Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Powerful Voices! Firebrand Theatre Presents Caroline, or Change at the Den Theatre (Through October 28, 2018)

It’s 1963 and Caroline is working as a maid for a Jewish family. As the father says bluntly to Noah, his only son, “There is no God” and “Your mother is dead”. The father remarries and the mother-in-law struggles to develop a relationship with Noah. Instead, Noah feels more connected to Caroline, the maid. He keeps leaving change in his pockets. The mother-in-law insists that Caroline keep the change when she finds the coins while doing the laundry, but she says she can’t take money from a baby. But when he leaves a $20 bill in his pocket, the matter escalates.

The singing in this production is excellent. The musical genres include Motown, blues, gospel, folk, and Jewish klezmer. Rashada Dawan is especially impressive as Caroline. She has such a powerful voice and it stays strong through so many songs. Micheal Lovette is also fantastic as the Bus/Dryer. He has such a deep voice. All the children in the show are great too. Their singing and ability to memorize lines at that young age is impressive. Also, there were enough of them that a position listed in the program is Child Wrangler!

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Get tickets now for Caroline, or Change through October 28.

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Quinn Delaney

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Hopeful! Inglis Hall Productions Presents Edge of Life at Athenaeum Theatre (Through November 3, 2018)

Bill is being treated for cancer with chemotherapy.  It’s causing him to throw up constantly and he feels terrible all the time. His prognosis is grim and he wants to return home to die with dignity. His wife and his doctor insist he is depressed and want him to continue fighting.

Gertrude is 93 years old and is surviving on life support with little hope for recovery. Her doctor wants to keep her on the machines. Her grandson, who she raised, must make the decision for her because she doesn’t have a living will.

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This play takes these very difficult issues and puts a face on them. It could be a very depressing story, but instead it is hopeful. Currently only 6 states have death with dignity statues. This production will start conversations about this issue and hopefully Illinois will join the list.

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The set is built upon a circular stage that rotates to show three separate rooms. It’s a great way to fully utilize the space and puts the set on par with Steppenwolf, who used a similar set up for Linda Vista.

Get tickets now for Edge of Life through November 3!

Cost of a ticket: $40

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Quinn Delaney

Review: Indecent at Victory Gardens Theater (Through November 4, 2018)

This is a play about a play. Sholem Asch wrote “God of Vengeance” in 1906 in Warsaw, Poland. The play toured across Europe with great success. So, they brought the play to downtown NYC where it was also successful. In 1923, it premiered on Broadway and shocked audiences. Soon afterwards, the entire cast and the producer were indicted and convicted on charges of obscenity mainly due to the lesbian love scenes in which two women kiss for the first time on Broadway.

The music in this production is fantastic. Throughout the entire show, the musicians move around the stage playing an accordion, violin, mandolin, and bass. The full cast also sings many songs including “Ich Hab Noch Einen Koffer in Berlin” (I still have a suitcase in Berlin).

During the play, when characters speak their native language, they speak perfect English. When characters speak English as their second language, they speak with an accent. This is surely challenging for the actors, but they all pull it off with grace.

Kiah Stern (American Vanadal) is excellent as the ingénue, Chana. She is so passionate in the rain scene. Also, Benjamin Magnuson (Once) is superb as the stage manager, Lemml. When he first hears the play, his life changes and he grows to become its greatest leader.

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Get tickets now for Indecent through November 4, 2018.

Cost of a ticket: $68
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Quinn Delaney

Review: The New Colony Presents Fun Harmless Warmachine at The Den Theatre (Through November 4, 2018)

Tom is bored at work and has no luck getting a girlfriend. When he’s not at work, he spends most of his time playing Iron Fate, an online multiplayer first player shooter (FPS). Within the game, he gets much more respect that he does at work. He eventually decides to join the Order of the Sword, a group of online gamers. They promise to get him revenge against the girls that have rejected him and increase his popularity in real life (IRL).

 

This story was inspired by Gamergate and online hate movements. They even mention the Late Week Tonight with John Oliver episode about the subject. The issue is that the story is mainly about gaming and the online harassment. The characters and plot seem like an afterthought. Also, the dialog is filled with very gamer specific vocabulary. The program has a glossary of terms on the back, but it covers less than half of the terms used. For non-gamers, this makes it very difficult to follow.

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The best parts of the play are what happens offline. Examples of this are Tom’s interactions with the girl who rejected him and then with a new romantic interest. These scenes are very real and are often funny. Expanding on these relationships and more character development would greatly improve this show. Altogether, it’s okay as it is, but it could be much better.

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Cost of a ticket: $20

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

 

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Get tickets now for Fun Harmless Warmachine through November 4th.

 

Quinn Delaney

Challenging and Thoughtful – Downstate at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through November 11, 2018)

A man and his wife are sitting on a couch in a group home for sex offenders. The man is confronting an elderly man in a wheelchair who sexually assaulted him when he was 12 years old. This is the very first scene. The audience doesn’t know how to react. Some of them are uncomfortable and silent while others laugh. This scene is followed by a much more low key scene in which the other residents of the home are introduced as people before their crimes are revealed.

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This is a challenging play to watch. It is for theatre audiences who are willing to examine difficult issues from all sides and not for the faint-hearted. It humanizes these characters, but it doesn’t go so far as to force sympathy for them. They have all done their time and are just trying to reintegrate into society.

This is not an easy play to do and the cast handles it with class. Glenn Davis (You Got Older, The Christians) is excellent as Gio, who was convicted of statutory rape and is appalled that he is grouped together with the pedophiles. K. Todd Freeman (Directed The Christians) is great as Dee, who tries to take care of everyone in the home. Francis Guinan (The Minutes, The Rembrandt, Hir) plays Fred, the elderly man being confronted in the first scene. There are shades of his character from Hir in that he doesn’t seem to understand what is happening around him. Tim Hopper (Linda Vista, Between Riverside) as Andy gets very upset that Fred doesn’t seem to show any regret. With this performance, Hopper adds to his record as a top of the line character actor. Eddie Torres plays Felix as the most troubled character in a haunting portrayal. Lastly, Cecilia Noble is solid as Ivy, the parole officer for the home just trying to do her job.

Cost of a ticket: $86

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Get tickets now for Downstate through November 11th.

Quinn

Translates Perfectly! Broadway in Chicago Presents Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Oriental Theatre (Through October 21, 2018)

In 1964, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was first published by Roald Dahl. In 1971, it was released as a film starring Gene Wilder. In 2005, a new film was released directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp.  In 2013, the musical version debuted in the West End. Now, in 2018, it opens at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago.

The first half is a bit slow, except for the exciting moment when Charlie finally finds the golden ticket. The magic of this story and of this production is in the second half, inside the chocolate factory. The Oopma-Loompa costumes are hilarious. The choreography of their dances is fantastic as well. Each child’s downfall is a highlight. August Gloop (what a funny costume) falls into the chocolate river. Violet Beauregarde blows up into a blueberry. Veruca Salt dancing with giant squirrels and then being declared a bad nut. Mike Teavee being shrunk into a TV. They all translate perfectly in this theatrical production.

Also, don’t forget the great music. “Pure Imagination”, “The Candy Man”, and “(I’ve Got A) Golden Ticket” sound great from this cast with a live band.

It’s a fantastic show for kids and adults alike. Get tickets now for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory through October 21

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Quinn Delaney

Performance Art! Interrobang Theatre Project Presents White Rabbit Red Rabbit at the Den Theatre (Through November 12, 2018)

The completely original idea of this play is that an actor is handed a script in a sealed envelope for the first time as they step on stage. It starts out simply enough with the playwright introducing himself. He is writing this play in April of 2010 in Iran. He is unable to obtain a passport and this is his best way of getting his voice heard. The play goes on to put on a mini play using audience members playing animal characters. To really describe this performance, a small plot point must be revealed in the following paragraph. Don’t read any further if you wish to see the play spoiler free.

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JD Caudill in the 10/1 Performance. Photo by Zoë Verdin

There are two glasses of water. The fifth audience member is instructed to put a vial of poison into one of the glasses and stir it in. This is when it switches from a play to performance art. The actor begins describing the 18 different ways to commit suicide and the atmosphere gets tense. Was real poison used? Does the actor remember which glass contains the poison? Will they actually drink the water? Do they have a death wish?

In a way, it’s like a live game of Russian Roulette. It’s also reminiscent of Marina Abramović’s piece, Rhythm 0 (1974). In this piece, she invites the audience to use any of the 72 objects laid out on her body in any way they desired. The audience splits into those who sought to harm her and those who wished to protect her. One person picked up a loaded gun and pointed it at her head. Both of these pieces are social experiments that are an intense experience for the audience.

This performance really gets your heart rate going and starts a strong conversation. Get tickets now for White Rabbit Red Rabbit through November 12th!

Cost of a ticket: $25

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Quinn Delaney