Showing posts with label highly recommended. Show all posts
Showing posts with label highly recommended. Show all posts

Friday, September 23, 2022

REVIEW: Southern Gothic In Open Run at Windy City Playhouse South at Petterinos' Beginning Sept 15th, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

By Catherine Hellmann, Guest Critic 

I now have bragging rights that I have seen Southern Gothic in all three of its manifestations and locations. Each time, I appreciate the piece even more. It’s rare to witness the “same” show three different times and feel like you saw a new show each performance. I described the play to my sister, a first time viewer, as a “choose-your-own-adventure” concept. I explained how the audience can move around the staged “house” to select a new vantage point. My sis liked her window seat in the living room and chose to watch the shenanigans in their entirety from the exterior wall. I moved to the outside area near the kitchen to eavesdrop on the conversation there. It’s a hoot to be such a “voyeur” in other people’s private dramas. 

    All Production Photos by Michael Brosilow

In case you are unfamiliar, the setting is June 30, 1961 at the home of Beau Coutier (Max Stewart) and his perky wife Ellie (Sarah Grant, reprising her original role). It’s the 40th birthday for Beau’s sister Suzanne, and all of their old crowd are invited to celebrate. We see the hosts frantically preparing for their guests, and we are in their house with them as “flies on the wall.”  The set is truly remarkable and one of my favorite parts of this clever show, as the designer, Scott Davis, has created a “home” with open walls and added details so we feel transported to Beau and Ellie’s actual residence. The audience is free to move about, as long as we remain “invisible”: don’t speak, sit on the main furniture, or interact with the cast. You can even eat the snacks, popcorn and crackers with cheese and spam (!) on the dining room, kitchen, or back patio tables. Drinks are even served to all as part of the show. 

The first time I saw Southern Gothic, I watched the majority from the dining room. I was a bit shy about moving locations. I overheard some financial travails affecting a few of the male characters. The second time, I focused on being in the kitchen and had a couple passionately kissing only like a foot away from me! Omg. There was heat in the kitchen! It was a bit shocking; I wasn’t expecting that! This third viewing, I wandered out back. Each time, I have caught a different aspect of the intertwining plots. It’s delightful. There is a LOT going on and a bunch of backstory with these “old friends.” My sis caught a detail about two characters that I hadn’t connected before.    

I spotted co-creator Amy Rubenstein in the crowd just before curtain, and blurted,”I fucking love this show! This is my third time seeing it.” She was as gracious as the Southern Hospitality on display in the Coutier Home in Ashford, Georgia. The large glass of wine I had pre-show may have been partly responsible for my outburst, but my appreciation of this spectacle is sincere. It’s a blast, and I recommend that everyone see it just because it is so fascinating and unique. 

New to the cast is Windy City Playhouse favorite Carley Cornelius as Lauren Lyon, who is the daughter of a politician and now married to one who is equally ambitious as her powerful father. She is a wonderful addition to the show, and I marveled at how she was sitting forlornly on the patio while chaos stormed nearby. Reese Parish is lovely as Cassie Smith, an unexpected surprise at the party. 

The costumes by Sydney Moore are to die for, especially the gorgeous women’s dresses. My sis, a shoe fanatic, nudged me to point out the fabulous shoes on the party guests.  

Windy City Playhouse South is right next to Petterino’s and the Goodman Theatre. You can catch dinner, then meander over to Georgia to witness some Southern hospitality and mayhem. You’ll be so glad you did. And order a whiskey sour to go with the bedlam. Cheers! 

Highly recommended. 4 out of 4 stars ★★★★

Catherine Hellmann is usually at a theater production, exploring Chicago, or in school trying to mold young teenage minds. She has three awesome kids and thinks being an empty nester is simply astounding.  

Windy City Playhouse Announces Cast for the Downtown Debut of Immersive Smash Hit "Southern Gothic" Produced in Association with Goodman Theatre and Greg Schaffert 

Multiple Jeff Award-Winning Creative Team Including Director David H. Bell and Scenic Designer Scott Davis to Return for New Production, Set to Open Sept. 15 at New Playhouse at Petterino's Location, Adjacent to the Goodman

Windy City Playhouse Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein, together with Goodman Theatre and Greg Schaffert, announced the cast and creative team for the downtown debut of the hit immersive production “Southern Gothic,” created by Rubenstein and Windy City Playhouse Associate Artistic Director Carl Menninger. “Southern Gothic,” written by Leslie Liautaud and once again directed by David H. Bell, will transport audiences to a cocktail party in 1960s Ashford, Georgia where four couples gather to celebrate a birthday. The Chicago production will welcome 45 audience members per performance to the Playhouse at Petterino’s (150 N. Dearborn, next to the Goodman Theatre) beginning Sept. 15.  

Cast of SOUTHERN GOTHIC, from left to right: (row one) Joe Edward Metcalfe, Carley Cornelius, Max Bowdren, Sarah Grant, (row two) Reese Parish, Max Stewart, Anne Sheridan Smith, Miles Borchard.

The cast of “Southern Gothic” includes returning artists Sarah Grant as Ellie Coutier and Anne Sheridan Smith as Suzanne Wellington, in addition to new cast members Miles Borchard as Tucker Alsworth, Matt Bowdren as Charlie Lyon, Carley Cornelius as Lauren Lyon, Joe Metcalfe as Jackson Wellington, Reese Parish as Cassie Smith and Max Stewart as Beau Coutier. 

