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Glenn's American Theatre Critics Conference Report 2012

12 June 2012

Report: Theatre in Chicago & Milwaukee—American-Theatre-Critics-Conference!


©GLENN LONEY 2012 



THIS-WAS-THE-TRIP-INTO-THE-HEARTLAND-THAT-WAS…


Theatrical-Breezes from The Windy-City!


Every year, one or other of America’s Major-Cities—preferably those with Outstanding-Regional-Theatres—hosts the American-Theatre-Critics-Association for a thorough-investigation of Theatre-Life beyond Broadway.


Basically, this requires a Local-Drama-Critic, who is also an ATCA-Member, to enlist his Newspaper to help him Host, as well as setting-up Press-Outings at Major & Minor Theatre-Ensembles in the Area.


Unfortunately, all across America, Major-Newspapers are either dying or eliminating Arts-Coverage & Arts-Critics, along with their once-prized Reviews.


This means there are a number of interesting US-Metropolises that those of us who are ATCA-Members will never be able to visit as Working-Press


Fortunately, both Chicago & Milwaukee still have both Lively-Theatre-Scenes & Functioning-Newspapers!


Chicago also is blessed with the dynamic Jonathan Abarbanel—an ATCA Old-Reliable—who seems to know everyone working in the many Theatres in & around The Windy-City.


This means covering a Lot-of-Stages, for Chicago is the Theatre-Leader in the United-States, with no less than 250-Professional-Theatres!


What’s more, Chicago has More-World-Premiers than any other American-City, including New York.


Each Season, there are over 800-Productions mounted on a wide-variety of Stages!


These range from Broadway-Tour-Playhouses to famed Professional-Ensembles such as the Goodman-Theatre, to Black-Boxes, & Storefronts.


Five Chicago-Theatres have already won the Prestigious Regional-Theatre Tony-Award©.


Chicago is the Heart of Broadway-Touring, the largest in the Nation. It also has an Audience of some 5-Million!


Combined-Budgets of Chicago-Theatres are estimated at more than $250-Million.


Thanks to Ticket-Sales & Souvenirs, as well as to the Economic-Trickle-Down-Effect of Money spent on Parking, Hotels, Restaurants & Bars, there is an average-impact of some $1-Billion!


Theatre-Organizations may pay as much as $21-Million in Local-Taxes. They also employ as many as 15,000 Artists, Administrators, & Technicians.



Jonathan Abarbanel’s Program for Visiting-Critics: Almost Overkill, But Always Illuminating…


Arriving early in the Chicago-Loop, Your Roving Arts-Reporter & his Web-Editor & Critic-Colleague, Scott Bennett, began photographing some of the Major-Architectural-Monuments.


What was once the Main-Library—a Magnificent-Structure on Michigan-Avenue—is now home to Cultural-Affairs, with many, many Galleries & Shows.


In the Great-Atrium, we enjoyed a Dame-Myra-Hess Memorial-Concert, featuring the talented Joanna Marie Frankel, on a rare Guarnerius-Violin, with David Kaplan at the Piano: Elgar, Richard Strauss, & de Falla!


[I have a special fondness for Dame Myra. Not only did she fearlessly concertize for Londoners & Brits during the Nazi-Blitz, but she later toured widely, sharing her Insights & Expertise at the Keyboard.


[When she came to UC/Berkeley in the late 1940s—to play for an Audience of 10,000, in the Men’s-Gymnasium—as Head-Usher, I was asked to be her Page-Turner


[Before we went out to the Performance-Platform, she showed me the Selections she would play, indicating how I was to fold down the corner of the Next-Page, so she could see what was coming, as she powerfully polished-off the Preceding-Measures.


[I was surprised, even perhaps appalled: The Great Mythic Myra Hess was going to play from a Score? She didn’t have all those Notes already in her Head & in-Her-Fingers?


[What’s more, she was going to wear Glasses as she played…


["Young Man! I am now very Old. I do not want suddenly to forget where I am in the piece!


