By Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter; Directed by Julia Miller
Manual Cinema's new project, Mementos Mori, recently had a work-in-progress workshop viewing at the MCA (which commissioned the piece). Though the work isn't done yet, we're incredibly excited to see the finished project when it debuts in its finished form in January. Manual Cinema combines puppets projected onto screens via overhead projectors, live actors, live musicians, and live editing between two screens to create a perfectly singular and beautiful experience. You simultaneously watch the show and the show being created, underlying an incredible truth about performance in general. Buy advance tickets here before it's too late.
Written by Mike Leigh, Directed by Shade Murray.
Writer Mike Leigh is the master of the mundane. His plays, created through improvisations with actors, focus on small domestic scenes that serve as blank canvases for rich, beautiful acting. Ecstasy is no exception, and the cast assembled by Cole Theater nails it. Taking place in a cold London flat at the end of the 70s, we watch 6 characters long to feel less alone among the crowd. This play is laugh-out-loud funny, heartbreakingly sad and, like how elementary school teachers whisper to get a class to quiet down and listen, draws you in deeply with it's quiet ferocity. Buy tickets here.
Written by Aaron Posner, Directed by Jonathan L. Green.
Sideshow Theatre's production of Stupid Fucking Bird centers on the frustrated loves of the inhabitants of the lake house owned by Emma, a successful commercial actress. Her son Con wants to create a new form of theater, his girlfriend Nina aspires to be an actress and falls in love with Emma's current boyfriend Trig; Con is pursued by Mash, who is pursued by Dev, who is pursued by no one. You don't have to know that is a "sort-of adaptation" of Chekhov's The Seagull in order to love this show. For starters, they tell you - a couple times - right from the stage. But for all the meta-theatricality of this play, it's ultimately about wanting to make something better out of the sparse, broken ingredients at hand. A hilarious and ultimately haunting play about the pain of wanting more. Buy tickets here.
Written by Ena Lamont Stewart, Directed by Robin Witt.
As a mother of 5 living in a cramped Scottish tenement during the Great Depression, Maggie Morrison is at risk of drowning in the relentless swirl of setbacks, frustrations, tragedies, and disorienting joys. With a seemingly enormous cast and an impeccably designed off-center set the play conjures the chaos and exhaustion of people who more than anything else need a moment to rest and for once a pleasant surprise. Buy tickets here, they won't last long.
Written and performed by Brianna Baker, Directed by Frances McKearn.
In this insanely funny, sweet, and moving solo show, Brianna Baker (who wrote and performs the piece) takes the form of her "rascal-boned" maternal grandmother in a series of brisk vignettes spanning the septuagenarian's broad life - from small girl in Salt Lake City to distant senior in a suburban Chicago care center. The show is hilarious; Baker's big-hearted embodiment of her grandmother left us not only instant life-long fans of Baker (who can also be seen in improv group 3Peat at iO and elsewhere), but with a huge appreciation for a woman who carved her own path - messily but relentlessly - through an age of overwhelming conformity. Buy tickets here immediately to see the show paired with Moral Hazard at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy.
Written by Sam Shepard, Directed by Kaiser Zaki Ahmed.
For the acting alone The Artistic Home's production of Sam Shepard's The Late Henry Moss would be more than worth the price of admission. Add to that a vicious presentation of a dying alcoholic grasping out for life, a collection of sad dessert-dwellers haunted by their various pasts, and, somehow, mesmerizing injections of humor, and you have the freight train that is The Late Henry Moss under Kaiser Zaki Ahmed's direction. The show must close August 3rd, buy tickets here.
Written by Steven Banks & Penn Jillette, Directed by Shade Murray.
Love Tapes is SO MUCH FUN. It's got incredibly cheesy Hair Metal music videos, awkward-cute sexual tension, heart-breaking vulnerability, go-for-broke performances, huge laughs, and full-frontal nudity (ladies and dudes!). Melinda (Mary Williamson) is an x-ray technician with a crush on the guitarist from 80s band, Ümlaut. In a last-ditch effort for love, she sends him a tape of herself (is there hula-hooping? Yes, there is.) and the response she gets sets a strange, beautiful love story into motion. How do we "meet" people in a world where everything about us is known before we look each other in the eye? It's a really great night and another awesome contribution by a restless company with a lot to say and the talent to say it. Shows through July 6th, tickets here.
Created by Trevor Dawkins, Directed by Kurt Chiang.
In this original work by the Neo-Futurists, Trevor Dawkins attempts to stage an action movie he wrote as a 13 year-old after a bully teased him in front of a girl he liked. In addition to some incredible stagecraft, including maybe the only time you'll see someone get karate-kicked through a glass ceiling 6 feet in front of you, the play raises persistently timely issues of violence and anger in young men, sexism and racism in the action-movie genre, and what it means to grow up. It's also completely hilarious and badass. Playing through June 28th! Hurry.
Written by Marisa Wergryzn, Directed by Shade Murray.
A Red Orchid Theatre's Chicago premiere of a new work by Marisa Wergryzn, Mud Blue Sky tells the both hilarious and poignant story of three flight attendants and one mopey teenage drug dealer spending prom night together at cheap hotel near O'Hare. In addition to universally incredible acting performances, the thing to watch for in this show is a haunting balance between glamor and regular mundane life. Both drug dealers and flight attendants have had a kind of moment of being sexy and exciting, but the reality today of being a flight attendant - cheap hotels, union politics and sore feet - or a low-level drug dealer - minor celebrity, chasing down $20 loans, and unconvincingly carrying a knife - show regular people trying and not always succeeding to leave their own circumstances. Now in an extension by popular demand, tickets are scarce but look for them here!