Weekly Adventure: 12 Nights from The Hypocrites

As you all know by now, I’m a little bit obsessed with Shakespeare. It’s sometimes an unhealthy relationship, which requires me to leave logic far outside the theater door and accept that for instance, people name their twin sons the exact same name for no reason. (I promise at some point I will stop harping on The Comedy of Errors, but that point is far off – that show is so infuriating.)

Anyway 12 Nights, the new four actor, vaguely 80s set, delightful update of Twelfth Night that The Hypocrites are putting on at the Chopin right now, lovingly makes fun of some of the sillier twists in the original farce and made me laugh so hard I almost fell out of the beach chair I was sitting in. (My favorite joke makes fun of the fact that in modern adaptations of Shakespeare the obsession with marriage becomes ridiculous.)

Interspersed with 80s sing-a-long numbers (complete with boom-box) the show races through the plot, and it might have been almost too campy, except that the ensemble (Jeff Trainor, Christine Stulik, Tien Doman, & Zeke Sulkes – who wonderfully plays both Sebastian & Viola) are so delightfully committed to the show that you can’t help but go along with them.

The show runs through October 6th at the Chopin at the 1543 W. Division St

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Six Degrees of Cinema: The Barbarian Invasions

It’s sort of hilarious that Isabelle Blais was what linked me to The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions barbares) because she is in literally two scenes of the movie, and both of those are video messages that last two minutes. But as sad as I was that she wasn’t more of a presence I am so glad I watched this film. (And it’s mostly in French so I think that means I have to call it a film.)

This won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film when it came out and I think I avoided seeing it at the time because based on the title I thought it was about war. It is actually about a mediocre professor Rémy (Rémy Girard ) who is dying of cancer and the at times hilarious and at times heart wrenching lengths that his half-estranged son Sébastien (Stéphane Rousseau ) goes to make him comfortable, which include everything from building him his own hospital room to getting him heroine because a doctor told him it was better for pain than morphine.

As you can probably tell this isn’t exactly a laugh riot conceptually, and I absolutely cried my eyes out at certain points (the conclusion of course, but more so at the flashback where Rémy has to tell his indifferent students that he’s retiring to no reaction.) But there’s also a lovely lighter side, especially when Rémy’s friends and former mistresses/wives show up to give him a proper send off, it becomes like a later in life Big Chill if Kevin Costner (yes the dead body in The Big Chill is Kevin Costner) had hung around to mourn himself.

My main take away from this is that I really need to watch more French-Canadian movies, because the actors in this were all so compelling and I had never heard of any of them. Also bilingualism is really cool.

And this is the end of my first chain! I really enjoyed this because it forced me to watch some things that literally wouldn’t have occurred to me, so I’m excited for the next one! (If certain movies ever come through on “hold” at the library…)

On this chain:

Smashed The Spectacular Now Rabbit HoleOz the Great and Powerful The High Cost of Living – The Barbarian Invasions

Award Show Round Up: Emmys 2013

Out of awards season award shows are usually kind of off, but last night’s Emmy’s were particularly odd. The theme seemed to be “Death.” Whenever the tone and pace would pick up (say with a large-scale dance number) it would instantly get dragged down by a touching yet out-of-place eulogy of Cory Monteith or James Gandolfini. (Even the dresses tended to be light pastel and subdued, with a few notable exceptions of course.)

All that being said, there were a few livelier highlights:

1. Merrit Wever (Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy – Nurse Jackie) started the night off right with one of the best award show acceptance speeches of all time:

(Whoever named this video is just really wrong. This was awesome.)

2. Though Julia Louis-Dreyfuss half in character as her character Selina from Veep (with the help of fellow winner Tony Hale) was pretty awesome too:

3. NPH was way mellower than I expected from him, but then he broke out with this which almost made up for it:

4. Colbert broke The Daily Show winning streak!

5. I said it last year and I will say it again – Modern Family is overrated and it really doesn’t need to be winning anymore Emmys, but at least Steven Levitan summed up the tone of the evening pretty well:

6. Michael Douglas does not care if he’s being awkward:

And now dresses!

