For am interesting night at the theater and a chance to catch how playwrights view the world, get tickets to the Chicago One-Minute Play Festival, 8 p.m. June 26 or the 27th.
Audiences see different takes on current topics by about 70 Chicago playwrights. Known as 1MPF, the event will be at the Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.
“We’ve reached nine years of 1MPF in Chicago, at a cultural and political moment in our nation that is full of strife, uncertainty and a feeling that we are more divided than ever,” said 1MPF Producing Artistic Director Dominic D’Andrea.
Len Cariou’s solo performance of “Broadway & The Bard, An Evening of Shakespeare and Song” is best described as a “performance collage” ripped from fragments of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” and bits of faded American musical librettos. They are pasted together to create a new work of art representing the autobiographical portrait of a noted actor’s life in the theater.
During roughly eighty minutes, the audience is treated to non-stop snippets from “Twelfth Night” “Henry V,” “Richard II,” “Othello,” “King Lear” and more, as well as melodic strains borrowed from Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Charles Strouse, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and others.
A worthy theatrical experience cannot stand on reference and nostalgia alone, and in this regard collaborators Len Cariou, Barry Kleinbort and Mark Janas have sidestepped that pitfall by doing an admirable job of creating a piece that may be enhanced by one’s own theatrical insight but does not require you to come equipped with an encyclopedic knowledge of the material included.Read More
Idle Muse Theatre Company presents the world premier of “Girl Found” which was written by Barbara Lhota and inspired by true events.
The play begins with a very happy ending. An eleven-year old girl disappears from her Detroit home and six years later a 17 year-old called Sophie (Clara Byczkowski) turns up at a homeless shelter in Canada.
Except for her name, she cannot recall much about her past. The lost girl is now found, her family is notified, and they are so relieved. Her Aunt Ellie (Katherine Swan) travels to Canada to pick up Sophie and bring her back home.
“Girl Found” brings up all kinds of questions as the family tries to adjust their past with the present.
While attempting to rectify everything, the play leads the audience into a complex world of drugs, human trafficking and child abuse. Ellie is Sophie’s legal guardian because her sister, Sophie’s mother, Eva (Tricia Rogers), is a former drug addict who finds it difficult to tell the truth.
Noah (James Mercer) is Ellie’s ex-fiancé and Sophie’s father figure who left town after Sophie vanished
Sophie’s return brings Ellie and Noah back together, yet their problems don’t evaporate because trying to attain a compatible domestic life is difficult with the myriad past troubles that are revealed.
As the audience tries to fit the pieces together of Sophie and her family’s missing years, the play is set on a stage that is simultaneously split into various locations with different characters: Sophie’s home and her childhood friend (Whitney Dottery); the Canadian shelter and its social worker (Sara Robinson); an FBI office; and a psychologist, Dr. Cole (Kathrynne Wolf), whose therapeutic sessions with Sophie try to produce explanations of what went on in the past, while uncovering traumas.
Directed by Alison Dornheggen, Idle Muse’s “Girl Found” features a high-quality ensemble of actors.
DETAILS: ‘Girl Found’ is at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway St., Chicago, through June 10, 2018. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (773) 340-9438 or visit IdleMuse.
Widower Fredrik Egerman (Peter Robel) seeks to regain his youth by wedding eighteen year old Anne (Rachel Guth). However, his home from seminary, son Henrik (Jordan Dell Harris), falls in love with her even while learning “the ways of the world” from housemaid Petra (Teressa LaGamba).
Meanwhile, as a result of Anne’s sexual inexperience, Fredrik seeks solace in the arms of his more mature former lover and stage phenomenon, Desiree Armfeldt (Kelli Harrington).
Their dalliance is complicated by her relationship with Count Carl-Magnus Malcom (Christopher Davis) and his wife Countess Charlotte Malcom (Stephanie Stockstill).
Mme. Armfeldt (Marguerite Mariama) and her granddaughter Fredrika (Isabelle Roberts) are observers who offer the perspective of experience and youth to this sordid but humorous tale of infidelity, romance and search for love in all the wrong places.
An ensemble of minor players (Nicole Besa, Rachel Klippel, Emily Goldberg, Lazaro Estrada and Ross Matsuda) fill in various roles and act as a kind of Greek Chorus adding commentary and moving the plot along.Read More
Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke, have partnered to present a joint exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Renaissance Gallery in celebration of Illinois’ 2018 two hundredth anniversary.
