Posted inArts & Culture

Mark Salzman

Mark Salzman, author of the memoir Iron & Silk, the novel Lying Awake, and three other books, visited a friend’s writing workshop at Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles for a purely selfish reason–to gain some insight into juvenile delinquents for a problematic novel in progress. He soon committed himself to teaching classes there twice […]

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Handsome Family

In 1998, after two albums on which ever-growing songwriting power struggled against uncertain arrangements, the Handsome Family (then a Chicago band, just recently pared down to the duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks) dropped Through the Trees, and at once all the components of their genius seemed to fall into place. They’ve been unstoppable ever […]

Posted inNews & Politics

Burnt Offering

“I hope this doesn’t seem too bizarre,” says artist Michael Onesko, leading the way through his Highland Park garden–past the elephant’s ears, prairie grasses, weeping conifers, amaranths, and Tibetan prayer flags–to the arbor where he regularly sees spirits. Black, opaque, and shaped like the Nike swoosh, these visitors are of unclear origin, though Onesko says […]

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Runaway Jury

It won’t make gun lobbyists happy and certainly has traces of liberal hokum, but this bracing courtroom thriller is the most entertaining and satisfying John Grisham adaptation I’ve seen. A young widow in New Orleans brings a civil suit against a gun manufacturer after her husband perishes in an indiscriminate massacre, and an old-fashioned local […]

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Taking Sides

Adapted by Ronald Harwood from his stage play, this dialectical drama has plenty of creaky moments, but Harvey Keitel compensates with a canny, surprising performance as an American major in postwar Germany who’s ordered to make an example of the great conductor Wilhelm FurtwŠngler (Stellan Skarsgard) as part of the denazification program. A former insurance […]

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A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before Dying, Steppenwolf Theatre Company. This play is rich with lessons about personal responsibility, facing challenges, and contributing to the greater good. No wonder it was selected for Steppenwolf’s Arts Exchange series of weekday performances for students (two Saturday stagings open to the public remain). In an expeditious 90 minutes, Romulus Linney’s stage […]

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Aztec Hotel

Aztec Hotel, Teatr Cogitatur, at the Chopin Theatre. For a city with such a large Polish population, Chicago gets surprisingly few opportunities to see contemporary Polish theater. Now Chopin artistic director Zygmunt Dyrkacz has brought in Katowice’s experimental Teatr Cogitatur for a two-week stand ending this weekend. Aztec Hotel, created by Witold Izdebski and Katarzyna […]

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Skuscocfah!!!

Skuscocfah!!!, NihilistGELO, at Safety Pin. A one-sheet program charmingly bills this work as “a bad play by J Scott”–but perhaps the phrase describes his wicked intent rather than the show’s quality. Skuscocfah!!! is just as preoccupied with human cruelty as Scott’s nausea-inducing work with Half Cocked Productions, but he’s progressed to the point where he’s […]

Posted inNews & Politics

Correction

Dear Peter Margasak, Great article on Kyle Bruckmann [Post No Bills, October 10]! (PS: it was Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, that invited Kyle and his group to present the concert on campus; we were thrilled to have him.) Christie Vohs Artistic director Mostly Music at NEIU

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Bash: Latterday Plays

Bash: Latterday Plays, Open Cage Ensemble, at the Viaduct Theater. I’ve never been able to decide whether playwright Neil LaBute, a practicing Mormon, is a moralist who aims to expose our society’s ethical lapses or whether his plays and films are themselves symptoms of moral decay. LaBute is so detached and cynical in this trio […]

Posted inNews & Politics

Spies in Training

Dear editor, Mark Scheffler rightly points out the alarming dearth of fluent speakers of languages vital to intelligence community efforts to fight terrorism [“What’s Urdu for ‘We’re Screwed’?” October 10]. His diagnosis that this shortfall is caused simply by a lack of government interest in and funding for academic pursuit of these languages is, however, […]

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Mexican Wrestling Macbeth

Mexican Wrestling Macbeth, The Mammals, at Bailiwick Arts Center. The Mexican wrestling film defies easy description. Part Republic serial knockoff, part Cormanesque pastiche, part Rock’em Sock’em Robots, the subtropical subgenre, which had its heyday in the 60s, starred actual wrestling superstars, generally playing themselves–except with comic-book crime fighting powers. Imagine a brooding shot of a […]