Posted inMusic

Nervous Breakdown

Nervous Breakdown One of the more endearing quirks of the Nervous Center is that the performances, which take place in the basement of the boho Lincoln Square coffeehouse, never completely manage to drown out the footsteps of the patrons upstairs. But lately owners Richard and Ken Syska, brothers who’ve scraped by for more than five […]

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La Posada Magica

La Posada Magica, Transplant Theater Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Rooted in the Latin Christmas tradition of community reenactments of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter, this show has a darker edge than many holiday productions. The young heroine of La Posada Magica, Gracie, takes a supernatural detour from the procession singing of faith and […]

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The Firebird Alights

Maria Tallchief signed on to do a cameo as legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in the 1952 Busby Berkeley-Esther Williams swimsical Million Dollar Mermaid, then started to worry about authenticity. Her boss and first husband, New York City Ballet founder George Balanchine (another Russian), sent her to Pavlova’s onetime understudy, Muriel Stuart, to learn Pavlova’s […]

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Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

BIG RIVER: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Apple Tree Theatre. This 1985 Broadway hit was originally conceived partly as a vehicle for tunesmith Roger Miller and partly as a showcase for designer Heidi Landesman’s sweeping depiction of the Mississippi River. Apple Tree’s intimate vest-pocket production should by rights draw audiences more deeply into Mark Twain’s […]

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A Roaring Tragedy

A Roaring Tragedy, TinFish Theatre. The play’s premise sounds like a joke–“There’s this dysfunctional Yugoslavian family, see?” And its characters are a textbook sitcom clan, complete with a harried housewife who burns the dinner, a trigger-happy brother who drinks too much, and a lazy Elvis-obsessed teenage son. The plot revolves around the release of senile […]

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St. Germain

St. Germain Young French DJ and producer Ludovic Navarre–who’s released two albums of ambient jazz et cetera as St. Germain, a name he shares with his five-piece band–has attracted a mob of sycophantic fans masquerading as reviewers, and collectively they seem to think his recent Tourist (Blue Note) is our era’s answer to the Miles […]

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Dramatizations of the Holocaust usually fall prey to histrionics or stylistic excess, but this stunning 1961 portrayal of a Jew’s wanderings through occupied Warsaw is the exception that proves the rule. The simple, almost deadpan style of director Andrzej Wajda is neatly matched by Serge Merlin’s superbly even performance as the profoundly disoriented Jakob Gold, […]

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Tomato Box

TOMATO BOX “Tomato Box” is an oddly clunky, utilitarian name for percussionist Michael Brenneis’s quartet. It belies the frequent delicacy of their postmodern chamber improv–delicacy that survives bassist Henry Boehm’s arco shrieks, the occasional police siren, and the battery of hubcaps and kitchen utensils Brenneis uses alongside his small conventional trap set. In groups like […]

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The Santaland Diaries

The Santaland Diaries, Roadworks Productions, at the Chicago Cultural Center. The dominant monologue of the three in this one-man show is something like Springtime for Hitler, seemingly calculated to repulse most audiences. Sentimental theatergoers won’t warm to the cheerless “The SantaLand Diaries,” and the cynical folk who might like it probably aren’t attending the holiday […]