Each holiday brings Nutcrackers and Scrooges galore. People buy tickets to these seasonal shows, hoping to create fond memories to share with friends and family. But such productions are often blandly familiar and predictable.
What a thrill! The other night I was a member of the first-ever audience in Open Door Repertory Company's wonderful new theater at 902 S. Ridgeland Ave. in Oak Park. It's their first permanent home after 12 years of providing the community with memorable theater experiences. Many no doubt recall the troupe used to perform on the stage of the Hatch School auditorium, 20 blocks north on Ridgeland.
The Chicago premiere of The Glass Menagerie was a turning point in American theater during the winter of 1944. After a slow, rocky opening, the play finally caught fire, moving on to Broadway where it became the first big hit of a little-known, 33-year-old writer named Tennessee Williams.
I missed their production last winter so I was excited to learn that 16th Street Theater in Berwyn has brought back their successful hit, "The Beats." Directed with flair and focus by Ann Filmer, this show is a thrilling, evocative tribute to the Beat Generation of writers from the 1950s, such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and Gregory Corso.
First off, don't be put off by the uninviting title. Yes, "Urinetown" sounds pretty repulsive, but that's part of the joke. Circle Theatre's new production is a delightfully funny, enormously energetic musical that's fit for the entire family. It's really not about bodily functions but about power, exploitation and love. The coarsest word in the show is "pee."
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.