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).


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)


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.

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‘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)


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)


“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.

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Hamilton news

More tickets to “Hamilton” are going on sale and an exhibit devoted to the blockbuster musical will be coming to Chicago.

First, the tickets

Alexander Hamilton and cast. Joan Marcus photo
Alexander Hamilton and cast.  (Joan Marcus photo)

A 20-week block of tickets will be available beginning 10 a.m. May 8 for shows Sept. 4, 2018 through Jan. 20, 2019, according to producer Jeffrey Seller and Broadway in Chicago.

They can be bought at the CIBC Theatre box office where the show is on stage or on line at BroadwayInChicago.

There is a limit of 12 tickets per household for the extended dates. Tickets are $75-$205 with some premium choices.

The online lottery will continue  with 44 seats at $10 for the new ticket block. For lottery information visit BroadwayInChicago/lottery or get the Hamilton app at HamiltonBroadway.

BTW, don’t be fooled by spurious or expensive ticket offers. Best is to buy through Broadway In Chicago or at the box office.


Now, the exhibit

Hurricane backdrop at Hamilton the Exhibition (Photos by David Korins)
Hurricane backdrop at Hamilton the Exhibition (Photos by David Korins)

Hamilton: The Exhibition, will premiere in Chicago in November, 2018 before traveling to other cities, according to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical, “Hamilton” and Producer Jeffrey Seller.

Housed in an all-weather, football field sized structure, the exhibition is slated to open Nov. 17 on Chicago’s Northerly Island.

Presented with Imagine Exhibitions, Inc which operates traveling museum exhibits, Hamilton: The Exhibition is being put together by Hamilton set designer David Korins, Miranda, Yale University Professor Joanne Freeman, Hamilton Director Thomas Kail and Seller with additional historical advice from Annette Gordon-Reed.

Miranda explains some of the thinking behind the exhibition. “Hamilton” is a musical. It’s as much of Alexander Hamilton’s life as we could wrestle into two and a half hours of musical theater, and it’s been incredible and surreal to see the renewed interest this has sparked in Alexander Hamilton’s life and times,” he said.

Miranda added, “I’m so thrilled with the work David Korins has done alongside eminent historians Joanne Freeman and Annette Gordon-Reed, who are experts in this arena.  With this exhibition, they’re creating an immersive companion piece for Hamilton” and a deep dive into the details and experiences of Hamilton’s story.”

Miranda will narrate the audio tour as the exhibition moves visitors into the life and times of Alexander Hamilton and illustrates the creation of the United States of America and the American Revolution.

St. Croix in Hamilton the Exhibition
St. Croix in Hamilton the Exhibition

Visitors will find the tales told with in-depth scenography, lighting, sound, multimedia and music as they experience Hamilton’s journey from St. Croix to his famed demise in a duel in Weehawken, N J. They will also learn of how what Hamilton did still impacts our lives.

“I hope to use this exhibition to answer some questions that the musical doesn’t address, like ‘What did Alexander actually do when he was a trader in St. Croix “ What did Hamilton’s Manhattan look like?  How did we win the battle of Yorktown?” said Seller.

“ In an environment that is visually stunning, aurally thrilling and ingeniously educational, we aim to give visitors yet another unique portal through the life of Alexander Hamilton into the American founding,” he said.

Tickets to HAMILTON:  THE EXHIBITION will be on sale at a later date, to be announced.

For more information and to sign up to be the first to receive news and ticket sales alerts,  please visit hamiltonexhibition.com

The Buddy Holly Story – How Rock Got Rollin’



Benson, Mahler, Stevenson and McCabe (preview) in Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story, an American Blues Theater revival. (Michael Brosilow photos)

Refresh your memory. How rock ‘n  roll  was  changed  by  the  guy with the big glasses from  Lubbock, Texas is worth the trip back in time when taken there by the American Blues Theater’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.”

“Buddy” tells  the  tale  of  singer/songwriter Buddy  Holly  and the Crickets through  an all too brief career ended by tragedy. Yet, some 50 years later, his music  continues to be played and loved by a whole new generation.

Classic  songs include: “That’ll  be  the Day,” “Maybe Baby,” “Peggy  Sue,”  “It’s so Easy to Fall in Love,” “The  Big  Bopper’s,”  “Chantilly  Lace,”  “Ritchie  Valens,”  “La  Bamba,”  plus  many  more.

When performing the biography of a legend, how successful the show is depends on who plays the star. In this case, Zachary Stevenson who performed in Paramount’s “Million Dollar Quartet,” is spectacular.

Not only does he physically resemble Holly, but he exudes Holly’s dynamic energy and has all his dance moves down pat, such as hopping on one foot as he plays the guitar. Stevenson’s portrayal of Holly is a joy to watch.

Angela Alise, Liz Chidester, Vasily Deris, Ann Delaney and Molly Hernanez (Preview) in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.
Angela Alise, Liz Chidester, Vasily Deris, Ann Delaney and Molly Hernanez (Preview) in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.

But credit must be given to the entire ensemble whose amazing performances, both vocally and with a range of instruments, are stellar.

Piano, violins, bass, electric guitar and drums glide in and out throughout the show. Although they don’t appear until late in the second act, Cisco Lopez as Ritchie Valens and Vasily Denis as Big Bopper are outstanding.

“Buddy: The  Buddy  Holly  Story,” an American Blues Theater revival is written  by Alan  Janes and directed with precision by Lili-Anne  Brown. Musical  direction  is by ensemble  member  Michael  Mahler and costume design is by Samantha C. Jones who must have a ball putting these 1950’s costumes together.

