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Michael Laurence

Havel: the Passion of Thought

July 24, 2019

The three Havel one acts, known as "The Vanek Plays," though written separately, were originally banned in Czechoslovakia and performed secretly in people’s living rooms as well as being passed around in hand-written copies. They all deal with Vanek, a dissident playwright unable to have his plays produced, who is now working in a menial job, an alter ego for its author and his experiences under Communism. The problem with filling out the program to include both Pinter’s "The New World Order" and Beckett’s "Catastrophe" (dedicated to Havel) is that since the plays all have the same theme and development, it feels like overkill. [more]

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord

October 10, 2017

Although director Kimberly Senior who also piloted the Chicago production has staged the play with elegance, she never really turns up the heat so that there are not many sparks in Carter’s debate. Discord, yes; but no fireworks which might have made the discussion more dramatic. The play uses titles on the back wall to name each of the 14 scenes much in the manner of Brecht’s alienation effect. This breaks up the play but is not very informative. The device of the invisible fourth wall being a mirror in Wilson Chin’s all blue-grey interrogation room seems a gimmick to allow the men to face the audience directly for much of the play. [more]

Poison

November 17, 2016

“He” and “She” are a 40ish upper middle class couple who divorced ten years earlier following the traumatic death of their young son who was hit by a car. Due to toxic waste from a nearby gas factory, 200 graves, including their son’s will have to be dug up and the remains reinterred elsewhere. This unpleasant circumstance instigates this reunion after a long estrangement at a cemetery in Holland. [more]

Hamlet in Bed

September 22, 2015

The play is told mainly in monologues by both actors on microphones, alternating with rehearsal scenes from the Gertrude/Hamlet confrontation. This makes the evening more of a performance piece than a stage play. Once we are given the facts, the ending becomes very predictable though the actors are very intense throughout the play’s 90 minutes. Except for the battered white mattress, Rachel Hauck’s set is entirely black, as are most of the costumes by Jessica Pabst. Sometimes due to Scott Zielinski’s lighting, the actors fade into the dark walls of the set. [more]

The Few

May 18, 2014

Gideon Glick as Matthew is terrific, physically disappearing into his character so completely that he would not be recognizable in the street. Actors can get away with playing misfits as a collection of tics, so it's a great thing to see Glick dig deeper and infuse Matthew's every movement with his particular personality. [more]