Do you sometimes assume that someone with the name of Goldstein is Jewish or that someone who is Asian has to be aggressive to be successful?
In ‘Smart People,’ now playing at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, playwright Lydia R. Diamond has four people, a black man, black woman, white man and an Asian woman, interact in Cambridge, MA. Both issue raised here did occur.
All are ‘smart people’ but they each encounter stereotypical problems with others and with each other when play and pursue their careers. The time is between 2007 and 2009 with the Barack Obama campaign and win in the background.
Theater goers who have read or have seen Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ and its sequel, ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten,’ and so are familiar with the character of James Tyrone Jr. (based on O’Neill’s alcoholic brother Jamie), might wonder why Writers Theatre is going for laughs in the first part of ‘Moon’ instead of building on its premise of needy people.
There is a playful mood in the first act instead of one that emphasizes the problems faced by O’Neill’s characters, tenant farmers, dad Phil Hogan (A.C. Smith) and daughter Josie (Bethany Thomas), and their landlord, James Tyrone (Jim De Vita).
Instead of the Irish family that O’Neill wrote about, director William Brown has transferred the Hogan’s woes into that experienced by a black family. That change doesn’t matter as to the story line’s legitimacy. The roles are played by consummate actors. Watching them is usually a pleasure but perhaps in a different context.
More tension needs to build to the third act which is the exceedingly important culmination of really looking at themselves, stripping off their persona covers and finding the love that they desperately seek is with each other.
Josie who thinks she’s not attractive has been trading promiscuity for real love. James who has been drowning his grief for his late mother with alcohol, needs mothering and thinks he finds it with Josie.
Thus the scene should be more emotionally draining. Their lives may have been “misbegotten”so far, but now they have the moon to help them.
An underlying plot is to stop James from selling their farm to Harder, a wealthy neighbor who doesn’t like the Hogan’s pigs to break through his fence and get into his ice pond. Drink and seduction enter into that plot but become unnecessary when James admits he was just kidding about selling. Thus Josie and James are really free to find each other and themselves.
The production’s setting is still O’Neill’s Connecticut farm in 1923 but neither the time period nor the state make a difference to the playwright’s theme of finding inner truth and love. Without continual focus and buildup, the play’s nearly three hours is difficult to sit through which is a shame because Josie’s and James emotional revelations are at the classic’s core.
DETAILS: ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’ is at Writers’ Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, through March 18, 2018. Running time is about 3 hours 50 minutes. For tickets and other information visit Writers Theatre.
Even though the set and costumes set the Victorian period and the mannerisms of Oscar Wilde’s witty take down of English high society was time appropriate, so many of his comments continue to hit the mark on social climbing and pseudo intellectualism today that ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is still a joy to watch.
Indeed, the Writers Theatre production, on stage through Dec. 23, 2017, takes the author’s subtitle: “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People” quite seriously so that the audience “gets it” when the male leads, John Worthing (Alex Goodrich) and Algernon Moncrieff (Steve Haggard) behave in an absurd, languid manner while stating rather profound observations.
The only problem is that the observations come too quickly or are sometimes slurred so that not all Wilde’s bon mots are caught.
The two female leads, the women the men fall in love with, Gwendolen Fairfax (Jennifer Latimore) and Cecily Cardew (Rebecca Hurd), banter beautifully with each other and their beaux.
The leads’ farcial actions bounce off each male’s butler, the sarcastic Lane and drunken Merriman (both brilliantly played as foils for the show’s asides by Ross Lehman).
Other catalysts in separating the couples and bringing them back together are Lady Bracknell (Shannon Cochran) as Gwendolen’s formidable mother, Miss Prism, (Anita Chandwaney) as Cecily’s governess and a wannabe novelist, and Reverend Canon Chasuble (Aaron Todd Douglas).
The action takes place aided by Colette Pollard’s charming sets that are nicely void of Victorian excess and Mara Blumenfeld’s delightful, somewhat “My Fair Lady” style costume designs.
