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

Thursday, February 16, 2023

REVIEW: MEN ARE FROM MARS – WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS LIVE! Now Playing Chicago's Broadway Playhouse Through February 19, 2023





February 14 - 19, 2023

“First-person, funny domestic tales and retro stand-up comedy based on The New York Times best-seller.”



By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

T'was the night after Valentine's Day when I headed out to see MEN ARE FROM MARS – WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS LIVE! for the first time, with my husband of 22 years. When I sprung the surprise on him, that we were going to a show at Broadway Playhouse, he might have rolled his eyes and sighed a bit, but he got dressed up and joined me without too much grumbling. If less than enthused about attending a play, he was happy to discover the fully stocked lobby bar. Live shows pair well with alcohol, and many reluctant attendees of all genders can be more easily persuaded to relax and have fun outside their comfort zone, with drinks in hand. 

As the lights dimmed, Ryan Drummond opened with, "You've noticed I'm not Amadeo Fusca. He's on a shoot with Robert De Niro and will be back tomorrow." Still, even with an understudy, the audience was in capable hands for this one man show. It's not every night you get to spend the evening with a Baywatch boy and the original voice of  “Sonic The Hedgehog”. Ryan Drummond went on to kill it, and provide a laughter fueled, enjoyable evening for all. 

At one point he called for an audience poll by applause, on how many couples there had been together 0-10 years, 10-20, 20-30, and over 30. I was so impressed at the ever increasing clapping, even in the 30+ years together demographic. Over the years, my husband and I have invented a macabre, tongue in cheek game we call "The Last Couple Standing", a real life reality show/dark comedy where we've seen the vast majority of our friends' relationships and marriages implode and dissolve. Just when I though we were a few divorces away from winning it all, it seems we have more competition for "The Last Couple Standing" than I'd imagined, and they were ALL at the Broadway Playhouse in a post Valentine's Day glow. 

For the past 25 years I've managed to entirely avoid the infamous Mars/Venus book and the stage show, but FOMO (fear of missing out) finally got the better of me and I went to see first hand why the 1992 book has sold in excess of 50 million copies, been translated into 40 different languages, and is one of the most recognizable titles in the world. 

My husband played into the "Martian Man" mythos, checking the score of the hockey game enroute to the show and at intermission, promptly forgetting the specifics of what he found hilarious, being minimalist about clothes, excelling at Tetris skills applied to packing boxes, and embracing a world view aimed at fixing things and problems without complex layers of nuance. Many of the stories and anecdotes were spot on for him. 

I've never been a girlie girl though, and the "Venutian" stereotypes mostly missed their mark for me. The tired tropes about women taking a long time to prep to go out, turning down free street parking for a $55 garage space to avoid wrecking a hairdo, getting overly emotional, etc. just didn't apply. And the neurotrash junk science... Wow. Just wow! 

Several taped cameos by book author, John Gray, about male and female differences in blood flow to the brain and gender based dopamine versus serotonin depletion were just cringeworthy. They almost veered into the realm of parody, but he was so earnest and so many millions are swallowing this swill as gospel truth, that I just can't quite find it credible or even funny.

During the pandemic, Gina Rippon, an actual female neuroscientist, published a book of her own, "The Gendered Brain", debunking Gray's myths on our collective grey matter. Rippon says, "I was trying to dispel the stereotypical myths that men are ‘left-brained’ — logical, rational and good at spatial tasks — and women are ‘right-brained’ — emotional, nurturing and good at verbal tasks. We’re not from Mars or Venus (to quote relationship counsellor John Gray’s 1992 book), we’re all from Earth! I assumed that people would thank me and just move on, but it caused an absolute furor and gave me early exposure to media backlash."

Christina Odone in the The Daily Telegraph in London wrote that Rippon's theory “smacks of feminism with an equality fetish”. She was described as the “poor scientist … who was so wrapped up in her work she hadn’t noticed that men and women are different”. She was even called a “grumpy old harridan”.

Neuroscientist Gina Rippon continues, "The book was well received by those who understood that I was not a sex-difference denier and not arguing for all culture and no biology, and that I wanted to comprehend the entangled relationship between sex and gender. But, unsurprisingly, it was not so well received by those who didn’t understand this." 

While the actual female neuroscientist's 2019 book was panned, Gray followed up his 1992 "MEN ARE FROM MARS – WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS" with 17 MORE books and has become a media darling and one of the most trusted relationship authors today, appearing on the national lecture circuit and on such TV shows as “Good Morning America,” “Oprah” and “Larry King Live.”

So... it seems our society has some 'splainin to do, and more than a passing vested interest in perpetuating biology based differences between the sexes! Maybe that would make a fascinating follow up stage show. *Read more about "The Gendered Brain" here (

So, back to my review of MEN ARE FROM MARS – WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS LIVE! Were there tired tropes, junk science, and outmoded gender stereotypes? Sadly yes. Was it funny as hell? Also a resounding yes. After all, in his play "No Exit", Jean-Paul Sartre did infamously say "Hell is other people." 

Despite the pseudoscience, anyone who can get my theatre averse spouse laughing that hard and often is a winner in my book. Whether you 100% buy into author John Gray’s differences between the sexes from a quarter of a century ago, treat it like a period piece, or go to see how far we've evolved on gender as a construct, check it out. If it leads to more laughter, leeway, and love in audience relations, then who am I to hate on this hit. MEN ARE FROM MARS – WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS LIVE is a fun way to spend a few hours with friends or significant others, and plays like a casual night out with an extra funny friend. Recommended.

