green light recs: how we reveal recommendations

At, we are theatre people doing theatre criticism, 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 theatre criticism. 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. And even if you don't read it, you'll get the message.

because this...

is our recommendation shorthand!

For a complete list of current and upcoming Chicago productions, we invite you go to, which has kindly allowed us to link their pages. 


To see reviews, click on titles below.

Recommended (Green Light)

Recommended (Yellow Light)

Remember: These shows may be perfectly good, but I had some issue with them that necessitated their being in this category. See the review.


Just a word about why we have so many more green light shows than others:

I do most of the reviewing myself, and there are tons of possible shows I could see, so many that I could not possibly see them all. Why would I choose to see a show I'm unlikely to enjoy? Occasionally I'm wrong: thus yellow and red light reviews. But logic dictates that if I choose to see a show thinking I'll probably like it, I probably will.

Red Light Reviews

I found shows in this category too weak in some way(s) to recommend at all, but once again YMMV. I'm only one person; no reviewer is The Final Word. For me, a red light means "Stop: research this play before spending time and money on it." But read more reviews than just mine.

Reviews (most recent: Hands on a Hardbody)
Coffee Cups
USAOnStage Reviews (most recent: Producers)

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, 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



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