Thursday, March 29, 2018

OPENING: World Premiere of THE GENTLEMAN CALLER Via Raven Theatre Now Extended Through May 27th

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

EXTENDED: Two Additional Weeks of Performances!

Raven Theatre’s World Premiere of
By Philip Dawkins
Directed by Artistic Director Cody Estle
Extends Through May 27, 2018 

I'll be ChiILin' at Chi, IL's Raven Theatre for the press opening on Monday, April 2nd. Check back soon for my full review.

After selling out more than half its run prior to opening, Raven Theatre is pleased to announce a two week extension for its world premiere of Philip Dawkins’ provocative drama THE GENTLEMAN CALLER, directed by Artistic Director Cody Estle, now playing through May 27, 2018 in Raven’s intimate 55-seat West Stage, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville) in Chicago. Tickets for all performances are currently available at or by calling (773) 338-2177. 

PHOTO CREDIT: (left to right) Curtis Edward Jackson and Rudy Galvan in Raven Theatre’s world premiere of THE GENTLEMAN CALLER by Philip Dawkins, directed by Artistic Director Cody Estle. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

THE GENTLEMAN CALLER features Rudy Galvan as Tennessee Williams and Curtis Edward Jackson as William Inge. 

Although now regarded as two of history's finest American playwrights, back in 1944, William Inge and Tennessee Williams had yet to experience anything close to success. Before the Chicago premiere of The Glass Menagerie, Inge, a dissatisfied newspaper critic, invites Williams to his St. Louis apartment for an interview. This fraught, sexy rendezvous sparks a relationship which radically alters the course of their lives and the American Theatre.

Comments Raven Artistic Director Cody Estle, “I am thrilled to bring Raven Theatre its first commissioned play in 35 years, and even more excited to be working with the exceptionally talented Philip Dawkins. The Gentleman Caller is based on the true story of the meeting, friendship and sexual tryst of Tennessee Williams and William Inge. Philip has written a play that poignantly depicts two writers struggling to find their purpose and grappling with the consequences of that purpose. It’s both intoxicating and harrowing – much like the lives of Williams and Inge. Philip’s writing is a gift, and I’m delighted to have this phenomenal team bring his play to life.”

The production team for THE GENTLEMAN CALLER includes: Jeffrey D. Kmiec (scenic design), Melissa Ng (costume design), Michelle E. Benda (lighting design), Kevin O’Donnell (sound design), Claire Stone (properties design), David Woolley (fight choreography), Elise Kauzlaric (dialect coach), Eli Newell (assistant director), Isabel Thompson (assistant to the playwright), Tara Malpass (stage manager) and Destiney Higgins (assistant stage manager).

Location: Raven Theatre West Stage, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville), Chicago

Dates: Previews: Wednesday, March 28 at 8 pm, Thursday, March 29 at 8 pm, Friday, March 30 at 8 pm, Saturday, March 31 at 8 pm and Sunday, April 1 at 3:30 pm 

Regular run: Friday, April 6 – Sunday, May 27, 2018

Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3:30 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Thursday, April 5.

Tickets: Previews $32 ($29 if purchased online). Regular run $46 ($43 if purchased online). Seniors/teachers $41 ($38 if purchased online). Students/active military and veterans $15. Every Thursday is “Under 30 Thursday,” when patrons under age 30 can purchase tickets for $15. Single tickets and season subscriptions for the 2018-19 Season are currently available at or by calling (773) 338-2177.

Group tickets: Groups of 10 or more are $30 per person for Thursday and Friday performances and $35 per person for Saturday and Sunday performances. Student groups are $15 per person.

About the Artists
Philip Dawkins (Playwright) is a Chicago playwright whose plays have been produced throughout the country and the world. His works Miss Marx: or The Involuntary Side Effect of Living (Strawdog Theatre) and Charm (Northlight Theatre at the Steppenwolf Garage) both won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work. His critically-acclaimed plays The Homosexuals, Le Switch (both produced by About Face Theatre) and Failure: A Love Story (Victory Gardens Theater), all received Joseph Jefferson Nominations for New Work, and he is the recipient of Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Solo Performance for his play, The Happiest Place On Earth (Side Show Theatre). His play, Charm, received its extended New York premiere with MCC this last year. Philip is an artistic associate at About Face Theatre, Side Show Theatre and MC-10 as well as an ensemble playwright at Victory Gardens Theater. He teaches playwriting at Northwestern University as well as at his alma mater, Loyola University Chicago.

Cody Estle (Director) is the newly appointed Artistic Director of Raven Theatre. Directing credits include Five Mile Lake at Shattered Globe Theatre; By The Water at Northlight Theatre; The Assembled Parties, A Loss of Roses, Dividing the Estate, Vieux Carré (named by Chicago Tribune as one of the Year's Best in 2014), Good Boys and True, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Boy Gets Girl and Dating Walter Dante at Raven Theatre; American Hero at First Floor Theatre; Scarcity at Redtwist Theatre; The Seagull and Watch on the Rhine at The Artistic Home; Don't Go Gentle at Haven Theatre; Uncle Bob at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company and Hospitality Suite at Citadel Theatre. He’s had the pleasure of assistant directing at Steppenwolf Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Goodspeed Musicals, Court Theatre, Writers Theatre, Next Theatre and Strawdog Theatre. Estle is an associate member of SDC and a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.

