***RECOMMENDED*** There are certain drinking establishments that have a signature cocktail or are known for specializing in a specific type of alcoholic beverage. Upside-down margaritas in a barber's chair, anyone? Ray's, the Chicago tavern that is the setting of Leonard House's new play "One 4 the Road" and produced by MPAACT has one such tradition. Here, at this Southside bar, any patron who can stomach more than one shot of Malört, the extremely bitter liquor produced by Chicago's very own Carl Jeppson Company, gets to have their name proudly etched upon the wall of fame. 3 SPOTLIGHTS
Highly Recommended ***** Over the years, we have seen many a story on stage depicting events of World War II and the “behind the lines” stories that are memorable and compelling. “Hannah and Martin” written by Kate Fodor, is based on the affair between German-Jewish political theorist, Hannah Arendt ( played by the glorious Christina Gorman) and her “teacher” Martin Heidegger ( played to perfection by the always powerful Lawrence Grimm). The story unfolds during the years from 1924 thru 1946 and is done with some flashbacks and forward movement to take us through the war and its residue.
When asked to review “Sentimental Journey” at the ‘Citadel Theater, I quickly looked up the story line. Initially my reaction was…”this is going to be a ‘ho-hum’ experience”.
At first it seemed like my expectation was right; it appeared a little hokey but Ross (Robby) Lehman, telling the story of his parent’s relationship before, during, and after World War 2, quickly won me over with his warmth, and pleasant singing voice.
★★★★★ Broken Nose Theatre Company is geared for young theater-goers, with limited funds, who seek entertainment that is not what their parents viewed as “theater”. Their works strive to evoke and spark conversation, cultivate empathy and based on the productions I have witnessed in their home at The Den, they do this with ease for their actors and for their audience.
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** There is clearly no question that Porchlight Music Theatre's "A Chorus Line" is definitely one singular sensation. Director Brenda Didier has crafted a highly impassioned production, cast with a combination of plenty of spirited young talent mixed with some seasoned veterans that have given this legendary and iconic 1975 Broadway musical a very contemporary feel while being acutely aware of the sensibility of the original production's impact. The motivational force that was the genius of Michael Bennett -- who not only conceived this seminal work but also was the original director and choreographer -- can be found in many of this production's finest moments. Undoubtedly, "A Chorus Line" connects with its audience, as it ran on Broadway for over 15 years. Porchlight's version proves wholeheartedly just why this particular musical is so popular and essential. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Tough, rare and bloody. These three words are used by the crew members of the ship, The Pequod, to describe the act of killing and subsequently butchering a shark or a whale and the quality of its flesh. It could also be used to define the mettle that was required to be a harpooner on just such a whaling vessel, or the peerless few who could sustain the occupational hazards. But, most aptly, those three words encapsulate Chicago Opera Theater's Chicago premiere of "Moby-Dick." Tough to take Hermann Melville's 1851 sweeping epic and distill it into as gripping and poignant of a libretto as Gene Scheer has miraculously done. Rare to hear a more hauntingly beautiful and stylistically varied score in a contemporary opera than what Jake Heggie composed for this 2010 work which has already been deemed a masterpiece. Bloody? Well, let's just say that this entire production is a bloody brilliant success. The only drawback to this is that far too many people will miss the opportunity to get a chance to see it. Following last evening's opening there is only one remaining performance to experience this essential, very American classic. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Oh, those memories, how they light the corners of our minds. But, as our narrator in “Buyer & Cellar” quickly points out, the human brain is round, so how could it have any corners, unless it is warped? Well, enough about trying to parse the lyrics written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman to the theme from “The Way We Were.” Instead, let’s focus on the product of the slightly warped and wickedly creative mind of playwright Jonathan Tolins, whose 2013 off-Broadway hit “Buyer & Cellar” is getting a rousing production at Pride Films and Plays that is as thoroughly hilarious as it is genuinely heartfelt. 4 SPOTLIGHTS
***RECOMMENDED*** There is no death at Disney – at least not at any of their family-friendly amusement parks. If someone visiting Disney World should fall gravely ill or suffer a life-threatening emergency and meets the Grim Reaper instead of Snow White, the body is removed and is not officially pronounced dead until after it has physically left the property. They don’t want the pall of death to ruin the magic. Whether or not that’s actually true or just the product of the vivid imagination of playwrights Jillian Leff and Joe Lino, who share many insightful tidbits about the rules and regulations of working at the happiest place on earth, doesn’t really matter because their play “Small World” is such a thrilling joy ride to experience. This world premiere, presented by The New Colony and under the direction of Andrew Hobgood, is a darkly funny triumph. 3 and ½ SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Upon entering the Harris Theatre, you may have felt that you were actually in a large nightclub, with DJ Prince The Game Changer spinning from a large booth that sat at stage left. This 17-year-old turntablist had the capacity crowd on the main floor moving and grooving in their seats to some pretty impressive throw-back early 1990's beats (think Robin S and Crystal Waters) and mesmerized by some trippy visuals projected onto a large movie screen. The vibe was most definitely chill and not at all what you might expect for an event titled "XQ Super School Live", which is an emerging and flourishing network of "educators, students, families and other civic-minded people who are reimagining high school education in the United States" has partnered with Pop-Up Magazine to bring this well-organized and highly entertaining multimedia storytelling experience to Chicago for just one evening. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
***RECOMMENDED*** As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June of 2015 that legalized same-sex marriages, there have been numerous plays that have featured gay couples navigating the uncertain terrain of wedded bliss. The majority of these works were written by cisgender males and, not surprisingly, all of the main characters have been gay men, most of whom are considering adopting children, expecting their new arrivals through surrogacy or already enjoying their little bundles of joy and adapting to their unfamiliar roles as parents. One of the most well-known of these plays is S. Asher Gelman's "Afterglow," which caused quite a sensation when it opened Off-Broadway and had a successful run of nearly a year and a half. 3 SPOTLIGHTS