Lobby Hero
Milwaukee Chamber Theater

This isn’t the first time Milwaukee Chamber Theater has launched a production of Kenneth Lonergan’s 2001 play, Lobby Hero. But the interpretation of the main character, a security guard whose actions don’t exactly make him a “hero,” is vastly different than what was presented in its original production.

Anne Siegel
Love, Love, Love
Laura Pels Theater

Cheers to Mike Bartlett's critical look at the rise and fall of a generation over the soundtrack of the Beatles' song, "All You Need is Love." Playwright Bartlett examined a generational divide from past and present viewpoints in Charles III. In the Roundabout's dark comic tragedy of Love, Love, Love, he explores the self-centered milieu of the 1960's to the present.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Soldier's Tale, The
Bitef Theater

Although Company Club Guy’s production of The Soldier’s Tale uses Igor Stravinsky’s music, the play should not be confused with either the originally conceived ballet or the subsequently original staged drama. What is alike in the contemporary production staged for the Bitef Festival is that this theater piece combines spoken drama, music, and dance integrally to convey “travel through imaginary yet true events and emotions.”

Marie J. Kilker
The Consul, The Tramp and America’s Sweetheart
Reuben Cordova Theater

The Consul, The Tramp, and America’s Sweetheart, now in its West Coast premiere at Theater 40, is a cousin to Blueprint to Paradise, which ran last summer at Hudson Theater. In that play (based on a true story), we met two Nazis who had come to L.A. in 1940 to confer with a local Hitler-loving businessman on the construction of a building which would house the Fuhrer when he came in triumph to rule over America’s West Coast. John Morogiello’s play, which is also based on fact and unfolds right before WWII, looks at the Nazi influence on L.A.

Willard Manus
UnSilent Night
Next Act Theater

As holiday-themed productions continue to roll into town, a single light is burning brightly at Next Act Theater, which is presenting the world premiere of a new holiday play by local playwrights John Kishline and Edward Morgan. Called UnSilent Night, the show, set in 1953 Milwaukee, takes place entirely in a radio station, where the crew is finishing up its broadcast on Christmas Eve.

Anne Siegel
Freedom
Bitef Theater

Based on the authors/performers’ research trip to Pyongyang, North Korea, their drama, Freedom: The Most Expensive Capitalist World, combined monologues, speeches interactive with the audience (including sales pitches) and with each other, and principally the film of their North Korean experience. They began with the notion that North Korea “is the last remnant of the Cold War” which could be examined as an “enemy” of the West according to stereotypical descriptions and propaganda.

Marie J. Kilker
La Gringa
Batey Urbano

When your present is boring and/or future uncertain, it's easy to muse upon your past. This search for "roots" may be based in recorded lineage, or may reach back centuries to an age/place/tribe/event rendered all the more mythical by the reluctance of immediate relations to share in your obsession. After all, hasn't the promise of North America always been that of putting the old behind and making a fresh start in the new?

Mary Shen Barnidge
King Charles III
Navy Pier

Once upon a time, there was a prince who assumed the throne late in life. Vowing to rule wisely, when his advisors proposed a law violating his conscience, he refused to grant his approval, and when his kingdom's voting body objected, he voided their power, throwing his country into turmoil. The ensuing unrest spurred his elder son to depose the royal sire in order to restore peace and unanimity, while his younger son longed only for an "unpredicted life" with his leftist working-class girl friend.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Screwtape Letters, The
Pearl Theater

C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters,” was first published in serial form and was published as a book in 1942. It’s a brief, apologetic novel exploring Christianity. It takes the form of 31 letters written from an administrative demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a minor demon, Wormwood. Screwtape is guiding Wormwood in the corruption of a human soul, a man known simply as “The Patient”. It’s heavily ironic satire, taking the perspective of evil in exploring the nature of the Christian life and salvation.

Steve Capra
Touch of the Poet, A
Pacific Resident Theater

Thanks to Pacific Resident Theater, we have a rare chance to see Eugene O’Neill’s last completed play, A Touch of the Poet. First written in 1935 as part of an unfulfilled 7-play cycle dealing with the fortunes of two clashing New England families, Poet centers on one of the most vivid characters in all of O’Neill: a vain, swaggering Irishman, Major Cornelius Melody (Matt McKenzie), who had served in Wellington’s army and now, in 1828, was reduced to running a sleazy saloon near Boston.

