The Tasters

Review: ‘The Tasters’ at Rivendell Theatre: Interesting play

“Funny and fascinating…[Playwright] Brown creates a fantastic world…[and] Rivers turns in a spectacular performance as the leader of the rebellion”.

The Tasters pictures dystopia—with a gourmet twist 

“Devon de Mayo’s production [is] charged and thought-provoking…creatively outlandish and guaranteed to leave inquisitive audiences with a lot to chew over…Highly Recommended!”

Political resistance, hope served up amid horrors in engrossing
‘The Tasters’

“The Tasters” confronts audiences with the kind of questions we all hope we never have to answer…Rivers’ Elyse has unmistakable, irresistible authority.” 

Something to Chew On: A Review of The Tasters at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

” A riveting work of theater… With devastating clarity, “The Tasters” mirrors the current moment — and the story it tells, which not long ago would have seemed far-fetched, now feels disturbingly like our own…Highly Recommended!” – NewCity Stage


Mystery, Tension and Strong Characters

“Beautifully directed by Devon de Mayo…this dystopian drama is very powerful. It’s filled with mystery, tension and a compelling story that stirs the imagination. Highly Recommended!” – Chicago Theatre Review

THE TASTERS Review – Call to Humanity’s Barricades

“Superb performances… a top pick for anyone who worries, like playwright Brown, where humanity is headed.  Highly Recommended!”

I Wanna F**king Tear You Apart

Through Thick and Thin: A Review of I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

“…The theater is starved for fat-positive representation. “Fat-fat. Not TV-fat,” as playwright Morgan Gould makes a point to clarify. In Gould’s “I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart” at Rivendell, directed by Jessica Fisch, do not expect to see a story about the bravery of society’s victims as they triumphantly overcome adversity. This isn’t a play about fatness as shown in the media. This is a play about the deep-seated, traumatic effects of lifelong discrimination and bias. It’s a play about people. It’s also a play about friendship.”

I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart feels like a sitcom about extended adolescence 

“…Their island of mutual acceptance and submerged shame is disrupted when Chloe (Jessica Ervin), a straight cis white female aspiring novelist from suburban Maine, befriends Leo and tempts him with the siren song of the norm. It’s like a sitcom where all the characters are writers. Sam and Leo’s relationship is the main attraction and drawn well.”

Review: “I Wanna F***ink Tear You Apart”

“…This play challenges us to look at the world around us and hopefully will challenge the way people think about “Fat” people and “Gay” people. Sam and Leo are just “people” who have a special love that is theirs even when they are fighting. There are times they seem like a married couple as we take a trip with them into the world of friendships, bigotry toward fat people, ambition, and living in a world that does not accept you as you are, wanting you to change.”

Scientific Method

In Scientific Method at Rivendell, a female scientist has been scooped — it’s no surprise what happens next: 3 Stars

“Gasps of recognition—particularly from women—arose regularly from the audience at the performance I attended. This Scientific Method may inspire a very unscientific “burn it all down” response from those who know in their gut what it feels like to be passed over and kicked down by a sexist and racist institution.”

In Scientific Method, Politics in the Lab Are as Rigorous as the Research

“Along with all the endless higher education, intellectual rigor, peer review, pressure to publish, sheer tenaciousness and deeply original thinking so essential to the work done at the labs and universities where science is of the essence, there also is a whole lot of unsavory politics. And in her play, Scientific Method, now receiving a crackling world premiere at Rivendell Theatre, Jenny Connell Davis puts it all under a powerful magnifying microscope.”

Review |Scientific Method at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

“In Jenny Connell Davis’ thoughtful and provocative new drama Scientific Method, with superb direction from Devon de Mayo, Davis shows how easily, how often, and casually this kind of derailing occurs, how devastating its consequences can be, and just how incognizant men are to its presence and its effects.”

Gaslighting Smart Girls and Sexism in Science: Highly Recommended 

“Rivendell’s Scientific Method is beautiful, infuriating, smart theatre whose time has come. ..ingrained bias thrives in darkness, so creating works of theatre, where our societal failings can be examined under the illumination of stage lights, is a boon to smart women everywhere.”

Be patient and Scientific Method will yield results

“…Amy discovers a possible betrayal by a fellow researcher, and suddenly her doomed efforts to get her due in a system rigged to favor the world’s Julians becomes a thrilling, harrowing ride. Director Devon de Mayo’s ideal cast make the finale of this Rivendell world premiere worth waiting for.”

