Many issues that women dealt with a century ago still hang over their heads and affect their lives, work, families and relationships. From wanting to feel protected while searching for freedom to embracing dreams while being steered toward stereotypical roles, women continue to struggle against being controlled.
These issues are front and center in the Greenhouse Theater Center’s compelling revival of “Machinal,”a play by Sophie Treadwell that hit Broadway in 1928.
The play is based on the life and trial of Ruth Snyder, a ruthless and manipulative murderess who, with her lover, killed her husband for a double indemnity insurance payout. But Machinal’s protagonist, “Young Woman,” portrayed by Heather Chrisler, is nothing like the real Ruth Snyder.
She garners the audience’s empathy as she encounters the demands of a rigid and unfriendly workplace and a life of struggles to support her mother.
In the midst of an argument over whom she should marry, she asks her overbearing mother, “Did you love Pa?” Her mother replies, “I suppose I did . . . I don’t remember. What difference does it make?” The mother pushes her daughter into marrying a man for financial gain.
Years later, feeling trapped in a loveless marriage, Young Woman’s goal is to free herself from captivity.
Chrisler does an excellent job as she captures the complexity of the main character and the challenges faced. She portrays a frightened woman who follows the daily rules of work, marries someone whom she doesn’t love, gives birth to a child she doesn’t want, pleads with everyone to “Let me alone” and eventually finds a lover outside of her marriage who contributes to her ultimate demise.
The nine other cast members are wonderful as they play multiple roles including Young Woman’s co-workers, mother, husband, lover, doctors, nurses, trial lawyers, reporters and priest.
With minimal props on a stage devoid of scenery, the ensemble lights up the audience’s imagination in innovative ways that draw them into this mesmerizing story—a story that ends with Young Woman declaring, “I wanted to be free. I wanted him out of the way. It made me free for one moment!”
Directed by Jacob Harvey with movement by Elizabeth Margolius, Machinal is a play that addresses the balancing act that women have long attempted.
DETAILS: “Machinal” is at Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Main Stage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago through Sept. 24, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Greenhouse Theater or call (773) 404-7336.
Late summer seems a time to get ready for back-to things such as school,a fall sport, workout classes if they stopped and volunteer activities. But August is also a good time to plan ahead to catch shows you’ll want to see. With about 250 theatre companies in the area the season can be overwhelming without checking out some of the offerings ahead of time.
The last two round-ups of what’s coming to area theatres were listings for the northern and western suburbs.
This one is for downtown Chicago. If you go you will find the venues have interesting, historic homes.
Next will be neighborhood Chicago theatres. When you see how many shows are at each venue you’ll understand how easy it is to miss one you really want to catch.
Louis Sullivan’s iconic performing arts hall showcases productions by the Joffrey Ballet and other dance companies ranging from Shen Wei Dance Arts, Ensemble Espanol and Alvin Ailey to Les Ballets de Monte Carlos, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Ballet Nacional Cuba and Giordano Dance Chicago.
In addition, its season includes musical groups and singers such as Jonathan Lee, and the Jazz Gospel Messiah’s “Too Hot to Handel.” In between are lectures, documentary presentations, comedians and tributes to pop and jazz stars.
Here is the Joffrey Ballet Schedule: Gisselle Oct. 18-29, Dec. 1-30, 2017, Modern Masters (George Balenchine, Myles Thatcher, Nicolas Blanc, Jerome Robbins) Feb. 7-18, 2018, Midsummer Night’s Dream April 25-May 6.
For other production dates and the full calendar click Auditorium. The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University is at 50 E. Congress Parkway, (312) 341.2300.
Broadway in Chicago
Touring Broadway shows are typically in four venues: Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph St., Oriental, 24 W. Randolph St., PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St. and Broadway Playhouse. Tickets are available at Broadway in Chicago and also Ticket Master by clicking on individual shows at Broadway Chicago and at the theatres’ box offices. Also call (800) 775-2000.
Of course everyone knows that the mega hit, “Hamilton” is still in town at The PrivateBank Theatre. Tickes are currently available through April 29, 2018.
