Kellye Howard headlines this night of stand-up with special guests Rob Wilson and Jamie Campbell of the Whiskey Journal. 21+
Redmoon's original story about a pigeon returning light to the world of birds involves shadow puppetry and large-scale machines.
It's pretty much impossible to get lost in a parking garage or watch a coworker dance very badly at the office holiday party without thinking of an episode of Seinfeld. Tonight Jerry Seinfeld, master of the art of elevating the mundane to the absurd, delivers his stand-up act and many more jokes for every possible situation. $49-$83
In the New Colony's devilish new comedy, recently split Hollywood couple Kate and Sam are in the eye of a media storm. The paparazzi are the least of their worries, though, after they wake up bound with duct tape in the grubby apartment of a devoted superfan. Can his ad hoc relationship therapy bring them back together? Joel Kim Booster's roller-coaster script gets a tight, entertaining staging under director Sarah Gitenstein. Her cast's character work is excellent across the board, but Rob Grabowski stands out as the sympathetically creepy kidnapper. For anyone with a garden apartment lurking in their past, John Wilson's cluttered set may cause flashbacks. —Keith Griffith $10-$20http://thenewcolony.org
I just found some good advice in the New York Times. It's contained in a little essay by Joyce Wadler, who's surprisingly droll considering that her literary output includes two memoirs of bouts with cancer. Wadler writes a column, addressed to boom generation readers, called I Was Misinformed, and her November 9 installment has to do with getting to a certain age and realizing you have things hidden in the back of your sock drawer that you don't want your survivors finding after you're gone. "The truly considerate person will dispose of potentially humiliating or harmful items the moment he gets really sick," she suggests, "like a married man I knew who gave his love letters from the other woman to a male friend before he went into the hospital. Then he got better and got the love letters back. Then he died, which was a big mistake on his part, though I hear it made for an interesting moment at the memorial when the widow spotted the other woman. Think of this as a cautionary tale. Horrible things can happen when you leave romantic mementos around the house." Continue reading >> $30-$60
Beauty pleases, horror makes us shrink, and some beauty is so extreme it loops back around to horror, driving men to prostrate themselves and build shrines. Khecari choreographer Julia Rae Antonick is interested in what ensues when horror encroaches on beauty: people try to isolate the pristine and, often misguidedly, discard the rest. In Cresset Antonick seeks to curb this impulse, implanting uncomfortable movements, like sharp-edged, kooky articulation of limbs and digits, borrowed from Balinese dance rites about good beasts and evil witches, into the clean lines of modern dance. Antonick finds a way to combine vigor with death while avoiding the grotesque or necrophilic. Before the show begins, a creaky tune plays as the curtains part to offer an oblique view of one dancer giving flirty side-eye. Compare that to the opening, where the same dancer is caught in a sickly wave of tiny contortions. The overall impression is that each woman is possessed by a spirit set on physically assaulting her. When the dancers later knots themselves in ribbons of black videotape, the origin of the earlier constrained gestures seems clear, and much less grim. What a relief, if the dancers were merely possessed by tape. But comfort is fleeting. The tape, overtly intestinal, serves finally as an abiding reminder: you can't escape death any more than you can escape your own guts. —Jena Cutie $15-$25http://khecari.org
Calamity West has two things that, in a just and sensible world, would lead inevitably to success: a pen name to give Lemony Snicket a run for his money and a knack for drama that makes her one of the best playwrights in Chicago. Or maybe the country. Or the universe. But you'll catch only glimpses of West's mad talent in Jackalope Theatre Company's unconvincing debut of her new play, The Peacock. And I'll concede that my admission of West into the pantheon is based on only one play, Common Hatred, which the Ruckus premiered last year. But hey, all it took was one play—Angels in America—to get everybody to agree on Tony Kushner's genius. And he couldn't even come up with a good pen name. Continue reading >> $5-$15http://jackalopetheatre.org
It's almost two years since I was first bowled over by An Iliad. Working from Robert Fagles's translation of THE Iliad—Homer's epic set during the Trojan War—collaborators Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare built a 90-minute monologue around a figure called the Poet, who's apparently immortal (he recalls gigs in Babylonia) but otherwise not so lucky (he wears a dirty coat and inhabits what looks like a forgotten corner of the Deep Tunnel). The Poet's memory isn't what it used to be, but he's still imbued with both the majesty and the horror of his tale: the passion of the semidivine Greek warrior Achilles as he suffers enormous losses and inflicts the same on others. In 2011 Court Theatre artistic director Charles Newell staged Peterson and O'Hare's script, with the prodigious Timothy Edward Kane as the Poet. "The main point I want to make with regard to Court Theatre's An Iliad is 'wow,'" I wrote at the time. "The rest of what I have to say is pretty much a gloss on that." Now Kane, Newell, and An Iliad are back at Court for a revival, and the operative word is still wow. But it's a different quality of wow. Kane is no less fierce when he wants to be; he roars out descriptions of the most barbaric soldierly mayhem with arms spread, fists clenched, teeth bared, eyes burning like those of the tiger in the poem by Blake. His litany of wars—from the Trojan on up, now, to the Syrian—remains devastating. Yet this time around his performance feels quieter overall, more intimate—even a little more goofy now and then, as when the Poet impersonates a calculating Helen or notes Hermes's "fabulous sandals." I've been assured that there are just two new pages of text and a few subtle directorial revisions in the whole of this production. The sense, though, is of greater introspection. Pained meditation. Perhaps appropriately for a second run and an actor saddled with a longer list of wars than he had to recite before, this An Iliad centers much more on the passion of the Poet himself, suffering enormous losses with each telling of the great poem that it's his privilege and curse to tell. —Tony Adler Sold Out
