WBEZ | Artistic Home http://www.wbez.org/tags/artistic-home Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Don't-Miss List March 29-April 3: Ghost stories, untimely death and prep-school romance http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-29/dont-miss-list-march-29-april-3-ghost-stories-untimely-death-and-pr <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-29/Two Sides photos.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-29/Two Sides photos.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 420px;" title="Shannon Cason performs in 'Two Sides' by Chicago Slam Works. (Courtesy of the Vittum)"></p><p><u>Dueling Critics, 91.5 FM and WBEZ.org, between 9 and 10 a.m. Friday March 30th, FREE!</u><br> <br> Top of the list, of course, is our tete-a-tete on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> about <a href="http://theartistichome.org/"><em>Tea and Sympathy</em> by the Artistic Home at Stage 773</a>. A prep-school student suspected of being gay hopes to escape this fate worse than death through the ministrations of his housemaster’s frustrated wife. When you talk about this (and you will), be kind. Guest Duelist Albert Williams of the <em>Reader</em>, Columbia College Chicago and the <a href="http://www.arts.cornell.edu/english/awards/nathan/previous.html#2000">George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism</a> will challenge me to consider whether this chestnut (staged in 1953, filmed in 1956 with the oh-so-sympathetic Deborah Kerr) is worth roasting.</p><p><u><em>Tangled</em> at eta Creative Arts, 7558 S. South Chicago Ave., 8 p.m. Thursday March 29th, $10</u><br> <br> <a href="http://etacreativearts.org/mainstage_shows.html">eta’s new mainstage show</a> is sadly timely, focusing as it does on a group of African-American women funeral directors. Sure, their South Side businesses are thriving, but who wants to profit from the early deaths of the neighborhood’s young men? In light of Trayvon Martin (only the most recent of many), Nicole Anderson-Cobb’s play will hit frighteningly close to home–and yet it’s styled a “provocative dramedy.” Thursdays through Sundays through May 20; tickets $30; $20 on “Talkback Thursdays” and a special $10 for tonight’s opening.<br> <br> <u><a href="http://firstfolio.org/"><em>The Turn of the Screw</em> at First Folio</a>, Mayslake Estate, Oak Brook, 8 p.m. Saturday March 31st, $26-$37</u><br> <br> Here’s a ghost story for those of you who confuse March 31 with October 31, one by Henry James for those of you too snobby to admit you like ghost stories and one starring the elegant Nick Sandys as the ghost for those of you still <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062565/">identifying with Mrs. Muir.</a> Set in a spooky English manor, it’s performed in the spooky faux-English manor where First Folio makes its home. The company has a particular flair for genteel horror, so get in touch with your inner governess Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through April 29.<br> <br> <u><em>Two Sides</em> by Chicago Slam Works at the Vittum, 1012 N. Noble, 8 p.m. Tuesday April 3, $18.50</u><br> <br> In the spirit of the season one might ask: Why is this poetry slam different from all other poetry slams?&nbsp; To which the answer is, it’s a choreographed face-off between storytellers and performance poets. This is the first show of the inaugural season of <a href="http://chicagoslamworks.org/">Chicago Slam Works</a>, which continues with shows in May and July. (A three-show Slam Pass will run you $40.)&nbsp; Oil your snapping fingers and check it out.</p></p> Thu, 29 Mar 2012 14:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-29/dont-miss-list-march-29-april-3-ghost-stories-untimely-death-and-pr The You-Missed List: Top Shows of 2011 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-19/you-missed-list-top-shows-2011-94979 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-19/follies.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/follies.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 354px; height: 240px;" title="'Follies' at Chicago Shakes (Photo by Liz Lauren)"><strong>Best show of the year in any category:</strong> Gary Griffin’s <em>Follies</em> at <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/">Chicago Shakespeare</a>. This flawless version of an underappreciated early Sondheim should be remounted somewhere and run forever; there’s not a false note or step anywhere in it. In short: absolutely brilliant.</p><p><strong>Best one-man show of this or any other year:</strong> <a href="http://www.courttheatre.org/season/show/an_iliad/"><em>An Iliad</em> at Court Theatre</a>, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, as performed by the extraordinary Timothy Edward Kane. Again, won’t director Charles Newell seek out another site for an open-ended run? The city is full of people who wanted to see it and couldn’t. &nbsp;<br> <br> And now on to our regularly-scheduled list, already in progress.