Weekly Preview: 2/8 – 2/14 (Chart and Musings)

What on Earth?!  We’re finally back with weekly previews?!  Yes.  It is true.  Finally, after a few months away, you can join us in rolling your dice on the chart to determine the show you’re going to attend this weekend.  We’ve got two shows on our docket.  Exciting stuff!  As you look over the chart to the right, you’ll notice a number of terrific pieces opening this weekend, and a few on there that are just in their second week.  Should be a lot of fun!

For Something Completely Different:

If you’re thinking you’d rather not go all random, and put your fate in the luck of a roll.  Then, perhaps you’d prefer to take in a surefire laugher… Here’s a show that isn’t listed on our charts because it doesn’t have quite enough performances to meet our minimums for inclusion, but it’s one that is close to our hearts here at Theatre By Numbers: “Hot Buns & Beefcakes: Linda Belcher’s Love Connection” is playing at The Playground Theater every Saturday in February.  For those familiar with “Bob’s Burgers”, you’ll note that the show is named for one of the TV cartoon’s characters.  For those of you not familiar, well, why aren’t you?!  C’mon!  So, we seldom get to see one of our own on the stage (we’re writers, after all)– but in the instance of this show, Theatre By Numbers regular contributor Maggie Wagner is starring in the production.  Click here for more info, and Click here for tickets.

Do You Have A Critical Eye?

We are looking for at least one critic (most likely, two) to join our ranks here at Theatre By Numbers.  We’re expanding our coverage, but in order to do so, we need another pen or two to join up and help us tell the world about the awesome theatre scene here in Chicago.  If you’re interested, please send a couple of writing samples to cokidder@theatre1234.com along with a blurb about you and why you’d make a good theatre reviewer.  We’d love to read your stuff and help to ensure that other people do, too!

Well… that’s it for this week.  More next week. And a few reviews in the meantime!

Weekly Preview: August 10 – August 16 (Chart & Brief Thoughts)

Grab your dice and roll!  Go see a show!!!
Grab your dice and roll! Go see a show!!!

We’re still a couple of weeks away from the really big opening weekends that come with the fall theatre season.  Nevertheless, the chart is full and there are some great shows to see.  The ladies have the week off, so I’m the only one reviewing this week.  It’s clearly still summer vacation.  We’ve got big things coming up, though.

I normally avoid talking about my own projects in depth on this site, but I do want to tease something coming up in just over a month.  The Illinois Theatre Association’s Awards Gala and Membership Meeting on September 17 & 18.  I’m going to periodically post what’s going on with regards to that as it approaches.

That’s pretty much it for this week.  I’ve been (and am still) sick, so I really don’t have the energy to write more right now.

Weekly Preview: August 3 – August 9, 2016

Twenty shows that are listed in no particular order and numbered 1 - 20!
Twenty shows that are listed in no particular order and numbered 1 – 20!

You may have noticed that is has been many weeks since we have had a preview article here on “Theatre By Numbers”.  That’s largely because I (Chris) took most o the summer off.  My daughter was in town, and that prompted me to take in minor league baseball games rather than plays.  So, most of the summer’s writing has been done by Maggie and Sarah.  Anyway… you’ll see some changes happening over the next few weeks on this site.  The first few take effect today.  We’re back to doing a weekly preview article.  It will still include the week’s chart so you can roll along at home and see some wonderfully random theatre.

It will also be written by all of us.  Not all at once, mind you.  We’ll take turns shedding light on upcoming theatre projects that have captured our interest and our imaginations.  So, this week you get my thoughts, next week you’ll hear from someone else, or perhaps multiple folks.  We might tag-team.  You never know.

Also, we’ll be overhauling the site.  I noticed a while ago that all the side articles and explanations are now out of date.  So, watch to see the new look and new verbiage in the near future.

In the meantime, let’s talk about the two projects that I want to preview this week:

Zealous Whig (Pursuit Productions & Fratellanza Theater Company):  8/5 – 8/7

for_colin_unedited-100 (1)A couple of weeks ago, people sat in line for hours upon hours to get tickets to a huge Broadway production about some of our country’s founding fathers.  Here’s your chance to see an intimate production about one of the lesser known, but nevertheless important political players of the day.

