French author Jules Verne’s farsighted (1870) Nautilus submarine takes readers on a voyage below the oceans’ surface where Captain Nemo encounters sea creatures and destroys ships in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: A Tour of the Underwater World.” BTW twenty thousand depicts the journey’s length not ocean depth.
Disney productions saw wonderful, pictorial possibilities so came out with a fine adventure film in 1954 that starred Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre.
Now Lookinglass Theatre, known for creatively depicting such stories enjoyed by youngsters and adults, alike, as “Alice” from Lewis Carroll’s stories, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” has brought the Verne adventure to life on stage with David Kersnar and Althos Low’s adaption and Kersnar’s direction in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas.” (Yes, the play say Seas).Read More
Take the just-the-facts “ma’am” of Utilitarianism, compare it to the artistic joy of the circus, throw in dispiriting working conditions typical of mid 1800’s to early 1900’s mill towns, then people it with some victims and some typically villainous and greedy Dickensian characters and you have Charles Dickens’ 1854 story, ‘Hard Times for These Times.’
What makes what would be a difficult-to-enjoy retelling of a sad story worth going to is the beautiful staging, exceptional acting and delightful Actors Gymnasium acrobatics in a production recently opened at Lookingglass Theatre.
Originally adapted and directed by Heidi Stillman in 2001, the production returns to Lookingglass with gorgeous, dream-like circus sequences in the background. They emphasize the longing of its two main female characters: Louisa, the daughter of a utilitarian-style school superintendent, Mr. Gradgrind, and Sissy, who performed in a traveling circus until her father, a clown, left her so she could become educated.
Louisa is perfectly played as a dutiful, unhappy daughter by Cordelia Dewdney. Actress-Aerialist Audrey Anderson is just right as her friend, Sissy, former performer but now a student at the school and a member of the Gradgrind household.
Troy West is the odious mill owner, Mr. Bounderby who wants to marry Louisa even though he is 50 when she finishes her education at age 20. J.J. Philips is Tom, Louisa’s manipulative brother.
A secondary plot pits Stephen (David Catlin ) against the prevailing system. He’s a mill worker desperate to divorce his alcoholic wife but too poor to do so. He’s in love with the sweet-spirited Rachel (Louise Lamson).
The entire cast is terrific with many of the actors playing more than one role.
Raymond Fox , excellent as Mr. Gradgrind, also plays Slackbridge. Catlin doubles as circus owner Sleary. Nathan Hosner portrays Mr. Harthouse, a wealthy idler who is interested in Louisa, and also does Mr. M’Choakumchild and Kidderminster.
A special note has to be made of Amy J. Carle’s awesome performance as Mrs. Sparsit, Mr. Bounderby’s housekeeper and probable mistress.
Marilyn Dobbs Frank is so good as Mrs. Pegler, a lady who occasionally appears that you will likely guess who she really is.
Even though the mill conditions of “Hard Times” and prospects for women have changed, his character types are still present. So as with many Shakespearean plays, “Hard Times,”can be re-set in the present time.
DETAILS: ‘Hard Times – For These Times’ is at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan, through Jan. 14, 2018. Running time 2 hours, 40 minutes, one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Lookingglass.
To get teenagers away from their cell phones for a while and interested in learning more about a classic novel or excited about going to a stage show, take them to ‘Moby Dick’ at Lookingglass Theatre.
Following rave reviews on tour, the show is back in town where it first appeared and received four Jeff Awards in 2015. It’s now back home in Lookingglass’ black-box space in the historic Water Tower Water Works (a Chicago Fire survivor) through Sept. 3, 2017.
The way Lookingglass’ David Catlin has adapted and directs the Herman Melville seafaring epic, the story leaps off the pages with great physicality and graphic portrayals.
In addition to an exceptional ensemble, the production is done in association with The Actors Gynmnasium. They are aided and abetted by the fantastic, curving bone-like scenery that mimics the inside of a whale designed by Courtney O’Neill and the rigging designed b y Isaac Schoepp.
But the novel, and thus the show, is more than a tale about a fierce adventure surrounding a white whale called Moby Dick. As the crew of the Pequod find out after they’ve signed on, Captain Ahab who lost a leg to Moby Dick, wants vengeance in a manor reminiscent of Shakespearean tragedies. The story really is about obsession.
Ahab, intensely interpreted by Nathan Hosner, becomes madder to the point of not caring who dies as he pursues his goal.
The story is told by Ishmael, the only crew member who survives the pursuit. Jamie Abelson and Walter Owen Briggs alternate in the role.
On another level, the story is also about men, such as Queequeg, played magnificently by Anthony Fleming III, who seek adventure in place of responsibility, and Starbuck (really, long before the coffee chain) who seeks income through whaling oil.
This is a show that teens and adults who appreciate a well-told, well-presented yarn will appreciate.
‘Moby Dick’ is at Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Works at 821 N. Michigan Ave. through Sept. 3, 2017. For tickets and other information call (312) 337-0665 and visit Lookingglass.
The power of ‘Beyond Caring,’ now premiering in the US at Lookingglass Theatre, is how ordinary the characters and their circumstances seem.
They are three female temp workers, two blacks and one Hispanic, that are so desperate for work that they take the night cleaning shift in a sausage factory and put up with an alpha-male boss who seemingly doesn’t care about their problems.
A fourth worker is an intelligent, black male who also does the shift but has been there for about two years.
After 90 minutes (no intermission) of watching Caren Blackmore as rheumatoid arthritis worker Ebony-Grace, J. Nicole Brooks as strong-willed, single mother, Tracy and Wendy Mateo as Sonia, a penniless Hispanic woman who is likely homeless, plus Edwin Lee Gibson as Phil, their depression-wracked co-worker, you deplore what they have to go through to keep overseer Keith D. Gallagher (Ian) happy.
It gets even worse towards the end of the play when the already exhausted workers are requested to stay longer because of a new sausage trial so they have to clean previously used grinding and other machines.
It’s ugly. But sitting just to one side of the action as a fly on dirty, bare walls, it feels as if what is viewed is a normal way of life for people who have no other recourse.
The feeling of coming into an actual, barren workplace, carefully created by scenic designer Daniel Ostling, is enhanced by the audience having to walk into the set through heavy, see-through plastic panels that separate the work room from the lockers.
The only part of the experience that would have been helpful would have been stronger back story definition so the audience could better understand the three women’s circumstances.
Written and directed by Alexander Zeldin, the US premiere is his Americanized adaptation of the National Theatre production of his play that debuted in London. The Lookingglass play is a Dark Harbor Stories production by David Schwimmer and Tom Hodges.
Post –show conversations will be held following the 2 p.m. matinees on April 9, 16 and 23. In addition, Lookingglass is partnering with Chicago Worker’s Collaborative to bring people from Englewood, Elgin, Little Village and Waukegan to see the show at no cost, on April 9, 23, 30 and May 7.
Details: ‘Beyond Caring’ is at Lookingglass Theater in the Chicago Water Works building at 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, now through May 7. For tickets and other information call (312-) 337-0665 or visit Lookingglass Theatre.
A mysterious disappearance of the big bad wolf, a mainstay of some folk and fairy tales, leads traveling storytellers Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth to quick stops with other famous characters such as the White Rabbit to find out if there are problems in their stories.
The journey to uncover the heart of the problem eventually takes them back to Norse mythology and the forces of Odin who was behind the Pennyworth’s travels.