Sunday, February 21, 2010

Piggy day, adult plays, mammoths, mastodons and more! Whew

Photos, clockwise from upper left: 
Renee Matthews and Gabriel Harder in Noble Fool's "Over the Tavern" -- Review below; 
Ora Jones, Alana Arenas and K. Todd Freeman in Steppenwolf's "The Brother/Sister Plays" -- Review below; 
Dale Benson and Marilyn Bogetich in Theatre at the Center, "Noises Off"; 
Len Wcislo (left) and Anna Meyers Caccitolo in Palos Village Players' "Leading Ladies; 
Nicole Dixon (back, left) and Shawn Smith and Katie Taylor (front, left( Zachary Gipson, Jeannie Rega Markionni and Vasily Denis in Towle Theatre;s "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

Two professional regional and very informative websites have picked up "And now presenting ...." That is, you can now link to this blog from this site, of course, and also from and These terrific new sites provide a wealth of information about the Southland. Check them out while you're online. And if you have out-of-town company on the way, tell them these websites can give them great ideas of the proverbial stuff-to-do in the Southland and entire region. Myra -- Feb. 26, 2010.

Dear Dear Readers,

So much to write about in Chicagoland and my attempt to put out a new blog every two weeks has gone with my wind. I am still striving for close to every three weeks with mini-updates in between as needed.
A couple of special arts events include the Chicago Dramatists production of a one-woman work for the deaf and hearing impaired:: "Aiming for Sainthood." All performances will, of course, be signed as well as spoken. 
For those who are seeking avant-garde performance art, the Museum of Contemporary Art has a very full and eclectic series of productions continuing through spring.
Meabwhile, two reviews precede the extensive listings: Sarah's compelling look at Steppenwolf's phenomenal and powerful "The Brother/Sister Plays" and my brief review of Noble Fool's riotous "Over the Tavern" at Pheasant Run.
Get out there, now, and do something new! Remember, parking at most of these places is free (not the museums) and even Steppenwolf Theatre's parking structure, immediately south of the theater building, is bigtime cheap -- less than $10. Compare that to Loop and River North parking fees. You'll save million$ in parking charges at regional theaters. 
As always, please send any comments and corrections to And FYI, "And now presenting ..." has been contacted by a marketing firm and most likely will be linked to a professional regional site in the near future. I'll let you know when and where. But nothing will change at my end. This will remain my labor of love, free listings and free to look at any time. Keep those press releases coming.

Thanks for your ongoing support.

Have a great weekend. Or if you don't get this till Monday, then hope you had a great weekend.



McCraney’s “The Brother/Sister Plays” soar at Steppenwolf

Review by Sarah Gross

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s triptych “The Brother/Sister Plays,” running through May 23 at The Steppenwolf Theatre, seamlessly melds elements of theater with storytelling, poetry, and music. McCraney’s talent and accomplishment belie his 29 years. His writing is contemporary and timeless, as fresh and raw as it is mythic and tragic.
The full-length “In the Red and Brown Water” is performed in rotation with a double bill of one-act plays, “The Brothers Size” and “Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet.”  The plays share characters and setting; they complement each other but stand alone. 
All three plays are set in a poor African-American housing project in the south. An extraordinarily talented ensemble cast brings the setting and characters to life under the poignant, spare direction of Steppenwolf member Tina Landau.
Speaking their own stage directions, the characters turn to the audience with words that reveal or create a scene. These directions range from the simple, “Enter - the boys” and “Exit Shongo,” to the descriptive and poetic, “Oya, sitting on the front porch, humming, then crying.” This storytelling-like technique draws the audience into an intimate relationship with the actors and characters.
The first segment of the trilogy, “In the Red and Brown Water,” tells the tragic story of Oya (Alana Arenas), a young woman forced to choose between an athletic scholarship and staying home to care for her mother. As the story unfolds, she also struggles with the pain of unrequited love and the grief of discovering her infertility. Oya’s journey is both eased and complicated by the colorful cast of characters in her community.
 “In the Red and Brown Water” employs an ancient technique, the Greek chorus, whose haunting chants accentuate the dialogue. Music also sets the scene in a stirring rendition of the gospel song “Down By The Riverside,” which marks the passing of one of the characters.
“The Brothers Size,” performed by a cast of three, captures the kinship of brotherhood as Ogun Size (K. Todd Freeman) attempts to rebuild a relationship with younger brother Oshoosi (Phillip James Brannon), who was just released from prison. When the brothers break into song and dance for a spontaneous rendition of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” their playful intimacy makes this scene one of the trilogy’s highlights.
In the final play, “Marcus: Or the Secret of Sweet,” teenaged Marcus struggles to come to terms with his homosexuality. Like Oya, Marcus finds both support and conflict in his community.
“Theatre is one of the rare opportunities where we are all together taking a leap of faith to believe something…to pretend for a moment that this is happening," said playwright McCraney in a post-show talk.
Steppenwolf’s production of “The Brother/Sister Plays” invites you to take this leap of faith with an ensemble of immense talent.
Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St.; Tickets $20-$70 at or 312-335-1650.

