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BWB

By Venus Zarris

“Beware this gypsy. She flirts with lunacy!”

Babes with Blades is no stranger to theatrical risk taking. As a matter of fact, their mission statement (“Babes With Blades Theatre Company uses stage combat to place women and their stories center stage…”) is itself a unique and provocative endeavor.

In their current production of L’Imbecile, the Babes deliver deliciously decadent delusions of deviant debauchery and diabolical dilemmas. This fantastical production is as maniacally wild as it is marvelously intoxicating.

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Playwright Aaron Adair brilliantly appropriates Verdi’s Rigoletto, subtracting the music and replacing it with madness. Director Wm Bullion amazingly animates Adair’s intricate hallucination with stylized vision and an unwavering ensemble. Each character completely inhabits their unreality as they convince us of this courtly tale of sex, betrayal and revenge. Bullion’s uses of percussive syncopation and Kabuki theatrics create a mesmerizing theatrical spectacle.

The staggeringly delightful cast is comprised of vixens, female and male, most enticing. Maureen Yasko is a wickedly wonderful and completely commanding queen. Amy E. Harmon is both haunting and hysterical in a tour de force performance as Priestess and Gypsy. Kathrynne Wolf grounds this otherworldly phantasm with breathtaking emotional authenticity in the midst of a stylized asylum of chaos.

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Babes With Blades go BIG and go BOLD in L’Imbecile and the payoff for their audience is incredible. Do NOT miss this outrageous theatrical triumph!

 

4 STARS

 (“L’Imbecile “ runs through May 10 at Rivendell Theatre, 5775 N. Ridge Ave. 773-904-0391)

 L’Imbecile images by Steven Townshend and Johnny Knight.

Box Office: 773-904-0391

L’Imbecile ~ Babes With Blades

Brown Paper Tickets ~ L’Imbecile

PeterPanCR

Peter Pan

Tony Award nominee Cathy Rigby takes flight in an all new production of PETER PAN! Discover the magic all over again of this two time Emmy Award winning and two-time Tony Award nominated production. PETER PAN is a unique, family friendly attraction of spectacle and fantasy. The thrill of flying, timeless magical moments and a captivating hook will mesmerize young and old alike. The legend you thought you know, is now the adventure you never dreamed possible…Cathy Rigby is PETER PAN! PETER PAN is produced by McCoy Rigby Entertainment, Nederlander Presentations, Albert Nocciolino in association with Larry Earl Payton, Michael Filerman, Heni Koenigsberg and La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts. Direction by Glenn Casale who directed the 1999 Tony Award nominated and Emmy winning PETER PAN starring Cathy Rigby. Mr. Casale has been a resident at the California Musical Theatre for almost 23 seasons where he has directed over 550 shows.

Thru – Feb 10, 2013

@ Cadillac Palace Theatre

151 W. Randolph, Chicago

Show Type: Musical

Box Office: 800-745-2000

Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan

Chicago Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan 2013 Tickets – Broadway in Chicago 

By Venus Zarris

Kinky Boots delivers all of the entertaining charm that you except from a Broadway musical plus the unmitigated sass and joy of saucy drag queens that inevitably save the day! Set to the wonderfully original music and lyrics of pop-icon Cyndi Lauper and an endearing book by groundbreaking playwright Harvey Fierstein, Kinky Boots tells the story of a young man forced to try to save his family’s business after the sudden death of his father. When orders stop coming in at the show factory, Lola suggests manufacturing fabulous boots for drag queens. Drama and hijinks ensue.

This pre-Broadway world premiere shines with a captivating score and heartwarming story of transformation through acceptance. The cast is delightful but Billy Porter steals the show. His realization of Lola is as grounded in a three-dimensionally vulnerable person as it is hysterically flamboyant. He is commanding, sophisticated and hilarious; defining his character and the underlying message of Kinky Boots with warmth, wit and sensational style!

In the midst of difficult times, a feel good show can either seem frivolous or prescient. WhileKinky Boots may simplify conflict and resolution to boxing for a bet and high-kicking dance numbers, it is just what the doctor ordered. That is to say, a fresh dose of musical theater magic, written by gifted artists and delivered by talented performers with love.

4 STARS

(“Kinky Boots” runs through November 4 at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe Street. 800-745-2000)

Chicago Kinky Boots - World Premiere! 2012 Tickets – Broadway in Chicago

Kinky Boots The Musical – Official Site

* Visit Theatre In Chicago for more information on this show. Kinky Boots – Bank of America Theatre – Play Detail – Theatre In Chicago

Images by Anthony Aicardi

16th Street Theater presents playwright Tanya Saracho’s magical mixture of comedy and drama in their stunning production of Enfrascada (A Hoodoo Comedy of Jarring Proportions), now in its final week at the Berwyn Cultural Center. Photographer Anthony Aicardi captures the chemistry between the charming characters and enchanting mysticism, in this fusion of the spirit and the corporal world.

