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‘Love’s Labor’s Lost’ at Chicago Shakespeare: Delectable comedy made clear, biting and dark

Feb 18, 2017 – 7:37 pm
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Review: Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s new production of the Bard’s “Love’s Labor’s Lost” is a joyous voyage of discovery, a comedic delight that strips away the thicket of a problematic play and leaves us with the bare sober truth of human folly. Deftly edited and wittily directed by Marti Maraden, it brings together an acting ensemble so well integrated that the whole rollicking night feels like the work of a practiced improv troupe. ★★★★★

Shakespeare 400 Chicago: ‘The Winter’s Tale’ brings remembrance of Bard near final curtain

Dec 20, 2016 – 2:22 pm
A WINTER’S TALE by Shakespeare,          , Writer - William Shakespeare, Director - 
Declan Donnellan, Designer - 
Nick Ormerod
, Cheeck by Jowl, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson/

Review: Chicagoland theater buffs have spent a goodly part of the last year reveling in the many and wondrously diverse events of Shakespeare 400 Chicago. This circle of opportunity, revelation and indeed riotous and profound fun – engineered mainly by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and its artistic director, Barbara Gaines — comes to a close Dec. 21 with the final performances of “The Winter’s Tale.” It’s a crackling production by the British company Cheek by Jowl, and one that brings the yearlong observance back to its auspicious starting place. ★★★★

As King Charles III approaches throne at CST, moral crisis and iambic pentameter engulf him

Nov 23, 2016 – 9:11 pm
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Review: Not very far into Mike Bartlett’s “King Charles III,” directed by Gary Griffin at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, I found myself wondering how it all might work telescoped into a monodrama and spoken – not declaimed, heaven help us – by Robert Bathurst, the king in waiting here and the one actor in view who seemed to understand that blank verse is not speech set to the head-pounding of a jackhammer. ★★

English kings in bloody struggles for power: Part 2 of Chicago Shakespeare’s history saga

Sep 27, 2016 – 3:50 pm
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Review: Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s outsized and smartly honed two-part miniseries “Tug of War,” focusing on the endless cycle of royal usurpation and bloodshed in the Bard’s history plays, comes to its conclusion with a sequence that illuminates the brief reign and unsurprising death of horseless Richard III at Bosworth Field. For my part, I shall not ask with the great songstress Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?” My question is: When will we be able see it again? ★★★★

In unvarnished look at ‘Merchant of Venice,’ there is little room for the quality of mercy

Aug 11, 2016 – 12:32 pm
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Review: In a tradition dating back to Shakespeare’s own time, “The Merchant of Venice,” which frames bitter hatred between Christians and Jews in a metropolis of a distant era, has been labeled as comedy. I doubt that anyone who sees the brutally frank Shakespeare’s Globe production now running at Chicago Shakespeare Theater will come away laughing. ★★★★★

‘Othello’ at Chicago Shakespeare: Evil cedes center stage to a figure tragic and splendid

Mar 24, 2016 – 10:04 pm
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Review: What is so striking about the current, altogether marvelous production of “Othello” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater is that the beleaguered Moor is no mere catalyst in the very events of which he is the object, but rather presents himself as a man – a great military general — worthy of his reputation. In the person of James Vincent Meredith’s Othello, and in the care of British director Jonathan Munby, Shakespeare’s play for once does not seem to be first and foremost about Iago. ★★★★★

Under Navy Pier’s tent, Chicago Shakespeare Theater expands for flexible family-friendly spectacles

Mar 2, 2016 – 11:23 am
Chicago Shakespeare expands under Navy Pier's tent

News Release: Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Navy Pier announce partnership that will expand Chicago Shakespeare’s campus and establish a year-round cultural hub on Navy Pier

‘King Lear’ spun as a parable of oppression when Belarusian troupe goes for dark farce

Feb 8, 2016 – 3:51 pm
BelarusFreeTheatre_LEAR_(Nicolai Khalezin)

Review: What’s the first image that overtakes you when you think of Shakespeare’s “King Lear”? Perhaps the broken old man, carrying forth the dead body of his youngest daughter. Or the powerless king, cheering the all-shaking thunderstorm as he howls his rage. In the Belarus Free Theatre production on view at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the unwavering focus is the insanity and chaos of life in the king’s repressive regime. ★★★

Theaters serve up holiday stew of 3 Scrooges filled with laughs, lessons, gravy and graves

Dec 13, 2015 – 7:46 am
Scrooge at the Goodman for Christmas Carol 2015

Review: Chicago’s holiday offerings include Three Scrooges — not a show, but a trio of shows all based on “A Christmas Carol.” And yes, there’s some slapstick in it, even ribaldry, depending on which flavor of Dickens you choose.

‘The Tempest’ at Chicago Shakespeare: Magic rules on Prospero’s island, by wand and word

Sep 18, 2015 – 9:31 pm
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Review: In double magic that beguiles ear and eye with levity and levitation, Chicago Shakespeare Theater has invoked a rare vision of the Bard’s lyrical play of vengeance transcended by forgiveness, “The Tempest.” Co-directed with no slight imagination and great sleight of hand by Adam Posner and the magician Teller (he of Penn and Teller fame), CST’s season opener is pure enchantment – as credibly human and affecting as it is vibrant, fanciful and fresh. ★★★★★

Theater 2015-16: Presto! Chicago Shakespeare season blows in with super-magical ‘Tempest’

Sep 2, 2015 – 11:40 pm
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8th in a series of season previews

‘Sense & Sensibility’ at Chicago Shakespeare: Austen’s beloved sisters glow in new musical

May 14, 2015 – 8:05 am
'Sense and Sensibility' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater 2015 (Liz Lauren)

Review: You can just as easily chart a path from Jane Austen to Stephen Sondheim as you can from Austen to Disney, and thus it is not surprising that Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s artistic director Barbara Gaines should create the world premiere production of Paul Gordon’s diverting new musical based on Austen’s first published novel. “Sense and Sensibility” tells the astonishingly vital story of two sisters of marriageable age – one a yin to the other’s yang – in the 1790s. ★★★★

Role Playing: Siobhan Redmond sees re-formed Lady Macbeth as valiant queen in ‘Dunsinane’

Mar 12, 2015 – 10:50 pm
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Interview: “I have no idea what it’s really like to be a queen, to run a country, or to have a child,” says the veteran Irish actress Siobhan Redmond, who portrays Lady Macbeth, rethought as Gruach in David Greig’s “Dunsinane,” currently produced by National Theatre of Scotland at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. “But the audience must believe that I have the weight of Scotland on my back.” Yes, Lady Macbeth lives.

Am I sleepwalking, or is that Lady Macbeth? Scottish troupe brings sequel, and it’s a doozy

Mar 4, 2015 – 1:40 pm
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Review: Surprise! Lady Macbeth didn’t die, after all. And how lucky for us that Scottish playwright David Greig decided to revive Macbeth’s formidable spouse, who now even has a name: Gruach. This very grand dame is the gravitational force of Greig’s “Dunsinane,” a thriller of a play brought to rugged, abundant life by the National Theatre of Scotland at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. ★★★★★

Chicago Shakes’ ‘Macbeth’ for young adults explores the dangers of unchecked ambition

Jan 22, 2015 – 6:10 pm
The unnerving reality of their bloody coup begins to catch up with Macbeth (Chris Genebach) and Lady Macbeth (Lanise Antoine Shelley). (Liz Lauren)

Preview: Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is a tale told by an idiot full of…no, wait a sec. That’s not right. The idiotic tale is life – life itself, which Shakespeare’s reckless, overreaching, murderous Macbeth has messed up beyond redemption. In its 75-minute reduction of the Bard’s Scottish play aimed at junior high and high school students, Chicago Shakespeare Theater explores themes of power and evil, personal accountability and the dire consequences of rash action. “Macbeth” opens Jan. 24 at CST.

