Posted inArts & Culture

The Royal Family

The Royal Family, Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Like latter-day descendant The Royal Tenenbaums, this 1927 play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber depicts a brood of talented oddballs in their tony New York digs, struggling with how special they are. The Cavendish clan, however, is a thinly disguised version of the theatrical Barrymore dynasty–one many […]

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Apple Tree Theatre. In Tennessee Williams’s classic, a rich old man and his handsome young son both mistreat their wives–the former through casual vilification and the latter through stubborn indifference. Their ill-used consorts love them nevertheless. And over the course of a play traditionally staged as a simple diva […]

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Taking Steps

Taking Steps, City Lit Theater Company. Ridiculously prolific British playwright Alan Ayckbourn has a formula: miscued entrances and exits, a healthy dose of boudoir humor, a few mistaken identities, and too many slamming doors to count. If you’ve seen one Ayckbourn comedy, you’ve seen ’em all; depending on how jaded you are, you might say […]

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As a longtime fan of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, which begins with British code breakers during World War II, I’m a sucker for the romantic and paranoid atmosphere of this thriller on the same subject, adapted by Tom Stoppard from the novel by Robert Harris. Production designer John Beard has a field day, his period […]

Posted inNews & Politics

City File

The Chicago appellate judge you don’t want to face in your free-speech appeal. Seventh Circuit judge and prolific author Richard Posner stunned a roomful of ardent libertarians with his after-dinner remarks at a March 28 Cato Institute meeting at the Ritz-Carlton: “Civil liberties have an accordion-like structure, expanding and contracting according to the degree of […]

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Jim McNeely

A fine pianist in anyone’s book, over the past few years Jim McNeely has dropped back a little in the ranks of jazz keyboard wizards–not because he’s lost any talent or imaginative drive, but because he’s plowed so much of both into his work as an arranger and composer. On recent albums like Group Therapy […]

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Tom Paxton & Annie Hills

Folksingers Tom Paxton and Anne Hills have performed together on and off since the early 80s, but until Under American Skies, released last year on Appleseed, they’d never cut an album as a duo. Skies is dominated by left-leaning populist anthems, some borrowed from the “folk movement” of the 60s and 70s and others original […]

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Calendar Sidebar

Like lots of high school kids, John Backderf’s friend Jeff was painfully shy and socially awkward. Alienated and lonely, he got drunk before school to defend himself against the relentless humiliation of the Revere High School jocks and pretty boys, and spent most of his spare time collecting roadkill and cultivating his budding interest in […]

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Bud Shank

Alto saxist Bud Shank is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In 1950s Los Angeles, his name was synonymous with west-coast jazz–the cool (some called it bland) offshoot of bop with its roots in the 1949 recordings of Miles Davis’s nonet. Shank certainly had the credentials to warrant this association: in 1950 he’d starred with Stan […]

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Great Catherine and Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress

Great Catherine and Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress, ShawChicago, at the Chicago Cultural Center. Finally, a true test of Shaw lovers’ devotion: these Russian-themed trifles reveal G.B. at his most maddeningly capricious. Only the dedication of a crackerjack ensemble can separate the pleasing from the precious, as director Robert Scogin attempts to rescue these 1913 and […]