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Ingenious theatrical design key element to Chicago stage productions

As an indirect homage to this year’s Merritt Awards, I’ve chosen to highlight the sets for four shows currently running on Chicago stages.

Misfits find meaning in their work-a-day lives


Chicago playwright Marisa Wegrzyn’s “Mud Blue Sky,” and a terrific cast at A Red Orchid Theatre, combine for a story that is at once very funny, heartbreaking and full of unexpectedly profound surprises and insights into the importance of work.

‘Brahman/i’ questions more than it answers


Is it a boy or a girl? That is a perfectly natural, yet altogether bedeviling question explored in Aditi Brennan Kapil’s flourish-filled, identity-swirling play, “Brahman/i” (subtitled “A One-Hijira Stand Up Comedy Show”).

‘The Way West’: Life and debt in a state less than golden


HEDY WEISS: Mona Mansour’s play about financial disarray in California, accurate but far from subtle, has its world premiere at Steppenwolf.

Dream of ‘Pinkolandia’ is alive in Berwyn

The 16th Street Theater is a principal cultural anchor of Chicago’s neighbor, Berwyn. But its reach extends far further than either city, or the intimate performance space at 6420 16th St. (operated by the North Berwyn Park District) that it calls home. Consider, for example, …

Great storytelling still the goal in fresh take on Peking Opera


Tianjin Peking Opera Company comes to University of Chicago with a fast-paced if long evening of spoken dialogue, singing, acrobatics and dance.

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‘Day of the Gypsies’ finds its rhythms in two distinct dance/music forms

“Gypsy jazz just begs to be danced to,” said choreographer Gordon Peirce Schmidt, whose RPM Productions will present “La Journee des Tziganes” (“The Day of the Gypsies”) for two performances at the Athenaeum Theatre. “The impulse to move to that music is overwhelming.”

Not one misstep in Writers’ ‘Dance’


Every second of the Writers Theatre production of “The Dance of Death” is worth the price of admission. But you should take a seat in the company’s intensely intimate bookstore space for one very specific reason alone: Larry Yando.

Pilobolus dances its way to McAninch stage


You’ve probably seen them even if you didn’t know it at the time.

Pilobolus, which formed in 1971, has performed at the Olympics, at the Academy Awards, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and for audiences around the world. The modern dance …

Multitalented Ben Vereen lovin’ his busy life


If you’ve never seen Tony Award-winner Ben Vereen perform on Broadway, he’s bringing a taste of his work to you.

His one-man show, “Steppin’ Out Live with Ben Vereen,” comes to North Central College in Naperville April 12 for an 8 p.m. performance.

The show …

Drury Lane’s ‘Les Miserables’ a timely reflection


HEDY WEISS: Production of the challenging musical is notable for its overall vocal lushness, and for the altogether ravishing sound that emerges from the pit.

Remy Bumppo does not shy away from harrowing truths of ‘Our Class’


HEDY WEISS: This is a work of genuine chutzpah, with director Nick Sandys and his expert cast doing truly impressive work, and playwright Tadeusz Slobodzianek sparing no one.

AlbanyPark Theater Project fearless in revised ‘God’s Work’


HEDY WEISS: Harrowing is the essential word when describing “God’s Work,” the emotionally scorching story of child abuse and religious fanaticism now in the Goodman’s Owen Theatre.

Mickey Rooney is the show in ‘Laugh On Me’

There’s nobody else in the world who could do what Mickey Rooney does in “The Laugh’s On Me,” and get away with it. And there’s nobody else in the world who should be allowed to.

‘Cats’ purrrfectly enchanting in Marriott Theatre production


Ah, the mystical divinity of unashamed felinity. It’s out in full force at the Marriott Lincolnshire, where the elaborately anthropomorphized kitties of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” are leaping, pouncing and prancing through a categorically charming showcase of dazzling choreography, soaring vocals and emotionally satisfying storytelling. …

A fiery night for River North Dance


The dancers of River North Dance Chicago are power movers. Whether finessing a complex solo or duet, or hard-driving through an aerobically challenging group work, the members of this ensemble generate a sense of propulsion that keeps you watching and breathing along with them. The …