The back story is necessary to really understand playwright Lucas Hnath’s witty “A Doll’s House, Part 2, now at Steppenwolf Theatre. Otherwise audiences might sympathize with Hnath’s portrayal of the people Nora left behind when she slammed the door on her conventional, egotistical banker husband and their three children.
When Henrik Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright known for digging below society’s conventions to expose them for what they really are, published “A Doll’s House” in1879 he defied accepted familial and economic norms of the day.
He shocked a society that placed women in subservient roles to men. In many households, women were expected to be ornamental and needy and they had to have their husband’s or father’s signatures and OKs on legal documents.
Hnath, adept at penning plays that are both comedic and tense, (think Isaac’s Eye), takes on the “Doll’s House” iconic feminist heroine to ask how did she fare 15 years after she left her husband Torvald’s household and his demeaning view of her so she could be free to define herself.
Portrayed with gumption and defiance by Steppenwolf ensemble member Sandra Marquez, an extravagantly clothed Nora first challenges her old nanny, Anne Marie, to guess why she looks rich.
Played to perfection by Chicago veteran Barbara E. Robertson as the angry care-giver who stayed on to raise Nora’s three children, Anne Marie guesses traditional women tasks and skills.Read More
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” follows the adventures of Christopher (Terry Bell) who is a fourteen year old boy with an undefined sensory processing disorder (like autism) who is also a kind of math savant.
While he has advanced mental abilities on one hand, he also has limited interpersonal skills which manifest in his aversion to personal contact, his inability to tell a lie, and his propensity to take everything he hears literally.
For instance, he is confused by most idiomatic phrases and metaphors. When his test proctor asks, “Are you ready to roll” Christopher simply looks bewildered.
Intrigued by the mystery of the obviously intentional death of his neighbor’s dog, the young man sets out to find the perpetrator of the act. That leads him to places he has never been. It confronts him with unimagined truths while being forced to manage and overcome some of his own personal challenges.
This is less of a whodunit and more of a why’d-you-do-it that forces Christopher and us to ponder themes of death, infidelity, and betrayal. In the end there is not so much of a resolution as an open ended series of unanswered, perhaps thought provoking questions.
The strength of the play is providing a glimpse into an alternate state of being.
Actor Terry Bell gave an excellent, well=balanced performance as Christopher. It would be easy to overplay this role but his portrayal is sympathetic and sensitive.
This play by Simon Stephens based on the novel by Mark Haddon and directed by Jonathan Berry, is very much about Christopher and told from his point-of-view.Read More
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.
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.
What can happen when a lonely, middle-aged woman takes in a roommate for companionship and to share expenses?
In playwright Jen Silverman’s “The Roommate,” now at Steppenwolf Theatre, the answers are surprising and problematic.
Adeptly directed by Phylicia Rashad to achieve the highest impact possible during the 90 minute show, “The Roommate” transforms Sharon, an uptight, judgmental, highly moral, 50-something, empty-nester into an amoral woman willing to try anything.
The setting, perfectly depicted by scenic designer John Lacovelli, is Sharon’s kitchen in her large, old Iowa City home.
The catalyst for change is Robyn, another 50-something empty-nester from the Bronx, who, in photography terms, turns out to be the negative of Sharon.
Can people display numerous professions, some of which merge into one outstanding career, producing the most wonderful theatrical productions?
Not many. But there is one person who is currently in Chicago, pianist, actor, playwright, composer, producer and director Hershey Felder. He is performing his fabulous play,‘Our Great Tchaikovsky’ upstairs in the Steppenwolf Theatre.
After creating highly regarded stage productions about Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven, Bernstein, Berlin and others, Felder is now garnering some of his best reviews for ‘Our Great Tchaikovsky.’
Beautifully directed by Trevor Hay, the play is a one-man performance in which Felder shares Tchaikovsky’s life through his own acting, writing, and musical talents.
You know when you see a stage set with multiple doors that the play will likely be a farce. Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s set of ‘Doppelgänger,’ a world premiere with the sub title of ‘an international farce,’ has all the elements needed to keep audiences laughing, including 11 doors and another entrance.
Erlbach’s presentation of global political, economic and social issues of today works superbly well as a farce.
Clever lines come so quickly and author Matthew-Lee Erlbach’s obvious love of words so mesh in rhymes and tongue twisters that the first two hours speed by quickly.
No stereotype is spared from a hawkish general and a skinny, uptight female British politician to an exiled African nation’s former brutal president, a bisexual Arab prince and a buxom, Brazilian money launderer.