Stories by Hedy Weiss

Chicago Flamenco Festival Kicks Off Season Full of Dance

Flamenco dancer Jesus Ortega in the opening program of Instituto Cervantes’ Chicago Flamenco Festival. (Photo by John Boehm)

From flamenco to contemporary to ballet, dance takes over Chicago area stages this month. 

A Contentious Family Dinner Morphs Into an Absurdist Black Comedy in ‘Act(s) of God’

This feverishly verbal play, now receiving its world premiere at Lookingglass Theatre, poses some epic, cosmic questions while capturing the more familiar aspects of family relationships and identity crises. But it supplies no answers. 

CSO Concert Moves from Earthly Horror to Heavenly Yearning

Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Orchestra’s first performance of Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer William Schuman’s “Symphony No. 9” (Le fosse Ardeatine) in a year that marks the 75th anniversary of this World War II tragedy in Italy. (Photo Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

The CSO’s current program features two radically different pieces: American composer William Schuman’s haunting “Symphony No. 9” and Mozart’s glorious “Requiem in D Minor.”

Six Girls Negotiate Difficult Road to Adulthood in ‘Twilight Bowl’

Anne Thompson (Sharlene), Heather Chrisler (Jaycee), Hayley Burgess (Clarice) and Becca Savoy (Sam) in the world premiere of “Twilight Bowl” by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Erica. (Credit: Liz Lauren)

“Twilight Bowl” is a telling depiction of a crucial transitional period in the lives of a cross-section of young women who are at once lost and found in the American heartland.

In ‘The Abuelas,’ a Chilling Episode in Argentina’s History Washes Up on Lake Shore Drive

Esteban Schemberg and Cruz Gonzalez Cadel in in Teatro Vista’s world premiere of Stephanie Allen Walker’s “The Abuelas.” (Photo credit: Joel Maisonet)

Stephanie Alison Walker’s new play serves as a chilling reminder of a particularly horrific period in Argentina’s history when, from 1976 to 1983, that nation was under the thumb of a brutal military dictatorship.

At Lyric, a ‘La Traviata’ of Great Intimacy Amid the Social Whirl of Paris

Giorgio Berrugi and Albina Shagimuratova in “La Traviata” at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Credit: Lyric Opera of Chicago)

The beauty of this production goes beyond the absolute glory of Giuseppe Verdi’s impassioned, vocally demanding score. And while the voices are uniformly superb, so is the almost conversational style of acting.

Actors Play the Music of August Wilson’s Dialogue in ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

From left: David Alan Anderson, Kelvin Roston, Jr. and A.C. Smith in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at Writers Theatre. (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

The harmonies, dissonances and inflections of the conversations among the four men who form Ma Rainey’s fractious band are something of a spoken-word blues opera in this Writers Theatre revival.

Joffrey Ballet’s World Premiere ‘Anna Karenina’ Fit for the Silver Screen

Alberto Velazquez and Victoria Jaiani in the Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

This haunting, visually fascinating interpretation of Leo Tolstoy’s massive 1877 novel serves as the latest evidence of the unique ability of the Joffrey to turn dance into riveting, multi-dimensional theater.

In ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2,’ a Provocative He Said/She Said Twist on an Ibsen Classic

Sandra Marquez and Yasen Peyankov in Steppenwolf’s Chicago premiere production of “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

This sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s groundbreaking play – now receiving its Chicago debut at Steppenwolf Theatre – arrives at a moment when a whole new tsunami-like wave of feminist rebellion has gathered force.

A Brilliantly Subversive Take on ‘The Producers’ at the Paramount

Blake Hammond, left, and Jake Morrissy in “The Producers” at Paramount Theatre. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

For all its retrograde tropes, Jim Corti’s envelope-pushing (yet entirely faithful) take on Mel Brooks’ 2001 musical feels more contemporary, necessary and dangerously funny than ever before.

At Lyric, an Electrifying ‘Elektra’ With a Rip-Roaring Female Cast

Nina Stemme in Lyric Opera’s production of “Elektra.” (Credit: Cory Weaver)

Lyric Opera’s production of “Elektra,” last seen here in 2012, has found its ideal cast this time around with singers whose spectacular, powerhouse voices are matched by superb acting skills.

‘The Father’ Captures Fractured Reality of Dementia to Blistering Effect

David Darlow in “The Father” (Photo by Michael Courier)

The harrowing realism of “The Father” finesses a remarkable feat of imagination that makes the audience experience the same disorientation, confusion and anger that accompany the protagonist’s own loss of clarity and memory. 

