Curtis Bannister wows in ‘The Pajama Game’

 

as Brenda, Elizabeth Telford as Babe, Sierra Schnack as Poopsie and Maggie Malaney as Mae in Pajama Game. (Photo by Brett Beiner)
(left to right) Aalon Smith as Brenda, Elizabeth Telford as Babe, Sierra Schnack as Poopsie and Maggie Malaney as Mae in Pajama Game. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

3 stars

If you don’t go see The Pajama Game at The Theatre at the Center for any other reason, go to hear the booming tenor voice of the hunky lead, Curtis Bannister.

The actor who has appeared on NBC’s Chicago Fire, plays Sid Sorokin, the “Chicago guy” and newly hired superintendent at Sleep Tite, a pajama factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The factory is a hotbed of union activity and sexual innuendo – both surprising themes for a musical that premiered in the mid-1950s.

The musical started as a 1953 novel, 7 ½ Cents by Richard Bissell based on his experience working in his family pajama factory in Dubuque, Iowa.

Opening to rave reviews on Broadway in 1954 with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, the Tony Award-winning show inspired the 1957 film starring Doris Day. You’ll recognize songs such as “Steam Heat,” “Hey There (You with the Stars in Your Eyes)” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.”

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Chicago revolution never materializes

 

L-R: Brandon Janssen, Jesus Nunez, Peyton Smith, Danielle Fraser, Loki D. Wolf. (Photo provided by Revolution Chicago)
L-R: Brandon Janssen, Jesus Nunez, Peyton Smith, Danielle Fraser, Loki D. Wolf. (Photo provided by Revolution Chicago)

1 star

The show is poorly conceived and executed.

It purports to tell the story of the rise of “House Music” but does not deliver what it promises.

DETAILS: “Revolution Chicago” is at Stage 773 through Sept. 29, 2019. For information call (773) 327-5252 or visit revolutionchi.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ blends fun and fantasy

 

Cast of Peter and the Starcatcher at Citadel Theatre ( Photo by North Shore Camera Club)
Cast of Peter and the Starcatcher at Citadel Theatre ( Photo by North Shore Camera Club)

2 1/2 stars

It’s a show about finding your way home, no matter how lost you are. Now playing at The Citadel Theatre, “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a fantasy/comedy that one might call a prequel to the beloved story of Peter Pan. It imagines how Peter might have become one of the lost boys of Neverland.

The show, a winner of five Tony Awards, comes from the pen of Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys,” “The Adams Family,” The Cher Show”)

Under the fine direction of Jeremy Aluma, “Peter and the Starcatcher ncludes an ambitious cast of 17, all playing multiple roles. The show is filled with music, dancing and non-stop action plus lots of humor and antics that keep the audience laughing.

Stand outs include the lovely Mariah Copeland as Molly Aster who captures the heart of Peter and Jayson Lee as Boy/Peter who makes the audience see the longing in his innocent soul.

Adrian Danzig is a hoot as pirate Black Stache who becomes Captain Hook in Peter Pan and Rebecca Fletcher is excellent as the nanny to Molly, Mrs. Bumbrake.

Kudos to scenic designer Eric Luchen who has created a fascinating set and to director Aluma who makes great use of the intimate Citadel stage by incorporating the seats and doorways to expand the stage.

The problem with the show is the script which has too much madcap and mayhem going on. It was challenging to follow and some of the English accents were difficult to understand.

DETAILS: “Peter and the Starcatcher” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 Waukegan Rd.,  Lake Forest, through Sept. 29, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission.  For tickets and other information, visit Citadeltheatre.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

A delicate performance with a powerful message

‘The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon’

 

Rebeca Aleman and Ramon Camin in Delicate Tears. (Photo by Stephanie Rodriguez)
Rebeca Aleman and Ramon Camin in Delicate Tears. (Photo by Stephanie Rodriguez)

4 stars

Paulina finds herself barely able to speak after three months in a coma, being cared for by her good friend and co-worker, Rodrigo.

