The Grey Zone

Theater No Comments »

luna gale goodmanOver the years I’ve had a rollercoaster relationship with the plays of Rebecca Gilman.  As an avid fan and advocate of Chicago theater, I’m thrilled that despite her national renown and her Pulitzer Prize nomination, she continues to live and work and premiere her latest works in hometown Chicago.  But as I said when writing about a 2009 production of her Blue Surge which I admired: “I’m still not completely sold on her plays (I feel some of her writing comes off academic and intellectual versus emotional and visceral, see Spinning into ButterDollhouse, etc.)”. And in 2010’s True History of the Johnstown Flood, truly one of my most deplorable theatrical experiences, the writing was also chaotic and confounding.  But I think after all these years, I’ve finally come across a Rebecca Gilman play that I really, really like, no, make that really, really love: Luna Gale, in a world premiere production at the Goodman Theatre, is extraordinary, the first must-see play of 2014– emotional and visceral, yes, and also intelligent, urgent, complex, painted on a canvas of varying hues of grey, full of characters deep with flaws, warts, and scars, but kindnesses too. If you call yourself a theater lover, you’d be a fool to miss Luna Gale.

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Ambition

Theater No Comments »

sweet smell of successChicago has been repeatedly plagued by the Polar Vortex, but the city’s winter theater season is undeniably sizzling.  I was very disappointed by last fall’s lackluster theatrical offerings, so I was quite excited to see shows during the first three weeks of 2014 that are ambitious, challenging, and daring. Some of them may not be totally successful, but hey in my more than six years of writing this blog, I’ve come to deeply believe that thinking big and takings risks have always been part of what made our theater life so vibrant and thrilling and different from other cities; traits that unfortunately seemed to have fallen by the wayside during last year’s safe, revival-heavy, audience-friendly theatrical choices.  Here are my thoughts on three of the plays I’ve seen during the past several weeks:

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Krung Thep

Food, Travel No Comments »

nahm_crab curryIn the monster 1980s pop hit “One Night in Bangkok” (which came from the equally monster Broadway musical flop Chess), Murray Head sings “One night in Bangkok makes the hard man humble.”  The city of Bangkok is indeed humbling for both first-time and returning visitors– with its dense urban sprawl (it’s in the top 20 biggest cities in the world); with its frenzied, often gridlocked traffic; with its pungent, lively, cacophonous city life in which you can get anything and everything your heart desires, it is a city like very few in the world, fascinating, mesmerizing, discomfiting. Bangkok is also universally acknowledged as one of the great dining cities in the world, especially when it comes to its deservedly-famous street food.  The culinary-focused flock to Bangkok and find themselves in street food nirvana, slurping beef noodles in the narrow alleys of Bangrak, tearing into skewers of grilled pork along Sukhumvit Road, sweating through the spiciest duck curry they’ll ever have on backpacker ground zero Khao San Road. I love visiting Bangkok and I’ve chowed down its sois during past trips (the memory of the gloriously crisp, sweet-salty fish cakes I had in a no-name stall along Sukhumvit Road in the mid-nineties continue to ruin any pleasure in eating  fish cakes in Thai restaurants in the US) . But two weeks ago, in early January, coming back to this great enthralling city after more than a decade, I was determined to experience the thriving fine (or finer) dining scene that many “foodie” visitors overlook. I was specifically interested in finding out what the big deal was about Nahm, recently anointed as #32 in the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and #3 in its satellite Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, helmed by controversial chef David Thompson.  So despite being tempted by all the grilled and fried delights so easily accessible even right outside my hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 24, I reserved my stomach (anxious for potential regrets if Nahm turned out to be a dud) for Thompson’s white-table cloth shrine to Thai cooking.

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