Weeks 40 & 41: Haunted Homes, Get Witchy With It
October is upon us and that means it's time to dig into some spooky selections. First up, we discovered how secrets passed down from one generation to the next can haunt families. Following that, we got up to some spellbound shenanigans with some of the most memorable covens that have graced our screens.
Now let the magical mischief begin...
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a stressful tale between two sisters. Shirley Jackson's intriguingly creepy setting, a vicious group of townsfolk and handsome, yet sinister cousin Sebastian Stan threaten to spoil their sacred bond for good. Taissa Farmiga and Alexandra Daddario are both fated and flawed by different modes of perfection, feeling they each know what is best for the other. They look out for each other like any good sister would, but are unable to spot how they give into their own delusions right under their very noses. The horrors that lie within this house are betraying your core family and yourself. But those cruel, violent unkind neighbors certainly don't make this duo's dilemmas any easier.
Politics these days are a nightmare. The Politician is Ryan Murphy's latest salacious, bubble gum pop series that's as dark as it's absurd. His first collaboration with Netflix finds it to be a happy marriage with Murphy's strongest series to date. Its short episode count, breakthrough young cast power and striking amount of social commentary that doesn't deflect from pressing issues makes this a smash hit series. Ben Platt goes from Broadway baby debut to the small screen with wit, suave and an ambition that only he could make Payton a character that's endearing, vulnerable and masterfully manipulative all at once. In the hands of any other actor, it would be a tough sell, but Platt does wonders with unwrapping this juicy series one luxurious layer at a a time.
Spooky indeed. Read up on our past recap now.
The Brothers Size is a play that could be easily underestimated in its portrayal of a family struggling to find balance. Coming off nearly plunging into the deep end, there are many mental and physical prisons that plague three, young, conflicted men. It's the way in which Tarell Alvin McCraney crafts this tale that makes it unforgettable to watch. His words are wizardry, tones are painfully blue and purple twisting and aching for its characters to be liberated and a magnificent set of complicated factors capture the grey, hazy conflicts life puts us in. It's a wonderful world to fall into, and impossible to leave behind. The characters will haunt you as much as the impact of McCraney's words.
Our Perspective was a free reading series that constantly delivered fresh, new works that surprised you. Monstrous beauty products, kung fu fighting zombies and hopeless love shacks made for terrifying, twisted turns. This event marked its last as they announced it would be kicking off a new initiative granting year long residency programs to playwrights. This venture feels like a step in the right direction to have more time and resources dedicated to supporting new works and voices. We can't wait to see what projects they'll have in store next.
Falling into the pages of a new play is a perfect way to relish in the cool weather. Breezing in and out of freshly woven ideas while themes jump off the page, there's nothing that makes me more content. It's even better when intentions are clear, characters are captivating and plots are easy to follow. Script reading doesn't always include finding many satisfactory plays, but when you find one or when you're lucky, a few it's the most reenergized feeling.
There's much ado to discover in our latest recap. Hear about some of our favorite and less desirable adaptations of the good old Bard.
The Witches of Eastwick is a kooky mind trip with an all star cast and wild plot devices. Based on its novelization, three best friends that are practically sisters cook up the recipe for the perfect man only for him to appear as a rich, son of a gun Devil. What follows is a quickly agreeable orgy of feasting in sin and completely neglecting their newfound magical powers! While there are enjoyable moments including a banger Cher monologue, Michelle Pfeiffer giving a possessed performance of a lifetime and a sexually liberated Susan Sarandon, the puzzleworthy aspects are hard to get past. And Jack Nicholson's creepiness as the Devil goes beyond disturbing in retrospect.
Practical Magic is practically perfect in every way. It's dreamy, romantic and dangerous all at once. It spans many genres in being a family drama, a crime thriller, romance and even sneaks in moments of respite that include midnight margaritas and running to your soulmate to Faith Hill's "This Kiss". I mean it doesn't get much better than that. What really solidifed this as not only one of my favorite Halloween films, but one of my new favorites in general, was the way it captured the ability for women to bond together in crisis. Petty differences and personalities can be swept under the rug when it means getting justice and saving someone's life. This film prances in sentimentality and some shenanigans, but it's surprisingly deep and shows strength in sisterly love being the greatest spell of all.
Oh, Winona. The Crucible is one of many touchstones when it comes to witchcraft. Bitchiness is mistaken for the satanic artform, and the town practically sustains itself from it. With many sinners and few saints to be found, it's a faithful testament to Miller's text and timeliness of such witch hunts. It's also a very important work in the lineup of Winona Ryder's long list of admirable roles. She wasn't the teen scream queen for nothing. She earned that title here playing so conniving and dirty with people's lives in style fashioning it like a new hairstyle or apron. Her performance is one of the main attributes to tune in to an otherwise okay watch. Would much rather be at a Crucible cast party...
Nothing says Halloween like a killer eighties dance party. Putting on your best tutu and jean jacket while you get down with your crew and sip spiked punch is a great way to celebrate. UrbanTheater Company delivers a fully immersive experience into the sweet moves, bonds and bittersweet losses of the Chicago dance scene. Set against a sparkly, graffiti, neon lit canvas, dreams are scattered among young hopefuls with some who want to get out of the neighborhood and others who just hope to see tomorrow.
WildClaw Theatre's Hell Followed With Her proves that a zombie western was due to come to the stage eventually. Mixing two stylized genres results in a somehow delectable match with fighting for your life as a common thread. Act one lays down exposition while act two packs a punch upping the stakes and fight choreography. Bloody, brutal and full of mind games, it's easy to lose your breath while baited into this collapsing saloon. Who lives and dies, you'll just have to pull up a chair and listen to this story over some shots of medicinal whisky.
Walkabout Theater's The Raveling is like a cup of hot, soul soothing tea, good till the last drop. Check out our latest review now. It'll warm you right up.
Women and Children First is the independent bookstore dreams are made of. There's nothing quite like it in Chicago, let alone other cities. Filled with brightly colored covers of books you'll want to snatch off the shelves and literary keepsakes, it's all too easy to shell out big bucks here (and for a good cause!) And on top of that, they're a home base for hosting numerous events including book clubs, guest speakers and their incredible Sappho's Salon. The Sappho's Salon allows speakers to vocalize fears, desires and truth in a comfortable space of support. Pieces range from comedic to contemplative, and sometimes somewhere in the middle. Come for the great book selections and stay for the additional ways you can engage in conversation and performance.
See you next week (if we make it till then)...