Weeks 46 & 47: Out of This World, Southern Lovin', and Duets!
Winter is coming, but our picks are heating up with steamy romance and even hotter tunes. We first dealt with works that played with time and space whether in outerspace or the great beyond. Then, we got down in the country with tragic romances and toe tapping jams. Both included some classic duets like "Falling Slowly" and duos like Hedwig and Yitzhak.
#TheatreCrushThursday went to The Story Theatre and Aguijón Theatre. #FollowFriday was given to Beckett's Babies, L'Arche Chicago, Justice Choir Chicago, and Burners Without Borders.
Now it's time to brush up on stories of space and sex!
About Time proves some things are dare we say, timeless. Romantic comedies are as common as ever, but when a good one comes along it proves what this genre is capable of doing. I wanted a feel good love story with a twist of time travel, but this one surprisingly got to me. While it still has its problems of being male centric and Rachel McAdams charming as ever takes a backseat at points, it does a nice job of exploring all of Domhnall Gleeson's relationships and how they're complicated by his actions. While he gets a life of bliss, his sister struggles with addiction, and his parents can't be around forever. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how deep this film went when it didn't have to.
Black Mirror brings visually appetizing imagery to modern stories. It's difficult to tell stories about the future of technology well, but here it's offered dimension and exciting plot twists. In only releasing a few episodes, quality is prioritized over quantity and it's easy to see why every celebrity is keen to make a brief appearance. This most recent season includes Hot Priest from Fleabag (the dreamy Andrew Scott) and Miley Cyrus. This series also handles the spectrum of sexuality really well. I admire how it welcomes open attitudes to the issues in modern dating and relationships with possible, but not prescriptive solutions.
Happy Birthday Mars Rover blasts off like a rocket and never loses steam. The Passage Theatre makes this world premiere feel bright as we laugh and cry our way toward an uncertain future. Told in an almost Neo-Futurists model, scene names are called out with actors playing many named, versatile characters ranging in age and personality. It's a frenzied flurry of excitement and nerves watching this ensemble present many realities of our planet that we resist. As Lizzo says, truth hurts, and Preston Choi delivers it in a humorous, unexpectedly touching way without letting its audience off the hook.
I Am Going to Die Alone and I Am Not Afraid doesn't just make for an unstoppable title, but an unforgettable performance. Read our thoughts on Prop Thtr's latest show now. You will be hooked.
The Martin whips up another unique, limited performance series. In case you missed it, check out our review of their performance of Stay on the Line. It's quick, spooky, and not what you'd expect.
Once is a film you'll want to watch at least twice. It's watching a love story form at the same time it dissolves. But this heartbreak is offset by some of the most mesmerizing music and soul nourishing lyrics you'll ever hear! Having been a fan of the musical first, it was exciting to see where one of my favorites began. It's also a perfect example of adapting a good film into a great musical. It's a tough bill that only so many musicals have been able to fulfill.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a hell of a good time. It's a musical film whose appreciation grows over time and I'm surprised it's not discussed more. Its unbridled passion and glittery vulnerability make it one of a kind and the first of its kind to portray homosexuality and gender fluidity in this way in theatre. It's incredibly powerful and pivotal to view as a queer, original work of art that accomplishes so much in its presentation. Make the time to watch this one and blast that remarkable score. And shout out to its Rent reference!
My Life is A Country Song delivers on its premise. New American Folk Theater brings this 1980s' tale of starting over to Chief O'Neill's. A live band and country vocals make for a surprisingly deep story that ultimately shines from the many acts of independence women can take in their lives. These moments snuck up on you in their sincerity especially in how it handled issues of fragile masculinity and domestic abuse. It also provided some nice nods of humor that make me chuckle to think about like when the ex's introduction on the mic is cut short (as it should be). There are moments when this show finds its footing that makes for a good time out.
Always... Patsy Cline is as heartwarming as a letter from an old friend. Centering on the brief, but beautiful friendship between esteemed country singer, Patsy Cline, and her ride or die, Louise Seger, Firebrand Theatre allows for a dual lead led show to let its actors make the space of The Den their own. With big shoes and a stage to fill, it's done here in jukebox musical style with a desire for more story than songs at the end of the night. It feels like this show could have taken a cue or two from Heartstrings in dedicating more time to going beneath the music and lyrics instead of performing them for Pete's sake. It's a fun, lighthearted evening with brief flickers of poignancy, but I was left wanting to go deeper into Cline's life.
Queen of Sock Pairing makes for an engaging watch. Everytime I walk into a Red Tape Theatre show, I never know what I'm in for. When I walk out, I always leave feeling challenged and having to bristle with the conceits of performance and lessons embedded in the text. Queen of Sock Pairing felt like a personal attack I needed to have. I've rarely had these moments, but it was hard at points to suspend my disbelief when watching fears and moments I've recently undergone be replicated onstage before my eyes. At points, I recoiled, sighed, and longed to see power be seized by its heroine. For a play that deals with the importance of boundaries, it was hard for me to discern my own as audience member versus critic.
Heartstrings is a welcome gift from Miss Dolly Parton herself. While a Netflix series, it feels more like an upscale Hallmark series in terms of tone. This isn't to diminish what it's bringing to the table, but at least better understand what kind of mood you need to be in to watch this series. It's a fun amount of filler and provides a new take on Parton's classic hits. It also feels akin to the sensation of watching Cher after a legendary career return to film in Mamma Mia 2. I love Dolly, and she works within these parameters as best she can. And honestly however I can get her, I will tune in.
The Bangarra Theatre Dance Company know how to bust a move or two. This dance theatre company came from Australia for a limited engagement at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance to tremendous support. It was fascinating to read up on their commitment to telling stories about indigenous people particularly connecting them to ideas of ownership of space and sharing resources. I've never seen dance tell stories through such a powerful lens and felt inspired just being in their presence. This has awakened me to how dance can be used as a form of resistance and reclaiming narratives, and not just for the sake of performance.
While you might not have been wasting hours away watching all four versions of A Star is Born, you can read up on the highlights. Check out our latest weekly recap now!
Hoodoo Love brings sparks, but doesn't make for a fully magical evening. A stunningly visual production and attentive direction can only go so far in remedying the issues of story and text. This musicalized tragedy has moments of great tension, romance, and camaraderie, but it isn't enough to make this journey worthwhile. There's always a strong case for theatre to produce sensations of catharsis or intensity, but there are limits. Especially when the amount of suffering endured doesn't match the investment of its characters, it's hard to make a case for.
And don't forget the only way to make an exit...