Posted inArts & Culture

Hans Brinker

Hans Brinker, New Tuners Theatre, at the Theatre Building. Returning after a two-year absence, this 1994 musical draws its storytelling power from Mary Mapes Dodge’s 1865 classic, about a poor but plucky Dutch boy who can only afford wooden skates. Jane Boyd’s faithful dramatization is given a holiday spin by Philip Seward and John Sparks’s […]

Posted inFilm

In the Company of Women

The most notable thing about The Business of Strangers, as Andrew Sarris recently suggested in the New York Observer, may be the conjunction of three facts: that the central character of this first feature is a middle-aged woman executive, that it was written and directed by a man, and that it isn’t misogynist. This sounds […]

Posted inMusic

Spot Check

JACK BRUCE & THE CUICOLAND EXPRESS 12/14, PARK WEST Jack Bruce’s new solo album Shadows in the Air (Sanctuary) reanimates two moldy oldies by his most famous band, Cream: “White Room,” which gets an incongruous but effective bit of sexy Latin sway, and “Sunshine of Your Love.” It also leans heavily on guest stars of […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Cyrus Chestnut

In several Chicago-area appearances this week, Cyrus Chestnut will play Santa Claus–a role that fits the portly pianist partly because of his shape but mostly because of this season’s reissue of his 2000 album, A Charlie Brown Christmas (Atlantic), which updates Vince Guaraldi’s music from the perennial Peanuts holiday TV show. Every year plenty of […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Waltzing in the Garden of Forgiveness

Waltzing in the Garden of Forgiveness, Imago Ensemble, at Wing & Groove Theatre. Writer-director Susan Strong-Dowd dedicates her play to the late Fritzie Sahlins. And there are some parallels between Liesel, its protagonist, and the first wife of Bernie Sahlins, founder of Second City. The piece goes lickety-split in story-theater style through Liesel’s life, from […]

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Volume XII

Volume XII, Plasticene, at the Viaduct Theater. This revival of a 1997 work includes many fine athletic, comic, and intellectual moments–I wish I could recommend it more highly. But though director Dexter Bullard and his players give it everything they’ve got, it never quite comes together. To the accompaniment of fabulously bizarre music by Eric […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The Winter Pageant

In a welcome departure from whiz-bang holiday spectacles, Redmoon Theater’s annual Winter Pageant creates moody magic with puppets, masks, and other low-tech effects. Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, this family-friendly hour-long show incorporates all that’s best about Redmoon: gorgeous imagery, eerie sound effects, playful music, and participation by dozens of community members, adults and children […]

Posted inArts & Culture

La Posada Magica

La Posada Magica, Transplant Theater Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Like Dickens’s parable of healing, this 1994 Christmas musical by Octavio Solis and Marcos Loya confronts the dark side of the holiday. Bitter over the death of her baby brother, the teenage Gracie decides to join a posada (a street procession depicting Christ’s birth) and […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Christmas in July in December

Christmas in July in December, WNEP Theater. This “angst-filled celebration of the holidays” is as strange as its billing. Ostensibly a comedy, it’s preoccupied with the melancholy and morbid. And the anxieties afflicting its cheer-challenged characters are neither exaggerated nor downplayed, as the obvious silly or ironic approach would dictate. The result is a show […]

Posted inArts & Culture

A Triple XXXmas Special

A Triple XXXmas Special, C’est Destine, at MethaDome Theatre. Few holidays bring out the brattiness in the off-off-Loop theater scene the way Christmas does. This triple bill of new pieces aims to flip the Big Holiday the bird, but the evening is underrehearsed and too hesitant and scattered to deliver any meaningful insults. Brett Neveu’s […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, Child’s Play Touring Theatre, at Goodman Theatre. In this hour-long show, professional actors perform three stories written by schoolchildren: Dinky the Dancing Reindeer, the cute tale of a reindeer torn between her love for pulling Santa’s sleigh and her desire to dance; How Santa Got Well, the less original story […]