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Reviews

2016 Dead Man Walking

“With its current production of Tim Robbins’s play “Dead Man Walking”, Piven Theatre Workshop puts the [death penalty] in front of North Shore audiences in a compelling drama—an exploration of capital punishment that can be appreciated by those on both sides of the issue. If it is one woman’s extraordinary story, it is also a meditation on justice, mercy, humanity, and reconciliation—an affecting spiritual drama that does not permit theatergoers to turn the page…. Piven’s committed cast delivers absorbing theatre that addresses a profound and controversial issue worthy of our attention.”

Jill Soderberg

Daily North Shore

2015 Melancholy Play: A Chamber Musical

“Noonan, Ruhl’s muse, has never disappointed when interpreting her friend’s work. And so it goes here. This is a classy show at Piven, which a sparse elegance and a fleet of very solid performances, beginning with Stockstill and especially highlighting Paris.”

Chris Jones

Chicago Tribune

“So if whimsy isn’t your thing, it might be best to keep away from the new musical version of Melancholy Play. But as a Piven homecoming for a Tony Award nominee and successful playwright like Ruhl, Melancholy Play serves as a marker to the importance of this Evanston-based company and its important impact on American theater.”

Scott C. Morgan

Windy City Times

2014 Ivanov

“There are many moments of startling connection and mournful truth…Patinkin’s carefully contemporized adaptation and Piven’s loving attention to telling details breathe some lovely life into this challenging piece.”

Kerry Reid

Chicago Tribune

“Joyce Piven’s direction, too, is masterful—a deconstructed set and a casual approach to performance (some actors are on book, or seem to be) reminding us that these people could very well be ourselves. Every actor here—and there are many—finds the humor, light or hope which is always there to undermine the devastation of our hapless hero.”

Suzanne Scanlon

Time Out Chicago

2014 Language Archive

“Among the best work I’ve seen at Piven over the years…this rather haunting little show leaves you feeling that not a moment of your time was wasted, and the connections in this famous little Evanston studio are, at present, running deep.”

Chris Jones

Chicago Tribune

“What’s not said is as important as what is in Julia Cho’s spare, moving tale about a linguist suddenly finding himself at a loss for words when his marriage starts to falter. That makes it perfect for theater, as director Polly Noonan ably shows in this well-paced, finely acted production.”

Jack Helbig

Chicago Reader

2012 Tusk Tusk

“Reaching the highs and lows emotionally together with the physicality needed here would tax even a season actor yet Lunsky and Cygan (and little Stern) gave skilled and emotionally deep performances.”

Chicago Theatre Beat

“Using a cast of talented young actors, Jennifer Green stages a passionate, emotionally complex production, with Northwestern freshman Olivia Cygan establishing herself as a major rising talent in the role of Maggie.

Time Out Chicago

2012 Encores: After the Theatre and Other Stories

“The Trick” possesses authentic emotional heft and a sense of timelessness that aligns more with Chekov’s plays.”

Chicago Theatre Beat

“In typical Piven style, ed the actors both show us what they’re feeling and tell us about it. That sort of double layering risks seeming redundant, order but at the Piven Theatre, it creates the sensation of memories coming alive on the stage. The only major flaw is that it leaves you wanting more when the hour is over.”

Make It Better.net

2005 A Festival of Jewish Stories

“The Piven Theatre has a winner! A delight from start to finish…wonderful family entertainment”

Gila Wertheimer

Chicago Jewish Star

Recommended! Imagination, magic & love in JEWISH STORIES”

Hedy Weiss

Chicago Sun-Times

“An enjoyable evening of storytelling … While these stories are Jewish, they feel universal”

Robert Loerzel

Pioneer Press

“Highly Recommended! Enchanting … simply and eloquently performed”

Jack Helbig

Chicago Reader

2004 Our Country’s Good

“Persuasively shows just how liberating and ennobling theater can be, even for people in the most desperate of situations.”

Robert Loerzel

Pioneer Press

2003 Collected Stories

“Splendid … a wise and wry play … a complex exploration of bitterness, intergenerational angst, and the nature and limits of cultural possession … this production has all the right instincts.”

Chris Jones

Chicago Tribune

“Piven Theatre gives us fly-on-the-wall access to the changing relationship between an acclaimed author and her protégé. The action follows a graceful arc … with rich emotional dynamics … under Joyce Piven’s able direction.”

Kim Wilson

Chicago Reader

2003 Abingdon Square

“Highly Recommended … deeply sensual and luminous … impeccably directed by Jessica Thebus.”

Hedy Weiss

Chicago Sun-Times

“Rich, quiet and haunting … a splendid production … gorgeously detailed and powerful.”

Chris Jones

Chicago Tribune

“Director Jessica Thebus … freezes even the most violent emotions into the stillness of a faded daguerreotype, prim formality hinting at passion simmering beneath the surface.  This nostalgic atmosphere, delicately rendered … draws us almost imperceptibly into the intrigues of a society doomed – and liberated – by WWI.”

Mary Shen Barnidge

Chicago Reader

2002 Mad Forest

“Riveting theatre that turns headlines into human drama.”

Virginia Gerst

Pioneer Press

“Highly Recommended … A smart, touching and expertly crafted production … Jennifer Green, one of Chicago’s unsung directorial talents, has gathered a large and talented cast and done a splendid job … A ‘Mad Forest’ to be sure but a powerfully entangling one, too.”

Hedy Weiss

Chicago Sun-Times

“Playful and emotionally rich … Reminds us that what matters most in making powerful theater is not political relevance but emotional honesty. And this production abounds in that.”