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Disney’s “Aladdin” is there now through Sept. 10 followed by “Motown the Musical” Oct. 3-8 and “Les Miserable” Oct. 11-29. Then there is “School of Rock” Nov. 1-19 followed by Irving Berlin’s “White Chirstmas” Nov. 21-Dec. 3, 2017. “Beautiful – the Carole King Musical” returns to town, Dec. 5, 2017 and goes to Jan 28, 2018. The play, “The Humans,” comes Jan 30-Feb. 11 followed by ”Love Never Dies” Feb. 14-March 4. Then it’s “On Your Feet!” March 21-April “ followed by “Waitress,” July 3-22.
At the Oriental Theatre “Escape to Margaritaville” is Nov. 9-Dec. 2, 2017. “Wicked” is there Dec. 6-Jan. 21 2018 and “The Color Purple” goes on July 17-29, 2018.
At the Broadway Playhouse, “90210: The Musical” will be there Sept. 13- Sept. 17 followed by Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” Nov. 11-Dec. 31. 2017. Also during that time is Gobsmacked” Dec. 5-10.
The company has expanded its venue at Navy Pier to include The Yard so some of the shows are there and others in its regular hall. Check when buying tickets.
“The Taming of the Shrew is Sept.16 – Nov. 12 and James Thierrée’s “The Toad Knew” opens The Yard Sept. 19 – 23. “Amarillo” is Oct. 17 – 29, 2017 and “Red Velvet” is Dec 1, 2017 –Jan 21, 2018. “Short Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is Feb 3-March 10, “Macbeth” is April 25-June 24 and “Waiting for Godot” is May 23- June 3, 2018.
For details visit Chicago Shakes and call (312-595-5600. Chicago Shakespeare is at 800 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier, Chicago.
The historic venue has something going on every weekend but some of the seasons highlights are Fleet Foxes, Oct. 3-4,Steve Martin and Martin Short Oct. 6-7, Tori Amos, Oct. 27 Dream Theater in contcrt, Images, Words and Beyond Mov. 3 An evening with the Avett Brothers Nov. 9-11 Celtic thunder Symphony Tour dec. 7 Joe Biden American Promise tour Dec. 11 For more information visit Chicago Theater. The Chicago Theater is at 175 N State St. For tickets call (800) 745- 3000 or go to Ticketmaster.com.
The Goodman starts fall with Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” Sept 9 – Oct 15 followed by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Nov 18 – Dec 31, 2017. Rogelio Marinez’ “Blind Date” (Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev) is Jan 20- Feb. 25, 2018 followed by Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” Mar. 10-Apr 15. Emily Mann’s “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” is May 5-June 10 and Ellen Fairey’s “Support Group for Men” is June 23-july 29.
In addition, Goodman’s Annual New Stages Festival is Sept 20-Oct. 8. The Festival features new works by Christina Anderson, David Cale, Mikhael Tara Garver, Rebecca Gilman, Ike Holter, Jose Rivea, Mat Smart and Bess Wohl.
Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St. For for information visit Goodman. or call (312) 443-3800.
Harris Theatre for Music and Dance
October features Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists have announced an ambitious international tour, with concert performances of all three operas – L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, and L’incoronazione di Poppea – and Rennie Harris Puremovement and Arias a dn Barcarolle by Lincoln center chamber music society .
Nov. has “Hot Sardines” comeing. Cec. Brandenburg concertos. By lincon chentr chambermusic society . Jan Brian Brooks dance Companyh, and lc chanmber doing Brahms and dvorak . Feb American Ballet and chamber doing Vienna to Hollywood
March is Mark Morris dance group with the Silk Road Ensemle and then Christian Scott aTude Adjuah May is chamber duoing Tempost in C Minor.
The Harris Theater is at the north end of Millennium park at 205 E. randolph St. For tickets and more events visit Harris and call (312) 334-7777.
Lookingglass is in the historic Water Works across form Water Tower Place. The theatre company is known for artistic innovation and interpretation that often includes gymnastics.
Next season features “Hard Times” Oct. 4, 2017 – January 14, 2018, “Plantation” Feb. 21 – Apr. 22 ending with “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” May 23, Aug. 19, 2017.
Lookingglass Theatre is at 821 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611. For tickets and more information visit Lookingglass or call (312) 337-0665.
Take a look and enter it on the calendar so you don’t miss a great show.
