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The Best Things to Do in Chicago in September

Our monthly roundup of the best theatre, comedy, music, and more to go see now.

The World of Extreme Happiness   Photo: Liz Lauren

Theatre


Comedies

Agreed Upon Fictions

9/18–10/25 After helming Stage Left’s dramatic reading of this play about a neighborhood mom whose prejudices wreak havoc on her community, Megan Shuchman (by day, Steppenwolf’s associate education director) tackles the full-fledged premiere. $18. 16th Street Theater, 6420 16th, Berwyn. 16thstreettheater.org

The Arsonists

Through 9/27 In Max Frisch’s political satire—mounted in 2012 at Trap Door Theatre—two firebugs wheedle their way into a bourgeois man’s home and get him to reduce it to cinders. First produced in 1958, the play is often seen as a commentary on Europe’s early response to Nazism. Matt Hawkins directs. $24–$28. Strawdog Theatre Company, 3829 N. Broadway. strawdog.org

The Game’s Afoot

Through 10/19 From the author of the cleverly operatic farce Lend Me a Tenor comes this whodunit set in a spooky old castle in 1936 New England. William Osetek directs the bloody shenanigans. $45–$55. Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury, Oakbrook Terrace. drurylane.com

Some Men

Through 9/13 Pride Films and Plays presents the Chicago premiere of a wide-ranging work by Tony-winning dramatist Terrence McNally (Love! Valour! Compassion!). Zipping through more than 80 years of gay history, the play tells the interconnected stories of several generations of New Yorkers, with stops at Stonewall, a hospital during the height of the AIDS crisis, and a modern-day same-sex wedding. $15–$30. Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge. pridefilmsandplays.com

CRITIC’S PICK

Stupid Fucking Bird

Through 9/21 Aaron Posner’s “sort of” adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull takes an irreverent, potty-mouthed approach to the themes of love, longing, and artistic creation found in the original. A big hit when it premiered at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., the play makes its first appearance in the Midwest thanks to Sideshow Theatre Company. $20–$25. Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln. sideshowtheatre.org

Take the Cake

Through 9/6 Another loopy offering from the Factory Theater—the troupe that brought us Hey! Dancin’! Hey! Musical! and Siskel and Ebert Save Chicago. This time around, a simple story about girlfriends and baked goods somehow darkens to include murder, mayhem, and lethal cake balls. $5–$20. Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston. thefactorytheater.com

Dramas

CRITIC’S PICK

All Our Tragic

Through 10/5 Theatrical events don’t get much more ambitious than the Hypocrites’ season opener: a 12-hour marathon (with breaks for meals) of all 32 surviving Greek tragedies by Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, adapted and directed by Sean Graney. If you’re worried about your backside turning numb, you can also see the plays divvied up into smaller chunks of time. $30–$75. Den Theatre, 1329 N. Milwaukee. the-hypocrites.com

Bethany

9/29–11/23 You don’t necessarily equate the demise of a Saturn dealership with tragedy, but the end of the car lot triggers an onslaught of sadness and peril in Laura Marks’s exploration of a worldwide recession and the individuals it endangers. $20–$30. The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee. thegifttheatre.org

The Commons of Pensacola

9/12–10/19 Robin Witt directs the emotional body blows in playwright Amanda Peet’s mordant exposé of a family who can’t seem to hit rock bottom, no matter how far they keep falling. $25–$78. Northlight Theatre, 9501 N. Skokie, Skokie. northlight.org

Dementia

9/25–10/25 In a few months, Trap Door Theatre travels to the mountains of Zakopane, Poland, for a collaborative residency with Teatr Witkacy, a company devoted to the works of the late Polish playwright Stanislaw Witkiewicz. If you can’t make it to Poland to see the show, you can catch Dementia, an amalgamation of pieces by the avant-garde Witkiewicz, who wrote about everything from two-headed cats to his experiences on peyote. $20–$25. Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland. trapdoortheatre.com

Ecstasy

Through 9/28 Cole Theatre, a newly formed Equity company led by veteran actors Layne Manzer and Boyd Harris, mounts Mike Leigh’s sprawling narrative of young love, loss, messiness, and lust. $15–$25. Cole Theatre at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells. coletheatre.org

Have You Seen Our Future?

9/18–10/26 The dysfunction that plagues much of the public school system takes center stage in a new piece conceived and written by Sarah Moeller, with help from Adam Seidel and Michele Stine. Collaboraction’s last foray into original work was the stunning Crime Scene Chicago. If the company harnesses that same lightning in a bottle when dealing with education, it’ll wind up with a fascinating, provocative, and thoroughly engaging piece of theater. $15–$30. Collaboraction at the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee. collaboraction.org

FREE!

The Jungle

Through 9/6 Matt Foss directs his own adaptation of the book that spawned a million temporary vegetarians. Set in Chicago’s stockyards during the early 20th century, Upton Sinclair’s novel exposed the squalid working conditions and stalled dreams of the immigrants working there. Foss aims for the same heart-wrenching, stomach-turning impact. Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway. publicaccesstheatre.org

Let Me Down Easy

9/13–10/10 Playwright Anna Deveare Smith takes on the faces of death and disease in this one-woman show, drawn verbatim from her interviews with sufferers of serious illnesses, including Ann Richards and Lance Armstrong. $33–$43. American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron. atcweb.org

The Mercy Strain

9/14 –10/18 Titled The Mercy Killers when it was a hit at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Michael Milligan’s drama depicts a man whose Rush Limbaugh–based belief system goes through the wringer when his wife is diagnosed with cancer and they lose their health insurance. $33–$43. American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron. atcweb.org

