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Saturday, November 28

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Photography Fri Nov 27 2015

Iranian Photographers Show Contemporary View of Iran at Bridgeport Art Center

By Yasmeen Ahmed

A rare exhibit by eight young Iranian photographers representing diverse geographic areas of their country opened recently at the Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St. The exhibit is open through today

A Journey Inside presents the work of a much larger project involving eight Iranian photographers and a compassionate portrayal of their country. The project consists of two parts. First, the artists participated in a training segment to learn from others in the industry through workshops and other resources. The exhibit is the second part of the project.

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Column Thu Nov 26 2015

The Good Dinosaur, Creed, Victor Frankenstein, Legend, A Ballerina's Tale, The Wonders, In Jackson Heights, Tab Hunter Confidential & The Creeping Garden


The Good Dinosaur

The first person to compare or disparage Pixar's The Good Dinosaur because it somehow doesn't stack up to the studio's release earlier this year, Inside Out, is going to get a smack. You can write a 100-page dissertation on the complexities and themes of Inside Out and still have a whole lot more to say.

But The Good Dinosaur is an entirely different and hilariously bizarre beast, literally. To start, there are far simpler and more basic ideas at play, but they are ones that are in desperate need of being emphasized today. This is a story about friendship, family, overcoming fear, loss and home, and the film somehow covers all of that without getting schmaltzy or overly sentimental. And in true Pixar spirit, it also manages to be creative, original and a pure joy to simply sit back and soak in some of the most realistic-looking landscapes ever created using computers. The water, trees, rocks, all things natural look so real, you almost wonder if the artist simply rendered the characters over nature documentaries (not really, but I bet it crosses your mind).

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (1)

Interview Tue Nov 24 2015

Interview with Michelle Mitchenor in her Breakout Role as Indigo in the Controversial New Film Chi-Raq

Michelle Mitchenor (second from right) in Chi-Raq
Michelle Mitchenor (second from right) in Chi-Raq.

I sat down with the fresh-faced, charming and up-and-coming actor Michelle Mitchenor the night before her debut in the feature film Chi-Raq as Indigo, the leader of the Trojan women. Although I couldn't get a word out of her about what dress she would wear to the premiere or what her next film project might be, she had some great insights in to the controversy surrounding Chi-Raq and the intentions of the filmmaker Spike Lee. As we sipped rooibos tea with her multitasking and knowledgeable publicist Leigha, Michelle told me how she discovered the tea during a recent trip to Uganda where she went to be part of an outreach Breakdance Project Uganda to enrich children's lives with dance.

She explained how in Uganda education isn't free and many kids don't even go to school. She loved the experience and even missed the chance to go to the opening of NBA2K16, a video game with a capture motion film in which she played Cece. It was her first project with Spike Lee. But she explained, although she was sad to miss it, she realized life is about opportunities to experience and do good work and what she was gaining by experiencing life in Uganda was well worth it. The rest of my talk with Cece was just as full of talk about her desire to make a change in the world with her art, which is a versatile mix of acting, dancing and singing.

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Kim Campbell / Comments (0)

Column Fri Nov 20 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, The Night Before, Secret in Their Eyes, The Hallow, In the Basement & A Poem Is a Naked Person


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

The Hunger Games films seem like an anomaly. They filmmakers managed to crank one out every year across three years, and they actually got slightly better with each new chapter. More importantly, they went from escapist entertainment about kids killing kids for sport to something far more substantial — a clear antiwar, anti-fascism statement that seems to make more and more sense in the times we're living in. Do we believe that in the not-too-distant future, a government (I'm talking about some government in the world) will sponsor games like this? Probably not. But do we believe that if a presiding government felt threatened, it would use citizens as human shields? Well, that's already happened.

