A delicate performance with a powerful message

‘The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon’

 

Rebeca Aleman and Ramon Camin in Delicate Tears. (Photo by Stephanie Rodriguez)
Rebeca Aleman and Ramon Camin in Delicate Tears. (Photo by Stephanie Rodriguez)

4 stars

Paulina finds herself barely able to speak after three months in a coma, being cared for by her good friend and co-worker, Rodrigo.

Over time she begins to recover her memory, revealing her former life and the events that have brought her to this point.

She and Rodrigo are journalists in Venezuela where her search for truth and her advocacy for justice have resulted in tragedy and a total upheaval of her life.

The action centers around Paulina’s recuperation but through her recollections we are slowly and systematically exposed to political and social realities that provide a deeper context.

Inspired by true events “The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon” onstage at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theater is written by playwright/actress Rebeca Aleman (Paulina) which partially explains the extremely high caliber of her performance.

She obviously has internalized this material, understands it deeply and brilliantly interprets the character’s physical limitations.

Likewise as the play’s translator Ramon Camin (Rodrigo) provides a sensitive portrayal, no doubt informed by this intimate relationship to the material which is presented by the Water People Theater as part of the 3rd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival.

The play was originally written in Spanish and performed here in English, expertly directed by Iraida Tapias who guided the delicate unraveling of the mystery surrounding Paulina’s condition.

The simple set design by Manuel Jose Diaz effectively incorporates a large window as a projection screen providing flashbacks and access to more intimate musings.

I learned in the post production discussion that the cast  began their rehearsals in their native language in order to establish their emotional connection then switched to English to prepare for the festival performance.

For Spanish speaking theater-goers the stage is equipped with two monitors displaying the translation.

DETAILS: “The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon”is  at the Steppenwolf 1700 Theater, 1700 N. Halsted St., Chicago, through Oct. 13, 2019. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and information call (312) 335-1650. or visit Steppenwolf/Lookout.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Cultures and careers play out on a basketball court

Glenn Obero shines as street basketball player, Manford, in 'The Great Leap' at Steppenworlf. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Glenn Obero shines as street basketball player, Manford, in ‘The Great Leap’ at Steppenworlf. (Michael Brosilow photo)

4 stars

‘The Great Leap’

In the first act of playwright Lauren Lee’s “The Great Leap,” James Seol as Wen Chang, interpreter for an American college basketball coach who is visiting China, somewhat humorously observes Charles Dicken’s  “It was the best of times” and goes on to say how it was the worst of times.

But as with “Tale of Two Cities” the famed quote was appropriate for the play’s setting, primarily Beijing 1971 and 18 years later Beijing 1989.

Because in 1971 the play’s action starts during China’s Cultural Revolution,  basically 1966 to 1976.  Chang notes that nothing is done without Party approval.

In Beijing, 18 years later, the American college coach is bringing his team to China. Chang is now coach of an impressive Chinese basketball team and  both Chang and China have changed.

But the play isn’t just about China, even though Chang says basketball has forever changed the culture.

“The Great Leap” is a fast-paced, energy-charged, witty play performed by an exceptional cast under the direction of Jesca Prudencio, known internationally for handling shows that incorporate a high-level of physicality.

James Seol (Wen Chang) left and Keith Kupfere (Saul) right, in 'The Great Leap' at Steppenworlf. (Michael Brosilow photo)
James Seol (Wen Chang) left and Keith Kupfere (Saul) right, in ‘The Great Leap’ at Steppenworlf. (Michael Brosilow photo)

Based on Lee’s actual family experience with her father, Larry Lee, a legendary San Francisco street basketball player, the play centers on how talented point guard, Manford Lum, played with extraordinary agility and know-how by Glenn Obrero, talked himself onto the 1989 San Francisco college team that was gong to China. , Obrero, a Chicago and TV  actor is a former street basketball player.

Connecting all the parts from China in 1971 to San Francisco in May 1989 then China in June 1989 with heart and bravado is veteran film, TV and Chicago (Steppenwolf, Goodman, Rivendellactor Keith Kupfere, actor Keith Kupfere, playing Saul, a San Francisco university basketball coach.

The fourth actor in the well-chosen cast is Deanne Myers, Manford’s “cousin” Connie, who keeps abreast of what is going on in China and worries about Manford.  Also a veteran of Chicago stage, Myers is the voice of reason and could arguably be a stand-in for the playwright.

The show is more than a chance to pick up some world-of-basketball knowledge.  It is an opportunity to enjoy really fine performances and directing.