["I do not want to disappoint so many who have come so far to hear me play!]


After this charming & free Musical-Interlude, we inspected various Art-Exhibits, including a grisly one dealing entirely with Aspects of Death & Dying


By chance, we stopped-by the Claudia-Cassidy-Theatre, whose Lobby was filled with fascinating Portraits of Famous-Hollywood-Stars in Major-Roles.


Claudia had been a Magisterial-Critic-Colleague, writing for Col. Robert R. McCormack’s Chicago-Tribune.


She was the only Major-American-Drama-Critic who, every summer, made a Limousined-Progress through all of Europe’s Major Opera-Festivals.


I, at that time, was the only Minor-American-Drama-Critic who made a Eurail-Pass-Progress through the same Fests…


But our actual Chicago-Theatre-Safari began at the Goodman-Theatre, which has two Major-Stages.


Ten-Years-Ago—when ATCA was here before, also hosted by Jonathan Abarbanel—we saw a World-Premiere of an Opera based on Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo.


This time, there were Goodman-Choices: We could see Nathan Lane in the Almost-Five-Hour-Production of Gene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, or a challenging New-Drama about Prejudice in a Black-Family—both Racial & Sexual—titled Immediate Family


I must be one of the few Irish-Americans who find both O’Neill’s Hughie & Iceman depressing Bores


Midday on Thursday, we toddled-off to TimeLine-Theatre—which specializes in Plays that intersect with Actual-Events in the Past, looking forward to the Future-Developments.


Ongoing Police-Corruption in Chicago was the Theme of John Conroy’s My Kind of Town


Onward to the next interesting Event: Our Introduction to the sparkling new Black-Ensemble Cultural-Center, with an impressive Exterior that matches its State-of-the-Art Major-Stage.


Currently saluting Hero-Status Black-Musicians, the production on-offer was The Marvin Gaye Story.


Believing that nothing since Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw has been as fascinating as Berlioz’ Les Troyens, I opted, instead, for a Live-Taping of wait wait… don’t tell me!


This is a Call-In-Show for National-Public-Radio, featuring Host Peter Sagal & Judge/Scorekeeper Carl Kasell.


Novelist John Irving was the Unseen Not-My-Job-Guest, with Roy Blount, jr, Amy Dickinson, & Maz Jobrani as "Panelists.”


Unseen-Americans called-in to vie for Prizes, pitting themselves against the Panelists, who were obviously expected to be Spontaneously-Very-Funny.


There was some chatter about Shaved-Testicles, but, if this is what Our-Tax-Dollars are paying-for, then perhaps it’s time for a Senate-Investigation into Public-Radio?


Nonetheless, the Huge-Audience loved all of it, including the Souvenirs-for-Sale & the Free-Water-Bottles with the Show’s-Logo


On Friday, off to the Stratford-upon-Avon-Like Chicago-Shakespeare-Theatre, whose innovative-productions are amazing. Last time round, we saw an fantastic Aerial Tempest, that later toured.


No Shows this morning, however: Awards, Speeches, & Housekeeping.


Then, off to Theatre Wit, for Panels & Other-Stuff. Followed, in the evening, by witty Wit-Shows.


On Saturday, the Distinguished-British-Actor, Simon Callow, held-forth. I had already seen him in his
Shakespeare-Impressions at BAM in the Spring, so opted instead for Chicago-Architectural-Image-Making for INFOTOGRAPHY™.


Not to overlook the Frank-Gehry Outdoor-Amphitheatre & the Art-Institute-of-Chicago, with its famous French-Impressionists. Sunday in the Park, anyone…


In the evening, we went to the Landmark-Water-Tower, where the Lookingglass-Theatre overwhelmed us with the Sinking of the Eastland in the Chicago-River


It was sad when that Great-Ship went down


But who would now remember, if not for this remarkably-conceived & staged Musical



Famous & Even Infamous Drama-Critics Tell Us How To Write Reviews!