Related stories to SCIENTIFIC METHOD:

How Universities Deal With Sexual Harassment Needs Sweeping Change, Panel Says
“…the costs for women — and for the ability of scientific fields to retain the full range of talented people — can be great, even if the consequences can seem subtle at first…”

Girls’ STEM programs alone can’t combat #MeToo in science fields
“There are generations of women that we have lost to science because we pushed them out. They did come, they got their degrees, they tried to join a lab or start a tenure-track job, but then they left…”

The Cake

‘The Cake’ a many-layered story of sympathetic people in conflict, Steven Oxman: Three Stars

“The play is sweet and never too blatantly sugary… director Lauren Shouse guides the proceedings with the right delicate touch. The set, from designer Arnel Sancianco, is spot-on perfect… Mallen is a treat to watch, particularly in the moments when the play gets a bit fanciful.”

Photo Flash: First Look at THE CAKE at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

“The play is sweet and never too blatantly sugary… director Lauren Shouse guides the proceedings with the right delicate touch. The set, from designer Arnel Sancianco, is spot-on perfect… Mallen is a treat to watch, particularly in the moments when the play gets a bit fanciful.”

‘This Is Us’ writer’s drama covers intolerance, same-sex marriage, Catey Sullivan

“I didn’t want to demonize anyone. I think plays can get people talking about issues in a way that movies or articles or news reports can’t.”

(Bekah Brunstetter)

Supreme Court Seems Split In Case Of Baker Vs. Same-Sex Couple; Eyes Now On Kennedy

The court case that inspired The Cake.

Cal in Camo

In acting showcase ‘Cal in Camo,’ the stormy lives of damaged people, Hedy Weiss: Recommended

“A stunning piece of theater [and] a ferociously acted Midwest premiere.”

 Review: ‘Cal in Camo’, Chris Jones

“This trio of actors, all of the Chicago school and with Neal the formidable standout, holds your attention…and the level of personal crises they embody is intense…”

CAL IN CAMO Review, Irene Hsiao

“[A] poignant play that oscillates between all-too-real and acid-washed mirage in a stellar production directed by Hallie Gordon.”

Review: CAL IN CAMO at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Catey Sullivan

“Intense and evocative…the four-person cast is sterling”

Review: CAL IN CAMO (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble), Ryan Moore: Highly Recommended

“Incredibly strong acting and design… this production is not to be missed.”

The Capacity To Connect, Rick and Brenda McCain: Recommended

“The play offers up doses of laughter and painful revelations of the truth. “

Alias Grace

The Margaret Atwood story of ‘Alias Grace’ gets inside your head, Chris Jones: 2.5 stars

“A killer central performance from the richly nuanced Ashley Neal. …
“Alias Grace” already looks like a hit.”

The Arts Section: Rivendell Theatre Brings Margaret Atwood’s ALIAS GRACE to Stage, Kelly Kleiman & Jonathan Abarbanel: 2 recommendations

“A terrific production and the exact right production for Rivendell Theatre ensemble….Karen Kessler has directed a striking and creepy and thought provoking and has an absolutely brilliant Grace Marks in Ashley Neal…I was riveted.” – Kelly Kleiman

“A wonderful portrayal of a wonderful character…Ashley Neal is at once powerful and subtle as Grace Marks.” – Jonathan Abarbanel

ALIAS GRACE Shines at Rivendell Theatre, Kate Scott

“Rivendell Theatre has created a stellar adaptation of Alias Grace, and it’s in no small part due to the efforts of playwright Jennifer Blackmer.”

Review: ALIAS GRACE at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Erin Shea Brady

“I’m consistently excited by the programming at Rivendell. Artistic Director Tara Mallen and team mine their mission for brave, relevant works that are deep in conversation with the world we live in. Their tagline – “It’s Women’s Work” – rings true in their tenacity, their nerve and their aptitude for telling nuanced stories that serve to humanize and explore polarizing feminist issues and tropes. Karen Kessler’s intense production of ALIAS GRACE is no exception.”

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble Presents ALIAS GRACE, Amy Munice: Highly Recommended

“…coming without the book in your mind’s eye may be a distinct advantage to get just how expert the direction (Director: Karen Kessler) and characters’ slides, akin to the glissando of a trombone, truly are.”

Margaret Atwood’s searing psychological thriller fit for the stage, Hedy Weiss: Highly Recommended

“Rivendell Theatre’s riveting world premiere … brilliantly adapted for the stage by Jennifer Blackmer — is reason to celebrate.”

Our current Margaret Atwood moment continues onstage with another tale of women’s disempowerment., Alex Huntsberger: 3 stars

“…there couldn’t be a better time for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble to be premiering a Margaret Atwood adaptation.”

