Posted in #Roundabout, adaptation, adoption, Andrew Orkin, based on a play, based on Chekhov, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, classic, Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, drama, dysfunction, Emerging Directors, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Jeff Blumenkranz, love, love story, melancholy, Norwegian playwright, play, Shariffa Ali, Shariffa Chilemo Ali, storytelling, Strindberg, Strindberg adaptation, Victoria Clark, Yael Farber

Modernist Classics

Tony-winner Victoria Clark (for Light In The Piazza) was in the short-lived Broadway run of Gigi

Like our friends Chekhov and Ibsen, August Strindberg invites reinvention, interpretation and re-interpretation. Strindberg’s brooding psychological themes have not had as much stage time as those of his contemporary.**

Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg are modern playwrights, in the sense that Freud is modern. Our preception of the inner workings of the soul and its desires have all been clarified in their work.

We are introduced to characters, conflicts and situations which have us wondering what if? We search for their outcomes and new resolutions for them. Hence the tendency for contemporary writers to rephrase and update Ibsen, or Anton Chekhov or, now especially, August Strindberg.

In the upcoming Classic Stage Company double-bill in repertory, Conor McPerson and Yaël Farber rework two Strindberg pieces, Dance of Death and Miss Julie. This Strindberg celebration runs from January 15th through March 10th at the CSC’s theatre on East 13th Street.

Farber’s Mies Julie resets the play to the Karoo of South Africa, adding a new dimension to the social conflicts in the original. Mies Julie is directed by Shariffa Ali who brings enlightened and empassioned humanitarian activism into the play’s broader themes.

Victoria Clark is helming the production of McPherson’s interpretation of Dance of Death. You surely know her as a Broadway musical star, who won a Tony for her lead in The Light In the Piazza, and was a nominee for four of her other outings. Lately, Ms. Clark has been directing musicals and operas around the country. She brings her sense of the lyricism in words to Strindberg’s brutal vision of a marriage in decline.

** (Strindberg’s Miss Julie, for instance, was last seen at the Roundabout in 2007 with Jonny Miller and Sienna Miller, although an off-Broadway production of his lesser-known The Pelican was produced in 2016.)

Posted in adoption, Chicago fires, family drama, fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, Route 66 Theatre Company

"A Twist of Water" is a very Personal History Lesson

Rebuilding your home after a disaster is an act of faith that is emblematic of human resilience.

In “A Twist of Water,” the Route 66 Theatre Company production playing at 59E59 Theaters through November 25th, the rebuilding is both symbolized by Chicago and extremely personal.

Noah (Stef Tovar) is left to care for the daughter, Jira (Felashay Pearson), he and his partner, Richard, adopted seventeen years ago. Jira and Noah miss Richard very much since his death in a car accident left them to their own devices.

Alex Hugh Brown as Liam and Stef Tovar as Noah in at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Jira, angered by the loss, and a teenager, does not make Noah’s task of fathering easy.Noah has an ally in fellow teacher Liam (Alex Hugh Brown), who runs interference for this loving family. “If I tell her,” Noah says, “that we are all made up of moving water, and unearned hope, and risk… If I tell her she is the only home I require…” Jira’s decision to seek out her birth mother, Tia (Lili-Anne Brown), adds to the friction between father and daughter. As Noah says, “Discovery is a wonderful and fearsome thing.” 


Stef Tovar as Noah and Falashay Pearson as Jira in “A Twist  of Water” at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Catilin Parrish (story, playwright) and Erica Weiss (story, director) have collaborated on a very moving tale in ““A Twist  of Water.” They and the cast offer up some very powerful and deeply affecting lessons in love and history. 


 Lili-Anne Brown as Tia and Falashay Pearson as Jira in “A Twist  of Water” at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

The scenic design, by Stephen Carmody, for “A Twist  of Water” is clever, making use of projections (by John Boesche with the assistance of Anna Henson) that help Noah as he unravels Chicago’s history of building and rebuilding. This reviewer’s fondness for architectural miniatures and models was particularly tickled by Carmody’s decorative diorama of the city. 

“A Twist  of Water” is a beautiful and gripping work.

For more information about the Chicago based theatrical group, Route 66, visit www.route66theatre.org 
For a schedule of performances, please visit www.59e59.org.  
Posted in adoption, autistic children, birth, birthing, dating, empty nest, gay parents, motherhood, mothering, parenthood, parenting, single parents, surrogate mother

A Mother’s Joys, A Mother’s Suffering, Parenthood 101

The concept behind “Motherhood Out Loud” is to have a tag team of writers, some playwrigts, some novelists, weave tales of the joy and pain of motherhood.

Created in the spirit of “Love, Loss and What I Wore” or “The Vagina Monologues” but using fourteen authors to voice the show and a permanent cast of four to give embody it, “Motherhood Out Loud”
, in a Primary Stage production at 59E59 Theaters through October 29th, is the brain child of producers Susan Rose and Joan Stein.

The episodes, divided into five “Chapters” each with four scenes, cover the ground from giving birth to finding an empty nest, or as Cheryl L. West puts it in her segment, “Squeeze, Hold, Release.”

(L to R) Mary Bacon, Randy Graff, and Saidah Arrika Ekulona. Photo credit: James Leynse. 

Michele Lowe, the most prolific of the contributors in “Motherhood Out Loud” frames the intros of each selection of scenes with things she calls “Fugues” as in “Fast Births Fugue” or “Graduation Day Fugue.” Ms. Lowe also wrote a couple of skits (“Bridal Shop” and “Queen Esther”) for the show.

.(L to R) Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Mary Bacon and Randy Graff Photo credit: James Leynse. 

The stories like the ones from Marco Pennett (“If We’re Using a Surrogate, How Come I’m the One with Morning Sickness”), David Cale (“Elizabeth”), Leslie Ayzavian (“Threesome”)or Claire LaZebnik (“Michael’s Date”) feel very personal.

Other monologues — for instance by Beth Henley (“Report On Motherhood”)
or Jessica Goldberg (“Stars and Stripes”) feel more imagined.

Some of the material just seems a bit generic, like Brooke Berman’s “Next to the Crib,” for example.

James Lecesne Photo credit: James Leynse. 

Mary Bacon (Actor A), Saidah Arrika Ekulona (Actor B), Randy Graff (Actor C), and James Lecesne (Actor D) willingly work back and forth through the copious bits and pieces that include adoption, senility, in-laws, and parents, sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes misfiring.

Parts of “Motherhood Out Loud” are funny, or moving, or surprising, but it remains a pastiche, and somehow the parts just don’t add up to a whole play.