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Working for the Weekend: Critics picks for 6/3-6/5

Kelly Kleiman

First, let me add my voice to the paeans of praise being rained down on Steep Theatre for its production of Festen. Behind that uninformative name is a family drama as painful as it is bizarre: a celebratory birthday party for the patriarch devolves into accusations, evasions and discoveries about incest. It's not for the faint of heart but the production is superb, drawing its power from the deliberate underplaying of the entire cast under the skilled direction of Jonathan Berry. It has been extended through July 10, and there are still tickets left.

At 1115 West Berwyn in Edgewater; tickets are $20-$22; where are scalpers when you need them? And tonight begins the brief run of Collaboraction's Annual Sketchbook Festival featuring 16 plays and "devised works," each fewer than eight minutes long. Ordinary performances include half of the repertory, but this Saturday night (the 4th) you can gulp down the whole thing by attending at 7 p.m. and again at 9. Among the anticipated highlights: Pulitzer finalist Kristoffer Diaz tells off a critic. Not one of the ones in the audience, we hope. Through June 25 at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 West Division in Wicker Park; tickets are $25, $15 for students.  

Laura Molzahn

Imagine a serious, profoundly moving dance piece whose score consists of music by Whitney Houston, rapper Chingy, and 17th-century composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. Then there’s the recorded snippet from David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross(the movie) and the scene (not set to Mamet) that looks like an 80s music video, complete with dramatic shadows and lip-synching.

Molly Shanahan, of Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, first presented her Sharks Before Drowning at Northwestern’s Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center last December. A huge critical success, it’s being remounted this weekend (starting tonight, June 2) at the same venue. Don’t let all the NU kids get the good seats. Shanahan’s sinuous, utterly motivated and deeply felt movement is like nothing you’ve seen by any other troupe. Add to that the piece’s layers of possible meaning (try Googling obligate ram ventilators and the practice of “finning”—OK, I did it for you), and you have a one-of-a-kind dance.

Jonathan Abarbanel

When was the last time you saw a classic Broadway musical with an orchestra of 24 or more? It ain't been in Chicago anytime in years unless you've been to Light Opera Works. It's the go-to place for the lush sound of a real string section, always spot-on musical direction and the soaring vocal lines of great material. Currently receiving the loving Light Opera Works (LOW) treatment is Brigadoon, the Scottish Highlands fantasy by Lerner and Loewe which remains a perennial musical comedy favorite. LOW operates out of Cahn Auditorium in Evanston. Brigadoon runs through June 12.

Anton Chekhov said The Cherry Orchard is a comedy and couldn't understand why members of the Moscow Art Theatre were in tears when he finished reading them the play for the first time. Chekhov loved the characters he created; loved them enough to allow them to behave foolishly and be happy and sad at the same time just like, well, real people. That's the glory of Chekhov and his final masterpiece, directed at the Raven Theatre by Michael Menendian, a master of naturalistic material. The Cherry Orchard runs through July 23.

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