Directed by Michael Halberstam as a seriously funny look at Victorian and therefore, society’s sometimes artificial values, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is a delightful addition to a holiday season filled with Dickens’ views of Victorian England.
DETAILS: ‘The Importance of Being Earnest” is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, through Dec. 23, 2017. Running Time: two hours, 20 minutes with two intermissions. For tickets and other information call (847) 242-6000 or Writerstheatre.
If you believe that Don Quixote embodies any hopes to be able to right at least some of the world’s wrongs and if you agree that apathy is generally a societal problem, you will love ‘Quixote: On the Conquest of Self,’ now at Writers Theatre.
I liked Henry Godinez’s soliloquy as Don Quixote that comes in the first third of the production.
Costumed in found objects such as car license plates, what looks like a beer can sleeve, buttons and other possibly tossed in the trash items, Godinez tells the audience what chapters and pages he doesn’t like because they either are physically painful or come across as a misunderstood character assessment by Miguel de Cervantes.
He espouses these ideas in acrobatic positions and while doing forward or backwards somersaults that emphasize how he and his life are tossed around by Cervantes.
However, not as helpful in conveying his object lesson of do or say something before it’s too late is the second part of the production. This part breaks the fourth wall as Godinez pulls in audience members not just for his story, but for other stories by Cervantes.
I can’t go into the third part without a spoiler alert so, suffice it to know that apathy versus righting wrongs becomes crucial. Unfortunately, it has overtones of Peter Pan’s plea for Tinker Bell’s life with do-you-believe-in-fairies type proposals.
Written by Monica Hoth and Claudio Valdéz Kuri and translated by Georgina Escobar, the Writers Theatre production is directed by Kuri, a noted Mexican director.
The acting is superb and the show’s minimalist staging is perfect for Writers’ small Gillian Theatre. An argument could be made that the show is also perfect for a high school audience where discussions on the conquest of self and apathy could take place.
‘Quixote: On the Conquest of Self’ is at Writers Theatre,325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, through Dec. 17, 2017. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 242-6011 and visit Writers Theatre.
More tickets to Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, ‘Hamilton,’ will become available beginning at 10 a.m. Aug. 29, 2017, according to producer Jeffrey Seller.
Announced in conjunction with Broadway in Chicago, he noted that a 16 week block of tickets can be purchased from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The PrivateBank Theatre’s box office, 18 W. Monroe St., online at BroadwayinChicago and by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000.
The new block of tickets extends the run to April 29, 2018. The box office had been selling tickets only through Jan 7 of next year.
Tickets range in cost from $65 to $190. However, the online lottery for $10 seats will continue.
The lottery can be entered through a new app at HamiltonBroadway and at BroadwayinChicago. Access to the new lottery is 11 a.m. (Central Time) two days before the performance and through 9 a.m. the day before the performance.
The show is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. More on the musical can be found at “Hamilton is worth the hype.”
Jeff Equity Nominations
Check the list to see if a theater production you saw and liked made the Jefferson Committee’s equity nomination list. Nominations fall into 33 categories.
Shows had to be running between Aug.1, 2016 and July 31, 2017. The 49th Annual Equity Jeff Awards ceremony will be held Nov. 6 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace.
Drury Lane Productions took the most nominations at 19 followed by Paramount and Writers Theatres with 15, Goodman Theatre at 14, Porchlight Music Theatre with 13, Court Theatre at 11 and Marriott Theatre with 10.
Here is a list of nominees in the plays and musicals categories for the show, director, actor and actress.
‘Trevor, the musical,’ now in its world premier at Writers Theatre, is based on the story behind the Oscar winning short film that led to the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention/crisis intervention initiative for youngsters in the LGBTQ community.
Set in 1981, it reflects the attitudes of the times but just as important, it reflects the kind of general adolescent bullying, cruelty, peer pressure and even parental inattentiveness and misunderstandings that still exists today.
