Stories by Hedy Weiss

CSO and Yo-Yo Ma Explore the Foreboding Sounds of 20th Century Russian Masters

Yo-Yo Ma is soloist with Music Director Riccardo Muti and the CSO in Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The often stormy and repressive nature of life in the Soviet Union clearly infused the music of Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich.

Chicago is Dancing Up a Storm

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “Decadance/Chicago” by Ohad Naharin. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Recent performances by a number of major Chicago dance companies suggest that in a city renowned for its theater scene, an impressive component of drama also can be found in the work of its dancers.

Corporate Night Benefit Raises $1M for Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Gregory Porter performs selections from his latest Blue Note album, “Nat King Cole and Me,” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on June 11, 2018. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Although I don’t ordinarily write about fundraisers, the 29th annual Corporate Night concert at Symphony Center on Monday was so beguiling that it deserves attention.

‘Guards at the Taj’ Conjures Extremes of Beauty and Horror in This World

Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed in Steppenwolf’s Chicago premiere of “Guards at the Taj” by Rajiv Joseph. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

It is no secret that we live in a world of grotesque extremes. In “Guards at the Taj,” playwright Rajiv Joseph explores this phenomenon by spinning a story that contrasts the radically opposing instincts of a megalomaniacal ruler.

Chicago-Bred Talent Triumphs at Tony Awards

Katrina Lenk in “The Band’s Visit.” (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Among the winners for “The Band’s Visit” – justly rewarded Sunday night with 10 Tony Awards – were two artists with Chicago connections: David Cromer and Katrina Lenk. Laurie Metcalf, of Steppenwolf (and “Roseanne”) fame, picked up her second Tony.

Veteran Actor Len Cariou in Winningly Irreverent Pairing of Shakespeare and Broadway

Len Cariou, right, and Mark Janas in “Broadway & The Bard.”

In the one-man show “Broadway & The Bard,” Len Cariou – an actor of exceptional breadth and experience – brings both a youthful enthusiasm and worldly wise sensibility to what is clearly a labor of love. 

In Suzan-Lori Parks’ Epic Civil War Ballad, the Unbearable Weight and Complexity of Freedom

Kamal Angelo Bolden and Aimé Donna Kelly in the Chicago premiere of “Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” by Suzan-Lori Parks. (Credit: Liz Lauren)

Suzan-Lori Parks’ fascinating three-hour trilogy, now on stage at the Goodman Theatre, probes the meaning of freedom, and all the complexity and ambivalence that word can carry with it.

‘Mies Julie’ a Shattering Reworking of a Strindberg Classic

Jalen Gilbert and Heather Chrisler in “Mies Julie” at Victory Gardens Theater. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

Yael Farber’s blistering contemporary South African version of “Miss Julie,” the 1888 August Strindberg classic, is far and away the most brilliant play to arrive on a Chicago stage this season. 

With Charm and Confidence, Chicago Students Take Lyric Stage for ‘Empower’

“Empower” performance May 31, 2018 at the Lyric Opera House. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

It’s one thing to star in your local high school musical. It’s a very different thing to take possession of the internationally renowned stage of Lyric Opera of Chicago. That’s just what these students did.

Two Very Different Musicals to Carry You to The Brink of Summer

Left: David Sajewich, Kyrie Courter in “Company.” (Photo by Brett A. Beiner). Right: Renelle Nicole, Jessica Brooke Seals and Kylah Williams in “A New Attitude.” (Photo credit: Alan Davis)

Looking for the best way to spend a sultry pre-summer evening aside from taste-testing the latest flavor of gelato? Easy. Catch a musical.

Scalia and His Clerk Joust Their Way Through Constitutional Arguments in ‘The Originalist’

Edward Gero and Jade Wheeler in “The Originalist” at Court Theatre. (Photo by Gary W Sweetman)

It’s a good bet that no one seeing “The Originalist” will undergo a major shift in their opinions, but they certainly will be reminded of how the Supreme Court’s polarization reflects the temper of the current moment in politics.

Plays by Beckett, Shepard Explore the Human Condition, European and American Style

Marty Rea as Vladimir and Aaron Monaghan as Estragon in Druid theatre company’s “Waiting for Godot” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Matthew Thompson)

Within the span of a single week I saw productions of two plays – Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” and Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” – that I wouldn’t necessarily have linked together had I not seen them in such quick succession.

