The Locust At the GIft Theater

On Friday, I went to see a show in The Gift Theater. It was the first time I went there after the pandemic. I love this theater, I used to go to all of their performances and to “meet the cast” events, and I donated to them, and then it all stopped during the pandemic, plus I moved, and they moved 🙂
I finally made it to their new show because first, this show runs relatively close to where I live, and second – I wanted to take out my old friend, who is very much into the theater.
Both of us were impressed! The play is a thriller, and that’s not what I usually like. An FBI agent comes to her hometown to help the local police capture a serial killer, and she returns to her home and relives her past. But it is not about the plot but how the artists represent their characters, human feelings, and relationaships. The acting was superb! It is sad that so far, due to the COVID precautions, the actors do not come to meet the audience after the show. But OMG, what a pleasure!

“Swing State” At Goodman

I didn’t look at any theater tickets before all my travels were over, and then I realized that many shows were already sold out! That happened with the Swing State at Goodman. My neighbor told me that she was going to see it last Saturday and said: great, I will use my “whenever Goodman” tickets. And then I saw that all the remaining Friday and Saturday shows were sold out! I found two single (not-together) tickets for Tuesday, so Igor and I could go.  

The show was brilliant, and I was glad I managed to get “the last two tickets.” It was especially good that both of them were very close because the show is set in one room of Peg’s (the main character) house. There are only four characters, so all the scenes are very intimate, and it is great when you can see all the facial expressions and be pretty much “inside the act.”

I was annoyed that people often laughed during the show because the story was tragic, and everything that could sound funny was tragic. Igor said it was a “couping laugh” since many audience members could feel uncomfortable. 

And one thing that touched me personally was that Peg is doing prairie restoration and is shown collecting and sorting the seeds. The way she talks about the prairie is so “mine” that it makes her a real person.

Photos from the Goodman Theater website

To Kill a Mockingbird

I went to see this play at Netherlanders Theater on Wednesday. I do not know why I didn’t check details in advance – probably because I was sure that there can’t be anything unexpected – but I didn’t realize that this is a play, not a musical. Until some time into the show 🙂

It was a splendid production, and very true to the book, except for adding some references to today’s situation (like “seventeen shots”).

The theater was packed (and they do not check the vaccination cards anymore, although masks are fortunately still required)? and the audience was completely taken by the performance.

At some point, however, I got a feeling that not everybody in the audience was familiar with the book (although it seems impossible); or maybe they forgot since school. It’s just that the reaction to some scenes (like announcing the verdict) seemed to be a little bit like they didn’t expect it.

On my way home, on the Red Line, I heard people talking about the play – some of the passengers saw playbills in other passengers’ hands, and that started the conversation. When this happens, it always feels very good, like we are indeed one city. One Chicago.

“Seagull” at Steppenwolf

Last Wednesday, I went to see the “Seagull” in the Steppenwolf theater. I had four tickets left on my Black card, and I decided to use them all for this show. I figured that Igor and mom would go, and I will figure out whom else to invite. My neighbor was interested (she even thought about getting tickets herself), and I gladly invited her.

It was not only an all-new “Seagull” but also the first show on the Steppenwolf’s New Stage, and the new stage was fantastic! And actually, everything about this show was great: the translation was nearly perfect, nothing was cut from the play, and the actors seemed to be born to play these roles!

I was also glad that mom liked it. She could not remember the play itself (although it’s a Russian classic taught at school), and she could not understand what was going on on stage, but still, she was captivated by the action.

Live Theater

What a night! I can’t even say it was like in the “old days” – it was better than ever! Or maybe I forgot. Or maybe I just haven’t been to a Broadway class show for a while.

My neighbor and I had a night out in the Loop on Thursday. We started from a dinner at the Italian Village where I hadn’t been for more than two years. These days, they have a very strict reservation policy: they allow 1 hour 45 min for dining, and they charge you for canceled reservations (you need to put a valid credit card when you make the reservation). But that worked for us, ensuring that there was no crowd at the entrance, the tables were filled, and everybody had enough time to dine. It was nothing extravagant, but it was a very nice and festive dinner with their homemade pasta, wine, and a seasonal dessert. 

Then, we headed to the Nederlander Theater. They have a very strict COVID protocol, and they really watch the patrons following it – and this allows them not to have any capacity restrictions. . 

The show was fantastic! It was a pre-Broadway run of “Paradise Square,” and everything about it Twas brilliant: the story, the music, the voices, the choreography!  Two and a half hours of celebration of people’s talent and creativity!

The story takes place during the Civil War in New York, at the time when President Lincoln instituted the first Federal Draft, followed by the Draft Riot. More educational resources can be found on the production website (I think that I am not the only one who knew nothing about the Draft Riot, and about the Five Points neighborhood. At first, I didn’t realize that the actors present the real interracial couples of the 19th century; I thought that the cast was race-blind. But as the story unfolded, I realized that it was indeed about Irish/Black couples.

