Matchmaker, Matchmaker

3 1/2 stars
In an age when social media has usurped our lives, it’s refreshing to visit a time when people actually spoke to each other, and with eloquence.

Like all her novels, Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, “Emma,” is a comedy of manners set in Georgian-Regency England. The title character, however, is unlike any of Austen’s other heroines in that Emma is pretty, smart and rich, but also strong-minded, overindulged and rather full of herself.

Because a woman’s goal and main occupation at that time focused on landing a good husband, Emma is also unlike her peers. While she fancies herself an accomplished matchmaker for other young women, Emma isn’t particularly interested in marriage herself. As one of the self-entitled, she finds meddling in other people’s lives more fun and fulfilling than minding her own business.

At Lifeline Theatre, ensemble member and accomplished playwright, Phil Timberlake, has captured Austen’s irrepressible spirit in his fast-paced, highly creative adaptation and each of the novel’s major characters are brought to life under the sharp direction of Elise Kauzlaric.

Cast of Emma at Lifeline Theatre. (Photo by Suzanne Plunkett)
Cast of Emma at Lifeline Theatre. (Photo by Suzanne Plunkett)

Austen fans will understand that any theatrical interpretation will include copious amounts of stilted, witty conversation, and will stress character over plot. In this respect, audiences won’t be disappointed.

But Kauzlaric’s production is truly remarkable. It’s highly inventive, casting only five talented, energetic and versatile young actors to portray every major character in this story.

This is often accomplished by merely re-entering through a doorway, rounding a pillar or simply turning on a dime. This gifted ensemble seldom relies on new costume pieces to change persona. Instead, they employ a slight physical adjustment, a vocal change or grab an identifying prop, such as a walking stick, a fan or pair of spectacles, to signal a new character. Sometimes, an actor will even play a two character scene with himself, switching back and forth between lines of dialogue. Much of the production’s humor arises from these amazingly speedy personality conversions.

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Around town end of June

A parade of trombones, a tap dance opera and a dog invite that includes you close out June with interesting, fun events.


Goodman Theatre os doing a revival of 'The Music Man.' (Goodman Theatre Photo)
Goodman Theatre os doing a revival of ‘The Music Man.’ (Goodman Theatre Photo)

76 Trombones

What: To celebrate the revival of “The Music Man” that starts Saturday in its Albert Theatre, Goodman Theatre will hold a parade of more than 76 Chicago area trombonists and percussionists performing the show’s famed tune.

When: Friday, June 28 beginning at 1 p.m.

Where: The parade tarts at Goodman theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, then continues to Daley Plaza (50 N. Washington St., then returns to Goodman about 1:15 to do an encore .

Who:  The parade is in partnership with Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles that includes LGBTQ members and friends.


Chicago Tap Company's new production ends the last weekend of June 2019. (Chicago Tap Company photo)
Chicago Tap Company’s new production ends the last weekend of June 2019. (Chicago Tap Company photo)

“Saving the World”

What:  Chicago Tap Theatre’s opera-style dramatic tale of disasters colored by greed and demagoguery.

When: June 28-30 is the last weekend of this production, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Where: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

Who: Chicago Tap Theatre is a non-profit organization of tap dance professionals who put on story-based shows.


The Patio at Cafe Brauer is a popular pace for drinks or food with a view. (J Jacobs photo)
The Patio at Cafe Brauer is a popular pace for drinks or food with a view. (J Jacobs photo)

The Dog Days of Summer

What: A dog-friendly brunch where they can play and get treats while their people show down.

Where: The Patio that is the rear end of the historic Brauer building in Lincoln Park Zoo at 2021 N. Stockton Dr.

When: June 30 from 9 to 11 a.m. Reservations needed. Call (312) 507-9053

Who: The Patio at Cafe Brauer at the back of a Prairie School-style landmark is a popular summer cocktail and lunch stop that overlooks the pond at the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo  and its view of the Chicago skyline. Bentley’s Pets will have gift bags for the dogs.

Jodie Jacobs





Summer art festivals for fun outings

Recently seen at The Art Center of Highland Park's Festival of Fine Arts. David Gordon' delicate work will also be on view at the Chicago Botanic Garden's art fair. (J Jacobs photo)
Recently seen at The Art Center of Highland Park’s Festival of Fine Arts. David Gordon’ delicate work will also be on view at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s art fair. (J Jacobs photo)

If you “Fitbit” is telling you to “remember to move” outsmart it by doing something that is also fun and gets you to a place you might not have visited in a while – go to an art fair.

From the end of June to the end of July you can browse paintings, sculptures, jewelry, pottery and fabric works from downtown Chicago and fun Wrigleyville to the beautiful Chicago Botanic Garden and historic Geneva.

