Monday, April 18, 2005

Weekend Reviews

Weekend Reviews

Floyd & Clea Under The Western Sky
A Musical at Goodman Theatre
It's really pretty shocking that this turned out to be the best event of the 3 this weekend, yet this world premiere country/western musical was a sweet little gem. With just two people, and all the music performed on stage, it felt more like a play with music than a traditional musical, and while it was not particularly deep, much of its charm came from the subtle, rather than overtly maudlin, way it treated its subject matter. The show's creator, David Cale, stars as Floyd a down on his luck country singer befriended by Clea, an aspiring star half his age. Even without the bargain basement, in previews, HotTix price of $7.40 that I paid, this one is well worth your time and money.

Paul Westerberg
Concert - 4.15.05 - Riviera Theatre
The Replacements were, and remain, one of my favorite bands, with Westerberg's brilliant songwriting at their core. For some reason, however, the singer has never been able to match that brilliance in his solo career which has now has outlasted the Replacements duration (a flaw he shares with his namesakes, Mssrs. McCartney and Weller, and plenty of others). Nonetheless, I own everything he has released, including albums under his Grandpaboy pseudonym, and could put together a 15-song or so compilation of worthy solo material. But Friday's show at the Riv was a sad showcase of how far from glory he has fallen. It was still a true pleasure hearing some great old Mats' (short for Place Mats, a nickname of the Replacements) songs, like Little Mascara, Left of the Dial, Alex Chilton and Merry Go Round. But much of the non-Mats stuff bored me, and toward the end he got embarrassingly sloppy, like a drunk poet screaming on a street corner. Bad covers played half-way through, smashing stuff on stage like someone half his age, etc.

Lost Land
Play at Steppenwolf Theatre
'Seeing John Malkovich' would've been a more apt title for this world premiere by British playwright Stephen Jeffreys, for the on-stage reappearance of Steppenwolf's most famous, and arguaby best, actor was admittedly what brought me to buy a full-price advance ticket. And while I stipulate that perhaps there was a subtle artistry to this work about people in Hungary during WWI that I couldn't appreciate, other than the chance to see Malkovich, this play really didn't do much for me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Weekend Reviews

It's been a busy few days; here are my thoughts with reviews based on a @@@@@ system.

A play by David Mamet
Produced by the Inspirare Theatre at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center
This 1992 2-person Mamet play, inspired by the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill sexual harassment case, is certainly worthwhile material. Performed in an old classroom, which was appropriate per the script, this was the inaugural performance by a new theatre group called Inspirare. For just $7 for Thursday night performances, you can't go wrong, though the performance by the actress playing the female student was weaker than the one of the male professor. Yet given the story, that imbalance was almost fine.

Ash & The Bravery
Two bands in concert, 4.8.05 at Cabaret Metro
Ash @@@@
The Bravery @@
I went to this concert strictly for Ash, an hard-driving yet melodic Irish rock band that I've liked for some time. While certainly not brilliant, I have found Ash consistently enjoyable and their hour-long set at the Metro didn't disappoint. While seemingly receiving top billing, they played before a new band called The Bravery, which blends a bunch of influences (The Smiths, Duran Duran & other 80's bands) into a contemporary Dance Rock style (a la The Killers, Franz Ferdinand) that's pleasantly derivative, but not distinctive.

Sin City
Novel & brilliant moviemaking yet short of a wonderful movie.

The Diary of Anne Frank
Play - Chicago Jewish Theatre
Very well acted version of the Frank family's period of hiding from the Nazi's in WWII Amsterdam. The story is too real to be artfully dramatic, but strong performances made it quite worthwhile.

Randy Travis
Country/Gospel Performance
Willow Creek Community Church
Yes, I went to a church, though it seemed more like a performing arts venue, with a brand new 7,000 seat auditorium. Fortunately, for this Jew, it was 95% singing and just 5% preaching, though Travis' selection of songs were mostly spiritual in nature. I've never followed his music before, but found him to be a likable performer with a good voice & style. Probably would've enjoyed a straightforward country performance better, but this was a good introduction.

Take Me Out
A Play by Richard Greenberg
Steppenwolf Theatre
I left my apartment just before Tiger Woods' miracle chip shot on 16, and eventual Master's win, so that just added to my disappointment with a show I was looking forward to seeing. About, or perhaps more correctly, centered around a baseball star's announcement that he is gay, this first Chicago production of a recent Tony Award winning play didn't quite strike out, but it was certainly no home run either. It seemed meandering rather than pointed, and even at 2 hours, felt long.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Disappointing But Not A Disappointment

Perhaps it's uncouth to admit it, but I listen to sports talk radio quite a bit. But at some of the most seemingly appropos times, I avoid it like the plague. Like today. I'm relatively certain that there are any number of hosts, reporters, analysts, experts and fans dissecting the Illinois loss last night to North Carolina in the NCAA Championship game. I'm sure people are ripping on James Augustine for his foul problem, lamenting Luther Head's errant pass near the end, questioning the team's poor first half, rueing the crucial late misses by Head and Deron Williams, poking at Coach Bruce Weber's strategy for guarding Sean May, and even perhaps without criticizing, whining about the team's failure to win it all.

Screw that, I say (unsure about the profanity regulations of this blog site). Like any Illini fan -- including unquestionably millions more devoted than me, whether U of I students, alumni, etc. -- I watched, and rooted, and hoped they won. And showing amazing heart and resilence, they almost did. Between them, Head and Williams had great looks at four 3-point shots that could have put the Illini in the lead, or at least tied the game near the end. Unlike earlier shots that brought the Illini back from a 15 point deficit, all four shots hit the rim and bounced out.

That's, literally, the way the ball bounces sometimes. You take your best shot, and hope it goes in. The fact that it didn't doesn't diminish from the accomplishments of, and enjoyment provided by, a team of 19-21 year old men who won 37 of 39 games this season, equalling the most any college team has ever won.

It would've been great had they won, but it's not a great loss that they didn't. As some great philosopher must have once said: Enjoyment is in the experience, not the outcome.

Go Cubs.