One aspect of the Educational-Programs of FATCA—the Award-Granting & Seminar-Funding Foundation of ATCA—is inviting a Famous-Drama-Critic to each Annual-Conference, to offer his or her "Perspectives in Criticism.”


This June, the Reviewing-Genius was Terry Teachout, reigning Drama-Maven at Rupert Murdoch’s Wall-Street-Journal.


Previous Perspectives a have been offered by Clive Barnes, of the New-York-Times & later the NY-Post; William Henry III, from Time-Magazine; Ernie Schier, of the Philadelphia-Inquirer; Henry Hewes, formerly with Saturday-Review, & Eric Bentley, Guru-Author of The Playwright as Thinker.


I do not follow the Obits, but I believe all these Estimable-Men are now Passed-Over. If Eric still alive & kicking, Good for Him!


Among the Living & Partly-Living [as TS Eliot once wrote], we have heard Wise-Words from Robert Brustein, Linda Winer, Dan Sullivan, Sylvie Drake, Margo Jefferson, Michael Feingold, John Simon, & Frank Rich!


We’ve even heard from our own Regional-Critics, such as Misha Berson, who prevented us from being Clueless-in-Seattle.


OK!


But my Question is why should we pay Airfare, Hotel, & Honoraria to be Lectured about Review-Writing by Major-Majors who wouldn’t dream of belonging to the American-Theatre-Critics-Association?


As for using Foundation-Money to fund Young-Critics-Seminars, at a time when Newspapers are Dying & Arts-Reportage is being curtailed?


Many Former-Members have dropped-out because their Local-Review-Venues have died. Or they have been Summarily-Fired! 


Why pay to Train-the-Competition?


Actually, now that Anyone with an iPad & an Internet-Connection can file his or her Personal-Opinions on Plays, as well as on the Salad—with Photo-Attached—that he or she just ate, it might be a Good-Idea to sponsor some On-Line-Seminars on the Basics-of-Reviewing.


Not only for Plays & Musicals, but also for Dance, Music, Opera, Films, & Art-Installations



Honoring Both the Living & the Dead: ATCA-Awards Move Ever-Onward…


Two of the most interesting "Sharings” of the entire Conference were the Responses of Caridad Svich & Darren Canady on accepting ATCA-Awards.


Both stressed the Singular-Importance of such Honors in advancing their Careers as Playwrights.


Caridad Svich—whose remarkable House of the Spirits, based on Isabel Allende’s novel, was a Sensation at the Denver-New-Play-Summit & is now playing in Repertory in Manhattan at Repertorio-Español—is an enchanting Fabulist & intriguing Speaker.


So much so that Scott Bennett & I interviewed her in Denver about House of the Spirits & her other works.


Caridad was accepting the Francesca Primus Prize for 2011, given by Actor Barry Primus in Memory of his beloved Sister, who was an Actress & a Fellow-Critic. She died much too young…


Playwright Tammy Ryan has just won the $10,000 Primus-Prize for 2012. Her new play, Lost Boy Found in Whole-Foods, dazzled the ATCA-Judges.


Darren Canady’s drama, Brothers of the Dust, won him the 2012 Osborn-Award.


Brothers was initially staged in Chicago at the Congo-Square-Theatre.


Canady often writes about the African-American-Experience in the Midwest. He hails from Topeka, Kansas, but Brothers is set on an African-American-Farm in Arkansas.


The M. Elizabeth Osborn Award is named for Betty Osborn, but how many people—even ATCA-Members—now remember her?



Chicago’s Smorgåsbord of Theatre-Production-Options…


Here are just a few of the Shows currently on-view in The-Second-City:


Pride & Prejudice, Angels in America, The Duchess of Malfi, Break of Noon, Leader of the Pack, Million-Dollar Quartet, Spoon-River Anthology, A Little Night-Music, Les Mis, I Am Bradley Manning, Camelot, My Fair Lady, & Inherit the Wind



Off To See Wisconsin’s Milwaukee-Theatre-Scene!


