By Nancy Bishop
Kane Repertory Theatre, of west suburban St. Charles, is running the third cycle of its New Play Lab series, featuring a work-in–progress play each week. It’s part of a workshopping process that’s traditional for playwrights and theaters, as new plays are tested and refined before full production. (Because the play is a workshop version, we are not reviewing it.)
Kane Rep will run a New Play Lab production each Wednesday through September 9 (see details below). The plays are one-night streams on the theater’s YouTube channel. This week the theater presented The Humanities by Zayd Dohrn, a play with a ripped-from-the-headlines theme. Dohrn’s play comes with a strong pedigree; it was chosen for the 2019 National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and for the Goodman Theatre New Stages Festival last fall..
The storyline concerns the culture war that erupts at a university when a former student, now a conservative provocateur, is invited to speak on campus. Lives and careers of faculty and students are upended as a result. The production is directed by B.J. Jones, artistic director of Northlight Theatre, and features a stellar cast of mostly Chicago actors. Anthony Irons (Congo Square and Lookingglass ensemble member) plays Jonas Sorel, a new faculty member whose career is changed by events. Paul Kassel (theater professor and dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Northern Illinois University) plays Martin Honnager, the professor who extends the invitation to Luka Jarry (Jon Blake Hackler). Steppenwolf ensemble member Karen Rodriguez plays Milta Reyes, a rising star faculty member, and Malic White (formerly with the Neo-Futurists) plays Xander, who is interested in Milta romantically.
To get a flavor of the quality of the Kane New Play Lab works, you can view Vow Keepers by David Valdes, a recent production of the New Play Lab, which is available now on YouTube. The four-actor play features two couples, one young and one much older, and their views on love and, possibly, marriage. The play is witty and well acted.
Here are the coming productions in the current New Play Lab cycle.
Be Mean to Me by Sofya Levitsky-Weitz / Streaming August 26 @ 7:30pm. Jean and Meryl, childhood best friends who are now 27, meet up to unpack a friendship full of love but also laced with complexity—and not a small amount of pain. The play was a semi-finalist for Premiere Stages at Keane, IATI Theater.
Moreno by Pravin Wilkins / Streaming September 2 @ 7:30pm. It’s 2016. Four fictional NFL players have to decide whether to stand for an anthem to a nation in which police violence is endemic and racism is systemic. The play was an O’Neill Theater Center finalist in 2020.
The Broken Hearts of a Corrupted White House by Matthew Paul Olmos / Streaming September 9 @ 7:30pm. Howard E. Hunt, an agent so dedicated to the service of his country and President Nixon that he carries out an attack on our nation’s democracy, is pushed to confront his own moral ineptitude and wounded pride by his wife, Dorothy.
The plays are free to view but Kane Repertory will appreciate a donation. The suggested amount is $25 per viewing but any amount is welcome.
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