The two of us, in New York for the American Theatre Critics’ Association conference, took every advantage of the change of scene. We duel over Allegiance, about Japanese-Americans interned during World War II, and then each reviews the shows s/he saw individually: K. enthuses over the musicals Hamilton and Spring Awakening and the black comedy Hand to God, while J. discusses An American In Paris, and two off-Broadway world premieres: Ripcord and DaDa Woof Papa Hot. Chicagoans who plan to be in New York for the holidays won’t lack for things to see, and will have our expert guidance to assist them!
Plus, K. recommends The Play About My Dad at Raven Theater, Gary promotes the Critics’ role in the Dual Duel competition at Comedy Sportz, and J. foreshadows upcoming conversations about New York theater and about holidays shows.
The critics enthuse about extraordinary acting by Mary Ann Thebus and Kate Fry in the final production at Writers’ ancestral home at the back of the bookstore, and then talk about all the bricks-and-mortar action in the theater community: new homes not only for Writers but for Northlight, TimeLine, Griffin.
Plus J. recommends Charm by Northlight at the Steppenwolf Garage.
J. and K. praise the direction and acting of Good for Otto at the Gift but raise some questions about the text of this new David Rabe play. Then K. picks For Her As A Piano at Pegasus Players and J. recommends the new musical Ride the Cyclone at Chicago Shakespeare.
J. and K. disagree about Steppenwolf’s production of East of Eden, written by Frank Galati and directed by Terry Kinney, and then K. and Gary assess the Shattered Globe revival of Marvin’s Room, directed by original dramaturg Sandy Shinner and written by the late Scott McPherson.
The critics swoon over the magic-by-Teller, music-by-Tom-Waits, dance-by-Pilobolus Tempest at Chicago Shakespeare starring Larry Yando, and then J. recommends Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information at Remy Bumppo.
The world premiere of Hamish Linklater’s play The Cheats at Steep Theatre shows a writer with a good ear, a director (Joanie Schultz) who knows how to extend a tense situation to make it snap back with maximum force in the audience’s face, and a fine group of actors wholly inhabiting their characters. But this apparent homage to “Rear Window” nonetheless fails to satisfy.
John and Anne live across the street from Jonathan and his wife, and John has taken to watching/spying on the other couple whenever he goes out on the balcony for a cigarette. Just as his speculations about the neighbors reach a fever pitch, Jonathan shows up at the door to engage them in history’s most awkward visit: without apparent purpose, but full of menace. When John goes out, Jonathan threatens Anne with a secret he knows about her, but as soon as Anne leaves the two men begin exchanging secrets of their own. As the awkwardness ripens into hostility and then violence, all is revealed; end of play.
The theme seems to be something along the lines of, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, or perhaps don’t speculate about other people’s secrets unless you’re prepared to have your own revealed. Or perhaps it’s just a meditation on the impossibility of marriage. There’s a bit of each but when it was all over I didn’t know what conclusion to draw: that we are all being watched all the time, and though it seems like a harmless pastime it’s anything but? That we should stay disconnected from our neighbors lest they do something life-damaging to us?
The play’s appeal is readily apparent: three meaty roles, and Peter Moore, Kendra Thulin and Brad Akin make the most of them. But without a clearer moral stance, the author turns the audience into the very voyeurs he condemns. Perhaps that was his point, but I didn’t find it an enriching one.
Then K. picks the Pulitzer Prizewinning Disgraced at the Goodman while J. recommends August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at Court.
Plus two more musicals: K. recommends Boho Theatre’s Dogfight and J. picks Sideshow at Porchlight.