HAIR The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is a revival of the infamous hippie era production that raised many eyebrows in its day and contributed significantly to the evolution of American musical theater.
It might be easy to simply see this current production of HAIR as riding a “permanent wave” of nostalgia. Or you might choose to see it as a “bald” faced celebration of 1960’s era youth, depicting the struggles a significant portion of the boomer generation experienced on the road to adulthood, which incidentally had a huge impact on modern culture.
The original production contemporaneously reported on that cultural shift in America as it simultaneously contributed to it. So it is impossible to speak about the current production without referencing its history.
It’s not too early to check out shows that are coming in 2017-18.
Because Metropolitan Chicago is rich in theatre and entertainment choices, what is happening and where next season is divided into areas. Click northern suburbs season options for that section. City sections will be next.
First, take a look at some of the go-to possibilities west of Chicago. They are exciting enough to attract people from other areas in and around the city.
Chicago theatres and entertainment venues have a terrific line-up of shows for the 2017-18 season. Now is a good time to plan what to see with season tickets or dropping hints for birthday or holiday presents.
Don’t just consider plays. There’s also one-and two-nighters of top entertainers at a couple of venues. With so many places to go for a night out the Chicago theatre scene has to be broken into different areas. Not everything to see is downtown or Near North. So, try some of the theatres and other venues north of the city.
Put together George Gershwin’s stirring music, Ira Gershwin’s delightful lyrics, Craig Lucas’ thoughtful book, Christopher Wheeldon’s exceptional choreography and direction and Bob Crowley’ amazing set design.
Then people their work with the fine dancing talents of McGee Maddox of the National Ballet of Canada and Sara Esty, former Miami City Ballet soloist.
Add in the excellent acting and vocal talents of Nick Spangler from Book of Mormon and of Adam Hockberg and Emily Ferranti from “Wicked.
With all that creativity and talent put into one show you’ll have an evening to remember at ‘American in Paris,’ now at the Oriental Theatre through Aug. 19, 2017.
Tony Award nominated ‘They’re Playing Our Song,’ now a Brown Paper Box production at Rivendell Theater, is a boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, have problems, split and get back-together-again story with a celebrity twist.
With book by Neil Simon, music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, the show is a witty, entertaining musical with such easy listening songs as “If He Really Knew Me,” “When You’re in My Arms,” “I Still Believe in Love,” and “They’re Playing Our Song.”
What oldsters may remember from when the show opened on Broadway in 1979 with Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz, is that it is somewhat autobiographical about Hamlisch and Sager’s 1970’s relationship.
The show is about New York Grammy and Oscar award-winning pop music composer Vernon Gersch connecting with lyricist Sonia Walsk because he is looking for a collaborator.
They start off with problems because Sonia is bubbly but has trouble keeping appointments anywhere near on time and is very busy trying to break up with a long-time boyfriend, and Vernon is sarcastic, uptight and somewhat aloof.
They start to bond when on a “non date” proposed by Sonia they dance and hear the band play songs they wrote.
Problems Sonia has with ex boyfriend Leon eventually comes between them when she appears very late for a recording session and Vernon says he can’t take it any longer.
That they still have feelings for each other becomes evident when they reconnect in LA.
On the cute side, Sonia wears dresses used in shows given her by a stage friend. On the witty side, they are both neurotic so Simon has Vernon saying “She’s a flake, I’m a flake. Two flakes make a snowstorm.”
She is in awe of his composing talent but he is in awe of her bubbly personality. He remarks that if a power outage causes a blackout in New York the only light seen would be coming from her.
Sonia is perfectly portrayed by Carmen Risi who has acted in Oil Lamp and Citadel productions in the Chicago area and in Four Seasons productions in Madison, WI.
Dan Gold who is often in Mercury, Apollo, Porchlight and Light Opera Works productions, is very believable as Vernon.
The two leads are totally convincing in their angst and attraction to each other.
My problem watching the show was with the Greek chorus of three females who are supposed to be in Sonia’s head and the three mails from Vernon’s head.
Even though they were talented singers and dancers, I found them distracting and sometimes annoying.
However, the leads are good enough and the show witty enough to make it a delightful evening out. To learn more about Carole Bayer Sager, see her 2016 book, “They’re Playing Our song: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster).
