Monthly Archives: July 2017

Poignant: The Modern Noir of Water and Power at UrbanTheater Company

(This review is spoiler free)

Written by Richard Montoya and directed by Richard Perez, and produced by the UrbanTheater Company (@urbantheater), the Chicano play Water & Power is an intimate, conflicted, and hopeful portrayal of Hispanic urban masculinity. The play follows eponymous brothers Water (Dennis Garcia) and Power (Ivan Vega) through the past and present as it frames their relationship. In the flashback scenes, their father (Juan Delgado), a hardworking immigrant who works for Chicago’s utilities system, encourages his twin sons to seek respect and power in order to escape systematic oppression. The story is never monochrome, the conflicts that the main characters experience in their quest for power and family are never black and white. The show balances two different stories at its core: obligations to family in times of crisis and the acceptable limits of power. Juggling these two themes is ambitious and complicated, and Water & Power smartly intertwines these two stories to create a play that is both emotional and powerful.

The play was originally written to be set in LA.  For the Chicago performances, the writer smartly rewrote the script to reference the Windy City. This, combined with the cramped, one room setting of the play lends the performance intimacy and tension. The script and dialogue intentionally resemble spoken word poetry, but thankfully the performances don’t come across as preachy or unnatural. UTC is renowned in the Chicago arts scene for their satirical performances, and Water & Power represents the studio’s first foray into more dramatic territory. Thankfully, given this experience, the script is peppered with jokes and moments of brevity that help prevent the gravitas of the story from becoming depressing or emotionally exhausting.

Though the show has closed its initial run in Chicago, stay on the lookout for future performances. The play’s charming but conflicted characters, intense performances, and beautiful, poetic writing make this one a must see.

Justin Cabrera

Delightful! Broadway in Chicago Presents An American in Paris at Oriental Theatre (July 26, 2017)

An American in Paris is a new musical that won four Tony Awards in 2015. However, it doesn’t feel like a modern musical as it is based on the 1951 film of the same name. The music also doesn’t sound like it’s from the 50s. That’s because it’s from George Gershwin’s orchestral piece of the same name from 1928.

AAIP_TOUR_0676.jpg –An American in Paris Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

In the story, it’s 1945 and World War II has just ended. Jerry “missed his train home” and has decided to stay in Paris to become an artist. On his first day there, he meets Lise — and he is instantly smitten. He runs into her again soon after and learns that she has a serious boyfriend. He doesn’t let this deter him and he continues to pursue her. On a professional level, he strives to be a designer for a ballet.

An American in Paris is half musical – half ballet. The best parts of the musical half are “I Got Rhythm” and “Fidgety Feet”. The cast does an excellent job singing these songs. The dancing is fantastic as well. A ballet within the show takes place in the second act that showcases the talents on stage. Even the Joffrey Ballet would be impressed.

The play is completely in English, but there are a few French touches. Here are a few translations:

Merci – Thank you

Monsieur – Mr., sir

Madame – Mrs., ma’am

Merde – Damn it!

AAIP Tour 1268 – Nick Spangler and the An American in Paris Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Will Jerry end up with Lise? Find out now through August 13th at An American in Paris!

Quinn Delaney

“Best Night of My Summer” – Goo Goo Dolls at Northerly Island (July 24, 2017)

Robby Takac, vocalist and bassist, is having a great time. He’s running around the stage with a giant smile on his face. And why should he? It’s a perfect evening in Chicago at Northerly Island. His band, the Goo Goo Dolls, have been together since 1986, and is still going strong. He isn’t the only one that’s happy tonight.

John Rzeznik, lead singer and guitarist, is also enjoying himself. “This song is for you Chicago. You were one of the first cities to embrace us and pay for our rent before the rest of the world!” They go on to play “Name” from A Boy Named Goo, which came out in 1995. It still sounds great and it had the entire crowd smiling and dancing around.

Before playing a new song, he asks everyone if they can hold their pee. “I know everyone likes to go to the bathroom during the new song so they don’t miss ‘Iris’”. It’s so true! And when he does finally play “Iris” as the finale of the set, it’s a beautiful moment with everyone singing along.  “Now this was a fucking rock concert!” he says.

For the encore, they play “Give A Little Bit” by Supertramp. It’s a fantastic end to a great night of music. “This was the best night of my summer!” says Rzeznik. It had been almost exactly one year since they played at Northerly Island with Tribe Society and Collective Soul opening (see the review here).  Here’s to keeping this annual tradition going!

