Vika Lvova

Vika Lvova

A delightful winter holiday ballet staple, Joffrey’s The Nutcracker gets a make-over by Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and Joffrey’s Artistic Director Ashley Wheater. The all-American all-Chicago version that premiered last December at The Auditorium Theatre takes us to a very exciting time in our history: 1892, five months before the World’s Fair in Chicago is set to open (story by Brian Selznick). Though the circumstances are different, creators of the ballet kept many elements of the original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and most importantly, the spirit of Christmas, intact. No more rich children and their fancy Christmas party with expensive presents - we’re back to the real world. Marie is from a poor immigrant family; she lives with her widowed mother, who is a sculptress working on the golden Statue of the Republic for the Columbian Exposition, and a younger brother Franz. The construction is in full swing and employs mostly immigrants from around the world.

In Act I the workers come to Marie’s house bearing food and drink for a lively Christmas celebration. Three musicians [from the orchestra] are invited on stage to accompany the dancing, much like it would be in those days. Marie is performed by very talented Amanda Assucena, a remarkably expressive ballerina; her gestures are all we need to understand what’s happening in the story. When a mysterious man who designed The World Fair and is known as The Great Impresario (Miguel Angel Blanco), shows up at the party, he captures everyone’s imagination with his visions of the completed Fair and gives out Christmas gifts. Marie receives a toy Nutcracker, and she couldn’t be happier. When she goes to bed that night she dreams that her new favorite toy leads an army of soldiers against a pack of rats who invade their shack and are always around in the streets (doesn't that sound painfully familiar, at least to Chicago city dwellers?). After she saves her Nutcracker from being eaten by The Rat King, he promptly turns into a handsome Prince. Whimsical costumes, gorgeous set and wonderful puppetry make for very enjoyable ballet experience  and a long cast of characters danced by children adds even more charm to the ballet.

Joffrey Ballet dancers are unquestionably world class masters, and this production showcases its many talented members. Victoria Jaiani who dances the parts of both Marie’s mother and The Queen of the Fair couldn’t be any more graceful and is always quite marvelous.

In Act II Marie, the Prince and The Great Impresario sail to the World Fair in a gondola where the Queen of the Fair (Victoria Jaiani) takes them to different pavilions where countries are represented by their dances – exotic Chinese and Spanish Dances are great, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is really fun too, but then there’s the sexy Arabian Dance. Here Weeldon’s brilliant choreography is masterfully executed by Christine Rocas and Fabrice Calmels ; watching them dance is like eating some exquisite dessert that you wish would never end. It’s that good.

Somewhere towards the end of Second Act the drama of Tchaikovsky’s music gets lost in the romantic love dance of The Great Impresario and The Queen of Fair and leaves us longing for something else, but that’s easy to get over.

Live score is provided by Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra under Conductor/ Music Director Scott Speck.

The performance can be seen at Auditorium Theatre and runs two hours and twenty minutes and includes a twenty-minute intermission. For more information on Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker visit www.joffrey.org

It’s that magical time of the year when The House Theatre of Chicago brings the inhabitants of Clara’s toy box back to life in their annual all-original The Nutcracker. For the eight’s straight year this exciting Christmas tale brings the spirit of Christmas to the Chopin theatre in Ukrainian village. The production of The Nutcracker originally premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre in 2007 under the Visiting Company Initiative and has been produced at The House every year since 2010. The House Theatre is well known for its playful approach to classic tales, and The Nutcracker is one of its best examples. Loosely based on the story by E.T.A Hoffmann, it has the traditional elements of the original story, only with a few major changes. In House’s ballet-free version Clara’s family learns that Fritz, their beloved son and brother who is a soldier, had been killed and won’t be coming home for Christmas. Darkness descends on the family and in their grief, they stop paying attention to each other not to mention forget all about Christmas. It’s when Clara’s favorite Uncle Drosselmeyer shows up the following Christmas with a new hand-made Nutcracker toy for Clara that looks exactly like Fritz, is when the family’s wound starts to heal. The cornucopia of fun characters includes a couple of Scary Rats with British accents, giant puppets and much more.