* There is still time to see it live! Four more performances left – CLOSING Saturday, May 19, 2012. *

Enfrascada (A Hoodoo Comedy of Jarring Proportions)

Presented by 16th Street Theater

May 19, 2012

@ Berwyn Cultural Center

6420 16th Street, Berwyn

Show Type: Comedy

Box Office: 708-795-6704

16th Street Theater

Enfrascada (A Hoodoo Comedy of Jarring Proportions) images by Anthony Aicardi.

Anthony Aicardi ~ Collections

By Venus Zarris

Although there are several exceptional university theater programs in Chicago, we do not review their work. These artists-in-the-ruff are in the process of learning and honing their craft and although much of their productions are remarkable, it’s best to leave the evaluation to their professors. When the University of Chicago’s Theater & Performance Studies department landed the world premiere of playwright Mickle Maher’s An Actor Prepares, directed by Devon De Mayo and with Colm O’Reilly and Diane Slickman leading the cast, we made an exception.

Maher’s plays are paradigm-shifting treasures. He has the ability to make the plausible out of the ridiculous and the incredibly entertaining out of the mind-bogglingly absurd. In An Actor Prepares, Maher takes us into the troubled mind of Konstantin Stanislavski as he tries to complete his book, An Actor PreparesAn Actor’s Work on a Role, detailing his intricate approach to performance.

The play begins with Stanislavski talking about acting, writing and wishing he had a cigarette. As his frustration slowly mounts he is joined by another Stanislavski, and then another and another, and so on until there are eight incarnations of himself to aid and confuse the process. This is meta-metatheatre at its most cerebrally complex and theatrically creative. It is a wonderful exercise of contemplation and a whimsically bizarre theatrical endeavor.

Director De Mayo keeps the chaos of complex thought tightly held together. Colm O’Reilly, our original Stanislavski and a longtime companion to Maher’s work, is spectacular. He draws us in with flawless nuance and makes natural the peculiarity of the script’s strange propositions. Diane Slickman is breathtaking as Stanislavski #5. Once again, as in last years award-winning world premiere of There Is A Happiness That Morning Is, together they brilliantly bring Maher’s work to life with wonderful contrast. O’Reilly is the self-consumed personification of the script while Slickman is the enlightened aspect, oftentimes painfully so. O’Reilly is the bombast. Slickman is the soul.

The other six Stanislavskis are admirably played by seasoned Chicago actors and gifted U. of C. theater students. Performing in a Maher play, directed by De Mayo and alongside O’Reilly and Stickman, is a prize for any Chicago theater professional. It is like winning the lottery for these fortunate students.

The excellent minimal design aspects of this production are sleek and effective. The performances draw you in to this rambling dissection of the acting process. Even Stanislavski #1 begins to question the importance of such abstract work, and here is where we find the brutal and lovely revelation.

When Stanislavski learns that one of his theatrical contemporaries has been detained and mercilessly tortured by Stalin’s regime, he asks why? What was the crime? How is theater a threat?

To find out the answer you’ll have to experience this outstanding world premiere for yourself. This thrilling production of An Actor Prepares is a beautiful inaugural event for U. of C.’s new Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. It is also captivating evening of singular theater that should not be missed.

3 1/2 STARS

(“An Actor Preparesruns through May 5 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th Street, Chicago.)

An Actor Prepares: Ticket Reservation Form

CLOSING WEEKEND!

An Actor Prepares ~ The University of Chicago

Images by Anthony Aicardi

UrbanTheatre Company delivers a viscerally provocative Midwest premiere of playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’ Fucking A. Photographer Anthony Aicardi intimately captures the tragic, comic, sensual and brutal moments of this compelling production, now in the final week of its run.

* There is still time to see it live! Three more performances left – CLOSING Sunday, April 15, 2012. *

Read the 3 1/2 STAR review here: Fucking A – REVIEW – Chicago Stage Review

(“Fucking A” runs through April 15 at Players Theater/Beacon Street Hull House, 4520 N. Beacon Street. 312-239-8783)

CLOSING WEEK – DON’T MISS!

UrbanTheater Company

Fucking A production images by Anthony Aicardi.

Anthony Aicardi ~ Collections

CLOSING WEEKEND – DO NOT MISS!

By Venus Zarris

Set in the office of one of the most absurdly wicked incarnations of corporate corruption, you wish that They Are Dying Out was a true prediction. You wish that these merchants of manipulation were well on their way to extinction. Sadly, it is not a prediction but rather a brilliant testament to the viciousness of power lust. It presents a lust for power that takes us past the brink of madness as we journey into the mind of absolute moral bankruptcy. Where Mad Men depicts the melodrama behind the world of marketing, They Are Dying Out brings us its pure unadulterated debauchery. It is an immorality play of the finest, strangest and sickest order.

