A Solo Show: St. Nicholas at the Goodman Theatre starring Brendan Coyle (Through January 27, 2019)

Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey) plays a theatre critic with a big ego. He develops a crush on a young actress which leads him to tell everyone at the cast party that he gave them a great review. However, he actually just submitted a mixed review to his newspaper. But the party doesn’t know this and it leads to a enthusiastic party. Later on, he meets a vampire in a park who invites him to his house. Things get interesting from there.

The Goodman has had a bunch of one person shows recently. The Santaland Diaries just wrapped up. Lady in Denmark ran into November. We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time ran earlier in the fall, but this one is really more than a one man show with a full band on stage. The stage is very interactive in “We’re Only Alive…” with objects coming in and off the stage and often changing lighting. In contrast, it’s only Coyle on stage for the entire show. The stage isn’t very interactive with a bucket of water being the only object he interacts with. Also, the lighting stays the same for the first half, and then again no changes during the second half.

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Brendan Coyle has a strong stage presence. But it’s even a challenge for him to keep the audience fully enthralled for the full two hours. This performance is probably best suited for fans of Downton Abbey or vampires.  “The idea of doing a solo piece never, ever appealed to me,” said Coyle (in the program). “For me, it was all about the power of ensemble.”

Get tickets now for St Nicholas through January 27th.

 

Cost of a ticket: $80 (Main Floor)

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

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

 

Quinn Delaney

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Three Plays for the Price of One! Pegasus Theatre Chicago Presents The 32nd Young Playwrights Festival at Chicago Dramatists (Through January 27, 2019)

A Green Light by Alexis Gaw

A teenager comes out to his friend, but she is slow to accept it. It makes her uncomfortable and she doesn’t want to talk about it. She says she doesn’t like to talk politics. He responds that this isn’t the gay agenda, this is his life. Now that he has come out, he decides to approach his crush and ask him to the prom. This leads to the funniest scene of the night as they awkwardly talk through this encounter. The playwright truly captured the dialog of teenagers today and some of the issues they are dealing with. The cast does a great job inhabiting these characters and giving the audience a glimpse into their lives.

Fragile Limbs by Anonda Tyler

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A teenage boy is struggling with the violent deaths all around him in Chicago. A teenage girl is dealing with an emotionally abusive mother. On a chance encounter, they meet in a park. It’s a very cute display of flirting. “I’m not trying to kiss your kneecaps,” he says. They go on to help each other with their troubles. Once again, the playwright has captured the voices of the high schoolers and their issues. Also, the cast embodies the characters fantastically.

Good Strong Coffee by Luna MacWilliams

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In a gentrifying neighborhood, a brother and sister struggle to run a coffee shop left to them after their parents passed away. The brother has a wife and a child who just took his first steps. The sister has artistic ambitions and is focused on performing at open mics. This play differs from the other ones in that the characters are a bit older dealing with issues most teenagers don’t face. Thus, the cast seemed a bit out of their element playing adults.

Get tickets now for The 32nd Young Playwrights Festival through January 27th!

Cost of a ticket: $30
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Wide Variety! Repertory Dance Theatre presents Emerge at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (January 5th, 2019)

As with most dance performances containing a wide variety of dances, some will resonate more with me than others. Here are my personal highlights.

V0 – V26

Choreographed and Performed by Elle Johansen, Lauren Curley, and Hannah Marks

Music by A Cloud for Climbing

The piece begins with three climbing mats upright on the stage. Suddenly, they begin to move and it’s revealed that the dancers have them strapped to their backs. Later on they remove the mats and fall on them repeatedly as if falling while climbing. This is a truly unique idea for a dance that is easy to follow and a great starting piece.

 

Trifle

Choreographed and Performed by Terry & Jaclyn Brown (Spouses)

Music by Martin Gauffin and Elvis Presley

The dance begins with the couple toying with each other. They get in each other’s way in a comical fashion. Then, in the second half, their arms interlock and they can’t get loose as “Stuck on You” by Elvis Presley plays. They spin and twist around connected to each other. It’s a very cute piece that shows how this couple plays together through their challenges.

 

Navigation

Performed by Efren Corado Garcia

Music by J.S. Bach

Rows of takeout boxes cover the middle of the stage. The dancer navigates his way through them without touching them. In the end, he opens one and finds a rose. It feels like this was his search for love. However, how can he know the value of what he has found if he didn’t open any of the other boxes?

 

MASC (part 2)

Choreography: Dan Higgins

Performers: Dan Higgins, Kaya Wolsey, Micah Burkhardt

Music by Perera Elsewhere, Entropy Worship, Luke Howard

This is the most artistic piece of the evening. The dancers appear in gold corsets covered in gold body paint from head to toe. It’s two men and one woman in an otherworldly place that feels like Atlantis. Towards the end, one man pulls the woman away and dances just with her, as the other longingly looks on while somber music plays. It’s a very modern piece that is very well executed and stands out as a great work of art.

To learn more about the Repertory Dance Theatre, visit their website here.