Because the Milwaukee-Theatre-Add-On followed the Chicago-Weekend, there were No-Performances at the attractive Theatre-Complexes we visited.


Nonetheless, our ATCA-Member-Host, Anne Seigal, had arranged for us to visit a number of Theatres—as well as their Impressive-Shops—so we could have an idea of the Quality & Quantity of Professional-Production in Wisconsin’s Second-City. After Madison, that is…


Milwaukee’s most famed & Landmarked-Theatre is, of course, The Pabst, created by the Founder of the Pabst-Brewery.


Where once Opera-Stars & Great-American-Tragedians trod this Venerable-Stage, now the likes of Meatloaf are the Big-Crowd-Pleasers.


Right next-door to the Pabst is the Award-Winning Milwaukee-Rep, with three challenging Performance-Spaces, encased in an Astonishing-Atrium-Mall.


This is near the equally Astonishing-Semi-Scandinvian-Late-Victorian City-Hall


At the Broadway-Theatre-Center—actually located on Milwaukee’s North-Broadway—we met, among others, C. Michael Wright, of the Milwaukee-Chamber-Theatre.


Their Brochure for the coming Season—REBELS Pushing Against the Boundaries—has such handsome, innovative Graphics that I was moved to tell Wright that, if the Actual-Productions were on a Visual-Par with the Brochure, they must be stunning…


Upcoming at the Chamber-Theatre are such shows as Donald Margulies’ Collected Stories, Glen Berger’s Underneath the Lintel, Herb Gardner’s A Thousand Clowns, & Kurt McGinnis Brown’s Broken & Entered.


Also at North-Broadway is the Skylight-Music-Theatre, led by Bill Theisen.


The forthcoming Season includes Avenue Q, The Sound of Music, Pump-Boys & Dinettes, & The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess.


I cannot tell you how to find the Very-Large-Yellow-Corrugated-Steel-Box that looks like a Giant-Cargo-Container, but which is, in fact, the Next-Act-Theatre.


This is because their Brochure lists only a PO-Box-Address, not a Street-Designation


Nevertheless, if you can come to Milwaukee next Autumn, you could see Mike Lew’s Microcrisis or It’s a Wonderful Life—A Live Radio-Show.


Later in the Season, there will be Charles Ludlam’s Mystery of Irma Vep, Craig Wright’s Grace, Stephen Massicotte’s The Clockmaker, & an Xmas-Special: Pat Hazell’s A Kodachrome Christmas.


Unfortunately, the ATCA-Expedition missed the Pink-Banana-Theatre’s production—at the Next-Act-Theatre—of One Acts: The End of the World.


Among these Shorties were: So Jesus Walks Into a Bar, Name That Apocalypse, Clean Up on Aisle-Six, Things That Go Bump, & The Latest-News from the Primordial-Ooze.


Elsewhere in the Milwaukee-Area you could see Three Sisters, In the Heights, Miss Saigon, Lend Me a Tenor, The Drowsy Chaperone, Comedy of Errors—at Marqutte-Uni, Six Degrees of Separation, Things That Go Ding, & Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.


Sherlock was on-view at Cardinal-Stritch-University. Any Relation to Elaine Stritch?


Like Chicago, also Milwaukee: A River Runs Through It.


Along the River—looking over toward the Pabst & the City-Hall—there’s a River-Walk that charms, festooned with Smart-Arts-Banners & graced, at one point, with a wonderful Micro-Brewery, where you can sit outside & marvel at the multiplicity-of-forms in Milwaukee-Architecture.


Unlike Chicago, many of Milwaukee’s magnificent 19th-Century-Buildings have been preserved.


But there are also some Immense-Neo-Classic-Government-Style Building-Blocks.


These look rather like Monumental-Mausoleums


But there’s also Cutting-Edge!


Chicago may have Frank Gehry in the Park, but Milwaukee has a Santiago-Calatrava-Modern-Masterpiece for its Art-Museum.


