Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Hilarious! The Doppelgänger (an international farce) at Steppenwolf Theatre (April 17, 2018)

Thomas (played by Rainn Wilson) is a wealthy British businessman who has organized an international resource political meeting. In addition to the business leaders visiting his house, he has also invited Jimmy (also played by Wilson), his doppelgänger and Rosie, a revolutionary posing as a maid. When Thomas accidentally poisons himself, Rosie convinces Jimmy to pretend to be Thomas in order to get her worker’s rights resolution passed. Hilarity and drama ensue.

There are a lot of laughs in this play. There are many instances of slapstick comedy as they try to hide Thomas’ body from the guests. There is also funny dialog such as when Jimmy says, “Haven’t I been acting funny?” One of the guests responds, “Well, comedy is so subjective.” But also, there are some very serious moments mixed in about conflict minerals, greed, and war. The jokes are the sugar to help this medicine go down.

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Rainn Wilson is fantastic in this production. As Thomas, he plays it straight, which makes his performance as the goofy Jimmy all the more funny. His comedic chops which he honed on The Office are on full display. Celeste M. Cooper (previously at Steppenwolf in BLKS) is also fantastic as Rosie.  She’s constantly running around the stage trying to keep up the whole ruse.

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There are many similarities in this production to Steppenwolf’s production at the end of last year, The Minutes. They are both about politics, and the backroom deals underlying them. They are also both very funny and end with a big dramatic scene that leave the audience stunned. And lastly, they are both great examples of the world class fresh new productions for which this theatre is known.

Get tickets now for The Doppelgänger (an international farce) through May 27th!

Quinn Delaney

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Wonderful! Company at Mercury Theatre (April 14, 2018)

In 1970, Company first premiered on April 26th. That year it won six Tony Awards. In 2011, a star studded cast performed the show and it was released as a film. The cast included Neil Patrick Harris, Jon Cryer, Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks, and many more. And now, in April of 2018, it opens at Mercury Theatre.

 

It’s Bobby’s 35th birthday party in New York City. All his friends are married, and he definitely feels the pressure to do the same. However, he doesn’t seem ready to be married, or even able to maintain a long term relationship with any of the women he dates. Thus, he seeks female “company” from his married friends. The story builds and builds to the fantastic final song, “Being Alive”.

This show marks the grand opening of the Venus Cabaret Theatre. It’s a fantastic space filled with tables at varying heights and a full bar. It perfectly matches the setting of the play as a great place for a party. Also, appetizers and cake are served to the audience giving the production a very immersive feel.

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The entire cast sings fantastically and it sounds great in the intimate space. Allison Sill is absolutely hilarious as April, the flight attendant. It’s reminiscent of her great performance as Ulla in The Producers. In both roles, she is so charming and completely steals the scenes she is in. Also, Heather Townsend is great as the mysterious Joanne. She gives the role a great complexity.

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Get tickets now to Company through June 3rd!

Quinn Delaney

World Premiere! Lettie at Victory Gardens Theatre (April 13, 2018)

Lettie was just released from prison after seven years. She moves into a halfway house and she is looking forward to reconnecting with her kids. They have been living with her sister and brother-in-law. Lettie’s 14 year old daughter is happy to have her back in her life. In a sharp contrast, her 17 year old son isn’t so quick to forgive her past.

The play draws some strong reactions from the audience. There are a lot of gasps and sighs. Also, there is a lot of laughter. It’s a great mix of drama and comedy. Also, Lettie talks about having to check the “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” checkbox. In Illinois, it is illegal to have this on an application (Ban the Box).

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Caroline Neff (You Got Older, Linda Vista, and more at Steppenwolf) is absolutely outstanding as Lettie. She is on stage for almost the entire show and she so fully becomes her character. You can see her struggle to get her life back together while still trying to keep a sense of humor about things.  Matt Farabee is also a standout as Lettie’s son. He clearly portrays the pain that she has caused him and thus his reluctance to accept her return. Charin Alvarez is fantastic as Lettie’s friend at the halfway house. She is so funny and also a strong voice of reason.

Get tickets now for Lettie through May 6th!

Quinn Delaney

Excellent! Refuge Theatre Presents The Spitfire Grill at Windy City Cafe (March 30, 2018)

Percy is out on parole after spending five years in prison. She is looking for a fresh new start, so she chooses a small town in Wisconsin named Gilead because of a brochure she saw. She takes the only job available, being a waitress at the local diner. The owner of the diner, Hannah, lost her son in the war and then her husband shortly after. Now, she is trying to sell the diner, but it hasn’t sold in 10 years on the market. With Percy’s help, they decide to have an essay contest to pick a new owner.

 

The performance takes place in the Windy City Café, which is not usually a venue for theatre. It’s a small diner which makes for a very intimate show. For those seated in the front row, it may be too intimate, as the actors sing their hearts out only a few feet away. Thus, sitting in the booths is recommended. The performers use a side door that leads straight out to Chicago Ave. During tonight’s performance, after an actor leaves in anger, honking can be heard from the street, which makes for a cool touch.