If seeing another Nutcracker seems like a tired proposition during the holiday season, wait till you experience this. Witty dialogue, skilled puppetry, live music, singing and dancing - creators Tommy Rapley, Jake Minton, Phillip Klapperich and Kevin O’Donnell really packed the show with action. There’s even a great mini orchestra consisting of piano, cello, French horn, violin and percussion (under music director Matthew Muniz) seated by the back wall and providing live score during the show. Superb original choreography by Tommy Rapley and Hillary Aarons makes all that seemingly chaotic running through the stage and numerous lightning fast scene changes completely effortless.

Talented cast includes a very young newcomer this year: Haley Seda is excellent as Clara, and her beautiful singing voice is undoubtedly a valuable contribution to the show. Returning cast members - Rachel Shapiri as Phoebe, Desmond Gray as Fritz, Torrey Hanson as Drosselmeyer, Amanda de la Guardia as Martha, Nicholas Bailey as David and Ian Maryfield as Monkey all make the show pure magic.
Whether or not a Christmas show is on your list this holiday season, The House’s The Nutcracker will not disappoint; it’s lively yet intimate, wise yet playful, and you might want to bring your out of town guests with you (both adults and children) to brag about Chicago’s lively theatre scene. Because the magic is real!

The Nutcracker is being performed at Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park through December 30th. For more information visit www.thehousetheatre.com.

Here comes the feel-good show that both adults and kids will enjoy. Based on the 2003 movie by the same name starring Jack Black, School of Rock-The Musical is featuring music from the movie, as well as an original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Glenn Slater.

If you have not seen the movie (shame on you), here’s the basic plot: Dewey Finn, a desperately broke musician who lives on his best friend’s couch, gets an opportunity to pose as a substitute teacher at a posh $50,000/year tuition prep school, where well-to-do kids aim for “Harvard, or at least Cornell”. Unbeknownst to the school staff or the parents, Dewey jump-starts kids’ rebellious stage by organizing his class into a band and teaching them to play rock instead of learning math and history. In the process he builds kids’ self-esteem, gets them to forget about the troubles at home (yep, rich kids have problems too), and turns them into rock stars. Dewey falls in love with a beautiful, albeit uptight, school principal and gets her to reconnect with her inner rocker chick, and the parents change their minds on education.

Multitalented cast includes Broadway veterans Rob Coletti who is absolutely fabulous as Dewey, Lexie Dorsett Sharp (a cartoonishly entertaining Rosalie), very capable Matt Bittner as Ned, and Emily Borromeo (as hilariously played Patty), to name just a few. A slew of adorable, not to mention quite accomplished, kids will melt your heart and win you over without even trying. Ava Brigliawho, who plays Summer, already has a few shows under her belt (Matilda the Musical, and Gypsy), and Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton (Freddy, a New-York native, had been named “Musician of the year 2017” by the Boys Club of NYC; he plays drums (in the show), as well as piano, bass, xylophone and percussion. For most of the remaining young actors, School of Rock – The Musical is their debut. These kids are so cool, and they play their instruments live in every show!

This high energy production is moved along by the dynamic ever-changing set (scenic and costume design by Anna Louizos, lighting design by Natasha Katz) that moves seamlessly between Dewey’s apartment, school’s different rooms and the rock band stage. Great music hits are born in the kids’ classroom, and everyone wants to jump up and down to “Stick It To The Man”.

School of Rock- The Musical premiered on December 2015, and was nominated for four 2016 Tony awards, including Best Musical, Best score (Lloyd Webber and Slater), best Book (Fellowes). It also won the 2017 Oliver award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.

School of Rock – The Musical will play at the beautiful Cadillac Palace Theatre for a limited three-week engagement November 1-19, 2017. For more show information visit www.broadwayinchicago.com.