Plan Your Visit: 
Free parking is provided in a lot adjacent to the theatre – additional street parking is available. Nearest El station: Granville Red Line, Buses: #22 (Clark), #36 (Broadway), #151 (Sheridan), #155 (Devon), #84 (Peterson).

About Raven Theatre
Raven Theatre tells stories of today and the past that connect us to our cultural landscape. Through its plays as well as its educational programming, Raven is committed to serving our communities’ needs through the arts.

Raven Theatre Company is funded in part by the Alphawood Foundation, Dramatists Guild Fund, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince, Polk Bros. Foundation, The Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development, S&C Electric, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the PAV Fund and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

REVIEW: Sugary Taste of Things To Come Is Sweet But Lacks Substance

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Review of “A Taste of Things to Come” 
By Catherine Hellmann, guest reviewer

                       “Whip cream makes everything better.” 

This philosophy of life guides housewife extraordinaire and mother of six (and counting?) Dottie O’Farrell, the cliche, harried, over-the-top mom in the cast of four female friends in Taste of Things to Come. Maybe the ushers should hand out sundaes at intermission; the show needs something.

Oh, it is an adorable show, don’t get me wrong, and probably a crowd-pleaser for those who want a fun, light, amusing musical about women friendships. But the storyline is as sugary as whip cream and largely predictable, as are the other three characters as well: Joan Smith, the happily married hostess with modest career ambitions of being a writer, Connie, the very pregnant, unhappily married friend, and single Agnes, who dreams of escaping their Illinois suburb for New York, fame, and fortune.

Act One opens in the 1950’s in Winnetka where the ladies are planning to enter, and hopefully win, the Betty Crocker cooking contest. (According to my mom, who actually raised children in the 1950’s, all the women in her neighborhood were way too busy with their families to ever meet other ladies for a cooking/gossip/wine session. Ok, it is theater/fantasy and not necessarily based on fact...)  The musical numbers are delightful and cleverly staged. I especially liked the tribute to “Dear Abby” and the gossippy “Didja Hear?” Agnes dreams and sings “I’m Outta Here,” while the ladies blend some adult beverages into their cooking with “Happy Hour.”

Act Two jumps ahead ten years into the 60’s so Joan can wear her short skirt and white go-go boots, and her friends can enter her pad with the groovy beads in the doorway. (There is a wonderful bit where Dottie falls out of Joan’s giant beanbag chair.) Each of the quartet is a “type” of female fulfillment. Joan is still happily married and writing, Connie, minus the husband,  lives out of the country with her beau and their biracial baby (radical!), and Agnes has followed her heart to NYC where she has succeeded in tv soap operas (and discovered her secret Latina heritage--huh?). Then there is sweet Dottie, the PTA president, feeling marginalized and unimportant with her growing family, next to her accomplished friends.

By the end, this very-disparate group of friends will bond once more, (Who is really still close with their high school friends or has anything in common with them two decades later? Ok, I am being a realist again...) and affirm everyone’s choices, pointedly singling out Dottie that having a family/being a mom is an excellent career in itself. It’s like we are being reminded: The women’s movement was about choices! Joan, you have it all; it’s ok you don’t have children! Agnes, career girl without a man! Connie, you and your multicultural family unit are welcome back to the U.S.! Ugh.

The cast does an exceptional job pulling off a cheesy plot. They are very talented women with impressive bios. Libby Servais, as Connie, just finished a run as Glinda in Wicked on Broadway. Cortney Wolfson has been in Kinky

Boots on Broadway and is wonderful as Joan, our hostess. Linedy Genao, as Agnes, returns to Chicago where she professionally debuted in  On Your Feet! at the Oriental Theater. Marissa Rosen as Dottie is especially adorable; she just did a production of The Marvelous Wonderettes Off-Broadway.

Another stand-out is the band itself, comprised of all women musicians,

which is rare and super-cool for a show about female empowerment. That was one aspect of the show which seemed truly radical and made a serious statement; I just wish the storyline about the strengths of women had more breadth and texture...and less sugar.


MARCH 20-APRIL 29, 2018

Broadway In Chicago and the producers of A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME are delighted to announce that individual tickets for A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME, a slice-of-life original musical comedy, will go on sale tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. This delicious musical makes its Chicago debut at Broadway In Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E. Chestnut) for a limited six-week engagement March 20 through April 29, 2018.

THE 1950s: It’s the beginning of rock n’ roll, the racial barrier begins to crack, the Korean War is over, and husbands are returning home. Ronald Reagan is a model for Lifebuoy Soap and Rock Hudson is “the World’s Most Eligible Bachelor.”
And women are getting antsy.

Meet Joan, Connie, Dottie, and Agnes. Four best friends living in Winnetka, IL. They meet every Wednesday for a Betty Crocker cooking contest, imagining how the prizes might change their lives. Their weekly gathering isn’t just about cooking, but a time to confide secrets and share frustrations.

Usually, it’s LIFE Magazine that’s read cover to cover in between mixing, sifting, and chopping. However, a different kind of reading material arrives. Shocked but inspired by the Kinsey report, their lives take an interesting turn.

A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME is a fabulously fun romp tracing the changing lives of these four Winnetka women from the 1950s to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. This homage to prior generations of women who blazed new trails features a rollicking original score of ‘50s and ‘60s music with great harmonies, all backed by an all-female rock n’ roll band.

