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‘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
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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
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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
Kate Fry. Belle of Amherst Feature 1a (Michael Brosilow)

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. ★★

‘The Invisible Hand’ at Steep: Cash is king, and even the godly bow to its golden crown

Oct 26, 2017 – 4:34 pm
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Review: If power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, what shall we say about the allure – no, the infection — of wealth? Perhaps mammon is the perverse god whom man created, not in his own image but as his highest aspiration and ideal. Money, money, money, money, money. Get a good taste of it only to crave more. That’s the object lesson, the demonstration, of Ayad Akhtar’s wrenching, fearsome play “The Invisible Hand,” which now commands the little stage at Steep Theatre in a production directed by Audrey Francis that is well worth adding to your must-see list. ★★★★

‘The Audience’ at TimeLine: Enduring queen receives her ministers with rubber stamp, wit

Oct 23, 2017 – 9:09 am
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Review: Janet Ulrich Brooks reigns supreme as Queen Elizabeth II in Peter Morgan’s play “The Audience” at TimeLine Theatre. The poised, circumspect, droll and ever so slightly vulnerable performance by one of Chicago’s most versatile actresses provides the constant heart in an otherwise uneven enterprise. The springboard for Morgan’s sly work is the historical Tuesday meetings between the Queen and the prime minister of the moment – a succession of politicos from Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden down through the decades to Tony Blair and David Cameron. ★★★

Role Playing: Lawrence Grimm found Lincoln first in pages of history, then within himself

Oct 20, 2017 – 1:03 pm
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Interview: Lawrence Grimm stands 6 feet 4 inches tall – the same height as Abraham Lincoln. It wasn’t height that worried the actor when he took on his nuanced and profoundly human portrayal of Lincoln in James Still’s “The Heavens Are Hung in Black” at Shattered Globe Theatre. What concerned Grimm were the iconic dimensions of the 16th president, the towering figure whose wisdom would guide the nation through its greatest crisis.

Theater as crucible: Two Arthur Miller classics bridge high peaks of Goodman, Steppenwolf

Oct 19, 2017 – 10:16 am
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Review: If you have not yet seen both “A View from the Bridge” at Goodman Theatre and “The Crucible” at Steppenwolf Theatre – well, it’s Miller time. These are mesmerizing productions of two of Arthur Miller’s finest plays, and impressive reminders of why Goodman and Steppenwolf hold such eminent places on Chicago’s – indeed, the nation’s – theater scene. Each of these parallel runs has only a handful of performances remaining. Together, they make for a stunning one-two theatrical punch. Both ★★★★★

‘Taming of the Shrew’ at Chicago Shakespeare translates romp of an era into modern comedy

Oct 8, 2017 – 6:33 pm
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Review: On the surface, the idea of an all-female cast for Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” smacks of gimmickry. Framing the story within a contrivance about the women’s campaign in 1919 for the right to vote sounds downright tormented. But “The Taming of the Shrew,” for modern audiences the most problematic entry in the Shakespeare canon, surely has not been brought to the stage with greater wit, brilliance or plausibility since – oh, since women got the right to vote. ★★★★★

‘The Heavens Are Hung in Black’: In predawn of Emancipation, Lincoln suffers war and loss

Oct 2, 2017 – 4:25 pm
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Review: Chicago’s young theater season has raised the curtain on a genuine sleeper: a gem of a play, James Still’s “The Heavens Are Hung in Black,” produced by a little company, Shattered Globe Theatre, on a tiny stage at Theatre Wit. At the center of a splendid ensemble effort is Lawrence Grimm’s exquisite and wholly credible portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. ★★★★

‘The Rembrandt’ at Steppenwolf: Ruminating on the golden linkage of art and life and love

Sep 23, 2017 – 2:45 pm
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Review: Jessica Dickey’s play “The Rembrandt” is a thing of great spiritual beauty, but Francis Guinan’s performance – you might say in the title role – at Steppenwolf Theatre bears out the imperative of another character in the play, Homer: that poetry must be spoken aloud. Guinan takes Dickey’s eloquent and insightful text to a transcendent place. ★★★★★

Harris Theater names new president, handing reins to ex-marketing chief Patricia Barretto

Sep 22, 2017 – 12:53 pm
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
The Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance have announced the appointment …

Chicago Shakespeare opens versatile venue with (French) accent on timeless circus gags

Sep 21, 2017 – 5:15 pm
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Review: One might have hoped for an imaginative Shakespeare production from, well, Chicago Shakespeare Theater to inaugurate its new $35 million venue. But CST opted for the entertainment of French circus veteran James Thierrée’s “The Toad Knew.” His superb company of physical comedians provided a delightful hour in a show that ran nearly twice that length, sans break. ★★★

Goodman Theatre institute for young critics will focus on role of drama in today’s world

Sep 21, 2017 – 10:32 am
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Goodman Theatre invites emerging theater writers and critics to apply for its new “boot camp” intensive …

Never mind women over 40: City Lit populates full cast of biblical ‘J.B.’ with women over 55

Sep 20, 2017 – 11:57 am
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
“J.B.,” the Pulitzer Prize and Best Play Tony Award-winner by the American playwright and poet Archibald …

Black Ensemble Theater to produce historical retrospective ‘Living the Black Renaissance’

Sep 19, 2017 – 9:52 am
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Black Ensemble Theater continues the 2017 Season (The Dance Theater Season) with the World Premiere of Living The Black Renaissance (More Than …

PrivateBank Theatre renamed CIBC Theatre; new Canadian owner vows continued support

Sep 19, 2017 – 8:53 am
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Broadway In Chicago has announced the renaming of The PrivateBank Theatre, at 18 W. Monroe, as …

Chicago Latino theater group slates 11 plays for inaugural international festival ‘Destinos’

Sep 18, 2017 – 5:19 pm
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This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) announces the full performance program for Destinos (dĕ-stee-noce), the first Chicago International Latino …