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The Writers' Theatre production of Hamlet isn't perfect, says Tony Adler, but a stunning set, some strong performances, and a fascinating concept make it vibrant. Positing a gay Hamlet, Michael Halberstam's staging is "revelatory" as well as accessible and lively.
Other recommended shows include Iphigenia 2.0, a modern take on Euripides's Iphigenia in Aulis, at Next Theatre Company. Albert Williams praises Charles Mee's adaptation for its poignant commentary on American military adventurism in the Middle East. Speaking of war, Rivendell Theatre's Wrens tells the story of seven members of the Women's Royal Naval Service on the eve of VE Day. According to Justin Hayford, the first act is uninteresting, the second riveting, and an adept cast make both compelling.
Despite its "icky" acceptance of alcoholism, Dan Jakes calls Drinking & Writing Theater's Barnstormers a "casually fascinating edutainment covering booze, sports, and journalism." The six vignettes comprising All in the Timing explore the limitations and potential of verbal communication. Doug Albers's staging for the brand new Bard & Fool Theater Group implements David Ives's tricky wordplay with flawless comedic timing.
Written and performed by Latina duo Dominizuelan, People in the City contains resonances that add gravitas to the laugh-out-loud comedy. Marissa Oberlander praises Lorena Diaz and Wendy Mateo for their ability to morph with seeming effortlessness into various characters. Ron OJ Parson's production of the August Wilson play Jitney loses focus in the second half, says Zac Thompson, but an excellent Court Theatre cast creates an atmosphere that crackles with urgency. Tusk Tusk at Piven Theatre examines powerlessness, isolation, and abandonment from a child's point of view. A well-designed set and a powerful performance from recent high school grad Olivia Cygan come together to create a "beautiful, painful" story.
Not so well received is the Second City's election-season improv/sketch show One Nation Under 1%. It has a high-energy, talented cast, Keith Griffith reports, but too much of the material is filler scavenged from the company archives. Griffith also pans Shaw vs. Chesterton: The Debate, which reenacts a 1928 intellectual duel between George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton. He laments that the script oversimplifies the subtleties of their arguments. The show ends with a "lightning round" that "devolves into a celebrity soundboard for literary quotes."
The Bohemian Theatre Ensemble's latest,The Spitfire Grill, struggles unsuccessfully to recover from an implausible plot, while the Shapeshifters Theatre version of Martin McDonagh's A Skull in Connemara suffers from a murky plot, an underwhelming staging, and just-for-laughs acting that kills any sense of menace.
What Was Mine to Do explores journalistic ethics through the lens of a Taliban kidnapping. Asher Klein calls the Strangeloop Theatre production overlong and its characters undeveloped. Laura Molzahn tells us that Lifeline Theatre's The Woman in White stumbles in its attempt to produce an engaging melodrama, offering an unsympathetic heroine, a ridiculous villain, and an exposition-heavy plot.
Rachel Rockwell "tries her damnedest to make a turkey fly," comments Jack Helbig, discussing the director/choreographer's spirited revival of Xanadu, a campy musical now at Drury Lane Oakbrook. But Douglas Carter Beane's book ruins the show. Already saddled with a cumbersome conceit, Rare Terra Theatre's production of Wrong Mountain lacks nuance in the performing.
Kevin Warwick suggests you take a look at the late-night comedy offerings that are part of this year's Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements arts fest at the Riverfront Theater. And finally, in honor of the Chicago Moving Company's 40th anniversary, Nana Shineflug invited five Chicago choreographers to create their own riffs on five of her works. The results—by Matthew Hollis, Atalee Judy, Peter Carpenter, Joanna Rosenthal, and Margi Cole—are presented in "Cover Band."