Written by Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin, with direction & choreography by Lorin Latarro, A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME is a slice-of-life original musical comedy following four friends whose Betty Crocker cooking club becomes a turning point in their lives.

Individual tickets for A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E. Chestnut) are on sale now and range from $30-$75 with a select number of premium seats available. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000 and online at

Broadway In Chicago was created in July 2000 and over the past 17 years has grown to be one of the largest commercial touring homes in the country.  A Nederlander Presentation, Broadway In Chicago lights up the Chicago Theater District entertaining well up to 1.7 million people annually in five theatres. Broadway In Chicago presents a full range of entertainment, including musicals and plays, on the stages of five of the finest theatres in Chicago’s Loop including the Cadillac Palace Theatre, CIBC Theatre, Oriental Theatre, and just off the Magnificent Mile, the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and presenting Broadway shows at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. For more information, visit

Facebook @BroadwayInChicago ● Twitter @broadwaychicago ● Instagram @broadwayinchicago ● #broadwayinchicago

Saturday, March 24, 2018

OPENING: STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S COMPANY To Kick Off Grand Opening of Mercury Theater Chicago's Venus Cabaret Theater

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:
Mercury Theater Chicago Announces Grand Opening of
Venus Cabaret Theater and cast of
April 5 – June 3, 2018

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we're beyond excited for the grand opening of Mercury Theater Chicago's Venus Cabaret Theater. I'll be ChiILin' at this stellar space, next door to Mercury Theater's main stage, for the press opening on April 15th, so check back soon for my full review. I've attended quite a few afterparties in this sweet space and can't wait to see the launch of their lineup of shows. Mercury and Venus are out of this world, with a fun lineup of annual favorites.

Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue – is pleased to announce the opening of VENUS CABARET THEATER with a uniquely intimate production of Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY, running from April 5th through June 3rd. Press opening is the weekend of April 13th-15th. Named for the planet next to Mercury, Venus Cabaret is a versatile new performance space offering food and drinks to complement each production. Audiences at COMPANY will be welcomed to Bobby’s 35th Birthday Party and will be treated to party appetizers, a cash bar and even birthday cake. Making his Mercury Theater Chicago debut, David Sajewich will be featured in the role of Bobby. The production will be led by Jeff Award winners L. Walter Stearns (Director) and Eugene Dizon (Musical Director).

Set in a swinging New York City, Stephen Sondheim’s game-changing musical is a sophisticated and honest look at modern adult relationships. On the night of his 35th birthday, confirmed bachelor, Robert, contemplates his unmarried state. Over the course of a series of dinners, drinks and even a wedding, his friends – “those good and crazy people, his married friends” – explain the pros and cons of taking on a spouse. Robert is forced to question his life choices and what it means to be alive.

From musical theater’s most renowned composer, COMPANY is regarded as a trailblazer of the dark-comedy, modern-musical genre and the winner of seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Music and Lyrics (Stephen Sondheim) and Best Book (George Furth). With popular and familiar songs such as “Another Hundred People,” “Marry Me a Little,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Being Alive,” COMPANY is just as entertaining, relevant, and relatable as it was when it debuted in 1970.

Audiences will be immersed into the action as they are welcomed at the door and immediately whisked into the world of Bobby’s Birthday Party. The characters will joke around and socialize with attendees as they wait for the big birthday surprise. All of the senses will be dazzled with food and drink offerings tailored to the show. Venus Cabaret Theater was designed to put the audience right in the middle of it all – everyone is a part of the story.

COMPANY will feature David Sajewich as “Bobby” and his cast of married friends will include Nicole Armold, Jenna Coker-Jones, Nicole Cready, Hannah Dawe, Greg Foster, Frederick Harris, Derek Self, Steve Silver, Ryan Stajmiger and Heather Townsend. The girlfriends in Bobby’s life include Kyrie Courter, Kiersten Frumkin and Allison Sill. The costume design is by Robert Kuhn, lighting design is by Dustin L. Derry and projection design is by Liviu Pasare. The stage manager is Richard Lundy.

After two years in the making and a $1M renovation, VENUS CABARET THEATER at Mercury Theater Chicago is finally ready for its grand opening. This versatile, state-of-the-art performance space seats 80 people in a flexible theater/dining space. The renovation was designed and built by Trent Zilmer (Z Design Build Group) with interior décor by Dianne Green Moen and theatrical technology by Mike Ross and Matt Gajowniczek (Sound Production and Lighting). The Mercury/Venus theater and restaurant complex is located in the heart of the Southport Corridor, a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful theater destination, Mercury Theater Chicago takes care of its guests from the moment they arrive with valet service and dining at its adjoining restaurant, Grassroots.

The performance schedule for COMPANY is Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 2:30pm and 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm. Wednesday evening performances at 7:30pm will be offered beginning on May 16th.

Individual tickets are $65 each, include appetizers and dessert, and are available online at, over the phone at 773.325.1700, or in person at 3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago.

Last Call: 
Extended and highly recommended tribute to Gilda Radner ending April 15th. We adored Bunny Bunny and can't recommend it highly enough. This poignant and powerful show is unconventionally and absolutely a love story. Don't miss this!

