Rachel Weinberg has been a freelance theater critic around Chicago for more than three years. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Rachel worked for two years in digital marketing at Goodman Theatre and spent a season as a Marketing Apprentice for Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City. You can read all of Rachel’s reviews at RachelWeinbergReviews.com and find her on Twitter @RachelRWeinberg.
Pictured: Emily Goldberg, Kyrie Courter, and Ken Singleton. Photo by Katie Stanley.
By Rachel Weinberg
If you like your musicals dark—tragically, unceasingly dark—with a complicated score that’s well sung, BoHo Theatre’s MARIE CHRISTINE is just the production to see as the fall days grow ever shorter. Under Lili-Anne Brown’s keen direction with spirited choreography from Breon Arzell (who is becoming an ever more deft choreographer), Michael John LaChiusa’s show charts one wronged woman’s journey as she goes to dire lengths to seek revenge when her lover abandons her. Based on the Greek tragedy MEDEA, the titular Marie Christine is a privileged New Orleans woman with a gift of voodoo. She falls in love with the ship captain Dante, who later abandons her when he decides to pursue a political career and can no longer be seen with a woman of mixed race. Thus, though MARIE CHRISTINE takes place in the 1880s, the show’s contemplation of one woman’s desire to gain power in a society and to set herself on equal footing with a lover that will not fully accept her has great resonance with the present.
In the lead role, Kyrie Courter gives a deeply felt and expertly sung performance. She allows audiences to feel the full weight of Marie Christine’s plight and her need to exact revenge. And in the earlier scenes, she captures the immense passionate love that Marie Christine feels for Dante. Courter always puts a noticeable emphasis on the word “beautiful” each time she sings it, a fitting choice that makes clear her character’s feelings and takes on a paradoxical meaning when her relationship falls apart. Ken Singleton finds that delightful balance between arrogant and charming as Dante, making it clear why Marie Christine falls for him—and making it yet more frustrating when he abandons her.
The ensemble does fine work as well, settling into LaChiusa’s complicated harmonies and fleshing out the world of the show. Nicole Michelle Haskins shines as Marie Christine’s mother and lends her immense vocal prowess to the role. Neala Barron, always a delight, also shows off her vocal talents in a second act turn as Magdalena. Overall the ensemble remains committed to LaChiusa’s writing and Brown’s directorial vision, added by Izumi Inaba’s elaborate costumes and Arnel Sancianco’s sparse but effective set. Heather Gilbert’s lighting also aids in setting a foreboding tone.
As Halloween is upon us, MARIE CHRISTINE seems a fitting choice for BoHo Theatre. But the musical’s deeper resonance as it portrays a woman in distress who aims to reestablish her power makes it even more timely.
MARIE CHRISTINE runs through December 10 at Theater Wit. More info at www.BoHoTheatre.com.