Monday, March 28, 2016

REVIEW: Don't Miss This! The New Sincerity at Theater Wit Through April 17th

Adult Night Out
Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar: 
The New Sincerity at Theater Wit

★★★ Genuinely funny! Feels authentically connected to Americans currently in their mid-20s, and it deals with a question I find to be exceptionally germane to the moment. A VERY SMART PIECE!
- Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

Brutally honest and fiercely funny!

The cast is darn near close to perfect!
 Reserve your tickets for any performance 
with offer code "NSTREET" for $5 off EACH ticket!
(offer expires 4/5)

Here at ChiIL Live Shows we adore this production and highly recommend it. We had a number of friends involved in the Occupy Chicago movement and when I initially read the premise of this show I couldn't see how Theater Wit could convincingly pull this off on stage. I should never have doubted. They came through in spades!

Theater Wit's stage has been beautifully and convincingly transformed into a New York worthy live/work loft space, while the protests were effectively portrayed by screens streaming news from Occupy New York, and by a steady stream of fascinating characters entering and exiting from the Occupy "battlefields.

Yes, this show is laugh out loud funny, but it's also complex and multilayered enough to leave you thinking about snatches of dialogue days later. Rose (Maura Kidwell) is well cast as the naive geek girl, smart, driven and eager to prove herself. Sadly, in her inexperience, she confuses power in one crush and a zen like aimlessness with sexiness, instead of finding someone to truly treat her decently and appreciate her gifts. Natasha (Erin Long) is also brilliant as the eternal unpaid intern whom everyone writes off. She comes across as an almost ditzy and cliche millennial, but as the play unfolds, it's apparent that under her flakey persona, she's actually quite bright, insightful and more than competent.

Nobody is quite who they seem in this show. The wild eyed, perennially unemployed Occupy idealist just may turn out to be a trust fund baby, taking a break from the Bentleys to play rebel with a cause in a tent city full of free love and fun times. Maybe some violent acts are deserved. Maybe some "activists" are not arrested for their heartfelt ideals, but for a byline and a power grab at fame. History is constantly rewritten, movements are coopted, and you can't always believe what you read or see, even if you were there. Whether the press is mainstream or under the radar, reporting is subjective and often filtered through dogma, opinions, and ulterior motives, consciously or subconsciously.

It's eerily appropriate that Benjamin (Drew Shirley) ends the show by donning a Guy Fawks mask for his black tie, big donor dinner for the Occupy movement. The iconic face has been appropriated by Anonymous, the on line hacktivist group, and pop culture in general. The mask has come to stand as an easily recognizable symbol for protest, yet the element of disguise, secrets, and lies is still present too. Don't miss this!


Directed by Jeremy Wechsler
Featuring Maura Kidwell, Erin Long, 
Drew Shirley and Alex Stein

Arguably the play of our current political moment, 
Wit's Midwest premiere of Alena Smith's new play about love, sex and protest is perhaps the first drama to deal with the idealism of the Occupy Movement, and explores the personal motivations for why people pursue dissent.

Erudites among us know "New Sincerity" is an actual term used in music, aesthetics, film criticism, poetry and philosophy, generally to describe art or concepts that run against prevailing modes of postmodernist irony or cynicism. 

Theater Wit is excited to introduce Chicago to one of the nation's top young women playwrights with The New Sinceritya comedy by rising dramatist Alena Smith (Tween Hobo, The Newsroom, The Affair) about love, sex and protest, and perhaps the first drama to deal with the idealism of the Occupy Movement.

Performances run through April 17. Show times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at  2 p.m. Tickets are $12-$36. Theater Wit is located at 1229 N. Belmont, in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.To purchase single tickets, a Theater Wit Membership or Flex Pass, visit or call 773.975.8150.

In The New Sincerity, Smith investigates the fine line between sincerity and self-promotion through the story of Rose, a young journalist who has to untangle a sticky quagmire of politics, ambition and love. The year is 2011, and an Occupy-style movement has sprung up near the offices of the literary journal where Rose works. She gets swept up in the movement, but can she behave honestly in a context that may only be an unending performance? Her attempt to navigate her personal life in the midst of political, social and romantic upheaval is a poignant and comic drama for a rising generation.

Wit's cast for The New Sincerity includes Maura Kidwell as Rose, Erin Long as Natasha, Drew Shirley as Benjamin and Alex Stein as Django. Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Wechsler directs. The production team includes Adam Veness (set), Izumi Inaba (costumes), Sarah Hughey (lights), Sarah Putts (sound), Vivian Knouse (props), Majel Cuza (production manager) and Katie Klemme (stage manager).
Alena Smith (playwright) is one of Variety's 10 TV Writers to Watch in 2014. She lives in Los Angeles, where she writes for Showtime's The Affair and previously wrote for HBO's The Newsroom.  She created the Twitter character Tween Hobo (featured in Paste, The Believer, A.V. Club and elsewhere), which begat the novel Tween Hobo: Off The Rails published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster. 