Over time she begins to recover her memory, revealing her former life and the events that have brought her to this point.

She and Rodrigo are journalists in Venezuela where her search for truth and her advocacy for justice have resulted in tragedy and a total upheaval of her life.

The action centers around Paulina’s recuperation but through her recollections we are slowly and systematically exposed to political and social realities that provide a deeper context.

Inspired by true events “The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon” onstage at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theater is written by playwright/actress Rebeca Aleman (Paulina) which partially explains the extremely high caliber of her performance.

She obviously has internalized this material, understands it deeply and brilliantly interprets the character’s physical limitations.

Likewise as the play’s translator Ramon Camin (Rodrigo) provides a sensitive portrayal, no doubt informed by this intimate relationship to the material which is presented by the Water People Theater as part of the 3rd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival.

The play was originally written in Spanish and performed here in English, expertly directed by Iraida Tapias who guided the delicate unraveling of the mystery surrounding Paulina’s condition.

The simple set design by Manuel Jose Diaz effectively incorporates a large window as a projection screen providing flashbacks and access to more intimate musings.

I learned in the post production discussion that the cast  began their rehearsals in their native language in order to establish their emotional connection then switched to English to prepare for the festival performance.

For Spanish speaking theater-goers the stage is equipped with two monitors displaying the translation.

DETAILS: “The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon”is  at the Steppenwolf 1700 Theater, 1700 N. Halsted St., Chicago, through Oct. 13, 2019. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and information call (312) 335-1650. or visit Steppenwolf/Lookout.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

An unusual motherhood challenge

 

Kate Fry, Grace Smith, Casey Morris in Mother of the Maid at Northlight Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow.)
Kate Fry, Grace Smith, Casey Morris in Mother of the Maid at Northlight Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow.)

‘Mother of the Maid’

2 1/2 stars

The story of Joan of Arc, spelled in her home country of France as Jeanne d’Arc and also called “The Maid of d’Orléans,” has inspired numerous sculptures, musical works, books and films. Among the best plays is George Bernard Shaw’s classic “Saint Joan” which premiered in 1923, three years after the Roman Catholic Church canonized her.

A age 19, she was burned at the stake for heresy stake in 1431 after continuing to claim visions of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (and other saints). Her successes in leading French troops against the English during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War had worried powerful people in the government and church so when captured by a French faction friendly to the English she was put on trial by Pierre Cauchon, a pro-English bishop.

What playwright Jane Anderson has done in “Mother of the Maid,” now playing at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, is zoom in on Joan’s mother, Isabelle Romée. Born in a peasant family of northeastern France, Joan’s name comes from her father, Jacques d’Arc.

The idea of examining how her family reacted to her visions and particularly how her mother worried  and coped with unusual challenges  may arguably form the basis of a fine play.

However, the work on stage at Northlight has contrived dialogue infused with current language trends and moves from one stilted scene to another.

DETAILS: “The Mother of the Maid” is at Northlight Theatre in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, through Oct. 20, 2019. Running time: about 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 676-6300 or visit Northlight.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Overcoming a speech impediment to prove worthiness

The King’s Speech

Myrtle (Elizabeth Ledo) and Lionel Logue (James Frain), Left, and Elizabeth (Rebecca Night) and Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) in Chicago Shakespeare’s The King’s Speech. (Photo by Liz Lauren.)
Myrtle (Elizabeth Ledo) and Lionel Logue (James Frain), Left, and Elizabeth (Rebecca Night) and Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) in Chicago Shakespeare’s The King’s Speech. (Photo by Liz Lauren.)

4 stars

Although “The King’s Speech” playwright David Seidler’s script about how King George VI overcame his stutter while ascending to the British throne was a 2010 Oscar-winning movie, it started life as a play after Seidler researched the process in the 1970’s.

Seidler had learned that the man who would be king, known as Bertie to family and close friends, worked with Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, a man who had come with his wife to London with hopes of finding an acting job.

The information revealed in the script came from Lionel’s son, Valentine Logue. But Queen Elizabeth, the King’sGeorge’s wife, didn’t want the play produced until after she died.

