Putting the ‘Hot’ in ‘Hotel’

This Week’s Five: Steppenwolf heats up … robots pursue world domination through opera … a rare Scorsese short gets new life … plus, what the world-class comic artist Ivan Brunetti is doing this weekend

A scene from 'The Hot L Baltimore'
S-R-Oh, Boy Will Steppenwolf be standing room only for The Hot L Baltimore,
Lanford Wilson’s drama about a Baltimore single room occupancy, featuring Allison
Torem and Jon Michael Hill?

THE FIVE

Don’t-miss picks for Wed 03.30.11 through Tue 04.05.11:

1

theatre The Hot L Baltimore
A bittersweet ode: Lanford Wilson’s The Hot L Baltimore began previews at Steppenwolf last week on 3/24, the day he died. The legacy of the theatre troupe—a relative unknown before bursting onto the national scene in 1980 with Wilson’s Balm in Gilead, an ensemble drama of addicts, prostitutes, and other assorted losers hanging out in a New York greasy spoonis inexorably intertwined with that of the playwright. Here, the company returns to another ensemble drama of shifty characters, this time set in a Baltimore SRO. Here’s hoping the cast, including one of Chicago’s most promising up-and-comers, Jon Michael Hill, does Wilson’s memory proud.
GO: Previews through 4/2; $20–$50. Run continues through 5/29; $20–$73. Steppenwolf, 1650 N Halsted. steppenwolf.org

ALSO THIS WEEK: Romeo and Juliet’s romance was a cakewalk of conventionality compared to Edward Albee’s provocative The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, opening 3/30 and helmed by Remy Bumppo Theatre Company’s longtime, and outgoing, artistic director James Bohnen.

2

opera Death and the Powers
Two of our favorite things, together at last: opera and robots! For this Chicago Opera Theater season opener, those smarty-pants behind MIT’s Media Lab collaborated with the music prof Tod Machover to tell the story of a dying inventor who uploads his consciousness to intelligent machines. Don’t miss the robot chorus’s Chicago debut.
GO: 4/2, 6, 8 at 7:30; 4/10 at 3. $30–$120. Harris Theater, 205 E Randolph. chicagooperatheater.org

3

theatre El Nogalar
Talk about a hot streak. Tanya Saracho has staged at least five world premieres in as many years. Up next? Her much-anticipated riff on Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, set in a Mexican pecan grove. (Bonus: Read about Saracho’s anti–spring break in Mexico).
GO: Previews through 4/3; $10–$25. Regular run continues through 4/24; $15–$42. Goodman Theatre, 170 N Dearborn. goodmantheatre.org

4

jazz Bitches Brew 40th Anniversary Band
Considered sacrilegious for its rock-influenced forays, Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew was one of the legendary musician’s most divisive albums at the time of its 1970 release. It’s now regarded as one of his best. Hear a piece of history replayed live by those who lived it when the New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton convenes a group of former Miles sidemen as part of the Auditorium Theatre’s multi-month and -venue Miles Davis Festival.
GO: 3/31 at 8. $25. Martyrs’, 3855 N Lincoln. martyrslive.com

ALSO THIS WEEK: Julian Lage, the rare young jazz player more concerned with carving out his own sound than pummeling listeners with technical derring-do, brings his guitar stylings to SPACE on 3/31.

5

new music Sound of Silent Film Festival
At this annual fave from the artists formerly known as Accessible Contemporary Music (they’ve abbreviated that first word to simply “Access”), local composers provide new soundtracks to an entertaining and often bizarre set of shorts. This year’s lineup includes The Big Shave, a rarely seen protest film by Martin Scorsese with music by Brian O’Hern, and The Unearthening, a horror-comedy shot especially for the fest by the Chicagoan Brian Kallies.
GO: 4/1–2 at 9, 4/3 at 3. $8–$20. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division. acmusic.org

 

WHAT I’M DOING THIS WEEKEND

Cartoonist Ivan Brunetti
Ivan Brunetti

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals (a.k.a. people we like): Ivan Brunetti, the comic artist, Columbia College prof, illustrator of numerous New Yorker covers, and author of a masterful new guide to cartooning.

“This is something of an atypical weekend, in that I’ll be doing a signing at Chicago Comics on Friday night. Usually my Fridays are pretty low-key affairs. On Saturday, I’ll probably hit the post office and finally send out the replies to the snail mail that has slowly been accumulating for the last two years. I may also try to catch the Jim Nutt exhibit at the MCA. That evening, my wife and I will likely watch the Netflix DVD that has been sitting on our dining room table for the last three weeks, Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie, which I’ve never seen. If I’m totally honest with myself, I’ll admit that I’ll probably end up watching Saturday Night Live, out of habit and, as usual, not laugh.

“Sunday I’ll try to catch up on some drawing, as I owe my friend John Kuramoto a small piece for his generously agreeing to create an Internet trailer for my new book, Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice. I also wanted to finish my comic strip Mr. Peach, the first half of which was recently published in the New Yorker. At some point I’ll probably get bogged down by my own demons and begin cataloguing all my life’s mistakes, moral transgressions, bad decisions, and minor humiliations. I’ll then walk around aimlessly around my neighborhood to ‘get out of my head,’ all the while trying to decipher some of the Polish signage. Come 8 p.m., my friend Chris Ware and I will be having our traditional ‘old man dinner’ at a restaurant I cannot disclose.

“Before bed, I’ll spend time preparing for my classes next week and also checking some of the submissions to a comics anthology (Linework #2) that I am helping the students edit and publish, which will be available at ShopColumbia.”

GO: Brunetti signs copies of Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice on 4/1 from 5 to 7 at Chicago Comics, 3244 N Clark. Admission is free.

FREEBIES OF THE WEEK

galleries Rinus Van de Velde
Stories that unspool across entire rooms, massive photo-realist drawings: The Belgian artist Van de Velde is part Chuck Close, part Chicago’s own Deb Sokolow, and all over the walls at Monique Meloche. Our art critic Claudine Isé says viewing Van de Velde’s charcoals—based on old magazine photos and reconfigured as yarns starring the artist—is like stepping straight into the pages of a graphic novel.
GO: Opening reception 4/2 from 4 to 7. Exhibition continues through 5/14. Monique Meloche, 2154 W Division. moniquemeloche.com

film Drinking & Writing’s The Western Avenue Project
D&W’s Sean Benjamin and Steve Mosqueda spent Memorial Day weekend 2010 walking the length of Chicago’s longest continuous street, stopping at every watering hole (total count: 64) along the route (total mileage: 24.7) and filming the results. Even if this documentary of their exploits doesn’t make you want to spend your own Memorial Day racking up tabs in seedy dives, it will make you thirsty. Good thing the screening takes place in a brewery.
GO: Screening 3/31 at 7. Haymarket Brewery, 737 W Randolph. drinkingandwriting.com

 

Photography: (The Hot L Baltimore) Michael Brosilow; (Brunetti) Kurt Lauer Photography

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