2015 Ten-Word Summaries

  • The Christmas Schooner (Mercury Theater Chicago) – Some traditions are worth saving.  Others are worth spreading everywhere.
  • Robin Hood and Maid Marian (Strawdog Theatre Company) – A feast for eyes and ears on a shoestring budget.
  • Animals Commit Suicide (First Floor Theater) – Visceral and vicious: a rough ride with a bug chaser.
  • Palace of the Occult (Eclectic Full Contact Theatre) – What would a Jewish Nazi magician be like? See here.
  • It’s a Wonderful Santaland Miracle, Nut Cracking Christmas Story…Jews Welcome (Stage 773) – High energy holiday revue comes with fresh cookie and eggnog.
  • Ain’t Misbehavin‘ (Porchlight Music Theatre) – December is happy time to be in this Harlem bar.
  • Fulfillment (American Theater Company) – Rated NC17 for adult content, but PG13 for emotional development.
  • The Raid (Jackalope Theatre) – The talky tale of John Brown becoming John Brown’s body.
  • The Long Christmas Ride Home (Strawdog Theatre Company) – Skillful puppetry doesn’t adequately compensate for production and script weaknesses
  • The Thanksgiving Circumcision (MCL Chicago) – Not a series of bad dick jokes.  Actually good musical!
  • One Act, Primarily Nonsense, and Horror of Terror (Theatre Momentum) – Well executed improvisation doesn’t really replace the act of writing.
  • Holmes vs. Holmes (E.D.G.E. Theatre) – Doyle’s detective takes on Chicago’s serial killer in speculative case.
  • The Play About My Dad (Raven Theatre) – Katrina’s true human impact is finally captured in these stories.
  • Gone Dark (Otherworld Theatre) – One man struggles with his inner demons and outer vampires.
  • Chapter Two (Windy City Playhouse) – Seventies romantic comedy has many laughs and phones with cords.
  • belladonna luna sonata (The Plagiarists) – Theatre as it is supposed to be: intimate and adventurous!
  • Marvin’s Room (Shattered Globe Theatre) – Nostalgia and stout Midwestern optimism fuel a family to reconnect.
  • Design for Living (Pride Films & Plays) – Noël Coward’s smart and sassy threesome is hilarious and relevant.
  • The Terrible (The New Colony) – Hell isn’t other people.  It’s one person.  It’s your therapist.
  • The Beecher Sisters (Awkward Pause Theatre) – An unsolved mystery remains unsolved.  Intriguing discoveries along the way.
  • Unspeakable (Broadway In Chicago) – Richard Pryor was a genius.  This show doesn’t reflect that.
  • Good for Otto (The Gift Theatre) – Dead woman embodies depression within mind of dull, offbeat psychologist.
  • H.M.S. Pinafore (The Savoyaires) – The lass and her sailor shine in this traditional production.
  • Act Accordingly (Brand New Toys) – Six guys jerk around on stage for about an hour.
  • The Black White Love Play (Black Ensemble Theatre) – Jukebox musical masquerades as epic love story between Chicago celebrities.
  • A Strange Disappearance of Bees (Forget Me Not Theatre Company) – A beekeeper and a baker have sex and raise child.
  • Delicious Night: Baudelaire in a Box (Theatre Oobleck) – Obscure dramatic form makes appropriate focus for dark French poetry.
  • Scream, Queen, Scream! (Hell In A Handbag) – Three horror sketches in drag with subversive humor between?  Yes!
  • Direct from Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys (Raven Theatre) – Beautiful, disturbing, funny, and moving.  This show is beyond good.
  • Miss Buncle’s Book (LifeLine Theatre) – Terrible people make wonderful subjects when Buncle writes about them.
  • Spamalot (Theatre at the Center) – Show’s jokes are decades old, yet it is comfortably fun.
  • Merchild (16th Street Theater) – Raising transgender children is hard. So is raising any kid.
  • With Love and a Major Organ (Strawdog Theatre Company) – Train love. Quirky and weird in the best possible way.
  • End Days (Windy City Playhouse) – Sweet and funny, End Days celebrates our need for family.
  • La Bête (Trap Door Theatre) – Kevin Cox is a whirlwind of talent. A wild ride.
