Posted inArts & Culture

Sonny Rollins

My desert island disc? Sonny Rollins’s 1956 album Saxophone Colossus, hands down–unless I’m allowed to bring a box set, at which point it turns into a toss-up between The Complete Prestige Recordings and The Freelance Years (Riverside). Rollins has provided at least three of my most memorable concert experiences–a show at Symphony Center in the […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Chris Cain

California-based bluesman Chris Cain clearly takes after the late Albert King: his guitar playing invokes King’s fusion of muscularity and tenderness, and like King he can build a solo from a slow boil to an all-out scream without losing control of the song. But Cain is equally capable of laying down fleet, Kenny Burrell-style patterns […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Polish Joke

Playwright David Ives is a miniaturist. Give him ten minutes or less and he’ll create a small but brilliant one-act, like some of the gems in his best-known collection of absurdist comic pieces, All in the Timing. But give him 90 minutes or more and he loses his way, as he does in this two-act […]

Posted inNews & Politics

The Straight Dope

I was making fun of a colleague at work who has recently returned to smoking cancer sticks. His retort was, “Yeah, well, tall people die younger.” Since I’m about 6-7, this hit me right in the heart–which I suspect is the organ at fault. Is his claim true? –Tom Slattery, via e-mail You actually acknowledge […]

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Dancing at Lughnasa

Lurking beneath the veneer of civilization in Ballybeg in 1936 are the old gods of Ireland, with their sensual worship of the fertile earth. The narrator of Brian Friel’s memory play explores this theme as he recounts the fortunes of five unmarried sisters whose world is about to be toppled by industrial progress and their […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Esophagus

At 28, Chicagoan James Fotopoulos has made more than 100 films and videos, and they keep getting better, having moved from the uncomfortableness of human flesh to the more metaphysical hell of Esophagus (2004). At its center is a typical Fotopoulos torment: six men, one sporting horns, seem imprisoned in a drab room, and a […]

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Chicago Improv Festival

The eighth annual edition of this sprawling celebration of improvisational comedy brings together performers from around the U.S. and abroad; Chicago, of course, is heavily represented. The lineup ranges from fledgling talent to returning stars who have won fame and big bucks appearing in and/or writing for movies and TV. This year’s festival, the largest […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Bill Charlap Trio

In his interviews and recordings alike, pianist Bill Charlap has demonstrated an unflagging if unfashionable enthusiasm for the standards. After attracting attention as a sideman with Gerry Mulligan and Phil Woods, Charlap signed to Blue Note five years ago, and he and his excellent trio have since explored a mix of familiar and forgotten compositions […]

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The Fardale 7

More quirky than funny, this scattershot hour-long chronicle by the sketch-comedy ensemble Backrow depicts seven childhood friends, now grown-ups, who took an oath of fealty to protect the stereotypical burg of Fardale from a child-devouring monster they also faced as kids. The joke is that life’s distractions and the friends’ own inherent obnoxiousness have undermined […]

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International Pop Overthrow

The fourth annual International Pop Overthrow features nightly band showcases through Sun 5/1. Cover charges vary from $6-$8. For more information, see www.internationalpopoverthrow.com. FRIDAY 22 PM Grip Weeds, Three-4-Tens, Telepathic Butterflies, Lackloves, Get Quick, Andy Bopp Beat Kitchen | 2100 W. Belmont | 773-281-4444 SATURDAY 23 1:30 PM Subversives, Gone Baby Gone, YesMen, School for […]

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The Shape of Things

Iconoclastic playwright Neil LaBute can seem a genius or a sensationalistic pig depending on the quality of the production. This sluggish, uninspired staging of one of LaBute’s recent plays, a Chicago premiere, makes him seem particularly porcine–and didactic. Part of the problem is the script, which is way too talky and full of obvious symbolism; […]

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Broken Fences

Playwright Steven Simoncic’s depiction of an African-American couple and an upper-middle-class white couple living next door to each other in Humboldt Park is admirably evenhanded despite the script’s running gag about racial stereotyping in advertising and swipes at overpriced Starbucks coffees. The clever, breezy first act takes a politically correct attitude toward gentrification yet remains […]