Panem has become a world in which rebels are portrayed as terrorists, and dictators make themselves out to be caretakers of freedom, who believe that if you're not with us, you're against us. As the franchise has grown and evolved, it's gone from escapist science fiction to social commentary, and it's all the better for it with a substance to its screenplay, co-written by Peter Craig and Danny Strong (adapting Suzanne Collins novel). Almost as importantly as all of this, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 deals with the aftereffects of war in a very real way as well. There are characters here whose minds have clearly been shattered by being constantly attacked or threatened with attack — including Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who moves beyond simply being a run-of-the-mill action hero and opens up the Mockingjay as an emotional being who feels every loss of her comrades and suffers a great deal of survivor's guilt.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (1)

Review Wed Nov 18 2015

Victory Gardens' Never the Sinner Replays the Thrilling "Crime of the Century" and Aftermath

'Never the Sinner' Balaban, Brodess and Kupferer. Photo by Michael Courier.
Balaban, Brodess and Kupferer. Photo by Michael Courier.

If you grew up in Chicago, the story of the senseless murder of young Bobby Franks by Leopold and Loeb was a nightmare for parents. The story still resonated, no matter how much it faded into the past.

These two young college students had adopted an attitude of superiority over the common people, a feeling that they were "übermensch" or supermen, no doubt caused by too much reading of Nietzsche. Thus they could randomly choose and murder a child in their wealthy Kenwood neighborhood and believe they would never be caught. Unfortunately, one of the übermenschen dropped his glasses at the murder site and gave the police a critical clue.

Never the Sinner is the story of the 1924 "crime of the century," its prelude, publicity and trial aftermath. It's retold in a tightly woven and acted play at Victory Gardens Theater. The script by Chicago native John Logan, written when he was a student at Northwestern University, is directed by Gary Griffin, whose usual métier is musicals. Griffin proves he can direct a perfectly wrought drama with equal skill. The 85-minute drama focuses on the relationship between the two young men. It's tense and thrilling even though the outcome is known from the start.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Art Tue Nov 17 2015

One of a Kind Show Returns to the Merchandise Mart

One of a Kind Show logoPerhaps you've noticed the street banners parading in downtown, or are a returning shopper, but next month, the One of a Kind Show and Sale will return for its 15th annual holiday sale. The handmade shopping event will include more than 600 artists, craft makers and designers from all over the United States.

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S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Review Mon Nov 16 2015

Mary-Arrchie's Reimagined Staging of Ibsen's Ghosts is a Bit Meta

Mary-Arrchie Theatre 'Ibsen's Ghosts'
Photo by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux.

Mary-Arrchie Theatre's new production of Ibsen's Ghosts takes the great Norwegian playwright's scandalous 1881 play, shakes it up and spits it out in a witty contemporary form. And then punches you in the gut with its ending.

Greg Allen's clever adaptation of Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen is set "in a moribund historic store-front theater on the North Side of Chicago in its final season before it gets turned into bicycle storage for luxury condos." That about sums up the current state of Mary-Arrchie Theatre in its last season after 30 years of staging fine, thought-provoking theater. Fittingly, Ibsen's Ghosts is carried out meta-theatrically as a play within a play and the actors occasionally break the fourth wall to acknowledge the audience. This isn't done to excess, however, so it doesn't lapse over into cuteness.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Column Fri Nov 13 2015

The 33, Spotlight, Trumbo, Brooklyn, By the Sea, Heart of a Dog & Madam Phung's Last Journey


The 33

This telling of the real-life ordeal surrounding 33 miners trapped in an underground Chilean gold and copper mine for 69 days is a crowded affair, both in terms of the sheer number of cast members and the various plotlines merging into one. But ultimately, director Patricia Riggen (Girl In Progress) does as strong a job directing traffic as she does creating a finished work that is an intense, claustrophobic, and highly emotional journey.