  • Outside Mullingar (Northlight Theatre) – A man struggles with inner demons, or insects, in Ireland.
  • Today We Escape (Tympanic Theater Company) – Radiohead songs inspire variety of plays that run the gamut.
  • Picture Imperfect (Bread & Roses Productions) – Woman struggles to hold onto child.  We struggle to care.
  • Tomato Queen (Quest Theatre Ensemble) – Sprightly music and clever design can’t make up for messy script.
  • Yankee Tavern (American Blues Theatre) – 9/11 conspiracies trump couple’s pre-wedding jitters. Coincidence? I think not.
  • The Sweeter Option (Strawdog Theatre) – Clever homage to noir, with complex anti-heroine and conflicted anti-hero.
  • Edgar & Annabel (The Poor Theatre) – Political operatives live fake lives, performing for anyone who’s listening.
  • Next Thing You Know (Refuge Theatre Project) – Couple breaks up over nothing.  Nothing happens.  There is singing.
  • A Nice Indian Boy (Rasaka Theatre Company) – Tradition and youth collide in light romance with surprising depth.
  • A Kid Like Jake (About Face Theatre) – Token LGBTQ issue sets up drama for contemptible Mama. Unworthy.
  • Really, Really (Interrobang Theatre Project) – I’m with Liz Lemon; always be mistrustful of today’s youths.
  • Circuscope (The Actors Gymnasium) – A microbe circus is far better than a flea circus.
  • Blue Planet (Akvavit Theatre) – Idyllic world is ruined by arrival of capitalism and verbosity.
  • First Date (Royal George Theatre) – Vignettes about pressures of dating tied together by clunky writing.
  • Music Hall (TUTA Theatre Chicago) – Subtle, moving meditation on the vulnerability of the performing life.
  • The Addams Family (Mercury Theater) – Gifted Gomez leads family through hilarious attempts at being normal.
  • Dividing the Estate (Raven Theatre) – Frustratingly mediocre play about a family of money-grubbing jerks.
  • Bawdy Bedtime Stories (Plan 9 Burlesque) – Twisted fairy tales really come alive and bare it all.
  • Laughter on the 23rd Floor (First Folio Theatre) – In the right hands, this should could have been brilliant.
  • Trigger Happy (The Annoyance Theatre) – Silent cues amongst improv-ers give show a more rehearsed feel.
  • The Adventures of Tapman (Tapman Productions) – Rhythmic hero defeats villains through fancy footwork.  Sand dance rocks!
  • The Rose Tattoo (Shattered Globe Theatre Company) – Richly told, wonderfully inhabited – all the drama with laughter besides!
  • Book of Merman (Pride Films & Plays) – Who ordered the Book of Mormon/Ethel Merman mash up?
  • Red Bud (Signal Ensemble Theatre) – Naturalistic campout makes silence meaningful.  Traditions don’t always stay meaningful.
  • The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle (Steep Theatre Company) – Man watches painful memories from his life.  So do we.
  • Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play (Theater Wit) – A dark, funny, moving, scary, tremendously weird end of days.
  • Plastic Revolution (The New Colony) – A sales pitch for Tupperware.  Nothing but song and dance.
  • Accidentally, Like a Martyr (A Red Orchid Theatre) – Witty repartee and stinging regret fuel old men’s evenings out.
  • Top Girls (The Arc Theatre) – A complex, dated script about women’s challenges hinders solid performances.
  • Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them (First Floor Theatre) – Brother and sister, cobbling a family together from broken pieces.
  • The Revenants (WildClaw Theatre) – These two survivors of a zombie apocalypse struggle to cope.
  • Lions in Illyria (Lifeline Theatre) – There is nothing quite like Shakespeare told by a monkey.
  • Cookie Play (Trap Door Theatre) – Not-quite-absurdist-enough Cookie Play crumbles in the end.
  • Push Button Murder (The Side Project) – Trigger-happy cynics rule the skies from underground lairs.  Boom!
  • Airline Highway (Steppenwolf Theatre Company) – Last day in the life of a crumbling motel queen.
  • Penny the F*ckable Dolphin: A Love Story (The Annoyance Theatre) – Hot porpoise action on stage. Can this be called acting?
  • H.M.S. Pinafore (The Hypocrites) – A thought: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.