Take a town with a water system that is polluted and put it into a play.
Or take a town or company where the powers that be would rather cover-up a health hazard than pay for a costly fix.
Or take a media outlet that enjoys being in the good graces of a powerful politician so it will publicize fake information rather than the truth.
Flint, Michigan may come to mind, or a nuclear facility worthy of a movie, or name a media outlet you love to hate. Then go see ‘An Enemy of the People,’ written by Henrik Ibsen in 1882 and now playing at Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
Adapted and directed by Robert Falls who points out in an online video that the choice is in “response to where the country may be headed,” and that its themes of corruption and environmental disaster make the play “contemporary,” the production ought to be playing all year but will only be at Goodman through April 15, 2019.
Well cast, Philip Earl Johnson brilliantly portrays Thomas Stockmann as a doctor worried about the illnesses he has seen as medical officer of the new Municipal Baths and as an idealist willing to take on townspeople and officials including his elder brother, Peter Stockmann. Peter, the town’s mayor and Thomas’ Baths boss, is depicted perfectly by Scott Jaeck
Lanise Antoine Shelley handles the role of Thomas’ pregnant, second wife Katherine with grace and restraint. Rebecca Hurd is very believable as Thomas’ adult daughter Petra who teaches school and follows her father’s ideals.
David Darlow is Katherine’s cantankerous, sly father Morten “the Badger,” Kiil, the wealthy owner of a tannery that is polluting the water.
Moving through the plot are Editor Hovstad (Aubrey Deeker Hernandez) of “The Peoples’ Messenger,” Asst. Editor Billing (Jesse Bhamrah) and Aslaksen (Allen Gilmore), a publisher and the paper’s printer. They are characters who profess one thing then change direction when so determined by political winds.
Clever staging puts the backs of the townspeople to the audience when Thomas tries to hold a meeting to explain scientific findings that declare the bath waters to be toxic. Playing the townspeople are Larry Neumann, Jr. (The Drunk), Carley Cornelius, Arya Daire, Guy Massey, Roderick Peeples and Dustin Whitehead.
Instead of winning friends to his side at the meeting, Thomas insults the townspeople calling them stupid and comparing them to dogs. Even though the opening night theater-goers understood that Thomas’ belittling speech wasn’t going to convince anyone in the town to change, the Goodman audience broke into applause when Thomas pointed out that stupid leaders were elected by stupid people.
Indeed, the play is filled with interesting insights such as “The public doesn’t want new ideas. They are perfectly happy with the old ones.
‘An Enemy of the People’ is at Goodman Theatre , 170 N Dearborn St., Chicago, now through April 15, 2018. Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes including one intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3800 and visit Goodman Theatre.
It will likely be hard for audiences of ‘Blind Date,’ now at Goodman Theatre, to not think about how current US President Donald Trump is dealing with Russia.
It is also interesting how the matter of spreading Soviet influence enters the conversation as the protagonists in the play, President Ronald Reagan and his USSR counterpart, Mikhaile Gorbachev who held the title USSR General Secretary of the Communist Party and also Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, meet to discuss nuclear armament colored by Soviet Union attempts to indoctrinate third world countries.
The play, written by Rogelio Martinez, also refers to how a nuclear war could be started by the accidental press of a button. Hmm. Hawaii’s mistake hadn’t even happened when this was written.
Martinez also stuck a few lines in for Gorbachev to comment on democracy, voting and the concept that voters are often less than intelligent.
The “date” in the title refers to the summit in Geneva when the two world leaders first met face to face. However, the audience doesn’t see Reagan and Gorbachev or their wives until the last moment of Act I.
The first act is all about Secretary of State George Shultz (Jim Ortlieb) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze (Steve Pickering) paving the way for the monumental get together. Their acting and portrayals are suburb.
Their discussions are as much a “dance” as what Reagan and Gorbachev will do later on. The planners have to set parameters and learn to trust each other.
Then there is Act II in which audiences see Rob Riley as President Ronald Reagan and William Dick as Mikhail Gorbachev. The two leaders present their views on nuclear weapons and defense but those summit discussions are colored by Reagan’s view of the world expressed through quotes from films he loved, acted in or characters he admired.
Audiences also meet their wives. Deanna Dunagan is outstanding as Nancy Reagan as is Mary Beth Fisher as Raisa Gorbachev.
The fun part is the sparing between the world leaders and also between the wives in their determination not to be one upped.
