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Posted inArts & Culture

Curse of the Crying Heart

In the second installment of Nathan Allen’s “Valentine Trilogy,” the cowboy/punk Melancholy Kid finds himself in feudal Japan saving princess Sakurako and her government. But despite imaginative writing, an inventive staging, and savvy performances, this show will probably be inaccessible to all but those already infatuated with anime-esque melodrama (or those who saw the first […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Don’t Tell Us We’re Here

Bryn Magnus’s eerie character study for the Curious Theatre Branch is too long and isn’t shaped well–it plods along in the beginning. The staging is awkward given the skinny space, and it’s weighed down by occasional mugging. Yet by the end this is a transfixing piece of theater. Seven quirky Humboldt Park characters intersect, including […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Stephen Elliott

In his raucous book-length dispatch from the 2004 campaign trail, Looking Forward to It, Stephen Elliott makes brief mention of his latest novel, Happy Baby, as a “dark, hopeless book”–but it’s a characterization to be taken with a grain of salt. Though Happy Baby (just out in paperback from Picador) is at times relentlessly grim, […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The American Clock

Arthur Miller’s generous 1979 remembrance of the Depression and its aftermath unashamedly imitates the photo-realism of Clifford Odets. Newsreel-like vignettes capture everything from the great stock market crash to World War II as Miller creates his own living newspaper, rich with the period’s resilience and regrets, through a 150-minute, Terkel-like oral history embellished by the […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

Director Frank Merle’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy for the Keyhole Theatre Company is shorter but strangely labored. Unthinkably, he omits the play within the play–a pivotal scene in which psychosexual tensions and revenge fantasies collide and are transformed into palpable menace. A few judicious cuts elsewhere cure the characters of their nasty habit of […]

Posted inNews & Politics

The Straight Dope

I’m a runner, and I’m always having to take grief from people (especially my wife) who happily point out that you’ll get the same benefit walking three miles as you will running the same distance, and you won’t risk crippling arthritis of all your major body parts. So the other day I had a flash! […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Hellzapoppin’

Rarely shown in the U.S. these days, this 1941 film of the wildly deconstructive stage farce with Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson is still regarded as a classic in Europe, and it lives up to its reputation. The credit sequence establishes the wartime mood with its vision of hell as a munitions factory (where demons […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Superstar in a Housedress

“Jackie is just speeding away / Thought she was James Dean for a day,” sang Lou Reed in “Walk on the Wild Side.” But writer-performer Jackie Curtis, who died of a drug overdose in 1985, was more than some androgynous speed freak; his satiric, sexually ambivalent take on popular culture influenced John Waters, David Bowie, […]

Posted inArts & Culture

The Importance of Being Earnest

Mayslake Hall provides an appropriately posh setting for Oscar Wilde’s comedy about the tribulations of 19th-century England’s upper crust. When two bachelors take the same alter ego named Ernest–one to avoid responsibility (“Ernest did it!”), the other to trick a young woman–the resulting misunderstandings make for amusing farce and for plenty of Wilde’s catty observations […]