Rumors abound at a Neil Simon party


'Rumors' cast at Skokie Theatre. (Photo by MadKap Productions)
‘Rumors’ cast at Skokie Theatre. (Photo by MadKap Productions)

Highly Recommended

 The “Rumors” Are True…Skokie Theatre’s Neil Simon Farce is a Smash Hit!

In the years before social media was a “thing,” local gossip was the way to go. How else could people gauge the real social order? Who was cheating on whom?  What was true and what was just a rumor?

Add in that when several people are also politically involved with something to lose if the truth gets out you’ve got real mayhem – or “Rumors,” a hilarious farce from the master of American comedy, Neil Simon.

Welcome to an upscale dinner party hosted by a wealthy New York couple who are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, the party goes terribly wrong.

Guests arrive to discover the host has been shot, the hostess is missing, and the servants have quit.

Produced in 1988, “Rumors” still holds the same caustic bite as when it first came out. The brilliant, fast-paced dialog gives all the actors a chance to shine.

The play stars Erin Renee Baumrucker, Landon Cally, Luke Coleman, Peter Goldsmith, Julie Peterson, Maddy Shilts, Nathan Dale Short, SarahAnn Sutter, Katherine Wettermann, and Lee Wichman.

Ken and_Chris: played by Nathan Sale Short and Erin Renee Baumrucker in Rumors. (Photo by Madcap Productions)
Ken and Chris: played by Nathan Sale Short and Erin Renee Baumrucker in Rumors. (Photo by MadKap Productions)

Standouts include Peterson as Claire Ganz who recently appeared as Ethel Merman in the “Book of Merman” at Skokie Theatre. She is a bubblehead with lots of great lines that keep the audience in stitches

Cally as Lenny Ganz plays a range of emotions. In his final monologue. he makes up an entire story of what really happened to the hosts, Charley and Myra and his performance is stellar.

Kudos to Police Officer Welch, played by Shilts, as no-nonsense in law enforcement as they come.

Directed by Wayne Mell and produced by Wendy Kaplan of MadKap Productions, “Rumors” takes the audience on a hysterical romp through a case of mistaken identity, the constant opening and closing of doors, and a little bit of slapstick thrown in. 

The women’s costumes, headed by custom designer Wendy Kaplan and wardrobe mistress Patti Halajian, are exquisite and elegant. How lucky, the actresses get to wear them all night long.

Details:  Rumors is playing at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Avenue in Downtown Skokie through April 23. Running time: 2 and a half hours with one 15-minute intermission. For tickets, go to or call 847-677-7761. The 2023-24 season starts in June with “Hair.”

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Citadel Theatre turns to upbeat shows for current season


Citadel Theatre Artistic Director Scott Phelps, (Photo courtesy of Citadel Theatre)
Citadel Theatre Artistic Director Scott Phelps, (Photo courtesy of Citadel Theatre)

Citadel Theatre, a professional, equity organization led by artistic director Scott Phelps and manager/wife Ellen, both longtime actors and directors, is presenting a four-show season designed to overcome pandemic blues.

Phelps talked about the 2021-22 season during a recent phone interview.

Up first and on stage now through Oct. 17, 2021 is Neil Simon’s funny, warm-hearted and insightful “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” (For a review visit Chicago Theater and Arts/Brighton Beach).

“We were in rehearsal for it when we had to close March of 2020 because of the pandemic,” said Phelps. “We’ve had a good response to the show. People are glad to be back seeing live theater.”.

He added, “And we’re glad to be doing live theater. There’s not a lot for audiences here in Lake County. It’s us and Marriott.”(Watch shortly for article on Marriott season).

“The holiday show will be the musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Phelps said.

With book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, based on Charles M. Schultz’s comics.  additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, it is more than a children’s show, The musical has the Peanuts gang confronting and overcoming issues with help from friends.

“It’s family-friendly, a show for all generations from Grandparents down to grandkids . I like it. It’s upbeat,” he said. Charlie Brown will run Nov. 19 through Dec. 23, 2021.

“Outside Mullingar,” a romantic Irish comedy by John Patrick Shanley continues the season Feb. 11 to March 13, 2022.

“It’s light. Shanley has written dark plays like “Doubt, ” said Phelps. (Doubt-A Parable received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drams)

“But people have been going through the pandemic. People need light. They need to laugh so we changed a couple of shows planned,” he said

Phelps pointed out that Shanley, a gifted playwright and screenwriter, had also written “Moonstruck” with Cher. It won the 1988 Academy Award for best Original screenplay.

Referring to directors who advocated presenting plays that are challenging, Phelps said, We’ve done that but its not right for this year. We changed out a couple of choices.  People want to feel good.

The season ends with Steve Martin’s witty comedy, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” April 22  through May 22, 2022. It has Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein discussing life’s probabilities at a Paris café in 1904.

“This is the first show that we are bringing back. It was in  the second season at Gorton. Not many of our patrons have seen that,” said Phelps.

Noting that the pandemic has changed our lives and how people will be discussing what was and what might be, Phelps added, “This is a good show to bring ack now.”

For those who might not have been around or knew of Citadel Theatre’s beginnings, it started in 2002 and put on shows in the basement of Gorton Community Center, a former school near downtown Lake Forest.. Citadel moved to its current space, a former science lab in what was a west campus school facility on Waukegan Road in Lake Forest in 1010. Citadel became an Equity company in 2015.

And Phelps plans to stay there. “I just signed another five-year lease,” he said. Pointing out that the room’s rows were raised, Phelps said, “There’s not a bac seat in the house.”