Noble Fool's 'Over the Tavern' brims with laughter, love

Review by Myra Eder

Pure and simple. Noble Fool’s production of Tom Dudzick’s “Over the Tavern” ranks as one of the three funniest productions I have seen in my nearly 30 years of reviewing theater. While “Tavern” is not a musical, the other two are and I will reveal them at the end of this mini-review.
            The setting is the Pazinski home, an apartment over their tavern where the Polish American Catholic parents, Chet (Scott Cummins) and Ellen Stacy Stoltz), struggle to keep their marriage alive while dealing with the lives, loves and woes of their four teenage children during the 1950s.
            The story focuses on middle schooler Rudy (a phenomenal Gabriel Harder) and his unending questions about Catholicism, in fact about religion itself. He drives the already driven Sister Clarissa (the always extraordinary Renee Matthews) beyond her limits of tolerance with perpetual challenges to church teachings. When “S’ter,” who always carries her trusty ruler and clicker, asks Rudy why God put man on earth, the boy’s answers vary from “I’ve been wondering that myself,” to something akin to “Beats me!” Not quite catechism.
            In fact, 12-year-old Rudy announces he’s going to look at all the world religions before deciding on one. During this phase, he wears a yarmulke (Jewish men’s skullcap) and greets Sister with “Shalom” triggering an audience laugh riot.
            Amid all this, Annie (Katrina Syrris) experiences mid-teen female angst, Eddie (Alex Adams) plays with the legal system and developmentally disabled Georgie (a wonderful performance by Daniel Velisek) takes it all in.
            This hilarious, heartwarming and ultimately poignant human comedy, with John Gawlik's spot-on direction, runs through March 29. Noble Fool productions are staged on the Pheasant Run Mainstage, 4051 E. Main St. in St. Charles. Tickets are $29-$30 at the Pheasant Run Box Office, (630) 584-6342 and all Ticketmaster outlets; dinner packages available.
            Oh, the other two comedies that knocked me out of my seat – Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in “The Producers” and Tim Curry, David Hyde-Pierce and Sara Rodriguez in “Spamalot.” Noble Fool is in good company. Or maybe it's the other way around.

CHICAGO DRAMATISTS present Arlene Malinowski performing an autobiographical one-woman show, "Aiming for Sainthood," for hearing impaired and deaf audiences, 7:30 p.m. March 25-27 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. "As the hearing daughter of devoutly Catholic deaf parents, Malinowski learns to navigate the cross-cultural maze of the medical world and the deaf world when, as an adult, she returns home to care for her mother who is battling cancer," the press release explains. "Malinowski tells her story through sign language and voice, using both deaf and storytelling techniques." Richard Perez directs. Tickets are $10 at (312) 742-8497 and at All performances are signed for the deaf and hearing impaired.

DRURY LANE OAKBROOK TERRACE, 100 Drury Lane, closes out the 2009-2010 season with the Ziegfield girl classic, "Funny Girl," through March 7,  starring Sara Shepard, directed by Gary Griffin and William Osetek. Show only tickets $29-$38 (discount for students, seniors); dinner packages available, (630) 530-0111 and

MARRIOTT THEATRE, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire,  opens the 2010 season with the beloved musical, "Fiddler on the Roof," which first opened in New York in 1964. Yes, that long ago. It continues through April 25 and stars Chicagoland theater favorite, Ross Lehman; directed by David H. Bell. The season's complete lineup and ticket information are at and at (847) 634-0200. 