A Review of Alias Grace at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Kevin Greene

“As Grace, Ashley Neal is a conduit for her character’s memories, her gaze deep, her myriad anxieties bubbling in the depths”

ALIAS GRACE Review, Justin Hayford

“Each actor in the story’s central triangle brings an eye for nuanced detail turning (characters) into compelling conundrums.”

Rivendell’s “Alias Grace” a Powerful Psychological Study, Karen Topham

“Kessler’s direction is exquisite. It takes a powerful and cohesive vision to get the kind of performances we see here.”

Review: “Alias Grace” (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble), Sarah Bowden: DIE RATING: d10 — “Worth Going To”

“Neal is particularly fine switching between the present, beaten down Grace, and the Grace of her teenage years… She sets the audience off-balance as she tells her tale, always indicating there is more to the tale than what she reveals…”

ALIAS GRACE Review, Carol Moore: Recommended

“The production, characterized by strong acting, is very well done.”

The Firebirds Take the Field

‘Firebirds’ tells the real-life story of cheerleaders afflicted by mystery illness

“…the performances in Fisch’s supple staging are often deliciously on point. Gerachis finds the anguished center of doubt underneath Avery’s carefully constructed sarcasm.” – Kerry Reid

The Firebirds Take the Field

“Rivendell Theatre’s world-premiere production of Lynn Rosen’s play works both as a biting critique of how our society treats women and as an insightful rumination on the ways unfulfilled hopes and desires can haunt or even poison one’s life.”

Let It All Out: A Review of The Firebirds Take the Field at Rivendell Theatre EnsembleRecommended

” “The Firebirds Take the Field” encompasses what Rivendell does so well: challenge preconceived notions and let them fight back. ” – Kevin Greene

Bad Blood: The Firebirds Take the Field  – Rivendell Theatre: Enthusiastically Recommended

“Rosen has crafted a twisty script that relishes its surprises, and clearly juggles a complex tangle of relationships, slights, intrigues, and unspoken fears without muddling the issue or losing sight of the medical mystery set for us to solve. She is also graced with a fine tuned sense of humor and the laugh-lines grow ripe and fall readily, particularly when wielding Avery’s barbed wit.” – Ben Kemper

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble AND THE FIREBIRDS TAKE THE FIELD Review – Cheerleaders Ticking All Over the Place

“The beauty of this script by playwright Lynn Rosen is that we too are hooked and want to get to the bottom of it all as much as Avery. That it’s based on real-world events hooks us all the more.” – Alexis Bugajski

THEATER REVIEW Firebirds Take the Field

“An adroit cast led by Meighan Gerachis and Rebecca Spence …with a brief, but important, appearance by the always-commanding Margaret Kusterman.” – Mary Shen Barnidge

THEATER REVIEW The Firebirds Take the FieldRecommended

“This well-acted play is a combination of medical mystery, personal character sketch, and family dynamic study. The resolution is plausible, leaving room for thought.” – Tom Williams

REVIEW: The Firebirds Take the Field @ RivendellRecommended

“Rivendell has made a full-fledged fan of me after presenting yet another innovative, female-empowered production. ​”


“[a] Sincere and Empathetic Play…written with truth and poignancy and acted as such”  “Deeply Moving”

Chicago Tribune

“Under the sensitive, textured direction of Megan Carney and Mark Ulrich, with a remarkable performance by Barbara E. Robertson at its center, Rivendell’s premier of Julie Jensen’s Winter is a gripping and sympathetic treatment of the difficulties of aging gracefully, especially with dementia.”

Chicago Stage Standard

“A beautifully written story…Winter takes you on an emotional journey which gives you a glimpse into the life of a woman who’s determined to live her life on her own terms, I highly recommend this production!” 
Chicago Splash

Addressing our mortality and quality of life is profoundly personal. I don’t have an answer but am thankful for this production for igniting an inquiry.”


5 of the best actors in the Chicagoland area who help our rapt attention for 90 minutes. They took a difficult topic – dying with grace, under your terms – and added some humor, some humanity, and a lot of heart. “

-India Times

Robertson’s portrayal of a woman caught between the solid world of consciousness and the short, sporadic, periods of haunting lost time is quite remarkable.  Jensen’s character finds a perfect interpretation through the skill of Robertson’s ability to dance the fine line between these two spheres of existence.  The joy of living, the missing time, and acute awareness of non-lucidity is quite chilling when rendered to us by Robertson’s fine acting.”

– Irish American News

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