Onstage/Backstage: Critics picks for 5/13-5/15 | WBEZ
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Working for the Weekend: Critics picks for 5/13-5/15

Kelly Kleiman

War and Peace in an hour?  It sounds like a joke, but it's the real deal: a group of Chicago dance and theater artists (including folks from Redmoon and Collaboraction) will offer their own speed-of-light interpretation of Tolstoy's famously long masterwork. (Cynics should recall that Writers' Theatre's 90-minute version of Crime and Punishment omitted nothing that mattered and included nothing that didn't--a masterwork, itself.) I'm seeing War and Peace tonight, so I can't tell you if the effort is successful, but the very concept is so brilliant that anyone who cares about Russian literature (or dance or theater, for that matter) should plan to see it.

It's a short run--only til next Sunday (May 22), and only Thursday-Sunday, so hop to it. At one of the best spaces in town, the Viaduct, under the highway at Belmont and Western; tickets $10-$15. 

And speaking of hopping to it: tomorrow night (Friday, May 13) is the final performance of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along up at The Music Theatre Company in Highland Park. This show was exciting in prospect, because it's one of Sondheim's most sophisticated works; but it turns out it was even more exciting in execution, with just the right light touch on a serious vein. This company seems to have appeared from nowhere, but like Athena springing from the head of Zeus it has arrived fully armed and ready for anything.  $30, and worth every penny.

Laura Molzahn

Tap dancers, who are all about lineage, pass down the physical equivalents of oral history, honoring their elders and nurturing their students and always acknowledging their connections. In the family show Once Upon a Tap, Derick K. Grant—who starred in Broadway’s Tony-winning Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk—ramps up that tradition by performing with his kids, Lulu and Kaleo, who reportedly received their first tap shoes on the days they were born. Lulu is 11 and Kaleo turns 13 on the day of this world premiere, Sunday only at the Harris and just $10. A bedtime story about teamwork and gnomes, it reportedly takes viewers to a magical land where an evil conductor, the “Maestro,” threatens to destroy the rhythm and funk. Writer Shane Rutkowski narrates the performance, and the supporting ensemble of seven dancers includes hip-hip acrobat/contortionist Tylon and 15-year-old tapper Demi Remick.

Jonathan Abarbanel

Desmin Borges blew everyone away as the narrator/hero of Kristofer Diaz's The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety, first in the Chicago co-production by Teatro Vista and Victory Gardens, and then in the Off-Broadway transfer. Now Borges is returning to Chicago and Teatro Vista where he takes the lead in Jennifer Barclay's Freedom, NY, which plays through June 12 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont.

True theater mavens should be flocking next week (Wed.-Sat., May 18-21) to the confines of Columbia College for its years-in-the-making massive symposium titled "Chicago: Theatre Capital of America--Past, Present and Future." Over 70 sessions with 180 speakers (from across the country) are on the schedule, which should cover everything from our five Tony Award winning companies to gay theater to theater critics. $95 for everything ($60/students). Full disclosure: Kelly Kleiman and I are leading one symposium program, Critiquing the Critics, May 21 at 12:30PM.

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