On stage in Chicago: Dead cats and Irish playwrightsPosted: November 14, 2014
I’ve written about films and filmmakers a lot lately but I have seen a few interesting plays as well. Here are some quick reviews and links to my Gapers Block reviews.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Aston Rep
You can see this Martin McDonagh play through November 23. And it’s worth your time to head north on Clark Street to Raven Theatre’s venue just north of Peterson. The setting is the island of Inishmore in Galway in 1993 and a little background in Irish history helps. I included some background in my review, in which I gave the play four stars—a highly recommended rating.
Here’s how my Gapers Block review begins:
“Four dead fellas, two dead cats … me hairstyle ruined! Did I miss anything?”
That’s the culmination of Martin McDonagh’s grisly black comedy, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, now being crisply staged by Aston Rep at the Raven Theatre.
A Bright Room Called Day by Spartan Theatre Company
This early Tony Kushner play also runs through November 23 at CIC Theatre on Irving Park Road. I was eager to see this because I admire Kushner’s writing. And poetic language and intriguing political comments do illuminate this story, set in 1932-33 Berlin. It was the end of the Weimar Republic and the beginning of Hitler’s National Socialism. Unfortunately, Kushner inserts 1982 interludes in which a contemporary woman castigates the Reagan administration and compares it to the Hitler era. I’m no fan of Ronald Reagan but this was more than a little overwrought. I also thought the two-act play ran too long at 2.5 hours. All in all, I couldn’t give this production more than two stars—somewhat recommended.
Nevertheless, you may find it interesting. The Berlin scenes and the developing political awareness of the artists who populate those scenes are compelling. The devil and the ghost character plus the strident 1982 commenter…not so much.
In my review, I commented, “there are usually reasons why a rarely performed play is rarely performed. A Bright Room Called Day is such an example. Even Shakespeare wrote a few turkeys.”
The Night Alive at Steppenwolf Theatre
This Conor McPherson play runs thru this weekend at Steppenwolf. You can see it through Sunday, November 16. I’ve rhapsodized before here and here about how much I like Irish playwrights and writers. Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson are two of my favorites. The Night Alive is a shining example.
The Night Alive is a lovely play about caring for others, about both good and bad people. There’s poetic language that would seem inappropriate if it wasn’t coming from Irish characters. The play is beautifully acted and sharply directed. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, I can recommend this highly.
I didn’t write a formal review of this, but I will be reviewing McPherson’s Shining City in early December at the Irish Theatre of Chicago (formerly Seanachai Theatre).
Don Juan in Hell at Shaw Chicago
Shaw Chicago produces “reader theater” versions of plays by another great Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, and occasionally his compatriots. Some of the productions utilize costumes and makeup but the staging is always actors with their scripts on music stands. They produced an excellent version of Don Juan in Hell, a ~90-minute excerpt from Shaw’s Man and Superman. You can check out my review here: The Devil Wore Red Sneakers.
Watch for their future productions of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Shaw’s Major Barbara.