That said, ‘Trevor, the musical’ showcases the amazing talent of Eli Tokash, a young Broadway (‘Finding Neverland, ‘Pippin’) actor who performs with the grace and style of Fred Astaire,
Tokash as Trevor, wants to be writing, directing, choreographing and playing in musical theater in 10 years. But his current goal as a 13-year-old in his last year of a suburban junior high, he wants to perform in the school’s annual talent show or direct the eighth grade football team in a dance number he devises.
It’s acceptable to Pinky, the team’s captain, perfectly portrayed by Declan Desmond as a guy who would rather dance a Fred Astaire type number than parade around in a pink tutu that past teams had to wear for the show.
While working with Pinky, Trevor realizes he has a crush on the football star. Also, while trying to prove he likes girls, he goes to a smooching spot with Cathy, delightfully played, glasses, braces rubber bands and all, by Tori Whaples.
As they try to kiss, Trevor realizes he isn’t interested even though Cathy is.
The kicker that throws his life into suicide mode comes when his best friend, Walter, nicely acted by Matthew Uzarrage, gives Trevor’s journal to Mary (Eloise Lushina). She reads Trevor’s notes about Pinky to her friends and gives the journal to the football team.
Trevor fantasizes about his funeral. He wants Diana Ross’ “Endless Love” to be playing.
Although not really a jukebox musical because many of the songs are by Wick Davis (music) and Dan Collins (book and lyrics), the show spotlights Trevor’s adoration for Ross’ music and philosophy.
Performed beautifully by the talented Salisha Thomas (‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,’ vocalist for Disney) she sings many Ross hits throughout the show beginning with “Do You Know?”
“Beautiful” director Marc Bruni has brought his seamless touch to this production which has aspirations of moving on to Broadway. Expertly choreographed by Josh Prince (also “Beautiful”) it likely will get there.
However, given the seriousness of its theme, at a mere two hours and 10 minuets, there is room to expand the tension surrounding the teens, adults and anyone who doesn’t fit the attitudes and models of the times.
‘Trevor’ is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, now through Sept. 17, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 242-6000) and visit Writers Theatre.
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.
Part of the fun of summer is walking around outdoor art fairs to see what a favorite artist is doing now, visit a suburb or neighborhood on the to do list and get the bod moving without having to exert the same muscles used for sports.
July 7-9 Downtown Chicago
After visiting the “Bean” in Millennium park, walk a couple blocks north on Michigan Avenue where you will spy the telltale white tents of an art show. About 130 artists will be there through 5 p.m. July 9. It’s the 9th annual Millennium Art Festival. For other information visit AmdurProductions.
July 15 & 16 Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood
The 4th Annual Southport Art Festival, held in the Lakeview Nieighborhood, features about 130 artists on Southport Avenue from Waveland to Byron. It is hosted by the Southport Neighbor’s Association to benefits local causes. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit AmdurPrioductions.
July 22 & 23 Geneva
The Geneva Fine Arts Fair is a good chance to visit the charming town of Geneva, IL west of Chicago. The fair of approximately 175 exhibitors spreads out downtown from at 8 S. Third St. on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit EMEvents
July 29 & 30 Glencoe
About 130 artists set up booths downtown north suburban Glencoe the last weekend of July for the Annual Glencoe Festival of Art. The fair center is Park and Vernon Avenues. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. BTW the interesting structure on Tudor Court a block north of Park Avenue is Writers Theatre designed by Jeanne Gang’s Studio Gang Architects. More information: Amdur Productions.
Aug. 5 & 6 Glenview
Art at the Glen features 185 arts in The Glen Tower Center, a section of Glenview, IL that used to hold the Glenview Naval Base that now has a mix of housing and commercial properties plus the Kohl Children’s Museum. Fair hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For other information visit Amdur Productions.
Aug. 19 & 20 Oakbrook
The Oak Brook Fine Art Festival is a chance to mix art and fall apparel shopping.It’s held at the Oakbrook Center Oakbrook Shopping Center, 100 Oakbrook Center. Hours are Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.. For more information visit Amdur Productions .
