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Theater 2014-15: World premieres, ‘Smokefall’  reprise crown plans for Goodman’s 90th year

Theater 2014-15: World premieres, ‘Smokefall’ reprise crown plans for Goodman’s 90th year

September 18, 2014 – 3:48 pm | No Comment | 41 views

14th in a series of season previews: Goodman Theatre has a bountiful 90th season in store, punctuated by a pair of world premieres, an early remounting of Noah Haidle’s “Smokefall” from last season — with returning featured actor Mike Nussbaum, also 90! — and a revival of August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” that will be enhanced by several related events.

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Chicago Opera Theater buffs up neglected jewel in high-tech staging of Bloch’s grand ‘Macbeth’

September 17, 2014 – 3:12 pm | No Comment | 111 views

Macbeth visits the witches, who prophesy he will be king, in Ernest Bloch's 'Macbeth' at Chicago Opera Theater (Liz Lauren)

Review: “Macbeth” by Ernest Bloch, with baritone Nmon Ford and soprano Suzan Hanson, at Chicago Opera Theater through Sept. 21. ★★★

By Nancy Malitz

When Verdi unveiled his opera “Macbeth,” based on the Shakespeare tragedy, he was 33, a seasoned professional with 10 premieres under his belt and his biggest hits, starting with “Rigoletto,” just around the corner. Verdi confidently distilled Shakespeare’s structure in the interest of his lyric theater instincts, replacing the three witches with a covenly chorus and shining the spotlight on Macbeth’s ruthlessly ambitious wife. Her extended sleepwalking scene is a diva’s diamond standard. Read the full story »

When leviathan turns fury on ‘Whaleship Essex,’ it’s a rough voyage to salvation in tiny boats

September 16, 2014 – 4:32 pm | No Comment | 113 views
When leviathan turns fury on ‘Whaleship Essex,’  it’s a rough voyage to salvation in tiny boats

Review: Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Shattered Globe Theatre’s ambitious staging of “The Whaleship Essex,” ensemble member Joe Forbrich’s retelling of an early 19th-century whaling catastrophe, is the sheer scope and rigor of the enterprise. It is a tale of man’s hubris meets nature’s fury on the high seas. And to put it mildly, the greedy, ravaging interlopers get sprayed. ★★★

Theater 2014-15: American Blues parlays pluck and alliance to create new take on ‘Native Son’

September 6, 2014 – 3:06 pm | No Comment | 93 views
Theater 2014-15: American Blues parlays pluck and alliance to create new take on ‘Native Son’

13th in a series of season previews: Season themes can sometimes seem like a loose fit, but American Blues Theater’s 2014-15 overarching concept of “Lost and Found” looks well-tailored from a world-premiere adaptation of Richard Wright’s tragic “Native Son” to Warren Leight’s “Side Man,” a dark riff on family alienation that infects the life of a jazz trumpeter. But artistic director Gwendolyn Whiteside also offers a larger label that sums up American Blues’ 29-year history: “We’ve got pluck. We don’t have a lot of money, but we go for the stars.”

Theater 2014-15: Five premieres shape season as Victory Gardens observes 40th year

August 27, 2014 – 10:54 am | No Comment | 138 views
Theater 2014-15: Five premieres shape season  as Victory Gardens observes 40th year

Ninth in a series of season previews: Two world premieres anchor the 40th-anniversary season at Victory Gardens Theater, which opens with the Midwest premiere of “Rest,” company ensemble member Samuel D. Hunter’s story of senior citizens and their youthful attendants at a retirement home trapped by a blizzard and forced to confront the chasm between their generations. A second Midwest premiere follows with Colm Tóibín’s one-woman show “The Testament of Mary,” a re-imagined narrative by Mary on the last days of Jesus.

Theater 2014-15: Two world premieres, dear jewel keep Northlight true to its 40-year form

August 21, 2014 – 11:57 pm | No Comment | 201 views
Theater 2014-15: Two world premieres, dear jewel keep Northlight true to its 40-year form

Eighth in a series of season previews: Northlight Theatre enters its 40th anniversary season with a group of plays that exactly fits the model this company has refined through four decades of success. It’s what veteran artistic director BJ Jones describes as “a blend of new work and refreshed classics.” At season’s end comes the world premiere of “Shining Lives: A Musical,” with lyrics by Jessica Thebus and music by Andre Pluess and Amanda Dehnert. It’s based on Melanie Marnich’s play “These Shining Lives,” about women in the 1920s who painted radium faces on clocks only to become fatally ill from exposure to the paint.

Theater 2014-15: Women finding power set tone for romance, mystery, superheroes at Lifeline

August 20, 2014 – 10:20 am | No Comment | 438 views
Theater 2014-15: Women finding power set tone for romance, mystery, superheroes at Lifeline

Seventh in a series of season previews: A thematic thread of young women connecting with their strength as adults runs through the three main-stage plays of Lifeline Theatre’s 2014-15 season. But what jumps out just as clearly is the wide – or maybe the right word is wild – range of stories sharing that motif.