Quinn Delaney

The Unique Voice of Macy Gray at City Winery Chicago (December 29, 2018)

Forty minutes after her scheduled start time, Macy Gray takes the stage. She is wearing quite a loud dress with circles of different colors that matches her style. Upon hitting the first note, her unique voice is instantly recognizable. After the first song, she introduces all the members in the band. It’s a bit unusual to do this so early and it results in a very slow start to the show. Nonetheless, Macy quickly recovers and brings the show back to life as she covers, “Creep”. Since Radiohead rarely plays this song, it’s a good choice and it sounds great with Macy’s voice.

 

 

 

Soon afterwards, Macy begins pleading with the audience to get up and dance. At the City Winery, the crowd is tightly packed in at tables without much room for dancing. Thus, nobody dances except those without seats. Still, she continues to ask everyone to party with her. She indicates it would be a great post-Christmas gift to her. And sure enough, slowly but surely, everyone rises to dance to “Beauty in the World”. She is clearly delighted to have everyone up and quickly leads into “I Try”. Even though it was released back in 1999, this song still sounds fresh and is by far her most popular song with 110 million streams on Spotify.

 

 

Most people probably expected the show to end there, but she goes on to play a few more songs including “Brass In Pocket” by The Pretenders. There’s a reason bands end with their most popular song. It leaves the audience with the climactic moment most fresh in their minds as they head out. Having other songs afterwards has a bit of a cool down effect and isn’t ideal.

 

 

Cost of a ticket: $65

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

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

 

Quinn Delaney

Rock with a Jazz Twist: Ryley Walker at Empty Bottle (December 28, 2018)

The Empty Bottle loves their late shows, and tonight is no exception. Ryley Walker, from right here in Chicago, doesn’t take the stage until midnight.

“I’d buy you a drink, but my credit is quite shit. We can all laugh and have tap water” sings Ryley Walker on “The Roundabout”. It’s a beautiful song and his most popular on Spotify, with 2.4 million streams. On this song and for the whole set, the band really vibes well together. It’s Ryley on guitar with Ryan Jewell on drums, Andrew Young on bass, and Brian Sulpizio on lead guitar.

Ryley’s stage banter is a bit eccentric. After an applause, he quickly says “Thank you, we appreciate it.” He also says “This is our first time at the Empty Bottle, so we are a bit nervous.” However, once he starts playing, the nerves melt away and he sounds great. This is especially true during long jams that are filled with a jazzy / experimental sound.

Ryley released a full album cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “The Lillywhite Sessions”.  With each song, he definitely puts his own style into it and often extends into long improvisational jams. Unfortunately, he didn’t play any of these songs tonight.

Cost of a ticket: $18
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Hilarious! Yippee Ki-yay Merry Christmas! A Die Hard Musical Parody at the Den Theatre (Through January 12, 2018)

First off, if you haven’t seen Die Hard, go and watch that first. Or at the very least, watch the trailer below.

Bruce McClane has just flown into LA from NYC to win back his wife, Holly Generic, at her office Christmas Eve party. Only, things don’t go as planned when a group of terrorists led by Hans Olo takes everyone hostage as they try to break into the vault to steal the bonds. With the help of Carl Winslow, Arnold Schwartzen-Schnitzel, and more, Bruce tries to save the day.

The cast is excellent. Bill Gordon does a great 80’s style Bruce Willis. Gary Fields is devilishly delightful as Alan Rickman, aka Hans Olo. Erin Long is hilarious as the terrorist twins, Klaus and Tony. Jin Kim’s performs with gusto as Nintendo Joseph Nakatomi. Nate Curlott is incredibly intense and in your face to great comedic effect as FBI Johnson. Lastly, Alex Divirgilio’s Schwarzenegger impression is pretty darn good.

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During tonight’s performance, the actors improvised in response to comments shouted out by the audience showing off their comedy chops. Adding in a few short scenes that are supposed to be improvised could really boost this show. Also, in one scene, McClane plays an acoustic guitar where he really should be playing an electric guitar with heavy distortion.  About halfway through the show, Hans Olo says they need to escort the hostages to the bathroom. This is the perfect spot for an intermission that was missing for this just under two-hour show. Also, it they want to really make this a holiday show, Santa really should show up at some point!

 

Get tickets now for Yippee Ki-yay Merry Christmas through January 12th.

Cost of a ticket: $45

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

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

 

Quinn Delaney

Challenging! La Ruta at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through January 27, 2019)

Brenda has disappeared. She went to work at the maquiladora (factory) in Juarez, Mexico and she didn’t come home on the bus like she usually does. Her mother, Yoli, is distraught. The play jumps back in forth between after her disappearance and before, slowly revealing the details of what took place.

The cast does an excellent job with this very heavy piece. Laura Crotte plays the acoustic guitar and sings beautifully as Desamaya. Charin Alvarez (Lettie) is strong and determined as Marisela, another mother who has lost a daughter. Sandra Delgado is fiercely emotional as Yoli struggling to find her daughter. Karen Rodriguez (The Doppelganger, The Rembrandt) plays Ivonne as a very complicated character stricken by the situations she finds herself in. Lastly, Cher Alvarez is perfectly delightful and innocent as Brenda.

The music does a great job setting the tone. It consists of many Mexican traditional songs and Mexican staples. The tones vary from joyous to haunting.

Just like their previous show in the Upstairs theatre, Downstate, this show is challenging and rewarding as an audience member.  Get tickets now for La Ruta though January 27th!

Cost of a ticket: $70

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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

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Quinn Delaney