Audiences move below the stairs in “The Wickams: Christmas at Pemberley,” the second part of a trilogy that started with “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.
Co-written by playwrights Lauren Gunderson (“Book of Will”) and Margot Mekon (former Marin Theatre New Play Development Director) Jane Austen fans will recognize some of the characters, their foibles and charm, as inspired by Pride & Prejudice.
Indeed, the troubles between Fitzwilliam Darcy (Luigi Scottile) and George Wickham (Will Mobley) start in the famed Austen story and reach another scandalous level in Part Two about the Bennets and the Darcys.
In a letter to her sister, Lizzy (Elizabeth Darcy played by Netta Walker), Lydia Wickham, née Bennet, portrayed by Jennifer Latimore, says she is coming to Pemberley for Christmas. Lydia’s husband, George, a gambler and unscrupulous womanizer, is not welcome at the Darcy estate.
Theater critics tend to return to the same places before covering a show. They are not usually the upscale places gone to for a special occasion or the newest eatery with a gourmet menu or “in” vibe. They have good food and are convenient to the venues.
Here are my recommendations based on experience for two downtown theaters ( I use theater spelled er) and two places in the northern suburbs. More areas later.
When going to the Goodman Theatre 170 N Dearborn St. or James M Nederlander Theatre, a Broadway in Chicago venue at 24 W. Randolph St., I reserve a table in the bar at Petterinos (312-422-0150, 150 N. Dearborn St.) at the corner of Dearborn and Randolph Streets.
The bartenders here are terrific. They serve their patrons quickly when they know they have a show. And I like the fried calamari when looking for something light and the amazing chicken pot pie when cold weather calls for a dish to warm the insides.
The restaurant is literally next door to Goodman and just a few steps across Dearborn to the Nederlander (former Oriental). I take public transportation but Petterinos has a valet service for customers who want to park there and see a show.
Downtown – Mag Mile
There are lots of places to dine on and near the Magnificent Mile. But when reviewing a show at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N Michigan Ave. in the historic Water Tower Water Works on the east side of the Water Tower campus or at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., I reserve a table at Mity-Nice Grill on the Mezzanine Level of Water Tower Place (835 N. Michigan Ave., 312.335.4745).
I like their veggie burger and their salads and that they bring tiny Yorkshire pudding bites to start the meal.
North Suburbs – Lincolnshire
I look forward to dining at the Three Embers Restaurant in the Marriott Resort, 10 Marriott Dr., when reviewing a show at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
Executive Chef Pierre Daval and Chef de Cuisine Jesus (Chuy) Medina are currently showcasing their Harvest Dinner. At Three Embers, diners get honey butter for their rolls that is a taste treat made with honey from Daval’s beehives on the property. I also love the Honey BBQ Brisket with smoked grits. But I’m thinking of trying the Sea Scallops dish with butternut squash and a maple glace when I go for the next show because squash and maple are too seasonal to pass up.
North Suburbs – Skokie
Across the road from Northlight Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, is a small strip mall that contains the popular Bonefish Grill at 9310 Skokie Blvd. Yes, you need a reservation and tell the waitperson you are going to a show.
I like the restaurant’s bread and dipping oil, its Caesar Salad and any shrimp dish with a variety of sauces.
The story of Joan of Arc, spelled in her home country of France as Jeanne d’Arc and also called “The Maid of d’Orléans,” has inspired numerous sculptures, musical works, books and films. Among the best plays is George Bernard Shaw’s classic “Saint Joan” which premiered in 1923, three years after the Roman Catholic Church canonized her.
A age 19, she was burned at the stake for heresy stake in 1431 after continuing to claim visions of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (and other saints). Her successes in leading French troops against the English during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War had worried powerful people in the government and church so when captured by a French faction friendly to the English she was put on trial by Pierre Cauchon, a pro-English bishop.
