The Towle Theater's production of “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” was their last before the pandemic hit. Good news, they'll be back soon!!! In fact, the Towle Youth Theater Ensemble return to the stage with "subText" August 20th-22nd, followed by the adult production of "Night Tide" September 17th-October 3rd.
***RECOMMENDED*** For Oscar Wilde, it was the love that dare not speak its name. For Kitty Warren, the central character of George Bernard Shaw's "Mrs. Warren's Profession," it is her very profession which is never mentioned. Written in 1893, extremely early in Shaw's long and prolific career and only his second full-length play, he never expected it to receive a license from the Lord Chamberlain which would have allowed it to be performed. He was correct. The controversial work was banned due to its scandalous subject matter during the strict Victorian era and did not enjoy its first public performance on a London stage until 1925. Now, thanks to Promethean Theatre Ensemble and a decidedly modern and fresh adaptation by Melanie Spewock, we have this sparkling production which is a total delight to experience. 3 AND 1/2 SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Oftentimes, despite our best efforts and idealistic intentions, things fall apart. We let our fellow man down repeatedly by acts of ignorance or physical violence committed against one another. When the victim of that destruction is a member of the animal kingdom, some may feel that the offense is even greater. These defenseless and harmless creatures, many of which are on the ever-growing list of endangered species, face a brutal future as many of them are approaching total extinction. Whether threatened by the ravages of climate change (the recent bushfires in Australia that saw the astounding fatality rate of and impact upon countless koalas, kangaroos and wallabies is just one example) or by basic and all-consuming human greed, animals in the wilderness today are living -- and trying to survive -- in an alarmingly hostile world. The story of one such animal, an elephant named Mlima, is the basis for Lynn Nottage's multi-faceted and haunting play "Mlima's Tale," which is receiving its Midwest premiere in a beautiful production by Griffin Theatre Company at the Raven Theatre. 4 SPOTLIGHTS
Footlight Players current production of the musical GYPSY opened on Friday to great applause. The show is listed as a memoir of the great burlesque queen, Gypsy Rose Lee, but we really see the story of the epitome of bound and determined stage mothers. Mama Rose is expertly played by newcomer to Footlight Caroline Rau. Her voice is strong and exhilarating from her first song, Small World up to the dramatic conclusion, Rose’s Turn. Let me preface this critique with acknowledgement of the many cast and crew members that it took to expertly put on this epic of a musical. THIS SHOW SAHOULD NOT BE MISSED!
***RECOMMENDED*** One of the oddly pleasurable advantages of meeting a complete stranger for the very first time is the fact that it affords you the opportunity to completely reinvent yourself. A brand new identity. Casual encounter. Brief interlude. Whatever you may call it, this informal exchange of ideas or random and seemingly innocent conversation can be fun. After all, who wouldn't want to leave their dreary relationship or monotonous job behind them as they create an entirely fresh and different reality? This is exactly what happens when the female protagonist in Leslye Headland's "The Layover" finds herself seated next to an alluring gentleman on a flight. That initial contact leads these two characters down some very dark passages as it ultimately permanently alters the course of each of their lives forever. 3 SPOTLIGHTS
***RECOMMENDED*** First Floor Theater is presenting the Chicago premiere of "Plano" as part of Steppenwolf's LookOut Series. This play, written by Will Arbery in 2018, enjoyed a successful run off-Broadway last year. It is presented here with a very strong cast of female actors. The promotional materials define "Plano" as a dark comedy, but under the swift direction of Steppenwolf ensemble member Audrey Francis in which much of the hidden nuances are delivered at an oftentimes breakneck speed it comes off as more of a comedy of the absurd. 3 SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Every once in a while, whether an average theatergoer or devoted patron, you are fortunate enough to discover something truly remarkable upon the stage. When all of the key elements -- script, acting, direction and design -- magically coalesce into an evening in the theater which stuns you with its immense power and delves deep within your heart and opens your mind with its staggering brilliance, well, then you know that you have witnessed something miraculous. One such production is "Kill Move Paradise" in its Chicago premiere at TimeLine Theatre Company. This is easily the most insightful, stimulating and essential play presented in Chicago thus far in 2020. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
***RECOMMENDED*** Invictus Theatre Company, the fledgling theatrical company that aims to promote a better understanding of language, has chosen to produce Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" for the second production of their first full season. Thanks to some articulate direction and very strong performances, Hansberry's classic -- presented here in its entirety, unlike the original 1959 Broadway debut that excised one character and deleted another scene entirely -- reminds us just how greatly talented of a writer Hansberry truly was and proves that we really haven't progressed very far in the more than 60 years since it was written. 3 AND 1/2 SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Tchaikovsky's "The Queen of Spades" is not the esteemed Russian composer's most popular opera. That distinction probably belongs to "Eugene Onegin" which had its premiere eleven years earlier. It is, however, a much more complex and challenging work which has not been presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago in twenty years. That initial performance, in 2000, was the first chance that local opera lovers got a chance to experience Tchaikovsky's late-career masterwork on Lyric's stage and also coincided with the inaugural season of Sir Andrew Davis as its music director. Fittingly, as Davis approaches the end of that tenure -- he will step down as music director at the conclusion of the 2020/2021 season -- he is once again on the podium to lead a brilliant and haunting new-to-Chicago production of "The Queen of Spades." 4 SPOTLIGHTS
*** Recommended *** Decisions, decisions, decisions! Why do people make decisions? They make them for lots of reasons, both personally and professionally. They probably have the best intentions, they might think about possible outcomes, but they’re positive everything will come out the way they expected. The elephant in the room – all those unforeseen consequences. A decision and its ultimately devastating consequences proves to be the crux of the story in “Roan @ the Gates”, American Blues Theater’s intense new production. 3 ½ Spotlights