With fine, broad brush, French troupe paints absurd and logic-challenged world of Ionesco

Oct 16, 2014 – 4:45 pm
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Review: It was an aha moment, in French. The final madcap flourish of “Ionesco Suite,” the Paris ensemble Théâtre de la Ville’s nonstop 80-minute pastiche drawn from Eugène Ionesco’s absurdist plays, now in a brief run at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, sent my mind reeling back through the decades to my college days. ★★★★

‘Lear’ at Chicago Shakespeare: A worthy king rules over concept that Frankly doesn’t sing

Oct 4, 2014 – 9:33 am
Crazed, rejected Lear (Larry Yando, right) confronts wild nature with his devoted Fool (Ross Lehman). (Liz Lauren)

Review: Were it not for Larry Yando’s crushing turn in the title role, Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “King Lear” would amount to little more than an ill-advised concept played out by a cast that largely misses both the pulse and the pressure of Shakespeare’s language. Setting aside for the moment this production’s manifold curiosities, at its core reigns the regal figure of Yando, whose portrait of Lear – as imperious fool stripped to his humiliated soul – is an experience not to be missed. ★★★

Theater 2014-15: Chicago Shakespeare bounty runs gamut from ‘Lear’ to Jane Austen musical

Aug 17, 2014 – 1:18 pm
Larry Yando in the title role of 'King Lear' at Chicago Shakespeare autumn 2014. (JeffSciortino)

Fifth in a series of season previews: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre honors its namesake this season with an autumn production of “King Lear,” the fantastic adventures of “Pericles” and a contemporary sequel to “Macbeth” that wryly ponders the chaos that befalls Scotland upon that usurper’s demise. Capping the season will be the world premiere of the musical “Sense and Sensibility,” composer-lyricist Paul Gordon’s adaptation of the Jane Austen novel.

Cornwall’s Kneehigh troupe revisits ‘Tristan’ with antic comedy and double take on Yseult

Apr 3, 2014 – 6:01 pm
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Review: Imagine that consummate romantic legend of heroic Tristan and beautiful Isolde, thrust together into illicit love by circumstance and a potion, as a tragi-comedy. No? Can’t conceive of that? Then you have yet to see the visiting Kneehigh theater company’s outlandish “Tristan & Yseult,” which now bounces about the boards at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. ★★★

‘Gypsy’ at Chicago Shakespeare: This Rose puts fresh blush on Sondheim’s star-gazer

Feb 18, 2014 – 11:00 pm
Rose (Louise Pitre) insists that 'Everything's Coming Up Roses' to the amazement of Herbie (Keith Kupferer) and Louise (Jessica Rush). (Michael Brosilow)

Review: Chicago Shakespeare Theater has given us a “Gypsy” for our own time, one that embraces the difference that 55 years have made since the brassy blockbuster first strutted onto the stage. As directed by Gary Griffin, it’s a gritty roadshow musical with a surprisingly contemporary and tender heart. ★★★★★

With Sir John Falstaff as an overstuffed delight, CST romps in ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’

Jan 4, 2014 – 4:36 pm
Mistresses Ford (Heidi Kettenring, left) and Page (Kelli Fox) with the antlered Falstaff (Scott Jaeck) at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Liz Lauren)

Review: You never know what pared-down, free-wheeling adaptation of Shakespeare you’re going to get at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. But even for CST, its 1940s setting of “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” complete with a musical track of period pop tunes, takes fast-and-loose into a new dimension. It’s also a complete delight. ★★★★

Chicago Shakespeare returns Bard to parks with merry madness of ‘Comedy of Errors’

Jul 27, 2013 – 11:45 am
Madcap physical comedy is essential to the mix in 'The Comedy of Errors,' now in the parks, produced by Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Credit Chuck Osgood

Preview: What could be funnier, or crazier, a more riotous lark than Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s touring production of the Bard’s “Taming of the Shrew” in parks across Chicago last summer? The answer well may be this summer’s CST encore: 26 free performances in 18 parks of Shakespeare’s madcap farce “The Comedy of Errors.”

