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Sunday, November 23

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Theatre Sat Nov 22 2014

A Gorgeously Epic Porgy & Bess @ The Lyric Opera


Eric Owens and Adina Aaron in Porgy & Bess. Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg.

Porgy & Bess, the George Gershwin opera that premiered in 1935, is currently in production at The Lyric Opera of Chicago for a 13-show run that opened Monday night. It is impossible to watch without considering its history; Gershwin drew inspiration for the opera while visiting Charleston, SC, and incorporated elements of southern black musical traditions into the piece. It was the first opera to feature an all-black cast, and it has weathered controversy ever since, with debate over its depiction of African-Americans, and was not generally accepted as legitimate opera until 1976. Nevertheless, it has entered the American cultural lexicon, with songs like "Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So," and "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'" becoming American standards.

The Lyric Opera production, directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Ward
Stare, is gorgeously epic. As interpreted by bass-baritone Eric Owens, Porgy has a
voice and a presence that are undeniable, and soprano Adina Aaron's portrayal of Bess is as
heartbreaking as it is believable. With a supporting cast that includes Eric Greene
as the menacing Crown, and Jermaine Smith as the charismatic Sportin' Life, the energy and pathos of the opera commands the attention of the audience for the entire three hours that it takes for the story to fully unfold.

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Column Fri Nov 21 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Foxcatcher, The Homesman, Force Majeure, America the Beautiful 3: The Sexualization of Our Youth, National Gallery & Miss Meadows


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

Easily the best of the young adult series that have proliferated the marketplace since the Twilight movies singed movie screens, The Hunger Games films have actually managed to get better and more harrowing with each new chapter. To wrap up the series, the final book, Mockingjay, has been adapted into two films (the second part will be released in November 2015), and while this may appear to be an already-tired ploy by studios to milk the most out of a franchise (thanks Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hobbit and the upcoming final chapter of the Divergent films!), there actually does seem to a clear dividing line for Mockingjay that isn't exactly a cliffhanger, but the start of something even more devious than the first part hints at.

Now that the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is free from actually having to take part in yet another Hunger Games (they have essentially been done away with forever), and we can enter a new chapter of this civilization divided into realms and controlled by the clearly vindictive President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss is the reluctant hero of and symbol to her people, the underclasses of the nation of Panem, ruled by the newly introduced President Coin (Julianne Moore) and her trust advisor Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his last onscreen role — presumably he'll return in Part 2). As the underclass' so-called "Mockingjay," Katniss is asked to be the spokesperson for her people in a series of pirated videos calling for courage and the willingness to fight for freedom from Snow's tyranny.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Film Tue Nov 18 2014

Faces Looking at Faces in National Gallery

National Gallery photograph by Robert MacPherson from top of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

How do we look when we're looking at art? That's one of the intriguing facets of this gorgeous art tour of London's National Gallery. Frederick Wiseman's three-hour documentary, National Gallery, which opens Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center, shows us many scenes of faces looking at faces. Human faces peering, pondering, smiling, puzzling at portraits painted by the masters of Medieval, Renaissance and Romantic art.

During the mesmerizing three hours we spend at the gallery, we see preparations for and openings of major exhibits of the work of Titian, Turner and Leonardo. The 2011 Leonardo exhibit (titled Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan) was a blockbuster; $25 tickets were being scalped for $400. Wiseman shows scenes of museum visitors lined up in hopes of obtaining tickets.

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Column Fri Nov 14 2014

Dumb and Dumber To, The Theory of Everything, Rosewater, The Better Angels, The Overnighters, Altman, The Invisible Front & Bad Turn Worse


Dumb and Dumber To

There's nothing quite like watching actors reprise roles that they did 20 years ago, and still manage to capture some of what made those performances so special and memorable. It makes you think about the person you were 20 years ago (assuming you were even born in 1995, when Dumb and Dumber was released), about the bright future you saw for yourself, your dreams, your aspirations, the experiences you had so long ago, and the ones you were so looking forward to having. Actually, none of those thoughts entered my head as I was watching Dumb and Dumber To, the sometimes funny-sometimes excruciating exercise in nostalgia baiting in the 21st century.