There's a bit of backstory that shows a number of the soon-to-be-trapped miners hanging out at a barbecue at one of their homes the day before the collapse. The spirit and jovial, slightly drunken, and it's clear that a bit part of what kept these men alive was a long-standing friendship and a belief that no one person was out just for himself. It's established fairly quickly that the company that owns the mine was aware of safety issues and had no interest in fixing or even looking into any possible problems. So when the mine's entire infrastructure — which includes an extensive road system big enough for large mining vehicles to drive around, as well as offices — collapses, trapping all 33 miners (the fact that no one died in the collapse is astonishing to begin with), it's not exactly a surprise to the man in charge of safety, Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips), who fought every day with the company to get improvements made.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

History Fri Nov 13 2015

100th Anniversary of Joe Hill's Execution to be Celebrated with Music & Eulogies

Joe HillThe 100th anniversary of the execution and funeral of Joe Hill, the Swedish immigrant songwriter and labor activist, will be celebrated Sunday evening, Nov. 22, at the Hideout. The evening will include a reenactment of his funeral at Chicago's old West Side Auditorium and reinterpreted versions of the songs played at his funeral by a crew of Chicago musicians.

Performers will include Bucky Halker, Jon Langford, Sally Timms, LeRoy Bach, Khari Lemuel, Martin Billheimer, Janet Bean, Fluffy and Psalm One. Hill's music inspired musicians like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and his songs, such as "Preacher and the Slave," "Rebel Girl" and "Casey Jones," were sung by workers all over the country.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Review Fri Nov 13 2015

R+J: The Vineyard Lets Hands Do What Lips Do, to Great Effect

By Beth Ann Barbieri

Brendan Connelly and McKenna Liesman as Romeo and Juliet
Brendan Connelly and McKenna Liesman as Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Joe Mazza.

R+J: The Vineyard brings a new twist to the story of star-crossed lovers. Set at the turn of the century in Martha's Vineyard, the show explores the dynamics between the deaf and those who can here. A truly captivating work, the show weaves two languages together to tell a story that is accessible in both languages.

Janette Bauer and Aaron Sawyer's adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is 90 minutes of captivating storytelling. Sawyer, who also directed the show, did a wonderful job of creating the story visually and physically. In scenes that take place in American Sign Language, non-signing audiences are still drawn in and can follow the story.

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Theater Wed Nov 11 2015

Preview: The Ventriloquists Convention at Museum of Contemporary Art

The Ventriloquists ConventionThis weekend, nine actors and 10 dummies from Europe will descend upon the Museum of Contemporary Art to perform a modern play called The Ventriloquists Convention. The piece is an international collaboration, written by American writer Dennis Cooper and directed by Franco-Austrian artist Gisèle Vienne, who studied music, puppetry and philosophy and who works as a choreographer and director.

I spoke with Vienne about the play, about the difference between puppetry and ventriloquism, and about our mysterious human need for idols, aka puppets. She has worked with Cooper before, directing his macabre one-man puppet show (Jerk, 2008) about a serial killer who reenacts his murders with his newfound prison puppeteering skills.

Vienne describes this new collaborative work, The Ventriloquists Convention as "a mixture of humor and loneliness. It's kind of funny and dark." When pressed to describe who the intended audience is for Ventriloquist Convention, Vienne's passion for the work shines through. "It got enthusiastic responses form audiences in Europe. It is very unconventional. The only important thing is to be very curious and open minded to discover something that you hopefully haven't seen before. Everyone who is curious should come because we will satisfy your curiosity!"

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Kim Campbell / Comments (0)

Theater Wed Nov 11 2015

Neil Simon's Chapter Two a Delightful Throwback

Chapter TwoChapter Two, Neil Simon's tribute to his whirlwind romance and subsequent marriage to actress Marsha Mason, was clearly written in the 1970s. The plot revolves around a mistaken phone call that resulted in a subsequent and immediate "five minute date" in one of the character's apartments.

I don't know about you, but my experience of dating in 2015 rarely revolves around wrong numbers and the meeting of charming strangers. Mine more often involves obsessive online research of potential dates, the use of some mediated communications (text, facebook post, tweet, etc.) and the ability to communicate with one's potential partner with immediacy and in multiple forms of media. (Or the engagement of what I fondly refer to as "L.U.D.I.S.," or the "Lesbian Underground Dating Information System," e.g. everyone you date knows someone you know somehow through one of their exes. But I digress.) That said, Chapter Two is a delightful throwback to a simpler time, when dating actually involved seeing someone for a few hours over an evening and not just swiping one direction or another prior to a hookup.

