Metzler play spotlights new mom struggles

RECOMMENDED

At Northlight Theatre Darci Nalepa, l, and Laura Lapidus chat about how life changes when a baby enters their lives. (Michael Brosilow photos)
At Northlight Theatre, Darci Nalepa, l, and Laura Lapidus chat about how life changes when a baby enters their lives. (Michael Brosilow photos)

Maybe audiences watching the deeply felt new mother issues playing out at Northlight Theatre’s “Cry It Out” remember when, about a decade ago, such child-parent  support concerns as maternity/paternity leave and day-care availability were in the news. Companies even were rated as best to work for regarding those benefits.

Those worries are potently brought to life again in playwright  Molly Smith Metzler’s “Cry It Out.”

Author of the highly successful  “Elemeno Pea” that premiered in 2011 at the Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays, Metzler’s “Cry It Out” was commissioned by the Actors Theatre and then premiered there last year.

BTW, cry it out is a phrase some people use for letting a baby bawl until worn out instead of picking the child up, walking with it or taking other soothing actions. But Metzler’s play goes far deeper than baby-rearing techniques.Read More

‘A Little Night Music’ is a little light fun

 

RECOMMENDED

Ensemble of BoHo Theatre's A Little Night Music
Ensemble of BoHo Theatre’s A Little Night Music

Widower Fredrik Egerman (Peter Robel) seeks to regain his youth by wedding eighteen year old Anne (Rachel Guth). However, his home from seminary, son Henrik (Jordan Dell Harris), falls in love with her even while learning “the ways of the world” from housemaid Petra (Teressa LaGamba).

Meanwhile, as a result of Anne’s sexual inexperience, Fredrik seeks solace in the arms of his more mature former lover and stage phenomenon, Desiree Armfeldt (Kelli Harrington).

Their dalliance is complicated by her relationship with Count Carl-Magnus Malcom (Christopher Davis) and his wife Countess Charlotte Malcom (Stephanie Stockstill).

Mme. Armfeldt (Marguerite Mariama) and her granddaughter Fredrika (Isabelle Roberts) are observers who offer the perspective of experience and youth to this sordid but humorous tale of infidelity, romance and search for love in all the wrong places.

An ensemble of minor players (Nicole Besa, Rachel Klippel, Emily Goldberg, Lazaro Estrada and Ross Matsuda) fill in various roles and act as a kind of Greek Chorus adding commentary and moving the plot along.Read More

Director and choreographer Rachel Rockwell dies but lives on in theater memories

 

Rachel Rockewell at a Goodman Theatre rehearsal for Brigadoon. (Liz Lauren photo)
Rachel Rockewell at a Goodman Theatre rehearsal for Brigadoon. (Liz Lauren photo)

When Chicago audiences enjoy a musical at Marriott Theatre, Drury Lane, Goodman or Paramount they may leave thinking that the theater knows how to produce a great show. But how often do audiences look at the program to see who directed or choreographed it?

This week, the “who” was brought to our attention with the obit of Ms. Rachel Rockwell, an extraordinary choreographer and director who died of ovarian cancer at age 49, May 28, 2018.

With Ms. Rockwell at the helm, shows seen several times before, such as “Mamma Mia!” and “Brigadoon”  appeared refreshed, renewed, and with more nuance under her direction when she did them respectively at Marriott Lincolnshire and Goodman Theatre.

“Rachel is a true Chicago theatre success story. The theatre community is heart-broken today for one of its own,” said Marriott Theatre Executive Producer Terry James in a statement. “Rachel traversed a highly successful theatrical path throughout Chicagoland’s major theatres and beyond,” said James.

He pointed out Ms. Rockwell’s close ties to the Marriott. “Lucky for us, Rachel called Marriott one of her homes for almost 25 years. Starting out as accomplished dancer and actress, then choreographer, director of our children’s shows and as director/choreographer of some of Marriott’s most successful productions from “Nunsense”to “42nd Street,” “A Chorus Line to “October Sky.”

 Mamma Mia! is directed by Rachel Rockwell. A multi Jeff award winner in the categories of Best Musical, Choreography and Director, Rockwell has a finely-tuned dancer’s instinct for how to pull together music and movement. (Photo by Justin Barbin)
Mamma Mia! is directed by Rachel Rockwell. A multi Jeff award winner in the categories of Best Musical, Choreography and Director, Rockwell has a finely-tuned dancer’s instinct for how to pull together music and movement. (Photo by Justin Barbin)

James was aware of Ms. Rockwell’s cancer battle. “While directing last season’s “Mamma Mia!” Rachel was taking chemo treatments on her days off and never missed a day. Old school!” he said. “The possibilities were just blossoming. She possessed all the qualities needed other than the time to realize what was definitely ahead for her.”