Save the Dates:

REVIEW: Great Graphics Upstage Graphic Production of BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Akvavit Theatre Presents the U.S. Premiere of
By Astrid Saalbach
Translated by Michael Evans
Directed by Co-Artistic Director Breahan Pautsch
March 21 – April 14 at Strawdog Theatre Company

 Running time: 1:35, no intermission

(left to right) Kirstin Franklin, Kim Boler, Madelyn Loehr and Jennifer Cheung in Akvavit Theatre's U.S. premiere of BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS. All photos by Karl Clifton-Soderstrom.

(left to right) Kim Boler and Madelyn Loehr 
Photo by Karl Clifton-Soderstrom.

BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS has got it all... a dildo wearing crazy lady who appears to be homeless, mob murders and mystery, a bereft beautician's on line porn video, sex toy fights, bridal penetration with styling implements, and plenty of off color banter. It's impressive to see five actors playing 28 roles in 95 minutes. Yet something is lacking. Maybe things get lost in translation, a witty turn of phrase, or culture. Or maybe the endless parade of quirky characters are just too similar, with quick and superficial changes. Much of the ribald one liners and props seemed gratuitous, as if their only purpose was to shock, rather than to advance the plot, or even add much humor. I had high hopes after reading that this show "...examines the intersection of identity and appearance, what it means to be female, and the creative process." BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS has plot potential, but this production ultimately falls short of being all that insightful, shocking or funny. 

That said, the graphic arts are outstanding. We were crazy impressed with the colorful show posters, collectable cards for each stylist, and a beautician's chair setup with props for lobby photo ops. 

ChiIL Mama ChiILin' with Akvavit. Photo taken by my friend & actual hair stylist, Flo Mano!

I'm also a big fan of the laminated, returnable programs with a big bouffant on the front & flip side!

It's almost worth going just to check out the visuals. Kudos to the designer of these funky, fun visuals.

Catch BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS at Strawdog Theatre Company's new space through April 15th. Somewhat recommended.

The cast of Akvavit Theatre’s U.S. premiere of BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS includes (left to right) Jennifer Adams, Kim Boler, Jennifer Cheung, Kirstin Franklin and Madelyn Loehr.

Akvavit Theatre is pleased to present the U.S. premiere of the madcap Danish comedy BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS by Astrid Saalbach, translated by Michael Evans and directed by Co-Artistic Director Breahan Pautsch, playing March 21 – April 14, 2018 at the new Strawdog Theatre Company, 1802 W. Berenice in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at

In this black comedy, five women play 28 characters as they work through the absurdities and trials of trying to be a "good girl" in modern society: a professional success, a perfect mother, the right kind of feminist. BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS follows four hairstylists in a salon, trying to grow their business in a competitive field. In a series of hilarious and tragic scenes, the stylists lend their ears and their scissors to a parade of customers. They make up their hair, their faces, and give shape to the stories about who they are. But with the arrival of a mysterious stranger, life in the salon starts to get complicated – and dangerous. As the women's stories begin to unravel, the play examines what we owe to ourselves and each other, the difficulty of forming true connections, and all the ways in which we fail.  

BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS is a Danish comedy about four hair stylists and one peculiar patron, mysteriously named "A."  Five actors play 28 roles in this madcap dark comedy that examines the intersection of identity and appearance, what it means to be female, and the creative process.

The production team for BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS includes: Elyse Balogh (scenic design), Lily Walls (costume design), David Goodman-Edberg (lighting design), Nigel Harsch (sound design), Hillarie Shockley (props design), Rick Gilbert and Victor Bayona (violence/intimacy design) Keith Ryan (hair/wig design), Lindsay Tornquist (asst. director), Harrison Ornelis (technical director) and Hannah Harper-Smith (stage manager).


Location: Strawdog Theatre Company, 1802 W. Berenice, Chicago
Regular run: Thursday, March 23 – Saturday, April 14, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 4 pm. 
Tickets: Previews: $10. Regular Run: $25. Students/seniors/industry $15. Tickets are currently available at

About the Artists
Astrid Saalbach (Playwright) was trained as an actress at the Danish National School of Theatre from 1975 to 1978. She has received several awards including the Danish dramatist’s honor award and the lifelong grant of the Danish art fund. 

Michael Evans (Translator) went to Norway as an exchange student and just stayed there. Since the 1980s he has been working as a dramaturg at the Rogaland Theatre in Stavanger, where he has overseen four productions of Saalbach’s plays. His English translations of her plays have been seen in London, Chicago, Guelph and Toronto. His most recent translation was of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman for the Norwegian National Theatre.  His textbook Innføring I Dramaturgi is widely used in Scandinavia and is currently in it’s fifth printing.

Breahan Eve Pautsch (Director) is originally from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. She earned her BA in Theatre and English at UW-Madison and has been working in Chicago as an actor and director since 2003. She has been a company member with Akvavit Theatre since 2011, where she served as Literary Manager and Director of Development for several years before taking the position of co-Artistic Director at the beginning of 2017. She is also a company member with Indie Boots Theatre. As a director, she has worked with Akvavit, Raven Theatre, Wildclaw Theatre, The International Voices Project, Hobo Junction Productions, Full Voice Productions, Mudgeonsoul Cinema, Broken Nose Theatre and Stockyards Theatre Project. 

