After what I thought was a dismaying year in 2013, Chicago theater bounced back with impressive aplomb this year. There were a lot of world premieres (some much readier for primetime than others), fresh voices and story-telling, searing examinations of America and the world, lots and lots and LOTS of Sondheim, a 12-hour adaptation of all 32 existing Greek tragedies, and exemplary work from a host of renowned artists, from celebrated actors such as Michael Cera and Sandra Oh to award-winning directors like Joe Mantello and Chicago’s pride, incoming Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna Shapiro to exciting, ascendant playwrights like Marcus Gardley and Lisa L’Amour and exciting, established playwrights like Rebecca Gilman and Bruce Norris. Then of course there was The Evil Dead: The Musical. Chicago theater in 2014 had something for every theatergoer out there, from discerning to indifferent and back. Here then is the eight edition of my best theater productions of the year. Read the rest of this entry »
As I’ve previously mentioned on this blog, I saw my first play at 10 years old when I was growing up in Manila, thanks to my mom who loved musical theater with a passion. Since then I’ve continued to be entranced by the magic and inspiration of live theater, literally having seen thousands of plays in my roughly two scores and change on this planet. Although theatergoing is embedded deep into my DNA, of course I’ve had some nights over the years as well when I’ve asked myself that split second before the lights dimmed, shouldn’t I just be at home eating greasy egg rolls in my comfy “I Survived the Coldest Minnesota Winter in a Hundred Years- 1995” sweatshirt, binge-watching Built (for those of you who think the Shahs of Sunset is the name of a falafel food truck, Built is a Style Channel TV show were male models work as handymen during the day, sort of like the ultimate gay porn movie without the porn)? Frankly, sometimes I feel like going to the theater is a chore (and if it’s a play by Sarah Ruhl an unbearable root canal). Then I see a play that is so thrilling and enjoyable and wistfully beautiful that I’m strikingly reminded why I fell in love with theater all those years ago. Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult, currently onstage at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater invaluable World’s Stage series in a regrettably limited run, is one of the most perfect nights that you can spend in the theater, filled with music, dance, movement, imaginative staging and entrancing story-telling, a show both poignant and warm-blooded; it is an extraordinary experience that proves why theater is first among equals in the performing arts.