<br> <br> <strong>Best musical we’ve seen in years:</strong> Life is unfair. Only a perfect <em>Follies</em> could eclipse two other superb productions in this category, <em>Sweeney Todd</em> at <a href="http://www.drurylaneoakbrook.com/">Drury Lane</a> and <a href="http://themusictheatrecompany.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=25&amp;Itemid=12"><em>Merrily We Roll Along</em> at The Music Theatre Company</a> (starring <a href="http://www.broadway.com/shows/clear-day-you-can-see-forever/buzz/159007/on-a-clear-days-breakout-star-jessie-mueller-on-flirting-with-harry-connick-jr-and-belting-on-broadway/">Jessie Mueller, now knocking them dead in <em>On A Clear Day</em> on Broadway</a>). Sondheim was everywhere this year, but in the race for attention these three are a deserved win, place and show.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br> <br> <strong>Best plays about monarchs (including any Shakespeare play you care to name):</strong> So who’da thunk Chicago Shakespeare would win this category, too, and with two non-Bard productions? No one who saw Harry Groener in <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,19,3,36,1,15"><em>The Madness of George III </em></a>will ever forget his hilarious, pathetic, tragic and deeply human character, and the same can be said for Diane D’Aquila’s powerful, hearthbroken&nbsp; and heartbreaking <em><a href="https://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,62,5,1,11">Elizabeth Rex</a>.</em>&nbsp;And with its offstage gods and kings manipulating its onstage warriors and fools, let’s count <em>An Iliad</em> once again–just because it was so amazing. &nbsp;<br> <br> <strong>Best plays about racism:</strong> <a href="http://www.theartistichome.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=130&amp;Itemid=250">Artistic Home’s revival of Alice Childress's Obie-winning <em>Trouble in Mind</em></a> anatomized discrimination within the theater itself, while–-speaking of painfully close to home-–<a href="http://www.steppenwolf.org/boxoffice/productions/index.aspx?id=527">Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer-winning Clybourne Park</a> called out gentrification in Steppenwolf’s own neighborhood. It take some nerve to raise the ghost of <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/lorraine-hansberry-9327823">Lorraine Hansberry,</a> and a top-notch intellect to confront it on equal terms. Fortunately, Norris shows himself as able a combatant as we’ve seen since <a href="http://gwt.scripturetext.com/genesis/32.htm">Jacob wrestled with the angel til dawn</a>. &nbsp;<br> <br> <strong>Best avant-garde plays, even for those of us skeptical about the very concept:</strong> Trap Door took a play that is literally revolting, featuring a character with an intimate relationship with excrement –&nbsp;<a href="http://trapdoortheatre.com/performance-history/first-ladies/">Werner Schwab's <em>First Ladies</em></a>&nbsp;--&nbsp;and made it into a savage and inescapable commentary on the dregs which constitute contemporary life. Nicole Wiesner’s performance as the obsessed plumber was first among equals, and deserved a much wider audience than it got. Kudos to her and to the entire company for deciding that doing the work they believe in is more important than the commercial success they could all surely have.</p><p>Meanwhile, <a href="http://theateroobleck.com/plays/there-is-a-happiness-that-morning-is">Mickle Maher's <em>There is a Happiness That Morning Is</em></a>, which Theatre Oobleck did at the DCA Theatre, broke the fourth wall while making <a href="http://www.online-literature.com/blake/songs-of-innocence-and-experie">William Blake's <em>Songs of Innocence and Experience</em></a> into a surrogate for all conflicts between Apollo and Dionysius, between head and heart, between conformity and individuality. Performed as a pair of dueling lectures, with a few comments from the peanut gallery, the piece is Impossible to describe but was thrilling to observe.&nbsp;<br> <br> <strong>Best adaptations from other media:</strong> honors are shared here by Marilyn Campbell's <a href="http://www.16thstreettheater.org/seasonfour/thebeats.html"><em>The Beats</em> at 16th Street Theatre</a>, which makes the 1950s poets seem our contemporaries; <a href="http://buildingstage.com/bxo_show_mobydick.php"><em>Moby Dick</em> at the Building Stage</a>, in which everyone onstage takes a turn as Ahab, reminding the audience that anyone is capable of cruelty, obsession and insanity; <a href="http://thehousetheatre.com/seasons/x/shows/cyrano">The House Theatre’s version of <em>Cyrano</em></a>, which rescued the tale of love and chivalry from the musty cloth in which it’s been swaddled (not to say suffocated); and <a href="http://www.courttheatre.org/season/show/spunk/"><em>Spunk</em> at Court Theatre, a delightful musical adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston short stories</a>. And speaking of Court, did I mention its one-man adaptation of Homer?