Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Review: Organic Theatre Company Presents Tiresias Was a Weatherman at Greenhouse Theater (Through July 6, 2018)

Imagine a world in which our emotions affect the weather. Imagine if a mentally ill person out of control could cause a hurricane that could lead to destruction and death. What would society do to control these people? Put them on medication? Insert an emotion control computer chip in their brain? Find out now in Organic Theatre Company’s world premiere of Tiresias Was a Weatherman.

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The dialog is very dense in this production as they discuss deep philosophical issues such as climate change, mental illness, and many more. At times it’s a bit much to take in all at once. On the other hand, it is very funny, especially when the Greek Chorus embodies the weather as they dance and sing. Also, the name of the main corporation involved is called Crazy Pants Pharmaceutical Company! The cast does a great job tackling this complex script in this ensemble piece.

Note: The closing song of “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies is a great choice.

Get tickets now for Tiresias Was a Weatherman through July 6th.

Quinn Delaney

 

 

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Hilarious and Dramatic! Guards at the Taj at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through July 22, 2018)

It’s 1648 and two guards are working the dawn shift before the first light on the day the Taj Mahal is finally completed. They josh around with each other about their dreams and their ideas for inventions in a modern conversational tone. They are the lowest ranking guards who have the only position that looks away from the Taj. One of them learns that the King wishes to cut off the hands of everyone who worked on the Taj, so that nothing as beautiful could ever be built again. Who would have to carry out this horrific task? As the lowest ranking guards, it must be them, they surmise!

The acting in this production is fantastic as they both are very funny and also very dramatic. Omar Metwally plays Humayun who likes to play by the rules. He contrasts with Arian Moayed as Babur, the rebel. Their on stage chemistry is excellent as they portray best friends tackling some dramatic events. It helps that they are friends with a history of performing together including starring in Homebody/Kabul together at Steppenwolf in 2003.  Also, they both won Obie Awards for the first run on Guards at the Taj at The Atlantic Theatre in New York in 2016. Interestingly, Rajiv Joseph wrote this play for the two of them with their inputs.

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The scenic design by Tim Mackabee is impressive. Upon entering the theatre, the audience just sees Humayun standing guard in front of a wall. After the initial scene, the wall rises to reveal the second part of the stage in quite a shocking theatrical moment. It’s a key part of a thrilling roller coaster of an experience!

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Get tickets now for Guards at the Taj through July 22nd!

Quinn Delaney

Intense! Mies Julie at Victory Gardens Theatre (Through June 24, 2018)

In 1888, Miss Julie was written by August Strindberg about the relationship between a young noble woman and her servant in Sweden. In 2013, Liv Ullmann directed a film version starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell set in Ireland. And now, in 2018, Yaël Farber’s version premiers at Victory Gardens Theatre.

Mies Julie and John are in love. There’s just one problem. Julie is the white daughter of the land owner and John is a black slave. If her father ever found out about them, he’d kill them both. She wants to run away with him, but he doesn’t want to leave his mother behind. This sounds like a story from the 1800s in the South to Americans. However, this story takes place in 2012 in South Africa. Apartheid ended in 1994, but this end hasn’t yet fully affected remote desert areas disconnected from current events.

The performances are so powerful and intense. Heather Chrisler (Machinal) is fantastically devious as Mies Julie. It’s a constant battle of one-upmanship with Jalen Gilbert as John, who she keeps calling a kaffir. This is a very offensive South African term for a black person. He matches her intensity and they have great chemistry together, even though they just met at the audition for this play. Celeste Williams is excellent as John’s mother who is just working hard to survive and not anger her master. Also, T. Ayo Alston is great as Ukhokho. She plays her instrument smoothly while she sings beautifully. It ties in well with the original music created by Stephen Ptacek for this production.

The play is only 72 minutes long. The shortness of the play allows the actors to spend less time learning the lines and more time working on the small details and it pays off. This attention to detail also applies to the set, which was designed by Kurtis Boetcher. It truly creates the scene with a 8 foot fan, a live bird in a cage, roots breaking the floor, and so much more.

Get tickets now for Mies Julie now through June 24!

Alston, Williams, Chrisler, Gilbert

Quinn Delaney

If you are interested in learning more about apartheid, check out Born A Crime by Trevor Noah.

Award Worthy! To Catch a Fish at TimeLine Theatre Company (Through July 1, 2018)

Based on a true events, this is the story of a young man who starts working for a couple of shady characters who have set up a pop up shop. Initially, he is just handing out flyers, but then they ask him to tell people they are also buying guns. The young man is eager to please them and he does just as he is told. He tells his cousin about his new job who becomes very concerned, just like the audience.

