Posted inArts & Culture

Marek’s Monkey

MAREK’S MONKEY Chicago Dramatist’s Workshop Marek’s Monkey is one of those near soap operas in which every character suffers from, grapples with, and ultimately solves–or at least acknowledges–some major problem in her or his life. Sarah Hughes can’t adjust to the fact that she is getting older and that her husband, once a highly respected […]

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A Tumbleweed in Cowtown

A TUMBLEWEED IN COWTOWN The Armadillo Theatre at the Chicago Cooperative Stage In another time, in another place, A Tumbleweed in Cowtown would have made a good episode on Love American Style. The story is simply a variation on a stock boy-meets-girl story: nerdy lonely guy is set up by swinging best friend on a […]

Posted inNews & Politics

Gallery Fire

“Hey, Scott, come over here! There’s a building on fire! You can still see flames.” Well-dressed woman to friends: “Oh, God. Everyone in the neighborhood’s gonna have to get new upholstery.” The weekend crowd milled around the site of the fire—the block bounded by Superior, Huron, Orleans, and Sedgwick—staring at the smoldering ruins of the […]

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The Three Musketeers

THE THREE MUSKETEERS Absolute Theatre Company and Organic Theater Company It would be hard to come up with a better stage adaptation of The Three Musketeers than the Absolute Theatre’s current production. Well staged, well acted, well paced, this two-part, six-hour show is at once entertaining, exciting, and faithful to the spirit of Dumas’ original […]

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Only the Strong Survive

ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE Black Ensemble Only the Strong Survive is awkwardly staged, not especially well acted, and at times painfully predictable and undramatic. It should be one of those awful shows critics sharpen their pencils for. But despite its flaws it works–at least some of the time. The credit goes to the music of […]

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HYENA Soho Stage at the Shakespeare Street Theater Thirty seconds into Hyena the mystery was gone. Not that there was much to begin with. The set, which featured a cabinet full of handguns over the fireplace, told us–a la Chekhov–that a gun would go off before the end of the second act. And S.L. Schultz’s […]

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In Cheap Shoes

IN CHEAP SHOES Theater Oobleck at the Broadway Arts Center In Cheap Shoes begins normally enough. Detective Ray enters wearing the standard-issue hat, trench coat, and dangling cigarette of a gumshoe. He walks like Bogart into Timmy’s butcher shop and then, turning to the audience, begins to narrate the story, in the tradition of all […]

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The Enormous Room

THE ENORMOUS ROOM Next Theatre Company In Robertston Davies’s novel Fifth Business an old Catholic priest tells the narrator, “The older I grow the less Christ’s teaching says to me.” I feel the same way about E. E. Cummings. Once, Cummings’s playfully rebellious poems, full of love and spring and birds and goat-footed balloonmen, seemed […]

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The Meeting

THE MEETING Chicago Theatre Company The Meeting has the kind of premise that can’t even work during Black History Month: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King spend an evening together on Valentine’s Day 1965 (one week before Malcolm X’s assassination) reflecting on their lives and discussing their divergent philosophies. Of course speeches alone of Malcolm […]

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JAZZMO Director’s Co-op at Cotton Chicago Too many scoundrels have learned that the phrase avant-garde can magically transform a flawed show into an “experiment.” No idea is so bad that it can’t be redeemed with a few paragraphs of foggy academic prose explaining how this all-too-boring play is really on the cutting edge. Happily, JazzMo […]

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A Date With Elvis

A DATE WITH ELVIS Off Bowery Theater at Club Dreamerz Even when Elvis was alive, he seemed funny to me. He was everything a good middle-class boy shouldn’t want to be. He was campy, kitsch, vulgar, and his home, decorated in K-mart gaudiness, was a shrine to lower-middle-class aesthetics. After his death he became Saint […]

Posted inFilm

The American Astronaut

Astronauts roam the galaxy like homeless cowpokes in Cory McAbee’s tripped-out, low-budget comic space opera (2001), a ripping yarn about a nearly broke intergalactic trader (McAbee) transporting a 16-year-old boy to a nearly all-female colony on Venus while being chased by the murderous Professor Hess (played with wonderful understatement by Rocco Sisto). Mott Hupfel II’s […]