Season Announcement Season is upon us once again

And so is Chicago Theatre Week

It’s in the single digits outside as I write this Thursday night, but I can nonetheless say we’re at the beginning of my favorite season: Season Announcement Season, when we start to see the 2020–2021 theater season taking shape.

We’ve only seen a trickle so far, including full season slates from Court Theatre (Kelvin Roston Jr. in Othello! Vanessa Stalling directing Caryl Churchill!), Paramount Theatre (the clear highlight there being the Midwest premiere of the Groundhog Day musical) and Raven Theatre (an interesting lineup that kicks off with a revival of Inherit the Wind, as if to remind us ahead of the November election that science matters).

The Goodman has yet to release its full season, but did announce one piece of its puzzle: the January 2021 world premiere of Good Night, Oscar, a new play by Doug Wright about the midcentury personality Oscar Levant (ask your grandparents). The title role will be played by Sean Hayes, the Will & Grace star who grew up in suburban Glen Ellyn and began his career in Chicago theater before heading out west in the mid-’90s.

Sidebar: I’ve always thought it would be fascinating to write a behind-the-scenes feature on how a season gets put together, particularly at a big institution like the Goodman or Steppenwolf with so many moving parts. But I wonder if any such company would be willing to really reveal how the sausage gets made. Would you be interested in reading such a piece?

Chicago Theatre Week is on

The eighth annual Chicago Theatre Week is officially underway, and at a kickoff reception Tuesday evening, League of Chicago Theatres executive director Deb Clapp said that more advance tickets had been sold this year than in any year prior. It certainly feels like there are more shows to sell than ever before; at the same event on Tuesday, I half-jokingly wondered aloud if theaters are rearranging their seasons to make sure they have a show up in mid-February, because I can’t keep up with all the openings since late January. Do you partake in Chicago Theatre Week as a way to sample companies you might not have attended before? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Speaking of Chicago Theatre Week, my TimeHop reminded me this week of this piece that I wrote five years ago at Time Out as part of a CTW package: What live theater offers that nothing else can. I think it holds up.

Reviews and other views

I’ve got a ton of links for you today. First up, I was super pleased to be able to interview Carrie Coon and Tracy Letts together for Chicago magazine. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Amira Danan and Gage Wallace in A Doll’s House at Raven Theatre. Photograph: Michael Brosilow

I’ve been busy reviewing for the Sun-Times, where you can read my thoughts on:

  • Raven Theatre’s revival of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House;

  • Lisa Loomer’s not-quite-docudrama Roe at the Goodman;

  • Brett Neveu and Jason Narducy’s enjoyable punk-rock coming-of-age tale Verböten;

  • the disappointing (and already departed) touring production of Once on This Island;

  • and the frustratingly elliptical Duncan Sheik–Kyle Jarrow musical Whisper House.

Carrie Coon and Namir Smallwood in Bug at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Photograph: Michael Brosilow

Those of you with paid subscriptions to Storefront Rebellion have seen my reviews of:

  • David Cromer’s stunning new production of Letts’s Bug, starring Coon;

  • an immersive rendering of the landmark gay play The Boys in the Band at Windy City Playhouse;

  • and short takes on Shattered Globe Theatre’s Sheepdog, Broken Nose Theatre’s Labyrinth, and About Face Theatre’s The Gulf.


Questions or feedback for me? Reply to this email, or if you’re reading this on the web, hit me at kris@krisvire.com or find me on Twitter @krisvire. You can also leave public comments on the web version of the newsletter; click the headline above or the links at the bottom of this post.

Quick hits: “Sheepdog,” “Labyrinth,” “The Gulf”

Sheepdog at Shattered Globe Theatre

Leslie Ann Sheppard and Drew Schad in Sheepdog. Photograph: Lowell Thomas

Playwright Kevin Artigue complicates the narrative around a police shooting and cover-up in Sheepdog, a 2019 drama that’s now onstage in a fascinating Chicago premiere at Shattered Globe. But while Artigue’s plot hinges on the shooting (which isn’t directly depicted), his play deals more directly with the complicated nature of modern policing culture. Oh, and it’s also a smart and engaging love story.

Amina (Leslie Ann Sheppard) is a Black police officer in Cleveland, born and raised in one of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Her patrol partner, Ryan (Drew Schad), is from small-town Cambridge, Ohio, 120 miles and an entire world away from Cleveland. As Artigue’s script jumps back and forth in time, we see the pair transition from work partners to romantic partners, though both are possessed of a natural wariness; they open up to each other playfully about their respective cultural blind spots, and sensitively about their inherited perspectives on race.

