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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times

This article shared 2389 times since Wed Jun 24, 2015
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Out director Steve Scott says that audiences don't need to have an extensive knowledge of Anton Chekhov's plays to enjoy the comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The 2013 Best Play Tony Award-winner by gay playwright Christopher Durang is currently making its Chicago debut at the Goodman Theatre in a production directed by Scott.

But Scott says if you do know your Chekhov ( not to mention Greek tragedy via the character of Cassandra played by E. Faye Butler ), then Vanya... "is especially fun for students of the theater, and in some ways it is a kind of love letter, too."

Since Scott and his Chicago-area cast are all very well versed in Chekhov ( particularly Mary Beth Fisher and Janet Ulrich Brooks who both starred in The Seagull at the Goodman ), they have lots of fun pointing out all the connections and takeoffs from the Russian playwright famed for writing rather glum self-labeled "comedies" like Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. But Scott insists that Durang's Vanya... is very American with universal situations.

"Especially what happens to us when we're growing older and perhaps becoming out of touch, and sibling rivalries that grow and fester years and years," said Scott about the play's central conflict . It involves the Hollywood star Masha ( Fisher ) who returns to the family home with the intention to sell it, even though her gay brother, Vanya ( Ross Lehman ), and adopted sister, Sonia ( Ulrich ), feel they deserve it after devoting their lives being caretakers to their ailing parents.

"And it's also about how we as middle-aged people deal with the next generation coming up and their hopes and their great energy," Scott said, adding that Masha returns with a hunky boy toy in tow named Spike ( Jordan Brown ), who reawakens some dormant feelings in Vanya.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike continues through July 26 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Tickets are $25-$86; call 312-443-3800 or visit .

There is also a special Pride Night performance of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike starting with a 6 p.m. reception with actors, cocktails and more before the show on Thursday, June 25. Tickets to the reception and play are $49. Visit for more information.

New music

Chicago is rife with festivals dedicated to sketch comedy, improv and new play readings—but not so much when it comes to full-fledged musicals. The folks of Underscore Theatre Company are aiming to change that with the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival ( CMTF ). The second annual festival plays at the Den Theatre and features 13 new musicals in rotating repertory starting June 30.

"We wanted to provide a place for people, at least on the storefront theater level, to be able to see their work on its feet since there aren't a ton of opportunities for that," said CMTF executive producer Laura Stratford, who is also a co-writer for the newly revised pornography-dilemma musical Pr0ne.

Two of the 13 shows presented at the festival this year have prominent gay themes by aiming to depict what life was like before the Stonewall Riots kicked off the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement. Both musicals also feature creators who have traveled from afar to see their work staged in the Windy City.

"It's my first piece outside of Toronto, let alone out of Canada," said Kevin Wong, the gay composer and lyricist behind the one-act song cycle called Recurring John. "And so it's a learning experience for me just to let go of the control of things I'm used to having."

Along with the show American Smoothie, Recurring John was one of two mentored musicals chosen by Underscore where they provide the main expertise in mounting the musical. Other shows in the festival have to be mounted much more independently without Underscore's direct intervention.

For example, gay playwright and lyricist Michael Braud from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is using the summer break from his pharmacy schooling to work on the second-ever staging of One Thousand Words. The musical focuses on a heterosexual journalist who is reluctant to do a story on the lives of a gay military couple based upon a historical photograph.

"I really hope the gay community comes out and sees the show because I think it's really something important they should see," said Braud. "Just to remind us where we're at and where we come from."

Underscore Theatre Company's 2nd annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival presents 13 new musicals in rotating repertory June 30-July 19 at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets are $15 for one-acts and $20 for full-length shows. Visit .

This article shared 2389 times since Wed Jun 24, 2015
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