Kaley Cuoco in Vera Wang (Photo Credit: Getty)

Connie Britton in Naeem Khan (Photo Credit: Getty)

 

Ellen Burstyn (Photo Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Elisabeth Moss in Andrew Gn (Photo Credit: Jason Merrit/Getty Images)

 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Monique Lhuillier (Photo Credit: Jason Merrit/Getty Images)

Anna Faris in Monique Lhuillier (Photo Credit: Jordan Strauss/AP Images)

 

Tina Fey in Narciso Rodriguez (Photo Credit: Jordan Strauss/AP Images)

Christina Hendricks in Christian Siriano

Weekly Adventure: Dear Elizabeth at the Poetry Foundation

I’ve written before about my complicated relationship with staged readings, but I wasn’t conflicted at all about the reading of Sarah Ruhl’s play Dear Elizabeth that Polly Noonan directed last night at the Poetry Foundation. The play is adapted from Words in Air, the collection of the correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell that I had to talk myself out of buying just last weekend. (Hint anyone gift buying for me in the future.)

I almost can’t imagine how this play, which is literally just the two poets – portrayed with wonderful warmth by Mary Beth Fisher and Lance Baker – reading letters to each other, could work as anything other than a reading. There are dialogue-free sequences that were described last night that I think would be distracting were they actually produced on stage.

Because as beautiful as this play is as a portrait of enduring friendship, we only care about Bishop and Lowell because they were wonderful with words, and this production strips away everything that would distract from that fact.

The most remarkable moment of the whole night comes when Fisher reads one of my all time favorite poems, “One Art”

 

(Unimportant side note: If you are afraid of lightning I would advise against going to the Poetry Foundation building during a thunderstorm, it will give you a heart attack.)

The show runs through tonight  (9/19) at the Poetry Foundation at 61 W Superior St – for FREE

Six Degrees of Cinema: The High Cost of Living

For some reason I thought this movie was going to be set in New York, maybe because it’s distributed by Tribeca Films, which is silly of course they distribute movies that aren’t set where they are headquartered. Anyway, based on that assumption I figured that I had already seen this movie before I pressed play. It looked like another movie about relatively well off white New Yorkers walking around and talking about life. I know this sounds dismissive, but I genuinely like movies that are like this – Happythankyoumoreplease is one of my all time favorites – but given that I hadn’t heard of The High Cost of Living I figured it must be a forgettable example of the genre.

Well I was wrong on pretty much all counts. Set in Montreal, and truly bilingual in the way that city is, this follows the story of an American drug dealer, Zach Braff, and the pregnant woman, Nathalie, he accidentally hits with his car, played by Isabelle Blais, as they deal with the tragic consequences. The whole drug dealer with a heart of gold thing is a bit heavy-handed, but Braff manages to carry it off pretty well. He plays overwhelmed and numb well, as Garden State taught us, but it was sort of hard to buy him as the bastard he’d have to be for the beginning of this movie to make any sense.

But maybe looking for sense is beside of the point; this is at its heart a movie about a woman trying to decide what to do once the world stops making sense. Nathalie makes a lot of choices that I don’t think I would, but Blais inhabits her so perfectly that I identified with her anyway, to the point of worrying about her.

I’m not sure how much  this movie is going to stick with me, but it did make me want to go back to Montreal (and Francophone Canada in general), really badly. (I promise not to smuggle any prescription drugs with me.) So I’m going to finish this movie off with another French-Canadian film, with Isabelle Blais, The Barbarian Invasions, that I remember hearing buzz about when it came out, but then promptly forgot to see.

In this chain:

Smashed The Spectacular Now Rabbit Hole Oz the Great and Powerful – The High Cost of Living

Bonus Adventure: The Wheel at Steppenwolf

I went into The Wheel last night knowing nothing but “Joan Allen.” And I’m very glad that I wasn’t aware of even the central conceit of this show, because part of the magic of this show is how it reveals itself. So this review is going to be willfully opaque and I apologize, but I really recommend that you go to this show as blindly as possible.

That being said I have a bit of a warning (not about the content – that is Steppenwolf’s responsibility) but about the experience of this show. When I was in New York this past August, my friend Hanna and I were waiting in the TKTS line waiting to buy tickets for Peter and the Starcatcher and we overheard a woman warning some tourists in front of us that it was “really hard to get into, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand or like it at first.” This is laughably untrue about Peter, but I was thinking about it last night, because those were the exact words I wanted to use to describe The Wheel. For the first ten or so minutes I was really afraid that this play was going to be wooden and strange, interesting maybe but unemotional…I was very wrong.