But, because of High-Winds off Lake-Michigan, the Museum’s Soaring-White-Wings were not open when we visited.


Among the Museum’s Treasures is a small View of Rouen by Camille Pissarro.


This caught my Eye for I first saw it, not here, but on Upper-Fifth-Avenue at the Jewish-Museum.


It had been on-loan from Linda Sampson, for a Pissarro-Retrospective.


Some years prior, Linda had been an MA-in-Theatre-Student of mine at Brooklyn-College!


Now her nostalgic painting is in a Museum: Linda, Dové sta’…


Even down South-of-the-Border, you will see Milwaukee-Beer celebrated: La Cerveza que hizo famoso a Milwaukee!


Pabst-Blue-Ribbon-Beer, of course! But there’s also Miller!


There wasn’t time for Scott Bennett & me to take The-Brewery-Tour, but we did go to the Harley-Davidson-Museum!


Wow!


Every Model of a Harley-Davidson—from the first, including Bike-Like Non-Motorcycles—is in this Mammoth-Motor-Bike-Archive.


Go On-Line to get all the details from the H-D-Website!


There was also an Ancillary-Exhibition of Wild-Ones-Motorcycle-Jackets, including some Famous-Leathers.


Even the Harley-Davidson-Café celebrated the Spirit-of-the-Open-Road: Old State-License-Plates were bent into Napkin & Ketchup-Holders!


But how Open is a Road that requires Licenses?



Lunching with Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne at Ten-Chimneys…


On Broadway, there is a famed Musical-Theatre that bears the Name: Lunt-Fontanne.


That was, of course, not its Initial-Name, but then sic transit gloria mundi…


For that matter, what is now the August-Wilson-Theatre was previously The-Virginia—named after the Owner’s-Wife—though, before that, it was the ANTA-Theatre, re-named from its initial Guild-Theatre status, built by the long-defunct Theatre-Guild.


Where are the Maxine-Elliot, the Nora-Bayes, or even the Don-Ameche-Theatre?


Where are the Snows-of-Yesteryear? Ou sont les Neiges…


Even long, long ago, when I was teaching Theatre at Brooklyn-College, Students would ask: Who the Hell were Lunt & Fontanne?


They had No-Idea.


Nor were they very interested to hear about the Team-Career of two of the Greatest-Stars of the New-York & American-Stage.


Especially not, for the Lunts, as they were called, only made One-Movie & never became Radio-Personalities.


What they did do, however, was always Tour their Broadway-Hits around America. So they did have, at that time, National-Brand-Name-Recognition!


The Lunts would never agree to star in separate-plays. If there were not Good-Roles for both of them in a New-Drama, they would pass…


My Good-Fortune was to have seen the Lunts on-tour in San-Francisco when I was with Ushering-Signups at UC/Berkeley.


On Broadway, I saw them in The Great Sebastians &  in their Swan-Song, The Visit.


This was a much-watered-down Adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Swiss Horror-Story: Die Besuch der Alten Dame.


Long, long ago, a handsome Village-Swain had his way with a poor, innocent Village-Maid.


He refused to stand-by-her, as she was driven away in Shame.


Years later, she returns, Fabulously-Wealthy, Rich-as-Croesus: Now she wants her Revenge


But she is going to pay the Villagers to destroy Anton Schell. She doesn’t need to raise her hand.…


Very-Cynically-Swiss!


If now-forgotten on Broadway, this & other Lunt-Fontanne-Triumphs still Live at Ten-Chimneys.


This was the Summer & Retirement-Home of the Lunts, at Genesee-Depot, where one can imagine the Conductor stopping the Chicago-Express to Minneapolis to permit Noël Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, or Helen Hayes to descend for a Pampered-Visit with their dear old friends, Lynn & Alfred—who prided himself on being a Cordon-Bleu-Chef


Not only does the Main-House have Ten-Chimneys, but there are also several Important-Out-Buildings, most of them Over-Decorated-in-the-Extreme.


