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 […]

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 […]

Glenview’s Oil Lamp Theatre shines a light on seldom-produced “Jake’s Women”

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Review by Kelly MacBlane After attending Oil Lamp Theater’s production of Jake’s Women last weekend, I had the privilege of sharing drinks with some fellow theater professionals, giving us the opportunity to talk about the show we had just seen. “Was that really a Neil Simon play?” someone asked. ‘It wasn’t really like any Neil […]

Technical issues mar an otherwise strong “A Raisin in the Sun”

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, photo by Brian McConkey. Great tech can enhance a theatrical experience. A brilliant use of lighting, a particularly outstanding set, sound design that puts us in the middle of the action: these things can make a good show even better. Bad tech, on the other […]

My relationship to “A Doll’s House,” and how that affects my reaction to Raven Theatre’s production

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This article is by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association, in response to Raven Theatre’s production of A Doll’s House. It isn’t technically a review, though there is a review incorporated within it. It’s more of an extended explanation of why I reacted the way I did to this production despite the clear […]

“Shear Madness” is every bit as much fun today as it was thirty years ago

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Review by Karen Topham, ChicagoOnstage, member American Theatre Critics Association. Photo by Brett Beiner. I have fond memories of seeing Shear Madness during its original 17-year-long Chicago run in the 80s and 90s, so I was definitely looking forward to Mercury Theater’s revival of this audience-participation comic whodunnit. I was not at all disappointed. Updated […]