4 Stars, Highly Recommended! Lewon Johnson, Rachel Blakes, and Tuesdai B. Perry astound us with their versatile acting in the dramatic play “Home”, written by Samm-Art Williams. “Home” is Williams’ best-known play and is a fictionalized biography about an African American orphan who grew up on his family’s land in Crossroads, South Carolina, and who went to prison for five years because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Director Tim Rhoze has done a fine job with his interpretation of this minor classic, which tells a story near and dear to the director’s heart, one that he has always wanted to stage.
5 Stars! Very Highly Recommended! The line outdoors should have been much longer on the opening night of Noël Coward’s comedy “Blithe Spirit” at the Skokie Theatre. But on a summer-like evening when there was so much competition for theatre dollars, many seats were left unfilled—when they shouldn’t have been! This was a stellar performance by the Eclectic Full Contact Theatre Company, featuring a brilliant and convincing cast who handled this classic farce sensationally! Witty, funny, and smart, this nearly three-hour play (including intermission) went by in the blink of an eye. What a delight it was! How we were all howling with laughter! And how great it was to laugh together with a live audience!
5 Stars! Very highly recommended! Sheer brilliance dominates the Joffrey Ballet’s enactment of “Don Quixote” at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House. This classical ballet, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, features the original French choreography by Marius Petitpa and the original music by Ludwig Minkus, dating from the Bolshoi Ballet of the late 19th century. Yet Possokhov has added his own touches, with a renewed focus on the title character Don Quixote (Miguel Angel Blanco) and his squire Sancho Panza (Derrick Agnoletti) through a series of dream sequences.
Four Stars! Highly Recommended! “Grandma’s Jukebox” is a charm! The point of this cute story is that a grandmother’s legacy can live long beyond her death: not just in the characters’ memories of her but in how they subsequently choose to lead their lives. The genre of this show is what’s known as a “jukebox musical.” The songs within it are all popular hits that have been previously recorded by major artists; these are then recreated and assembled around a story, invented at a later date. Playwright and director Michelle Reneé Bester has done just this, using her own grandmother as her inspiration. The plot is centered on the concept of a (physical) jukebox as a means of tying the music, characters, and action together.
For Shakespeare aficionados, Promethean Theatre Ensemble has done a tremendous job in their performance of William Shakespeare’s “Richard III” at Chicago’s Factory Theater.
5 Stars! Very Highly Recommended!
3 Stars, Recommended Annabel Armour beautifully portrays Joan Didion in this one-woman show “The Year of Magical Thinking.” The story is about an established New York author and how her world is immediately turned upside down when her husband John dies unexpectedly, followed shortly by the death of her chronically ill daughter Quintana. Based on the book of the same name, this 100-minute running narrative (with no intermission) consists of excerpts that have been taken directly from the text and is replete with detailed autobiography and poignant reflections.
5 Stars! Highly Recommended! Exceptional and poignant, “Rasheeda Speaking” is a four-person tragicomedy, based on the late Joel Drake Johnson’s well-crafted script. The dialogue—sad, funny, and very real at the same time—is so well performed that you feel as if you could enter the stage yourself and interact with each of the characters in a real doctor’s office.
4 Stars, Highly Recommended! “Notes and Letters” is a four-character musical, centered around the lives of two couples who live in Chicago between 1916 and 1918. This world premiere presentation is nicely written by Annabelle Lee Revak and is a combination romantic comedy/drama that is based in part on a true story, having to do with a small downtown shop, called Williams’ Custom Pianos.
Just in time for spring, the Chicago Children’s Theatre is back in bloom. Returning to live, in-person productions, Carmela Full of Wishes is a charming tale about the importance of imagination. Adapted for the stage by Alvaro Saar Rios from the children’s book by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Christian Robinson. The quartet of actors here playing an array of characters. The primary, Carmela, is describe by Rios as a “fierce Latina with an awesome imagination”. More on that in just a moment. The show’s official opening attended by a cornucopia of ages, genders and races.