He felt deeply about Ms. Rockwell’s death and contributions. “Personally, this is a heartfelt loss of a decades old friendship. A loss of one of the greats of Chicago theatre,”  said James.

“Our love and prayers go out to Rachel’s family, especially mother Gloria, husband Garth and son Jake,” he said.

Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls also weighed in on the death of Rachel Rockwell.

“The world has lost a great artist who brought love and joy, and a blazingly original vision to every work she touched,” said Falls in a statement for Chicago Theater and Arts.

Cast of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon at Goodman Theatre (2014).  (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Cast of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon at Goodman Theatre (2014). (Photo by Liz Lauren)

“Rachel Rockwell made it look so effortless. She directed the great musicals of the American canon—including “Brigadoon,” which was among the most successful productions in Goodman history—and one can only imagine what remarkable work she would have created in the decades to come,” said Falls.

He added, “My deepest condolences to her beloved family, and the many friends and colleagues who adored her.”

Ms Rockwell also did shows for Chicago Shakespeare, Paramount in Aurora and several productions for Oakbrook’s Drury Lane Theatre.

Born Natalie Rachel Heyde in Columbia, Missouri, then moving to Indiana, she graduated from Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts, then obtained a BFA in Theater Performance from the University of Evansville.

Ms. Rockwell started out as dancer then added acting roles. She was in the Broadway and National Tour productions of “Mamma Mia!”

She reportedly changed her last name to Rockwell when urged by her father, Gary Heyde, to find a name that worked well with her stage career.

Ms. Rockwell is survived by husband Garth Helm, son Jake, her father, mother Glory Kissel Heyde and brother Jeremy Spencer. A memorial service is planned for July 9, 2018 at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Two Chicago Artists Celebrate Illinois Bicentennial

Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke, have partnered to present a joint exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Renaissance Gallery in celebration of Illinois’ 2018 two hundredth anniversary.

Wolrks by Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke are on exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Reno Lovison photo)
Wolrks by Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke are on exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Reno Lovison photos)

Located just inside the Randolph Street entrance, the space promotes programs created by or of interest to Chicago area seniors.

Holubow primarily focuses on buildings and likes to explore the contrast of urban elements together with natural elements while Oehmke specializes in portraits and people and leans towards Native American subjects.

In this joint exhibit they display their paintings side by side in a very thoughtful progression that compliments each other’s work.

An exhibition of multiple works from two artists working in tandem is much like a musical duet. Each part is distinctly different but they are both telling the same story. The placement of the work is where you begin to see the harmony.

It is difficult to express a vision of Illinois without including Frank Lloyd Wright. In this exhibit Oehmke’s portrait of the famed architect is displayed alongside Hulubow’s montage of his buildings.

Sandra talks about Wright
Sandra talks about Wright

Likewise, a portrait of trumpet legend Louis Armstrong is next to a jazzy vibrant urban cityscape.

Both women have strong, colorful, graphic styles that express a willingness to experiment and innovate. You can see that each painting is a new adventure, yet you can also see their individual point-of-view.

Part of the fun of viewing an exhibition is the chance to glimpse into an artist’s thought process while experiencing multiple pieces.

One gallery observer mentioned she thought every person that Julia paints looks a little like the artist, herself. I am not sure if that is entirely true but it is often said that all writing is biographical. All artists, no matter the medium, interject a bit of themselves into their finished product.

This exhibit has been approximately a two year journey since the idea first sprang to life with the aid of gallery director Crystal Warren, Regional Director for the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

The Sandra Holubow / Julia Oehmke Illinois Bicentennial Art Exhibit runs through July 5, 2018 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 East Randolph.

Reno Lovison (www.renoweb.net)

(Lovison, a videographer,  has produced a documentary series that began with a half hour video portrait of each of Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke in their respective studios as they prepared the works for the exhibition. The videos can be seen on Youtube and have been aired on Chicago CANTV channel 19/21 during the past few months. The three part series will culminate in a third episode documenting the May 24th official opening of the exhibit.)

 

 

Take in an art fair in Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs

 

Art fairs, such as at the Chicago Botanic Garden, are a chance to enjoy the weather, see a different place and pick up an art piece for home. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Art fairs, such as at the Chicago Botanic Garden, are a chance to enjoy the weather, see a different place and pick up an art piece for home. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Art fairs are a great excuse for forays to Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs. Fortunately, there are plenty to match destination and date. These are some of the area’s better, larger art festivals.

Memorial Day Weekend, May 26 & 27

Two annual festivals come up this weekend in the western suburbs: the Barrington Art Festival and the St. Charles fine Art Show.

Go to downtown Barrington from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see about 130 artists along  Cook & Station Streets. For more information visit Amdur Productions.

Or go downtown St. Charles Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see about 100 artists on Riverside Avenue from Main Street (Hwy 64) to Illinois Avenue. For more information visit Downtown St. Charles.

