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

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It!

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

Get tickets now for Downstate through November 11th.

Quinn

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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

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value!

New Rating Scale:

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

Quinn Delaney

Hilarious! Broadway in Chicago Presents Tootsie at the Cadillac Palace (Through October 14, 2018)

Michael Dorsey is an asshole. Everyone hates him and he can’t get hired as an actor. So, he decides to try getting hired as an actress. He auditions for the same part as his friend, the nurse in Juliet’s Curse. As Dorothy Michaels, he lands the part. Everything is working great for him until he starts to fall for his co-star, Julie. The situation quickly gets very complicated and hilarious. It is based on the 1982 film of the same name, but there are plenty of changes for this production to feel fresh.

The entire cast is fantastic. Santino Fontana (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) is absolutely hilarious as Michael / Dorothy. Similar to his character on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Greg, he is charming and fun with a dark side. Reg Rogers is excellent as Ron Carlisle, the director. His performance is reminiscent of the great Nathan Lane.  Andy Grotelueschen is so funny as Jeff Slater, Michaels roommate. At times, it only take a few words and the audience is cracking up. John Behlmann is fantastic as Max Van Horn, the dumb actor. He makes Max so stupid, it’s impossible not to laugh.

Tootsie

Cross-dressing may not be new territory for comedy, but it is still hilarious in this expertly written show! It will surely do well on Broadway. Get tickets now for Tootsie through October 14th!

Quinn Delaney

Artistic! Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Fall Series at Harris Theatre (September 29, 2018)

There Was Nothing – Choreographed by Movement Art Is (Jon Boogz & Lil Buck)

There was Nothing

9/26/18 4:29:38 PM Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Fall Series Technical rehearsal of THERE WAS NOTHING Jon Boogz and Lil Buck Movement Art It Is Third Coast Percussion © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

This piece features original poetry written and performed by Robin Sanders. “Before the planets, stars, or being, there was nothing. Until the trinity, oxygen, fuel, and heat.” It goes on to describe the creation of earth, humans, and the intertwined and complex relationship between the two in a very artistic style. As this recording plays, the dancers perform these concepts in expert fashion and fluid movement.  It’s an especially memorable moment as the dancers portray five stages of the development of man into a being standing straight up on two feet.

Third Coast Percussion create a very moody sound that is ideal for a tensely dramatic scene. For the first piece, it works perfectly. However, 80 minutes straight of this music without melody is difficult to take. Add to that fact that there is no intermission, and it’s a true test of the attention span of the audience for an art form that demands ones undivided mental and emotional presence.

There was Nothing

9/26/18 4:37:21 PM Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Fall Series Technical rehearsal of THERE WAS NOTHING Jon Boogz and Lil Buck Movement Art It Is Third Coast Percussion © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

Cost of a ticket: $110

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

New Rating Scale:

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

There was Nothing

9/26/18 4:43:33 PM Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Fall Series Technical rehearsal of THERE WAS NOTHING Jon Boogz and Lil Buck Movement Art It Is Third Coast Percussion © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

See our review of a Lil’ Buck performance here.

Quinn Delaney

Delightful! Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival at Ruth Page Center for the Arts (September 28, 2018)

The Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival takes place over two weekends at the end of September at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. 16 dance groups perform during the festival. Here is a selection of the best performances from the second weekend.

Aerial Dance Chicago – Blackbird (excerpt)

Aerial Dance Chicago by Michelle Reid

Two pairs of silks hang from the ceiling. The aerialists use these to swing across the stage, climb to the ceiling, and flip upside down. It’s an impressive display of athleticism and grace. On an interesting note, when Ok Go needed to find dancers for their video “Upside Down & Inside Out”, they needed performers who could move in zero gravity. So, they chose aerialists who are used to moving their bodies in the air.

james morrow /  The Movement  – / /

James Morrow 1 by Sara Davis

This solo performance is raw. The Lord’s prayer is being recited as Morrow moves across the stage. He is exploring his relationship with both his Christian upbringing and the Chicago House community in a truly emotional fashion.

MitchellMovement & DancersOut of Pocket

This one is absolutely hilarious. It begins with four dancers portraying slot machines with the sounds of a casino playing. Later on they play “Money, Money, Money” by ABBA as they throw money around the stage. The audience is absolutely delighted. Lastly, “Money” featuring Alan Cumming and the Cabaret Ensemble from the 1998 Broadway Cast Recording plays as they dance around the stage to complete this medley of money related dances. It’s not easy to make dance funny, but this group pulls it off with style.

See our post about the first weekend here.

Cost of a ticket: $25
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It!

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

Quinn Delaney

Much More than a Solo Show: We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time at the Goodman Theatre (Through October 21, 2018)

David Cale is growing up in Luton, 30 miles northwest of London. At the time, it had the highest crime rate in the country. He builds an bird hospital that eventually expands into an aviary in the backyard and begins breeding birds. It’s a great place to escape to when his parents are fighting. Their volatile relationship is the catalyst for most of the dramatic events that unfold. The story starts out a bit slow, but eventually actions take place that draw the audience in and has them on the edge of their seats.

 

Cale is accompanied by a full band on stage consisting of piano, viola, harp, cello, trumpet, and clarinet. The band is excellent and plays great music. Cale, on the other hand, has his strength in storytelling and less so in singing, but he does alright.  Lighting is used very well to highlight one member of the band during a solo or hide the band completely when they are not playing. This has the effect of really focusing attention on Cale. Also, objects are lowered down from the ceiling and pulled back at times. So, even though this is technically a one man show, many other people are involved in the performance creating a bigger experience than just one person could.

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Get tickets now for We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time through October 21st!

Also check out the New Stage Festival happening now through October 7th!

Quinn Delaney