Monday, February 07, 2005

A Classic Farce, A Powerful New Drama and A Welcome Return

Weekend Reviews

The Importance of Being Earnest - Peabody Estate, Oak Brook
A Play Review
Over the past year or so, I've gained greater awareness & familiarity with the life & works of Oscar Wilde, a legendary Irish/English writer of the late 19th Century. I've seen two plays about him -- A Man of No Importance and the Judas Kiss -- saw a play by him -- Lady Windemere's Fan -- and took an Oscar Wilde-themed walking tour when I was recently in London. So I eagerly attended a performance of his play, "The Importance of Being Earnest" produced by the First Folio Shakespeare Company at an old estate in Oak Brook. It was cool seeing the play in a setting that felt like the setting in the play -- i.e. not a theatre with a set, but the real thing -- and I enjoyed it. But though not quite as hard as Shakespeare, the tone, dialogue and dialect of Wilde's plays are somewhat hard to appreciate on an initial viewing, let alone the Victorian-era subject matter. I guess dating your cousin wasn't taboo back then. Wilde's wordplay is fascinating, but at this point I appreciate his quips better than I have his full plays. But the performance was certainly well worthwhile.

Permanent Collection - Northlight Theatre, Skokie
A Play Review
As a fictionalized account of recent happenings at the Barnes Collection, a spectacular & unique private art museum in the Philadelphia suburbs that I had the pleasure of visiting, this recent play by Thomas Gibbons would have intrigued me simply with it's insight into art (and the viewing of it). But going far beyond a story about art, the play presents a fascinating debate about race. It really is well written, and insightful to the point that I figured that Gibbons had to be a black writer, but was surprised to learn he isn't. And it stars a great actor named Harry Lennix, who played Joe Adams in "Ray" (he's the impresario who steals Ray away from his original manager) as well as substantial supporting roles in both Matrix sequels. The other performances are very good too. This really may be the best new play I've seen since Proof.

Alejandro Escovedo
with Jon Dee Graham
Saturday, 2/5 at the Old Town School of Folk Music
A Concert Review
For nearly the past 10 years, Alejandro Escovedo has been a singer/songwriter who I've really enjoyed and seen a couple times. Over the last couple years Escovedo has been battling Hepetitis C, which supposedly nearly killed him. I don't think he's cured, but has improved to the point where he's beginning to play sporadic shows. His 3 local shows this weekend marked his first performances outside his hometown of Austin, TX since his illness became debilitating. It was great to see him again and the setting at Old Town was very comfortable; I may have wished for some other material than what he selected to play, but that's almost immaterial. Plus, his old bandmate in the True Believers (who precede my awareness), Jon Dee Graham opened for him and played alongside him. I stumbled across Graham at the Continental Club in Austin when I was there a few years ago and I thought he was very good. So I enjoyed seeing him play again, too. And after the show, both signed CDs.

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