‘Macbeth’

(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)

RECOMMENDED

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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It is not a game when a real throne is at stake

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “Mary Stuart” stands regally tall. It has superb casting, direction, costumes and a simple but clever set design by Andromache Chalfant that complements the action.

Kellie Overbey (Queen Elizabeth I) with her lords and advisors (from left Andrew Chown, Tim Decker, Kevin Gudahi, Robert Jason Jackson, David Studwell and Michael Joseph Mitchell. Photos by Michael Brosilow
Kellie Overbey (Queen Elizabeth I) with her lords and advisors (from left Andrew Chown, Tim Decker, Kevin Gudahi, Robert Jason Jackson, David Studwell and Michael Joseph Mitchell. Photo by Michael Brosilow

What is on the CST stage now  is the powerful, new version of Friedrich Schiller’s “Mary Stuart” written in 1800 that has been reworked by playwright Peter Oswald in 2005.

Schiller had written a five-act, multi scene play that portrayed Mary, Queen of Scots’ last days before ordered to be beheaded by her half-sister (and cousin), Elizabeth I, Queen of England.

Premiered in Germany in 1800, Schiller’s play was turned into an opera in 1835 by Gaetano Donzetti titled “Maria Stuarda.”

Oswald has pulled together its personalities, motivations, politics, Catholicism versus Protestantism, conspiracies, sex, feminism and royal succession into a “Game of Thrones” style, two-act, multi-scene drama.

The focal point is what could take place if the two queens faced each other before Elizabeth signed Mary’s beheading order.

Kellie Overbey (Elizabeth I) l, listens as K.K. Moggie (Mary Queen of Scots) pleas to be released. Liz Lauren photo
Kellie Overbey (Elizabeth I) l, listens as K.K. Moggie (Mary Queen of Scots) pleas to be released. Liz Lauren photo

Mary, who sought refuge with Elizabeth after Scotland had become increasingly hostile, had been imprisoned by her ruling relative in Fotheringhay Castle and charged with conspiracy to assassinate said relation.

Astutely directed by Jenn Thompson, the motivations of the two royals and the politics that surrounded them make for an exciting two and a half hours even though the ending is known.

The role of Elizabeth, taken on by Kellie Overbey, is arguably harder because she is not portrayed in a positive light. She appears somewhat stiff and haughty. And even though encouraged to marry to beget an heir, she is not interested because she doesn’t want her consort or another ruling family to take control.

In contrast, K.K. Moggie can let loose as Mary Stuart, a woman who has already married, produced what ironically would be the heir to the English throne, James I, and appears kindhearted.

The people around them include Kevin Gudahl as Sir Amias Paulet, a knight who guards Mary but is sympathetic to her plight, Mary’s former nurse Hanna Kennedy, nicely acted by Barbara Robertson, Mortimer, Paulet’s nephew played by Andrew Chown as a secretly converted Catholic who wants Mary to escape and his friend, O’Kelly, played by Kai Alexander Ealy.

Kevin Gudahl (Paulet) and Andrew Chown (nephew Mortimor) guard K.K. Moggie (Mary Stuart). Michael Brosilow photo
Kevin Gudahl (Paulet) and Andrew Chown (nephew Mortimer) guard K.K. Moggie (Mary Stuart). Michael Brosilow photo

On Elizabeth’s side are Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, portrayed by Tim Decker as an ambitious schemer who tries to work both sides of the royal debate, Lord Burleigh, the High Treasurer depicted by David Studwell, Robert Jason Jackson who is George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbuty, an advisor to Queen Elizabeth who cautions restraint instead of beheading and

Because the French are interested in a royal merger, there is Patrick Clear as French Ambassador Count Aubespine and Michael Joseph Mitchell as French Envoy County Bellievre and also Secretary of State William Davison.

Succession is important to the British throne so audiences should take a look at the program’s Playgoer’s Guide for its “Cliff” type notes and chart to better understand who descended from whom.

DETAILS:  “Mary Stuart” is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s, Courtyard Theater at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave. through April 15. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes. For tickets and other information call (312) 595-5600 and visit Chicago Shakes.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows, visit TheatreInChicago.

Kiss and Hamilton and Shakespeare, really?

OK, so a famous rock and roll group, a mega-hit musical and a play that has inspired musicals and operas may or may not appeal to different audiences. But they all are Chicago performance news.

 

Romeo and Juliet reenact their love story in Chicago parks

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is back in Chicago parks this summer with free ;performances. Chicago Shakespeare photo
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is back in Chicago parks this summer with free ;performances. Chicago Shakespeare photo productions

 

The internationally renowned Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is returning for a sixth year to put on a free show in Chicago’s city parks. This year, the production is a 75 minute version of “Romeo and Juliet,” William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy of two young lovers from feuding families.

Starting off at the just completed Polk Bros Park at the entrance to Navy Pier, performances will be at 7 p.m. July 26-28.. From there it will move to 17 Chicago neighborhoods through Aug. 27, 2017.

Shakespeare in the Parks has been the basis for 1,300 free Chicago ark District’s “Night Out in the Parks” summer events.

