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The Press loves Ellie Weingardt on Stage!
The Women 
By Lawrence Bommer

A successful screen version needn't be the last word for a good play. Clare Boothe Luce's The Women is a mean machine that just won't quit. Columbia College did a fashionplate version a few sessions ago, and now venturesome Palladium Productions is mounting this daunting spectacle. Besides the challenge of avoiding invidious comparisons to the 1939 film, 12 actresses must over 44 roles which includes an incredible 78 costume changes. Traffic control and stopwatch timing, high wire-taut acting, and the pace of a bullet train are among the minimal requirements to bring this female snake pit to ferocious life. Well, Palladium's done it: the play works like witchcraft. Unlike the deliberately clumsy Sylvia that Rosalind Russell depicted, Ellie Weingardt's evil redhead is a much more brittle hypocrite, a skilled saboteur whose pride usually comes two seconds before her fall. Among the "friends" who teach Mary that bad-mouthing can never be interesting and accurate and that you must never, never leave the room. Whatever the political correctness. The Women crackles, hisses, and sputters from one poison pen crisis to another, and Jeffrey Kelley's combustible staging ferociously fans the flames, Wisely he lets the costumes create the set, with an occasional prop to suggest the nest. And words cannot do justice to this incredible John Nasca designed wardrobe, a dazzling procession of 1947 evening wear that not only includes a fashion show but becomes one two-and-a-half hour tour-de-force.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE 
By Sid Smith

Festival of new plays gets better with age

Last year, the Chicago New Plays company of a dozen or so, local playwrights put on its first festival of original work at the Organic Lab Theater. The festival is back, and a year has made all the difference Wisely opting for minimalist staging as well as an ensemble of sensitive actors, the Summer Shorts Festival is, judging from Tuesday's first entry, becoming a really good show. Better still, the writing, even when stumbling or falling short, is never less than respectable. Ironically the best work is the most conventional. Kathleen Thompson's "Kindness" is a bittersweet slice-of-life look at four women in a small Oklahoma town, glimpsed through an ordinary conversation they have at the town's lone, unglamorous cafe. They have just come from an estate sale for another town resident, and much of the piece is smalltown Southern dish and grotesque humor. (The deceased fell victim to a binge of cole slaw overeating.) But, slyly, Thompson shifts to a sad, artful look at their lonely camaraderie, delivered with delicate balance from the four actresses - Ellie Weingardt, Patti Hannon, Suzy Kuhn and Sandy Spatz - and Ellyn Duncan's keen direction.
THIS MONTH ON STAGE 
By Mary Shen Barnidge

Cementville

A typical Mary-Arrchie production used to consist of a buncha male buddies talking dirty, kicking trash around, and generally making a lotta noise. Cemetville has al those elements, but this time it's the women's turn to have all the fun. Jane Martin's (a pseudonym) tale looks at survival in the world of Exhibition Wrestling, where berserker bloodlust is the goal and the performers who deliver it are caught between unscrupulous promoters and kill crazy crowds. Director Kay Martinovich and fight chorographer Scott Cummins oversee a tight, athletic ensemble whose razor sharp timing convey the agony of exploitation and the thrill of liberation in gleefully gut wrenching detail. Ellie Weingardt's spike heeled cigar chomping, tough enough to chew roofing nails manager, "Mother" Crocker, transcends the stereotype through sheer presences, but the familiar fable still provides plenty of good, raunchy, unigender roughhousing. Hoo-HAH!
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES 
By Avis Weathersbee

Settled in the Ring

"Cementville," staged by Mary Arrchie Theatre Co., is a down-and-dirty wallow in the messy arena of female professional wrestling. And to those who criticize contemporary theater for being mired in highbrow pretensions, this play loudly confirms that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. "Cementville" takes the shallowness of today's culture to the mat repeatedly, using the fake world of wrestling as the metaphor to indicate things are not what they appear. The main event opens in a littered locker room of a boxing arena in Cementville, Tenn., where second-rate women wrestlers discuss their pasts and their future. The drab gray cement block walls covered with fading pugilists' posters and banged up mint green lockers (compliments of set designer Robert G. Smith) nicely echo the mood of wrestlers-bleak. The star attractions are Tiger (Kristie Berger), Dani (Laura Kellogg Sandberg), Netty (Jane Windier) and Lessa (LaTonya Hagans). All four women have come to the sport seeking different things; all have come up short. Tiger downs booze to lessen the pain of her injured ribs. Dani decries the lack of pay. Netty is just trying to make a better buck than what waitressing allowed. Lessa, a former Olympian, is on a quest for similar glory. What they don't know is that things will get worse as their low-life manager schemes to sign bigger-draw talent. Enter the Knockout Sisters, Dolly and Dottie Crocker (country music fans can make of this what they will), big-busted blonds who have fallen in status after a scandalous incident of crack-smoking with a West Coast mayor. But their cigar-chomping manager mom (Ellie Weingardt is wonderful) claims that the sisters are on their way back to the top, and she doesn't mind stepping on what's left of the girls' egos to achieve this goal. The production slams the John Wayne Bobbitt incident, star I stalkers, television and of course, the ludicrous world of wrestling, which the aptly named Mother Crocker dubs "fantasy entertainment." The play, a relentlessly fast-paced entertainment, offers some really good performances. LaTonya Hagans is good as Lessa, who finds her past laurels can't erase the sport's racism (she's always cast as the hooded, faceless menace). As Tiger, Kristie Berger ~ speaks in a dry drawl that perfectly captures the essence of someone resigned to her fate. "Cementville" (written by the pseudonymous Jane Martin, I whose "Keely and Du" is now at the Apple Tree Theatre), doesn't quite know where to go with all these wonderful ideas. That problem makes the conclusion less than satisfying, but it's still an entertainingly wacky trip.
PIONEER PRESS 
By Weiss, Gerst & Bonesteel