About Akvavit Theatre
Akvavit Theatre is haunted by Nordic visions: deep forests and ice-blue seas, the patience of the glacier, the sudden fury of the volcano, the arctic light and silence. Seeking the universal through the voices of contemporary Nordic playwrights, Akvavit Theatre is a kind of homecoming, a connecting back to the lands whose people and cultures have for generations been a part of the great prairies of North America that we call home. And like our namesake beverage, Akvavit brings a “strong spirit” to the work that we produce. Skål, Skál, Kippis! For additional information, visit

(left to right) Kim Boler, Jennifer Adams, Jennifer Cheung, Kirstin Franklin and Madelyn Loehr in Akvavit Theatre's U.S. premiere of BAD GIRLS: THE STYLISTS. Photo by Karl Clifton-Soderstrom.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

REVIEW: Raunchy, Revealing & Relevant Women Laughing Alone With Salad Satisfies

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:



 All photos by Charles Osgood 

(From left) Echaka Agba, Daniella Pereira and Jennifer Engstrom star in Women Laughing Alone with Salad, Sheila Callaghan’s satirical comedy based on the meta-feminist Internet meme of the same name. 

Expect nudity, a full on stylized orgy of a 3 way, beauty mutilation, masturbation, and plenty of colorful language, so leave the kids at home for this one!

(From left) Japhet Balaban, Echaka Agba, Daniella Pereira and Jennifer Engstrom 

I'll admit, I've never refrigerated a press release before! I have gotten some creative pitches, like a glass bottle full of sand delivered FedEx with a press invite for an iced tea company inside. Theater WIT's latest, a "Pinterest worthy" press release "salad" with lettuce, peppers and a fork, had me laughing before I left the lobby, and set the mood for this utterly unique show. 

**On a weird, semi related side note, if you have a phone app that turns phrases backwards, try speaking in "Eat The Salad". I discovered that backwards it sounds a hell of a lot like "philosophy". No kidding. 
Try it.**

With three large screens, Women Laughing Alone With Salad blasts us with a colorful media barrage that embraces the absurdity of the advertising we're bombarded with, and the joys of social media that loves to lampoon it. Philosophy indeed! The music is upbeat, recognizable, contemporary hits, and the nonverbal scenes are a scream. This show is achingly funny and revealing, literally and figuratively. The scenes are certainly exaggerated in style, and yet, they almost have to be, to counteract the crazy making diets, sexuality, and airbrushed, exuberant expectations we've held up as a feminine ideal for far too long.

"Three years, four performers, a production team of twenty eight and one thousand four hundred pieces of fake lettuce all came together at our press opening."
Jeremy Wechsler (Artistic Director, Theater Wit)

(From left) Tori (Daniella Pereira) tangles with Meredith (Echaka Agba) as Guy (Japhet Balaban) looks on

This show has some delightful gender bending drag going on, that more clearly exaggerates stereotypes and all too familiar behaviors. The second act also amusingly reveals just how clueless most adman bro dudes truly are about how to market to women or even how to date or relate to them as human beings. Of course, they've updated the stock images to represent contemporary women (snark font engaged). They are now using some androgyny along with mixed races and organic specialty greens instead of iceberg lettuce, to sell women on the laughing salad woman archetype. 

(From left) Echaka Agba, Daniella Pereira and Jennifer Engstrom

At least there's a ray of hope for change in the overeducated, multitasking mom boss. Although she's trapped in her own modern hell of unrealistic expectations as much as Sandy (Jennifer Engstrom), Guy's mom, a women's rights protester back in the day. She had a promising start fighting the patriarchy and ended fighting against a cheating spouse and unfulfilling destiny as a SAHM, and ultimately a fighting a losing battle against age and agism, one custom salad at a time. 

(From left) Jennifer Engstrom plays Sandy and Japhet Balaban is Guy

Women Laughing Alone With Salad is undoubtedly over the top, behind the couch, and below the belt funny. This intrepid cast eat raw onions and peppers, flee falling greens, and bare their bodies and souls in the name of story and truth telling. Echaka Agba, Japhet Balaban, Jennifer Engstrom and Daniella Pereira were all fabulously funny playing off one another and give lettuce entertain you a whole new connotation. As fun and funny as this show is, it'll likely leave a lasting impression, and have you kicking in that critical thinking at the sight of every salad and insidious ad, for days to come. 

(Foreground, from left) Meredith (Echaka Agba) and Guy (Japhet Balaban) flirt while Tori (Daniella Pereira) lies low behind 

(From left) Echaka Agba plays Meredith and Japhet Balaban is Guy 

Women Laughing Alone With Salad explores just what happens when a society orchestrates an organized assault on half the population for generations, to coerce them into buying more and more potentially painful and dangerous products to fix their flaws, all while starving themselves into sometimes fatally unrealistic and unsustainable sizes. 

We greatly enjoyed this raunchy, revealing, relevant exploration of what women do to ourselves and to others in the name of food, family, fashion, sexuality, and sizeism. This show is what happens when women stop laughing alone with salad and start laughing with friends at sexism. Highly recommended. 

 (From left) Japhet Balaban plays Guy and Echaka Agba is Meredith  

Don’t miss this subversive tour-de-force about friendship, salad, sex, bodies, yoga, salad, men, envy, women, pharmaceuticals, diets, salad, uppers and salad. Theater Wit’s Chicago premiere of Women Laughing Alone with Salad runs through April 29, 2018 at Theater Wit, 1229 N. Belmont Ave., Chicago. For mature audiences. Tickets: or call 773.975.8150. 

