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‘Six Corners’ at American Blues Theater: Murder at a train stop, seen in shifting lights

Mar 21, 2018 – 1:01 pm
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Review: Nick Moroni and Bernadette Perez are married (not to each other) mid-career Chicago cops burning late oil at the precinct shop, bantering, shuffling papers, watching the clock, waiting to check out so they can check into a motel together. This little slice of their lives provides the frame for Keith Huff’s “Six Corners,” a pulp-fiction drama at American Blues Theater that modulates from sad to sadder before it ends in the precincts of nobility. ★★★

‘Mary Stuart’ at Chicago Shakespeare: Contest of queens for England’s throne is regal theater

Mar 4, 2018 – 1:30 pm
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Review: Everything about Friedrich Schiller’s battle-of-the-queens historical drama “Mary Stuart,” staged at Chicago Shakespeare, proclaims compleat theater. From Peter Oswald’s adroit translation of this German-language verse play to Jenn Thompson’s fluent direction and the masterful, knowing work of a large cast, CST’s “Mary Stuart” is a many-splendored triumph. ★★★★★

‘Surely Goodness and Mercy’ at Redtwist: Dodging auntie, teaching teacher, shining light

Mar 1, 2018 – 5:23 pm

Review: It’s a singular experience to sit through what is essentially a feel-good play, and to reach the end with the sense that you’ve actually seen a genuine drama. Such is the rare form and substance of Chisa Hutchinson’s “Surely Goodness and Mercy,” offered by a splendid cast in the ideal intimacy of Redtwist Theatre. ★★★★

‘The Wolves’ at Goodman: Girls soccer team, answering challenges sans Prince Charming

Feb 25, 2018 – 8:57 pm
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Review: Week after week, the Wolves, a teen girls’ soccer team, coalesces into a fighting force. Meanwhile, that other towering season – adulthood – looms inevitable. Both are transformations thrilling to contemplate. An extraordinary new play by a millennial playwright depicts self-confident girls who intend to romance the world on their own terms. ★★★★

‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’ at Writers: Grasping for some truth beneath a pall of lies

Feb 23, 2018 – 9:52 am
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Review: Brawny Phil Hogan and his imposing, hard-as-nails daughter Josie are poor tenant farmers in 1920s Connecticut. James Tyrone Jr., who owns the farm, is a wealthy playboy who’s always had a soft spot for Josie – and for booze and, by loud proclamation, the tarts on Broadway. The daily bread of them all, these desperate occupants of Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” is mendacity. They lie to each other and they lie to themselves, until they each find some part of redemption in some measure of truth. Their rough progress toward that grail is a magical thing to witness at Writers Theatre. ★★★★

‘You Got Older’ at Steppenwolf: In a theatrical clinic, Francis Guinan lifts play to higher level

Feb 22, 2018 – 9:38 am
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Review: Clare Barron’s shadow-streaked comedy “You Got Older,” about a father’s death and a daughter’s transfiguration, is an oddly – I might even say deceptively – unsatisfying play. The real reward of Steppenwolf Theatre’s staging directed by Jonathan Berry, and the only thing that might draw me back to see it again, is the ever-luminous Francis Guinan’s performance as a loving father fighting a losing battle with cancer. ★★★

‘Hinter’ at Steep: Down on farm, bodies pile up as thriller flips narrative on its head. Go figure.

Feb 21, 2018 – 5:54 pm
Peter Moore, and Sigrid Sutter in 'Hinter' at Steep (Lee Miller)

Review: In an imaginative whodunnit, Chicago writer Calamity West proposes the hypothetical solution to an unsolved mass murder from 1922. Bavaria’s counterpart to the Lizzie Borden story (in notoriety if not in detail) involves six people on a farmstead in Munich’s remote outback. All were found hacked to death. ★★★

‘Franklinland’ at Jackalope: Ben lords it over his son, who naturally tells him to go fly a kite

Feb 17, 2018 – 1:09 pm
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Review: Imagine a delightful afternoon kite-flying with Ben Franklin: You are his young bastard son trying to keep up; he is the irrepressible achiever, inventor, visionary – a narcissist who, when he sees you at all, looks upon you as a project at best and, as he constantly reminds you, a poor copy of his matchless self. That’s the skewed but fascinating relationship played out in Lloyd Suh’s “Franklinland” at Jackalope Theatre. ★★★★

Of mortal frailty and monstrous transgression: Broadway in Chicago spotlights ‘The Humans’

Feb 6, 2018 – 9:02 am
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Review: In the midst of Stephen Karam’s abrasive family drama “The Humans,” presented on tour by Broadway in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, the question of monsters comes up. Monsters in dreams. And someone speculates that if humans dream of monsters, perhaps what strikes terror in the imagination of horrid fantastical creatures is the image of a human. It’s a fleeting exchange, but it lies right at the core of this group portrait of people grappling with dreadful reality, hideous betrayal, terrifying truths about themselves. ★★★★

