|

We go backstage as an actor prepares “The King’s Speech” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater – and remembers his role on “Downton Abbey.”

|
Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Isango Ensemble’s “A Man of Good Hope,” based on the book by Jonny Steinberg and adapted and directed by Mark Dornford-May, in the Courtyard Theater, Oct. 4–13, 2019. (Photo by Keith Pattinson)

Based on the book by Jonny Steinberg, “A Good Man of Hope,” is a heart-wrenching, fiercely honest, staggeringly beautiful production by South Africa’s extraordinary Isango Ensemble now on stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

|
From left: Abby Mueller, Samantha Pauly, Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Brittney Mack and Anna Uzele in “Six” at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Forget about spending your last dime for tickets to The Rolling Stones’ concerts at Soldier Field next month. Instead, check out the fire-breathing female royalty of this sensational musical at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

|
From left: Tom Brandon, John Sheehy, Connor Going (at piano), Andrew Carter, Denis Grinden (seated) and Mark Loveday in “The Choir of Man.” (Credit: Brian Wright)

Lift a glass and make a toast to the musical and verbal talents of some Emerald Islanders who have arrived on the shores of Lake Michigan for brief stays.

|
“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. 

|
Led in revels by the First Fairy (Adrienne Storrs) and Puck (Sam Kebede), the fairy ensemble gather to “Rock the Ground” in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Despite a number of fine performances and a gorgeous “flower power” set, the whole thing ends up feeling more clunky and exhausting than beguiling. Subtle it is not, and often the poetry and emotion get lost.

|
From left: Aurelie Lannoy, Angelo Tijssens and Charlotte De Bruyne in Ontroerend Goed’s “Fight Night.” (Photo by Yvon Poncelet)

Audience members engage in a process similar to a television “elimination” contest to choose one of five contenders for an unspecified office. It is great fun, but also offers food for thought – and a healthy dose of cynicism.

|
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.

|
Peter Pan (Johnny Shea) in “Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure,” directed and choreographed by Amber Mak. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

The elaborately produced 75-minute show has all the energy and magic necessary to keep young audiences engaged. At the same time, the adult aspects of the story emerge with particular force and clarity.

|
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.

|
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.

|
Aaron Posner, left, and Teller (of Penn & Teller) adapt and direct Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Macbeth.” (Photo by Bill Burlingham)

Witches, sorcery and ghosts: Shakespeare’s spookiest and shortest play gets adapted into a horror thriller with modern day magic.

|
The National Theatre of Great Britain’s award-winning production of J.B. Priestley’s thriller “An Inspector Calls.” (Photo by Mark Douet)

With its three major venues on Navy Pier, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater is a nonstop operation. Evidence of that can be seen in the just-announced season: 14 productions, a slew of guest directors and a mix of shows created both here and abroad.

|
Queen Elizabeth I (Kellie Overbey) contemplates her next move in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Schiller’s Mary Stuart.” (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

A vivid production of “Schiller’s Mary Stuart” at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater is fresh and modern, but never artificially tricked up.

|
Actor Dion Johnstone portrays Ira Aldridge in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Red Velvet.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Exploring the connection between a controversial painting at the Art Institute and the new play “Red Velvet” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

|
Actors Alexandra Henrikson and Crystal Lucas-Perry in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Barbara Gaines directs. (Photo: Liz Lauren)

Barbara Gaines, Chicago Shakespeare Theater founder and artistic director, talks about the wild twist on a classic that opens their 31st season.

randomness