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Theater & Performance This Weekend – The Short List (Theater)

43 total results

On the Town

8/20-10/12: Wed 1 and 8 PM, Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat 4:30 and 8 PM, Sun 1 and 5 PM

Revival of the 1940s musical scored by Leonard Bernstein, about a group of sailors on a 24-hour leave. $40-$48

Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (map)
10 Marriott Dr.
Suburbs Northwest
phone 847-634-0200


Clementine: The Legend of 21

8/22-9/14: Fri 8 PM, Sat 4 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM

Luis Caballero's musical about baseball player Roberto Clemente. $35

Stage 773 (map)
1225 W. Belmont Ave.
phone 773-327-5252


The Importance of Being Earnest

Through 8/23: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 7 PM

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple," quips the plotting Algernon in Earnest. And who needs the truth when Wilde's farce is populated with such likable liars as Algernon and Jack, two schemers who assume the name "Ernest" to woo women and skirt morality? Watching these rule breakers exchange Wildean barbs is all part of the show's fun, a quality that could use a crank up in this Oak Park Festival Theatre production. Director Kevin Theis seems to be aiming for authenticity—the very period show has Belinda Bremner as that tyrant Lady Bracknell, oft portrayed by a man in drag. But Bremner's Bracknell is too serious, and John Crosthwaite's ho-hum Jack lacks swagger, a mark hit more often by Jude Willis's solidly campy Algie. Still, if seriousness, as Wilde says, is "the world's original sin," this Earnest has some penance coming. —Chloe Riley $27


Stupid Fucking Bird

8/23-9/21: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

Sideshow Theatre Company presents Aaron Posner's loose adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. $20-$25

Victory Gardens Theater (map)
2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-871-3000



Through 8/24: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM

Representation is a controversial subject in the theater these days. Who gets to play a Puerto Rican? An Asian? A transsexual? Puerto Ricans, Asians, and transsexuals? Or George Chakiris (in West Side Story), Jonathan Pryce (Miss Saigon), and Neil Patrick Harris (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)? Personally, I understand the economic and political arguments for authenticity in casting. There's a lot of lost income to be recovered, a lot of silly makeup effects to be avenged. But it's not as easy to justify aesthetically. I mean, what's the point of acting, or doing any transformative art for that matter, if it's considered regressive to transform? Ambiguities creep in even when you're dealing with Shakespeare. I think we'd all agree that King Charles II made the right choice along about 1660, when he officially permitted women to perform female roles on the English stage. But what would be the correct ruling on whether Al Pacino has the right to portray Shylock? Continue reading >> $20-$35

Gift Theatre Company (map)
4802 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Jefferson Park
phone 773-283-7071


Fiddler on the Roof

8/9-8/24: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun and Wed 2 PM

Fifty years after its premiere, this adaptation of tales by Yiddish humorist Sholem Aleichem remains a nearly perfect work of lyric theater. Created by playwright Joseph Stein and songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick under the guidance of original director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, it's a seamless synthesis of script, song, instrumental music, and dance in the service of a multilayered, emotionally wide-ranging narrative. The story concerns a Jewish family in a Russian village in 1905 whose way of life is transformed by both internal frictions and external events. The oldest daughters, defying tradition, insist on marrying for love rather than accepting husbands chosen by their father; meanwhile, Czar Nicholas II's ethnic cleansing policies threaten to drive the clan from its ancestral homeland. Light Opera Works's rendition, directed by Rudy Hogenmiller, is more dutiful than inspired, but the story's epic sweep and the richly melodic score—beautifully sung and played under Roger L. Bingaman's musical direction—carry the day. —Albert Williams $34-$94

Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University (map)
600 Emerson St.
phone 847-467-4000


First Look Repertory

Through 8/24: various times

To paraphrase Martha and the Vandellas, summer's here and the time is right for sitting in the seats. Chicago's conventional theater season may still (roughly) follow the September-to-June academic calendar, but festivals have burgeoned­—along with outdoor Shakespeare—to fill up the warm-weather down period. For example: A physical theater festival called Physical ran here earlier this month, as did the Drekfest rotten-play competition. The three-day Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins performance marathon begins this Friday (see page 22). Next comes A Jangleheart Circus, promising 111 improv and sketch comedy acts. And the Chicago Fringe Festival dances summer out with 48 shows, starting Labor Day weekend. In that context Steppenwolf Theatre's First Look Repertory comes off as a modest affair. This year's edition—the ninth annual—comprises just two readings and a trio of "developmental productions" presenting new plays by younger writers. But the event has been discerningly curated by Aaron Carter and Greta Honold, and the three staged shows offer just under five hours of worthwhile summer sitting. Continue reading >> $20


Intimate Apparel

7/24-8/24: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM

Lynn Nottage's absorbing portrait of a poor black seamstress named Esther Miller yanks on the thread of inequality in 1905 New York City, dealing honestly and openly with issues of race and class. A spinster with few marriage prospects, Esther enters into an epistolary courtship with George Armstrong, a Barbadian laborer on the Panama Canal. Brandon Greenhouse's easy patois as George is immediately winning, but the show buckles in the second act, when the suitor arrives on the scene only to turn villainous. Steve Scott's direction for Eclipse Theatre never unites George's two sides, and there's a long slog as Kelly Owens's graceful Esther frays under her lover's mistreatment. But our belief in her class-defying delicacy is eventually restored by her relationship with a kindhearted orthodox Jewish fabric-shop owner (Eustace Allen), whose concealed affection for Esther is key to a sweetly moving ending. Jena Cutie $28
Athenaeum Theatre (map)
2936 N. Southport Ave.
phone 773-935-6860
Intimate Apparel