Anchored by several members of the original production’s multiple Jeff Award-winning team, the creative team for this production includes David H. Bell who won a Jeff Award for his previous direction of Windy City Playhouse’s two-year, 606-performance run of “Southern Gothic,” playwright Leslie Liautaud, co-creator Amy Rubenstein, co-creator and dramaturg Carl Menninger and scenic designer Scott Davis, who also received a Jeff Award for the original production. In addition, the production includes Sydney Moore (Costume Designer), Aaron Lichamer (Lighting Designer), Lindsay Jones (Sound Designer), Eleanor Kahn (Properties and Details Designer), Max Fabian (Fight Choreographer), Donica Lynn (Assistant Director), Lauren Nigri (Associate Scenic Designer), Andres Mota (Assistant Costume Designer/Costume Coordinator), Rebecca Lister (Production Stage Manager), Hannah Weiss (Assistant Stage Manager), Danny Halminiak, (Technical Director), Hannah Bolstad (Lead Electrician) and Joe Johnson (Assistant Technical Director).

Hailed by critics during its inaugural run, “Southern Gothic” received four stars from Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones, who called the set “astonishing;” the Chicago Sun-Times said, “Immersive ‘Southern Gothic’ makes you feel right at home;” the Chicago Reader called “Southern Gothic” a “memorable and unique theater experience;” and PerformInk declared the show is “superb and fascinating... the kind of play that could easily develop a cult following.”

During the intimate, immersive show, audiences will be free to roam throughout the Jeff award-nominated house set, exploring various spaces and eavesdropping on clandestine conversations. Each visitor will create their own unique perspective on the evening’s proceedings. The cast of “Southern Gothic” does not interact with the audience, leaving patrons free to watch the scenes happening around them like an invisible guest, traveling from room to room and sampling period-appropriate cocktails and snacks throughout the performance. 

“Southern Gothic” is presented in partnership with producer Greg Schaffert and Southern Gothic Nash LLC. Schaffert, a producer best known for the Tony Award-winning “Peter and the Starcatcher,” looks to open a commercial run of the show in Nashville later this year.   

Tickets to “Southern Gothic” are on sale now and will range from $65 to $105. Press performances are slated for September 15 through 18. The production will run Wednesdays through Sundays at the Playhouse at Petterino’s, located at 150 N. Dearborn. For more information and ticketing, please visit

About the Production 

Leslie Liautaud (Playwright) has worked for over 30 years in professional theatre as actor, director, choreographer and playwright. Leslie is the author of “Midnight Waltzes” (2006), “He Is Us” (2008), “The Wreck” (2009), “Saligia” (2011) and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Millennial Edition” (2012). Her screenplays/webisodes include “Taj Mahal” (2006), “Web” (2010) and Jimmy John’s/Whateverhollywood (2010) parody web series. Leslie directed her one-act play, “The Mansion” (2010) and directed Tennessee Williams’ play “The Chalky White Substance” (2011) for the “Tennessee at 100” series both at ParklandCollege in Champaign, IL. She wrote “Spectacle Lunatique” for Redmoon Theatre in Chicago, IL (2012). Leslie’s plays have been produced throughout the Midwest United States and her plays “Midnight Waltzes” and “The Wreck” both received translations for the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent where they are used as classroom curriculum. Both are archived at the Opendoek Library in Antwerp.

Leslie has performed and choreographed for various Midwest theatres and organizations such as Ibsen Theatre, Exposure Inc., Liberty Symphony Orchestra, Worlds of Fun and Westport Ballet Company. Leslie co-founded the “People in Motion” high school youth performance program (1995) in Kansas City, MO. She is the author of the coming-of-age novel, “Black Bear Lake” and the psychological thriller, “Butterfly Pinned.”  

David H. Bell (Director) returns to Windy City Playhouse after directing last season’s Jeff Award-nominated “The Explorers Club.” He is a professor and Director of the Music Theatre Certificate program and Artistic Director of the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University. David has worked all over the world as a director, choreographer, and author. 

His work has received 44 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, for which he has won 11; the Dramalogue Award (L.A.); the Helen Hayes Award (Washington, D.C.); five Carbonall Award nominations (Florida); a Laurence Olivier Award Nomination (London); seven Atlanta Journal and Constitution Awards; the Atlanta Circle of Dramatic Critics Award; and three National Endowment writing grants. 

He has served as Artistic Director for the historic Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and as Associate Artistic Director for Atlanta’s Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre. He has had more than 40 new plays and musicals produced internationally, including the Laurence Olivier-nominated Musical “Hot Mikado.” Recently, he collaborated withNorthwestern University and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in presenting “Atlantic,” a pair of new musicals at the Edinburgh Festival last summer. He has collaborated on world premiere musicals with Craig Carnelia, Cy Coleman, Russell Baker, Jimmy Buffett, Herman Wouk, David Crane and Marta Kauffman, Bob Gaudio, Henry Marsh, Barry Mason, Jim Stafford, Eddie Seago, and Mike Leander, among many others. He directed and coauthored “Knute Rockne: All-American” at The Theatre at the Center, and his adaptation of “The Boys from Syracuse,” for which he was nominated for 3 Jefferson Awards, played at the Drury Lane Oakbrook. He directed his musical “The Bowery Boys” at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and directed and choreographed “Once on This Island” at Marriott and “Hot Mikado” at Drury Lane. In summer 2011, David directed his own “Fanny Brice” musical at Florida’s Asolo Rep Theatre; wrote a program of musicals to accompany the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Washington D.C.; directed “Hamlet” at Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival and a World Premiere of HERO at the Marriott Theatre and Asolo Repertory Theatre; and wrote “The Rules Of Love” in Istanbul with Turkish rock stars Sertab Erener and Demir Demirkan. David opened “Shakin’ the Rafters” for Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre in Atlanta; directed “South Pacific,” “9 to 5,” “Cabaret” and “On The Town” for the Marriott Lincolnshire; and directed “The Comedy Of Errors,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Pericles” for Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. For Northwestern University’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, David has directed “A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” and six Waa-Mu Shows: “Another Way West,” “Beyond Belief,” “What’s Next?” “Off The Map,” “Flying Home” and “Gold.” David is currently writing and directing “The Museum Of Broken Relationships” with composer Daniel Green. 

