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

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

August 21, 2014 – 11:57 pm | No Comment | 28 views

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.

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

August 20, 2014 – 10:20 am | No Comment | 52 views

Anu Bhatt as Jane Eyre in the Lifeline Theatre adaptation by Christina Calvit of the Charlotte Brontë novel.Seventh in a series of season previews: Two world premieres, including a female cyborg musical, head the lineup of adaptations from books; reprise of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” leads off Sept. 15.

By Lawrence B. Johnson and Nancy Malitz

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.  Read the full story »

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

August 18, 2014 – 11:16 pm | No Comment | 70 views
Theater 2014-15: Writers maps reduced season as company focuses on drama of new building

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 | 141 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 | 107 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 | 81 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 | 223 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 | 118 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.

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

July 31, 2014 – 6:18 pm | No Comment | 387 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 | 311 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 | 816 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 | No Comment | 709 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. ★★★★

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

July 3, 2014 – 4:16 pm | No Comment | 774 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.

‘Death and the Maiden’ at Victory Gardens: Seeking peace and Schubert in web of horror

June 25, 2014 – 11:35 pm | No Comment | 668 views
‘Death and the Maiden’ at Victory Gardens:  Seeking peace and Schubert in web of horror

Review: The premise, like the title, is intriguing, but Ariel Dorfman’s play “Death and the Maiden” is a problematic work that isn’t helped by an uneven production at Victory Gardens Theatre. Yet Sandra Oh, perhaps best known as Dr. Cristina Yang on the television series “Grey’s Anatomy” and for the film “Sideways,” is magical as Paulina Salas, a woman who survived unjust imprisonment, torture and rape under the old regime of a South American republic – only to sense her former tormentor in the affable fellow suddenly before her in her living room. ★★★

Role Playing: Natalie West scaled back comedy to nail laughs, touch hearts in ‘Mud Blue Sky’

June 24, 2014 – 9:56 pm | No Comment | 729 views
Role Playing: Natalie West scaled back comedy to nail laughs, touch hearts in ‘Mud Blue Sky’

Interview: Natalie West’s portrayal of a bone-weary airline attendant in Marisa Wegrzyn’s “Mud Blue Sky” at A Red Orchid Theatre is so recognizable – who hasn’t felt exactly like that? – in its muted and dryly funny fashion that it comes as a shock to hear that she miniaturized the performance, so to speak, from a larger canvas.

‘Grounded’ at American Blues Theater: Boom! goes the rocket blast, and pilot’s life implodes

June 23, 2014 – 1:29 am | No Comment | 928 views
‘Grounded’ at American Blues Theater: Boom! goes the rocket blast, and pilot’s life implodes

Review: The pilot, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, is a proud lone wolf, happiest up there in the wild blue yonder, at the controls of an F-16 homing in on targets in the midst of a Middle East war. Yet there’s a mentionable wrinkle. The Pilot in playwright George Brant’s monodrama “Grounded” is a woman. Gwendolyn Whiteside, the producing artistic director of American Blues Theater, suits up and steps out front to portray a human being who thinks she knows herself – only to discover her true humanity in both the sweetest and the most devastating terms. ★★★★

Lessons of Riccardo Muti’s Schubert cycle tell as CSO caps season with poetic Mahler First

June 21, 2014 – 1:18 pm | No Comment | 1,237 views
Lessons of Riccardo Muti’s Schubert cycle tell as CSO caps season with poetic Mahler First

Review: What Riccardo Muti has brought to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in his first four years as music director was on display June 19 as the orchestra crowned its season with a revelatory pairing of Schubert’s graceful Fifth Symphony and Mahler’s splendorous First.

Role Playing: Dave Belden, actor and violinist, adjusted pitch for ‘Charles Ives Take Me Home’

June 18, 2014 – 10:24 am | No Comment | 747 views
Role Playing: Dave Belden, actor and violinist, adjusted pitch for ‘Charles Ives Take Me Home’

Interview: When Dave Belden took on the role of a violinist whose daughter wants nothing more than to play basketball, in Jessica Dickey’s “Charles Ives Take Me Home” at Strawdog Theatre, he saw himself as perfectly suited to the part. He plays in the Chicago Sinfonietta. What he had to overcome was his notion of himself as a fundamentally nice guy.

London Aisle: At Shakespeare’s Globe, bloody revenge served au naturel in ‘Titus Andronicus’

June 17, 2014 – 12:20 am | No Comment | 627 views
London Aisle: At Shakespeare’s Globe, bloody revenge served au naturel in ‘Titus Andronicus’

Review: To watch a production by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on its home turf, an open-air replica of the Bard’s original playhouse, is to sense the Elizabethan theater as a living, breathing – not to mention grunting and sweating – organism. Amid the swarming actors, you’re on top of the action; or make that, in the recent instance of that spectacle of maim and slaughter “Titus Andronicus,” the mayhem. ★★★★

Under new director, American Players Theatre shows changed outlook with Mamet opener

June 14, 2014 – 8:07 am | No Comment | 695 views
Under new director, American Players Theatre shows changed outlook with Mamet opener

Preview: As if running up a banner announcing its annexation of the New World – where, of course, it is located – the classically oriented American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis., opens its 2014 summer with a new commitment to Americana, leading off with no less bracing a representative than David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.”

Leading CSO toward finale of Schubert cycle, Muti imparts mastery of Viennese tradition

June 12, 2014 – 11:10 am | No Comment | 901 views
Leading CSO toward finale of Schubert cycle, Muti imparts mastery of Viennese tradition

Interview: Conductor Riccardo Muti’s final two weeks of the season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also bring the consummation of his season-long cycle of Schubert’s symphonies. From his perspective “in the middle of the river,” as Muti puts the ongoing project, the CSO is absorbing the style and finesse of his reference ensemble: the Vienna Philharmonic.

Role Playing: Joseph Wiens starts at full throttle to convey alienation of ‘Look Back in Anger’

June 9, 2014 – 8:17 am | No Comment | 929 views
Role Playing: Joseph Wiens starts at full throttle to convey alienation of ‘Look Back in Anger’

Interview: The first thing Joseph Wiens had to overcome in achieving his electric performance in John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger” at Redtwist Theatre was the sheer volume of lines. Well, that and what he calls the “mishmash” of British accents. And of course the machine-gun speed at which Osborne’s teeming language had to be delivered – intelligibly.