Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



theater reviews

This article shared 1420 times since Wed Nov 7, 2001
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

The Crucible

Playwright: Arthur Miller

At: TimeLine Theatre Company at Baird Hall, 615 W. Wellington Ave.

Phone: ( 312 ) 409-8463

Tickets: $18

Runs through: Nov. 25

by Mary Shen Barnidge

Whether read as docudrama or allegory, The Crucible is fundamentally a tale of blameless people persecuted by self-serving adversaries exploiting a gullible public's horror of "invisible" crimes—in this case, witchcraft. In TimeLine Theatre's production, however, the witches are given the home-field advantage.

The play opens with a band of women corybanting around what appears to be a cauldron, dangling effigies and chanting incantations over its smoking contents, which are stirred by a voodoo priestess wielding a staff trimmed with feathers and bones. Later, when one of these Weird Sisters goes into a trance in front of witnesses, her manifestations are accompanied by eerie violin music, flickering-fire lighting, and more smoke. We also get an anguished hero haunted by a ghostly apparition and a sick child screaming in a hoarse voice, both presented in likewise gothic fashion.

This makes for some shivery quasi-Exorcist spectacle, but with so much incriminating evidence of actual witchcraft, the play's argument can no longer rest on the assumption of fabricated testimony. Given the universe presented by this interpretation, we must consider whether the accused females ARE, in fact, witches. Or, at the least, hormone-riddled teenagers playing at necromancy, unaware of the dangers. Or are they mere pawns in a slave's vengeance against her masters? Whatever the answers, the credibility granted to their practices renders the conflict a theological one, making Arthur Miller's attention to secular issues irrelevant.

Director Nick Bowling's expressionistic staging, so successful in last season's Another Part Of The Forest, distorts a text too fresh in audience's memories to permit such license. And starting the action at such a high emotional level undermines not only its suspense—how can we see characters progress from rationality to hysteria when their mental stability is questionable from the get-go?—but ultimately, its plausibility as well. While we can accept actors chasing one another around the perimeter of the amphitheater-shaped pit—meant to represent a giant crucible, by the way—that dominates the set, when a defeated and physically enervated John Proctor, hitherto the sole voice of reason, suddenly rouses himself to execute a spectacular leap off its rim, the effect, however dramatic, is more Marvel Comics than existential triumph.

The Birds

Playwrights: David Cerda and Pauline Pang At: Berger Park Mansion Coach House, 6205 N. Sheridan

Tickets: $15

Phone: ( 312 ) 409-3925

Runs through: Nov. 17

by Gregg Shapiro

Sweetback Productions' transformation of Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror flick The Birds into a "feminist drag deconstruction" may very well be their most ambitious theatrical presentation to date. Playwrights Cerda and Pang pay homage to Hitchcock by incorporating actual dialogue from the film into the script, while inserting their own brilliantly twisted brand of humor. Cerda himself co-wrote two songs for the show ( with Scott Lamberty ) —"The Woman At The End Of The Road," a ballad performed by Annie Hayworth ( Cerda, in the role originated on-screen by Suzanne Pleshette ) , and the rousing Gilbert and Sullivan-esque group number "Impossible."

They don't just stop there, because they include behind-the-scenes action of the making of the movie The Birds, blurring the lines between the two. As if that wasn't enough, Camille Paglia ( played by Merrie Greenfield ) opens the play with her own commentary on Hitchcock, uncovering hidden lesbian dimensions, and becomes a recurring character in the role of Tippi Hedren's analyst. As Hedren, and her movie character Melanie Daniels, Sweetback regular Tracy Repep ( in a tight blonde French twist, pearls, high heels, sea-foam-green suit, and golden mink jacket ) , is the ultimate tragic femme-fatale. Nearly worked to death by Hitchcock, her real world becomes inseparable from her on-screen world, and the laughs hover and dive like crazed seagulls.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the production is the use of the space. Every available door, window and inch of floor, as well as the grounds surrounding the coach house ( including Lake Michigan ) , are part of the set, and scenic designers Pauline Pang, Richard Lambert and Gary Layne, deserve to be mentioned for their work. The "effects," many of which involve the "birds" ( including a wicked funny re-enactment of the playground and phone booths scenes from the movie ) are also well-executed.