Giselle, Adolphe Adam’s beautiful tale created for the ballet’s premiere in Paris back in 1841, has been re-imagined by the Ballet Master and Stager Lola de Avila, marking the opening of Joffrey Ballet’s 2017-2018 Season. Set in the Middle Ages on the day of the grape harvest festival, Act I takes us to the happy village and its villagers celebrating the harvest with dancing. The mood is cheerful and lighthearted, the music is fantastic (live orchestra under music director Scott Speck); colorful costumes and a gorgeous set (scenic and costume designs by Peter Farmer) prepare us for what’s about to unfold. Young and beautiful, child-like Giselle meets nobleman Duke Albrecht who comes to the village dressed as a peasant. Albrecht (very talented Temur Suluashvili) is actually engaged to marry Bathilde (Jeraldine Mendoza), the daughter of the Prince of Courland, but Giselle is unaware of any of that. The two flirt and dance together, and Giselle falls madly in love. Victoria Jaiani ,as Giselle, is divinely graceful; if she was any more weightless, she’d likely fly away. Rory Hohenstein, who portrays Hilarion, a young villager in love with Giselle, is wonderful; his acting is on par with his dancing- so expressive and precise, one can almost hear what he’s trying to convey. Both Hilarion and Giselle’s mother Berthe (Olivia Tang-Mifsud) try to worn Giselle of Albrecht’s deceitful nature, but she won’t listen.

If traditional classical ballet moves and dancers’ perfect form keeps Giselle true to the Romantic ballet era, what comes next sets it apart from most ballets of that time and their usual happy endings. When Giselle finally learns the truth about Albrecht, she becomes inconsolable, her love passion turns into heartache so severe her heart literally breaks; she collapses and dies. This day didn’t end so well after all.

Act II: no more fun and games, we’re at Giselle’s graveyard on the night of her burial. Lit up by very realistic-looking moon, the set is mysterious and lifeless. Motionless Hilarion is grieving Giselle’s death, when he’s suddenly frightened by Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. According to German poet Henrich Heine, the legend of Wilis came from Slav folklore: the spirits of young brides who died before their wedding could not rest in peace because of their unfulfilled desire for dancing on their wedding day. Vengeful Wilis rise from their graves at night and attempt to lure young men and dance them to death. It is believed that the phrase “gave me the Wilis” comes from this legend.

The stage is quickly traversed by a side-way moving female dancer in a very spooky manner. Then, dressed in white wedding gowns with flower garlands in their hair, the Wilis show up. Though their dance is breathtakingly slow, dreamy and completely void of any emotion, they appear to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. The ballerinas join together in a circle creating a wispy fluff with their puffy dresses. Surreal feeling, created by the light (lighting design by Michael Mazzola), the subdued colors of the costumes and the Wilis’ seductive dancing is enough to give anyone the wilis.

Hilarion is sentenced to death by dancing and is subsequently thrown into the nearby lake. Albrecht enters looking for Giselle’s grave, and Giselle’s spirit appears to him. He begs her for forgiveness; fortunately, her love for him is unchanged and she protects him from the Willis who insists on dancing him to exhaustion. As the day breaks, Albrecht’s life is spared, the Wilis return to their graves, and Giselle’s spirit, freed from vengeance, returns to her grave and can now rest in peace. Unbelievably beautiful (and just in time for Halloween)!

Joffrey Ballet’s Giselle is being performed at Auditorium Theatre through October 29th. For more information visit http://www.joffrey.org/giselle.

Lookingglass Theatre Company opens its 30th Anniversary Season with the return of the award-winning “Hard Times”, adapted from Charles Dickens and directed by Artistic Director and Ensemble Member Heidi Stillman , in association with The Actors Gymnasuim. It was first produced at Lookingglass in 2001, and some of the artists involved this season were part of the original production.