It’s also interesting and fun to watch Michael Milligan as Press Secretary Larry Speaks. Reagan warns that Speaks, a native Mississippian, can be as dangerous and wily as a catfish. The media, presented as similar to the current Washington press corps, emphasize Martinez’s observations on several levels that little has changed.
Gorbachev poo poos the idea of a free press explaining that with one paper, the public knows that what it prints are lies. “The people aren’t stupid,” he says.
The Russian leader goes on to say that with many more newspapers, the public wouldn’t know who to believe and what are lies.
Because this summit is supposed to be about nuclear capability, the other two characters are Torrey Hanson as Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and his counterpart, Gregory Linington as Vyacheslav Zaitsev.
The person arguably on stage the most when Reagan is also front and center is his biographer, Edmund Morris. Thomas J. Cox has the difficult job of portraying Morris, a person who has total access but is basically a fly on the wall.
Audiences may wonder at Morris’ constant query to Reagan about who he is. In fact, Morris had said in interviews after his book Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, came out in 1999, that he never felt he had full insight into Reagan the man. The book was also controversial because Morris wrote it as if it were from the standpoint of a fictional person who knew Reagan throughout his life.
This is a good show to either do some historical homework before going or arrive early enough to read the program which has excellent photos and good background on the meetings between Reagan and Gorbachev.
Directed by Robert Falls and thanks to the simple, effective set design by Riccardo Hernandez, ‘Blind Date’ moves seamlessly between the characters trying to set up the summit, the actions of the two world leaders, the concerns and behavior of their wives and the press conferences.
DETAILS: ‘Blind Date’ is at Goodman mTheatre, 170 N Dearborn Street Chicago, now through Feb. 25, 2018. Running time: 2 hrs, 30 minutes with one intermission. For other information and tickets call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre.
Even if you have seen Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” before at Goodman Theatre, the current production is a show not to be missed. It has aged like fine wine.
On its 40th anniversary, the Goodman production was perfect from Todd Rosenthal’s set, Keith Parkham’s lighting and Heidi Sue McMath’s costume design to appropriately scary, tear jerking and joyous scenes played by many “Christmas Carol” regulars.
Right from the start, you feel the holiday spirit while walking into the lobby and hearing carolers serenading from the balcony (at scattered performances).
The singers were terrific but opening night was even more special as it was filled with an audience that appreciated each scene, ghostly special effects and actors’ monologues with enthusiastic applause.
In his 10th year as Scrooge, Larry Yando was at his bah humbug best in the first third of the play and delightfully nutty with joy as a reformed Scrooge in the last third. In between you felt his gradual character change.
Molly Brennan, the Actors Gymnasium’s director of physical theater, was fun to watch as she managed her flying apparatus as Christmas Past with acrobatic ease. She guided Scrooge with empathy to his school yard and past employment at Mr. Fezziwig’s establishment.
In the Fezziwig scenes Kareem Bandealy, as Scrooge as a Young Man, believably battled with his character’s interest in money, choosing it rather than love.
Lisa Gaye Dixon once again portrayed Christmas Present with an appreciation of holiday abundance.
It was balanced with dart like precision when Dixon threw Scrooge’s bad attitude towards holiday giving back in his now drooping face.
Breon Arzeli was imposing as the deathly, towering figure of Christmas Future. Of course, by this time Scrooge is ready to do anything to make amends for his anti-humanity outlook.
He now understands what the Ghost of Jacob Marley, perfectly portrayed again by Joe Foust, said when admonishing him that humanity was his business, not the business of money changing.
He now cares about his clerk, Bob Cratchit, played with humor and tenderness by Ron E. Rains, and for Tiny Tim, portrayed by a girl for the first time here, fourth-grader Paris Strickland.
On another note, the live on stage music plus the singing and dancing bits really added to the show’s uplifting aura.
Adapted by Tom Creamer and directed by Henry Wishcamper, Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” is not just for youngsters. It really is a show for the entire family.
On opening night, the joy didn’t end with the first curtain call. Artistic Director Robert Falls, walked out, mike in hand, to bring on stage more than 40 past participants in Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol.”
By the way, some attendees tend to collect play programs. However, this edition of Goodman’s “On Stage” should be kept even if not a collector. It contains, history and important notes.
DETAILS: “A Christmas Carol” is at Goodman Theatre, 170 N Dearborn St, Chicago, through Dec. 31, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission.
For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3800 and visit Goodman Theatre.
Chicago’s gift bag of holiday shows has something for everyone from Scrooge’s dreams and dreaming of a white Christmas to Santa’s naughty and nice lists and his overgrown Elf.
‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,’ a Ken Ludwig’s Emerald City Theatre production, is at the Broadway Playhouse now through Dec. 31. The show is a a fun take on Santa’s list which mysteriously disappears and how it is recovered in time for his gift deliveries.At just 45 minutes long, the show is perfect for elementary age youngsters. The Broadway Playhouse is at Water Tower Place 175 E. Chestnut. For tickets and other information visit Broadway in Chicago Twas.
‘Scrooge And The Ghostly Spirits,’ is a new musical for the entire family based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Written by Douglas Post, it is at Citadel Theatre Nov. 17 through Dec. 23. Citadel is in a Lake Forest School property at 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest. For tickets and other information call (847) 735-8554 or visit Citadel Theatre.
‘A Christmas Carol,’ a beloved Goodman Theatre creative but traditional holiday retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic, goes from Nov. 18 through Dec. 31. Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St., For tickets call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre
(The non-ballet) ‘Nutcracker,’ a House Theatre production is at the Chopin Theatre. It does use dance and songs to tell the story. The show runs now through Dec. 30 at The Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division St. For tickets visit House Theatre.
Coming Thanksgiving week
‘White Christmas,’ Irving Berlin’s classic musical is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre Nov. 21 through Dec. 3. The Cadillac Palace is at 151 W. Randolph St. For tickets and other information visit Broadway In Chicago.
‘Q Brothers Christmas Carol,’ a very hip hop take on Dickens’ story is in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier, Nov. 21- Dec. 31. For tickets visit ChicagoShakes.
‘Elf: The Musical,’ based on the 2003 Will Ferrell movie, is at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd, Aurora, Nov. 22, 2017 through Jan. 7, 2018. For tickets and other information call (630) 896-6666 or visit Paramount Aurora.
‘The Christmas Schooner,’ a moving, true-story musical that has become a Chicago tradition is at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Nov. 24 through Dec. 31. For tickets and other information call (773) 325-1700 and visit Mercury Theater.
On stage from the beginning of December
‘The Nutcracker,’ The Joffrey’s re-imagined production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon is at the Auditorium Theatre Dec 1-30. The Auditorium Theatre is in Roosevelt University at 50 E. Congress Parkway at Michigan Avenue. For tickets visit Joffrey.
‘Tidings of Tap’ presented by the Chicago Tap Theatre is at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts at 3 p.m. Dec. 10, only. The venue is at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie. For tickets and other information visit Tap.
‘Peter Pan’ is a delightful Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) musical based on J.M. Barrie’s play. It will run at cahn auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston, Dec. 23, 2017 through Jan.1, 2018. For tickets call (847) 920-5360 or visit Music theater Works.
Imagine two very different families trying to pair up their children with not very successful results. That’s a traditional rom-com format you’d see on TV. But now imagine these families are a well-established Muslim family paired with new refuges from Iraq. And yes, it’s a comedy.
‘Yasmina’s Necklace,’ playing now at The Goodman Theatre, is about overcoming tragedy and moving on with your life in a new land with new opportunities and challenges.
What makes the play so compelling is that everyone can identify with this family situation no matter what their race, religion or ethnicity.
The show by Chicago playwright Rohina Malik is both funny as well as dramatic and thought-provoking, as the audience navigates the pain of both Yasmina and her father when settling in Chicago from Bagdad.
Yasmina uses her art talent to communicate the horrors of her past. The necklace, always around her neck, represents her love for the country she was forced to leave and will always be in her heart.
Potential suitor Sam recently changed his Arabic name to avoid Anti-Muslim bias and move up the career ladder. He’s also recovering from a bad divorce and is not interested in meeting anyone. But when he volunteers to support Yasmina with her non-profit organization helping other refuges, their relationship begins to warm.
Led by director Ann Filmer, actor Susaan Jamshidi as the vulnerable Yasmina is outstanding as her character moves from anger to acceptance to strength.
Michael Perez as Sam is also excellent as his character develops from someone who is conflicted about his identity to someone who stands proud of his traditions. Always in the background is a sense of fear and loss.
The set revolves around the very different apartments of the two families, one who is settled and well-off, and the other of newly arrived immigrants.
The play was scripted by Malik who was concerned about how Muslims are portrayed in the media and wanted to show them without stereotype. She has done a masterful job and the result is one powerful evening of theatre.
DETAILS: ‘Yasmina’s Necklace’ is in the Owen at The Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. through Nov.19, 2017. Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 443- 3800 and visit Goodman.
