Articles tagged with: Michael Menendian
Review: Lolita Chakrabarti’s eloquent play “Red Velvet,” currently offered in a keen-edged production at Raven Theatre, is a full-body immersion in the cold, foul waters of racial bigotry. Named for the seductive stuff that covers seats and railings in many a theater, the drama concerns the historical 19th-century African-American actor Ira Aldridge, a major figure on stages across Europe for three decades beginning in the 1830s. ★★★★
Review: With any luck, Raven Theatre will elect to have yet a third go, and soon, at Mark Stein’s remarkable play-with-music “Direct From Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys (An Evening of Vaudeville and Sorrow).” This brilliant and heartbreaking show, way out of the box and very funny, based on one of the most deplorable episodes in American social history, is must see theater. ★★★★★
14th in a series of season previews: Opening with a run of Midwest premieres, Raven Theatre expands from four plays to five this season to capitalize on the opportunity offered by its dual performing spaces. And first up is a Mark Stein’s searing “entertainment” with the long, ironically evocative title of “Direct from Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys (An Evening of Vaudeville and Sorrow).”
Interview: The most disarming, lovable character I’ve seen on a Chicago stage this season has to be 15-year-old Seta, refugee of the Armenian genocide and mail-order bride in Richard Kalinoski’s “Beast on the Moon,” played with big-eyed, open-hearted exuberance by Sophia Menendian, who’s all of 20. She says she captured Seta’s buoyancy by recalling her own unbridled spirit as an adolescent.
Review: Outwardly, Richard Kalinoski’s play “Beast on the Moon” is about a young man and a teenage girl, refugees from the 1915 Armenian genocide who have lost their families and embark on a new life together as immigrants in Milwaukee. But as Raven Theatre’s exuberantly funny and sensitive production so urgently telegraphs, this tragi-comedy is ultimately about the beast within – a fearsome creature of the mind spawned by terror, isolation and guilt. ★★★★
15th in a series of season previews: Out of what co-artistic director Michael Menendian calls “a lot hand-wringing,” Raven Theatre has fashioned a family-business themed season that begins with a company reprise of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” includes a world premiere and ends with a play about Armendian genocide that’s close to Menendian’s heart. “It’s the greatest challenge to pick the season,” he says, “The goal is to balance the tone without essentially repeating the same story.”
Review: We cannot watch or read the likes of Brian Friel’s “Translations” or Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan” without sensing the sublimated presence of John Millington Synge’s 1907 comedy “The Playboy of the Western World.” It is a cornerstone of modern Irish theater, and it’s all there in Raven Theatre’s idiomatic staging — the brisk dialect and wry humor, the tumbling physicality and muted hues, the seed and genesis of everything we love about Irish drama in the present tense. ★★★★
Tenth in a series of season previews: From the season opener, Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” to the finale with Tennessee Williams’s “The Vieux Carré,” the 2013-14 lineup of plays at Raven Theatre centers on what artistic director Michael Menendian calls “that little ache in our heart, the secret longing for a different life.”
Review: In an obvious sense, Charles Fuller’s 1982 drama “A Soldier’s Play,” recently opened in a sharply detailed production at Raven Theatre, is about the virulent ugliness of racism as it persisted in the mid-20th century deep South. But more than that, Fuller’s story grapples with the despair and self-loathing that can infect the soul of an oppressed people. ★★★
Sixth in a series of season previews: Technically, it may not be a Chicago premiere, but Clifford Odets’ “The Big Knife,” which opens Raven Theatre’s 30th anniversary season, would be a rarity on any stage and artistic director Michael Menendian is eager to revive this sober tale of glitzy Hollywood’s dark side.
Interview: Chuck Spencer relishes poking through the piled clutter during his first long, solitary, silent minutes on stage at the beginning of Arthur Miller’s play “The Price,” at Raven Theatre.