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Reviews

Genesis Theatrical Productions seeks to find and develop new works - sometimes mounting the midwest or world premieres of original material. See what the critics are saying.

From Generation to Generation

Chicago Tribune - Chris Jones

From Generation to Generation, the new musical from Genesis Theatrical Productions at Stage 773, is about the things that matter most in life: faith, tradition, family. It is sincerely performed by a warm-hearted, community-oriented cast under the direction of David Zak. And there are some sweet tunes in the show, composed by Karen Sokolof Javitch,

TimeOut Chicago - Zac Thompson

Director Zak's production benefits from crisp pacing, smooth transitions and an endearingly earnest cast.

Around the Town Chicago - Alan Bresloff

This is a touching and moving story about a grandmother's "legacy" to her unborn granddaughter, a very sentimental story that has some charm and some comic touches. There are some strong performances in this production, led by Susan Veronica Adler as Rose Lieberman, who is dying of Cancer when her daughter tells her that she is pregnant. This, being a life changing moment is where the story takes us on the "legacy" ride where Rose begins to make tapes speaking of her life to her future grandchild and shares stories of her life with this yet to be child. I loved Ms Adler and many of the other cast members (the lovely Annamarie Schutt, Ashley Stein, the adorable Nicole Rudakova- who packs a powerful voice, and Darrelyn Marx), I absolutely loved "Life Was Simple Then", "My Bubbie and Me", "Sabbath Prayer" and of course "From Generation to Generation"

Chicago Critic.com - Tom Williams

Karen Sokolof Javitch and Elaine Jabenis have penned a touching, feel-good musical that passes the "Jerry Herman test" - it sends you home humming the melodies. With warm and fuzzy tunes like the title tune, "Life Was Simple Then," and "My Bubbie and Me," together with cute show-stoppers like "Going On A Mission" and "I Love to Kvetch," From Generation to Generation unfolds as a charming family legacy. Told with humor, loads of heart with quirky yet lovable characters, From Generation to Generation is a cute bouncy musical featuring a nice assortment of non-Equity players. A family saga filled with history, Jewish tradition and a memorable score awaits.

Susan Adler is wonderful as the bubbie (grandmother). She is surrounded by her loving daughter and her lifelong friends who support her along her path toward death. This heartfelt show is sentimental and tear-full yet it is a celebration of life and Jewish traditions with loads of humor and zany characters.

The songs are sung adequately with a clear enunciation upon Gerald Bailey's tuneful musical direction. Bailey's music never drowns out the singers despite the bad acoustics in the South Stage 773 space. Heather Haneman's cute choreography added a human touch. This celebration of the human spirit as told through Rose Lieberman is a tearful as well as moving musical that leaves us with a warm feeling that it is good to be a human! While the musical is about a Jewish family, its roots are universal. Rose's journey is inspirational as told with a fine score. The show is family friendly.

Centerstage - Colin Douglas

An earnestly adept cast provides the best reason to recommend Karen Sokolof Javitch's and Elaine Jabenis' musical about an elderly Jewish woman facing her mortality. In this Chicago premiere, based upon Javitch's mother real-life battle with cancer, Rose Lieberman goes through the five stages of grief when she learns she hasn't very long to live. Eventually accepting her fate, Rose throws herself into the creation of an ethical will, both to occupy her mind and to create an audio legacy for her unborn baby granddaughter. Veteran actress Susan Veronika Adler, whose natural warmth, charisma and musical talent drive this production, makes the musical live as Rose. Ashley Stein and Kris Hyland play Marsha and Elliot, Rose's daughter and son-in-law, with genuine honesty and conviction. Belting songstress Nancy Kolton lends her wry comic styling to Rose's friend Gloria, among other roles. Talented young actresses Annamarie Schutt (as Rose's granddaughter) and Nicole Rudakova (in a number of roles) show poise and great promise.

Chicago Theatre Reviews - Richard Allen Eisenhardt

This is the first production I've seen Genesis do and while I'm not Jewish I found it to be an exceptional show. The show, while it may be geared to Jewish audiences, is very entertaining. From Generation to Generation has a book by Elaine Jabenis with music and lyrics by Karen Sokolof Javitch. I was entertained by the music and cast of thirteen.

