Plus, J. picks I’ve Got the World on a String, the Harold Arlen revue at City Lit.
A one-man piece about music and depression at the Neo-Futurists; a 5-plus hour epic about the 20th Century at the Goodman. Jonathan holds forth.
We disagree violently over Porchlight’s Far From Heaven, the musical adaptation of the Todd Haynes film in turn adapted from a women’s weepie of the early 60s. Then K. recommends Refuge Theatre Project’s High Fidelity, the musical adaptation of the John Cusack film in turn adapted from a book in the early 90s. Doesn’t anyone do anything original anymore?
Raven Theatre does a fine job with the Midwest premiere of Horton Foote’s The Old Friends, a sort of updating of The Little Foxes wherein a wealthy woman (or two) manipulates and bullies everyone around her. JoAnn Montemurro is particularly strong as the bully-in-chief, giving a vanity-free performance of a mean sloppy drunk, and director Michael Menendian brings out the best in others as well, especially marssie Mencotti, whose own drunk scene is a highlight of the production. But Foote ended the play rather than finishing it: there’s that telltale pause before the audience starts applauding, because we’re not sure the thing is over. The Old Friends is more action-filled and absorbing than many other Foote plays, which can verge on Chekhovian non-eventfulness; but the lack of resolution nearly invalidates everything that went before. Through the end of March at Raven’s home theater on the Edgewater/Rogers Park border.
Fans of PG Wodehouse will find plenty to like in First Folio’s Jeeves at Sea: Christian Gray and Jim McCance are back as the idiotic Bertie and the unflappable Jeeves, and the four supporting cast members raise such a hullabaloo that it was surprising how few of them there were at curtain call. Never mind the plot: Wodehouse is all about the style, and director Alison Vesely and her cast have it down pat. This version of the early-20th-Century English upper class is the perfect tonic if you’re feeling hung over after bingeing on Downton Abbey.
Refuge Theatre Project begins its sophomore season by knocking it out of the park with High Fidelity, a musical based on the Nick Hornby novel and the John Cusack film of the same name. Turning a second-story space in the West Loop into “the last real record store on earth,” the company under Christopher Pazdernik’s direction manages to convey the essence of slack while nonetheless singing and dancing their hearts out. Every word of the script (by David Lindsay-Abaire, who shows no sign of slumming here but gives it his considerable best), every lyric, every character has a perfect 90s period feel coupled with sharp comedy and a love story or four. Max DeTogne, who plays our anti-hero, is so good I’m gnashing my teeth at having missed him as Jesus Christ Superstar at Theo Ubique–he holds the whole show together with his hangdog charm. Get thee to 666 West Hubbard before the show closes at the end of February, and maybe if you just refuse to leave you can persuade the company to keep running the show–like, forever.
. . . and totally fail to disagree. What Carole King hath put together, let no man put asunder!
Jonathan waxes Scrooge-like about holiday offerings while Kelly takes her inner child out for an excursion. Grab your insulin and dive in!
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!
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.
Plus, K. picks MadKap Productions’ Next to Normal at the Skokie Theatre, and Guardians at Mary-Arrchie, while J. picks The Producers at Knight Blue Performing Arts Company.