Uchida and CSO Put Their Bravura Stamp on Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3

Esa-Pekka Salonen, 2015 (Credit: Nicolas Brodard)

Here is the formula for an astonishing evening of music: Take Bela Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and put it in the astonishing hands of pianist Mitsuko Uchida, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.

‘Having Our Say’ An Irresistibly Engaging Encounter With The Delany Sisters

Ella Joyce and Marie Thomas in Chuck Smith’s major revival of Emily Mann’s “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” at Goodman Theatre, May 5-June 10. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

If ever there were a way to remind audiences of what it would really take to “make America great again,” the Goodman Theatre’s revival of “Having Our Say” could easily qualify as the show to get the job done.

A Musical Marvel as CSO, Salonen Soar in Mahler’s Haunting Symphony No. 9

Conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 on May 17, 2018. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Although everything they touch turns to gold these days, nothing quite reveals the brilliance of the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra quite like the challenge of a Mahler masterwork. 

‘Columbinus’ More Harrowing With Cast of Actual High School Students

From left: Liliana Mastroianni, Cleo Shine and Thavory Hang in The Yard’s production of “Columbinus.” (Credit: Evan Hanover)

An intensely disciplined, fearless, altogether remarkable ensemble of sophisticated young artists brings this singular – and singularly riveting – docu-drama to life.

Sizzling ‘How to Use a Knife’ Turns Up The Heat in a Restaurant Kitchen

Anthony Irons in Shattered Globe Theatre’s Chicago premiere of “How to Use a Knife.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Among its several honors, Will Snider’s “How to Use a Knife” was named a finalist for a PEN Center USA Literary Award. Based on this exceptional Shattered Globe production alone, it should have won the prize.

The Real ‘Magic’ In This ‘Macbeth’ Is its Suggestion That Shakespeare Pre-Empted Albee

Lady Macbeth (Chaon Cross) is taunted by the unseen Weird Sisters in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Macbeth.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

This immensely compelling production adapted and directed by playwright Aaron Posner and the magician Teller is filled with a full array of sensory treats.

Brilliant Cast Rocks Buddy Holly Back to Life

From left: Chuckie Benson, Michael Mahler, Zachary Stevenson and Kieran McCabe in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Zachary Stevenson – a bravura performer who is the spittin’ image of the character he plays, and who possesses the voice, moves, guitar licks and irresistible energy of the “original” – is proof that Buddy Holly lives. 

Rodgers and Hammerstein Musicals Enjoying a Grand-Scale Rebirth

Samantha Hill, center, as Nellie in “South Pacific” at Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

There seems to be an unofficial renaissance of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals by way of three classics from the 1940s. Is this mere coincidence, or a a much-needed balm?

Healing Powers of Music and Love Drive Beguiling Musical ‘Once’

Barry DeBois and Tiffany Topol in “Once” at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

The stunning performers now gathered on the stage of the Paramount Theatre bring this unconventional piece of musical theater to life with a beguiling mix of emotional depth and comic zest.

Visceral Dance and Chicago Philharmonic Revive Haunting ‘Dream’

Visceral Dance Chicago performs Nick Pupillo’s “The Dream.” (Photo by Quinn Wharton)

Nick Pupillo’s haunting, hourlong narrative work, performed in collaboration with the Chicago Philharmonic, highlights the impressive dramatic skills of the Visceral dancers.

Joffrey Ballet Celebrates a Wild and Crazy Swedish-Style ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Joffrey Ballet’s North American premiere of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

You will never experience anything quite like it. Alexander Ekman’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is now receiving its North American premiere by the Joffrey Ballet, and it is a monumental achievement on every level.

Porchlight Unlocks the Blazing Heart and Soul In Musical ‘Memphis’

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

A transformative evening in the theater, Porchlight Music Theatre’s production features galvanic direction, volcanic dancing, a powerhouse onstage band and a large, fiercely talented cast.

Putting a Bit of a Twist on This Year’s Non-Equity Jeff Nominations

Chris Chmelik, left, and Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel in the Steep Theatre production of Cordelia Lynn's play, "Lela & Co." (Photo: Gregg Gilman)

Acknowledging the existence of “gender fluidity,” the 45th annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards nominations for performance are now nonbinary.