DETAILS: “The Great Leap” is at Steppenwolf, 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago through Oct. 20. Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 335-1650 or visit Steppenwolf.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

What will be on stage in Near North and Lincoln Park theaters

 

Victory Gardens productions are in the historic Biograph building. (J Jacobs photo)
Victory Gardens productions are in the historic Biograph building. (J Jacobs photo)

When looking up 2019-20 show listings don’t forget the theaters in the Chicago’s neighborhoods. You don’t want to miss excellent productions that are likely to be Jeff Award Winners. The next peek in a what will be on stage series takes in the Near North and the Lincoln Park area. (Don’t worry that some places spell theater.

(Part One was Looking ahead to the next theater season starting with Broadway in Chicago. Part Two was Theaters Downtown and on the Mag Mile.)

 

A Red Orchid Theatre

The theatre, 1531 N. Wells St., starts the fall with the world premiere of “Grey House” Oct. 10 – Dec. 1, 2019. Winter’s production is the Chicago Premiere of  “Do You Feel Anger?” Jan.16 – Mar. 8, 2020. Spring brings the Chicago Premiere of “The Moors” April 23- June 14, 2020.

For tickets and more information visit Red Orchid or Red Orchid/2019-20 season call (312) 943-8722.

 

Greenhouse Theater Center

The Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., hosts a variety of theater companies with a packed line-up in 2019-20. This list is for summer, early fall 2019.

Currently, BOHO Theatre is doing the Chicago Premiere of “The River” through July 28. The Comrades do “The Roast” July 18- Aug. 19. Then, MPAACT Summer Jams holds a theater festival of 17 acts in 7 days Aug. 5-11.

On the Spot Theatre Company and Greenhouse are presenting “Sons and Lovers” Aug. 29-Sept. 29. Exit 63 Theatre has “Horse Girls” running Sept. 5-Sept. 22. Greenhouse and Proxy Theatre are doing “Midsummer (A Play with Songs) Sept. 4-Oct. 6.

Red Tape Theatre which has moved to the Greenhouse Theater Center, is doing “All Quiet on the Western Front”  Aug. 16 through Sept.14. . For tickets and other information visit Red Tape Theatre.

For more shows, information and tickets visit Greenhouse Theater and call (773) 404-7336.

 

Royal George

The venue, 1641 N. Halsted St., currently has the world premiere of  “Miracle: 108 years in the making” (about the Chicago Cubs) extended through Labor Day. Also “Late Nite Catechism” as an open run is at 5 p.m. Saturdays and “Bible Bingo” is an open run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.

For tickets and more information visit Royal George and call (312) 988-9000.

 

Steppenwolf

The theatre company, 1650 N. Halsted St., currently has “Ms. Blakk for President” (upstairs) through July 21 and Sam Shepard’s “True West” through Aug. 25 (main stage).

The new season begins with “The Great Leap” (upstairs) Sept. 5- Oct. 20 followed by “Lindiwe” based on music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (downstairs) Nov. 7-Dec. 29 and the Chicago premiere of “Dance Nation” Dec. 12, 2019-Jan. 26, 2020.

Then comes Tracy Letts’ “Bug” Jan. 23-Mar. 8 (downstairs) followed by  “The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington”  downstairs) April 2-May 17.Then, “King James on LeBron James’s reign (upstairs) May 7-June 21, ending with “Catch as Catch Can (downstairs) June 4-July 26.

For tickets and more information visit Steppenwolf  and Steppenwolf season or call (312) 335-1650.

 

Theater on the Lake

A Chicago Park District property at 2401 N Lake Shore Dr. presents Manual Cinema’s “End of TV” July 16-19, “Stories from 2nd Story” 7 p.m. and “The Grelley DuVall Show” 9 p.m. July 23-26. The Neo Futurists are doing “Tangles and Plaques”  Aug. 13-16 and Peasus Theater has “Eclipsed” Aug. 20-23.  The 2019 summer season ends with Steep theatre’s Red Rex” Aug. 27=30. Tickets are free.  Reserve tickets at the Chicago Park District box office  (312) 742-7994  or find more ticket and time information at theater on the lake/theater.

 

Victory Gardens

The theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.,  currently has a co-production on stage. Sideshow Theatre Company and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble are doing “Something Clean” through July 21.

For its 45th season, Victory Gardens starts with the Chicago premiere of “Tiny Beautiful Things” Sept. 6-Oct. 13 followed by the world premiere of “The First Deep Breath” Nov. 15-Dec. 22, 2019.

