Posted inArts & Culture

Friday in America

Friday in America, at Victory Gardens Theater. Longtime Illinois Wesleyan University professor John Ficca’s Italian-American family drama hinges on a young Korean war vet’s decision to rejoin the army instead of working for the family business. The dilemmas Ficca presents are familiar but worthy: how to honor one’s ethnic heritage while establishing one’s own identity, […]

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Unhappily Ever After

The Beauty Queen of Leenane Steppenwolf Theatre Company By Adam Langer In most cases, the crucial object in a story is something imposing–a heavy wooden door behind which a child is hiding or a sturdy chest concealing a body. The fate of every character depends upon whether or not that object is discovered or opened […]

Posted inMusic

Spot Check

BOTTLETONES 7/23, SCHUBAS This is a CD-release party for the Carbondale quintet’s Sheriff of Bottletone Co. (Relay), a dense packet of fuzzed-up, tricked-out, and thoroughly Albinied southern boogiebilly, influenced at least as much by the Cramps and the Flat Duo Jets as by any 40s swing band or 50s rockabilly outfit I can think of. […]

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Hard Scrambled

HARD SCRAMBLED, Empire Theatre Company and Terrapin Theatre, at the Factory Theater Company. Nothing remotely profound happens in this Mamet spin-off about male “bonding,” stolen money, and betrayal–but the energy and sincerity of both production and play push Hard Scrambled to an impressive limit. Directed by Robbie Hayes with visceral gusto, this Chicago premiere of […]

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Kermit Ruffins & the Barbeque Swingers

KERMIT RUFFINS & THE BARBECUE SWINGERS I don’t know what to call Kermit Ruffins, the thirtysomething trumpeter and singer who expertly invokes the classic Crescent City jazz of the 1920s–“neoclassic” already describes the wannabeboppers, who are trying their damnedest to bring back 50s jazz. Besides, Ruffins doesn’t really play “neo” anything: though his music harks […]

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TOMORROWLAND On Tomorrowland’s 1998 debut, Sequence of the Negative Space Changes (Kranky), Ann Arborites Nick Brackney and Steve Baker take a scrappy punk approach to space rock, imaginatively transforming limited resources–single-note electric guitar lines, simple keyboard figures–into meditative sheets of sound. A persistent darkness and drifting clouds of corrosive noise keep the beatless proceedings out […]

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Man or Astro-man?

MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? “It’s the same series of signals over and over again!” marvels a male British voice at the opening of Man or Astro-man?’s latest album, Eeviac: Operational Index and Reference Guide, Including Other Modern Computational Devices (Touch and Go). We’ve all heard this line before–the baffled scientist alerting his colleagues to a mysterious […]

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Hilton Ruiz & Dave Valentin

HILTON RUIZ & DAVE VALENTIN Born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, pianist Hilton Ruiz grew up in a neighborhood filled with Latin music. But as a child prodigy who’d played Carnegie Hall at age eight, he was soon looking beyond the end of his nose for inspiration, and by 1973, when he […]

Posted inNews & Politics

West Side Stories

Pa always took Marge and me with him on a summer’s night when he went to get his pail of beer. One night he had to work overtime. We were little kids, three and four, and he was coming home late from work–and there were his two little girls walking down the alley with his […]

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The All Night Strut!

THE ALL NIGHT STRUT!, Drury Lane Theatre Evergreen Park. The title lies–but you might wish this sizzling revue of hits from 1924 to 1959 strutted all night. Director-choreographer Marc Robin’s local premiere of Fran Charnas’s tribute to bebop, swing, jazz, gospel, and pop is showbiz savvy and perfect right down to the last 16th note. […]

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Black Star

BLACK STAR Black Star–New York rappers Mos Def and Talib Kweli–arrived last year as hip-hop saviors, embracing old-school virtues in a rigorous critique of commercial hip-hop’s artistic stasis. Their own rhymes feature a noticeable absence of the misogyny, violence, and greed at the heart of the genre’s woes, and on “Children’s Story,” from last year’s […]