And in other great news, not only does this show promise to serve up big laughs, it comes with an immediate side of economic justice!

Single tickets to Women Laughing Alone with Salad are $12-$70.

However, tickets for women to all regular performances will be discounted to match the 79% wage gap between men and women in Illinois.

To illustrate, at the $24 ticket level, male-identifying patrons pay full price, while female-identifying patrons pay only $18.95, corrected for the 79% wage gap.

Theater Wit is tossing up a crisp Chicago premiere of Women Laughing Alone with Salad, Sheila Callaghan’s satirical comedy based on the meta-feminist Internet meme of the same name.

Don’t miss this four-person, satirical, subversive tour-de-force about friendship, salad, sex, bodies, yoga, salad, men, envy, women, pharmaceuticals, diets, salad, uppers and salad. 

Previews of Women Laughing Alone with Salad are March 9-18: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.

Performances run through April 29: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at
3 p.m.

Theater Wit is located at 1229 N. Belmont in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Another great way to secure seats is to sign up for a Theater Wit Membership, an “all the theater you can eat” deal that lets you see as many plays as you want in any of Wit’s three spaces for a low monthly fee of $29/$22 for students, along with many member perks.

To purchase single tickets, a Membership, or to inquire about Flex Passes, visit or call 773.975.8150.

More about Women Laughing Alone with Salad

You’ve seen them a hundred times before. Stock photos of attractive women, sitting alone, enjoying a salad so hilarious they can’t help but explode with laughter and delight.

The proliferation of this absurd cliché caught the attention of the Internet in 2011 after Edith Zimmerman posted the first collection on the feminist blog The Hairpin. Titled “Women Laughing Alone With Salad,” it featured 18 photos illustrating this trend with no accompanying text.

Zimmerman’s post spurred a number of hilarious memes parodying this stereotypical portrayal of women in media, including a tumblr page.

And this play, a fierce, funny, feminist look at the maniacal gauntlet of gender relations and the relentless pursuit of insane ideals. Our heroines are trapped on a treadmill of dysfunctional relationships, warped body image and ludicrous pornography, carving their way through a suffocating, tangled mess. With pointed jabs and razor wit, Women Laughing Alone with Salad disembowels the cosmetic myth of pre-packaged feminine empowerment.

When it debuted at Washington D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre in 2015, playwright Sheila Callaghan, also a writer/producer on the hit Showtime comedy Shameless, told the Washington Post, “Nobody likes salad that much. And the notion that you’re supposed to feel that way – salad will never be that kind of satisfying. No matter how creative you get with salad, it’s still (expletive) lettuce and vegetables, right?”

DC Theatre Scene subsequently hailed Women Laughing Alone with Salad a “fresh, funny play…the poster child for what feminist theatre should be: a great night out on the town watching a slam bam comedy which is also a serious conversation about the society we oh-so-currently live in.”

Salad Days @ Theater Wit:
Behind the scenes of Women Laughing Alone with Salad

Here in Chicago, Devon de Mayo (pictured above) makes her Theater Wit directorial debut with Women Laughing Alone with Salad, fresh from staging the world premiere of The Burn by Philip Dawkins for Steppenwolf Theatre for Young Audiences. Other recent projects include Harvey at Court Theatre, You On the Moors Now by Jaclyn Backhaus for The Hypocrites, the world premiere of Sycamore at Raven Theatre and Don't Look Back/Must Look Back at Pivot Arts.

Wit’s Women Laughing Alone with Salad stars Echaka Agba, Japhet Balaban, Jennifer Engstrom and Daniella Pereira.

Echaka Agba (Meredith/Bruce) was named to the Chicago Tribune’s “Hot New Faces of Chicago Theater, Class of 2017”), and singled out in the 2017 Time Out Chicago Theater Awards for featured performance and breakout performance in Broken Nose Theatre’s At the Table, which also won her the Jeff Award for Best Supporting Actress. Other credits are Short Shakes! Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare, United Flight 232, Jeff Award winner for Best Ensemble at House Theatre, and The Crucible and Between Riverside and Crazy at Steppenwolf.

Japhet Balaban (Guy/Alice) was also named to the Chicago Tribune’s “Hot New Faces of Chicago Theater, Class of 2017”), drawing particular attention for his work in Ideation (Jackalope Theatre). Other credits are You on the Moors Now (The Hypocrites), Posh (Steep Theatre), Never The Sinner (Victory Gardens), Balm in Gilead (Griffin Theatre) and Look Back in Anger (Redtwist).

Jennifer Engstrom (Sandy/Guy) is a veteran of regional and Chicago stages and an A Red Orchid Theatre ensemble member, where she performed in The Fastest Clock in The Universe, Eric LaRue, Fatboy, The Hothouse, 3C and The Mutilated (Jeff nomination for Outstanding Actress).

Daniella Pereira (Tori/Joe) was most recently seen in Letters Home (Griffin Theatre), The Taming of the Shrew (Oak Park Festival Theatre) and Cymbeline (Strawdog Theatre Company).

