WBEZ | Dueling Critics http://www.wbez.org/tags/dueling-critics Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Don't-Miss List: 1 anti-war ballet, 2 comedies, 4 nights of ElectionFest and a partridge in a Strange Tree http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-10/dont-miss-list-1-anti-war-ballet-2-comedies-4-nights-electionfest-and <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6502_Joffrey Green Table-scr.JPG" style="height: 537px; width: 620px; " title="The Green Table (Courtesy of the Joffrey Ballet/Sean Williams)" /></div><p><u><em>ElectionFest 2012 </em>at&nbsp;Pine Box Theater at <a href="http://www/theaterwit.org">Theater Wit</a>, 1229 W. Belmont; 1-773-975-8150;&nbsp;$13; Oct. 22, 23 and 29, 30 ONLY</u><br /><br />You can&#39;t see it until Monday night Oct. 22 but you&#39;d better plan now &#39;cause there only are four performances. Pine Box Theater, an itinerant troupe that &mdash; uh &mdash; came back from the dead last year after several years&#39; absence, has cornered the market on notable local authors and directors. Under the collective title <strong><em>ElectionFest 2012</em></strong>, Pine Box is offering a dozen ten-minute plays in two bills of six plays each. The list of authors is a who&#39;s who of top local dramatists, among them Laura Eason (Lookingglass), Sarah Gubbins (just won a Jeff Award), Nambi E. Kelley, Paul Oakley Stovall and Andrew Hinderaker (new play currently at the Gift Theatre). And the directors are every bit as good, among them Julieanne Ehre, Lisa Portes, Vincent Teninty and Joanie Schultz. The plays all speak to the issues dividing us this political season, with individual titles such as <em>Guess Who&#39;s Not Coming to Dinner?,&nbsp;</em><em>A Letter to Mama-in-Chief Obama,&nbsp;The One Percent</em> and <em>A Moderate Threat.</em>&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p><p><u><em>Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play</em>,<a href="http://www.strangetree.org"> Strange Tree Group</a> at Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W.<br />Berenice; 1-773-598-8240; $25-$45 (VIP tix); runs through Nov. 11</u><br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/home-title-alvin-photo.png" style="height: 156px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="'Funeral Wedding or The Alvin Play' (Courtesy Strange Tree Group/Tyler Core)" />I&#39;ve always been partial to The Strange Tree Group, which seems to channel Edward Gorey,&nbsp;Charles Addams, Edgar Allan Poe and classic fairy tales and parallels the meta-theatric staging&nbsp;techniques of Redmoon and Building Stage. <strong><em>Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play</em></strong> is written by the troupe&#39;s founding artistic director, Emily Schwartz, and first was done in 2006 when Strange Tree Group was new. Now this perfect-for-Halloween ghost story has been revamped and re-imagined as it tells the tale of a haunted young man trapped between past and present while unraveling family secrets. Hint: think murder. &ndash;JA</p><p><u><em>We&rsquo;re All In This Room Together</em>, <a href="http://www.secondcity.com">Second City e.t.c.</a>, 1616 North Wells Street, 312-337-3992, $23-$28, open run</u><br /><br />It&rsquo;s not often you get to see a Jeff Award-winning show: By the time the Jeff Committee hands out the Equity awards in October, most of its honorees have long since closed. An exception is this revue by the nearly-as-established-as-the-mainstage second company at Second City. (Query: Does that make e.t.c. the Fourth Company in some Platonic semi-improvisational universe?) Earlier this week the show won Best Production&ndash;Revue as well Best Director&ndash;Revue for Ryan Bernier, so this weekend&rsquo;s performances should be particularly sharp and vibrant. Tuesday through Sunday at 8 p.m., plus 11 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday. &ndash;KK<br /><br /><u><em>Blackademics</em>, <a href="http://www.mpaact.org">MPAACT </a>at the Greenhouse, 2257 North Lincoln Avenue, 773-404-7336, $15-$23, now in previews; opens Monday the 22nd</u><br /><br />For a different brand of humor, check out Idris Goodwin&rsquo;s new play about a pair of African-American college professors whose friendly dinner turns into a catfight of epic proportions, with a little help from their smilingly hostile waitress. What sounds like a cross between Jane Smiley&rsquo;s <em>Moo</em> and Clare Boothe Luce&rsquo;s <em>The Women</em> opens Sunday, under the joint direction of Marie Cisco and MPAACT Executive Director Shepsu Aakhu. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3 through November 25.&nbsp;&ndash;KK</p><p><u><em>Human Landscapes</em>,<a href="http://joffrey.com"> The Joffrey Ballet</a> at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress Parkway, 800-982-2787, $31-$152, Friday the 19th through Sunday the 28th</u><br /><br />The Joffrey&rsquo;s autumn home stand features the celebrated antiwar ballet <em>The Green Table</em>. German choreographer Kurt Jooss created the Expressionist piece after the First World War but it has only gained resonance in the century since. The program also includes a Jiri Kylian work returning to the Joffrey repertory after nearly 30 years on hiatus, as well as James Kudelka&rsquo;s frankly named <em>Pretty BALLET</em>. Friday through Sunday this weekend, Thursday through Sunday next weekend, 7:30 evening performances and 2 p.m. matinees.