Artist Descending a Staircase is a tailor-made pandemic play

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By Karen Topham, American Theatre Critics Association Though a live theatre version of Tom Stoppard’s 1972 radio play Artist Descending a Staircase does exist, the original fits so perfectly into today’s theatrical (non-)world that it is no surprise that Remy Bumppo Theatre chose it for production. The play is a humorous, romantic, and even tragic […]

CST’s “I, Cinna (the poet)” is about the struggle of the common man caught up in political events

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By Karen Topham During the April 3, 2021 edition of Saturday Night Live, one sketch called ‘Proud Parents” revolved around a couple whose med school-bound son shocks them by informing them that he has decided to become a poet instead of a doctor. Their outrage at this revelation is perhaps best exemplified when one of […]

Powerful “I, Banquo” from CST argues that evil may derive from a turn of fate

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In I, Banquo, Tim Crouch’s one-man up close and personal examination of the events of Macbeth, the title character (hauntingly portrayed by Dan Waller under Marti Lyons’ careful direction) speaks from beyond the grave to his former best friend, the king-killing Thane of Glamis. As he recounts the events of Shakespeare’s play, he asks the […]

Vivian A.O. Barnes’ “Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” Steppenwolf takes on the royal “Firm”

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Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!, Steppenwolf Theatre’s latest addition to its NOW series of virtual plays, feels as if it has been ripped out of this month’s headlines (though it was written in 2018). A brief (half an hour or so) and intense examination of the ways in which all of the rules that must be followed […]

Dickens’ “The Chimes” focuses on the plight of the poor as it takes us on a different spirit-led holiday journey

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Although you’d never know it from all of the incarnations of A Christmas Carol you can find streaming this season, the tale of Scrooge’s redemption was far from the only one Charles Dickens ever set in the holiday season, and indeed is nowhere near the […]

There’s too much going on in Steppenwolf’s audio version of “Wally World”

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Steppenwolf’s new audio play, Isaac Gómez’s Wally World, is not a Christmas play despite the fact that it takes place on Christmas Eve. No, that date is most important to the plot for the chaos and confusion that it creates in the world of retail. […]

Dickens’ words are the stars of Writers Theatre’s “One-Man A Christmas Carol”

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association; photo by Joe Mazza. Writers Theatre’s Michael Halberstam has been performing an annual reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol since the 1992 founding of the theatre. But a video of him just standing at a podium reading the text, he understood, would not truly […]

George Bailey is saved again in American Blues Theatre’s “wonderful” Christmas show

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association For the last 19 years, Chicago’s American Blues Theatre has presented its own take on Frank Capra’s holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, but presenting it as a 40s-style live radio play with an audience (think Prairie Home Companion). This year, with COVID limiting everything, […]

Manual Cinema adds its own memorable flare to A Christmas Carol.

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association Manual Cinema, Chicago’s interdisciplinary theatre collective specializing in original adaptations performed live using paper puppets, music, etc., is without a doubt among the most inventive troupes in town. With their 2020 streaming production of A Christmas Carol, they may well have moved into “must-see” territory. […]

Old love ignites again in Steppenwolf’s “What Is Left, Burns”

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association; photo by Lowell Thomas In another worthy addition to this Year of Virtual Plays, Steppenwolf Theatre’s new Steppenwolf NOW series brings us a commissioned short play from James Ijames, author of last year’s marvelous Timeline production, Kill Move Paradise. In What Is Left, Burns, Ijames […]