Critics theater picks for 6/30-7/3

June 30, 2011

Updated at: 2:45pm on 6/30/11 - Now with Jonathan Abarbanel!

Kelly Kleiman

Start the weekend right by listening to the Dueling Critics as Jonathan and I debate David Henry Hwang's Chinglish, the latest missile being guided from the Goodman to Broadway. Is the show more or less true to the Asian-American experience than the production of Hwang's Yellow Face now running at the culturally specific Silk Road Theatre Project? Can a pair of highly diverse Jewish theater critics (he's Sephardic and I'm Ashkenazi) accurately assess that kind of authenticity? Is "authenticity" even relevant anymore? Listen and decide whether Chinglish measures up to Chicago standards or whether it's only good enough for New York.

We're on 848 between 9 and 10 a.m. tomorrow (Friday), or you'll find the recorded segment posted shortly thereafter on the 848 page of this site. Catch us now or dig us later.

This weekend only, another out-of-town tryout: live from L.A., the superbly-named Women Are Crazy Because Men Are A**holes. I haven't seen it because it only opened its five-performance run last night; but if you're up for gender-role comedy check it out at 6 o'clock on Saturday, when tickets are only $19. At the Mercury on Southport in Lakeview. 

And finally, on Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. join a cast of 100 or so of the city's top actors, directors, playwrights and designers--and, for some reason, me--as we read the Declaration of Independence from the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. That's right: no fireworks on the Third of July, just the reading with Grant Park Concert to follow. Think of it this way: no fireworks means no nightmare crowds means plenty of room for you to see and hear and remember what the whole thing's supposed to be about. Free.

And a Glorious Fourth to all.

Laura Molzahn

Catch two of Chicago’s funniest groups in a free preview tonight, Thursday. Lucky Plush Productions and members of 500 Clown are putting their heads together to create The Better Half, a take-off on Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play Gaslight, produced on Broadway in 1941 (under the title Angel Street) and made into a film in 1944. Set in 1880, this melodrama involves a husband who schemes to convince his wife she’s mad—but Lucky Plush and 500 Clown are playing it anything but straight. A preview I saw in April had people on the floor. The finished product is scheduled to open at the MCA in October, but you can get a glimpse of the creative process at a one-night-only work-in-progress showing, 6 PM in the MCA theater.

Lots of theater romanticizes old age. Not Bruce Graham’s The Outgoing Tide. Directed by BJ Jones and starring John Mahoney and Rondi Reed—funny and horrifying as a long-married couple—it has, not the ring of truth, but the clamorous cacophony of truth. Extended through July 3 at Northlight Theatre, it’s also a true pleasure. I’ll never forget (unless I fall into dementia) the guy shuffling out behind us when it ended, decked out in his WWII veteran’s cap, who called after us, “Hey, kids! Have a wonderful day!” 

Jonathan Abarbanel

"Jungle Red!" The very words raise the hair on the necks of those who love bitch wit and revenge served cold (as it should be) and Upper Crust 1930's women's fashion. They are (1) the color of a lipstick and (2) a catch phrase from Clare Booth's quintessential 1936 comedy-of-manners, The Women, and it's onstage now at Circle Theatre in Oak Park. Given Circle's sense of production values, one may expect gorgeous gowns. The question is how they will treat the play itself, with its large, all-female cast. Will they serve it up as high camp, as has sometimes been the case? Or as an earnest period piece? Ironically, author Clare Booth was a powerful, independent career woman quite unlike the women of her play, who rely on the unseen men in their lives for validation. The Women runs at Circle Theatre through Aug. 14.

The cirques are back in town, both of them. Cirque du Soleil has pitched its iconic blue-and-yellow air-conditioned tent next to the United Center with its latest lavishly costumed and scored opus, Ovo, a fanciful interpretation of insect life, playing through Aug. 21. Meanwhile, Cirque Shanghai is back for another summer-long run at Navy Pier's Skyline Stage, featuring the best highly physical acts from China's seemingly-endless supply of tumblers, jugglers, acrobats, aerialists and cyclists through Sept. 5. If Cirque Shanghai is less of a high-concept and unique environment, it counteracts that with truly family-friendly ticket prices. Best four-person family package at Cirque du Soleil is $150, while a four-person family can see Cirque Shanghai for as little as $65.