&nbsp; &ndash;KK</p></p> Thu, 18 Oct 2012 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-10/dont-miss-list-1-anti-war-ballet-2-comedies-4-nights-electionfest-and Don't-Miss List September 13-19: A pointillist painting comes alive http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-09/dont-miss-list-september-13-19-pointillist-painting-comes-alive <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Sunday%20Art%20Instutute%20Flickr%20Phil%20Roeder.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px; " title="'Sunday in the Park with George' comes alive at the Art Institute of Chicago Sunday. (Courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater)" /></div><p><u>Dueling Critics x 3, all FREE!</u></p><p>The latest edition of <a href="http://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/the-dueling-critics-podcast">our podcast</a> is out:&nbsp;This week we review the premier of Charles Mee&#39;s&nbsp;<em>Iphigenia 2.0</em> at Next Theatre in Evanston. Then, check out our review of&nbsp;<em>Sweet and Sad</em>&nbsp;at Profiles Theatre from our appearance on <em>The Morning Shift </em>Wednesday.&nbsp;Next week&#39;s podcast will review&nbsp;<em>33 Variations</em> at TimeLine Theatre.</p><p>And don&#39;t forget: You can follow us on Twitter now&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZDuelingCrit">@WBEZDuelingCrit</a>. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F2478362&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe><br />&nbsp;</p><p><u>Sunday in the Museum with George, Sunday September 16th at 11 a.m., the Grand Staircase at the Michigan Avenue entrance of The Art Institute of Chicago, FREE with museum admission.</u></p><p>So you think you&rsquo;ve seen Georges Seurat&rsquo;s famous painting &quot;A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte &ndash;1884&quot;? You know, the pointillist one that inspired Stephen Sondheim&rsquo;s musical <em>Sunday in the Park with George</em>? Well, see it again this Sunday when the Art Institute and Chicago Shakespeare collaborate to present a living version of the picture. The cast of the musical, which opens in ten days on Navy Pier, will strut and fret (and sing!) their hour upon the stair and then vanish, leaving behind a portrait of La Grande Jatte completely devoid of people. (The mysteriously empty painting will be auctioned off to benefit <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=7,10,4">Team Shakespeare</a>, the company&rsquo;s program for teens.) If your Sunday mornings are sacred to pajamas and the <em>New York Times</em>, wait for the musical at Chicago Shakespeare, directed by Gary Griffin, one of the nation&rsquo;s premier Sondheim interpreters. If it&#39;s half as good as Griffin&#39;s ChiShakes productions of <em>Follies</em> or <em>Pacific Overtures</em>, it will be sensational.&nbsp;&ndash;KK<br /><br /><u><em>The Amen Corner</em>, eta Creative Arts, 7558 S. South Chicago Avenue, starts previews Thursday and plays Thursday-Sunday through October 21.</u><br /><br />James Baldwin&rsquo;s play about the generational tensions in an African-American church opens what eta aptly styles a season of &ldquo;Resurrected Works and Reclaimed Musicals.&rdquo; This 1950s drama is a foundational work of black theater, and the passage of 60 years has robbed it of none of its power, particularly when Baldwin&rsquo;s words are combined with gospel music. Eta always assembles a strong cast; now Artistic Director <a href="http://www.runakojahi.com/">Runako Jahi </a>directs a piece worthy of the group&rsquo;s talents.&nbsp;&ndash;KK</p><p><u><em>Hamlet, </em><a href="http://www.writerstheatre.org">Writers&#39; Theatre</a>, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe; 847-242-6000; $60-$70; through Nov. 11.</u></p><p>Richard Burbage, the original Prince Hamlet in 1601, was far older than the university student Hamlet is supposed to be, thus establishing a pattern followed for over 400 years. It&#39;s common for Hamlet to be played by men (and a few women) in their 30s, 40s and well beyond. The slim and perpetually boyish Scott Parkinson, although far past his frat boy days, is playing the title role in<strong><em> Hamlet</em></strong> at Writers&#39; Theatre, and it&#39;s a welcome return for a fine actor who&#39;s been away from Chicago for five years. Even better, director Michael Halberstam has surrounded Parkinson with a distinguished veteran cast, laced with Jefferson Award winners, among them Ross Lehman (Polonius), Shannon Cochran (Gertrude), Larry Yando (the Ghost) and Timothy Edward Kane (Laertes). Substantially edited, this production will run just under three hours (with two intermissions) and will offer a decidedly intimate experience in Writers&#39; Theatre&#39;s 104-seat playhouse. FYI: The Dueling Critics will discuss this production of&nbsp;<em>Hamlet</em>&nbsp;in our Oct. 5 podcast.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p><p><u><em>The Magic Flute</em>, <a href="http://www.chicagooperatheater.org">Chicago Opera Theater</a>, Harris Theater, 00 E. Randolph; 1-312-704-8414; $25-$125; through Sept. 23.</u></p><p>Mozart had an instinctive understanding of theater, which is not true of all opera composers, and he was smart enough (at least in his few mature years) to choose skillful men of theater as his co-authors, among them the great Lorenzo Da Ponte and also Emanuel Schikaneder. They wrote the libretto for <strong><em>The Magic Flute</em></strong>, a great success that premiered less than three months before Mozart died in 1791. It&#39;s held the stage ever since and has been subject to myriad interpretations by great conductors and directors (such as Ingmar Bergman), drawn not only to its musical glories but also its fairytale story of magic, love and spiritual purity. This staging at Chicago Opera Theater, sung in English, is the first new production of <em>The Magic Flute</em> seen in Chicago in close to 20 years. It also is the first production under the tenure of COT&#39;s new general director, Andreas Mitisek. Although his immediate predecessor selected it and put the production team in place, it&#39;s Mitisek who has brought the vision to fruition.