Mnemonic

9/2–10/5 Mnemonic spins through parallel stories—one dealing with the odyssey of a fellow named Virgil, whose girlfriend is missing, and the other with the discovery of a mummified corpse dubbed the Iceman. Along the way, cast members, including Amanda Drinkall, Sarah Grant, Meghan Reardon, and Krista Taylor, explore the role the imagination plays in memory. $10–$15. Red Tape Theatre at the Chicago Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph. redtapetheatre.org

My Name Is Asher Lev

Through 10/18 Chaim Potok’s 1972 bestseller centers on a young Hasidic painter struggling to reconcile his religion and his artistic ambitions. Kimberly Senior directs a stage adaptation by Aaron Posner, whose Stupid Fucking Bird is also opening this month, in a production from Sideshow Theatre Company (see separate listing). $37–$50. Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. timelinetheatre.com

The Night Alive

9/18–11/16 Henry Wishcamper directs the story of a young man living on the margins of Dublin society and the bloodied mystery woman he attempts to help. One reason to buy a ticket right this very moment: The cast includes the gifted chameleon Francis Guinan and his fellow Steppenwolf ensemble member Tim Hopper. $20–$86. Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted. steppenwolf.org

Reasons to Be Happy

Through 10/12 Neil LaBute is something of a guiding spirit for Profiles Theatre, which has produced 10 of his plays since 2006. The company’s 26th season kicks off with No. 11, an uncharacteristically buoyant work that revisits the characters from LaBute’s earlier Reasons to Be Pretty (produced at Profiles in 2011). $30–$40. Main Stage, 4139 N. Broadway. profilestheatre.org

Shakespeare’s Antony And Cleopatra: Undone

9/5–10/5 Shawna Tucker plays Cleopatra and cowrote this erotic adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic romance. $15. Skyline StageWorks at The Side Project, 1439 W. Jarvis. skylinestageworks.org

Smokefall

9/20–10/26 The talking fetuses are back with the Goodman’s remount (from last season) of Noah Haidle’s goofy, moving, and thought-provoking drama of a family whose problems range from a paint-eating daughter to an absent father. Director Anne Kauffman and the original cast—led by Mike Nussbaum and Katharine Keberlein as, respectively, an eccentric octogenarian and a troubled mother—return for the Albert Theatre staging. $25–$81. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. goodmantheatre.org

The War Zone Is My Bed

Through 9/7 Halcyon Theatre continues its commitment to telling stories from all corners of the globe with this 2007 drama by Yasmine Beverly Rana. The plot brings together a woman from Saravejo and a journalist from America, both of whom are seeking solace amid an atmosphere of destruction. $20. Christ Lutheran Church, 4541 N. Spaulding. halcyontheatre.org

CRITIC’S PICK

The World of Extreme Happiness

9/13–10/12 The Goodman teams up with the Manhattan Theatre Club for a coproduction world premiere. Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s drama starts with shades of Dickens: A young rural Chinese woman left to drown in a slop bucket escapes to find brutally monotonous, low-paying work in an urban factory. But then it turns into a savage story of how transformations in the global economy can result in tragedy and triumph for the workers at the bottom of that economy’s rungs. $10–$40. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. goodmantheatre.org

Musicals

Cats

9/10–10/12 The singing felines are at it again, prancing and pouncing their way through the Jellicle Ball and crooning power ballads about memories all alone in the moonlight. $41–$54. Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena, Aurora. paramountaurora.com

A Kurt Weill Cabaret

9/22–10/20 The cabaret-friendly songs of Weill—the son of a cantor who escaped his native Germany in the early 1930s after becoming a Nazi target—are a perfect fit for Theo Ubique’s ultra-intimate 60-seat space. Jeff Award winner Jeremy Ramey (Smokey Joe’s Cafe) directs. Season tickets $109–$125. Theo Ubique at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood. theo-u.org

The Story of the Marvelettes

Through 9/14 Before the Supremes came along, the preeminent Motown girl group was the Marvelettes, whose “Please Mr. Postman” became the legendary recording studio’s first No. 1 hit in 1961. Black Ensemble Theater gives the group the jukebox treatment in the latest of its impeccably sung, indomitably upbeat musical offerings. $55–$65. Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark. blackensembletheater.org

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

9/11–10/12 Jeffrey Lane (book) and David Yazbek’s (music and lyrics) take on Pedro Almodóvar’s ode to women has a score that contains (arguably) the best voicemail song ever sung. William Pullinsi directs a cast of musical theatre’s finest, including Cory Goodrich, Hollis Resnik, and Bernie Yvon. $20–$44. Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge, Munster, Ind. theatreatthecenter.com

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Dance


BalletX

9/18–20 Expect a variety of dances from this contemporary Philadelphia company, including Joshua Peugh’s Slump and the passionate pas de deux Valentine’s Day. $30. The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 S. Michigan. colum.edu

Joffrey Ballet

9/18–21 The ballet company’s 2014–15 season kicks off with Stories in Motion, which groups classics such as Balanchine’s The Prodigal Son and Antony Tudor’s Lilac Garden with the more contemporary RAkU by Yuri Possokhov. $32–$170. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress. joffrey.org/stories

Khecari and Happydog

9/12–14 The contemporary troupes split a bill, performing three works in total: Khecari’s Esther and the Omphali and its new Orders from the Horse, and Happydog’s Lady Parts. $15–$25. Links Hall at Constellation, 3111 N. Western. linkshall.org

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Music


Classical, New Music, Opera

Baroque Band

9/28, 10/1, 3 at 7:30 This group of deft period specialists welcomes back its artistic director, Garry Clarke, after a yearlong sabbatical. His first program presents the scene of Orlando losing his mind in two different versions, one by Handel and one by Vivaldi, performed by the countertenor Xavier Sabata in his Chicago debut. Clarke must be crazy excited to be back. $17–$39. Locations: baroqueband.org

FREE!

