‘Visiting Edna’ delves into adult son to parent relationship as death looms

RECOMMENDED

The power of ‘Visiting Edna,” Tony Award-winning playwright David Rabe’s play premiering at Steppenwolf Theatre, is the utter normalcy of the conversations that take place when a married son visits his terminally ill mother.

Debra Monk (Edna) and Ian Barford (Andrew) in 'Visiting Edna' at Steppenwolf Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Debra Monk (Edna) and Ian Barford (Andrew) in ‘Visiting Edna’ at Steppenwolf Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

Rabe’s brilliance, projected in the superb acting of Debra Monk as Edna and Ian Barford as son Andrew, is that the drama is subtle enough to apply to almost any family and be understood and appreciated by any audience.

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‘City of Conversation’ reflects country of contentious politics

Natalie West (Jean Swift) l, and Lia Mortensen (Hester Ferris) in their Georgetown home. Photo by Charles Osgood
Natalie West (Jean Swift) L, and Lia Mortensen (Hester Ferris) in their Georgetown home. Photo by Charles Osgood

RECOMMENDED

Old-timers remember when political positions were argued during the day and set aside or amicably dealt with in tradeoffs agreed to during dinners at night.

That the convivial era’s respect for each other changed to vitriolic attacks after President Carter’s term and continues today is told through one politically connected Georgetown family in Anthony Giardina’s ‘The City of Conversation’ now at Northlight Theatre.

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Set design, music, choreography and cast make ‘Wonderful Town’ a terrific revival

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

It doesn’t matter that the only memorable songs you take away from Wonderful Town, a musical about two Ohio sisters seeking success in New York, is Ohio (why did I ever leave..) and It’s Love. Leonard Bernstein’s jazz and swing music is enough to have audiences leave Goodman Theatre’s season opener with a smile.

BRi Sudia (Ruth) l and Lauren Molina (Eileen) and cast in 'Wonderful Town' at Goodman Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren
BRi Sudia (Ruth) l and Lauren Molina (Eileen) and cast in ‘Wonderful Town’ at Goodman Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren

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Chekhov’s ‘Uncle Vanya’ converted to a conversation piece

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In Lookingglass Theatre’s show bill, Aaron Posner explains that ‘Life Sucks” is his updated version of Anton Chekhov’s ‘Uncle Vanya.’

Eddie Jemison, Barbara Robertson, Jim Ortlieb and Chaon Cross in 'Life Sucks' at Lookingglass Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren
Eddie Jemison, Barbara Robertson, Jim Ortlieb and Chaon Cross in ‘Life Sucks’ at Lookingglass Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren

Chekhov’s classic tale, published in 1897 and premiered in 1899, is about life on a rural estate where inhabitants work hard but are bored and their thoughts are a mix of wishes and woes.

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‘Julius Caesar’ zooms along in shortened version

RECOMMENDED

Writers Theatre’s production of ‘Julius Caesar’ begs the question – what do you want to take away from Shakespeare’s play about politics and power.

Kareem Bandealy (Brutus) l, and Scott Parkinson (Cassius) r. in Julius Caesar at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Kareem Bandealy (Brutus) l, and Scott Parkinson (Cassius) r. in Julius Caesar at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

If you want an overpowering sense that assassination of a powerful figure such as Julius Caesar could only call forth chaos whether in Rome or, more broadly, the world, then you will appreciate the WT’s technologically strong visual and sound effects.

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Theater: Fall shows to put on the calendar

'Wonderful Life ' revival comes to Goodman Theatre this fall
‘Wonderful Town ‘ revival comes to Goodman Theatre this fall

With more than 200 theater companies in Metropolitan Chicago there’s no lack of choices in all price ranges, genres and locations. Here is a small sampling of a half-dozen shows that will be in area theaters this fall. Of course you know that ‘Hamilton,’ the mega Tony-Award winning rap musical, opens Sept. 27. But it’s an open run so you might want to check availability later in the year or 2017.

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Review: ‘How to Succeed in Business’ is both dated and current

 

RECOMMENDED

To appreciate ‘How to Succeed in Business,’ now at Marriott Theatre, you have to go back in time to the 1950s when shirtwaist and little jacket dresses were in and large companies had a typing pool of secretaries who dreamed of marrying their boss.

Based on Shepherd Mead’s 1952 satirical book but adapted in 1961 into a Frank Loesser musical with book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, the show is dated. The boss is just as likely to be female.

The second part of Mead’s title is ‘The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune.” If you haven’t seen the 1967 movie starring Robert Morse, the book’s full title is a clue that the show reveals how some businesses hire and promote employees, back then and, horrors, even now.

Felicia Fields (Miss Jones), Ari Butler (J. Pierrepont Finch) and Terry Hamilton (J.B. Bigley) and company. Marriott Theatre photo
Felicia Fields (Miss Jones), Ari Butler (J. Pierrepont Finch) and Terry Hamilton (J.B. Bigley) and company. Marriott Theatre photo

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Review: High energy ‘Kinky Boots’ still delivers ‘just be’ message

'Kinky Boots' stars Adam Kaplan, left and J. Harrison Ghee, right at Broadway in Chicago production
‘Kinky Boots’ stars Adam Kaplan, left and J. Harrison Ghee, right at Broadway in Chicago production

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

‘Kinky Boots,’ a high-kicking, Tony Award winning musical by Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper, is back in Chicago for only a week. And it’s back better than ever.

As Charlie Price of Price and Son, a failing Northhampton, England men’s shoe company, Adam Kaplan is very convincing as a son who does not want to work in the family business. He moves to London with fiancé Nicola, beautifully sung and interpreted by Broadway and film actress Ellen Marlow. There, Charlie tries to help drag-queen/cabaret star Lola who was being bothered by thugs.

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Review: “Life is a banquet” with Nancy Hays as Mame

From left: Nic Fantl (Beauregard), Nancy Hays (Mame), Alexander Wu (Ito), Alicia Berneche (Agnes Gooch) and Zachary Scott Fewkes (Patrick). Phot Mona Luan
From left: Nic Fantl (Beauregard), Nancy Hays (Mame), Alexander Wu (Ito), Alicia Berneche (Agnes Gooch) and Zachary Scott Fewkes (Patrick). Photo Mona Luan

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Light Opera Works’ “Mame” moves from one terrific scene to the next with never a let-up of charm, clever dialogue or fun.

The musical opens in New York with a terrific Roaring 20s party that begs the question of how can it hold on to such a high note. Well, it is beautifully choreographed by Clayton Cross and  insightfully directed by Rudy Hogenmiller.

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Upcoming: Two spectacular free events at Millennium Park in September

On Sept. 9, “Stars of Lyric Opera at Milllennium Park” showcases arias from Carmen, Eugene Onegin, The Magic Flute and Lucia di Lammermoor for a taste of the Lyric Opera’s 2016-17 season plus other operatic numbers by Mozart, Verdi, Gounod, Tchaikovsky and Wagner.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Five days later, on Sept. 14, the “Third Annual Fifth Star Awards” honors blues musician Buddy Guy, The Second City improv theater, actress/Black Ensemble Theater founder Jackie Taylor, photographer Victor Skrebneski and National Museum of Mexican Art founder Carlos Tortolero.

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