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p></p> Thu, 13 Sep 2012 11:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-09/dont-miss-list-september-13-19-pointillist-painting-comes-alive Don't-Miss List September 6-12: Slapstick, magic and lady vets http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-09/dont-miss-list-september-6-12-slapstick-magic-and-lady-vets-102205 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/magic%20parlour.jpg" style="width: 620px; " title="'The Magic Parlour' brings a little spark to the Palmer House Hilton. (Courtesy of the theater)" /></div><p><u>Dueling Critics podcast, Friday September 7th, FREE!; on-air Wednesday September 12th between 9 and 10 a.m. on 91.5 FM and WBEZ.org, FREE!</u><br /><br />Check here Friday for the latest episode of <a href="http://soundcloud.com/wbez/dueling-critics-pool-no-water">our new Dueling Critics&nbsp;podcast</a>,&nbsp;when we review a <em>Play to be Named Later</em>. If you missed our first episode, here&#39;s our review of Vitalist Theater&#39;s production of&nbsp;<em>Pool (No Water)</em>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F58253046&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Then on Wednesday we begin our new once-a-month schedule on <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/eight-forty-eight">Eight Forty-Eight</a></em>&nbsp;with a review extravaganza: three at one blow.&nbsp;&ndash;KK<br /><br /><u><a href="http://www.handshakeuppercut.com/"><em>Handshake Uppercut</em></a> at the Chicago Fringe Festival, Thursday September 6th at 7 p.m. in the basement at Americana Stage, 600 West Cermak; tickets $15 including the required $5 Fringe Fest button</u><br /><br />Physical comedians John Leo and Jay Dunn have created a piece that seems to include something for everyone: Samuel Beckett for theater snobs, Buster Keaton for those of you who prefer movies, and the Marquis de Sade for those of you who prefer . . . well, you know. Working in the spirit (and with the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/500clown">recommendation</a>!) of local favorites 500 Clown, they&rsquo;ll spend 60 minutes displaying the essential cruelty of slapstick while making you laugh nonetheless. Words would only be superfluous. Final performances: Thursday at 7, Saturday the 8th at 8:30, and Sunday the 9th at 7.&nbsp;&ndash;KK<br /><br /><u><em>The Magic Parlour</em>, <a href="http://www.thehousetheatre.com">Palmer House Hilton</a> (Wabash entrance); 1-773-769-3832; $75; open run, Friday nights only, 8 and 10:30 p.m.</u></p><p>Part of the pleasure is the atmosphere: a plush little library-like room in an out-of-the-way corner of the Palmer House. Part of the pleasure is that drinks are included in the price. Part of the pleasure is the intimacy of the evening and the feeling that you&#39;re sharing a great secret that few others know about. But most of the pleasure is in the astonishing legerdemain of master magician Dennis Watkins, a founding member of the House Theatre of Chicago, the official presenter of <strong><em>The Magic Parlour</em></strong>. Watkins covers the waterfront with classic table top magic, from a card trick I used to know how to do when I was 12, to jaw-dropping mind-reading tricks of remarkable complexity, far beyond any familiar sleight-of-hand artistry. And he does it all with unflappable charm and wit. This is the show to see for a memorable evening. And dress up.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p><p><u><em>Wrens</em>, <a href="http://www.rivendelltheatre.org">Rivendell Theatre Ensemble</a>, 5775 N. Ridge Avenue, Chicago; 1-773-334-7728; $30; through Oct. 13; free parking at Senn High School.</u></p><p>Has it been 17 years since the debut of the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, with a mission to explore the female experience? Rivendell opened at the Chicago Cultural Center with a play about the first female naval units in British history, the so-called Wrens of World War II. It was a world premiere by Scots-born, long-time Chicagoan Anne McGravie, who had been a Wren. It put Rivendell firmly on the map and on the map they&#39;ve stayed. Now, less than a year after acquiring their first-ever permanent home, Rivendell is staging <strong><em>Wrens</em></strong> once again and &mdash;heavens be praised &mdash; Anne McGravie still walks among us to inspire us all. Obviously, the experience of women today in combat units is far different from their largely-segregated work in WWII, but the Wrens were the roots of today, just as <em>Wrens</em> helped plant Rivendell.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p></p> Thu, 06 Sep 2012 10:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-09/dont-miss-list-september-6-12-slapstick-magic-and-lady-vets-102205 Don’t-Miss List August 30-September 5: Chicago Fringe Festival and more http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-08/%EF%BB%BFdon%E2%80%99t-miss-list-august-30-september-5-chicago-fringe-festival-and <p><p><u>Dueling Critics, between 9 and 10 a.m. Friday August 31, 91.5 FM and WBEZ.org, FREE!</u><br /><br />Jonathan and I will review <em>Princes of Waco</em> at Signal Ensemble. And we&rsquo;ll chat with Peter Moore of Steep Theatre about resisting (or not) the temptation to pick plays for an ensemble based on the juiciness of parts for long-time ensemble members.