Located just inside the Randolph Street entrance, the space promotes programs created by or of interest to Chicago area seniors.
Holubow primarily focuses on buildings and likes to explore the contrast of urban elements together with natural elements while Oehmke specializes in portraits and people and leans towards Native American subjects.
In this joint exhibit they display their paintings side by side in a very thoughtful progression that compliments each other’s work.
An exhibition of multiple works from two artists working in tandem is much like a musical duet. Each part is distinctly different but they are both telling the same story. The placement of the work is where you begin to see the harmony.
It is difficult to express a vision of Illinois without including Frank Lloyd Wright. In this exhibit Oehmke’s portrait of the famed architect is displayed alongside Hulubow’s montage of his buildings.
Likewise, a portrait of trumpet legend Louis Armstrong is next to a jazzy vibrant urban cityscape.
Both women have strong, colorful, graphic styles that express a willingness to experiment and innovate. You can see that each painting is a new adventure, yet you can also see their individual point-of-view.
Part of the fun of viewing an exhibition is the chance to glimpse into an artist’s thought process while experiencing multiple pieces.
One gallery observer mentioned she thought every person that Julia paints looks a little like the artist, herself. I am not sure if that is entirely true but it is often said that all writing is biographical. All artists, no matter the medium, interject a bit of themselves into their finished product.
This exhibit has been approximately a two year journey since the idea first sprang to life with the aid of gallery director Crystal Warren, Regional Director for the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.
The Sandra Holubow / Julia Oehmke Illinois Bicentennial Art Exhibit runs through July 5, 2018 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 East Randolph.
Reno Lovison (www.renoweb.net)
(Lovison, a videographer, has produced a documentary series that began with a half hour video portrait of each of Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke in their respective studios as they prepared the works for the exhibition. The videos can be seen on Youtube and have been aired on Chicago CANTV channel 19/21 during the past few months. The three part series will culminate in a third episode documenting the May 24th official opening of the exhibit.)
Catherine Holly (Grayson Heyl) is declared insane for recounting details related to the horrific death of her cousin Sebastian Venable while the two vacationed in a Latin-American beach resort.
It all happened, “Suddenly Last Summer” and no one, especially her aunt, Mrs. Violet Venable (Mary K. Nigohosian), Sebastian’s mother, wants to believe it.
The aging socialite, Mrs. Venable, invites Dr. Cukrowicz a/k/a Dr. Sugar (Wardell Julius Clark) to interview the suspected mad woman to assess whether or not she is a candidate for a lobotomy. The operation would erase the abhorrent memory and preserve the reputation of the beloved Sebastian.
Though the action takes place in a misty New Orleans garden, this is essentially a drawing room drama that plays out much like a whodunit with Dr. Sugar slowly extracting the details that reveal the shocking truth.
Skillfully written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Jason Gerace, the 90 minute production moves along swiftly in the capable hands of this Raven Theatre ensemble.
The play employs themes of mental illness and includes the prototypical characters of the delusional matriarch and the sensitive, often confused ingénue familiar to such other Williams works as “Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie.”
This is simply a good solid play well performed.
Full of Southern charm, I suggest you invite a friend to go with you, then afterwards head over to Big Jones in Andersonville, Jimmy’s Pizza Café (at Lincoln & Foster), or Luella’s Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square for fresh beignets and coffee to complete the New Orleans experience.
DETAILS: “Suddenly Last Summer” is at the Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville), Chicago, through June 17, 2018. For tickets and more information call (773) 338-2177 or visit Raven Theatre.
“Prometheus Bound” at CityLit is a world premiere translation by Nicholas Rudall of the classic (which may or may not have been) written by Greek playwright Aeschylus. Rudall is Professor Emeritus of Classics at the University of Chicago.
This was originally conceived as the first play in a trilogy. However, the other two are lost to history.
The title character, Prometheus (Mark Pracht), a god, is being punished by Zeus, for giving humanity the knowledge of fire and other “arts.” His punishment is being bound and pinned to a rock is for eternity in one of the far corners of the Earth.
Prometheus is visited periodically by a number of other gods who come to either further his torment or offer solace.