David Zak has assembled a non-equity cast and for the most part they are very talented actors and singers and he can be proud of his performers. Susan Veronika Adler as Rose is an excellent actress. I was impressed with Marlon Washington, an African American actor and singer who has the role of Herschel and the Dietician. Other strong performers are Larry Carpenter as the Rabbi, Ashley Stein as Marsha, Kris Hyland as Elliott, Annamarie Schutt as Rosie/Sophie as well as the rest of the cast.

The songs are wonderful to listen to such as "From Generation to Generation," "My Bobbie and Me," "I Love to Kvetch," "Life Was Simple Then," "Once Upon a Time" and "Going on a Mission" are all first-rate.

The musical direction is in the hands of Gerald H. Bailey and you couldn't ask for a more professional first-rate director with the six-piece orchestra to guide the band and performers.

I found the show inspiring and I urge one and all to see it.

Chicago Upscale Examiner - Mira Temkin

It's not often you see a play that tugs at your heartstrings from all directions, but From Generation to Generation is one such touching musical journey. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll love the music and be engaged in the story. Genesis Theatrical Production NFP is premiering From Generation to Generation at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont in Chicago now through May 1.

The play tells the story of the lovable Rose Lieberman as she approaches the up and coming birth of her beloved granddaughter. Unfortunately, Rose is sick and does not know whether or not she will live to pass on her legacy. So she begins a "living will" through tapes, videos and writing to pass on her story to her new grandchild in a comical and inspiring journey. Featuring 16 original, clever and humorous songs, the music was written by award-winning songwriter Karen Sokolof Javitch, and arranged by Mannheim Steamroller conductor Chuck Penington with David Zak directing.

Highland Parker Susan Veronika Adler is Rose and she is just luminous. She plays the role of the perfect "bubbie" with love, warmth and sincerity. You care about her, you cheer her on and share in her triumphs. She is the whole show. With humor, tenacity, and heart, you will be enriched through laughter and tears, and will leave the theatre with a song in our heart.

Chicago Stage Style - Joe Stead

For those who may have lost faith in the crass, commercialized, heartless and unoriginal schlock that frequently passes for musical theatre these days, there is a tiny miracle happening on West Belmont Avenue right now. "From Generation to Generation" is everything an unforgettable musical play should be but rarely is, and the Chicago Premiere by Genesis Theatrical Production at Stage 773 should be seen by everyone who values the musical art form.

This heart-tugging, hilarious, uplifting and entirely original musical journey is the work of two talented women, Karen Sokolof Javitch and Elaine Jabenis. Their tale revolves around Rose Leiberman (Susan Veronika Adler), an elderly Jewish woman who has reached the end of her life but isn't quite ready to check out before leaving her own mark on the world. This is a matriarch who is a survivor in more ways than one. Although the play speaks personally to the Jewish experience, it also says a great deal about legacies, the life continuum passing from one generation to another.

Rose is a first generation American who still remembers the horror of losing family and friends to the systematic murder of the Holocaust. Now she is battling an equally insidious foe (cancer) working from within her. But rather than facing her fate with bitterness and anger, she is hopeful and witty. For instance, she explains her reason for not keeping Kosher is "Too many dishes...meat, dairy, Chinese takeout". As her Rabbi (Larry Carpenter) counsels her, "There are miracles around every corner," and "life is not about sense it's about faith". An unexpected miracle presents itself when Rose's beloved daughter Marsha (Ashley Stein) announces that after many unsuccessful attempts she has finally become pregnant.

Rose's dream of becoming a grandmother is a bittersweet joy since there is a possibility she may not live to see the child's birth. The Rabbi encourages Rose to create an "ethical will," something spiritual rather than legal that she can pass on to her grandchild, which she learns will be a girl. Armed with a tape recorder, a resilient and loving spirit, and of course, a sense of humor, Rose recounts her own family's hopes and dreams of coming to a better life in America, a land of freedom, opportunity, hope and peace.

