‘Sons and Lovers’

Sons and Lovers at Greenhouse Theater. (photo courtesy of On the spot Theatre Company)
Sons and Lovers at Greenhouse Theater. (photo courtesy of On the spot Theatre Company)

2  1/2 stars

It’s true that the very best writers use experiences from their own lives to inspire their writing. English author D.H. Lawrence, whose early twentieth century novels like Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Women in Love, Mr. Noon and The Rainbow shocked and entertained readers during this “Age of Innocence.” It’s also true that his stories are all very intimately bound up with his own life. But none of his novels is more autobiographical than Sons and Lovers.

This is Lawrence writing about his life and recreating scenes from his own experience, but fictionalizing it. He began writing the book in 1910, finishing the novel two years later.

The story underwent lots of revisions, including the title, and was influenced by many personal crises that occurred during this period. Lawrence ended a long relationship with Jesse Chambers (who’d serve as the model for his character, Miriam Leivers).

He became engaged to, and then broke up with Louie Burrows (who would be the inspiration for the character of Clara Dawes). He lost his mother to cancer, became seriously ill with pneumonia, gave up teaching and moved away from his birthplace. But this is a story that’s derived from the author’s own Oedipus complex.

When Lydia was a young woman, she lost her first love to another woman. She settled for Walter Morel, a boorish, yet passionate lower class man who worked long hours down in the Midland mines.

As sons William and Paul grew up, Lydia doted on them to the point where Walter is brow-beaten and practically ignored and she redirects all of her ardor and passion to her sons. They, in turn, become her lovers and as they grow to manhood they aren’t able to love any other women because their mother’s hold over them is so strong.

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What will be on stage in Near North and Lincoln Park theaters

 

Victory Gardens productions are in the historic Biograph building. (J Jacobs photo)
Victory Gardens productions are in the historic Biograph building. (J Jacobs photo)

When looking up 2019-20 show listings don’t forget the theaters in the Chicago’s neighborhoods. You don’t want to miss excellent productions that are likely to be Jeff Award Winners. The next peek in a what will be on stage series takes in the Near North and the Lincoln Park area. (Don’t worry that some places spell theater.

(Part One was Looking ahead to the next theater season starting with Broadway in Chicago. Part Two was Theaters Downtown and on the Mag Mile.)

 

A Red Orchid Theatre

The theatre, 1531 N. Wells St., starts the fall with the world premiere of “Grey House” Oct. 10 – Dec. 1, 2019. Winter’s production is the Chicago Premiere of  “Do You Feel Anger?” Jan.16 – Mar. 8, 2020. Spring brings the Chicago Premiere of “The Moors” April 23- June 14, 2020.

For tickets and more information visit Red Orchid or Red Orchid/2019-20 season call (312) 943-8722.

 

Greenhouse Theater Center

The Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., hosts a variety of theater companies with a packed line-up in 2019-20. This list is for summer, early fall 2019.

Currently, BOHO Theatre is doing the Chicago Premiere of “The River” through July 28. The Comrades do “The Roast” July 18- Aug. 19. Then, MPAACT Summer Jams holds a theater festival of 17 acts in 7 days Aug. 5-11.

On the Spot Theatre Company and Greenhouse are presenting “Sons and Lovers” Aug. 29-Sept. 29. Exit 63 Theatre has “Horse Girls” running Sept. 5-Sept. 22. Greenhouse and Proxy Theatre are doing “Midsummer (A Play with Songs) Sept. 4-Oct. 6.

Red Tape Theatre which has moved to the Greenhouse Theater Center, is doing “All Quiet on the Western Front”  Aug. 16 through Sept.14. . For tickets and other information visit Red Tape Theatre.

For more shows, information and tickets visit Greenhouse Theater and call (773) 404-7336.

 

Royal George

The venue, 1641 N. Halsted St., currently has the world premiere of  “Miracle: 108 years in the making” (about the Chicago Cubs) extended through Labor Day. Also “Late Nite Catechism” as an open run is at 5 p.m. Saturdays and “Bible Bingo” is an open run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.

For tickets and more information visit Royal George and call (312) 988-9000.

 

Steppenwolf

The theatre company, 1650 N. Halsted St., currently has “Ms. Blakk for President” (upstairs) through July 21 and Sam Shepard’s “True West” through Aug. 25 (main stage).