Theater 2014-15: Writers maps reduced season as company focuses on drama of new digs

August 18, 2014 – 11:16 pm | No Comment | 562 views
Theater 2014-15: Writers maps reduced season as company focuses on drama of new digs

Sixth in a series of season previews: “We have a challenging year coming up,” says Writers Theatre artistic director Michael Halberstam. Yes, and an exciting one — on an electric scale. Writers, in case anyone has missed this, is building a $31 million new home on the site of the company’s former main stage in Glencoe. So the 2014-15 season will be miniaturized , with the main drama focused on the grand house that’s projected to have its grand opening in winter 2016.

Theater 2014-15: Chicago Shakespeare bounty runs gamut from ‘Lear’ to Jane Austen musical

August 17, 2014 – 1:18 pm | No Comment | 355 views
Theater 2014-15: Chicago Shakespeare bounty runs gamut from ‘Lear’ to Jane Austen musical

Fifth in a series of season previews: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre honors its namesake this season with an autumn production of “King Lear,” the fantastic adventures of “Pericles” and a contemporary sequel to “Macbeth” that wryly ponders the chaos that befalls Scotland upon that usurper’s demise. Capping the season will be the world premiere of the musical “Sense and Sensibility,” composer-lyricist Paul Gordon’s adaptation of the Jane Austen novel.

Theater 2014-15: Profiles opens a new chapter with familiar face of LaBute and world premiere

August 15, 2014 – 10:58 pm | No Comment | 230 views
Theater 2014-15: Profiles opens a new chapter  with familiar face of LaBute and world premiere

Fourth in a series of season previews: With 25 years on the books and a second performing space established and offering new flexibility, Profiles Theatre heads into its second quarter-century this season with an opening production of resident artist Neil LaBute’s “Reasons to Be Happy.” Also on tap is the world premiere of Kate Walbert’s “Genius,” intertwining the secrets and alliances of two creative couples from different generations who find their lives changed at a dinner party.

Theater 2014-15: Shattered Globe hoists sail with historic saga of Pacific whaling disaster

August 14, 2014 – 10:44 pm | No Comment | 218 views
Theater 2014-15: Shattered Globe hoists sail with historic saga of Pacific whaling disaster

Third in a series of season previews: The 24th season at Shattered Globe Theatre opens in the spray, rage and terror of Joe Forbrich’s new play “The Whaleship Essex,” a sea thriller that dramatizes an incident in 1820 when the whaling vessel Essex was attacked and destroyed by a giant whale.

Theater 2014-15: TimeLine kicks off 4 Chicago premieres with first drama on religious theme

August 12, 2014 – 11:54 pm | No Comment | 369 views
Theater 2014-15: TimeLine kicks off 4 Chicago  premieres with first drama on religious theme

Second in a series of season previews: Ask TimeLine Theatre artistic director PJ Powers what’s new this season, and you’ll get a one-word answer: everything. TimeLine will present three Chicago premieres at its intimate Wellington Avenue home and a fourth, Aaron Posner’s “My Name Is Asher Lev,” will open the season in the company’s auxiliary space at Stage 773.

Theater 2014-15: Strawdog doubles down, adds full-scale series to complement main-stage fare

August 10, 2014 – 10:42 pm | No Comment | 249 views
Theater 2014-15: Strawdog doubles down, adds full-scale series to complement main-stage fare

First in a series of season previews: Strawdog Theatre seriously ramps it up this season, with eight productions that will meet the criteria for Jeff Award consideration – double the number of qualifying shows last year. For the first time, all four plays offered in Hugen Hall, the company’s spacious bar venue, will meet Jeff production standards. “It is really ambitious,” says Strawdog artistic director Hank Boland with a mix of pride and apprehension.

Oscar Wilde’s ‘Earnest’ at American Players: Much ado about manners, wit and attire

August 6, 2014 – 6:29 pm | No Comment | 561 views
Oscar Wilde’s ‘Earnest’ at American Players:  Much ado about manners, wit and attire

Review: Perhaps it’s because theater companies and audiences have always taken to heart Oscar Wilde’s subtitle for “The Importance of Being Earnest” that this silly, precious comedy of manners has remained a repertory fixture since its premiere in the Victorian world of 1895. Wilde slyly dubbed his play “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” and its triviality is indeed embraced seriously in this summer’s amusing romp at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. ★★★★

Martha S. Gilmer, longtime Chicago Symphony executive, named CEO of San Diego orchestra

July 31, 2014 – 6:18 pm | No Comment | 738 views
Martha S. Gilmer, longtime Chicago Symphony executive, named CEO of San Diego orchestra

Report: It’s off to San Diego’s warmer clime this fall for Martha S. Gilmer, the veteran executive of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who now serves as vice-president of artistic planning and audience development. Gilmer becomes CEO of the 104-year-old San Diego Symphony effective Sept. 24.

