Posted inArts & Culture

Shades of Black

Cut Flowers Chicago Theatre Company What playwright August Wilson does for over-the-hill black male characters, too old and too beaten down to pick themselves up, Minneapolis-based playwright-actor-composer Gavin Lawrence does for young black men who still have hope–often just barely–in Cut Flowers. There’s always been an appetite–at least among African-Americans–for entertainment that reflects the authentic […]

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Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Picasso at the Lapin Agile, New Leaf Theatre, at the Lincoln Park Cultural Center. The space looks more like a Jacobean antechamber than a fin de siecle cabaret, but Brandon Bruce’s revival fully captures the anarchic spirit of Steve Martin’s wild and crazy historical fantasy. It may be contrived and cute, but this quirky 80-minute […]

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Mad Forest

Mad Forest, Piven Theatre. Who really cares anymore whether the Romanian revolution of 1989 was hijacked by reactionary forces? At a time when all eyes are on the Middle East and North Korea, Caryl Churchill’s 1990 play about the fall of the Ceausescu regime could hardly seem less relevant. Mad Forest is about more than […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Nicole Mitchell

In the past most jazz flute players were a snooze because they weren’t really flute players–just saxophonists who could summon a weak rustle from the instrument but never mastered the nuances of timbre and attack. But nowadays the best of them play flute exclusively, like James Newton or Chicago’s Nicole Mitchell. With her clear, forceful […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Bella Voce

Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara began his musical education at Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy, but on a recommendation from that school’s namesake, he went on to study at Juilliard and with Aaron Copland and Roger Sessions. Afterward Rautavaara signed on with the European avant-garde, embracing its de rigueur leftism. His first opera, which paid tribute to the […]

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Radian

Many electronic musicians decorate their compositions with digital splutters or create tension between glitches and fixed rhythmic elements. But Radian finds music within the harsh clicks and stutters that Stefan Nemeth generates from his synthesizers and computers, developing an idea advanced several decades ago by the remarkably prescient British outfit This Heat. John Norman doesn’t […]

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Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Lifeline Theatre. Prolific children’s-book author Virginia Lee Burton grappled with her own fear of technology by personifying machines. In her stories, full of rich, timeless messages about friendship and overcoming adversity, faithful cable cars and tenacious snowplows triumph through heart and a bit of axle grease. Her most soulful […]

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Ocean Sea

Ocean Sea, at National Pastime Theater. This adaptation of Alessandro Barrico’s symbol-laden novel takes off only in the second act, after more than an hour of unbearable faux naivete. The work’s central conceit–people gather at a seaside hotel run by children to grapple with their lives–inspires adapter-directors Patrizia Acerra and Dawn Arnold to put adult […]

Posted inNews & Politics

She Hears Voices

Think you might be haunted? Local psychic Ruth Berger knows the warning signs: an inexplicably cold area in your house, mysterious sounds like knocking or banging or someone calling your name, and TVs and radios that pop on by themselves. Shaking beds are a sign, but only if you’re sleeping. If you have a sudden […]

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On Film: high hopes for “The Optimists”

Jacky Comforty’s 2000 documentary, The Optimists, tells the story of how 50,000 Bulgarian Jews–including Comforty’s parents and grandparents–were saved from the Nazi death camps by a coalition of protesters that included the Bulgarian Orthodox church, labor unions, members of parliament, and countless ordinary non-Jewish citizens. Comforty, an Evanston resident, spent 12 years working on the […]

Posted inMusic

International Anthems

Junoon “No More” Bruce Springsteen “The Rising” At the time of the first gulf war under the first Bush, I was a student at a tiny midwestern college where lefty politics was the wind beneath our collective wings. I remember somebody had a tiny black-and-white portable TV and some 40 of us had crammed into […]