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Drama! Intrigue! Hitchcock on Speed!

Our top five picks for things to do this week: Hitchcock as comedy … Rachel Barton Pine as headbanger … free harmonica lessons … and more

4 cast members of The 39 Steps standing around a podium
STEP AEROBICS  A cast of four barrels through a high-speed comedic take on Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.

THE FIVE

Don’t-miss picks for Wed 05.19.10 through Tue 05.25.10:

1

theatre The 39 Steps
So much for the Master of Suspense. Hitchcock triumph or no, The 39 Steps seemed ripe for revision to a cabal of saucy theatre producers who reworked the 1935 thriller as a live staging of full-speed-ahead comedy hijinks. The play won two Tonys two years back in its Broadway run, which The New York Times called “absurdly enjoyable, gleefully theatrical.” Judge for yourself when the touring production hits town this week.
GO: May 19-30. $20-$72. Broadway in Chicago at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W Monroe. ticketmaster.com

ALSO THIS WEEK: Got a hankering for more Broadway, baby? Glee Live, featuring the cast of the cult Fox show, is virtually sold out, but for a production that doesn’t limit the action to singing, swaying, and earnest fist-pumping, try Fuerza Bruta, a participatory extravaganza from the folks behind De La Guarda.

2

theatre The Brother/Sister Plays
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard about this three-play repertory production at Steppenwolf. You wouldn’t know that the young playwright, Tarell Alvin McCraney, just nabbed a Joyce Award. You also wouldn’t know that the staging has been so beloved, McCraney was asked to join Steppenwolf’s ensemble (he accepted). And you definitely wouldn’t know that the trifecta—which Chris Jones called “the greatest piece of writing by an American playwright under 30 in a generation or more”—closes this week. But now you do. So, what are you waiting for?
GO: Through May 23. $20-$70. Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N Halsted. steppenwolf.org

ALSO THIS WEEK: When one play closes, another one opens. Beginning previews this week: American Blues Theater’s take on Erskine Caldwell’s 1932 drama about Georgia hillbillies, Tobacco Road, at Victory Gardens. In the words of our theatre writer Catey Sullivan, “We foresee a revival as strong as backwoods moonshine on any empty stomach.”

3

theatre War with the Newts
The spring theatre season is in full blast—and, for one company, at least, it’s been a long time coming. Newts, Jason Loewith and Justin Palmer’s much-anticipated adaptation of Karel Capek’s sci-fi story, is also much-delayed: The yarn, which features a fearsome power struggle between giant enslaved salamanders and their human overlords, was originally slated for this time last year. Do good things come to those who wait? Or does the lengthy postponement spell doom and gloom? Tune in this week to find out.
GO: Previews May 21-23; $20-$25. Regular run, $20-$40, continues through June 20. Next Theatre Company at Mullady Theatre, Loyola U, 1125 W Loyola. nexttheatre.org

4

concerts Rachel Barton Pine in Earthen Grave
And a couple of non-theatre options, though this one has all the makings of a surreal experimental piece. Pine, the local violin virtuosa, is known for her heavenly playing and angelic philanthropy, but it turns out she’s also got a little devil on her shoulder. For this appearance, a concert with her doom/thrash metal band Earthen Grave (yes, you read that right), Pine whips out her six-stringed electric violin, a doozy called a Viper. To which we say: Rock on, Rachel. Rock on.
GO: May 21 at 9. $10-$12. The Abbey, 3420 W Grace. abbeypub.com

5

tours The Legacy of Chess Records
Usually open to the public by appointment only, the South Loop recording studio Chess Records—a Chicago landmark and a onetime haunt of musicians from Howlin’ Wolf to Chuck Berry to the Rolling Stones—throws its doors wide for a special insider’s tour featuring a blues harmonica tutorial (admission covers a free mouth harp) and a chat with the hosts of WBEZ’s Sound Opinions, Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot. Think of it as an excellent warm-up set to June’s busy blues calendar, which includes an ode to Wolf’s centennial at Blues Fest; a blues symposium, with keynote speaker Chuck D, at Dominican U; and the musical Low Down Dirty Blues, in which Wolf’s shadow looms large.
GO: May 23 at 3. $10-$15. Blues Heaven Foundation: Chess Studios, 2120 S Michigan. chicagopublicradio.org/events

ALSO THIS WEEK: Keep an eye peeled for the opening of the new Buddy Guy’s Legends, helmed by one of Wolf’s fellow Chicago blues icons, who plays Ravinia in (you guessed it) June.

FREEBIES OF THE WEEK

classical Chicago Chamber Musicians
The Pulitzer winner Steven Stucky oversees a concert of his own music, plus some of his inspirations, by a top-tier ensemble.
GO: May 23 at 3. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington. chicagochambermusic.org

museums The Real Estate
Closing this week at the MoCP: a show of photos by the German-turned-Chicago duo Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann documenting area homes in foreclosure.
GO: Through May 23. Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago, 600 S Michigan. mocp.org

literature Jane Smiley
The winner of the 1992 Pulitzer for her novel A Thousand Acres talks about her new book, Private Life, with Victoria Lautman.
GO: May 20 at 6. Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S State. chipublib.org

Photography: CRAIG SCHWARTZ 2009

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