From a screenplay by modern-day comedy whiz kids Sean Anders and John Morris (writers of Horrible Bosses 2, We're the Millers, Hot Tub Time Machine, Sex Drive), the film brings back Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as two of their most successful on-screen characters, Lloyd Chistmas and Harry Dunne, off on another road trip adventure, this time to locate the daughter that Harry just discovered he sired years earlier with Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner, who is treated so cruelly here that you almost can't help but giggle) and whom she gave up for adoption to a wealthy family.

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News Tue Nov 11 2014

Next Theatre Shuts Down Mid-Season


Next Theatre, which has been producing award-winning, socially provocative plays in Evanston for 34 years, is shutting down. The theater ceased operations as of yesterday -- in the middle of the season with two plays yet to be produced.

Board president Rob Andalman said the theater's audiences have shrunk dramatically in the past few years and its contributors have not made up the difference. Next has been performing at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, on Noyes Street near Ridge Avenue. The theater season was to include Shakespeare's Richard III, opening in January and the world premiere of Turtle by Jake Jeppson, which had been set to run in April.

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Theater Mon Nov 10 2014

Spartan's A Bright Room Called Day Can't Overcome Kushner's Political Sermonizing

Wicke and De la Guardia. Photo by Justine Albert Photography.

It's Berlin, New Year's Eve 1931. A group of artists and filmmakers celebrate the new year of 1932 in the apartment of Agnes (Amanda de la Guardia). They're leftists and consumed by discussions of politics as well as art.

Tony Kushner's 1985 play, A Bright Room Called Day, begins in the waning months of Weimar Germany, as Hitler's National Socialists are on the rise. The Berlin scenes are sometimes interrupted by 1982 scenes where Zillah (Jaci Kleinfeld), a young American woman, talks about the current US political environment and the transgressions of the Reagan administration.

Spartan Theatre Company makes a valiant effort in staging this 2.5-hour play, but Kushner's sometimes-lyrical dialogue can't overcome his didactic political sermonizing. Director Laura Elleseg does a creditable job of maintaining the dramatic pace and the acting generally is good. But there are usually reasons why a rarely performed play is rarely performed. A Bright Room Called Day is such an example. Even Shakespeare wrote a few turkeys.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Column Fri Nov 07 2014

Interstellar, Big Hero 6, Laggies, Camp X-Ray, Low Down, Open Windows & Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me



Going into Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, don't worry so much about what other films or directors this absolutely epic work might remind you of. Just because Nolan (and his brother, co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan) uses intellect to propel the story forward occasionally does not make him Tarkovsky. Just because things get a little trippy toward the end doesn't make him Kubrick. And just because he approximates sentimentality and emotion doesn't make him Spielberg. Honestly, Interstellar works best when Nolan is being Nolan — a bit cold, harsh, putting the mission of saving humanity in front of personal connections, and, of course, making the remarkable seem commonplace to everyone but his audience.

Before I dive into my review of Interstellar, let's talk about ambitious filmmaking. Let me be clear: I'm a fan. But "ambition" and "quality" are not the same thing. In fact, they're far from the same thing. I see a whole lot of ambitious films in a given year by some of the greatest directors living today. But the truth is, I don't give points for ambition; I give points for whether a filmmaker can translate said ambition to the screen. I consider recent works like Prometheus (I was not a fan), Cloud Atlas (I adored), or on a smaller scale, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (let's go with the writer-director's original two-part version, which I was fairly neutral on). Regardless of scale and money spent, there's no denying that all three films are extremely ambitious as filmmaking exercises. And perhaps not surprisingly, they were all wildly divisive in terms of critical and audience reactions.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Film Fri Nov 07 2014

Filmmaker Guy Maddin Talks About Surrealism and Silent Films

GB-GuyMaddeninhisNursery.jpgCanadian filmmaker Guy Maddin sat on the stage of the MCA theater Wednesday night in a black sweater, black trousers and sneakers. He looked like a perfectly normal person--and then he said his major influences as a filmmaker are David Lynch and Luis Bunuel. The Lynch-Bunuel connection made total sense of his series of mad, dream-or-nightmare films. Are they noir? Adaptations of silent films? Grainy black and white? Surrealistic? Yes, all those things and more. Are they Hollywood films? "As far from Hollywood as possible," according to Maddin.

