Weeks 18 & 19: Pride, Power, & Processing Pain
These past two weeks shaped up to be darker and deeper than originally anticipated. Particularly centered around families, a lot of the shows to engage with this time around were tackling heavy subjects of addiction, sickness, and trauma. It was interesting to examine how it's possible to persevere or worse, sink further into these webs of pain. It also can be explored through many means of comedy, data, or contemporary dialogue.
Theatre Crush Thursday was given to Albany Park Theater Project and Rasaka Theatre Company. Follow Friday included mentions of Ring of Keys, Young Women's Giving Council of the Chicago Foundation for Women, Asian Pop Up Cinema, and Invisible 2 Invincible.
Let's get into it!
Missed our last recap? You can always catch up on the triathlon. Get your Fosse on.
There are many words that come to mind when describing the epic conclusion of I Am...Fest. Innovative, healing, hope, anger, sadness. It truly was a trip of many emotions. It wasn't always an easy experience, but demonstrated we have so far to go in ensuring safety and space for black women. Their stories continue to be filled with violence and abuse as they fill our headlines and surroundings. It's unfortunate, but hopefully events and opportunities like this can continue to spread awareness and allow for some reflection.
Interrobang Theatre Project's latest show, Utility, doesn't deliver power from intensity, but subtlety. Check out our thoughts on it now.
Ugh. This show. THIS SHOW. One Day at a Time is welcome any day in my life. I'm deeply saddened by Netflix's actions in essentially locking it down through its cancellation and refusal to relinquish it continuing onward elsewhere. It's such a creative force to be reckoned with in centering on a Latinx family that addresses queerness, addiction, anxiety, immigration, and stereotypes to advance conversations and offer solace. It's filled me with so much joy and laughter. I know it's affected a lot of people and has served as a great representation of what television can offer today.
I pray that we continue to produce works with female characters that have dimension and autonomy. I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard sadly missed this request, and it suffers for it. Female playwrights, especially white or white passing, have such an obligation to ensure the female characters they create are nuanced, modern, and exciting to portray. There's really no excuses anymore for stereotypical or basic characterizations. Issues of misogyny, abuse, and toxic cycles can be addressed without reinforcing them in the work itself.
Parched certainly knows how to quench a thirst for moving, activist driven theatre. Free Street Theater produces work that slaps. It's in your face with addressing global issues like having access to water and climate change that continue to worsen everyday. It's in the news and our feeds, but it's hard to reconcile living day to day when its longevity is less likely as time passes. There's a way for work to address topics that are uncomfortable, but necessary to sit in. Audiences can't always be left off the hook when they leave the theatre.
I'm constantly in awe of seeing how modes of performance evolve. Nothing Without a Company is pioneering site specific work where the audience moves with the piece and artists. It offers interaction, immersion, and closeness in different ways than normal. To see this matched with a commitment to new work to amplify new voices is seizing opportunities that many local artists have to offer.
GroundWorks lives up to its name in producing plays from the ground up, and boy does it work! The Frontier has become a strong incubator for plays that feel piping hot of the playwriting oven. I always walk away feeling impressed and relieved to see contemporary works are being supported to get to a place of finality. Jackalope's net of talent is ridiculously good and I always enjoy seeing what they have on the horizon.
Talk about a blast from the past. Eclectic Theatre Company serves up a mystery that swerves and slides into some momentous stagings. The Secret of the Biological Clock applies beloved fictional teen detectives we grew up with and turns it into a "real" life story. Getting to deal with dangerous crimes in a sleepy town is always appealing, especially without that Law & Order or CSI feel. There's never a sense of huge threat, but elements that are more fanciful pull you in to this story.
The writing goes on...and on...and on. Definitely have been feeling the grind this week in getting out reviews in a timely manner. It's juggling many plates behind the scenes and I'm grateful to have many factors to hold me in accountable in publishing. It's also exciting to see what new companies and shows our roster has lined up to cover. Every review might not result in discussing a crowdpleaser, but there's always something to argue and find as means of analysis.
Often, there are shows generally highly praised that leave you questioning instead. Hear our mixed thoughts on Broken Nose Theatre's Language Rooms now.
I've never experienced such excitement over an exhibition opening before. Yoko Ono shares her prescient, poetic perspective that's humorous, reassuring, and upsetting all at once. She has such a specific vision of what expression can be and it's so quick how she can ensnare you in a world of poetry you didn't think existed. Her range of imagery and references she pulls from paints a kaleidoscope I'm fascinated, and sometimes frightened by. Her poetry is less intimidating, but her films are not everyone's cup of tea. I admire her rebellious nature and how she can present her craft fearlessly, no matter what response may be given back.
Is the contemporary family drama in peril? It's a question worth examining in our review of First Floor Theater's I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard.
I'm so pleased to see The Den Theatre make a transition from a predominantly theatre space and into the comedy scene. Joel Kim Booster, a Chicago native, returned to his roots this weekend in a set that was spot on from top to bottom. He opened up about his background being an adopted, queer, Asian man. His vulnerability allowed for humor to pour of his pores and into the hearts of a roaring crowd of audience members. It's always best to end the evening on a laugh, and I couldn't have asked for a better live stand-up experience.
Check out Joel Kim Booster's work and see you for the next recap!