‘Whisper House’ needs to kick-up the volume.

Whisper House (Black button eyes photo)
Whisper House (Black button eyes photo)

2 1/2 stars

After his fighter pilot father is killed during WWII and his emotionally despondent mother is deemed incompetent, young Christopher (Leo Spiegel) is sent to live with his Aunt Lily (Kate Nawrocki), a lamp tender in a haunted lighthouse in Maine.

Since before the war, Aunt Lily has employed Yasuhiro (Karmann Bajuyo), a Japanese-American, as a kind of helper and all-around handyman. It becomes clear that over three years together the two have formed a bond that transcends their working relationship.

Continue reading “‘Whisper House’ needs to kick-up the volume.”

Sneak Peek at next season in Mid-North neighborhoods


Lobby of the Athenaeum Theatre on Southport Ave., Chicago. (Photo courtesy of the Athenaeum Theatre )
Lobby of the Athenaeum Theatre on Southport Ave., Chicago. (Photo courtesy of the Athenaeum Theatre )

Chicago Theater and Arts “Sneak Peek” series looks at what will be on stage at a venue you like and also lets you know about some shows you might want to put on the calendar that you didn’t know were coming to Chicagoland.. Part Four searches the area from Athenaeum to Wit.

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.) Part three  was what will be on stage in the Lincoln Park and Near North areas. When this series is over, the next will break shows down by category as Halloween, Christmas, world premier, classic.

Enjoy the new season

For more details, tickets and subscriptions click on each theater’s link. Theater is not a typo. Some production companies use theatre others theater.


Athenaeum Theatre

A multi venue operation, the building is at 2936 N. Southport Ave. This summer, Eclipse Theatre Company is doing “Beyond Therapy” through Aug. 18, 2019 on Stage Three.

This fall The Right Brain Project presents “(Non) Fiction” Aug. 22-Sept 15, in Studio One. This winter Eclipse Theatre Company  will do “Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them as the last part of the 2019 Christopher Durang series.

For tickets and other information call (773) 935-6875 and visit Athenaeum Theatre.


Mercury Theater

The building is at 3745 N. Southport Ave.  Monty Python’s “Spamalot” is there Aug. 30 to Nov. 3, 2019. For tickets and future shows call (773) 325-1700 and visit Mercury Theater.


Stage 773

A multi-theater venue, Stage 773 is at 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

American Blues Theater is currently doing a revival of “Spitfire Grill – The Musical” through  Aug. 17 in the Pro Theater, Black Button Eyes has “Ghost Quartet” through Aug. 17 in the Box Theater and Fearless Fiction Productions is doing “Murdering Macbeth,” Aug. 29 to Sept. 8 in the Thrust Theater.

In addition, David Gosz & Leo Fotos are presenting their musical about living with mental health, “Tru,”   Nov. 1 to Nov. 24 on the Thrust Stage. Her Story Theater is doing “Invisible” Oct. 3  to Nov. 3 in the Box Theater and American Blues Theater is doing a revival of “Five Presidents’ Sept. 6 to Oct. 19 in the Pro Theater, followed by its annual holiday show, “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago”  Nov. 14, 2019 to Jan 4, 2020, also in the Pro theater.

Stage 773 also hosts cabarets and one-night shows. To see those listings visit Stage 773/All Shows.  For tickets and other information call (773) 327-5252 and visit Stage 773.


Strawdog Theatre Company

The theatre is at 1802 W. Berenice. Strawdog is doing “The Effect” Oct. 13 to Nov. 23 and “ Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” Saturdays and Sundays in December, 2019. TBA is the winter of 2020 show. “Welcome to Keene, New Hampshire” is April 16 to May 30, 2020. For tickets and other information call (773) 528-9696 and visit Strawdog.


Theater Wit

A shared venue, Theatre Wit is at 1229 W Belmont Ave.

Currently on stage is Kokandy Productions’ “Head Over Heels – The Musical” through Aug. 25, 2019.  Remy Bumppo Theatre, a resident Theater Wit company, presents “Howard’s End” Aug. 29 to Oct. 5, then “Top Girls” comes Jan 16 to Feb. 22, 2020 followed by “The Agitators” April 30 to June 6. In addition,  The Gift Theatre is doing “Kentucky” Oct 17-Nov. 16.

To see Theater Wit’s 2019 Summer Opera productions visit Theater Wit/Box Office. For tickets and other information call (773) 975-8150 and visit Theater Wit.


TimeLine Theatre Company

TimeLine, located at  615 W. Wellington Ave. chose shows for 2019-20 on the theme of Exploring today’s issues through the lens of the past” starting with “Oslo,” Sept. 18  to Oct. 20 followed by “Rutherford and Son,” Nov. 14 2019 to Jan. 12, 2020. Then, “Kill Move Paradise” is Feb. 20 to April 5 and “Relentless” is May 14 to June 27, 2020. For tickets and other information call  (773) 281-8463 and visit TimeLine.