The story takes place in post-Industrial Revolution England. In a gloomy fictional small town dominated by mills and factories, art has very little presence. When a travelling circus comes to town, the circus clown manages to get his daughter Sissy (played Audrey Anderson; this is both her Lookingglass and professional debut) admitted to the best school in town. The school headmaster, Mr. Gradgrind (injecting his role with a very precise old-British flare, Raymond Fox is excellent), soon realizes that Sissy doesn’t belong in his school and makes it his business to notify her father in person. But the clown had skipped town, leaving his daughter behind. Mr. Gradgrind kindly offers her a place in his home and his school, alongside his two children, Louisa and Tom. But Sissy is from a different world, the world where imagination rules, the right words are ones that come from the heart, and mathematics is just an abstract subject that can’t be applied to life. Not exactly cut out for school, she’s left to stay home and care for Mr. Gradgrind’s wheelchair-bound wife while he spends increasingly more time out of town as a newly elected member of the Parliament.

The most important person in town is the mill-owner and banker Mr. Bounderby (the bombastic Troy West), a self-proclaimed self-made man. He has an eye on Louisa, so when she reaches an appropriate age [of twenty], he asks her hand in marriage. Mostly joyless Louisa (Cordelia Dewdney), whose only passion is her brother Tom (JJ Phillips), agrees, hoping that this will help advance her brother’s carrier in banking. Some of Dickens’ characters are quite difficult to relate to in part because of their excessive wordiness and overly dramatic demeanor, and Louisa is certainly one of them. Nevertheless, all characters are very well developed, the most entertaining of them being Mrs. Sparsit, Mr. Bounderby’s paid companion. Played by Amy J. Carle, who also plays Drunk Woman and Pufflerumpus, she’s manipulative and sarcastic and infuses her role with just the right amount of drama.

The circus performances are effortlessly woven into the plot (Circus Choreographer Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi), and are like a breath of fresh air in town’s otherwise utilitarian existence. The circus is colorful and joyful, and it’s easy to see the stark contrast between the worlds of art and creativity versus business and hard menial work. Even Louisa starts dreaming of circus in her lowest moments.
Scenic Designer Daniel Ostling created a highly mobile set that’s both imaginative and practical; it provides ever-changing scenery, and the whimsically painted back wall is capable of becoming magically translucent to allow “dreams and memories” to enter the stage.

While the well-to-do townspeople are being bored with their lives, majority of the town’s inhabitants, the poor miners and factory workers, “work day and night with nothing to look forward to but a little rest”. Struggling to stay alive leaves little room for anything else, much less romance, so when miner Stephen Blackpool (David Catlin, who also plays Sleary) asks his workmate Rachael (Atra Asdou, who also plays Mrs. Gradgrind) to spend time with him, she’s far too hopeless to be interested.

All in all, things are as expected: the wealthy run things, the poor have nothing, and a travelling circus is a refuge from it all. If running away with the circus was ever a good option, Tom, who finds himself in trouble with law, doesn’t hesitate for a moment.

“Hard Times” is being performed at Lookingglass Theatre through January 14th. For more information visit www.lookingglass.org.

Court jester Rigoletto prefers to hide his misery behind jokes and mockery of others. But it’s not the only thing he hides; his beloved daughter Gilda lives with him unbeknownst to the world; he selfishly keeps her locked away in fear of losing his only joy.

This famous Juiseppe Verdi’s three-act opera is new to Chicago. Directed by E. Loren Meeker, this production brings many great stars to the Lyric Opera’s stage. Quinn Kelsey’s powerful baritone skillfully conveys a wide spectrum of emotions: anger at the world and his character’s disfigurement, despise for the world, yet tender love for his daughter. A Ryan Opera Center alumnus and 2015 winner of the Metropolitan Opera Beverly Sills award, Kelsey’s solemn looks combined with the brassy voice is the perfect fit for the role of the hardened hunchback fighting for his happiness. But the real magic happens when Rigoletto and Gilda first appear together in Act I. The Italian soprano Rosa Feola is divine; the beautiful quality of her voice brings something special to every scene she is in. But it’s the supreme blend of the two voices of the father/daughter duets that create divine auditory harmony. Feola’s character Gilda is innocent and loving; isolated and hidden away in the house by her father, she’s desperate to love romantically. So, when she is encountered by the Duke of Mantua pretending to be a penniless student, she falls in love immediately and fatally.