Carl Menninger (Co-Creator/Dramaturg) lived and worked in Chicago for many years. He won the 2020 Joseph Jefferson Award for his direction of “The Boys in The Band.” He also directed the 2016 production of THIS at Windy City Playhouse. Carl was one of the writers of “A Recipe for Disaster!” as well as the co-writer of our recent production of “Sons Of Hollywood.” He is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at American University, in Washington, D.C., where he ran the Theatre and Musical Theatre program for eight years. While in Chicago, Carl worked with Victory Gardens and Chicago Dramatists. In addition to working with D.C.’s Ford’s Theatre, Studio Theatre and Adventure Theatre, his play “Everything But You: A Modern Romance” received a staged reading at Keegan Theatre in D.C. Carl is the co-author of “Minding the Edge: Strategies for a Fulfilling, Successful Career as an Actor.” 

Amy Rubenstein (Co-Creator) is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Windy City Playhouse. Since the theater’s premiere in March 2015, she has overseen 17 mainstage productions, including the recent world premieres “Southern Gothic” and “A Recipe for Disaster!” of which she was also a co-creator and writer. During her tenure, the Playhouse has been lauded for its uniquely contemporary approach that focuses on audience experience and has received numerous industry accolades, including 23 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, 11 Chicago Theater Awards including the 2018 Trailblazer Award, and 3 International Centre for Women Playwrights’ 50/50 Awards. Prior to her current role at the Playhouse, Ms. Rubenstein’s credits include performing with Long Beach Playhouse, Human Race Theatre, and Center Stage Theater, among others. She is a proud graduate of Brandeis University. She is also a partner at Windy City RE and Clear Investment Group, two leading Chicago real estate investment firms. 

Miles Borchard (Tucker Alsworth) most recently appeared in “A Recipe For Disaster!” with Windy City Playhouse and is returning for another exciting immersive piece. Prior to the pandemic, Borchard was featured as the Teenage Boy in “Dead Man Walking” at the Lyric Opera and as Paul Morel in “Sons and Lovers” at the Greenhouse Theatre. He has appeared on film in leading roles for DePaul Productions, Philhouse Productions, and SHOED! Productions. He is also a professional circus performer, working in cabarets and street performing across the city. Borchard graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from the Chicago College of Performing Arts. 

Matt Bowdren (Charlie Lyon) is thrilled to make his Windy City Playhouse debut. In Chicago, Matt was most recently seen in “Rutherford and Son” (TimeLine Theatre).  Matt is a founding member of The Story Theatre where directed the inaugural production of “Leave Me Alone!” Regionally, Matt is an Artistic Associate for The Rogue Theatre where he has performed in over 30 productions including “Hamlet,”“The Crucible,” and“Waiting for Godot.” Other regional credits include Arizona Theatre Company, Arizona Repertory Theatre, Hudson Shakespeare Company, and Southwest Shakespeare. Recent film credits include, “The Lot,” “The Coming” and “Happily Never After” (Lifetime). Matt is represented by DDO Chicago and holds an MFA in Performance from The University of Georgia. 

Carley Cornelius (Lauren Lyon) Carley Cornelius returns to WCP where she previously appeared in “A Recipe for Disaster!” and “Becky Shaw.” In Chicago she has had the pleasure to collaborate with Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Writers Theatre, Chicago Sketchfest, The House Theater of Chicago, and is an ensemble member of Definition Theatre  (“White, An Octoroon,” “The Dutchman”). Some regional credits include work with Colorado Theatreworks (“Venus In Fur,” “Constellations,” “Detroit”), Urbanite Theatre (“The Drowning Girls”), Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (“Shakespeare In Love”) TheatreSquared (“At The Wedding”), as well as productions with Montana, Texas, Door and Great River Shakespeare Festivals. You may have seen her telling you to “read a f*^#ing book” on The Onion, searching for multiple children on NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” drinking Maker’s Mark on Hulu or trying to find a home on HGTV’s “House Hunters.” Carley holds degrees from Ball State University and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and is represented by Big Mouth Talent. #stayinit 

Sarah Grant (Ellie Coutier) is thrilled to be returning to “Southern Gothic” as Ellie. Other Chicago Credits include: “Mr. Dickens’ Hat” (Northlight Theatre, u/s); “Upstairs Concierge” (Goodman Theatre, u/s); “A Very Merry Madrigal” (Theo Ubique); “Sleeping Beauty” and “Godspell” (Provision); “Hamlet Is Dead. No Gravity.” and “A Hedda Gabler” (Red Tape); “Death and Harry Houdini” (House Theatre). Regional credits include: “The Dos and Don’ts of Time Travel” (Phoenix Theatre, IN). She teaches at the Chicago Academy for the Arts and holds a master's degree in the humanities from the University of Chicago. Sarah is represented by Lily’s Talent and thanks her family, friends, and partner Anthony who plays all the parts. 

Joe Metcalfe (Jackson Wellington) Is beyond grateful to be returning to Windy City Playhouse! He was last seen at Windy City understudying in “A Recipe for Disaster!” where he went on a handful of times. CHICAGO: “Romeo And Juliet” (Kane Repertory Theatre), “Keely & Du” (Redtwist Theatre), “Bent” (Muse Theatre Co.) and “Grant In Othello” (Theatre Witt) – “Regional: Re-Entry” (Montana Rep), “Other Desert Cities” (Studio Theatre Tierra Del Sol, FL), “Two Conversations”…  (WP - Humana) by Sarah Ruhl, “Dreamerwake” (WP - Humana) by Anne Washburn, “Dracula” (Actors Theatre of Louisville). TV/FILM: “Soundtrack” (Netflix), “NeXt” (FOX). TRAINING: Actors Theatre of Louisville PT Company, MFA – Northern Illinois University. He is represented by Big Mouth Talent. - - For Cyndi, always. 

