Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Review: Hair at Mercury Theatre Chicago (August 5, 2017)

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, first appeared on Broadway in 1968. In 1979, the film version was released. In 2009, a Broadway revival opened and won the Tony Award for best revival. And now, in 2017, the production is being staged at the Mercury Theatre.

In the musical, Claude is drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. His friends all tell him to burn his draft card and resist. The threat of jail time for failing to serve weighs on him.

HAIR, Mercury Theater - Ensemble (Brett A. Beiner)

The highlights of the show are the opening number, “Aquarius”, and the closing song, “Let The Sun Shine In”. The cast’s vocal talent is fantastic.

HAIR, Mercury Theater - Matt Keffer and ensemble (Brett A. Beiner)

Get tickets now for Hair through September 17th!

Quinn Delaney

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

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.

A Great Love Story! About Face Theatre Presents Bright Half Life at Theatre Wit (June 21, 2017)

Vicky is Erica’s supervisor at work, so she is hesitant to go out with her. Eventually, she relents and they go on a Ferris wheel together. Before long they are in a committed relationship and they have twin girls. Afterwards, they get married. This is the order of events that things happened, but in the play the scenes take place all out of order. They are often short and cut back and forth in time. It’s a lot like an improv show. It’s especially like the game where the last line in a scene has to be the first line in the next scene as they use this technique often. It’s a fresh style of storytelling that keeps on the audience engaged.

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The acting is excellent. Elizabeth Ledo as Erica is head over heels for Vicky and shows it expertly through her body language. Watching her beg Vicky to go out with her and then later on to jump on the bed is a joy. Patrese D. McClain portrays Vicky expertly as the hesitant supervisor. Vicky dated a man previously, and McClain captures this in her performance. She’s definitely the more grounded person in the relationship and it’s so real to watch them work things out together. The ups and downs of the relationship (especially the tension caused by Erica’s career path) combine for a great love story.

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Get tickets now for Bright Half Life through July 1st!

Quinn Delaney