What playwright Jane Anderson has done in “Mother of the Maid,” now playing at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, is zoom in on Joan’s mother, Isabelle Romée. Born in a peasant family of northeastern France, Joan’s name comes from her father, Jacques d’Arc.
The idea of examining how her family reacted to her visions and particularly how her mother worried and coped with unusual challenges may arguably form the basis of a fine play.
However, the work on stage at Northlight has contrived dialogue infused with current language trends and moves from one stilted scene to another.
DETAILS: “The Mother of the Maid” is at Northlight Theatre in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, through Oct. 20, 2019. Running time: about 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 676-6300 or visit Northlight.
Experienced theater goers know that not all memorable plays are on stage in the city. Chicago’s suburban theaters also put on Jeff award-winning productions. To be sure to catch a show you want to see, copy it and save or mark those productions on the calendar. (Note: Some companies spell their work and space “theater,” others use “theatre.” Both are correct.) A look at the coming suburban theater season is the last round-up in Chicago Theater and Arts’ Sneak Peek Series.
The theatre is in a school building at 300 S. Waukegan Rd. Lake Forest.
Citadel is doing “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Sept. 18-Oct. 20 followed by “Annie,” Nov. 20-Dec. 22. “The Fantasticks” start out 2020 Feb. 5-Mar. 8, followed by “Brighton Beach Memoirs” Apr. 22-May 24.
For tickets and other information call (847) 735-8554 and visit Citadel Theatre.
The theatre does musical productions in the Marriott Resort at 10 Marriott Dr,. Lincohnshire.
“Darling Grenadine” continues through Aug. 18 followed by “ Something Rotten,” Aug. 28-Oct. 20 and “Oliver” Oct 30-Dec. 29, 2019. “Shrek the Musical” (children’s show) Oct. 5-Dec 30 and concludes with “Holiday Inn” Nov. 7-Jan. 6.
Marriott’s shows for young audiences feature “Junie B. Jones,” now through Aug. 11 and “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” Oct. 4-Dec. 29.
For tickets and other information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.
Metropolis Performing Arts Center
The Center, at 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, is currently doing “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” through Aug. 31, then “Anything Goes” Sept. 19-Nov. 2., 2019. The new year begins with “Noises Off” Jan 20-Mar. 14, followed by “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” May 14-June 27 and “Mama Mia! July 16 -Aug. 29.
The theatre is in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. Skokie
Northlight is doing the Midwest premiere of “Mother of the Maid” Sept. 12-Oct. 20 and the world premiere of “The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley” Nov.7-Dec. 15, 2019. The season continues in the new year with the world premiere of “How a Boy Falls” Jan. 23-Mar. 1 followed by “Intimate Apparel” Mar. 12-Apr. 19 and “Songs for Nobodies” May 7-June 14. 2020.
For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 and visit Northlight.
A theatre workshop/school at 927 Noyes St., Evanston, that also presents productions in co-operation with other groups. The Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre presents“The Black Ballerina” in partnership with Piven, Dear Evanston and Dance Center Evanston, Aug. 10-25.
For Piven tickets and other information call (947) 866-8049 and visit Piven Theatre.
The theatre is in a small, historic, movie theater building at 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie
Skokie Theatre is doing “The Fantasticks” Sept. 6-Oct. 6 followed by “Marjorie Prime: Nov. 8-24, 2019. The season continues in 2020 with “Veronica’s Room” Feb. 7-Mar. 1.
For tickets and other information call (847) 677-7761 and visit Skokie Theatre.
Designed by architect Jeanne Gang and her Studio Gang, WT has two stages in an award-winning building at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe; The Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre and the The Gillian Theatre.
The 2019-20 season opens with “Into the Woods” Aug. 14-Sept. 22, followed by “A Doll’s House” Sept. 25-Dec. 15, 2019. :The Niceties” is Nov. 6-Dec. 15. It continues in 2020 with “Stick Fly” Feb. 5-Mar. 15. and “The Last Match” Mar. 18-June 7. And “Mementos Mori” ay 6-June 14. .