The first act is filled with lots of upbeat Holly music as his career ascends. But it’s a hard act to follow since the audience knows what’s going to happen

However, instead of ending on a downer the show explodes with more of Holly’s music as an enduring testament to his legacy. The audience never wanted it to end.

Prepare yourself for one fabulous night of theater!

DETAILS: The Buddy Holly Story is an American Blues Theater production at Stage 773, 1225  W.  Belmont  Ave., Chicago, through May 26, 2018. For tickets and other information call (773) 327-5252 or visit American Blues Theater.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


(L to R) Chaon Cross (Lady Macbeth) and Ian Merrill Peakes (Macbeth) watched by the Weird Sisters (McKinley carter, Emily Ann Nichelson and Theo Germaine) in 'Macbeth' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater's The Yard. (Photos by Liz Lauren)
(L to R) Chaon Cross (Lady Macbeth) and Ian Merrill Peakes (Macbeth) watched by the Weird Sisters (McKinley Carter, Emily Ann Nichelson and Theo Germaine) in ‘Macbeth’ at Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s The Yard. (Photo by Liz Lauren)


Ah, the “Scottish play,” in all its gory allegorical ambition, madness and magic, closes the 2017-18 Chicago Shakespeare’s season.

Adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller, who did Chicago Shakes’ “Tempest”  production, their “Macbeth” proves a worthy vehicle for ghostly special effects and a bit of audience participation.

Maybe engaging the audience as the drunken porter (Matthew Floyd Miller) does immediately after the blood splotched Macbeth and Lady Macbeth appear following  the murder of Duncan (Christopher Donahue), offers welcome comic relief. This is the first time I have heard audiences laugh and converse with the Porter during “Macbeth.”

But then the play descends into the darkness of never-ending death as Ian Merrill Peakes as Macbeth finds that one murder has to lead to another and Chaon Cross as Lady Macbeth realizes their murderous ambition ends in madness. Cross’ sleeping-walking  “Out damn spot” scene declares her formidable talent.

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For ‘Once’ it’s about music and love and chance encounters


Every once in a while, someone remarkable touches our lives for a short time-and changes everything.

Such is the heartwarming theme of ‘Once,’ the Tony Award-winning musical now playing at Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Helmed by artistic director Jim Corti and musical director Tom Vendafreddo, it’s the musical’s first Chicago-area regional staging.

In case you haven’t heard the buzz, ‘Once’ is a story about a couple of Irish musicians in modern-day Dublin who meet and fall in love as they write songs together.

Tiffany Topol (Girl) and Barry DeBois (Guy) perform the Oscar-winning song “Falling Slowly” in Once, at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. (Liz Lauren photos)
Tiffany Topol (Girl) and Barry DeBois (Guy) perform the Oscar-winning song “Falling Slowly” in Once, at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. (Liz Lauren photos)

It started out as a low-budget indie movie in 2007 and its signature song, “Falling Slowly,” won an Oscar for Best Original Song the following year. The film was directed by John Carney; the music and lyrics were written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova who also played the lead roles.

‘Once’ saw second life as a Broadway musical based on the book by playwright Enda Walsh. In 2012, it took home eight Tony Awards including Best Musical.

But back to Paramount. As the story goes, the encounter between the two leads is so fleeting, only a week, that we never learn their names. Tiffany Topol plays Girl and Barry DeBois plays Guy. Both actors have ‘Once’ national touring credits in real life.

In the Paramount production,  Girl and Guy are accompanied, quite literally, by a cast of congenial music-makers who double as the orchestra. They’re a fun bunch to watch, even though the lyrics sounded muddled half the time.

Topal and DeBois duet well with adequate chemistry, but she stands out better on her own. She’s an enchanting vocalist and charmingly funny without seeming to try.

Other noteworthy players include Alex E. Hardaway, a stuffy bank manager with performance dreams of his own. It’s written as a humdrum role with a solo, “Abandoned in Bandon,” that Hardaway executes as a champion. And Jon Patrick Penick shows great comedic chops as rough-and-tumble music shop owner Billy.

The starlet of the show is red-headed lassie, 6-year-old Everleigh Murphy as Girl’s daughter Ivonka.

Not only is she adorable, but she’s a fine Irish step-dancer and violinist as well. Her talent runs in the family. Cousin Madeleine played the same role on Broadway.

Also, just as on Broadway and in the national tour, the stage is designed as an operational pub. The audience is invited to step up and purchase beverages pre-show and at intermission. With a few props and a little imagination, the stage is segmented for additional scenes. Scenic designer is Jeffrey D. Kmiec.

DETAILS: “Once” is at Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, through June 3. For tickets and other information, call (630) 896-6666 or visit Paramount.

Pamela Dittmer McKuen

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


Music of my soul is rock ’n roll


Liam Quealy (L) as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in 'Memphis at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Michael Courier photos)
Liam Quealy (L) as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in ‘Memphis at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Michael Courier photos)

There’s a long list of reasons to see the wonderful musical, ‘Memphis,’ a story of rock ‘n roll in the 1950s at Porchlight Music Theatre.

The dancing is incredible. The singing is fantastic. The acting is superb. But wait . . . there’s so much more.

A Tony Award-winning Best Musical with lyrics and music by David Bryan and lyrics and book by Joe DiPietro, the story takes place in underground nightclubs in Memphis, TN.

The audience is swinging and swaying when the music begins playing but as the story continues many important issues are revealed.

Huey Calhoun, played by Liam Quealy, is loosely based on DJ Dewey Philips, a new white voice on Memphis radio in the 1950s.

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