Work on the script began again in 2005, a few years after the Queen Mother died in 2002. However, it became the highly acclaimed Academy-Award winner Best Picture of the Year and also Best Director, Best Actor and won Seidler the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Two years later the playwright turned his movie script back into a play that  premiered in Surry, England in 2012, toured the UK and had it’s London premier in the West End.Read More

Members of an Exclusive Club

 

Past presidents discuss events and each other in American Blues Theater's 'Five Presidents.' (Photo courtesy of American Blues Theater.)
Past presidents discuss events and each other in American Blues Theater’s ‘Five Presidents.’ (Photo courtesy of American Blues Theater.)

‘Five Presidents’

3 stars

Rick Cleveland’s fictionalized docudrama, which is generously laced with comic zingers and one-liners that lighten the subject, imagines a 90-minute get-together between past presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and the current “Leader of the Free World”, Bill Clinton.

The year is 1994 and the setting is a gathering room in the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA, tastefully designed by Grant Sabin and nicely lit by Alexander Ridgers.

The occasion for this meeting is the funeral of President Richard Nixon. Even though these five men would’ve greeted each other on this occasion, it’s unlikely that they spent an hour and a half talking together about so many different topics.

For most of the play, the five living members of this exclusive club banter about each other’s faults and failings and recite  the various foreign and domestic policies that each President passed while in office.

The one plot point that runs throughout the play is that President Ford has decided he no longer wants to deliver his portion of Nixon’s eulogy but the other four try to convince him otherwise.

President Regan keeps offering to come to the rescue by volunteering to speak extemporaneously. However, the other men are aware that Reagan is in the onset of Alzheimer’s and understand how disastrous his eulogy might be.

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Exceptional art fills Regenstein Center

Joseph Pozycinski has been bringing fine glass sculptures to ACE for more than 25 years. (J Jacobs photo)
Joseph Pozycinski has been bringing fine glass sculptures to ACE for more than 25 years. (J Jacobs photo)

Expect to see really good ceramics, fiber art, metal work, wood working, jewelry and other crafted items when walking through the Regenstein Center at the Chicago Botanic Garden this weekend. But also, expect the unexpected.

While browsing the American Craft Exposition during a Thursday preview party that benefited mental health services at NorthShore University Health System, an attractive wall piece that looked as if it could have been painted clay turned out to be wood.

Marquette, MI artist Joseph Graci's wall piece is actually wood. (J Jacobs photo)
Marquette, MI artist Joseph Graci’s wall piece is actually wood. (J Jacobs photo)

There was also a charming floral wall arrangement that might have been aluminum or steel but was pewter and works that appeared to be oils and water colors were actually fine stitchery.

But it’s not all serious. A booth of unusual and fun objects turned out to be jewelry.

Middlebury, VT artist Danielle Gori-Montanellimakes unusual jewelry. (J Jacobs photo)
Middlebury, VT artist Danielle Gori-Montanellimakes unusual jewelry. (J Jacobs photo)

Just don’t expect a visit to ACE, as it is known in the art show world, to be a quick walk through.

A highly competitive, juried show of nearly 150 artisans, ACE booths stretch from a tent at the north end of the Regenstein Center through the building to the Greenhouses at the south end and into rooms and hallways on either side.

St. Jospeph, MI artist Rebecca Hungerford's flowers are pewter. (J Jacobs photo
St. Jospeph, MI artist Rebecca Hungerford’s flowers are pewter. (J Jacobs photo

Visitors will likely see old favorites but many crafters, such as St. Joseph, MI artist Rebecca Hungerford who works in peweter and Marquette, MI artist Joseph Graci who works with wood, are first timers and good show addiions.

However, as glass worker Joseph Pozycinski of Pozycinski Studios in Sparta, Missouri  said, pointing to its high quality.. “I’ve been coming over 25 years. It’s a very good show.”