For tickets and other information call (847) 242-6000 and visit Writers Theatre.
Drury Lane Theatre
The theatre is at the Drury Lane Resort, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace.
Drury Lane Theatre continues “And then There Were None” through Aug. 26 then is doing “The Color Purple” Sept. 13-Nov. 3. 2019 goes into 2020 with Mary Poppins” Nov. 15 –Jan. 19. “An American in Paris” is on stage Jan. 31-Mar. 29.
The theatre uses the rooms and grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate at 1717 W. 31st St. Oak Brook.
First Folio is doing “Henry V” through Aug. 18. Then, “Sherlock’s Last Case” Oct. 2-Nov. 3, 2019. Shows continue in 2020 with “Jeeves Saves the Day” Jan. 29-Mar.1 followed by “Louisa May Alcott’s Little women.” Mar. 25-Apr. 26.
Fir tickets and other information call(630) 986-8067 and visit First Folio.
Jedlicka Performing Arts Center
The Center at 3801 S. Central Ave., Cicero., is doing “In the Heights” with Vision Latino Theatre Company, fall of 2019. Dates TBA. For tickets and other information call (708) 656-1800 and visit Jpac Theatre.
Madison Street Theatre
The theatre, at 1010 Madison St. Oak Park, is a multi-venue building. For information call (312) 282-1750 and visit MSTOakPark.
Oak Park Festival Theater
The theater, 157 Forest Ave., has is doing “Much Ado About Nothing” through Aug. 31. Followed by “The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe: A Love Story” Oct. 24-Nov. 17, 2019.
The theatre is in a historic movie palace at 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
Paramount is doing “Newsies” Sept. 4-Oct. 20, then “Beauty and the Beast” Nov. 13-Jan. 19, followed by “The Secret of My Success” Feb. 12-Mar. 29. “Kinky Boots” ends the season Apr. 29-June 14.
For tickets and other information call (630) 896-6666 and visit Paramount Aurora.
Sixteenth Street Theatre
The theatre, 6420 16th Street, Berwyn, is doing “His Shadow” Sept. 5-Oct. 12, 2019 and “Small Jokes About Monsters” Jan. 10-Feb. 16, then, “Good Enough” Mar. 14-Apr. 20, 2020. For tickets and other information call (708) 795-6704 and visit 16th Street Theater.
Theatre of Western Springs
The theatre is at 4383 Hampton Ave., Western Springs.
It is doing “Murder in the Studio” Sept. 5-15 followed by “Accomplice” Oct. 17-27. The new year starts with “The Nerd” Hab, 16-26. Then, “The Great Gatsby” is Feb. 27-Mar. 8 and “TheGame’s Afoot” May 28-June 7.
Readers familiar with Jane Austen’s novels know this author sees through surface-only charm, social pretense and people who talk about manners but are not at all well-mannered.
These readers also know to expect thinly cloaked feminism about a century before the women’s rights movements were causing waves and making some progress in England and the United States.
But given Austen’s first two books, “Sense and Sensibility” in 1811 and “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813, audiences who see “Mansfield Park,” now at Northlight Theatre, will find in Austen’s third novel, out in 1814, that practicality no longer wins arguments. They will also note that one of “Mansfield Park’s theme stresses that financial benefit doesn’t excuse slavery.
“Mansfield Park’s heroine Fanny Price is portrayed to perfection by Kayla Carter. She convincingly takes her character from a young girl trying to adapt to her relative’s moneyed and mannered life when sent there as a servant and companion, to her metamorphosis as an independent young lady who does not succumb to pressure and who is willing to lead an impoverished life.
In Rachel Bonds’ “Curve of Departure,” now at Northlight Theatre, you see four characters who face different issues they sort of resolve by the end of the 75-minute play.
The characters, Rudy (Mike Nussbaum), ex-daughter-in-law Linda (Penelope Walker), her son, Felix called Fe, (Sean Parris) and Fe’s boyfriend, Jackson ,(Danny Martinez) have come together for the funeral of Rudy’s son, and Linda’s former husband, Cyrus, who is only a presence by their discussion of how awful he was.