<br> <br> <strong>Best plays with an Irish lilt (always a crowded category in Chicago):</strong> a tie between <a href="http://www.seanachai.org/productions/shadow.html"><em>Shadow of a Gunman</em> at Seanachai</a> (directed by John Mossman) and <a href="http://www.theartistichome.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=136&amp;Itemid=261"><em>A Touch of the Poet</em> at the Artistic Home's new space at Stage 773</a> (directed by Mossman's wife, AH's Artistic Director Kathy Scambiatterra). Whether it’s O’Neill or O’Casey, you can count on a true feel of the Ould Sod from these two.<br> <br> <strong>Best plays about escaping from reality:</strong> There were a lot of these this year–--and, looking at the world as it is, can you blame us?&nbsp; <a href="http://www.redtwist.org/2010-2011Season.html#Neb">Red Twist’s <em>Man from Nebraska</em></a> heads the list, with a production of the Tracy Letts play that outdid its world premiere at Steppenwolf.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.strawdog.org/index.php?section=history&amp;production=conquest">Strawdog’s <em>Conquest of the South Pole</em> </a>(the <a href="http://www.timelinetheatre.com/pitmen_painters/">other play about unemployed miners</a>) showed us a group of East Germans whose fantasies of liberation involve death on the ice.&nbsp;<a href="http://eclipsetheatre.com/season/2011/">At Eclipse</a>, playwright Naomi Wallace limned the constraints of poverty, isolation, and gender in <em>The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek</em>, while the <a href="http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/news.detail/object_id/a3d49bc1-3d30-4d73-b050-c4ecafb365fb.cfm">same company’s revival of Arthur Miller’s <em>After the Fall</em></a> demonstrated that even people married to Marilyn Monroe occasionally need a break.</p><p>I realize I've spoken about companies more often than directors, so permit me a shout-out to Kimberly Senior, Jonathan Berry, Andrew Jessop, Seret Scott, Matt Hawkins, Blake Montgomery, Ann Filmer, Zeljko Djukic, Amy Morton, Vaun Monroe, Barbara Gaines, Penny Metropulos, Jessica Redish and Rachel Rockwell. And may I happily note an equal number of men and women in this group of those responsible for the great work here described?</p><p>Happy New Year.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 19 Dec 2011 15:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-19/you-missed-list-top-shows-2011-94979 Critics theater picks for the weekend; 'Don Quixote', 'Mary Poppins' and 'Dancing Henry 5' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-13/critics-theater-picks-weekend-don-quixote-mary-poppins-and-dancing- <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-12/HenryVdownload.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p>The most moving moments in <a href="http://www.lookingglasstheatre.org/content/box_office/the_great_fire">Lookingglass Theatre's <strong><em>The Great Fire</em></strong></a> belong to Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary, the Irish immigrants falsely accused of causing the blaze. Watching them cringe in front of some sort of government investigative panel you get a sense of how marginalized and terrified even these English-speaking immigrants were. If the rest of the show had that level of emotional engagement or social commentary, it would be a knock-out; instead, it's a pleasant tour through familiar territory, an in-joke for Chicagoans. Its acrobatics never reach to any impressive height, nor does its story-telling. But Cheryl Lynn Bruce's turn as Alderman Hildreth, who thought to stop the fire by using gunpowder to blow up some of the buildings still standing, is equal parts hilarious and true and should be required viewing for anyone who thinks the Chicago City Council is fit to govern. Through November 20 at the Waterworks; tickets $42-$60.&nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, <a href="http://theartistichome.org/">The Artistic Home</a>'s <strong><em>A Touch of the Poet</em></strong> shows an Irish family from half a century earlier, struggling against being marginalized by accepting the claims of its paterfamilias to being a great gentleman and a brave soldier, though to all outward appearances he's just a tavern-keeper with a slavey wife and a pretty daughter. I saw this show some years ago with Brian Dennehy directed by Robert Falls and hated it with a passion surpassing all things because the central character, Con Melody, was so over-the-top in his delusions and hatefulness. Kathy Scambiaterra's production demonstrates that it's not the character at all: under her direction Frank Nall makes one hairpin turn after another in portraying Con's quest to escape himself. His splendid performance is complemented by that of Sally Eames, if anything stronger and subtler as the wife who knows Con for what he is and loves him nonetheless. Their performances carry the entire play, and remind us that Eugene O'Neill did, on occasion, provide a happy ending. Through November 6 at Stage 773 on Belmont; tickets $28-$32 with student and senior discounts available.