Many Chicago area theater companies operate on a fall through spring/early summer season so look for check January and February offerings to start 2023 with fun and fascinating entertainment.
” The Golden Girls” is opening at the Mercury Theatre, 1745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, this weekend. A new, original show, it has the fabulous girls we’ve come to know and love. The show runs Jan. 13 through Feb. 12, 2023. For tickets and info visit THE GOLDEN GALS LIVE! — Mercury Theater Chicago.
Among other interesting shows on the docket is MadKap Productions: “The Book of Merman” (That’s not a typo). It is coming to the Skokie Theatre 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, Feb. 3- 26, 2023. “The Book of Merman” starring Julie Peterson as Ethel Merman is about a visit by two Mormon missionaries. For tickets and more info call (847) 677-7761 or visit https://www.skokietheatre.org/.
And check out “Andy Warhol in Iran” at Northlight Theatre. The artist goes to Tehran to take photos of the Shah’s wife but learns more. The show runs Jan. 19-Feb. 19. Northlight is in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts at 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. For tickets and more information visit Northlight Theatre | Andy Warhol in Iran.
Another show to catch is “Big Fish” at Marriott Theater, Lincolnshire. A family-friendly musical adventure by John August and Andrew Lippa, previews start Jan. 25 with the run going from Feb.1 through March 19, 2023. Based on the film screenplay by August and novelist Daniel Wallace the story couples an adult and his childhood timeline with his relationship with his son, Will. For tickets visit Tickets.MarriottTheatre.com. For more information see MarriottTheatre.com.
Raven Theatre is doing the Chicago premiere of “Right To Be Forgotten”, bySharyn Rothstein. Directed by Sarah Gitenstein, the story is a timely plot about human forgiveness in the age of the internet “Right to be forgotten runs Feb. 9 – March 26, 2023 in Raven’s 85-seat East Stage, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville), Chicago. For tickets and more information visit raventheatre.com or call (773) 338-2177.
Lights are dimming from the south side’s Court Theatre to the north side’s Raven Theatre, and even to the west suburban Aurora’s Paramount. Due to concerns about COVID-19, the closing announcements came after IL Governor J.B. Pritzker’s edict against gatherings of 1,000 and more people and urging stoppage of smaller gatherings of even 250 people or more.
The Court Theatre canceled the production of “The Lady from the Sea” and postponed performances of “An Iliad.”
“As leadership at the University of Chicago continues to monitor the evolving status of COVID-19 in Chicagoland and across the globe, we at Court Theatre are at a critical moment in our six-decade history,” said a joint statement from Artistic Director Charles Newell and Executvie director Angel Ysaguirre.
The statement continued to say, “Theatre can’t just be seen; it must be felt. It can’t just be watched; it must be experienced. At a time of division, bifurcated attention, and growing anxiety, theatre’s power to create community out of both artists and strangers has a powerful role to play. And yet, that same communal power represents a double-edged sword for any organization striving to prioritize the health, security, and safety of all those who touch its work.”
In addition, Newell and Ysaguirre explained why they made the difficult decision to cancel current shows and postpone decisions about “The Gospel at Colonus” slated for May.
.“According to the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control, many of our patrons and long-term supporters are most at risk of developing serious complications from contracting this virus, a fact we take quite seriously.”
Even though “Lady From the Sea” is cancelled, Court will pay the artists so are asking patrons with those tickets to consider them a donation or credit to a future show. Because “Iliad” is merely postponed, those tickets holders can see it another time. For more information call (773) 753-4472.
Raven Theatre at 6157 N. Clark St.is suspending all shows on its stages including Griffin Theatre Company’s Midwest premiere of Lynn Nottage’s “Mima’s Tale.
“We are, of course, saddened that we are unable to complete the run of Mlima’s Tale, but the health and safety of our artists and patrons are more important during this challenging time. It’s going to be tough few months for Chicago theatre, but we will all get through this together,” said Griffin Artist dDrector Bill Massolia. For Griffin refunds, credits or deductible donation information call (773) 338-2177. Griffin has also cancelled its touring youth production of The Stinky Cheese Man.
