Commentary Videos! The Joffrey Ballet Presents Swan Lake at The Auditorium Theatre (Through October 28, 2018)

In 1875, Pyotr Ilyich Tchiaikovsky was commissioned to write a full evening ballet. The first performance of Swan Lake took place in 1877. The Joffrey Premiere took place in 2014. And now, in 2018, it returns to the Auditorium Theatre.

Sometimes, a performance leaves you grasping for words. Graceful, athletic, and powerful come to mind. They make it look so easy, but it is very difficult. In the Stage Notes videos, they discuss the hours of rehearsal and the physical intensity of the performances. It’s a cool look behind the scenes.

It would be interesting to see this live performance with surtitles describing what is happening or with a running commentary, like in these videos.

Get tickets now for Swan Lake through October 28th!

 

Quinn Delaney

Also, see our review of Midsummer Night’s Dream here.

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Something to Prove! Lindsey Buckingham at Athenaeum Theatre (October 17, 2018)

When you go to see musicians who first gained fame back in the 70s, there is always a chance they are just doing a victory lap and they aren’t really excited about the music anymore. This is definitely not the case with Lindsey Buckingham. His live show is full of energy and excitement. Also, he has something to prove since he was kicked out of Fleetwood Mac, according to the lawsuit he filed against the band.

“Been down one time / Been down two times” he sings on “Never Going Back Again”. “I’m never going back again!” and he nods to the audience in a clear comment on his current situation with Fleetwood Mac. The issue is a clear undercurrent of the night. It comes up again when he says that Warner Brothers wants to make a greatest hits compilation of his solo work. He notes that he doesn’t like to look back and prefers to look forward with a wink.

Along with his solo songs, he mixes in some great Fleetwood Mac songs including “Go Your Own Way”. Buckingham’s enthusiasm was strong for the entire show. He goes into a really great groove on “I’m So Afraid” as he shreds the solo. Afterwards, he pumps his fists in triumph. He’s one of the greatest performers of our time and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch him in action, especially in the intimate space of the Athenaeum Theatre.

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Powerful Voices! Firebrand Theatre Presents Caroline, or Change at the Den Theatre (Through October 28, 2018)

It’s 1963 and Caroline is working as a maid for a Jewish family. As the father says bluntly to Noah, his only son, “There is no God” and “Your mother is dead”. The father remarries and the mother-in-law struggles to develop a relationship with Noah. Instead, Noah feels more connected to Caroline, the maid. He keeps leaving change in his pockets. The mother-in-law insists that Caroline keep the change when she finds the coins while doing the laundry, but she says she can’t take money from a baby. But when he leaves a $20 bill in his pocket, the matter escalates.

The singing in this production is excellent. The musical genres include Motown, blues, gospel, folk, and Jewish klezmer. Rashada Dawan is especially impressive as Caroline. She has such a powerful voice and it stays strong through so many songs. Micheal Lovette is also fantastic as the Bus/Dryer. He has such a deep voice. All the children in the show are great too. Their singing and ability to memorize lines at that young age is impressive. Also, there were enough of them that a position listed in the program is Child Wrangler!

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Get tickets now for Caroline, or Change through October 28.

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Quinn Delaney

Hopeful! Inglis Hall Productions Presents Edge of Life at Athenaeum Theatre (Through November 3, 2018)

Bill is being treated for cancer with chemotherapy.  It’s causing him to throw up constantly and he feels terrible all the time. His prognosis is grim and he wants to return home to die with dignity. His wife and his doctor insist he is depressed and want him to continue fighting.

Gertrude is 93 years old and is surviving on life support with little hope for recovery. Her doctor wants to keep her on the machines. Her grandson, who she raised, must make the decision for her because she doesn’t have a living will.

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This play takes these very difficult issues and puts a face on them. It could be a very depressing story, but instead it is hopeful. Currently only 6 states have death with dignity statues. This production will start conversations about this issue and hopefully Illinois will join the list.

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The set is built upon a circular stage that rotates to show three separate rooms. It’s a great way to fully utilize the space and puts the set on par with Steppenwolf, who used a similar set up for Linda Vista.

Get tickets now for Edge of Life through November 3!

Cost of a ticket: $40

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It!

New Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Review: Indecent at Victory Gardens Theater (Through November 4, 2018)

This is a play about a play. Sholem Asch wrote “God of Vengeance” in 1906 in Warsaw, Poland. The play toured across Europe with great success. So, they brought the play to downtown NYC where it was also successful. In 1923, it premiered on Broadway and shocked audiences. Soon afterwards, the entire cast and the producer were indicted and convicted on charges of obscenity mainly due to the lesbian love scenes in which two women kiss for the first time on Broadway.

The music in this production is fantastic. Throughout the entire show, the musicians move around the stage playing an accordion, violin, mandolin, and bass. The full cast also sings many songs including “Ich Hab Noch Einen Koffer in Berlin” (I still have a suitcase in Berlin).

During the play, when characters speak their native language, they speak perfect English. When characters speak English as their second language, they speak with an accent. This is surely challenging for the actors, but they all pull it off with grace.

Kiah Stern (American Vanadal) is excellent as the ingénue, Chana. She is so passionate in the rain scene. Also, Benjamin Magnuson (Once) is superb as the stage manager, Lemml. When he first hears the play, his life changes and he grows to become its greatest leader.

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Get tickets now for Indecent through November 4, 2018.

Cost of a ticket: $68
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

New Rating Scale:
Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Review: The New Colony Presents Fun Harmless Warmachine at The Den Theatre (Through November 4, 2018)

Tom is bored at work and has no luck getting a girlfriend. When he’s not at work, he spends most of his time playing Iron Fate, an online multiplayer first player shooter (FPS). Within the game, he gets much more respect that he does at work. He eventually decides to join the Order of the Sword, a group of online gamers. They promise to get him revenge against the girls that have rejected him and increase his popularity in real life (IRL).

 

This story was inspired by Gamergate and online hate movements. They even mention the Late Week Tonight with John Oliver episode about the subject. The issue is that the story is mainly about gaming and the online harassment. The characters and plot seem like an afterthought. Also, the dialog is filled with very gamer specific vocabulary. The program has a glossary of terms on the back, but it covers less than half of the terms used. For non-gamers, this makes it very difficult to follow.

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The best parts of the play are what happens offline. Examples of this are Tom’s interactions with the girl who rejected him and then with a new romantic interest. These scenes are very real and are often funny. Expanding on these relationships and more character development would greatly improve this show. Altogether, it’s okay as it is, but it could be much better.

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Cost of a ticket: $20

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

 

New Rating Scale:

Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Get tickets now for Fun Harmless Warmachine through November 4th.

 

Quinn Delaney

Challenging and Thoughtful – Downstate at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through November 11, 2018)

A man and his wife are sitting on a couch in a group home for sex offenders. The man is confronting an elderly man in a wheelchair who sexually assaulted him when he was 12 years old. This is the very first scene. The audience doesn’t know how to react. Some of them are uncomfortable and silent while others laugh. This scene is followed by a much more low key scene in which the other residents of the home are introduced as people before their crimes are revealed.

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This is a challenging play to watch. It is for theatre audiences who are willing to examine difficult issues from all sides and not for the faint-hearted. It humanizes these characters, but it doesn’t go so far as to force sympathy for them. They have all done their time and are just trying to reintegrate into society.

This is not an easy play to do and the cast handles it with class. Glenn Davis (You Got Older, The Christians) is excellent as Gio, who was convicted of statutory rape and is appalled that he is grouped together with the pedophiles. K. Todd Freeman (Directed The Christians) is great as Dee, who tries to take care of everyone in the home. Francis Guinan (The Minutes, The Rembrandt, Hir) plays Fred, the elderly man being confronted in the first scene. There are shades of his character from Hir in that he doesn’t seem to understand what is happening around him. Tim Hopper (Linda Vista, Between Riverside) as Andy gets very upset that Fred doesn’t seem to show any regret. With this performance, Hopper adds to his record as a top of the line character actor. Eddie Torres plays Felix as the most troubled character in a haunting portrayal. Lastly, Cecilia Noble is solid as Ivy, the parole officer for the home just trying to do her job.

Cost of a ticket: $86

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It!

New Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Get tickets now for Downstate through November 11th.

Quinn