Rudy’s grandson and his friend share a New Mexico motel room with Rudy and Linda to save money.
It is easy to get caught up in their troubles without realizing the big picture.
Not all memorable theater is in the city. Chicago’s suburban theaters put on Jeff award-winning productions. But whether looking to the city or suburbs or both, one way to not miss a show you want to see is to save this Sneak Peek Series and mark productions for tickets or theaters for subscriptions. Enjoy! (Note: Some companies spell their work and space theater but others use theatre. Both are correct.)
The theatre is in a school building at 300 S. Waukegan Rd. Lake Forest.
Citadel is doing “The Little Foxes, Sept. 28-Oct. 28 followed by Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” Nov. 16-Dec. 23. An early 2019 show is TBA but then “Sentimental Journey” is Apr. 26-May 26.
For tickets and other information call (847) 735-8554 and visit Citadel Theatre.
The theatre does professional musical productions in the Marriott Resort at 10 Marriott Dr,. Lincohnshire.
The season continues with “Murder for Two” through Aug. 26 followed by Sweet Charity” Sept. 5-Oct. 28, “Shrek the Musical” (children’s show) Oct. 5-Dec 30 and concludes with “Holiday Inn” Nov. 7-Jan. 6.
In addition to the shows, the theatre is hosting a fundraising concert in memory of director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell Sept. 17 called “We Three” featuring the stars of Marriott’s “Mama Mia,” Meghan Murphy, Cassie Slater and Danni Smith.
For show tickets call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre. To get tickets to “We Three” call the Marriott or order on line tickets at Ticket Master.
Metropolis Performing Arts Center
The Center, at 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, is currently doing “Beehine” through Aug. 25, then “Chorus Line” Sept. 20-Nov. 3 and “James and the Giant Peach Jr. Nov. 8-10. In 2019, productions continue with “Mouse Trap” Jan. 31-March 16 and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” May 16-June 29 and “Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story” July 18-Aug. 24.
The paradox of William Shakespeare is that his works reflect the motives of people at all levels of society from royalty to lowly workers and from husbands and wives to scoundrels and mistresses, however, even though his works were popular with all classes during his lifetime and his plays contain an amazing amount of dead-on observations still quoted now, those plays tend to attract an intellectual audience today rather than the general audience of his time.
But Shakespeare’s company members, usually referred to as the Kings’ Men, their title when King James I became their patron in 1603, really appreciated the value of the words they were saying.
In ‘The Book of Will,’ now at Northlight Theatre, playwright Lauren Gunderson shows how that appreciation likely led to the publication of the Bard’s works in the 1623 First Folio.
The play introduces audiences to the company’s players, their relatives and their friends as they struggle to get the original comedies, tragedies and histories into a quality book. These people wanted to preserve the words as originally written for them rather than the bastardized versions some people were promoting at the time.
The time? This was the early 1600s. Paper was costly and at a premium. Other issues were how to gather all the original works and obtain the rights to them.
Nevertheless, the plays did come out in one tome. What Gunderson has done after considerable research is re-create how that First Folio came into existence. The characters in her play are real though some poetic license and assumptions are made.
Audiences will meet actor John Heminges (Jim Ortlieb) who became the company’s manager, his wife, Rebecca (Rengin Altay), their daughter, Alice (Dana Black) and actor Henry Condell (Gregory Linington) who became co-owner of the Globe Theatre and then the Blackfriar’s playhouse and his wife, Elizabeth (McKinley Carter).
Audiences will also see playwright and English Poet Laureate Ben Jonson (William Dick), Richard Burbage (Austin Tichenor) and the Jaggards, William (Tichenor) and son Isaac (Luigi Sottile) who published the First Folio and Ralph Crane (Thomas J. Cox) who produced transcripts of the King’s Men’s plays.