Hairy Assignment

Highland Park actress Ellie Weingardt gets a free shampoo every night in the course of "Shear Madness," playing at the Blackstone Hotel, Chicago. Weingardt's part calls for a wash-and-set in the long-run beauty salon murder mystery. Her naturally curly red tresses will get the nightly workout through the end of the month, when her contract runs out. Then, she said, it's back to commercials sometimes equally bizarre. One, currently airing for the Jewel supermarket chain, has smoke coming out of Weingardt's ears. But, at least, her hair is clean.


CHICAGO SUN-TIMES 
By Jae-Ha Kim

"The Women" is timely, funny

"The Women' is a hysterical satirical look at women living in a man's world during the 1940's. Everything about the play is quick and breezy. The all female cast from By Any Other Name Theater Company tackles the fast paced script with the same ease they manage countless costume changes during the two-hours plus show at Palladium Productions. The heroine of "The Women" is Mary (Gail Kingsley), the wealthy but neglected wife of a well to do stockbroker. Kingsley plays Mary not as a martyr, but as a fighter who eventually wins back her man. Kingsley has a regal countenance and exudes a soft, understated elegance. Playing her snide, smug, two faced friend, Ellie Weingardt is perfect. Every line that comes from her mouth is a gem, and her facial expressions say what words cannot. Eventually Weingardt's back stabbing lies get her into a fight that puts Alexis Colby and Krystle Carrington to shame. If there is one fault with "The Women", it's that all the characters can't be given the same amount of stage time as the principles.


THIS MONTH ON STAGE 
By Mary Shen Barnidge

Never The Same Rhyme Twice 

CAST: EIlie Weingardt. lvana Bevacqua, Dada, Rebecca Behrman. Play by Rooster Mitchell; Directed by Richard Cotovsky) Circa 1991, somebody asked Richard Cotovsky when the Mary-Arrchie company, which had established a reputation for testosterone-soaked, "guzzle, holler, punch-and-smash" male bonding mini-epics, was going to let women into the boys' club. With last fall's Cementville, women joined the ranks to guzzle, holler, etc. with as much enthusiasm as their predecessors. Rooster Mitchell's tight little thriller, Never The Same Rhyme Twice, is rendered tighter by much input from director Richard Cotovsky and his four-person cast. Never involves four female con-artists who gather for poker, gossip and the exposure of a traitor in their midst. It provides another vehicle for a quartet of Mary-Arrchie's foremost Tough Girls, who spit Rooster Mitchell's Runyonesque dialogue ("What is this? Cliff Notes for assholes?") with the razor-clean tempo of Tommy Gun fire and the unflinching expression of Clint Eastwood. The tension escalates slowly, relentlessly, right up to the inevitable climax. Rough stuff is, of course, rough stuff, whatever the perpetrators' gender; but adventurous theatregoers would do well to pass up the other Mitchell play currently at Angel Island, The Killer And The Comic (which, though well-performed, plays like poor man's Mastrosimone) to check out what's already becoming the cult audience gem of the season.
THE READER 
By Lawrence Bommer

Cole (Review)

