Welcome Wintry March

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our-town-warming-up-new-york.jpgIs it March already?  It seems like I spent most of the first quarter that is about to end waiting in tundra-like winter weather for the Brown line to get me to and from the Goodman Theater.  Although I’m out of town this weekend, and will have to miss the final entry in the brilliant Eugene O’Neill Festival, the Neo-Futurists’ four and a half hour production of Strange Interlude directed by Greg Allen, I have to say that the Festival is an unqualified success.  This city owes a tremendous amount of gratitude to Bob Falls and the Goodman staff for enriching our artistic lives permanently, and here’s hoping to more world-class theater in the future!

While terrific theater groups such as the Wooster Group, Companhia Triptal, and the magnificent-beyond-words Toneelgroep Amsterdam were entrancing Chicago audiences, a Chicago export was doing the same thing to those proud, jaded, been-there-seen-that New York audiences.  David Cromer’s astounding Our Town, which was my number one best live performance of 2008, originally produced by the Hypocrites in the spring, and remounted in the fall, opened off-Broadway last week.  With almost half of the New York ensemble made up of its Chicago cast, including Cromer as the Stage Manager and Hypocrites ensemble member Jennifer Grace as Emily Webb, and most of its artistic team intact, too, Our Town at the Barrow Street Theatre opened to mostly rave reviews.  Charles Isherwood, who had seen the production in Chicago and made favorable comments about it in his Times article about Cromer last year, called the New York production “highly rewarding.”  Terry Teachout at the Wall Street Journal called Cromer a “genius” and the production a “re-creative landmark.” Wow!  Score once more for Chicago theater in New York!

No New York theater weekend for me just yet (and really, there isn’t any pressing reason to), but I am off to Washington, DC this weekend for hopefully two nights of magical theater.  First up will be Richard III: An Arab Tragedy at the Kennedy Center, parts of its much-buzzed about cultural festival, “Arabesque:  Arts of the Arab World.”  This Richard III has been re-set in contemporary times in an unnamed Gulf kingdom by the Kuwaiti theater director Sulayman Al-Bassam and his theater company.  Already seen at Stratford as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works Festival, it has already drawn a lot of acclaim from the European theater critics.  After DC, this production travels to New York and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in May. Then, I’m also seeing a production of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer winner A Delicate Balance at Arena Stage, directed by Pam MacKinnon (who was at the Steppenwolf last year directing Good Boys and True), which has the full backing of the usually persnickety Albee.  Peter Marks, the equally prickly Washington Post theater critic (who hated August: Osage County by the way, whatever) has called this production “grown-up theater — the bristling sort that gives a playgoer hope…”.  I’ll be posting on both next week.

March is also going to be busy on the Chicago theater front.  I’m already scheduled to see Art at the Steppenwolf as part of my subscription series (having been underwhelmed by the original Broadway production with Alan Alda and Victor Garber in the late 1990s, I’m curious to see what Rick Snyder and Fran Guinan and company do with this really dramatically thin play); Porchlight Theater‘s Pacific Overtures, with an all-Asian cast, and Mexico’s Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes’ Monsters and Prodigies:  The History of the Castrati (which caused quite a sensation at the Lincoln Center Festival a couple of years back, not because of the castrati but because a live horse jaunts around on stage) at the MCA Stage.   I’m also definitely going to two very contemporary, politically-resonant plays about the Middle East conflict:  Silk Road Theater‘s Pangs of the Messiah by Israeli playwright Motti Lerner, about the reactions of West Bank Jewish settlers to an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement; and Theater Mir‘s Arab-Israeli Cookbook by British playwright Robin Soans about West Bank inhabitants telling their stories through their culinary heritage.  Then there are also Court Theater‘s Wait Until Dark (after a very disappointing Wild Duck, I’m hopeful that the Court will get back it’s game), Mary-Arrchie‘s Bartleby the Scrivener, which is an interesting pick for me, because it’s a rarely-produced theatrical adaptation of Herman Melville’s novella about Wall Street bankers in the 19th century (how apt though for our tumultuous times), and the Goodman’s world premiere of Regina Taylor’s Magnolia, with Annette O’Toole, directed by Tony winner Anna Shapiro, about racial tensions in 1960s Atlanta.  Whew!

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3 Responses to “Welcome Wintry March”

  1. Paul Rekk Says:

    I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to Bartleby despite having some friends in the cast, simply because the recently reconfigured Organic Theatre mounted a such top-notch version just two years ago and then remounted it again last year.

    I understand that it’s near impossible to keep track of everything that gets done here, but unfortunately for Mary Arrchie, I think it’s just too soon to replace Richard Gross as the Bartleby that lives in my mind.

  2. francis Says:

    Thanks for the catch Paul. I didn’t realize Organic produced “Bartleby” recently. It’s hard to keep track of things!

  3. Jason Gorczyca Says:

    I LOVE Albee’s “A Delicate Balance.” I once had a theater coach describe Albee’s work as “drama soaked in booze.” No wonder I like him.

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