Art fairs coming up

 June 28-30 Millennium Art Festival

A couple of blocks north of Millennium Park (yes visit the “Bean” for a photo op) walk Michigan Avenue to Lake Street to see about works by about 110 artists. Hours: Fri. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

July 5- 7 Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival

The Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe just east of Edens Expressway is worth a visit even without the art fair. But try to get there when about 95 artists whose work fits well with botanic themes are exhibiting on the Garden’s Esplanade. Hours: Fri. 4-7 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 10 a.m-5 p.m. The garden and show are free but parking has a fee.

July 6 Wrigleyville Art Market

About 50 artists will be at Wrigley Field’s Gallagher Way  on Clark Street near Waveland Avenue the Saturday after July 4 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

July 13-14 Southport Art Fest

Held in Chicago’s Lakeview Neighborhood, the art festival has about 130 artists setting up tents on Southport Avenue from Waveland to Byron. Hosted by the Southport Neighbor’s Association, the festival benefits local causes. Hours: Both days are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

July 19-20 Artfest Michigan Avenue

Set up near the Tribune Tower, the art festival is a chance to visit the large Apple store then go down to the Riverwalk along the chicago River to hear music. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Friday and Saturday

July 27=28 Geneva Fine Arts Fair

Sponsored  by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, the art fair is a good opportunity to visit this town west of Chicago on the Fox River.  More than 150 exhibitors will spread out from 100 S. Third St. on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit Geneva Chamber/art fairs.

July 27- 28 Glencoe Festival of Art

About 110 artists set up booths downtown north suburban Glencoe for the Annual Glencoe Festival of Art. The fair is at Green Bay Road and Park Avenue but walk around the corner to Tudor Court to see Writers Theatre’s architecture.  Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.



A Touching, Tragic Tale

Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Theo Ubique. (Austin D. Oie Photography)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Theo Ubique. (Austin D. Oie Photography)

 3 1/2 stars

First of all be warned. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch, may not appeal to every taste. Audiences who attend this four-time, 2014 Tony Award-winning musical should be comfortable with in-your-face performances, deafening rock music, blinding concert lighting and 95 minutes of adult humor and a brazenly bold backstory.

The theatergoer who considers Rodgers & Hammerstein or Lerner & Loewe the hallmarks of the American musical probably won’t love a show that’s this garish and loud. However, younger, less conservative audiences, as well as the many devotees of this cult musical, will find everything to love about Theo Ubique’s finale to their first season, now playing in Evanston through July 28.

The show began as a modest little rock musical that told the story of Hedwig Schmidt, a young, queer, glam, rock singer who underwent gender reassignment surgery.

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The hidden agenda of ‘Four Places’


Meg Thalken, Bruch Reed and Amy Montgomery in 'Four Places' at The Den Theatre.' (Michael Brosilow photo)
Meg Thalken, Bruch Reed and Amy Montgomery in ‘Four Places’ at The Den Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

4 stars

Theatergoers who prefer their dramas as real and affecting as everyday life should run to see this extraordinary production, now in its final performances at the Den Theatre.

Joel Drake  Johnson’s 80-minute one-act which plays out in real time, speaks to every member of the audience, but particularly to those between ages 40 and 65.

Smartly and perceptively directed by Lia Mortensen, a fine actor, herself,  she expertly guided a gifted, four member ensemble as they breathe life into their characters and avoid artificial schmaltz.

Eleven years ago Johnson’s heartbreaking, emotionally stunning play premiered at Chicago’s Victory Gardens. This revival production is every bit as poignant and passionate as the original. What makes the play particularly powerful is the intimacy of the Den’s upstairs 2B Studio venue. The actors are never more than a few feet from the audience, allowing this compelling, sometimes caustic, characters to reach into the hearts of its audience.

The story is about a bitter confrontation and intervention between a mother and her two middle-aged children.

Peggy and her widowed daughter, Ellen, have a weekly lunch date at the same local eatery. They’re always seated in Barb’s section, a chatty waitress who has a special, protective fondness for Peggy.

On this particular day, the dynamics change when Peggy’s 40-year-old son, Warren, unexpectedly joins them. From the beginning of the play, something unspoken between the two siblings creates a tension that you can cut with a knife.

As the hour unfolds, the audience gradually discovers the secrets and lies that these family members have kept hidden, and they learn what this mediation is all about.

The four places of the title are the car, the restaurant, the waiting room of the eatery and diner’s restroom, all wonderfully and modestly created by scenic designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec, assisted by Milo Bue.

Melissa Schlesinger’s detailed sound design along with Josh Prisching’s area lighting perfectly help delineate each of the four locales.