Chicago Cultural Center

9/3 at 12:15 Critic’s Pick The cellist Gabriel Cabezas, a young Chicago-area native now rocketing into a solo career, played Shostakovich with the CSO last winter and Saint-Saëns with the Grant Park Orchestra in the summer. Now he’ll stop by the Dame Myra Hess Concerts, a free, intimate setting he’s not likely to appear at much longer.
9/17 at 12:15 If you’ve ever looked at a wind quintet and said, “What is that French horn doing there?” the more logical but less utilized reed quintet—oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, bass clarinet—may be for you. The Akropolis Reed Quintet just won a big prize at the Fischoff chamber music competition, and they’re committed to new works.
78 E. Washington. imfchicago.org

Chicago Opera Theater

9/13, 17, 19 at 7:30; 9/21 at 3 Ernest Bloch, a Swiss-born late-romantic composer, doesn’t get much play these days, but reviews of the professional American premiere of his opera Macbeth, by Long Beach Opera last year, suggest his anonymity is undeserved. Andreas Mitisek, head of both COT and Long Beach Opera, restages the bloody-handed tale here, with Lady Macbeth sung by Suzan Hanson, last year’s Joan of Arc in COT’s Verdi version. $35–$125. Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. chicagooperatheater.org

Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra

9/21 at 7:30 This high-quality ensemble set its five-concert subscription series around the senses this season. Scott Speck leads Carl Nielsen’s First Symphony and Niels Gade’s unjustly ignored violin concerto, as well as Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet overture and an uncharacteristic piece by Arvo Pärt called If Bach Had Been a Beekeeper. $10–$75. Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern U., 50 Arts Circle, Evanston. chicagophilharmonic.org

Chicago Sinfonietta

9/20 at 8, 9/22 at 7:30 You know how the Museum of Science and Industry has a dollhouse, a submarine, and a gigantic model train? That’s kind of what Sinfonietta concerts are like. Amid Vaughan Williams, Britten, a Mahler fragment, and Mei-Ann Chen’s pet composer Florence Price, the orchestra hosts the punk marching band Mucca Pazza and holds a Two Brothers beer tasting. $10–$99. 9/20: Wentz Concert Hall, North Central College, 171 E. Chicago, Naperville. 9/22: Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. chicagosinfonietta.org

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

9/18 at 8, 9/20 at 7, 9/21 at 3, 9/23 at 7:30 Riccardo Muti inaugurates the 2014–15 season with classical music’s analogue to Citizen Kane, Moby-Dick, or the Mona Lisa: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a.k.a. the Choral Symphony, a.k.a. the one with “Ode to Joy.” The soloist who proclaims universal brotherhood in the fourth movement is the bass-baritone Eric Owens, quickly becoming a Chicago fixture. The September 20 concert precedes the orchestra’s annual Symphony Ball fundraiser. $38–$280. Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan.
9/19 at 6:30 Free! Muti returns to Millennium Park for an all-Tchaikovsky program, consisting of the fantasy overture The Tempest, the Sleeping Beauty orchestral suite, and the Fourth Symphony. Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Washington.
9/25 at 8:30, 9/26–27 at 8, 9/30 at 7:30 Back in the hall, Muti leads Tchaikovsky’s Fourth in subscription programs, along with Debussy’s popular La Mer. The opening pieces differ—Berlioz’s Waverley Overture (9/25–26), Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (9/27), and, in a possibly unintentionally witty contrast, Tchaikovsky’s Tempest (9/30). $33–$249.
Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. cso.org

CRITIC’S PICK

Collaborative Works Festival

9/11 at 7 Free! The still-young Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago devotes itself to tending the flame of art song, which burns brightest during this annual festival. The opening concert features the lieder of husband-and-wife composer/performers Robert and Clara Schumann, presented by first-rate accompanists and singers, including the flexible and exquisite soprano Susanna Phillips and the dramatic and precise tenor Nicholas Phan. This space is small, and the concert is free; don’t get there late. Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior.
9/12 at 7 The mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung gives the festival’s solo recital. $15–$35. Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State.
9/14 at 2 The festival ends with the Enter Johannes concert, which adds the Schumanns’ friend Brahms to the program. The same singers from the opener will perform selections including Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes, a classic frequently performed by choirs—less frequently by four solo voices. $15–$35.
$60 fest pass includes guaranteed seat on 9/11. Logan Center, U. of C., 915 E. 60th. caichicago.org

CRITIC’S PICK

Eighth Blackbird

9/12 at 7:30 Last March, the Grammy-winning new-music Pierrot-plus chamber group planned the local debut of Colombine’s Paradise Theatre, a fantasy on classic commedia dell’arte written by the composer Amy Beth Kirsten that demands that the players act, dance, and sing in addition to wielding their usual instrumental virtuosity. But an injury sidelined one of the members, and because each one of the sextet is near irreplaceable in the piece, they shelved it till now. $10–$28. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. eighthblackbird.org

Frequency

9/20–22 Wandelweiser, a collective of composers and performers based in Germany, jumps from the diving board John Cage quietly built in his influential “silent” piece 4’33", exploring types of silences and the moods they can conjure. The local group Aperiodic welcomes the Wandelweiser composers Jürg Frey (9/20), R. Andrew Lee (9/21), and Eva-Maria Houben (9/22) for concerts of their work. $10. 9/20–21: Constellation, 3111 N. Western. 9/22: Rockefeller Chapel, U. of C., 5850 S. Woodlawn. constellation-chicago.com

FREE!