The only thing that prevents The Birds from being near-perfect is the unsatisfying ending. A mysterious man in black leather, who looks like he drove down to Hitchcock's Bodega Bay from David Lynch's Twin Peaks, changes the nature of violence in the production from man/woman versus nature to man/woman versus man, reaching its peak during the final few minutes. After nearly two hours of camp-driven laughter, the brutal violence felt like a jarring change of direction for the ending, leaving many in the audience unsure of how to respond.


Playwright: Charles L. Mee

At: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn

Tickets: $20-$40

Phone: ( 312 ) 443-3800

Runs through: Nov. 18

by Jonathan Abarbanel

Charles L. Mee has made much theatrical hay out of reworking classical plays, efforts which have left me cold until Big Love, a passionate and witty dialogue on the sex wars that's particularly salient as a commentary about the traditional role of women. Staged last year by Les Waters at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and recreated by Waters in Chicago, Big Love is dazzling didacticism; a colorful tumbling, dancing, highly stylized, over-the-top 95 minute entertainment about big ideas.

Based on "The Suppliants" by Aeschylus, the story concerns 50 sisters betrothed in infancy to their 50 male cousins. Now adults, the women seek protection against the forced marriages, which they liken to kidnapping and rape. When it's not forthcoming, they vow to murder their husbands on their wedding night, and do, except for Lydia who spares Nikos out of true love. Tried for betraying her sisters, Lydia is forgiven as the judge proclaims "Love is the highest law. She chose love. She reached out across a chasm of fear. If we cannot embrace another, what hope do we have?"

Along the way, Mee plays Devil's Advocate making cases both for women's liberation and for the macho male. He also includes unequivocal approval for pan-sexual and gay relationships, and even provides a sweetly submissive gay boy, Giuliano, as Greek Chorus. Mee's intellectual agility is the equal of Tom Stoppard, while Waters weds the words to a music-and-movement production that borrows admirably from the Mary Zimmerman style book.

Three brides and grooms represent the 50 sisters and cousins. In addition to Carolyn Baeumler and Bruce McKenzie as Lydia and Nikos, they are feisty K. J. Sanchez and bulldog Mark Zeisler as the man-hating Thyona ( "Male babies should be flushed down the toilet at birth." ) betrothed to the Neanderthal warrior Constantine, and Aimee Guillot and J. Matthew Jenkins as a pretty pair who can't stand up for themselves. Other principals are sweet-voiced Tony Speciale as Giuliano, so in love with satin ribbon; J. Michael Klein as Piero the suave host the sisters ask for sanctuary; and Lauren Klein as an Italian peasant earth mother, bearer of 13 sons, who judges Lydia. Many of the players have been with Big Love since Louisville and form a disciplined ensemble, which is essential for the acrobatic and explosive movements devised by Jean Isaacs to physicalize peak emotions.

The music, so important to Big Love, ranges from Bach, Pachobel and Handel to "You Don't Own Me" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" sung with its original suggestive lyrics.

Big Love is a surprising, amusing and thoughtful visual treat. What else could you possibly want from theater?

The Return Of The King

Playwright: adapted by Karen Tarjan from the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien

At: Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood

Phone: ( 773 ) 751-4477

Tickets: $20

Runs through: Dec. 9

by Mary Shen Barnidge

A year and a half is a long time waiting to hear how the story comes out. But adapter Karen Tarjan concluded The Two Towers in movie-serial style with a promise "to be continued." True to her word, the first moments in The Return Of The King are spent in re-orienting us to the realms of Middle Earth, presently threatened by would-be tyrants seeking the talisman now in the possession of a commoner whose mission it is to restore his precious cargo to the source of its enchantment. Students of English Folklore will recognize in J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic the Arthurian legends and the search for the Holy Grail ( as they also spotted the same ancient myths in Star Wars ) .

But what Lifeline Theatre's dazzling exhibition of theatrical legerdemain may lack in cinematic high-tech, director Ned Mochel and his creative squadrons more than redeem in imagination. Back from The Two Towers are the spider-monster and a considerably-aged Gollum, both played by Cynthia Von Orthal's puppets, along with sweeping battles illustrated by action figures on a diorama ( with our champions spirited away by a giant eagle ) . We also have live-action melees of such ferocity that we hardly notice that the weapons are whiffle-bats and mini-trashcan lids. And let's not forget the quasi-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon martial arts showdown between woman-warrior Eowyn and the tank-like Black Captain that drew spontaneous applause and cheers from the audience on the night I attended.

