Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Wacky and Funny! Eclipse Theatre Company Presents Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them at Athenaeum Theatre (Through December 15, 2019)

Felicity wakes up in a strange bed next to a man she doesn’t recognize. She attempts to sneak out, but he awakens before she can leave. He explains to her that she was really drunk last night and that they got married! After getting to know him a bit, she gets really worried that she has married a terrorist! Her father thinks so also and is determined to stop his next attack with the help of his sidekick, Scooby Doo.

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The whole play is wacky and funny like the two previous Christopher Durang plays produced by Eclipse Theatre Company, Baby with the Bathwater and Beyond Therapy. However, this one also contains a message about how torture is ineffective. It’s a wild ride trying to figure out what is going on and predicting what will happen next.

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Tracey Green is great as Felicity, who is very overwhelmed by the situation she has found herself in. Siddhartha Rajan (Beyond Therapy) is hilarious as her husband. He does great playing the line between being a terrorist or just lazy and unemployed. Patrick Thornton (Requiem for a Heavyweight) is solid as her father, a conspiracy believing right winger. Elaine Carlson is charming as her mother always wanting to talk about theatre. John Arthur Lewis is very funny as the person who married the young couple who also directs porn on the side. Elizabeth Birnkrant is solid as the father’s right hand woman. Lastly, Devon Nimefroh is absolutely hilarious as the narrator who at one point comes on stage saying “I am the waiter in this scene.”

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Get tickets now for Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them at Athenaeum Theatre through December 15!

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

 

Epic! Don’t Miss! The First Deep Breath at Victory Gardens (Through December 22, 2019)

The father is a preacher who rarely demonstrates love toward his children. The children are hungry for his affection and therefore hide their secrets as they also fear his disapproval.  The drama and tension escalate up to Thanksgiving dinner when the shit hits the fan.

The cast is truly fantastic. Each character has their defining moment where they share their deepest feelings and lay out their truth. It’s a wow moment each time as they cease to restrain their feelings and release them.

David Alan Anderson is powerful as the founding pastor of a local church who is focused on its expansion. Celeste Williams (Mies Julie) is heartbreaking as his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Deanna Reed-Foster (Be Here Now) is hilarious as her sister, who has moved in to help take care of her and the house. Clinton Lowe plays the complex oldest child, Albert IV, who has just returned from six years in prison for a crime he may not have committed. Melanie Loren is great as the daughter who is always trying to keep the peace. Gregory Fenner is very affable as her boyfriend who wants to be her husband. Patrick Agada is fantastic as the youngest son, who is afraid to declare what he wants to study in college. Lastly, Jalen Gilbert (Mies Julie) is absolutely excellent as the neighbor who has become part of the family.

At three hours and thirty minutes, you might think this play would feel like it drags on. However, it is such an epic story that it fills this time fully and the time actually flies by. The playwright, Lee Edward Colston II has created a work on the same level as Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Get tickets now for The First Deep Breath through December 22!

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Cost of a ticket: $51

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

Quinn Delaney

Excellent! Lindiwe featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Steppenwolf (Through January 5, 2020)

Lindiwe is a young woman from South Africa who is visiting Chicago. She finds her way to Kingston Mines and is moved by the music, and even more so by the drummer. They spend all their time together for the rest of her trip. Soon afterwards, she returns to Chicago and again they find themselves experiencing a strong connection. However, she longs to return home to continue her singing career. Concurrently, he wants to stay in Chicago to continue his career. Eventually, events take place out of their control that force them to make some very big decisions.

At its heart, this play is a love story. But it is also about so much more. It is about two cultures coming together. Also, there is a supernatural part of the story that is very theatrical and mysterious. The purpose of this is very slowly revealed. Perhaps a bit too slowly.

The music fits in so smoothly. The blues band sounds great. In addition, Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s singing is truly beautiful. Additionally, their dancing is so fun. This is their third collaboration with Steppenwolf. Both groups share the same vision of bringing together individuals to form something greater together, an ensemble.

Nondumiso Tembe is a great lead as Lindiwe. She has a great singing voice and a great positive and infectious energy. Erik Hellman (Familiar) is excellent as the drummer, conflicted between his love for Lindiwe and his love for Chicago and it’s music. Yasen Peyankov (The Children, Between Riverside and Crazy) is outstanding as the Keeper, a larger than life Grim Reaper type character that commands attention. Cedric Young (Familiar) is awesome as Lindiwe’s wise grandfather guiding her through her struggles. Lastly, Jennifer Engstrom is solid as the drummer’s aunt.

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Get tickets now for Lindiwe through January 5th!

 

Cost of a ticket: $85 (Main Floor)

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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Quinn Delaney

Powerful! First Floor Theater Presents Sugar In Our Wounds at The Den Theatre (Through November 23, 2019)

It is the middle of the civil war. A group of slaves are living in the deep south. One of the men is secretly being taught to read by the master’s daughter, who wishes to become a teacher. This is the only nice thing that she does.  He reads about the possibility of all the slaves being freed. An unexpected newcomer arrives and a love story forms in this most unlikely situation.