And then Ryan shoots and kills a young Black man on what should have been a routine traffic stop, and both characters must reckon with the implications and aftermath—including varying pressures from the public, the media, city lawyers and the police union—even as Amina pursues her own doubts. Amina narrates the play in second-person direct address (“you run after the suspect,” “you go full Nancy Drew”), as if to implicate the audience directly: what would you do differently? Wardell Julius Clark’s direction is impressively composed, eliciting intensely truthful performances from both of his actors.

Sheepdog

Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit (1229 W Belmont Ave). By Kevin Artigue. Directed by Wardell Julius Clark. Associate director: Am’Ber Montgomery. Assistant director/dramaturg: Deanna Reed-Foster.

Cast: Leslie Ann Sheppard (Amina), Drew Schad (Ryan).

Designers: Sydney Lynne Thomas (scenic), Jason Lynch (lighting), Hailey Rakowiecki (costumes), Christopher Kriz (original music/sound), Jonathan Berg-Einhorn (props), Smooch Medina (projections), Jyreika Guest (intimacy choreographer). Stage manager: Tina M. Jach.

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes; no intermission. Through February 29 (now extended through March 15). Tickets ($42) at theaterwit.org.


Labyrinth at Broken Nose Theatre

William Anthony Sebastian Rose II, center, and the ensemble of Labyrinth. Photograph: Austin D. Oie

Beth Steel’s 2016 play Labyrinth explores the Latin American debt crisis of the late ’70s and early ’80s in a manner that can’t help but recall an earlier busy British take on American financial malfeasance, Lucy Prebble’s Enron. Rather than an authority figure like Enron’s Jeff Skilling, though, Steel’s POV character is himself an outsider at the start. John (William Anthony Sebastian Rose II, a winning protagonist) is a newly-hired credit analyst at an unnamed Wall Street firm. Lacking the Ivy League connections of most of his peers, he goes along to get along even as he recognizes that the deals he and his amoral mentor Charlie (David Weiss) are enabling—loans in the tens of millions of dollars to countries like Mexico and Argentina for construction projects that are unlikely to ever be completed but will nonetheless create profits for American firms—make little financial sense.

Steel crams her script with information and keeps the narrative rushing forward, as if it’s driven by the same rampant cocaine use that keeps John and his colleagues hurtling full speed ahead. The result can come across as entertaining didacticism, not unlike the explainer interludes in The Big Short. But one plot strand seemingly intended to humanize John—he’s increasingly haunted by the specter of his father, a small-time fraudster whose legacy he’d meant to escape—backfires in its heavy-handedness (though Darren Jones is terrific as the insinuating dad).

Spenser Davis, directing the play’s U.S. premiere for Broken Nose Theatre, is smart to keep his in-the-round staging relatively simple, letting the actors themselves (12 cast members squeezed onto a cramped stage) create the chaos. It’s easy to imagine a larger company loading up on flashy design effects for this big-money tale; ironically, Labyrinth probably benefits from a low budget.

Labyrinth

Broken Nose Theatre at The Den Theatre (1331 N Milwaukee Ave). By Beth Steel. Directed by Spenser Davis. Assistant director: Ben F. Locke.

Cast: William Anthony Sebastian Rose II (John), David Weiss (Charlie), Darren Jones (Frank), Robert Koon (Howard), Elise Marie Davis (Grace), Adam Soule (Rick), Benjamin Brownson (Philip), Ambrose Cappuccio, Rebecca Flores, David Lovejoy, Jackie Seijo, Julia Skeggs (ensemble).

Designers: Therese Ritchie (scenic), Seth Torres (lighting), Rachel Sypniewski (costumes), Tony Ingram (sound), Devon Green (props), Zack Meyer (fight director), Spenser Davis & Ben F. Locke (movement/choreography). Stage manager: Rose Hamill.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes; one intermission. Through February 29 (now extended through March 7). Tickets (pay-what-you-can) at brokennosetheatre.com.

Photographs by Austin D. Oie.


