Tapping and Taming: this week's new performing arts reviews



Juan Francisco Villa tells his terrifying story at the Yo Solo festival
  • Saverio Truglia
  • Juan Francisco Villa tells his terrifying historia at the Yo Solo festival
According to the Reader's Tony Adler, it's been "one hell of a summer for Latino theater in Chicago." A case in point: the Yo Solo Festival of Latino Solo Shows. Four out of six of the works presented in this new joint venture from Collaboraction and Teatro Vista are don't-miss affairs. The one-man and -woman performances range from the magic-realist romance of Sandra Delgado's Para Graciela to the terrifying rage of Juan Francisco Villa's Empanada for a Dream. Another bilingual winner reviewed this week is That's Weird, Abuelita, a Latino-inflected version of Barrel of Monkeys' long-running kids' show, That's Weird, Grandma. As with Grandma, BOM turns stories written by elementary school students into sketches—and the result is zany.

Though it tends to stick with paltry old English, Victory Gardens Theater's third biennial Ignition Festival is still worth checking out. Five works by playwrights of color are offered in staged readings. One of the plays from the first Ignition Fest, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, went on to garner a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Time will tell if there are any diamonds in this year's rough.

The sexual politics of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew can make modern audiences wince. But thanks to some smart cutting by the director and sparkling chemistry between the leads, Jack Helbig writes, Chicago Shakespeare Theater's outdoor touring production is funny, fast-paced, and awfully romantic.

The best tap dancers of the West and East are showcased in the Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Juba! concerts. Japanese tappers Yuji Uragami and Yukiko Misumi will show their stuff, along with local companies like FootworKINGz and BAM! With so many exclamation points being thrown around, it should at least be exciting.

Nothing else gets a full-out recommendation this week. Albert Williams comments that while Adrift tells its tale of two troubled father-son relationships intelligently, it doesn't stir the emotions. Justin Hayford describes The Monument as an irritatingly overwrought allegory about the barbarity of war. And Zac Thompson suggests a moratorium on stagings of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, given the bland one presented by Redtwist Theatre.

In the comedy department: the Eclipse Theatre version of Eugene O'Neill's 1933 Ah, Wilderness! benefits from strong acting but devolves into dull nostalgia, and high-energy high jinks can't sustain Factory Theater's Ren Faire! A Fistful of Ducats.

Finally, Keith Griffith tries not to be too critical of the children's show Alice in Wonderland, from Emerald City Theatre. But he still wonders, "Will the under-ten crowd care that adapter/director Ernie Nolan supplies no guiding concept other than the assumption that they all have attention deficit disorder?"

Add a comment