Wintry Mix: Recent plays, films and music

What have I been doing lately? Not cocooning, when there’s lots to do and see in Chicago.

Homage to Molière. Put the actors on stage in froufrou costumes, both male and female, from the rococo era. Have them speak in Molière’s rhyming couplets, transformed into 20th century slangy tropes. That’s David Ives’ School for Lies, an adaptation of Molière’s The Misanthrope, now playing at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Ives, who wrote the brilliant Venus in Furs, which I saw in New York last year, pays homage to Molière in an outrageous way. The acting is excellent with some surprising characterizations (Kevin Gudahl as a lisping twit, Sean Fortunato, momentarily the queen, in a stunning blue dress) and the set is glorious.

Nancy’s rating: Catch it before it closes.

Theater for the fearless. Park somewhere on Cortland in the quiet area west of the Elston/Armitage/Ashland/Kennedy tangle. Have a little dinner at Jane’s Café, then walk down the narrow gangway next to the restaurant. Voila. You’re at Trap Door Theater to see the Vaclav Havel one acts, The Unveiling and Dozens of Cousins. Trap Door performs in a tiny theater space that enables you to get nose-to-nose with the actors. I like the Trap Door mission – to perform “challenging yet obscure works” usually of European, mainly Eastern European, playwrights. These two plays (total run time about an hour) are witty, head-spinning and somewhat fabulistic. You are never sure what or who is real and truthful.

Trap Door’s choice of plays reminds me of the late European Repertory Company, which performed some highly visual, startling and memorable productions. I have missed them for years, but Trap Door makes up for their loss.

Nancy’s rating:  Both Jane’s and Trap Door are always recommended.


Opera at the movies. As you probably know, the Metropolitan Opera simulcasts performances live in HD to cinemas around the country. There’s an encore showing for each opera. We saw the encore of Verdi’s Aida last night and it was excellent. I really like the HD version of these operas, although some opera purists disagree. The sound quality is excellent. The opera is shot from multiple camera angles so you have closeups of the performers during the arias. (I wish they would do that during televised hockey games!) It seems to me you get a more direct connection to the opulent visual art and the music by this kind of viewing.

My favorite part of any HD opera is the long intermission when you really get a backstage view. During the Aida intermissions, the stagehands moved huge pieces of Egypt around and put the altars, thrones, sphinxes and statues back together for the next scene. The soldiers lined up with their spears and practiced marching. This cast included five horses (sometimes an elephant appears, but not in this production). During the intermission, you also see interviews with cast and crew members and the animal trainers.

The Met Live in HD is shown at four theaters in Chicago and many suburban venues; there are five operas left in the season. I still believe that live is always better (See “Live or Memorex” here but I’ll make an exception for the Met in HD. This is a great way to see opera and far less expensive than going to a live performance.

Bruce wins WXRT 2012 Listener Poll. XRT listeners voted Bruce Springsteen at Wrigley Field September 7 and 8 as the Best Concerts of 2012. The tour album, Wrecking Ball, was voted #6 on Best Albums list. Here’s what I wrote about the Wrigley concerts.

Leonard Cohen gives me another chance. I missed Leonard last time around in November but he’ll perform one of his great concerts Wednesday, March 13, at the Chicago Theatre. I recommend his latest album, Old Ideas, again.


Film clips. Finally saw a few more of the Oscar and Golden Globe nominated films. My micro-reviews:

Argo was one of my favorite movies of the year. Very well acted; dead on with costumes, hair and hirsuteness, cars and props.  Sharp dialogue, quick-moving direction by Ben Affleck. His character, as well as Alan Arkin’s and John Goodman’s, were a treat to watch. I’ll see it again when it’s out on DVD or streaming.

Silver Linings Playbook. Good film with fine acting, especially by Robert DeNiro as the Philadelphia Eagles fan who was banned from the stadium for overzealous behavior. I found some of it painful to watch as people with serious emotional problems tried to cope with their lives. But by the way, wasn’t it a little unrealistic for these wounded characters to be so beautiful and perfect-looking, even when they were supposedly in the depths of depression?

Beasts of the Southern Wild. A lovely magical film starring the sparkling child actor, Quvenzhané Wallis as the six-year-old Hushpuppy. You will weep for the disasters the changing environment wreaks upon the bayou community where Hushpuppy lives. But the film is ultimately about love and courage, not disaster.

Et Cetera. I’m about to see Django Unchained and I still want to see Amour, maybe Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty. I won’t see Les Miserables since it’s in my egregious singing and dancing category. I wanted to see Promised Land but other things kept getting in the way and I think now I’ll have to wait to see it when the DVD is released. It appears to be disappearing from theaters, as Not Fade Away has already done.


One Comment on “Wintry Mix: Recent plays, films and music”

  1. Melnda POwer says:

    I loved School for Lies also, I agree with your comments. I want to go to the opera, but I haven’t yet. Melinda


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