Critics theater picks; 'Pornography', 'Bigger!' and being a 'Side Man'

July 21, 2011

Kelly Kleiman

First up: site-specific work from the side project, whose theater is so minute that any other venue must seem palatial. That, in any case, is my reading of their decision to kick off a festival of site-specific one-acts this Saturday in the office of Alderman Joe Moore.

side project (lower-case theirs) is celebrating its tenth anniversary and its ties to the 'hood it calls Jarvis Square (Jarvis at Greenview in what I'd style mid-Rogers Park). Alderman Moore's office isn't the only unusual venue for this series, called Cut to the Quick: On Location; neighborhood bars and restaurants, and even a local body shop, are turning themselves into theaters for its brief duration. It starts this Saturday at the Alderman's office at 12:30 (with a piece about lawyers' ethics and other oxymorons), and continues through August 17 in various locales. Tickets are $10.

If the goings-on in Washington mean you've had your fill of politicans, perhaps you'd prefer to consider the comforting topic of terrorism in other countries. Name the play Pornography, and you're all set for another evening of summertime fluff. It opens tonight at Steep Theatre, whose space is nearly as tiny as side project's (what is this, some kind of competition? "Narrowest space that is not a single bowling lane?" "Shallowest space that is not a bus shelter?") and whose reputation is stellar enough that advance reservations are a must. Tonight's opening is sold out but tickets are available for the rest of the run (through September 3) and are $22 tops. Hard by the Berwyn Red Line stop in Edgewater--or maybe that should be "Berwyn Square."

And, as previously mentioned, Collaboraction re-opens 1001 at the Flatiron Building, vacating Theatre on the Lake so Bohemian Theatre Ensemble can take its turn with Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

I keep mentioning ToL because it's really a remarkable resource: a way to see the cream (or at least some of the cream) of last season's theater crop. Those of us who remember its incarnation as the place where community theaters based in Park District fieldhouses had their moment of glory before returning to well-deserved obscurity know what enormous effort it took to change ToL into a showcase for Chicago's professional companies, and what an incredible contribution it's made and continues to make to the city's summer entertainment options.

Laura Molzahn

Bigger! might sound like a porno, but in some ways it’s the opposite: this Aloft Loft party celebrates that staple of G-rated entertainment, aerial dance. Expect “extreme circus performances,” giant cupcakes, and monster popcorn balls. While B-52s tribute band Planet Claire plays, you can eat the dress off a “towering cotton-candy princess” or maximize your hair at the Gigantic Hair Styling Station. The event, Saturday from 8 PM to midnight near Damen and Fulton, inaugurates and helps support Aloft’s new digs, the largest circus training space in the Midwest—and the third largest in the country. Guests must be 21 or older. NO tickets at the door; sign up here to get a ticket and register for a tax-deductible contribution.

Ever considered taking “a highly athletic look at the number 3” or thought of David Byrne as speaking in tongues? You can see these and other thoughts tackled in Thodos Dance Chicago’s 11th annual “New Dances” showcase. This time around there are nine world premieres, most by company dancers, set to music that runs the gamut from Sufjan Stevens to Talking Heads to Shostakovich. Guest choreographer Rebecca Lemme contributes a piece about loss, Effigy. Friday through Sunday at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

Next Monday could be the most exciting evening of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s JUBA! performance series. It’s hard to say for sure because stuff will be improvised. Happening at the Jazz Showcase on the very first night of the series, it features Rhythm World tap-dance faculty and students performing with jazz musicians. And this year’s crowd of faculty/performers definitely seems focused on live improv with live musicians. Literally, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Jonathan Abarbanel

Warren Leight's Tony Award-winning 1998 play, Side Man, may be the best dramatic work ever written about the soul and spirit of a musician. Balancing humor and darkness, Leight's autobiographical play is warm yet pointed and always compelling. A new production is being mounted by Ka-Tet Theatre, an ensemble-driven troupe formed three years ago and still in the process of making its mark locally; this is only their fourth production. Ka-Tet believes theater should be felt first and intellectualized later, and Side Man is an excellent choice for that experience. Side Man plays at City Lit Theatre in Edgewater and runs through Aug. 20.

We're taking a plunge off a high tower in highlighting The Swordsman of San Gimignano, a swashbuckling comedy set in 16th Century Italy. That's the Cinquecento, if you're Italian. It's presented by New Rock Theater and On the Spot Theatre Company and, frankly, we don't know a thing about either troupe except that they're relatively new. They describe The Swordsman of San Gimignano as a "family-friendly full-length production, for adults and children eight and older with parental supervision." It's performed through Aug. 21 at the New Rock Theater, 3933 N. Elston.