Willard Manus
Foreigner, The
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Quadracci Powerhouse

Plays typically don’t age like fine wine but, surprisingly, this seems to be the case with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s signature comedy, The Foreigner, by the late Rep playwright/actor Larry Shue. Or perhaps the credit for this thoroughly entertaining production goes to Director Laura Gordon, who takes a restrained approach to some of the play’s more outrageous scenes.

Anne Siegel
Guys and Dolls
Asolo Repertory - Mertz Theater

In a big neon-colored return to Broadway of the 1950s, Asolo Rep’s Guys and Dolls shines brighter than usual in two respects: it’s the leading Dolls who most light up the stage, and it’s the choreography and dancing that illuminate plot and character as much as the iconic songs and vocalizing. With Josh Rhodes in charge, old-favorite routines achieve moments of new sparkle.

Marie J. Kilker
Shrewish
Edge Theater

A Wyrd Sister walks into a bar—one of Macbeth's Wryd Sisters, called "witches" by unreconstructed foozles, to be exact—where she encounters a young man acting like a jerk.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Rutherford's Travels
Chicago Dramatists

Virtually every culture includes in its folklore tales recounting the adventures of social misfits who forsake home and kin to roam the wide world, and in doing so, come to discover their place in the cosmos.

The chief contribution of the North American variety is the significance of nature itself in the hero's journey to maturity. Peer Gynt and Lemuel Gulliver might observe alternative civilizations, but in a nation spanning an entire continent, the role played by wilderness primeval in precipitating mortals to contemplate their legacies is inevitable.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Icebergs
Geffen Playhouse - Gil Cates Theater

A millennial comedy with a vengeance, Icebergs looks at an LA-based showbiz couple who are trying to cope with some major personal and professional problems.

Willard Manus
Apartment 3A
Windy City Playhouse

When a man dwelling in a shabby apartment building located on the fringes of a slated-for-gentrification district is seen always garbed in a sleek Armani suit with a blooming rose in his lapel, even in the wee hours of the morning, we suspect that there might be more to him than meets the eye — and when he eagerly extols the limitless virtues of his never-seen wife, whose job entails frequent travel, we also begin to wonder about her. That her faithful husband appears happy in his long-distance marriage only piques our curiosity further.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Magic Play, The
Goodman Theater

The sleight-of-hand trick dubbed "Sam the Bellhop" (popularized by Chicago magician Frank Everhart) is a tour de force turn requiring the magician to recount a story while simultaneously producing, from a randomly arranged deck, cards representing the characters and their various travels. Andrew Hinderaker's latest play likewise combines classic "close-up" magic with dramatic narrative, integrating the two so inextricably as to render negligible the question of which one determines the other's course of action.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Beauty Queen of Leenane, The
Mark Taper Forum

Bracing and fiery as a shot of Irish whiskey, The Beauty Queen of Leenane direct from the Druid theater company in Galway, where the Martin McDonagh play was first done in 1997. Druid’s current revival is directed by Garry Hynes, the play’s first director, and it stars Druid’s co-founder, actress Marie Mullen, who won a Tony for her work in Beauty Queen when it was done on Broadway in 1998.

Willard Manus
Thank You - I Think
Starlite Room

With their last show of 2016, Starlite Players once again bring original and also prize-winning short plays to a cabaret-type atmosphere. Their four comedies, as advertised, “laugh at life’s twists and surprises” and do so with gusto. It’s always fun to laugh at Starlite plays in a convivial atmosphere, so there was an aura of anticipation of a new year at the opening night of the last show of 2016.

Marie J. Kilker
Falsettos
Walter Kerr Theater

There’s not a show on Broadway with a finer ensemble than Falsettos. Each actor has a gem of a moment, and the audience is constantly dazzled.

