Dead Writers’ “The Importance of Being Ernest” Is The Perfect Balance of Folly

Reviewed by: Stacey L. Crawley

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Oscar Wilde shows his wit and charm in his ‘trivial comedy for serious people,’ The Importance of Being Ernest, now playing at the Athenaeum TheatreIn this comic masterpiece presented by the Dead Writers Theatre Collective, bad timing is well timed. One-liners spark laughter from the audience throughout and the impressive cast delivers a sharp, witty take on this endearing classic. Read more

The Unfortunates Is Powerfully Realistic

Reviewed By: Stacey L. Crawley

Highly Recommended

Aoise Stratford’s The Unfortunates is the story of one woman’s struggle through the violence and atrocities that women faced in 1800’s Victorian London. It shows us the plight of Mary Jane Kelly, the prostitute believed to be the final victim of Jack the Ripper. Kelly, played by Gail Rastorfer, recounts her life as one of the ‘unfortunate’ women, growing up poor and being forced into a life of prostitution. The story is told through a one-on-one conversation between Kelly and a stranger in the Bells Public House, where she reveals her life story of how she went from a housewife in a Welsh mining town to a desperate prostitute turning tricks in the London’s East End. Although opportunity from generous clients has taken her as far as Paris, presently she hasn’t even enough to pay rent. Read more

Honest Theatre’s “Two Rooms” Gives Quite A View

Highly Recommended

Reviewed by: S. L. Crawley

Two Rooms, written by Lee Blessing, is a love story doomed by terrorist forces. The wife of a hostage taken by political terrorists, Lainie (Kelly Helgeson) struggles to cope with the harsh reality that her husband Michael (Britain Willcock) may not make it out alive. Although originally written in 1988, Blessing’s play is still very much relevant in today’s world of war and terror. Read more

Goodman Theatre’s THE MATCHMAKER Is A Masterpiece

Highly Recommended

Reviewed by: Stacey L. Crawley

The Goodman Theatre’s “The Matchmaker,” a romantic farce directed by Henry Wishcamper, follows love liaison Dolly Gallagher Levi (Tony Award Nominee Kristine Nielsen) who plans to match herself with wealthy widower Horace Vandergelder (Allen Gilmore). Vandergelder has retained Dolly’s services to find him a suitable mate, and she takes every opportunity to secure her place by his side. The show is funny and joyous with witty monologues and great female characters for the period. Read more

REVIEW: About Face Theatre’s AFTER ALL THE TERRIBLE THINGS I DO

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Highly Recommended

Reviewed by: Stacey L. Crawley

Stories of bullying and harassment are ubiquitous. Division and violence seem commonplace, whether it’s in the home or on the schoolyard. We often hear of teens committing suicide because of being bullied. We treasure the idea of what a “normal” kid should be, but being gay, unfortunately, does not fit this definition, ensuring that an LGBT teen is never more than a few footsteps from tragedy. Read more

42nd STREET Delivers with Delight

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Highly Recommended

Stacey L. Crowley

Culturally, we can see 42nd Street as an unglossed look at the tough realities of backstage life. The crisp dialogue, street-wise cracks, charm, humor and a most likable cast of characters make us care about these struggling performers.

The story revolves around the young and naïve Peggy Sawyer (Caitlin Ehlinger), a true talent with a wonderful voice and unparalleled dance moves who has come to New York to make her Broadway debut. Famed director Julian Marsh (Matthew J. Taylor) has fallen on hard times during the depression and launches a comeback campaign with an ambitious new musical “Pretty Lady”.  After an impromptu routine with some of the other dancers, Marsh decides to hire Peggy for the chorus. Meanwhile, the famous Dorothy Brock (Kaitlin Lawrence), a prima donna with a penchant for complaining, slips into the cast as the leading lady because her sugar daddy Abner Dillion (Mark Fishback) is financing the whole thing.

Dorothy gets injured accidentally by Peggy, who winds up taking over the lead role to save the show and the jobs for the hard working “kids in the line.” The show has heart and moxie.  The sets designed by Beowulf Boritt are stunning and elaborate, complementing the eye-popping costume designs by Roger Kirk. The pit musicians actually had a reference during the proceedings and played the beautiful score to perfection under the direction of Music Director J. Michael Duff. Mark Bramble’s direction set the perfect pace, keeping us engaged while the music kept our toes tapping. This show is fantastic, high-energy, beautifully danced and sung – leaving you singing the songs and tapping your feet long after the shows over.

42nd Street is playing now through March 20th. For tickets or more information visit BroadwayinChicago.com

 

 

IF/THEN Is A Heartfelt But Messy Musical

Anthony Rapp & Jackie Burns in IF THEN - Photo by Joan Marcus

Recommended

Reviewed by: Stacey L. Crawley

Capturing the pathos of life, If/Then is an emotionally transparent musical that follows two distinct storylines for Elizabeth (Jackie Burns), who works as a city planner and moves back to Manhattan to start over after a failed marriage in a city with many possibilities. The show reunites composer Tom Kitt and book writer lyricist Brian Yorkey who were behind “Next to Normal.”

We open with our protagonist meeting her old college friend Lucas (Anthony Rapp), who is an activist, and Kate (Tamyra Gray), a kindergarten teacher. We are then introduced to the dual personas with “Beth” going off with Lucas, while “Liz” hangs around the park. The only difference is “Liz” wears glasses and “Beth” does not. It’s confusing a first, but once the clarity comes through you’re able to keep the stories straight. With it’s amazing set and great pacing, I didn’t mind that it was a bit hokey at times.

The actors give committed performances, and their singing had emotional range.  It was hard to swallow Manhattan as this crime-free wonderland and it definitely needs more irony and humor to sell the audience. It’s safe to say that you’ll enjoy this heartfelt musical, even if the plot is a bit messy – albeit clever.

If/Then runs through March 6, 2016 at the Oriental Theatre.  Visit BroadwayinChicago.com for tickets and more information.

 

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