Posted inArts & Culture

Prince of Darkness

Genre specialist John Carpenter returns to the principle of confined space that he used as a disciplinary structure in Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing in this horror thriller set in an abandoned church. The main difference here from earlier Carpenter films is the heavy metaphysical baggage: a team of graduate students and teachers […]

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Chuck, Barry

Last week, on successive afternoons, I spent more time than I should have, probably, standing in front of Kroch’s & Brentano’s trying to get a glimpse of Chuck Berry (Thursday) and Barry Manilow (Friday). Both came late, giving me the chance to mingle. On Thursday I stood next to one couple for 15 minutes and […]

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Animal Farm; The Scarecrow

ANIMAL FARM Bailiwick Repertory THE SCARECROW Center Theater A good play probably can’t be ruined by a mediocre set or ugly costumes. But a brilliant designer can transform a marginal production into a spectacle in which the visual excitement enriches the script and energizes the performances. Two plays currently running are dazzling examples of this: […]

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Kid Creole & the Coconuts

Like Sun Ra, James Brown, Fela Kuti, and a few others, August “Kid Creole” Darnell uses the stage and a big crowd of musicians to create a rich, evocative, obsessively personal world of his own. It’s a trashily theatrical movie-studio vision of Pan-Americana, a big supercosmopolitan calypso/R&B/Latin/pop/Caribbean funk mess with 1940s swing horns slathered all […]

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The Three Sisters

THE THREE SISTERS Commons Theatre Company If you need a plot to prove there’s a play, The Three Sisters is too honest and objective to supply one. Stubbornly, Chekhov refuses to crush these ragged lives into a story; the real conflicts lie buried alive inside the characters, while their external circumstances, piled up by the […]

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Fridays

FRIDAYS Touchstone Theatre Fridays is about growing old, resisting change, and coping with the inevitable loss of friends. The plot revolves around two elderly men, George and Holly, who are having trouble sustaining the Friday-night card game they conducted for 30 years, and the climax involves violating tradition in order to sustain the tradition (a […]

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David Torn’s Cloud About Mercury

“I consider myself more of a multi-instrumentalist than strictly a guitarist,” says David Torn, whose only instrument is the guitar–albeit a guitar outfitted with enough peripheral devices to fill a small wing at General Electric. Torn, who plays with the Everyman Band and last hit Chicago as part of Jan Garbarek’s group, is the kind […]

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Eleventh Dream Day

If I invited you to see a two-guitar band prone to extended jamming, you might expect to hear sawdust-brained jock-rockers who turn their amps up to 11 and have a songwriter named Fido. And in the case of Chicago’s sensational Eleventh Dream Day, you’d be dead wrong. While the nostalgic cretins in rock’s mainstream have […]

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Ghost Watch

GHOST WATCH Chicago Actors Ensemble Remember James Pike? He was the Episcopal Bishop of California who got a little flaky in the 60s and ended up renouncing the Church. One of his excesses, at least insofar as the Episcopalians were concerned, was his involvement with the occult: he hired mediums to help him get in […]

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Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown sometimes seems bent on packing elements of every imaginable facet of American black popular music into each set, in a kind of Texas roadhouse version of the eclectic dilettantism of Taj Mahal. But beneath the occasionally jarring musical shifts–from blues to country swing to bluegrass to hillbilly to funk–lies one of the […]

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The Straight Dope

I have long been interested in the “Philadelphia Experiment,” which was supposedly conducted by the U.S. Navy during World War II as one of the three “city projects.” The Manhattan Project, of course, was the development of the atomic bomb; the Philadelphia Experiment supposedly involved the use of magnetism to bend light rays and thus […]