What makes up this “Modern Family”? A somewhat ragtag group of friends and family. Jason (Anthony Rosenthal) is a bright, precocious, and, at times, nerdy, boy. His dad, Marvin (Christian Borle) has divorced Trina (Stephanie J. Block), and is in love with boyfriend Whizzer (Andrew Rannells) who doesn’t/does love him.

Michall Jeffers
Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves
Florida Studio Theater - Court Cabaret

In probably the sexiest show in FST cabaret history, Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves, three female performers exemplify the title but with sophisticated twists. Like the sparkling baubles on the blue curtained stage background, they scintillate in an opening medley characterized by its beginning “Shoop Shoop Song” subtitled “It’s In His Kiss.”

FST favorite Jannie Jones leads the trio of Juliana Davis Ditmyer and Southern sweetie Meredith Jones, all in suggestive mode.

Marie J. Kilker
Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas, A
Concordia University - Todd Wehr Auditorium

For something as simple, innocent and beautiful as new-fallen snow, Milwaukee audiences are treated to A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas. The play is being produced by Christian-themed Acadia Theater Company in a university auditorium in a northern Milwaukee suburb.

Anne Siegel
Roads to Home, The
Cherry Lane Theater

What terrific work we see on stage in Primary Stage’s production of Horton Foote’s The Roads to Home, presented at the Cherry Lane Theatre!

Steve Capra
Million Dollar Quartet
Florida Studio Theater - Gompertz Theater

Rock ‘n roll’s not only alive but kickin’ -- maybe more than ever -- in Sarasota, thanks to the Million Dollar Quartet. Florida Studio Theater becomes Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, for the musically historic night of December 4, 1956, when icons-to-be recorded together.

Marie J. Kilker
Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The
The Wild Project

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui isn’t usually considered Brecht’s best play. It’s the complex story of a Chicago gangster who rises to power through control of the vegetable trade. The plot is overly complicated. There’s no hero appearing throughout the play with whom we can identify, as there is in The Good Woman of Setzuan, or Saint Joan of the Stockyards. Brecht fails to involve us either intellectually or emotionally in this play.

Steve Capra
Second Woman, The
Bootleg Theater

The Second Woman by Marissa Chibas explores female aging in a complex, mysterious, and highly intellectual way. Now in a world-premiere production at Bootleg Theater, the two-character drama kicks off with a video segment (shot by John Hawk) which pokes fun at a modern-day rehearsal of Medea. A once-famous actress, Zohra (Chibas), now playing the role of the Nurse, objects to what the snotty young director is doing to the play, tricking her out in an ugly grey wig and telling her to think about “colors and lines” instead of character motivation.

Willard Manus
Waiting for Grace
Odyssey Theater

Sharon Sharth, a veteran stage and film actress, has put her own life on stage in Waiting for Grace, the new comedy now in a world-premiere run at the Odyssey Theatre. Sharth, who also plays the lead role in the production, decided her relationships with men were fit material for a play, one that would tackle the sexual politics of the day in a bold, personal way.

Willard Manus
My Barking Dog
Urbanite Theater

In an allegorical mode, My Barking Dog concerns today’s society and the environment as a problem but with a comic coating. The play begins with monologues by two loners in the same urban apartment building who receive visits by a hungry coyote, probably from a nearby park. From then on, they experience a call of the wild.

Marie J. Kilker
Piano Lesson, The
Hartford Stage

August Wilson (1945-2005), in the “Pittsburgh Cycle,” created ten plays set in the decades from the 1900s to 1990s. Two of the dramas that chronicle generations defined by the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural, agricultural south to the industrial north, earned Pulitzer Prizes. Not in chronological order, the plays started with Jitney (the 1970s) in 1982 and ended with the 1990s and Radio Golf in 2005. He died between its premier and Broadway opening in 2007.

Charles Giuliano
Relativity
TheaterWorks

There are few sure things in American theater, but dramatist Mark St. Germain is one of them. For the past two years he has been included on the New York Times list of most- produced homegrown playwrights, and theaters are lining up to stage his latest play, Relativity. The script was commissioned by the Florida Studio Theater, where it premiered in August. Productions are scheduled for Iowa and Illinois and others in the works. Closer to home, the drama is opening TheaterWorks’ 31st season in a production that stars veteran actor Richard Dreyfuss as Albert Einstein.