The cast is absolutely magnificent. Every actor in this ensemble production belongs to Actor’s Equity. Affiliation in this professional guild often guarantees a stellar production, and this staging is no exception. Each of these  actors has performed at every major Chicago area theatre.

Meg Thalken, the senior member of this brilliant ensemble, is sheer perfection as Peggy. With her upswept hair and her handbag clutched in a death grip, Thalken is completely believable as this complicated, conflicted mother.

At first Peggy seems innocent, although she’s suspicious as to why Warren is suddenly joining Ellen and herself for lunch. It’s a weekday and her son should be in school teaching, but, for some vague reason, Warren has invited himself along.

As information unfolds and emotions peeled away, Peggy remains a sympathetic character, an aging woman fiercely trying to hang on to her dignity and independence.

Amy Montgomery is superb as Ellen. Together with the always masterful Bruch Thomas Reed, as Warren, these two siblings plot, palter, bitterly plead and run the gamut of emotions, from guilt to indignation as they pry information from their mother and attempt to sensitively reveal their plans for her future.

The bumpy road to their hidden agenda digs deeply, exposing buried secrets dealing with aging, disease, alcoholism, pent-up resentments and coping with the inevitable.

Rebekah Ward is both clever and comical as Barb the busybody waitress who’s just a little too familiar with her customers.

One of the highlights of this production is the long car ride during which very little is said, but the faces of these three actors speak volumes.

The Den Theatre’s excellent revival of Joel Drake Johnson’s poignant one-act drama is sometimes searing, often humorous and ultimately heartbreaking.

The show, the Den Theatre’s return to producing its own plays and musicals, is a must-see.

DETAILS: “Four Places” continues through June 30, 2019 at the Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee, Chicago. Running time: 80 minutes. For tickets and other information call (773) 697-3830 or visit The Den theatre.

Colin Douglas

For more shows visit TheaterInChicago.


Top leadership at Music Theater Works talk about the company they helmed and their retirement.


Past Music theater Works/Light Opera works shows. (Photo courtesy of Music theater Works)
Past Music theater Works/Light Opera Works shows. (Photo courtesy of Music theater Works)

As anyone who attended Music Theater Works’ Frank Loesser’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” recently learned, company co-founder and general manager Bridget McDonough and artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller announced they are making this 39th season their last one at the rudder.

They also introduced producing artistic director designate Kyle Dougan who will step into a new position that combines their two job descriptions so that audiences know Music Theater Works will continue when they step down.

What audiences may not know are the back stories.

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Around Town: Free concerts from Bach and Brahms to Mozart and Strauss

Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hoss summer concerts. ( JJacobs photo)
Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hoss summer concerts. ( JJacobs photo)

Classical music lovers listen up. Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion is the place to be this summer.

For example the Grant Park Orchestra with pianist Inon Barnaan will be doing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 23 on June 19 at 6:30 p.m.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Yo Yo Ma will be performing the Bach Cello Suites as part of his Bach Project, June 20 beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The Grant Park Orchestra Festival concerts continue at the Pritzker Pavilion June 21 through Aug. 17, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

However, Yo Yo Ma continues presentation in Chicago on June 21 as part of his Day of Action.

Yo Yo Ma will be in Chicago June 20-21 with Bach Project and Day of Action. (Photo courtesy of CSOA
Yo Yo Ma will be in Chicago June 20-21 with Bach Project and Day of Action. (Photo by Jason Bell)

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. he will be at The Greening in North Lawndale at 19th Street and Kostner Avenue, then will be in conversations and have open mic artists from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art , 1853 W. 19th Street.

He ends in the evening with Make Music Chicago. 5 p.m. at the Riverwalk between Franklin and Lake Streets where he joins local musicians, including members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and Little Kids Rock. Visit


Jodie Jacobs



‘Sweet Texas Reckoning’ has racism and homophobia plus a happy ending


Sweet Texas Reckoning at The Den. (Photo by Heather Mall)
Sweet Texas Reckoning at The Den. (Photo by Heather Mall)

2 1/2 stars

The word that keeps coming to mind, while watching Traci Godfrey’s story about a family reunion in Texas, is “cliched.” The hour-and-forty-five minutes spent with these four characters offers glimmers of brilliance but ultimately feels like a special Pride Month movie on the Lifetime Channel.

Had this “dramedy” been written by a playwright who could offer some honest, new insights into what makes people tick, especially in small, conservative towns, it would’ve been a far more honest portrayal. There’s a germ of a good idea here. But, in the hands of Horton Foote, Preston Jones or Tennessee Williams, this story wouldn’t be nearly as banal and stereotyped.

Set in the conservative, southeastern town of Sealy, Texas, Godfrey’s play is about a woman who for decades, has been drowning her guilt, bigotry and lies in her secret stash of bourbon.