Into the new year is the co-world premiere with Actors Theatre of Louisville’s “How to Defend Yourself” Jan. 24-Feb. 23. Then, “Dhaba on Devon Avenue” is Mar. 27-Apr. 26. The season ends with the Chicago premiere of “Right to be Forgotten” May 29-June 28, 2020.

For tickets and more information visit Victory Gardens and Victory Gardens Season and call (773) 871-3000.

Jodie Jacobs

 

‘La Ruta’ exposes a dangerous journey

 

Cast of La Ruta at Steppenwolf
Cast of La Ruta at Steppenwolf

4 stars

For his world premiere of “La Ruta” at the Steppenwolf Theater, Chicago based playwright Isaac Gomez has commandeered a bus transporting “maquila” workers to and from their jobs in Juarez, pointing its headlights into the vast darkness. It exposes the despair and anguish of the mothers and sisters of an estimated 1,400 women kidnapped, used as sex slaves, murdered and disposed of like trash in the Mexican desert.

According to Gomez this is a story that has been systematically silenced through intimidation and adherence to a Latin American culture of toxic masculinity, or “machista.”

Based on a true story and directed by Sandra Marquez, “La Ruta” is performed by an all Latinx cast of eight that centers around the few days leading up to and the nearly three years following the disappearance of Brenda (Cher Alvarez).

Gomez is careful to point out in the program notes that this is not a docu-drama but rather a “creative re-imagining.”

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Around town: Not gone yet

 

With everything you have to do, places to go, people to visit there might not have been time to fit in everything you hoped to see by Dec. 31. No worries. Some of the fun shows, exhibits and festivals will still be around in January, 2019.

Siobhan Stagg in Cendrillon at the Lyric Opera
Siobhan Stagg in Cendrillon at the Lyric Opera

Shows

Lyric Opera’s delightful “Cendrillon” (Cinderella ) runs through Jan. 20 and its exceptional “La boheme” continues at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, through Jan. 31. For tickets and more information  visit Lyric Opera.

Steadfast tin Soldier at Lookinggglass Theatre in the Chicago Water Works at 821 N. Michicagn Ave. runs through Jan. 13. For tickets and other information visit Lookingglass.

Women of Soul” at the Black Ensemble Theatre goes to Jan. 27. See tickets and more information at Black Ensemble Theater.

“ A Midsummer Night’s Dream“ at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, opens this weekend (Dec. 14 2018), and runs through Jan. 27. Tickets and more information at Chicago Shakes.

At Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted, “Familiar” continues through Jan. 13 and “”La Ruta” goes through Jan. 27.  Visit Steppenwolf.

 

Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Festivals

Illumination” at the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Il Hwy 53, Lisle, goes through New Year’s Day, Jan. 1.

Winter Wonderfest” continues at Navy Pier, Chicago, through Jan. 6. For tickets, parking and other information visit Navy Pier.

Wonderland Express” is at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe (just east of Edens Expressway) through Jan. 6. (This is a time and date ticketed show)  For tickets and other information visit . For parking check Chicago Botanic.

Zoo Lights” at Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St.,, Chicago, is open New Year’s Day and continues through Jan. 6.

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Four very different Chicago shows extend performances

 

Chicago’s theater productions are not only numerous and doing well, they are often extended to accommodate demand. Here are four show extensions with widely-different styles and themes that you might want to see.

Front, Rashada Dawan, Back left to right Emma Sipora Tyler and Tyler Symone. (Photo by Marisa KM)
Front, Rashada Dawan, Back left to right Emma Sipora Tyler and Tyler Symone. (Photo by Marisa KM)

Caroline, Or Change

A moving story with book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and score by Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home, Violet) the show has been extended to Nov. 11, 2018. It is a Firebrand Theatre/ TimeLine Theatre production at The Den Theatre, 1329-1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. For tickets and other information call (773) 697-3830 and visit Firebrandtheatre. For more about the show visit Change can be difficult.

 

Downstate

Steppenwolf Theatre Company extends its world premiere production of a difficult subject by Pulitzer Prize-winning ensemble member Bruce Norris through Nov. 18, 2018. For reviews of the show visit TheatreInChicago. For tickets call (312) 335-1650 and visit Steppenwolf.

 

WaistWatchers The Musical

The Chicago premiere of this funny salute to friendship, fitness and food at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N Halsted St.,has been extended through Dec. 31, 2018.  For tickets and more information visit WaistWatcher the Musical. For a review of the show visit WaistWatchers.