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Highly Recommended! School for Lies at The Artistic Home (July 22, 2017)

David Ives has a talent for taking old plays and adapting them in verse to modern English. In 2010, he adapted Pierre Corneille’s The Liar. The Promethean Theatre recently did an excellent production and the review is available here. In 2011, he adapted Moliere’s The Misanthrope under the title School for Lies. The Artistic Home’s production is equally fantastic.

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In the play, Frank is at the center of a love triangle. Both Celimene and Eliante wish to make him their lover. Things are further complicated when Philinte confesses to Frank that he desires Eliante. It’s a wild ride as all these characters struggle to fulfill their desires and handle their challenges while speaking in rhyming couplets.

The costume design is world class. All the outfits are so colorful and extravagant. That is, except for Frank, who purposely sticks out as the outsider in all black. Along with the excellent makeup work, the characters truly look they have stepped out of another world, Paris in 1666. It’s quite a sight to see.

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The acting is superb. Everyone makes their characters larger than life and very interesting. They speak the verses with a poetic flair and talent that makes this production a work of art.

The Artistic Home is a small intimate space that seats about 40 people. The production doesn’t play down to the small space at all. In fact, it is worthy of playing a much larger theatre such as the Chicago Shakespeare theatre, who did their own version in 2013.

Get tickets now for School of Lies through August 13th!

Quinn Delaney

Absurd Realism – Hir at Steppenwolf Theatre (July 19, 2017)

Upon entering the theatre, a large curtain is covering the entire stage. Seems pretty normal, right? Except, Steppenwolf doesn’t usually use a curtain. Thus, this emphasizes that the following performance will be theatrical. In fact, it will be be hyper realism.

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In Hir, Isaac returns home from war after being gone for three years to discover everything has changed since he has been gone. His father had a stroke and is now a shadow of his former self who can barely speak. His mother is rejecting all her former duties as a housekeeper and has let the house become incredibly dirty and messy. His sister has come out as transgender. He was hoping for comfort when he returned, but he has found none. Thus, he takes it upon himself to return things to the way they were. That is, except for transgender sibling. He accepts that change fully.

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This play is both funny and dramatic. It’s very real and extremely bizarre. It’s about a formerly traditional nuclear family that is now anything but. The acting is phenomenal. All of the actors make the characters so real on stage which makes the action that takes place even more absurd.

Can Isaac return things back to the way they were? Find out now in Hir through August 20!

Quinn Delaney

Hilarious Parody! Broadway in Chicago Presents Something Rotten at the Oriental Theatre (July 12, 2017)

Nick and Nigel Bottom need to come up with an original play quickly. Nick seeks out the help of Nostradamus to tell him about a future hit by Shakespeare. Nostradamus can see the future, but he mixes up a bunch of hit musicals into one. This leads to the song, “A Musical”, which is full of references to other shows. All the musical references in this song and “Something Rotten! / Make an Omelette” have been compiled into this Spotify playlist:

Fun Notes:

Rent – “Seasons of Love” – Adam Pascal (who plays Shakespeare) sings on this song as the original Roger

Annie – “Hard Knock Life” – Jay Z samples this song in his version of Hard Knock Life

Guys and Dolls – “Luck be a Lady” – Frank Sinatra has a great version on his album, My Kind of Broadway

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There are many more references to musicals throughout the entire play. This is a must see for any big fan of Broadway. And this line just has to be mentioned: “Don’t be a penis, the man is a genius!”

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Get tickets now for Something Rotten! through July 23rd!

Quinn Delaney

Also, see this video of “A Musical” with references here.

Top 5 Moments: Slightly Stoopid at Northerly Island (July 9, 2017)

Slightly Stoopid know how to keep a party going. They bring their San Diego SoCal vibe wherever they go, and tonight they’re rocking Chicago. With the temperature hovering right around 80 degrees during their night time show and 12th Street Beach just beyond the venue’s fences, it feels just like California.

Here are the Top 5 Moments:

  1. Kyle, the lead singer, kept giving praise to Chicago. “We’ve been coming here for 16 years and we love it!” Chicagoans returned the love with continuous cheers and dancing along for the entire 2 hour plus set.
  2. The horns were on fire tonight. It was a highlight every time they took the lead on a song.
  3. They played a Grateful Dead song in tribute to their final performance, which happened at Soldier Field less than a mile away.
  4. “Collie Man” – This is such a great tune!
  5. Members of their crew joining picking up instruments and joining them on a song or two. This is really unique and an awesome thing for the band to do.

Quinn Delaney