Ms. Blakk for President

(l to r) Tarell Alvin McCraney and Patrick Andrews in ‘Ms. Blakk For President.’
(Photo: Michael Brosilow)

“Younger audience members who’ve come of age in the era of RuPaul’s Drag Race may not immediately recognize Ms. Blakk’s public political crusades as the daring acts of civil disobedience that they were in 1992. To help provide context, the production makes liberal use of historical video footage displayed on old-fashioned tube TVs hung from the Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre ceiling. We are still two years away from President Bill Clinton’s abominable “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military service policy, and four years out from the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The AIDS crisis is in full swing and people are dying.

As the candidate representing Queer Nation just four years after Ronald Reagan left the White House, Ms. Blakk and her support team have one real ambition: to get on the floor of the Democratic National Convention, hosted that year in New York City. In a pre-Internet media landscape, global television cameras trained on a man in a dress had the potential to draw significant attention to a modest agenda. In full makeup, tall and dignified, Ms. Blakk goes to New York with a message. The right to life and liberty guaranteed by the American Constitution applies to LGBTQ citizens, too. Those promises have been betrayed by hate, violence and a listless approach to combatting an AIDS epidemic that has legions of America’s finest young men lying in hospital beds.

But no one said important work can’t also be fun. Pulling double duty as writer and lead performer, Tarrell Alvin McCraney has created for himself the role of a lifetime with a semi-fictionalized Ms. Joan Jett Blakk – ‘Two Ts, two Ks.’ Strong, introspective, gifted with song, dance and preternatural stiletto poise, Ms. Blakk’s public bravado is an effective cover for Mr. Smith’s private insecurity, poverty and loss.”

Read the full review at The Broadway Blog.

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Sad, But Predictable: Gender Shifts in Political Participation Yield Rise in Violence Against Women

“In ways that most men fortunately never have to consider, what happens to a female warrior of social justice in the center of Africa matters very much to a stay-at-home mother in Dubuque, Iowa – or at least it should. The daily news cycle, and research data such as that highlighted by Forbes, provides evidence of what most of us know by instinct. Mankind’s oldest sociopolitical tool for controlling and silencing women – violence – is as prevalent as it’s ever been.

But where the law has frequently failed to guarantee women their rightful participation in the public, private and professional spheres, perhaps the troubling data reflects a present and undeniable silver lining. A grotesque validation of our gender’s global progress. Men do not fight what which they do not fear. Information can be just as powerful and innovative as brute strength, and we can use it to find new ways to protect our bodies and voices.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Miracle

The cast of ‘Miracle.’ at The Royal George Theater. (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

“The Lovable Losers finally ended the sports world’s longest winless streak in 2016 with a long-dreamed-but-never-realized-by-anyone-living World Series trophy. And because nothing about being a Cubs fan is ever easy, the team put its global legion of diehards on an epic, seven-game emotional roller coaster ride that ended in joyous shock, disbelief, and exhausted euphoria. The extra bleary kind that only arrives at 1 a.m., after 108 years of waiting ‘til next year.

The real-life story — from Tinkers to Evers to Chance, to 1945, to the Curse of the Billy Goat, through 1969, 1984 and 2003, and until mercifully, 2016 — is one made for soaring opera: the tears of relief shed by fans old and young, for themselves and for the true believers long departed; the parade that welcomed millions of revelers to downtown Chicago on an unseasonably warm November day that seemed heaven-ordained. There’s so much material and possibility for bringing recent history to vivid narrative life.

Instead, the Royal George offers audiences thirsty to relive the impossible, a pedestrian, disappointing trifle. Miracle, with a book by Jason Brett (co-founder of Chicago’s Apollo Theater), and music and lyrics by Jeff Award-winner Michael Mahler (Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story), makes a few stirring emotional connections. But the production ultimately strikes out by engaging in too much Disneyfication and deus ex machina. The result makes for a bland if well-sung production that perversely siphons away the emotional heft of those fateful events in November 2016.”

Read the full post at The Broadway Blog.

The Roe v. Wade Challenge is Coming to SCOTUS: Is the Country Ready to Fight for Woman’s Rights?

“The eight states that have passed abortion restrictions this year that could challenge the constitutional rights established by the Supreme Court in 1973 are no coincidence. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2016 election to the U.S. Presidency, the stacking of SCOTUS with Justices Neil “Ideological Litmus Test” Gorsuch, and Brett “Sexual Assault” Kavanaugh is one of Trump’s few delivered campaign promises.

