Shakespeare’s Scottish play is easily interpreted as one big war parade, all swords, banners, and drums. But in this Artistic Home production, director Scott Westerman drills deep into the tragedy’s seductive ooze—here the eye of newt sees more clearly than the eye of man. Welcome to postapocalyptic Macbeth, where freshwater is the ultimate bounty and polluted bogs mirror the larger pollution of the state. You listen before you look in this savage swamp world, which echoes of scraping knives and hushed cymbals. And the cast has a knack for keeping you there, notably Frank Nall as the vengeful Macduff and Maria Stephens as a subtle, biting Lady Macbeth. As Macbeth, John Mossman doesn’t shy away from the title character’s humor and likability—we root for him as we would a clueless action hero. Until, that is, the first dagger starts to float. —Chloe Riley $28-$32
Jayson Akridge's procedural crime drama has its share of contrivances, expediencies, and implausibilities, but its dramatic core carries the day. Milquetoast schoolteacher Stanley confesses to a senseless murder that may never have happened, plunging Detective Bryce eyeballs-deep in a serial murder case he solved years ago—a success he believes was his greatest moral failing. Despite uneven plotting and an insupportable conclusion, Stanley and Bryce’s cat-and-mouse game raises confounding ethical and philosophical questions well worth two-plus hours of stage time. Director Sean Cowan’s admirably spare staging achieves greatness only rarely—notably when Jared Latore as Bryce unleashes a harrowing confession near the play’s end—but the no-nonsense five-person cast remain laser-focused on communicating the script’s essential truths. Fledgling Honest Theatre lives up to its name. —Justin Hayford pay what you canhttp://honesttheatre.com
Riccardo Muti, conductor (Tchaikovsky).
The National Theatre of Scotland and Royal Shakespeare Company present Scottish playwright David Greig's imagined sequel to Shakespeare's Macbeth. $58-$88
Set in rural Wisconsin during the great passenger pigeon nesting of 1871 (memorable for having involved an estimated 136 million birds), this Lifeline Theatre adaptation of Amy Timberlake’s much-honored children’s novel centers on a 13-year-old tomboy called Georgie who refuses to believe that her older sister is dead, despite powerful evidence to the contrary, and sets out to find the truth. There’s something to be said for Lifeline’s refusal to sugarcoat Georgie: as played by Ashley Darger, she’s as obnoxious as only an adolescent who’s discovered morality can be. Trouble is, there’s no payoff for having to endure the little brat. Darger’s performance gives no indication of growth over the course of a poorly structured, loose-ended, overlong show that never justifies its central metaphor. –Tony Adler $40
Marco Ramirez's muscular, poetic 2013 play—a hypnotic riff on showmanship, exploitation and loyalty in Jim Crow America—stops just shy of brilliance. Through eloquent, stylized scenes punctuated with percussive claps, stomps, and guttural laughs, Ramirez follows the swaggering, deeply wounded Jay "the Sport" Jackson, a wildly popular Negro boxer circa 1905 who’ll stop at nothing to fight the (white) heavyweight champion of the world. Inspired by the saga of Jack Johnson, Ramirez’s terse, ruminative fantasy enmeshes Jackson in an intricate web of bravado, resentment, and self-preservation, where he faces consequences both life-changing and life-destroying. Director Jamie Castañeda’s uncompromising cast render most every moment haunting, harrowing, and human. While Ramirez’s thematically repetitive and conceptually muddled finale shortchanges everything that precedes it, the lead-up is thrilling. —Justin Hayford $48-$60
Argentinian writer-director Mariano Pensotti's dark comedy about four eccentric filmmakers. In Spanish with subtitles. $28
A collaborative performance between Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre and the Cambrians. $13.50-$20
Lauded experimental filmmaker Ernie Gehr visits U. of C.'s Film Studies Center for a screening of his latest works, including Winter Morning (2013, 18 min), Brooklyn Series (2013, 8 min.) and A Commuter's Life (What a Life!) (2014, 20 min).
Werner Herzog explores the life and vicious death of Grizzly bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell in Grizzly Man (2005), one of the German director's most famous documentaries. Reader critic Joshua Katzman calls it "an engrossing look at obsessive behavior gone terribly awry." $11
Since the mid-90s, trumpeter Steven Bernstein has been finding inventive ways of reconciling the early history of jazz with contemporary approaches. He was hired to assemble the band and write arrangements for Robert Altman’s 1996 film Kansas City, which used the city’s bustling jazz scene in the 30s as a key component. Later he formed his Millennial Territory Orchestra to more explicitly collide older styles and approaches with modern repertoires and sensibilities, resulting in a more archly postmodern bent. Recently he’s partnered with the great New Orleans blues pianist and singer Henry Butler and a sharp crew of collaborators dubbed the Hot 9, which tips a cap to the Hot Five and Hot Seven, Louis Armstrong’s brilliant small groups of the late 20s. Together, Bernstein and company have put a temporally displaced spin on the pioneering Crescent City jazz of Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and other key figures of early jazz and blues. On last year’s delightful Viper’s Drag (Impulse)—named for the Fats Waller track that opens the album—Bernstein’s vibrant arrangements slyly jumble eras without coming off as John Zorn-like patchworks. The rhythms finessed by bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Herlin Riley move from the strutting motion of trad jazz to the extroverted grooves of second-line brass bands to the displacements and complexities of current New York timekeeping, but rather than sounding self-conscious and clever, these shifts give hoary old chestnuts like “Wolverine Blues” or the Bessie Smith vehicle “Gimmie a Pigfoot” new, ever-changing complexions. (The shape-shifting pianist Butler contributes three originals that similarly reflect different eras and approaches simultaneously.) Complex arrangements only enhance the fun of this crack band, which avoids musty revivalism at every turn. For tonight’s concert the rhythm section will consist of bassist Brad Jones, drummer Donald Edwards, and guitarist Matt Munisteri; the front line features trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, reedists Peter Apfelbaum, Doug Wieselman, and Erik Lawrence, and violinist Charles Burnham. —Peter Margasak $24-$76
One of last year’s best hip-hop stories centered on a Coney Island rapper named Your Old Droog. The MC was unknown till last summer, when some hip-hop heads turned his debut, 2014’s Your Old Droog EP, into a Soundcloud minihit thanks to a tantalizing conspiracy theory: Your Old Droog is really Nas in disguise. Plenty of Web oxygen was devoted to dissecting every reference on Droog’s EP in attempts to support and/or refute the claim, but the New Yorker finally torpedoed the theory with an August profile of Droog. In retrospect, it seems pretty obvious that he isn’t Nas—not only is his voice huskier, he’s also, well, white. Still, Droog’s songs demand a deep listen on their own merits. His recent self-released EP Kinison starts with a sample of deceased comedian Sam Kinison ripping on rappers for not playing instruments, and from there it’s jammed with sly wordplay about older rock acts—a couple songs later Droog ad-libs “What ever happened to all the good rock music?” There’s even an entire (pretty OK) song about Rage Against the Machine. Some asides and references on Kinison feel like Droog’s finishing an argument that ended decades ago, but they only help to further the MC’s old-school mystique. —Leor Galil sold out