Posted inArts & Culture

The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard, Reverie Theatre Company, at Stage Left Theatre. What was funny to 19th-century Russian aristocrats may not seem humorous to American audiences today, so modern directors often ignore Chekhov’s assertion that his plays were comedies. But the farcical dimension is hard to shrug off in The Cherry Orchard, whose characters include such stock […]

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Sammy Fender

In the neighborhood joints where blues guitarist Sammy Fender has been a mainstay since the 50s, emotional honesty and the ability to generate excitement are at least as important as originality. Fender borrows heavily from B.B. King’s string-bending style, but he also plays declamatory chords and crisp single-note clusters adapted from late-50s west-side stylists like […]

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Shakira

Shakira is half-Lebanese and half-Colombian, and her frizzy, unbrushed hair has bad roots. Her clothes look like they’ve been gnawed by wild animals and her belly-dance hip-shake gyration thing is so alarming it bypasses sexy and goes straight to primal. But unlike most half-naked diva skanks, she actually rocks a stage, stomping and kicking like […]

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Starting Here, Starting Now

Starting Here, Starting Now, White Horse Theatre Company, at Wing & Groove Theatre. White Horse, started last year by UIC grads to showcase musicals, seems completely flummoxed by this revue. Lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. and composer David Shire are known for shoehorning pretty good songs into pretty lousy stories (like Big, though Maltby also wrote […]

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Ancient Greeks

Here’s what happens when a brainy guitarist with a predilection for abstract composition and dry free improv forms a rock band. Nathaniel Braddock started Ancient Greeks in 1998; this winter they finally released an album that hints at a workable balance between self-consciously cerebral and melodically hedonistic. The songs on the quartet’s Flameshovel debut, The […]

Posted inColumns & Opinion

Savage Love

Usually I love your open, honest, thoughtful advice, but what you said to Momma Violates Poppa, the sexually frustrated pregnant woman whose husband won’t sleep with her, was as cruel as what her husband’s doing to her. Yes, it’s possible that her husband’s just plain not turned on. But no sex with the love of […]

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Diva

Back in the day, all-girl orchestras might have had a world of technique and training, but they still traded primarily on their novelty value. (Think of the band portrayed in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot.) When the women’s big band Diva first appeared in 1993, it did so with a whiff of that same […]

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Whispers Want to Holler

Whispers Want to Holler, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. Playwright Marta Effinger raises an interesting question in this piece about a woman planning to sell her property: what do we owe the past? And she embodies the question in a powerful pageant of African-American history. But the play’s dramatic structure is as rickety as the lattice […]

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Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors, Drury Lane Oakbrook. Most musical-theater productions strive to inflate the show to giant proportions, making the big seem even bigger. Generally speaking, intimacy isn’t even on the map. But Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s 1982 musical rewrite of schlock auteur Roger Corman’s 1960 cult-classic film is an exception, a modest ugly […]

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Baby With the Bathwater

Baby With the Bathwater, Janus Theatre, at the Athenaeum Theatre. In his 1983 two-act diatribe against bad parenting, Christopher Durang shoots too many arrows. Dated absurdist humor can’t disguise the overkill in his excruciatingly repetitious depiction of Helen and John, ignorant progenitors of a child whose sex they’re too repressed to determine. They name the […]

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The Jackie Wilson Story (My Heart Is Crying, Crying…)

Soul singer Jackie Wilson died young and practically forgotten in 1984–after collapsing onstage in 1975, he spent eight and a half years drifting in and out of a coma. But Black Ensemble Theater’s musical biodrama resurrects his spirit in all its audacious glory. Originally opening in February 2000 for a seven-week run, writer-director Jackie Taylor’s […]

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Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Olivier Messiaen’s 1944 work for solo piano, Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jesus (“Twenty Gazes at the Infant Jesus”), ranks among the 20th century’s great artistic creations, rivaling the landmark variations of Bach and Brahms and Beethoven’s last sonatas. But it’s more than that–it’s also a grand profession of faith. A devout Catholic, the young Messiaen was […]