Monthly Archives: July 2019

Fantastic! The Recommendation at Windy City Playhouse (Through September 22, 2019)

Two young men, Iskinder and Aaron, meet in their dorm room at Brown. They quickly become friends and throw parties together. Aaron’s father is well connected and his recommendation of Iskinder leads him to get accepted at UCLA for law school. Aaron becomes an assistant for a producer as he works his way up the ladder in the film industry. Everything is looking great until Aaron gets pulled over for a broken tail light and gets arrested for an unknown reason. In the holding cell, he meets Dwight, who teaches him the rules of prison and so much more.

Just like Windy City Fieldhouse’s previous production, Southern Gothic, this play is presented in a immersive style. In contrast to Southern Gothic, there is only one story line. Instead of wandering around freely, the audience is escorted from the bar to the dorm room, to the back porch, to the prison cell, to the sushi restaurant, and to the sauna. The set design by Lauren Nigri is very impressive as each room unfolds into the next.

The cast is fantastic. Michael Aaron Pogue is great as Iskinder doing his best to fight for justice as a lawyer. Julian Hester is hilarious as Aaron Feldman, the Ferris Bueller type character who is always the center of attention. Lastly, Brian Keys is excellent as Dwight Barnes, the convict with questionable intentions.

The experience is one of only a few immersive theatre experiences in the Chicago scene recently. One was the Hubbard Street Dance Fall Series which featured dancers all over the Harris Theatre. They were in the lobby, stairways, the seats, the dressing rooms, and backstage. Another one is Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding in which you get to be a guest at a wedding for the ceremony and the reception (at two different locations). The third is Flanagan’s Wake, at Chicago Theatre Works, which is a wild Irish party. If you were a fan of any of these, you’ll definitely enjoy this Windy City Playhouse production.


Get tickets now for The Recommendation through September 22!

Cost of a ticket: $100

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

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Quinn Delaney

Hilariously Dramatic! Haven Theatre Presents KISS at the Den Theatre (Through August 18,2019)

In true soap opera fashion, the music swells as a woman answers the door and a man enters. It is her sister’s boyfriend who has come to the party early to confess his love for her. He is so in love that he goes on and proposes marriage to her. She admits that she is also in love with him and accepts his proposal. As they are kissing, her boyfriend knocks on the door. They let him in and he appears nervous. Then, he goes on to propose to her! The story line continues in this crazy fashion with each new development being bigger and more ridiculous until a huge plot twist changes everything.

The first half is a hilarious parody of a soap opera.  The over acting by the two couples includes Arti Ishak, Monty Cole, Cassidy Slaughter-Mason and Salar Ardebili has the audience laughing non stop just like Two Mile Hollow, which appeared at the Den Theatre two years ago. The original emotional music by Jeffrey Levin adds greatly to the humor and setting the scene. Then, the twist occurs and the tone switches sharply. It’s a very spectacular moment that could only work in theatre. It becomes very serious and dramatic with a touch of performance art like White Rabbit Red Rabbit, which was also produced at the Den Theatre last year.

Get tickets now for KISS through August 18th!


Cost of a ticket: $40

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It +

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother


Quinn Delaney

An Intensely Conflicted Brother Relationship! True West at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through August 25, 2019)

Two adult brothers, Austin and Lee, are staying at their mother’s house in the desert while she is in Alaska. Austin is working on a screenplay that he is going to present to a producer that is coming over. He wants his brother out of the house at this time. So, he reluctantly gives him the keys. The producer comes over and Lee returns just as they are wrapping up. Lee invites the producer to play golf so that he can pitch his story, against his brother’s wishes. The producer ends up loving the story and the two brothers must work on it together, despite their differences.

Sam Sheppard (Fool to Love) has written here another play that explores human relationships incredibly well with great pacing. Jon Michael Hill (Pass Over, Constellations) plays Austin, the right brained one who is organized and focused on his work. Namir Smallwood (BLKS) plays Lee, the left brained one who is a bit of a mess but is creative and can come up with great ideas. The actors have great chemistry together and truly create an intensely conflicted brother relationship. Francis Guinan (Downstate, The Minutes, The Rembrandt, Hir) is solid reprising the role he played back in the 1982 Steppenwolf production in a very cool link to the past.

As usual for Steppenwolf, the set by Todd Rosenthal is very impressive. A full house is built on a desert lot. It really sets the scene well. Also, the sound design by Richard Woodbury is fantastic. The twangy western guitar mixed with the sounds of coyotes is perfect. All of the elements really come together for an immersive experience.

True West 4

Get tickets now to True West through August 25th!

Cost of a ticket: $80

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

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True West 2

Quinn Delaney

Hawaiian Rock! Iration and Pepper at House of Blues Chicago (July 14, 2019)

The House of Blues is packed tonight for some reggae rock.  Pepper takes the stage and the crowd is soon transported to a tropical beach.  They play Ashes and everyone sways back and forth to the music. This Hawaiian band knows how to set a groove and keep it going.  They leave the stage with the audience wanting more.

Iration formed in 2004 in Hawaii and since then they have toured relentlessly earning them the honor to headline at the House of Blues Chicago. Early on, they launch into “Summer Nights”. “Getting high, thinking about the summer nights” sing the whole crowd as they sway back and forth and enjoy this great reggae groove.

For a fun cover, they play “What’s My Age Again?” by Blink-182. They don’t sing the words, however. They allow the audience to shout the lyrics along to the trumpet playing the vocal notes.

