Three new unusual plays to watch

 

L to R, Steven Swick, Andre Patterson and Ann d'Aquino (Photo courtesy of Northwestern University)
L to R, Steven Swick, Andre Patterson and Ann d’Aquino (Photo courtesy of Northwestern University)

Called “Stateville Voices,” three short plays directed by Sydney Chatman, former Goodman Theatre’s Michael Maggio Fellow, can be watched live at no charge Friday, July 3 at 5 p.m. on Facebook, YouTube and GoodmanTheatre.org/Stateville.

A virtual premier of “Parameters of Closeness” by André Patterson, “Ain’t Nothing like Quality Time” by Taurean Decatur and ” Comic Books and Candy”  by Antonio McDowell, the plays are products of a Spring 2019 playwriting course taught by playwright and Goodman Artistic Associate Rebecca Gilman as part of the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP).

The performances will be followed at 6 p.m. with a discussion about the plays and life at the Stateville Correctional Facility during COVID-19. Panelists include Antonio McDowell (Stateville Voices playwright who was recently granted clemency by Governor JB Pritzker) and his attorney, Josh Tepfer; Patrick Pursley (NPEP participant and former Stateville inmate); and Jennifer Lackey (Director of the Northwestern Prison Education Program and the Wayne and Elizabeth Jones Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University).

(Note: prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, live performances of the Stateville Voices plays were planned for Goodman Theatre, Kennedy-King College and Stateville Correctional Center. The Goodman intends to facilitate the live presentation when safe to do so.)

 

Outstanding ‘Roe’ production rivets audiences at Goodman Theatre

 

 

Meg Warner (Judy/ Linda Coffee/Ensemble), Christina Hall (Sarah Weddington), Ryan Kitley (Flip/Ensemble), Raymond Fox (McCluskey/Ensemble) and Kate Middleton (Norma). (Liz Loren photo)
Meg Warner (Judy/ Linda Coffee/Ensemble), Christina Hall (Sarah Weddington), Ryan Kitley (Flip/Ensemble), Raymond Fox (McCluskey/Ensemble) and Kate Middleton (Norma). (Liz Loren photo)

4 stars

Director Vanessa Stalling’s innovative staging of “Roe,” the story behind the landmark Roe v. Wade case, keeps Goodman Theatre audiences captivated its entire two hours.

There was also a 15 minute intermission but it hardly interrupted the flow because the play, written by Lisa Loomer, was about to change direction.

Continue reading “Outstanding ‘Roe’ production rivets audiences at Goodman Theatre”

‘A Christmas Carol’ still delights at Goodman

 

Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Goodman theatre (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Goodman theatre (Photo by Liz Lauren)

3 ½ stars

Goodman Theatre’s annual “A Christmas Carol,” now in its 42 appearance, continues to draw thousands of families downtown Chicago for Charles Dickens’ 19th century story about redemption.

Originally called A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas when published in 1843, the tale does feature four ghosts. At Goodman, the production also features Larry Yando making his 12th appearance as  Ebenezer Scrooge, the Charles Dickens character whose name is synonymous with miser.

Continue reading “‘A Christmas Carol’ still delights at Goodman”

‘Dana H’

Deirdre O'Connell as Dana H at Goodman Theatre. (Photo by Craig Schwartz)
Deirdre O’Connell as Dana H at Goodman Theatre. (Photo by Craig Schwartz)

3 ½ stars

Someone on my train ride home asked if I enjoyed the show.  After all, some theater is for entertainment. But, this is not a show for a fun evening out.

Go because it is an eye-opener to some of the dictates of not known-to-everyone organizations or societies out there. Go because you will learn even more than probably known now about injustice from people who are supposed to protect you and care about you.

Go also because the play is well acted within a very unusual format.

The entire play takes place in a motel room. Although it is a short, less than 90-minute production, you feel as if you lived through Dana’s incomparable five months of captivity and her pre-and post hostage weeks.

Dana, exquisitely portrayed by Deirdre O’Connell, is Dana Higginbotham, a former psych ward chaplain. She is being interviewed by Steve Cosson on her horrifying experience. You hear, but don’t see, Cosson.

The woman heard is the actual Dana whose interviews were recorded at the request of her son, Lucas Hnath, the award winning playwright of “A Doll’s House Part 2” and “The Christians.”

Hnath has reconstructed the interviews into a “docudrama” for the stage with O’Connell lip-syncing the recorded words and reacting to the experience the way  ‘Dana did.