&nbsp;&ndash;KK<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fringe%20festival%20poster.jpg" style="height: 479px; width: 310px; float: left; " title="" /><u><em>Impenetrable</em>, a world premiere by Stage Left Theatre at Theater Wit, first preview Saturday September 1 at 8 p.m., $20</u><br /><br />Stage Left beats the rest of the Chicago theater community out of the autumn starting gate with Mia McCullough&rsquo;s new play about appearance and reality &mdash; specifically, the appearance of women and the reality of the pressure on them to transform themselves into some ideal of Woman as impossibly slender and eternally youthful. The playwright took the piece from synopsis through finished product in collaboration with director Greg Werstler through the company&rsquo;s Downstage Left development series. Politics of all kinds is Stage Left&rsquo;s specialty; in this case sexual politics takes stage center. Thursdays-Sundays through October 7; previews $20, regular run $25.&nbsp;&ndash;KK<br /><br /><u><em>A Class Act</em>, Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago at Theater Wit, opens Tuesday (September 4) at 7:30 p.m., $39</u><br /><br />Porchlight is hot on Stage Left&rsquo;s heels with this musical about musicals. If you&rsquo;re a fan of <em>Smash</em>, the tv show about the making of a Broadway musical, then <em>A Class Act</em> is for you. The songs are by Edward Kleban, who collaborated in the creation of <em>A Chorus Line</em>, but the book is by two of his friends who used a number of his unproduced songs to weave a story about his life and untimely death. Stacey Flaster directs and choreographs, with music direction by the incomparable Beckie Menzie, who also accompanies most performances. Previews September 1-2-3, $30; regular run Fridays-Sundays through October 7 $39.&nbsp;&ndash;KK</p><p><u><a href="http://www.chicagofringe.org"><em>Third Annual Chicago Fringe Festival</em></a>, Pilsen (various venues); 1-866-441-9962; $10 (plus one-time $5 Entrance to Fest fee); through Sept. 9.</u></p><p>Edinburgh has one, New York has one, so why not Chicago? For the third time, the Chicago Fringe collective is presenting a heady mix of solo shows, dance, theater and performances that defy categories. The 2012 line-up features 24 Chicago-area acts, 22 more from other parts of the USA, plus artists from South Korea, Canada and France. In all, they will offer 200+ performances showcasing 180 performers. At $10 a pop (and even less with one of several Festival passes), you probably won&#39;t be trying very hard if you don&#39;t find <em>something</em> you like at the <strong><em>Chicago Fringe Festival</em></strong>. The Fest&#39;s website very helpfully provides not only the total Festival schedule, but a listing of shows by title and by venue.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p><p><u><em>Skin Tight</em>, <a href="http://www.cortheatre.org">Cor Theatre</a> at A Red Orchid, 1531 N. Wells Street; 1-866-811-4111; $15; through Sept. 25.</u></p><p>So OK, speaking of The Fringe and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, here is the regional premiere of a hit play from that festival, <strong><em>Skin Tight</em></strong>, by Gary Henderson. It&#39;s a highly-physical two-character performance piece that&#39;s billed as &quot;a riveting romance that endures war, unfaithfulness, wayward children, and death while its passion and humor live on.&quot; The producers promise that it will be performed &quot;with erotic abandon&quot; (that ought&#39;a sell tickets) and will take only one hour. But wait, folks, there&#39;s more: not only is <em>Skin Tight</em> a regional debut, but Cor Theatre is a new company, formed by two veteran Chicago theatre artists, Victoria DeIorio and Tosha Fowler, &quot;women in pursuit of risk-taking and boundary-stretching.&quot; Best known as a designer, DeIorio will direct the production. Cor is the Latin root word for both heart and courage.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p></p> Thu, 30 Aug 2012 09:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-08/%EF%BB%BFdon%E2%80%99t-miss-list-august-30-september-5-chicago-fringe-festival-and Don't Miss List August 16-22: Free Shows! http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-08/dont-miss-list-august-16-22-free-shows-101749 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://mediapl.stagechannel.com/previews/3hwq3ruV-2dPyDJYr" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center; "><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Eclipse Theatre&#39;s production of </em>Ah, Wilderness<em>, as filmed by The Stage Channel</em></span></p><p><u>Dueling Critics, between 9 and 10 a.m. Friday, 91.5 FM and WBEZ.org, FREE!</u></p><p>Jonathan and I will review&nbsp;<em>Ah, Wilderness&nbsp;</em>&ndash; Eugene O&rsquo;Neill&rsquo;s only comedy<em>&nbsp;</em>&ndash;&nbsp;at Eclipse Theatre. And we chat with a Player To Be Named Later about whether devoting an entire season to a single playwright leads to deeper insight or the familiarity which breeds contempt.&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;</em>&ndash; KK</p><p><u><em>The Taming of the Shrew</em>, Shakespeare in the Parks, Wilson Park, Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 4 pm, FREE!</u></p><p>Chicago Shakespeare&#39;s traveling production of&nbsp;<em>Shrew</em>&nbsp;winds up its whirlwind tour this weekend with a three-day stand at Wilson Park, 4630 North Milwaukee on the Northwest Side. After that, all you can do is hope for a repeat of the Shakes/Parks program next year.