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The cast does an excellent job. Everyone has a great voice, especially Emily Goldberg. They all pull off the comedic elements fantastically, especially Nicole Michelle Haskins. The Music Director, Jon Schneidman, does a very impressive job as he plays the piano, guitar, and harmonica simultaneously!

Get tickets now for The Spitfire Grill through May 5th.

Quinn Delaney

Charming! Broadway in Chicago Presents Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Oriental Theatre (March 28, 2018)

Vivian Ward, a prostitute, meets Edward Lewis, a wealthy businessman, on Hollywood Boulevard while he is looking for directions. This leads to a deal where he hires her for the entire week. This simple business transaction turns into much more than either of them anticipated as they fall for each other and change themselves for the better. The play very closely follows the plot of the original film, from 1990.

The cast is incredibly impressive. Steve Kazee (Tony Award Winner for Once, Gus Pfender on Shameless) plays Edward Lewis with absolute charm and grace. His singing voice is also grand. Ward  Eric Anderson (The Greatest Showman, The Good Wife) is hilarious as the hotel manager. His comedic prowess is complimented by his bellhop, played by Tommy Bracco. They play off each other very well. Allison Blackwell is outstanding when she performs as the opera singer. Her voice is so powerful that she absolutely steals the scene.

The original music & lyrics created for this show by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance are excellent. At first, breaking out into song in this story seems a little strange, especially since the movie was not a musical. However, as the story builds, the songs fit right into place and are a perfect way for the characters to express themselves.

Get tickets now for Pretty Woman through April 15th!

Quinn Delaney

Dark Comedy! Remy Bumppo Presents hang at Greenhouse Theatre Center (March 26, 2018)

Starting a play in the middle of a story is usually a good strategy. The action starts right away and the audience discovers what happened in the past as the story goes along. However, in the case of hang, the backstory is revealed too slowly. The dialog is so vague and uninformative. The two government employees use so many pronouns and skip key words that it becomes irritating. Also, on this opening performance, about a third of the audience is laughing hysterically. This is because they know what is happening. Without having to struggle to figure out the situation, they are able to laugh at the performances. And so now, a small plot point will be revealed. It’s a fact that is not revealed until the second half of the play that should have been revealed much earlier.

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The woman is being asked to decide which form of capital punishment should be used for a specific man. With this information, the entire play will be an enjoyable dark comedy. Without it, only the part of the play after this is revealed is funny.

This information raises many questions. Where in the world is this play taking place? The UK abolished capital punishment in 1965. In the US, lethal injection is mostly the sole method. In a few states, the prisoner may choose another option such as lethal gas or electrocution. So, then the question is, when is this story taking place? Is this some dystopian future? These questions definitely will inspire conversations after seeing this show.

The cast does an excellent job. Annabel Armour is hilarious as the bumbling government employee constantly making mistakes. Eleni Pappageorge is superb as the boss who is always scalding the other employee for messing up. She embodies the idea of a corporate bureaucratic mess. Lastly, Patrese D. McClain is fantastic as the woman who has to make the big decision. She successfully plays it straight in the face of the infuriating nonsense the other two are dealing out.

Get tickets now for hang through April 29th!

Quinn Delaney

Wonderful! Broadway in Chicago Presents On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (March 23, 2018)

On Your Feet is the story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan. The show begins with Gloria learning music in Cuba and then shifts to Miami. It is here that Gloria joins the Miami Sound Machine and meets Emilio. The musicians struggle to get their first single, “Dr. Beat”, on the radio, as there is resistant to play a song with a Latin beat and English lyrics.  Through hard work and persistence, they eventually gain great success through the song.

However, when they return with their next single, “Conga”, they are again met with resistance. Emilio comments, “They all want something original that everyone already likes!” Once again, they refuse to take no for an answer and the artists turn it into their biggest hit which leads to a world tour. But then tragedy strikes when their tour bus was struck by a semi-truck. This is a very intense scene with bright headlights and the loud sound of a semi-truck expertly recreating the crash.

Something you may not expect from this show is comedy. However, there are many laughs to be had, especially from the character Abuela, which means grandmother in Spanish. Abuela is bluntly honest which has a great comedic effect. In fact, she receives the loudest applause at the end.

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The finale is a wonderful mega mix that creates a concert atmosphere with everyone getting up on their feet! Full concert lighting shines across the stage and into the entire theatre. The complete cast comes out to sing a few lines and dance along. The audience is clapping and dancing all the way through to the final jam with the full band at the front of the stage. Everyone is smiling and laughing as they leave the theatre. It’s an absolute must see for fans of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine!

Get tickets now for On Your Feet through April 8!

Quinn Delaney