The Don't-Miss List: Putting on 'The Ritz', 'Winter Fire' and 'Man Boobs'

February 16, 2012

Kelly Kleiman

Solo performers have a hard time finding outlets for their work; African-American solo performers have a doubly hard time. This is the theory behind MPAACT's Solo Jam series, a late-night showcase of performance pieces at the Greenhouse in Lincoln Park. Every Friday and Saturday through March 10, a different artist will present a piece of his/her own devising. A preview of the work showed a wide range of styles and themes: I was particularly taken with next weekend's pairing, Osiris Khepera's The Fag-tionary and Jonathan Kitt's Superman, Black Man, Me! A Stage Essay, but there doesn't seem to be a bad one in the bunch. The shows begin at 11 p.m. (after MPAACT's mainstage production Sweet Home; a ticket to that will get you a discount to the Solo Jam); tickets $12 for a single show or $20 for the weekend.

And if you think the world of solo performance is daunting for actors of color, consider the nearly monochromatic world of sketch comedy.  Taco Flavored Eggrolls storms those alabaster barricades with the irresistably-named It Takes Juan To Know Wong (a colored commentary), which begins an 8-week run at the PROP THTR Friday. 10:30 every Friday through April 6 at 3502 N. Elston Avenue; tickets are $12, $10 for students and seniors (though really, what senior stays up that late?)

Or, if you're in the mood for an actual comic play, check out Circle Theater's newly-opened production of The Ritz, a very early farce by Terrence McNally. (Early enough that the words "gay bathhouse" had no over- or undertones.) Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3; tickets $24-$28 with various discounts; performances at 1010 West Madison Street in Oak Park. 

Laura Molzahn

Fat Tuesday is right around the corner—and so is New Orleans on Friday night, when the Trey McIntyre Project dances to the swinging Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Symphony Center. Don’t expect cheek-to-cheek, though. In McIntyre’s macabre Ma Maison, the dancers cavort in skull masks. And as Lewis Segal of the LA Times describes The Sweeter End, it’s a “high-speed amalgam of ballet steps, gymnastic feats, ballroom fragments and eruptions of snake-hips undulation.”

The Joffrey Ballet heats up with “Winter Fire,” a program of three works by contemporary names-you-can-drop: William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, and Wayne McGregor—who’s moved seamlessly from modern dance into the classical world as resident choreographer of London’s Royal Ballet. On video, McGregor’s spiky Infra—a U.S. premiere for the Joffrey—looks spectacular: technically challenging, tech-savvy, and moving to boot. This weekend and next, plus next Thursday, at the Auditorium.

Chicago Dance Crash reinstates its KTF (“Keeper of the Floor”) dance battles with a post-Valentine’s show, “Love Is a (Dance) Battlefield,” reportedly dedicated to “the hopelessly single, recent dumpees, and generally jaded demographic.” Friday at 8 PM at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park.

Jonathan Abarbanel

Since the demise of the original Bailiwick Repertory Theater in 2009, director David Zak has re-emerged as head of Pride Films and Plays, a Chicago-based organization that reaches nation-wide to find and develop writing for screen and stage on LGBT subjects. Some of the works are serious and some are not. I’m not certain about the current project, J. Julian Christopher’s self-described “dark comedy” entitled Man Boobs. Well, now, I’ll bet THAT got your attention! I’m fairly certain Man Boobs isn’t a medical drama about gynecomastia, but may be about love, body image and acceptance both by oneself and others. Previously produced in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal and Australia, Man Boobs launches Pride Films and Plays’ 2012 season, running through March 10 at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville.

Porchlight Music Theatre has not built its reputation by spinning gold from dross, but currently is attempting just that with the regional premiere of A Catered Affair, a failed 2008 Broadway musical based on the 1956 film (script by Gore Vidal) and the 1955 live TV drama (by Paddy Chayefsky) before that. Set in the 1950’s Bronx, it concerns a lower-middle-class family planning a lavish wedding for their only daughter. A Catered Affair is composer John Bucchino’s first Broadway show, but features a book by multiple Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, who created a role for himself, that of the bride’s gay uncle. The Broadway reviews called it restrained and almost like a chamber musical, which may work well in Porchlight’s intimate production at Stage 773 in Wrigleyville. The artistic team of Nick Bowling (director) and Douglas Peck (musical director) is impeccable. A Catered Affair runs through April 1.