre derided by the spirit of the film. But too few will mind this irony amidst the rollicking pop-rock and belly laughs of its musical successor. Read more

Cymbeline

Continuing its 29th season, the now itinerant Strawdog Theatre Company takes up its own existential theme of “exile” with Shakespeare’s complexly beautiful Cymbeline. A tragicomedy containing pastoral, fantastic, romantic, and historical elements—many of them concise allusions to his earlier plays—Shakespeare’s Cymbeline finds a coherent, quirky, and imaginative translation to the stage under the direction of Robert Kauzlaric. Read more

Eurydice

Director Hand’s vision of Eurydice’s world comes across as only half concocted. In effect a two-tiered set with a dilapidated brick façade half-obscured by a white, translucent tarp, the “place” of this world is highly ambiguous and suggests virtually no atmosphere to either the realm of the living or of the dead. The nicest touch is an elevator and sliding door, through which the newly deceased enter and in which they are sprinkled with the waters of Lethe (thereby losing their memories). But neither this embellishment nor even the stony inhabitants of Hades, each of whom are dressed like figures from the past—a half-cocked nod toward some theme of “nostalgia”—can redeem this set’s production value in some coherence of “world.” Read more

Phèdre

Not only for those who appreciate steeping in the viscous bath of lustful tremors, Phèdre also offers much fodder for post-production discussion for those who appreciate thinking. For one, the interplay of the gods, the emasculated Mars and the vindictive Venus, analogues perhaps for their respective passions—or, if psychology is more your bent, the animus and anima—is worth contemplating: specifically, what role does Euripides/Racine/Schmidt/Wiesner see these gods playing in affecting the characters and their actions; and what role does the ruler/patriarch Theseus (Carl Wisniewski) play in attempting to set right his kingdom overrun by passion? Read more

The Rosenkranz Mysteries: An Evening of Magic to Lift the Spirits

Herein also lies Dr. Rosenkranz’s personal philosophy on medicine: “There is something beautiful and wonderful about the unknown,” he says, “and I think, in that sense, magic and medicine share a DNA.” As Dr. Rosenkranz demonstrates in his performance, the doctor is the patient’s guide to the unknown realm of medical science just as the illusionist is the same to the metaphysical realm of the paranormal. The perspective with which the patient approaches medicine, whether as an impersonal and clinical system of testing and measuring or as a personal and cooperative engagement between two humans, is as much a paradigm that is set by the doctor as is the illusionist’s theatrics. Both establish the expectations and etiquette of their respective offices that largely determine the patient/audience experience. Read more

Winterset

Winterset is certainly a political drama, but one that is more timeless than it is merely timely: Anderson composed his script with a keen and empathetic, poetic eye, and his voice is as sympathetic toward justice and truth as it is understanding toward those who hide from it with violence or fear. Under the guidance of director Jonathan Berry, Griffin’s production of Winterset is one of the few Chicago shows I’d say demonstrates the potential of theatre in Chicago. Read more

Electra

To bring us all up to Electra: prior to Electra, Agamemnon, to appease the goddess Artemis in order to allow his troops to reach Troy, sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia (Iphigenia at Aulis); then, to avenge the death of her daughter (and because she had, during Agamemnon’s 10-year absence, taken up an adulterous affair with Aegisthus, Agamemnon’s cousin and rival to the House of Atreus), Clytemnestra murders Agamemnon, prompting Electra to send her brother, Orestes, into hiding (lest her mother should murder him, too), until the time when he might return to avenge his father’s death (Agamemnon). Read more

Rutherford’s Travels

In the spirit of its newly rebranded mission to produce “boldly imaginative theatre” and “illuminate the human journey,” Pegasus Theatre opened this weekend Rutherford’s Travels, its World Premiere adaptation of Charles Johnson’s National Book Award-Winning Novel Middle Passage. A story about a newly freed slave who accidentally happens upon a slave ship bound for Africa, Rutherford’s Travels is an entertaining adventure and an impressive feat of adaptation. Read more