Stories by Hedy Weiss

Incendiary ‘Downstate’ Fearlessly Probes Unique Aspect of Crime, Punishment

 Matilda Ziegler (Em) and ensemble member Tim Hopper (Andy) in Steppenwolf’s world premiere production of “Downstate.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

The pitch black, profoundly provocative world premiere by Bruce Norris brings to the fore all the arguments and nuances around sexual predators, and will either make you question your opinions on the subject or confirm them. 

Themes of Freedom, Faith and Money Fuse With Brilliant Score in ‘Caroline, or Change’

From left: Rashada Dawan and Bre Jacobs with, in background, Emma Sipora Tyler, De’Jah Jervai and Roberta Burke in Firebrand Theatre and TimeLine Theatre Company’s production of “Caroline, Or Change.” (Photo by Marisa KM)

With its incendiary production, Firebrand Theatre easily secures its place among the handful of Chicago’s hottest “smaller” musical theater companies. Though there is nothing at all “small” about this formidable assemblage of talent.

New Musical ‘Tootsie’ Eyes Gender Roles, But Its Heart Belongs to Show Business

Santino Fontana, center, in “Tootsie.” Also pictured, from left: Drew King, Leslie Donna Flesner, Sissy Bell and John Arthur Greene. (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)

For all its timely social commentary, “Tootsie” (a gently updated musical version of the hit 1982 film) feels a bit like show business balm – a feel good work for the #MeToo era.

Hubbard Street’s Percussion-Driven Experiment Probes Heaven and Hell on Earth

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “For All Its Fury.” (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

In its three-part fall season program, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago harkened back to the creation of the universe and the ascent of man before conjuring an apocalyptic vision of where it all went wrong.

David Cale Turns a Family Nightmare into a Dreamy Tour de Force of Survival

Playwright and performer David Cale in his world premiere solo musical memoir “We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time,” directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre. (Credit: Liz Lauren)

If ever you had any doubt about the healing and transformative powers of art, “We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time,” David Cale’s hypnotically beautiful one-man show, will set you straight.

CSO Opens Season with Music of Liberty and Memories of Repression

Russian Bass Alexey Tikhomirov makes his CSO debut in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (“Babi Yar”) with the Orchestra and Men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus led by Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti. (Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Music is not apolitical. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s season opening concerts take note of this, with impassioned comments made by Maestro Riccardo Muti.

In ‘BigMouth,’ a Torrent of Oratory at Once Brilliant, Provocative and Dangerous

Valentijn Dhaenens in “BigMouth,” on stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater through Sept. 22, 2018. (Photo by Maya Wilsens)

However you describe “BigMouth,” the virtuosic, one-of-a-kind, one-man show created and performed by Valentijn Dhaenens – its impact is undeniable.

3 Popular Musicals Sing of Quest for Self-Esteem

From left: “Sweet Charity,” “Legally Blonde” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” (Photo credit, from left: Justin Barbin, Liz Lauren, Brett Beiner)

They are set in different eras, and come with notably different sounds and story lines, but the three musicals now being produced on local stages share one major theme. Here’s a closer look.

Shattered Globe’s Piercing Dramatization of a Dostoyevsky Classic Soars

Ilse Zacharias (left) and Drew Schad in Shattered Globe Theatre’s new adaptation of “Crime and Punishment.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

The haunting dramatization of “Crime and Punishment” now on stage attacks the work with the same fire and attention to moral argument as the master writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, himself. 

‘Radio Golf’ Revival Tunes in to Hidden Wealth of August Wilson’s Final Play

Allen Gilmore, left, and James Vincent Meredith in “Radio Golf” at Court Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

A revelatory, brilliantly acted revival of August Wilson’s play is currently on stage at Court Theatre, under the direction of Ron OJ Parson.

Funny, Heartbreaking ‘No Child’ Taps Into the Art of Education

Adia Alli in Definition Theatre Company’s production of “No Child…” (Credit: Joe Mazza_Brave Lux, Inc.)

The blight, as well as the occasional bursts of beauty that define life in inner-city high schools is all too familiar. But rarely has it been captured with such a sense of wit, grace, exasperation and tragicomic insight.

Chicago Talent Headlines Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ in Knoxville, Tennessee

From left: Cecilia Iole, Aleah Vassell, Jeff Parker, Noelle Harb and Brittany Marie Pirozzoli in “Candide.” (Photo by Brynn Yeager)

Not only does director Calvin MacLean have deep Chicago roots, so do a number of the major players in this grand-scale production.