Sheila Callaghan's plays have been produced and developed with Soho Rep, Playwright's Horizons, Yale Rep, South Coast Rep, Clubbed Thumb, The LARK, Actor's Theatre of Louisville, New Georges, The Flea, Woolly Mammoth, Boston Court and Rattlestick Playwright's Theatre. She received the Princess Grace Award for emerging artists, a Jerome Fellowship from Playwright's Center in Minneapolis, a MacDowell Residency, a Cherry Lane Mentorship Fellowship, the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and the Whiting Award. Her plays have been produced internationally in New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Germany, Portugal and the Czech Republic. These include Scab, Crawl Fade to White, Crumble, We Are Not These Hands, Dead City, Lascivious Something, Kate Crackernuts, That Pretty Pretty; Or, The Rape Play, Fever/Dream, Everything You Touch, Roadkill Confidential, Elevada and Bed. She is published with and Samuel French, and several of her collections are published with Counterpoint Press. She has taught playwriting at Columbia University, The University of Rochester, The College of New Jersey, Florida State University and Spalding University. She is an affiliated artist with Clubbed Thumb, a member of the Obie winning playwright's organization 13P and an alumni of New Dramatists. In 2010, Callaghan was profiled by Marie Claire as one of "18 Successful Women Who Are Changing the World." She was also named one of Variety’s "10 Screenwriters to Watch" of 2010. Callaghan is a writer/producer on the hit Showtime comedy Shameless and a founder of the feminist activist group The Kilroys. She was nominated for a 2016 Golden Globe for her work on Hulu’s Casual and a 2017 WGA Award for her Shameless episode “I Am A Storm.”

Designers for Women Laughing Alone with Salad are Arnel Sancianco (set), Mieka van der Ploeg (costumes), Heather Gilbert (lights), Shain Longbehn (sound), Joe Burke (projections) Jesse Gaffney (props), Rachel Flesher (intimacy) and Clare Cooney (casting).

About Theater Wit
Theater Wit, Chicago’s “smart art” theater, is a major hub of the Chicago neighborhood theater scene, where audiences enjoy a smorgasbord of excellent productions in three, 99-seat spaces, see a parade of talented artists and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago.

“A thrilling addition to Chicago’s roster of theaters” (Chicago Tribune) and “a terrific place to see a show” (New City), Theater Wit is now in its eighth season at its home at
1229 N. Belmont Ave., in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. In 2014, Theater Wit was awarded the National Theatre Award by the American Theatre Wing for strengthening the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theater.

The company’s most recent hits include The Antelope Party by Eric John Meyer, This Way Outta Santaland by Mitchell Fain, 10 Out of 12 and Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, Naperville by Mat Smart, The New Sincerity by Alena Smith, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence and Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England by Madeleine George, and Completeness and The Four of Us by Itamar Moses.

Visit or call the Theater Wit box office, 773.975.8150, to purchase a Membership, inquire about Flex Pass options or to buy single tickets.

To receive an “artisanal selection of consonants and vowels from Theater Wit,” sign up at for exclusive updates, flash deals and behind-the-scenes production scoop every few weeks.

In an odd screaming symmetry, Theater Wit is currently running not one but two shows whose posters feature an open, yelling mouth. Though very different, both shows are quite good and well worth a look! 


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

APRIL 12-MAY 20, 2018

Here at ChiIL Live Shows we're huge fans of the work Collaboraction does, bringing social issues to the stage and bringing theatre to the neighborhoods. We're eager to see their next iteration, the world premiere of A Blue Island in the Red Sea.

Welcome to the Grand Opening of the new Chicago Racism Museum, where community leaders and residents are gathering for a multimedia - and meta-theatrical - exhibit that explores the history of racism in Chicago.

That’s the opening of A Blue Island in the Red Sea, a world premiere live theater docudrama that exposes the history Chicagoans often try to forget.

The cast/co-devisers of A Blue Island in the Red Sea includes (from left) Sean Patrick Leonard, Sam Campbell III, Ada Cheng, Dana N. Anderson, P. Tyler Nielsen, Shannon Leigh Webber, Marcus D. Moore, Uday Joshi (kneeling), Andrew Rios and Esme Perez (kneeling). Please credit photo: Joel Maisonet

Performances are April 12-May 20, 2018 in The Pentagon at Collaboraction Studios in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Press opening is Wednesday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15-30; $5-$15 for students, educators and industry. For tickets and information, visit or call (312) 226-9633.

After its successful tour of Encounter, a mixed medium festival about racism and racial healing that toured Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Hermosa, Austin and Englewood, Collaboraction continues to explore the harsh reality of systemic racism in Chicago with A Blue Island in the Red Sea.

Collaboraction’s 2017-18 season finale is an original devised new work that presents a diverse cast of Chicagoans in a meta-theatrical live experience intended to open eyes and further the conversation about racism and racial healing in our city.

A Blue Island in the Red Sea, written and directed by Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley, was created through open workshops in collaboration with a team of community members, actors and designers.

“The resulting work takes audiences on a whirlwind journey from the time before the city of Chicago was founded through the formation of the segregated city we know today,” explains Moseley. “Whether it’s Chicago’s history of locking up black and brown people, going all the way back to DuSable, or the inherent racism in the dress code today at Bottled Blonde, we are using theater to encourage an honest conversation about critical issues surrounding race to cultivate truth and transformation in the Windy City.”

Previews of A Blue Island in the Red Sea are Thursday through Saturday, April 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 15 at 3 p.m.; and Tuesday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m. Press opening is Wednesday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m. No show Thursday, April 19. Performances continue through May 20: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Industry nights are Monday, May 7 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. 


