Weeks 16 & 17: Journeying to the Past and Musical Dynamic Duos!
What a time to be alive. May is on its way, and the Tonys' nominations season is upon us. While the Jeffs much like the Tonys can disappoint us, it's a great time of year to remember performances you've enjoyed and give praise to them. The richest reward or recognition is the effect shows have on their audience. These past two weeks we've looked and laughed with many musical stars and shows.
#TheatreCrushThursday went to Teatro Vista and Our Perspective. #FollowFriday included shout outs to Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, AFIRE Chicago, PO Box Collective, and GoodKids MadCity. Let's dig in, shall we?
You'll immediately recognize one of these names, but probably not the other. Bob Fosse is considered a legendary name in theatre and beyond, whereas Gwen Verdon is known for one or two roles among the arts community. Verdon definitely gets her due and shows the endurance and strength many of us would not have in this business or marriage to Fosse. Fosse/Verdon does a wonderful job neither vilifying or worshiping these two. While the show definitely reads as a love letter to these two powerful figures, it doesn't hold back in showing their flaws as well as their strengths. Get those jazz hands flying and arch those legs tight because you won't want to miss a beat of this limited series.
#TopFiveTuesday time! A fairly bi-weekly trend, this offers a quick round-up of what events are happening in the local theatre scene and more. While theatre has a special place in most of our hearts, it's important to recognize and engage with work beyond the stage. Check out our recommendations for this week.
Is there a way to tell stories about toxic masculinity regarding white men without them overshadowing its victims? Anna Jordan's play flutters between this question, but doesn't make a definitive answer if it can be accomplished. Elly Green's direction regarding casting, storytelling, and depiction of violence tries to say otherwise. Check out our review of Raven Theatre's Yen now!
Lauren Yee brings rocking music and family drama to Victory Gardens' Cambodian Rock Band. Works like this remind me that theatre is vital, relevant, and revolutionary as an art form. I've never felt like I've been at a concert, museum, and play all at once. It also is a story fed and nourished by music from the incredibly talented Dengue Fever. Check them out on Spotify and you won't be able to stop thinking about this show and their discography. Funny, gripping, and musical, Lauren Yee proves she's not going anywhere, and we are all the better for it.
One of my favorite things about Chicago is the plethora of performance and artistic spaces that are available. I'm always down to find a new space to create and discuss art. This lovely addition goes to my list of ones to take note of. Taking on the feel of a yoga studio for classes, it also has a quaint kitchen, and lyrically painted walls make the space feel open and waiting to be engaged with. Inner Sense Healing Arts Collective is worth checking out!
Disney World and horror never looked so good. If you thought fairy tales were dark and Disney kept them tame, take another guess. Our review of The New Colony's Small World is live now! You won't be able to get this bloody, broken ride out of your head. Annabelle never looked so adorable.
Oh Othello, how tragedy continues to haunt you. As Shakespeare's only play to feature a black man in a main (also titular) role, the celebration is half-hearted. Othello, although an acclaimed war commander and at first loving, temperamental husband and friend, quickly loses his shit to jealousy and violence. It sets up preconceptions of a black man and then sadly reaffirms them. Babes with Blades shows both the datedness of the text while revitalizing in the best way possible--performed with all women. To focus the text on gender instead of race does help alleviate its blaring issues. It helps call attention to commentary on gender of the time and challenge it. Similar to The Martin's 12 Ophelias, it's safe to say we should leave Shakespeare to be performed by women, gender-non binary, and transgender actors. Men, give it a rest.
With a preference for one act plays, two acts really need to blow me out of the water. Broken Nose Theatre's Language Rooms proves that a second act is sometimes necessary, and can even surpass its first. Without giving too much away for our full review, I left Act I with tepid expectations and left Act II feeling floored by emotions. Some shows do need that extra meat to make it worthwhile. I'm curious how other audiences and critics will feel. No matter the response to the text, the representation of the play was strong and it was incredible to delve into the Muslim experience fully explored.
As we're approaching May (!), now's the perfect time to catch up on what we were up to in April. Check in on the triathlon now!
Once upon an April...For a film so beloved, Anastasia did not get its due recognition wise on the stage. I'm thrilled it lasted on Broadway as long as it did and had enough support to launch a national tour. I'm in awe that beyond its acclaim for costumes (which were STUNNING), this story and score should not be swept under the rug. It was a great experience that under the guise of the Disney effect could have veered into cheesiness or the ideal happily ever after, but it doesn't. There's moments that are sultry, thrilling, and also somber with following long lost family members and Russian revolutionaries. It's still enough to attract young audiences, but will nourish the palate of adults as well. Give this score a listen, I beg of you.
Downton Abbey, why did you take so long to come into my life? As a sucker for BBC dramas, this felt like the milkshake I needed to my fries. The stories are cold, often bitter, but satisfying once you get past that brain freeze. I especially love that the action doesn't just center on a rich, privileged family, but also its staff. It often feels balanced, or even more intriguing when it follows these working class maids, butlers, and valets. These worlds intersect so frequently that it would be a disservice to ignore one side. I appreciate that aspect of the show, and how it spices up characters making them feel more human and less contrived for entertainment purposes. There are arcs, and feelings of contempt and enjoyment with all of them. Of course, Maggie Smith as always reigns supreme with a well timed zinger.
Tea is best served in reviews piping hot and boiled at the right time. Our first guest critic (fingers crossed of many), Madie Doppelt took the helm of seeing NoMads Art Collective's Mr. Kotomoto is Definitely Not White. Read about her thoughts that will have you contemplating for days.
Books, books, and more books! Just call me Belle. Indie Book Store Day is a holiday that sneaks up on me, and I feel I'm always celebrating throughout the year instead of the day itself. While I hope to fully participate in its festivities on said day, I love finding a new local bookshop to invest in. Plays are from different publishings, exclusive editions, and titles I never knew I needed are added to my collection. In a world dedicated to streaming, pick up a book and be taken away on a new adventure from an old-fashioned, loving establishment.
See you soon, all!