Raven’s performances of “A Doll’s House and the children’s production of “Aesop’s Amazing Adventures in the Land of Fables,” have also been suspended.
Raven’s staff explained the actions in the following statement: “The health and safety of our artists and community members is our highest priority. Based on recommendations from Governor J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, we have made the difficult decision to suspend performances of all productions currently running at Raven Theatre.
“As a small, non-profit arts organization, this hurts. It hurts our hearts to not be able to share our art with you. It also hurts us financially. This is why we are asking you to consider converting the value of your ticket purchases to a tax-deductible donation to our company. Your patience and generosity today will allow us to come back with the artistic vigor you have come to expect from Raven when we are able to return to the stage.”
As with other theatres, Raven has the following options: “If the option to donate is available to you, please contact our box office so we can issue you an acknowledgment letter. Otherwise, you may move your tickets to our upcoming production of Eden Prairie, 1971 (playing May 7 – June 21, 2020), request a refund, call (773) 338-2177 to discuss the options.
Paramount Theatre has canceled the remaining “The Secret of My Success” performances as mandated by Governor J. B. Pritzker, and has postponed but is working on rescheduling “Killer Queen,” “Stomp,” “Straight No” and other of the venue’s shows, according to Paramount President and CEO Tim Rater.
In his statement Rater said the move was “a cautionary measure to help combat the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus).” The statement said that ticket holders to “Success” would receive an account credit to use toward future performances at Paramount Theatre or RiverEdge Park. Ticket holders to postponed shows will be contacted with new dates. In addition, Classic Movie Monday screenings also will not be presented in March or April. For more information call (630) 896-6666.
“Mlima’s Tale,” a Midwest Premiere by Griffin Theatre, is a sensitive and heartrending depiction of greed, and specifically, the corruption associated with the illegal sale of elephant ivory that results in the daily slaughter of approximately 100 of these endangered animals.
The production follows the life and death of Mlima, a roughly 45-year-old male African elephant. Described as a “big tusker,” he is killed by poachers while living in a protected refuge in Kenya.
The good news for theater-goers is that Chicagoland has an amazing number of production companies so that a Jeff award worthy show is likely to be on stage at any time during the season. The annual Jeff awards are Chicago’s answer to New York’s Tony’s. The “bad” news is that because there are about 250 companies,including more than 20 in just the Edgewater neighborhood on Chicago’s northeast side, it’s hard to keep track of what will be where and when.
Chicago Theater and Arts puts out a yearly preseason sneak-peek series of already decided shows, divided by area. Categories such as themes and holiday fare will shortly follow.
After looking at “ Coming next theater season on the North Side,” which is Part 5 in the series, be sure to go back to see what theaters listed earlier are doing. It looks like a great 2019-20 Chicago theater season.
AstonRep has moved to The Edge Theare, 5451 N. Broadway. It opens with “Equua” Sept. 27 through Oct. 27, 2019. It’s spring show is the Chicago premiere of “When We Were Young and Unafraid,” April 9 through May 10, 2020. For tickets and information visit AstonRep.
Located at 4450 N Clark St., Black Ensemble is doing “You Can’t Fake the Funk,” July 26 through Sept 22. Rest of the season TBA. For tickers and other information call (773) 769-4451 and visit Black Ensemble Theater.
The venue, located at 1623 W. Howard. St., starts the 2019-20 season with “Oh Sh#t! It’s Haunted!” Sept 17 through Nov. 9 2019. It continues in 2020 with “Last Night in Karaoke Town,” Feb. 14 through Mar. 28. the summer show is “The HOA” June 12 through July 25.
Performances are at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Avenue. The companywill be doing the world premiere of “Out of Love” Aug. 16-Sept. 14. The season also includes “Here Lies Henry” and “Sexbot.” For tickets and other information visit Interrobang Theatre Project.
The theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave. is currently doing “Emma,” extended through July 28, 2019. Whose Body?, Sept. 6 through Oct. 27, 2019. In 2020 “Middle Passage” will be on stage from Feb. 14 through April 5, followed by the world premiere rock musical “LOKI, The End of the World Tour.”
The venue is at 4139 N. Broadway . Currently at the Center are “Afterglow” extended through Aug. 28. “All That He Was” Aug. 10 through Aug. 31. “Casa Valentina’ Aug 31 through Sept. 29. “A Man of No Importance’” (TBA October + dates).
For tickets and more information visit Pride Films and Plays.
Located at 6157 N. Clark St., Raven Theatre is doing the Chicago premiere of “Sundown Yellow Moon”, Oct. 3 through Nov. r 17, followed by “Hoodo Love,” Oct. 31 – Dec. 15, 2019. The season continues in 2020 with Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House “ Feb. 6 through Mar. 22 and ends with the world Premiere of “Eden Prarie 1971,” May 7 through June 21.
For tickets and other information call (773) 338-2177 and visit Raven Theatre
The theatre, located at 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., is currently doing “King Lear” through Aug. 4. Then, “Keely and Du” are Oct, 9 through Nov. 10 followed by “Death Tax,” Dec 11, 2019 through Jan. 19, 2020. “Rabbit Summer” is Feb. 19 through Mar. 22 and “The Country Girl” is May 13 through June 21. “The Pride” ends the season May 28 through June 28.
For tickets and other information call (773) 728-7529 and visit Redtwist.
Located at 5779 N. Ridge Ave., the ensemble’s 2018-19 season concludes July 21 with “something Clean” performed at Voctory Gardens (see is Sneak Peek Part Three. For tickets and other information call (773) 334-7728 and visit Rivendell Theatre.
There is so much to like about “The Undeniable Sound of Right Now” by Laura Eason at the Raven Theatre in Edgewater. It’s a snapshot of one of the many evolutionary changes that is inevitable in a growing and vibrant city.
Set in the fall of 1992 Hank (Jeff Mills), the owner of a Chicago dive bar, slash, live music venue, is in the autumn of his career in the midst of evolving musical tastes and gentrification that threaten everything he has built.
Hank has two great loves – live music and his twenty-one year old daughter Lena (Lindsay Stock) who grew up above the club and shares her dad’s enthusiasm for music.
Lena is anxious to expand her horizons to include the emerging style of “house,” a genre of electronic dance music of the era created in Chicago that features D.J.’s as the curators of the musical experience.
Her dad is a traditionalist who feels that D.J.’s are not musicians and that electronic music is in opposition to the live music he has championed for twenty-five years.
Thus the conflict is established,. It plays out in the confines of a neighborhood tavern that, like its owner, is definitely showing its wear.
The set design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec and decorated by Lacie Hexom is reminiscent of the many neighborhood watering holes that once dotted the Chicago map from north to south in this working class city.
In the earlier half of the 20th century Chicago boasted 10,000 “shot and a beer” joints. Most have closed or been converted to fern bars and pubs. Those that survived like Hank’s are loved-to-death by countless elbows, decorated through neglect and illuminated with the ever present twinkling strand or two of Christmas lights.
These establishments retain and reflect a bit of each of the individuals and groups that made this particular venue their social hub, and Hank’s clientele have indeed left their unique mark on this location.
But neighborhoods, music, and people change; and we are all forced to face the changes that are an inevitable part of growing up and growing older. What is undeniable is the here-and-now and the sounds it makes.
Hank has little patience for nostalgia and no stomach for being viewed as a legend. The question is how do you confront the end of an era?
The story involves non-traditional family relationships and various forms of love which in this case includes Hank’s longtime, off-again on-again, salt-of-the-earth girlfriend, Bette (Dana Black), who accepted the role of surrogate mother in the absence of Lena’s birth mother
It is clear the two women have a true affection for each other which was all the more poignant on the Mother’s Day performance I attended.