The Gulf at About Face Theatre

Kelli Simpkins and Deanna Myers in The Gulf. Photograph: Michael Brosilow

Actors Kelli Simpkins and Deanna Myers are already onstage when the house opens for About Face Theatre’s The Gulf. They pretty much have to be; director Megan Carney and scenic designer Joe Schermoly have reconfigured one of Theater Wit’s proscenium spaces for an intimate, in-the-round staging centered on a small fishing boat, surrounded by an array of half-filled washtubs and buckets representing the shallows off of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Attempting a stealthy entrance in a darkened house would be inadvisable.

Schermoly’s evocative design is one of this production’s highlights; the apparently practical boat floats above a clever base that allows it to rock with the actors’ weight and rotate as they paddle against the stage floor, creating a nifty illusion of naturalistic movement, while the washtubs and other whimsical touches suggest we’re out on metaphorical waters.

That contrast works well for playwright Audrey Cefaly’s portrait of a lovingly bickering couple whose relationship is about to either turn a corner or tump over. Betty (Myers) and Kendra (Simpkins) are specifically rendered—as someone who came of age around my fair share of Southern lesbians, I felt like I knew these women well. But the choppy waters they face should be recognizable to most anyone who’s had to navigate the compromises of long-term love.

Simpkins and Myers have a terrific yin-yang chemistry, and they imbue their characters with an unflinching honesty. That the boat’s outboard motor is going to break down is as obvious as Chekhov hanging a gun above the mantel. But you’ll find yourself fully invested in the question of whether they can get it going again.

The Gulf

About Face Theatre at Theater Wit (1229 W Belmont Ave). By Audrey Cefaly. Directed by Megan Carney. Assistant director: Amy Tien. Dramaturg: Lanise Shelley.

Cast: Kelli Simpkins (Kendra), Deanna Myers (Betty).

Designers: Joe Schermoly (scenic), Rachel Levy (lighting), Caitlin McCarthy (costumes/props), Robert Hornbostel (sound), Gaby Labotka (intimacy & fight director). Stage manager: Logan Boyd Jones.

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes; no intermission. Through February 15. Tickets ($32) at theaterwit.org.


Questions or feedback for me? Reply to this email, or if you’re reading this on the web, hit me at kris@krisvire.com or find me on Twitter @krisvire. Subscribers can also leave public comments on the web version of the newsletter; click the headline above or the links at the bottom of this post.

SR review: “The Boys in the Band” at Windy City Playhouse

Step inside a snapshot of pre-Stonewall city life with an engaging revival of this landmark gay drama

Theater review by Kris Vire

(Standing, from left) Denzel Tsopnang, William Marquez, James Lee and Jackson Evans in The Boys in the Band

Here’s a fact I have a hard time wrapping my head around: The original, 1,001-performance Off Broadway run of The Boys in the Band was almost perfectly bisected by the Stonewall riots.

Mart Crowley’s landmark gay drama opened in April 1968 and became a commercial hit, running until September 1970. Midway through that run, the gay liberation movement was accelerated overnight—the night of June 27, 1969, to be precise—by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn. In a way, Boys went from contemporary drama to period piece that same night, a snapshot of gay life in the Before Stonewall era.

But as proven by Windy City Playhouse’s engaging new revival—apparently the play’s first Chicago production since About Face Theatre staged it in 1997—there are compelling reasons to keep old snapshots around, so future generations have a window, even a narrow one, into the life their predecessors lived.

William Marquez, Kyle Patrick, Sam Bell-Gurwitz and Denzel Tsopnang

Crowley’s plot centers on a birthday party being hosted by Michael (Jackson Evans), who seems to manage his self-loathing by spending beyond his means, for Harold (Sam Bell-Gurwitz), who’s insecure about his looks and his advanced age (he’s turning 32). Also in attendance are Donald (Jordan Dell Harris), Michael’s confidante and conscience; Hank (Ryan Reilly) and Larry (James Lee), a new couple still negotiating the boundaries of their relationship; Bernard (Denzel Tsopnang), a dapper charmer who’s all too aware he’s the group’s only Black member; and the effusively effiminate Emory (William Marquez), who’s bought Harold a birthday present in the form of a prettyboy hustler (Kyle Patrick).

It’s all good, bitchy fun for a while; the various intragroup tensions (and there are plenty) manifest in craftily catty remarks pitched back and forth over cocktails. Crowley’s bon mots don’t quite make him the Oscar Wilde of the 1960s, but he has a way with a campy insult (or skillfully redeploys those he’s picked up from others).