‘Blind Date’ at Goodman: The epochal meeting that changed the world – and all that glam

Feb 4, 2018 – 11:44 am
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Review: Three other plays edged into mind as I watched Rogelio Martinez’s ambitious and entertaining political drama “Blind Date” unfold on the Goodman Theatre stage. Two were more distilled slants on similar big-picture crises. But it was the third that finally lined itself up beside this glossy romp: the unpretentiously cosmetic musical “War Paint.” Martinez’s play reimagines the historical meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. ★★★

‘Boy’ at TimeLine: Caught in a physiological trap, lad is certain that he’s not, alack, a lass

Jan 31, 2018 – 10:37 am
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Review: Adam is a boy, age maybe 20. So you’re thinking, OK, if he’s 20, he’s more man than boy. Exactly. But for Adam, in Anna Ziegler’s play “Boy,” getting to manhood meant first establishing his boyhood – or boyness, if you like. And that is both the most engaging and the most problematic part of this drama now on the boards at TimeLine Theatre. ★★★

‘Five Mile Lake’ at Shattered Globe: Siblings, distant or demanding, all in the swim together

Jan 28, 2018 – 7:43 pm
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Review: Rachel Bond’s play “Five Mile Lake,” a provocative slice of life currently held up for examination by Shattered Globe Theatre, is about lives out of kilter, out of perspective, out of adjustment. Before the play even begins, Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s disorienting set tells you as much. ★★★

‘All My Sons’ at Court: The sins of a father, unatoned and brought down on two houses

Jan 25, 2018 – 5:21 pm
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Review: It’s as Greek as Aeschylus, the inexorable tragedy that infects and ultimately destroys two families in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” And in the marvelous, shattering production at Court Theatre directed by Charles Newell, a long Greek shadow falls across Miller’s characters, amid the torment and self-deception, in spectral silence. ★★★★★

‘Rose’ at Greenhouse: Linda Reiter reprises her grand turn as matriarch of the Kennedys

Jan 19, 2018 – 9:01 am
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Review: The steely mother in Laurence Leamer’s one-woman show “Rose” shares a view back through the prism of her privileged life that is severe, magical and mixed. Linda Reiter as Rose Kennedy, cool-hand mom to a brilliant, driven brood that includes stars John, Bobby and Teddy, spells out how so queenly a matron might be at once proud and happy, marginalized and resigned. ★★★★

‘The Light’ at New Colony: Lovers sparring, teasing; then the earth opens and pain erupts

Jan 11, 2018 – 10:24 am
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Review: Gen is trapped in a numbing confluence of righteousness and anger, paralyzed between the ideal of goodness and the reality of imperfection. She’s the everywoman – specifically, every black woman — of Chicago playwright Loy Webb’s stunning new work “The Light,” now in its world premiere production by The New Colony. ★★★★★

Monte-Carlo Ballet to make Auditorium debut with re-imagined classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’

Jan 10, 2018 – 11:36 am
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization and submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, the national ballet company of Monaco, comes to the Auditorium Theatre …

Firebrand sharpens the edgy musical ‘Lizzie’: Rough day for Mom and Dad in old Fall River

Jan 9, 2018 – 10:27 pm
Liz Chidester LIZZIE feature image, Firebrand Theatre (Marisa KM)

Review: The Firebrand Theatre’s production of “Lizzie” sides with the popular fiction that Lizzie Borden killed her dad and stepmom with axe whacks aplenty. But then this rock musical proceeds to imagine why. The answer puts Lizzie squarely in the tradition of Sweeney Todd and Hamlet and Clytemnestra and the girls of the “Cell Block Tango.” They had it comin’. ★★★★

More than 120 shows offered at bargain prices for February run of Chicago Theatre Week ’18

Jan 8, 2018 – 6:18 pm
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization and submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Tickets for Chicago Theatre Week (#CTW18), an annual celebration of the rich tradition of theatre-going in Chicago, will go …

Lookingglass Theatre Company appoints Rachel L. Fink as its new Executive Director

Jan 7, 2018 – 3:04 pm
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization and submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Lookingglass Theatre Company’s Board of Directors announces the appointment of the theatre’s new Executive Director Rachel L. …

Free event opens Writers Theatre 2018 tour of ‘The MLK Project: The Fight for Civil Rights’

Jan 7, 2018 – 1:21 pm
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Writers Theatre opens its 12th annual tour of The MLK Project: The Fight for Civil Rights, written by Yolanda Androzzo, …

‘Violet’ at Griffin: When a young woman’s scar cuts to her heart, bus ride to healing beckons

Jan 5, 2018 – 4:46 pm

Review: The scar on the young woman’s face cannot be seen, but it is real – as real as the invisible wound in her soul. And so she leaves her southern farm on a bus for Tulsa to see a faith healer, in hope of once more finding beauty in the mirror. What she ultimately finds is unexpected, and far more profound, in the bittersweet musical “Violet,” offered by Griffin Theatre in a production notable for both its charm and its grit. ★★★

