Monthly Archives: November 2018

Best Non-Musical Theatre in Chicago! Familiar at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through January 13, 2019)

A family all comes home to Minnesota for the marriage of one of the daughters. The parents immigrated from Zimbabwe. As a surprise, the bride invited her mother’s sister to fly in from Africa for the wedding. Her sister insists on performing the traditional ceremony, a Roora, where the families negotiate a payment for taking their daughter in marriage. The mother strongly opposes this tradition which leads to a lot of tension. The drama continues to build as some major family secrets are revealed.

This play tackles some very heavy issues for immigrants. A very strong one is how to balance keeping their culture alive while also becoming American. The decision whether or not to teach their children their native language is a difficult one. There is also the question of when to tell children about their history involving issues they wouldn’t understand when they are young.

This play is extremely well written by Danai Gurira. She was born in the US to Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe. Thus, this is clearly a very personally relevant story for her. She is also a rising actor. She plays “General Okoye” in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War and Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead.

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The cast is absolutely fantastic. Celeste M. Cooper (BLKS, The Doppelganger) is excellent as the sister of the bride, the feng shui teacher. She has great chemistry with Luigi Sottile as the groom’s brother. Cheryl Lynn Bruce is so strong as Aunt Anne, the mother’s sister. It’s clear she isn’t going to let the Zim traditions be forgotten without a fight. Ora Jones (The Roommate) is equally strong as the mother which makes for quite a matchup.

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The set is quite impressive. They basically built a two story house on the stage and completely furnished it as if a family had been living there for years. Steppenwolf clearly puts a high value on their set design and it pays off.

At the very end of the play, Celeste M. Cooper plays a beautiful song called “Familiar” that brought the audience to tears. Sometimes shows at the Steppenwolf end strangely, but this was a fantastic close to the show! Once again, Steppenwolf proves they are the home for the best non-musical theatre in Chicago!

Get tickets now for Familiar through January 13, 2019!

Quinn Delaney

Lost Opportunity: Red Theatre Presents An Oak Tree at Athenaeum Theatre (Through December 9, 2018)

One actor, Gage Wallace, has rehearsed the play and his role is as a hypnotist. The second actor has never even seen the script. Tonight, this actor is Mike Tepeli. He plays a father of two girls. One of the girls was struck by a car that the hypnotist was driving. The father volunteers at one of the hypnotist’s shows seeking closure.

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Mike Tepeli played the part very seriously. He became this father, stricken with grief over the loss of his daughter. He is so distraught that at one point he drops to his knees. The program describes the play as absurdly comic, but with Tepeli’s performance, it definitely wasn’t.

Another production in Chicago just featured an actor who had never read the play before, White Rabbit Red Rabbit.  In this play, the stakes are high and the actor is given a choice. However, in An Oak Tree, the stakes are low and the actor is carefully guided the entire time. He never makes any choices which limits the variability caused by the second actor. It seems like a lost opportunity.

Get tickets now for An Oak Tree through December 9th.

Cost of a ticket: $25

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

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

Quinn Delaney

Classic! A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre (Through December 30, 2018)

In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol.  The following year, eight theatre companies had put on productions. In 1978, The Goodman Theatre first produced the play. In 1988, Bill Murray starred in Scrooged. And now, the Goodman begins its 41st run!

The Goodman Theatre has continually updated the play to feel fresh. This current production is much more funny, light-hearted, and kid friendly than it was originally. It is quite less darkly Dickensian. The actors singing and playing instruments liven it up as well.

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The set is very impressive. There are two double story sets that slide in and off the stage along with the permanent large structures on the sides. Also impressive is the flying around the stage with the ghosts. Add to that the great costumes, excellent use of fog, the cast giving it their all, and it’s clear this production has been perfected over the years.

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In the end, the audience is full of smiles and full of Christmas spirit. It remains a fantastic tale of redemption and a great Chicago tradition.

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Get tickets now for A Christmas Carol through December 30th!

 

Quinn Delaney

Talented! Rachel Eckroth opening for Rufus Wainwright at the Vic Theatre (November 20, 2018)

Surrounded by all the instruments for Rufus Wainwright’s set, Rachel Eckroth stands at her keyboard and synthesizer. As soon as she starts singing, it’s evident she has talent. Her voice is full of depth and sounds excellent tonight at the Vic Theatre. Her keyboard playing is also beautiful along with the prerecorded bass she has playing. It all adds up to a very full sound, despite her being the only one on stage.

To introduce one of her songs, she says she wrote it about a guy she has just started dating. She then relates that she is going to marry this man, in three days! The wedding is on Black Friday in fact!

After her set, she returns to play keyboards in Rufus Wainwright’s band. They go on to play until 11:30pm. That makes it three and half hours of stage time for her with only 2 short breaks!

Catch Rachel Eckroth on tour now!

Quinn Delaney

Acoustic Tour! The Expendables at City Winery (November 19, 2018)

Tonight is day one of the first acoustic tour by The Expendables. The City Winery is a great venue that is intimate enough for this type of performance. All four members of the band are lined up across the front of the stage. The lineup is two acoustic guitars, hand drums, and an acoustic bass. “Let’s start off positive” says the lead singer and then they launch into “Positive Mind”. They go on playing many songs from their catalogue which translate very well into this acoustic setup creating a very chill vibe.