You may remember that the French had their hand in the war between the Colonies and England.  You may also remember that the Hessian troops that fought on the side of the Redcoats were from Germany.  What you probably don’t remember is the name of a guy who was besties with Thomas Jefferson, and who provided much of the firepower that made the armed part of the Colonies’ armed insurrection possible.  That man was Filippo Mazzei, an Italian doctor who had a passion for gardening and politics.

Paul Manganello writes and performs the energetic one-man show that focuses on the “black-sheep founding father”.  Not unlike Jefferson’s own attempts to be a remarkably well-rounded Renaissance man, this promises to be “funny, poetic, kinetic, subversive, fictional, and completely true”.

The show can only be seen this weekend.  There are four performances at Collaboraction (1579 N Milwaukee Ave, 3rd Floor).  Check out www.pursuitchicago.com for more information.

A Fun Night of Dance (Off the Ground Dance Studio & StarKid Producitons): 8/5

funnightofdanceA few weeks ago I reviewed “Firebringer” by StarKid Productions.  That show wraps up this weekend, so if you want to catch it, you should swing by Stage 773 and try to get one of their very scarce tickets.  And, if you go on the 5th, you should then loiter about a bit and hang around to take in part of StarKid’s Summer Season Late-Nights.  Really, what could be more fun than “A Fun Night of Dance”?  I mean, it’s right there in the title of the event.  It’s going to be fun!  And… it’s one more way to see the ladies of StarKid in action again.  The show is at 10:30 p.m.  And when it comes down to it, anything produced and endorsed by the folks at StarKid gets my vote, too.  Check it out!

The Beginning: 5/18 – 5/24 (A Chart with Opera and Extensions)

A chart of theatrical performances!  Whoever came up with this had their thinking caps on!
A chart of theatrical performances! Whoever came up with this had their thinking caps on!

It is Wednesday.  Here at Theatre By Numbers (or TBN, as some of our staff call it) we start our week on Wednesday.  We do that so we have time to reserve the tickets in time to review the shows that we’re going to cover any given week.  We actually roll the dice on our chart on the preceding Sunday evening.  So, when we put the chart out on our site here, we already know what shows we’re going to see. If you roll on Wednesday, you are in essence a few days behind us in the process, but catching up quite rapidly.  Why does this matter?  It doesn’t.  I’m basically just rambling to put some text up at the top of the page next to the chart.  If you keep reading, however, you’ll learn about some cool stuff going on this weekend and in the near future.

Opera in Rogers Park

kor productions' "Le Nozze di Figaro"
kor productions’ “Le Nozze di Figaro”

The run of “Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro)” as produced by kor productions is only two weeks long.  This past weekend the show was at Berger Park.  This weekend it will be at The Growling Rabbit.  It’s a novelty to see an opera presented in promenade style.  It’s even more novel to see the machinations of Mozart’s farcical piece moving about in the Rogers Park cafe at 6981 North Sheridan Road.

I took in the show last weekend, and it was the best promenade production I’ve seen in some time, and I’ve seen a few.  In fact, this isn’t the first opera I’ve seen while walking around in the Berger Park Coach House.  It is, however, the first that has provided surtitles via my own cellphone!  I was amazed by the quality of the singing, the acting, and the staging.  Director Kristin Davis puts the varied locations to work for the piece.

The Countess (Johanna Moffitt) charmingly starts the show in a silent scene which fleshes out the opera’s famously familiar overture.  Sally Olson brings life to Susanna with a natural flair for building a character that is both believable and funny.  And Peter Morgan’s Figaro has a fun bit of swagger that goes nicely with his rich voice.

The setting of the production is updated to the modern day.  Cellphones and selfies come into play, as to office managers and human resources executives. The show is a lot of fun, and a great way to experience one of Mozart’s most famous works.

The show only runs one more weekend (this upcoming one):  Here’s the link you’ll need to get tickets!