With so much going on—did I mention Joseph Fosco's electronically distorted voices? And David Minkoff's tech-toy collage of a set?—you wouldn't think there'd be room left for acting. We still have time, however, to appreciate Brian Amidei's keen-edged enunciation in the role of the patriarchal Gandalf and John Ferrick's amazing vocal transformation from the meek Pippin to the authoritative King Theoden, as well as Amanda Amadei and Warren Jackson's delicately romantic Princess Eowyn and Prince Faramir. But leading the charge are Patrick Blashill's valiant Frodo Baggins and Scott Hamilton Westerman's sturdy Sam Gamgee, as brave and modest a pair of heroes as ever saved the world from totalitarian oppression.


Playwrights: Aimee LaBrie, Steven Simoncic At: Cornservatory,

4210 N. Lincoln

Tickets: $12-$15

Phone: ( 773 ) 753-4472

Runs through: Nov. 30

by Rick Reed

Words with C, a world premiere by two new voices, starts off promisingly enough. Out of the darkness come a chorus of twenty- and thirty-something voices reciting a litany about the joys and pitfalls of romance, dating, and the eternal war of the sexes. Once those voices have quieted, we're introduced to our two main characters, Ben ( Jason Borkowski ) and Kate ( Cathleen Ann ) . The two are representative of the state of relationship hell at the dawn of the 21st century. Kate is single and frustrated with her attempts to find an adequate man. Ben is in an unfulfilling relationship and wonders what it's like to be free. These two sides of the coin alternate their despair with the opposite sex in an interplay of monologues, and their speeches cleverly segue into each other.

If only the entire play could have been this smart and innovative. But playwrights LaBrie and Simoncic drop their linguistic derring-do rather quickly, in favor of a rather predictable romantic comedy that unites these two souls, who each think the grass is greener in the other's backyard. Ben and Kate meet when their crazy upstairs neighbor may or may not have leaped from his window. Ben thought he saw the man's falling body out of the corner of his eye. He rushes to Kate's apartment to tell her about it and to implore her to call 911. I guess Ben doesn't own a telephone. Even though they're next door neighbors, the two have never met, and now, on the eve of Kate's departure to LA, this bizarre turn of events gets them talking to one another. And their stories unfold: Ben lives with Heather ( Heather Lawson, in a neatly realized, competent performance ) and is unfulfilled. In a sort of montage, we see Kate on four separate first dates, each more disastrous than the next. The only one of these performances that really has any dramatic life is the first: an oddly, perhaps homicidal young man played expertly by Marcus Kamie. Oh yes, Kate goes out with a gay man ( Frank Gangarossa ) who is in denial of his true sexuality. Overt, camped up to the extreme, and offensively stereotypical, this character stretches credibility until it snaps. No one, in this day and age, could possibly be such a big queen and not realize who they are.

It only takes about five minutes into the story to see where it's headed: I don't think I will be spoiling any surprises when I reveal that, at the last minute, Kate and Ben find true love in the arms of each other. Aside from this predictably that undercuts any possible suspense, the play lacks much in the way of credibility because its characters often lose their reality by becoming ciphers to get across the playwrights' themes. Kate and Ben hardly know each other, yet they're quickly having a deep conversation about love and the foibles of the human heart. We don't really get inside Kate and Ben's head, nor do we buy or understand why they suddenly open up to each other so quickly, when they've never connected on any level before. Things just happen too quickly to be believable.

Words with C has a few funny moments, and most of the performances are adequate, but the play showcases an intellectual immaturity and a too heavy reliance on themes and dialogues lifted from the realities of sitcoms and pop culture.

This article shared 1420 times since Wed Nov 7, 2001
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

THEATER Nelson Rodriguez talks boxing, queerness and his very personal play 2023-12-03
- On Saturday, Dec. 9 at the Chicago Cultural Center, there will be a reading of New Personalidad—a play by actor, playwright and former Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree Nelson Rodriguez. The program, part of ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Bodyshop,' Beyonce, Ani DiFranco, Billie Jean King 2023-12-01
- The Breaking Glass Pictures film Bodyshop will be out on digital on Dec. 5, per a press release. The plot is described thusly: "The ghost of a young soldier sexually assaulted by his lieutenant says goodbye ...

