"Still Dance the Stars"- A world premiere at Chicago Dramatists

New Light Theater Project and Chicago Dramatists are currently presenting the world premiere of Jayme McGhan’sStill Dance the Stars” through September 16th at Chicago Dramatists home, 1105 W. Chicago Avenue.  Directed by New Light’s Founding Artistic Director Sarah Norris, this is an entertaining and clever play that addresses the nature of relationships created/exploited by reality shows.

Bethany Geraghty and Martell G. Manning

“Still Dance the Stars” revisits a couple that became a “viral” sensation when James proposed to Anne on a television dance show. It’s 6 years after that event, and 7 months after they lost a stillborn child. Their dance studio and their marriage are both on the verge of failure. One day before they are to be interviewed by a snarky TV host following up on the original story, they finally address their problems as he is packing up boxes of stuffed animals, won by him for her at carnivals and fairs in better days. The animals come to life in the form of their family members and the interview team, and they dance/confront the relationship issues in a series of outrageous and touching scenes.

Bethany Geraghty and Claudia Campbell

While some of the action and it’s vehicles are farfetched and silly- such as choosing to portray the dead infant as a pink hippopotamus in toe shoes- the conceit works well in other respects- like casting the television show host in a villain’s costume. Putting aside these antics, the best moments in the play by far are the intimate moments of sadness and tenderness, when the actors, playing the main characters “straight”- ie, sans stuffed animal familiars- express their true feelings. The interaction between Anne and her mother, on the floor, when Anne is sobbing her heart out for her lost baby, and her mother sooths and strokes her is very affecting. Less so is the calculated tearjerker end, which this reviewer won’t spoil.

Martell G. Manning, Ariana Sepúlveda and Dana Martin

In between the dramatic action, the dancing scenes with the stuffed animals as caricatures are laugh-out-loud funny, even if the vehicle becomes strained. Also enlivening are the sarcastic interrogations conducted by the news show host, and the personal insults and observations which pepper the dialogue. Unfortunately, one senses that the gimmicks are a substitute for real interaction, but then, aren’t reality shows a substitute for real relationships?

Dana Martin, Martell G. Manning and Bethany Geraghty

The cast features Martel G. Manning, who plays husband James with deadpan humor and a personality that opens and blossoms; Bethany Geraghty as the believing and believable Anne; Ariana Sepúlveda as the twinkle-toes hippo Anne, which she plays with a manic but sweet cheerfulness; Courtney Knysch, as the supportive sister/thing; Michael Aguirre, as TV show assistant Phillip, the wholesome nerd you end up adoring; Carl Jaynes as James’ alcoholic but sincere dad; Claudia Campbell in a multi-dimensional terrific performance as Anne’s mother Margaret;  and Dana Martin, who stole the show with her sneers and hoofing as the sinister talk-show host Layna O’Rion.

Kudos to the creative team: Ashlee Wasmund, Choreographer for some really fun moves; Ashleigh Poteat, Set and Costume Designer for some hilarious outfits; John Kelly, Lighting Designer for spot-on illumination; and Andy Evan Cohen, Sound Designer for a great bopping mix.

"Still Dance The Stars"; cast and crew group shot


The play is the recipient of the Chicago Dramatist’s Grafting Project, an effort designed to partner with theatre companies to produce world premieres of resident playwrights. For more information go to the chicagodramatists website

All photos by Tom McGrath




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