Ten-Chimneys was also a Working-Farm, so Alfred & Lynn could have Butter on Broadway in the depths of Food-Rationed World-War-II.


Wonderful Portraits & Portrait-Photos—how about their friend, Cecil Beaton?—join impressive Production-Photos from Broadway & London-Hits.


But Ten-Chimneys is not just an Archive of the Careers of Two-Remarkable-Artists: it is also an exercise in Interior-Decoration, with Murals on almost every surface & Flounces on every table & even some of the chairs…


Some might call this Precious.


But it really opens a Window for us Moderns into a World of Theatre, Artifice, Friendship, & Good-Manners that is gone forever.


If you are not planning on a visit to either Madison—to Recall that Governor again!—or to Milwaukee anytime soon, why not log-on to www.tenchimneys.org to see all these Wonders for yourself?


I regret that I never actually interviewed Alfred—who was always very Courtly—or Lynn, separately or together, because, when I was doing the In The Words Of… Interviews for Cue-Magazine, my Editor said they were "Yesterday…”


Nonetheless, when I had the occasion to talk with Lynn, she was always a Vibrant-Persona.


When I asked her to join my Mary [Stuart] & [Queen] Elizabeth Panel at Sardi’s, for the Drama-Desk, she regretfully passed.


She was off to Florida, for the Sun. Not to Ten-Chimneys…


That Season, at the Opera & On-Broadway, the Two-Queens were very much on-view.


So my Panel included Eileen Atkins, Claire Bloom, Salome Jens, Nancy Marchand, Pauline Tinsley, & Beverly Sills!


Lynn sent me a Western-Union-Telegram from Florida:


"Just tell everyone for me that you cannot have a failure if you are playing Queen Elizabeth!”



PASSING-GLANCES AT SCENES-SEEN:


Guess Who’s Coming-To-Dinner & Gay-Marriage? See Immediate-Family, a New-American-Play!


There was a Time when Dating between a White-Girl & a Black-Man could cause Heart-Murmurs among well-meaning, good-hearted White-Parents.


In some American-States, Marriage between such Young-People was Against-the-Law: Miscegenation!


But imagine a Situation in which a Young-Black-Man has fallen-in-love with a White-Swedish-Man!


Miscegenation & Gay-Marriage?


In Paul Oakley Stovall’s Immediate Family—shown at the Goodman-Theatre—a Firmly-Conventional-Sister, serving as Matriarch, is trying to hold the Family together.


It’s bad enough that her beloved Younger-Brother is Gay, not interested in marrying a Nice-African-American-Girl, but that he has also fallen for a White-Photographer from Scandinavia


But she also has a Half-Sister—who’s come for the Impending-Marriage of another Younger-Brother—who is herself Half-White, or Half-Black, depending on your view of Half-Empty & Half-Full Glasses


Their Randy-Father married a White-Woman the second-time-round.


The formerly Conventionally-Married-Swede will shoot the Wedding for Free, which is always a Plus, even if he’s Gay.


Phylicia Rashád staged the Outstanding-Cast, in a handsome production, designed by John Iacovelli.


The Problems of Racial-Prejudice & Anti-Gay-Animus are deftly-dealt-with in this High-Tension-Drama, which is, nonetheless, Not-Without-Laughs.


It’s to be hoped that this Production can be imported intact to Manhattan. Or at the very least, Replicated!



Police-Torture in Chicago? Not Possible? See John Conroy’s My Kind of Town!


As an Investigative-Journalist, John Conroy has long been on the Case of the Chicago-Police-Department, regarding the Use-of-Torture to extract Confessions from Innocent-Men, who then end-up on Death-Row.


Nonetheless, his Potent-Reports in Print-Media have not really aroused the indifferent Second-City-Public.


As Print is now Dying, his decision to make a tension-wracked Drama about Police-Criminality may reach a much Wider-Public.