"Guy Maddin: His Winnipeg" was part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. The event was held at the Edlis Neeson Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art, moderated by Charles Coleman, film program director at Facets Multimedia. The two came on stage and sat in chairs facing each other. Before any opening by Coleman, Maddin began talking about films and talked nonstop, while Coleman occasionally guided him with a question. Throughout the conversation, a Maddin film looped on the screen behind them.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Literary Wed Nov 05 2014

See a Staged Reading of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" Sunday

Engraving by Gustave Doré for 1876 edition of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

Water, water, everywhere / And all the boards did shrink /
Water, water, everywhere / Nor any drop to drink.

These famous lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's classic poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," come near the beginning of this tale of a sailor returned from an eventful sea voyage.* The Phantom Collective will present a staged reading of the Coleridge poem at 7:30pm Sunday, Nov. 9 at the Haymarket Pub. The reading will be preceded by an original theater piece, "Ripple," about being lost at sea.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

Theater Tue Nov 04 2014

The Anyway Cabaret, a Different Kind of Cabaret

Photo by Anthony La Penna.

No one seems to be listening to the animals of the Anyway Cabaret. But they'll keep performing it anyway.

It's a line that's repeated in the first big number of TUTA Theatre Chicago's production of The Anyway Cabaret (an animal cabaret), which opens the company's 14th season. The animals of the Anyway Cabaret" have a message for the audience between their rapid-fire quick changes and haunting sounds of gunfire. But, the message might just get lost if the audience can't get beyond the silliness.

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Megan Daley / Comments (0)

Culture Tue Nov 04 2014

7,550 Miles from Home, Chicago's Ethiopians Build a Cultural Museum

By Danielle Elliott

Photo by Danielle Elliott.

Some 7,550 miles separate Chicago from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

For the 10,000 Ethiopians living in Chicago, that distance seems a lot smaller due to the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago (ECAC), a nonprofit refugee resettlement agency, in Rogers Park.

The familiar smells of incense and coffee linger through the hallways of the center, but the real sense of Ethiopia is felt in a small room, 600 square feet, on the second floor. This is the place where the ECAC is trying to build a museum showcasing Ethiopia's diversity and history, a symbol of their strong community.

"We want the museum to transfer information to children and share our rich history with the mainstream American community," said Dr. Erku Yimer, the executive director and one of the founders of ECAC.

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A/C / Comments (1)

Preview Tue Nov 04 2014

Mint & Serf: Support, Therapy and Instability


Never in our wildest dreams did we think that graffiti and street art would be making its way into art galleries -- from the streets to the white walls, running from the law to running into Shepard Fairy. Since the 1980s, graffiti has found a nice warm home inside of the ever-changing and always surprising, contemporary art world.

Mint & Serf, the art duo from NYC will showcase their large scale paintings at the Maxwell Colette Gallery in their Chicago debut of, "Support, Therapy and Instability." The relationship between contemporary art and graffiti is also one that in constant flux and one that makes a memorable conversation. Mint & Serf are two artists who are combining these two worlds in the form of a canvas and a spray can. Utilizing the raw forms that graffiti art thrive around, Mint & Serf have created canvases which reflect buildings in a city or an underpass that has been decorated and adorned with bold lettering and ripped flyers from a previous life.

The collaborative duo layers tags, neutral tones, metallic paint ink and paper for their active and lively pieces which both reflect fine arts and street art.

The opening reception will be held Friday, Nov. 7 from 6pm-9pm at Maxwell Colette Gallery, 908 N. Ashland Ave. The exhibition will be up until Dec. 31. Hours for the gallery are Wednesday through Saturday, noon until 6pm. For more information contact 312-496-3153 or email

S. Nicole Lane / Comments (1)

Venue Mon Nov 03 2014

Hungry Brain Closing in December

The owners of the Hungry Brain, a Roscoe Village dive bar with a reputation for high-minded cultural programming, announced that they will be shutting down Dec. 15. Co-owner Janis White told Chicagoist that the bar has suffered from increased competition in Logan Square. A statement from White and co-owner Luz Cordova is below.