This deft entertainment, devised by Alan Strachon and Benny Green and a long-running hit at London's Mermaid Theater, was so well received in its local Wilmette premiere that the Unicorn Theater has brought it to the Ivanhoe for the summer. Not a bad move at all. Cole Porter's special genius was in writing words so clever that the tunes they rode on didn't need to be-or melodies so lush that the words simply surrender. In a few perfect cases, like "in the Still of the Night" or "You Do-Something to Me." music and lyrics fit like diamonds on velvet and you can ask no more. Make it another old-fashioned. please. Cole strings its 43 Porter pearls on a chronological necklace, stretching from his callow Yale juvenilia to his haunting final song. "Every Time We Say Goodbye" (1958). The socio-biographical narrative and the lesser-known numbers create a somewhat disappointing first act, though Steve Burke's winning cast of 12, a spiffy Art Deco set with its effective period slide projections, and Maddy Hanion and Peachy Taylor's sumptuous costumes are wonderful distractions. The widely varying moods-from the giggling. tap-dancing abandon of "Anything Goes" to the spectral pathos of "Love for Sale"-get strong respect and support. but these songs can't be sold wholesale. They deserve a mark-up. The second act, however, is all but perfection. The opening party medley feels like a week in the south of France. Ray Ruggeri's smooth, assured "You've Got That Thing" is Cole at his most effortlessly elegant. Nancy Potter. Debbie Crane, and Elizabeth Gelman squeeze the finest harmonies this side of heaven out of the all knowing "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love (They Just Like To Kick It Around)." (Ain't it the truth?) EIlie Weingardt vamps it up splendidly in "The Laziest Gal in Town." And, in another very prescient song-and-dance tour-dc-force Ruggeri (whom many will remember from In Gay Company), Roger Anderson, and Don Elroy plead. "Please Don't Monkey with Broadway"-too late, alas, too late. Steve Burke flawlessly fits the style to the substance, moving the music from Charleston to torch song to showstopper to Andrews Sisters jitter-bug to the inspired late vaudeville of "Brush lip Your Shakespeare." Though not all the voices are ready for prime time or big enough for the Ivanhoe (but, thank God, they haven't been miked yet). there's enough spirit here to light up at least half of Times Square. Burke's five-piece orchestra is consistently on the money, and Debbie Burke's choreography, though looking tentative on opening night should soon settle in like an avalanche. Jim Card's lighting is still skittish, hut when it finds the show electric things will happen. There's no cheaper way to fly to New York than Cole.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE 
By Fred Nuccio

Great costumes, slick acting help 'Women' escape film past

Reaction to Palladium Productions/By Any Other Name Theater Co.'s mounting of Clare Boothe Luce's classic '30s comedy of bitchery, "The Women," depends on whether or not one has seen the supremely funny 1939 film version. REVIEW: The priceless film adaptation starred Norma Shearer as the noble wife Mary, Rosalind Russell as her catty, gossipy friend Sylvia, and Joan. Crawford as the man, stealing Crystal, who takes Mary's husband away from her. The ghosts of Norma, Roz and Joan hang heavily over this revival; no actress can possibly be expected to duplicate the perfection of those immortal stars in the MGM movie version. Yet, John Nasca's knockout costumes (75 of them) on the show's dozen actresses (in dual roles), and some sly performances, under Jeffrey Kelly's direction, that are right on target in capturing Luce's acid comic bitchery. make this production worthy of a look-see from "Women" aficionados. Biggest yocks of the evening are earned by Ellie Weingardt as Sylvia, the ultimate gossip, who plays for camp effect and gets her laughs. Watch for Weingardt's catfight at a divorcee's ranch resort in Reno with her ex-husband's mistress (played by Jane Salutz, who has a wicked way with a line herself); her put-down laden commentary on the toiletries of Crystal (Helene Augustyniak, who could be much bitchier); and her catty remarks to her friend Mary (Gail Kingsley, looking appropriately forlorn) in a dress salon's dressing room. the dress salon sequence also allows us to savor a parade of Nasca's eye-catching, colorful costumes, which are bound to garner accolades once the local awards season rolls around. Other fun for the audience comes from watching the dozen actresses assume multiple roles and pull them off successfully. Kathryn Gallagher, who also doubles as an exercise instructor, is quite funny as the fast-talking, chatty manicurist who spreads the word about Mary's husband's infidelity. Lynn Fisher is equally convincing as a virginal writer and as Mary's young daughter.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE 
By Fred Nuccio

Working women's plight brings laughter an tears

THE DISTINCT characters are to very relevant to the positions of women in many offices today. I've worked in situations with women like this," says theatergoer Gary Williams, a 25 year old North Side computer programmer. One does not have to work with middle class secretaries like Bette, Viola and Christine in Mary Gannon's "Other voyages on a City Street" through May 4 at the Playwrights Center 110 Kenzie, to commiserate with these working women's plight as they wait for their boss to appear. Gannon's characters crisscross the fine line between bitter laughter and self pity as each is given the opportunity to voice her frustrations with her job and personal life in a monologues spoken to unseen husbands and lovers while the co-workers freeze in action. Vying for top honors in the tightly knit four-woman acting ensemble which also includes Darlene Williams, and Mona Lyden, are Anne Coyle and Ellie Weingardt, the former portraying a 50-ish company veteran who finds "comfort in the routine of 10 years of loyal service," and the latter a red haired, not yet middle aged wisecracker whose obsession with sex masks a fear of growing old alone. For a good laugh, and maybe a tear or two, "Other Voyages on a City Street" may be right up your alley. Make the trip.
EVERGREEN GAZETTE 
By Hugh Jones Jr.