There is no question that Goodman Theatre has opened its 2017-18 season with a very special production of Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From The Bridge.’
How you feel about this production will depend on whether you are comfortable with an intense, minimalist concept as developed by Director Ivo Van Hove within a severe black box, or if you relate better to a story told on a stage with scenery and possibly video and other set accoutrements that establish time and place.
Set in an Italian American area near the Brooklyn Bridge in a 1950’s America that is not immigration-friendly (sound familiar?), the play is supposedly based on a true tragedy.
Its theme, a married man becoming so obsessed with a niece living with them that he will go to any lengths to ward off possible suitors, belongs in the Greek Tragedy genre.
Take away the wife’s illegal Italian family members who have come to live with them, and the story is still about a husband’s obsession.
Similar to a Greek play, the show opens with the sounds of a beautiful but foreboding chorus. However, it is not the chorus that explains the action but Alfieri, interpreted perfectly by Ezra Knight.
Alfieri is an attorney who notes that dissatisfaction and disagreements are supposed to be handled by a lawyer as a bridge that meets halfway between combatants.
When Eddie (Ian Bedford), a dock worker who tries to keep his niece, Catherine (Catherine Combs), first from taking a job, and then from going out with Rodolpho (Daniel Abeles), one of the two relatives who are staying with them, he learns from Alfieri that he can’t stop them from dating.
Eddie’s wife, Beatrice (Andrus Nichols) who can see what is happening tries to intervene but to no avail.
Eddie is told that the only action might be to report his wife’s cousins, Rodolpho and Marco (Brandon Espinoza) to immigration but he knows he will then become a pariah in the Italian community if he does so.
Low, ominous sounding background music plus the elimination of any intermission between the play’s two acts, heightens the feeling of doom.
DETAILS: “A View From The Bridge” is at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., now through Oct. 22, 2017. Running time : 2 hours. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-4800 and visit Goodman Theatre.
More tickets to Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, ‘Hamilton,’ will become available beginning at 10 a.m. Aug. 29, 2017, according to producer Jeffrey Seller.
Announced in conjunction with Broadway in Chicago, he noted that a 16 week block of tickets can be purchased from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The PrivateBank Theatre’s box office, 18 W. Monroe St., online at BroadwayinChicago and by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000.
The new block of tickets extends the run to April 29, 2018. The box office had been selling tickets only through Jan 7 of next year.
Tickets range in cost from $65 to $190. However, the online lottery for $10 seats will continue.
The lottery can be entered through a new app at HamiltonBroadway and at BroadwayinChicago. Access to the new lottery is 11 a.m. (Central Time) two days before the performance and through 9 a.m. the day before the performance.
The show is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. More on the musical can be found at “Hamilton is worth the hype.”
Jeff Equity Nominations
Check the list to see if a theater production you saw and liked made the Jefferson Committee’s equity nomination list. Nominations fall into 33 categories.
Shows had to be running between Aug.1, 2016 and July 31, 2017. The 49th Annual Equity Jeff Awards ceremony will be held Nov. 6 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace.
Drury Lane Productions took the most nominations at 19 followed by Paramount and Writers Theatres with 15, Goodman Theatre at 14, Porchlight Music Theatre with 13, Court Theatre at 11 and Marriott Theatre with 10.
Here is a list of nominees in the plays and musicals categories for the show, director, actor and actress.
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.
Perfect for a month that includes the Fourth of July, Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness,” is about hope, wistfulness, freedom and coming of age in an idyllic family setting at the turn of the last century.
So don’t, when you see the play is by O’Neill who penned the Pulitzer Prize-winning, semi-autobiographical play, “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” think dark family drama.
They both take place on a Connecticut seashore but “Ah, Wilderness” is a lighthearted comedy that likely presents the type of family O’Neill wished he had.
You will meet the Miller family during the Fourth of July. Nat, the father is presented intelligently and with empathy by Randall Newsome as a fine newspaper editor and family man who pretty much goes along with whatever wife Essie (Ora Jones) and second son Richard (Niall Cunningham) want.
It’s easy to see that Essie, nicely played by Ora Jones, softly wears the “pants” in the family. Richard, brilliantly interpreted by Niall Cunningham as an intellectual high school student who favors flowery, somewhat purple prose and poetry, adores neighboring sweetheart Muriel McComber (Ayssette Monoz).
Thus the title is taken from a translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a favorite poem of Richard. Many people will recognize at least part of the stanza. It goes “A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness – Oh, Wildernesss were Paradise enow!