“They’re Playing Our Song” will be at Rivendell Theater, a small store front space at 5779 N. Ridge Ave., Chicago, now through Aug. 20, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Brown Paper Box.
Luzia – a combination of two Spanish words for light, “luz,” and rain, “lluvia,” is the backdrop for a unique performance that unites traditional Cirque du Soleil elements with scenes and characters from Mexico.
In “Luzia – A Waking Dream of Mexico,” acrobatic performances, beautiful costumes and music will not disappoint, even if they are somewhat expected in a Cirque du Soleil production.
The show opens with a traveler parachuting on to the stage. He will guide the audience on a magical and comedic journey through time and space.
After landing, he turns a large key and the show slowly begins to unveil the beauty of Mexico with a woman (Shelli Epstein) playing the role of the Monarch butterfly.
Although the beginning may start off slowly, hoop-diving acrobats dressed in hummingbird costumes bring it back to life in the second scene as they go through their routines on moving treadmills. With each leap, the acrobats perform a series of moves with increasing difficulty and grace.
As the show progresses from one scene to the next, the performers display their unique talents – balancing on one hand, flying from a trapeze and using aerial straps to move in ways you don’t expect.
However, it was the water and light show that generated some of the loudest applause. There is an impressive, controlled wall of rain with gorgeous pictures projected on it.
Everyone expects to be amazed, perplexed and amused by a Cirque du Soleil show. It’s a rarity to be made mildly queasy, but intentionally or not they pull it off with the most memorable and discomfiting positions of male contortionist Aleksei Goloborodko.
Throughout the show, the traveler, Eric Fool Koller, ensures the youngest members of the audience will leave with big smiles on their faces as he takes turns playing the narrator and the more traditional, bumbling circus clown.
Skillfully directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, I highly recommend the show for both returning Cirque du Soleil fans and anyone who has never experienced the beauty and athletic abilities of this type of performance.
Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia, A Waking Dream of Mexico” will be playing at the United Center (Parking Lot K) now through Sept. 3, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Cirque du Soleil Luzia.
One of summer’s finest pursuits is viewing a William Shakespeare play while reposing under the stars and sipping a smooth wine.
First Folio Theatre affords that experience with a first-rate production of the Bard of Avon’s “As You Like It” on the grounds of the historic Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.
The gently rolling hillside forms a natural amphitheater for the two-story wooden stage and for audiences to spread their blankets and pop their picnic baskets.
Directed by Skyler Schrempp, this delightful tale meanders among a tangle of storylines and a large cast. The plot weaves family feuds, banishments, mistaken identities, forgiveness and love triangles.
Most everyone finds themselves exiled in the lush Forest of Arden. That is, until truths are revealed and couples happily pair up in marriage like they typically do in Shakespearean rom-coms.
The highly polished cast numbers nearly two dozen, many of them First Folio returnees and almost all with previous Shakespearean credits on their resumes.
Leslie Ann Sheppard shows great flexibility in her dual-gendered role as Rosalind. At the onset, she is a favored and stylish family member of the royal court. After she is banished, she heads to the forest and adopts a male persona for safety reasons.
She is accompanied by her cousin and best friend Celia, played adroitly by Vahishta Vafadari who takes on the guise of a peasant. The young women venture a convoluted path to find their loves.
Courtney Abbott is charming and comedic as the mohawk-crowned, androgynous jester Touchstone.
Tempering the frolic is Kevin McKillip as Jacque, a melancholic lord. With great gravitas he delivers one of Shakespeare’s most well-known soliloquies, the one that begins with “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
Costume designer Mieka van der Ploeg advances the setting as ambiguously modern-day, yet-far-away with attire that borrows from vintage, punk and club-kid cultures.
Throw in a couple of fascinators, a pair of black-and-white wingtips, and a few dirndl skirts, and you get the feeling you’re somewhere else.
A summer evening at First Folio Theatre is as idyllic as the Forest of Arden. Arrive early to enjoy the natural landscape. The staff sets out citronella candles, but bring mosquito repellent.
DETAILS: “As You Like It” is at First Folio Theatre, Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st St., Oak Brook, through Aug. 20. For tickets and other information, call 630-986-8067 or visit First Folio.
