Plus, we preview summer theater at Theater on the Lake, First Folio, Oak Park Festival, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, etc., etc. and highlight some free music, dance and film available
We differ over Interrobang’s The North Pool, the Midwest premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s play (I’m right, of course, and Jonathan is wrong). Then J. recommends Tug of War: Foreign Fire, Chicago Shakespeare’s mashup of several history plays, while K. picks Michael Bradford’s Migration at eta Creative Arts, another history play with music, this one about the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to Chicago.
We talk about the contemporary implications of Galileo’s work as interpreted by Brecht and adapted by David Hare and directed by Nick Sandys at Remy Bumppo, and with that many cooks in the kitchen who can be surprised it’s a bit of an olio? Plus a survey of the coming Shakespeare 400 celebrations, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death.
Chicago Shakespeare’s celebration of the Bard’s quadracentenary begins with a misfire. Othello as directed by Jonathan Munby is a classic example of a big bad concept mugging a defenseless script. Munby’s decision to set the play among contemporary khaki-clad GIs adds nothing to our understanding of the play and interferes with our seeing it—sometimes literally, as when the huge boxes representing various portions of the army camp are moved around so they upstage the actors. Amidst all this pushing and shoving and singing of hip-hop, there’s little sign of the play as an interaction among interesting characters nor as an indictment of racism.
There’s an occasional strong scene—the first one in which Iago (the otherwise misdirected Michael Milligan) shares his suspicions with Othello (James Vincent Meredith, who deserves to lead a better production than this); the drunk scene of Michael Cassio (Luigi Sottile); the final encounter between Othello and Desdemona (Bethany Jillard). But whenever there are more than two people on the stage there’s a complete collapse of focus, the sure sign of a director too busy with his concept to bother with his actors. And there’s so much foreshadowing that it becomes comic, as each actor proclaims “honest Iago” with such force the set nearly falls over. The fact that Iago is able to fool Othello and the rest is not supposed to be funny: it’s the source of the play’s tragedy.
If you’re interested in the play, wait until spring when you’ll find the Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix, which notwithstanding its innovative hip-hop rendition is far truer to the original than this.
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.
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.
Plus, J. and K. describe the current building boom: new space for the Goodman’s educational programs, for Steppenwolf, for Writers Theater, even for tiny Factory Theater. Strawdog may be compelled to move, TimeLine hopes to move, the Actors’ Gym expands into the old Next Theatre, and the last one standing when the music stops is–probably wise.
The Critics dispute the meaning of Dunsinane, The National Theatre of Scotland/Royal Shakespeare Company “sequel” to Macbeth; whereupon K. recommends Macbeth itself at The Artistic Home.
It takes a pair of Jews to find the very best Christmas shows. Jonathan and Kelly do not disappoint, mixing classics with newcomers and sincere celebrations of the season with the snarkiest possible takes on it. Whatever your attitude, you’ll find much to enjoy!
Kay Kron (Tara) and Rob Fenton (Robbie) in Haven Theatre Company’s production of Hot Georgia Sunday. (Photo by Dean LaPrairie.)
Hot Georgia Sunday, Haven Theatre Company at the Den
Hot Georgia Sunday tells its story of love and faith in a Georgia town through a series of interwoven monologues as funny as they are genuine. Any mention of “love and faith” suggests a treacly sort of religiosity, but what playwright Catherine Trieschmann gives us is something quite different: a portrait of hardscrabble people doing their profane best to get from day to day. Trieschmann writes with equal parts wit and sensitivity, and director Marti Lyons makes sure every line gets its due. A superb ensemble of six makes you laugh at them and with them all at the same time. This is a Chicago premiere; I want someone to find Trieschman’s next play now so it can have its world premiere here. She is going to be a big star.
Q Brothers’ A Christmas Carol at Chicago Shakespeare
And speaking of profane, the Q Brothers’ hip-hop contemporary musical rendition of A Christmas Carol is likewise free of sugarplums and treacle, but filled with genuine (dare I say it?) Christmas spirit. As Scrooge, whose bah-humbug is here rendered “Christ-my-ass-mas!,” goes through the past, present and future, the brothers and their company ring every possible change on the familiar tale: the two philanthropists whom our anti-hero rejects wear yarmulkes and are named Rahm and Ari; Tiny Tim has an unbelievable array of illnesses (“Now I have gout. In my ear.”); and the ghost of Marley turns out to be Bob Marley, or as the ghost puts it, “My own personal hell.” The show is a blast, as clever and still as true to the original as the Brothers’ versions of Shakespeare. See it when you’re feeling most cynical about the holiday—its rhymes and rhythms will perk you right up.