Solo shows have become hot properties on Chicago stages in recent years, and often the writer doubles as actor. Three examples of this theatrical form will be on display this spring as Victory Gardens Theater presents the “Up Close and Personal Series,” running in rotating repertory April 27 – June 4.
All three shows in the series — “A Little Bit Not Normal,” written and performed by Arlene Malinowski, “St. Jude,” written and performed by ensemble playwright Luis Alfaro, and “Where Did We Sit on the Bus?,” written and performed by Brian Quijada (a reprise of the show that was a hit at The Storefront Theatre last year) — will be presented in the upstairs studio space at Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln.
Here is a closer look at the productions:
— Arlene Malinowski’s “A Little Bit Not Normal,” directed by Lisa Portes: With her trademark humor, Malinowski confronts her own state of mind when Depression “walks into her kitchen, lights a cigarette, and makes himself at home.” This serious comedy is “about naming depression, claiming it, and standing to be counted.” It is the journey of a love story tested, and a look at “the secrets we keep about crazy.”
— Luis Alfaro’s “St. Jude”: Alfaro (the award-winning playwright of “Mojada” and “Oedipus el Rey”) returns to Chicago to perform a new version of his emotionally charged work in which he takes the audience on personal journey set in motion when he learns of his father’s stroke, and is summoned California childhood home. As his family gathers, Alfaro conjures memories of his youth — from picking grapes, to gospel-infused big tent revivals, family celebrations and running away from home.
— Brian Quijada’s “Where Did We Sit on the Bus?,” directed by Chay Yew: In his multi-2016 Jeff Award winner, Quijada — a bravura actor, dancer, storyteller and master of Latin rhythms, rap, hip-hop, spoken word, and live looping — traces the many influences on his career and his dawning awareness of his ethnic identity. During a third grade lesson on the Civil Rights movement and Rosa Parks, a Latino boy raises his hand to ask, “Where did we sit on the bus?,” and his teacher can’t answer the question. Quijada’s autobiographical piece examines what it means to be an artist, to be the son of Latino immigrants, and more.
Single tickets, $20. A three-show package (one ticket to each show), $40. For tickets and a complete schedule visit www.victorygardens.org. NOTE: Victory Gardens Theater will provide one free ticket to a Chicago Public School student for every ticket purchased.