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Theater 2015-16: Fearless Redtwist confronts ‘Virginia Woolf’ and takes on a world premiere

Theater 2015-16: Fearless Redtwist confronts ‘Virginia Woolf’ and takes on a world premiere

August 27, 2015 – 10:44 pm | No Comment | 76 views

Fifth in a series of season previews: Seven seasons ago, Michael Colucci and Jan Ellen Graves, the married founders and still co-artistic directors of Redtwist Theatre, went at each other as George and Martha, the warring gamers in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” This season they hand over those rhetorical 8-ounce gloves to new sparring mates as Redtwist opens its 2015-16 series with another go at Albee’s searing dark comedy about true love and real marriage.

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Theater 2015-16: Ever-changeable Hypocrites plan two intense musicals, three dark dramas

August 26, 2015 – 9:51 pm | No Comment | 167 views

Jay Cullen, Steven Perkins in front with Becca Brown, David Daniel Smith, Luke Linsteadt, Malic White in The Hypocrites’ upcoming Chicago premiere of 'American Idiot.' (John Taflan.)Fourth in a series of season previews: Musicals “American Idiot” and “Adding Machine” in the offing with the clown tragedy“Burning Bluebeard” and re-imagined “Glass Menagerie.” Curtain up Sept. 6.

By Lawrence B. Johnson and Nancy Malitz

The Chicago theater company that now appears to be one thing, then slyly becomes completely different (and hence calls itself The Hypocrites), will serve up a typically careening season for 2015-16: two existential musicals framing three plays that peer deeply into the abyss of fate. Read the full story »

Theater 2015-16: American Blues will trumpet three decades with gritty anthem of ‘Rainmaker’

August 25, 2015 – 9:55 pm | No Comment | 190 views
Theater 2015-16: American Blues will trumpet  three decades with gritty anthem of ‘Rainmaker’

Third in a series of season previews: Gwendolyn Whiteside, the producing artistic director of American Blues Theater, sees a cosmic – or perhaps the better word is earthly — connection between her company and N. Richard Nash’s play “The Rainmaker,” which opens ABT’s season. “What draws us to ‘The Rainmaker,’” she says, “is its expression of incredible human resilience and the human need for hope.”

Theater 2015-16: It’s an energy surge at TimeLine as timeless Mike Nussbaum opens in ‘The Price’

August 24, 2015 – 9:29 pm | No Comment | 257 views
Theater 2015-16: It’s an energy surge at TimeLine as timeless Mike Nussbaum opens in ‘The Price’

Second in a series of season previews: Surveying the scheme of plays, actors and directors for TimeLine Theatre’s 2015-16 season, its 19th, artist director PJ Powers’ voice fills with palpable excitement. The company’s opener, Arthur Miller’s “The Price,” observes the playwright’s 100th birth year – and it stars Chicago’s living legend, Mike Nussbaum, who’s not far behind Miller on that time line.

Theater 2015-16: Reveling in discomfort zone, Profiles leads off with the off-beat ‘Jacksonian’

August 23, 2015 – 9:37 pm | No Comment | 147 views
Theater 2015-16: Reveling in discomfort zone,  Profiles leads off with the off-beat ‘Jacksonian’

First in a series of season previews: Profiles Theatre opens its 27th season with an off-the-wall, grimly humorous, borderline surreal gem of a play fraught with wacky characters and murder, Beth Henley’s “The Jacksonian,” that might have been tailored expressly for this devoutly edgy company. It launches a lineup that finds Profiles in its high-intensity groove.

Role Playing: Christopher Donahue, as Ahab, finds sea’s depth in sadness of a vengeful soul

August 21, 2015 – 9:48 pm | No Comment | 262 views
Role Playing: Christopher Donahue, as Ahab,  finds sea’s depth in sadness of a vengeful soul

Interview: Christopher Donahue contemplates the weathered, craggy, doggedly vengeful figure of Captain Ahab, the iconic central character of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” whose cosmic persona Donahue brings into vivid focus on the stage at Lookingglass Theatre. And in the driven whale hunter, the actor finds a paradox. “Ahab abides far away from humanity,” Donahue says. “He is as much a creature of the sea as the creature he’s trying to kill. The sea lives in him. I think he believes himself to be as strong and tumultuous as the sea itself.”