JUNE

June 2-3

The famed 57th Street Art Fair returns to Hyde Park for its 71st fair Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. There will be more than 250exhibitors near William H. ray Elementary School at 5631 S. Kimbark St. For more information visit 57 Street Fair.

June 9-10

There are three good art fair choices the second weekend of June. The Hinsdale Fine Arts Festival and two Near North mega fairs: Wells Street Art Festival and Old town Art Fair. Both have admission charges.

See about 130 artists in Hinsdale’s Burlington Park, 30 E. chicago Ave., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. For More information visit Hinsdale chamber.

Or go downtown St. Charles Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see about 100 artists

Visit more than 225 exhibitors at the Wells Street Art Festival between North Avenue and Division Street, Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information see Wells Street Art.

To stroll by an additionalt 250 exhibitors stay in the area and go over to the Old Town Triangle in the 1800 block of Orleans Street from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit Old Town Fair. June 16-17

A couple of large art festivals return each year on the third weekend of June, one in Evanston and the other in Chicago’s Grant Park.

Evanston hosts Custer’s Last Stand an arts with an “s” festival in the Main Street Shopping area sponsored by the Evanston Festival Theatre. Visit with about 375 exhibitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.  For more information visit Custer Fair.

At the Gold Coast Art Fair, held the past few years in Grant Park’s Butler Field, see about 300 artists from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. For more information visit Amdur Productions.

June 23-24

For Head for the northern suburbs for art festivals in Highland Park and Evanston the fourth weekend of June.

The Art center (TAC) holds its annual Fetival of Fine Arts along sheridan Road east of the Metra traks downtown Highland Park 10 a.n. to 5 p.m. both days. This is a relatively small fair but it has high quality artists.For more information visit Amdur Productions.

The Evanston Chamber Artisan Summerfest features 225 exhibitors at Sherman Avenue and Church Street, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit Evanston Festivals.

June 29 – July 1

An art festival based on a garden theme takes place in Glencoe the last weekend of June.

About 100 artists show at the Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival in the Esplande area from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. both days. For more information visit Amdur Productions.

Enjoy!

Jodie

Upcoming Physical Festival brings a different theater experience

Physical Festival Chicago coming to Stage 773.
Physical Festival Chicago coming to Stage 773.

Chicago’s sophisticated theater audience has seen and admired gymnastically able actors, puppetry and story-telling-style body motions at such influential theater venues as Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare and Writers Theatre.

However, the Physical Festival Chicago, coming to Stage 773 June 1 through June 9, 2018, is a chance to see what is happening in those and other exciting genres on the international and Chicago scene.  

Among the productions are “Nobody’s Home” by United Kingdom’s Theatre Témoin and Grafted Cede that places PTSD into Homer’s Odyssey, solo puppet and mask performances by Theatre Zarko’s (Evanston) Michael Montenegro and Franco-Brazilian Gael le Cornec’s thriller “The Other.”

“It’s all original work created by each company,” said Marc Frost who co-founded the festival in 2014 with wife Alice da Cunha. They met in London while studying at London International School of Performing Arts. Commonly known as LISP, the school recently relocated in Berlin.   

Alice da Cunha and Marc Frost of Physical Festival Chicago
Alice da Cunha and Marc Frost of Physical Festival Chicago

Chicago audiences may have seen da Cunha in House Theatre’s Jeff award winning “United Flight 232.” Frost will be bringing the national touring company of Theater Unspeakable’s two current productions, one about the American Revolution and the other a moon shot, to the Kennedy Center fall, 2018.

Theater companies from around the world who apply each year are curated by the couple to bring a balance of genres.

“It can be puppets. It can be bouffon,” said da Cunha.

They explain that Michael Montenegro is a puppeteer but his Theatre Zarko is not traditional and Gael le Cornec uses projections and shadow puppetry in “The Other.” Bouffon is the late night show “The Red Bastard: Lie With Me.”

Frost said, “We have said physical to start with but now have added visual and contemporary. We are trying to bring to Chicago shows of the kind not seen very often.” 

He liked that an actor’s body could become scenery and or props to tell a story. In “The ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha” by the Spain/UK-based Little Soldier Productions, an actor uses his body to put across the Cervantes’ tale.

“He is using the body to express much of the text. It shows what the body can express,” said Frost.

Physical Festival also includes workshops. Among them “How to audition for “Cirque du Soleil”  and one by le Cronec on how to create a solo work.

“It’s a festival experience,”  said Frost.