Refresh your memory. How rock ‘n roll was changed by the guy with the big glasses from Lubbock, Texas is worth the trip back in time when taken there by the American Blues Theater’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.”
“Buddy” tells the tale of singer/songwriter Buddy Holly and the Crickets through an all too brief career ended by tragedy. Yet, some 50 years later, his music continues to be played and loved by a whole new generation.
Classic songs include: “That’ll be the Day,” “Maybe Baby,” “Peggy Sue,” “It’s so Easy to Fall in Love,” “The Big Bopper’s,” “Chantilly Lace,” “Ritchie Valens,” “La Bamba,” plus many more.
When performing the biography of a legend, how successful the show is depends on who plays the star. In this case, Zachary Stevenson who performed in Paramount’s “Million Dollar Quartet,” is spectacular.
Not only does he physically resemble Holly, but he exudes Holly’s dynamic energy and has all his dance moves down pat, such as hopping on one foot as he plays the guitar. Stevenson’s portrayal of Holly is a joy to watch.
But credit must be given to the entire ensemble whose amazing performances, both vocally and with a range of instruments, are stellar.
Piano, violins, bass, electric guitar and drums glide in and out throughout the show. Although they don’t appear until late in the second act, Cisco Lopez as Ritchie Valens and Vasily Denis as Big Bopper are outstanding.
“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” an American Blues Theater revival is written by Alan Janes and directed with precision by Lili-Anne Brown. Musical direction is by ensemble member Michael Mahler and costume design is by Samantha C. Jones who must have a ball putting these 1950’s costumes together.
The first act is filled with lots of upbeat Holly music as his career ascends. But it’s a hard act to follow since the audience knows what’s going to happen
However, instead of ending on a downer the show explodes with more of Holly’s music as an enduring testament to his legacy. The audience never wanted it to end.
Prepare yourself for one fabulous night of theater!
DETAILS: The Buddy Holly Story is an American Blues Theater production at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, through May 26, 2018. For tickets and other information call (773) 327-5252 or visit American Blues Theater.
Every once in a while, someone remarkable touches our lives for a short time-and changes everything.
Such is the heartwarming theme of ‘Once,’ the Tony Award-winning musical now playing at Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Helmed by artistic director Jim Corti and musical director Tom Vendafreddo, it’s the musical’s first Chicago-area regional staging.
In case you haven’t heard the buzz, ‘Once’ is a story about a couple of Irish musicians in modern-day Dublin who meet and fall in love as they write songs together.
It started out as a low-budget indie movie in 2007 and its signature song, “Falling Slowly,” won an Oscar for Best Original Song the following year. The film was directed by John Carney; the music and lyrics were written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova who also played the lead roles.
‘Once’ saw second life as a Broadway musical based on the book by playwright Enda Walsh. In 2012, it took home eight Tony Awards including Best Musical.
But back to Paramount. As the story goes, the encounter between the two leads is so fleeting, only a week, that we never learn their names. Tiffany Topol plays Girl and Barry DeBois plays Guy. Both actors have ‘Once’ national touring credits in real life.
In the Paramount production, Girl and Guy are accompanied, quite literally, by a cast of congenial music-makers who double as the orchestra. They’re a fun bunch to watch, even though the lyrics sounded muddled half the time.
Topal and DeBois duet well with adequate chemistry, but she stands out better on her own. She’s an enchanting vocalist and charmingly funny without seeming to try.
Other noteworthy players include Alex E. Hardaway, a stuffy bank manager with performance dreams of his own. It’s written as a humdrum role with a solo, “Abandoned in Bandon,” that Hardaway executes as a champion. And Jon Patrick Penick shows great comedic chops as rough-and-tumble music shop owner Billy.
The starlet of the show is red-headed lassie, 6-year-old Everleigh Murphy as Girl’s daughter Ivonka.
Not only is she adorable, but she’s a fine Irish step-dancer and violinist as well. Her talent runs in the family. Cousin Madeleine played the same role on Broadway.
Also, just as on Broadway and in the national tour, the stage is designed as an operational pub. The audience is invited to step up and purchase beverages pre-show and at intermission. With a few props and a little imagination, the stage is segmented for additional scenes. Scenic designer is Jeffrey D. Kmiec.
DETAILS: “Once” is at Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, through June 3. For tickets and other information, call (630) 896-6666 or visit Paramount.