Posted inPerforming Arts Feature

The Rhino in spring

In January 2020, I checked in with Jenny Magnus about Rhinoceros Theater Festival (better known as Rhino Fest), the city’s longest running fringe theater festival. “The world is really hard right now,” Magnus said at the time. “All we have is each other and the intention to do something good. Aid and comfort. We just […]

Posted inTheater Review

Carnal knowledge

Mammalian Diving Reflex/Darren O’Donnell present an evening of sex stories from six Chicagoans over 65. Organized as a chronological table read with occasional dance party and audience participation interludes, I don’t think that I could call it a piece of theater, but, from time to time, the veracity of a personal anecdote will certainly stay […]

Posted inTheater Review

Royal fun

Theo Ubique’s take on this classic musical parody of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea,” directed by local musical comedy pro Landree Fleming, is smart, sweet, and slickly produced. And mounting a show that prods at traditional gender roles with a first-rate, gender-blind cast results in a multilayered artistic experience that makes this […]

Posted inTheater Review

Spiritual healing

Black Ensemble Theater’s first play back since the pandemic, an original from founder Jackie Taylor (she wrote, produced, directed, and choreographed), is exactly what the title states—an out-of-body, communal experience that creates the physical “togetherness” we’ve missed for so long. It’s an energizing and participatory homage to the Black church experience, which as the cast […]

Posted inGhost Light

A new home for American Blues

Like almost every long-running Chicago theater company, American Blues Theater has been through its share of ups and downs. Founded in 1985, ABT has long carried the banner for the classic Chicago-style ensemble, and they went Equity in 1988. They lost some money on a production of Keith Reddin’s Peacekeeper in 1990, but by 1993, […]

Posted inTheater Review

Art and appropriation

Of the two plays exploring race that Steppenwolf has on stage right now—King James and WHITE—the latter definitely stands out for being not only funnier, but more complex and satisfying in its critique of race, privilege, and power. Written by James Ijames and directed by Ericka Ratcliff, Definition Theatre’s production is a delightfully silly yet […]

Posted inTheater Review

Solo guru, collective experience

In the longstanding tradition of solo performers benevolently fucking with their audiences, Dean Evans’s masterful 2012 Honeybuns holds a special place in Chicago storefront history as a sweet spot between gently antagonistic and subtly profound crowd work. I was warmly reminded of it at key points throughout writer-director John Kolvenbach’s new hour-long piece, which takes […]

Posted inTheater Review

Chit-chat on the high wire

In his 1940 memoir, A Smattering of Ignorance, composer-raconteur-pharmaceuticals enthusiast Oscar Levant recalls a train journey he took with his idol, George Gershwin. After offering the talkative Gershwin a sleeping pill (“with the air of a man offering a friend an after-dinner mint”), Levant was mildly surprised that Gershwin commandeered the more comfortable lower berth […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Lynda Barry is the North Star

One of my prized possessions is a 1989 playbill from Lynda Barry’s The Good Times Are Killing Me. Before the play’s award-winning off-Broadway run, it was produced here in Chicago by City Lit Theater Company at Live Bait Theater. My sister plucked the playbill from the magical chaos of Ravenswood Used Books and gifted it […]

Posted inArts & Culture

They Call Us and we answer back

Twenty-three-year-old Morgan Kail-Ackerman was catcalled three separate times near Fullerton in Lincoln Park. “Fuck you lady,” “Bitch,” and a familiar, cringeworthy wolf whistle accompanied her walk near DePaul University. As she held the door open for a man at Lou Malnati’s, she was objectified. “He thought that because I opened the door for him, he […]

Posted inArts & Culture

A provocative ad stirs debate about abortion in Natalie Moore’s new play

 A fictitious billboard on 59th and Halsted features a picture of three Black women enjoying bottomless mimosas at brunch. The scene is emblazoned with text that reads,“Black women have the right to make decisions for their families and their bodies. Abortion is self-care. #TrustBlackWomen.”  The advertisement, and the heavy work of Black reproductive-rights activists who […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Collective healing

Queer bars are more than just bars that happen to be queer. They can be a refuge, a meeting place, and, quite literally, a safe space. They’re also places where our history has been written: from the Stonewall riots to the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Sam Mueller’s latest production unpacks what happens when the safety and […]

Posted inTheater Review

The art of the steal

When their brother Arthur dies, leaving behind to the world a lone splatter canvas from the heady foray into abstract expressionism that preceded his embittered art teacher years, Alex (Michael Appelbaum) and Andy (Rick Yaconis) decide to right fate’s wrongs and get the—to their minds—worthless and incomprehensible painting accepted to a prestigious gallery. This turns […]