Also, it is fine art on stage. This is not an ensemble of plucky actors telling a story, as much as it is a palette of dramatic theatrical colors that are set down on the canvas of a stage to create a dark masterpiece. Director Max Truax paints the surreal portrait with exacting strokes. His calculations are as theatrically maniacal as the betrayals and backbiting found in playwright Peter Handke’s fascinating script. His blocking is operatic and precise, cleverly delineating the pecking order in this self-indulgent business of exploitation.

“We are not just bad guys in a game. We really ARE bad.”

They Are Dying Out gives voice and face to the 1%. They are dethatched from any reality other than their own greed and as monstrous as we might imagine.

“Now I know why I like you, it’s so easy to think of something else while you’re talking.”

Also, it is an example of the deepest depths that actors can dive. Each character is richly and wildly hyper-realized. The ensemble is nothing short of staggering. The performances are hypnotic and well worth rushing to experience.

Kevin Cox’s Hermann Quitt is a perfectly composed cat, surveying the mice. His ennui is only matched by his predatorial drive. He is self-absorption made flesh, a sociopath in a suit. Holly Thomas is wonderful as Quitt’s emotionally and psychologically downtrodden wife. Her physical comedy is as pathetic as it is hysterical. Kasey Foster presents a wonderful blend of elegance and evil as Paula Tax. Antonio Brunetti’s desperation as Franz Kilb drives the exposition with humor and intensity. Alex Levin tones down the pomposity and ramps up the duplicity as the Priest. Sam Quinn creates a human mannequin with his stiflingly stiff, both physical and psychological, portrayal of Quitt’s servant Hans. Casey Chapman blazes with articulated despondency as Karl Heinz-Lutz and Jeremy Clark steals the show, from this pack of thieving vultures, as Harald Von Wullnow. Clark’s performance is so psychologically and physically calculated that it equals theatrical quantum physics. His tension is profoundly palpable and his climax is emotionally volcanic.

Lighting designer Eric Van Tassell, costume designer Tonette Navarro, sound designer Jonathan Guillen, make up designer Zsófia Ötvös and set designer Mike Mroch manifest the bizarre reality with remarkable and stunning vision.

Trap Door Theatre’s They Are Dying Out takes us into the belly of the very beast that permeates our reality and manipulates our world while cannibalizing its own. It is a breathtakingly bleak and beautiful incarnation of depravity by way of industrial strength fine art.

4 STARS

(“They Are Dying Out” has been EXTENDED through March 31 at Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland Ave. 773-384-0494)

CLOSING WEEKEND – DO NOT MISS!

Trap Door Theatre

They are Dying Out production images by Michal Janicki.

* Visit Theatre In Chicago for more information on this show. They Are Dying Out – Trap Door Theatre – Play Detail – Theatre In Chicago

Images by Anthony Aicardi

UrbanTheater Company brings the Midwest Premiere of Nilo Cruz’s magical tale of love to life. They powerfully realize the Beauty of the Father on stage for a brief time and the brilliant eye of Anthony Aicardi captures their rendering forever.

* There is still time to see it live! Two more performances left – November 18 & 19 ~Fri & Sat @ 8:00pm. For tickets & more information about UTC’s Beauty of the Father go to …

UrbanTheater Company

Beauty of the Father images by Anthony Aicardi.

Anthony Aicardi ~ Collections

CLOSING WEEKEND! – Don’t Miss!

By Venus Zarris

Tis the season for ghostly stories and ghastly tales. Perhaps none has been more brilliantly put to music than Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning masterpiece of the macabre, Sweeney Todd. Drury Lane Theatre creates a hauntingly dark and beguilingly beautiful production of this classic theatrical thriller.

From the opening organ interlude in the overture we are instantly transported out of the ornate theater and into the gothic world of murder, revenge and storefront cannibalism. The staging is bleakly thrilling and the choral work is simply spectacular.

“There’s a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
and the vermin of the world inhabit it
And its morals aren’t worth
what a pig could spit
And it goes by the name of London.”

Based on a true story, Sweeney Todd tells the tale of a barber’s return to London after being imprisoned on false charges. The crimes against him and his family were heinous and his plans for payback are dreadful. Taken in by a meat pie seller, the aftermath of his retribution is ground into the daily menu and an unknowing public delights in the ghastly cannibalistic feast. Revenge turns to rampage and Sweeney’s madness consumes more than just those who wronged him, making for plenty of pie filler. Ultimately, darkness begets darkness and what Sweeney loves is also consumed by his madness.

