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 Peak 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.
Their Staten Island house ravaged by Hurricane Sandy is not the only thing that needs extensive repair when 60-something-year-olds Marty and Mary Murphy return to what had always been their home.
In Sharyn Rothstein’s ‘By the Water,’ a Chicago premiere now at Northlight Theatre, attempts by the stubborn Marty to live there again and convince his neighbors to return, antagonize his friends who want to accept a bailout and move where safe from a repeat disaster.
But that is minor compared to how those efforts finally reveal Marty’s serious past mistakes, the feelings of his long-suffering Mary, and how and why his adult sons feel the way they do towards each other and their dad.
Well directed by Cody Estle, audiences will find there is a lot more going on then seen in the first 20 minutes of a play that only lasts an hour and 45 minutes.
Marty, brilliantly played by Francis Guinan, starts out as a sympathetic character who wants to rebuild the house his father gave him.
But sympathies start to erode as he shows little love and appreciation for his successful eldest son Sal, nicely interpreted by Jordan Brown, and instead empathizes with his recently released from prison younger son, Brian, charmingly played by Joel Reitsma.
His character draws even less sympathy as he continues to dominate Mary, exceptionally portrayed by Penny Slushier.
Amanda Drinkall is very believable as recently divorced Emily Mancini, Brian’s love interest. Her parents, the neighboring couple Andrea and Philip Carter, are well played by Janet Ulrich Brooks and Patrick Clear.
Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s impressive scenic design perfectly accomplishes the impression of a hurricane disaster while still offering a skeletal place to stay and greet family and neighbors.
Details: ‘By the Water’ by Sharyn Rothstein is at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, IL, now through April 23, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Northlight and call (847) 673-6300.
Playwright Selina Fillinger’s brilliant dialogue and profound character interaction, alone, should enter ‘Faceless’ into the ranks of important courtroom dramas.
Add the spot on direction of B.J Jones, the insightful scenic design by John Culbert lighting by Heather Gilbert, costumes by Izumi Inaba, music and sound by Andre Pluess and projection design by Stephan Mazurek, and you have a must-see world premiere at Northlight Theatre.
On trial is a white, teenage girl who has been radicalized on the Internet and wants to emigrate to join ISIS. A federal prosecutor has asked a U.S. born, Harvard educated, Muslim female in his office to take on the case.
The action unfolds in a spellbinding 80 minutes that should give audiences a clearer picture of some of society’s and family problems currently making headlines.
Susaan Jamshidi, who has been seen in Chicago with Remy Bumppo, Lookingglass and Victory Gardens (among others) is exceptional as prosecutor Claire Fathi. Lindsay Stock who has been in Goodman and Collaboraction productions is amazingly believable as defendant Susie Glenn.
Chicago veteran actor Timothy Edward Kane (Northlight, Court, TimeLine, Writers, et al.), does a fine job as Scott Bader, an arrogant lead federal prosecutor. Joe Dempsey, another Chicago veteran who was in Northlight’s ‘Inherit the Wind’ and productions at Goodman, Paramount, Lookingglas, Court, et al.), plays the highly sympathetic figure of Susie’s father, Alan Glenn.
Audiences are very familiar with five-time Jeff Award Winner Ross Lehman who is masterful as Mark Arenbergb, Susie Glenn’s defending attorney.
The show should spark discourse. Post show discussions will be held Feb. 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 23 and March 1, 2.
Details: ‘Faceless’ is at Northlight Theatre in the North Shore Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL, now through March 4, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Northlight and call (847) 673-6300.