The new season begins with “The Great Leap” (upstairs) Sept. 5- Oct. 20 followed by “Lindiwe” based on music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (downstairs) Nov. 7-Dec. 29 and the Chicago premiere of “Dance Nation” Dec. 12, 2019-Jan. 26, 2020.

Then comes Tracy Letts’ “Bug” Jan. 23-Mar. 8 (downstairs) followed by  “The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington”  downstairs) April 2-May 17.Then, “King James on LeBron James’s reign (upstairs) May 7-June 21, ending with “Catch as Catch Can (downstairs) June 4-July 26.

For tickets and more information visit Steppenwolf  and Steppenwolf season or call (312) 335-1650.

 

Theater on the Lake

A Chicago Park District property at 2401 N Lake Shore Dr. presents Manual Cinema’s “End of TV” July 16-19, “Stories from 2nd Story” 7 p.m. and “The Grelley DuVall Show” 9 p.m. July 23-26. The Neo Futurists are doing “Tangles and Plaques”  Aug. 13-16 and Peasus Theater has “Eclipsed” Aug. 20-23.  The 2019 summer season ends with Steep theatre’s Red Rex” Aug. 27=30. Tickets are free.  Reserve tickets at the Chicago Park District box office  (312) 742-7994  or find more ticket and time information at theater on the lake/theater.

 

Victory Gardens

The theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.,  currently has a co-production on stage. Sideshow Theatre Company and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble are doing “Something Clean” through July 21.

For its 45th season, Victory Gardens starts with the Chicago premiere of “Tiny Beautiful Things” Sept. 6-Oct. 13 followed by the world premiere of “The First Deep Breath” Nov. 15-Dec. 22, 2019.

Into the new year is the co-world premiere with Actors Theatre of Louisville’s “How to Defend Yourself” Jan. 24-Feb. 23. Then, “Dhaba on Devon Avenue” is Mar. 27-Apr. 26. The season ends with the Chicago premiere of “Right to be Forgotten” May 29-June 28, 2020.

For tickets and more information visit Victory Gardens and Victory Gardens Season and call (773) 871-3000.

Jodie Jacobs

 

‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ finds the right tone

Cyndey Moody and Mike Newquist in Deadman's Cell Phone at Greenhouse theater. (Photo by Paul Goyette
Cyndey Moody and Mike Newquist in Deadman’s Cell Phone at Greenhouse theater. (Photo by Paul Goyette

 

3 stars

Our cell phones have truly become extensions of ourselves, storing bits of personal and secret data with the potential to live-on sharing and connecting pieces of our lives even after we are gone.

In “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” presented by “The Comrades,” Wilmette playwright Sarah Ruhl explores what might happen when a stranger interacts with a deceased man’s cell phone she retrieves in a diner.

This is an absurd tongue-in-cheek noir-style, dark comedic drama directed by Arianna Soloway. It features the winsome, inquisitive and inventive  Cydney Moody as “plain Jane” Jean who is perhaps being a bit voyeuristic  but also just wants to make people feel better. In the process, she finds herself more involved than she probably expected.

Valeria Rosero and Cyndney Moody in Dead Man's Cell Phone
Valeria Rosero and Cyndney Moody in Dead Man’s Cell Phone

Performed by an expert ensemble that includes Bryan Breau as the dead man Gordon, Caroline Dodge Latta as his at times overbearing but loving mother Mrs. Gottleib, Lynnette Li as his somewhat reluctant widow Hermia, Mike Newquist as his neglected brother Dwight and Valeria Rosero as the secretive “Other Woman.”

The stunning simple set design by Sydney Achler is a series of monochromatic paint-splattered trapezoids whose hectic colorization and odd angles contribute visually to the unbalanced surrealistic quality of the story.

There are a few bothersome inconsistencies in the story but they are easily overcome by the outstanding performances of the ensemble and the thought provoking subject matter.

This is a weird ride that makes you want to see what’s around the next turn.

“Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” The Comrades production at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, goes through March 10, 2019. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.For tickets and other information call (773) 404-7336 or visit Greenhouse Theater.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Harry Truman anti-Semite or doula at birth of Israel

SOMEWHAT RECOMMEND

(left to right) Tim Kough and Catherine Dvorak in Greenhouse Theater Center and Forum Productions’ world premiere of Truman and the Birth of Israel. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
(left to right) Tim Kough and Catherine Dvorak in Greenhouse Theater Center and Forum Productions’ world premiere of Truman and the Birth of Israel. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

“Truman and the Birth of Israel” is a politically wonkish tale about a fictional encounter between the retired 33rd President and a young, future congresswoman, Bella Abzug (Catherine Dvorak).

