Around the Coyote Fall Arts Festival | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Around the Coyote Fall Arts Festival 

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In its early years, the Around the Coyote festival received vociferous complaints about its role in Wicker Park gentrification. But now that the neighborhood has gone about as far as it can go in terms of pricey housing and trendy boites, those attacks seem downright quaint. At the same time, this year's lineup features at least two original, passionate, witty works that confront the conundrums of transformation. Four of the Sweat Girls' seven members reprise their hit from last spring, Cirque du Sweat, a humorous, poignant collection of monologues and scenes dealing with body image, baby fever, and the erosion of youthful ideals in the face of middle-aged realities. Using the circus as a metaphor, the troupe assures us that "under the big top, going around in circles is how it's done." Circularity also figures in Chicago writer-musician-performer Paul McComas's Unplugged, adapted from his well-received 2002 novel of the same name. The piece uses original rock music and monologues to trace the recovery of suicidal bisexual rock chick Dayna Clay (Heather Mell), who abandons her career midgig and takes a trip to the Badlands, where she reconnects with her love for music and life. McComas, founder of the now defunct education and outreach group Rock Against Depression, has been presenting snippets of the show at bookstores and music venues, but this is the piece's first full-scale theatrical production. Judging from the excerpts I saw on tape and heard on CD, the earnest, principled Unplugged bridges the gap between stripped-down rock music and theatrical storytelling. See festival sidebar for venue information and the dates and times of all shows.


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