Liz McCartney is fabulous as Mrs. Lovett, combining a wonderful voice with great comic timing and adding darling depth to the sometimes-cartoonish villain. Emily Rohm delivers the loveliest sounding Joanna heard to date, bringing beauty to an oftentimes-shrill role. William Travis Taylor is so warm and honest as Anthony, imbuing the production with emotional reality. George Keating’s Pirelli is delightfully eccentric. Kevin Gudahl’s Judge Turpin and George Andrew Wolff’s The Beadle are perfectly corrupt. Gregg Edelman’s Sweeney creates a multi-layered decent into the depths of madness, with powerfully evocative vocals and menacing presence. The chorus is magnificent.

Scenic designer Kevin Depinet pays subtle homage to the stylized linear abstractions of early 20th century stage and screen. Costume designer Theresa Ham imagines a lavish look for the characters and lighting designer Jesse Klug creates striking visuals that jolt the senses as much as the visceral music and morbid subject matter. Theresa Ham’s gorgeous costume design delivers the authenticity of the period with outstanding detail. Musical Director Roberta Duchak does this spellbinding score more than proud; she makes it fresh and fantastic. Ben Johnson conducts a perfect orchestra to perfection.

Drury Lane’s Sweeney Todd is sure to thrill devotees and newcomers a like. It is as wickedly playful as it is deadly serious. Director Rachel Rockwell triumphantly brings the tragedy, carnage and nightmare to life with exceptional artistry and vision.

4 STARS

(“Sweeney Todd” runs through October 9 at Drury Lane – Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. 630-530-0111)

CLOSING WEEKEND! – Don’t Miss!

Drury Lane Oakbrook – Now Playing at Drury Lane Theatre

Sweeney Todd production photos by Brett Beiner.

* Visit Theatre In Chicago for more information on this show. Sweeney Todd – Drury Lane- Oakbrook – Play Detail – Theatre In Chicago

CLOSING WEEKEND – DO NOT MISS

By Venus Zarris

“… those who’s eyes are tired from trying to read something into everything …”

… are among the lovely list of descriptives included in the lengthy, hilarious, poignant and non-sequiter opening welcome; which sets the stage for playwright Will Eno’s randomly beautiful and staggeringly articulate Middletown. Steppenwolf Theatre Company suspends our disbelief into a world that appears familiar on the surface but swirls with peculiar observations and breathtaking epiphanies underneath. Middletown resembles the impact of last year’s mesmerizing A Parallelogram, with a calming dose of Valium handed out before the show begins.

Eno extracts the marvelous from his ‘everyman & everywoman’ characters to paint a subtly surreal picture that coalesces into a revelation of our collective existential humanity. Like so many of Steppenwolf’s previous choices, they bring to the stage writing that you are as much in the presence of as you are simply viewing. It is like that random conversation with an odd stranger on the train that alters your perspective and lingers with you forever. It is soft spoken, unassuming, and yet it thunders through your thoughts with unpredictable effect. Some writers address personal existentialism, others address an existential crisis that springs from a unique conflict. Eno creates a constant lava flow of existential pontifications and interactions. He is a master of wordplay, juxtapositioning phrases, meanings and metaphors of the ordinary and commonplace to incarnate a wave of absolutely incredible. There are traces of Dr. Seuss in the playful and deceptively deconstructing dialogue. Painted with the palate of this wonderful wordplay, at times childlike and other times like a brutally clever Bill Hicks monologue, Eno is always connective and relevant.

Les Walters’s remarkable direction and his magnificent ensemble deliver the brilliant script without bombast or a hint of sermonizing, but rather find the delicacy of each moment. The profundity of Middletown is wistfully and dramatically whispered to the audience, extracting the most impact from each scene by pinpointing the quiet calm of each beguiling character and situation.

Tim Hopper’s opening monologue is so subtly extraordinary, funny, heartbreaking and conversationally engaging that we are transfixed from the start. Brenda Barrie brings strength through curiosity to the captivating vulnerability of Mary. Tracy Letts uses detached melancholy to create John with as much compelling success as he has used explosive confrontation to create pervious unforgettable performances. Martha Lavey is picture perfect and sweetly sublime as the librarian. Alana Arenas, Molly Glynn, Ora Jones, Keith Kupferer, Danny McCarthy and Michael Patrick Thornton complete the ensemble to spellbinding end. The intelligence, comic timing and emotional nuance of every cast member is astonishing.

Middletown is humorously pragmatic and splendidly surreal. It is a singular feast of thought and imagination. It is a tender, tragic and resplendent triumph of thought. It is a theatrical event horizon; a point of no return in altered perspectives and emotions where we are all the better for having found ourselves lost in.

4 STARS

(“Middletownruns through August 14 at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, Chicago. 312-335-1650)

CLOSING WEEKEND – DO NOT MISS

Middletown” (Jun. 16, 2011 – Aug. 14, 2011) | Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Middletown production photos by Michael Brosilow.

* Visit Theatre In Chicago for more information on this show. Middletown – Steppenwolf Theatre – Play Detail – Theatre In Chicago

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