But then a sharp outside stressor arrives in the form of Alan (Christian Edwin Cook), Michael’s ostensibly straight college chum who shows up, unexpected and nearly unannounced, just as four of the boys are rehashing an old dance routine. The air goes still as the gay men clock the presence of a stranger in their midst. As Crowley’s dialogue sometimes clunkily spells out for the presumed benefit of ’68 straights, vice cops of the time regularly raided gay bars and ran sting operations at bathhouses, and being arrested for simply congregating was a real potential threat.

Christian Edwin Cook

The presence of Alan, who’s come to seek advice from Michael about some never-explained trouble with his marriage, unnerves everyone—most of all Michael, who had pledged not to drink but starts refilling his glass with straight gin instead of club soda. Alan, struggling with untold internal conflict over having found himself among a group of avowed homosexuals, physically attacks Emory, the greatest threat to his sense of masculinity. And in the aftermath, Michael—now in full Mean Drunk mode—initiates an ad hoc party game designed to immiserate his so-called friends.

(Boys owes a clear and clearly acknowledged debt to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which premiered just six years earlier. The heavily soused party with a game of “get the guests” because misery loves company? All lovingly borrowed from Albee.)

In keeping with Windy City Playhouse’s recent affinity for immersive stagings, director Carl Menninger’s production places the audience inside Michael’s apartment, seated on benches built into the outer walls and inside the sunken conversation pit at the center of the room.

William Boles’s set magically accommodates the extra space this requires without making the apartment feel ridiculously cavernous (though we are meant to intuit that Michael can’t afford his rent). To make us feel even more like part of the festivities, bartenders periodically bring around trays of drinks and hors d’oeuvres without interrupting the action. (If the ticket prices feel a little steep, know that they include a light bite and two rounds of cocktails.)

The cast is generally terrific, with extra points to Evans for keeping Michael sympathetic even at his worst moments, and to Harris for infusing interest into a character who’s written as a bit of a cipher.

If anyone stands out in the wrong way, it’s Bell-Gurwitz’s Harold, an outside observer at his own party who speaks entirely in proclamations. But that’s not the actor’s fault; I think it’s baked into the writing. Tony Kushner, in an introduction to the 40th-anniversary edition of the script, describes Harold as “the play’s deus ex machina… he seems to come from another world—maybe the future.”

Jackson Evans and William Marquez

Elsewhere in the same essay, Kushner calls The Boys in the Band “the first homosexual play intended for general audiences.” Even establishment critics at the time of its debut seemed to recognize this. Clive Barnes, the New York Times’ chief critic in 1968, wrote that “the point is that this is not a play about a homosexual, but a play that takes the homosexual milieu, and the homosexual way of life, totally for granted and uses this as a valid basis of human experience. Thus it is a homosexual play, not a play about homosexuality.”

Barnes’s review was greatly admiring of the play, even as it also contans some casual epithets and questionable attitudes. But that reflects the “homosexual milieu” of the time. Straight society was beginning to publicly recognize that the gay community existed, but it wasn’t happy about it. Just two years earlier, in 1966, Time magazine had published an essay on “The Homosexual in America” that acknowledged that “homosexuals are present in every walk of life” but presented this as a problem to be solved, “a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life… a pernicious sickness.”

At a key juncture near the end of The Boys in the Band, Harold suggests Michael views himself that same way. “You are a sad and pathetic man,” Harold says. “You’re a homosexual, and you don’t want to be. But there is nothing you can do to change it.”

By October 1969, months after Stonewall and a year and a half into the play’s hit run, Time put a slightly more evenhanded assessment of gay culture on its cover. By 1975, it was covering the gay rights movement as straight news. Then came Harvey Milk. Then the AIDS crisis. And then. And then. And then. And now.

Maybe Harold really was from the future. Seeing The Boys in the Band in 2020 feels a bit like looking at a snapshot of the moment before a movement was born; this worthwhile revival is a bracingly vivid print.


The Boys in the Band

Windy City Playhouse (3014 W Irving Park Rd). By Mart Crowley. Directed by Carl Menninger.

Cast: Jackson Evans (Michael), Jordan Dell Harris (Donald), William Marquez (Emory), Ryan Reilly (Hank), James Lee (Larry), Denzel Tsopnang (Bernard), Christian Edwin Cook (Alan), Kyle Patrick (Cowboy), Sam Bell-Gurwitz (Harold).

