There are one-person shows in which a performer impersonates a colorful or historical individual, like Mark Twain, Harry Truman, Emily Dickinson or Clarence Darrow. Then there are solo performances in which an actor presents personal autobiographical storytelling, such as Chazz Palminteri's A Bronx Tale. 16th Street Theater's new production, Empanada for a Dream, written and performed by Juan Francisco Villa, is poignant and passionate example of the latter.
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, the new production at Open Door Theater, begins as an antagonistic relationship between two very strong-willed people. Though repetitious and predictable, the two-character comedy by Richard Alfieri, is also a tender study of intimacy and loneliness. Its director, Charlie McGrath, keeps things moving.
To say that The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs by Mike Daisey is a theatrical monologue about labor abuses makes it sound like some stodgy, muckraking lecture from a century ago. Far from it. This lively, controversial one-man show is eye-opening and spell-binding.
Small, just in time for election season, provides behind-the-scenes insight into politics — especially fictional Illinois politics. Much of the action takes place in a wood-paneled private room in The Snug, a Loop pub with a Celtic atmosphere that's a favorite watering hole for plotting politicians and their underlings.
Watching three men chained to a wall all evening may not sound particularly compelling. But Oak Park Festival Theatre's new production of the 1992 play Someone Who'll Watch Over Me by Irish dramatist Frank McGuinness is tightly staged and strongly performed.
It may not be everyone's cup of tea but I laughed my head off at the new production of the 1992 comedy Dearly Departed at Circle Theatre. There's not really a true storyline but rather an assortment of hilarious character sketches built around a lot of goofy down-home folks who are gathering for a family funeral.
I'd seen this show twice before. About 20 years ago, Marvin's Room played in the same theater building, produced by another company. In my memory, that production seemed like a soap opera, stuffed with diseases, physical and emotional, but was not particularly funny.
Circle Theatre's new production, Reefer Madness, is hilarious and engaging, with top-notch performances, lots of high-energy singing, well-executed dance numbers, innovative staging, and crisp direction by Matthew Gunneis. The large, lively cast goes all-out for maximum fun.
Oak Park Festival Theatre's absorbing new outdoor production of Shakespeare's Richard III is lucid, lively and rapid-paced. There's humor and horror, thrilling swordplay, and vivid performances. Kevin Theis gives a mesmerizing, nuanced performance in the challenging title role — the hunchback who would be king.