**** Highly Recommended **** I am always in awe when I see one of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s “Short Shakespeare!” performances! The very idea that someone can abridge one of Shakespeare’s complicated plots into 75 minutes is mind-boggling. Even more impressive, Director Eli Newell staged a full production with an excellent cast, and definitely didn’t dumb it down! This year’s offering, “Short Shakespeare! Comedy of Errors”, was 75 minutes of pure fun. 4 Spotlights
**** Recommended **** I took my niece Becka Salach Smith and her two little ones, Winston, age 4, and Maeve, age 2, to see "Disney On Ice presents Road Trip Adventures". I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Disney is very, very good at putting an appealing show together, and this was no exception. The kids were thrilled, Becka and I were charmed. 4 Family Spotlights
*** Recommended *** Since I didn’t see “Once on this Island” when it first toured back in 1990, I didn’t know anything about it. In fact, I thought I’d be seeing a happy musical, an island story. “Once on this Island” is musical, but with its dark and not very magical themes, it just didn’t resonate for me. 3 Spotlights
*** Recommended *** “Top Girls” is an unusual play written by British playwright Caryl Churchill. Since I’d seen the play before (a Dunes Summer Theatre production in 2010), I knew where it was going. A word of warning, what with the weird dream sequence in Act I, will be more or less incomprehensible – at least until Act III, when you’ll figure it out. “Top Gun” was written as a reaction to Margaret Thatcher’s election in England, so it has a definite feminist slant. Because it’s ‘non-linear’, Churchill skips through time, which explains why the rest of us end up clueless. 3 Spotlights
The Towle Theater’s annual Season Preview is always a lovely event. It’s a short evening, just about two hours, with a reception (light hors d’oevres and drinks in the lobby) followed by a season sampler, typically a short scene or a single song from each. Two plays and two musicals make up the Towle 2020 season, “Theater with Vision - It’s all in how you look at it”. Managing Director Jeff Casey introduced each play, explaining how and why it was chosen.
*** Recommended *** After a couple of weeks off for the holidays, I look forward to the Young Playwrights Festival which is almost always the first theatrical opening of the year. This is the 33rd year of the annual event sponsored by Pegasus Theatre Chicago. This is a chance to see the future of Chicago theater – maybe the future of American theater. If you go, you’ll see three very different plays written by two outstanding high school students, and a third who graduated and started college in the meantime. I always gain valuable insight about the things on kids’ minds today. 3 Spotlights.
*** Recommended *** My first reaction after seeing “Dance Nation” was a qualified ‘interesting’. I just didn’t understand why adults were cast as tweens. However, the more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me. Tween angst is real! Some of the things that tweens are dealing with – things like fitting in, being bullied, zits, weight, menstruation, problems at home – are so embarrassing a young actor might have difficulty even voicing them. The Steppenwolf cast – adults of all ages – are well able to access those angst-y memories of tween-hood. “Dance Nation” was more than interesting, it was quirky, intense and insightful. 3 Spotlights
**** Recommended **** Champions of Magic is an amazing show! Several of the award-winning stars have appeared on the CW’s “Penn and Teller: Fool Us. The five are: illusionists, Young and Strange; mind reader, Alex McAleer; escape artist, Fernando Velasquez; and close-up magician extraordinaire, Kayla Drescher. I was in awe watching them perform. The show includes plenty of audience participation, too. Hurry and get your tickets for this family friendly spectacle. 4 Holiday Spotlights
**** Recommended **** Goodman Theatre’s production of “The Santaland Diaries”, written by David Sedaris and adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello. In his early days as a struggling writer in New York, Sedaris took a job as an elf at Macy’s Department Store. Steven Strafford stars in the one-man show directed by Steve Scott. “The Santaland Diaries” is irreverent, mischievous, snarky, and really, really funny. 4 Holiday Spotlights
**** Recommended **** Although it’s not exactly holiday fare, “The Tall Boy” really is a good play and well worth seeing on its own merits. It’s also a rare opportunity to see New York actress (and daughter of Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn) Tandy Cronyn in a one-woman show. It’s a poignant story about three boys, Army mascots, who desperately wanted to get to America. 3 ½ Spotlights