“Lipstick Lobotomy” at Trap Door is both funny and painful as it takes us into a mental institution in 1940 with Rosemary Kennedy

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Trap Door Theatre. Throughout the mid-to-late 20th Century, the Kennedys were easily the most famous family on this side of the Atlantic. Sometimes perceived as America’s “royal family,” they tapped into the country’s imagination with JFK’s rise to the Presidency in 1960 and […]

TUTA’s “Hedda Gabler” with live music drowns in a sea of High Concept

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Austin D. Oie . There is always something to be said for a theatre company trying something new or making an effort to freshen an older play with some unique concept. Sometimes the result is something sparkling and truly original. Broadway’s recent spate […]

Writers Theatre’s “Stick Fly” explores the secrets of an upper-middle-class Black family

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Michael Brosilow. Lydia Diamond’s 2006 play Stick Fly is a beautifully written, complicated study of the intersection of family dynamics, racism, sexual politics, class differences, academia, and fathers (both absent and not), among other things. With all that going on, perhaps “complicated” is […]

A dog’s life looks pretty good in Pride Films and Plays’ funny and poignant “Dex & Abby”

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Heather Mall. Any pet owner will tell you about the special relationship they have with the dogs, cats, or whatever under their care. And I don’t think I have ever met one (myself included) who doesn’t believe that the creatures they love feel […]

Powerful and haunting “Mlima’s Tale” takes us deep into the worldwide ivory trade

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Michael Brosilow. Here is pretty much the summation of what I knew about the worldwide ivory trade before seeing Griffin Theatre Company’s brilliant Mlima’s Tale at the Raven Theatre: it’s illegal everywhere and it involves the senseless murder of elephants to harvest their […]

USAOnstage NYC: Tú Amarás (You Shall Love)

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Review by Edward Rubin, member of American Theatre Critics Association, NYC’s Drama Desk, and the Outer Critics Circle; photo by Matthew Murphy  After performing around the world Bonobo, the internationally acclaimed Chilean experimental theater company finally made its way to New York City’s Baryshnikov Arts Center, with Tú Amarás (You Shall Love), a socio-political offering […]

Factory Theater invites us to the “Last Night in Karaoke Town” (but don’t worry: no one will make you sing)

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Michael Courier. Full disclosure: I’m a total sucker for karaoke. I used to take my children to karaoke clubs all the time when they were younger, and we still sing together using my home machine and my ridiculously extensive collection of song discs. […]

First Floor Theatre takes us on the surreal, time-bending journey to “Plano”

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Gracie Meier. Plano—the real Plano—is a town in Texas. In Will Arbery’s play Plano, though, it is also a state of mind, and sometimes it is a curse in which, as one character notes, “we’re ghosts of ourselves, like we’re dying and coming […]

Powerful, painful, and often hilarious, “Kill Move Paradise” is an expressionistic window into the too-frequent killing of Black men by police

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Lara Goetsch. Its playwright, James Ijames, describes Kill Move Paradise as “an expressionistic buzz saw through the contemporary myth that ‘all lives matter.’” Truthfully, while that is certainly accurate, it doesn’t even begin to do justice to the emotional power and existential majesty […]

An uneven, irreverent version of “Titus Andronicus” at Haven Theatre

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Austin D. Oie. Within the first half hour of the 3+ hour Titus Andronicus by Haven Theatre, actors moving naturally around the stage had snapped off three large pieces of wood facing, and I thought I was once again dealing with a show […]