What We’ll Do

#1 Mission: We review plays!

Of course this is the first and foremost thing we will be doing here, with the numbers growing steadily as we add new reviewers. Our reviewing policy is simple: we discuss what is on the page and what is on the stage. Occasionally, we delve into the dramaturgical background if it’s important, but we try as much as possible to stick to script and production because we feel that is what matters most to you, the public.

We Provide a Playwright Group

We have created a specific part of our site for aspiring playwrights to share brief samples of their works in progress for feedback from other aspiring playwrights (and, who knows? even some published ones).

Playwrights’ Group is located in the top menu under Who We Are/What We’ll Do.

We Provide Want Ads

Do you or your company have any needs, either urgent or less so? Are you writing the libretto for a musical but you desperately need a composer to do the music? Did your stage manager quit three weeks before the show? Send us your needs and we will post them here for you.

Wants Ads are located in the top menu under Who We Are/What We’ll Do.

We Accept Requests

If the media is ignoring you, let us know! We’ll do our best to review your show. (No promises, but we will try.)

We’ll Share Your Stories

If you’ve got fun, compelling, or otherwise interesting backstage stories, share them with us and we’ll share them with the theatre community.

We’ll Let You Know What’s Going On Elsewhere

With NationOnStage, we’ll publish occasional original reviews and stories as well as links to others’ pieces about theatre in New York, LA, and Florida (and wherever our reviewers happen to travel).


green light recs: how we reveal recommendations

At ChicagoOnStage.com, we are theatre people, which means we take lighting seriously. 

OK, clearly we don't always do so since we're being a bit silly right now, but the fact is that traffic lights seem to us to be the perfect metaphor for recommending plays. They are simple; they are universally understood, and they come in just three varieties: green for GO to this show, red for STOP and think before going, and yellow for, well, exactly what we do with them in real life. May well be a decent show too, but you need to read the review: there is a reason we don't simply recommend it outright. We all get this so quickly: why has no one done this before?

We're going to use this simple three-color method of alerting you to our opinions. With each review, a graphic of a streetlight will appear, along with traditional stars. And even if you don't read it, you'll get the message.

because this...

is our recommendation shorthand!

As for what's playing overall, our Current Shows Highlights Page breaks shows down into genres to help you to find what you want and our Show Updates Page lets you know what is about to close or open. For a complete list of current and upcoming Chicago productions, we invite you go to chicagoplays.com, which has kindly allowed us to link their pages. 

And for those who feel the desperately need stars:

0-1.5 stars
2-2.5 stars
3-4 stars

Currently Recommended (Green Light) Shows

Scheduled To Be Reviewed


  • Legally Blonde
  • Borealis
  • The Goat or Where Is Sylvia?
  • Man of La Mancha
  • Radio Golf
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Odessa
  • DingDong or How the French Kiss
  • Frankenstein
  • Curve of Departure
  • Arms and the Man
  • The Artificial Jungle
  • We're Only Alive for a Short Time
  • Caroline, or Change
  • Nell Gwynne
  • Tootsie


  • White Rabbit Red Rabbit
  • Witch
  • Bunnicula
Reviews (most recent: Scraps)
Coffee Cups
USAOnStage Reviews

Our Mission and Promise

I am here for one reason and one reason only: I love theatre. To my core. And I think there is a need for a blog that goes much further than what others do or are willing to do; I think it is time for a theatre blog that truly services the theatre community. I know that no one, no matter how well-intentioned, can review every show, but I will do my best to get to as many as I can. I live in the 'burbs, which can sometimes make things that harder, and the League of Chicago Theatres reports that there are currently 79 shows playing and there are 108 more "coming soon." I think I'd be dead if I tried to see them all. But when I do commit to reviewing a show, that review will be on this site by the next day barring serious unforeseen circumstances.

I walk into every play hoping it will be superb and that I will have the time of my life. Of course, this cannot always happen. No one likes poor notices, but I promise to be honest and open with both praise and criticism and to deliver both with sincerity and, if possible, humor. (I mean, not if I'm reviewing Hamlet, but...you understand.) If I criticize, the goal will be to help the play or the person to improve; you can't do that if what I say isn't clear and genuine. Thus my promise to you is that, if I love a show, I will be leading the standing ovation; if I find faults, I'll write about them as clearly and gently as my four decades of teaching writing allows. You can't ask for better than that. (I'm not looking forward to the first time I need to write something negative about my son, an actor in the city, but I am perfectly willing to do so. And he's perfectly willing to listen. After the inevitable irritation wears off, anyway.)

You may find my reviews will tend to be different from most others. I've been a director and an English teacher so long that it is second nature to me to analyze what is going on beneath the structures of a play. I'm not saying I will always do this, nor even that I can, but you may find some approaches and angles here that you won't see elsewhere.

Another promise: I meant every word I wrote on this site. It is my fervent desire to accomplish all of it. If I'm not following through, tell me. (Gently and clearly, please: this is a two-way street.) And feel free to make suggestions. I promise to consider everything carefully. I don't promise to act on them; I may not agree. But I will give them honest consideration. Oh, and feel free to take advantage of anything I've offered; that's why I did it!

karen topham



Is your company or theatre not on either of our montages? Maybe we just don’t have a good image. Send us one, preferably between 1000 x 600 pixels and 1200 x 800 pixels, and we’ll get it right online!