The free Shakespeare shows is possible through a partnership of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Boeing and BMO Harris Bank.

For a list of parks and dates visit Chicagoshakes.

 

Hamilton cast news

Hamilton Company at Private Bank Theatre Photo by Joan Marcus
Hamilton Company at Private Bank Theatre Photo by Joan Marcus

“Memphis Tony nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Montego Glover will be taking the part of Angelica Schuyler in the Chicago company of “Hamilton” in early September, according to producer Jeffrey Seller.  In addition, Broadway cast member Gregory Treco is moving to the Chicago company to play Aaron Burr Sept. 8.

“Hamilton,” the mujlti-Tony Award winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is at The PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago.  A touring company will open in LA at at the Pantages Theatre Aug. 8, 2017.

Historian Ron Chernow’s “Alexander Hamilton” a biography about the West Indies immigrant who instrumental in the Revolutionary War and became the first US Secretary of the Treasury.

For information visit Hamilton.

 

KISS is coming

Aurora’s RiverEdge Park hosts 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of fame Kiss for a spectacular “Shout it Out Loud” concert. 8 p.m. Aug. 20, 2017.

General admission is $70. A VIP Meet and Greet packageof perks is $1,250 and a less expensive VIP package is $325 (fees extra).

RiverEdge Park is at 360 N. Broadway, Aurora. For tickets and other information call (630) 896-6666 and visit RiverEdgeAurora.

 

 

Ethel becomes Juliet when Shakespeare falls in love

RECOMMENDED

Try saying ‘Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter’ as the name of a play by William Shakespeare.

After hearing that phrase in ‘Shakespeare in Love’ at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and thinking “you’ve got to be kidding,” the reason for the nutty title makes sense if willing to accept that the bard started out like an embryonic chick breaking through its eggshell rather than a fully developed hen ready to produce offspring.

Marlowe (Michael Perez) works with a frustrated Will Shakespeare (Nick Rehberger) in 'Shakespeare in Love' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, now through June 11, 2017. Photo by Liz Lauren.
Marlowe (Michael Perez) works with a frustrated Will Shakespeare (Nick Rehberger) in ‘Shakespeare in Love’ at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, now through June 11, 2017. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall from Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s screenplay of the same title, ‘Shakespeare in Love’ starts with a young, struggling but talented Will Shakespeare.

He’s under pressure to hand over a new play to two different sponsors but is unable to go beyond a beginning phrase and a working title with “Ethel” as the heroine.

In the witty minds of Norman and Stoppard, Will needs help from friends, foes and rivals to replace Ethel and pirates with better protagonists.

What develops is the play that eventually becomes his famed ‘Romeo and Juliet’ tragedy and also the germ of an idea that leads to the ‘Twelfth Night’ comedy.

Along the way, expertly guided by Director Rachel Rockwell and with spot-on portrayals from a talented cast, the Chicago Shakespeare version provides fascinating insight into the precarious profession of play writing and production,  men-only acting companies and the lack of women’s rights in the sixteenth century England of Queen Elizabeth I.

Kate McGonigle is delightful as Shakespeare’s muse, Viola de Lesseps. She dresses as a boy to be Romeo in his new play, but unmasked, she is the inspiration for his Juliet. Viola is also the name of the heroine disguised as a male in  ‘Twelfth Night.’

Nick Rehberger successfully depicts a somewhat bumbling, young, penniless Will Shakespeare who falls in love with Viola. He becomes so tongue tied talking to her he needs descriptive poetic phrases from his friend, playwright Kit Marlowe, well interpreted by Michael Perez.

Part of the fun of the play is that the characters, from theater owners and acting company managers to actors and playwrights, were real people back in Shakespeare’s time.

Viola (Kate McGonicale) dances with the uninvited Will (Nick Rehberger) at a ball held by her father. Photo by Liz Lauren.
Viola (Kate McGonicale) dances with the uninvited Will (Nick Rehberger) at a ball held by her father. Photo by Liz Lauren.

However, the play’s  message turns out to be that the Romeo-style Will and Juliet-style Viola don’t turn to suicide just because their romance can’t lead to a happily-ever-after ending.

Viola has been pledged to a titled gentleman who wants her family’s money to establish plantations in Virginia so she has to leave England with him. Will is already married although he says they are separated.

Of course Chicago Shakespeare’s physical theater complemented by Scott Davis’ scenic design adds the right historic setting, but Susan E. Mickey’s wonderful period costumes are important to set the characters into their station in English life.

Details: ‘Shakespeare in Love’ is at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago,  now through June 11, 2017.  For tickets and other information call (312) 595-5600 and visit Chicago Shakes.

 

 

 

‘Love’s Labor’ becomes lost in translation

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

A parody of William Shakespeare is clever when performed by Second City or by another theater when advertised as a take-off by one of Chicago’s many production companies.