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-13/HenryVdownload.jpg.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 334px; " title="'Dancing Henry Five' (Photo by Paula Court)"></p><p>And for something completely different, head to the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Dance_Center/">Dance Center of Columbia College</a> tonight, tomorrow or Saturday for <em><strong>Dancing Henry Five</strong></em>, a dance version of Shakespeare's play choreographed by David Gordon.</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-13/don quixote.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 333px; " title="(Courtesy of the Joffrey Ballet)"></p><p>A couple of big-ticket shows this weekend, both featuring world-premiere commissions, may be worth shelling out for. <a href="http://www.joffrey.com/donquixote">The Joffrey performs its first evening-length commission in 60 years</a>, a remix of <em><strong>Don Quixote</strong>&nbsp;</em>by former Bolshoi dancer Yuri Possokhov, who both riffs on the Petipa version and brings his own contemporary sensibility to the dancing. True to Cervantes’ 400-year-old story, Possokhov focuses on Don Q himself—and comic relief Sancho Panza. Animated projections help bring this 19<sup>th</sup>-century ballet into the 21<sup>st</sup> century.</p><p>Twyla Tharp hasn’t created <a href="http://www.hubbardstreetdance.com/calendar">a new piece for Hubbard Street</a> in 15 years—but she makes up for lost time in the formally and musically intricate <strong><em>Scarlatti</em></strong>, a piece for 12. Those familiar with her work in the 1978 film <em>Hair </em>or the 2010 Sinatra jukebox musical <em>Come Fly Away</em>won’t be surprised by her gift for communicating character too.</p><p><strong>It’s Alive…!</strong> at <a href="http://www.dfbrl8r.com/DEFIBRILLATOR/NEXT_NOW.html">Defibrillator Gallery’s three-week series, the ALive Installation Project</a>. A wall has been built down the middle of the space, and a dancer on one side and performance artist on the other perform simultaneously for three hours. (No worries: you can drop in.) The opening show features Michelle Kranicke of Zephyr Dance and Korean artist Gim Gwang Cheol, performing a project similar to one in Montreal that included “creating crossfire with red string” and reading a dictionary.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p>I'm mainly beholden to the Brits for my choices this week, which could not represent greater artistic and intellectual extremes.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-13/cloud9.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 285px; height: 400px; " title=""><em><strong>Mary Poppins</strong></em> is back in town, and if that's not reason for rejoicing I don't know what is. Beloved by some and sentimental hogwash to others, this dazzling Broadway version of the popular Disney film adaptation of the old P. L. Travers children's book is perfect for children of all ages, as advertisements like to proclaim. The familiar songs all are there and the spectacular dance numbers are even more spectacular when performed live, onstage with a few eye-popping surprises. This is a great first Broadway show for kids. <em>Mary Poppins</em> is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through Nov. 6.</p><p>On the other hand, you'd best keep the kiddies away from <strong><em>Cloud 9</em></strong> at the Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park, unless they are extremely advanced. This 1979 play by Brit author Caryl Churchill uses cross-dressing and other meta-theatrical devices to target racism, sexism and gender identity in 19th Century British Colonial Africa and London today. Nothing sacred in this highly theatrical work of magic realism, which is quite a different sort of play for the Gift Theatre. FYI: the extremely intimated Gift storefront playhouse will put the action, some of it sexual, very much in your face. <em>Cloud 9</em> runs through Dec. 4.</p><p>Also: a fine organization, <a href="http://www.chicagocabaret.org/">Chicago Cabaret Professionals</a>, holds its annual fundraiser concert at Park West this Sunday (Oct. 16) at 7PM. <strong><em>You and the Night and the Music</em></strong> will feature a dazzling line-up of Chicago's top cabaret musical talents, with special honors bestowed upon Ann Hampton Calloway, Jimmy Damon and former Chicago Cultural Commish Lois Weisberg. Tickets begin at $27.</p></p> Thu, 13 Oct 2011 20:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-13/critics-theater-picks-weekend-don-quixote-mary-poppins-and-dancing- Top 5 directors of 2010 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/onstagebackstage-top-5-directors-2010 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/cat on a hot tin roof.