Strawdog Extends “Once in a Lifetime”

Well, we just reviewed this show, and it isn’t a huge surprise that Strawdog’s last stand has grown legs and will be standing a bit longer.  Actually, through June 11th.  In a move that not only extends the show, but celebrates the end of the run in gala-like fashion (perhaps with a little classic Hollywood flair) the June 10th performance will have a party both beforehand and afterward.  That performance will also cost $100 to attend.  The June 11th performance is only accessible to a select few.  In fact, for those who would like to attend the absolute final performance at the Broadway location, a lottery is being held.  To make my own life easier, I’m just going to directly quote the blurb I got from their press agent:  “Those interested in attending the final performance Sunday, June 11 at 8 p.m., must email boxoffice@strawdog.org and include name, email, phone number and mailing address to be placed into the lottery. Names will be drawn Thursday, June 9 at 12 p.m. with Strawdog notifying winners immediately.  There is one entry per person with a limit of two tickets per entry. Tickets are $30 each for this final performance. Deadline to enter lottery is Wednesday, June 8 at 11:59 p.m.

Previewing what we’re viewing:

Maggie is getting our week started tonight at the Boho stage.  She’s taking in “Eurydice”.  Sarah is seeing “The Seagull”.  And I’m going to “Chicago Doo-Wop Dreams”.  Each of us has only one show this weekend, but that’s still three new reviews.  Right?  Plus I have two more to release over the next couple of days from this past weekend.  Exciting stuff, truly.  So… grab dice and roll for yourself on the chart at the top right. You will see some fresh theatre!  That’s always a good thing!

The Beginning: 4/13 – 4/19 (Chart and Preview)

Twenty of the best theatrical options in Chicago this weekend!
Twenty of the best theatrical options in Chicago this weekend!

You know what I like about working int he theatrical realm?  The fact that it is a collaborative art form.  Artists come together in various ways to create.  Audiences come together to experience.  A show can’t actually happen without the interplay between the two groups.  And that’s beautiful.  Sometimes, though there are things that scar the beauty of collaborations, and so I am thrilled that Not In Our House exists to address some of the difficulties that arise when people gather in an art space to work together.  Not all collaboration is done in a safe environment free of power plays or sexual harassment.  Abuses do occur, and that should not be true, though it is.  So… I wanted to share a moment of thanking the people who have put together a Chicago Code of Conduct, which will be presented at Theatre Wit on April 18th.  It’s a big deal for this community.  Here’s a great article that you may want to check out about it.

Now… to talk briefly about what we are seeing this week:  Sarah has a show that she’ll be taking in over at the Raven.  Maggie is seeing one at the Public House, as well as one at Steppenwolf.  I will be in the audience at the Royal George this weekend, as well as at Stage 773.  Quite a smattering of places.  I’m excited that we’re seeing 5 total shows this weekend.  That’s a quarter of our chart.

Speaking of the chart.  If you are one of the daring who also use it to determine your theatrical intake on any given week, we’d love to hear about your experiences!  Drop by our facebook page and message us!

No randomness this week.  I’ve got a meeting to attend.  More randomness next week.

The Beginning: 4/6 – 4/12 (Chart and brief intro)

Get your dice a-rollin'!  Go see a random show.  You won't believe how rewarding it can be!
Get your dice a-rollin’! Go see a random show. You won’t believe how rewarding it can be!

This week will feature two reviews by our newest reviewer (Sarah), and one by our editor (Chris).  Maggie is taking the week off.  We are close to a full stable of writers. Once we have everyone on board, we’ll be launching weekly feature articles.  We had meant to get them going a few weeks ago, but with fewer writers, it is hard to accomplish.  So… soon.

In the meantime, check out the chart to the right.  This week has a large number of openings, and a lot to be excited about.

No randomness this week.  It’ll return next week, though.  We promise.

The Beginning: 3/30 – 4/5 (Chart and Preview)

Check out this week's chart! A bunch of stuff for you to go see! Randomly!
Check out this week’s chart! A bunch of stuff for you to go see! Randomly!