Tenor Matthew Polennzani is spectacular as Rigoletto’s handsome master, Duke of Mantua. Encouraged by his sharp-tongued court jester, he lusts after every pretty woman in town. Pleasing his master by making fun of the courtiers whose wives and daughters Duke wants to seduce, Rigoletto has no real friends yet many enemies. One of such courtiers, Count Monterone, whose daughter the Duke of Mantua deflowered, gets angry at Rigoletto and places a curse on him. Superstitious Rigoletto takes the curse very seriously; pre-occupied with the old man’s words, he can think of nothing else. The opera’s original title was La maledizione (The Curse); based on Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse, Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave.

Elegant and rather minimalist, the cleverly designed set has modern feel to it. Set designer Michael Yeargan created clean lines of buildings unburdened by embellishments or much color. Reflective floor surfaces in Acts II and III run into the back wall transforming half the stage into an endlessly large body of water. Seamlessly moving walls and buildings quietly encroach onto Rigolettos’ world as events make turn for the worst.

While we expect operas to be very colorful and the performers extravagantly dressed, the costumes of the current production are disappointedly modest and monochromatic, less Rigolettos’ bright outfit (costume designer Constance Hoffman); it’s sometimes challenging to distinguish characters from one another, especially from far away.

When lonely Gilda is encountered by the Duke of Mantua pretending to be a penniless student, she falls in love with the charming, albeit deceitful, Duke immediately and fatally. The Duke has Gilda abducted and subsequently dishonored. Ashamed, she confesses to Rigoletto, and her vengeful father hires an Assassin in order to kill the Duke. Ukrainian born very capable bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk, though lacking certain viciousness one would expect from an assassin, is nevertheless very good; and together with mezzo-soprano Zanda Svede who plays his accomplice sister Maddalena in the opera, they make a splendid team. Duke of Mantua’s life is spared when Gilda, dressed in mans clothing, sacrifices her life for love. Rigoletto is devastated and realizes that the ‘curse” came true.

Orchestra led by Conductor Marco Armilliato provides live score.

Playing through November 3rd - for more show information visit www.lyricopera.org.

 

Tuesday, 03 October 2017 19:43

Foxfinder is vaguely relevant

The most depressing thing about the Foxfinder’s premise of “near future” is that it looks remarkably like somewhat distant past, as in late 1800’s A.D. past. Gloom and doom, enhanced by the haunting music (by Jesse Case) and nearly constant rain, abounds in this Midwest premiere of Dawn King’s British drama Foxfinder, directed by Margaret Knapp. A four member ensemble, clad in Amish-like clothes (costume design by Melissa Perkins) acts out a scenario in which a rural farm owned by married couple Judith (Alexandra Fisher) and Samuel Covey (David Anthony Marshall) gets visited by a 19-year-old inspector (Jack Olin) sent by the state to find out why their farm is under performing. The economy is in bad shape, and most people either work at the factory and get their food severely rationed, or live in the cities where food supply is very limited. The most fortunate citizens are farmers who have access to fresh vegetables, eggs and meat, their job being “to secure England’s food supply”. There’s complete lack of technology as well and everything is done the old-fashioned way.

Obviously, there’s a reason for human misfortunes in this joyless place, a common enemy: foxes that have supernatural powers. Right. The confused masses are brainwashed by the government to look for this Enemy to be held responsible for their problems: poor harvest, illness, death of a child, anything and everything. It’s the inspector’s job to investigate presence of such foxes on the farm, destroy them and help the farmers get back to producing, or else be sent to work at the factory. Fear is a good strategy, so everyone gets on board. There’s also resistance movement in the village represented by the neighbor (Alanna Rogers).

