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  Side Man at The Greenhouse Theater Center

Side Man

The Greenhouse Theater Center
2257 N Lincoln Avenue Chicago

The Pulitzer Prize-nominated and Tony Award-winner for Best Play Side Man is the heartbreaking story spanning three decades of a splintered family as told through the eyes of Clifford (Michael Mahler*), the only son of Gene (Michael Ehlers), a jazz trumpet player, and Terry (Kate Buddeke*), an alcoholic mother. Alternating between their New York City apartment and a smoke-filled music club, Clifford narrates the story of his broken family and the decline of jazz as popular entertainment. In Side Man "The joy and despair of the musicians is skillfully illustrated," according to Variety.

Thru - May 24, 2015

Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 7:30pm
Sundays: 2:30pm

Price: $29-$39

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-404-7336

Running Time: 2hrs; one intermission

The Greenhouse Theater Center Seating Charts

Nearby Restaurants

  Side Man Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...The production, which felt a tad underrehearsed, should get there, so I'd give it another week or so. But if you're a fan of jazz, "Side Man" remains one of the great pieces of dramatic writing about the musician's business, which is not so different from the business of any and all artists and writers, pursuing their goals even as the goal posts shift."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Warren Leight’s gorgeous, heart-shredding, darkly funny “Side Man” is most often described as an autobiographical memory play. And indeed, it takes the form of a son remembering his parents’ turbulent marriage against the backdrop of a jazz era whose days were numbered."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Meanwhile, his wife, Terry, self-medicates; his son, Cliff, seethes. Warren Leight's 1998 drama is an engrossing, quirky look at people who love something what can't love them back. It's compromised in Jonathan Berry's American Blues Theater staging, however, by unconvincing performances. Kate Buddeke, in particular, never summons the crazy energy that makes Terry so attractive at first and so scary down the road. On the other hand, Joe Foust shines darkly as a musician who gives everything for his own love, heroin."
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Tony Adler

Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...This brand of romanticized passing-of-an-age drama is American Blues Theater's specialty, but director Jonathan Berry and his savvy ensemble-tight cast refuse to wallow in nostalgic sentimentality, instead conveying both the joy and pain inherent in their characters' frivolously chosen lifestyles-the collective ecstasy at listening to a bootleg tape of their hero's final performance, a trombone player's terror at the prospect of dental injuries impairing his embouchure, or the frustration of a young son forced to parent his own hopelessly immature sire and dam. Despite its brief two-hour running time, the results invoke the grandeur of an epic chronicle distilled to an intimacy as sweetly bitter as the ancestral myths of far less humble mortals."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Gapers Block - Recommended

"...The cast of seven is more than adequate to Leight's script, but there are no breakout performances. Kate Buddeke as Terry is emotionally raw and sometimes overwrought, as she changes from young naïve to frustrated alcoholic. In the flashback scenes where Gene and Terry meet, date and marry, their performances are fine but neither of them looks "young." Maybe I should have been sitting further away from the stage, but neither of them is convincing as their 30-years-younger selves."
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Nancy Bishop

Chicago On the Aisle - Highly Recommended

"...Everything that is so remarkable, so rich and treasurable, about Chicago's far-flung storefront theater scene is embodied in American Blues Theater's resonant and poignant production of Warren Leight's "Side Man." It's a show well worth adjusting the calendar to catch, but it runs only until May 24 and will not be extended."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

Stage and Cinema - Highly Recommended

"...Side Man is a superb title. It fits the story/situation splendidly. Warren Leight's 1999 Tony-winning memory play is narrated by a son named Clifford, its subject his jazz musician dad Gene and his hardluck mother Terry. Moving laterally from gig to gig, prospering only between Sinatra and Elvis, Gene's only musical triumph was misattributed to a horn man who quit the business. This temporary trumpeter was never a featured player with a name band: He could play anything, which meant nothing special, just the music and the guys with whom he made it, who were mainly happy only then. To everything else he was "oblivious" and, like soldiers in a fox hole, he did it for his band of brothers-in jazz."
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Lawrence Bommer

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...Director Jonathan Berry has mounted a hauntingly powerful drama that vividly depicts a long-lost way of life - the world of the purist jazz musician of America. We meet the empathetic Michael Mahler, playing Clifford, the son of the quintessential Side Man ( defined - "Side Men are generally required to be adaptable to many different styles of music, and so able to fit smoothly into the group in which they are currently playing"). Gene is a purist jazz trumpeter who lives to "blow.""
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Tom Williams

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...In this wonderful story written by Warren Leight (a Tony Award winning drama) and smoothly directed by Jonathan Berry, we first meet a young man, Clifford (Michael Mahler, who most of us are used to seeing as a musician, showing us a much wider view of his many talents) who is the son of a “Side Man”, Gene ( Deftly handled by Michael Ehlers). We get to meet his fellow musicians, all side-men, and his mother, Terry (a sensational and powerful character brought to life by Kate Buddeke)."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...In American Blues’ superb production, the country’s unsung artists of the 50’s and 60’s jazz and cabaret music scene are celebrated and portrayed with color and empathy. The musician’s difficult life, especially the migratory side man, is depicted without rose colored glasses or apologies. And in this wonderful show the sadness and pain that such a life often inflicted upon a family and friends is displayed with stark honesty, laced with smooth, cool jazz."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...For jazz lovers like myself, "Side Man" is a moving elegy to that moment in history when jazz suddenly lost its relevance in American society. For all their imperfections, the musicians in the play really love their music and I thrilled as much as the characters to hearing Clifford Brown soar on "Joy Spring" and "A Night in Tunisia." Rock music's displacement of jazz seems like an act of artistic vandalism, however unintentional. But that's just my opinion. Warren Leight has written an extremely personal play that must have cost him much soul searching. We haven't heard from him in the American theater since the success of this 1998 drama. Maybe he has said all he had to say, granting himself some closure from what he and his parents endured from each other and saluting the end of a musical era."

Dan Zeff

  Side Man Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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