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The Massage Experience

Peter Rubnitz, owner of the massage spa Urban Oasis, is in Treatment Room No. 1, standing over what appears to be a stainless steel trash can. He opens it with a pedal; three heavy towels are hanging inside and steam swirls up around them. A cloth bag full of herbs is steeping in boiling water […]

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Bash/The Playhouse

BASH Real Work at Cafe Voltaire THE PLAYHOUSE at the Playwrights’ Center Ostensibly Neil Labute’s Bash is a young couple’s remembrance of a much-cherished trip to New York City for a bash at the Plaza. But even as Sue and John recall the most innocuous details of the weekend, a growing tension warns us that […]

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Restaurant Tours: Mexican food lightens up

If Italian is Chicago’s favorite ethnic food then Mexican (in the guise of Tex-Mex or even “southwestern cuisine”) has to be runner-up. We’ve got loads of “authentic” Mexican all over town, ranging from Mexican neighborhood spots to fancy-schmancy Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. A couple of now-fortunately-forgotten joints even tried to create nueva cocina of their […]

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Caponophobia

So Al Capone has come home to Chicago at last. His heavy presence, seated behind a goon-sized desk in a cloud of cigar smoke, stirs unwanted memories and old misgivings. In Chicago we call it Caponophobia. Victims suffer from a morbid fear of thinking about civic history or hearing it mentioned out loud. Teams of […]

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Through Navajo Eyes

In 1966 filmmaker Sol Worth and anthropologist John Adair traveled to Pine Springs, Arizona, a Navaho reservation town, to teach the Navaho how to make films. They tried to provide only technical, not aesthetic, instruction, and the resulting seven films are unlike anything I have ever seen. At that time many Navaho had never seen […]

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Diblo Dibala & Matchatcha

The Paris-based Diblo Dibala is a virtuoso of the central African soukous guitar style pioneered in the 1970s by late Zairean guitarist Franco. Formerly a featured soloist with the great singer-bandleader Kanda Bongo Man, Dibala has carved out his own niche with a markedly tradition-conscious style that serves as a nice break from the overdriven, […]

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Moby Dick

MOBY DICK at Cafe Voltaire, through August 27 Moby Dick. Icon of American literature, passion of high school English teachers, inspiration for 25-hour reading marathons on an old whaling ship in Connecticut. Those who haven’t read it may feel that fact somehow indicates they’re only half American, half educated, half literate. They might get a […]

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Penrhyn Male Voice Choir

A century ago the Penrhyn Male Voice Choir visited Chicago as part of the Columbian Exposition. Now its artistic heirs are making their first return trip. Times have changed, as the current 70-man roster can attest. The Penrhyn traces its roots to the Penrhyn State Quarry in the northern Welsh village of Bethesda. Its first […]

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Lyric Opera Center for American Artists

Last summer at Grant Park the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists mounted a fairly successful revival of Peter Brook’s eccentric, abridged version of Bizet’s Carmen. The staging managed to make the most out of the conceit by focusing on the opera’s smouldering passion instead of its social observations; the ensemble singing, for the most […]

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Support Your Local Bookseller

To the editors: Don’t let these self-styled book “superstores” fool you [“Book Wars,” July 16]. In my recent experience, 100,000 titles don’t always mean true “depth” of selection. Four recent frustrating book searches account for my continuing loyalty to the independents. Story One. About a year and a half ago I received delayed notice that […]

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A Play on Words

A PLAY ON WORDS Writer’s Theatre-Chicago at Books on Vernon Produced by the Writer’s Theatre-Chicago, in (aptly enough) the back room of a bookstore, A Play on Words offers mostly words and very little play. Part of this is deliberate: the group’s mission statement stresses a minimalist approach, “to prevent interference with the text and […]

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Prospect

Little gets solved in this play, just like in real life; and the plot meanders even more than real life. But the funny/sad characters in Octavio Solis’s remarkable Prospect, each solidly written and wiser than words, generate interest that transcends mere plot machinations. In real life we’d cross the street to avoid these losers, but […]

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American Fabulous

One hundred and five minutes of spontaneous talk from a homosexual named Jeffrey Strouth, seated in the back of a 1957 Cadillac in Columbus, Ohio, may sound like thin fare for a feature, but Reno Dakota’s 1992 movie–a tribute to his wild and uninhibited friend, who subsequently died of AIDS–kept me mesmerized and entertained. Recounting […]