Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brief Reviews from Chicago Critic

Reviews from Chris Jones at the Chicago Tribune:

Cabaret (2.5 stars)
"With faux-vintage film, audience interaction and darkly sexual theatrics aplenty, Amanda Dehnert's restless, ill-choreographed revival lacks focus but still manages to capture the dark fascination of John Kander and Fred Ebb's iconic musical. Bruce Dow's Emcee doesn't take full command of the stage, but he nails the haunting number 'I Don't Care Much'. But despite very moving performances from Nora McLellan as Fraulein Schneider and Frank Moore as Herr Schultz, the show ultimately is undermined by an energetic but strangely invulnerable performance from a miscast Trish Lindstrom in the lead role of Sally Bowles."

Fuente Ovejuna (4 stars)
"Laurence Boswell's revelatory and gripping production makes the case that Lope De Vega deserves his place in the classical repertory, just as long as you've got a fresh-eyed translation such as this one. De Vega had more of a populist eye than Shakespeare, and you'll be drawn deeply inside the travails of decent, regular folk caught in political turmoil (some things don't change) and forced to take matters into their own hands. Clearly pushed by a perfectionist director, the Stratford acting ensemble is at its best here, with Sara Topham, Scott Wentworth and James Blendick all offering powerful yet wonderfully human performances. Not to be missed."

Hughie/Krapp's Last Tape (3.5 stars)
"In this powerful double-bill showcasing the fine actor Brian Dennehy, you get a fresh sense of the thematic relationship between Eugene O'Neill and Samuel Beckett. Goodman Theatre audiences already saw Dennehy's poignant picture of Erie Smith, a Broadway bum with a big mouth. But when paired with the Beckett solo piece, they enhance each other. You come to see that Erie's chattering bravura is all that keeps him from Beckettian despair, and thus you blame him a little less. And when Dennehy turns to Beckett, he enhances Krapp's Irish-American humanity and humor, while replacing optimism with resignation. By the end of this moving, revealing show, you start to think the loudmouth drunks know something we don't."

The Music Man (3 stars)
"There is nothing whatsoever to surprise you in Susan H. Schulman's very solid and enjoyable revival of the Meredith Wilson classic bit of Americana, but who goes to Music Man for revelation? Leah Oster is a warm-throated, good-hearted Marian and Jonathan Goad a credibly charming and unusually deep Harold Hill. All goes quite well until the finale, when you find yourself hoping for more razzmatazz."

The Taming of the Shrew (1 star)
"Shrew has torpedoed many directors, and Peter Hinton goes down with the ship. This weird, highly conceptual production at least has the virtue of bold choices—Kate has a limp throughout, and Queen Elizabeth I is, believe it or not, a character in the show. And to his credit, Hinton includes the oft-cut prologue which sets the show's sexism in sharp relief. But while Evan Buliung's Petruchio has his charms, it's hard to tell that Irene Poole (as Katherina) is playing comedy. And when you take so much of this script so seriously, you're left with more discomfort than cohesion. "

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