Caryl Churchill said in a 1960 essay, "The role of the playwright is not to give answers but to ask questions." I suspect most of those who attended Remy Bumppo's new production of Churchill's 2012 play, Love and Information, would agree. Lots of questions, few answers.
The production is made up of about 50 seemingly unrelated scenes in random order, some no more than a few seconds, and the longest lasting a few minutes. They are played out by 10 actors, all of whom play many roles, in an anonymous space fitted out with steel shelving units and corrugated file boxes of different sizes. The boxes themselves suggest data--as in all the boxes it takes to store the paperwork for a legal case or a consulting engagement--or the memories of a life. The scenes, skillfully choreographed by director Shawn Douglass, add up to a pastiche of love, memories and the need to make human connections in an era fraught with technology.
Plucky Rosenthal, the self-proclaimed "Jewish Star of Stage...and Stage," is presenting a limited run of The Plucky Rosenthal Show (a one-woman show inspired by vaudeville and variety performance of the '40s and '50s) at the Uptown Underground, Chicago's newest venue for burlesque, vaudeville and cabaret variety performances. The limited run is a 45-minute adventure through myriad vintage influences, including wacky bits, physical comedy and the best of modern Borscht Belt amusements. Plucky, whose stage demeanor is alternately utterly charming and then almost demonically over-the-top, handles each bit of original material with her characteristic charisma and panache.
I'm guessing that your attitude toward The Walk will change the closer you get to its breath-stealing final 40 minutes. The story of high-wire artist Philippe Petit seems almost tailor made for director and co-writer (along with Christopher Browne) Robert Zemeckis and his skills as a filmmaker who knows how to use special effects to tell a story without calling attention to the effects. Going back to the Back to the Future films, and continuing through Forrest Gump, Contact, Cast Away and even his previous film, Flight, Zemeckis works best when he's blending the visual trickery with deeply human characters. While I certainly don't find his string of photo-real animation works — A Christmas Carol, Beowulf, The Polar Express — unwatchable, I also rarely revisit them.
But The Walk is a unique story because Petit (played here by the amiable Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is, in a way, himself a cartoon character, in that he pulls off feats of balance, physics, geometry, and sheer will-power that don't seem humanly possible. Perhaps for that reason, Zemeckis has chosen to paint him as a highly animated, larger-than-life being even when he's not on a high wire. Perhaps that's accurate and it may even be appropriate, but have Gordon-Levitt as Petit spending a great deal of the film narrating the film — quite often looking directly at the camera, standing in the torch of the Statue of Liberty, seriously — seems like an exercise in joviality that comes across as simply trying too hard to get our attention. And considering we know that this film ends with Petit walking on a wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center eight times (with stops for tricks along the way), force feeding us how much of a performer he is off the wire hardly seems necessary.
Gapers Block is proud to present 20x2 Chicago, a live event where 20 people are asked the same question and given two minutes each to answer in whichever way they choose. The results may take any form, from spoken word to music to film, and can be as varied as the emotions and reactions they evoke. This edition's question is "When did you know?" See the answers on Friday, Oct. 23 at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave.
20x2 is a mainstay of afterhours programming at SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX, and Chicago is its first official offshoot. The last Chicago show was April 18, and featured the question "What's next?" Responses included an ode to turning 30, an app to predict the future, and a dance to a familiar Balkan break beat. Who knows what the speakers will come up with this time?
L to R, White, Sturgis, Young, Crane. Photo by Liz Lauren.
Disgraced won a 2013 Pulitzer Prize for playwright Ayad Akhtar. But that doesn't mean you won't be squirming in your seat in mental discomfort as the 85-minute play progresses. The play tackles questions of Islamaphobia, Muslim-American identity and identity politics in general. The smartly written script offers equal-opportunity political incorrectness, something to offend everyone.
Kimberly Senior, who has directed Disgraced since its first 2012 production in Chicago at American Theater Company, directs Goodman's new production. She directed its Lincoln Center debut in late 2012 and then its Broadway production in 2014. Since then, it has become one of the most-produced plays in the country.
Easily one of the finest films you'll see all year, director Denis Villeneuve's (Prisoners, Incendies) Sicario is so good for so many reasons that to break it down into its elements seems sacrilegious, since the complex ways the pieces interconnect is the largest part of its perfection. On the surface, the film is a cynical, yet authentic look at the state of the ongoing, bloody drug war happening on a daily basis along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. But what's going on under the surface of Sicario is what makes it so damn sinister and brilliant and soul crushing.
Mexico City's VICO is a video project that conducts workshops and seminars that encourage the exploration of experimental cinema and film. For the first time in Chicago, VICO recently presented Counter-montages, Tinkering subjectivity, which included a collection of short films made from students in a workshop led by Javier Toscano. The program, co-presented by Little House and Comfort Film, featured 11 shorts from creators who were not traditional artists, or who did not consider themselves artists whatsoever.
The films shown were a collection of appropriated images, youtube videos, and political context that spanned Mexican culture and a digital realm. My Sweet 15 by Dulce Rosas presented a series of young women attending and performing at their quinceañera. By tradition, the women are adorned with extravagant dresses, jewelry and makeup for their 15th birthday celebration. In Rosas' short, the artist appropriated shots of girls dancing, celebrating and prepping themselves for the soon-to-be party. The beginning of the film focused on a baby girl who was crying and cradled; she represented the future character, or characters, at the quinceañera. The short film prodded at the honor, as several clips featured girls awkwardly dancing with dolls, or posing next to expensive cars. At first glance, it looks like an all-American teenage prom.
