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Buzz News Chicago: Theatre and Concert Reviews

Dennis Začek and Grippo Stage Co., Inc., will present Confessions of a P.I.M.P., written and performed by André De Shields, and directed by Samuel G. Roberson and Dennis Začek. The cast also includes Kimberly Lawson and Donica Lynn. Confessions of a P.I.M.P. runs August 26, 27 at 8pm and August 28 at 7:30pm at Victory Gardens Theater, located at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.

 

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.victorygardens.org or by calling the box office at 773-871-3000.

 

From the heat of urban insurrection in Baltimore, Maryland to the incandescent glare of New York’s Great White Way, “Jelly Belly” has many stories to tell. Through song, dance, and spoken word, join Victory Gardens Theater’s Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellow André De Shields in this riveting performance as we follow this adventure from inner city impoverishment to self-actualization.

 

The creative team for Confessions of a P.I.M.P. includes Doug Peck (musical direction), Jake Ruppert (sound design) and Charles Smith (dramaturg). The band includes Tony Mhoon (bass) and Robert Reddrick (percussion). Tina Jach is the stage manager.

 

Confessions of a P.I.M.P. originally premiered as part of Victory Gardens’ 2015 IGNITION Festival of New Plays.

 

About the Artists

André De Shields in a career spanning forty-six years, André De Shields has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, choreographer and educator.  He is the recipient of three Jeff Awards, one as Director for Victory Gardens’ 1987 production of The Colored Museum, and two as Featured Performer in a Musical for the Goodman Theatre productions of Play On! (1998) and Mary Zimmerman’s The Jungle Book (2013).  In fact, André’s professional career began at Chicago’s Shubert Theatre, now the Bank of America Theatre, in the 1969 production of Hair.  From there he moved on to The Me Nobody Knows at the Civic Opera House, and ultimately became a member of The Organic Theatre Company, where he created the role of Xander the Unconquerable, Ruler of the Sixth Dimension in the cult sensation Warp. A multiple Tony Award nominee, he is best known for his show-stopping performances in four legendary Broadway musicals: The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Play On! and The Full Monty. His numerous accolades include an Emmy Award for the NBC Special based on Ain’t Misbehavin’, the National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award, the Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance and two Doctor of Fine Arts degrees honoris causa one each from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the State University of New York-College at Buffalo. A triple Capricorn, Mr. De Shields is the ninth of eleven children born and reared in Baltimore, Maryland. Ubuntu. 

 

Kimberly Lawson appeared in Confessions of a P.I.M.P. during the 2015 IGNITION Festival of New Plays. A current board member of Chicago Cabaret Professionals, her cabaret shows include WOZ: A Rock Cabaret, Why Can't a Woman: A Feminist Perspective of Broadway, Fancy Meeting You Here andLife, Love, and Faith: A Tribute to Faith Prince. She is currently a student of Nadine Gomes of the Chicago College of Performing Arts and Tony Award Winner Faith Prince. In her non-performing life, Kimberly is the Audience Services Manager at Lookingglass Theatre.

 

Donica Lynn was most recently seen on stage in Porchlight Music Theatre’s Dreamgirls! Previous PMT credits include: Chicago Sings Motown, Chicago Sings Disney and Off the Porch’s Gatecrashers. Chicago credits include: Confessions of P.I.M.P with Tony nominee Andre De Shields (Victory Gardens); The Color Purple, Barnum (Mercury Theater); Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hairspray, Aida (Drury Lane Oakbrook); Once On This Island and Seussical (Marriott Lincolnshire); Lady in Denmark, Crowns and Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Goodman Theatre); as well as works with Paramount, Court, Congo Square, Theatre at the Center and ETA Creative Arts. Film/TV credits include: Chicago Fire. She is also a featured vocalist on albums by Ramsay Lewis, Calvin Bridges, Justin Roberts and Cory Goodrich. Donica is a two-time Black Theater Alliance Award nominee, a Black Excellence Award nominee, an alumna of Soul Children of Chicago, proud AEA & AGMA member and represented by Stewart Talent.