Aug. 26 & 27 Oak Park
The suburb of Oak Park, just west of Chicago is holding its Oak Park Avenue-Lake Arts Crafts Show in Scoville Park at Oak Park Ave and Lake Street. Operated by the American Society of Artists, the hours are Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tip: You might want to look up Frank Lloyd wright’s Oak Park designed structures before you go so you know where to look on the way to or from the art fair. For more information visit the American Society of Artists. For other information visit American Society of Artists.
August 26 & 27 Highland Park
Among the top most popular art fairs, The Port Clinton Art Festival draws entries from all over the world and visitors from across the Midwest. About 265 artists’ booths take over the Port Clinton outdoor shopping square, Central Avenue and 1st and 2nd Streets. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For other information visit Amdur Productions.
August 26 & 27 Chicago’s Bucktown Neighborhood
The last weekend in August is also the Annual Bucktown Arts Fest. Approximately 200 artists will be in Senior Citizens Memorial Park, 2300 N. Oakley Ave & 2300 W. Lyndale St.11 am to 7 pm 200 Artists The Bucktown Arts Fest is a non-profit, all volunteer-run, neighbourhood celebration of the arts. The fair benefits arts education programming at Holstein Park and in the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhoods. For other information visit Bucktown Arts Fest.
The Writers Theatre production of ‘Parade, a powerful, Tony Award-winning musical about the wrongful conviction and death of a Jewish factory manager, is so well acted and sung that many audience members seemed to have bought the false witnesses’ stories.
They must have believed the manager was guilty because there were gasps from the show’s opening night audience when in the second act the stories turned out to be no more than lies coached by a prosecutor with an eye on the governorship.
The story is a true tale of how Leo Frank, a Brooklyn Jew, is deliberately convicted and killed for the rape and death of a young Atlanta, GA factory girl in 1913.
Although married to a lass Georgia born and bred, Frank was a Yankee and a Jew. He appeared cold and unfriendly and didn’t appreciate his wife in the beginning.
Playwright Batheseba Doran has placed opposite backgrounds and personalities into already trying circumstances in ‘The Mystery of Love & Sex,’ now at Writers Theatre in Glencoe.
The play opens with college students Charlotte (Haley Burgess) and Jonny (Travis Turner), inviting Charlotte’s parents, Howard (Keith Kupfere) and Lucinda (Lia Mortensen), over to Charlotte’s dorm room for dinner.
Charlotte had chosen the college, somewhere in the South over Yale to be near Jonny, her long-time neighbor and dear friend.
Howard and Lucinda want to know more about the kids’ relationship and are determined to be understanding if Jonny becomes part of their family.
Charlotte wants to see if she should be having a deeper relationship with Jonny even though she admits to being attracted to a female college student. Underlying her concern is an attempt to kill herself years ago when she was bullied after saying she thought another girl was attractive.
But the play is about more than exploring sexual propensities. Charlotte is white and Jewish while Jonny is a black Baptist who believes in having a traditional, Baptist family even though he later admits to affairs with other males.
Then there are the parents’ problems. Howard, a successful mystery writer is a New York Jew and Lucinda, an elegant woman who needs a cigarette during tense situations, is a born and bred Southern belle who converted when they married. Their marriage is experiencing mid-life angst.
The situations of exploring sexuality, midlife-crisis, mixed faith marriages and mixed race relationships are real. But throwing them all into the same play has given the dialogue and actions a contrived feel. That is even with the exceptional acting of Burgess as Charlotte.
Turner, who was outstanding in Lookinglass’ “Thaddeus and Slocum” and Second City’s “Longer, Louder Wagner” at the Lyric, appeared uncomfortable with his clichéd dialogue as Jonny.
As good as actors Kupferer and Mortensen are, it felt as if you were watching them perform the dialogue of representative characters rather than becoming real people.
Details: ‘The Mystery of Love & Sex,’ written by Bathsheba Doran and directed by Marti Lyons, is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, now through July 9, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 242-6000 and visit Writers Theatre.