Theater picks for your weekend: Alexander before he was Great, Bad Boys of Dance and a vaudeville comeback

November 3, 2011

Kelly Kleiman

eta Creative Arts follows up its well-regarded Flow (which will have an encore presentation at Governors State University next weekend) with Broke-ology, a family drama about the intersection of brothers, elder-care and dominoes. Nathan Louis Jackson's play, directed by Artistic Director Runako Jahi, opens tonight on the Mainstage. Opening night tickets are only $10, with $20 Thursdays throughout the run; regular admission is $30. Through December 18 at eta Square, 7558 S. South Chicago Avenue.

Or, if you're among the teeming masses of the unemployed and are not busy occupying LaSalle Street, you could go to Steppenwolf this afternoon for a free reading of a new play by Sarah Gubbins, fml: or how Carson McCullers saved my life (an apt complement to Steppenwolf's Theatre for Young Adults production of McCullers's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which closes tomorrow). Gubbins is the author of The Kid Thing, whose world-premiere production at Chicago Dramatists was one of the highlights of this fall's season. 3 p.m. at the Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted. The free readings continue  through Saturday; the First Look series of performances continues through November 20, but this is the only weekend you can get $10 tickets including a free beer. 

Even more exciting than the Old Town School of Folk Music's decision to branch out into theater is the subject of the show: Keep A Song in Your Soul: The Black Roots of Vaudeville. It would be hard to top the array of talent involved: Andrea J. Dymond will direct the piece, whose creator-performers include the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, the MacArthur Genius Grant-winning ragtime composer Reginald R. Robinson, and veteran Chicago tapper Reggio "The Hoofer" McLaughlin. Tonight through Sunday only, in the School's Maurer Concert Hall, 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue.  Tickets are $45, $43 for Old Town School Members, $41 for seniors. The show is not recommended for children: adult language and content.

Finally, River North Dance Chicago comes home briefly to the Harris Theater. The company's "Reality of a Dreamer" was, in its original form, the sexiest thing you'd ever see on a legitimate stage; they've reworked it as "Evolution of a Dream" and we'll see whether the libido still comes panting through. Tonight through Saturday only; tickets $30-$75. The Harris, at 205 East Randolph Street, is that glass box resembling a butt-plug for the Pritzker Pavilion. Still, there's not a bad seat in the house, and when you're inside you don't have to look at it.

Laura Molzahn

Word is that tickets are selling fast. On Saturday, DanceWorks Chicago shares the Symphony Center stage with the CSO in two hour-long shows at family-friendly times. In “Magical Movements,” the six youthful DWC dancers help “build” the orchestra for the occasion’s finale, Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. If for some reason you aren’t interested in being surrounded by kids age five to nine, DWC is also performing a “Dance Flight” Saturday evening set to an eclectic mix of music: Vivaldi, Gershwin, and Sons of the Never Wrong.

They’re called The Bad Boys of Dance,” but they’re neither all-bad nor all-boys. Fans of Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance—the Bad Boys have turned up on both shows—will relish the opportunity to see these six babe magnets and one babe (Adrienne Canterna-Thomas, also the choreographer) shake their stuff in pieces set mostly to well-known pop songs. Saturday and Sunday at the Auditorium.

In the department of continuing but soon-to-end shows…. Lucky Plush undertakes its second and final weekend at the MCA in The Better Half, a brainy, funny physical-theater take on the 1944 film Gaslight…. And if you’re a fan of zombies—you know you are—try to catch Musical of the Living Dead before its last show, November 12.

Jonathan Abarbanel

Gifted pianist, writer and actor Hershey Felder has entertained us before with his one-man shows—half concert and half play—about George Gerswhin, Frederic Chopin and Beethoven. Now he’s back as Lenny, baby, in Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein at the Royal George Theatre. Conductor, author, serious composer, Broadway composer, brilliant lecturer, dedicated liberal, husband, father and bisexual lover, Bernstein certainly was a multi-faceted showman (and he was, indeed, a showman). We’ll see how many facets Felder fathoms in 100 minutes or so. Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein continues through Dec. 30. However, Felder has found Chicago congenial and often has extended his shows.

Alexander of Macedon (not yet “the Great”) was whuppin’ the Persians when he was just 21 years old, leading his troupes into battle with wounds to prove it. This point is pertinent to the 2011-2012 season of the side project theatre company (sic, they use all lower-case letters), up in Rogers Park (1439 W. Jarvis), which has dedicated the year to issues of war and youth. Not only that, but the side project is presenting its six-play season in rotating repertory, three plays now and three more in the spring. The opening repertory, which rolls this weekend, includes the world premieres of Through the Middle Ground by Louis Cancelmi and An Interrogation Primer by Mike Nowacki, plus the Midwest debut of Brett Neveu’s Twentyone. The first repertory series continues at the side project through Dec. 18.