Friday, February 27, 2009

New Review Posted: Our Town

My review of Our Town at Lookingglass Theatre, was published at Centerstage. Follow the link or read it here:

Will "Our Town" just be a star turn for Friends's David Schwimmer, who returns to his Lookingglass roots after years of commercial success, or will this, like so many of the company's productions, be full of circus arts and acrobatic physicality?

Fortunately, we can answer "no" to both—this is a simple, faithful version of "Our Town." Little here will surprise those with a passing knowledge of the play, aside from its brevity (speedy pacing keeps it to two hours) and John Musial’s extraordinary set, which features chairs, dresses and even a piano hung from the ceiling.

The story is familiar by now. Stage Manager, played by a warm and winning Joey Slotnick, guides the audience through daily life, love, marriage and death in the small New Hampshire town of Grovers’ Corners, focusing on the lives of next-door neighbors and eventual spouses George Gibbs (Schwimmer) and Emily Webb (Laura Eason) and their families. Directors Anna D. Shapiro and Jessica Thebus and the 13-member cast tell the story simply, keeping the emotional temperature low. The play is little more than a group of actors—friends and 20-year-plus collaborators of the same age—telling a story. They make no attempt to imitate the ages of the characters, nobody puts on a New Hampshire accent to fit the setting, and Janice Pytel’s costumes merely suggest the period.

The approach has drawbacks. The show doesn’t have enough theatrical excitement, and the generally reflective mood made the intensely emotional moments in the third act feel like they came from nowhere. The production is not thrilling or devastating, but it is quietly moving—and that’s a genuine achievement.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Urgent: About Face Theatre Facing Bankruptcy

As Chris Jones says on his blog, About Face Theatre, a Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Trangsgender (LGBT)-focused theatre company here in Chicago which hosted the original workshop of I Am My Own Wife and the Chicago premiere of Take Me Out, along with many other productions, is on the verge of shutting down. They need to raise $300,000 very soon so as to end their current budget crisis and get themselves into financial health. They are the first equity-affiliated theatre in Chicago to have trouble this bad. (Though the non-Equity House Theatre went through a similar rough spot recently, they seem to be on the road to recovery.) However, this isn't uncommon around the country, with San Francisco's Magic Theatre being the most famous example--luckily still open after a brush with death.

I have seen a few About Face shows (and wanted to see quite a few more) and always been very impressed, and I think that About Face Youth Theatre (which creates original shows with LGBT youth and straight allies) is an absolutely vital resource for this community. In fact, I wrote a paper on them for my creative drama class my last year at Northwestern. So I think it's pretty necessary that we make sure they stick around! You can give them money by visiting this site or calling Mollie Alexander Speer at 773-784-8565 x110. Let's make sure About Face stays open!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Day of Knowledge Opens Tonight!

After six previews, with plenty of work and revisions, tonight at 7:30 marks the official press opening of David Alan Moore's The Day of Knowledge at Stage Left Theatre, 3408 N Sheffield in Chicago. I'm extremely proud of the work everyone has done on the production, and I'm thrilled to be associated with such a powerful, beautiful play.

We run through March 28th, with performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM. You can get tickets by calling (773) 883-8830 or visiting our website at See you at the theatre!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Desire on Broadway

Chris Jones reports that the Goodman Theatre production of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms, starring Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino, and Pablo Schreiber will be headed to Broadway very soon. It closes at the Goodman March 1, starts previews at the St. James on Broadway April 14 and opens April 27.

The news of a Broadway move was expected, but it is a bit of a surprise that they are moving into the St. James--it's one of the biggest houses on Broadway, and in recent years has hosted the revival of Gypsy and The Producers. Plays rarely play houses that big, but recent seasons have seen August: Osage County at the Imperial and Kevin Kline's Cyrano de Bergerac at the Richard Rodgers. Granted, August was a sensation and Kline is as big a star as they come on Broadway. Still, Dennehy is pretty major, and the show has pretty strong buzz. Here's hoping it does well.

Anyone have some free tickets so I can see it before it leaves town?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Day of Knowledge

As you may know, I am currently dramaturging The Day of Knowledge by David Alan Moore at Stage Left Theatre, my first show there as ensemble member. It's a beautiful, moving show of which I'm incredibly proud, and I would love if you could make it.

There are four previews left: tonight, 2/19, Friday 2/20, Saturday 2/21, and Monday 2/23, all at 8:00 PM and they are all only $10. Once we open, tickets are only $20-25, and the schedule is Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 3:00 PM. Seats are limited, so get your tickets now! You can get them online here or by calling (773) 883-8830.

I look forward to seeing you at the show!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Huh?" of the day.

It has been announced by the producers of the London production of Chicago that Jerry Springer will be playing the role of Billy Flynn for six weeks this summer. In the article, he basically admits that he can't sing, but says the part doesn't need great singing ability, so that's alright. I'm not sure if this is the weirdest piece of casting I've seen in that revival--the producers have hit some pretty bizarre lows already--but it definitely ranks right up there. Why could he be doing this? And will people pay to see it?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Reviews Posted: Scoundrel Time and Saint Scarlet

A few new reviews are up at Centerstage. Two shows that don't work, but both have their good points.

First up is Scoundrel Time, based on Lillian Hellman's memoir of the blacklist, at City Lit. Here's a tease:

Lillian Hellman was an extraordinary woman. Unfortunately, the audience doesn’t really get a sense of her life or the theatrical brilliance of her plays in "Scoundrel Time", adapted by City Lit Artistic Director Terry McCabe from Hellman’s 1976 memoir of her experience with the blacklist, and directed by Adrianne Cury.

Hellman, a playwright and memoirist with leftist sensibilities, was called to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952 and refused to name others who might have participated in communist activity, leading to her blacklisting, losing almost every chance to work. It’s easy to see the potential for drama here, but the stage version feels like a reading of the book, with the two actors simply standing onstage and telling the story, never really showing or seeming to experience anything. For those who enjoy well-crafted writing for its own sake, there is plenty on display, but there is little dramatic shape to be seen.

I also saw Julia Jordan's Saint Scarlet, produced by Idle Muse Theatre at The Side Project. Here's a bit from that review:

Not long into Julia Jordan's "Saint Scarlet" I found myself asking “Who are these people?” The members of the Cummins family, sisters Rose (Elen Fliesler) and Ruby (Stacey Sublette) and brother Seamus (Matt Nischan), as well as mysterious visitor Vinnie Silverstein (Matt Dyson) don't ever come to life as believable people. They are no more than collections of quirks, which makes it hard to care about their lives. The fact that Jordan's plot frequently strains credulity, with revelations that don't really make sense, doesn't help much either. And yet, it makes for a surprisingly entertaining evening. It's not good, exactly, but it's fun to watch, if only to see what nonsense will come next.

Enjoy the full reviews!