NOBLE FOOL THEATRICALS (I love that name) presents one of Chicago's most versatile and talented actors, Renee Matthews, in Tom Dudzick's hilarious and touching family comedy, "Over the Tavern" through March 28. stage is the Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage Theater. REVIEW AT TOP OF BLOG.
For one day only, Noble Fool presents the perfect St. Patrick's Day production at 8 p.m. March 13, the Irish comedy "Flanagan's Wake" on the 320-seat Pheasant Run stage. All tickets are $29; see above for tickets and information contacts.

PALOS VILLAGE PLAYERS bring their "Leading Ladies" to the stage through Feb. 27 at Little Theater of Palos South Middle School, 131st Street and 82nd Avenue, Palos Park. Tickets are $15, $12 seniors and students; (708) 787-2010 and at Details at link above.
SHHHH! THEATRE AT THE CENTER, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, presents "Noises Off," to kick off the theater's 20th anniversary season. This was the debut show for the new theater in the summer of 1991. "Noises Off," described as described as a riotous farce, stars two Chicagoland favorites, Marilyn Bogetich and the inimitable Dale Benson whose comic timing is the stuff of legend. The show runs through March 21. Tickets are $20 - $40 at (800) 511-3255 and at

SPELLCHECK NOT ALLOWED INSIDE AS TOWLE THEATER, 5205 Hohman Ave., Hammond, IN. presents the musical comedy, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," Feb. 26 - March 11. We have inside info that veteran Drama Group actor/member Jeannie Rega-Markionni is in the cast! Tickets are $15 at (219) 937-8780.

Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University presents "If You Give A Pic A Pancake & Other Story Books" at 11 a.m. March 6.  Tickets are $10.50 at and at (708) 235-2222.

Chicago Children's Theatre presents "The Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favorites" April 8-May 2 at Field Museum. Tickets information is at (773) 227-0180, ext. 15 and at

Marriott (Lincolnshire) Theatre for Young Audiences presents Marc Robin's musical classic, "Sleeping Beauty" March 3-April 25. Tickets are $15 at and at (847) 634-0200.

BALLET FOLKLORICO de MEXICO de Amalia Hernandez, an extraordinary company that brings every flavor of dance to the stage, will perform at 7:30 p.m. March 13 and 3 p.m. March 14 at Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. Tickets are $30-$55 at the theater box office, Ticketmaster options and online at

CENTER FOR PERFORMING ARTS at Governors State University, University Park, continues its Cabaret at the Center series at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 with Rachael Price singing classic hits by legends of yesterday including Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee, to mention a few. Enjoy the intimate 1940s-style cabaret club right on the Center stage, with table seating for 250. Tickets are $37 at (708) 235-2222 and at Full cash bar and snacks available for purchase.

The ILLINOIS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA features guest conductor Victor Yampolsky in a musical program centered on one of the world's most brilliant composers. "Mozart Light and Dark" begins at 8 p.m. March 13 at Lincoln-Way North Performing Arts Center, 19900 S. Harlem Ave., Frankfort.  The South Suburban Chorale, along with soprano Samantha Barnes, mezzosoprano Lindsey Poling, tenor Grant Knox and bass Keven Keyes also will add demanding vocals during the all-Mozart event. Tickets are $30-$50 and $15 students at (708) 481-7774 and

JONATHAN BUTLER, jazz and gospel artist, brings his talents to a free one-man show at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 28 at Christ Universal Temple, 11901 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago. 

DEPAUL UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM, 2350 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago, features "The Breathing Factory," an exhibition of photographs and videos by Mark Curran running through March 19. Gallery hours and more information are at (773) 325-7506 and at

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, 220 E. Chicago Ave., continues its performance season and will present "Young Jean Lee's Theatre Company: The Shipment" March 26-28. The MCA bills Young Jean Lee as "one of the boldest voices in contemporary theater. Go to and click on performances for a full schedule of performance art, productions you will not see anywhere else in Chicago. 