How Nina Simone Tapped Into the Pain of African-American Women

Ariel Richardson, left, and Sydney Charles in Christina Ham’s play “Nina Simone: Four Women” at Northlight Theatre. (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Christina Ham’s play, “Nina Simone: Four Women,” is the anatomy of a song. And by extension, it is the anatomy of the angry, emotionally wounded singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist who wrote it.

‘Gentleman’s Guide’ Musical Chronicles Wild, Wacky Road to Inheritance

Matt Crowle and Rachel Klippel in Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.” (Photo by Michael Courier)

Not even the polar vortex could deter the performers and audience as Porchlight Music Theatre opened its altogether bravura production this week. This brilliantly conceived and equally brilliantly performed show was meant to defy the odds on every count.

CSO’s 2019-20 Season Celebrates Beethoven’s 250th Birthday

Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in Mozart’s “Symphony No. 36” on March 15, 2018. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

A wide array of concerts designed “to explore (Ludwig van Beethoven’s) individuality, power and genius” highlight the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 2019-2020 season.

‘Photograph 51’ Exposes Pattern of Delayed Recognition for Rosalind Franklin

Chaon Cross plays Dr. Rosalind Franklin in Anna Ziegler’s “Photograph 51” at Court Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Anna Ziegler’s play, now in a biting, emotionally vivid production at Court Theatre, shines a light on the visionary chemist who was crucial to the momentous scientific paper explaining the molecular structure of DNA.

Two Exceptionally Magical Imports Light Up Chicago Shakespeare Stages

“L’Apres-Midi d’un Foehn, Version I,” left, and “Us/Them” are currently on stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The work of two theater companies – one from Belgium and the other from France – are paying all-too-brief visits to Chicago Shakespeare Theater stages at the moment. 

Bold Mix of Classics, Rarities and New Work Planned for Lyric Opera

“The Queen of Spades” (Felix Sanchez / Houston Grand Opera)

Productions of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” and the Chicago debut of “Dead Man Walking” are among the highlights of Lyric Opera’s 2019-2020 season.

In ‘The Realistic Joneses,’ 2 Couples Try Desperately to Connect

From left: Joseph Wiens, Cortney McKenna, H.B. Ward and Linda Reiter in Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit’s Chicago premiere of “The Realistic Joneses.” (Photo by Evan Hanover)

In a joint production by Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit, director Jeremy Wechsler and his cast have tapped into the deftly conjured, fragmented, offbeat rhythms of Will Eno’s characters with impressive skill.

Puppet Theater Festival Explodes the Boundaries of Classic Art Form

Cast of “Ajijaak on Turtle Island”; An IBEX Puppetry production directed by Ty Defoe and Heather Henson (© 2018 Richard Termine)

A sampling of a trio of shows conveyed a strong sense that puppets have the power to take on the most vivid existences, even as their human puppeteers project powerful profiles of their own.

Windy City Playhouse Stages Breathtaking Production of ‘Noises Off’

Cast of "Noises Off" (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

The show, which is literally breathtaking and a breathtakingly funny production by Windy City Playhouse, is a bravura exercise in extreme mental and physical comedy.

Burnt-out Theater Critic Succumbs to Seductive Offer in ‘St. Nicholas’

Brendan Coyle in "St. Nicholas" (Photo by Helen Maybanks)

It takes an actor of formidable technique to bring this two-act, two-hour monologue to vivid, active, almost cinematic life. From the moment Brendan Coyle emerges from the shadows, the spell is cast.

‘La Boheme’ Sings of Love, Lust and Starving Artists

Adrian Sampetrean, Michael Fabiano, Maria Agresta, Ricardo Jose Rivera and Zachary Nelson in “La Boheme.” (© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018)

Lyric Opera’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s popular romantic tragedy features singers who not only fit their roles ideally but also know how to act. 

High School Playwrights Probe Painful Personal and Social Issues

Sam Godinez from “A Green Light” in the 32nd Annual Young Playwrights Festival at Pegasus Theatre Chicago (Photo by Michael Courier)

Students bold enough to try their hand at this challenging art form have the advantage of being able to tap into the raw emotion of youth in a uniquely fearless way.

Music Theater Works Casts an Enchanting Spell With ‘Into the Woods’

11)	Alexis Armstrong, left, and Kelly Britt in Music Theater Works’ “Into the Woods.” (Photo credit: Brett Beiner)

With its lushly beautiful, ideally performed production of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical, Music Theater Works has an instant hit on its hands. But you had better move fast if you want to catch it.