&nbsp;&ndash; KK</p><p><u><em>East of the Sun, West of the Moon</em>, Coriolis Theater Company, opens tomorrow (Friday) at 8 pm at the Boho Theater at the Heartland Studio in Rogers Park, $25.</u><br /><br />A brand-new theater company puts on a brand-new musical in a space blessed by positive musical karma, the home of the terrific Bohemian Theater Ensemble: one is entitled to expect great things. This piece, based on a Norse fairy tale of the same name, sounds like it could have been written by Joseph Campbell: man and woman, each on the run from a terrible fate, discover themselves and each other in the world outside. The show runs through September 9: Thursdays and Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 6 and 9, and Sundays at 3. $5 discount for students.&nbsp;&ndash; KK<br /><br /><u>Chicago Dancing Festival, opens Monday at the Harris Theater, runs through next Saturday August 25th, FREE!</u><br /><br />Choreographer Lar Lubovitch and dancer Jay Franke, a veteran of Lubovitch&rsquo;s company, launched this late-summer explosion of free dance five years ago, and it just keeps getting bigger and better. Even if you &ldquo;don&rsquo;t know anything about dance&rdquo; (What&rsquo;s to know? People with beautiful bodies display them in motion; there&#39;s music and lights; you tap your feet), try to carve out a single night to sample the nation&rsquo;s top companies, including the Martha Graham Dance Company, stars of the New York City and San Francisco Ballets, and our own Hubbard Street. Downtown will&nbsp;be littered with dancers, from the MCA to the Auditorium to the Pritzker Pavilion on Saturday night. Though that final night is bound to be jammed (weather cooperating), try to get there: the Graham troupe will do&nbsp;<em>Steps in the Street</em>, an indictment of privilege in the face of unemployment so powerful it puts the Occupy movement to shame.&nbsp;&ndash; KK</p><p><u><a href="http://www.light-opera-works.org"><em>Man of La Mancha</em></a>, Light Opera Works at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, Evanston; 1-847-920-5360; $32-$92; through Aug. 26</u></p><p>The runs at Light Opera Works (LOW) almost always are too short (although even this consistently reliable troupe can come up with an occasional clinker) and that certainly will prove the case with the wildly-popular <em>Man of La Mancha</em>, the musical story of Don Quixote told, sung and danced to a lilting, soaring, irresistibly rhythmic score. Better yet, at LOW you&#39;ll hear it played by a full orchestra of 28 or so musicians. Even better than that, heralded Chicago veteran actor and singer James Harms takes on the title role of the bewildered yet oddly-lucid Don. Act fast; seat choices already are limited for several performances.&nbsp;&ndash; JA</p><p><u><em>The Fall of the House of Usher</em>, <a href="http://www.the-hypocrites.com">The Hypocrites</a> at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division; 1-312-989-7352; $28; through Sept. 23</u></p><p>Although I admire his style, I&#39;m not always a fan of auteurist director Sean Graney, co-founder of The Hypocrites, who often adapts a classical text (Sophocles, Shakespeare, Gilbert &amp; Sullivan) and occasionally has destroyed the original in the process or reduced it to absurdity. However, the already-fevered works of Edgar Allen Poe seem perfectly-suited to Graney&#39;s strong visual sense and story-telling skills, so his adaptation of <em>The Fall of the House of Usher</em> could be fertile territory. All I can tell you about this new stage version is that it runs 80 minutes (about right for the page-to-stage adaptation of a short story), but don&#39;t be surprised to encounter an updated setting, original music, a reduction of Poe&#39;s ornate prose style to a few select words and an environmental staging.&nbsp;&ndash; JA</p></p> Thu, 16 Aug 2012 13:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-08/dont-miss-list-august-16-22-free-shows-101749 I, not robot: A critic speaks out (while she still can) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/i-not-robot-critic-speaks-out-while-she-still-can-100470 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Robot%20reviewers%20still.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 344px; " title="‘News at Seven,’ a program designed by Northwestern University’s Intelligent Information Laboratory, offers news – and criticism – generated and presented by artificial intelligence. (Courtesy of Intelligent Information Laboratory)" /></div><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: Scientists at Northwestern University have <a href="http://infolab.northwestern.edu/projects/news-at-seven/">designed an artificial intelligence program</a> that generates a virtual news show. On its own, it collects the news from online sources, writes a script, then animates cartoon-style avatars to deliver the show. </em><em>The program, called </em><a href="http://http://infolab.northwestern.edu/media/movs/nas_111109.mov">News at Seven</a><em>, is a project of the Intelligent Information Lab, co-directed by professors Kristian Hammond and Larry Birnbaum. One version of the program, launched in 2008, was designed to offer not just hard news by-the-numbers, but movie reviews.</em></p><p><em>Theatre critic Kelly Kleiman considers the implications for flesh and blood critics.