Reese Parish (Cassie Smith) Reese, current DePaul Junior, is elated to be making her Windy City Playhouse debut! As a Milwaukee native, she’s worked extensively with The Milwaukee Repertory Theater most recently seen in “West Side Story,” Love in “Everybody,” and also appearing as Wendy Darling in the world premiere production of “Lost Girl.” Other theater credits include Annie in “Annie Jump And The Library Of Heaven,” Cassandra in “Bliss Or Emily Post Is Dead” (Renaissance Theaterworks) and Dorothy in THE WIZ (First Stage).

This past year Reese has had the privilege of working on web-series “APT” (Everything Bagel Productions) and was seen as Anna in “Ferdinand Avenue” and Christina in “Afterword” (Paper Crown Productions). Reese is represented by Paonessa Talent and is thrilled to be back on stage doing what she loves! Special thanks to her village who is with her at every step and bow.   

Anne Sheridan Smith (Suzanne Wellington) is happily returning to the role of Suzanne Wellington and working with Windy City Playhouse again. Born and brought up in Chicago, Anne is rooted in its theatre community. Her Chicago theatre production highlights include “The Drowning Girls” (Jeff Nomination, Best Ensemble - Play, Signal Ensemble Theatre), “Once Upon A Mattress” as Queen Aggravain (Theo Ubique), “Fun Home” as Helen (Victory Gardens Theatre), “Bat Boy,” “The MusicAL” as Meredith (Jeff Nomination, Best Supporting, Griffin Theatre), “The Good Soul Of SZECHUAN” (Strawdog Theatre), 1776 as Abigail (Jeff Award, Best Musical, Signal Ensemble), “9 To 5, The Musical” as Violet (Firebrand), “Juno” as Maisie (TimeLine Theatre), “Mother Courage And Her Children” as Yvette Pottier (Vitalist Theatre). She received her B.A. in Theatre and Acting from Western Illinois University. Anne is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent. 

Max Stewart (Beau Coutier) Max is a graduate of The Theatre School at Depaul University and has studied at the British American Dramatic Academy in Oxford.  He is a NFAA Young Arts Award Winner in Spoken Theatre and won a William Faulkner Literary Award for his play “Antarctica” which premiered at Curious Theatre Company in Denver.  Recent theatre credits include: “Walk on The Wild Side” (Pale Horse Playhouse), “Sons Of Hollywood” (Windy City Playhouse) and Romeo in “Romeo And Juliet” (Kane Repertory Theatre Company). Selected TV/Film Credits include: Chicago Fire (NBC), Soundtrack (Netflix) Dir. Joe Swanberg, Worth Dir. Austin Lewis, (Best Supporting Actor Winner Nashville 48 Hour Film Festival) and Never the Bride Dir. Alex Heller.  Max is represented by Gray Talent Group. Instagram: @maxflash4 CN Mason (Cassie Smith U/S) Candice (CN) is a proud native of the California Bay Area who is excited to be joining the “Southern Gothic” team. She was last seen onstage as an understudy in the 2022 production of “Middle Passage” at Lifeline Theatre where she made her Chicago debut. Recently signed to 10 MGMT, she hopes to use her platform to continue cultivating community and give life to stories of the global-majority on stage and film. When not acting you can find her being an educator.  

About Windy City Playhouse 

Windy City Playhouse is a professional theater and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, located on Chicago's northwest side. Premiering in March of 2015 with a mission to present contemporary, relevant, and approach art, the Playhouse has quickly become a mainstay of the Chicago theater scene. In 2018, its runaway hit, the immersive

“Southern Gothic” solidified the Playhouse as the first choice in Chicago theater for one-of-a-kind audience experience. "Experience driven. Audience first." 

For more information, visit and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 


About Goodman Theatre 

Chicago’s theater since 1925, Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit arts and community

organization in the heart of the Loop, distinguished by the excellence and scope of its artistic programming and community engagement. Led by Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, the theater’s artistic priorities include new play

development (more than 150 world or American premieres), large scale musical theater works and reimagined classics. Artists and productions have earner two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards and more than 160 Jeff Awards, among other accolades. The Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” Its longtime annual holiday tradition A Christmas Carol, now in its fifth decade, has created a new generation of theatergoers in Chicago. The Goodman also frequently serves as a production and program partner with national and international companies and Chicago’s Off-Loop theaters. As a cultural and community organization invested in quality, diversity and community, Goodman Theatre is committed to using the art of theater for a better Chicago. Goodman Theatre’s Action Plan for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Access (IDEAA) was born out of the belief that progress means action, which includes building on the decades-long commitment to using art, assets and resources to contribute to a more just, equitable and anti-racist society. 


Monday, July 18, 2022

REVIEW: Steep Summer Shows Continue with Stephens’ Light Falls at Theater Wit Through Aug 14, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

US Premiere of 

Light Falls

By Simon Stephens

Directed by Robin Witt

Now Playing Through Aug 14, 2022 

Guest Review

by Flo Manolis 

Steep Theater's US Premiere production of Tony Award-winning playwright, Simon Stephens' Light Falls validates the quality of the ensemble we have come to applaud. It was a pleasure to meet the playwright on opening night. This show marks Stephens' fifth production with Steep, with Ensemble Member Robin Witt once again serving as director. Witt has also directed Stephen’s Wastwater, Motortown, Pornography and Harper Regan, Steep’s bestselling production. Simon Stephens remains Steep's Associate Playwright.

