WBEZ | Sex with Strangers http://www.wbez.org/tags/sex-strangers Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en What the Jeff Awards left out http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-08/what-jeff-awards-left-out-87589 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-08/Festen_Lev4.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center; "><img a="" alt="" class="caption" for="" jeff="" nominated="" not="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-08/Festen_Lev4.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 334px; " title="The cast of "></p><p>A Jeff recommendation is the first step. If your production isn’t recommended for <em>something</em>on opening night, you can’t be nominated for an award—or get one. So it’s no surprise, looking at <a href="http://www.jeffawards.org/home/index.cfm">this year’s Jeff-recommended productions</a>, to see that the roster is long and inclusive.&nbsp;</p><p>That makes certain curious omissions even curiouser. Like <a href="http://www.steeptheatre.com/shows/shows_main.html">Steep Theatre’s <em>Festen</em></a>, a production that’s gotten rave reviews—and is sold out through the end of the run, no surprise given the incredible acting, direction, and stagecraft.</p><p>But <em>Festen&nbsp;</em>is about incest. Could the problem—for the Jeff committee, anyway—have been the subject?</p><p>It’s not the only strange omission. Despite a similar array of dazzling reviews, Trap Door’s <em>Hamletmachine </em>also got stood up for a Jeff rec. What was the issue there? My guess: playwright Heiner Muller’s experimental approach, Jonathan Guillen’s original operatic music, and Max Truax’s chilling staging. All just too weird.</p><p>At least Trap Door’s <em>First Ladies</em>—which was about s**t—got recommended, which allowed Nicole Wiesner to get nominated for best actress, which allowed her to tie for the award with Caroline Neff. (<a href="http://www.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-07/robots-invade-jeff-awards-martians-next-87512">Jonathan, you left the best actress awardees out!)</a> But why were supporting actresses Dado and Beata Pilch not nominated for their stellar work in Werner Schwab’s gut-wrenching play?&nbsp;</p><p>Even Tanya Saracho’s <em>El Nogalar</em>, a Goodman/Teatro Vista coproduction that updated <em>The Cherry Orchard&nbsp;</em>to contemporary Mexico, got ignored by the Jeff committee. Completely. Really? It wasn’t good enough in any way to be recommended for anything? Though I’d call that piece a good idea that didn’t quite work out, it was more than worth seeing for the script’s inspired parallels, its comedy, and the impressive acting.</p><p>Meanwhile moldy old chestnuts like <em>Seven Brides for Seven Brothers&nbsp;</em>and <em>The Odd Couple&nbsp;</em>got green-lighted. Even the new plays on the list played it safe, including such empty, easy, formulaic fare as <em>Sex With Strangers&nbsp;</em>and <em>The Big Meal</em>. We all hear about the catastrophic aging of the theater audience, but not so often about its possible cause, effect, or both. Could the theater community’s conservative tastes be producing a vicious cycle of the tried-and-true?</p></p> Wed, 08 Jun 2011 17:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-06-08/what-jeff-awards-left-out-87589 Choose your own ending: The new trend in Chicago theater? http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/choose-your-own-ending-new-trend-chicago-theater <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Eclipsed2_pic-by-Michael-Brosilow.jpg" alt="" /><p><img src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-30/Eclipsed2_pic-by-Michael-Brosilow.jpg" width="500" height="310" alt="" title="" /><p>Once, after a dose of a mind-altering drug, I spent hours passing the white silk of a hammock over my palm again and again, trying to ascertain whether the array of colors appearing in the interstices were real or an hallucination.&nbsp; I was never able to resolve the question to my satisfaction but contemplating it kept me too busy to enjoy any genuine hallucinations that might have arisen.&nbsp; There is an irony here somewhere but I&rsquo;m not drunk enough to figure out what it is.<br /> <br /> This inability to resolve something came to mind after seeing two shows in the past week which ended with a woman onstage poised between two equally likely courses of action.&nbsp; The blackouts at the end of Hallie Gordon&rsquo;s excellent Eclipsed at Northlight and Jessica Thebus&rsquo;s likewise excellent though incomparably different Sex With Strangers at Steppenwolf leave the audience to decide what happens next.&nbsp; So what I want to know is: is this a pattern, or am I just hallucinating?<br /> <br /> Are we at a time (in history, in our lives) where sad endings are just unbearable but happy<br /> endings seem too pat?&nbsp; Or has the Internet simply made us people who expect to participate in everything, including what fictional characters are going to do next?&nbsp; Is irresolution an abdication of the writer&rsquo;s or director&rsquo;s responsibility, or just an acknowledgment that everything is more or less permanently up in the air?<br /> <br /> If you figure it out, please let me know.&nbsp; I&rsquo;ll be in the hammock.</p><p><em><strong>Photo above: Actors from the Northlight production of Eclipsed. Photo by Michael Brosilow</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 31 Jan 2011 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/choose-your-own-ending-new-trend-chicago-theater