Jack Helbig

Chicago Reader

2001 Three Sisters

“A moving production from one of this area’s most distinguished actor training centers.”

Chris Jones

Chicago Tribune

“Joyce Piven’s production goes straight to the core of this Anton Chekhov play”

Pioneer Press

“A lovely, intimate production … finely honed, richly detailed performances”

Chicago Sun-Times

2001 American Voices

“Artfully staged and stunningly performed”

Hedy Weiss

Chicago Sun-Times (American Voices)

2000 Burn This

“Highly recommended … This is simply a case of the sheer fervor, depth and emotional intelligence of the performers putting the viewer in a complete state of suspended motion.”

Hedy Weiss

Chicago Sun-Times

2000 Chekov: The Stories

“Lovely…great skill & impressive insight”

Chicago Sun-Times

“Breathes, dances, sobs & rejoices”

New City

2000 Transformations

“Youth and age are nicely served in Transformations 2000 …An attractive, appealing ensemble, always engaging and energetic … The stories are enacted with tenderness, technical skill and humor … The ease with which the cast flips from the verities of the past to the vanities of the present is a tribute to their absorption of the Pivens’ method.”

Richard Christiansen

Chicago Tribune

1999 Brilliant Traces

“Brilliant Traces ‘reflects the care and patience that have established the Piven Theatre’s reputation as a superlative actors’ training ground. Under the adroit direction of Joyce Piven … Polly Noonan & Daniel Smith … rivet us inextricably.”

Chicago Reader

“Brilliant Traces shines bright and is performed with extraordinary passion and conviction.”

Pioneer Press

1998 Never in My Lifetime

“Acted with the deft restraint and sensitivity to be expected of a company affiliated with one of our region’s finest acting programs.”

Mary Shen Barnidge

Chicago Reader

“The Piven Theatre has chosen the best possible combination of play, cast and director for its first production as a subscription series company.”

Bruce Ingram

Pioneer Press

1998 Orlando

“A graceful, musical, beautifully performed adaptation … a clear, witty, wholly engaging adaptation by Sarah Ruhl and delicate but incisive direction by Joyce Piven.”

Hedy Weiss

Chicago Sun-Times

1998 Punto

“Punto rumbles and roars for 90 non-stop minutes, offering Byrne Piven the chance to run the gamut from outrage to grief”

Chicago Tribune

“Intimate and engaging”

Chicago Reader

“A wonderfully complex tale that needs to be told.”

New City

1992 Chekhov: A Circle of People

“Has all the humor, warmth and compassion that typifies Chekhov”

Windy City Times

“Piven expertly dramatizes the stories. There is not a wrong note sounded during the entire play.”

Chicago Reader

1991 Mothers & Daughters

“A knockout … richly emotional portrayals”

Chicago Tribune

“The Piven program earns high marks for literary taste”

Chicago Sun-Times

1988 Macbeth

“Moves faster than a speeding bullet … Byrne Piven is marvelous … minimal but powerful … Byrne Piven’s performance should be seen”

Pioneer Press

1986 The Misadventures of Spark Spangle, Farmer

“A frantic fable for our times … a mixture of exuberance and defiance … raucous, free-swinging fun … the enormous energy of the show keeps it sailing triumphantly”

Chicago Tribune

“Loaded with laughs, music and mayhem”

Lerner Newspapers

“A dazzling young cast … an exuberant satire with a rock and roll heart … an original, entertaining, youthfully brash and often very moving piece of theatre”

Chicago Sun-Times

1985 Mamet Festival

“Profoundly moving … many actors would kill to be able to deliver a simple line so eloquently”

Richard Christiansen

Chicago Tribune

“This is one of those occasions the word ‘delightful’ was invented for … Cusack and Piven are terrific”

Burry St. Edmund

Chicago Reader

“Byrne Piven and Dick Cusack, two endearing and remarkable pros, just engage your heart”

Glenna Syse

Chicago Sun-Times

1983 Singer & His Demons

“Puckish creatures tell lies for the sheer joy of it, seduce women just to anger their husbands and generally perpetrate mayhem among the mortals. All of which lends itself vividly to the stage in this series of fully produced Singer stories that bring the pesky little devils to life.”

Howard Reich

Chicago Tribune

“SINGER & HIS DEMONS adds another chapter to Chicago’s rich story-theater history…Byrne Piven’s staging shows the skillful and confident hand of a theatre veteran…the pieces interlock in subtle ways, building a mood of apprehension and wonderment…an appropriate tribute to a gifted author.”

Lon Grahnke

Chicago Sun-Times

1982 Something is There

“The evening is, at worst, solid theatre craftsmanship. At best, it is enchantment. These five works have been acted and directed with more care for dramatic truth than one usually finds in a full-scale theatrical presentation. … Each of the Pivens has a grand star turn…the roles are perfectly picked for their distinctive gifts, giving Joyce full opportunity for her feathery touch and providing Byrne the chance to rumble richly with his velvet voice. The highlight of this lovely evening is Chekhov’s THE TRICK…this simple story is a pure, absolutely exquisite distillation of the sweetness and pain of first love.”

Richard Christiansen

Chicago Tribune

1977 Chekhov: Some Family Portraits

“A production of quiet charm and assured professionalism … beautifully, tenderly performed by Joyce Piven”

Richard Christiansen

Chicago Tribune

“Joyce Piven is absolutely engaging. There is in her portrayal, a vastness that makes you take notice.”

Pioneer Press

“Quietly and without fuss, Byrne and Joyce Piven have been mining dramatic gold in their theatre workshop in Evanston over the years.”

Richard Christiansen

Chicago Tribune