Dinner of Our Discontent

Through 8/24: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 7 PM

You've got to give them credit for pluck. Writer/director Shayna Swanson and her cast of eight display a go-for-it attitude in this Aloft Circus Arts production featuring rowdy slapstick, a silks-style routine performed on a metal chain, and other physical feats that suggest they just don't care how much they hurt in the morning. The basic conceit is fun, too. A remount of a 2008 show, presented with a new batch of artists, Dinner of Our Discontent gives us five sisters who've gathered at their recently deceased parents' patrician manse to find out who gets what. When sibling rivalries kick in, they quite literally kick. Trouble is, going for it isn't enough. While there were some extraordinary moments—punky middle sister Dana Dugan hanging, for instance, from the head of the yuppie eldest, Leah Leor—missed tricks and fouled-up rigs proliferated on opening night. The only true refuge from sloppiness was a lovely, loving balancing act performed by Destiny Vinley and Will Howard as the dead parents. —Tony Adler $25
Chopin Theatre (map)
1543 W. Division St.
Ukrainian Village/East Village
phone 773-769-3832


The Most Ado: A Party Play

8/15-8/24: Thu-Sat and Mon 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

If Impressionism was the birth of light—per the French artist Robert Delaunay—then Nothing Special Productions' remount of The Most Ado: A Party Play at Theater Wit might just be the death of it. Director Mikey Laird's bawdy adaptation of the Bard's original premiered at the Den and, within that intimate space, the party steadily raged. But this time, lackluster lighting design and a too-large black box hinder both direction and acoustics. During Benedick's "hiding in the arbor" scene, for instance, the lighting gives equal weight to the band, the other actors, and a bored-looking woman seated onstage. And while most of the original cast has returned, Dennis Davies, who now plays Dogberry, cramps up that character's natural likability with a bizarre Buffalo Bill affectation, bringing new meaning to the line, "I am an ass." —Chloe Riley $15

Theater Wit (map)
1229 W. Belmont
phone 773-975-8150



8/15-8/24: Wed-Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

In Musas, writer Néstor Caballero answers a question no one has probably ever asked: What would happen if the depressive American poet Sylvia Plath met the eccentric Mexican painter Frida Kahlo? Sadly, his answer is garbled by poor dramatic structure. The play is full of intense dramatic moments (Kahlo writhes in pain on a gurney, Plath rages against her unfaithful husband) that don't quite add up to a compelling story. Worse still is Caballero's assumption that we already know all the key events and people in Plath and Kahlo's lives, so he doesn't have to dirty his hands with exposition or explanations. Mónica Steuer and Rebeca Aléman throw themselves heart and soul into recreating Plath and Kahlo, but it's all lost in the sound and fury of Caballero's incoherent material. —Jack Helbig $25

Greenhouse Theater Center (map)
2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-404-7336



Through 8/24: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

At age 16, Emily gave up her newborn daughter, Jenny, for adoption, swearing she'd never forget the child she never met. Six decades later Jenny's found Emily, with dementia so advanced she remembers almost nothing but commercial jingles. In his new play, Tommy Lee Johnston relegates this potent, emotionally tricky story to a fleeting subplot, focusing instead on comparatively easy material: Pathologically asocial Jack desperately needs human connection, as do the seniors in the retirement home where he's landed his first job. After numerous confessional monologues, they all get what they need, more or less. Their predictable journey is full of poignant moments, deftly crafted by director Jan Ellen Graves's strong cast. But the scenes mostly illustrate obvious points when they might reveal complicated truths. —Justin Hayford $30-$35

Redtwist Theatre (map)
1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
phone 773-728-7529


Mike and Seth

Through 8/24: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

The title characters of this 75-minute two-hander by New York playwright Daniel Talbott are guys in their mid-20s, wealthy sons of good families and best friends since boyhood. Mike, straight, is about to marry his live-in girlfriend; Seth, gay, is in the process of breaking up with his unfaithful lover. The young men share a beer-fueled middle-of-the-night conversation that's sometimes touching, sometimes thought provoking, and sometimes just plain tedious. Derek Garza (Mike) and Michael Manocchio (Seth) deliver honest, well-modulated performances under Adam Webster's emotionally detailed direction, but the confessional soul baring sometimes flounders under the weight of the characters' shallow self-absorption. —Albert Williams $20, $15 for students and seniors


Hellish Half-Light

Through 8/30: Thu-Sat 8 PM

Many of Samuel Beckett's short plays aren't really plays at all. They're human behavior mechanisms—kinetic sculptures made of people and words, constructed to generate distilled visions of who we are and what we do. Director Jennifer Markowitz has assembled a solid half-dozen such mechanisms for this Mary-Arrchie Theatre production, ranging from a clever little joke like Catastrophe (a theater director berates his assistant while she manipulates an actor as if he were so many pipe cleaners) to a dark demonstration of political karma like What Where (a paranoid despot arrests her own thugs one by one until there's only one arrest left to be made) and the literally sculptural Play (three heads sit atop a pedestal and narrate their love triangle in counterpoint). The cast is generally strong, but Stephen Walker is exceptional, playing various characters in a naturalistic (yet often wiseass) style that, strangely enough, makes Beckett's abstractions work. —Tony Adler $25

Angel Island (map)
735 W. Sheridan Rd.
phone 773-871-0442
Hellish Half-Light


To Catch a Redditor

8/8-8/30: Fri-Sat 8 PM

An examination of the characters behind the screen names on Reddit. $15, $10 with a Reddit profile

Public House Theatre (map)
3914 N. Clark St.
phone 800-650-6449


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