Saturday in the Park with Porchlight

Michelle Lauto r gives park audiences a preview of some of Porchlight's 2018-19 musical season accompanied by Music Director David Fiorello, l, (Reno Lovison photo)
Michelle Lauto r gives park audiences a preview of some of Porchlight’s 2018-19 musical season accompanied by Music Director David Fiorello, l, (Reno Lovison photo)

An ensemble from Porchlight Music Theatre offered a sneak preview of their upcoming 2018-2019 theater season including selections from “1776,” “Gypsy” and “A Chorus Line.”

The lucky audience in lawn chairs at Washington Square Park across from Chicago’s Newberry Library, heard performances by Leah Davis, James Earl Jones II, Michelle Lauto, Liam Quealy, and Music Director David Fiorello.

Michelle Lauto confidently belted out “He Plays the Violin” from “1776” while James Earl Jones II wrapped up the one-hour preview with “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from “Gypsy.”

DETAILS: Porchlight Music Theatre is at the Ruth Page Center For the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Pkwy. To see more about the season visit Porchlight Season.

Reno Lovison

Video highlights by Reno Lovison can be seen at Chicago Broadcasting Network.

Related:  A Look at the coming Chicago theater season: Part Two

 

 

The Blues Man is the real deal

RECOMMENDED

 

Rick Stone is the Blues Man at Black EnsembleTheater.
Rick Stone is the Blues Man at Black EnsembleTheater.

“Rick Stone The Blues Man” at the Black Ensemble Theater is a nightclub style jukebox musical written and directed by Jackie Taylor that stars Rick Stone himself and a cadre of six seasoned blues singers backed up by an awesome house band.

The songs are classic blues led by the very talented BET musical director Robert Reddrick on drums who is joined by “young” Adam Sherrod (Keyboards), Gary Baker (Guitar) and Mark Miller (Bass).  Lamont D. Harris (Harmonica) is considered part of the vocal ensemble but holds his own adding his “blues harp” accompaniment to many of the tunes.

This production works hard to make you feel like you just happened to stroll into a vintage blues club. The cast wanders in, casually greeting individuals along the way. Ushers greet everyone by saying, “Welcome to Rick’s.” The stage has a small bar and few tables and chairs which incidentally are available to audience members as V.I.P. seating.Read More

The end of TV is largely light and shadow

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The End of TV at the Chopin Theatre. (Photo by Judy Sirota Rosenthal)
The End of TV at the Chopin Theatre. (Photo by Judy Sirota Rosenthal)

It seems fitting that The Chopin Theater which began as a local movie house and evolved into a live theater venue, should play host to “The End of TV,” a combination of live action and multimedia that comments so poignantly on the blurred reality between television and human interaction.

Simply speaking, the story-line centers around a chance encounter between a laid-off autoworker turned meals-on-wheels driver, Louise, (Aneisa Hicks) and a QVC home shopping obsessed elderly woman, Flo (Kara Davidson).

The time is the 1990s. The place is a post-industrial Rust Belt city. The action takes place amid advertising promises and commercial bombardment.

In the larger sense it is about isolation and the need for human connection.Read More

Simple Elegance of ‘Pink Orchids’ at Chicago’s Pride Center

RECOMMENDED

Originally presented as “The HIV Monologues” by Dragonflies Theatre, London in 2017, this production renamed “Pink Orchids” at The Buena, Pride Arts Center  is five soliloquies presented by  four different actors intertwined to tell one connected story.

Barney (Nick Dorado) is producing a semi-autobiographical play about his lover who died of aids.

Alex wins the coveted role, assuring Barney that he is sympathetic to the challenges by claiming his support for his own HIV-positive lover, Nick (Don Baiocchi).

In reality, at that moment, Nick is merely a passing acquaintance who Alex tried to ditch once he found out about Nick’s positive status.

Irene (Kathleen Puls Andrade) is a nurse who cared for Barney’s lover. She gives witness to the story of his humanity, humor, and pathos while in the process of losing his struggle with the dreaded disease.

The performance is a bit like a storytelling “slam” a la the “Moth,” where individuals tell well-crafted, entertaining but often heart rending personal tales.

Each vignette was skillfully written by Patrick Cash and directed by Brennan T. Jones.  Both the writer and director were obviously cognizant of the need to keep this subject matter from becoming too dark.