 

Published in Theatre Reviews
Thursday, 19 November 2015 03:03

Review: Never the Sinner at Victory Gardens

Apparently thrill-killing isn't a new sign of the gradual breakdown of society. John Logan's historical thriller "Never the Sinner" explores the trial of wealthy, local killers Leopold and Loeb in what was once hailed as the crime of the century. Director Gary Griffin brings this story to life in an exciting new production at Victory Gardens Theater. 

 

Logan's wordy script has the potential to be really dull, even with the gory details. That's not the case with this quick-moving production. Set against a minimal set draped in peacock damask, Griffin's staging makes the telling active. Each twist and turn in the tabloid drama is accented by slick reporters. The cheeky headlines pose the question whether there's profit in crime? And if so, who benefits from a court room sideshow? Certainly not the victim. It also serves to underscore that in America, we're all just rubber-neckers happy that a crime didn't happen to us. 

 

A play like "Never the Sinner" is really only as strong as its Leopold and Loeb and luckily they’ve got two great actors. Japhet Balaban plays the part of introverted Nathan Leopold and he's unnervingly creepy. His attention to diction is a wise character choice. While Loeb technically carried out the crimes, Balaban's Leopold has the Norman Bates-type aloofness that most serial killers tend to possess. Jordan Brodess' Loeb balances the rage and panache which likely serves Logan's point that some people will sink to deplorable depths for fame in America. 

 

The true surprise of this story is their country lawyer Darrow played Keith Kupferer. Kupferer is known for his "every man" roles, and this show will prove a high point for him. Of course the knee-jerk reaction to brutal murder committed by two remorseless college boys makes us demand the ultimate penalty: death. Logan uses this real-life instance to debate the ethics of the death penalty. In high profile cases up to this point in history, rarely was the philosophy of capital punishment ever questioned. Even in our times it’s a hard question without an easy answer. Ultimately Logan uses this shlockey murder trial to ask the audience, is killing in the name of justice, just? 

 

Through December 6th at Victory Gardens Theater - 2433 N Lincoln Ave. 

 

 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Everyone is looking to be loved and to give love though it’s not always that easy as we find out in Stupid Fucking Bird. In this twisted and very comical take on Anton Chehkov’s The Seagull that is filled with bird references relating to life, Stupid Fucking Bird is the story of dysfunctional friends and family who are defined by their own complexities, self-absorption and yearnings. Also relating theatre to life, Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird uses stage performance as insightful metaphors to human behavior.

Sideshow Theatre Company’s production of Posner’s adaptation of Chehkov’s boring and often hard to watch stage classic is nothing short of hilarious at times and funny all the way through despite a heavier ending than expected. Assembled in this witty play is a dynamite cast led by Nate Whelden who plays “Cody Proctor”, a tortured playwright who is in love with his subject “Nina” (Jeff nominated Nina O’Keefe) whom will never love him in return. Cody Proctor is incensed with commercial theatre that is not “world changing” and is determined to write provocative and meaningful art that has an effect on society. In the meantime, emptiness, loneliness and lack of purpose are ever present in those close to him and “Nina” wants to be a seagull – thus the title, Stupid Fucking Bird.

The story is filled with dark humor and clever parodies of the original it spoofs. There are moments where the actors interact with the crowd, whether to ask for advice on a specific situation or to simply vent to us. The set is modest but effective to which its simplicity actually adds to the show’s theme of hollowness and the constant longing to be complete. 

Stupid Fucking Bird is not only funny it is also heartwarming and can be thought provoking on occasion. It is a journey that most are all too familiar with and it is a struggle that can often be overcome. There is a good reason this play was a hit on the East Coast, that being it’s engagingness and cast of characters that are easy to identify with. 

Stupid Fucking Bird is playing in the upstairs theatre of Victory Gardens (2433 N. Lincoln) through September 21st. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.victorygardens.org or call (773) 871-3000.    

 

*Above photo - (left to right) Matt FletcherKaty Carolina CollinsNina O’Keefe, Nate Whelden, Cody ProctorStacy Stoltz and Norm Woodel in Sideshow Theatre Company’s Midwest premiere of STUPID FUCKING BIRD by Aaron Posner, sort of adapted from Anton Chekhov’sThe Seagull, directed by Jonathan L. Green.  Photo by Jonathan L. Green.

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

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