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Posted inArts & Culture

Belle & Sebastian

Coming from almost anyone else, Belle & Sebastian’s “Step Into My Office, Baby” (“I wanna give you the job / A chance for overtime”) would sound dirty. But from these twee Scots, for whom temerity has never been an issue, it sounds more cute than creepy, as though they’ve finally decided that playing at grown-up […]

Posted inNews & Politics

News of the Weird

Lead Story In July in Edmonton, Alberta, 42-year-old Anthony Alan Burton pleaded guilty to a laundry list of charges stemming from a spectacular 2002 robbery attempt: After wrapping his head in gauze and covering his face with clots of silicone putty, a layer of pink foundation makeup, and oversize glasses, he’d grabbed a samurai sword, […]

Posted inFilm

Vengeance Is Theirs

Mystic River ** (Worth seeing) Directed by Clint Eastwood Written by Brian Helgeland With Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Kevin Chapman, Laura Linney, Adam Nelson, Emmy Rossum, and Cameron Bowen. The critical community has spoken: Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River is a masterpiece and a profound, tragic statement about who […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Chicago Book Festival

Chicago’s annual literary festival continues through October 30, with readings and book signings by local and national writers, poets, and scholars as well as discussions, lectures, workshops, tours, and children’s activities at bookstores, public libraries, and other venues. Some events feature the city’s “One Book, One Chicago” selection, Tim O’Brien’s National Book Award-winning novel The […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Sara Paretsky

Demonstrating a certain prescience or, as she’s said, a desire to get an inconvenient love interest out of the way, Sara Paretsky sent V.I. Warshawski’s journalist lover to Afghanistan to cover the Taliban at the end of her last novel, Total Recall (published September 9, 2001). In Paretsky’s new book, Blacklist (Putnam), Chicago PI Warshawski […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Frank Morgan

There are those who argue that if Charlie Parker had lived to a decent age (he never saw 35) he’d have ended up sounding something like Frank Morgan. I usually shy away from such speculation, but this notion’s worth a second look. When Morgan came up as a talented teenager in LA in the 40s, […]

Posted inArts & Culture

What the Dickens?! Really Hard Times at a Very Bleak House

What the Dickens?! Really Hard Times at a Very Bleak House, Free Associates, at the Royal George Theatre Center. Ripe for conquest by these skilled parodists, Dickens’s novels provide everything that comic improvisation feeds on: sudden crises, moral extremes, broad stereotypes, eccentric behavior. Rubber-faced, accent-perfect, and overt or subtle as needed, Adrienne Smith’s five ensemble […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Among the Olive Groves

Among the Olive Groves, AOG Productions, at Theatre Building Chicago. Paul of Tarsus was controversial, passionate, brilliant, and rigorously principled. But you’d never know it from this tepid, slow-moving account of his life. Playwright-producer Mark Kollar focuses on the years Paul spent being transported to and detained in Rome prior to his trial for treason. […]

Posted inNews & Politics

City File

Media monopoly exposed. If you type “Chicago” in the Center for Public Integrity’s Web site ( you’ll see a pie chart of who owns the 109 radio stations within 40 miles of the city. Two entities control 35 stations apiece: “educational” and “other/independent.” No media giant owns more than seven, and the total number of […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The Producers

The Producers, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre. Mel Brooks’s stage adaptation of his 1968 film reverts to the anything-for-a-laugh, politically incorrect musicals of its 1959 setting, flaunting lots of offensive stereotypes, especially of gays and Germans. With its unapologetically melodious score and Eisenhower-era evening wear, this retro revel revolves around shyster producers […]

Posted inArts & Culture


Reckless, New Leaf Theatre, at the Lincoln Park Cultural Center. Director Brandon Ray does a marvelous job with Craig Lucas’s fast-paced, morbid comedy. Bubbly chatterbox housewife Rachel plunges into the snow wearing her bathrobe and slippers on Christmas Eve. She leaves home in a hurry when she learns her husband has hired a hit man […]