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This play truly brings to life a dark time in our nation’s history. It’s one thing to read about it in history books, and quite another to see it played out right in front of you. It’s a very powerful production and the actors go through the ringer to put it on every night. During the talkback, they all mention how afterwards they need to disconnect and focus on self care.

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Ashley Crowe is excellent as Mattie, who is looking for love even in this terrible situation. Renee Lockett is outstanding as Aunt Mama, who tries to care for everyone. Grainne Ortlieb puts on a powerful performance as the master’s daughter, who is very racist and the villain of the story. During the talkback, she says how playing this character can be lonely and wouldn’t be possible without the great support she gets from her fellow castmates. Londen Shannon is great as the newcomer who is standoffish at first. Michael Turrentine is great as a young slave facing some difficult decisions.

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Get tickets now for Sugar In Our Wounds through November 23!

 

Cost of a ticket: $35

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

 

Quinn Delaney

Exciting! The Effect at Strawdog Theatre (Through November 23, 2019)

A man and a woman have signed up for a clinical drug trial for an antidepressant. They are given drugs that raise their dopamine levels which satisfies their natural reward systems. This leads to them feeling very attracted to each other and to fall in love. The doctors are wondering if this is strictly an effect of the drug or if it is just the result of them being in the long trial together. The doctors also have a long history together which complicates things further.

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The first half of the play is very exciting as the drugs are having a very positive effect and love is in the air. After the intermission, everything begins to unravel and everyone must struggle to cope with the situation.

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Yeaji Kim created a pristine white and grey set.  The bed and walls are white. The floor is grey. Along with the white lab coats, the environment is well established.

Sam Hubbard is powerful as Tristan, a man who reacts very strongly to the drugs. Daniella Pereira is fantastic as Connie, who also falls in love, but questions whether it is the result of the drug. Cary Shoda is great as the lead doctor, who explains how he came into this line of work with a great story. Lastly, Justine C Turner is excellent as the other doctor who has a complicated history with her boss.

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Get tickets now for The Effect through November 23rd!

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

Polygamy Explored: Silk Road Rising Presents Twice, Thrice, Frice … at The Chicago Temple (Through November 10, 2019)

Three Muslim women are discussing polygamy. One of the women is married and is strongly opposed to the idea. The other two are more religious and support the idea. When one of their husbands marries a second wife, these beliefs are strongly challenged and their friendships are put to the test.

The play is presented as a comedy, but it is more of a dramatic soap opera. It is a light hearted exploration of a serious topic, polygamy. It also dives into the Muslim faith, which is uncommon among the theatre available in Chicago.

Catherine Dildilian is great as Amira, the strong independent artist. She quotes “Kahlil Gibran” to describe her marriage: “And stand together yet not too near together. For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” Marielle Issa is excellent as the young and naïve Samara, searching for love while following the Muslim rules. Annalise Raziq is solid as Khadija, who questions her beliefs when her husband marries a second wife behind her back.

Many Arabic words are used in this play. Here are a few definitions:

Dorrah – Additional wife

Habibi / Habibti – My beloved

Kafir – Nonbeliever

Salam – A general greating, meanin peace

Marielle Issa and Catherine Dildilian. Photo by Airan Wright

Get tickets now for Twice, Thrice, Frice … through November 10th.

Cost of a ticket: $38

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

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

Annalise Razie, Catherine Dildilian, and Marielle Issa. Photo by Airan Wright

Quinn Delaney

1950’s Feel: Porchlight Music Theatre Presents Sunset Boulevard at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts (Through December 8, 2019)

In 1950, Sunset Boulevard was released as a film, directed by Billy Wilder. On July 12th, 1993, the musical version premiered in London starring Patti LuPone. Just five months later, it opened in Los Angeles starring Glenn Close. In 2017, Close reprised her role in London and on Broadway. Now, Porchlight Music Theatre opens their version in October of 2019.

In the musical, an older actress is planning her great return. She has written a gigantic script for her next film. At the same time, a young writer is trying to make it in Hollywood. One night, his car breaks down in front of her house. Upon them meeting, the actress learns that he is a writer and convinces him to stay and help with her screenplay. She even gets him to move in. At the same time, he is working on another project with a young engaged woman. Conflict is inevitable.

With some musicals, it can be difficult to understand the words or it is tiring having every word sung. This is not the case with this production. The singing is slow and clear. Also, the acoustics in the intimate Ruth Page Center for the Arts are excellent. This production keeps the 1950’s feel and will appeal to older audiences.

Hollis Resnik is superb as Norma Desmond, desperate to return to the spotlight. Billy Rude is excellent as Joe Gillis, troubled by the choices presented to him. Michelle Lauto (In the Heights, HAIR) is great as Betty, looking for her first big break in Hollywood. Larry Adams (The Merry Widow) is spectacular as Norma’s servant, who hides many secrets from her. The entire cast sings beautifully.

Get tickets now for Sunset Boulevard through December 8th!

Cost of a ticket: $60

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

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

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Quinn Delaney