Unfortunately, I could not find any pictures, even from rehearsals, but I hope they will add some images to the production website at some point.

The only bad part was that I was at home after 11 PM and went to bed about midnight. And then, on Friday, Igor and I went to see the “Bug” in the Steppenwolf theater. That show started at 8 PM, and once again, we had to wait for the train, and I was home after midnight, and two nights in a row with about 4.5 hours of sleep was not a good idea. 

The “Bug” is a play written by Tracy Letts, and it’s a very difficult thing to watch. Unlike most people, I didn’t see the movie and judging by the description on the website I didn’t realize how depressing it was going to be. It’s not that I am avoiding depressing plays, but with that one, I can’t even see what anybody in the world could do to prevent that tragic end…

Canceled Performance

Today, Igor. mom and I were going to see an outdoor performance of the Goodman Theater new production Speak Out! And we went, only to find out about the last-minute cancellation, and it was a long trip for us from Palatine to Portage Park.

One of the performers was tested positive, and they suspended all performances until everybody would get tested and receive results. Which is the right thing to do, but why in the world they didn’t notify us?! Although the performances are free, they asked people to sign-up for email updates, just in case. And that was the case! Also, they didn’t have any updates on the theater webpage, only on their Facebook page.Total wasted time – almost two and a half hours.And that’s me trying to take a break from my two weeks non-stop work + book marathon. I could do something more productive at that time…

Goodman Theater: Roe

Today, Igor, Mom, and I went to see a new play “Roe” in Goodman Theater, and it was so powerful! Everything: the play itself, the performance, staging, actors – everything was excellent, and the content is mind-blowing.

As you can guess from the title, the play is about Roe vs. Wade. To be more precise – it tells the actual story of the case, told separately by two women: attorney Sarah Weddington and plaintiff Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe). 

Turned out, I knew nothing about the story. Yes, I heard that “Jane Roe” ended up speaking against the Roe-v-Wade amendment, but I knew nothing about her as a person, about her story, her circumstances. To put it bluntly, she was misled by two young attorneys, who made her believe she will be able to have an abortion, which was not going to happen. She was designated to suffer “for the sake of future generations of women.” Which leaves the audience with an eternal question – can good cause justify all means? 

That’s exactly what I said after the show, at “Drinks and Discussion” after-show event. The even was full, and all the participants had chance to share their thoughts and to talk to the actors.

The play is incredibly deep and moving. It gives voices to the people from all sides, and it does not provide an out-of-the-box answer. I highly recommend it, o matter what your political affiliation is and what your believes are. It runs for three more weeks!

Watching The “Music Man”

On Saturday, I was at Goodman’s performance of the “Music Man.” I have a “Whenever Goodman” subscription, which means that I could choose which shows I will be attending, and how many tickets I will allocate for each. I knew that the last play of the season would be the “Music Man,” so I’ve saved the last four tickets for it, not even knowing whom I will invite.

Continue reading “Watching The “Music Man””

About The Play I Saw Today

I like the Silk Road Rising theater a lot. I’ve been coming to their performances almost since they were founded, and I find most of the plays they stage quite exciting. When I’ve received their newsletter where they announced the short festival of the staged readings of the plays from the former Soviet Middle Asia republics, I immediately started to contemplate, who I can see them all.

This plan appeared to be impossible, for a simple reason that I have other things to do as well, but I still wanted to see some of them. So today Igor and I went to see “Uzbek, ” and I am keeping thinking about what I saw.

It is a great play, and in my opinion, it touches the topics which are very relevant to Russian society these days. However, both Igor and I feel that there was not enough context for the part of the audience, which is not very familiar with the subject of the play.

During the after-show conversation, one of the Russian playwriters said, that this play is supposed to be “hilarious,” which is true, but only if one can understand the cultural references, can figure out, which statements are an exaggeration, which are sarcastic and which are satirical. And if you have no idea, how things look in reality, you can’t appreciate the author’s reference points. For example, if you are unfamiliar with the ways of Russian bureaucracy, you can’t see the point of comparing it to the Uzbek bureaucracy. If you do not know anything about different socioeconomic groups in nowadays Russia, you can’t detect the origin of the person by listening to his alternated speech.

Now that I’ve thought about this play for some time, I do not think that all the jokes are so funny, even if (or precisely because of that) you know the context.

Several people talked to us after this conversation was over, and they were saying that they were going to ask the same context question and that they agree with me.

The reason why I react at this with such a fuss is that that’s precisely how the myths are being born, and precisely the reason I am so articulate in my posts about the Soviet and Russian history, describing all ifs and why.

Sometimes Russian actors, singers, and playwriters are going on the international tours to cater exclusively to the immigrant audience, and there is nothing wrong about it if that’s all they plan. However, I think this specific play can potentially bring a lot of value in the understanding of the current situation in Russia by the America audience if accompanied by more details about the setup and cultural and historical context.