Saturday September 23rd 2017

“Sonnets For An Old Century”

Steppenwolf  Theatre Company is truly a major contributor to the Chicago Theater Scene. Besides the wonderful work that they do, they find ways to nurture new companies as well as young playwrights, bringing their works to stages that they would never experience. One of these programs is the  “Garage Rep at Steppenwolf’s Garage” where other companies get to work with the Steppenwolf people and bring their works to an audience that might never be exposed to the talents from Rogers Park, Humboldt Park and other sections- thanks to Steppenwolf’s generosity, we get to view works that are new to us and actors who we may never have seen. One of the shows in this years trio of rep productions is that brought to us by Urban Theater Company, a local Humboldt Park storefront theater company located on Division Street ( a far cry from Halsted and North, yet only miles away) and its Midwest premiere of “Sonnets For An Old Century” written by Jose Rivera. “Sonnets” is a mixture of “Working” and “A Chorus Line” except that the people who speak to us about their lives are done with their lives. Yes, it all takes place in the afterlife. Directed by  Madrid St.Angelo in collaboration with Juan Castaneda, we are taken on an 85 minute journey far from our own lives and each of the characters tells us about their experience as they wait in a large area to enter “the afterlife”.

The set is simplicity personified- as we are there to hear the stories and what these individuals found to be important in the lives they just left. To add to the beauty of the production, there are wonderful projections created by Liviu Pasare and Jorge Felix, creating the illusion of being adrift and iwth the key lighting by Jordan Kardasz, we are aware of the characters floating in time as the keeper of the gates ( Dru Smith) takes them on this journey. There  are 19 people floating in time, just waiting for their opportunity to tell their story and enter the new world they anticipate will free them form the old- pulling us to what we have been led to believe is mch greater than what we had on Earth. The monologues are well written and performed with great heart and feeling as directed by St.Angelo who brings his powerful acting skills to the other side in directing this wonderful piece.I also want to acknowledge the owrk of “movement”director Estaban Andres Cruz, who could almost be called a choreographer for this work.

This is a sparkling production filled with humor and sadness. This play is a celebration of life itself and since none of us can say what truly takes place at that moment, that last moment, let us take heart that perhaps Mr. Rivera’s ideas might just be it. Being part of the rep at Steppenwolf, Urban shares the stage with two other companies, making  performance schedules a bit odder than normal. “Sonnets” will run through April 24th with performances as follows:

3/13, 3/16,3/19 at 8p.m., 3/20 at 4 p.m., 3/25 at 8 p.m.,3/26 at 4 p.m. and 3/31 at 8 p.m.- April dates: 4/3,4/6 and 4/9 at 8 p.m.,4/10 at 4 p.m., 4/15 at 8 p.m. and 4/16 at 4 p.m.,4/21 at 8 p.m.,4/23 at 4 p.m. and 4/24 at 8 p.m.    

Tickets are $20 for each performance but if you want to see all three productions, you can buy a special pass for $45- Wednesday performances are “pay what you can”. All tickets can be purchased at the Steppenwolf box office, just down the street at 1650 N. Halsted, by calling  312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org( where you can also check out the other two shows)

The Merle Reskin Garage Theatre is located at 1624 N. Halsted in what used to be the first floor of the actual garage structure of Steppenwolf. Over the years, this venue has undergone many changes and has become a comfortable and versatile theatre with just the right amount of intimacy for smaller productions.

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