Strawdog’s emotional play asks if we can ever be certain of “The Effect” of the drugs we take

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Photo by Jesus J. Montero. Emotions are complicated things. We all experience happiness, joy, anger, hatred, fear, love, and so many other powerful feelings that are part of human existence. But what are they, really? Where do they come from? We know that attraction, for […]

JPAC’s “In the Heights” is a joyous and exuberant experience.

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Photo by Dylan Cruz Photography. In the Heights, the first musical from Hamilton writer Lin-Manuel Miranda (with a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes), is a wonderfully entertaining celebration of life. It takes place on and around the 4th of July in Washington Heights, a poor […]

First Floor Theater’s tender but painful melodrama “Sugar In Our Wounds” is a reminder of how far we have yet to go

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Photo by Gracie Meier. Partly a story about the experience of slaves during the Civil War, partly an unusual and devastating exploration of gay love, and partly an homage to the faith in something mystical that keeps us alive in dark times, Donja R. Love’s […]

Proxy shows great potential but it needs much more work

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Photo by Michael Brosilow. Proxy, the latest premiere musical from Underscore Theatre, which has brought us many wonderful new shows over the years, tells a fascinating story. Fifteen years ago, at the age of twelve, Carisa Gonzalez’s Vanessa was nearly murdered by her best friend […]

Invictus’ brilliant “Merchant of Venice” adds a (too?) painful layer to the show’s antisemitism

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Photo by Brian McConkey. How do you write a review of a production that does everything beautifully from direction to costuming to design to the outstanding acting, but which was hindered before even it started rehearsing by a choice that probably seemed fascinating but ended […]

Complex, Intense, and Timeless–The Joffrey Ballet’s Jane Eyre is Extraordinary

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Review by Joe DeRosa; photo by Cheryl Mann For two extraordinary hours on Wednesday evening, the Joffrey Ballet’s Chicago Premiere of Cathy Marston’s Jane Eyre drew the audience to the edge of their seats to bear witness to ballet’s potential to strip the human experience down to its most visceral base elements.  Family and loved […]

A visit home reveals both internal and external dysfunction in the poignant and funny “Kentucky”

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Photo by Claire Demos. Leah Nanako Winkler’s Kentucky, now playing at Theater Wit in a production by The Gift Theatre, is a remarkable meditation on the nature of happiness and success: what does it mean? who gets to determine it? is it the same for […]

“Grey House” adds a few turns of the screw to the cabin in the woods genre

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Photo by FadeOut Foto. Stop me if you’ve heard this one or anything like it: On a bleak midwinter night, a young couple is driving cross-country toward the woman’s father’s house when they run smack dab into an unexpected blizzard. On a road piling up […]

Exquisita Agonia explores the pain of loss

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Photo by Carlos García Servín. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross defined the “five stages of grief” as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, saying that these are necessary steps we all go through when a loved one dies. What happens, though, if someone simply gets stuck in the […]