Posted inArts & Culture

Love Your Mama

After a long and successful career in day care, Ruby L. Oliver made this, her first feature, originally known as Leola, in her late 40s. It’s a remarkable debut: assured, tightly focused, surprisingly upbeat considering the number of problems it addresses without flinching–and the best low-budget Chicago independent feature I’ve seen. Set in contemporary Chicago, […]

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Sex Lives of Superheroes/Subfertile

SEX LIVES OF SUPERHEROES and SUBFERTILE Griffin Theatre Company The men in Stephen Gregg’s Sex Lives of Superheroes and Tom Mardirosian’s Subfertile behave like the alter egos of comic book superheroes–well-meaning but uptight, geeky, and a little too fond of Star Trek. Such repressed characters don’t always have the chance to say what they feel, […]

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Reel Life: the quintessential hipster

Less famous (or notorious) than his friends William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, Herbert Huncke nonetheless holds a special place in the movement that reshaped American art and letters after World War II. It was Huncke who first gave the word “beat” its multidimensional meaning, which Ginsberg describes as “exhausted, at the bottom […]

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Getting There

A TRIBUTE TO GEORGE BALANCHINE Ballet Chicago at the Civic Opera House, February 25-27 Perhaps George Balanchine’s most quoted apothegm was that he wanted “to make audiences see music and hear dancing.” Balanchine’s proteges recall his genius for shaping movement to music. Yet his style–spare, formal, and precise–demands a high level of technical expertise and […]

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Attack of the Killer B’s

ATTACK OF THE KILLER B’S Some Mo’ Productions at the Factory Theater A little more than a year ago Sean Abley, taking a cue from Jill and Faith Soloway’s popular stage version of The Brady Bunch, directed his own adaptation of a cult classic, the unintentionally campy antidrug film from the 1930s Reefer Madness. Though […]

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Michael Jackson

It’s been years since Chicago came up with a major force in blues or R & B saxophone–west sider Michael Jackson might just be the one we’ve been waiting for. You might have heard him a few years ago on Somebody Call My Baby, an LP released by the late Johnny Christian on the Big […]

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Van Gogh

This revisionist look at the last 67 days of Vincent van Gogh’s life by the highly talented writer-director Maurice Pialat (La gueule ouverte, A nos amours, Under the Sun of Satan) shows the painter’s existence–including his sex life–to be a lot happier than is generally depicted. For starters, singer-songwriter-actor Jacques Dutronc–the “Bob Dylan of Paris” […]

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Black 47

Black 47 is a popular New York Irish bar band whose irrepressible leader, larry Kirwan, specializes in a heart-bursting brand of “green-card rock” that sets romantic tales of Irish famine, revolt, and emigration to music that combines the exuberance of Springsteen, the shambling, unemployed charm of Billy Bragg, and the instrumental attack of the Pogues. […]

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Denis Leary

I’m a bit confused by the widely held notion that comic Denis Leary sits on some Sam Kinison-like id-splotched politically incorrect comedy throne. His vociferous defenses of his personal vices–which on close examination come down to eating meat and smoking–are something less than sociopathic; his saliva-spewing delivery and indignantly raised voice far more often deal […]

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When the Rest of Heaven Was Blue

WHEN THE REST OF HEAVEN WAS BLUE Theatre M at Bedrocks There’s something collegiate about When the Rest of Heaven Was Blue, Theatre M’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe short stories and poetry. Poe’s works can seem amateurish, but that can’t be the whole explanation. For beyond the doggerel of some of his poetry and […]