Charles Giuliano
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Booth Theater

In Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the endangered aristocracy whiles away the years leading up to the French Revolution with games of seductive manipulations to humiliate and avenge those who did them wrong. While Christopher Hampton's adaption of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos's 1782 epistolary novel has been done before, London's Donmar Warehouse's current production at the Booth Theater brings in two eminent big guns, Janet McTeer and Liev Schreiber, to portray the scheming protagonists. Therein lies the problem.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Book of Days
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cook Theater

Two storms hit the small town of Dublin, Missouri, in Lanford Wilson’s realistically written but stylistically staged Book of Days. One storm is a tornado during which the head of the town’s cheese plant, its economic center, is killed. The other is occurs when its plant bookkeeper, emboldened by her lead in Shaw’s drama about Joan of Arc, begins a search for what she’s convinced is the businessman’s murder and conspiracy behind it.

Marie J. Kilker
Joey Arias is with You
Joe's Pub

The otherworldly sensationalist Joey Arias is an avid experimentalist both off stage and off. I have been told – and my sources do not lie – that the daring chanteuse is up for just about anything. And if there is anything that he has not tried yet, well, rest assured, one way or another, Arias will get around to it. And if you are really lucky he may get around to you, too. Just keep the faith.

Edward Rubin
Resolution
Rivendell

Were it not for its decidedly modern attitude toward a topic until recently couched in silence, audiences might be forgiven thinking that Pride Films and Plays had stumbled upon a lesser-known work by Eugene Scribe or Victorien Sardou, founders of the "well-made" school of drama in the 19th century, or perhaps a stage adaptation of an early 20th-century novel by Edith Wharton or Henry James.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Bottle Tree, The
Theater Wit

Its publicity claims the subject of Beth Kander's The Bottle Tree to be "gun culture"—a summary akin to declaring “To Kill a Mockingbird” a study of Alabama law practice. However titillating it is to speculate on a killer's motives, or emotionally satisfying to weep for slain victims, these options are open only to survivors like those at the center of Kander's contemplative narrative.

Mary Shen Barnidge
How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying
Hobby Center

Ever since its opening on The Great White Way more than half a century ago in 1961, composer Frank Loesser’s witty musical satire on the corporate world of big business has been putting smiles on audience faces around the world. With a clever book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock & Willie Gilbert, and the lengthy title of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, the show succeeds in countless ways in this latest edition currently being presented by Theater Under the Stars in the Sarofim Hall of Houston’s Hobby Center.

David Dow Bentley
Vicuña
Kirk Douglas Theater

Just in time for election day is the world premiere of Jon Robin Baitz’s political comedy, Vicuña, at the Kirk Douglas Theater, directed by Robert Egan. In it, a Donald Trump-like presidential candidate called Kurt Seaman (a swaggering Harry Groener) shows up at the swanky NYC workshop of Anselm Kassar (Brian George), an elderly Iranian-American bespoke tailor, to order a suit he can wear at a crucial TV debate with his Democratic Party opponent.

Willard Manus
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Booth Theater

This may be the perfect play for our times- and that is not a compliment. Les Liaisons Dangereuses is full of moral corruption, dirty dealing, and the most distasteful characters who ever elicited a laugh onstage. If you think rape and cruelty are funny, you’ll find this hilarious.

Michall Jeffers
Daddy Issues
Theater at St. Clement's

In Marshall Goldberg’s play Daddy Issues, a gay man, an actor named Donald, hires a ten-year-old boy to pretend to be his son for the benefit of his family. He’s aided in this deception by two friends, a woman named Henrietta and a male buddy named Levi who has a drag act. In the play’s climactic scene, Mom and Dad and Grandma come to Donald’s apartment to meet the young boy. As in all farce, the characters are no match for the situation, and we watch as comic bit by comic bit Donald is undone.

Steve Capra
Life, A
Playwrights Horizons - Peter Jay Sharp Theater

David Hyde Pierce is lovable. There’s a vulnerability and a wry humor that’s totally endearing; from the moment he steps on stage, the audience is with him. This proves to be almost a liability as the play progresses.

Michall Jeffers

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