My Name is Rachel Corrie

Halie Robinson in Jacaranda Collective’s ‘My Name is Rachel Corrie.’ (Photo: Zeke Dolezalek)

“Jacaranda Collective leaves a good first impression on the Chicago theater community with the company’s debut production of My Name is Rachel Corrie, currently onstage at The Den Theatre.

Directed by Sam Bianchini, who also serves as Jacaranda’s Artistic Director, it’s immediately apparent that the company and its work are devoted to intimacy, passion and truth. Ms. Bianchini herself seated audience members in The Den Theatre’s third-floor studio space during last weekend’s press opening and graciously thanked all for coming.

It was not, however, Ms. Bianchini’s excellent manners and hospitality that left an indelible impression on this critic and her companion. Rather it was the material and the one-woman tour de force that is Hailie Robinson, playing the titular Rachel. With minimalist staging and few props except scattered books, journals and articles of clothing, Ms. Robinson tells the true, transcontinental story of a creative young woman from the West Coast who sacrifices herself in service of broader social justice and human dignity.”

Read the full post on The Broadway Blog.

Sweat

(l to r) Kirsten Fitzgerald, Keith Kupferer and Tyla Abercrumbie in ‘Sweat.’ (Photo: Liz Lauren)

“In 2000, the United States had not felt the full pain of NAFTA and its crippling of the blue collar workforce. We had yet to experience the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the dot com bust, a housing market implosion and an ensuing, not coincidental spike in opioid addiction that followed these events.

By 2008, we had waved goodbye to Clinton’s budget surpluses, years of relative international peace and the promise of economic stability for those willing to work hard and pay their union dues. The methodical union busting that swept through American industries following NAFTA’s passage drives much of the action in Ms. Nottage’s electric script.

Veteran Ron OJ Parsons returns to direct Goodman Theatre’s rendering of Sweat. The story examines the lives of two generations of friends in a Pennsylvanian Rust Belt town just before, during and after everything about the community’s economic rubric changes. Where generations of residents once moved from high school graduation to factory floor, guaranteeing good wages, a pension and ability to provide for their families, NATFA demanded the acceptance of a new paradigm. Relocated production and the undercutting of worker bargaining which had driven the expansion of the middle class since the end of World War II became the new normal. Opportunities and bank accounts shrank while the temptation to scapegoat “others” (typically immigrants and Americans with brown skin) proved irresistible.”

Click here to the read the full review on The Broadway Blog.

Rachel Maddow: Thank You for Covering Scott Lloyd (A Plea to Mainstream Media)

“Last night on her eponymous television show, Dr. Maddow showed viewers a spreadsheet maintained by the Trump administration’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. This benignly named civil liberties chop shop is led by a renowned anti-abortion activist with zero previous experience working with immigrant populations.

Scott Lloyd was called before Congress in February to testify about his office’s handling of child separations at the border and irreparable harm they have on the most vulnerable. In a new report, Maddow and her staff drew attention to Lloyd’s creepiest production to date, a document which tracks the pregnancies of unaccompanied minor girls with a singular goal of blocking requests to terminate them. The 28-page spreadsheet contains the names and sensitive personal information of underage rape victims, with an explicit intent to control their invaded bodies further, denying them the health care access guaranteed by the Constitution and the Supreme Court for ALL women within U.S. borders. The committed Catholic is an ungodly man of immeasurable overreach and dehumanizing cruelty.

The multi-faceted immigration horror stories being written by the Trump administration, its political appointees and a militarized ICE warrant relentless media coverage with moral clarity. What’s happening to children on our watch requires more from an admittedly overtaxed and personally threatened profession. Bi-partisan ratings appeal is a figment of the media landscape’s imagination, and has been for some decades. We have a responsibility to inform the public. Let’s follow the lead of journalists like LeTourneau and Maddow and tell the truth.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Little Shop Of Horrors

Mercury Theater Chicago’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ (Photo: Brett Beiner)

“Ever since its 1982 Off-Off Broadway premiere, the sci-fi musical Little Shop of Horrors has been a playhouse staple. From high school and summer stock stages to major productions like the 1986 Hollywood film starring Rick Moranis and the short-lived 2003 Broadway production, the script’s sharp comedic dialogue, eye-popping puppetry and engaging score have proven irresistible to local, regional and international companies alike. Just last fall Drury Lane Theatre presented its own take on the plant with a human-size appetite.

Mercury Theater’s rendition is an excellent burnishing of the legendary teamwork between writer Howard Ashman and composer/lyricist Alan Menken. Helmed by Mercury’s Executive Director Walter Stearns with musical direction and choreography from Eugene Dizon and Christopher Carter respectively, the production boasts a uniformly talented and charismatic cast that brings new energy and excitement to a beloved favorite.

Based on a shoestring-budgeted 1960 black comedy of the same name, Little Shop of Horrors gives audiences the story of Seymour Krelborn, a sweet, intelligent if shy and impoverished young man who often finds himself at the mercy of stronger personalities. As played by Christopher Kale Jones, a musical theater veteran who performed in the first national tour of Jersey Boys, this Seymour is hapless with enough self-aware sexiness to render the character’s tragic flaw painful and appealing. Mr. Jones’ Skid Row botanist knows how his story ends as soon as it starts – so close to love and acceptance he can literally smell it.”

Read the full post at The Broadway Blog.

Smollett vs. Manafort: America’s Color and Class-Coded Criminal Justice System in Action

“..the 16 counts against Smollett carry a maximum sentence of three years per charge. That means that the 36 year-old actor could serve as many as 48 years behind bars for his transgressions, which yes, include deliberately lying to police and the public. But consider that possibility, then compare it with the shambolic sentencing of a famous, traitorous, crooked old Caucasian man who has been fleecing governments, banks and the American public for over 30 years.

The juxtaposition of two grossly disparate approaches to justice, dominated by identity politics, in which the system is rigged to support moneyed, cisgendered white males. Well…that puts me in similar place with New York Times Opinion Columnist Michelle Goldberg. To paraphrase her March 8 comments in response to the real and manufactured outrage being directed at Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for comments construed as anti-Semitic, when I think of Smollett this weekend, I am angry at him, as well as furious on his behalf.

Earlier this week, former Donald Trump 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort had the white privilege of appearing before Judge T.S. Ellis III of the United States District Court of Alexandria, Virginia. Robert Muller’s special counsel’s office had recommended a 19 to 24-year prison sentence after bringing more than two dozen felony charges against Manafort, including obstruction of justice, bank fraud and violations of lobbying laws.”

Instead he will serve less than four years.

Read the full post at Contemptor.