Tonight's the Kiss Kiss Cabaret's second anniversary celebration, and everyone's itching for the start of year three. Cast members share a few photos with TOC and recall their favorite moments/memories from the last two years; all you have to do is click through the slides above to find out what they are.
The Kiss Kiss Cabaret's Second Anniversary Show happens tonight at 11pm at the Greenhouse Theater Center.
One of the more vivid moments during last night’s opening of And lose the name of action at the Museum of Contemporary Art, from the dance artist Miguel Gutierrez and collaborators the Powerful People, takes place minutes into the performance.
The cast assembles on a sterile-looking, pristinely white stage flanked by two video screens, all under the canopy of a white parachute. Famed artist Ishmael Houston-Jones prompts a séance by asking the audience, seated in-the-round, to hold each other’s hands. The dancers sing in repeated verse (“Open your eyes, follow the light, squeeze my hand”). The lights dim, the parachute changes colors, and a series of booming sounds pulses in the arena. Then the lights come back up; transmission complete. It effectively inserts everyone into Gutierrez’s world, which, he notes, is based on three years of research and his experience with his father, who suffers a debilitating neurological disorder.
That disorder—a series of blood clots in the brain—lays bare one of Gutierrez’s intentions of action: questioning the role that “perception plays to determine reality and how various disciplines talk about the body and mind connection.” In this case, the specific discipline Gutierrez uses is dance and the perception is anyone’s guess.
Talk about daunting. Yet, thinking about consciousness and the brain-body relationship, action, its title deriving from the “to be or not to be” soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is a roller-coaster ride worth taking. Some will find it bizarre and difficult; it stretches many directions in 85 minutes. But there’s rhyme and reason for what Gutierrez and his five dancers do during various stages, some of which include scripted dialogue, dance improvisation and random conversation. With a cast that ranges in age, size and style, the piece relies on its variances.
The striking dance artist K.J. Holmes starts by looking into a white box that glows with blue light. She whispers a soft refrain: “I’m an old man. Well, not an old man, but a man with some years.” Gutierrez and Houston-Jones enter. Seated in chairs, they engage one another, using their weight to counterbalance. The screens light up with a man, seemingly trapped in a white box. He speaks clearly, pondering questions in his head. At times, his lips don’t properly sync with his words. The image returns throughout the piece, like a haunting presence.
Action progresses, and so does the ambiguity. The movement, much of it unpolished and raw, overtakes the dialogue. One segment features a nude Holmes and Houston-Jones uncomfortably close to one another: Holmes, draped in a see-through fish net, crawls at the feet of Houston-Jones, who sits in a hazy limbo. Gutierrez, Michelle Boulé, Hilary Clark and Luke George find ways of physically confronting each other, pushing, shoving, screaming. At one point, the cast continuously shouts at one another, “Fuck you!” A chase ensues, which becomes solely directed toward Houston-Jones. Later, Gutierrez, on all fours, nestles his face into the bosom of Holmes, dragging a white sheet from the pocket of her shirt. Clark enters matter-of-factly, offering to help clear the stage as though she is a stagehand.
The surprise, primarily, is that action doesn’t frustrate in its abstractions; the piece feels like a puzzle, the answer dangling on the tip of your tongue. You might not get the answer, but there’s satisfaction knowing the answer lies somewhere within the recesses of your brain. Eventually, it’ll come back to you.
Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People perform And lose the name of action Friday 1–Sunday 3 at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Minsk, 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker is one of those experiences that brings an audience to its feet, but when the actors leave the stage and the clapping ends, the theater is dead silent. It takes a few moments to process the intense, provocative and exhilarating 85 minutes that have just unfolded on stage.