&nbsp;</em></p><p>When I heard that robots were writing sports stories, I was barely surprised: So many stories about competitive sports are a list of names and numbers (&ldquo;Boston beat the White Sox 4-2, with pitcher Whoosafroogit&rsquo;s wild pitch in the 4th inning leading to a walk-off homer by Whatsisname&rdquo;). The data are simple, easily retrievable and easy to assemble into comprehensible sentences.</p><p>But robots writing criticism? The mind (at least mine) boggles. Are reviews really that formulaic? And if they are, is the response to give them to robots to write or to jolt human writers out of their complacency?</p><p>I don&rsquo;t pretend to be current on the state of artificial intelligence, so when I say I don&rsquo;t understand how a robot could write criticism, I mean that literally. Has robotics advanced to the point that a walking computer could take in a performance, compare it to a large body of other performances it has seen before and evaluate the worth of the script and the persuasiveness (dare I say &ldquo;humanity&rdquo;?) of the actors?</p><p>We assess quality based on a template consisting not only of our previous theatrical experiences but of our experiences of people in general, which is why a reviewer&rsquo;s perspective changes over time. It&rsquo;s not clear to me how that body of learning could be acquired, much less meaningfully processed, by a machine.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s the question of insight: An alert critic experiences each production of a play differently and, in the best cases, understands something about the play from Production Q that she&rsquo;d never realized during Productions A through P. And there&rsquo;s the question of tone: A human being can tell that Chekhov&rsquo;s monologue about giving up tobacco is actually a revelation of existential despair. Could a robot understand that, or would it object to the constant divergences from the ostensible topic?</p><p>But all of these pale before the ultimate question: Do android critics dream of electric actors?</p><p>Deactivating now.</p></p> Fri, 29 Jun 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/i-not-robot-critic-speaks-out-while-she-still-can-100470 Don't-Miss List June 27-July 4: A Pinter comedy and Illinois Shakespeare Fest http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/dont-miss-list-june-27-july-4-pinter-comedy-and-illinois-shakespeare <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pinter%27s%20The%20Lover%20Soul%20Theatre.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 413px; " title="Harold Pinter’s ‘The Lover’ plays at A Red Orchid Theatre starting Thursday. (Courtesy of Soul Theatre)" /></div><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/i-not-robot-critic-speaks-out-while-she-still-can-100470"><u>Dueling Critics on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>, 91.5FM and WBEZ.org, between 9 and 10 a.m. Friday June 29,&nbsp;FREE!</u></a><br /><br />Friday we debate the <a href="http://www.strangetree.org/">Strange Tree Group</a>&rsquo;s new satire <strong><em>Goodbye Cruel World</em></strong>, and try to persuade WBEZ contributor Dan Weissmann that <a href="http://sendmyrobot.com/">critics really can&rsquo;t be replaced by robots</a>. I&rsquo;ll be there, provided I can find my oil can. If you miss the conversation, you can listen to it here on the site.&nbsp;&ndash;KK<br /><br /><u><strong><em>The Lover</em></strong>, opening Thursday June 28 at 7:30; Soul Theatre at <a href="http://www.aredorchidtheatre.org/">A Red Orchid Theatre</a>,<br />1531 North Wells in Chicago; Thursdays-Sundays through July 15; tickets $20, $10 for students<br />and seniors</u><br /><br />It&rsquo;s hard to imagine the words &ldquo;comedy&rdquo; and &ldquo;Harold Pinter&rdquo; in the same universe, much less the same sentence; but <strong><em>The Lover</em></strong> is Pinter&rsquo;s one-act stab at a sex farce. I might be hesitant to recommend the show but this production features the impeccable Mick Weber, who illuminates every stage he steps on.&nbsp;&ndash;KK&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br /><u><em>All-American Holiday Pageant</em>, The Paper Machete, Saturday July 1 at 3 p.m.; The Green Mill, 4802 North Broadway in Chicago; donation requested</u><br /><br />This is a special edition of Christopher Piatt&rsquo;s spoken-word &ldquo;Salon in a Saloon,&rdquo; featuring a range of comic talents relieving themselves (you should pardon the expression) of their thoughts about God, country, sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. Expect fireworks as the writer-performers speak the speech trippingly on the tongue.&nbsp;&ndash;KK</p><p><u><a href="http://www.thefestival.org"><strong>Illinois Shakespeare Festival</strong></a>, Ewing Manor, Bloomington, Ill. 309-438-2535<a href="http://www.thefestival.org;$27-$47">; $27-$47</a> (various discounts also available); rotating rep through August 11</u></p><p>Year after year, the <strong>Illinois Shakespeare Festival</strong> (ISF) has gained respect as an important regional destination theater; the kind of place where you go to see three plays in two days and enjoy the ambiance of antiquing, Victorian homes, luxe b&amp;b&#39;s and good restaurants available in the Bloomington-Normal area, which is home to the ISF. The troupe&#39;s playhouse has perfect sightlines and great intimacy for Shakespeare outdoors, as it was meant to be. Even the grounds of the ISF are worth a visit: the Tudor-style Ewing Manor with its beautiful gardens and wide lawns where picnics are encouraged. The ISF&#39;s 35th season opens this week with <em>Othello </em>and <em>As You Like It</em> with <em>The Rivals</em> joining the rotating rep in mid-July. Many mornings also provide a free performance of <em>The Comedy of Errors</em> as part of the ISF&#39;s Theatre for Young Audiences program. FYI: excellent website for planning a visit.