Exhibit on sea creatures that survive without blood, bones, or brains.
The exhibit tells a fashion story in three parts through the lenses of the Johnson Publishing Company (publishers of Ebony), Eunice Johnson who was an executive there, and a slew of iconic looks from Christian Dior, Balizza, Pierre Cardin, and more.
This 60-minute, late-night magic show is exactly what it should be: funny, lively, intimate, and utterly baffling. House Theatre of Chicago member Dennis Watkins blends quick-witted improv and physical comedy with freewheeling patter as he performs classic illusions. Though his sleight-of-hand is impossibly subtle, it was the mind reading tricks that seemed to have drawn several inquisitive skeptics back for another look on the night I attended. A curio-shop intimacy and cash bar encourage audience participation, and Watkins, with his Eagle Scout looks, clearly takes a mischievous pleasure in the unexpected. Just let your cell phone go off during the show and see what kind of fun he has. --Keith Griffith $75http://thehousetheatre.com
Watching Supernatural Chicago in any month that isn't October is kind of like visiting Santa at the mall in June. But even in early spring, you might find more people than there are seats at Neil Tobin's one-man magic act cum local history lesson, in the dark former storage area (I mean, Indian burial ground) of Excalibur Nightclub's basement. I wouldn't trade the off-season showing for anything—there's nothing else like 20 strangers holding hands to conjure up the spirit of a dead suburban teenager, while Tobin walks around waving his hands over everybody. Yes, the show is cheesy, and, no, it didn't convert me, but that's what makes it good theater. After all, it wouldn't be any fun to hear a haunted rehash of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre if you really suspected that Al Capone's ghost was in the seat next to you. — Hannah Gold $25 (includes two drinks and admission to dance club)http://supernaturalchicago.com
Seven strapping men in swashbuckler shirts improvise a two-act Shakespearean play based on a title suggested by the audience. At the show I saw, "The Taming of the Jew" inspired the Bard's usual themes (religion, family, betrayal) and plot devices (murders, disguises, fortunes gained/lost) as well as an uncomfortably funny circumcision. Director-performer Blaine Swen, a veteran of long-form Shakespearean improv who swears they don't conspire during the intermission, has assembled a vigorous ensemble of actors and proven improvisers. Their experience doing Shakespeare flowers in the language: they relish iambic dialogue, execute perfectly timed asides, occasionally utter rhyming couplets (some hilariously forced: "Let us be quick-sa, and get to the bar mitzvah!"), and drop parodic phrases ("scurvenous knave," "midfortnight report") and well-placed anachronisms (the bar mitzvah had a DJ). Even the ending echoed the real plays: story lines resolved tidily--and uproariously. (RH) $14http://www.improvisedshakespeare.com/
Baby Wants Candy--a tight troupe now famous for its improvised musicals--began in 1997 as one of the dozens of ImprovOlympic teams formed every year. Somehow they've avoided the usual dissolution of such groups. More impressive, they've never experienced the artistic conservatism that paralyzes improvisers eager to "do it right"--and reap the reward, presumably, of a career in NYC or LA. Instead the troupe has become the very model of smart, physical, quick-thinking, and just plain silly long-form improvisers; they still play well together and manage to entertain. Inspired by the improbable suggestion "So this is it" at the show I saw, nine actors (backed by the five-member Yes Band) improvised a complicated, hilarious, tongue-in-cheek tale of three partnerships on the rocks--two marriages and a professional relationship--and the narrator who helps bring the couples back together. --Jack Helbig $15
If pimpin' ain't easy, pimprovising must be even harder. But the five members of Pimprov project a scary ease as they dress and cavort like "Super Freak"-era Rick James (only with more accessories) and smoothly assimilate audience suggestions into thug-themed short-form games. The group stays heavily engaged with the crowd throughout this high-energy show, bringing people on stage and carrying on multiple side conversations during and between bits. What I enjoyed most were their hilarious, spontaneous dancing (from tap to b-boying) and varied characters. These are no one-trick pimps: at the show I saw they shrewdly played everything from north side trixies to blue-collar Chicagoans. --Ryan Hubbard $15
Burlesque by Vaudezilla Productions.
Eleven actors have played the title role on Doctor Who over the years--a fact the creators of the long-running British sci-fi television series acknowledge with a plot device called "regeneration." Quirks like that make it risky to stage a parody of the show, since they can render things difficult for the uninitiated. But the friend I brought with me to see this Gorilla Tango burlesque knew nothing about the series and still laughed at all the jokes--particularly the ones having to do with regeneration. Busty Warren's smart writing, the cast members' comically awful Brit accents, and a judicious use of bawdry make Don't Blink a success--though Kay Smiles's amateurish choreography grows tiresome towards the end. --Tal Rosenberg $28-$35
An improv showcase that welcomes veteran performers and first-timers alike.
The tone and pace are just right in this late-night burlesque show. Doubling as affable emcee Max Flattery, director Chris Biddle keeps the evening fresh with a rotating line-up of erotic dancers, campy acts, and nerdy comedians. Striptease routines satisfy a wide range of PG-13 fetishes, sometimes in unconventional ways. Teddy Bare's absinthe fairy number, for instance, incorporates modern dance elements not typically associated with the bump-and-grind. The result is an eclectic blend of steam, smart humor, and shtick. If Biddle and company can maintain momentum, Kiss Kiss Cabaret has what it takes to become a cheeky Chicago staple. --Dan Jakes $15 online in advance, $20 at the door
Founded in Chicago in 1914 by Margaret Anderson, The Little Review was one of the most important periodicals for literary modernism, publishing work by T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and many others. June Sawyers's one-character play, based on Anderson's memoir My Thirty Years' War, traces the bohemian editor's career from her arrival in Chicago to her 1917 departure for New York. Sawyers does a creditable job of capturing the era's glamour and sense of possibility, and there's an added frisson to seeing the show on the same floor of the Fine Arts Building where the magazine had offices for a while. But Cynthia Judge's genial, script-in-hand performance as Anderson lacks the requisite daring and panache. —Zac Thompson $10