Fulcrum Point New Music Project

9/21 at 3:45 New-music ensemble Fulcrum Point has moved its Concert for Peace to the South Side this year. In celebration of the International Day of Peace, the group will perform an eclectic mix of pieces by Somei Satoh, Jacob TV, Thelonius Monk, and Fela Kuti, among others. Expect dulcet tones and complex harmonies, with sunset yoga to follow. South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore. fulcrumpoint.org

Lyric Opera

9/6 at 7:30 Free! Way better than clicking through a maze of YouTube opera clips, the annual Stars of Lyric Opera concert at Millennium Park brings singers from the upcoming season together for classic scenes, arias, and choruses. This year’s greatest-hits show includes, among other things, the banquet scene and the finale from Don Giovanni with the cast that will perform the whole opera three weeks later, the overture to Tannhäuser, and the full final act of Rigoletto. Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Washington.
9/27–10/29 Opening its 60th season as it opened its first, Lyric stages a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Dreamy Mariusz Kwiecień sings the seducer part, and the Goodman Theatre’s artistic director, Robert Falls, directs. $20–$279.
Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker. lyricopera.org

MusicNOW

9/29 at 7 The CSO’s new-music series returns, free postconcert pizza and beer intact, with pieces by the local composer Anthony Cheung, postminimalist trailblazer Michael Gordon, nature-loving Alaskan John Luther Adams (whose piece features a string quartet where the players never touch their fingerboards), and Mason Bates, one of the CSO’s composers-in-residence. $10–$26. Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. cso.org/musicnow

Orion Ensemble

9/28 at 7; 10/1, 5 at 7:30 The long-standing chamber group foray into jazz for a program called Stepping Out, covering John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. The grand finale sees them stepping back to the familiar scales of Schubert’s “Trout” quintet. $10–$26. Locations: orionensemble.org

Pianoforte Foundation

9/28 at 2 Yerin Yang, an 11-year-old from the northwestern suburbs, plays Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Liszt, and Ravel. $10–$20. PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan. pianofortefoundation.org

Ravinia

9/6 at 6 Each of the first six days of September holds a recital by a young or youngish performer. The most intriguing puts the spotlight on the fiery pianist Anna Fedorova, still in her early 20s. After a Mozart sonata appetizer, the two main courses are Ravel’s virtuosic and passionate Gaspard de la Nuit and Mussorgsky’s sampler platter Pictures at an Exhibition. $10.
9/11 at 8 Misha and Cipa Dichter, married pianists, make their annual trip to Ravinia. In addition to their late-romantic four-hands repertoire, the Dichters play four-hand arrangements of the normally two-hand Mendelssohn Songs Without Words (one of which is the famous “Spring Song”), a set they world-premiered at Ravinia in 2009. $10–$60.
Lake Cook and Green Bay, Highland Park. ravinia.org

Classic Rock, Soul, Blues

Lou Gramm

9/13 at 8 The ex-Foreigner vocalist may not have the same curls as in 1976, but he’s still got the spirit; Gramm’s incessant touring schedule comes on the heels of a brief 2013 reunion with guitarist Mick Jones and the release of his memoir, Juke Box Hero. There are even rumors that new Foreigner tunes are on the horizon. $49–$79. Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main, St. Charles. oshows.com

King Crimson

9/25–27 Robert Fripp’s seminal prog-rock act reunites, this time as a septet, with paired guitars, a saxophonist/flautist, assorted synthesizers, and—wait for it—three drummers. $90–$150. The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield. jamusa.com

Folk, Country, World

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán

9/28 at 3 Even if you’re not a mariachi fan, this Mexico City group is among the best in the business. $35–$100. Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. cso.org

Old Town School of Folk Music

9/5 at 8 The SteelDrivers. Count on this Nashville group to bring Delta soul to their bluegrass.
9/6 at 8 Robbie Fulks. The popular local singer-songwriter with a sense of humor (he recently invited actor Michael Shannon to play Lou Reed at his weekly Hideout show) stops by Lincoln Square. $18–$20.
9/7 at 7 Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Critic’s Pick Few folk musicians can count Bob Dylan as one of their biggest fans. Elliott, who trained under Woody Guthrie and has released more than 20 albums, can. See this 83-year-old folk veteran now before he retires. $22–$24.
9/18 at 8 The Revelers. If you watched the HBO show Treme, you’ve probably heard this Louisiana roots supergroup who have collaborated with a who’s who of country and folk musicians, including T Bone Burnett and Linda Ronstadt. $18–$20.
9/19 at 8 Pokey LaFarge’s Central Time Tour. The ginger-faced roots singer gathers a fine roster of musicians to join him on this tour, including Dom Flemons from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the punk-rock/bluegrass hybrid the Tillers, and the Loot Rock Gang. $23–$25.
9/25 at 8 Head for the Hills. The Colorado quartet artfully moves between indie rock and bluegrass. $18–$20.
9/27 at 7 and 10 Sarah Jarosz. The future of bluegrass lies in the hands of this Texan, whose able guitar and banjo playing only augment her smart lyrics. $23–$25.
4545 N. Lincoln. oldtownschool.org

Steve Dawson’s Funeral Bonsai Wedding

9/12 at 9:30 With a merry band of improvisers, Jason Adasiewicz, Jason Roebke, and Frank Rosaly, the folk singer and songwriter workshops tunes for the group’s upcoming debut album. $12. Constellation, 3111 N. Western. constellation-chicago.com

FREE!, CRITIC’S PICK

World Music Festival Chicago

9/11–21 Never mind how nebulous the genre of “world music” is. This 11-day festival is stuffed with performances to whet every ear. Sixty-two acts come to town playing music as disparate as Afrobeat (Seun Kuti) and up-tempo Serbian jazz (Boban and the Marko Markovic Orkestar). Malian singer Vieux Farka Toure, Tuareg guitarist Bombino, and Afro- Cuban fusion band Pablo Menendez & Mezcla headline. Various venues. worldmusicfestivalchicago.org

Jazz

Constellation

9/3 at 9:30 Tim Stine Trio. Get a peek inside the music-making process of this local free-jazz trio, which has Stine on guitar, Anton Hatwich on bass, and Frank Rosaly on drums.
9/5 at 9 Hanami Quartet. The free-jazz foursome with Japanese influences celebrate the release of their debut album, Off the Record. $10.
9/10 at 9:30 Sound of the City Workshop. Free-jazz acolytes Joshua Abrams, Nick Mazzarella, Cameron Pfiffner, and Mike Reed team up for a night of improvisation.
9/13 at 9:30 Thumbscrew. Guitar, bass, and drums. $12.
9/18 at 9:30 Robin Verheyen NY Quartet. The Belgian saxophonist likes to pair horn instruments in unusual arrangements. $10.
3111 N. Western. constellation-chicago.com

Green Mill Jazz Club

9/12–13 Ben Sidran. The cheeky 70-year-old pianist’s latest album, Don’t Cry for No Hipster, is a groovy meditation on the origins of the cool cat. Expect some tunes from that and other original works. $15.
9/19–20 Matt Ulery. Come to this late-night party celebrating the release of In the Ivory, the prolific double bassist’s follow-up to his terrific album Wake an Echo. $12.
4802 N. Broadway. greenmilljazz.com

CRITIC’S PICK

Hyde Park Jazz Festival

9/27–28 Count on some unexpected sounds at the sprawling South Side fest, including a world premiere by pianist Craig Taborn, performances by cellist Tomeka Reid, vocalist Dee Alexander, the Art Hoyle Quintet, and much more. Various times and locations. hydeparkjazzfestival.org

CRITIC’S PICK

Jazz Showcase

9/18–21 Danilo Perez Quartet. The heralded pianist’s latest record, Panama 500, which he’ll surely play from, is an extensive, intricate look at the folk music of his home country. $30–$45. 9/25 at 8 Sean Jones Quartet. The trumpeter performs from his latest album, Improvise: Never Before Seen, a record devoted solely to that verb. $20–$35.
806 S. Plymouth Ct. jazzshowcase.com

Nellie McKay

9/19 at 7 It’s difficult to classify this genre-flouting musician who flits among easy listening, Broadway tunes, and, more recently, reggae. Still, to catch this irreverent feminist crooner is always a treat, classifications be damned. $15–$35. SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston. evanstonspace.com

Tuesdays on the Terrace

The Museum of Contemporary Art’s seasonal alfresco jazz series comes to an end with performances by pianist Robert Irving III (9/2) and the genre-bending Xavier Breaker Coalition (9/9). Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. mcachicago.org

Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop

Lily Allen

9/30 at 7:30 Despite Lily Allen’s rocky return to the spotlight (Sheezus, her first album in five years, has been met with lukewarm and occasionally acid-tongued reviews), the British pop star’s foul-mouthed live show hasn’t suffered. “Is my camel toe, like, really prevalent?” she asked a storm-soaked Glastonbury in June after stripping down to her skivvies on her first festival outing since 2009. $28.50. Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine. jamusa.com/riviera-theatre

AV Fest/Hideout Block Party

9/5–6 Falling somewhere between a street fair and a megafest, this event’s single-stage MO is a breath of fresh air after running between overlapping sets at Pitchfork, Lolla, and North Coast all summer. Death Cab for Cutie is this year’s obvious blockbuster, but keep an eye out for electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso, whose gloomy self-titled debut made the public-radio rounds all summer. $39–65. The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. ticketfly.com

Balance and Composure with Seahaven

9/25 at 6 If American alt rock’s current tendency toward Cobain revivalism is here to stay, Balance and Composure and Seahaven are the genre’s yin and yang. Though both bands released guitar-fortified (and blog-lauded) sophomore LPs in the past year, they attack the early-’90s sound from different angles—East Coasters Balance and Composure with sludgy aggression, Southern Californians Seahaven with mush-mouthed apathy. $15. Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake. ticketweb.com

The Black Keys

9/27–28 Despite this Akron blues-rock duo’s jump to the big leagues in 2010—their sixth LP, Brothers, earned them three Grammys nearly a decade into their career—their tinny brand of garage rock remains every bit as raw as day one. The band’s eighth LP, Turn Blue, released in May, might be the most experimental yet (the Floyd-fueled opener “Weight of Love” builds up over an uncharacteristic seven minutes), but lo-fi classics like “Fever” should reassure fans that you can take the band out of the garage—and plop them into the United Center—but you can’t take the garage out of the band. $35–$75. United Center, 1901 W. Madison. ticketmaster.com

Dessa

9/27 at 9, 9/28 at 7 Known primarily for her role in the Minneapolis rap collective Doomtree, Dessa—an MC by way of slam poetry—cultivates a solo sound almost entirely devoid of hip-hop, focusing instead on bluesy crooning over a web of hushed synthesizer. Indie rock band Why? headlines. $20. Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln. lincolnhallchicago.com

Joyce Manor

9/6 at 6:30 Never Hungover Again may be the SoCal pop punkers’ third full-length album, but the band’s entire catalog of music still hasn’t reached an hour (singer Barry Johnson can pack more than a punch into 90 seconds). $13. Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake. ticketweb.com