I guess I should have known better, this is Steppenwolf after all, and although I was ranting about how long certain famous ensemble members have been missing from Chicago (this was Joan Allen’s first show here in decades) I completely understand why Allen was lured back by this play. She made me laugh and broke my heart and held my attention for two hours without an intermission (which is pushing the limit Steppenwolf…)

Although this messed with my head less than Terminus, I have similar reservations about whole heartedly telling everyone to go. It’s amazing and worth seeing for Allen and fellow ensemble member Tim Hooper’s performances alone (not to mention the wonderfully creepy child actress Emma Gordon). It’s not an easy watch, though (at the risk of sounding incredibly pretentious) I think it might be an important one.

 

The show runs through November 10th on the Steppenwolf mainstage at 1650 N Halsted Ave.

Weekly Adventure: Terminus from Interrobang Theater Project

I’m having a lot of trouble writing about the new production of Terminus that opened last night that the Anthenaeum Theater at Lincoln & Wellington. It’s undeniably powerful, but I feel like I’m still processing my reactions to the eerie interlocking monologues written by Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe.

What I can say for sure is that the small ensemble, Christina Hall, Michaela Petro, and Kevin Barry Crowley are incredibly talented. They all have incredibly expressive faces that shift character and mood ably and believably. This is particularly true of Hall who I would have been happy to listen to alone for the duration of the story.  Except her story is the least supernatural, and so when it becomes incredibly dark (as all three tales do) it’s almost more disturbing than the literal trip to Hell (almost…or maybe it is? I don’t know, like I said this play is a lot to process.

Julia saw this at The Abbey Theater in Dublin and warned me (and her sister) as we went in that it was dark, and she was right to. I see a lot of emotionally difficult theater and movies, as people who read this blog are well aware, but Terminus wasn’t just tough it was twisted. But it also oozed humanity, the good and the bad, and ultimately it was a sort of love letter to forgiveness and empathy, though a dark bittersweet one.

If you have a thick skin this is worth seeing, but I would suggest brining a friend whose hand you can grab, and don’t sit on the sides of the theater if you can avoid it, the lights are very bright.

 

The show runs through October 6th at the Anthaneum at 2936 N Southport Ave

Classics from the Queue: Badlands

Over the Labor Day long weekend I went to a matinée at the Music Box, mostly to hear the organ player, but also to see the new David Lowrey movie Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which stars Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster and I’m not going to write about now because I think it deserves to get nominations so we’ll see if it comes up in a couple of months.

When I went home I was Googling around to get more info about the movie and all the reviews I was coming across all mentioned how it was a rip off of Badlands, which I think is uncharitable they are different in a lot of key ways, but I’m glad because it compelled me to actually watch Terrance Malick’s 1973 debut film.

It’s both like and unlike Malick’s later work. It’s impressionistic but more linear than I was expecting. But the impressionism works really well here for me, because it somehow makes the horrendous violence more palatable. I saw a reference on-line somewhere that Malick thought of this movie as a fairy tale, and I can absolutely see that. There’s even an extended sequence where they live in the woods in a tree fort, which is absolutely insane but also dream like and cool.

(Sidenote – I really want the dress she’s wearing in that scene…)

Badlands won’t ever be my favorite movie, the killing is way too nonchalant for that, but the cinematography is beautiful (as it is in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) and very young Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are so chillingly charming that I would recommend that people see this.

Weekly Adventure: Hideout Block Party/AV Fest 2013

Hideout

My favorite festival of the year was this past weekend, and honestly I’m still recovering from how tired I was by the end of Saturday night.

I forgot my camera on Friday, so I don’t have many good pictures from the first day, but I got a couple:

NUDEBEACH

Nude Beach (rather unfortunately named if you ask me)

These guys were the first band I saw, and they were fun. Their lyrics were old school pop-y but they played loudly to give it some edge:

Up after them was Trampled By Turtles – who won for best band name – but I didn’t get close enough for a picture, but I liked their sound:

Then it was time for Mavis! (Staples if you don’t know, but you should know.)