Windy City Playhouse

The main location is 3014 W. Irving Park Rd. A second site in in the South Loop’s Motor Row.  Currently on stage is “Southern Gothic” through Sept. 1 and “The Recommendation”  through Sept. 22, 2019. Check location when ordering tickets.

Next, “Every Brilliant Thing” opens Sept. 18, 2019. “The Boys in the Band” begins Jan. 29, 2020. For tickets and other information call  (773) 891-8985 and visit Windy City Playhouse.

Jodie Jacobs

Hedda Hopper revealed



‘Hedda! A Musical Conversation’ is a very entertaining one-woman show at the Athenaeum Theatre starring Jillann Gabrielle as legendary Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

Written by Gabrielle with book and lyrics by Michael Termine and music by with Howard Pfeifer, ‘Hedda’ is a one-act play that takes place from the mid 1940s through the late 1950s in Hedda Hopper’s living room.

Jillian Gabrielle is Hedda Hopper. Photo by Paradise Playhouse
Jillann Gabrielle is Hedda Hopper. Photo by Paradise Playhouse

Tasteful furniture, a rolling cart of favorite drinks , clothing racks with  dozens of the hats she was famous for wearing and that prime necessity for a gossip columnist, a phone, set the scene for a fun 90 minute peek into the life Hedda Hopper.

Gabrielle’s performance as Hedda is superb as she walks and sings the audience through a life that went from Quaker upbringing to bit MGM player and then famed columnist.

Lively phone conversations and clever  songs such as as “Hedda! Queen of Hollywood,” “Off the Record” (there’s audience participation), “Elizabeth, “Hats!” and ‘Don’t Drink the Punch” reveal much of her story.

Among the many things that makes this play interesting there is her interaction with the audience. When the phone or doorbell rings, she looks out at the crowd and says, “I’ll be right back.”

And when the audience hears her say, “Hello, Elizabeth” or “Joan,” or “Marlene” and others, everyone knows who’s there.

Hedda had an amazing effect on not only the motion picture industry, but on politics, as well. Her song “I’m Political” describes her conservative values and moral views as her columns go after Charlie Chaplin and other Communist sympathizers.

She also had famous heated discussions with many of Hollywood’s elite including the Elizabeth Taylor/Eddie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds trio.

Her column had a readership of over 30 million, and it set the stage for many types of columns today.

DETAILS: ‘Hedda! A Musical Conversation’ is at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago, through March 17, 2018.  Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information, call 773-935-6835 or visit AthenaeumTheatre.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit TheatreInChicago.


Bette Davis is back for another bow


When I was a youngster, I would often hear my parents mention their favorite movie star, Bette Davis.  Decades later, I gravitated toward old films and I, too, became a huge Davis fan.

Jessica Sherr does 'Bette Davis Ain't for Sissies' at the Athenaeum Theatre. Photo courtesy of Jessica Sherr
Jessica Sherr does ‘Bette Davis Ain’t for Sissies’ at the Athenaeum Theatre. Photo courtesy of Jessica Sherr

As I watched ‘Dark Victory, ‘Now, Voyager,’ and her many other movies—some of them numerous times—I found myself reciting a few of her lines along with her. I thought I knew almost everything about Ms. Davis until I recently saw the captivating play ‘Bette Davis Ain’t for Sissies’ currently at The Athenaeum Theatre.

The one-woman show, written and performed by Jessica Sherr, is a fascinating look at Davis’s life and career. It only took a few seconds to actually feel that the actress and playwright on stage was the real Bette Davis.

Jessica Sherr not only resembles the actress in her early thirties but her voice, expressive eyes and mannerisms emulate Davis.  And the one-act play’s staging and set design are such that allow Sherr to change costumes while she continues talking to the audience, never missing a beat.

Often in just a sentence or two, Sherr takes the audience through various stages of Davis’s life, beginning with her relationship with her parents, especially her mother whom Bette called “Ruth” after her father left them when she was ten years old.

Sherr then touches on Davis’ career beginning when on stage in New York.  Not being a blonde and no taller than five-foot three, she fondly reminisces about her earlier years by commenting, “They don’t care what you look like!”

Invited by an agent who saw Davis on stage, she left New York and traveled to Hollywood to begin life as a movie star. Even though she became known as a Hollywood “hometown girl,” she still missed New York and has said, “I hate California—it’s so damn sunny it makes me sick!”

This show is for anyone who wants a closer look at Bette Davis – the ten-time Academy Award nominee and two-time Academy Award Best Actress winner for her roles in ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Jezebel.’

Along with a closer view of her career, you’ll learn about Davis’s marriages, her relationships, her Hollywood friends, the others she avoided and how she stood up for what she wanted, plus how it eventually turned out.  And there’ll be many laughs along the way.

Details: ‘Bette Davis Ain’t for Sissies” is at the Athenaeum Theatre,  2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. A last minute extension now continues the show through July 9, 2017. For tickets more information visit AthenaeumTheatre  or call 773-935-6875.

-Francine Pappadis Friedman