But doesn’t every government have “The Enemy” to point the finger at: Hitler had Jews, Russia had America, and America has terrorists, global warming, and racism?
Fortunately, in the play, the farmer eventually figures out who the real fox is. Good for him.

Foxfinder won the Royal National Theatre Foundation Playwright Award 2013, the Papatango New Writing Competition 2011 and Most Promising Playwright, Off West End awards 2012.
*Due to nudity and strong language, not recommended for all ages. Performance lasts 90 minutes without intermission.

Foxfinder is being performed at Athenaeum Theatre through November 5th. For more show information, go to http://athenaeumtheatre.org/.

 

The live sounds of 30’s and 40’s jazz transform Court Theatre into a music venue in this production of Five Guys Named Moe. Written by Clarke Peters and directed by Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson, with Music Director Abdul Hamid Royal and Associate Director Felica P. Fields, this lively musical is a tribute to the great songwriter and saxophonist Louis Jordan (1908-1975), who went down in history as an innovator and popularizer of “jump blues,” a dance forward mix of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie, that paved the way for rock’n’roll in the 1950’s.

The uncomplicated plot provides the perfect canvas for Louis Jordan’s greatest hits and goes something like this: Nomax (Stephen ‘Blu’ Allen) is a clueless but perfectly lovable young lad who is broke and heartbroken because his girlfriend left him. Drinking at home one night and listening to Louis Jordan’s hits on the radio, depressed Nomax is whining about his life, when out of the blue (no pun intended) his radio erupts with five guys, who climb out one by one, introduce themselves as Big Moe (Lorenzo Rush Jr), Eat Moe (James Earl Jones II) , No Moe (Eric A. Lewis), Four-Eyed Moe (Kelvin Roston Jr), and Little Moe (Darrian Ford), and get the party started with ‘Five Guys Named Moe.’ Because five heads are better than one, The Five Moes are very helpful in trying to solve Nomax’s lady problem; the dynamic and superbly fun hits “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That” and “Messy Bessy” are prove of that. Not to mention “I know What I’ve Got” and “Safe, Sane and Single,” which were outstanding. Louis Jordan’s use of comedy in his songwriting had become one of the most prominent elements in his music, for he “laughed to keep from crying”. Besides, having been married five times, he most certainly contemplated the relations between the opposite sexes in his own life.

There was some great talent on that cleverly designed stage made to look like inside of an old radio (scenic design by Courtney O’Neill). Powerful voices, the most remarkable of them Darrian Ford’s [whose new original vocal jazz album, The New Standard, is set to release later this year], impressive dancing with occasional somersaults thrown in for a good measure (by James Earl Jones II), Lorenzo Rush, Jr’s commanding presence and hilarious relic, always on.

The band is no slouch either: led by the pianist/Music Director, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Broadway’s Five Guys Named Moe composer/arranger Abdul Hamid Royal, who had worked with many recording artists, such as Liza Minelli, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, and Christina Aguilera, to name just a few; it produces a tight sound.

By the end of the First Act, the audience is playfully forced to sing the silly lyrics to “Push Ka Pi Shi Pie,” and some fortunate first row attendees are dragged onto stage to dance with the cast and then led to the lobby bar. Hey, “What’s the Use Of Getting Sober?”, right?

Second Act takes us to The Funky Butt Club, where the Five Moes have a gig to do. The sounds of old jazz are like an anti-anxiety remedy, taking us to a different time far, far in the past, it seems. What great 63rd Season opener for Court Theatre! “Five Guys Named Moe” is being performed at Court Theatre through October 8th. For more show information visit www.courttheatre.org.

*Now extended through October 15th

The historic Gunder Mansion in Edgewater opens its doors for a unique theatre experience: a fifty-minute event consisting of five distinct plays, each unfolding in a separate room of the mansion and designed for an audience of one. The entire audience consists of only ten members; there are two tracks to choose from: “Personal” and “Up Close”, and there are two shows per night (7:30 PM and 8:30 PM).