 

Hamilton Company at Private Bank Theatre Photo by Joan Marcus
Hamilton Company at Private Bank Theatre Photo by Joan Marcus

 

Hamilton

Once again, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s mega hit about Alexander Hamilton co-starring his wife and her family and his fellow founding fathers, has been extended. Tickets are available through May 26, 2019. The show is at the Private Bank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St. For tickets and other information visit Broadway In Chicago. For more about the show and to see a review visit Hamilton is worth the hype.

 

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

A few thoughts on Chicago at the Tony Awards

If watching the 2018Tony Awards this past Sunday, June 10, you wouldn’t have heard much about the winners’ backgrounds or that of the people listed in the Tony Memorial to playwrights, directors, actors, choreographers and producers who recently died.

Steppenwolf in Chicago (Photo by Kyle Flubacker)
Steppenwolf in Chicago
(Photo by Kyle Flubacker)

But when Chicago audiences heard the name Laurie Metcalf, John Mahoney, David Cromer, Rachel Rockwell or Jessie Mueller they were likely to nod, particularly if they have been longtime theater patrons.

Metcalf likely received cheers from colleagues back at Steppenwolf when she won Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for Edward Albee’s “Three tall Women.”

When Mahoney’s death (Chicago, Feb. 4, 2018) scrolled down the Memorial screen, his long time Steppenwolf and Chicago theater fans likely nodded or sighed.

Both members of Steppenwolf’s  Ensemble, Metcalf and Mahoney had performed together in such productions as “You Can’t take It With You.”  Even with her demanding film and New York/London stage schedule Metcalf has returned to do shows at Steppenwolf as she did summer of 2016 for “Voice Lessons.”

I last saw Mahoney when he gave a terrific performance with Francis Guinan in Steppenwolf’s “The Rembrandt.”

When Cromer stepped up to receive the Tony Award for Best Direction Of A Musical, he did so to loud applause for his insightful handling of “The Band’s Visit.” A remarkable musical by David Yazbek about Egyptian musicians who were lost in an Israeli desert town where their visit changed them and the town. The musical walked off with 10 Tony Awards, as it should have.

However, Chicago audiences may remember that Cromer an Illinois native, had won Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Awards for “Angels in America Parts I and II” in 1998, “The Price” in 2002 and “The Cider House Rules” in 2003. Will Chicago see him again?

With Rachel Rockwell’s recent death (May 28, 2018) still fresh in the minds of the Chicago theater community as an outstanding director and choreographer, it was an “oh, thank you” moment for some of us watching back home when it made the Tony Memorial.

Evanston native Jessie Mueller was also on the Tony program, nominated for her starring role as Julie Jordan in “Carousel” revival on Broadway, The Tony winner in 2014 for her performance as Carol King in “Beautiful,” Mueller had won the Joseph Jeffereson award as Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel in 2008.

With all the theater talent we have here in the Chicago area it really isn’t a surprise to see some of it recognized during the Tony Awards. Let’s see what next year brings.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Four Chicago shows to see before they close

With so many shows in Chicago it is easy to miss one you really meant to see. So here is a reminder of really fine productions that end this month of January, 2018.

‘Turandot,’  Puccini’s glorious fantasy musical portrayal of a cold-hearted princess in ancient China is at the Lyric Opera for just two more performances: Jan. 21 and Jan. 28. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Turandot and Lyric Opera.

 Amber Wagner, Stefano La Colla and Maria Agresta in Turandot. Todd Rosenberg photo.

Amber Wagner, Stefano La Colla and Maria Agresta in Turandot. © Todd Rosenberg Photography

‘Wicked,’ that musical story about the two witches of OZ, closes at the Oriental Theatre, Jan. 21. For more information and tickets visit Broadway in Chicago Wicked.

‘BLKS,’ a play that tells about a day in the life of four young black women in New York City is at Steppenwolf just through Jan. 21. For more information and tickets visit Steppenwolf.

‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ has its final performance at the Cadillac Palace Theatre  Jan. 28. For more information and tickets visit Broadway in Chicago Beautiful.

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

‘Minutes’ shines scary spotlight on small town politics

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Audiences are likely to be lulled into a state of boring normalcy during the first part of actor/playwright Tracy Letts’ new play, ‘The Minutes.’

Premiering now at Steppenwolf Theatre through Dec. 31, 2017, ‘The Minutes’ is a dark comedy which turns out to be a scary, unfunny, toe-dip into the troubled waters of small-town USA. The scene is a city council meeting in Big Cherry (you pick a state).