To emphasize the motel room place, actress Molly Bunder enters and cleans the room accompanied by strobe-lit, fast-forwarding, blurred recorded sounds.

Superbly directed by Les Waters, the experience of sitting inside a theater where everything from valet parking and “L” noise is left behind and that familiar world is replaced by a chilling, but actual world of unthinkable violence and betrayal is so disturbing it is likely to change you.

DETAILS: ‘”Dana H.” is a co-production with Center Theatre Group at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St, Chicago, through Oct. 6, 2019. Running time: Under 90 minutes. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre.

(The show is not appropriate for ages under 16)

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

It is ‘Lottery Day’ in the Rightlynd ward

 

James Vincent Meredith (Avery) and J. Nicole Brooks (Mallory) in Lottery Day at Goodman Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)
James Vincent Meredith (Avery) and J. Nicole Brooks (Mallory) in Lottery Day at Goodman Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)

3 stars

Rightlynd is Holter’s fictional ward in Chicago. When guests enter Owen’s lobby they see a colorful board map of the neighborhood with places and names that have been mentioned in the saga’s plays that precede “Lottery Day.” Maybe a copy of that map ought to be in the playbill.

If you think of playwright Ike Holter’s “Lottery Day,” the seventh play in his Rightlynd saga, from an opera format view point, you may not mind that you don’t hear what the characters are saying when they all talk at the same time. Maybe, just consider it a duet or blending of emotions and voices.

According to Holter’s comments in Goodman Theatre’s On Stage Q&A the cadence and very fast dialogue beats in his series are deliberate.

I understand that. But when watching “Lottery Day,” now in its world premiere at Goodman’s Owen Theatre, I felt I needed to actually hear what they were saying to help me define each character’s place in the story, their concerns and background.

Not having seen any of the plays that preceded “Lottery Day” in the saga, I felt I had come upon preparations for a party and then the party, itself, quite accidentally without knowing any of the participants, their back story or why they interacted the way they did. Continue reading “It is ‘Lottery Day’ in the Rightlynd ward”

‘Twilight Bowl’ where life changes expectations

 

Twilight Bowl at Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman
Twilight Bowl at Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman)

2 1/2 stars

As four girls, Clarice (Hayley Burgess), Jaycee (Heather Chrisler), Sam (Becca Savoy and Sharlene (Anne E. Thompson) living in a small Wisconsin town periodically meet at their local bowling alley, audiences watch them change their ideas, their focus, their influences and their expectations.

The girls are joined by friends Maddy from Winnetka (Angela Morris) and bartender Brielle (Mary Taylor).

Written by playwright Rebecca Gilman, the concept is excellent. However the first meeting we see as the girls graduate from high school makes little sense and is hard to buy into until later in the show.

Apparently they are having a party with presents and cake to say goodbye, at least temporarily, to Jaycee who is going off to prison. Maybe this would have worked better for me as a flashback after seeing the last act.

Maddy, who later met one of the girls at OSU joins them later but her character seems to be added simply to have a comparison to someone who went to New Trier High School.

The leavening factor is the bartender, a good personality to add to the mix.

As a female coming of age story it has some interesting points about making choices and how background matters even if these girls set down in a different place would have a different perspective.

Regina Garcia’s set design of an old bowling alley bar is perfect as the place the girls get together.

“Twighlight Bowl” is at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, through March 10, 2019 in the Owen Theatre. Approximate running time: 90 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information visit Goodman.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

‘How to Catch Creation’ is not a directional guide

 

Ayanna Bria Bakari (Natalie), Jasmine Bracey (G.K. Marche), Maya Vinice Prentiss (Riley) and Bernard Gilbert (Stokes) in the world premiere of How to Catch Creation. (Liz Lauren photos)
Ayanna Bria Bakari (Natalie), Jasmine Bracey (G.K. Marche), Maya Vinice Prentiss (Riley) and Bernard Gilbert (Stokes) in the world premiere of How to Catch Creation. (Liz Lauren photos)

3 ½ stars

“How to Catch Creation,” a world premiere at Goodman Theatre, may sound like a how-to guide. But Christina Anderson’s new play is nothing like a step-by-step process.

Six people making up three intellectual couples search for fulfillment. Two couples are presented in the present in 2014. The third couple’s actions begin back in the 1960’s. But their lives are all presented at the same time, almost as two syncopated poetry readings.

During their journey of personal exploration they encounter snags of same and opposite gender attractions, divergent artistic paths and stereotypical thinking.

And it’s all done on scenic designer Todd Rosenthal’s stunning set. It revolves as two halves – one for the two contemporary couples, the other for most of the 1960’s situation.