Bonnie is a Chicago based writer, theatre critic, photographer, artist, and Mama to 2 amazing adults. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Off-Broadway hit comedy MEN ARE FROM MARS – WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS LIVE! returns to Chicago for the fifth time since 2014 to play eight performances at Broadway In Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse (175 E. Chestnut) from February 14, 2023 through February 19, 2023. Ticket prices range from $59 - $69. Individual tickets are available at Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710 or emailing

MEN ARE FROM MARS – WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS LIVE! is a one-man fusion of theatre and stand-up, and is a light- hearted theatrical comedy based on the New York Times #1 best-selling book of the last decade by John Gray. Moving swiftly through a series of vignettes, the show covers everything from dating and marriage to the bedroom.


After beginning in Paris in 2007, Men are From Mars–Women are From Venus LIVE! has been seen by more than one million people around Europe. It debuted in the United States in February 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina and will be playing to audiences around the United States and Canada throughout the year.

This hysterical show will have couples elbowing each other all evening as they see themselves on stage. Sexy and fast paced, this show is definitely for adults, but will leave audiences laughing and giggling like little kids!

When Mars and Venus collide, the adventures are earth-shatteringly hysterical. It's a great recipe for a night out: a little storytelling blended with some comedy and a dash of sage wisdom from the book. A delicious evening of entertainment! 

Producer, St. Louis based Emery Entertainment has produced or promoted thousands of events around the globe, including superstar attractions Blue Man Group, David Copperfield and James Taylor.

The talented team assembled for this production continues with the award winning playwright Eric Coble, direction by Broadway veteran Mindy Cooper, and animation & video production by the talented animators at Bazillion Productions.


Individual ticket prices range from $59 - $69. Current Broadway In Chicago subscribers can add the show to their packages by calling 312-977-1717. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710 or emailing For more details, visit


Tuesday, February 14 at 7:30 pm Wednesday, February 15 at 7:30 pm Thursday, February 16 at 7:30 pm Friday, February 17 at 7:30 pm Saturday, February 18 at 2 pm Saturday, February 18 at 7:30 pm Sunday, February 19 at 2 pm Sunday, February 19 at 6:00 pm.

Ryan Drummond 

Born in Ohio, raised in Michigan, and now based in San Francisco, CA, Mr. Drummond is an actor, singer, juggler, mime instructor, and voiceover artist who feels that variety is the spice of a career. He has been performing his whole life, but is most proud of the fact that he has made a living exclusively in “the biz” since 1994. Remember 1994? Cell phones first started, “Pulp Fiction” was in movie theaters, “Friends” was in its first year on television? What a wild ride that lead us all here tonight! 

​A graduate of Eastern Michigan University with emphases on Theatre Arts and Psychology,  Mr. Drummond has been in a world premiere play written by Aaron Sorkin ("The Farnsworth Invention"), made three albums with his acappella quartet ("The A.Y.U. Quartet"), became a certified trainer of Polish and French mime, juggled for orcas and otters at Sea World of San Diego, harmonized mid-ocean on Regency Cruise Lines, tried to audition for  "Pippin" and didn't make the cheer squad in the movie Bring It On, nearly had his nose blown off by a confetti cannon in Kauai, Hawaii (hi ho the glamorous life!), appeared in many commercials (including one where Pat Sajak signed his forehead with a sharpie on the set of Wheel Of Fortune), made his national television debut on BAYWATCH alongside David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, and was the original voice of  “Sonic The Hedgehog” in millions of videogames across the world for Sega Gaming Corp.

Mr. Drummond is a member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and AGVA, and distinctly remembers reading "Men Are From Mars. Women Are From Venus" as he was taking the train from JFK airport to Manhattan to appear on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" back in December of 1998. Almost 2 decades later, here he is to tell you all about it! 

Amadeo Fusca will return to the role from February 16th on.

Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Amadeo has now performed Men are From Mars Women are From Venus Live! in over 60 cities, over 30 states and in front of 70,000 people and counting. 

In 2013, he won the legendary Friars Club "So You Think You Can Roast?" competition beating out 55 other comedians roasting 80s child star Ricky Schroeder and NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman in the process. As the winner, Amadeo was among the dais to roast Jack Black along with comic legends such as "Roastmaster" General Jeff Ross, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Bob Saget, Jerry Lewis and more! Amadeo's success at the roast landed him two quotes in Entertainment Weekly's funniest jokes of the event. 

In addition to his theatrical comedy, Amadeo can also be seen in various television and film productions including: Princess Cut on HBO MAX, NCIS on CBS, That Damn Michael Che on HBO MAX, Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix, Boardwalk Empire on HBO, The Holiday Dating Guide on Lifetime, Almost Family on FOX and As the World Turns on CBS. Upcoming in 2023, you can catch him as Lucky Luciano in the new Robert De Niro film Wise Guys directed by Barry Levinson. He currently jumps back and forth between New York and Los Angeles auditioning, writing and performing his new hit character World Renowned Conductor Salvatore Giovanni. 

For more information, please visit his website at, follow him on Instagram and to access his credit score his Social Security number is 180-54-3...


Broadway In Chicago was created in July 2000 and, over the past 22 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 more than 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, James M. Nederlander Theatre, and just off the Magnificent Mile, the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and presenting Broadway shows at the Auditorium Theatre.


Masks are recommended for all audience members. 