See - my phone camera really sucks at night - but that's Mavis Staples!

See – my phone camera really sucks at night – but that’s Mavis Staples!

I had seen her at the Block Party 2 years ago, and she was amazing. She was equally as inspiring this time around, which is remarkable given the fact that she had knee replacement surgery recently.

Watching her perform is like what church should be.

The last act of Friday night was Neko Case, who is amazing – and I didn’t even attempt to upload any of the pictures I took of her because they are ridiculously blurry. But her set was awesome, and Kelly Hogan was her backup singer which was of course amazing:

Then on Saturday I did remember my camera!

Which is good because Eugene Mirman should up to introduce The Both – which is the new joint project of Aimee Mann and Ted Leo – both of whom I love.

Eugene Mirman introducing The Both

Eugene Mirman introducing The Both

Generally I liked their set, despite some technical issues, but this was only their 6th show playing as a duo so I’ll forgive that.

Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann

Ted Leo

Ted Leo

  After them came The Walkmen – who I had never heard before, but enjoyed. Though I think the lead singer (Hamilton Leithauser) screams a bit too much – he’s got a nice voice when he isn’t pushing to painful extremes…

SAM_1056

Drummer Matt Barrick playing a tambourine and a triangle at the same time

The Walkmen

The Walkmen

Then came Superchunk! Who were has full of energy and power and I wanted them to be, and had hilarious super fans who stood behind us critiquing the song choices, because you know the set list should be up to them.

Superchunk

Superchunk

I was pretty happy with it they played this:

And my new favorite this:

Speaking of energy – they were followed by The Hold Steady – who are fronted by the delightfully eccentric Craig Finn

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

After their set my friend and I were tired so we sat on the porch at the bar and listened to Young the Giant close out the night:

All in all a wonderful weekend.

SAM_1070

Ten Songs for Falling into Fall

We are on the edge of my very favorite season…though apparently it’s going to feel pretty summery for The Hideout Block Party this weekend…I’ve decided to ignore that and theme my new playlist around the change in season. There’s some fun bouncy, end of picnic season stuff, and some chiller songs I can’t get out my head right now.

My List – The Killers

I’m not sure why, but I could no stop listening to The Killers this summer, but this song is kind of moodier than a lot of their hits. (Side note: I’m obsessed with the one guy in this audience who kept trying to make an arm sway thing happen. I like your committment white long sleeve tee guy.)

Just Like Heaven – The Cure

The Cure played Lollapallooza this year, which I missed because I was out-of-town, but I was shocked that my boss claimed she didn’t even know who they were – I mean even if you don’t like JLH or Friday I’m In Love – how do you forget this face:

The Sound of Settling – Death Cab for Cutie

So when I was home my dad started our now decade long conversation around what “emo” means. Basically this conversation consists of him asking “is this emo?” about every song that starts on the radio and my growing exasperation. But it reminded me this time (as it often does) of the fact that when The O.C. was on Seth Cohen was referred to as emo for listening to Death Cab, even though looking back it’s totally clear he was a baby hipster. Anyway, my brain goes on tangents, and I like this song.

French Navy – Camera Obscura

I have a genre in my iTunes marked “Julia” for all the wonderful mixes she’s given me over the years. This song was on a couple, and then this summer was put on the Slate Culture Fest Summer Strut playlist!

Me & you and Jackie Mittoo – Superchunk

Sound Opinions pick of the month. So catchy, yet sad if you actually listen to the lyrics.

Love Me or Leave Me – Nina Simone

One of my all time favorite songs since the dance company at my high school performed to it seemingly a million years ago. I recently had the melody stuck in my head for days and couldn’t think of the title or the words, thankfully Miró was able to help.

So Here We Are – Bloc Party

Confessions of a Music Snob pick – plus the video just feels autumn-y to me in the best way.

Home – OK Sweetheart

TBTL pick – they replayed an episode recently where she performed and she just seems like a delight.

Rules & Regulations – Rufus Wainwright

Because it’s always the season for Rufus Wainwright.

Born Secular – Jenny Lewis

Perfect walking home in the earlier sunset soundtrack.