While humorous at times, it is not a joke. Rather, it is a sincere portrayal of a serious fact of life for a considerable number of individuals who contend daily with an inescapable reality.

Each character is a distinctive personality type and each actor makes a point of connecting personally with the audience in this very intimate space.

The simple set by Evan Frank cleverly consists of a series of hanging shelves with a variety of mementos alluded to during the various sketches including a couple of bags of crisps, a plate of mini-cupcakes, a few photos and a number of potted pink orchids.

Produced by Pride Films and Plays, this well-performed presentation is part of the Pride Arts Center Summer Pride Fest.

DETAILS: “Pink Orchids” is at The Buena at Pride Arts Center  4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, through July 7. Running time: about 80 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information call (866) 811-4111 or (773) 857-0222 or visit Pride Films and Plays.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

Blue collar history and bluegrass music

 

Cast of Hayarket, tUnderscore Theatre Company and The den Theatre's new musical. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Cast of Haymarket, Underscore Theatre Company and The Den Theatre’s new musical. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

HIGHLY RECOMMEND

Chicago has long been known as a city of industry and labor. As Carl Sandburg said, “Hog Butcher for the  World….Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders.” It is against the post-civil-war backdrop of this version of Chicago that “Haymarket” presented by Underscore Theatre Company at The Den Theatre plays out.

The energetic cast of twelve talented actor/musicians, tell the story of four ill-fated so called “anarchists” and their wives through approximately 19 bluegrass/folk songs with limited dialogue.

The “co-conspirators” were nascent labor activists fighting for among other things an eight hour work day, which we, of course, take for granted with little thought of those who fought and died to make this and other fair labor practices a reality.

Read More

A fair production

SOMEWHAT RECOMMEND

Laura Degrenia (Margaret Burnham), Pavi Proczko (Daniel Burnham) and Sam Massey (John Root) in Burnham's Dream
Laura Degrenia (Margaret Burnham), Pavi Proczko (Daniel Burnham) and Sam Massey (John Root) in Burnham’s Dream

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” Daniel Burnham.

Daniel Burnham is probably best known as the person who gave Chicago its grid layout and network of municipal parks.

Architectural partners Burnham & Root or maybe Root & Burnham submit the winning proposal to design and supervise the building of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition to commemorate Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas.

The massive world’s fair project was not without its many business and personal challenges.

Spoiler alert: “Burnham’s Dream: The White City,” A Lost and Found Productions (visiting company at Theater Wit), shows how Burnham and group manage to pull the fair project off so the event is a huge success.Read More

A performance collage of Shakespeare and song

RECOMMENDED

Len Cariou in Broadway and the Bard at Stage 773
Len Cariou in Broadway and the Bard at Stage 773

Len Cariou’s solo performance of “Broadway & The Bard, An Evening of Shakespeare and Song” is best described as a “performance collage” ripped from fragments of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” and bits of faded American musical librettos. They are pasted together to create a new work of art representing the autobiographical portrait of a noted actor’s life in the theater.

During roughly eighty minutes, the audience is treated to non-stop snippets from “Twelfth Night” “Henry V,” “Richard II,” “Othello,” “King Lear” and more, as well as melodic strains borrowed from Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Charles Strouse, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and others.

A worthy theatrical experience cannot stand on reference and nostalgia alone, and in this regard collaborators Len Cariou, Barry Kleinbort and Mark Janas have sidestepped that pitfall by doing an admirable job of creating a piece that may be enhanced by one’s own theatrical insight but does not require you to come equipped with an encyclopedic knowledge of the material included.Read More

Longtime art fair still worth a look

 

Rogers Naylor at his painting used as this year's fair poster (Photosby Reno Lovison)
Rogers Naylor at his painting used as this year’s fair poster (Photosby Reno Lovison)

Guest essay by Reno Lovison

I first attended the 57th Street Art Fair when I was a young teen going to high school in the area.

Back then I remember a lot of hippie types selling pottery and turquoise jewelry. I still have a pen and ink drawing I bought that year. It’s hard to imagine that in 1970 the fair was already in its 33rd year.

Well here it is 48 years later and I have missed very few. My wife and I traditionally see this first major outdoor art fair of the season as our summer kick-off for all that Chicago has to offer.

Weather is often a factor the first week of June and you can plan on rain, wind and sometimes cold. This year Mother Nature played along, providing pleasant temperatures in the mid-seventies with rain only late in the evening on Saturday having very little effect.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

‘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