Northern Stage opened the world premiere production of “Venus Rising,” Saturday at its Barrette Center for the Arts, that was almost as touching as it was funny – thanks to finely crafted writing by the Hanover, N.H. playwright and an excellent cast.
Northern Stage’s current world premier production of “Venus Rising” is a love story. It’s also a tale of drug use and abuse, and the struggles of aging. It’s a comedy brought to life by four very talented actors on a fantastic set with creative, strong direction. First and foremost, though, it is a script that elevates and examines human behavior, celebrating each person’s existence while not shying away from their foibles. By evening’s end, you walk away entertained, enriched, and challenged at the same time.
Gripping... Ms. Chayes and her designers use the few features of the room — the chairs, the door, the world clock — to create an almost unbearable tension... Moments seem balanced on the edge of a very sharp knife. Footsteps in the corridor or a knock at the door can make the breath catch in your throat... It’s exciting, too, to watch women take on the kinds of roles and wield the varieties of expertise that have mostly been accorded to men. Most plays centered on diplomacy and global power dynamics are men’s stories... and it’s terrific to see women given the same privileges and sometimes ugly ambitions. We learn almost nothing about these women’s personal lives and — blissfully — no one has pulled Ms. Banner aside and told her that her characters need to be likable.... “Intelligence” has a velvet-glove grip that’s neatly unrelenting. There’s no negotiating with that.”
“Jess Chayes’ direction is superb, creating a perfect arc to this densely written drama and bringing its packed prose to life."
“★★★★★ Intelligence doesn’t just pass the Bechdel-Wallace test, it raises the bar for what a feminist production can be... Exploring the relationships within and between genders in both the first and third worlds without ever delving into romance, this story proves that “three smart women thinking about the world” can be a commanding situation in hands of the right people...The highest quality... Intelligence delivers a flawless performance.”
Named one of The Guardian's 2018 "TOP PICKS OF THE FRINGE"
“★★★★ Sharp, funny writing, which pulls absurdity from the mundane... Director Jess Chayes has done a remarkable job of pulling everything together and it is the comedy that enables the emotional punches to carry so much weight. This is a strange reflection on female friendships, loneliness, rejection, denial and the need to find yourself. I won’t forget it in a hurry.”
★★★★ The dialogue is cleverly crafted and skillfully executed, with expert direction by Jess Chayes, masterful set design by Carolyn Mraz and wonderful costumes by Evan Prizant. A piece that challenges as well as entertaining you throughout, this is an entirely unique play that will make you think, and leave you wanting more.”
Theater is Easy Best Bet
"Chayes directs here as well and her simplicity and precision shines again... When viewed together there is a startling sense of the unknown that has all of us trapped, particularly now."
Time Out New York Critics' Pick
"The script, studded with amusingly offbeat asides, could play well in theaters across the country, especially in the hands of a director as deft as Jess Chayes. It’s difficult, though, to imagine better enactors than the two currently negotiating a precarious bond in this modest premiere."
"Jess Chayes directed the play with a wonderfully light hand, allowing her actors to find both the little moments and big revelations that draw you into them deeper and want to follow where they are taking us. Under Ms. Chayes's skillful direction Gabe, Annie, and the world they live in come to life so naturally that as the audience you truly feel like a voyeur.
"How people make a living, roughly or smoothly, and what they make of themselves are the questions animating this nicely modern adaptation."
"The Assembly is a theatre company dedicated to starting conversations and tackling contemporary issues. That Poor Dream, their most recent production at the New Ohio Theatre, is another excellent illustration of their mission, intelligently using Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations to draw a parallel to our own economic society and the issues with class identity that run rampant in it....
Director Jess Chayes weaves the action of the play into the set beautifully, melding past and present into the overall metaphor for the journey that each person goes on in his or her life."
"Director Jess Chayes had a mammoth task of guiding the That Poor Dreamtrain, and fortunately her effort was sublime."
"directorial and technical invention are two of the purest pleasures in Krista Knight's comedy Primal Play....Director Jess Chayes meets the piece's many challenges with playground aplomb."