Although the TimeLine-Theatre’s excellently-designed & tautly-played Production is a World-Premier, the Play is still in-process, having been helped-along initially by Steppenwolf.


Considering the on-going Complexity of Torture-Issues with the Chicago-Police, I told Conroy that he ought to consider a TV-Series surveying the Horrible-History of Genital-Shocks, Suffocations, & other Forms of Inhuman & Illegal-Interrogation in Chicago-Police-Station-Basements.


What is especially affecting & interesting in My Kind of Town is the way in which Conroy has involved all the People connected to the Accused & the Accusers.


The Major-Torturer’s Wife knows something is Wrong, but, after all, she’s married to the Cop & he’s a Good-Provider…


Nick Bowling adroitly staged—in a Scaffold-Prone-Setting, by Brian Sidney Bembridge—a Talented- Cast.


The Wrongfully-Accused & Condemned-to-Death-Row-Hero was a bit Over-the-Top at times, but then he was being Systematically-Destroyed by Agents-of-Justice.


The Production is accompanied by a detailed Lobby-Display of the History of Police-Malfeasance & Corruption in Chicago over the years, from 1980 to 1998


There’s also a very large Painted-Cow, signed by Hilary Clinton!


TimeLine-Theatre is dedicated to exploring the History—or Backstory—of current Social & Political-Issues.


If you want to know more about Chicago-Police-Scandals or other TimeLine productions, check-out timelinetheatre.com.



Tired of Titanic-Sinking-Celebrations? Watch the Cruise-Ship Eastland Roll-Over in the River!


Chicago’s Lookingglass-Theatre won the Tony© for Outstanding-Regional-Theatre in 2011.


Its astonishingly-staged "New-Musical”, Eastland, visually & audially explains why.


The Eastland was a Severely-Overloaded Cruise-Ship that rolled-over on its side on a Weekend-Outing on the Chicago-River for Western-Electric-Employees, many of whom drowned.


Such a Disaster may not seem like anything to Sing-About, but the affecting Period-Keyed-Music of Andre Pluess & Ben Sussman heighten the sense of Tragedy & Personal-Loss.


Playwright Andrew White—who is also Artistic-Director of the Lookingglass—has based this Epic on an important Document: Jay Bonansinga’s book, The Sinking of the Eastland: America’s Forgotten Tragedy.


This needs to be seen in New York: but where?


The Lookingglass is essentially a Black-Box.


But when the Audience enters, its simple black Thrust-Stage is oddly-shrouded in dingy-white-panels of Cloth.


Hard-working Girls & Boys, Men & Women, are all looking-forward to a River-Cruise, after their grinding-work, wrapping Cables for Western-Electric & other jobs.


But when the Ship begins to roll-over, all those Cloths suddenly are sucked-up into the Overhead-Grid, leaving a Bare-Black-Scaffold, representing the Depths of the Sinking-Ship, in which many are piteously Trapped


As Shrieking-Young-Workers sink to Watery-Deaths, duplicates of their actual Costumes rise, water-soaked, to be suspended Overhead


When all the Horror was finally over, 844-People had Perished, including 22-Entire-Families!


Working with a remarkably adept Cast, Director Amanda Dehnert has frighteningly-evoked this Maritime-Catastrophe, in very Human-Terms.


Dan Ostling’s Scenic-Design is both ingenious & overpowering.


Mara Blumenfeld’s unpretentious Period-Costumes work very well, both Dry & Wet


But what Venue in Manhattan can replicate such an unusual production? New-York Theatre-Workshop, perhaps?


If you’d like to know more about Lookingglass-Theatre, its production of Eastland, & other activities, log-on to: lookingglasstheatre.org.



STARS IN THEIR CROWNS:

This Trip’s Rational-Ratings—


Paul Oakley Stovall’s IMMEDIATE FAMILY  [★★★★]


John Conroy’s MY KIND OF TOWN  [★★★★]


White, Pluess, & Sussman’s EASTLAND, A NEW MUSICAL  [★★★★★]


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