For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday

As the political, social and economic discussion, fueled by a bottle of Jameson, ignites the sibling rivalry that has long existed in the family heads in a strange direction. Ann remembers playing Peter Pan in Davenport, Iowa in 1958 then meeting Mary Martin. As the children talk about their youth, the question becomes: “When do you really become a grown-up? is there a moment that defines maturity? Or will you, like Peter Pan, “never wear a tie?

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King of Yees

When her father suddenly goes missing, Lauren (Stephenie Soohyun Park) embarks on a search through San Francisco’s Chinatown where she’ll have to embrace the past in order to get her father back. Filled with much humor, appreciated more my the Chinese-Americans in the audience, King of the Yees comes off as a blend of Chinese past traditions and contemporary beliefs. Lauren fights her past and her father yet she must acknowledge her roots to succeed.

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The Great & Terrible Wizard of Oz – 2017 production

First produced in their 3rd season, The House Theatre of Chicago’s The Great & Terrible Wizard of Oz—their own adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book with a “modern twist”—returned this past week to close their 15th season. An elaborate set design (by Collette Pollard) complete with life-size puppets (designed by Jesse Mooney-Bullock) and actual flying monkeys (choreographed by Ryan Bourque) give this staging an uncommonly high production value. However, for a classic tale that was epitomized in its Broadway and film productions and has since gone on to saturate our American culture this charmingly cute production with a “modern twist” brings nothing remarkably new to experience: the Broadway hits are absent, replaced by a few lame indi-folk ballads; and the story itself is strangely circuitous, plodding, and lacking in dramatic excitement. My lasting impression: Why was this made?

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Beyond Caring

Beyond Caring is a naturalistic drama about the plight of temp cleaning crews working for low wages in horrible conditions without benefits in an American factory. Barely surviving and working extremely hard–we see the four mopping floors, scrubbing walls and cleaning manufacturing machines. They barely have proper cleaning equipment, no insurance and no health benefits. They work late night hours with short breaks. This is a gritty portrait of exploited workers.

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Mary Poppins at the Mercury Theatre Chicago

The magic and mystery of Mary Poppins (is she myth or an angel from heaven?) is effectively played by Nicole Arnold while Matthew Crowle’s Bert guides us through the journey of the Banks family’s awakening with panache and a warm smile. We are totally engrossed and richly rewarded having spent a few hours in Poppins’ world where anything can happen if you take a spoonful of sugar. Matthew Crowle anchors this production.

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The Elephant Girls

The material from which this first one-woman show on the subject is drawn is vast, and actor/playwright, Margo MacDonald has done a skillful job of conflating various of the protagonists into a role for herself, embodying Alice Diamond, ‘top bitch’, to the gang’s ‘enforcer’, packing enough weaponry to supply a minor gang war. In addition, she most convincingly portrays other characters along the way in her story.

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In To America

One of the most telling traits of this show is the treatment of common men and women, the real immigrants, not the upper-class privileged immigrants who came here with land grants and armies. This presentation is about common folks in their own words. We hear their plights and their desires – and – their problems one they arrived. We realize that discrimination was always a fabric of the American Experience. That fear of new arrivals, especially those who looked different and had different cultures, was hard to assimilate yet somehow they did become “Americans.”

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Fatelessness

I would call Theatre Y’s production of Fatelessness daring, not least because it challenges its audience’s casual investment of attention and intellect, but especially because it offers no extraneous, aesthetic pretentions to disguise the challenge: it is sincerely—that is on principle, for a purpose—unsentimental. Personally, I found the casual and welcoming discussion after the performance more cultivating than the performance itself, but for admirers of avant-garde productions that imagine outside the (black)box, Fatelessness is a singular and fascinating theatrical experience.

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Play Ground

The production this reviewer saw was her try-out show at Wilton’s Music Hall, an extraordinary venue in London’s East End (and well worth a visit in itself). In the transfer to Brighton’s burgeoning Festival fringe in May, it is to be hoped that the next incarnation of the show will see its huge potential fully realised.

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Born Yesterday

Featuring an impressive set (designed by Grant Dabin), Garson Kanin’s 1946 dark comedy Born Yesterday is a timely cautionary tale about internal threats to our democracy from corrupt businessmen. (sounds familiar?) Kanin’s clever structured story involves a boorish, crude and loudmouthed millionaire junk dealer who descends on Washington, DC just after World War II to bribe a US Senator in a scheme to salvage all the junk metal (from tanks, trucks, and cannons) in Europe scattered around France Belgium and Germany.

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