October 2006 Archives

Hizzoner at Prop Theater Chicago

I went to see "Hizzoner" (pronounced "Hiz honor") tonight at Chicago's Prop Thtr (theater) on North Elston.

The play revolves around critical moments in the life of Chicago Mayor extraordinaire Richard J. Daley (father of current Chicago Mayor Richard Daley). The play is produced by Neil Guintoli who, amazingly enough, (in addition to producing this) also plays the role of Dick Daley AND holds an uncanny resemblance to him.

Guintoli accomplishes an absolutely captivating depiction of Daley, ranging from a convincing, down-to-earth Chicago-Irish accent to the hard-nosed, occasionally boisterous temperament of "hiz honor".

Hizzoner has been highly regarded by reviewers and indeed lives up to the reputation, coming across very powerfully, especially to Chicagoans and particularly to residents of south-side Bridgeport (Daley's originally all-Irish neighborhood) and Sox fans. The play is predominantly fact-based, with only a dramatized/fictional account of Daley's occasional and ultimate discussion with a very unusual yet wrenching depiction of the Angel of Death.

The play covers some of the most critical moments of Daley's mayoralty, including the building of the 1968 Democratic Convention and subsequent protester demonstrations/riots, the building of the John Hancock Tower, the scandals involving two of his top administrative staff, the mayor "welcome" received by a new seminary student from North Carolina named Jesse Jackson, and the hard-nosed impact of the (now beloved and deceased) Tribune journalist Mike Royko.

This was alot of fun, especially in the small venue of Prop Theater. It currently runs through the end of November 2006, but has a history of being extended repeatedly.

Jean Sartre's No Exit at Side Project Theater

Tonight I saw "No Exit", the play by existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. It was playing at the Side Project Theater in Rogers Park, as was performed by the LiveWire Theater Chicago troup. The Side Project Theater has received nothing but rave reviews for its highly intense format and venue. The theater focuses exclusively on plays which deal with stark human issues and tensions, and for that reason "No Exit" was an excellent addition to their 2006-2007 season. The venue itself is incredibly small, seating only 30. The front row, which is where I sat, puts the audience less than 5 feet away from the actors, who perform on the same level as those seated (viz., there is no elevated "stage"). Thus if the actors are good (which they were), it all makes from a very dramatic and absorbing experience.

The production is directed by Christopher Dennis. The cast is comprised of Don Hall as Garcin, Saren Nofs-Snyder as Inez, Danielle O'Farrell as Estelle, and Jeremiah Musgrove as the Valet. Although all the cast was excellent, particularly Don Hall, it is without doubt that Saren Nofs-Snyder's wholly convincing and piercing depiction of Inez holds the entire play's intensity together.