Molly Shanahan and Jeff Hancock
The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events hosts a series of free downtown dance performances through the month of November. It begins this weekend at the Cultural Center with a collaboration between Molly Shanahan of Mad Shak and choreographer/dancer/costume designer Jeff Hancock, several years in the making. Entitled “And We Shall Be Rid of Them,” the duet uses the tale of Hansel and Gretel as a diving board for themes of loss and vulnerability. Shanahan said the piece wasn’t originally intended to explore loss—more the notion of being lost—but both artists experienced a great deal of loss during the making of the piece. “We both came to a deep realization that loss is a part of life,” Shanahan said. “Maybe the benefits of some of the losses I suffered was an opening up of my sense of humor.” Read the rest of this entry »
Joe Diamond and David Parr
Among the many wonders presented by magicians David Parr and Joe Diamond, the most impressive trick the night I attended was pretty much filling up the house on Wednesday evening, exactly as the Cubs were playing their do-or-die wild card game against the Pirates. While the rest of Lincoln Avenue was glued to sports-bar flat screens, the Magic Cabaret crowd was enjoying an enchanted evening of abracadabra, combining flawless technique with wry humor and relaxed audience interaction. Read the rest of this entry »
Dave Buchen/photo: Theatre Oobleck
Cantastoria is not a terribly familiar theatrical form, but it is a legitimate one, and one that is appropriately suited to bringing the poetry of Charles Baudelaire to those of us who are bombarded daily with memes on Facebook. On the surface, “Delicious Night: Baudelaire in a Box, Episode 8” seems like it ought not to be called a theatrical production, but rather a rock concert. An ensemble of six musicians (four of who are the evening’s composers) play songs that set the French poet’s words to music. All the while Dave Buchen’s inspired artwork slowly slides past on hand-cranked rolls of white paper. Read the rest of this entry »
For the most part, The Inconvenience’s sixth annual “The Fly Honey Show”’s blatantly burlesque and abounding pop cultural references can make it feel specifically millennial. However, in the moments when performers stand firmly outside of the glib pastiche with personal honesty and poetic earnestness (“Join the hive… the whole damn tribe. All my honeys, let’s shake a good wing for a good thing, all of my honeys, let’s thrive.”), it is clear that “The Fly Honey Show” is not just an exercise in genre but a genuine effort to bring viewers (millennial and otherwise) into The Inconvenience’s glittering underground hive for a reprieve from conventionality’s tyrannies.
Mary Williamson, a powerful host, tirelessly herds the audience through more than twenty acts of spoken word, mash-ups, striptease and comedy. She makes you feel at home in your body as she and the other barely clad bodies dancing throughout the theater are in theirs. Of her fly side-ponytail she says, “It’s business on this side and nonna your goddamn business on this side, because I’m a layered and complicated individual.” Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve never been one to keep a consistent journal, but judging by the expressive content of the readings at Under The Gun Theater’s new monthly show “#TBT,” my infrequent entries are far too dry and logistical. A bit of background for the unfamiliar (read: old): #TBT (Throwback Thursday) is a Twitter/Instagram (and even Facebook, though their hashtag game is pretty weak) hashtag people use to post a photo or memory from their past. Every second Thursday at Under The Gun, “#TBT” provides a stage for ensemble members to read their early writing (mostly journals and letters) in all of their embarrassingly inelegant glory. And it is the perfect combination of all three: embarrassing, inelegant and glorious. It’s also sometimes moving.
The night I attended, a dozen readers braved the stage, clutching old diaries, personal letters and short stories. While the fiction readings delivered laughs through their overly ambitious prose—Allison Keller’s eighth-grade opus “The Homeless Child” described a color as “a deep planetarium purple”—the angsty and adamant pinings from young diaries make this a truly captivating show. Read the rest of this entry »
Mr. Microcosmos and Mili Lili/Photo: Martin Girard
To some extent, every Cirque du Soleil show is dreamlike. Writer/director Michel Laprise’s “Kurios—Cabinet of Curiosities” is the first I have seen that makes that scenario explicit. Though ostensibly set in “an alternate yet familiar past”—embodied by a set (Stéphane Roy) and costumes (Philippe Guillotel) that steampunk fans will flip for—the show features a wide-eyed character called the Seeker who climbs into a gigantic wooden chair for a rest at the start of the show with a clock behind him stuck at 11:11 and returns to it at the end to open his eyes just as that clock trips over to 11:12. Since everything that happens in between is purely fantastical, the book ending is apt.