Stock is spot on and perfectly embodies the role of Lena who is smart, savvy and charismatic. It is no wonder that she is adored by her “parents” as well as the club manager, Toby (Christopher Acevedo), the landlord’s son Joey (Casey Morris), and Nash (Henry Greenberg) the up-and-coming D.J. each vying in one way or another for her attention.
No doubt casting director Kanome Jones made Director BJ Jones’ life a little easier by providing an outstanding ensemble.
Eason has done a terrific job of juggling a number of ideas yet pulling it all together into one well-crafted unified whole. She understands Hank’s reluctance to turn over the reins and sympathetically advocates for the youthful exuberance of Nash and Lena.
Meanwhile the supporting roles of Bette, Toby, and Joey are fully fleshed characters with their own important contributions to the plot. Her dialogue is authentic and at times emotional without becoming saccharine.
When I don’t know much about a play I try to keep it that way until I see it. This was surprisingly different than what I expected, thinking it was going to be more of a jukebox musical.
It does have some recorded music as background as well as a few short riffs and verses admirably played on guitar by Mills – choices of sound designer Lindsay Jones. Music is integral to the story but it is not a musical.
If you are afraid that the indie music rock scene is not a genre you understand or enjoy do not let this dissuade you. The theme of the story is universal and the musical references are incidental. This can be any time period and any inter-generational conflict.
I predict this production will be deemed Jeff worthy with special recognition of Lindsay Stock and maybe BJ Jones and Kmiec as well.
Don’t miss this one. If you have experience with an aging business owner, a music maker, or someone affected by change that they feared or were reluctant to face this will likely resonate with you.
DETAILS: “The Undeniable Sound of Right Now” is at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark Street, Chicago through June 16, 2019. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and information call (773) 338-2177 and visit raventheatre.com.
This popular play by Will Kern has been trotted out by several companies since its debut in the nineteen- nineties and was even made into a movie in 1998.
“Hellcab” is comprised of a number of vignettes all taking place within the confines of a cab trolling the streets of Chicago during an evening leading up to the Christmas holiday.
There are highs and lows, there is happiness and sadness, violence and love. Some people are in good cheer, others not so much. Through each experience the stoic cabbie (in this case played by Regina Linn) absorbs the emotional impact of each encounter. Continue reading “This ‘Hellcab’ not worth the ride”
The old “It’s hard to keep track without a scorecard” certainly applies to Chicago’s huge theater offerings each year. So consider the “Sneak Peak”series your personal scorecard where you can put a check next to those shows you think you would like to see.
Because there are more than 200 theater production companies in the Chicago area the series is divided into regions. Not all companies are listed because some still have to finalize their season and not all theater venues are included because some are multi-purpose and host several events other than plays. However, the series still is a way to find out what a company you like has planned and what shows will be coming in the 2018-19 season.
As mentioned before, some companies and venues use theater and others use theatre. Part Four lists many of the companies in the Ravenswood and north to Evanston region.
Black Ensemble Theater
Located at 4450 N Clark St., Black Ensemble is currently doing “Rick Stone: the Blues Man,” extended through Sept 9, followed by “Women of Soul” Oct. 20 –Dec.2, 2018.
The venue is at 1623 W. Howard. St. The Factory Theater plans “The Darkness After Dawn” for Fall, “.38 and Baile” for Spring and “Prophet$” for Summer. Also in the venue, the Aleatoric Theatre is doing “Come ‘n Go” Sept. 7-30.
Catherine Holly (Grayson Heyl) is declared insane for recounting details related to the horrific death of her cousin Sebastian Venable while the two vacationed in a Latin-American beach resort.
It all happened, “Suddenly Last Summer” and no one, especially her aunt, Mrs. Violet Venable (Mary K. Nigohosian), Sebastian’s mother, wants to believe it.