Mary Gannon's new play is Exploration of Loneliness
"OTHER VOYAGES ON A CITY STREET"

Mary Gannon's bittersweet comedy about four women working in an obscure office of a large corporation, is at Playwrights' Center until May 4. It is written on two levels. One reveals the inner torment, frustrations, and dreams of two women: the other shows the facades they wear as they interact with each other. There is a poetic rhythm and precise imagery in Gannon's dialogue. Each of the four women portrayed has a distinctive personality, and each performer stands apart. Terrible loneliness is endured by all. They are trapped in a rigid mold. Only one has the courage and confidence to make a change. Director Gary Shrader has delicately meshed the interplay of these ordinary women so that every nuance of emotion and innuendo is just right. Anne Bernadette Coyle plays Bette Branski, who presents a narrow, puritanical outlook, but actually yearns for romance and is heartbroken by an indifferent husband. Mrs. Coyle has a marvelous voice and expressive face, enabling her to mirror hope, joy, and despair. Ellie Weingardt, as Viola Foster, reflects a desperate gaiety as a free spirit with many lovers, masking a feeling of emptiness and insecurity. Darlene Williams gives a sensitive, idealistic portrayal of Christine Felton, who wistfully wants to travel, but -has an obligation to care for a sick mother. Mona Lyden is Dana Neal, who lost a lover in college, but is determined to bury the past and rebuild her life. Lyden exudes an inquisitive intelligence which causes her to question the status quo. "OTHER VOYAGES ON A CITY STREET" becomes so real that the laughter, sorrow, and losses of the women are shared.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE 
By Sid Smith

Lively Unicorn singers give 'Cole!' bumpy ride

Among the standouts are Deborah Crane, who offers a subdued resentment in "Love for Sale," Porter's cynical lament on prostitution; Roger Anderson, suave, glamorous and vocally deft; Mark Williams, a velvet-throated tenor; and Ellie Weingardt, who is tolerably funny as the "Laziest Gal in Town." And the group sings exceptionally well in unison, so we're stirred at the end of the first act, where they belt out Porter's "Tomorrow" while telling us about his lifelong pain thanks to a riding accident, and we're sincerely sorry when, at the finish, they glow with "Every Time We Say Goodbye."
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES 
By Glenna Syse

The highlights for me were Mark Williams "You do something to me," Gwen Eagleton's "In the still of the night," Ellie Weingardt's "The laziest gal in town," and the trio of "Brush up your Shakespeare. "Cole" A musical review based on the words and music of Cole Porter, devised by Alan Strachori and Benny Green. Directed by Steve Burke. presented by the Unicorn Theater, produced by Shares Pemberton and Sondra HeaIy. Costumes by Peachy Taylor and Maddy Hanlon, choreographyby Debbie Burke. lighting by Jim Card, conducted by Jan Keatin. Featuring Roger Anderson, Debora Crane, Joeseph Daab, Gwen Eagleman, Donald W. Elroy, Elizabeth Gelman, Leta Kritzman, Nancy J. Potter, Raymond R. Ruggeri, Michael J. Taylor, ElIie Welngardt and Mark Williams. At the Ivanhoe Theater.

THIS MONTH ON STAGE 
By Mary Shen Barnidge

Watch On The Rhine

Ellie Weingardt, and Jenny McKnight are in the Eclipse Theatre production of Lillian Hellman's "Watch on the Rhine." Unless our government declares war on somebody in the near future, contemporary American audiences may have trouble assessing the arguments presented in Lillian Bellman's Watch On The Rhine. What are we to think of foreign guerrillas who violate the rights we hold dear in defense of their ideals and destruction of their enemies-that Is, before their ideals become our ideals and their enemies, our enemies? Hellman's play was praised in its time for its rejection of simple propaganda to focus on the human drama-an interpretation carried out in Eclipse Theatre's Company's finely-crafted production, the final preview performance of which I attended. (Gary Simmers, one of the most underrated actors on the storefront circuit, plays Kurt Mueller with the restrained intensity of a moral man forced to commit crimes in the name of justice. He is matched in strength by Cheri Chenowith as the imperious dowager Farrelly and Thomas Jones, whose characteristic underplaying lends interest to David's discovery of hitherto undetected courage, Foster Williams, Jr. and the irrepressible Ellie Weingardt lend a quiet dignity to their roles as, respectively, the Farrelly family butler and housekeeper. Zak Brown, Brett Korn and Aaron Himelstein likewise endow the three Mueller children with unexpected depth, their fragile devotion contrasting with the unbending faith projected by Jenny McKnighlt's steadfast Sara.
Content copyright 2015. Ellie Weingardt. All rights reserved.
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