In the early hours of July 23, 1967, officers of the notoriously brutal Detroit police department raided a "blind pig"—an unlicensed bar—on the city's black west side, touching off riots that killed 43 people and burned out hundreds of buildings. That catastrophe is just the backdrop for Dominique Morisseau's drama. In the foreground are grown siblings Lank and Chelle, who run a blind pig of their own and fall to fighting over what Chelle regards as Lank's reckless optimism. Not only does he want to invest their small inheritance in a legit bar (shades of Raisin in the Sun) but he starts falling for a white woman he rescued when he found her wandering the streets, badly beaten. Some elements don't mesh in Ron OJ Parson's production. Chelle and Lank listen to the previous year's music and their wardrobe looks more '65 than '67, Chelle's cautious temperament doesn't jibe with professional party-giving and Caroline—the white woman—seems to recover awfully fast. But the emotional integrity is there. To borrow a simile from the script, I loved Parson's five-member cast like potato salad. —Tony Adler $25-$72
In the popular 2003 movie on which this musical is based, Will Ferrell set aside his usual pompous-idiot shtick to play Buddy, a guileless denizen of the North Pole who travels to New York City to meet his real family after discovering that he's not actually an elf. Naturally, everybody learns a lesson on the true meaning of Christmas. In contrast to the soulful, childlike quality supplied by Ferrell, Will Blum gives Buddy the sort of cloying jollity often seen on kids' TV shows. Sam Scalamoni's staging likewise employs artificial sweeteners as a substitute for true feeling whenever possible, from the supporting cast's energetic overplaying to Matthew Sklar's relentlessly peppy score. You may as well take a bath in high-fructose corn syrup. —Zac Thompson $18-$90
This is a polemical play, such as we're not used to in Chicago. Or in the United States, for that matter. As he closes in on martyrdom, the hardheaded apostle Paul has a series of debates with various allies and enemies, including his former wife, his faithful but complaining servant, a Christian disciple, a conniving Pharisee, the Roman procurator, and the spirits of Emperor Nero and Jesus. The upshot of all that talk? A picture of Paul as a spiritual visionary who outgrew what Israeli playwright Motti Lerner depicts as Jesus's crabbed Judeo-centric version of salvation, opting instead for universal love. In effect, Lerner takes the man who did so much to make anti-Semitic, misogynist medieval Christianity possible and rebrands him as a new Christ. One casualty of the process is Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah, an interesting contemporary of Paul's, unjustly demonized here. Another is you, the audience member: Jimmy McDermott's earnest, flat-footed world-premiere production fails to get at the legitimate comedy in Lerner's script while making a farce of its unconvincing dialectics. The result is a cardboard period drama, desperate but unable to provoke. —Tony Adler $35http://silkroadrising.org.
Did you know that if you don't add alcohol to eggnog, you run the risk of contracting salmonella? See, holidays and booze go hand in hand. Steve Mosqueda and Sean Benjamin's celebration of literature's confluence with booze, Drinking & Writing, presents The 12 Steps of Christmas, a show that "explores the addictive, destructive holiday called Christmas." There's lots of audience participation. And presents, which are the only things better than whiskey-spiked eggnog. $20http://drinkingandwriting.com
After a six-year stint in Los Angeles, playwright Brett Neveu returns in top form. This new hour-long enigma, offered in a compelling Strawdog Theatre debut under Gus Menary's direction, is the sort of potboiler Kierkegaard might have penned if he were really into comic books. Uninspired detective Bradley Manners, handpicked liaison to taciturn superhero the Fantastic Phenomenon, tries to track a serial killer, guided only by the Phenomenon's cryptic pronouncements ("I fill the gap between truth and lies"). Manners's professional paralysis becomes full-on existential nausea: the single "absolute" he finds in an indifferent city is a distant, prickly, costumed cipher. Neveu keeps his footing sure through a slippery story and falters only in the homestretch, explaining rather then resolving his tale's intricate philosophical underpinnings. —Justin Hayford $15
Did you ever wish that you could spend 24 straight hours inside the Second City complex doing nothing but watching improv and listening to music (with maybe a few food and bathroom breaks)? Well, today's your lucky day: it's The Second City That Never Sleeps. Comedy provided by Fred Armisen and Lil Bub, the world's most amazing cat; music by Bob Mould and Sally Timms, among many others. $20http://letterstosantachicago.com
You've got to hand it to Steve Mosqueda and Sean Benjamin. They've stayed true to their vision even at the risk of their livers. Their Drinking & Writing Theater is all about the creativity that flows from inebriation, and their shows are paeans to the alcoholic beverage. Especially beer. Even hallowed yuletide traditions get bent (as it were) to their intentions. First staged in 2011, A Beer Carol recasts Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol as the inspirational tale of Bud Miller, ruthless CEO of the Milweiser Beer Company, whose piss-purveying ways are changed by visits from the spirits of beer's key ingredients: water, grain, hops, and yeast. There are some odd and funny passages, especially when it comes to Carolyn Shoemaker-Benjamin's performance as a very peculiar Tiny Tim. But the show is more amusing than uproarious overall—a pleasantly goofy way to pass an hour while nursing a beer. —Tony Adler $20http://drinkingandwriting.com