Post image for Film Review: LA LA LAND (written and directed by Damien Chazelle)

LA LA LAND STARTS WITH OOH-LA-LA BUT LANDS HARD In some ways, La La Land promises to be a moving, old-fashioned romantic musical that plays around with old techniques and presents them in a vibrant, zestful fashion. But some well-staged numbers and appealing actors don’t quite make up for forgettable songs, constrained storytelling, and two leads who aren’t terrific […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: TWIST YOUR DICKENS (The Second City at the Goodman)

A SWEET AND SOUR “TWIST” In the month of December, Goodman Theatre simply goes schizoid. On one end of its block-long Dearborn Street lobby is the Albert Theatre, where the sacred cash cow A Christmas Carol continues to attract traditional holiday lovers. (A smugly complacent look at a non-threatening Ebenezer, by now it’s more a […]

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Post image for Theater Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME (North American Tour)

DETECTING LOVE At first Christopher John Francis Boone seems a defective detective: A 15-year-old math whiz, this only child has Asperger’s Syndrome. The anomaly is enough to push adolescence way beyond awkward. Christopher’s autism manifests in manic multi-tasking, an inability to focus (or to lie), attention deficits, a maddening literal-mindedness, and a disarming directness that […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: THIS WAY OUTTA SANTALAND (AND OTHER XMAS MIRACLES) (Theater Wit)

CRUMPET COMES CLEAN For 8 boffo holiday seasons at Theater Wit, Mitchell Fain has been better known—and locally famous—as Crumpet, the irascible, impish and subversive Macy’s elf in David Sedaris’s hilarious monologue The Santaland Diaries (based loosely on Gogol’s equally manic Diary of a Madman). A trouper in tights, Mitchell Fain only missed 2 of 252 performances […]

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Post image for Los Angeles Theater Feature: IMPRO THEATRE’S HOLIDAY OFFERINGS, 2016

IMPRO FOR THE HOLIDAYS -dad- Family sucks. Spending time with the people you moved away from is so un-American, so anti-Manifest Destiny, such an embarrassing parochial guilt-trip, that it’s been relegated to the worst weather of the year. What we call the holidays are a “let’s get it over with” season of grown siblings reduced […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (ONEOFUS at MCA)

THE BEAST DOESN’T CHANGE WHEN KISSED: A HAPPY ENDING Fairy tales may seem ready for ditching into the dustbin of abandoned narrative, taking all their happily ever afters, glittering princesses, and talking animal friends with them. However, ONEOFUS founders Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser, married couple and neo-burlesque artists, offer an alternately cheeky and […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: BARNEY THE ELF (The Other Theatre Company at Greenhouse)

TO “MAKE CHRISTMAS GREAT AGAIN” You can’t keep a good elf down. Very loosely based on the 2003 film starring Will Ferrell as a love-seeking non-elf named Buddy, Barney the Elf repurposes the flick—and some favorite tunes in its parody score—to deliver a feel-good “found” musical. Certainly in 2016 a reminder of the rewards of tolerance […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: THE COMPLETE DEATHS (Spymonkey at Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

SHAKESPEARE’S TOTAL SLAUGHTER It’s a daunting statistic: In the 37 plays written by William Shakespeare, there are 74 onstage deaths. (The demises of Ophelia, Cordelia and Lady Macbeth, among others, don’t count because they occur between scenes.) That comes to two partings per play, though most of the comedies keep everyone alive until the end. […]

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Post image for National Tour Theater Review: IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS

I’M DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS WITH A BETTER SCRIPT I suppose it’s possible that Irving Berlin’s White Christmas might succeed with audiences. Possible, that is, if they are willing to tolerate a lame, cliché-ridden plot in exchange for large samplings of the Irving Berlin songbook accompanied by tap dancing and snow (and even tap dancing in […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: PYGMALION (Remy Bumppo at Greenhouse Theater Center)

GALATEA GETS HER PLAY The source has finally come into its own: Overshadowed by the thunderous success of My Fair Lady, its musical spinoff, Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw’s superbly penned, radiantly witty, and still-urgent drama from 1914, has long been overshadowed and undervalued. True to its mission to forge thinking theater from polished performers, Remy […]

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