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Geno Walker’s performance as the young man is outstanding. If this were a movie, it would be Oscar worthy. It’s very difficult to portray a mentally disabled person, and he does it expertly. He is surrounded by an excellent cast including Al’Jaleel McGhee (Breach)  as his cousin, who tries to protect him the best he can. Linda Bright Clay (Breach) is fantastic as the constantly worrying grandmother.  Also, Tiffany Addison plays the young man’s girlfriend so real. Lastly, AnJi White, Stephen Walker (The White Road), and Jay Worthington play the shady characters who keep their intentions well hidden.

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The ending of this play is very soft. After such dramatic performances, it deserves a stronger ending. At the very least, they should have a narrator state what ends up happening to the young man. Tonight’s performance included an excellent talk back, which provided the answer to this question and many more. However, most audiences wouldn’t have this chance. After seeing the play, rethink about the title. After all, it’s not really about fishing.

Get tickets now for To Catch A Fish through July 1!

Quinn Delaney

Tense Environment! Shattered Globe Theatre Presents How to Use a Knife at Theatre Wit (Through June 9th)

George is the brand new head chef and he intends to change the way things work in the kitchen. He leads with strict rules and high expectations. When either of these are broken, he responds with yelling frequent profanity. The dishwasher usually responds with silence, but one night he opens up and befriends the chef. They go on to share their dark histories and attempt to help each other get past them.

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This cast does an excellent job. Peter DeFaira (Six Corners) plays Chef George as a tough, strict, and mostly unlikable boss. His good side only comes out when he is teaching the dishwasher, played by Anthony Irons, how to cook. Irons expertly plays his role as reserved and mysterious and as someone who could have dark secrets.

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Dennis Garcia and Victor Marana play the Guatemalan cooks. They have a great chemistry together as they joke while they work, often in Spanish. Brush up on your Spanish curse words before the show. All together, this production does an excellent job recreating the tense environment in the kitchen of a restaurant comprised of people from all walks of life.

Get tickets now for How to Use a Knife through June 9th!

Quinn Delaney

Delightful! Having Our Say at the Goodman Theatre (Through June 10th, 2018)

The Delany sisters were born in 1889 and 1891 in North Carolina. When they were in their 20s, they moved to New York City to pursue education and careers. This story takes place in 1993 when they are 101 and 103 years old. They went on to live until they were 104 and 109. The play is based on their book of the same name, that became a New York Times bestseller. It’s part history lesson from a first person perspective about life as a woman and as a negro (their preferred term) in America. They touch on women getting the right to vote, Jim Crow laws, the civil rights movement, and much more.

The acting is fantastic. Marie Thomas is delightful as Sadie. She is so caring and it makes perfect sense her character was a teacher. Ella Joyce is excellent as Bessie. She’s the feisty one who always has an opinion on everything and she plays the role strongly. When asked about the secret to a long life, she replies with glee “Never getting married!” Also, their chemistry together is fantastic as they argue with each other like real sisters.

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Get tickets now for Having Our Say through June 10th!

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Quinn Delaney

1920s Classy and Funny! Kokandy Productions Presents Grand Hotel at Theatre Wit (Through May 27, 2018)

In 1928, Vicky Baum wrote Menchen im Hotel (People in a Hotel). In 1932, it was turned into a feature film. Then, many years later, in 1989, it premiered on Broadway and won five Tonys. And now, in 2018, it premieres at the Theatre Wit in Chicago.

The year is 1928 and the stock market is booming. “Grand Hotel, music constantly playing” they sing in the opening number. And this is true, as the band plays for the entire show on a white grand piano, violin, and drums.  In fact, they are already playing as the audience enters the theatre. This hotel is at the center of a full ensemble of characters played by an excellent cast.

Michelle Jasso is great as the famous ballerina on her second farewell tour. She expertly plays her lack of motivation to perform until she meets the Baron Feliz Von Gaigern, played by Erik Dohner, whose youth gives her refreshed energy. Dohner plays his role smoothly displaying his reluctance to be a thief. After all, “There is nothing more useless on this planet than a nobleman without any money!”

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Leryn Turlington is excellent as Flaemmchen, the typist who is looking to be much more than that in life. She is willing to do almost anything to get to Hollywood, which she is told is “just a train ride away from Boston”. Jonathan Schwart is hilarious as Otto, the bookman looking for life and adventure before his illness kills him. He is able to display his fascination with the luxury of the hotel with his acting. It’s just like this production, which is both classy and funny!

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Get tickets now for Grand Hotel through May 27!

Quinn Delaney