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="476" width="450" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-15/cat on a hot tin roof.jpg" alt="" /></p><p>I already honored Ron OJ Parson for his outstanding direction of <a href="http://courttheatre.org/ ">Home at Court Theatre</a>, by honoring <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/onstagebackstage-top-5-chicago-actors-2010">every one the actors</a> he directed in that superb production. That means I get five more bites of the apple!</p><p>1. Michael Menendian, &quot;Cat on a Hot Tin Roof&quot; at <a href="http://www.raventheatre.com">Raven</a>. I don&rsquo;t understand it, actually&mdash;for some years, Raven was known as a middling producer of chestnuts. With the same company and leadership, in the last two years it&rsquo;s come roaring out as a premier interpreter of classics. Menendian&rsquo;s thoughtful and re-focused Cat . . . (not Maggie&rsquo;s play, in this rendition, but Brick&rsquo;s and Big Daddy&rsquo;s) comes on the heels of his definitive &quot;Death of a Salesman&quot; last year, literally the best production of that play I have ever seen&mdash;and I saw Dustin Hoffman do it on Broadway. It&rsquo;s a joy to see a journeyman turn into master craftsmen, and ours not to reason why.</p><p>2. Mark Ulrich, &quot;Mary&rsquo;s Wedding&quot; at <a href="http://www.rivendelltheatre.net/ ">Rivendell</a>. If instead of being &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s Premier Women&rsquo;s Theatre&rdquo; Rivendell were run by white men and did work focused on white men, it would long since have been acknowledged as a top-tier troupe, spoken of in the same breath with the Hypocrites and Timeline. Maybe having one man write and another direct this year&rsquo;s superb show (following hard on the heels of last year&rsquo;s unforgettable world premiere, &quot;These Shining Lives,&quot; about the women killed by their job painting radium-dial watch faces) will help overcome that reputational lag. In any case, Ulrich&rsquo;s expert handling of this delicate play about war and remembrance included one of the toughest tricks to turn in the theater: presenting a surprise ending without making the audience feel deceived by everything that came before.</p><p>3. Jaime Castañeda, &quot;Welcome to Arroyo&rsquo;s&quot; at <a href="http://www.atcweb.org/">American Theatre Company</a>. From Dallas and now based in New York, Castaneda&rsquo;s stop in Chicago should be remembered for taking a lively but overstuffed script by Kristoffer Diaz and turning it into a thrilling evening of mixed-media theater. I saw the show in the company of a class of high-school students who began the evening in the usual state of boredom, both real and assumed. Long before intermission they were completely enthralled, cheering on the characters and clearly identifying with their fates. That&rsquo;s directorial magic.</p><p>4. Ira Amyx, &quot;Shakespeare&rsquo;s King Phycus&quot; at the <a href="http://www.strangetree.org/">Strange Tree Group</a>. Amyx came up from Set Designer/Tech Director (at a company whose tech is always noticeable, for better or for worse) to do a slam-bang perfect job with this nearly bare-staged parody of every Shakespeare play ever written using every comic device ever thought of. He kept his tiny cast in constant motion and his not-as-large-as-he-deserved audience in constant laughter. Look for more from him, and from the rest of the elaborately talented and deeply peculiar Strange Trees.</p><p>5. Dale Calandra for &quot;Sweet Bird of Youth&quot; at <a href="http://www.theartistichome.org/">Artistic Home</a>. This was the other half of this fall&rsquo;s unplanned Tennessee Williams festival. Unlike Menendian, whose task was to take a play well-known for being perfect and do something knew, Calandra faced a relatively unknown and difficult script&mdash;the title metaphor nearly jumps off the page and bites you&mdash;and managed to make it feel contemporary even while keeping it in period; to share the focus between the two main characters without losing focus; and to engage the audience with the philosophical and spiritual considerations of aging without losing the visceral pleasures of one of Williams&rsquo; sexier scripts.</p><p>Runners-up: <br />Stuart Carden for &quot;Travels With My Aunt&quot; at <a href="http://www.writerstheatre.org/">Writers Theatre</a><br />Amanda Dehnert for &quot;Peter Pan (A Play)&quot; at <a href="http://www.lookingglasstheatre.org/">LookingglassTheatre Company</a><br />Robert Falls for &quot;The Seagull&quot; at the <a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/">Goodman Theatre</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 15 Dec 2010 15:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/onstagebackstage-top-5-directors-2010