Designers: William Boles (scenic), Erik S. Barry (lighting), Uriel Gomez (costumes), Sarah D. Espinoza (sound), Mealah Heidenreich (props/set dressing), Max Fabian (violence/intimacy design). Stage manager: Jenniffer Thusing.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes; no intermission. Through April 19. Tickets ($75–$95) at windycityplayhouse.com.

Photographs by Michael Brosilow.


Questions or feedback for me? Reply to this email, or if you’re reading this on the web, hit me at kris@krisvire.com or find me on Twitter @krisvire. Subscribers can also leave public comments on the web version of the newsletter; click the headline above or the links at the bottom of this post.

SR review: “Bug” at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Tracy Letts’s flesh-crawling comic thriller rides a timely wave of suspicion in a superb new production

Theater review by Kris Vire

Here’s how stealthily David Cromer’s new production of Bug creeps up on you: Midway through the play’s first scene, at the moment when Agnes (Carrie Coon) and Peter (Namir Smallwood) are first alone together, walls of plastic sheeting suddenly appear from the void surrounding Takeshi Kata’s dingy motel-room set.

That’s how I experienced it, anyway, even as I immediately started questioning my own perception. Wait, was that there before?, my brain said. I could have sworn that was empty space. Ultimately I decided it must have been a trick of Heather Gilbert’s brilliantly nuanced lighting design—that, or my mind was playing tricks on me.

And that’s exactly the space that Tracy Letts’s deeply unsettling comic thriller wants to put you in. Coon’s hard-living Agnes, a long-term resident at this Oklahoma motel, spends most of her waitressing tips on hard liquor and crack cocaine to numb her hard-earned pain. (If the play was set today, Agnes’s drug of choice might be meth, but Letts wrote Bug in 1996.) Peter is an intense young drifter—and, we soon learn, a veteran of the first Gulf War—who stops by for a drink with Agnes’s best friend R.C. (a delightfully blowsy Jennifer Engstrom), and stays behind when R.C.’s called away.

As Agnes and Peter tentatively connect over the next few days—and as Peter provides a needed buffer to protect against Agnes’s freshly paroled dirtbag ex, Goss (Steve Key)—it seems as though these two damaged souls might be good for one another.

And then Peter finds a bug.

He wakes up thrashing in bed, claiming to have been bitten by something—“like an aphid,” he says, as he frantically strips the bed to find it. When he does, Agnes can’t see anything at first; soon, however, she’s going along with his insistence that they have an infestation. Agnes picks up Peter’s itch.

Peter’s paranoia seems to grow exponentially, manifesting in weeping sores on his body and manic theorizing about the government conspiracy that’s burrowed under his skin. Smallwood, a rising star at Steppenwolf, is simply remarkable here. His initial soft-spoken placidity can be interrupted by the slightest bump—the rumble of the air conditioner coming to life, the chirp of a possible cricket—that seem to pierce his aura like a pebble hitting the water, causing a momentary ripple of fear and rage.

As Peter submits further and further to the depths, Smallwood skillfully turns up the dial until he fully commands the room. It’s almost easy to understand why Agnes allows herself to be pulled under with him; Coon doesn’t so much play her character’s grief and loneliness as she exudes it.

Cromer’s perfectly paced revival couldn’t have asked for better timing. Monday night’s opening performance coincided with the extraordinary meltdown of the Iowa caucuses, whose many irregularities led some Democratic campaigns to allege malpractice; Twitter boiled over with cries of collusion against one candidate or another. And as I write this on Thursday morning, the president is giving a meandering post-impeachment press conference alleging criminal activity by a long list of his personal enemies.

There’s a thick fog of suspicion in the air. And so you can see the appeal of marking it all up to the manipulations of shadowy forces. Letts cannily brings us down that tempting path. Late in the play, there’s a shift, marked by a scene change so audacious that it earned a deserved round of applause on opening night, followed by the arrival of a doctor (Randall Arney) whose behavior is odd enough to make us wonder if he’s real.

It’s as if, like Agnes, we’ve been pulled into Peter’s delusions. And here Smallwood returns to preternatural calm as he coaches Coon’s spiraling Agnes through Peter’s grand unifying theory. Unlikely as it is, it seems to bring her some relief. In a world full of uncertainty and pain, it would be comforting to connect all the dots.

[Read my interview with Carrie Coon and Tracy Letts at Chicago magazine.]


Bug

Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1650 N Halsted St). By Tracy Letts. Directed by David Cromer.