‘Pride and Prejudice’ at American Players: Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, with charm and brevity

August 19, 2015 – 12:10 am | No Comment | 225 views
‘Pride and Prejudice’ at American Players: Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, with charm and brevity

Review: You can’t blame an audience for lapping it up: Skilled and familiar actors playing beloved characters in a story so cherished that everyone can pretty much recite along. But that doesn’t necessarily make for memorable theater. Witness the American Players Theatre stage version of Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” at Spring Green, Wis. ★★★

‘Merry Wives of Windsor’ at American Players: Shakespeare’s fat Falstaff and some lusty LOL

August 15, 2015 – 7:03 am | No Comment | 282 views
‘Merry Wives of Windsor’ at American Players: Shakespeare’s fat Falstaff and some lusty LOL

Review: If the delight of Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” lies in the sparring between that fat, delusional romantic Sir John Falstaff and a raft of characters determined to rub his nose in reality, this broad comedy ultimately hangs on two hooks, and the rollicking production at American Players Theatre delivers them both at Spring Green, Wis. ★★★★

Role Playing: Lance Baker embodies the ennui, despair of fugitive Jews in ‘Diary of Anne Frank’

August 12, 2015 – 12:16 pm | No Comment | 611 views
Role Playing: Lance Baker embodies the ennui, despair of fugitive Jews in ‘Diary of Anne Frank’

Interview: Of the eight Jewish characters huddled together against the Nazi terror just beyond the door of their little room, in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” one of them arguably feels the confinement, the boredom, the uselessness more than the others. He is Mr. van Daan, a business associate of Anne’s father; and Lance Baker, who portrays this restive soul at Writers Theatre, sees him as a man marginalized in his own heart.

Composer and architect connect as Kalmar illuminates Adams’ ‘Harmonielehre’ at Grant Park

August 11, 2015 – 3:50 pm | No Comment | 248 views
Composer and architect connect as Kalmar illuminates Adams’ ‘Harmonielehre’ at Grant Park

Review: Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, where the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus performed Haydn’s Harmoniemesse and John Adams’s Harmonielehre on Aug. 8, is one of the most striking structures in a city full of awesome architecture. The Frank Gehry-designed outdoor stage calls to mind a bullet hole in sheet metal, dynamic silver panels exploding outward in spontaneous, sweeping waves.

‘An Iliad’ at American Players Theatre: Of rage, ruin and the cherished legacy of endless wars

August 4, 2015 – 10:36 am | No Comment | 431 views
‘An Iliad’ at American Players Theatre: Of rage, ruin and the cherished legacy of endless wars

Review: Rage, beyond expression or reason or appeasement, rips through the timeless modernity of “An Iliad,” the dramatic distillation of Homer’s epic by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare that now echoes against the near walls of an intimate space at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. This fraught opus of glory and gore bristles in the one voice but many personas of Jim DeVita, playing the Poet who frames the perpetual folly of war in the single appalling, ever repeating travesty that was Troy. ★★★★★

Musical ‘Pippin’ shines as a high-energy revue, but circus atmosphere covers a meager plot

August 3, 2015 – 6:43 pm | No Comment | 391 views
Musical ‘Pippin’ shines as a high-energy revue, but circus atmosphere covers a meager plot

Review: The musical “Pippin” is an eye-popping crazy-quilt of commedia dell’ arte, dazzling choreography and Cirque du Soleil acrobatics draped over a thin plot about finding the meaning of one’s life. The show’s most appealing qualities come together in the national tour now playing the Cadillac Palace Theatre. But as a musical drama that aspires to something more than glitzy revue, this once-forgotten venture wanders well wide of the mark. ★★★

Grant Park Orchestra lets virtuoso banners fly with (quiet) indoor Bruckner Sixth Symphony

August 2, 2015 – 7:29 pm | No Comment | 461 views
Grant Park Orchestra lets virtuoso banners fly with (quiet) indoor Bruckner Sixth Symphony

Review: Knowing that Bruckner outdoors at the Pritzker Pavilion stood no chance against the sonic assault from nearby Lollapalooza, the Grant Park Music Festival moved its July 31 and Aug. 1 performances into the Harris Theater. The festival orchestra’s account of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony, conducted by Christoph König, allowed the audience to appreciate just how good this ensemble really is.

As James Conlon epoch winds down at Ravinia, familiar fanfares of Mahler and rumble of trains

July 24, 2015 – 4:28 pm | No Comment | 686 views
As James Conlon epoch winds down at Ravinia,  familiar fanfares of Mahler and rumble of trains

Review: Since becoming music director of the Ravinia Festival in 2005, James Conlon seems to have learned that a roaring Metra train, whose tracks pass near the Ravinia pavilion, can compete even with the great Chicago Symphony Orchestra. So on July 22, Conlon, now in his last season as leader of the orchestra’s summer residency, simply waited patiently at the podium with an amused smirk while, mid-Mahler, a train clattered into a station and eventually rumbled past.