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p><p><u><a href="http://www.barntheatre.com"><strong>The Barn Theatre</strong></a>, 13351 W. M-96, Augusta, Mich. 269-731-4121; $34; season runs through Sept. 2</u></p><p>They used to call it &quot;the straw hat circuit&quot;: summer stock theater presented in a tent or an old barn by a company of performers whom you&#39;d see in a different show every week or two. It was, and is, great fun for thank goodness there&#39;s a little bit of old-fashioned summer stock still around. Indeed, you won&#39;t find summer stock any more classic than in Augusta, Mich., a rural town about two hours around the tip of the lake, where <strong>The Barn Theatre</strong> has been offering professional seasons since 1949 in a genuine old dairy barn. The opening show is <em>Pal Joey&nbsp;</em>(through July 1), followed by <em>Legally Blonde</em> (July 3-15), <em>The Wedding Singer</em> (July 17-29) and three more shows. Plenty of free parking on the lawn in front of the barn, kids welcome, refreshments available. Warning: The nearest accommodations, other than a state park campground, are in nearby Kalamazoo or Battle Creek.&nbsp;&ndash;JA</p></p> Thu, 28 Jun 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/dont-miss-list-june-27-july-4-pinter-comedy-and-illinois-shakespeare Don't-Miss List March 29-April 3: Ghost stories, untimely death and prep-school romance http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-29/dont-miss-list-march-29-april-3-ghost-stories-untimely-death-and-pr <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-29/Two Sides photos.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-29/Two Sides photos.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 420px;" title="Shannon Cason performs in 'Two Sides' by Chicago Slam Works. (Courtesy of the Vittum)"></p><p><u>Dueling Critics, 91.5 FM and WBEZ.org, between 9 and 10 a.m. Friday March 30th, FREE!</u><br> <br> Top of the list, of course, is our tete-a-tete on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> about <a href="http://theartistichome.org/"><em>Tea and Sympathy</em> by the Artistic Home at Stage 773</a>. A prep-school student suspected of being gay hopes to escape this fate worse than death through the ministrations of his housemaster’s frustrated wife. When you talk about this (and you will), be kind. Guest Duelist Albert Williams of the <em>Reader</em>, Columbia College Chicago and the <a href="http://www.arts.cornell.edu/english/awards/nathan/previous.html#2000">George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism</a> will challenge me to consider whether this chestnut (staged in 1953, filmed in 1956 with the oh-so-sympathetic Deborah Kerr) is worth roasting.</p><p><u><em>Tangled</em> at eta Creative Arts, 7558 S. South Chicago Ave., 8 p.m. Thursday March 29th, $10</u><br> <br> <a href="http://etacreativearts.org/mainstage_shows.html">eta’s new mainstage show</a> is sadly timely, focusing as it does on a group of African-American women funeral directors. Sure, their South Side businesses are thriving, but who wants to profit from the early deaths of the neighborhood’s young men? In light of Trayvon Martin (only the most recent of many), Nicole Anderson-Cobb’s play will hit frighteningly close to home–and yet it’s styled a “provocative dramedy.” Thursdays through Sundays through May 20; tickets $30; $20 on “Talkback Thursdays” and a special $10 for tonight’s opening.<br> <br> <u><a href="http://firstfolio.org/"><em>The Turn of the Screw</em> at First Folio</a>, Mayslake Estate, Oak Brook, 8 p.m. Saturday March 31st, $26-$37</u><br> <br> Here’s a ghost story for those of you who confuse March 31 with October 31, one by Henry James for those of you too snobby to admit you like ghost stories and one starring the elegant Nick Sandys as the ghost for those of you still <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062565/">identifying with Mrs. Muir.</a> Set in a spooky English manor, it’s performed in the spooky faux-English manor where First Folio makes its home. The company has a particular flair for genteel horror, so get in touch with your inner governess Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through April 29.<br> <br> <u><em>Two Sides</em> by Chicago Slam Works at the Vittum, 1012 N. Noble, 8 p.m. Tuesday April 3, $18.50</u><br> <br> In the spirit of the season one might ask: Why is this poetry slam different from all other poetry slams?&nbsp; To which the answer is, it’s a choreographed face-off between storytellers and performance poets. This is the first show of the inaugural season of <a href="http://chicagoslamworks.org/">Chicago Slam Works</a>, which continues with shows in May and July. (A three-show Slam Pass will run you $40.)&nbsp; Oil your snapping fingers and check it out.</p></p> Thu, 29 Mar 2012 14:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-29/dont-miss-list-march-29-april-3-ghost-stories-untimely-death-and-pr Don't-Miss List March 22-28: Irish theater, war stories http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-22/dont-miss-list-march-22-28-irish-theater-war-stories-97507 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-21/Light in the Piazza_Theo Ubique.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-21/Light in the Piazza_Theo Ubique.