Role Playing: Shannon Cochran found partners aplenty in sardonic, twice-told ‘Dance of Death’

July 30, 2014 – 12:03 am | No Comment | 469 views
Role Playing: Shannon Cochran found partners  aplenty in sardonic, twice-told ‘Dance of Death’

Interview: In working out her transfixing performance in the harrowing pas de trois that is August Strindberg’s “The Dance of Death,” now on the boards at Writers Theatre, actress Shannon Cochran says she got an indirect boost from Irish playwright Conor McPherson, who created the new English-language adaptation at hand.

CD Review: Guitarist Karadaglić trumpets his Ravinia concerts with desert-isle Rodrigo disc

July 10, 2014 – 12:35 am | No Comment | 930 views
CD Review: Guitarist Karadaglić trumpets his  Ravinia concerts with desert-isle Rodrigo disc

Review: When I chatted with the young Montenegrin classical guitar virtuoso Miloš Karadaglić last November, about an impending solo appearance at City Winery, he made a brief digression to a major project then in progress – a recordng with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the London Philharmonic Orchestra that would pair Joaquin Rodrigo’s popular “Concierto de Aranjuez” and “Fantasía para un gentilhombre.” The CD has just been released, and it is a multifaceted beauty. ★★★★★

‘Brigadoon’ at Goodman: In musical’s bright mist, someone is lost and new meaning found

July 9, 2014 – 10:21 am | One Comment | 844 views
‘Brigadoon’ at Goodman: In musical’s bright mist, someone is lost and new meaning found

Review: In this briskly refreshing theater season, the Windy City has performed a hat trick on behalf of the American musical. Three mainstage companies have each expertly revived a Broadway classic through a shrewd rethinking that paired careful respect for the original with sympathy for today’s audience and its contemporary state of mind in changing times. Following Chicago Shakespeare’s heart-stopping “Gypsy” and Lyric Opera’s gorgeous “The Sound of Music” comes Lerner and Loewe’s 1947 “Brigadoon,” which ran for 581 performances on Broadway and is now in resplendent bloom at the Goodman. ★★★★

Bullets fly amid poignant comedy as Kokandy scores bull’s eye with Sondheim’s ‘Assassins’

July 7, 2014 – 8:13 pm | No Comment | 959 views
Bullets fly amid poignant comedy as Kokandy scores bull’s eye with Sondheim’s ‘Assassins’

Review: Imagine a homicidal hearts club of a very particular kind, where killers of U.S. presidents (and would-be killers) gather to clash and kibitz and relive the “why” in a time-bending collage, and you have “Assassins.” Chicago’s latest pocket production of the John Weidman-Stephen Sondheim 1990 classic comes at the close of a remarkable season for precision-cut Sondheim stagings, and this is one of them. ★★★★

String trio Time for Three twists classical roots into genre-smashing concerts of discovery

July 3, 2014 – 4:16 pm | No Comment | 889 views
String trio Time for Three twists classical roots into genre-smashing concerts of discovery

Preview: The term “crossover” just doesn’t seem adequate for the super-eclectic, albeit classically rooted, string trio Time for Three, which makes its debut at Chicago’s City Winery on July 7. A different word is needed for the creative adventures and mash-ups that fire the collective imagination of violinists Nicolas Kendall and Zachary De Pue and bassist Ranaan Meyer. If there’s any road these youthful musical wanderers have not yet taken, it’s only a matter of time. They are stylistically peripatetic — with a vengeance.

Juliet shines sun-bright in American Players’ earthy view of Shakespeare tragedy

July 2, 2014 – 2:41 pm | No Comment | 1,075 views
Juliet shines sun-bright in American Players’ earthy view of Shakespeare tragedy

Review: Care as we may for the oft love-struck young swain in Shakespeare’s great tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” it is Juliet whose desperate predicament holds our hearts in thrall. A successful staging requires, above all else, an irresistible Juliet, radiant indeed as the eastern sun, and American Players Theatre’s affecting summer run boasts just such a blazing star in Melisa Pereyra. ★★★★

Taking 35th-season turn to American classics, American Players hit core of Mamet

June 30, 2014 – 9:23 am | No Comment | 1,043 views
Taking 35th-season turn to American classics, American Players hit core of Mamet

Review: As if to signal rebirth at the outset of its 35th season, American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis., under new artistic director Brenda DeVita, has widened its scope beyond classic European fare to include the masterpieces of American theater. It could scarcely have dived more boldly into that pool, or more artfully, than with its sharp-edged and idiomatic production of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” ★★★★★