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Jeanne Newman / Comments (0)

Film Mon Nov 09 2015

Dive into Cinematic Theater with National Theatre Live

Going into this production, I was skeptical about whether theater could be as beguiling on screen as when it's performed live. With the atmosphere of the Music Box Theatre at 3733 N. Southport Ave., I was hooked into the old-style bar/lounge and the theater complete with red curtain. During intermission, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews enlighten us as to exactly what they did to make it work. The lighting, the cameras, costumes and acting were all adapted for the NTL production, adding more depth and interaction with the characters on stage. I saw how much work needed to be done to bring us through the emotions and character changes. I would say it was a success. And a learning experience.

Although nothing can replace the reality of live theater, with props, stage and lighting in front of your eyes, if you and your friends are looking for another type of performance or perhaps have always wanted to see a UK/European production, National Theatre Live can bring that experience to you! In an effort to bring the ultimate viewing experience, they bring you up close and personal with actors and producers in carefully planned close-ups, all-stage views and more as you interact with the storyline along with the rest of the audience.

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Jen Kraakevik / Comments (0)

Column Thu Nov 05 2015

Spectre, The Peanuts Movie, Victoria, Love, I Smile Back & Radical Grace



There is a sequence near the end of the 24th official James Bond cinematic outing in which 007 flees the imploding remains of the MI6 headquarters (bombed beyond use in the last Bond film Skyfall) in a speedboat with a beautiful woman whom he's just rescued at his side. In his fourth time as the character, Daniel Craig in this moment is literally riding from the ashes of the old way of spying, toward the new way of intelligence gathering (it sounds less criminal when you put it that way). This new guard is embodied in the new MI5 building being erected across the Thames River, an organization now being overseen by new head of the Centre of National Security Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), also known as "C," who believes the old ways — in particular, the double-0 program — are done and that information collection should be a more transparent process, and that MI5 and MI6 should be combined and share resources and office space.

So we know immediately that James Bond will be spending the entirely of the new film Spectre not just attempting to find the organization and its shadowy leader that have been plaguing him for the previous three movies, but also justifying his very existence. There's nothing like a little job insecurity to light a fire under a person's ass.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Comedy Thu Nov 05 2015

Dave Maher Coma Show Comes Alive at The Annoyance

Over his roughly seven years as a part of Chicago's comedy circles Dave Maher had gained a reputation for many reasons: as the smartly unhinged, wildly funny comedian with a big heart and warm smile, he was an evergreen fixture on the scene. Notably though Maher was also regarded as something of a world-class contrarian in conversation, routinely contesting various individuals' opinions, often vehemently. This was done, however, not as a show of supposed self-superiority but more to put himself in a position where he could possibly be convinced by their counter-arguments. Music, movies, books, poetry, everything was fair game.

But that was then, before the night of Oct. 22, 2014 when Maher fell into a diabetic coma—one which held him in its grasp for nearly a month, threatening to take his life in the process. It was in this moment that the universe apparently saw an opportunity to prod him further. Fully embracing its trickster nature, it slipped on an Arlecchino mask and tacitly suggested to Maher that there were bigger questions to be asked; questions about life, and fate, responsibility, and absolution.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
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Steve at the Movies Thu Nov 26 2015

The Good Dinosaur, Creed, Victor Frankenstein, Legend, A Ballerina's Tale, The Wonders, In Jackson Heights, Tab Hunter Confidential & The Creeping Garden

By Steve Prokopy

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Sat Nov 28 2015
You're Being Ridiculous @ Mayne Stage

Sat Nov 28 2015
Shop the Block on Chicago Avenue

Sun Nov 29 2015
The Nut Tapper @ Old Town School

Tue Dec 1 2015
Breaking News @ Film Center

Thu Dec 3 2015
Secret History of Chicago Music book release party @ Empty Bottle

Thu Dec 3 2015
The Wonderful World of Industrial Musicals @ Music Box

Fri Dec 4 2015
Best of Too Much Light @ Neo-Futurarium

Fri Dec 4 2015
Greg Sestero @ Music Box

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