Critics theater picks; less theater, more movies, with 'Chicago Live!' and 'Dance for Life'

August 10, 2011

Jonathan Abarbanel is STILL out (jeez, get back from vacation already) but will be back next week.

Kelly Kleiman

Tonight, check out Chicago Live!, Rick Kogan's hour-long after-work stage show which will later be broadcast on WGN-Radio. Kogan is a charmer and knows Chicago from every angle, which means he knows enough to shine a spotlight on the most important or interesting or timely occurrences of any given week. It also means he knows enough to share the stage with the Second City, whose segment makes fun of all the usual Chicago suspects and reminds us that it's not a Great Recession unless it features a "Living Newspaper." Tonight's three-ring circus includes new schools superintendent (and proposer of property tax increases) Jean-Claude Brizard as well as Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz discussing their new movie, The Interrupters. Get your $20 ticket at the Chicago Theatre box office and then make your way down the alley on the building's south side to the entrance to the basement theater. The fun begins at 6:30.

On Friday, go to the Siskel Center to see the opening of the James-Kotlowitz movie, a documentary featuring CeaseFire, a group of ex-gang members who work to defuse violent gang confrontations. 5:30 and 8:15; general admission $11, with breaks for students and members of the Art Institute.

Finally, make sure you're not so dazzled by downtown and by film that you neglect to see live theater, specifically, Ka-Tet Theatre Company's production of Side Man, a play by Warren Leight about the last days of jazz trumpeting. It's fitting that the real stars of the production should be not the central characters but the side men: Scott Allen Luke, Rich Logan and Jeffrey Gitelle as Al, Jonesy and Ziggy, whose love for music is so pure that it shines through the wreckage they've made of the rest of their lives.  The play itself has the problem of treating its women as good if they're docile and bad if they're vocal about what they want, but that's probably true to the milieu being portrayed. Director Richard Stockton Rand's well-paced production runs Thursday through Sunday, but only through August 20 (which is next weekend, believe it or not!); tickets are $20. At City Lit Theater, in the church at 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue.

Laura Molzahn

HMS Media celebrates the 20th anniversary of “Dance for Life” in a documentary to air on WTTW at 10 PM Thursday. This moving treatment of the 2010 benefit (the 2011 benefit happens Saturday, August 20, at the Auditorium) includes performances by the Joffrey, Hubbard Street, and Ensemble Espanol as well as voiceovers from participants and supporters who remember—or don’t—the AIDS crisis. HMS Media director-editor Matt Hoffman does a bang-up job of capturing the excitement of dance, and choreographer Harrison McEldowney, of expressing the terror of the early AIDS years.

Immigrants from another galaxy strive to get a cosmic green card so they can live and love peacefully in Wisconsin in Breahan Pautsch’s new sci-fi comedy, the second production in Hobo Junction’s sci-fi season. In Pursuit reportedly explores the distinction between “nice” and “normal”—something I’ve always been clueless about. Opening Thursday, then running Thursday-Sunday at Second Stage through September 11.

Broads on Boards: OK, so the title’s not PC. I still love it. Though maybe it should have been “Broadway Broads on Boards.” This musical (songs by Matthew Loren Cohen) directed by Brendan Dowling stars Lauren Dowden and Jeff-winning Amanda Blake Davis as 50-year song-and-dance vets who reunite for one last performance. At the Annoyance, beginning Sunday and running through September 4.