Chicago theater reviews

Read the latest reviews of plays, musicals and other stage shows from Time Out's theater critics

Victims of Duty

4 out of 5 stars

Let us consider, for a moment, the elusive Michael Shannon in his natural habitat: the cramped storefront stage of a A Red Orchid Theatre, the company that he helped found and to which he frequently returns. Shannon has made a thriving career in Hollywood as a thinking man’s villain, with his looming frame and bug-eyed intensity injecting eldritch weirdness into many a stock character. But to see him flopping joyfully about in this remount of Eugene Ionesco’s Victims of Duty is to see a man truly at home. Too often, the movies keep Shannon pent up in a cage performing tricks. A Red Orchid lets him roam free. When Hollywood celebrities do plays, there’s usually too much ego on display for anything genuine to get through. The star has to be presented as a star, and the rest of the work suffers. Though Shannon has maintained a reputation as an actor’s actor, it’s inspiring to watch him blend into this stellar ensemble. Actors Karen Aldridge and Guy Van Swearingen, who starred alongside Shannon in the original 1996 production, get just as much shine. Van Swearingen is a former Red Orchid artistic director, and Aldridge is an accomplished stage and screen actress in her own right—in many other shows, she’d be the headliner. The script for Victims of Duty is the kind that makes a critic stare blankly at their computer screen, flummoxed by the task of writing actual English sentences to describe it. Ionesco was one of the 20th century’s leading absurdist writers, and this early pl

A Red Orchid Theatre , Old Town Until Sunday August 5 2018


4 out of 5 stars

The Cadillac Palace Theatre is turning into Chicago’s premier destination for musicals that once featured local actress-turned-Broadway superstar Jessie Mueller. Last December, the venue hosted a national tour of Beautiful—The Carole King Musical, and it’s currently showing Waitress, an adaptation of the late Adrienne Shelly’s beloved 2007 indie film. Mueller headlined both musicals on Broadway, but each production—Waitress especially—still has much to offer in her absence. And the kickass songbooks help: Beautiful had Carole King and Waitress has Sara Bareilles. As channeled through a live onstage band, Bareilles’s rowdy, casually frank ballads are the perfect match for musical theatre. When listening to her melodies, it’s hard not to feel like Bareilles is your best friend—the kind who will tell you to your face that the guy you’re dating is an asshole. Not one song into Waitress and you start to wonder: Why has it taken Bareilles this long to write a musical? And when is she penning another? As far as adaptations go, Waitress remains faithful to its cinematic source material, which is slightly ironic considering that the story is rife with infidelity. The plot follows Jenna (Desi Oakley), a small-town woman whose only escape from her loveless, abusive marriage is her passion for baking pies. Jenna works at a local diner with her two friends, fellow waitresses Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) and Dawn (Lenne Klingaman), where her baking talents are put to delicious use. The

Cadillac Palace Theatre , Loop Until Sunday July 22 2018