Rosaline (Laura Rook) and Berowne (Nate Burger) are attracted to each other. Others are Longaville (Madison Niederhauser), Dumaine (Juliam Hester), King of Navarre (John Tufts) and Princess of France (Jennie Greenberry) in 'Love's Labor Lost' at Chicago sheakespeare Theater. Photo by Liz Lauren
Rosaline (Laura Rook) and Berowne (Nate Burger) are attracted to each other. Others are Longaville (Madison Niederhauser), Dumaine (Julian Hester), King of Navarre (John Tufts) and Princess of France (Jennie Greenberry) in ‘Love’s Labor Lost’ at Chicago Sheakespeare Theater. Photo by Liz Lauren

But it was a surprise when opening night of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s ‘Love’s Labor’s Lost,’ an early Shakespeare comedy, lines were intentionally overly emoted and humorous characters became caricatures.

Written in the 1590’s, CST’s version is nicely placed in the 18th century with a romantic, beautiful set by scenic designer Kevin Depinet and gorgeous costumes by Christina Poddubiuk.

There’s no question that the play, an ironic exposure of good intentions foiled by man’s innate nature, is a comedy.

Ferdinand, King of Navarre (John Tufts), and his three companions, Lords Berowne (Nate Burger) , Dumaine (Julian Hester), and Longaville (Madison Niederhauser), pledge to three years of study and fasting without the company of women. The King subsequently decrees that women will not be allowed within a mile of the court.

Complicating matters is a subplot of Spaniard Don Adriano de Armado (Allan Gilmore) betraying an affair between local lad Costard (Alex Goodrich) and local wench Jaquenetta (Maggie Portman). Adriano also likes her and discusses it with his page, Moth (Aaron Lamm).

Then the Princess of France (Jennie Greenberry) and her ladies, Maria (Jennifer Latimore), Katherine (Taylor Blim) and Rosaline (Laura Rook) arrive to speak with the King but they have to camp outside the court.

Of course, since this is a Shakespearean comedy, the king and his lords fall for the Princess and her ladies and messages are given to the wrong people.

Taking a playful approach similar to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ a comedy also written in the 1590’s, should work. The problem, at least for fans of Shakespeare’s sophisticate language,  is when actors’ overblown actions distract from clever dialogue.

Details: ‘Love’s Labor’s Lost,’ directed by Marti Maraden, is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave. on Chicago’s Navy Pier, now through March 26, 2017. For tickets and other information call (312) 595-5600 and visit Chicago Shakes.

 

Historically important story still relevant

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

‘The Book of Joseph’ now at Chicago Shakespeare Theater through March 5, 2017, is scary.   That’s not in a ghostly sense, but in the way past signs seem to repeat themselves.

JIn America oseph Hollander (Sean Fortunato) receives letters from his family in Poland who would not leave when they could because they thought they were safe. L to R Doola (Patricia Lavery), Lusia (Mikey Gray), Genka (Brenann Stacker) Gerta (Glynis Bell), Salo (Ron E. Rains) and Maria (Amy J. Carle). Photo by Liz Lauren
In America, Joseph Hollander (Sean Fortunato) receives letters from his family in Poland who would not leave when they could because they thought they were safe. L to R Dola (Patricia Lavery), Lusia (Mikey Gray), Genka (Brenann Stacker) Gerta (Glynis Bell), Salo (Ron E. Rains) and Maria (Amy J. Carle).
Photo by Liz Lauren

The play, a world premiere by Karen Hartman developed with Creative Producer Rick Boynton, relates the Hollander family’s horrific experiences during World War II and then continues the story in current times in the United States.

The first half of the play is based on letters that Joseph Hollander, brilliantly portrayed by Sean Fortunato, received and saved from his large family in Krakow, Poland.

His mother, sisters and spouses plus two nieces were not willing to leave when Joseph got them all the needed papers and visas. A wealthy, well-traveled lawyer who saw what was happening, Joseph leaves for Portugal with wife Felicja Hollander (Gail Shapiro) and  a ward, the 14-year-old son of a friend. Entry to Portugal was denied so they were taken to the US and Ellis Island.

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Midwest and World premieres in early 2017

UPCOMING SHOWS

When those New Year resolutions include taking advantage of the Chicago area’s superb theater scene, consider getting tickets to a show that is a World or Chicago Premiere.

Theatre Wit gives a clever behind-the-curtain glimpse of a play rehearsal. Theatre Wit Photo
Theatre Wit gives a clever behind-the-curtain glimpse of a play rehearsal. Theatre Wit Photo

The productions listed here are at six venues that typically do at least one new production a year and often host productions by other theater companies.

Thus they can have more than one show scheduled each month. So, while checking out the suggestions here also look at the venue’s season.

Theater seasons don’t usually coincide with a calendar year. The premieres mentioned here open by the end of March 2017.

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‘King Charles III’ is an amazing theatrical experience

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

In ‘King Charles III,’ a comic-tragic “future history” play, author Mike Bartlett brilliantly tackles Britain’s succession to the throne when 90-year-old Elizabeth II dies. His “what if” takes place within the perfect background of Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater, a Globe and Swan Theatre-like setting.

Robert Bathurst at Parliament Photo by Liz Lauren
Robert Bathurst as Charles at Parliament
Photo by Liz Lauren

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