Category Archives: women/feminism in theater

Which one of us whacks the other in the knee? We review Tonya and Nancy, The Rock Opera

Critical rivals take on Underscore’s Tonya and Nancy—and one another—in a sharp-edged conversation.  Plus, a memory and appreciation of First Folio’s Alison Vesely.

Feminism is the theory, violence is the practice? Good Friday at Oracle Productions


 

We talk about Oracle Theatre’s new production Good Friday.

The Goodman, and the Dueling Critics, don War Paint

Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole grace the stage at the Goodman; Kelly and Jonathan grace the airwaves on Sunday mornings on WDCB!

Northanger Abbey: Jane Austen Spoofs Gothic Romances; Lifeline Theatre Adds Music

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

Spinning at Irish Theatre of Chicago: The Critics Disagree!

We battle over this U.S. premiere of Deirdre Kinahan’s play at the Den Theatre.  Then J. recommends Theatre on the Lake, opening June 15, featuring revivals of some of the best of the past year’s shows. Gary notes that on August 10 we’ll be the guest fighters in Cinema Slapdown, sponsored by Columbia College Chicago and taking place at the Music Box in Lakeview.  The topic: the movie “Showgirls.”  Guess which of us takes which position.

Dry Land at Rivendell: Anything But Dry

Rivendell presents a vivid drama about DIY abortion, female friendship and chlorine-green hair, and we hail the arrival of the new generation of brilliant actresses.  Plus, we critique the Tony Award nominations and tease out the Chicago connections therein.

The Mirror Has Seven Faces: Mary Page Marlowe by Tracy Letts at Steppenwolf

We grapple with this world premiere; plus K. picks The Book Club Play at 16th Street Theatre and J. picks Carlyle at the Goodman.

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In brief: The Book Club Play at 16th Street Theater

K. sez:

The Book Club Play at 16th Street Theater affectionately skewers the title institution while giving serious consideration to the value of literature and witty lines to the characters discussing it.  Playwright Karen Zacarias captures deftly the territoriality often exhibited by club members when confronted with outsiders, as well as the ongoing tension about what (and whether!) to read.  An audience talk-back after the play had everyone deeply engaged in the play’s central question—“What is literature?”—even if most people wound up agreeing with the character who argued that being educated requires being open to high culture and pop culture alike.

Though Zacarias’s book group violates stereotypes by being co-ed, director Kevin Christopher Fox’s perfect pitch for this essentially female institution nonetheless came as something of a surprise.  Artistic Director Ann Filmer plays the group’s founder (or so the character claims) with just the right blend of overbearing-ness and insecurity, and she’s ably supported by the others, especially Jesse Dornan as the club-crasher who turns the group on its ear and its members on each other through nothing more than his desire to belong.

If you’ve ever been in a book group (particularly one that went sour) you should see this, and if you haven’t you’ll see this and congratulate yourself on your foresight. It’s selling well enough that they announced an extension on opening night, so don’t delay—it’s not like you have to read the book first!

Arcadia at Writers’ Theatre: Vintage Wine in a New Bottle

We review Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and the horse it rode in on, namely Writers’ Theatre’s new Jeanne Gang-designed home.  Then K., suffering from an excess of enthusiasm, recommends two shows in Rogers Park: Rent at Theo Ubique and Pride & Prejudice at Adapt Theatre, while  J. restricts himself to a single pick: After All The Terrible Things I Do (a/k/a his autobiography) at About Face.

 

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In brief: Adapt Theatre’s Pride & Prejudice at the side project; Butler at Northlight

Elizabeth Bennett, The Girl and Mr. Darcy in Adapt Theatre’s production of Pride and Prejudice.

K. sez:

Pride and Prejudice at Adapt Theatre is a delight. even at 3-+ hours.  Using the framing device of an awkward teenage girl (Laila Sauer) who resists reading the book, adapter Lane Flores and director Amanda Lautermilch create a version faithful to the original but with a youthful and contemporary feel.  Aja Wiltshire is a lovely Elizabeth, with just the right balance of snark and sweetness, and Andrew Thorp makes persuasive Darcy’s transformation from pompous asshole to gentleman lover.  And of course any shy young girl obsessed with music would find herself turning into Georgiana!  Cassandra Laine and Melissa Reeves uphold the honor of the older generation as Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine, each appalling in her own way, and Connor Konz takes a part that’s been done by A-listers like Alan Cumming and makes it his own: he could hardly be smarmier or more self-satisfied or more ludicrous.  Some of the choices are a little strange—why is Mary wearing headgear and combat boots, again?—but others are terrific, like the weird instrument Mary insists on playing to Lizzy’s humiliation and the disapprobation of all.

If these names mean nothing to you, it’s time to get acquainted with Pride & Prejudice, and Adapt Theatre provides the close-to-ideal introduction.  And if you know exactly who I’m talking about, prepare to spend an afternoon or evening smiling as you hear dialogue directly from the book spoken by people who clearly love Jane Austen as much as you do.  And at $20 ($15 for students and seniors), you can’t beat the price!  At the (tiny) side project in Rogers Park through April 10, unless we get lucky and they extend it.

Butler (which, come to think of it, could be called “Pride & Prejudice” itself!) is about as likely as a unicorn: a comedy about slavery and the Civil War.  But a very smart script by Richard Strand, impeccable direction by Stuart Carden and especially the comic chops of the four-man company make both moving and hilarious this fictional re-telling of a real incident which helped turn the tide against the Fugitive Slave Act. Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler (the outstanding —no, astonishing!—Greg Vinkler) has just taken command of Fort Monroe, a Union outpost in Virginia, when escaped slave Shepard Mallory (Tosin Morohunfola, whom I’ve somehow never seen before but can’t wait to see again) shows up demanding sanctuary.  Their battle of wits,    interspersed with commentary by Nate Burger as the General’s adjutant and high Confederate swanning by Tim Monsion as the officer sent to retrieve Mallory, is funny and profound and touching all at the same time.  The most intense pleasure of the evening arises from Strand’s observation that these two apparent opposites—the black slave and the white general—are    actually exactly alike.  Northlight’s production runs through April 17 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.