Sentir, Tocar (To Feel, To Touch) by Carlos Cruz y Grisel Castro, 2012.
The 2015 Expo Chicago presented 140 galleries from all over the world last weekend at the Navy Pier festival hall. In a celebratory manner, THE SEEN, an independent editorial affiliate of Expo, released their first print issue over the weekend, and /Dialogues introduced panel discussions and conversations throughout the three bustling days. IN/SITU provided large-scale installations and site-specific works throughout the expansive hall inside and outside on Navy Pier.
The most memorable work in the IN/SITU program, possibly because of its location, was Daniel Buren'sFrom three windows, which illuminated the space and released color while suspended from the ceiling. The residual program pieces were lost among the volume of visitors and rousing bodies that centered around the smaller works in the booths--glancing at what was above, and being lured in towards the interest of sales.
Daniel Buren "from three windows," courtesy of EXPO Chicago
Artists like Jon Rafman or Paolo Cirio, who work primarily with Google Street View as a medium, have created images that are evocative and disturbing, often blurring the line of legal privacy issues. While capturing the individuals who fill the streets, alleys and lawns of the world is captivating, these artists have drawn on the public and an additional tool to conceptualize the public sphere. Since 2007, the launch of the panoramic technology featured on Google Maps and Google Earth has become an eccentric and often easy way to view places one may never go or places one desires to see.
Chicago Shakespeare's bewitching new production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest was adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller (the silent member of the Penn & Teller duo). The play has all of its poetry and more music and magic than traditional productions of this late Shakespearean tale of revenge.
Prospero's island has been transformed into a travelling tent show laden with trickery and magic. The spirit Ariel (Nate Dendy) seems to appear out of nowhere again and again and is capable of amazing sleight of hand. Prospero, played with wicked charm by Larry Yando in his 24th CST production, is the wizard and rightful Duke of Milan.
New Orleans has Mardi Gras. New York has New Year's Eve. Now Chicago has the Great Chicago Fire Festival, an event that is unique to us and highlights Chicago's talent at reinvention in the face of adversity. This coming Saturday, the Great Chicago Fire Festival will kick off its second annual event, this time on the terra firma of Northerly Island, a hidden gem nestled in the museum campus right on the lake. The bold concept of the festival is from Redmoon Theater's executive artistic director and co-founder Jim Lasko. He has a way of getting large groups of people to collaborate and produce amazing spectacles--and his dream is to give Chicago an annual one. Last September the festival packed both sides of the Chicago River, but it was beleaguered by false starts and misfires. This year will be different though, because it's a whole new event, from location to activities and even to accessibility for onlookers. I interviewed Jim Lasko to get some insight in to the plan, Redmoon's philosophy and what we should expect.
Tickets are free to the Sept. 26, 5-to-9pm event at Northerly Island, 1520 S. Linn White Dr., but it is recommended that you reserve tickets early.
Joe (Scott Westerman, right) is egged on by Kit Carson (Frank Nall) as he engages in a gum-chewing contest with Tom (Jae K. Renfrow, left). Photo by Tim Knight.
Walking into The Artistic Home theater, you literally enter Nick's saloon in San Francisco. Large lettering identifies the bar owner, playing cards are set out, light illuminates the back window. It was clear that each prop and scenic detail had been strategically set up to bring the audience back to 1939. In the 45-seat theater, I felt like I was a part of the production.
The actors brought to life exactly what I had read in the script just hours before. The emotion portrayed in Kitty Duvall and the transformation of Joe throughout the performance were truly how I pictured it. I believe that the playwright, William Saroyan, would approve this rendition of his work. The details, even down to the newspapers displaying "The San Francisco Chronicles" masthead in 1939-style font, were exemplary.
Reeling, the second-oldest LGBTQ+ film festival in the world and a beloved Chicago cultural institution for more than 30 years, is back with one of its strongest slates of movies in recent memory. A bevy of special guests and events is also part of the schedule. Reeling 2015: The 33rd Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival takes place Sept. 17-24, 2015, and will present nearly 40 features and more than 60 short films from around the world, the majority of them Chicago premieres. The festival returns to the Landmark Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark St.) for the bulk of the festival. The fest's home base, Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.), will also host screenings. Go to the fest's website for the schedule and tickets.
Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez will present its traditional Mexican dances and music in Chicago for two nights--Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26-27--at the Auditorium Theatre. The company formed in 1952 by Amalia Hernandez, a dancer and ballet choreographer, has appeared in Chicago many times over the years.
Ballet Folklorico de Mexico celebrates Mexican culture with vividly costumed dancers and musicians depicting the traditions of indigenous Meso-American culture.
The Joffrey Ballet opens its 60th season tonight with Millennials. The show features new pieces from a trio of the next generation of standout choreographers. Millennials showcases world premieres by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Myles Thatcher, as well as the Chicago premiere of Fool's Gold from Christopher Wheeldon.
Lopez Ochoa's 20-minute Mammatus -- the Latin word for cloud -- features 20 dancers as birds and insects, exploring movement and nature.
"I feel they are more animals than humans," Lopez Ochoa said of the dancers in her piece. "It's really about forces of nature."