The ten members of the audience are divided into two groups; each member will then follow a journey (either “Personal” or “Up Close”). Upon entering each room, a ten-minute play unfolds where the audience member becomes an active participant. So, what’s in the room?

It could be a fun TV show (“Iconic”, created and directed by Julian Stroop), a gothic fortune teller parlor (“The Guest”, written by Kaitlin Gilgenbach, directed by Molly Donahue), or just an ordinary room with an extra-ordinary person in it. Prepare to be surprised and amused, and throw caution out the door: this interactive play, as the show’s Experience Director Janet Howe put it, is the opposite of watching Netflix at home. It’s kind of like an amusement park where some rides are more fun than others, but, overall, the entire experience is highly enjoyable. You’ll even go home with a souvenir [of your own making].

The creative team behind “For One” (experience director Janet Howe, production manager Claire Chrzan) designed each play to revolve around the audience, so each room feels like a special customizable adventure. Dream-like, each play has no beginning and no end; once you’re in the room, you’re immediately drawn into the midst of action, so you might as well assume your designated role. The outcome is somewhat unpredictable, since actors play off the audience member’s words and actions. At the end, you’re often admired for your wonderful qualities and talents, and then politely kicked out. What a great chance to feel like a star, or at least like the most important person in the room. Lucky you.

About the venue: Gunder Mansion was built in 1910 for pharmaceutical company executive Samuel Gunder. It later was used by the Viatorian religious order. After many years of residing there, they sold the property in 1981 to the Chicago Park District for half the market value hoping to see it restored and used for the community. The Mansion was acquired by Edgewater Community Council; it was subsequently rehabbed and transformed into Cultural Center.

“For One”, the latest production by (re)discover theatre company is being performed through September 30th. For more show information visit http://www.rediscovertheatre.com/for-one/.

Strawdog theatre begins its 2017-2018, 30th Anniversary Season with a Chicago Premiere of Barbecue by Robert O’Hara. Barbecue is performed at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre as a LookOut Visiting Company.

In Strawdog’s Barbecue, a spirited trailer trash family is having a summer barbecue with an ulterior motive in mind: they want one of theirs, Barbara, to get help for her drug and alcohol problems. The most reasonable of them came up with the perfect rehab solution and wants other siblings to chime in. Squabbling around, as they normally do, smoking, drinking and calling each other names, the siblings can’t quite agree on most things except that their sister is an embarrassment to the whole family and definitely needs an intervention. They try to be considerate too, especially since the rehab might give Barbara “freezer burn”.

Without giving away too much, let’s just say that midway through the first Act there’s an intriguing race switch. The switching back and forth between the two races adds a fascinating dimension to the story and infuses the play with another cultural language; and plus, it’s cool to watch.

When Barbara finally shows up at the barbecue, everyone’s ready, albeit with a taser to subdue her if necessary. Taking turns, they present their arguments (mostly made up stories) to their bound and gagged sister, while making interesting bets for the outcome.

Robert O’Hara has such a great way with words; his characters are hilarious and wacky, they’re a fun bunch that’s keeping it real and holds nothing back. Director Damon Kiely chose a marvelously talented cast for the play that includes Strawdog Ensemble Members John Henry Roberts and Kamille Dawkins with guest artists Kristin Collins, Celeste Cooper, Anita Deely, Barbara Figgins, Deanna Reed Foster, Abby Pierce, Terence Simms and Ginneh Thomas. Minimalist set (set designer Joanna Iwanicka, props designer Leah Hummel) is to the point and doesn’t detract from the action on stage.

Act One ends with an unexpected twist. After the intermission, there’re more twists, the order of things gets changed, and the characters are propelled to fame and fortune. Enter Hollywood, wised up Barbara, a black movie star, and the race switch now makes sense. Second act’s takeaway message: “Everything is bullshit”. After all, life is all but a stage.

Barbecue is highly recommended and is being performed through September 30th. For more show information visit www.strawdog.org.

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