A former graphic artist, John Stanicek. Aura, IL, now translates his ideas into ceramic sculptures. ( J Jacobs photo)
A former graphic artist, John Stanicek. Aura, IL, now translates his ideas into ceramic sculptures. ( J Jacobs photo)

Tip: Don’t neglect the side rooms indicated to by signs that say More Art. The works there are just as good as what is seen on the main walkways.

DETAILS: The American Craft Exposition is at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., just east of Edens Expressway, Glencoe, IL, through Sept. 22, 2019.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is by three-day passes, $18 for Garden members and $20 non-members. A three-day pass with one-day parking is $35. General admission to the Chicago Botanic Garden is free but parting costs $25 weekdays and $30 Saturday and Sunday.

For tickets and more information visit American Craft Expo or Chicago Botanic.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

‘Oslo’ reveals story behind groundbreaking peace accords

 

L to R Norwegians Jan Egeland (Bernard Balbot) .Johan Jørgen Holst (David Parkes), Mona Juul (Bri Sudia) and Terje Rød-Larsen (Scott Parkinson), strategize how to keep secret the negotiations they are helping to facilitate. (Brett Beiner photography)
L to R Norwegians Jan Egeland (Bernard Balbot) .Johan Jørgen Holst (David Parkes), Mona Juul (Bri Sudia) and Terje Rød-Larsen (Scott Parkinson), strategize how to keep secret the negotiations they are helping to facilitate. (Brett Beiner photography)

4 stars

TV viewers saw Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shake hands with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat in 1993. The momentous event took place on the White House lawn in Washington D.C. But what led to that famous meeting were the previous, mostly off-the record, mostly unofficial negotiations taking place earlier that year in Oslo, Norway.

What “Oslo,” the multi-award-winning play by J. T. Rogers does is take audiences  into the apartment of husband-wife Mona Juul, a diplomat, and Terje Rod Larsen, a university institute’s social scientist, who together initiated the process, and into Juul’s phone conversations with Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorgen Holst and Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Egeland.

Through somewhat fictionalized conversations of actual meetings, Rogers builds suspense as the process moves from one level to the next with the action continuing in behind-the scenes discussions at an out-of-the public eye Norwegian manor.

 

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‘Dana H’

Deirdre O'Connell as Dana H at Goodman Theatre. (Photo by Craig Schwartz)
Deirdre O’Connell as Dana H at Goodman Theatre. (Photo by Craig Schwartz)

3 ½ stars

Someone on my train ride home asked if I enjoyed the show.  After all, some theater is for entertainment. But, this is not a show for a fun evening out.

Go because it is an eye-opener to some of the dictates of not known-to-everyone organizations or societies out there. Go because you will learn even more than probably known now about injustice from people who are supposed to protect you and care about you.

Go also because the play is well acted within a very unusual format.

The entire play takes place in a motel room. Although it is a short, less than 90-minute production, you feel as if you lived through Dana’s incomparable five months of captivity and her pre-and post hostage weeks.

Dana, exquisitely portrayed by Deirdre O’Connell, is Dana Higginbotham, a former psych ward chaplain. She is being interviewed by Steve Cosson on her horrifying experience. You hear, but don’t see, Cosson.

The woman heard is the actual Dana whose interviews were recorded at the request of her son, Lucas Hnath, the award winning playwright of “A Doll’s House Part 2” and “The Christians.”

Hnath has reconstructed the interviews into a “docudrama” for the stage with O’Connell lip-syncing the recorded words and reacting to the experience the way  ‘Dana did.

To emphasize the motel room place, actress Molly Bunder enters and cleans the room accompanied by strobe-lit, fast-forwarding, blurred recorded sounds.

Superbly directed by Les Waters, the experience of sitting inside a theater where everything from valet parking and “L” noise is left behind and that familiar world is replaced by a chilling, but actual world of unthinkable violence and betrayal is so disturbing it is likely to change you.

DETAILS: ‘”Dana H.” is a co-production with Center Theatre Group at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St, Chicago, through Oct. 6, 2019. Running time: Under 90 minutes. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre.

(The show is not appropriate for ages under 16)

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago