Whistler’s Mother: An American Icon Returns to Chicago
It’s your last chance to catch one of the world’s most recognizable masterpieces, Whistler’s famed portrait of his mom, before it goes back to Paris. In person, the painting of the woman in black is downright staggering. Rendered life-size and in stoic relief, she remains a monumental symbol of the patience of motherhood.
Details:Art Institute of Chicago. $14–$25. artic.edu
A New Look
Monique Meloche Gallery’s semiregular showcase of figurative art is known as a breeding ground for hotshot artists. This year’s crop includes Sadie Barnette, Anna Bjerger, Jessica Campbell, Zoë Charlton, Chitra Ganesh, Jillian Mayer, and Caroline Wells Chandler.
Details:Monique Meloche Gallery. Free. moniquemeloche.com
The legendary pop artist came to prominence with bold paintings of giant hearts. Entering his mature artistic phase, Dine shifts to drippy, emotional, and intensely colorful abstract paintings in this inaugural show at Richard Gray’s converted warehouse gallery.
Details:Richard Gray Gallery. Free. richardgraygallery.com
Nestled behind the U. of C.’s leafy quad, the Renaissance Society has become an incubator for global contemporary art. In its last show of the season, Germany’s Astrid Klein and Chicago’s B. Ingrid Olson identify an intergenerational trend in moody conceptual portraiture and collages.
Details:Renaissance Society. Free. renaissancesociety.org
Candida Alvarez: Here
Details:Chicago Cultural Center. Free. cityofchicago.org
Earlier this year, the English rockers released I See You, a bright, hopeful departure from their trademark dreariness. Brighter, too, are the band members’ personal lives: Frontman Jamie Smith has forged a solo career as a DJ, Romy Madley Croft got engaged to the British designer Hannah Marshall, and Oliver Sim sobered up. Expect a jubilant live show from a band transformed.
Details:Aragon Ballroom. 6:30 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.
En Mas’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean
On the Caribbean islands, Carnival takes the form of a rambunctious street circus where revelers wear masks and costumes in a last gasp of hedonism before Lent. The curators of this exhibit reveal how art meets life in the Carnival parade, including Ebony Patterson’s adorned coffins and Cauleen Smith’s New Orleans–inspired jazz dirge.
Details:DuSable Museum of African American History. $3–$10. dusablemuseum.org
The rare rapper who sounds better live than on a record, this mumbly Brooklyn native dominated the charts in 2016 with his debut single, “Panda.” He’s got a debut LP, The Life of Desiigner, slated for later this year, so consider this show a fleeting opportunity to see him in an intimate club setting.
Details:Vic Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $25–$30. ticketfly.com
Jessica Lang Dance
The New York dance company returns to the Harris Theater, this time with a contemporary ballet titled The Wanderer. The evening-length narrative promises to transport audiences to a surreal world with choreography and visual design set to a Schubert song cycle.
Details:Harris Theater. 7:30 p.m. $35–$125. harristheaterchicago.org
Chicago Academy for the Arts
Hit the food trucks on lower Randolph before venturing into Mix at Six, the Harris Theater’s cocktail-hour performance series. This installment features the next generation of professional dancers under the direction of Chicago legend Randy Duncan.
Details:Harris Theater. 6 p.m. $10. harristheaterchicago.org
Brahms’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2
Romantic-era pillar Johannes Brahms excelled at just about every classical form—chamber, choral, songs, solo piano—so he had time for only four symphonies. Fortunately, they can be crammed into two concert programs, which Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti does during his spring residency. The cathartic No. 1 and sunny No. 2 come first.
Details:Symphony Center. $45–$165. cso.org
Carrie Olivia Adams
Near North Side
The International Museum of Surgical Science’s artist residency is probably one of the strangest in the city, offering full access to the museum’s archives of medical artifacts and specimens. This season’s resident, a poet known for her uncanny sensibility, debuts a multimedia dance, music, and text work created in response to women’s roles in medical innovation.
