*** 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
***** Highly Recommended ***** The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is rocking with the return of” “Q Brothers Christmas Carol”. IMPORTANT NOTE: this is not “A Christmas Carol” as Dickens wrote it. The Q Brothers Collective (GQ, JQ, Jax and Pos) have yanked Ebenezer Scrooge and the gang into the 21st century! I’ve seen this cheeky, snarky, funny and very, very original musical every year (and twice last year – but that’s another story) since it premiered in 2013 as a developmental work-in-progress (that’s 6 years!), and it still makes me laugh! It’s become my very own holiday tradition! 4 BIG Holiday Spotlights
***** Highly Recommended ***** The Joffrey Ballet’s “Chicago-centric” version of “The Nutcracker”, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, is quite simply magnificent. By setting “The Nutcracker” against Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Wheeldon gave the city a unique gift. I am in awe! Every movement was graceful, precise and exquisitely performed. This will be the fourth time I’ve seen/reviewed “The Nutcracker” and I love everything about it, including the glorious music played by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. By the way, this is the final appearance of “The Nutcracker” at the Auditorium Theatre. 4 BIG Holiday Spotlights!
***** Highly Recommended ****** The Goodman Theatre’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol”, which remains essentially the same from year to year, is a holiday tradition for many families, spanning generations. The Goodman lobby is festive with decorations and a sparkling holiday shopping area. Now in its 42nd year, “A Christmas Carol” will put you in the holiday spirit with a fabulous cast, lavish sets and colorful period costumes. 4 Holiday Spotlights.