The Pygmalion Festival

9/25–28 If you missed out on Pitchfork and Lolla this year, Urbana-Champaign’s Pygmalion Festival is your chance to catch the midlevel highlights. Pitchfork acts Real Estate, Sun Kil Moon, Deafheaven, Twin Peaks, and Speedy Ortiz, plus Lolla bands Chvrches and Into It Over It, will loop back to Illinois for this late-summer fest, headlined by local emo pioneers American Football (reunited for the first time in 15 years). It’s a road trip that’s well worth it. $15–$85. thepygmalionfestival.com

CRITIC’S PICK

Riot Fest

9/12–14 To celebrate this punk-rock carnival’s 10th year in Chicago (not to mention its best lineup yet), 10 of Riot Fest’s 100-plus billed bands will play their most seminal albums front to back, including Weezer (The Blue Album), Jane’s Addiction (Nothing’s Shocking), the Offspring (Smash), and Chicago locals Naked Raygun (Throb Throb). $70–$290. Humboldt Park, W. Division and N. Sacramento. riotfest.org/chicago

CRITIC’S PICK

Ty Segall

9/23 at 7 This Laguna Beach surf rocker has played in half a dozen bands, penned eight solo albums, and appeared on more than 50 singles, compilations, and collaborations—all at the ripe age of 27. What’s more, he’s yet to have a stinker. $20–$28. Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport. thaliahallchicago.com

Spoon

9/16 at 7:30 It’s been 20 years since these indie trailblazers dropped their first EP—and, up until August’s They Want My Soul, it had been four years since their last full album. But if singles “Rent I Pay” and “Do You” are any indication, singer Britt Daniel encased his sun-soaked drawl in amber sometime around the turn of the century. $40. Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. thechicagotheatre.com

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Art & Design


Art Fairs

CRITIC’S PICK

9/18–21 Expo Chicago. This annual fair brings 140 international exhibitors to the city; it’s like a pop-up museum of modern and contemporary art. Even if the prices are out of your range, the browsing and free programs are worth the trip to the end of Navy Pier. 600 E. Grand. expochicago.com
9/19–21 Edition Chicago. The younger sibling of Expo takes place in a more intimate setting, with accessible prices for work by emerging artists. Chicago Artists Coalition, 217 N. Carpenter. editionchicago.com

Galleries

A+D Gallery

Through 9/20 Cargo Space: Chicago/Milwaukee. This mobile group show stops in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, rural Wisconsin, and Chicago. Fifteen artists hop on and off for various legs and improvise art interactions along the way. In Chicago, Cargo Space touches down in the South Loop at Columbia College’s Papermaker’s Garden, with objects in the gallery. 619 S. Wabash. colum.edu/ADGallery

Arc Gallery

9/3–27 In That I Trust. While Stanislav Grezdo was studying art in his native Czechoslovakia, the Velvet Revolution ended communist rule. Propaganda posters were as prevalent there as Coke ads were here in the United States, and Grezdo’s prints parody that era’s politics, mingled with his personal memories of home. Also showing: Michele Stutts and Esther Murphy. 2156 N. Damen. arcgallery.org

Chicago Artists Coalition

Through 9/11 Casualties. A professor of interdisciplinary arts at Columbia College, Annette Barbier knows how to engage her audiences with experiential installations. Here, she uses a video installation and flock of virtual pigeons to confront viewers with the accidental deaths of thousands of migratory birds as they smash into the city’s skyscrapers. 217 N. Carpenter. chicagoartistscoalition.org

Corbett Vs. Dempsey

9/5–10/11 Dominick Di Meo: Good Night, Good Mourning. Di Meo was part of Chicago’s “Monster Roster” in the 1950s, an influential group of artists who saw the world through existentialist eyes and sought to give painted form to their anxieties. Now residing in New York, Di Meo continues to make thought-provoking artwork. Also showing: humanoid abstract paintings by up-and-coming artist Magalie Guérin. 1120 N. Ashland. corbettvsdempsey.com

Devening Projects

9/7–10/18 Works on Paper. Franziska Holstein, based in Leipzig, Germany, shows a new series of geometric wall works that derive their colorful permutations from a labor-intensive process: Paintings generate prints and vice versa, and then the shapes are chopped into design constructions. Also showing: conceptual artists Aaron Carpenter and Philip von Zweck. 3039 W. Carroll. deveningprojects.com

Firecat Projects

Through 9/20 Revelations. You’ve likely seen Lou Beach’s witty illustrations accompanying New York Times and Wired magazine articles; he’s also a successful gallery artist. His collages remix images from children’s books into new stories. This show promises everything from the “stupid to the sublime.” (Think Joseph Cornell with a sense of humor.) 2124 N. Damen. firecatprojects.org

Gallery 400

9/5–10/18 My Barbarian: Universal Declaration of Infantile Anxiety Situations Reflected in the Creative Impulse. The performance group My Barbarian enacts a song and dance about workers’ rights and wages. It is adapted from Bertolt Brecht’s 1932 play The Mother, written from a Marxist perspective amid economic tensions in Weimar Germany. When not performing in the gallery, the actors display their masks alongside a film that’s screening. 400 S. Peoria. gallery400.uic.edu

Hyde Park Art Center

Through 11/23 The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle. Over its 75-year history, the Hyde Park Art Center has advocated for Chicago-style contemporary art (notably the Hairy Who and Chicago imagists). Now the center is at it again, bolstering a crop of Chicago’s new luminaries in this exhibition that bills itself as “a year-long think tank.” 5020 S. Cornell. hydeparkart.org

Kavi Gupta Gallery

9/19–12/20 Glenn Kaino: Leviathan. This fall is a breakout season for Kaino, with major public sculptures opening or shaping up in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and D.C. Chicago gets to experience Kaino’s playful political art—he often uses hacked toys, taxidermy, and live performance to address issues of social class and economics—in a major gallery show. 219 N. Elizabeth. kavigupta.com