Cast of 'The Minutes' at Steppenwolf. Michael Brosilow photo
Cast of ‘The Minutes’ at Steppenwolf. Michael Brosilow photo

As a former reporter who has covered meetings at the city, county and school board level, I can attest that David Zinn’s set design is right on as far as the seats, desks and ceiling are concerned. (The mural is an added patriotic touch).

However, you know something is wrong when the meeting is announced as closed, even though no legal reason is given such as personnel or law suit. Even if those items are only briefly mentioned during the closed session, they still should have been offered at the start of the meeting as an excuse for going into a closed session.

Apparently there was no public to complain but maybe the public in this town knows that all council meetings are held in closed session.

But then, as each council member  states an item of business, from Francis Guinan as the doddering Mr. Oldfield to Danny McCarthy as Mr. Hanratty who has drawn up plans to redo the town’s fountain with a ramp for disabled visitors, the meeting appears to be routine. At least in the beginning.

One of the worms that rots the fabric of life in Big Cherry is that its founding is based on a battle that happened almost just the opposite of what is celebrated in town every year, as researched by Mr. Carp, one of the council members.

The other problem is that Carp, well portrayed by Ian Barford, also uncovered a city official’s criminal action regarding the disposal of stolen bikes.

But in this small town that does not want rotten apples to upset its rosy apple cart, politics and threats make the worms disappear.

The play’s title refers to the uncovering of the worms when  Cliff Chamberlain as new council member, Mr. Peel, wants to hear the minutes from the meeting he missed when he was at his mother’s funeral. Those minutes reflect Carp’s complaints and concerns. Peel is told by Mayor Superba, the forcefully restrained William Petersen, that the minutes have not been prepared for distribution.

All is revealed when the Ms Johnson, an honest clerk nicely interpreted by Brittany Burch, says they have been prepared.  The other council members who always go along with the Mayor are Mr. Breeing (Kevin Anderson), Mr. Blake (James Vincent Meredith)  Mrs. Matz (Sally Murphy), Ms Innwa (Penny Slusher) and Mr. Assalone (Jeff Still).

Directed by Anna D. Shapiro, the acting is superb. The problem I have with the play is that its ending feels a bit off given the town’s attitude toward its heritage. Though the ending, (no spoiler alert here) delves into what may be the true nature of a group when divested of its respectable trappings, it would have been more understandable if the group circled in the dark with candles or adopted another ritual.

DETAILS: ‘The Minutes’ is at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N Halsted St, through Dec. 31, 2017. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information call 312-335-1650 or visit Steppenwolf.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

Three haunting shows

 

Several stage productions gladden the December holiday season and there are romantic comedies perfect for February. But when it comes to October, there’s usually a dearth of plays that chill the soul. Not so, this October with three classics to see.

The 'Man-Beast' at First Folio Theatre fits the haunting season. Photo complements of First Folio.
The ‘Man-Beast’ at First Folio Theatre fits the haunting season. Photo from First Folio.

‘The Crucible’

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is doing Arthur Miller’s 1953 scary in a what-can-happen way when seemingly  normal neighbors believe the stories behind the Salem Witch Trials. The play is part of the Steppenwolf for Young Adults series but it really is a play for all generations. Running for only eight public performances from Oct. 4 through Oct. 21, 2017, it’s a chilling reminder of how fake news can spread as if true and the harm it can do. For tickets ($20 general and $15 students) visit Steppenwolf or call (312) 335-1650. Steppenwolf Theatre Company is at 1650 N. Halsted St. Chicago.

‘The Man-Beast’

First Folio Theatre at the possibly haunted Mayslake Peabody Estate, is doing the world premiere of Joseph Zettelmaier’s ‘The Man-Beast.’ Based on a French legendary werewolf, it’s the third play in his triology of ‘The Gravedigger’ and ‘Dr. Seward’s Dracula.’  The play runs from Oct. 7 through Nov. 5, 2017. Get tickets if you dare see it at First Folio or by calling (630) 986-8067.  Located in a Du Page County forest preserve, First Folio is at  31st St. and Rt. 83 in Oak Brook.

‘GHOSTS & zombies’

Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” a drams that starts out innocently enough with a woman opening an orphanage as a tribute to her dead husband, becomes a dark comedy in the hands of writer Gustav Tegby. Translated by Chad Eric Bergman, the play takes a strange turn when the woman’s estate hosts ghosts and the un-dead. The play is presented by Akvavit Theatre at the Strawdog Theatre Company now through Oct. 29, 2017. For tickets go to Chicago Nordic. Strawdog Theatre Company is at 1802 W. Berenice, Chicago.