The aging socialite, Mrs. Venable, invites Dr. Cukrowicz a/k/a Dr. Sugar (Wardell Julius Clark) to interview the suspected mad woman to assess whether or not she is a candidate for a lobotomy. The operation would erase the abhorrent memory and preserve the reputation of the beloved Sebastian.
Though the action takes place in a misty New Orleans garden, this is essentially a drawing room drama that plays out much like a whodunit with Dr. Sugar slowly extracting the details that reveal the shocking truth.
Skillfully written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Jason Gerace, the 90 minute production moves along swiftly in the capable hands of this Raven Theatre ensemble.
The play employs themes of mental illness and includes the prototypical characters of the delusional matriarch and the sensitive, often confused ingénue familiar to such other Williams works as “Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie.”
This is simply a good solid play well performed.
Full of Southern charm, I suggest you invite a friend to go with you, then afterwards head over to Big Jones in Andersonville, Jimmy’s Pizza Café (at Lincoln & Foster), or Luella’s Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square for fresh beignets and coffee to complete the New Orleans experience.
DETAILS: “Suddenly Last Summer” is at the Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville), Chicago, through June 17, 2018. For tickets and more information call (773) 338-2177 or visit Raven Theatre.
George Orwell’s famous novel, “1984,” is likely to haunt audiences in AstonRep Theatre Company’s interpretation of the story, now at The Raven Theatre.
The production is powerful and provocative as wonderfully convincing characters transport the audience to the frightening nation of Oceania.
Adapted by Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall Jr. and William A. Miles Jr. and directed by Robert Tobin, the play mentions and defines Orwell’s phrases such as the famed “Big Brother is watching you.”
Then there is “Newspeak” as the official politically correct language of Oceania, “Crimethink” for thoughts that oppose the government of Big Brother, “Goodthink” that are thoughts approved by the Party and “Doublethink” for the power to simultaneously hold and accept contradictory beliefs in one’s mind.
On that subject of power, the Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language.
The leading character, Winston Smith, is played by Ray Kasper whose amazing talent covers a wide range of emotion. Winston is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London in the land of Oceania.
Everywhere Winston goes, the Party watches him through telescreens. And everywhere he looks, Winston sees the face of the Party’s seemingly supreme leader, Big Brother.
Frustrated by the rigid oppression of the Party which prohibits free thinking and all other expressions of individuality, Winston writes his criminal thoughts in his illegally purchased diary.
He interacts with a beautiful co-worker, Julia, skillfully played by Sarah Lo. Practical and optimistic, Julia becomes Winston’s lover.
The two of them move into a room above a store where they temporarily feel hidden from the watchful eyes of Big Brother. As Winston’s love for Julia progresses, his hatred for the Party grows more intense.
Winston becomes fixated on O’Brien, a mysterious upper class member of the Inner Party, powerfully portrayed by Amy Kasper. Winston believes O’Brien is a secret member of the Brotherhood, the legendary group that works to overthrow the Party.
He finally receives the message that he has been waiting for. O’Brien wants to see him.
Winston and Julia travel to O’Brien’s grand apartment where O’Brien is living a life of luxury. O’Brien sends Winston off with a copy of the manifesto of the Brotherhood which Winston excitedly reads to Julia in their room above the store.
Not to divulge the rest of the play to those unfamiliar with Orwell’s novel, Winston learns the bitter truth about many of the characters. The suffering he endures in the terrifying second act changes him forever.
The remainder of the very talented cast includes the following: Alexandra Bennett, Lauren Demerath, Lorraine Freund, Ian Harris, Rory Jobst, Tim Larson, Nora Lise Ulrey, and Sara Pavlak McGuire.
To quote director Robert Tobin: “. . . the power of ‘1984’ serves best not necessarily as commentary on current events but rather as a warning. Like a preventative medical screening, we need ‘1984’ as warning of what our world could become if we don’t take care of ourselves, our government, and each other.”
Details: ‘1984, an AstonRep Theatre Company production is at The Raven Theatre (West Stage), 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago, through Oct. 8, 2017. For tickets and other information call (773) 828-9129 and visit AstonRep.