The rest of the family consists of eldest son Arthur (Travis A. Knight) who attends Yale where Richard is expected to go, daughter Mildred, played with spunk by Rochelle Therrien, and youngest son Tommy, a cute turn by Matthew Abraham as a boy still in knee pants.
Their extended family include relatives Lily Miller, Nat’s sister who is wistfully interpreted by Kate Fry as the former fiancée of Sid Davis, Essie’s brother. They still love each other but he can’t change because he loves drink, gambling and “ladies of the night” too much. Davis is done with humor but without remorse by the talented Larry Bates.
Rounding out the picture are Norah, a funnily clumsy maid played with wonderfully comedic moves by Bri Sudia and Belle, the “fast” woman delightfully handled by Amanda Drinkall whom Richard is paired with at a local dive.
Muriel’s dad, David McComber, is portrayed as the dislikeable but understandably protective father by Ricardo Gutierrez. Also in the show are the dive’s bartender (Joe Dempsey) and The Salesman at the bar (Bret Tuomi).
The production also works now in 2017 even though its time period is 1906 because of the fine directing of Steve Scott (remember the insightful and comedic turns of his Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike). Scott is retiring this summer after several years as a Goodman Theatre producer and director.
Of course there is also Todd Rosenthal’s charming set and Amy Clark’s fine costumes that are wonderfully evocative of the period.
“Ah, Wilderness! is a sweet but not saccharine play of a family that deals philosophically with a teenager going through romantic and philosophical challenges. It even includes a heart-to-heart father-son discussion that almost touches on growing up hormones.
“Ah, Wilderness! is at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago through July 23, 2017. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman.
If you heard that Goodman Theatre’s opening night for the world premiere of “Pamplona,” a play by Jim McGrath that features Stacy Keach as Ernest Hemingway, stopped early, then don’t worry. The Goodman put out the following notice:
“Goodman Theatre had to unexpectedly halt this evening’s performance of Pamplona by Jim McGrath. The show’s star, Stacy Keach, had not been feeling well earlier in the day, but made the decision to go on with the performance. When it became clear midway through that Mr. Keach was struggling, Director Robert Falls took the stage and announced that the performance would conclude. Performances are expected to resume as scheduled.”
It may not seem as long as 32 years ago for Chicago to hold its Gospel Music Festival but considering that Chicago takes credit for gospel music it probably feels as if the genre has been around forever, at least in city area churches.
So, this weekend, June 2 and 3, 2017, the city is holding its 32 Chicago Gospel Music Festival. The concerts are on Friday. They are free and are taking place outdoors in Millennium Park and indoors (it may rain on and off those days) in the Chicago Cultural Center. Gospel music combined with workouts and wellness activities are on Saturday.
Here is the schedule but acts and times may change
June 2, 2017
Randolph Square area on the first floor of the Cultural Center
– Noon is Iliani Morales, 12:40 p.m. is Selah St. Sabina Youth Choir
– 1:10 p.m. is R&R featuring Russ and Roe and 1:40 p.m. is Neicy Robertson and Friends
– 2:10 p.m. is “Chicago’s Next” with 2ndNature Band, Isaiah Freeman, Jazmin Jones and Denton Arnell Harris and 3:20 p.m. is Arthur Sutton & The Gift of Praise
Millennium Park in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion
– 5:30 p.m. is Glenn Johnson & The Voices of Innerpeace and 6 p.m. is University of Illinois Black Chorus conducted by Ollie Watts Davis
– 6:40 p.m. is Malcolm Williams & Great Faith and 7:20 p.m. is Celebration of Gospel Music Quartets with Evelyn Turrentine-Agee and The Warriors, God’s Posse, The Gospel Crusaders and The Stars of Heaven
– 8:30 p.m. is Jonathan McReynolds with special guests Anthony Brown and Travis Greene
June 3, 2017
Millennium Park’s Great Lawn
– 7 a.m. is Gospel Music Yoga with instructor Marta Bailey and 8 a.m. is Gospel Music Cardio Workout with instructor LaTonya Ellis
– 9 a.m. is Pilates with an East Bank Club instructor and 10 a.m. is Zumba® also with an East Bank Club instructor
In the North Promenade Tent at Millennium Park
– 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. is Health & Wellness Oasis with screenings offered by Oak Street Health and Be The Match
– Also from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. are children’s activities in the Kids Activity Zone that include face painting, a balloon artist, Plaster of Paradise and the Imagination Playground