Role Playing: Kathleen Ruhl went for laughs, but resisted harsh character that gets them

Dec 14, 2017 – 11:12 am

Interview: Actress Kathleen Ruhl loves to hear an audience laugh. It’s always been one of the joys of her long stage career. Naturally, in her role as the flinty, straight-talking mom to two adult children in Suzanne Heathcote’s “I Saw My Neighbor on the Train and I Didn’t Even Smile” at Redtwist Theatre, she savors the laughter that rings off those close walls. But for Ruhl, the mirth came in a bitter pill.

Wrapped in tradition or rapped in new beats, ‘Christmas Carol’ sparkles at Goodman, CST

Dec 5, 2017 – 11:17 am
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Review: While Larry Yando’s indelible Ebeneezer Scrooge is once again delighting children and tapping into adult truths in Goodman Theatre’s indispensable staging of “A Christmas Carol” (★★★★), the Q Brothers are back at Chicago Shakespeare rapping Dickens’ parable on greed and misanthropy to a reggae beat (★★★). The Spirit of Christmas Present walks among us anew.

Role Playing: Kate Fry’s vivid Emily Dickinson sprang from poet’s fine-tuned, evocative verse

Nov 29, 2017 – 11:40 am
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Interview: Volumes have been written about Emily Dickinson, but it was through the reclusive poet’s own words that Kate Fry found her way into the heart she illuminates in William Luce’s one-woman play “The Belle of Amherst” at Court Theatre. “In the poems, and in her letters, you get these clear images of what was speaking to her intellect on any given day,” says Fry, “the things she felt compelled to put down on paper.”

‘The Minutes’ at Steppenwolf: At a small-town council meeting, comedy takes shattering turn

Nov 27, 2017 – 10:16 am
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Review: The individual agendas of the Big Cherry village council members, in Tracy Letts’ comedy-chiller of a new play “The Minutes,” are credibly various and amusingly personal. What really resonates, however, is the one thing they all hold in common — the raw, elemental conviction that safeguards and perpetuates Big Cherry as a community. ★★★★

Two Latino (or maybe it’s Hispanic) strangers discover common ground can shift in ‘Fade’

Nov 25, 2017 – 12:46 pm
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Review: Up to a point, I was quite charmed by Tanya Saracho’s play “Fade,” about two Latinos in different circumstances whose lives intersect at a television production company. I was engaged and delighted by what was spinning out as an edgy comedy in this co-production by Victory Gardens Theater and Teatro Vista – until events took a sharp turn. And then I was seriously impressed. Shaken, actually. Review: ★★★★

‘Belle of Amherst’ Emily Dickinson, pulled from pocket of a shirtdress at Court Theatre

Nov 24, 2017 – 11:14 am
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Review: In an opening scene that would have made the poet chortle, Emily Dickinson walks into the room from which she barely ever leaves and catches – out of the corner of her eye – the supreme irony of hundreds of people instead of a bedroom wall. With the tiniest commiserating grin, actress Kate Fry embraces this utter incongruity; it’s just another mental puzzle to solve.★★★★★

Role Playing: Joel Reitsma drew moral profit from banker-captor clash of ‘Invisible Hand’

Nov 16, 2017 – 3:57 pm
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Interview: Joel Reitsma creates a convincingly distressed investment banker who parlays his expertise into a desperate, life-preserving deal with his Pakistani captors in Ayad Akhtar’s “The Invisible Hand” at Steep Theatre. But Reitsma admits up front that he knows little about the trading game; and besides, he’s quick to add, the play isn’t about the stock market anyway. It’s about the corrosive power of money.

Freshened, jumpin’ musical ‘School of Rock’ shakes the house as tour blows into Chicago

Nov 8, 2017 – 12:29 pm
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Review: True to the spirit of the Jack Black film comedy about an aging rock ‘n’ roll wannabe who cons his way into a substitute teaching job and shakes up his class of uptight tweens, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway hit is a hilarious slam dunk in Chicago, starring Second City alum Rob Colletti as the guru of a dozen young rockers in bloom. ★★★★

‘Quixote: On the Conquest of Self’ recasts Cervantes for the young in heart (and years)

Oct 28, 2017 – 10:34 pm
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Review: In his patched-together “battle” garb, well into his middle years but lean, bright of eye and dauntless in his self-image, Henry Godinez looks the very portrait of that most storied of knights errant, Don Quixote de La Mancha. Godinez is the appealing star and narrator of an almost-one-man show with the intriguing title of “Quixote: On the Conquest of Self” – which turns out to be a theatrical excursion more curious than any of the ventures embarked upon by Cervantes’ noble lancer, windmill jousting included. ★★