At this point she is a rising New York attorney already showing a penchant for championing Zionist, feminist and civil rights ideals that will be her trademark in later years.

The action takes place in the home study and garden of Harry S. Truman (Tim Kough).  Abzug has been assigned to represent “Give’m Hell Harry” in a libel action the former President intends to initiate against an East Coast newspaper reporter who has allegedly defamed him by insulting his daughter’s singing talent.

Truman’s law firm assigns Bella Abzug to the case presumably because both she and the reporter are Jewish. Abzug feels certain that the defense will attack Truman for his past anti-Semitism and sets out to understand the complexities of a man who was once a card carrying member of the KKK but is also credited with helping to make the State of Israel a possibility.

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A look at the coming Chicago theater season: Part Two

 

Downtown Chicago has a slew of good shows scheduled for the 2018-2019 theater season but don’t miss out on the shows that are likely to be Jeff Award Winners in the city’s neighborhoods and suburbs.

Our next peek at what will be playing checks on the Near North/Lincoln Park neighborhoods including the multi-theater venues of the Ruth Page Center and Greenhouse Center. Some theaters in the area have not published their season yet so stand by for more info.

Steppenwolf is in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. (Steppenwolf photo)
Steppenwolf is in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. (Steppenwolf photo)

A Red Orchid Theatre

The theatre, 1531 N. Wells St., starts the fall with “Small Mouth Sounds” Oct. 18 then goes into winter with “Fullfillment Cente Jan. 31 and into spring with “The Killing Game” May 2. For tickets and more information visit Red Orchid and call (312) 943-8722.

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Free for one moment

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

Many issues that women dealt with a century ago still hang over their heads and affect their lives, work, families and relationships.  From wanting to feel protected while searching for freedom to embracing dreams while being steered toward stereotypical roles, women continue to struggle against being controlled.

Maddie Burke, l, Heather Chrisler and Scott Shimizu in 'Machinal' at Greenhouse Theater. Photo by Evan Hanover
Maddie Burke, L, Heather Chrisler and Scott Shimizu in ‘Machinal’ at Greenhouse Theater. Photo by Evan Hanover

These issues are front and center in the Greenhouse Theater Center’s compelling revival of “Machinal,”a play by Sophie Treadwell that hit Broadway in 1928.

The play is based on the life and trial of Ruth Snyder, a ruthless and manipulative murderess who, with her lover, killed her husband for a double indemnity insurance payout. But Machinal’s protagonist, “Young Woman,” portrayed by Heather Chrisler, is nothing like the real Ruth Snyder.

She garners the audience’s empathy as she encounters the demands of a rigid and unfriendly workplace and a life of struggles to support her mother.

In the midst of an argument over whom she should marry, she asks her overbearing mother, “Did you love Pa?”  Her mother replies, “I suppose I did . . . I don’t remember.  What difference does it make?” The mother pushes her daughter into marrying a man for financial gain.

Years later, feeling trapped in a loveless marriage, Young Woman’s goal is to free herself from captivity.

Chrisler does an excellent job as she captures the complexity of the main character and the challenges faced.  She portrays a frightened woman who follows the daily rules of work, marries someone whom she doesn’t love, gives birth to a child she doesn’t want, pleads with everyone to “Let me alone” and eventually finds a lover outside of her marriage who contributes to her ultimate demise.

The nine other cast members are wonderful as they play multiple roles including Young Woman’s co-workers, mother, husband, lover, doctors, nurses, trial lawyers, reporters and priest.

With minimal props on a stage devoid of scenery, the ensemble lights up the audience’s imagination in innovative ways that draw them into this mesmerizing story—a story that ends with Young Woman declaring, “I wanted to be free.  I wanted him out of the way. It made me free for one moment!”

Directed by Jacob Harvey with movement by Elizabeth Margolius, Machinal is a play that addresses the balancing act that women have long attempted.

DETAILS: “Machinal” is at Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Main Stage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago through Sept. 24, 2017.  For tickets and other information visit Greenhouse Theater or call (773) 404-7336.

-Francine Pappadis Friedman