During the repressive 1960’s a gay man was forced to become very secretive about everything. Being “in the closet” was how most homosexuals survived being hassled or, quite often, brutally attacked for what was perceived as a perverted life style. A small percentage of men braved all the hostility and met their peers at the few underground gay bars and bath houses located primarily in certain large cities
Mart Crowley wrote his groundbreaking “Boys in the Band” in response to the prevalent oppressive social attitude of that time. The lives of every homosexual was threatened daily with violence and unfair laws. Gay men continually were the brunt of heterosexual jokes, degradation anger and, although claiming to not be an activist, Crowley felt the need to expose this oppressing milieu to the world through the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Upon entering the theatre, an attendant gives the patron his ticket in the form of a congratulatory letter of acceptance to Brown University. Theatergoers are then plunged into the world of the play as they’re welcomed to a collegiate orientation by Iskinder Iodouku, nicknamed Izzy (beautifully played by Michael Aaron Pogue)
Jonathan Caren’s thought-provoking play is very interesting. It’s not about what you know but who you know and the favors that people will perform now in exchange for something later on.
Izzy also serves as the narrator of the story. He’s a good-looking African-American young man,whose father immigrated from Ethiopia and married a white American woman.
He is going to tell us about his friend, Aaron Feldman, when suddenly Izzy’s narration is interrupted by a cocky young man who bursts into the lobby clad only in a towel. Izzy introduces us to Aaron (played to perfection by Julian Hester), a handsome, self-entitled, young, white boy whose lawyer father is wealthy and well-connected.
And thus begins Caren’s timely story of power and white privilege in America.
Through the double doors we’re ushered back several years to the college dormitory room where Aaron and Izzy first met. We learn many things about the two roomies, including that Aaron is planning to become a filmmaker while Izzy is hoping to eventually attend a good grad school to become a lawyer.
Aaron promises that his influential father, at his son’s insistence, will gladly write Izzy a glowing letter of recommendation to get him into UCLA.
Flash forward a couple years and the two guys have now graduated from Brown. Aaron has become the pampered assistant to a hotshot director and Izzy is enjoying his graduate work, thanks to Aaron’s father.
While Izzy relaxes beside the pool, Aaron goes on a beer run; however, he’s stopped by the police and arrested for having a suspended license.
Locked up in the jail’s holding cell, Aaron encounters Dwight, a buff, streetwise, black inmate who’s a repeat offender and really knows the system. Dwight has connections of his own within the prison world and he tries to instruct Aaron how to survive the big house.
Aaron’s parents decide to teach him a lesson by refusing to post bail. After a rough night, Aaron promises his cellmate that once he’s released from jail, he’ll convince his influential father to help clear Dwight of his charges. All Dwight has to do is promise to protect the pretty white boy against the other inmates.
Thus begins another series of incidents in which one person promises a favor in exchange for something else in the future. It’s that old adage of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
Windy City Playhouse has become one of Chicago’s go-to theatre for exciting, emotionally involving, immersive drama. Their long-running hit, “Southern Gothic,” continues at their new south Loop location.
But for this new drama, playwright Jonathan Caren worked together with artistic director Amy Rubenstein to transform his drama, originally written for a typical proscenium stage, into a totally immersive theatrical experience. And it’s a winner.
Directed with amazing skill and tempo by Jonathan Wilson, the production take place in different locales. The various settings are the handiwork of talented scenic designer Lauren Nigri and the result is simply extraordinary.
Such close proximity to the actors and the action totally draws the audience into the story. Sometimes the theatergoer becomes a casual participant in a scene, but more often he’s simply a fly on the wall observing and trying to predict what will happen next.
The play is occasionally funny. But, particularly as the story progresses, it grows darker, more intense and deeply disturbing.
The first act revs up to a traumatic climax while theatergoers share a darkened jail cell with Dwight and Aaron. Vicariously we sense the claustrophobia, desperation and unrelenting terror that Aaron is experiencing while imprisoned.
But the feeling of dread continues and grows throughout Act II, ratcheting up to a fever pitch until it finally explodes during the last scene that’s set in the steamy sauna of an affluent sporting club.
Windy City Playhouse’s riveting production of Caren’s explosive drama is an absolute must-see. The play’s totally immersive, bringing every theatergoer into the story. No one simply sits back at a safe distance and observes.
Director Jonathan Wilson has maintained the drama’s realism by keeping his actors honest, involved and on top of every possible situation that might occur. Sometimes theatergoers are asked to stand; but more often than not, plenty of seating is provided within each of the many locales. Refreshments are occasionally offered to further enhance the theatrical experience.
Make sure you see “The Recommendation.” It’s one theatrical experience you’ll never forget.
DETAILS: “The Recommendation” is at Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago, through Sept. 22, 2019. For tickets and more information call (773-891-8985) or visit WindyCityPlayhouse.
Sometimes it’s nice to know what a theater company you like is doing for its next season and the dates to put on your calendar. The “Sneak Peak” series does just that, listing the companies by area .
Descriptions of shows will follow in the next series which will be by category such as world premier, classic, Halloween and holiday.
Meanwhile click on the venues in “Sneak Peak” for the theaters’ own details. BTW, some companies use theater and others use theatre, thus the differences written here are deliberate and not typos.
The venue is at 2936 N. Southport Ave. Black Button Eye Productions is doing “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier” here, Aug. 17 – Sep 15 in Studio Two. and Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop is doing “Alice and Wonderland Jr. Aug. 17- 18 on the Main Stage.
Studio One has “Bliss (Or Emily Post is Dead)” through Aug 25 and Studio Three has “Bus Stop” through Aug. 19, 2018.
“The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” is in Studio Three Nov. 22-Dec. 16 and “The Elder Son” is in Studio Two, Nov. 15-Dec. 22.
The theater is at 3745 N. Southport Ave. Currently, “Avenue Q” has been extended through Nov. 4, then “Pippin” is in the Venus Cabaret Theater, opening TBA followed by its annual “The Christmas Schooner, date also TBA.
For tickets and other information call (773) 325-1700and visit Mercury Theater.
A multi-theater venue, Stage 773 is at 1225 W. Belmont Ave.
American Blues Theater is doing “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” through Sept. 15, then “Flyin’ West” Oct. 5-Nov. 3 and its annual holiday show, “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago” Nov. 15, 2018-Jan 5, 2019.
Hell in a Handbag has “The Artificial Jungle” Sept. 23-Oct. 28. and “The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes” Oct. 13-Nov. 3.
The Degenerates are doing “Potty Talk” Sept. 3- Oct. 29.