There are times when Mother Nature works against us.  This past weekend was one of those times for me.  I was scheduled to see three shows, but then my body succumbed to the joy that is the flu.  So, I only saw the one.  My review of it will be published later tonight.  I wish that had happened sooner, but said flu kept me from doing anything productive for a few days.  Now it would seem that I’m back in the saddle again, and as I ride forward into the next weekend, I can say that I’m looking forward to once again having three shows on my docket.  Maggie is back from a couple of weeks on other writing projects, and she’ll be writing up an article on at least one show.  And… the big news for this week: although she won’t be reviewing until next week, we can announce our newest reviewer!  So, without further ado…

Meet, Sarah Bowden!  Here’s Sarah’s Bio:

Sarah Bowden is a playwright. Her plays have been produced in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Stockholm. Her work has been developed and presented by the Painted Bride Art Center, the Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, the Nylon Fusion Theatre, Monkeyman Productions, the Greenhouse Theater Center, the Chicago Madness Collective, and Ohio University. Her full-length The Magnificent Masked Hearing Aid was listed as a semi-finalist in several theatre festivals, including the Capital Repertory Next Act! New Play Summit, the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte’s nuVoices Festival, the Activate Midwest New Play Festival and the Elgin Cultural Commission Page to Stage Program. The script received Honorable Mention in the American Blues Theater Blue Ink Playwriting Award. Sarah has won the White-Howells English Prize for Drama and the Margaret W. Baker Prize for Fiction, was a finalist in the Route 66 Theatre Test Drive Workshop and a semi-finalist for the Stage Left Theatre Playwright Residency. She has developed her work as a finalist in the International Thespian Festival’s Playworks program. She has completed internships with Chicago Dramatists, Northlight Theatre, Arden Theatre Company, the Wilma Theater, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and the Adirondack Theatre Festival. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Playwriting from Ohio University and B.A. in directing and creative writing from Beloit College.

In the future, that bio will be posted on our “The Critics” page.  But, you know, it’s always nice to meet the new gal upfront.  Sarah will be tackling randomly determined plays just like the rest of us, and I’m really thrilled to have her on board.  She has written some fascinating stuff in the past, and I figure that’s an indication that she’ll do so in the future.  So… Welcome, Sarah!

Okay… shall we talk about some theatrical things that are happening in town this week?  Yeah?  Okay!

First, I want to talk about the theatre that happens beyond our realm of reviewing.  As you may know, we limit ourselves to reviewing productions that are easily accessible to the CTA.  Now, there are a lot of shows that fit that criteria.  You seldom have to look beyond the immediate confines of the city to find good theatre.  Nevertheless, I want to talk about one of the companies that you really have to drive for.  The Paramount in Aurora is currently doing a production of West Side Story that looks tremendous.  I won’t get to see it, but if you do, the lovely video below makes it look like it would be well worth the drive.  Or, you know, if you’re already in the suburbs, feel free to hop on over there and check it out.

Next up, I want to talk about something back inside Chicago proper.  The Side Project Theatre has been hosting a storytelling festival for the past couple of weeks, and the final leg of it begins this Sunday.  While storytelling isn’t often something that we review, or that gets reviewed at all by most theatre writers, I have spent many of my favorite evenings in a theatre listening to members of the storytelling community.  So, I would challenge you to take an evening between the 3rd and the 6th of April, and go see some storytelling.  In essence the art of theatre is nothing more than telling a story in a dramatic fashion to an audience.  These folks boil it down to its most concentrated form.  Pure theatre, stories.

Finally, some randomness, randomly:

  • I’ve recently gotten into reading western novels.  This after a wave of reading supernatural fantasy detective novels.  It used to be true that I’d only read one book at a time, and I would shift from genre to genre.  now I maintain about 5 books that I’m reading at any given moment, and they all seem to be along a theme.  I’m not sure what that means.  Just an observation.
  • Red.
  • One of the shows that I was too sick to attend this past weekend was “35mm: A Musical Exhibition”.  Circle Theatre is doing it at Collaboraction’s space.  I won’t get to see it now.  Schedules are cruel.  However, I would like to point out that I was really looking forward to it.  And, since I can’t review it, I’ll link to another review of it so you can get excited about it, too.
  • My cats are far more clingy than they used to be.  Also louder.  Their chattiness makes it difficult to do voice over work.  Especially the girl cat who has a piercingly bright meow that actually sounds like she’s saying “Meow”.
  • Pedir = To ask for
  • Trivia Time!  Here’s your weekly bit of trivia from Funology.com: “Raindrops aren’t really shaped like drops; they are perfectly round!” — This has me a bit disappointed.  After all, snowflakes are shaped like snowflakes.  I just figured that a raindrop should follow suit.
  • There are 10 mugs in front of me.  You have to figure out if I mean drinking vessels or people’s faces.  It probably doesn’t help you at all to know that seven of them are white and three are black.
  • I’m doing my taxes tonight!
  • Grey.