“Little Fish” is a musical adventure of a young woman’s journey to get her life on track as she leaves a bad relationship, gives up smoking and ultimately finds a core group of friends who are willing and able to support each other through life’s challenges.
Even though I quit smoking thirty years ago I could still relate. I always tell people I wanted a cigarette for the first five years. So I understand how addiction to nicotine can make you crazy.
The opening musical number grabs your attention and sets the tone immediately. It’s like a roadmap that lets you know where we are heading as the adventure begins.
Nicole Laurenzi takes control of the stage the minute the lights come up and doesn’t let go for the next 90 minutes with no intermission.
She and her voice are perfect for the role of Charlotte, an aspiring writer in New York City who is both vulnerable and determined.
Her mission at first seems simply to quit smoking and to overcome the fact that she is average and ordinary. In the end she does not emerge as a beautiful swan but rather as a content, more confident human being who just wants some peace of mind and feeling of security. This is not a fairy princess story but rather a story the majority of people can relate to.
Charlotte’s two new NYC friends encourage her to try swimming and running to take her mind off her cigarette craving. Her beautiful friend Kathy (Aja Wiltshire who has a gorgeous voice) introduces her to swimming at the YMCA where Charlotte earns the moniker “Little Fish.”
Her gay male friend Marco (Adam Fane) suggests running. Marco gets the title song explaining the need for little fish to “swim in schools” or basically band together for support and for their own protection.
Cinder (Teressa LaGamba) is Charlotte’s first NYC roommate and gets most of the comic relief in this production as she belts out a couple of the most emotionally energetic tunes.
Robert (Jeff Meyer) is the smug know-it-all ex-boyfriend who appears in flashbacks voicing Charlotte’s insecurities and doubts as he reminds her that whatever she does will never be good enough.
The addition of the young Anne Frank (Kyrie Courter) who appears in a dream is a very funny idea.
“Little Fish” is entertaining and might more accurately be termed a modern opera. Bravo to Michael John LaChiusa who not only wrote the book but also the music and lyrics. No small task, which he accomplished brilliantly.
The story, loosely based on Deborah Eisenberg’s short stories “Flotsam” and “Days,” is well conceived and well executed but the star of this overachiever’s trinity is the music, an upbeat mix of jazz and pop rock with strong Latin rhythms.
There is nothing here that will assault the senses or challenge anyone’s musical preferences. It has a kind of “old school” cabaret quality that is easy to listen to with easily articulated lyrics and a few memorable tunes.
Carl Herzog as Mr. Bunder gets his Frank Sinatra groove on very effectively, as Charlotte’s smarmy boss offering a classic NYC vibe.
I can see this as a standalone melody for a number of Sinatra or Harry Connick wannabees
Shout out to Kokandy Production’s six piece band conducted by Kory Danielson. The lack of an overture was a disappointment as I would like to hear more from them and it would have been nice to help us get in the mood.
Arnel Sancianco ‘s minimal set design worked well even though director Allison Hendrix seemed to prefer to avoid using the center of the stage.
The choreography was a miss for me as was the lighting. I realize this is a small space but the movements were cliché and not well executed bordering on comical at times and looking much like a high school production. An exception was the swimming sequences which were quite effective.
The lighting or lack of lighting seemed arbitrary. Memorably, a tableau which might have been an opportunity for the lighting designer Alexander Ridgers to shine, literally left the actors in the dark. These are not deal killers and perhaps will improve over time.
As a side note Kokandy Productions offered an interesting newsprint playbill but it lacked a list of songs and any background information about the creator Michael John LaChiusa which seems a major faux pas.
Chicago’s premiere production of “Little Fish” is entertaining and makes me want to keep an eye out for future offering by LaChiusa. There are no big laughs and no great let downs. Much like Charlotte herself it is a safe and secure evening’s entertainment and ideal for lovers of cabaret style music.
Each performer gets his or her moment and they each do it effectively. This production is in keeping with The Wit’s stated mission to offer “humorous, challenging and intelligent plays that speak with a contemporary theatrical voice.”
Details: “Little Fish” is at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Avenue in Chicago now through Aug. 20, 2017. For tickets and other information call (773) 975-8150 and visit Kokandy Productions.