“strange and stunning… Jess Chayes directs the piece with razor-sharp precision and an enormous amount of understanding and insight. The text, while rich and multi-layered, certainly presents an array of challenges and requires a skilled translator. Ms. Chayes has shaped the piece beautifully and allows it to come forth in all its strange beauty.”
– Julia Hochner, New York Theatre Review on THE SISTER
“As directed by Jess Chayes,… the actors, especially Mr. Kreager, are uniformly commendable.”
– Andy Webster, The New York Times on THE SISTER
*NYT Critics' Pick
“A cutting-edge young theater collective…Jess Chayes’s intense and thoughtful direction guides the audience through two decades of the group’s history….By the end we have witnessed a sort of sociological big bang, when this tight, angry ball of political energy suddenly bursts and disbands irreparably.”
– Catherine Rampell, The New York Times on HOME/SICK
“An intelligent and dynamic package…The ensemble’s connection with one another is the truest homage they could offer to the memory of the collective they have clearly, though reservedly, come to admire.”
– Jason Fitzgerald, Backstage Magazine on HOME/SICK
*Pick of the week
“This is a group of brilliant artists who will, without question, make their mark in the world of theater for a long time to come….Jess Chayes’s direction is daring and engrossing….Their connection with one another, both as actors and characters, is palpable and powerful.”
– Hilary Bettis, OffOffOnline on HOME/SICK
“Impressively researched and clear-eyed, home/sick shows us the Underground’s internal contradictions, and we see Bolshevik passion lapsing into self-delusion and then flaring up again, until we are unsure what to admire and what to deplore.”
– Helen Shaw, Time Out NY on HOME/SICK
“The Assembly Theatre Project is staging an inventive, lively, passionate Sisters, which effectively answers both the demands of the play and the oddities of its performance space…
Theatergoers stopped being surprised by fourth-wall-violations long ago. But Three Sisters invites us in so gently, so courteously, and the production takes our involvement so seriously, that we rush to meet it halfway. The second act concludes with some business about tea; we are served tea at intermission. The final act takes place in an orchard; we are given dead branches to hold. This is hilarious, but it’s more than superficially clever — peering at the scene through branches, we are standing in for our own voyeurism, which becomes a part of the play. In this way the stage, and the production itself, are redefined to include us and the entire theater, and it is magical. We are transformed.”
“Chayes’s direction of Meteorology is astute, nimbly intertwining life lessons with levity. With such talent onboard, there do not appear to be many storms that this company cannot weather.”
– Doug Strassler, Show Business Weekly on THE DARK HEART OF METEOROLOGY
“The Dark Heart of Meteorology, the debut show for the young company The Assembly at Horse Trade Theater Group, is a delight, featuring a tour de force performance by the fine indie theater actor Richard Lovejoy… [Stephen] Aubrey's script is tight and smart and insightful and often hilarious, and Jess Chayes's deft direction serves it well.”
– Martin Denton, nytheatre.com on THE DARK HEART OF METEOROLOGY
“Thankfully, playwright Krista Knight, director Jess Chayes, and the Assembly theater ensemble have complete faith in every aspect of their wacked-out concept—their comedy stems from the organic merger of the bizarre elements on stage, not self-conscious jokes about the anachronism of it all.”
–Eli Epstein-Deutsch, The Village Voice on CLEMENTINE AND THE CYBER DUCKS
“The painful story that was in danger of being lost to history is brought to life by a lyrical, well-researched script, slick performances by the cast andJess Chayes’s imaginative direction…As the innocent pleasure of the matinee turns to terror, the choreography of the characters who move from dancing to dying while the circus orchestra plays on is impeccable, beautiful and touching. Despite the brevity of the play, each is brought sharply to life to tell not only the story of that fateful day, but also of wider American society.”
– The Scotsman (4/5 stars) on WE CAN'T REACH YOU, HARTFORD
“a taut study of disintegration… Direction, by Jess Chayes is tight and immediate. She stages the action to perfection, and never lets the tension drop.”
– John Park, The Fringe Report (Winner, Best Psychological Drama – 2005 Fringe Report Awards) on TONE CLUSTERS
“Fascinating, beautiful, heartbreaking”
– Three Weeks (5/5 stars) on TONE CLUSTERS