The location is a California town similar to San Francisco and its area.

Sorry we’ve been asked not to reveal the plot’s unusual twists. What you would realize early into the show, is that all the characters are black and that Anderson deliberately presents the actions and dialogue from a black perspective.

But important as that perspective is, fulfillment desires and gender issues transcend race. Thus the play is meaningful on many levels. And under the direction of Niegel Smith who did “Father Comes home from the Wars” the cast superbly interprets Anderson’s sharp and clever dialogue.

Continue reading “‘How to Catch Creation’ is not a directional guide”

Theater critic reviews own acts

 

Brendon Coyle in the Donmar Warehouse production of St. Nicholas. (Photo by Helen Maybanks
Brendon Coyle in the Donmar Warehouse production of St. Nicholas. (Photo by Helen Maybanks

3 stars

“…Power… I was a theater critic…,” says Brendan Coyle in “St. Nicholas.” The show, a one-person play by Conor McPherson is at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre fresh from its success at London’s popular Dormar Warehouse.

An Olivier Award winning actor from McPherson’s “The Weir,” Coyle drew laughter from Goodman’s opening night crowd of theater critics and patrons almost every time he said the word “critic.”

However, given that McPheron’s portrait of a critic contains more than a few resemblances to Oscar Wilde’s philosophical and Gothic  “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” it arguably would be better to ask a Goodman Theater patron how that person liked or felt about the play.

Continue reading “Theater critic reviews own acts”

Santa’s elf gives us a break

Matt Crowle as Crumpet the Elf in the Santaland Diaries at Goodman Theatre. (Erik Erik Scanlon photo)
Matt Crowle as Crumpet the Elf in the Santaland Diaries at Goodman Theatre. (Erik Erik Scanlon photo)

3 stars

“The Santaland Diaries,” a humorous, naughty-nice take on the holidays now at  Goodman Theatre, evolved more than 25 years ago from an essay written by the then unknown comedian David Sedaris. Coupled with other stories, he told on the nightclub circuit, it was picked-up by the National Public Radio broadcast in 1992 as the “Santaland Diaries.”

The rest, as they say (whoever they are) is history. Sedaris published the collection in 1994 and his reputation took off as a humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor.

Adapted by Joe Mantello, “The Santaland Diaries”presented in Goodman’s more intimate Owen Theatre, is a one-man, hilarious tale about becoming a department store elf for the season.

Played by Matt Crowle, the fabulous actor talks non-stop to the audience as he tells them he has decided to take a job at Macy’s in New York City as a Santaland elf by the name of Crumpet.

The audience gets to know Crumpet very well, as he changes his clothes on stage from casual, worn clothing to the elf’s red-and-white striped tights, attractive green velvet jacket, adorable elf boots and flashy hat.

Crumpet portrays the different elf jobs that he takes on—appearing in Macy’s windows, greeting visitors, and directing the people waiting in line to see Santa.

No one is spared as he describes what’s happening with the various parents who bring their children to sit on Santa’s lap.

The challenge is to keep a smile pasted on as the job becomes less enchanting and more boring.

Directed by Steve Scott, the play’s humor is endless. The audience feels as if they are traveling every minute with Crumpet, an elf whose imperfect behavior and naughty remarks make everyone laugh out loud.

“The Santaland Diaries” gives audiences a break from their overwhelming pre-holiday schedule.

DETAILS: “The Santaland Diaries” is at the Goodman’s Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, through Dec. 30, 2018. Running time: 65 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information, call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Bah humbug turns around!

4 stars

“A Christmas Carol” was written 175 years ago by Charles Dickens—and its popularity has never wavered since, as it appears on stages all over the country. For the past forty years, Goodman Theatre has presented “A Christmas Carol” until going downtown Chicago to see it has become a tradition for many families.

Directed  for several years by Henry Wishcamper, the play tells a basic story of the redemption of the leading character, Ebenezer Scrooge by giving him a glimpse at his past, present and what the future might hold if he doesn’t change..

Played by Larry Yando, Scrooge is the embodiment of what the name has come to represent since written by Dickens. He hates Christmas and only begrudgingly allows his underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit (Thomas J. Cox) to take off Christmas Day. He refuses to donate to good causes with comments about where the poor should go.

Scrooge’s selfish business partner, Jacob Marley who died years earlier returns as a ghost (Kareem Bandealy). Clanging chains wrought by miserly deeds, Marley warns Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits and that Scrooge must listen or be cursed and carry even heavier chains.

Continue reading “Bah humbug turns around!”