There may not be much in the way of traditional action in Annie Baker’s The Aliens, but A Red Orchid Theatre’s production is an immensely moving character study of three men who congregate in the backyard of a small-town coffeehouse. Starring as the bipolar, shroom-tea-drinking KJ, Brad Akin gives a stirring performance, whether he’s just sitting in silence or repeating the word “ladder” over a hundred times in a row. Born in Arlington Heights before moving to Raleigh, North Carolina, when he was 10, Akin got his start at performing by putting on shows in his garage that he and his neighbor referred to as "live movies and music videos" rather than plays. He became interested in theater during high school, and around junior year realized that he could actually go to school and have a career in theater. He attended Northwestern University and began working with Steep Theater shortly after graduating, where he became a company member and now serves as literary manager. He’s since become an active director in the city, and The Aliens is Akin’s triumphant return to acting after considerable time behind the scenes. He talks to us about filling out the silences of the script, delving into KJ’s backstory, and that incredible “ladder” sequence.
John Neumeier speaks in soft tones, any hint of a Midwestern accent all but gone. The Milwaukee-born choreographer never thought he’d end up in Europe for so long. He studied in London, danced with the Stuttgart Ballet, and since becoming the Hamburg Ballet artistic director and chief choreographer in 1973, has built a reputation as one of Europe’s most in-demand artists. The Marquette University grad, who brings his much-acclaimed Nijinsky to the Harris Theater Friday 1 and Saturday 2, talks about his fascination with the late visionary and what he might say if Nijinsky were alive today.
The “Legends” play the Auditorium Theatre in less than three weeks, but it’s the “Masters” on stage in 2014. Earlier today, Joffrey announced its 2013–14 performance season—dubbed “Masters of Dance”—on the heels of its “American Legends” series opening on Feb 13.
The company kicks off the new season with a special one-weekend-only program titled “Russian Masters.” Joffrey marks the centennial of Vaslav Nijinsky’s famed 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring with a reconstruction from choreographers Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer. George Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante and the return of Yuri Possokhov’s Bells round out the program, September 19–22.
Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch’s evening-length La Bayadère gets its Joffrey debut October 16–27, and per annual tradition, Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker plays December 6–27. The company follows with a mixed winter bill titled “Contemporary Choreographers,” featuring Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum and the local premiere of Chicago choreographer Brock Clawson’s Crossing Ashland, happening February 12–23.
“Masters of Dance” closes with the contemporized, multi-media Romeo & Juliet from Krzysztof Pastor. Created in 2008 for the Scottish Ballet, the re-imagined classic from the Polish National Ballet director sets in Italy and spans three eras of the 20th century. The performance runs April 30–May 11.
For more details on "Masters of Dance," visit joffrey.org.
The Goodman Theatre today announced complete casting for artistic director Robert Falls's production of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. The 25-member cast will be led by Jay Whittaker as Angelo, Alejandra Escalante as Isabella, Kevin Fugaro as Claudio, James Newcomb as the Duke of Vienna, John Judd as Escalus and Jeffrey Carlson as Lucio.
Also in the cast are Celeste Cooper (Juliet), Aaron Todd Douglass (Pompey), Sean Fortunato (Elbow), Joe Foust (Barnadine), Cindy Gold (Mistress Overdone) Kate LoConti (Mariana) and A.C. Smith (Provost). John Victor Allen, Amanda Catania, Anthony DiNicola, Amanda Drinkall, Isabel Ellison, Billy Fenderson, LaNisa Frederick, Quinton Guyton, Carolyn Hoerdemann, Travis Knight, Daniel Smith and Glenn Stanton make up the ensemble. Measure for Measure is set to run March 9–April 14.