Throughout its two-hour running time—including a twenty-five minute intermission, which only seems long until you see the lines for the bathrooms—“Kurios” delivers. This may be a pop-up show in a parking lot of the United Center, but it’s the full Cirque experience. As soon as you enter the temporary Big Top structure you’re engulfed: with Cirque merchandise, concession stands and costumed actors, among other things. And the space itself is large enough for an actual circus; the true height of the ceiling is repeatedly explored in the high-energy acts that fill the Seeker’s imagination. Read the rest of this entry »
The Moth GrandSLAM 1: Into the Wild
Starting a show by making audacious promises to the audience—you will laugh, you will be amazed, etc.—is usually a misguided path to disaster. But host/MC Don Hall came off as more soothsayer than bloviator as The Moth Chicago GrandSLAM delivered on all accounts. The Moth storytelling series is a well-known mainstay to the Chicago area, with shows every couple weeks at Martyrs and Haymarket. The format is fairly simple: story tellers put their name in a hat, and those drawn get five minutes to tell a story compatible with that evening’s theme. But the GrandSLAM serves as a special event held a few times throughout the year, with the purpose of pitting ten Moth winners against each other for the grand prize of bragging rights. Three sets of judges—including a group of former Moth GrandSLAM winners, members from local LGBTQ storytellers OUTspoken and a randomly selected crew of audience members—scored each story on unspecified criteria. The theme was “Mea Culpa.” Read the rest of this entry »
Natalie Abell/Photo: Nancy Behall
Science fiction, fantasy and comic books are lousy with circuses. From the Flying Graysons to the Circus of Crime to whatever creepy clown Stephen King last wrote about, nerds seem to love a good circus. With this in mind, it seems like a no-brainer that someone somewhere would conceive of a nerd circus where the worlds of fandom and the circus collide. Enter Acrobatica Infiniti Circus.
Acrobatica Infiniti is a community of circus performers dedicated to creating connection between circus performance and geek fandom. Threading the middle of that particular Venn Diagram could have led to an epic disaster of a show, but Acrobatica Infiniti’s “The Nerd Circus” on Friday night was anything but. The show, directed by Tana Karo, and performed for one night only at the Vittum Theater, was funny, thrilling and surprisingly touching.
The night began with an introduction by an MC in a Superman t-shirt. He entered without any of the bombast you would normally expect from a circus ringmaster. At first this choice seemed off-putting, underselling the pomp and circumstance of the show, but over the course of the evening, guiding the audience from one performer to the next, he won us over with his wit, humility, humor and, of course, a few juggling tricks. Read the rest of this entry »
Those who say punk rock is dead have been spending too much time at the Wicker Park Urban Outfitters and not enough time right down the street at the Flatiron Arts Building, where the spirit of ’77 is alive and well. Flatiron is the temporary home of The Inconvenience, an interdisciplinary company that takes all the pretension out of the term “interdisciplinary.”
The Inconvenience kicks off their promising 2015 season with a dynamic evening of dance billed simply as “The Salts.” As a collaboration between Erin Kilmurray (who also performs) and Molly Brennan, the performance’s reference points are intentionally iconic: Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Talking Heads. Yet the take is refreshingly modern, with frenetic choreography broken up by humorous interjections and politically charged vignettes. The routines themselves celebrate the spirit of punk: loose yet taut, zealous yet highly accessible. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Chris Neseman
If you’re looking for an enchanting emcee who can walk the fine line between low-key and high class while sipping a giant martini, look no further than MsPixy, the quick-witted host of the Belmont Burlesque Revue (BBR). Languidly pacing the stage in a shimmery evening gown, she leads audiences through this eighty-minute mix of burlesque, comedy, music and magic (or “a variety of entertaining and often sexy-like things,” in her words) every other month on a stage at Theater Wit with a rental agreement that MsPixy describes as similar to “your cousin who stays on your couch,” since the revue essentially borrows another show’s set for the night.
On Saturday night, the abstract set for Shattered Globe Theatre’s “The Grown-Up” provided a space for the ladies (known collectively as the Belmont Bombshells) and gents of BBR to perform upon. And perform they did, opening with a parasol-spinning Bombshell quartet that may have been the weakest number of the night, but set the stage for the kind of shimmying and teasing that ever-growing burlesque audiences have come to expect. Read the rest of this entry »