Work from a variety of artists explore how advancements in technology have influenced their lives and experiences. Juried by Jan Tichy. Reception Fri 11/22, 6-9 PM.
Trap Door Theatre had a big, improbable hit in 1996 with Rainer Werner Fassbinder's unenjoyable antiplay about Phoebe Zeitgeist, interstellar emissary sent to earth stark naked to study human democracy, despite understanding no human language. That production ran for six months at the Trap's cramped space, then upgraded to the 292-seat Mercury Theater, where hardly anyone came—"I got a little ahead of myself," artistic director Beata Pilch says now with a laugh. Pilch's remount benefits greatly from Simina Contras's coy turn as Phoebe, an inscrutable, murderous Kewpie doll turned sexpot. The rest of the cast's performances range from masterfully grotesque to psychologically empty. Yet the stylistic confusion fittingly makes Fassbinder's sordid, chaotic world all the more unstable. —Justin Hayford $20-$25
Originally, Mario's famous mustache was just an animator's dodge, a way to avoid rendering detailed facial features on the eight-bit NES. At the very end of Gorilla Tango's clunky, opportunistic spoof on the long-running Nintendo franchise, performer Paly Flames takes off her thick Mario 'stache, and her strikingly beautiful visage may be the show's most sensual reveal. The burlesque numbers are hurried, the periodic audience shakedowns for "coins" distracting, and the parlor-psychology dives into Mario and Luigi's motivations exasperating. Director Jeremy Eden's cast includes attractive women of all body types, but hearing the "level up" sound effect when they flashed pasties made me cringe. If self-empowered sexuality and the conquer-and-proceed imperatives of video games can comfortably coexist, they don't do it here. –Keith Griffith $35
When I told my wife (and yes, I told my wife) that I was going to see a zombie-themed strip show called Boobs of the Dead, she made a face and laid out a picture for me of gray, rotting dugs without so much as a hint of perk. Well, that's not how it turned out. This parody of the Walking Dead franchise features eight remarkably healthy-looking infectees. In fact, as a lab-coated scientist points out, the zombifying process actually makes them sexier, magically clothing them in bustiers and fishnet stockings. Even a bearded old codger gets transformed. Gorilla Tango burlesques are always smart and playful, but this edition shows a developing sophistication. The dancers are more confident, Erica Reid's choreography is more resourceful (starting with an awfully sexy reverse strip and culminating in a full-out production number), and, um, standout performances are getting more common. —Tony Adler $28-$35
Arturo Herrera's mixed-media works on the pages of books. Reception Fri 12/13, 5-8 PM.
Burlesque by Vaudezilla Productions.
More than 100 artists present their work ranging from paintings to ceramics to jewelry. $2http://bucktownpromotions.com
This show features two very different bands that both include explosive Norwegian drummer Gard Nilssen—in his country’s creative-music scene, playing radically divergent styles is par for the course. Bushman’s Revenge started out in 2003 as a relatively conventional jazz-guitar trio, but by their second album, 2009’s You Lost Me at Hello, they’d become a proggy power trio—and Nilssen, bassist Rune Nergaard, and guitarist Even Helte Hermansen took advantage of their rhythmic flexibility and fearsome chops to do much more than play a lot of notes. On the recent Electric Komle—Live! they display stop-on-a-dime precision in their control of the band’s storming power; they pull back for a surprisingly tender reading of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman,” then turn on the jets with “No More Dead Bodies for Daddy Tonight.” On the forthcoming Thou Shalt Boogie! (due in January on Rune Grammofon), the Hammond B-3 of guest keyboardist David Wallumrod ups the prog-rock quotient while adding a touch of serenity—“Waltz Me Baby, Waltz Me All Night Long” could almost pass for Bill Frisell tackling a Radiohead song.
Nilssen maintains his energy and focus in Cortex, a quartet led by trumpeter Thomas Johansson, but here it’s in the service of top-flight post-Ornette freebop (a la fellow Scandinavians Atomic). On last year’s forceful Göteborg (Gigafon), Nilssen and bassist Ola Høyer provide sleek, muscular propulsion for Johansson, one of the most agile and robust trumpeters I’ve heard in years, and saxophonist Kristoffer Berre Alberts; the horn men blow tart unison melodies, then break apart to deliver high-velocity improvisations that fall somewhere between the tempo-shifting alacrity of John Zorn’s Masada and the harnessed chaos of Hal Russell’s NRG Ensemble. Both groups are making their Chicago debuts. —Peter Margasak Bushman’s Revenge headlines; Cortex and SoSaLa open. $5 suggested donation
house, downstairs, free with RSVP at going.com