2002 … a retrospective

2002 … a retrospective

By Edith McCauley, Theater Critic

2002, another year of diverse theater experiences, from some of the most outstanding and creative productions to the mediocre. The opportunity to see old friends on stage and the many talented newcomers gave a special richness to audiences and critics alike. Chicago continues to be the out-of-town workshop for new shows headed to Broadway. Steppenwolf especially has staged productions that later won accolades in New York. David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross received positive reviews here and on Broadway.

Goodman Theatre’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night starring Brian Dennehy, Mary Zimmerman and Phillip Glass’ collaboration Galileo Galilei, and Hollywood Arms, the Carol Burnett story, all opened in New York during the past year. Journey and Galileo were hits, and the critics gave mixed reviews to Hollywood Arms. Many of their opinions were precisely the same as mine. Two of my favorites in Chicago were The Beard of Avon at the Goodman and the richly staged Royal Family at Steppenwolf. A tight schedule often prevents me from seeing some very good productions, but the American Theatre Critics conference in Chicago last summer gave me the opportunity to see The Old Man’s Friend at Victory Gardens and The Tempest at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier.

In spite of the loss of the Clock Tower Dinner Theatre, locally we are filling the gap. My choices for outstanding productions at NAT: Art, directed by J. R. Sullivan, Romeo and Juliet, directed by Richard Raether, and the family-friendly Annie, the hit of the year. joan e. kole’s Romantic Comedy, a production of NAT’s Town Players, was a comedy hit. Pec Playhouse’s season improves every year, and Barefoot in the Park represented some of their best work. Friend Bill Beard returned to his theatrical roots directing Night Riders for the Main Street Players of Boone County, playing in Belvidere and for a closing weekend at the Mendelssohn Club.

For the most under-rated show of the year, Comfortable Shoes, playing for a brief run at the Royal George, is my personal choice. E. Faye Butler played with a stellar cast. Hopefully, it may be re-staged. Of course, I can’t forget our experience as extras In the Carlos Santana/Michelle Brank video, The Game of Love. I’ve yet to see it, but the granddaughters have caught glimpses of us in action.

Looking ahead, it looks like another busy year. Due to problems with the rights to Harvey, NAT is replacing it with Arsenic and Old Lace with previews beginning Jan. 7. Gary Wingert cast in Harvey remains my actor of choice. I hope to see him in the new production. The Three Musketeers, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Proposals, and Little Shop of Horrors round out the season. Beloit Civic Theatre mounts The Importance of Being Earnest in January, and other local offerings can be found in The Rock River Times. Lookingglass’s new location at the Water Tower Water Works on Michigan Avenue gives the theater its permanent home. The Inaugural Season begins early in 2003. Goodman has just announced the acquisition of the rights to Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. Directed by David Petrarca, it will be staged as a musical. A Chicago engagement of The Exonerated starring Brian Dennehy and Mario Thomas plays at the Shubert for only 16 performances Feb. 4 through 16. Based on interviews and court documents of those throughout the country on Death Row, it is the work of Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. Of course, the media blitz for The Lion King continues. Coming to Chicago this year, its success in London and New York presages a successful run. I’m planning to see the IMAX film at Navy Pier currently running. The tickets are much easier to acquire.

A special thanks to all who make my theater experiences such an important part of my life. Frank Schier, who continues to print my work, good, bad, or indifferent; the personnel of all the theaters and publicity companies that keep me apprised of upcoming events; and the casts and crews whose work and professionalism constantly amazes. Thank you all.

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