LVL3

Through 9/28 Whiteface: Stephen Collier and Ben Sanders. These two artists have perfected the genre of so-called hipster art. The colorful paintings are not aloof, but fun and funny—even artful and confident. 1542 N. Milwaukee. lvl3gallery.com

Peanut Gallery

Through 9/11 David Krofta: Finders Keepers. The local puppeteer has produced costumes, sets, and creatures for the popular web series Channel 2020. If the Muppets had an underworld, Krofta would be the costume designer, mixing heavy doses of humor and horror. A stolen magic bear suit drives the plot here. 1000 N. California. peanutgallerychicago.com

Perimeter Gallery

9/5–10/25 Neil Goodman: Pulse. If Goodman’s metal sculptures look like fragments of an ancient language, it’s because their minimalist shapes are derived from mathematical formulas. Also showing: new drawings by architect Neil Frankel and handmade washi paper by Yutaka Yoshinaga. 210 W. Superior. perimetergallery.com

Regards Gallery

9/12–10/25 Megan Greene: Jelly Sandwich. With deconstructed materials that barely cling together, Greene proposes new ways to make and see abstract images. It’s both eye and brain candy. 2216 W. Chicago. regardsgallery.com

Rhona Hoffman Gallery

9/12–10/25 Natalie Frank: Interiors and Openings. The artist attributes the claustrophobic spaces in her paintings to a vision condition—she has limited depth perception—but her unhinged painted faces and figures reveal an intense inner life (think a female Francis Bacon). Also showing: organic sculptures from Paula Hayes. 118 N. Peoria. rhoffmangallery.com

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Museums


Art & Design

Art Institute of Chicago

Through 10/5 Onchi Koshiro: The Abstract Prints. From 1918 to 1955, the master Japanese printmaker innovated a form of geometric abstraction using color-printed, carved wooden blocks. The AIC owns a trove of Koshiro’s important art, rarely on display in such abundance.
Through 10/5 Nairy Baghramian: French Curve/Slip of the Tongue. The minimalist sculptress debuts a large-scale artwork for the museum’s Modern Wing rooftop series. Born in Iran but based in Berlin, Baghramian makes relaxed abstract objects.
Through 10/13 Critic’s Pick Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938. The Belgian surrealist master René Magritte created some of the most hallucinatory paintings in the history of art. This major exhibition includes over 100 mind-bending works.
111 S. Michigan. artic.edu

Center for Book & Paper Arts

9/18–11/8 Papercuts: The Contemporary Art of Papercutting. Seven artists update the delicate art of paper slicing with high-tech laser shearing and timely subjects. 1104 S. Wabash. colum.edu

Chicago Cultural Center

Through 11/2 CHGO DSGN: Recent Object and Graphic Design. Couture utensils designed for Alinea, the world’s thinnest wristwatch, and bowls cast from polar vortex ice are some of the more than 200 objects included in this exhibit that celebrates Chicago’s immense contribution to the design field. Rick Valicenti, founder of the design firm Thirst, curates. 78 E. Washington. chicagoculturalcenter.org

Chicago Design Museum

Through 9/30 Starts/Speculations: Graphic Design in Chicago Past and Future. For the third exhibition at this new museum dedicated to Chicago’s burgeoning design scene, the curators tasked 50 local designers with a problem to solve: Imagine how future technologies will change the way people communicate. Expect some interactives and a healthy dose of fresh typography. A historical overview of Chicago design innovations complements the new projects. Block Thirty Seven, 108 N. State. chidm.com

CRITIC’S PICK

Museum of Contemporary Art

9/23–1/4 David Bowie Is. This retrospective, which originated in London, asks: Is David Bowie a glam-rock icon or a performance artist? On view for the first time in the United States are the signature lithe suits and couture costumes, handwritten lyrics, set designs, and 400 other objects from the Bowie galaxy. In the museum’s theatre, local and touring acts play entire Bowie albums.
Through 10/5 Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo. The MCA gave Frida Kahlo her first U.S. solo show in 1978. Now it pays homage to the surrealist Mexican painter with this group exhibition, showing her wild creativity and progressive politics through the work of dozens of contemporary artists.
Through 11/2 Simon Starling: Metamorphology. The British conceptual artist won the prestigious Turner Prize for transforming a wooden shed into a boat, navigating it down the Rhine River, and then rebuilding it back into a shed. Starling’s first full-scale U.S. museum retrospective features simple but elegant material metamorphoses, including his new forays into film.
Open Tue 10–8, Wed–Sun 10–5. Free (kids under 13) to $12; free Tue for Ill. residents. 220 E. Chicago. mcachicago.org

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Through 10/5 Phantoms in the Dirt. Sixteen artists hunt for life’s big picture by tracking the crumbs and dust left over from those who came before us. Spare, haunting images predominate. 600 S. Michigan. mocp.org

Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Through 9/28 glitChicago. Technology and software are supposed to solve life’s ills, but leave it to artists to disrupt so-called good software design. GlitChicago is a major retrospective of the homegrown glitch art movement. Expect lots of artfully manipulated GIFs, bent circuits, and static noise. 2320 W. Chicago. uima-chicago.org

History & Culture

Chicago History Museum

Through 8/10/15 Railroaders: Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography. In 1942, the U.S. Office of War Information commissioned Ukrainian photographer Jack Delano to capture the work of railroad men and women. See more than 60 now-iconic photos. Mon–Sat 9:30–4:30, Sun 12–5. $12–$14. 1601 N. Clark. chicagohistory.org