The Beginning: 3/17 – 3/22 (Chart and preview)

Theatre1234ChartAs I’m sure you know, there are a lot of projects that don’t get covered in the press.  Many of them are short one-night events.  Not unlike many other places, we have a standard that we follow with regards to reviewing.  For us a show must run at least 3 weeks total to get on our charts.  All of the shows on the chart to the right have runs that are at least that long.  Also, we limit ourselves to reviewing shows that are easily accessible via the CTA.  So, we seldom cover shows in the ‘burbs.  Those that we do cover are on the Green, Yellow, and Purple lines.  That limit isn’t imposed by many other ranches of the media, but then they have other limits that restrict who they may or may not cover in the outlying parts of Chicagoland.

I, for one, will not review children’s productions.  I don’t mean theatre for children.  That I will review.  I’m talking about productions done by young people who are basically still learning the trade.  I am not their instructor.  Feedback need not come from me.  A terrible review can be damaging to an adult who is used to being critiqued publicly.  To a young person still in their developmental years, that damage can be long lasting and permanent.  So, I don’t do it.

On the other hand, I do often cover companies that don’t get press elsewhere.  The little guys need love, too.

For this week’s preview, I want to focus on a few shows that are not on this week’s chart.  They aren’t on there for a variety of reasons.  One is nearing the end of its run and has fallen off the chart.  Another isn’t a long run thing (technically).

Okay… here we go:

A Phase (Broken Nose Theatre @ The Den)

12764575_3158031142711_993713487997557165_oThis show is one that my schedule wasn’t going to allow me to see, and now that it is approaching the end of its run, I am certain to not catch it.  This saddens me, because it is a production involving two people who I admire the heck out of.  First, let me speak about the company that is producing the show.  Broken Nose Theatre came on my radar a little while ago due to its first few shows at The Greenhouse Theater Center, which is where my own company made its Chicago debut back in 2010.  The folks who ran the company at that time were also on staff at the Greenhouse, and I liked them a lot.  In the recent past (read: last year or two) Spenser Davis took over the helm of the company, and it has been doing some really cool things.  I finally saw a show by them when I took in “My First Time”, which featured stories of people’s first sexual encounters.  That show was my introduction to Elise Spoerlein.  Davis was also part of that cast.  As was Jovan King (who was a regular member of my own company’s productions from 2011 – 2013).  Anyway… Since that production, I’ve been tracking the careers of Davis and Spoerlein.  I’ve produced short plays by Davis.  He’s done a staged reading for me.  He’s one of the truly great guys in this theatre community.  I haven’t yet gotten a chance to work with Spoerlein.  But, given what she brings to the table, I can’t wait to get the chance.  These two put their talents together and created “A Phase”.  Spoerlein did the writing, and she’s also the star of the show.  Davis directs.

This is a piece that knows its market well.  It is about a young woman on her own in Lakeview.  It takes her on a relatively stationary voyage through a phase in her life.  Here’s the thing that I like most about that.  As you may know, Chicago is a young person’s town when it comes to theatre.  There are a lot of early 20-somethings trying to figure out their lives and their careers.  In truth, there are a lot of first-time playwrights cranking out material about being stuck in what is essentially a quarter-life crisis.  And most of those plays suffer from searching too hard for the meaning of life as the leak onto the page from pens held by people who’ve yet to live life in any amount.  There is value in the saying, write what you know.  Spoerlein does just that.  And in the hands of a director like Davis, the piece has potential to speak directly to the people who are going through what the character does.

One other thing that I admire about Broken Nose is their dedication to strong women characters in their pieces.  They host a Bechdel festival regularly.  “A Phase” is another show that focuses on the female experience.  I really wish I could see it.