Receiving its first Chicago production courtesy of Griffin Theatre, Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path is a heartfelt tearjerker about British Royal Air Force bombers in World War II and the women who love them. Starring as the new wife of a Polish count, Vanessa Greenway gives a dazzling performance as Doris Skriczevinsky, capturing all the fear and anxiety of a woman who doesn’t know if her husband will come home alive. A native of Eugene, Oregon, Greenway started performing in community theater as a child and worked at a local dinner theater in high school, coming to Chicago to attend the Theatre School at DePaul. She’s been here ever since, becoming an artistic associate at Griffin and winning two Jeff Awards, one with Griffin for her performance in The Constant Wife. She teaches Pilates and other alignment and posture techniques at a private studio during the day, and has recently started teaching Pilates as an adjunct professor for the Theatre School’s movement program for MFA candidates. Greenway speaks to us about how she fleshed out her character’s backstory, how her movement background plays into her acting work, and what she appreciates about having Griffin as an artistic home.
TimeLine Theatre Company revival of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, the seminal 1985 stage chronicle of the early days of the AIDS crisis., the Chicago-bred director and actor, is set to play the central role of Ned Weeks this fall in a
Nick Bowling, TimeLine's associate artistic director, will helm the production, planned to open in October at his own production of Our Town for the Hypocrites in 2008. That production went on to a long run at Off Broadway's Barrow Street Theater and further iterations in Boston and Los Angeles.. It will mark Cromer's first onstage appearance in Chicago since he portrayed the Stage Manager in
Since Our Town first opened in the basement of the Chopin Theatre, Cromer has picked up three Lucille Lortel Awards and two Obie Awards for directing Off Broadway, as well as helming his first two Broadway productions (2009's Brighton Beach Memoirs and 2011's The House of Blue Leaves). Meanwhile, he's continued to return to Chicago to direct (Writers' Theatre'sin 2009, Mary-Arrchie's in 2010, last spring's revival of , co-produced by About Face Theatre and American Theater Company and this season's at the Goodman).
The Normal Heart had its first Broadway production in 2011, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival. Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Glee, The New Normal) is set to direct a screen adaptation, starring Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Matt Bomer, to debut on HBO in 2014. Exact dates for TimeLine's production, as well as the rest of the company's 2013–14 season, remain to be announced.
In 1990, Double Edge Theatre moved from Boston to a converted 100-acre dairy farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts, promoting what it calls a “living culture.” The 30-year-old company’s culture is rooted in theater “based on the art of the actor and their interaction with the communities in which the work takes place,” according to its mission statement. Training its performers in a rural environment, it appears, works wonders for the mind’s eye, but it’s an objective eye that Double Edge often lacks.
Visually speaking, DET’s The Grand Parade (of the Twentieth Century), co-commissioned by the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department and the Dance Center, which previewed this past weekend, is marvelous. From a conceptual perspective, the roughly hour-long misadventure of physical theater, dance and high-flying aerial tricks rides the line between a placid dream and a terrorizing nightmare. About halfway through, it leans toward nightmare. Parade seems bent on finding out how much of a nightmare the audience is willing to stomach. This compact timeline of the 20th century is often a casualty of indulgence with little rhyme or reason, reserving only a few minutes for partial pieces that encompass a hundred-year history, which turns out to be mainly American history. Nothing fully materializes by the time the lights go dim.
Walking into the theater, the audience immediately encounters the Double Edge cast. Actors hang from harnesses and swings; others stand in place: a man in a rooster mask, a woman with wings, a mustached bartender. Parade begins with cacophonous singing and incessant mumbling. The women hum and screech like mythological sirens; the men wander like weary travelers. A white drape dangles overhead as these figures transition from one historical occurrence to another: World War II, the moon landing, the AIDS epidemic and the Bush-versus-Gore debacle, to name a few.
This “kaleidoscopic” exploration is partly based on the artwork of Marc Chagall. The first in a multiyear Chagall series from Double Edge, Parade touches on the abstractions of Chagall’s work, loosely imagining certain visuals for the stage. It’s an ambitious work and somewhat honors Chagall’s aesthetic, yet it packs too much material in too little time. In this bold but convoluted work of intangibles, Parade might find more luck with a bit of the realism it so badly lacks.
For more information on Double Edge Theatre and a schedule of upcoming performances, visit doubleedgetheatre.org.