2017 Ten-Word Summaries

  • BLKS (Steppenwolf Theatre Company) – Wild night brings truths to light in this warm comedy.
  • Sammy: A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. (Black Ensemble Theater) – A charming ensemble parcels out an icons’ music and history.
  • Little Red Cyrano (Red Theater Chicago) – Deaf talent overshadowed by concept-heavy script and language question.
  • Wedding Band : A Love/Hate Story in Black & White (The Artistic Home) – Between love and color, some debts can never be settled.
  • Marie Christine (Theater Wit) – Despite playing racism for shock value, cast gives good performances.
  • Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery (Pegasus Theatre Chicago) – Women form a community through song in this lovely show.
  • J.B. (City Lit Theater) – All creatures under heaven face adversity through circus/mask work.
  • Fade (Victory Gardens Theater) – Ambition taints an authentic bond between two lonely, underappreciated souls.
  • The Last Days of the Commune (Prop Thtr) – Adapted Brecht provides food for thought in song and events.
  • A View from the Bridge (Goodman Theatre) – Brilliant staging of an American classic examines desire and choice.
  • Alias Grace (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble) – A woman commits murder, only gains freedom once she remembers.
  • 1984 (AstonRep Theatre) – Julia doesn’t pass the sexy lamp test, sorry lit nerds.
  • The Heavens Are Hung In Black (Shattered Globe Theatre) – The President makes a hard decision in an intriguing dreamscape.
  • United Flight 232 (The House Theatre) – The human mechanics behind what goes wrong in the air.
  • The Invisible Scarlet O’Neil (Babes With Blades Theatre Company) – An adventure story with laughs and twists and great fights.
  • The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Red Theater Chicago)– An energetic tale of charisma and hard choices about art.
  • Sister Africa (Genesis Theatrical Productions) – Hundreds of hours of interviews about atrocities in one play.
  • Machinal (Greenhouse Theater Center) – Going to battle against the patriarchy? I hear ya, sister.
  • Shockheaded Peter (Black Button Eyes Productions) – Brecht and Weill and faeries attempt a musical for children.
  • Triassic Parq (Circle Theatre) – Blue and Yellow make Green. See the show. You’ll understand.
  • Peter and the Starcatcher (Metropolis Performing Arts Center) – An assemblage of weak, dated one-liners fails to impress.
  • The Fair Maid of the West (Oak Park Festival Theatre) – A rollicking adventure awaits the audience, along with killer fights.
  • Luzia (Cirque Du Soleil) – Arid plains. Sweltering marshlands, Welcome to Mexico, pack your umbrella.
  • Hir (Steppenwolf Theatre Company) – One of my favorite plays.  I wish it were better.
  • The Nance (Pride Films and Plays) – When it’s not the act that’s too risqué, it’s you.
  • London Assurance (City Lit Theatre) – After 120 years, this show is welcome back in Chicago.
  • Bette Davis Ain’t for Sissies (Velvet Fox Productions) – A forceful performance drives script about Bette Davis’ Hollywood woes.
  • King Ubu (Organic Theater Company) – Some despots need to be skewered on a sharper stick.
  • Three Days of Rain (BoHo Theatre) – Elegant staging and transformative performances mark this excellent, haunting production.
  • Musical Therapy (Death & Pretzels) – Sock puppets and sex and singing and dancing and wow.
  • A Prayer for the Sandinistas (Subtext Theater Company) – Troubling portraits of two “othered” characters muddy a domestic drama.
  • The Radiant (Genesis Theatrical Productions) – Marie Curie was a badass; she deserves a stronger play.
  • Objects in the Mirror (Goodman Theatre) – Trust in this one thing: You should see this play.
  • Time Stands Still (AstonRep Theatre Company) –  Spotty script keeps debate about romance and war from sticking.
  • We’re Gonna Die (Haven Theatre) – Monologue masquerades as rock concert. Trying hard to be profound.
  • Queen (Victory Gardens) – Watching their dreams collapse causes friends to take a stand.
  • Stop Kiss (The Cuckoo’s Theater Project) – Tragedy strikes a new love before it can take form. 
  • Mother of Smoke (Red Tape Theatre and Walkabout Theater Company) – Uneven script hampers strong emotional and physical acting from cast.
  • Sycamore (Raven Theatre Company) – For this patched-up family, returning to normal won’t do.
  • Venus in Fur (Circle Theatre) – Man auditions woman; woman disciplines man; disaster and desire follow.
  • Gentle (TUTA Theatre Chicago) – Lonely man grapples with mysterious wife in well-designed production.
  • Private Eyes (Piccolo Theatre) – Inconsistent storytelling hamper choosing whether play is fact or fiction.
  • Transit of Venus (Saint Sebastian Players) – Astronomer seeks uncomplaining wife, but gets an independent woman instead.
  • Squeeze My Cans (Greenhouse Theater Center) – Woman rejects Scientology, and she lives to tell the tale.
  • The Scottsboro Boy (Porchlight Music Theatre) – The Scottsboro Boys speak truth, but show business demands lies.
  • The Wolf at the End of the Block (Teatro Vista) – One must choose to fight or run in this thriller.
  • The Tempermentals (About Face Theatre) – A forgotten political rights movement makes history, but little drama.
  • Psychonaut Librarians (The New Colony) – Surreal adventures of librarian’s daughter chasing abusive lover across universe.
  • The Sundial (City Lit Theater) – What’s going on? Why are they doing that? Good Question.
  • Men on Boats (American Theater Company) – Adventure’s promised; only unimaginative conflict and repetitive imagery is delivered.