All Production Photos by Randall Starr

On opening night, the audience entered the theater to a compelling, multilayered, compartmentalized, stage by set designer, Sotirios Levaditis. Various heavy furniture pieces like a china cabinet and desk were elevated on the walls, with a piano to the left and music sheets suspended on the ceiling, mirroring the weightiness of the action about to occur. 

As the lights dim, a woman, Christine (Kendra Thulin) enters in a blue overcoat and holds our attention with her pensive monologue at the moment she dies. Intricate details pull the audience into this story about family, guilt, love, and death, intertwining five relatives, scattered across the north of England. 
Like an illusion, it rains in the entire country, in spite of a clear blue sky, as she takes her last breath! An impressive vision that mesmerized in wonder…

The characters struggle with their own issues. Jess (Stephane Mattos) needs reassurance as she and Michael (Nate Faust) try to establish their relationship. Bernard (Peter Moore), Christine’s husband,  flirts with two women, Emma (Tina El Gama) and Michaela (Cindy Marker). Steven (Brandon Rivera) is insecure and argues with his lover, Andy (Omer Abbas Salem). 

Ashe (Ashlyn Lozano) a single mom, turns Joe (Debo Balogun) away because he suggests their child to live with his family. Ashe is distraught when she sees her mother Christine, who tells her that it gets easier, leading her to ask Christine if she’s really there or if is she a ghost.

By close of the show, the family gathers for her funeral. Ashe appears wearing her mother’s blue coat, and the family sings “Hymn of the North” for a riveting ending.

OUTSTANDING!! Highly recommended!!

Flo Manolis is a CPS elementary teacher/librarian, hairdresser, and theater/film fanatic who catches hundreds of Chicago shows annually. She volunteers at numerous film venues and theaters.

For one clear moment, rain and light fall from a cloudless sky. For one clear moment, Christine sees the lives of her family, her town, her world stretched before her, beyond her. Simon Stephens’ Light Falls is a haunting tale of resilience, hope, and the impossibly strong bonds of family.

More than two years after beginning work on this play, Steep is excited to resume production of Light Falls after it came to a halt in the spring of 2020. Light Falls will be performed at Theater Wit while the sold-out run of Eboni Booth’s Paris plays at Steep's new home at 1044 West Berwyn through July 23rd. In April, Steep purchased the former Christian Science Reading Room, returning to the Edgewater community it has called home since 2008, and a renovation of the space is planned for the coming year.

We first fell in love with this script in 2019, yet somehow Light Falls fully and exquisitely captures what we've been through and where we are now,' said Artistic Director Peter Moore. "Simon has long been an integral part of Steep's story and I'm grateful that we can share his work in this moment.” 

Light Falls will feature Steep Ensemble Members Debo Balogun, Nate Faust, Cindy Marker, Peter Moore, Brandon Rivera, Omer Abbas Salem, and Kendra Thulin, as well as guest artists Susaan Jamshidi, Ashlyn Lozano, and Stephanie Mattos. August Forman will step into the production beginning July 28th. Forman, Jamshidi, and Mattos make their Steep debuts with this production.



Theater Wit

1229 West Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL 60657



July 8 – August 14, 2022

Previews: July 2-7, 2022

Press Opening: Friday, July 8, 7:30pm



Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 pm

Sunday matinees at 3pm

Accessible Performances:

-Audio Description & Touch Tour: July 24

-Open Captioning: July 31

Contact us at or 773-649-3186 for more information.

Ticket Pricing

General Admission: $30

Reserved Seats: $40

Access Tickets: $10 

(Access tickets are our universal discount available to anyone in need of a discount)

Purchase tickets here: 

About the Playwright

Simon Stephens’ plays include Fortune, Light Falls, Maria, Fatherland, Rage, Heisenberg, Nuclear War, Song from Far Away; Birdland, Carmen Disruption, Blindsided, Morning, Three Kingdoms, Wastwater, Punk Rock, The Trial of Ubu, Marine Parade, Sea Wall, Harper Regan, Pornography, Motortown, On the Shore of the Wide World, One Minute, Country Music, Christmas, Port, Herons and Bluebird. He has adapted Jose Saramago’s Blindness for the stage and also Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. He has written English language versions of Jon Fosse’s I Am the Wind; Odon Von Horvath’s Kasimir and Karoline (titled The Funfair); Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull and Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera. He has presented four series of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast. His book “A Working Diary” is published by Methuen. Simon Stephens has been an Associate at the Royal Court, London and Steep, Chicago and a board member of Paines Plough. He has been an Associate Artist at the Lyric, Hammersmith, a Professor of Scriptwriting at Manchester Metropolitan University and an Associate Professor at the Danish National School of the Performing Arts, Copenhagen. 


About the Director

Steep Ensemble Member Robin Witt has been at the helm for many of Steep’s most successful UK imports, including Alistair McDowall’s Pomona and Brilliant Adventures; Penelope Skinner’s Linda; Cordelia Lynn’s Lela & Co.; Simon Stephens’ Wastwater, Motortown, Pornography, and Harper Regan; Dennis Kelly’s Love and Money; Jez Butterworth’s Parlour Song; and Laura Wade’s Breathing Corpses. Her Harper Regan is still the best-selling show in Steep history and was named one of the Top Ten shows of 2010 by both the Chicago Tribune and Timeout Chicago; her Lela & Co was named one of the Tribune’s Top Ten Shows of 2017; and her Breathing Corpses was named one of TimeOut’s Top Ten Shows of 2008. In addition to directing numerous productions at Steep, Robin is also an ensemble member of Griffin Theatre Company where her credits include Ferber and Kaufman’s Stage Door, Terrence Rattigan’s Flare Path, Ena Lamont Stewart’s Men Should Weep, John Van Druten’s London Wall, and W. Somerset Maugham’s For Services Rendered. Witt received the 2015, 2016, and 2018 Jeff Awards for Best Director for Men Should Weep, London Wall, and Lela & Co and was nominated in 2014 for Flare Path and 2011 for Stage Door. She has worked at a variety of Chicago area theatres including Northlight, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Writers Theatre, A Red Orchid, and Artistic Home. She is a graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts (BFA) and Northwestern University (MFA). Robin is a Professor of Directing at UNC Charlotte.