For more information, visit

Follow Broadway In Chicago: Facebook @BroadwayInChicago ● Twitter @broadwaychicago ● Instagram @broadwayinchicago ● #broadwayinchicago

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

REVIEW: Noël Coward’s masterpiece HAY FEVER Via City Lit Now Playing Through October 9, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar


by Noël Coward

directed by Terry McCabe

Now Playing Through October 9, 2022


By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

In the microcosm of Chicago's theatre scene, it's amazing how many synchronicities there are. Just one week after reviewing Hay Fever, I'll be out to see yet another Noël Coward play, Private Lives, opening at Raven Theatre. It's exciting Chicago audiences can do a mini immersive in Coward's period pieces with City Lit's Jeff Recommended Hay Fever from 1924 and Private Lives from 1931. His artsy, eccentric, manipulative characters are delightfully funny. Horrible humans behaving badly are eternally timeless yet timely. 

Prior to Hay Fever, my most memorable Noël Coward experience was a 1985 college production of Blithe Spirit at Anderson University in Indiana, where the not so ethereal ghost was a plus sized actress who fell through the stage staircase mid act! They had to stop the play and help extricate her from the rubble. Thankfully she wasn't injured and the audience was patient and understanding about the whole debacle. 

Conversely, City Lit's Hay Fever went off without a hiccup and was an immensely enjoyable night out. We laughed at much of the dialogue and wacky plot twists and were well entertained. Betsy Pennington Taylor was a standout as narcissistic actress, Judith Bliss, and marssie* Mencotti was an absolute hoot as the housekeeper, Clara. The entire cast did some lovely ensemble work with impeccable comedic timing. Shout out also to Ray Toler for the charmingly hilarious scenic design. I'm still laughing at the boar head with ear tassels! 

* Lower case marssie is intentional

Hay Fever's nothing to sneeze at, though this country escape gone wrong may have you laughing so hard your eyes water. If you're itching for a fun production, the foibles of the Bliss bunch are comedic gold.

Recommended. 3 out of 4 stars ★★★

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). 

Producer and Artistic Director Terry McCabe will direct Noël Coward’s 1924 comedy HAY FEVER as the final production of City Lit Theater’s 41st season. It replaces the previously announced AZTEC HUMAN SACRIFICE, which has been moved to a slot in spring 2023. Both a comedy of manners and a farce, HAY FEVER has been proven to be exceptionally durable in the nearly 100 years since its first production, enjoying many successful revivals in the US, UK and Canada as well as multiple film and TV productions across the globe. The comedy lampoons the poor manners and deficient hospitality of the four members of an eccentric upper class English family, who each without the other three knowing it have invited a guest to spend the weekend at their country estate. 

McCabe’s cast will include Betsy Pennington Taylor as Judith Bliss, the absent-minded retired actress who is the wife and mother of the bad-mannered hosts; and Stephen Fedo (he/him) as Judith’s novelist husband David Bliss. Their children will be played by Travis Shanahan (he/him) as Simon, and Lizzie Williams (she/her) as Sorel. Appearing as the Bliss’s guests will be Robert Hunter Bry as Judith’s fan Sandy Tyrell, Elizabeth Wigley (she/her) as the vampish Myra Arundel, Melissa Brausch (she/her) as the dim but good-hearted flapper Jackie Coryton, and Gerrit Wilford as diplomat Richard Greatham. marssie* Mencotti will be the housekeeper Clara.

Tickets are on sale now at and by phone at 773-293-3682.

Top row L-R: Melissa Brausch, Robert Hunter Bry, Stephen Fedo

Second row L-R: marssie Mencotti, Travis Shanahan, Betsy Pennington Taylor.

Third row L-R: Elizabeth Wigley, Gerrit Wilford, Lizzie Williams

On the production team are Ray Toler (Scenic Design), Rachel S. Parent (Costume Design), Chris Matteky (Lighting Design), David Yondorf (Violence and Intimacy Design), Carrie Hardin (Dialect Coach), and Hazel Marie Flowers-McCabe (Stage Manager).

Previews August 26 – September 3, 2022

Preview ticket prices $30.00, seniors $25.00, students and military $12.00 (all plus applicable fees)

Regular run September 4 – October 9, 2022

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm. Mondays September 26 and October 3 at 7:30 pm.

Regular run ticket prices $34.00, seniors $29.00, students and military $12 (all plus applicable fees)

Performances at City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Chicago 60660 (Inside Edgewater Presbyterian Church)

Info and tickets at and by phone at 773-293-3682.

Noël Coward's masterpiece. The four members of the eccentric Bliss family have each, without the other three knowing it, invited a guest to spend the weekend at their country estate. But the Blisses wouldn't be successful hosts to one visitor; confronted with four, they put their guests through their self-absorbed version of hospitality, utterly oblivious to the train wreck they've engineered. An irresistibly heartless comedy.



Proof of vaccination is required for all attendees of all performances (physical vaccination card or legible image of vaccination card. Refunds will not be issued if admittance is refused due to lack of vaccination documentation.


Noël Coward (Playwright) was an English playwright, composer, director, actor, and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise.”  Coward achieved enduring success as a playwright, publishing more than 50 plays from his teens onwards. Many of his works, such as HAY FEVER, PRIVATE LIVES, DESIGN FOR LIVING, PRESENT LAUGHTER, and BLITHE SPIRIT, have remained in the regular theatre repertoire. He composed hundreds of songs, in addition to well over a dozen musical theatre works (including the operetta BITTER SWEET and comic revues), screenplays, poetry, several volumes of short stories, the novel POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE, and a three-volume autobiography. Coward's stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, during which he starred in many of his own works, as well as those of others.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Coward volunteered for war work, running the British propaganda office in Paris. He also worked with the Secret Service, seeking to use his influence to persuade the American public and government to help Britain. Coward won an Academy Honorary Award in 1943 for his naval film drama IN WHICH WE SERVE and was knighted in 1969. In the 1950s he achieved fresh success as a cabaret performer, performing his own songs, such as "Mad Dogs and Englishmen", "London Pride", and "I Went to a Marvelous Party."