This is no Handmaiden’s drill. The right, having made excellent progress in shoving the nation’s wealth upward, leading us into pointless and costly wars, and disenfranchising as many brown people as possible, is coming for the white, male, patriarchal Holy Grail – Roe v. Wade. It’s a good thing the greater electorate didn’t give into Hillary Clinton’s “blackmail” about the judicial consequences of elections, right Bernie Bros and Broettes? That evil woman has been wrong about…nothing (sob – “#ImWithHer).

So what do we do now, if like me, you believe wholeheartedly that only a woman should make the ultimate decisions about her own body, but accept that the standoff that’s been brewing for over 40 years is actually coming?”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

The Winter’s Tale

Goodman Theatre’s ‘The Winter’s Tale.’ (Photo: Liz Lauren)

“Part of the fun in this Bohemia is that we know more than the silly and angry characters do. We think we can see the story’s ending, and can thus relax and enjoy the show. In this reimagining of Shakespeare’s work, the audience is treated to modern pop cultural breadcrumbs like a cool line dance sequence choreographed by Tommy Rapley, and a joke about the band Queen. Mr. Falls’ production and its 19-member cast invite us all the way in during the show’s second half, after holding us at paranoid arm’s length in Sicilia.

But in a bit of late-career paradigm busting, the Bard throws his audience a science fiction curveball. Or does he? A rushed, climactic ending may leave heads scratching, but after a night to sleep on it, I’ve decided that this is a good thing. Few of Shakespeare’s most famous plays end in mystery. Goodman Theatre’s production of The Winter’s Tale embraces ambiguity with gusto, offering a smartly realized and multi-dimensional realization of one of Shakespeare’s most cryptic works.”

Read the full review on The Broadway Blog.

Joe Biden Is Not What America Needs: Frustrations From A Long-Time Fan

“In recent years, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Joe Biden found his lane. He excelled as Barack Obama’s wingman, and their productive rapport and friendship launched a thousand memes. He became America’s plain-spoken grandfather. And we all mourned with his family when 46 year-old son and former Delaware Attorney General Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015. Joe Biden outlasted the train wrecks that were his failed presidential campaigns, rebuilt the respectability of the Vice President role (after the mercurial and cruel Dick Cheney tore it to shreds) and left the White House with a 56 percent favorability rating. That should have been enough for one public lifetime.

But it wasn’t and so Joe Biden is one of 21 candidates comprising the 2020 Democratic field. At 76 years old, he is relic from another time of perceived bipartisan cooperation, of white male backroom collaboration. It is unfailingly clear to many that Biden is ill-prepared to lead a new America where Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement has unleashed centuries of repressed victimization into empowering, female action and leadership.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

The Children

(l to r) Janet Ulrich Brooks, Yasen Peyankov and Ora Jones in ‘The Children.’
(Photo: Michael Brosilow)

“The global immediacy of man-made climate change, the consumptive guilt of the Baby Boomer generation and a renewed confrontation with an old, complicated love triangle. Any one of these themes is more than enough for a production that runs an hour and 45 minutes (no intermission). Steppenwolf Theatre’s The Children is, therefore, too much in all the right ways.

Written by dynamic young playwright Lucy Kirkwood (a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature’s “40 Under 40” initiative) and directed by celebrated Chicago theater director Jonathan Berry, The Children is the important, funny, socially conscious gut punch I didn’t know I needed.

2018 Tony Award nominee for Best Play, The Children opens per press materials, “on a summer evening in an isolated sea cottage in the East of England.” Due to perfectly understated work from scenic designer Chelsea M. Warren, lighting designer Lee Fiskness and sound designer Andre Pluess, this looks and sounds idyllic.

Audiences learn rather quickly, however, that the enviable bohemian lifestyle of married former nuclear scientists Hazel (Janet Ulrich Brooks) and Robin (Yasen Peyankov) is not what it seems. What we witness instead is England’s answer to Chernobyl and two of its architects. Though long retired with four grandchildren and literally vapored dreams of operating an organic farm, the couple’s individual habits communicate a suppressed culpability. Hazel, pushing 70, goes all in on the cult of salads and yoga as the keys to eternal life, as Robin retreats to their abandoned farm to bury dead animals, absorb radiation and weep in peace. Intense stuff.”

Read the full post at The Broadway Blog.