For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs


Brighton Beach Memoirs captures family life on brink of WWII


Brighton Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre L-R: Siah Berlatsky, Ron Quade, Shaya Harris (back to camera), Abby Lee, Juliana Liscio, Danny Mulae (face obscured), and Monica Castle (Photos by North Shore Camera Club))
Brighton Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre L-R: Siah Berlatsky, Ron Quade, Shaya Harris (back to camera), Abby Lee, Juliana Liscio, Danny Mulae (face obscured), and Monica Castle
(Photos by North Shore Camera Club)

4 Stars


Live theatre is now alive and well at the Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest!

Opening their season after the pandemic is playwright Neil Simon’s warm and wonderful, “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” tells the story of Eugene Jerome, a young man who desires to be a writer and starts with what he knows best, his own downtrodden family. The time is 1937 in Brooklyn and undertones of the brewing war in Europe are laced throughout the play. America is well aware of the news, but wants no part of it.

Eugene, who also serves as the narrator and talks to the audience about his plight, has his own issues of teenage angst while dreaming of being a baseball player and lusting after his older cousin.

The trials and tribulations of not having enough money for his two parents, brother Stanley, widowed Aunt Blanche and her two daughters who live with them — loom large. Unemployment, gambling, sickness are all part of daily life.

Yet in typical Neil Simon fashion, you’ll laugh and you’ll cry, all within a few minutes.

Siah Berlatsky as Eugene has just the right amount of high energy and pathos to light up every scene. The audience really sympathizes with him and at the same time, recognizes his bright, successful future ahead.

Siah Berlatsky as EugeneBrighton in Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre.
Siah Berlatsky as EugeneBrighton in Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre.

Standouts include his put-upon mother Kate, played by Monica Castle, who carries the weight of everyone’s problems and must convey a range of raw emotions. She does so with great style. Ron Quade as patriarch Jack, who everyone relies on, plays his role with power, heart and a little bit of vulnerability

The cast also includes Abby Lee (Blanche), Danny Mulae (Stanley), Shaya Harris (Laurie), and Juliana Liscio (Nora) who work together to create a realistic family group and share their challenges.  You’ll cheer them on and hope for the best.

Citadel Theatre Artistic Director Scott Phelps and director of the production makes great use of the theatre space. Having the dining room table where much of the dialogue takes place creates a very intimate stage, making the audience feel like they are right there.

Also on the production team are Jeff award-winner Eric Luchen (Set Design), Colin Meyer (Costume Design) and Samuel Stephen (Lighting Design).

DETAILS: “Brighton Beach Memoirs” runs through October 17, 2021 at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan, Lake Forest. Run time:  Approximately 2 hours with one intermission.  Seating is limited and masks are required.

For tickets and other information visit  Citadel Theatre or call (847) 735-8554, ext. 1.

Mira Temkin

(For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago)

Old boy meets girl story still resonates as a witty musical


Tony Award nominated ‘They’re Playing Our Song,’ now a Brown Paper Box production at Rivendell Theater, is a boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, have problems, split and get back-together-again story with a celebrity twist.

Dan Gold (Vernon) and Carmen Risi (Sonia) and company in "They're Playing Our Song." A Brown Paper Box Co. photo
Dan Gold (Vernon) and Carmen Risi (Sonia) and company in “They’re Playing Our Song.”
A Brown Paper Box Co. photo

With book by Neil Simon,  music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, the show is a witty, entertaining musical with such easy listening songs as “If He Really Knew Me,” “When You’re in My Arms,” “I Still Believe in Love,” and “They’re Playing Our Song.”

What oldsters may remember from when the show opened on Broadway in 1979 with Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz, is that it is somewhat autobiographical about Hamlisch and Sager’s 1970’s relationship.

The show is about New York Grammy and Oscar award-winning pop music composer Vernon Gersch connecting with lyricist Sonia Walsk because he is looking for a collaborator.

They start off with problems because Sonia is bubbly but has trouble keeping appointments anywhere near on time and is very busy trying to break up with a long-time boyfriend, and Vernon is sarcastic, uptight and somewhat aloof.

They start to bond when on a “non date” proposed by Sonia they dance and hear the band play songs they wrote.

Problems Sonia has with ex boyfriend Leon eventually comes between them when she appears very late for a recording session and Vernon says he can’t take it any longer.

That they still have feelings for each other becomes evident when they reconnect in LA.

On the cute side, Sonia wears dresses used in shows given her by a stage friend. On the witty side, they are both neurotic so Simon has Vernon saying “She’s a flake, I’m a flake. Two flakes make a snowstorm.”

She is in awe of his composing talent but he is in awe of her bubbly personality. He remarks that if a power outage causes a blackout in New York the only light seen would be coming from her.

Sonia is perfectly portrayed by Carmen Risi who has acted in Oil Lamp and Citadel productions in the Chicago area and in Four Seasons productions in Madison, WI.

Dan Gold who is often in Mercury, Apollo, Porchlight and Light Opera Works  productions, is very believable as Vernon.

The two leads are totally convincing in their angst and attraction to each other.

My problem watching the show was with the Greek chorus of three females who are supposed to be in Sonia’s head and the three mails from Vernon’s head.

Even though they were talented singers and dancers, I found them distracting and sometimes annoying.

However, the leads are good enough and the show witty enough to make it a delightful evening out. To learn more about Carole Bayer Sager, see her 2016 book, “They’re Playing Our song: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster).

“They’re Playing Our Song” will be at Rivendell Theater, a small store front space at 5779 N. Ridge Ave., Chicago, now through Aug. 20, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Brown Paper Box.