Terry McCabe (Producer, Artistic Director, Director) has been City Lit’s artistic director since February 2005 and its producer since July 2016. He has directed plays professionally in Chicago since 1981. He was artistic director of Stormfield Theatre for four years, resident director at Wisdom Bridge Theatre for five years, and worked at Body Politic Theatre three separate times in three different capacities over a span of 14 years. His City Lit adaptations of HOLMES AND WATSON, GIDGET (co-adapted with Marissa McKown), THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, SCOUNDREL TIME, and OPUS 1861 (co-adapted with Elizabeth Margolius) were Jeff-nominated. He won two Jeff Citations for directing at Stormfield and has been thrice nominated for the Jeff Award for Best Director, for shows at Court Theatre, Wisdom Bridge, and Victory Gardens. He has directed at many Chicago theatres either long-gone or still with us, as well as off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre and at Vienna’s English Theatre. His book MIS-DIRECTING THE PLAY has been denounced at length in American Theatre magazine and from the podium at the national convention of The Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas but has been used in directing courses on three continents and is now available in paperback and Kindle e-book.



For over forty-one years, City Lit Theater has been dedicated to the vitality and accessibility of the literary imagination. City Lit produces theatrical adaptations of literary material, scripted plays by language-oriented playwrights, and original material. City Lit Theater was founded with $210 pooled by Arnold Aprill (at the time the Body Politic Theatre’s box office manager), David Dillon, and Lorell Wyatt on October 9, 1979, and was incorporated on March 25, 1980. There were still so few theatres in Chicago that at City Lit’s launch event, they were able to read a congratulatory letter they had received from Tennessee Williams.

The United States Library of Congress has selected our Civil War Project blog for inclusion in its historic collection of internet materials related to the American Civil War Sesquicentennial. Check it out at

City Lit is in the historic Edgewater Presbyterian Church building at 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue. We are two blocks east of both the Bryn Mawr Red Line stop and the #36 Broadway and the #84 Peterson buses. We are one block west of the #147 Sheridan and #151 Sheridan buses. Divvy bike stations are located at Bryn Mawr & Lakefront Trail, and at Broadway & Ridge at Bryn Mawr. The metered street parking pay boxes on Bryn Mawr have a three-hour maximum duration and are free on Sundays. There are additional details about parking and dining options at 

City Lit is supported by the MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Ivanhoe Theater Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency and is sponsored, in part, by A.R.T. League. 

For more information and to donate, visit and by phone at 773-293-3682.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Celebrate Black History Month With Chicago Theatre Week February 17 – 27, 2022

 Chicago Theatre Week marks its 10th year,

February 17 – 27, 2022

Among offerings are productions to celebrate Black History Month


There's a black renaissance happening on stages across Chicago and here at ChiIL Live Shows we've seen some amazing openings featuring black narratives, actors, directors, and more that coincide with both Black History Month and great ticket discounts through Chicago Theatre Week. Check out some stellar storytelling from Chicago's impressive black talent pool without breaking the bank. Want more of a deep dive into shows? Check out our original reviews, theatre news, giveaways and more at (adult) and (family friendly). We've highlighted shows we've seen and recommend in red below.

Chicago Theatre Week (#CTW22), an annual celebration of the rich tradition of theatre-going in Chicago during which visitors and residents can access value-priced tickets, returns for its 10th year and will take place February 17-27, 2022. Tickets, value-priced at $30, $15, or less, are on sale at Book NOW for the best selection. Top shows do sell out fast.

Chicago Theatre Week is back in-person after a quieter and mostly online 2021 theatre scene during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chicago Theatre Week, spanning a week and two full weekends, is heading into its 10th year. As a program of the League of Chicago Theatres, in partnership with Choose Chicago, theatres in neighborhoods throughout the city and suburbs are expected to participate.

Chicago Theatre Week occurs in February each year, coinciding with Black History Month. Several productions honoring the Black experience featuring Black theatres and theatre-makers are participating in Chicago Theatre Week, including:


Gem of the Ocean

Goodman Theatre

January 22- February 27, 2022

**Highly recommended--ChiIL Live Shows**

Goodman revives the play that begins August Wilson’s epic 10-play American Century Cycle—on the stage where it premiered in 2003. Tensions flare into riots across Pittsburgh’s Hill District as chaos threatens a city desperate for freedom. It’s 1904, the dawn of the new century—yet slavery’s shadow looms large. There is solace to be found at the home of 285-year-old Ester Tyler, keeper and transmitter of African American history and cleanser of souls. When a suspicious traveler appears at her door in search of a new life, Aunt Ester guides him on a journey of spiritual awakening.

Trial in the Delta


February 26, 2022

Collaboraction presents a theatrical staged reading of Trial in the Delta: The Murder of Emmett Till, an adaptation of the trial transcript of the State of Mississippi vs. Milam and Bryant, the men who were found not guilty of murdering Emmett Till. The script was adapted by company members G. Riley Mills and Willie "Prince Roc" Round and produced by Collaboraction and The DuSable Museum of African American History.



Invictus Theatre Company

February 17- March 20, 2022

This winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize is set in a small mining town in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ruined follows Mama Nadi, a shrewd businesswoman in a land torn apart by civil war. But is she protecting or profiting by the women she shelters? How far will she go to survive? Can a price be placed on a human life?


TimeLine Theatre Company

January 21 - February 26, 2022

**Highly recommended--ChiIL Live Shows**

Set in the Black Victorian era, Relentless looks at the deep personal secrets we keep to protect the ones we love most. The year is 1919. After the death of their mother, two sisters come home to Philadelphia to settle her estate. Annelle is a happy socialite desperate to return to the safe illusion of a perfect life with her husband in Boston. Janet is a single, professional nurse, determined to change history and propel Black women to a place of prominence and respect. After discovering diaries left by their late mother, they find themselves confronted with a woman they never really knew, exposing buried truths from the past that are chillingly, explosively Relentless.

Blues In the Night

Porchlight Music Theatre

February 9 - March 13, 2022

The Blues is one of America’s original art forms and Chicago was the home to some of the greatest Blues performers ever. Set in a history-filled hotel on Chicago’s south side one fateful night in the late 1930s, this Tony Award-nominated celebration interweaves the stories of three women who share their highs and lows of romance through the iconic songs of Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Alberta Hunter, Jimmy Cox, Ida Cox and others.

The SuperAfroWavyDrippyExtraBrilliantDope Show

The Second City

February 1 - March 9, 2022

Black on Black shines as The Second City celebrates the comedy contributions of our BIPOC alumni, including Sam Richardson, Keegan-Michael Key, Amber Ruffin, Tim Meadows, and more. Performed by an all-Black cast who will soon be household names themselves, The SuperAfroWavyDrippyExtraBrilliantDope Show proves the Blacker the berry, the funnier–and doper–the show.


Northlight Theatre

January 20 - February 20, 2022

**Recommended--ChiIL Live Shows**

The Civil Rights Movement has ignited the South, and the charismatic Rev. Charles Grace needs a new speech to galvanize the people. But it is Olivia, his pregnant wife, who writes those fiery speeches, and her tolerance for playing the supporting role to her husband is wearing thin. As the growing weight of secrets threatens her marriage, and a nation’s hatred threatens her child’s future, Olivia must rediscover the place that love has in her world.


Queen of the Night

Victory Gardens Theater

January 29 - March 13, 2022

**Recommended--ChiIL Live Shows**

A divorced father and his queer son head to the woods of southeastern Texas to relive the camping trips of earlier, easier days. But even without cell service, certain things are inescapable. Playwright travis tate explores masculinity and queerness through the lens of multi-generational Blackness, offering a hilarious, heart-rending family portrait about reckoning with the wilderness of a shared past, while facing an uncertain future. Staged by Victory Gardens Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin, Queen of the Night kicks off the 2021/22 Season.


Women of Soul

Mercury Theater Chicago

January 28 - March 6, 2022

**Recommended--ChiIL Live Shows**

A celebration of the most powerful women of soul to ever grace the stage. You’ll jump to your feet as we honor incredible women including Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, Janis Joplin, and of course, you’ll get a little of Gladys, Dionne, and Patti. Featuring powerhouse voices singing memorable music including “I Say a Little Prayer”, “I Will Survive” and “Respect.” This review recognizes the struggles and triumphs these women went through to reach the pinnacle of their success. This is a once-in-a-lifetime musical masterpiece that you will want to experience over and over again! 

Chicago Theatre Week is presented by the League of Chicago Theatres in partnership with Choose Chicago. Subscribe to the Theatre Week email newsletter or follow @ChicagoPlays on Twitter for updates and announcements.

The official hashtag for Chicago Theatre Week 2022 is #CTW22. Follow along on social media and tag your own experiences too!

There are limited ticket quantities available for some shows, so it is recommended that you purchase tickets in advance. Most theatres are requiring proof of vaccination and masks in order to attend a performance. Venue-specific COVID-19 policies are listed on Theatre Week show offer pages; however, we recommend checking with the theatre for updates before attending.

About Chicago theatre 

Chicago theatre is the leader in the U.S. with more than 250 theatres throughout Chicagoland, comprising a rich and varied community ranging from storefront, non-union theatres to the most renowned resident theatres in the country, including 5 which have been honored with Regional Tony Awards, and the largest touring Broadway organization in the nation. Chicago’s theatres serve 5 million audience members annually and have a combined budget of more than $250 million. Chicago produces and/or presents more world premieres annually than any other city in the nation. Each year Chicago theatres send new work to resident theatres across the country, to Broadway, and around the world. For more information, visit #ChiTheatre


The League of Chicago Theatres’ Mission Statement

Theatre is essential to the life of a great city and to its citizens. The League of Chicago Theatres is an alliance of theatres, which leverages its collective strength to support, promote and advocate for Chicago’s theatre industry. Through our work, we ensure that theatre continues to thrive in our city.


About Choose Chicago

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. Follow @ChooseChicago on Twitter and on Instagram @choosechicago. Like us on Facebook. For more information, visit #CaptureChicagoExcitement | #ChicagoHome | #Only1Chicago


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

REVIEW: Voice of Good Hope at City Lit Now Playing Through February 23, 2020

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
by City Lit’s resident playwright Kristine Thatcher
Directed by Terry McCabe
January 10 – February 23, 2020

FINAL 2 WEEKS! Don't miss this Chicago Reader Recommended and 4-Star 
Sun-Times show!

"FOUR STARS...captures the sense and sensibility of a bonafide powerhouse."
-Chicago Sun-Times

"Recommended...Voice of Good Hope comes just in time"
-Chicago Reader

Andrea Conway-Diaz as Barbara Jordan
Photo credit for all, Steve Graue

by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

As the senate impeachment hearings wrap up, caucus votes roll in, and the 2020 campaigns amp up, political plays are filling the stages of Chicago as well. I was finally able to catch City Lit's excellent production, Voice of Good Hope last night. It was great to learn so much about Barbara Jordan, the first African American congresswoman from the Deep South, that I was unaware of before. This production is a gem of wit and wisdom. Women like Barbara Jordan give me hope for our democracy and our country's future. If you're tired of the lies and lunacy that have infiltrated Washington DC, come spend a few hours at City Lit and recharge. Recommended. 

There are numerous strong shows on stage right now in Chicago, if you prefer your political figures to be articulate, intelligent and female. We recommend catching Voice of Good Hope at City Lit (Barbara Jordan), The Adult in the Room (Nancy Pelosi) at Victory Gardens, and A So-Called Qualified Woman (Sandra Day O’Connor), part of Valiant Theatre's New Works Festival. We also highly recommend Roe at The Goodman, for the back story on the Roe V. Wade ruling.

Voice of Good Hope
left to right: McKennzie Boyd, Jamie Black

The storyline of Voice of Good Hope is delightfully nonlinear and I enjoyed meeting her first as a politician, before delving into her childhood to meet the Texas child she was. Heart (Barbara as a child) was deftly played by McKennzie Boyd the day I caught the production, alternating with her sister, MiKayla. It was stellar storytelling to see the seeds of Barbara Jordan's determination, intelligence, perception and personality already in play as she interacts with her relative (Jamie Black) and discovers early lessons on racism, religion, and character. 

Her fierce determination, despite physical limitations is an inspiration. Although she ultimately died young, before age 60, of pneumonia and complications of leukemia and multiple sclerosis, her words and example live on. Now that we have another impeached president currently in the white house, Barbara's legendary history with Nixon's impeachment is all too timely. It was fascinating to me, how she protected her integrity and principles even after retirement, and wouldn't endorse or clear a fellow politician just because they were both black women, if she wasn't on board with her views. Conversely, it was a joy to see her navigating the good old boys network of cigarette smoking, whisky swilling Washington power brokers, and winning at it. She was truly an inspiration and a trailblazer today's women in politics might do well to emulate. 

Andrea Conway-Diaz (left) as Barbara Jordan and Susie Griffith as Nancy Earl 

Don't miss this. We're nearing the end of the run for Voice of Good Hope, so catch it while you can. City Lit does an excellent job of keeping her legacy alive and inspiring audiences. Do leave extra time to search out parking. It can be a challenge around Edgewater.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Kristine Thatcher’s VOICE OF GOOD HOPE is a bio-drama of Barbara Jordan, the first African American congresswoman from the Deep South. Jordan earned national stature in the 1970’s as a member of the House Judiciary Committee that considered articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon and as the keynote speaker of the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Kristine Thatcher, who is City Lit’s playwright-in-residence, was nominated for Best New Work in the 2019 Jeff Awards for her play, THE SAFE HOUSE, which premiered at City Lit last fall. VOICE OF GOOD HOPE premiered at Victory Gardens Theater in 2000 and has been produced across the US since then. 

The play follows Jordan from her childhood in Houston’s Fifth Ward through her receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton, and deals with her pivotal role on the House Judiciary Committee during its hearings concerning the possible impeachment of President Richard Nixon, her complex political relationship with Texas power broker Robert Strauss, her struggle with MS, and her twenty-year relationship with Nancy Earl, her companion and occasional speechwriter, and ultimately her caregiver. The play premiered at Victory Gardens Theater in 2000 and has been produced from New York to San Francisco in the years since then.

left to right: Paul Chakrin and Andrea Conway-Diaz

The role of Barbara Jordan is played by Andrea Conway-Diaz. Also in the cast are Susie Griffith (Nancy Earl), Sahara Glasener-Boles (Karen Woodruff), Jamie Black (John Ed Patten), Paul Chakrin (Robert Strauss), Noelle Klyce (Julie Dunn); and McKennzie Boyd and MiKayla Boyd, who will alternate as “Heart” – Barbara Jordan as a child. The design team includes Ray Toler (set design), Katy Vest (costume design) and Daniel Salazar (lighting design).

left to right: Andrea Conway-Diaz, Sahara Glasener-Boles

Regular run Sunday, January 19 - Sunday, February 23, 2020
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm. Mondays February 10 and 17 at 7:30 pm

Regular run ticket prices $32.00, seniors $27.00, students and military $12.00 (all plus applicable fees).

Performances at City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Chicago 60660 (Inside Edgewater Presbyterian Church)

For forty years, City Lit Theater has been dedicated to the vitality and accessibility of the literary imagination. City Lit produces theatrical adaptations of literary material, scripted plays by language-oriented playwrights, and original material. City Lit Theater was founded with $210 pooled by Arnold Aprill (at the time the Body Politic Theatre’s box office manager), David Dillon, and Lorell Wyatt on October 9, 1979 and was incorporated on March 25, 1980.  There were still so few theatres in Chicago that at City Lit’s launch event, they were able to read a congratulatory letter they had received from Tennessee Williams.

City Lit is in the historic Edgewater Presbyterian Church building at 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue. We are two blocks east of both the Bryn Mawr Red Line stop and the #36 Broadway and the #84 Peterson buses. We are one block west of the #147 Sheridan and #151 Sheridan buses. Divvy bike stations are located at Bryn Mawr & Lakefront Trail, and at Broadway & Ridge at Bryn Mawr. The metered street parking pay boxes on Bryn Mawr have a three-hour maximum duration and are free on Sundays. $10 valet service is available at Francesca's Bryn Mawr at 1039 W Bryn Mawr diagonally across the street from us on the SW corner of Kenmore and Bryn Mawr and is available whether you are dining at the restaurant or not. There are additional details about parking and dining options at

City Lit is supported by the Alphawood Foundation, the MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Ivanhoe Theater Foundation, the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency and is sponsored, in part, by A.R.T. League.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

REVIEW: THE BOOK OF MERMAN Via Flying Elephant Productions at Stage 773 Through January 6, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar 

Flying Elephant Productions 
Presents the Return of the Hit Musical
Book by Leo Schwartz and DC Cathro
Music & Lyrics by Leo Schwartz
Directed by DC Cathro
Music Direction by Tyler Miles
Choreography by Jenna Schoppe

(left to right) Michael IdalskiNicole Frydman and Sam Massey in Flying Elephant Productions’ revival of THE BOOK OF MERMAN. All Production Photos by Evan Hanover.

November 24, 2018 – January 6, 2019 at Stage 773

by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Flying Elephant Productions has done it again, launching a creative, high energy new musical that's now playing an open-ended off-Broadway run. Happily, they've not forgotten their roots, and Chicago gets treated to a playful remount at Stage 773 as well! 

This cleverly written tribute to Ethel Merman includes a fun stand off ala Annie Get Your Gun, reworded nods to Gypsy, and an overarching narrative that has two door to door Mormon missionaries bumbling through their sexual crushes, secret creative endeavors, and life choices. 

Nicole Frydman (Ethel Merman) is a dynamic dame with powerhouse vocals, and a joy to see in action. Michael Idalski and Sam Massey are the perfect combination of enthusiasm and wide eyed naivete.

More of the songs are solidly based on Merman musicals and have less to do with The Book of Mormon. I was hoping for a bit more camp and humor like Spamilton, which lampooned not only Hamilton but a bevy of Broadway hits, and was laugh out loud funny throughout. Still, THE BOOK OF MERMAN has a sweet, uplifting message and hilarity ensues when things take a turn for the modern, with a hip-hop rendition of Pirates of Penzance ala Merman. 

THE BOOK OF MERMAN has a chance encounter changing everyone involved for the better, right down to the last plot twist. Ultimately this production is a fun night out for musical theatre lovers that's likely to bring on the jazz hands and bring out the diva and the thespian in all of us. Recommended.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Flying Elephant Productions is pleased to present the return of the hit musical comedy THE BOOK OF MERMAN, featuring a book by Leo Schwartz and DC Cathro, music and lyrics by Leo Schwartz, direction by DC Cathro, music direction by Tyler Miles and choreography by Jenna Schoppe. THE BOOK OF MERMAN will play November 24, 2018 – January 6, 2019 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at, by calling (773) 327-5252 or in person at the Stage 773 Box Office. The press opening is Saturday, December 1 at 8 pm.

The new Chicago production will feature Nicole Frydman, Michael Idalski and Sam Massey.

Two Mormon missionaries ring Ethel Merman’s doorbell and hilarity ensues. It’s a diva driven journey of self-discovery with an original score of comedy songs, power ballads and mash-up standards. 

THE BOOK OF MERMAN is also enjoying its off-Broadway debut this fall. The production opened on October 5, 2018 for an open-ended run at St. Luke’s Theatre (308 West 46th St.). For additional information on the New York run, visit THE BOOK OF MERMAN has also played in Portland, OR, Columbus, OH, Indianapolis, IN and Washington, D.C., and Birmingham, AL.

THE BOOK OF MERMAN debuted with Pride Films and Plays in January 2015. Following a successful run at Mary’s Attic, the production transferred to Chicago’s Apollo Theater for an additional three months.

The production team for THE BOOK OF MERMAN includes: Nicholas Schwartz (scenic design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), Jaysen Kralovetz (props design) and Jack Rhea (stage manager).

Location: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Saturday, November 24 at 7:30 pm, Sunday, November 25 at 7:30 pm, Monday, November 26 at 7:30 pm (Industry Night), Thursday, November 29 at 7:30 pm and Friday, November 30 at 7:30 pm.
Press performance: Saturday, December 1 at 8 pm
Regular run: Sunday, December 2, 2018 – Sunday, January 6, 2019
Curtain Times: Wednesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3:30 pm. 

Tickets: Preview $30. Regular run $40. 
Industry Night: Monday, November 26 at 7:30 pm. Tickets $10.
Tickets are currently available at, by calling (773) 327-5252 or in person at the Stage 773 box office.

About The Creative Team

Leo Schwartz (Book, Music, Lyrics) is a multi-disciplined and award-winning composer of stage and screen. He is the producer and writer of the Off-Broadway musical The Book of Merman. His musical Till, about Emmett and Mamie Till, won the Mainstreet Musical Theatre Festival in 2016. His musical Under A Rainbow Flag, won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work in 2013. His musical song cycle, We The People: Songs of the Resistance was premiered by Flying Elephant Productions in January of 2018 in Chicago. His works have been performed in Europe, the New York Musical Theatre Festival, at the York Theatre and across the United States. He is Executive Director of Flying Elephant Productions and his work can be heard and seen at 

DC Cathro (Book, Director) is a playwright, actor and director from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. His musical Till, written with award-winning composer Leo Schwartz, is one of three winners in the 2016 Main Street Musicals Festival, selected by Gregory Mosher. In 2014, he became the only playwright to have two shows in the Pride Films and Plays Festival in Chicago: Pen, A Musical (also written with Schwartz) and Family Holiday. DC's works have been performed and read at theatres and festivals across the U.S., including The William Inge Festival in Independence, Kansas, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Greenhouse Ensemble Theatre in New York City.

