Chicago – theater town!

Chicago, Theater Add comments

As a fervent theatre lover, I sometimes have to pinch myself when I see the extensive theatre coverage in the Chicago Tribune and Timeout Chicago, and realize how much interesting, creative, world-class theatre I have at my doorstep.  There is absolutely no other city in the US, other than New York City, where this extensive array of theatrical experiences are available in any given night.  You can literally see a play a day (and two on the weekends when there are matinees) given the staggering amount of choices. This week, for example, you can pick among the following:

- Sarah Ruhl’s ambitious, monumental, provocative “Passion Play” which despite being messy and chaotic at points in its three hour and 45 minute running time, and inspite of some incomprehensible giant fish imagery and gratuitous full frontal male nudity (hey, I am not complaining though!) is a phenomenal, risky attempt to illuminate the self-serving relationships between politics and religion;

- Avant-garde royalty Joanne Akalaitis, Caryl Churchill, and Seneca collaborate for a crazy, memorable night of theatrical violence and sibling rivalry in the Court Theatre’s “Thyestes”.  If the exaggerated movements of the actors and some perplexing singsong delivery do not drive audiences out of the Court, then Akalaitis’ smell-o-rama tactics of flooding the theatre with the smell of beef and onions while the horrific killing and eating of Thyestes’s children are recounted will.  This is a shame because it is one hell of an exciting provocateur of a show.

- Gary Griffin and Ana Gasteyer, fresh off their Broadway forays in “The Color Purple” and “The Threepenny Opera” respectively, collaborate on a beautifully staged, intensely sung and acted production of Sondheim’s much misunderstood musical, “Passion”.  See my previous blog entry!

- Speaking of Broadway, Anna Shapiro, whose fantastic Chicago production of “August:  Osage County” is transferring intact to New York later this month, has mounted a frenzied, must-not-miss, not-your-grandfather’s “The Crucible” as the Steppenwolf season-opener.  James Vincent Meredith, in a brilliant stroke of casting, anchors the piece with a riveting John Proctor. (Take that, Daniel Day-Lewis!)

- Nilaja Sun has brought her acclaimed “No Child…” which was the sensation of the last off-Broadway season to Chicago and has reaped the same ecstatic praise here.

- And all the new work that we are privileged to see before they go on to productions elsewhere:  Brett Neveu’s “Weapon of Mass Impact”, Keith Huff’s “A Steady Rain”, Mia McCullough’s “Spare Change”, Eric Rosen’s “Wedding Play”…the list goes on. 

The best thing about all of this is that you can see many of these plays for 20 bucks or less (which is roughly equivalent to a week of daily Starbucks iced soymilk latte no foam two splenda).  I am baffled by the fact that given the amount of artistic offerrings in the city and how reasonably priced much of them are, many Chicagoans still opt to spend their Saturday afternoons and evenings at…uhmmm…Kirkwood’s. Especially since our New York cousins are being conned into paying stratospheric prices for their theatre tickets…those prices are becoming so unreasonable, very soon, they’ll be expecting “extras” with it…see this hilarious blog entry from Rob Kozlowski:  http://robkozlowski.blogspot.com/2007/10/broadway-and-fellatio.html

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