As the play points out, people deal with big problems in different ways. Rose's best friend and neighbor Norma Friedman (Michelle McKenzie-Voigt), for example, has an arsenal of creative and hilarious means by which she claims her late husband expired. The truth isn't nearly as colorful, but this gives Norma a way of coping with her pain and loss. We hear of Norma's mission to visit Israel for the chance to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Rose's regrets that she herself never had a Bat Mitzvah (a celebration once only accorded to boys). Rose encounters prejudice and ignorance at her cancer support meeting, noting "We Jews can never afford to feel too comfortable". As she speaks to her unborn Bubeleh via cassette, she urges her to "Always stand up for who you are; never stop trying to rid the world of prejudice even if you have to do it one person at a time".

Director David Zak has done a beautiful job with a staging that is joyful, poignant and unapologetically emotional. "From Generation to Generation" certainly wears its heart on its sleeve, but that's a big heart, and compared to many of our more vacuous entertainment options out there, is a most welcome one. A few quibbles here and there (a couple of plot points get glossed over too easily) can be overlooked by the sheer substance of this work's magnificent potential.

The score is haunting ("Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel & Leah," "Soldier Song" and "Once Upon a Time") and pleasantly jubilant (a stretch and kvetch exercise and a hilarious tribute to Israeli Prime minister Golda Meir performed by Rose and her "Golda Girl" pals). The performances are warm and endearing, and the two hour play sends its audience out with a song in their heart and a sense of hope. For a mere $30, I say that is an extraordinary bargain these days!

The People's Choice

Chicago Critic.com - Tom Williams

The world premiere of Phillip Pinkus' The People's Choice is an intended over-the-top political satire dedicated to "outing" inept American politicians who'll use any means to get re-elected. Our fictional present President of the United States (Brandon Galatz) is worried about his re-election chances since his administration is in financial flux. His goofy Secretary of the Treasury (Michael Wagman) outlines the mess cutting the chances of re-election. What to do?

Well, of course, bring in the campaign experts to shape the message and run the campaign. Pam (Stefanie Johnsen) and Sam (Holly Robison) decide to completely do both damage control and an image make-over of The President. Their rules rely on not having the President take concrete political stands on any issues. It's image rather than substance that the people crave. That and getting corporate sponsors for the Congress gives the US Government an 'entertainment' feel that the voters actually crave.

The result of all this super-sized satire is a way-too wacky but somewhat funny attack on just how politicians shape their 'message' to the public. Playwright Philip Pinkus may not possess the biting wit of Gore Vidal nor the realistic perceptions of Aaron Sorkin but his intentionally zany comic satire does highlight the manipulation and desperation of a President bent on winning re-election at any cost. The situations are absurd and the acting is spirited even if some of the funny moments seem strained. But as a light off-night show (Mondays & Tuesdays), The People's Choice fills the bill. Brandon Galatz shows promise as the hapless President.

Chicago Theater Beat - J. H. Palmer

Genesis Theatrical Productions presents The People's Choice, an original work by Philip Pinkus, that puts a satirical spotlight on the issues of the day; namely, the debt crisis and the politicking in our nation's capital that seems to be going nowhere fast. Act One introduces the players: The President (Brandon Galatz) and his sidekick the Secretary of the Treasury (Michael Wagman, who appears in the second act as a Presidential dummy), strategize how to get the President re-elected when they cross paths with by Pam (Stefanie Johnsen) and Sam (Holly Robison) who together form a spin team that busily hatches outlandish plots on how to secure the President's second term. Senator Cantwell (Joe Dusek) provides a straight man to the President's outrageous plans that include selling airtime to corporate sponsors in order to make more of the American public tune in to the televised cable coverage of congressional and senatorial proceedings, and changing the format to resemble daytime drama. Becky Lang does double duty as the sultry spokesmodel for various corporate sponsors and as the reporter who dogs the President as he wrestles his way through his re-election campaign.

The first act is stronger than the second, but the ideas behind the piece are clever and show promise. The play shows only on Monday and Tuesday nights, which is a shame; with its taste for satire and political send-up, I think this play would do well as a late-night Friday or Saturday show. Galatz' portrayal of the President is appropriately naive to the inner workings of Johnsen and Robison's spin team, and Wagman's Secretary of the Treasury provides a necessary, nerdy foil in the school of Rick Moranis. Dusek's Senator Cantwell is perhaps the most convincing role in the cast; his cadence and delivery come across as believable and authoritative, and Lang's Sultry Spokesmodel/Reporter punches up the action onstage.