TALL GRASS ARTS ASSOCIATION GALLERY has gone jazzy with its current invitational, "Something Jazzy" now through April 11. The exhibit showcases artists whose works interpret the spirit of jazz. The gallery is at 367 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest, (708) 748-3377; gallery hours, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and admission is always free;

UNION STREET GALLERY, 1527 Otto Blvd., Chicago Heights, (708) 754-2601, focuses on photography through  Feb. 26 with "The Positive Image," a juried exhibit of regional contemporary photography. The gallery is open from 12 - 4 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday,

ADLER PLANETARIUM AND ASTRONOMY MUSEUM, 1300 S. Michigan Ave. (at the east end of Solidarity Drive on the Museum Campus), (312) 922-7827 (STAR).  The first planetarium in the western world packs in a universe of information, exhibits, extraordinary shows and a multimedia, interactive history of the Apollo program in "Shoot for the Moon," a phenomenal permanent exhibit on the third floor, included in general admission. A huge bronze sculpture of Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell welcomes visitors to this double gallery filled with treasures, including the fully-restored Gemini 12 space capsule Lovell and Buzz Armstrong took around the world -- 59 orbits -- for more than three days in 1966. Everything you need for a trip to Adler is at

HERBERT TRACKMAN PLANETARIUM:  Stars shine in Joliet, especially one of the Southland's far-too-well-kept secrets, Joliet Junior College's Trackman Planetarium, 1215 Houbolt Road (be sure to get directions to the planetarium). If you have not made the trip, you're missing a real treat. Thursday shows are geared to the younger set. Tuesday series is for the junior high and adult set. Coming up --  6:30 p.m. Thursday March 4, "We Go to the Moon" and 6:30 p.m. March 18, "Out Solar System." Coming up for the older crowd at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 23, "Sun-Earth-Moon" and at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday March 9, "The Seasonal Sky: Skies of March."All shows are free so all you have to do is show up. As an added treat, Art the Planetarium Guy is there to answer all your questions. For directions and further information, (815) 729-9020 or go to and search Trackman.

ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO: The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., looks at an extraordinary period in the life of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) in an original exhibit, "Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917." What promises to be an extraordinary examination of this time frame in Matisse's career, a period that included his development of the iconic "Bathers by the River" in the Art Institute collection, opens March 20 and runs through June 20. Best of all, it's included in general admission! All the information you'll need for an Art Institute visit are at The Art Institute has a membership special going in advance of the Matisse blockbuster.

BROOKFIELD ZOO, 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, is getting pig-headed. No not that way. Rather the zoo folk are getting ready for March 6, National Pig Day. As the press release states, "Pig lovers of all ages will be in hog heaven." At 1 p.m., visitors will be treated to a pig porkformance followed by a rousing rendition of "Happy Pig Day" to some of Brookfield's favorite piggies. A full afternoon of pig extravaganzas will delight pig-lovers of all ages. More information is at (Chicago Zoological Society) and at (708) 688-8000.

FIELD MUSEUM, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive (on the Museum Campus), (312) 922-9410. "Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age," a new 7,500-square-foot exhibit opens March 5 and runs through Sept. 4 and will thrill even the most jaded Ice Age fan. The huge animals weighed as much as eight tons with tusks that could reach 16 feet in length. Alas, these cousins of elephants died out, but fortunately left a huge fossil record. More details in later blog. Special tickets will be required. Information about Field Museum is at
BTW: Can anyone tell me the difference between mammoths and mastodons? I always thought they were interchangable names but I guess not. If no one can tell me, I hope the exhibit will make the distinction clear.

PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, launches an Environmental View Film Series that looks at the pressing environmental issues impacting our fragile planet. The full film schedule is on the Notebaert website, and at (773) 755-5100. Put your cursor on Education Resources and a drop down window will appear with a link to the film series. Next film, "Human Footprint." Screenings are free with museum admission.

End of Feb. 21 post

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photo by sarah gross

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About Me

Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.