Artistic Home’s BY THE BOG OF CATS . . . : Harrowing Irish Drama

Move over Lucia, Dido, and Norma! There’s a new operatic heroine in town. Marina Carr’s Hester Swane may not be a Scottish lady, or a Carthaginian princess, or a Druid priestess, but this down-and-out Irish tinker suffers more passionate abandonment by loved ones in her brief stage lifetime than all three opera divas suffer together […]


CST’s Love’s Labor’s Lost: A Charming Delight

Harold Bloom, Yale’s Sterling Professor of the Humanities, has a particular desire to see Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost: I have never seen a production of this extravagant comedy that could begin to perform to its vocal magnificence, but I always live in hope that some director of genius will yet deliver it to us. Marti […]


Raven Theatre’s ASSEMBLED PARTIES: A Doubter’s Christmas Carol

Christmas has been the occasion for two classic plays, Hamlet and Ibsen’s Doll’s House. Ironically, as the Christian Feast of the Nativity has become secularized, the occasion has been used by more and more contemporary playwrights to give dramatic resonance to their work. The late Harry Kondoleon’s Christmas on Mars, Rebecca Gilman’s Luna Gale, and […]


Lyric Opera: Chicago’s Third Great NORMA

As late as 1920, American musicologists considered Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma “an improbably old-fashioned, almost hurdy-gurdy work.” But thanks to Chicago sopranos, that opera has become a standard of the American operatic canon. Written when Bellini (1801-1835) was just thirty years old, Norma had played in Chicago since the mid-nineteenth century by various visiting opera companies. […]


My 10 Favorites of 2016, In No Particular Order

KING CHARLES III – Chicago Shakespeare THE AMISH PROJECT – Interrobang WONDERFUL TOWN – Goodman THE MERCHANT OF VENICE – Shakespeare’s Globe at Chicago Shakespeare THE SEAGULL – The Artistic Home COMPANY – Writers’ Theatre A LOSS OF ROSES – Raven Theatre PYGMALION – Remy Bumppo THE TROJANS – Lyric Opera THE MAGIC FLUTE – […]


The Irish Theatre of Chicago’s THE WEIR: “A strange [but wonderful] little evening”

When I lived on a five-acre farm in Maine, I found myself strangely fascinated with the behavior of male birds. It seemed that whenever a female swallow appeared the male swallows engaged in all sorts of madcap aerial displays, loop-d-loops, dives, deal falls, etc. On the other hand, when a female cowbird appeared, the male […]


LYRIC OPERA’S MAGIC FLUTE: A Metatheatrical Spectacular

Reviewing an 1879 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the anonymous Chicago Tribune critic noted, “it would be absurd to try to explain the plot…. All sorts of explanations have been attempted but, if anyone ever really knew what it meant, he died before he said anything about it. It is a hodge-podge, nonsense, and […]


Lyric Opera’s DON QUICHOTTE: A Hymn to a Holy Fool

A dying Jules Massenet wrote Don Quichotte knowing the woman he loved, soprano Lucy Arbell, would play the courtesan-lady Dulcinee after his death. Rather than create his own libretto from Cervantes’ mammoth novel, Massenet used Jacques Lorrain’s bastardized and abridged verse play, Le Chevalier de la longue figure, for his libretto. La Lorrain’s short play […]


Remy Bumppo’s PYGMALION: Run, Don’t Walk. Now.

If you think you might ever want to see Bernard Shaw’s famous comedy, Pygmalion, now is the time. Don’t wait. Head to the Remy Bumppo Theatre. You won’t find a better collection of actors finding every jot and tittle of comedy and drama in this sometimes-baffling play. Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is a peculiar example of […]


Lyric Opera’s THE TROJANS: The “Most Profoundly Moving Experience”

“For grandeur of conception, nobility of tone, and imaginative range [Berlioz’ The Trojans] has scarcely a rival in operatic history.”[i] The words of the great musicologist Winton Dean would seem impossible to fulfill in production. But, after seeing the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s brilliant production of The Trojans, Mr. Dean may have been understating the […]