On the night that I saw the show, the audience was limited in number, and while there were numerous laughs, this is definitely a show that would gain vitality from a larger audience; I hope that they get to experience the energy that comes from performing in front of a full house. The mission of Genesis Theatrical Productions is to presenting new works, and in presenting The People's Choice they have aptly met their mission.

Tunnel Rat

Chicago Theater Beat - Katy Walsh

Genesis Theatrical Productions presents the American premiere of Tunnel Rat. Ronnie Giles is a Vietnam vet. At age 17, he was given the choice of serving time in prison or in the army. He chose war. Now, as a sixty year old man, Ronnie is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He has reoccurring flashbacks. As a soldier, his assignments sent him underground. The Viet Cong guerrillas utilized an elaborate tunnel system for transporting supplies and organizing surprise attacks. Ronnie's job was to enter the tunnel system to gather intelligence. During one of his missions, he killed a woman. She continues to haunt him as he relives his past over and over again. Tunnel Rat gnaws at the living casualties of war.

Playwright Neil Cole shares the experiences of Vietnam Veteran Ronnie Giles. Cole has the story unfold in the therapist's office. The main character moves in and out of a delusional state as the audience pieces his life together. Under the direction of Brian LeTraunik, the cast thoughtfully examines a soldier's struggle with honor during an unpopular war. At the focal point, Mark J. Shallow (Ronnie) effectively transforms back and forth from innocence to cynicism. From the start, Shallow delivers a poignant hopelessness that looks to be unresolvable.

...an animated Stefanie Johnsen (therapist) brings a refreshing sweetness to the soldier's story...

Along with Joyce Hshieh, the trio cast zealously morph in and out of Ronnie's warped memories. The repetitive flashbacks are interesting...

There is a story here and this talented cast commits to telling it.

Windy City Times - Mary Shen Barnidge

We know three things at the outset of this medical-mystery yarn: 1) During the Viet Nam war, the enemy operated from an interconnected network of underground bunkers, 2) When so-called "carpet bombing" failed to eradicate these hidden fortifications - you can still see them today on guided tours in Saigon - U.S. forces sent personnel into the subterranean fortresses to hunt them down, and 3) Since the conduits were sized to accommodate soldiers of smaller stature than your average Yank, the shortest GIs were steered toward these missions.

Ronnie Giles, the hero of our play, was one of these "tunnel rats" (as they were dubbed by their peers) and, 42 years later, it's still eating at him. This is manifested in hallucinations where the ring of his cell-phone triggers memories of the doomed convoy whose driver was his own last-minute replacement, where the ghost of a female guerrilla whom he had to shoot harasses him like a pesky kid sister, and his psychologist appears to be garbed in the black "pajamas" of a Vietnamese sapper. Is Giles suffering from survivor's guilt or killer's remorse, or is he fabricating his symptoms in order to keep receiving his pension? Does he still wear his uniform (with all his medals carefully displayed) because it justifies his past actions, are his troubles actually rooted in self-consciousness over his lack of height - or does the source of his malaise matter less, in the end, than his need to accept what can't be changed and get on with his life?

Playwright Neil Cole's clinical approach to his topic is a welcome departure from the abstract emotionality too often adopted by civilian playwrights attempting vicarious replications of a singularly ill-documented war. The dramatic conceit of the aforementioned shrink and dead VC assuming the auxiliary roles in Giles' persistent recollections is kept from descending into precocity by the simplicity of Genesis Theatrical Productions' technical design and the unaffected tone imposed upon the text by Mark J. Shallow, Stefanie Johnson, and Joyce Hshieh under the direction of Brian LeTraunik. Cole's look back to traumas suffered nearly a half-century ago provides intriguing insights into what will soon almost certainly become a problem once again, in addition to serving as a sound-check on the freshly rehabbed stage in Uptown's Preston Bradley auditorium.

The Reader - Justin Hayford

An American GI at 17, Ronnie Giles spent a year crawling through enemy tunnels dug under Vietnam's Cu Chi district, looking for "intelligence." Instead, he found and killed a Vietnamese woman who was sleeping in one. Forty years later he suffers multiple daily flashbacks. Based on a true story, this 2011 play by Australian writer Neil Cole has the ingredients for powerful theater, especially given Giles's belief that the Vietcong's cause was nobler than America's.