Burlesque by Vaudezilla Productions.
A little literary playfulness goes a long way for vocalist-musicians Emmy Bean, T-Roy Martin, and Chris Schoen, who, in their rapid-fire program of folksy musical arrangements, take on roles ranging from the pathetic oysters in Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" to Carl Sandburg reading his poem "Loam." Some songs indulge kitsch—like one that sets to music a Thomas Campion poem in which a single word ("love") has been replaced each time it appears by another ("Batman"). And though I'm generally inclined to dismiss offhand anything based on writings of the great poet Craigslist, "Past Saturday Night, Northerly Island," which adapts a missed connection into rondo form, struck me as weirdly hypnotic and catchy. The afternoon's shining ditty was "Riled Geese," inspired by Mary Oliver's poem of the same name, in which Bean does an absolutely bewitching scat-singing impression of a goose (a style susceptible to the very amusing coinage "goose scat"). —Jena Cutie
Gothic illusionist and proud floor-length-leather-jacket owner Ron Fitzgerald emcees Arkham Noise Productions' burlesque show, which caters to a wide array of fetishes with an alternating lineup of about 100 performers—around a dozen acts on a given night, curated by producer/DJ Miss Ellie Noise. Audience members can watch the show from their bar stools; this month's range of fantasies included domination, flesh hooks, IKEA (DIY kink?), and bathing in public. Still, nearly every act was a striptease at heart, and followed a familiar trajectory: gloves to girdle to brassiere, and then an exuberant reveal. It felt more silly than sexy, and the only clothes remaining onstage at the end were the basketball jerseys that line the back wall of the bar. —Hannah Gold
The Vaudezilla Vixens headline this burlesque show.
Theatrical events by the NUFAN Ensemble.
A few rows of chairs were set up on the second floor at the Shambles bar in Wicker Park, but most folks chose to stay on their feet (it ain't called stand-up for nothing) as they watched hosts Rasa Gierstikas and Ever Mainard introduce a string of comedians. They were rewarded with a sidesplitting show and the privilege of shouting "Best joke!" at the funniest comedians. In addition to the hosts, ten comics gripped the mike—glistening with holiday pirate decorations—to kvetch about everything from Pepe's Mexican food to Tim Burton's allegedly homophobic oeuvre and stripping to music by Aphex Twin. There were refreshingly few strained silences or hecklings during this big-hearted monthly bonanza. Comics cordially waited their turn in the crowd, last-minute performers casually dropped by, and drinks were definitely allowed. —Hannah Gold
For someone mourning the lack of live studio audiences in Chicago since Oprah's departure, this late-night talk show provided welcome relief. And drinks, not Kleenex, were free flowing. On the night I attended, host Tom Bambara interviewed members (human and canine) of the Dog Saving Network and graphic designer Kevin Scarbrough. The dogs' cuteness factor was high, but Bambara's distaste for slobber and witty banter were equally amusing. Then he introduced "more tame but equally as hairy" Scarbrough, who reminisced about drunken tattoos and crazy clients like Big Ass Dog pet food. Andi Woody was charming as Bambara's less-flustered cohost, and musical accompanist James Manno coolly played the sunglasses-wearing Paul Shaffer to Bambara's Letterman. —Marissa Oberlander