Black Button Eyes Brings John Collier’s Twisted Stories To Life

Kevin Webb in Black Button Eyes Productions’ world premiere of “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier.” (Photo by Cole Simon)

One thing you realize from the very start of “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier” is that its narrator – a dissipated, devilishly twisted writer – is not going to sugarcoat things. 

2018 Equity Jeff Award Nominations Announced

Liam Quealy as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in “Memphis” from Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo by Michael Courier)

Nothing more concisely captures the impressive scope of the work done on Chicago-area stages than this annual list of nominations.

‘Vietgone’ Explores Emotional Wars of Vietnamese Immigrants Forging New Lives In US

From left: Aurora Adachi-Winter, Ian Michael Minh, Matthew Yee in “Vietgone.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Qui Nguyen’s play, now receiving its Chicago premiere at Writers Theatre, is a second generation, rap-era kid’s flashy, sexually charged version of a story about the pain and rage that come with being a refugee, and the difficult process of assimilation. 

Dancing the Night Away at Dance for Life

Chicago Dance Crash (Credit: Ashley Deran)

As always, the annual benefit concert served up a rich smorgasbord of styles Saturday. It also offered a subtle suggestion of Chicago’s dance history.

The Music and Mayhem of Midsummer Nights in Grant Park

Carlos Kalmar (Photo: Patrick Pyszka)

As difficult as it may be to believe, the summer of 2018 is winding down. One significant marker: the Grant Park Music Festival will give the final performances of its 84th season on Saturday.

A Glimpse of Magic in the Photo-Realist Paintings of Jeong Im Herbert

(Courtesy of Jeong Im Herbert)

The Chicago-based artist has an uncanny ability to capture the texture of surfaces in a way that is as precise as a photograph, yet at the same time, magically abstract. 

Reaping Faith, Fear and Ambivalence in ‘The Harvest’

Collin Quinn Rice, left, and Raphael Diaz in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of “The Harvest” by Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Jonathan Berry. (Photo by Michael Courier)

Broken souls grasp for meaning and connection in Samuel D. Hunter’s intense play that unfolds in a dreary church basement in the small town of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

1960s Chaos Meets Upheaval of 2018 in Bernstein’s ‘Mass’

A roundup of recent concerts from the Ravinia Festival

A scene from “Mass” (Russell Jenkins / Ravinia Festival)

As visitors to the Ravinia Festival well know, the picnics on the grass staged there tend to be legendary feasts. But it is the musical feasts that are the real food for thought.

Black Ensemble Unwraps the Joyful Healing Properties of the Blues

From left: Theo Huff (obscured), Rick Stone, Dwight Neal, Lamont “Harmonica Man” Harris, Cynthia Carter and Rhonda Preston in “Rick Stone the Blues Man” at Black Ensemble Theater. (Credit: Alan Davis)

In her deftly crafted new show, “Rick Stone the Blues Man,” writer/director Jackie Taylor has devised a wonderfully engaging way to explore the full spectrum of blues classics.

‘Something in the Game’ Wins One for The Gipper, and for Musical Theater, Too

Knute Rockne (Stef Tovar) fires up the Notre Dame football team. (Credit: Justin Barbin)

In spinning the tale of Knute Rockne and his prize athlete, the creators of this terrific show have tapped into much grander themes than the nature of intensely competitive college football.

In ‘Pamplona,’ Stacy Keach Runs with Hemingway and the Matadors

Stacy Keach in the world premiere of Jim McGrath’s “Pamplona,” directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre. (Credit Liz Lauren)

A little more than a year after he suffered “a mild heart attack” midway through his opening night performance in “Pamplona,” Stacy Keach is in top form. 

Elvis Makes a Faustian Bargain in ‘Heartbreak Hotel’

From left: Matt Codina, Eddie Clendening, Jamie Pittle and Zach Lentino in “Heartbreak Hotel” at the Broadway Playhouse. (Credit: Brett Beiner)

Too often this Elvis Presley-focused prequel to “Million Dollar Quartet” homes in on material that might have been cut from that earlier show. But on the plus side, it infuses the story with much that was omitted from “Quartet.”

‘Murder for Two’ Sets Pair of Actors in Breathless Pursuit of Perpetrator

Jason Grimm, left, and Noel Carey star in “Murder for Two” at the Marriott Theatre. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

The real question at the heart of this 95-minute, music-infused marathon of a farce – which features two actors playing 13 characters and frequently sharing time at a piano – is whether the performers themselves will make it out alive.