In addition, Altay is also Anne Hathaway, Black is also Susannah Shakespeare, Carter is also Shakespeare’s mistress and poet Emilia Bassano Lanier. The characters of Boy Hamlet, Marcus and Bernardo are portrayed by Sam Hubbard.
Excellent notes in the program help identify the players and other people involved in The Folio.
The cast, directed by Jessica Thebus, is superb. However, several Shakespearean characters and situations are mentioned so quickly and in a supposedly appropriate accent that not all references are easily caught.
Indeed, if going to see ‘Book of Will’ it wouldn’t hurt to go back and re-read some of those plays analyzed in high school or pick up a book of quotes from the library to see all of the Bard’s phrases that have become common usage.
Fine scenic design by Richard and Jacqueline Penrod and costumes by Janice Pytel perfectly set the time period of London, 1619 to 1623.
As great as the First Folio achievement was, its importance is truly not felt until the last scene. You have to go to Northlight to feel it and see how brilliant staging brings it all together.
DETAILS: ‘The Book of Will’ is at Northlight Theatre in the North Shore Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, through Dec. 17, 2017. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 and visit Northlight.
A Drag Queen walks into a bar. That may sound like the beginning of a joke. But when Drag Queen, Miss Tracy Mills, played with verve and empathy by Sean Blake, struts into his cousin’s bar in Panama City, FL, he changes the life of Casey, an impoverished Elvis impersonator.
The story, a play written by Matthew Lopez now at Northlight Theatre, is ‘The Legend of Georgia McBride,’ a fun, revelatory, entertaining show on how a person can adapt to a new persona and enjoy it.
Casey, interpreted brilliantly by Nate Santana, loves performing as Elvis but his act doesn’t pay the rent and wife Jo (Lesle Ann Sheppard) has announced she is pregnant.
While changing for his Elvis act, Casey is surprised when Tracy walks in ready to go on stage. Bar owner Eddie, played with bumbling charm by Keith Kupferer, hasn’t yet told Casey that he’s being replaced because his Elvis act isn’t drawing well.
In a star-is-born style success story, the other half of Tracy’s act, Rexy, delightfully acted by Jeff Kurysz with a mix of Italian and French accents and words, falls down drunk so can’t go on.
Casey not only doesn’t want to put on a dress, he also doesn’t believe he can perform in drag. When told that filling in for Rexy is the only way he will perform in this bar and that he might even take home some cash, he lets Tracy dress him and add his make-up and a wig.
The transformation doesn’t happen overnight but becomes easier and better with each performance until Casey realizes he enjoys performing on stage as the bar’s newest Drag star.
Rachel Laritz’s costumes help make the show believable and fun to watch. Choreographed by Chris Carter, the bar acts of Casey as Georgia McBride and that of Tracy make the time go so quickly it’s a surprise when the play ends.
The kicker is that even though he is bringing home more than enough money now to pay the bills and really enjoys what he is doing, Casey has trouble telling Jo about his job. He is afraid to say he is performing in a Drag show.
Maybe he needed something such as Northlight’s program which exlains several terms used by Drag performers.
For Drag Queen, it says “someone who performs femininity theatrically. In many cases this term refers to a man who dresses up as a woman for entertainment purposes.”
Directed by Lauren Shouse, the play provides nice behind-the-scenes insight into Drag dressing and performing.
DETAILS: ‘The Legend of Georgia McBride’ is at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, through Oct. 22, 2017. Running time: 1 hour, 45 min. with no intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 and visit Northlight.
Chicago theatres and entertainment venues have a terrific line-up of shows for the 2017-18 season. Now is a good time to plan what to see with season tickets or dropping hints for birthday or holiday presents.
Don’t just consider plays. There’s also one-and two-nighters of top entertainers at a couple of venues. With so many places to go for a night out the Chicago theatre scene has to be broken into different areas. Not everything to see is downtown or Near North. So, try some of the theatres and other venues north of the city.