Details:International Museum of Surgical Science. 6 p.m. $7–$15. imss.org
Chicago Zine Fest
Chicago is home to a teeming ecosystem of self-publishers, indie cartoonists, and outsider poets, many of whom dutifully produce their own zines. This annual fest is a one-stop shop for quirky quarterlies, oddball pamphlets, and original comics, all handcrafted by local artists and makers.
Details:Various venues. Free. chicagozinefest.org
Evanston, North Park
The 44th annual celebration of classical music’s founding father presents pieces familiar and rare for its closing weekend. The May 5 concert pulls out his Cello Suite No. 2, a polestar for the instrument. The May 7 concert radiates from the 11-movement, five-part choral motet Jesu, Meine Freude.
Details:May 5: Nichols Concert Hall at Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston; May 7: Anderson Chapel at North Park University. $10–$30 per concert; $20–$80 fest pass. bachweek.org
Kilimanjaro: The Last Glacier
Near North Side
The world’s rare tropical glaciers are on a course to extinction in the next decade, including Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro glacier. Photographer Ian van Coller accompanied climate scientists on expeditions to study the melting ice; the result is an oversize book (three by four feet) as weighty as the urgent topic itself.
Details:Schneider Gallery. Free. schneidergallerychicago.com
Ballet Chicago Studio Company
Recognized nationally for its preprofessional dance training, Ballet Chicago toasts its 20th anniversary with works by George Balanchine and the company’s founder, Dan Duell. Also on the bill: a world premiere from Frank Chaves, the onetime artistic director of River North Dance Chicago.
Details:Harris Theater. 2 and 7:30 p.m. $25–$50. harristheaterchicago.org
Polish Constitution Day Parade
On May 3, 1791, Poland formed the first constitutional democracy in Europe—second in the world after the United States. Naturally, Chicago hosts the biggest Constitution Day celebration this side of the motherland. For its 126th run, the parade gets a ritzy new route down Columbus Drive.
Details:Grant Park. 11:30 a.m. Free. may3parade.org
In 1984, this Glen Ellyn native released the bewildering spoken-word track “The Language of the Future.” Although Anderson’s sound has expanded over the past three decades, her experimental live show remains as jarring as ever. Here, she performs a new multimedia work named after that 1984 track.
Details:Old Town School of Folk Music. $58–$60. oldtownschool.org
Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker
As early as the 1920s, the cabaret singer Josephine Baker was breaking down racial barriers and captivating audiences with her white-hot vocal prowess. Playwright and director Daryl Brooks celebrates the groundbreaking icon in a world premiere bio-musical.
Details:Black Ensemble Theater. $45–$65. blackensembletheater.org
Ending its poetry-tethered season, the Avalon Quartet plays Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 3, a work written under Soviet censorship, and welcomes a second viola and second cello to blanket the hall in Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, a pre-atonality masterpiece based on a poem about an anxious woodland walk.
Details:Fullerton Hall at Art Institute of Chicago. 2 p.m. Free with admission. avalonquartet.com
Last year yielded this R&B singer a Grammy nomination, which she promptly followed up with a critically acclaimed studio album, SweetSexySavage. Wielding intricate choreography and an army of backup dancers, the onetime America’s Got Talent star puts on a stunning live show.
Details:Concord Music Hall. 6 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.
It’s hard to believe it’s been two decades since Angel, Mimi, Maureen, and the rest first sang the gospel of no-day-but-today. Twenty years and one film adaptation later, this touring production toasts Jonathan Larson’s lovable East Villagers in a by-the-book re-creation, right down to the flannel and fishnets.
Details:Oriental Theatre. $22–$82. broadwayinchicago.org
Onstage, he is Neil Hamburger, a sweaty, awkward burnout riding an endless string of hard breaks. Offstage, he is Gregg Turkington, a musician and comedian who created the off-kilter standup persona back in the ’90s. He has earned a rabid cult following, performing alongside alternative acts like Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, and Jack Black’s Tenacious D. The routine is heavy on self-deprecation (think Rodney Dangerfield turned up to 11) but should satisfy fans of discomforting comedy.
Details:Lincoln Hall. 8 p.m. $20–$22. lh-st.com
The Jesus and Mary Chain
File this under must-see legacy gigs. After 19 years away from the studio, these Scottish postpunks released a new album, Damage and Joy, in March. They are as influential as they are enigmatic, and their stock blend of jagged guitar and dissonant melody is present as ever on the record. Catch them here before another two-decade break.
Details:Riviera Theatre. 8 p.m. $35. ticketfly.com
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Near North Side
Nestled between Hubbard Street’s spring and summer series, Dance(e)volve is anchored by two world premieres. The all-female, all-Chicago program includes works by Robyn Mineko Williams, Penny Saunders, Alice Klock, and Lucky Plush Productions’ founding artistic director, Julia Rhoads.
Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $65. hubbardstreetdance.com
New Media Art from China
This screening of video pieces by young Chinese media artists—curated by Zhang Peili, who has his own retrospective in the Modern Wing—shows how today’s artists use moving-image technology to develop their own points of view.
Details:Art Institute. 6 p.m. Free. artic.edu
Brahms’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4
In the second of two CSO Brahms symphonic programs (see May 4–9 listing), Riccardo Muti turns his ear to the composer’s late works. The tidy No. 3 and brilliant No. 4 finish the tetrad.
Details:Broadway in Chicago at Cadillac Palace Theatre. $49–$140. broadwayinchicago.com
It may seem odd that a play about an imaginary rabbit nabbed a Pulitzer, but Mary Chase’s quirky 1944 drama defied the odds. For Court Theatre’s production, Timothy Edward Kane plays Elwood P. Dowd, a man whose imaginary best pal has whiskers, fur, and floppy ears.
Details:Court Theatre. $38–$68. courttheatre.org
Nonagenarian Mike Nussbaum plays Albert Einstein in this drama about the fate of the genius’s daughter, Lieserl, born in 1902 and never seen or heard from after 1904. In exploring the mystery, playwright Mark St. Germain reveals the little-known personal side of one of history’s brightest minds.
Details:Northlight Theatre. $15–$81. northlight.org
The Night Season
A seaside village in County Sligo, Ireland, is all agog when a movie crew upends the local routine. Playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz evokes Chekhov in this play about three sisters dreaming of a land beyond Ireland. Shenanigans and sexual tension abound.
Details:Strawdog Theatre at Factory Theater. $15–$30. strawdog.org
By transplanting Charles Dickens’s rags-to-riches adventure from workhouse-era England to British Raj–era Calcutta, playwright Tanika Gupta shines a klieg light on imperialism. As in Dickens’s original, an impoverished orphan struggles to stay true to his culture as a mysterious benefactor raises him out of poverty.
Details:Remy Bumppo and Silk Road Rising at Silk Road Rising. $13–$35. greatexpectationsplay.org
For nearly three decades, this choir director has blended disparate black music genres into bouncy hip-hop gospel—most recently with the likes of Kanye West and Chance the Rapper. His live performances, bursting with energy and hope, are utter celebrations. Also playing this Mother’s Day show are Marvin Sapp and Shirley Caesar.
Details:Star Plaza Theatre. 8 p.m. $65–$95. ticketmaster.com
Each year, Columbia College students hit the streets for the school’s urban arts festival, which features gallery exhibitions, pop-up music and dance performances, readings, fashion shows, and more.
Details:Various venues. 7 p.m. Free. colum.edu/manifest
Chicago Critics Film Festival
Expect a stellar lineup at this five-year-old film fest. Last year, the Chicago Film Critics Association presented a bellwether selection of indie hits-to-be, among them Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a New Zealand comedy that sneaked onto some high-profile year-end lists after receiving the festival’s Audience Award.
Details:Music Box Theatre. $10–$15. chicagocriticsfilmfestival.com
So young that she has braces in many of her promotional photos, the Mexican-born wunderkind makes it to the Ravinia stage before her 15th birthday. The pianist plays Mozart, de rigueur on prodigy programs, but also more heavyweight works, such as Alberto Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas and Chopin’s Ballade No. 3.
Details:Ravinia. 8:30 p.m. $10. ravinia.org
A regular on NPR’s news quiz show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!, Poundstone has lost more games than any other contestant—usually in spectacular, hilarious fashion. Her standup is similarly screwball, with an improvised style that keeps audiences on their toes.
Details:Thalia Hall. 7 and 10 p.m. $40–$60. thaliahallchicago.com
Rennie Harris Puremovement
After wowing fans at last summer’s Chicago Dancing Festival, Harris and his hip-hop crew return for RHAW (Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works), a short-format matinee for the whole family.
Details:Harris Theater. 2 p.m. $10–$15. harristheaterchicago.org
Over the course of his 2016 breakout The Party, Shauf examines the same soiree through the perspectives of 10 different people, tracing and retracing the flirtations, fights, and awkward interactions of a fictional group of friends. If that sounds stuffy for a rock concert, don’t fret: Shauf’s literary lyrics are set to some of the catchiest melodies this side of the new millennium.
Details:Lincoln Hall. 8:30 p.m. $15. lh-st.com
The Silver Whistle
The student tumblers, aerialists, and trapeze artists of Evanston’s Actors Gymnasium flaunt their finest circus artistry in a show rich with witches, princes, and a magical whistle. Ringling Brothers vet Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi choreographs the stunts.
Details:Actors Gymnasium. $13–$15. actorsgymnasium.org
School of the Art Institute Design Show
Details:Chicago Design Museum. Free. chidm.com
With half a dozen musical projects to his name, Segall ranks as one of indie rock’s most prolific figures. His most recent solo effort (his ninth overall) is a self-titled, Steve Albini–produced jam. Much of his studio work skews psychedelic, but don’t be surprised if Segall goes full-on punk in a live setting.
Details:Thalia Hall. 8:30 p.m. $24–$30. thaliahallchicago.com
The Day of Judgment
Georg Philipp Telemann holds a Guinness World Record for his vast musical output. So it’s no surprise that his oratorio The Day of Judgment, a four-contemplation encapsulation of the Apocalypse, isn’t heard much. Music of the Baroque’s thoughtful music director, Jane Glover, leads the orchestra, chorus, and soloists in a philosophical march through fiery devastation to paradise.
Details:May 14: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts; May 15: Harris Theater. 7:30 p.m. $27–$75. baroque.org
Elmhurst Museum Day
If you don’t live or work in this western suburb, you wouldn’t know that it’s host to a variety of cultural institutions. Highlights include the surprisingly subversive Elmhurst Art Museum and the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Arts, which displays cut and polished gemstones with shocking detail. Entry to all museums is free to the public on Monday, May 15, with complimentary shuttle rides.
Details:Various locations. Free. elmhurst.org
Father John Misty
On Pure Comedy, his third record since stepping down as drummer of Fleet Foxes, this California folksinger (real name Joshua Tillman) explores themes of technology, politics, and human nature. The April release finds Tillman at his best: blending the line between pop rock and performance art, sincere and sarcastic. As always with the guy who performed on Letterman with a laugh track, expect some serious theatrics live.
Details:Chicago Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $30–$50. ticketmaster.com
Little Thing, Big Thing
Fresh from his turn as a demonic priest in Fox’s The Exorcist, Brad Armacost stars in Donal O’Kelly’s buddy caper about a nun on the run, a thief intent on robbing her convent, and the unlikely bond they form against a nefarious oil company.
Details:Irish Theatre of Chicago at Den Theatre. $26–$30. irishtheatreofchicago.org
Beer Under Glass
This exclusive shindig is a favorite among Chicago hopheads, and it kicks off Chicago Craft Beer Week. Sample more than 100 brews as you mill about Garfield Park’s eight scenic greenhouses. New this year: a cast of local food trucks to discourage drinking on an empty stomach.
Details:Garfield Park Conservatory. 5:30 p.m. $60–$80. chibeerweek.com
One of the most popular producers in electronic music of late, this British DJ has moved from a down-tempo to a world-building sound. In January, Bonobo released the critically beloved Migration, a complicated, beautiful collection of tunes that span various world music genres and challenge the idea of traditional dance music. That said, you can still expect to boogie at this live show.
Details:Concord Music Hall. 8 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.
The world was shocked when someone injured figure skating princess Nancy Kerrigan shortly before the 1994 Olympics. Eventually, Kerrigan’s archrival, Tonya Harding, was implicated in the attack. Dan Aibel’s world premiere drama plumbs the salacious story of the sport’s most scorching rivalry.
Details:American Theater Company. $15–$38. atcweb.org
Three Days of Rain
Playwright Richard Greenberg delves into the architecture of a family (and a family home) in a time-tripping drama about troubled siblings and the Long Island building they were raised in. A hidden journal sparks the action in the play, which follows a brother and sister coming to grips with their family’s past.
Details:Boho Theatre at Heartland Studio. $28. bohotheatre.com
This renowned lutenist gives a solo recital of early music for instruments that once accompanied singers as inescapably as guitars do today. In the niche of a niche that constitutes lute, Smith is perhaps the number one name.
Details:Galvin Recital Hall at Northwestern University. 7:30 p.m. $10–$30. music.northwestern.edu
Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
Hailed as one of the most dramatic ballets of the 20th century, Red Giselle returns to Chicago for the first time in nearly two decades. Director Boris Eifman helms the true story of a Russian ballerina, Olga Spessivtseva, who defected to Europe in 1924.
Details:Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University. $33–$113. auditoriumtheatre.org
This raucous block party is the official kickoff of Chicago’s oft-sloppy street festival season. But Mayfest is a reliably good time and the first opportunity to work on that upper-arm tan.
Details:Ashland and Barry. $10. starevents.com
The last time actor Stacy Keach and director Robert Falls collaborated at the Goodman (2006’s King Lear), the result was must-see theater. Here’s hoping similar lightning strikes as the two join forces again in Jim McGrath’s drama about a despondent Ernest Hemingway struggling to recover his mojo after running with the bulls in Pamplona.
Details:Goodman Theatre at Den Theatre. $20–$60. goodmantheatre.org
Ladies Night in Lascaux
It is often assumed that the Paleolithic cave artists of Lascaux were men. Up-and-coming Chicago artists Hope Esser and Liz McCarthy examine cultural constructions of gender through disruptive sculptural and performance-based acts—for example, a body-part-shaped whistle that McCarthy plays—in one of Chicago’s most vital DIY creative spaces.
Details:Roots & Culture. Free. rootsandculturecac.org
Malott Japanese Garden Children’s Festival
Every May, Japan celebrates children and mothers with a weekend of carp kites and sweet rice cakes. Here, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers a morning of kid-focused Japanese cultural events. Make origami samurai helmets, hear masters play traditional instruments, and witness a tea ceremony in the Zen environs of the Malott Japanese Garden.
Details:Chicago Botanic Garden. Free. chicagobotanic.org
Nomi Dance Company
Nomi caps its 10th season with Ten Yeared, a program including a new work by Giordano Dance Chicago veteran Joshua Blake Carter. Also on the bill are two revivals, most notably director Laura Kariotis’s lyrical Fyrtsa Decad.
Details:Athenaeum Theatre. 8 p.m. $12–$35. athenaeumtheatre.org
Wright Plus 150 House Walk
Wisconsin may be the birthplace of Frank Lloyd Wright, but the architect mastered his craft here. In honor of the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth, design buffs can tour four historic homes drafted by the man himself (plus half a dozen more by his contemporaries and protégés) on an easy-to-walk loop through Oak Park.