About Steep Theatre

Founded in 2000 by three actors, Steep has grown into a dynamic ensemble of forty-five theatre artists, supported by a dedicated and inspired team of arts administrators and community members.  Described by Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune as "the most fearless theater in town," Steep creates powerful productions of plays by today's most exciting writers and features the work of Chicago's hottest theatre artists in an intimate, accessible space. Steep is known as a home for hard-hitting, finely tuned ensemble work. With each production, the company has shepherded a growing community of audiences and artists into bold new territories of story and performance. Steep Theatre is committed to creating an inclusive and anti-racist environment for making and watching theatre. To learn more, please visit


Debo Balogunˆ

Nate Faustˆ

August Forman (July 28 - August 14)

Susaan Jamshidi*

Ashlyn Lozano

Cindy Markerˆ

Stephanie Mattos

Peter Mooreˆ

Brandon Riveraˆ

Omer Abbas Salemˆ (July 8 - July 24)

Kendra Thulinˆ



Director – Robin Wittˆ

Stage Manager – Lauren Lassusˆ

Scenic Designer – Sotirios Livaditis

Costume Designer – Alison Sipleˆˆ

Lighting Designers – Brandon Wardellˆ

Sound Designer – Daniel Etti-Williams

Composer & Music Director – Thomas Dixonˆ

Intimacy Choreographer - Micah Figueroa

Dialect Coach - Adam Goldstein

Production Manager – Catherine Allenˆ

Production Electrician – Haley Carr

Technical Director – Evan Sposato

Assistant Director –Lisa Harriman

Casting Director – Lucy Carapetyanˆ

Graphic Designer - Stu Kiesow


ˆ Steep Company Member

 ˆˆ Steep Artistic Associate

* Appearing through an Agreement between Steep Theatre and Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

Saturday, July 2, 2022

REVIEW: Chicago Premiere of Hurricane Diane is A Dionysian Feast!!! Now Playing at Theater WIT Through July 31, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar


Madeleine George’s 2019 Obie Award-winning Best Play is a hilarious evisceration of the blind eye we all turn to climate change, even (or especially) in our own backyards

(From left) Theater Wit's Chicago premiere of Hurricane Diane features Lori Myers as Pam, Carolyn Kruse as Carol, Kelli Simpkins as Diane, Jazmín Corona as Renee and Aneisa Hicks as Beth. Photo credit for all: Charles Osgood.

Hurricane Diane is a Chicago premiere by Madeleine George, writer of Theater Wit's past hits Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England and The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence and, now, for Hulu's Only Murders in the Building starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez.

Guest Review 

by Flo Manolis

Ahhh!!!! A Dionysian Feast!!!

"Hurricane Diane" by Madeline George, is a modern, witty, satirical comedy with a tragic ending! Diane (Kelli Simpkins-powerful-playful!!) is a landscaper seeking an earthly incarnation from a world doomed, to it's future demise/Inexistence by climate change.

Kelli Simpkins (left) plays Diane and Lori Myers is Pam

Carolyn Kruse (left) plays Carol and Kelli Simpkins is Diane

Diane is hired by Carol (Carolyn Kruse-stern) to design her "dream-HGTV- garden" in the cookie cutter homes in a cul-de-sac, she shares with her three neighbor friends. Diane tells her of the importance of "permaculture"-that Carol ABHORS.

(from left) Lori Myers, Aneisa Hicks and Jazmín Corona

Inherent to her "Mystery cult" of souls. Diane engages the three friends, (Lori Myers-hilarious!! Jazmin Corona-understated, Anesia Hicks-demure-strong vocal voice!!) and scandalizes in a sexual frenzied initiation- possessed in ecstasy by "The God that comes" to be her Maends. It brings joy and divine madness, as they are freed from their self consciousness, fears and oppressive restrains. She is their "Liberator", dancing, draped in ivy garlands. Still, she has to dominate Carol who is a holdout. With a looming hurricane, chaos ensues in a power struggle of wills!!! Destructon!!!

(from left) Lori Myers, Aneisa Hicks and Jazmín Corona

In a nod to traditional Greek theatre, The Maends in Crimson clothing and masks, chant hymns like a Greek chorus lamenting.

Jeremy Wechsler directed an entertaining, gut laughter inducing, applause after each scene and in between, production!! Stellar cast! Versatile stage design! Must see. Don't miss this! ★★★★ (out of 4).

Florence Manolis is a Greek American CPS elementary teacher/librarian, hairdresser, and theater/film fanatic who catches hundreds of Chicago shows annually. She volunteers at numerous film venues and theaters and has called Chicago home since she immigrated here from Greece in early elementary school. 

Kelli Simpkins plays Diane in Hurricane Diane, Theater Wit's new play about a butch lesbian gardener who just might be the Greek god Dionysus.

Hurricane Diane is a hilarious whirlwind of a play about a butch lesbian gardener who just might be the Greek god Dionysus, returned to stick a hot poker in contemporary society’s blind eye to climate change, starting with four housewives on a quiet New Jersey cul-de-sac.

Lori Myers (left) plays Pam and Kelli Simpkins is Diane 

The doomsday clock is already at 11 f**king 45. The flood waters are swelling on Jersey Shore. The Greek goddess Dionysus—in the guise of Diane, a lesbian permaculture landscape gardener—is staging a comeback to save the world from the ravages of climate change.

And where better to ignite a Bacchanalian frenzy than with four housewives living on a quiet cul-de-sac in Monmouth County, New Jersey?

