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 […]

Interrobang’s “The Spin” is a captivating look behind the political scenes

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association; photo by ITP During the shutdown necessitated by COVID-19, some theatres are creating new content by streaming Zoom versions of known plays. Though these sometimes work quite well, there is always that bit of reservation knowing that viewers are cutting some slack due to the […]

Two great performances anchor Invictus’ ‘Night Mother

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association There is something marvelously compact about Marsha Norman’s ‘Night Mother, a play that begins with a grown daughter informing her mother that she will be killing herself before the night is over. Its dialogue structure and simple, clear emotional content make it a nearly perfect […]

NeoFuturists inventive new show explores the unsung role of America’s First Lady

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association; photo by NeoFuturists Theatre as a history lesson: I actually learned something just reading the subheading on NeoFuturists’ page promoting its newest offering, 45 Plays For America’s First Ladies. As internet memes put it, I was “today old” when I first learned that we have […]