In such precarious times for the arts, it's thrilling to see an intrepid new theatrical troupe mounting work in our community. I missed the first Paradise Playhouse production of On Golden Pond last fall, but they've launched another new show, Bell, Book, and Candle, directed by Jim Leonard. This early 1950s comedy by John Van Druten is currently being performed in the new Open Door Theater space on Ridgeland Avenue just south of Harrison Street.
The new 16th Street Theater in Berwyn does a bang-up job mounting strong shows that may make you squirm. Their latest production, Accidental Rapture by Eric Pfeffinger, is, as the ads say, "a comedy about faith, friendship, and the end of the world." It depicts the culture wars currently raging amongst us — the increasing polarization between the left and religious conservatives.
Circle Theatre has long been known for mounting dazzling productions of famous flops. The intrepid company loves to resurrect failed musicals that, for various reasons, missed their mark. Often we're so blown away by these ambitious revivals it's puzzling why the original productions were poorly received and unsuccessful. With The Baker's Wife, however, it's no mystery. This show never fully finds its focus.
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.