For “Last to Know”, the lead singer puts down his guitar. “Move to the beat, to the beat don’t stop” he sings as he dances around the stage. This song is from their latest self titled album. It demonstrates them exploring new territory by adding a touch of dance to their sound. It works fantastically and the crowd eats it up.

For the first encore song, only the lead singer returns to the stage to play “Falling” on an acoustic guitar. It’s a beautiful sing along and a great choice for an encore.

Cost of a ticket: $45
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Impressive Lineup! The Strumbellas, lovelytheband, and Joywave at the Taste of Chicago (July 13, 2019)

First up is Joywave, a rock band from Rochester, NY. They take the stage all dressed in white track suits. They jump right into their blend of rock / dance / electronic music.  “Don’t ever want to wake up, next to someone new” sings the band leader on “Someone New”. Later on, he mentions that one of their earliest shows was in Chicago. He remembers seeing fireworks with the Sears Tower in the background. “Who would have thought we would end up in Millennium Park 12 years later playing to dozens of people!” A few small corrections there: The concert is taking place in Grant Park and there are hundreds of people in attendance. Towards the end of the set, they play the fantastic “Tongues”. It’s impossible not to dance along to this infectious song.

Next up to the stage is lovelytheband from LA. They start off with a bang by playing “make you feel pretty”. “Spending all my money just to make you feel pretty” they sing. It’s an incredibly fun song that gets the audience up and dancing right away. Later on, the singer explains that he broke his hand and that it hurts to play the guitar, but he is powering through it. He jokes that he is taking his songs too literally. This joke refers to the song that they close their set with, “broken”. “I like that you’re broken, broken like me. Maybe that makes me a fool.”

Last up are The Strumbellas from Canada. Their fun sound filled with a lot of heys and the full band singing is similar to The Lumineers. This is good company to be in and their live show matches their energy too. It’s a great close to an impressive lineup of bands at the Taste of Chicago on the Petrillo Music Shell.

Cost of a ticket: $25
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney


Poetic Rock! Courtney Barnett with Sunflower Beam at the Taste of Chicago (July 10, 2019)

Courtney Barnett has played Chicago many times. Lollapalooza in 2014, the Metro later that year, and Pitchfork Music Festival last year just to name a few. This year, she is promoting her new single released in April called, Everybody Here Hates You as she plays The Taste of Chicago. It is her last stop on this tour. A hot 90 degrees welcomes her as she takes the stage at a quarter to seven after Sunflower Beam successfully warmed up the audience.

Barnett’s lyrical style is a stream of consciousness style. It’s poetic in nature. “If you’ve got a spare half million, you could knock it down and start rebuilding” she sings on the beautiful crafted “Depreston”. The lyrics even look great translated into American Sign Language by the interpreter on the right hand side of the stage.

She closes her set with “Pedestrian at Best” from her album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. It’s one of her more rocking songs and a great choice for a closer. “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you!” she yells as she plays power chords on her guitar while strutting and spitting across the stage.

Cost of a ticket: $25

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value –

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney


Crazy Funny! Kokandy Productions Presents Head Over Heels at Theatre Wit (Through August 25, 2019)

What happens when you take The Arcadia by Sir Phillip Sidney and mix it with songs by the Go-Go’s? You get one hell of play that blends literature from the 1580s and music from the 1980s. For example, there is a part of the story where King Basilius gives a letter to Musidorus, who is cross dressing as a woman. Musidorus thinks the letter is intended for the Queen and gives it to her. She thinks the letter was written by Musidorus, who she knows is a man. This leads to the King and Queen unknowingly rekindling their romance in the dark during “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”.

The play is full of crazy funny moments like that one. Also, the music is superb with a live band playing and great singing by the entire large ensemble cast.


Frankie Leo Bennett is fantastically hilarious as King Basilius. Bridget Adams-King’s (Haymarket) voice shines as Pamela. Jeremiah Alsop is excellent as Musidorus. Also of note are Liz Norton and Parker Guidry, who were both in the Kokandy Productions show from last year, Grand Hotel. You may also recognize Kaimana Neil in the ensemble from A Chorus Line and Shane Roberie from Nightmares & Nightcaps.


Get tickets now for Head Over Heels through August 25th!

Cost of a ticket: $40

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother


Quinn Delaney

Reunited! Anberlin at House of Blues Chicago (June 30, 2019)

Anberlin formed in 2002 in Florida. In 2014, they broke up to spend more time with their families and other projects. They have reunited this year with a plan to tour differently than in the past. As the lead singer, Stephen Christian, puts it, they are just focusing on the band and their fans for this run. This one isn’t about money but more about comradery.

Near the middle of the show, Christian invites a fan on stage to be a backup singer. The fan invites his girlfriend to join him as well. He then surprises her by proposing. She accepts and they embrace. The band then plays the romantic song, “Inevitable”, as they dance and sing backup. “I want to be your last first kiss for all time.”

The band is clearly excited to be on tour. They play a set spanning their career with great energy throughout. This includes a set of acoustic songs in the middle of their set. The ability of a band to have the range to go from hard rocking electric rock to soft acoustic shows great songwriting ability. This has earned them a strong group of fervent fans that sold out the Saturday performance and allowed them to add a second show on Sunday.

See the full setlist here.

Cost of a ticket: $35
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney