Saturday November 17 4:33 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Spotlight on Equity Theater Reviews

The View Upstairs - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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*** RECOMMENDED *** Not many people may remember the anti-gay massacre that occurred in New Orleans on June 24, 1973. The very popular LGBTQ bar, The UpStairs Lounge, was the location of a vicious and to-this-day unsolved arson attack that claimed the lives of 32 people. On the 40th anniversary of that tragedy the city of New Orleans finally recognized the victims and the atrocity was just beginning to be addressed openly. Subsequently, in 2015, Robert L. Camina's documentary film "UpStairs Inferno" as well as journalist Clayton Deleny's book "The UpStairs Lounge Arson" inspired two different playwrights to create their own versions of that fateful event. One of those works, Max Vernon's "The View UpStairs," is receiving its Chicago premiere by Circle Theatre at The Broadway at Pride Arts Center. 3 Spotlights

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Series, “Decadance/Chicago”

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It was an absolute pleasure to attend the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Series, “Decadance/Chicago” by Ohad Naharin at the Harris Theatre. The performance was amazing. As always when I watch Hubbard Street, I am in awe of the grace and strength displayed by the entire ensemble. My friend Karen and I had a lovely discussion about the performance on the way home. We both loved it! 4 Spotlights

A Lot of History in "Burnham's Dream: The White City"

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*** Recommended *** There’s a lot of history in “Burnham’s Dream: The White City”, a musical about the building of the ‘white city’ for the 1893 Columbian Exposition here in Chicago. I enjoyed “Burnham’s Dream: The White City”, but an historical musical is tricky to pull off. While Lost and Found Productions made a valiant effort, they seemed to be trying too hard, especially with the choreography in Act I. I’d like to see this show with some judicious pruning of Act II, which really dragged. 3 Spotlights

"Guards at the Taj" is not for the squeamish!

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** Somewhat Recommended ** When I review a play, I usually cite my reasons for my recommendation: the writing, the cast/acting, the staging, the direction. I respect the actors’ ability to deliver the playwright’s words as well as the director’s vision in a way that moves me, but sometimes blood and violence overwhelms beauty. That is particularly true with “Guards at the Taj”. While I am in awe of the performances delivered by Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed, I just couldn’t watch parts of this play. Let me just say “Guards at the Taj” is not for the squeamish! 2 Spotlights

“Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” is Theater of the Absurd

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*** Recommended *** Frankly, I found “Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” to be really heavy going. Even though it was superbly acted, it felt interminable, maybe because playwright Suzan-Lori Parks has adopted the techniques of ‘theater of the absurd’ as her own. Know before you go that “Father Comes Home…” is actually three hour-long plays, intertwined but strangely able to stand alone. Although belief is stretched in Part 1 & 2, belief must be completely abandoned in Part 3. By the way, forget about the ‘father’ in the title, he doesn’t exist! 3 Spotlights

London 'Below' is a Strange and Dangerous Place Where Nothing makes Sense - in "Neverwhere"

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**** Highly Recommended **** Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel, “Neverwhere”, is on my top 10 list of favorite books, so I was beyond excited when I had the opportunity to see Robert Kauzlaric’s 2010 adaptation at Lifeline Theatre. That production had me on the edge of my seat. This time around, my friend Karen, another Gaiman fan, went with me. The 2018 version “Neverwhere”, directed by Ilesa Duncan, has a different look but was just as engrossing. The audience was spellbound. 2 hours seemed like 20 minutes! 4 BIG Spotlights

"20,000 Leagues under the Seas" has Plenty of Swashbuckling Derring-Do

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**** Recommended **** If you’re looking for adventure in a live theater this summer, then Lookingglass Theatre is the place to go. Their production of “20,000 Leagues under the Seas” is a whopping grand summer adventure! “20,000 Leagues” has a bit of swashbuckling, a touch of aerial derring-do, a brooding anti-hero, a brilliant female scientist and all the creatures of the sea! By the way, I’m not quite sure when summer and adventure became synonymous, but since that’s a Lookingglass specialty, you can’t go wrong. 3 ½ Spotlights

"Flies! The Musical!" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** "Flies! The Musical!" which is receiving its world premiere at Pride Films and Plays, is a thoroughly entertaining and highly hilarious musical parody with a very clever book and surprisingly intelligent and sharp-witted lyrics by Larry Todd Cousineau. Clearly an audience favorite, the show has been extended to mid-June and is one of the best original musicals to be presented in Chicago within the past year. The numerous aspects of this production that help to solidify that endorsement are the catchy tunes composed by Cindy O'Connor, the lively direction of Michael Driscoll, the inventive choreography of Sawyer Smith and a very youthful and energetic cast of eight that give it their vigorous best throughout the entire show. Oh, and did I mention those precise, hysterically complex lyrics by Cousineau? 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS