Playwright: Henrik Ibsen; Translation: Lanford Wilson
At: Bohemian Theatre Ensemble at
Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood
Phone: 866-811-4111; $20
Runs through: July 18Read more story below....
Sweet and Hot: The Songs of Harold Arlen
Composer: Harold Arlen; multiple lyricists
At: Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at
No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood
Phone: 773-347-1109; $25, $45 dinner package
Runs through: Aug. 8
Healthy doses of high hopes and heartbreak from two different centuries can currently be found on either side of Morse Avenue in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. And when you have such award-winning storefront companies presenting tip-top intimate work just steps away from each other on Glenwood Avenue, my advice is to rush and get your tickets now.
Bohemian Theatre Ensemble offers up a rip-roaring take on Lanford Wilson's new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's controversial play Ghosts. True, much of the play can come off as too melodramatic and dated, but the hypocrisy of organized religion and infidelity in marriage never go out of style. Also the plot device of a son coming home to die after contracting an incurable disease will hit close to home for LGBT audiences who knew friends and loved ones with HIV and AIDS who did the same.
Don't hold Saren Nofs-Snyder's youth against her as Mrs. Helen Alving. Though she probably isn't much older than Charles Riffenburg ( who touchingly plays her doomed son, Oswald ) , Nofs-Snyder carries all the regal bearing and indomitable strength of a 19th-century woman who has built up a respectable façade despite societal pressures locking her in an awful marriage to an extremely unfaithful husband.
Watching Nofs-Snyder lash out at Steve O'Connell's sanctimonious and imposing Reverend Manders is just one of many dramatic joys you can get out of director P. Marston Sullivan's taut and gripping production. Others joys include Judy Radovsky and Anders Jacobson's translucently decaying Victorian lace set, and Lewis Miller's appropriately soggy sound design for the rain-soaked play's setting.
Things are definitely more lightweight ( if equally intense and intimate ) a few steps south to the No Exit Café where Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre adds an extra accolade to its continuing critical acclaim with director Fred Anzevino's spectacular revue Sweet and Hot: The Songs of Harold Arlen.
Now this famed composer of The Wizard of Oz may never have had the hit Broadway show he so longed for, but Arlen penned some of the greatest song standards of the 20th century extolling the highs and hurts of love ( with some amazing lyricists ranging from Ira Gershwin to Truman Capote ) .
Theo Ubique's smart and sassy revue emphasizes this with an abundantly-talented sextet of singers. Bethany Thomas, Eric Lindahl, Stephanie Herman, Eric Martin, Sarah Hayes and Kristofer Simmon each get multiple moments to shine and hit numbers like "Stormy Weather," "The Man That Got Away" and "Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home" truly out of the park.
Music director Steve Carson also lends his vocal chops to the proceedings in addition to masterfully tickling the ivories.
It's all happening artistically in Rogers Park, so make the journey north now.