What Lies Beneath

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atc the humansWe’re very fortunate that Chicago has become quite the incubator of new plays for the national theater scene. But that’s a double-edged sword: as I’ve said on this blog over the years and over at the Twitterverse, many of the new plays we Chicago theater-lovers see are truly new plays, needing rewriting, editing, tightening, and improving based on how a playwright sees and hears his or her words performed by actors and received by live audiences for the first time.  Sometimes though we get lucky and come across an August: Osage County or an Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, fully-formed and perfectly-realized works, but they do come far and few between. Most of the time, we’re suffering (quietly and heroically because we do love supporting new work!) through something like Ask Aunt Susan.  Several years ago, I was blown away by American Theater Company’s world premiere of Dan LeFranc’s luminous The Big Meal which traced the life, loves, and heartbreaks of a middle-class American family. It went on to raves off-Broadway but seeing that play without any knowledge of previous productions was exciting for me.  Lightning can strike twice it seems, since ATC is at it again with another superb world premiere of a family drama, Stephen Karam’s achingly beautiful The Humans which will receive a New York production in Roundabout Theater’s 2015 season. This is a great, memorable production directed by ATC Artistic Director PJ Papparelli, and you should be able to tell your pesky New York theater aficionado friends that you’ve seen it first. Because I can bet you they will run to get tickets for it, and love it as much as you do.

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Women on the Verge

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court iphigenia in aulisIf you’ve been around these blog parts for years, you’d know I’ve outed myself as an inveterate lover of Greek tragedies years ago. One of the most indelible and enriching cultural experiences I’ve had this year (as well as within the past five years), was The Hypocrites’ All Our Tragic, the 12-hour adaptation of all 32 existing Greek plays staged earlier this summer which reinforced for me the fact that all the stories I love and admire right now, from my guilty pleasure How to Get Away with Murder (doesn’t the flawed Annaliese Keating have uhmm, buckets, of Antigone’s stubbornness and ferociousness?) to box-office sensation Gone Girl (isn’t Nick Dunne as clueless and isolated as Oedipus?) can trace their roots back to the dramatic convolutions and character motivations of the Greek tragedies.  (Full disclosure: I am a Board Member of The Hypocrites and have chosen not to write about the critically-acclaimed All Our Tragic because of my role with the theater). So if there’s a Greek classic playing somewhere in Chicago, for the most part I’m there faster than anyone can say The Furies.  So last week I was at Court Theatre for its production of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis in a new translation by its former Artistic Director Nicholas Rudall and directed by its current Artistic Director Charles Newell, set to kick-off a three-year cycle of Greek texts about the House of Atreus (Rudall’s new translations of Aeschylus’ Agammemnon and Sophocles’ Elektra will be staged in subsequent seasons).  Iphigenia in Aulis is intense and riveting with some stellar acting, so it was definitely worth the trek to Hyde Park for this Chicago northsider; however, I’m somewhat perplexed by some elements of Newell’s production which in my view dilutes some of Euripides’ powerful playwriting.

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