If you're of a certain age, you may remember when George Orwell's short satiric work Animal Farm was a staple on most required high school reading lists. An inventive and intense version of English author Orwell's 1945 fable, adapted by Nelson Bond, is now playing at the Madison Street Theatre, formerly known for five decades as "Village Players."
Our local theater world is expanding. If you have not yet discovered the 16th Street Theater in nearby Berwyn, now's your chance to treat yourself to a smart, lively show, The Crowd You're In With, by Rebecca Gilman. I was happy to learn about and thrilled to finally experience this wonderful theater in our neighboring community.
Oak Park Festival Theatre's new production of "Henry V," performed outdoors in Austin Gardens, is spellbinding and powerful. Tightly and intensely directed by Kevin Theis, all of the 21 cast members bring talent and clarity to their roles.
If you're not familiar with The Women, Clare Booth Luce's 1936 campy comedy of manners currently in revival at Circle Theatre, you might expect a show with an all-female cast to make at least a few feminist statements. Not!
Shakespeare's history plays are never as well-known, or performed as often, as his comedies and tragedies. That's why it's so exciting that Oak Park Festival Theatre's current production is a fusing of both parts of Henry IV. This solid new adaptation makes for vigorous, crowd-pleasing entertainment, though near the end, the 3-hour evening (with one intermission) can feel unwieldy, even blurry.
I'm fascinated by people who wear a variety of hats. Do you know Oak Park native, lawyer and actor Kevin Bry? He has appeared in numerous local productions over the past decade. Bry has also written several original dramatic works, including Our Village, a historical epic which recreates the exhilarating story of Oak Park, beginning in the earliest pioneer days.
Lately musicals seem determined to never appear too smart or too eloquent. Not willing to alienate the lucrative tourist trade, Broadway has recently recycled a seemingly endless slew of old movies, TV shows and even comic books in musical form. That's why it's a special joy to experience Circle Theatre's new production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music.
I've watched way too many movies, so I couldn't help noting the similarity between Oak Park Festival Theatre's dynamic new production of Brian Friel's Faith Healer and Rashomon, a Japanese classic directed by Akira Kurosawa. In the 1950 film, widely different accounts of a crime are reported by four witnesses.
Circle Theatre's new production, The Man Who Came To Dinner, is hardly a new play. It opened on Broadway 72 years ago in 1939. Written by the team of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, this zany old comedy is still full of laughs. It's also delightfully dated — in a good way. The play is an enduring, cohesive period piece, a charming glimpse into a time just before World War II.
We seldom review "out-of-town" productions in these pages, but there's an eloquent, gentle new show that just opened on the Near West Side that's been launched by lots of our fellow community members, and it's definitely worth checking out.