The Don't-Miss List: 'Invisible Man', 'Pina' and 'Mark Twain'

January 19, 2012

Kelly Kleiman

Tomorrow (Friday) night, Shaw Chicago will present the sole and only local performance of Mark Twain in Person. Richard Henzel, a Shaw Chicago stalwart, has been touring this one-man show for years now, to great acclaim. He'll give the home-town folks their chance for a mere $75, which buys a ticket to the show at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan, and a post-show reception. Curtain's at 7 p.m. Tickets online at Brown Paper Tickets.

On Monday night (the 23rd), Erasing the Distance will open Finding Peace in this House, a play based on true stories of half-a-dozen people struggling with mental health issues. The company created the work in collaboration with the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Erasing the Distance works through theater to expand and enlighten the dialogue about mental illness and its impact on individuals and society. Curtain at the Hoover-Leppen Theatre (at the Center on Halsted) is 7:30 p.m.

Laura Molzahn

Arts lovers, unite! Beginning this weekend you can catch the work of dance-theater pioneer Pina Bausch—which never seemed to travel to flyover country—and arguably in a more intense form than onstage. New Yorker critic Anthony Lane called Wim Wenders’ 3D documentary Pina “less a polite memorial than a palpitating act of resurrection.” (Having now seen the film, I'm afraid I can give it only a qualified recommendation. Here's my review.)

The works themselves (some of which I saw here during a 1999 film festival on Bausch) can be harrowing. She excelled at capturing the war between the sexes and the unique qualities of those generally considered too old to be onstage. And she adored bizarre sets. In her 1975 Le Sacre du Printemps, she piled peat on the floor.

That’s one of the four dances she and Wenders chose for filming. But just before the first 3D test shoot, in June 2009, Bausch died unexpectedly. Wenders cut the project short, but eventually decided it was more important than ever to record her amazing work. Pina, opening Friday at River East 21 and Century 12/CineArts 6 in Evanston, includes archival footage of Bausch, interviews with her dancers, and excerpts from her pieces, three of them filmed in their entirety onstage at the Wuppertal Opera House. 

Jonathan Abarbanel

Many have tried, but none have succeeded in securing rights for a stage adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s seminal novel, Invisible Man, that is until now. Court Theatre, under artistic director Charles Newell and executive director Stephen J. Albert, have achieved what heretofore has been impossible, winning approval from the Ellison estate for a stage adaptation by writer Oren Jacoby, directed by Christopher McElroen. Ellison’s 1952 debut novel—the only novel he published in his lifetime—won the National Book Award in part for its unpredictable, jazz-influenced narrative style and radical shifts in tone. Along with works by authors such as Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, Invisible Man successfully broke the color bar in bringing a tale of a Black American to a vast mainstream readership. Invisible Man continues at Court Theatre through Feb. 19.

Theater of War is, by any measure, a curiosity: a public health project that stages readings of ancient Greek tragedies as a catalyst for facilitated discussions about the challenges faced by service members, veterans, their families, caregivers and communities. The upcoming program, next Wednesday (Jan. 25, 7PM) at the National Veterans Arts Museum, will feature the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in selections from Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes. The Goodman Theatre hosted a similar program on Jan. 18, also with Rivendell. The director, actors and producers of Theatre of War all are top-notch theater veterans. The program is free, but reservations are suggested.