DBH, his sister, Norah and I gorged on luscious theater this summer in Chicago. Here’s a rundown on our outings.
May 31st – The Drowning Girls at Signal Theater Ensemble. Turn of the 20th century, three women, all murdered by George Joseph Smith, all in the bathtub. Water, water everywhere in this innovatively staged one act play.
June 12 – The Birds – Dramatization of Daphne du Maurier’s short story. Could have been truly frightening, but lacked sustained suspense.
June 26 – Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at The Goodman. Based somewhat on The Cherry Orchard, the play featured excellent actors working an often banal script.
June 28 – Bad Jews produced by Theater Wit. 7/8 of this play was tight, funny and featured outstanding performances. The ending was maudlin and disappointing.
July 4th – All Our Tragic – We celebrated the 4th by seeing for the 2nd time the 12 hour extravaganza produced by The Hypocrites. Perhaps even better than the first time, we thrilled at revisiting the surviving 32 Greek plays smashed into a slam bang tale of lust, greed, death, spells and laughter. Significant improvements made to the production, but the ending still a bit shallow.
July 12 – Physical Theater Festival – Saw a Spanish duo present Popal is Gone and a solo performance by David Gaines of A Little Business at the Big Top. Amazing theater. Put this festival on your list for next year. The performances were first rate and I think we paid $15 for tickets.
July 26 – Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw – Ok, this is cheat. I saw this fabulous production courtesy of the National Theater Live, broadcast to the Music Box Theater. Ralph Fiennes was amazing. Indira Varma was luscious and smart. The production was amazing. Thank you National Theater for bringing exceptional productions to such a large audience.
August 15 – Brilliant Adventures at the Steep Theater. Much like we discovered the Hypocrites in 2014, this year our discovery is Steep Theater. They specialize in new, edgy plays, mostly from the UK. The ensemble members are "steeped" in the Steppenwolf tradition of trauma in drama, which we love. Brilliant Adventures is an interesting play about time travel – not great, but the acting was exceptional.
August 30 – American Idiot produced by The Hypocrites. A rock musical featuring the songs of Green Day, performed at the Den Theater on Milwaukee Avenue. It looked like the locals took over the stage, as Milwaukee Avenue is a mash-up of homeless, helpless, hot spots. Lots of rocking by amazing cast, but the effort lacked a soul. I have never even heard of Green Day, much less their music.
Sept. 13 – Sideshow – musical at Porchlight Theater. Story of Siamese twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton who try to make it in show business. First act like a Disney musical. Second act like a Sondheim musical. We love Porchlight, but the first act needs work.
Sept. 27 – Disgraced at The Goodman – Pulitzer Prize winner by Ayad Akhtar. Everyone has the opportunity to play the race or religion card in this play. Supposed to be a great conversation starter for theater goers, but we agreed that there is no escaping race as a part of our national gestalt. What matters is how you behave.
Sept. 30 – Chicago Opera Theater – Mozart’s first opera, Lucio Silla. You can’t beat the Chicago Opera Theater for dramatic, economical staging. About 20 members of the Apollo Chorus appeared on stage in what can only be described as, “Wear whatever’s comfortable, so long as it’s pants, long sleeved shirt, black, and casual.” But it fit in with the sparse staging that used lighting to make the drama work. Four sopranos, two in trouser roles and one tenor. All magnificent voices. Glad they are spending money on the right things. Well, it was early Mozart, cut from six hours to two and a half. Lots of trilling and repetition. I enjoyed it as a “period piece”, but was ever so pleased that we did not have to witness all six hours.
October 2nd – Steep Theater world premiere of Hamish Linklater’s The Cheats. Intense and unsettling from the first words. Moral of the play: be careful what you choose to share about your personal dark side. This ensemble is definitely “Son of Steppenwolf” – complete with a fistfight. We love it. Excellent acting and a well-crafted play.
We're ready to dive into the Tucson theater scene - yes, there really is one. First up, Saint Joan by Shaw.