Then they ask, “What would you like to hear next? We didn’t really put together a set.” Everyone starts yelling song titles. The people in the back yell extra loud to be heard. It’s fine to ask for requests one or two times. But then the band should say no more. This doesn’t happen and thus each song is followed by people yelling their requests. It ruins the chill vibe for a while.

To close out the night, they play “Bowl for Two” as everyone sings along. It’s a joyful moment that is then heightened by them adding “Because I Got High” by Afroman in the middle. It’s such a fun tune to sing along to and a great cover choice. It’s an excellent way to close out the night.

See The Expendables tour schedule here.

Quinn Delaney

Results! World of Dance Chicago at the Copernicus Center (November 18, 2018)

Team Division Winners:

1st Place: Puzzle League – Chicago, IL

The crew comes out all wearing white T-shirts and berets. Is it a tribute to Picasso? No, it’s a tribute to the musical artist Masego.

2nd Place: Elevated – Cleveland, OH

This group comes out in all red jumpsuits. As soon as the music starts, they are all in sync. To add to the prison theme, they use chains to walk some of the dancers like dogs as they sing “let your chains hang low” to the tune of “Do Your Ears Hang Low”.

3rd Place: SueMo Dance Company

Crowd Favorite: The Puzzle League

Best Costume: The Effect

Best Theme: Elite Family Dance

Other Highlights:

 Ricky Cole – The Host

Ricky is a charming host who kept things running smoothly. He was very fun to start, but his comments did get a bit repetitive towards the end.

 Midwest Edge Dance Academy – Aurora, IL

 This group of 11 to 15 year olds is very impressive. They bring a strong energy and very early on the audience goes wild. This is especially true when some of the youngest dancers step to the front for some fierce solos.

Boom Crack! Dance Company – Chicago, IL

Wow, this group is huge! They can barely all fit just standing on the stage. The choreography is then fantastic as they display great energy and avoid crashing into each other. It’s like a giant flash mob.

Kyle Van Newkirk

Improvised tap dancing with a drummer playing on a full kit is an interesting idea.

JET

 

Watching this guy move is mystifying. He’s so smooth and precise like a finely tuned machine. It’s like watching a stop motion animation movie in real life.

Jaja and Beast

The cutest dance of the night is this one as they dance to “Lego House” by Ed Sheeran dressed as Lego people. It’s a great interpretation of the song and oh so sweet as they express love for each other.

Quinn Delaney

Review: Teatro Visto Presents American Journalero at UrbanTheatre (Through November 18, 2018)

Six men wait on a corner in Queens. Four of them are journaleros (laborers) looking for work for the day. Each time a truck pulls up, they stand up in anticipation. The other two men are just there to harass the other guys. They are white Americans who fear that the immigrants are stealing their jobs and driving wages down. However, after talking with the guys for a while, one of the white guys befriends them and learns they aren’t even competing for the same jobs and he has nothing to fear.

TeatroVista_American Jornalero_1251_credit Joel Maisonet

Dillon Kelleher (right) plays America First vigilante Mark, who confronts (left, from left) a trio of immigrant day laborers – Victor Marana as Luis, Ramón Camín as Michigan and Mike Cherry as Montezuma – in Teatro Vista’s American Jornalero by Ed Cardona Jr. American Jornalero had its Chicago premiere at Victory Gardens as part of DESTINOS, the 2nd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival. It transfers to UrbanTheater, 2620 W. Division St., in Humboldt Park, for an additional four weeks, October 25 through November 18. For tickets and information, visit teatrovista.org or call (773) 599-9280. Credit: Joel Maisonet

Just like the title, this play is bilingual. It’s mostly in English, but the journaleros often speak to each other in Spanish. It’s often words not taught in high school, aka, profanity. A quick refresher on these terms on this website is helpful. Use of both languages make the play much more authentic than it would be in all English.

TeatroVista_American Jornalero_512_credit Joel Maisonet

(from left) Ramón Camín is Michigan, Victor Marana is Luis and Jordan Arredondo is Marcelo, day laborers waiting to be picked up for a day’s work, in Teatro Vista’s American Jornalero by Ed Cardona Jr. American Jornalero had its Chicago premiere at Victory Gardens as part of DESTINOS, the 2nd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival. It transfers to UrbanTheater, 2620 W. Division St., in Humboldt Park, for an additional four weeks, October 25 through November 18. For tickets and information, visit teatrovista.org or call (773) 599-9280. Credit: Joel Maisonet

Ultimately, this is a light-hearted tale about a segment of the population that doesn’t often get much attention. It’s a quick (75 minutes) glance into their lives and struggles portrayed by a great cast. Mike Cherry’s performance as Montezuma is especially fantastic.

 

Cost of a ticket: $25

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It!

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

 

Next up from Teatro Visto: The Abuelas starting on February 9, 2019.

 

Quinn Delaney