Elizabeth Rex: The late Canadian novelist/playwright Timothy Findley teased every dramatic possibility out of the fact that Shakespeare's company performed for the mis-described Virgin Queen on the eve of the execution of her long-time lover Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex. The Queen is heartbroken over the beheading notwithstanding having ordered it herself, and she and the actors become locked in a competition over who is the greater performer of the role of man-dressed-as-woman. The gender-bending and feminism of the piece are right up director Barbara Gaines' alley, and Diane D'Aquila, who created the part at the Stratford Festival in Canade, hits every note and nuance in a performance so layered that my companion wondered whether Elizabeth was, in fact, being played by a man. Through January 22 at Chicago Shakespeare.
Barbara Robertson is another woman who gives impeccable performances at Chicago Shakespeare, including an unforgettable turn as Kabuki Lady Macbeth, but on Monday night (the 19th) she'll be exercising a different part of her considerable talent, singing cabaret in a performance entitled "Stages of My Life." It begins at 7:30 onstage at the Pritzker Pavilion, with tickets $25 if you want to sit at stage level and drink, $15 if you're willing to be parched in the choir balcony. It's a one-night stand, so don't put off 'til tomorrow what's only available today.
A very different sort of one-night stand will play tomorrow (Friday): an industry reading of Unspeakable, a work-in-progress biographical show about Richard Pryor. Co-author James Murray Jackson, Jr. plays Pryor, a role for which he won an Outstanding Actor Award at the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival. A number of other New York actors are participating in the reading, along with Chicagoans Wandachristine and Stef Tovar. The reading is free, but attendance is by confirmed reservation only. For reservations write to Unspeakablenyc@mail.com, providing your name, the number in your party and your industry affiliation.
I’m running out of non-Nutcracker options here—but please don’t assume that the following shows aren’t worthy. No matter what the season, these artists promise good things.
Khecari deconstructs the fairytale (take that, Nutcracker!) in The Clinking, performed by Jonathan Meyer and Julia Rae Antonick—who are real-life as well as onstage partners. Accompanied by multi-instrumentalist (and frequent player of inanimate objects) Joe St. Charles, Meyer and Antonick will heighten, not sugarcoat, the anxieties inherent in fairytales. Thursday and Friday at the Hamlin Park Field House.
And to rouse yourself from any and all sugar-induced slumbers, try Tsukasa Taiko at JASC, performing its eighth annual show at the MCA Saturday and Sunday. Chicago’s leading Japanese drumming ensemble this year also features a collaboration with AACM jazz musicians Edward Wilkerson and Coco Elysses-Hevia as well as “stylized kimono dance.”