The Hungry Brain opened at 2319 W. Belmont Ave. in 1997, but always looked much older, inside and out. Entering the enameled steel facade revealed a collection of mismatched furniture, odd artwork, and Christmas lights give the room a very lived in feel. The thrift store aesthetic and friendly vibe earned it top reviews on Yelp and placement on Thrillist's 15 most hipster Chicago bars. But from the beginning, the Hungry Brain was home to readings, concerts and other performances not often found in such settings.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Art Mon Nov 03 2014

Preview: 21st Annual SOFA Chicago Fair Nov. 7-9


SOFA Chicago is doing it again. Thirty-four thousand individuals will attend the exposition at Navy Pier where 70-plus galleries will present creative works and emerging artists to Chicago art lovers. The 21st annual event will feature exhibits, a lecture series, in person creatives and the unveiling of many incredible first time, never before seen, art pieces -- a collectors must have! The Art and Design Fair is an internationally known event which interconnects the fine arts and the design world in a weekend full of creative bliss.

SOFA is Chicago's consociation of art collectors, creative individuals and designers. It continues to lure and pull individuals into the great event for a chance to witness or even purchase items that have never before been unveiled.

In addition to unseen work, the fair will also be hosting world renown galleries and artists that collectors and art lovers continue to come back for each year. Above is an image from Eric Zammitt, who is represented by the David Richard Gallery in Santa Fe. Along with artists like Zammitt and galleries like those in Santa Fe, Yvel, the William Zimmer Gallery, Pistachios, the Maurine Littleton Gallery, Kirra Galleries are just a small selection of those that will be in attendance at the fair. In total, 14 countries will be exhibiting this year at the exposition.

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S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Column Fri Oct 31 2014

Nightcrawler, Horns, Citizenfour, Before I Go To Sleep & Harmontown



First-time writer-director Dan Gilroy (who has written films as varied as Freejack to The Fall to The Bourne Legacy) has made a movie that almost dares you to find something redeemable about its lead character. In Nightcrawler, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal, in easily the best performance of his career) is a man made up by uncut ambition and drive, but he can't find an outlet for his level of dangerous energy. Then one day, he stumbles upon an accident, and within seconds a freelance camera crew is on the scene, capturing the raw blood and mayhem of the moment. Once the scene is under control, the crew packs up, and by that evening, their footage is bought, paid for and aired by a local TV news station in LA. It doesn't take Lou long to think that this "nightcrawling" might be a line of work he could pull off and be good at.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Culture Tue Nov 04 2014

7,550 Miles from Home, Chicago's Ethiopians Build a Cultural Museum

By Danielle Elliott

Some 7,550 miles separate Chicago from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. For the 10,000 Ethiopians living in Chicago, that distance seems a lot smaller due to the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Nov 21 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Foxcatcher, The Homesman, Force Majeure, America the Beautiful 3: The Sexualization of Our Youth, National Gallery & Miss Meadows

By Steve Prokopy

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Sun Nov 23 2014
Chicago Italian Film Festival

Mon Nov 24 2014
Chicago Italian Film Festival

Tue Nov 25 2014
Chicago Italian Film Festival

Wed Nov 26 2014
You're Being Ridiculous @ Mary's Attic

Wed Nov 26 2014
Chicago Italian Film Festival

Thu Nov 27 2014
Second City's Holidazed & Confused Revue @ UP Comedy

Thu Nov 27 2014
Chicago Italian Film Festival

Fri Nov 28 2014
You, Me, Them, Everybody Live @ Hungry Brain

Fri Nov 28 2014
Sing-Along Sound of Music @ Music Box

Fri Nov 28 2014
Michael Milano Solo Exhibition for Trunk Show

Fri Nov 28 2014
23rd Annual Wreathing of the Lions @ Art Institute

Sat Nov 29 2014
Chicago Indie Artisan Market

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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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