Cast: Carrie Coon (Agnes White), Namir Smallwood (Peter Evans), Steve Key (Jerry Goss), Jennifer Engstrom (R.C.), Randall Arney (Dr. Sweet).

Designers: Takeshi Kata (scenic), Heather Gilbert (lighting), Sarah Laux (costumes), Josh Schmidt (sound), Matt Hawkins (fight choreographer), Tonia Sina (intimacy choreographer). Assistant director/dramaturg: Sydney Charles. Stage manager: Christine D. Freeburg.

Running time: 2 hours; one intermission. Through March 15. Tickets ($20–$125) at steppenwolf.org.

Photographs by Michael Brosilow.


Questions or feedback for me? Reply to this email, or if you’re reading this on the web, hit me at kris@krisvire.com or find me on Twitter @krisvire. Subscribers can also leave public comments on the web version of the newsletter; click the headline above or the links at the bottom of this post.

“Emma” Mia! Why’s your cast all white?

SR Digest #25–January 7, 2020

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a Teen Vogue essay floating around social media about the all-white casting of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. The author argued that Gerwig’s new film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel missed an opportunity for positive racebending, suggesting the role of Laurie (played by Timothée Chalamet) could have been given to an actor of color.

I found the author’s case a little weak—which isn’t to say there’s not an argument to be made for diversifying period pieces on screen, just that this writer didn’t make it very well. But I took the opportunity to reflect on how much better theater has become on this front than film and television.

And it was true! It may have been a long, slow process going back to Greg Mosher’s Goodman Theatre casting Black actors in Ibsen in the late ’70s and losing subscribers over a Black Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol 1984 (a development that rated a story in The New York Times!). But I would really have to sit and think and comb through my archives to remember the last time I saw a stage production of Shakespeare, or Dickens, or any of the Greeks, or Thornton Wilder, or Jane Austen, or any so-called classic in which race wasn’t a central theme, that didn’t have an intentionally multiracial cast. It had become a matter of course in the theater, I thought.

And then I took a closer look at the casting announcement for Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s upcoming production of Emma.

What a way to kick off 2020.

I swear that I do not get any great enjoyment out of ragging on Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s casting issues. I was actually proud of the company a few months ago for giving a title role in a mainstage Shakespeare production to a Chicago-based actor for the first time in three and a half years. (It was just one of the two title roles in Romeo and Juliet, lest you get too excited; Juliet was from out of town.)

But I truly cannot understand how an institution the size of Chicago Shakes could, in this day and age and in this climate, assemble an all-white cast of 14 for a musical adaptation of a Jane Austen novel—to be helmed by the company’s founding artistic director!—without anyone at any point saying, “This looks weird.”

It’s a talented collection of actors, to be sure. (At least the 11 out of 14 I’m familiar with. The requisite three leads cast out of New York, of course, I have zero knowledge of.) But looked at as a whole, this is a bizarrely retrograde way to kick off a brand-new decade in Chicago theater.

And the icing on this particular cake, which I discovered only as I’m writing this newsletter: CST’s website features Founders Brewing as the “official beverage partner” for this all-white production of Emma.

Which, just, seriously, you have to be putting me on.


Reviews!

I was in such a crunch to get my best of the 2010s list out last week before the decade actually ended that I forgot to include links to my recent Sun-Times reviews, so here you go:

Photograph: Austin D. Oie

Theo Ubique’s revival of Working, based on the Studs Terkel book, can’t help but feel dated, but I admire Christopher Chase Carter’s staging and his excellent cast. Read the full review here.

Photograph: Michael Brosilow

I loved Clare Barron’s Dance Nation at Steppenwolf so much that I nearly cleared a space on last week’s best-of-the-decade list for it. It’s an uproarious, irreverent, and insightful look at American adolescence that surprised me at every turn.

And despite what other reviewers might tell you, it is not a play about life in East Liverpool, Ohio, nor does it ever suggest that it intends to be! I’d also suggest that when you see someone tell you that “Steppenwolf used to be about something different,” you ask them to be specific about what they think Steppenwolf used to be about. Misogyny? Toxic masculinity? All-white casts?

Happy new decade, y’all!


Questions or feedback for me? Reply to this email, or if you’re reading this on the web, hit me at kris@krisvire.com or find me on Twitter @krisvire. You can also leave public comments on the web version of the newsletter; click the headline above or the links at the bottom of this post.

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