DuSable Museum

Through 10/19 Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Animation Art from Classic Cartoons of the ’70s. The animated TV shows Josie and the Pussycats, Peanuts, and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids were among the first to portray positive images of black characters. Forty years after they aired, these classics are celebrated with original drawings, animation stills, and production pieces. 740 E. 56th. dusablemuseum.org

CHILD FRIENDLY

Field Museum

Through 9/7 Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair. Rare artifacts from the famous fair.
9/20 at 11 Art and Science Spotlight: Butterflies. Learn about the importance of migration patterns and conservation, take part in an art project, and see a monarch butterfly release right outside the museum.
Through 1/4/15 The Machine Inside: Biomechanics. Get the inside scoop on the bodily functions of both humans and animals at this kid-friendly exhibit.
Through 2/1/15 Before the Dinosaurs: Tracking the Reptiles of Pangaea. Learn how to read fossils for clues about the animals that roamed the earth long before humans came along. Open daily 9–5. General admission free (kids under 3) $13–$18; all-access passes $21–$31. 1400 S. Lake Shore. fieldmuseum.org

Science, Nature, Kids

CHILD FRIENDLY

Adler Planetarium

Through 9/30 Destination Solar System. Take a tour of the solar system in the spacious Grainger Sky Theater. Mon–Fri 9:30–5, Sat–Sun 9:30–4:30. General admission $8–$12. Packages $19.95–$34.95. 1300 S. Lake Shore. adlerplanetarium.org

CHILD FRIENDLY

Museum of Science and Industry

Through 9/1 Earth Explorers. Kids will enjoy learning about different ecosystems in this hands-on exhibit, where they can experience living in the tundra, the rainforest, and the ocean. Timed-entry tickets required, $7–$9, not including general admission.
Through 10/31 Think. This exhibit celebrates various scientific breakthroughs of the last 100 years.
Open daily 9:30–4. $11–$18 (free for kids under 3). 5700 S. Lake Shore. msichicago.org

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Best of the Rest


Comedy

Nick DiPaolo

9/25 at 8:30 The Louie guest star and Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn regular stops by Zanies for a one-night set. He’ll be at the club’s Rosemont location on September 26 and 27. $25 plus two-item minimum. 1548 N. Wells. chicago.zanies.com

Judah Friedlander

9/11–13 Though he’s best known for his role as the bearded, ball-cap-wearing writer Frank on 30 Rock, Friedlander considers standup his first love. Expect deadpan boasts and bombast at this three-night stint. $22. UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North. upcomedyclub.com

Kyle Kinane Photo: Courtesy of Kyle Kinane
CRITIC’S PICK

Kyle Kinane

9/18–20 The former Chicagoan, now an L.A. transplant—famous for his freewheeling storytelling style—returns home. $20. UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North. upcomedyclub.com

Festivals

African Festival of the Arts

Through 9/1 Jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson and Malian singer-songwriter Salif Keita headline this Labor Day weekend festival in Washington Park. Art, food, and a drum village accompany the tunes. $10–$30. Washington Park, 51st and Cottage Grove. africanfestivalchicago.com

FREE!

Apple Fest

9/20 at 9 Celebrate the apple—bagged in bushels or mixed in pie, cider, and, uh, pizza—at this annual Lincoln Square fest. For crabapples who aren’t interested in the fruit, there are children’s activities and live music throughout the day. 4700 N. Lincoln. lincolnsquare.org

Chicago Fringe Festival

Through 9/7 Two hundred performers of the weird and daring return to Jefferson Park for this 11-day festival. $10 per show. Various times and venues. chicagofringe.org

Design Harvest

9/20–21 Grand Avenue’s design shops open their doors for this West Town home-and-garden sale. The kids can go on a hayride while you look for that perfect repurposed piece for the living room. $5 suggested donation. Grand between Damen and Wood. design-harvest.com

FREE!, CHILD FRIENDLY

Festival de la Villita

9/12–14 An annual celebration of Mexican heritage, this Little Village festival leads up to Mexican Independence Day with food, games, and carnival rides. 26th and Kostner. chicagoevents.com

Randolph Street Market Festival

9/27–28 Shop for antiques and fine foods and bring your old records to the vinyl swap meet at this West Loop fest. Pets welcome, and so are heirlooms—appraisal services are available onsite to let you know if that old stamp collection is worth anything. $3–$30 (free for kids under 12). 1350 W. Randolph and 1340 W. Washington. randolphstreetmarket.com

FREE!

Renegade Craft Fair

9/6–7 Renegade, a global network of curated DIY craft fairs, returns to Wicker Park. Log off Etsy and head over to the real thing. Division between Damen and Paulina. renegadecraft.com

Gardens, Parks, and Zoos

Chicago Botanic Garden

9/6 and 9/20 at 5 Nature Nights: Harvest Hike. Picnic in the garden, rain or shine, and let your kids (ages 4 to 10) learn how plants go from garden to table. Finish up with s’mores around the campfire. $20–$25. 1000 Lake Cook, Glencoe. chicagobotanic.org

FREE!

Lincoln Park Zoo

9/5 at dusk Zoovies. Plop down on the zoo’s south lawn for a screening of Best in Show, Christopher Guest’s classic send-up of dog shows. 2001 N. Clark. lpzoo.org

Readings

FREE!

Harold Washington Library

9/23 at 6 Nancy Horan. The author of Loving Frank reads from her new book, Under the Wide and Starry Sky, a historical novel about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife. Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State. chipublib.org

Sports & Rec

FREE!, CRITIC’S PICK

Chicago SummerDance

Through 9/14 Learn and execute new dance steps to a live band or people-watch like crazy at this popular city-sponsored dance party. Free. Grant Park, Spirit of Music Garden, 601 S. Michigan. chicagosummerdance.org

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