Her play The New Sincerity premiered in 2015 at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York. The New York Times called it "a splendid new play...this is comedy with a poignant edge." Her plays have been produced internationally, including The Bad Guys, which was made into an independent film. She received her MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama, and studied philosophy at Haverford College and Oxford. Her essays about writing for theater, TV, and the internet have been published in Grantland and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Jeremy Wechsler (director) most recently staged Theater Wit's The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence by Madeleine George, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, Madeline George's Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, and that show's summer remount at Art Square Theatre in Las Vegas. Wechsler also staged Wit's acclaimed Completeness and The Four of Us (Itamar Moses), Tigers Be Still (Kim Rosenstock), This (Melissa James Gibson), Spin (Penny Penniston), Feydeau-Si-Deau (Georges Feydeau), Men of Steel (Qui Nguyen), Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) (Will Eno), Two for the Show (James Fitzpatrick and Will Clinger) and The Santaland Diaries. His productions have been nominated for and won multiple awards for design, performance, adaptation and best new work. 

About Theater Wit
Theater Wit - "a thrilling addition to Chicago's roster of theaters" (Chicago Tribune) and "a terrific place to see a show" (New City) - is now in its fifth season in its home at 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. In 2014, Theater Wit was awarded the National Theatre Award by the American Theatre Wing for strengthening the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theater.

Founded in 2004, Theater Wit's mission is to explore contemporary issues with wit and wisdom through new works and Chicago premieres. As a production company, Theater Wit is Chicago's premier smart art theater, producing humorous, challenging and intelligent plays that speak with a vibrant and contemporary theatrical voice. Recent critical and box office hits include Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence and Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England by Madeleine George, Completeness and The Four of Us by Itamar Moses, and perennial holiday favorite The Santaland Diaries.

As an institution, Wit seeks to be the hub of the Chicago neighborhood theater scene, where audiences enjoy a smorgasbord of excellent productions in three, 99-seat spaces, see a parade of talented artists and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago. Theater Wit brings together Chicago's best storefront companies, including 2015-16 resident companies Stage Left, About Face, Shattered Globe and Kokandy Productions.

For more information, visit or call the Theater Wit box office, 773.975.8150.

Smart and well acted. Captures the spirit of an age. RECOMMENDED!
— New City

★★★1/2 A beautifully written, terrifically staged play. “The New Sincerity” is the work of an important new voice in the American theater. A continual delight.

Recommended! A great cast with screwball sensibility throughout.

                  Don't miss this!

ChiIL Tips:

Green box street parking is fairly cheap and plentiful if you leave a bit of extra time. If you're running late, love convenience, dread parallel parking, or money's no option, there is a reasonably priced valet service right in front.

This is not your typical lackluster theatre bar with minimal choices or a chug in the lobby policy. Theater Wit has some seriously tasty local micro brews. I'm partial to IPAs and have tried a variety of great ones here. They also have a full cocktail and wine bar, and non alcoholic choices if you're not a fan of the hop heavy. They feature handmade chocolates and baked goods by local artisans (even a Theater Wit chocolate bar!) and a variety of top-shelf liquors. All drinks may be taken into the performance.

"Netflix" for Theatre (Just put some pants ON please!)
Here at ChiIL Mama/ChiIL Live Shows we think this is an awesome idea! Theatre has the reputation of being expensive and it's easy to stay home on the couch. We're here to tell you to GET UP AND OUT THE DOOR. It's so worth it, and with Wit's Netflix-like "all the theater you can eat" membership deal, it's waaaaay affordable. Members can "binge watch" as many plays at they want at any of Theater Wit's three, 99-seat spaces for one low monthly fee of $36/$22 for students, along with many exclusive member perks! 

The best way to secure seats at Theater Wit is by signing up for a Theater Wit Membership. Wit also offers a 10-play Flex Pass for $215 to anything presented in the building, a savings of up to 40%. Single tickets for Wit's 2015-16 productions start at $12, and will go on sale approximately two months before the first preview of each production. Do it. You know you want to!

I'm going to close with a recent e-mail from the production's director, Jeremy Wechsler, who is also Theater Wit's Artistic Director, and a frequent fixture at performances. This speaks to the invaluable talk backs and conversations that multilayered productions invoke and Theater Wit is happy to foster. It's one of my favorite elements of live theatre. There's something compelling in the dynamic nature of a show and the idea that audience energy and attitudes influence each show in the moment, and vice versa. Jeremy's letter moved me and I think he is on to something.

"It's been fascinating to hear the audience and critical response to The New Sincerity. In our history, this show has been unique in it's response. While the praise for the production, script and performances has been near unanimous, people's takeaway from the evening has been surprisingly varied. Is the play a call to action? Dismissive of the impact of protest? Full of caricature or completely honest characterization?

We've had some of our best post-show conversations ever. Sitting around drinks, our audience has argued with each other about these questions. I've rarely seen a play amplify individual perspectives this strongly. Nor have I had the pleasure of seeing so many people, cross-generational and politically divided, really reach out to each other for understanding and compassion. A lot of this has to do with the complexity of Alena Smith's writing. The work is no way polemic, choosing instead to treat the politics of the moment through very messy human lenses. 

I suspect that your Facebook feed is as awash in political posts as mine right now. In the midst of all the didactic absolutism that substitutes for public discourse in our presidential elections, The New Sincerity offers a refreshing space to embrace the complex, multi-faceted and harmoniously conflicted beauty of our individual desire for change and growth.

I want to invite you to catch Theater Wit's latest work before it closes on April 17th. We could all use its compassion and empathetic perspective in the eight months ahead."

Jeremy Wechsler,
Artistic Director
Theater Wit

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