Gay News

PERFORMANCE Teatro Zinzanni's Carisa Hendrix talks magic, queerness and Canada 2023-11-28
- One could call Teatro Zinzanni's newest production, "Love, Chaos, and Dinner," a meal and a show—but that would definitely shortchange this ongoing extravaganza. Taking place at the Loop's Cambria Hotel, there is not a bad seat ...

Gay News

'Sleeping with Beauty' serves up naughty holiday laughs 2023-11-27
- Seasonal British pantomimes have been securing the talents of such known performers as Henry Winkler, George Takei and Sir Ian McKellen for decades now. This inventive recounting of fairy tales, utilizing popular song, comedy and rowdy ...

Gay News

Jerry Mitchell bops into Boop! 2023-11-27
- Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell is bringing black-and-white Boop! The Betty Boop Musical into a world of color at the CIBC Theatre this winter. It's a pre-Broadway world premiere for the musical starring Jasmine Amy Rogers ...

Gay News

Hell in a Handbag to present 'Peep Show: The Handbag 2023 Benefit'on Dec. 10 2023-11-25
--From a press release - CHICAGO—Hell in a Handbag Productions will present its 2023 benefit: Peep Show—a peep through the curtains at the company's 2024 season—on Sunday, Dec. 10, 11:30 a.m. — 3:30 p.m. at The Center on Halsted's The Hoover-Leppen ...

Gay News

Sarah Siddons to produce 'Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy' 2023-11-22
- In a first for the 71-year-old Sarah Siddons Society, it will produce a one-night performance of Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy—a new one-woman play written and performed by Almanya Narula, a 2016 Siddons Scholarship recipient ...

Gay News

YEPP 'rises' to occasion at fall fundraiser 2023-11-20
- Members and guests of Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP) gathered Nov. 17 at Chicago Theater Works, 1113 W. Belmont Ave., for the organization's fall fundraiser, Rise Up: Our Celebration of Resistance. The evening marked both the ...

Gay News

WORLD Latvia, nonbinary magistrate, Gay Games end, Israel soldiers 2023-11-17
- Latvia's parliament voted to allow same-sex couples to establish civil unions, Reuters reported. Said couples now have legal recognition—but fewer rights than married couples. The new legislation, slated to take effect in the middle of next ...

Gay News

THEATER Queer actor Chloe Baldwin talks 'POTUS,' identity and Shakespeare 2023-11-15
- In the Steppenwolf farce POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, queer actor Chloe Baldwin portrays the president's mistress Dusty, acting alongside a formidable group that includes Caroline Neff ...

Gay News

'Jersey Boys' stars reunite as Midtown Men on Dec. 2 in Glen Ellyn 2023-11-14
- The original stars of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys—Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer—will reunite as Midtown Men on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at McAninch Arts Center's Belushi Performance Hall ...

Gay News

Hell in a Handbag Productions presents world premiere of The Golden Girls Save Xmas, A Lost Episodes Parody 2023-11-12
--From a press release - CHICAGO (November 10, 2023) — Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to kick off its 2023/24 season this November with The Golden Girls Save Xmas — A Lost Episodes Parody, featuring an all-new holiday tale ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Kaytranada, NFL star, Alexandra Billings, video game, George Michael 2023-11-10
- Out Montreal DJ/producer Kaytranada teased his latest single, "Out of Luck," with Mariah the Scientist, on Twitter, Complex noted. "THIS IS THE ANTHEM!" Kaytra wrote in his quote-tweet of the song playing at a release party. ...

Gay News

Charles Busch dishes on life as a storyteller 2023-11-09
- Performer/writer Charles Busch, who recently penned his autobiography, Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy, said that collecting his most precious and salient memories in a book felt "inevitable." "Storytelling is such an essential ...

Gay News

Black Excellence Awards winners named, inaugural Chicago Black Arts Hall of Fame inductees honored 2023-11-08
--From a press release - CHICAGO (Nov. 7, 2023)—The nonprofit Black Arts & Culture Alliance of Chicago is proud to announce the winners of its 23rd Annual Black Excellence Awards, honored last night in a festive celebration at Black Ensemble Theater. ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.