Tyler Miles (Music Director) is a Chicago composer, teacher, music director and performer. He has written songs and incidental music for over a dozen film and theatre pieces. Currently, in addition to teaching over two dozen students, both young and adult, Tyler is working as a music director in the Chicago theatre scene where he is also in the process of developing an original musical with and about the successful cabaret singer Honey West. Tyler holds a bachelor’s degree in Music from Northeastern Illinois University.

Jenna Schoppe (Choreographer) is proud to help Flying Elephant Productions bring The Book of Merman back to the stage. Her previous choreographic endeavors include Yank: A World War II Love Story (PFP – Jeff Award-Best Choreography), Shrek (Windy City Performs), Oliver (Windy City Performs), The Producers (NightBlue Performing Arts), Now. Here. This. (Brown Paper Box Co.) and Bobbie Clearly (Steep Theatre). You can catch her dancing most weekends at The Kiss Kiss Cabaret at Uptown Underground.

About Flying Elephant Productions
Nothing is more challenging than getting a creative career off the ground. In many ways, it would be easier to get an elephant to fly. Flying Elephant Productions is dedicated to presenting new works, musicals and plays, that are dynamic, impassioned, and, in our belief, prone to fly. We not only give them first voice, but will also work with the creators to market and promote their work further. Our success at production and our entrepreneurial experience make us a uniquely qualified voice in theatre. For additional information, visit

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

REVIEW: Near Death Experience starring Neil Tobin, Necromancer Select Dates Through May 6, 2018

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Near Death Experience starring Neil Tobin, Necromancer
By Catherine Hellmann, guest writer 

Photos by Jonathan Cohon, Prism Studios, unless otherwise noted

“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die.”

As Neil Tobin opens his fascinating one-man show with this line, he poses the question, ”You were expecting light, escapist entertainment? Did you read the program?” Immediately, the audience expects a theater-going experience unlike any other.

The location for this limited-run show certainly sets the stage, literally. Held at the beautiful Rosehill Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Chicago at 350 acres, many prominent Chicagoans are laid to rest here. (My friend and I also saw six deer among the tombstones on our walk prior to the show.)

Performances are presented at Rosehill Cemetery in historic May Chapel, built by noted architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee in 1899 and rarely open to the public. (Photo: Jonathan Cohon)

While this may sound morbid, well, okay, it kind of is, Tobin’s point is to celebrate the life we have and make the most of our time here on earth. By having his performance truly “close to death,” the audience is reminded that we can be whisked away from this world at any time; we must appreciate this life and make a resolution to live it fully.

The unusual locale for this unique show is a treat. The May Chapel
is exquisite and rarely opened to the public. Built in 1899, the mosaic floors, carved oak-beam ceilings, and glorious sun streaming through the lovely stained-glass windows remind us that there are so many undiscovered places to explore in our beloved city. Go just to see the Chapel and the “bonus time” is a show. (Tobin has a curious routine that encourages us to make the most of our “bonus time” in this world.)

Just what the heck is a “necromancer”? According to Merriam-Webster,
it is the “conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events.” Don’t worry---it is not a creepy seance you will be witnessing. No Ouija Boards are involved in the making of this show, either.

Tobin has routines on every day cultural references to death, like the kids’ game “Hangman,” horror movies, ghost-hunter stories on television, and the ubiquitous fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants which can predict our futures. (Tobin addresses the fortunes in cookies with gravitas, but we know how silly they can be. For instance, my favorite was my teen daughter recently had the hilarious fortune: “Keep your expectations reasonable.” While I told her this
is true, she felt ripped off by her lame future.) 

Tobin raises very thought-provoking observations on society, and our denial of death. In Victorian times, cemeteries were treated like parks, with families having picnics while honoring their ancestors. (Imagine telling your kids today that instead of Montrose Beach, you are taking them to Graceland…there is so much great Chicago history just north of Wrigley Field.) People began to fear death instead of accepting it; hence, the striking change in grave markers from monuments to flat headstones. Tobin also asked how many audience members have a will. There was a small scattering of hands, and he said that was typical of most Americans to not be prepared about the inevitable.

Being a magician, Tobin does have some tricks up his sleeve. (ba dum ching!) It doesn’t seem fair to reveal all of his material and ruin the surprises. While the subject matter and locale may suggest morbidity, Tobin’s message is to be life-affirming. 

Near Death Experience starring Neil Tobin, Necromancer is recommended.

Neil Tobin’s Near Death Experience has a limited run (as do all of us!) at May Chapel: Sunday March 11, Saturday April 14, Sunday April 15, Saturday May 5, and Sunday May 6. All shows begin at 3:00 and last an hour. Tickets are $25-$30 and are available at

Carpe Diem! 
(“This message brought to you by Latin, the official language of death.”--Neil Tobin.) 

"RECOMMENDED ... Neil Tobin weaves magic into the show as he guides us on a journey to understanding our views on death and what could come from reshaping them. Most of the magic will leave even the most skeptical among us pondering what they just experienced ... Near Death Experience is perfect for adults who love interactive and site-specific theatre that makes you think. " — Picture This Post

"Tobin doesn't give us The Answers, but perhaps better questions ... meanwhile, we get to marvel at sleight of hand and sleight of mind, delivered with appropriately dark humor. Recommended ... your bravery will be rewarded." — Plays With John And Wendy

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