Details:Various locations. 9 a.m. $80–$105. flwright.org
Chicago Chamber Musicians
A survivor among Chicago chamber groups, CCM here revives two pieces with unusual instrumentation. Beethoven’s Sextet for Winds, op. 71, features two clarinets, two bassoons, and two horns, and Dvořák adds a second viola to a string quartet for his “American” String Quintet, op. 97.
Details:Ganz Hall at Roosevelt University. 7:30 p.m. $40. jeremiahccme.wixsite.com/chicagochambermusic
Known for ambient electronic music and dynamite stage shows, this French composer is the gold standard in blending visual art and music. Artists like Daft Punk and Justice continue to take cues from his theatrical stage setups, and on the heels of his 2016 release, Oxygène 3, you can expect Jarre to up the ante for his Chicago fans.
Details:Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University. 7:30 p.m. $38–$150. ticketmaster.com
It’s been seven years since Gervais regaled main-stage crowds with his trademark quips and gripes. Back on the horse for the mysteriously titled Humanity tour, Gervais promises fans his most personal, honest, and angry material yet.
Details:Chicago Theatre. $50–$80. ticketmaster.com
In 1913, Leo Frank was lynched after being falsely accused of raping and murdering a 13-year-old. His story may not seem to be the stuff of musical theater, but composer Jason Robert Brown crafted a memorable score and story around the tragedy. Director Gary Griffin brings the rarely produced show to life.
Details:Writers Theatre. $35–$80. writerstheatre.org
The realm of top-tier sports is an aggressively male-dominated business, which makes the superagent in Fernanda Coppel’s barbed comedy all the more intriguing. Liz is king in a field where A-list athletes make million-dollar demands (and those who can’t meet them get promptly benched).
Details:Windy City Playhouse. $15–$55. windycityplayhouse.com
In 2014, the Seattle singer Mike Hadreas tore onto the scene with his hit third record, Too Bright, a brave, beautiful release that opened the door for a new generation of LGBTQ artists. Expect to hear material from Hadreas’s still-untitled follow-up, which he recently described as a “grown-up album” about life after trauma.
Details:Lincoln Hall. 9 p.m. $21. lh-st.com
Bright Half Life
More than 40 years pass in the lives of the lesbian couple at the heart of Tanya Barfield’s award-winning drama. But since the play’s structure shuttles between past and present,
the audience’s view is colored by hindsight. Keira Fromm helms an intricate story of two lives intertwined, from courtship to mortality.
Details:About Face Theatre at Theater Wit. $10–$40. aboutfacetheatre.com
Near West Side
The musical take on E.L. Doctorow’s novel captures early 20th-century America and the culture clash between monied WASPs, newly mobile African Americans, and off-the-boat Jewish immigrants. Composer Stephen Flaherty’s score is a brilliant combination of syncopation and soaring harmonies; Terrence McNally’s book spins the story of America at a crossroads.
Details:Griffin Theatre at Den Theatre. $30–$39. griffintheatre.com
Bike the Drive
Once a year, Chicago’s signature thoroughfare becomes a pedaler’s paradise (at least for those willing to saddle up at the crack of dawn). Cyclists take the right of way for five hours of family-friendly exercise.
Details:Lake Shore Drive. 5:30 a.m. $17–$65. bikethedrive.org
Closing in on six decades as a professional pianist, this Milan native carries a leonine reputation that makes his Chopin the one to hear. Here, he performs a series of medium-length Chopin works alongside the complete Book 2 of Debussy’s Preludes, a set that goes out with a bang called Feux d’Artifice (“Fireworks”).
Details:Symphony Center. 3 p.m. $35–$103. cso.org
Third Coast Percussion
Having won a Grammy for last year’s Steve Reich album, this energetic quartet now hosts Eardrum, a percussion duo from Germany. Eardrum plays works by Germans, Third Coast plays commissions from emerging composers, and all six musicians pool their mallets for “Peaux,” a skins-only movement from Pléïades, by the contemporary composer Iannis Xenakis.
Details:Constellation. 8:30 p.m. constellation-chicago.com