Role Playing: Ora Jones had to find her way into Katherine’s frayed world in ‘Henry VIII’

Jun 11, 2013 – 3:05 pm
Ora Jones as Queen Katherine in Henry VIII at Chicago Shakespeare Theater credit Liz Lauren

Interview: Ora Jones, so assured and imposing as Queen Katherine in “Henry VIII” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, was just as confident she had blown her audition for the part. And that wasn’t such a bad thing, she thought – because Katherine’s great speech in her trial scene, the very audition piece that Jones would come to deliver with authentic majesty, had left the actor essentially mystified.

‘Henry VIII’ at Chicago Shakespeare: Depicting the king in kindly tint, as Elizabeth’s forebear

May 22, 2013 – 3:08 pm
As Cardinal Wolsey (Scott Jaeck) and Cardinal Campeius (David Darlow) look on, Queen Katherine (Ora Jones) pleads her case to King Henry VIII (Gregory Wooddell) in "Henry VIII" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater 2013 credit Liz Lauren

Review: ★★★★

‘Othello: The Remix’ brings hip hop to Shakespeare’s tragedy of a hero’s long fall

Mar 28, 2013 – 2:15 pm
STC 22305 copy 1, title page

Review: ★★★★

Role Playing: Dion Johnstone turned outsider Antony to bloody purpose in ‘Julius Caesar’

Mar 19, 2013 – 1:29 pm
Actor Dion Johnstone

Interview: The actor who portrays Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” draws one of the greatest speeches in the Bard’s canon: the dramatically pivotal funeral oration for the slain Caesar. But that opportunity, says Dion Johnstone, whose eloquent and driven Marc Antony fires the current production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, comes freighted with compact and perilous challenges. “From the moment Marc Antony enters the Senate and sees Caesar’s bloody corpse, with Brutus and the other assassins all still there, he’s in serious danger,” the actor says. “And despite his overwhelming grief, he has to think fast.”

Chicago Shakespeare Theater texts ‘Caesar,’ modernized and picture-perfectly true to Bard

Feb 15, 2013 – 7:35 pm
David Darlow as Caesar's ghost in Julius Caesar at Chicago Shakespeare 2013 credit Liz Lauren

Review: ★★★★

When Beethoven speaks, a struggling pianist listens and everybody learns about the Titan

Jan 12, 2013 – 4:27 pm
Leave it to Ludwig at Chicago Shakespeare Theater 2013

Preview: What if Beethoven could speak? Suppose that titanic composer just popped into the room where a young pianist was wrestling with a sonata and offered, on the spot, the ultimate master class. You might have something very like pianist-composer-Beethoven impersonator Bruce Adolphe’s “Leave It to Ludwig” – an entertaining stage show aimed squarely at youngsters but authentic and serious enough, even when it’s very funny, to illuminate the subject of Beethoven for adults as well.

Your drama is waiting: Chicago Theatre Week offers citywide smorgasbord at savory prices

Jan 6, 2013 – 1:33 pm
Chicago Theatre Week 2013

Report: Tickets will be $15 and $30.

The New Season: Chicago Shakespeare offers a walk ‘In the Park with George’ and a premiere

Oct 2, 2012 – 12:32 am
Stephen Sondheim Sunday in the Park with George promotional montage Chicago Shakespeare Theater 2012

15th in a series of season previews: Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s 2012-13 season will extend artistic director Barbara Gaines’ deep exploration of the Bard with “Henry VIII” as associate artistic director Gary Griffin adds a Sondheim encore to last year’s hit production of “Follies.” And Gaines will direct what she calls “the funniest play I ever read” in the Chicago premiere of David Ives’ comedy “The School for Lies,” a romping modern spin on Molière’s “The Misanthrope.”