Still, making maenads out of her lady neighbors proves more challenging than Diane could anticipate, as the forces of HGTV square off against the coming apocalypse.

Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Wechsler directs this roof-raising evening about passion, lawns, pawpaw forests, Italian delis, curb appeal, hurricanes, and what happens when we are asked to go outside.

"You all want to believe me when I tell you that Madeleine George's Obie-award winning comedy is going to be the most fun you can have in a theater this summer. It's going to blow Theater Wit apart—and that's not actually hyperbole. Seriously, you want to see this one."

-Director Jeremy Wechsler
Artistic Director, Theater Wit

Tickets and information: or (773) 975-8150

(from left) Hurricane Diane playwright Madeleine George and director Jeremy Wechsler. Kelli Simpkins plays Diane with Jazmín Corona (Renee) Aneisa Hicks (Beth), Carolyn Kruse (Carol) and Lori Myers (Pam).

Hurricane Diane is surging toward its Chicago debut, June 17-July 31, 2022 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. Tickets, $25-$48, are on sale now at or by calling the Theater Wit box office, (773) 975-8150. 

Batten down the hatches for Theater Wit’s Hurricane Diane, because a category 4 hurricane has hit a quiet cul-de-sac in New Jersey, where the Greek god Dionysus has returned as a butch lesbian gardener to stick a hot poker in society’s blind eye to climate change. Carolyn Kruse (pictured) plays Carol. 

Hurricane Diane is a hilarious whirlwind of a play about a butch lesbian gardener who just might be the Greek god Dionysus, returned to stick a hot poker in contemporary society’s collective blind eye to climate change.

Hurricane Diane marks acclaimed playwright Madeleine George’s third collaboration with Theater Wit, where Chicago audiences and critics first enjoyed her plays Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England and The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence. Now George is writing for the hit Hulu series Only Murders in the Building starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez.

Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Wechsler directs this roof-raising evening about passion, lawns, pawpaw forests, Italian delis, curb appeal, hurricanes, and what happens when we are asked to go outside.
Kelli Simpkins leads the cast as charming butch permaculture gardener Diane, returned to the modern world to avert the coming apocalypse. Jazmín Corona (Renee), Aneisa Hicks (Beth), Carolyn Kruse (Carol) and Lori Myers (Pam) portray Diane’s New Jersey neighbors. 

The production team includes Joseph Schermoly (set designer), Mara Blumenfeld and Maddy Low (co-costume designers), Joyce Ciesil (sound designer), Piper Kirchhofer (lighting designer), AnnaMae Durham (properties designer), Courtney Abbott (intimacy director), Andre Pluess (original music) and Ashley Alexander (stage manager). 

Hurricane Diane: The eye of the storm

Kelli Simpkins (left) as Diane and Lori Myers as Pam.

Kelli Simpkins (left) plays Diane and Jazmín Corona is Renee

The doomsday clock is already at 11 f**king 45. The flood waters are swelling on Jersey Shore. The Greek goddess Dionysus—in the guise of Diane, a lesbian permaculture landscape gardener—is staging a comeback to save the world from the ravages of climate change. And where better to ignite a Bacchanalian frenzy than with four housewives living on a quiet cul-de-sac in Monmouth County, New Jersey? Still, making maenads out of her lady neighbors proves more challenging than Diane could anticipate, as the forces of HGTV square off against the coming apocalypse.

Winner of the 2019 Best Play Obie Award, Hurricane Diane is a funny, sobering plea to save the world.The New York Times called it “an astonishing new play that whirls ancient myth, lesbian pulp, ecological thriller, and The Real Housewives of Monmouth County into a perfect storm of timely tragicomedy.” The Vulture wrote “Madeleine George’s fantastic, heartbreaking Hurricane Diane is a comedy in the most ancient, expansive sense...Hilarious, shattering, and full of keen observation and profound human affection, the play both lifts us up and wrings us out.” 

Aneisa Hicks (left) plays Beth and Kelli Simpkins is Diane in Hurricane Diane.

**Footnote: The term “permaculture," a contraction of “permanent” and “agriculture," is an increasingly popular gardening trend at the heart of Diane’s earth-bound business—designing agricultural landscapes, especially home landscapes, in a way that improves and supports the local ecosystem, to make them life-giving for generations.

Tracking Hurricane Diane: Times, dates and ticket information

Tickets to Hurricane Diane are $25-$36, and are on sale now at or by calling the Theater Wit box office, (773) 975-8150.

Previews are June 17-26: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at
2 p.m. Press opening is Monday, June 27 at 7 p.m. Performances run through July 31: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Run time is 90 minutes, no intermission.

Theater Wit is located at 1229 W. Belmont Ave., in the Belmont Theatre District in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Parking is available in a lot across the street from Theater Wit, behind Kubo, for $8 (pay at the Theater Wit box office.) Neighborhood street parking is also available. Theater Wit is accessible via the CTA 77 Belmont bus, and just three blocks west of the CTA Belmont Red/Brown/Purple line stop. 

Note: Everyone (including audience members) at Theater Wit is required to be vaccinated to enter the building. Each audience member must show proof of vaccination and state ID at the door for admittance. Electronic photos and copies are acceptable. Patrons with medical or religious exemptions may be admitted but must contact the box office a minimum of 48 hours before the performance for additional review and guidance. While Cook County is at Medium risk level or above, all audience members must be masked for the duration of their visit. Masks are required for medical and religious exemptions as well. Visit for more details.

About Theater Wit

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

In addition to Theater Wit’s production of Hurricane Diane, other summer productions at Theater Wit include Shattered Globe’s Rasheeda Speaking (now through June 4); Remy Bumppo’s The Year of Magical Thinking (now through June 5); TimeLine Theatre’s Chicago premiere of The Chinese Lady (now through June 18); American Blues Theatre’s Fences (July 1-August 6); Steep Theatre Company’s Light Falls (July 2-August 14); and Grippo Theatre Company’s Chagall in School (August 26-October 9).