Physical Festival Chicago is at Stage 773 is at 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, June 1-9, 2018. For show listings and tickets, visit Physical Festival/showsFor workshop information visit Physical Festival/Workshops

Jodie Jacobs

Visit the Delany sisters for a fascinating look back in time

Photos important to the Delany sisters' lives are projected in frames above their living room and kitchen as the aging sisters have their say about living in 20th century America. (photos by Liz Lauren).
Photos important to the Delany sisters’ lives are projected in frames above their living room and kitchen as the aging sisters have their say about living in 20th century America. (photos by Liz Lauren).

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Imagine living through more than 100 years of historic events and changing cultural attitudes. What would you predict might happen?

The Delany sisters, Bessie who lived to 104 (died 1995) and Sadie who lived to 109 (died 1999), thought a woman would eventually become president but not a colored man. They disliked the term black “We’re not black, we’re brown, we’re colored.” They also were OK with the formal race designation of Negro.

The sisters tell their story in “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” playing now at Goodman Theatre.

Raised in a family of achievers (lawyers, a judge, doctor, teachers and dentists, their father was the first colored person (they also didn’t like the term, African-American. “We’re American” they shout) to rise to bishop status in the Episcopal Church in the US. Read More

A plant and a female rearrange an all male Victorian club

 

Cast of The Explorers Club at Citadel Theatre. Photo by (North Shore Photo Club)
Cast of The Explorers Club at Citadel Theatre. Photo by (North Shore Camera Club)

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

There are enough politically incorrect attitudes in “The Explorer’s Club” to offend anyone who isn’t a member of a good old boys WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) group.

So just remember if seeing the show, now playing at Citadel Theatre, that it is a farce about the kind of men’s club (right, no females allowed) that would have felt comfortable during Queen Victoria’s reign.

This club’s focus is not wealth or lordship. It is for adventurers and scientists who seek glory with trophy killings, experiments and “discovery” of cultures to be exploited that have not yet been revealed in their part of the world.

Read More

‘Suddenly Last Summer’ is crazy good

(L to R) Wardell Julius Clark, Ayanna Bria Bakari, Grayson Heyl, Ann James and Andrew Rathgeber in Raven Theatre's Suddenly Last Summer. (Michael Brosilow photo)
(L to R) Wardell Julius Clark, Ayanna Bria Bakari, Grayson Heyl, Ann James and Andrew Rathgeber in Raven Theatre’s Suddenly Last Summer. (Michael Brosilow photo)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Catherine Holly (Grayson Heyl) is declared insane for recounting details related to the horrific death of her cousin Sebastian Venable while the two vacationed in a Latin-American beach resort.

It all happened, “Suddenly Last Summer” and no one, especially her aunt, Mrs. Violet Venable (Mary K. Nigohosian), Sebastian’s mother, wants to believe it.

The aging socialite, Mrs. Venable, invites Dr. Cukrowicz a/k/a Dr. Sugar (Wardell Julius Clark) to interview the suspected mad woman to assess whether or not she is a candidate for a lobotomy. The operation would erase the abhorrent memory and preserve the reputation of the beloved Sebastian.

Though the action takes place in a misty New Orleans garden, this is essentially a drawing room drama that plays out much like a whodunit with Dr. Sugar slowly extracting the details that reveal the shocking truth.

Skillfully written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Jason Gerace, the 90 minute production moves along swiftly in the capable hands of this Raven Theatre ensemble.

The play employs themes of mental illness and includes the prototypical characters of the delusional matriarch and the sensitive, often confused ingénue familiar to such other Williams works as “Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie.”

This is simply a good solid play well performed.

Full of Southern charm, I suggest you invite a friend to go with you, then afterwards head over to Big Jones in Andersonville, Jimmy’s Pizza Café (at Lincoln & Foster), or Luella’s Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square for fresh beignets and coffee to complete the New Orleans experience.

DETAILS: “Suddenly Last Summer” is at the Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville), Chicago, through June 17, 2018.  For tickets and more information call (773) 338-2177 or visit Raven Theatre.

Reno Lovison  (RenoWeb.net) and About Guest Reviewers

 

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

 

‘Prometheus Bound’ shares common experience across the ages

Kat Evans and Mark Pracht in Prometheus Bound at CityLit. (Photos by Steve Graue)
Kat Evans and Mark Pracht in Prometheus Bound at CityLit. (Photos by Steve Graue)

RECOMMENDED

“Prometheus Bound” at CityLit is a world premiere translation by Nicholas Rudall of the classic (which may or may not have been) written by Greek playwright Aeschylus.  Rudall is Professor Emeritus of Classics at the University of Chicago.

This was originally conceived as the first play in a trilogy. However, the other two are lost to history.

The title character, Prometheus (Mark Pracht),  a god,  is being punished by Zeus, for giving humanity the knowledge of fire and other “arts.”  His punishment is being bound and pinned to a rock is for eternity in one of the far corners of the Earth.

Prometheus is visited periodically by a number of other gods who come to either further his torment or offer solace.

Read More