From left: Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony with Managing Director
Dr. Marcus Robinson at Encounter festival talk-backs in Englewood and Hermosa earlier this year.

Collaboraction Managing Director Dr. Marcus Robinson will bring his deep experience in community development, social justice, and transformation to lead the post-show fireside conversation after every show. Audiences at Collaboraction are often a mix of people with power and privilege, sitting along side those who experience social injustice every day. So expect these conversations, led by a proud resident of Englewood, to pop. 

The cast/co-devisers of A Blue Island in the Red Sea includes (top row, from left) Dana N. Anderson,
Sam Campbell III, Ada Cheng, Uday Joshi, Sean Patrick Leonard, (bottom, from left) Marcus D. Moore, P. Tyler Nielsen, Esme Perez, Andrew Rios and Shannon Leigh Webber. (Photos by Joel Maisonet)

Designers are Jose Manuel Diaz-Soto (Scenic Design), Elsa Hiltner (Costume Design), Levert Wilkins and Jeremy Getz (Lighting Design), Liviu Pasare and Parker Langvardt (Video Design), John Nichols (Sound Design) and Katy Vest (Properties Design).

The production team includes Sarah Moeller (Producer), Noelle Hedges-Goettl (Production Manager), Caitlin Body (Stage Manager), Genevieve Fowler (Assistant Director), Nate Ferguson (Script Supervisor), Giulianna Marchese (Dramaturg), Manny Ortiz (Technical Director), Chas Mathieu (Scenic Painter and Assistant Scenic Design), Becs Bartle (Master Electrician) and Sunniva Holmlund (Assistant Stage Manager).

“I've made it one of my new goals, after five years of going into the neighborhoods making theater with and for communities affected by violence through docudrama theater to now come back to white Chicago and talk to white Chicagoans, that’s my dream: that white people will wake up and understand that they’ve benefited greatly from the racism and that it’s time for them to come full circle and become part of the solution.” - Anthony Moseley, Artistic Director, Collaboraction

Anthony Moseley (writer, director) has been the Executive Artistic Director of Collaboraction Theatre Company since 1999 and has produced over 60 productions, 17 festivals and numerous other artistic productions. He has led the company’s transformation from a Chicago storefront into a change agent that uses original, devised theatre and deep community collaboration to cultivate knowledge, empathy, dialogue and action around critical social issues. In 2013, he co-devised and directed Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology, a docudrama about the root causes of violence in Chicago, which drew on over 250 sources. The show, and its subsequent four sequels, toured Chicago for three years. During its 125 performances, it reached over 25,000 Chicagoans. Each performance also featured dance battle tournaments, free community meals and town hall discussions. Anthony then initiated Collaboraction’s annual Peacebook festival, a collection of 24 world premiere pieces featuring over 235 artists, which opens at the Goodman Theatre each year before touring the city. In 2014, he co-wrote, co-directed and acted in This is Not a Cure For Cancer, an existential dramedy inspired by his father's battle with cancer. He wrote and directed Connected, a show exploring our relationship with technology. Moseley is also a collaborative partner with his wife and soul-mate, Chicago artist Sandra Delgado.

About Collaboraction

Collaboraction (, Chicago’s social contemporary theater, continues its tradition of provocative and powerful world premieres that take on Chicago’s most pressing social issues with A Blue Island in the Red Sea.

Collaboraction collaborates with a diverse community of Chicagoans, artists and community activists to create original theatrical experiences that push artistic boundaries and explore critical social issues. Collaboraction has worked with more than 3,000 artists to bring more than 60 productions and events to more than 100,000 audience members. Collaboraction is led by Artistic Director Anthony Moseley, Managing Director Dr. Marcus Robinson, a company of 20 talented Chicago theater artists, and a dedicated staff and board of directors.

Collaboraction is the resident theatre company in the Flat Iron Arts Building,
1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., at the epicenter of Chicago’s Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods. The company’s collective three-space venue, Collaboraction Studios, includes The Pentagon, The Vault and The Salon, encompassing 8,000 square feet on the third floor of the historic building. Collaboraction Studios is home to Collaboraction’s productions, the work of its Teen Peacemakers Ensemble in partnership with After School Matters, as well as a wide variety of visiting Chicago theater and dance companies and comedy groups. Collaboraction Studios are also the home of Collaboraction For-Hire, which creates custom special event design for private, corporate and civic clients, including the Art Institute, the City of Chicago and many more.

Collaboraction’s vision is to utilize theatre to cultivate theater, dialogue and action around our most critical social issues throughout Chicago. For the past five years, Collaboraction has partnered with the Chicago Park District through their Nights Out in the Parks program to cultivate relationships and theater in Englewood, Austin and Hermosa through the Crime Scene, Peacebook and Encounter tours.

Other production highlights include Sarah Moeller’s Forgotten Future: The Education Project; 15 years of the SKETCHBOOK Festival; the Chicago premiere of 1001 by Jason Grote; the world premiere of Jon by George Saunders and directed by Seth Bockley; and The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow: an instant message with excitable music by Rolin Jones.

Collaboraction is supported by The Chicago Community Trust, The Joyce Foundation, DCASE and the Wicker Park & Bucktown SSA #33 Chamber of Commerce. This program is partially supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

For more, visit, follow the company on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube or Instagram, or call the Collaboraction box office, (312) 226-9633.

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