Theater Wit is located at 1229 N. Belmont Ave., in the Belmont Theatre District in Chicago’s Lakeview community. To purchase tickets to Hurricane Diane, visiting productions, or to inquire about a Theater Wit Membership or Flex Pass options, visit, send email to, or call the Theater Wit box office, (773) 975-8150. 

Carolyn Kruse as Carol and Kelli Simpkins as Diane
All Production Photos by Charles Osgood

Friday, April 22, 2022

REVIEW: Surface Tension at Chicago Circus & Performing Arts Festival 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Surface Tension

by to x for

(all ages)

Thursday 5:30-7, Friday 7:30-9

at The Den Theatre in Chicago's Wicker Park Neighborhood

Photos tag: @xav13rclaudio


By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

I caught this piece at the opening of the  Chicago Circus & Performing Arts Festival Thursday night and I was completely charmed by Surface Tension.  David and Liam, clad in overalls, embody the childlike curiosity and play of preschoolers, or puppies, with the adult twist of impressive circus skills and control. This lovely exploration of parallel play, competition, bonding, and friendship runs the gamut of positive and negative emotions. Surface Tension includes gift giving and forgiving, the pettiness of fighting and storming off, love, loss, and reconciliation. The friends take turns sharing time in the spotlight, creating, entertaining and supporting one another through juggling, diablo, movement, and partner acro. Highly recommended. Great for all ages. It's a playful, positive piece, full of genuine camaraderie, that's a joy to see. 

It was my pleasure to interview David Chervony as one of our five featured artists for the fest. Check it out, then keep an eye out for Surface Tension and/or ​to x for. I'm hoping this piece is just the first of many to come from ​to x for, contemporary circus company. 

Chicago Circus & Performing Arts Festival kicks off Thursday and runs through Sunday at The Den Theatre! We've picked 5 performers from the upcoming fest to feature and we're asking them all Six Quick Questions. Meet artist, David Chervony, whose show is one of the fest openers at 5:30 Thursday and repeats Friday night as well.

ChiIL Live Shows' Interview 

Your name/pronouns: David Chervony (He/They)

Your show(s) title/dates/times: Surface Tension, Thursday at 5:30p, Friday at 7:30p at the Bookspan Theater

1.  ChiIL Live Shows: Tell me something quirky or unique about yourself?

I have an encyclopedic knowledge of board games.

2. CLS: Why do you personally do circus arts/dance/performing arts?

I have a lot to say and have no idea how to say it. I love being with audiences, with them challenging me and I them. I love doing things that don't make sense. Circus (and all art) has allowed me to do these things.

3. CLS: How has the pandemic impacted and/or changed you as a performing artist?

I've been able to focus on how I want to create as an artist. It is easy to get entirely lost in solo work as a circus artist--especially with juggling, I can practice for hours and never interact with anyone else. But during the pandemic, I re-discovered how important the ensemble is for my creative process. Collaboration and trust allow me to tell stories I can't imagine telling without other artists.

4. CLS: Did you devise your own act or audition? If it’s your own, what sparked the idea for this piece? If it’s a collaboration, what made you want to be part of this act?

Liam Bradley and I first started working together late last year on an elementary school show. Originally, I thought it was just going to be a job--but very quickly, things evolved. We wrote massive amounts of material in a matter of days. We bonded over shared experiences and our thoughts about art. It was, as we both have said, the easiest creation process either of us have ever been in. We decided to create a full-length work, founded our grassroots collective, Company To X For, and debuted Surface Tension at Miniball Fest in Philadelphia in early April. It received a terrific reception and we are so excited to share this intimate, personal, and fun contemporary circus show in the Chicago Circus and Performing Arts Festival.

5. CLS: What type of audience do you envision seeing your show and why?

Our show is about a queer relationship. This show is for anyone who has ever had a close friendship or relationship. This show is for all ages. We truly believe this show has something for everyone.

6. CLS: Any words of wisdom for younger performers who want to follow in your footsteps?

Create what you want and what you need. Find what inspires you. Do things that scare you. And always, always, charge more money for your work. You're worth it.

For more info on the whole fest running this Thursday through Sunday, here's our feature:

Bonnie is a Chicago based writer, theatre critic, photographer, videographer, actress, artist and Mama. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Surface Tension takes a beautiful and daring look at a queer friendship. At points ecstatic, dark, searching, and joyful, this intimate circus show celebrates vulnerable connection through sincere juggling, acrobatics, weight-sharing, object manipulation, and dance. 

Purchase tickets HERE:

Company Info: @CompanyToXFor

​to x for is a new contemporary circus company created by Liam Bradley and David Chervony.    We create intimate work through juggling, acrobatics, and dance that is driven by passion, connection, and pure excitement. We are currently in development of our first work, entitled Surface Tension. The initial iteration of the work was first performed this November, but we have plans to expand it much farther.

David Chervony is a circus artist and creator based in Chicago. He has performed nationally, notably with Midnight Circus, Cirque Us!, Masters of Gravity, and others. He directed AMAZE at the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theater in Branson, Missouri as well as writing and producing Life of the Party by Low Ceiling Circus. For more information, including his CV and videos, visit

Liam Bradley is a juggler, acrobat, and mover from Chicago, IL. Liam is a graduate of Circadium School of Contemporary Circus and he's currently excitedly working on circus projects in his hometown. Liam plays with rhythm, space, and convention to create unique manipulation and movement performances. He’s inspired by old school hip-hop, impressionist paintings, and over-priced food. His goal is to defy expectations and create entirely curious compositions.

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