‘Grand Concourse’ at Steppenwolf: Soup’s on, but it’s boiling over with angst, anger and evil

July 22, 2015 – 7:00 am | No Comment | 608 views
‘Grand Concourse’ at Steppenwolf: Soup’s on, but it’s boiling over with angst, anger and evil

Review: The fascination of Heidi Schreck’s play “Grand Concourse,” now at Steppenwolf Theatre, lies not so much in the personal crisis of a nun whose faith is wavering as it is in the human response of a good person directly affected by unmitigated evil. That moral dilemma keeps us hanging on through the last syllable, or rather sigh, of this well-made drama. ★★★

‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ at American Players: Estwhile beauty meets beast, and he’s not kind

July 16, 2015 – 8:43 pm | No Comment | 763 views
‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ at American Players:  Estwhile beauty meets beast, and he’s not kind

Review: She is a fascinating character, indeed one of the iconic personas in all of theater, Blanche DuBois, the fallen Southern belle of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The undying question is, Why? What’s so intriguing about this dame with the checkered past? Perhaps it’s her vulnerability, or her delusion, or her sheer refusal to go quietly into middle-aged oblivion. I think that’s the thing, her feisty pluck, that makes Tracy Michelle Arnold’s Blanche so compelling at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. ★★★★★

‘All Our Tragic’ at The Hypocrites: In a fresh spin on Greek tragedy, laughter and pause for dessert

July 12, 2015 – 12:16 am | No Comment | 671 views
‘All Our Tragic’ at The Hypocrites: In a fresh spin on Greek tragedy, laughter and pause for dessert

Review: A hit with audiences last season, “All Our Tragic,” adapted by Hypocrites artistic director Sean Graney, is a marathon retelling of all the surviving Greek plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. It has been reworked and remounted at The Den Theatre, running full-length on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to just past 10:30 p.m. – in eight acts with seven intermissions and food breaks (included with ticket). It’s a sweeping immersion: prodigious, clever, insightful and riveting. ★★★★

From father to son, the sorrows of Catfish Row become cherished pleasure for Bobby McFerrin

July 10, 2015 – 10:46 pm | No Comment | 603 views
From father to son, the sorrows of Catfish Row become cherished pleasure for Bobby McFerrin

Review: In “Porgy and Bess,” the 1959 film version of Gershwin’s musical, the singing voice of Sidney Poitier’s Porgy was dubbed in by Robert McFerrin, a Metropolitan Opera star and Bobby’s father. At the start of the Chicago Symphony’s Ravinia Festival residency, it was the younger McFerrin’s turn to take a serious run through an opera he literally grew up with.

‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’: Lighting up Chekhov with laughter at Goodman

July 8, 2015 – 9:05 pm | No Comment | 715 views
‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’:  Lighting up Chekhov with laughter at Goodman

Review: I hate going here, I really do, because it’s going to sound like home cooking, but the hysterical truth is – and everything about this is hysterical – that the Goodman Theatre romp through Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” roundly eclipses the production I saw last season in New York. Directed by Steve Scott, this show is so smart and tight, so killingly funny, that seeing it just once may not be possible. ★★★★★

Knights, Dawn Upshaw celebrate folk influence on classical music with ranging fare at Ravinia

July 7, 2015 – 10:40 am | No Comment | 617 views
Knights, Dawn Upshaw celebrate folk influence on classical music with ranging fare at Ravinia

Review: Composers have long been fascinated by folk music. From Josquin des Prez’s late 15th-century “Missa L’homme armé,” based on a popular French tune, to Donnacha Dennehy’s Irish music-inspired “Grá agus bás” from 2007, folk songs have often made their mark on classical music, either through direct transcription or simple inspiration. On July 5 at Ravinia’s Martin Theatre, the iconoclastic chamber orchestra the Knights, joined by the likewise singular soprano Dawn Upshaw, gamboled through some of the vibrant repertoire that has emerged from composers’ attraction to folk music.

‘Good People’ at Redtwist: Down on her luck, Boston Southie seeks hope behind lace facade

July 3, 2015 – 5:32 pm | No Comment | 657 views
‘Good People’ at Redtwist: Down on her luck,  Boston Southie seeks hope behind lace facade

Review: Margie’s life is hard, like the “g” in her name. It’s all she’s ever known. She grew up in the rough-and-tumble projects of Boston’s south side – a real “Southie.” She doesn’t have much, but at least she has a job; well, had a job. As we look in on Margie’s lot in David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” now staged with potent intimacy at Redtwist Theatre, she’s about to be fired. ★★★★

Musical Stars and Stripes will fly all summer as Grant Park celebrates American composers

July 3, 2015 – 5:00 pm | No Comment | 829 views
Musical Stars and Stripes will fly all summer as Grant Park celebrates American composers

Preview: The season programming of a major orchestra may offer a preponderance of German, Russian, and French music, but at this year’s Grant Park Music Festival, Americans make a greater showing. Now in its 81st season, the free Festival in downtown Millennium Park embodies the exploratory spirit of composers who have sought to create an intrinsically American music.