The Don't-Miss List: The return of 'Patsy Cline,' 'Amerville' and Kiss Kiss Cabaret

February 23, 2012

Kelly Kleiman

To close out Black History Month, Writers' Theatre brings its one-woman show, The MLK Project: The Fight for Civil Rights, to First Church of the Brethren on the West Side. Dr. King preached from the church's pulpit during his stay in Chicago in the late 1960s, when he fought for open housing against violent opposition. This Saturday's matinee is only the second public performance of the show, which includes poetry, hip-hop and excerpts from interviews with Chicago leaders of the civil rights movement. And, it's FREE. Feb. 25, 2 p.m., at the church, 425 S. Central Park Avenue.

Also: This is the final weekend of the amazing Ameriville at Victory Gardens. Likewise a compendium of interviews, poetry and music, this hip-hop opera grabs the audience even before its performers arrive on the stage, as they come stomping and singing through the aisles. They are Universes, a performance cooperative of three men and one woman, the latter of whom (Mildred Ruiz-Sapp) has one of the richest blues altos you'll ever hear. The group developed the piece with Victory Gardens' new Artistic Director, Chay Yew, who also directed with clarity and the perfect rapid-fire pace. Ameriville uses the impossibly slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina as a jumping-off point to consider everything from poverty and race to global warming and water purity. (Hear more in my on-air review.) Agit-prop of the very first (you should pardon the expression) water. Through Sunday the 26th on the mainstage at the Biograph, tickets $25-$40.

Laura Molzahn

It’s a slow weekend for dance in Chicago. Especially classical dance, if you had your heart set on old-school ballet: Russia’s Grigorovich troupe got canceled. But the Joffrey’s excellent contemporary program, Winter Fire,” continues through Sunday.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kiss Kiss Cabaret celebrates its second year of weekly burlesque this Friday with the KKC debut of Serenna Starr (who enters, swallowed by a fish, in her “Gone Fishin’” routine) and the return of comedian Tamale Sepp (whose clever tattooed corset saves time and money!). And then there’s Ammunition, whose specialty is attacking herself with a grinder in a strategic spot—thankfully, protected by a big brass plate—and sending geysers of sparks in all directions. Fridays at 11 p.m. at the Greenhouse Theater Center.

Can there be a third end of a spectrum? Anyway, slow week or not, a new piece by Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak is always a unique pleasure. In The Delicate Hour, Shanahan riffs on what she calls the “haunting hour of sunset” as she aims to capture “the magic of change and the promise of loss in a second-by-second dead heat.” I saw it. Beauty wins. Thursday through Saturday at the Dance Center of Columbia College. 

Jonathan Abarbanel

The 1936 Broadway production of The Petrified Forest featured Leslie Howard (already a star) as suicidal hero Alan Squier, and Humphrey Bogart (then unknown) as bad guy Duke Mantee. Both also starred in the film that followed, with the addition of Bette Davis as the ingénue. Now’s your chance to see the original 1936 Robert E. Sherwood drama, staged at Strawdog Theatre Company by a very good director, Shade Murray. Sherwood’s odd combination of gangster melodrama and poetic realism has just about everything but sex (doomed romance, yes; sex, no). The Petrified Forest plays at Strawdog through March 31.

A chance post-concert meeting between Patsy Cline and an ordinary, everyday fan turned into an enduring friendship that spanned several years until Cline’s untimely death in 1963. That real-life friendship is chronicled in Always . . . Patsy Cline, which also is a showcase for 27 of Cline’s most popular songs. The show was staged locally in 1995 by director Brian Russell at Northlight Theatre with a long run following at the Apollo Theatre, and Russell is in charge again for this new production by Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN (about 40 minutes from The Loop if traffic is moving). Heather Beck stars as Cline. Always . . . Patsy Cline runs through April 1. Remember, gas is a lot cheaper in Indiana, so fill up while you’re there.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Always...Patsy Cline runs through March 1. It runs through April 1.