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 473px;" title="Theo Ubique's 'A Light in the Piazza.' (Courtesy of Theo Ubique/Adam Veness)"></p><p><strong>Dueling Critics on <em>Eight Forty-Eight,</em> WBEZ 91.5 FM and streaming live at wbez.org<br> Friday, March 23, 9 to 10 a.m., FREE</strong></p><p>First, of course, don't miss Jonathan and me as we duel over <a href="http://theoubique.org/">Theo Ubique's <em>The Light in the Piazza</em></a>, a musical (or is it an opera?) set in Italy after the Second World War that asks the following musical question: Can a girl from Winston-Salem who's been kicked in the head by a pony find love with a boy from Florence whose parents run a tie shop? (No, I'm not making this up.)</p><p>With a score by composer-lyricist Adam Guettel, whose <em>Floyd Collins</em> was equally unconventional and showed him to be a major new talent, and a book by Craig Lucas whose <em>Prelude to a Kiss</em> is one of the most romantic plays of the past couple of decades,<span style="font-style: italic;"> </span><em>Piazza </em>offers us plenty to talk about. We're on the radio Friday morning, and if you happen to miss the live segment you'll find it <a href="http://wbez.org/848">here on the site</a>.</p><p><a href="http://seanachai.org/"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-22/A Moon Misbegotten_Senachai Theater_Jackie Jasperson.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 267px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Brad Armacost and Carolyn Klein star in 'A Moon from the Misbegotten.' (Seanachai Theatre Company/Jackie Jasperson)"></a><strong><a href="http://seanachai.org/"><em>A Moon for the Misbegotten</em> at Seanachai Theatre Company</a><br> March 23-April 29, Irish American Heritage Center, tickets $24-$28</strong></p><p>What's so great about Seanachai is that it's transcended the default setting of Irish theater, namely, works about The Troubles. It certainly does work of that kind, like last year's spectacular <em>Shadow of a Gunman</em>; but it also does work from the Irish-American canon, and that's what's on tap beginning Friday night. Eugene O'Neill's <em>A Moon for the Misbegotten</em> is even more romantic than <em>Prelude</em> . . . (see above) and has all the richness of his best work without the egregious length of the magisterial <em>Iceman</em> and <em>Long Day's Journey.</em> This production features Steve Pickering as the tortured Jim Tyrone, and that would be reason enough to see the show even if the company weren't so reliably excellent.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.propthtr.org/"><em>". . . drumming in the night"</em> at Prop Thtr</a><br> March 23-April 29, 3502 N. Elston, tickets $15</strong></p><p>Prop Thtr offers its own take on the current craze for work about World War I (<em>War Horse, Downton Abbey</em>, the soon-to-be-released <em>Birdsong</em>) in Bertolt Brecht's first produced play <em>". . . drumming in the night."</em>&nbsp; The company uses a new translation of this tale of a German soldier trying to reconstruct his life and reconnect with his love in defeated postwar Berlin. Brecht was one of the leading critics of the Nazi regime during its rise; look to this early piece to see how the First World War gave birth to the Second.&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 22 Mar 2012 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-22/dont-miss-list-march-22-28-irish-theater-war-stories-97507 Daily Rehearsal: Everything on air this morning was about performance http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-10/daily-rehearsal-everything-air-morning-was-about-performance-96267 <p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1. 2. 3. Let me direct your attention to a variety of things that aired on <em>848 </em></strong></span></span>this morning. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-10/dueling-critics-ameriville-victory-gardens-theater-96252">Kelly Kleiman (sans Dueling Critic Jonathan) spoke about</a> Victory Gardens Theater's play <em>Ameriville</em>; of that production she cautioned that it&nbsp;<em>"</em>is not your mother's Victory Gardens", in reference to the change wraught by the company's new artistic director Chay Yew. After that,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-10/doyle-and-debbie-bring-nashville-eight-forty-eight-96253">Doyle &amp; Debbie performed</a> and spoke about their life (rather, actors&nbsp;Bruce Arntson and Jenny Littleton spoke as their characters), and<a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-10/it-possible-joke-about-rape-96254"> Brian Babylon and Molly Adams discussed</a> Ever Mainard's <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-06/daily-rehearsal-chicago-comedian-ever-mainard-goes-viral-96135">recent controversial stand-up piece</a>. It was a day chock-full-of performance and such content, and you can get it all online.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. Vocalo talked with <em>Invisible Man</em> director</strong></span></span> <a href="http://www.vocalo.org/blogs/archive/201202/invisible-man-discussion-director-christopher-mcelroen">Christopher&nbsp;McElroen last week </a>and I'm just now getting to it but you should, too.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. Andddd Hammerstein's&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lyricopera.org/tickets/production.aspx?pid=10258"><em>Show Boat</em></a> opens tonight</strong></span></span> at Lyric Opera with Nathan Gunn, Angela Renee Simpson, Alyson Cambridge, Morris Robinson and Ashley Brown, among others.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Fri, 10 Feb 2012 15:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-10/daily-rehearsal-everything-air-morning-was-about-performance-96267