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Playing It the company way

Ken Singleton (J. Pierrepont Finch) in Music Theater Works’ How to Succeed in Business Without really Trying. (photo by Brett Beiner)
Ken Singleton (J. Pierrepont Finch) in Music Theater Works’ How to Succeed in Business Without really Trying. (photo by Brett Beiner)
4 stars
The bouncy overture winds down, the curtain rises and we find a young man in coveralls descending from above in the Music Theater Work’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
J. Pierrepont Finch, an ambitious young window washer, is discovered reading Shepherd Mead’s tongue-in-cheek instructional book of the same name, while dangling from scaffolding above Madison Avenue.
Narrated for this production by NPR news quiz host, Peter Sagal, the book progresses chapter-by-chapter, charting the recommended course for Ponty’s rise to power in the business world.
Now, bear in mind that this how-to manual, a 1952 best-seller by Shepherd Mead, subtitled “The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune,” was written as a parody of the popular self-help books of that era. Between this book’s unfailing advice and Finch’s pluck and pizzazz, this likable kid is undoubtedly destined to rise to the top…or is he?
It’s hard to believe that this show which set a new standard for musical comedy satire, is almost 60 years old now. The hummable score by Frank Loesser (“Guys & Dolls,” “Most Happy Fellow”) features a libretto by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, adapted from Mead’s humorous book of the same name.
The musical has a field day lampooning the seeming ease with which an entry level employee can rise to the top of the corporate ladder. A film preserving the performances of most of the original cast was released in 1967. This 1962 Pulitzer Prize and eight-time Tony Award winner has been successfully revived twice on Broadway, earning additional Tony Award nominations and wins.
Throughout the play, whenever it seems the darkest, the young, eager beaver aligns with precisely the right people to learn from and suck up to, as well as the easiest loopholes to infiltrate, in order to reach the top. And when all those elements are out of reach, Ponty employs his considerable boyish charm, ultimately helping him to achieve success.

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Museum of Science and Industry captures a World War Two anniversary story


German and American uniforms in the U-505 - 75 Stories exhibit at the museum of science and Industry. (J Jacobs photo)
German and American uniforms in the U-505 – 75 Stories exhibit at the museum of science and Industry. (J Jacobs photo)

Seventy five years after Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy France, on D Day, June 6, 1944, the seaborn invasion that would change the course of the fight against Nazi Germany was commemorated last week.

What some folks might not know is that there is another World War II 75th anniversary story that also bears telling.and commemorating.

A German submarine, the U 505, was searching for American and Allied ships in waters off the West African coast when it was captured on June 4, 1944 by United States Navy Task Group 22.3.

It was towed by the Guadalanal escort aircraft carrier to near then handed off to the Abnaki, the fleet’s tug to enter Bermuda waters in secret so the Germans wouldn’t know to change the code books and other important materials found on board.

In  Their Finest Hour, Winston Churchill had referred to the U-boat peril as “The only thing that really frightened me during the war…”

But the U boat capture did make a difference.

What the U-505 yielded was approximately 900 pounds of code books and documents, and two Enigma machines that saved the U.S Navy countless hours of decoding.

The U-505 was donated to the Museum of Science and Industry in 1954 where it resides in its own, specially built space and where numerous visitors have toured it or merely stopped to see it.

However, MSI has now pulled out materials and obtained more items for a temporary exhibit to commemorate the capture.

Photo of the U-505 making its way to Chicago in in an exhibit at the Museum of science and Industry. (J Jacobs photo)
Photo of the U-505 making its way to Chicago in in an exhibit at the Museum of science and Industry. (J Jacobs photo)

Opened early June 2019 in time for its own 75th anniversary, the exhibit is “The U-505 Submarine – 75 Stories.”

Housed in a small room on the ground level, it is packed with items from the German sub and items from the American perspective. Visitors should look for scrapbooks, journals, photos and a Marvel comic book about submarines and a book about Capt. Daniel Gallery who commanded the TG 22.3’s Guadalcanal escort aircraft carrier and the destroyer escorts commanded by Frederick S. Hall that were involved in the capture.

Among the exhibit’s FAQS, is that Daniel Gallery’s brother, Father John Ireland Gallery, thought the U-505 should go to Chicago as a war memorial. A photo of the U-505 going under the Michigan Avenue bridge is in the exhibit.

“The exhibit has rarely seen things from our collection,” said MSI Director of Collections  Kathleen McCarthy, the museum’s head curator.

For more exhibit information visit U505 Submarine/75 stories.

The exhibit and viewing of the submarine are included in the admission (submarine tour is extra). For admission and hours see MSI/Visit.


Jodie Jacobs