The show closes March 26th.  There are only a handful of performances left.  Click here for more information.

The Artist’s Lab (Stage 773)

ArtistsLabSo, a few months ago, I was tapped to be a part of a project that involved a large group of writers, actors and directors coming together to create a bunch of new plays.  That project is hosted by Stage 773, and while I had to leave the project after contributing to one play (family health issues reign supreme over art).  Anyway, the thing is that I think the project itself is a tremendous thing that must be shared.  There are 5 pods (not sure why they are called that).  Each one is made up of a director, six writers and six actors.  Each group creates three new plays over the duration of the project.  So… I want to shine a light on two of the pods that excite me most.  I don’t honestly know what their pods are doing.  Mine was focused on creating one-act musicals on a theme about a Cowboy and a Showgirl.  But, what I do know is that the directors in charge of Pod 2 & Pod 4 are folks whose work excites me to no end.

M. William Panek’s next offering in on March 31st.  Panek directed one of my favorite shows of last year: “[title of show]” for Brown Paper Box Theatre.

Fin Coe is the Associate Artistic Director of Halcyon Theatre, and he’s also been a part of one of Commedia Beauregard’s Master Works projects.  I like Fin a lot.  His next offering is on April 14th.

Tickets to catch the new creations are only $10.  Assuming I don’t have rehearsal myself, I will be there on both of those nights.  I can’t wait!

More information can be obtained by clicking here.

The Beginning: 1/21 – 1/25 (Weekly Chart)

A bunch of new shows on this week's chart. Grab your dice and roll! See a show!
A bunch of new shows on this week’s chart. Grab your dice and roll! See a show!

Not much of a preview this week.  As of this moment, Maggie should be on her way to review one show.  I’m reviewing three this weekend.  There are a lot of openings this weekend, so a lot of good new shows out there. Roll your d20 on the chart to the right and get out and see some theater!

Next week will have a full weekly preview, as well as our first ever feature article.  We’re excited that we can bring more theatre reporting to Chicagoland!

See you then!

The Beginning: 1/14 – 1/18 (Preview and Chart)

A list of 20 great shows to go see this weekend! Do it!
A list of 20 great shows to go see this weekend! Do it!

It takes two weeks after the start of a new year for the theatrical community to get its feet under itself.  We’re back to a full chart this week.  Exciting shows are on there.  I will be out of town this weekend seeing my daughter’s dance show in Minnesota, so Maggie is our only reviewer.  The dice were rolled, and she will be seeing the newest offering from City Lit Theater.  It’s a new adaptation of a Mark Twain novel.  I’m really bummed that I don’t get to see this show.  First off, the adaptation is by Terry McCabe, and I really enjoy his stuff.  Secondly, I am on a mission to read all of Mark Twain’s works. I’ve not made it to “The Gilded Age” yet. I’m about to delve into “Pudd’nhead Wilson”. My wife and I went camping near Hannibal, Missouri a couple years ago, and since then I’ve started plowing through Samuel Clemens’ work.  I won’t be getting to “The Gilded Age” for a while. This is a book which he wrote as one half of a co-authoring team.  That in and of itself has me intrigued. According to the folks over at City Lit, this script adapts the Twain segments of the book, and leaves the rest alone.  They have put together a couple of videos about the show.  Here’s one that I find informative and interesting.  Check it out.

As you may know, one of my top five plays of 2015 was a production of “[title of show]”.  Open Door Rep has now tackled the show.  It’s a musical that I want to see again.  The original cast soundtrack has become part of my traveling music.  I love the play.  I don’t know anything about the Open Door production itself.  I’m sort of wondering if the script and score stand up to different productions.  I sort of assume that any production of the show starts out as at least good, and then the right company can elevate it to great or beyond.  Were I in town this weekend, this is a show I’d want to catch.

There are a lot of other highly anticipated shows on the chart this week.  If you haven’t seen a play in a theatre yet this year, this is probably the week to get yourself to a stage and take something in.

No randomness this week.  I’m frantically packing to head Up North.  But there are cool things on the horizon, and we’ll be chatting about them very soon.  See you next week!