Butch

Theater No Comments »

sideshow 9 circlesAdmittedly, I was a little skeptical about going to another Bill Cain play. The last one I saw was Victory Gardens’ 2012 fall season opener Equivocation, which I thought needed drastic amounts of editing and re-writing, not to mention a smaller dosage of intellectual smugness. But maybe Cain, one of the country’s ascendant playwrights, can write forcefully and from the heart instead of condescendingly and from the cerebrum if he is tackling contemporary themes such as a soldier’s experience in Iraq, versus the foibles and farce of Shakespeare’s life.  And I should have known that Sideshow Theatre Company, one of the few young Chicago theater companies that have continued to impress me (their wacky but heartfelt Heddatron made my best of 2011 theater list) will take any material and do the best it can with it, mining the play as deeply, imaginatively, and emotionally as it can. Sideshow has terrific, bombastic material with Cain’s 9 Circles, and gives it a devastating, jaw-droppingly excellent production, one of the best of this already rich Chicago theatrical year, with an unforgettable central performance by Andrew Goetten as Cain’s troubled grunt protagonist. If you love Chicago theater (and you wouldn’t be reading my blog if you didn’t), you’ll be a fool to miss 9 Circles.

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Where Young People Go to Retire

Dance, Food, Theater, Travel No Comments »

campo still standing hereYou would think that with my day job which entails crisscrossing the country racking up both air mileage and time zone discombobulation, there would be few places in the US that I would not have been to. In reality though, I haven’t really spent that much time in the Pacific Northwest. For the past several years, I’ve stared longingly at the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art’s website, devouring the descriptions of the offerings in its Time-Based Arts (TBA) Festival, an international festival of cutting-edge theater, dance, and performance art which occurs for two weeks every October. The TBA Festival curator used to be Mark Russell, who also programs the highly-regarded Under the Radar Festival in New York City’s Public Theater. So over the past few years, the biggest names of edgy, unconventional theater from The Wooster Group to Nature Theater of Oklahoma to Australia’s Back to Back Theater to Baryshnikov dancing with the Donna Uchizono Company have shown up in Portland in the fall. So finally, this year, with cultural wanderlust and curiosity winning over work and Chicago personal life scheduling conflicts, I headed into what Fred Armisen calls the place “where young people go to retire”.  In addition to taking in a couple of performances at the TBA Festival, the trip was also an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and to satiate a non-theatrical, culinary curiosity: is Andy Ricker’s PokPok, winner of James Beard awards, subject of frenzied national food media coverage, and hot restaurant export warmly-embraced by usually skeptical, world-weary New Yorkers, truly the second coming of Thai food?

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War Games

Theater No Comments »

this is war signal ensembleReally, it’s already September? The Chicago summer, so mercurial this year on how warm or not-warm it wanted to be, zoomed by like a Japanese bullet train. Between being busier than usual at my day job and a nearly week-long traipse to Mexico City (more on that in an upcoming blog post), I skipped a lot of the August theater offerings. But the fall theater season stealthily crept up on me, so I eased myself into it by going over to Signal Ensemble last weekend for the Chicago premiere of Hannah Moscovitch’s This Is War, about a quartet of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan in the late 2000s. “Eased” might not be the best word since the play is tough and wrenching. Although engagingly watchable due to its ensemble’s bombastic, committed, complicated performances, I’m not sure I particularly bought into the writing as a whole.

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