Singer Markéta Irglová, and Diane D'Aquila in 'Elizabeth Rex'
THE DATING GAME Eligible bachelors Yasen Peyankov, Scott Jaeck, and Tracy Letts
vie to win the girl in Penelope, opening this week at Steppenwolf.


Don’t-miss picks for Wed 12.07.11 through Tue 12.13.11:


theatre Penelope
We were sad to hear that John Mahoney had to bow out of this Steppenwolf production due to a death in the family, but the theatre couldn’t have enlisted a better replacement: Tracy Letts—yep, in a Speedo. See how he fares against similarly bethonged suitors when it comes to seducing the title babe in this outré take on Homer’s Odyssey.
GO: Opens 12/10; run continues through 2/5. $20–$78. Steppenwolf, 1650 N Halsted.

ALSO THIS WEEK: A more hands-on Homer arrives in Gods, Myths, and Mortals at the National Hellenic Museum, featuring a climbable Trojan horse and karaoke in the Sirens cave. Opening 12/10 in tandem with the museum’s brand new West Loop space, the exhibit is meant for kids but is a good primer for anyone who hears “Homer” and thinks “doughnut.”


museums Clarke and Glessner House Museums
There’s nothing like a couple of genteel Victorian mansions kitted out for the holidays to put your neighbor’s neon baby Jesus in perspective. These two Prairie Avenue District grand dames celebrate the holidays—as well as a pair of notable anniversaries: Glessner’s 125th and Clarke’s 175th—with candlelight tours.
GO: 12/10–11 at 5:30, 6, and 6:30. $14–$18; reservations required: 312-326-1480. Tours start at the Glessner House Museum, 1800 S Prairie.

ALSO THIS WEEK: The DuSable readies its candles for a run of Kwanzaa festivities, with kid-friendly songs and stories teaching the basics of the Seven Principles 12/8–9 and a visit from the founder of the holiday, Dr. Maulana Karenga, 12/13.


classical David Fray
Sorry, ladies, this dreamboat pianist is taken—and his baton-wielding father-in-law, Riccardo Muti, might poke your eye out if you get too close—but you can swoon safely in your seat when Fray plays Beethoven and Mozart in a recital at Symphony Center.
GO: 12/11 at 3. $18–$76. Symphony Center, 220 S Michigan.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Even if you can pronounce “omnipotent reigneth,” leave the singing to the pros when Apollo Chorus returns with the city’s biggest and longest-running Messiah—every year since 1879—at Symphony Center 12/10 and at Harris Theater 12/18.


folk/rock Bon Iver
Is it just coincidence that this newly Grammy-nominated group—whose name sounds an awful lot like the French for “good winter”—comes to town in early December? Or did Chicago get an early Christmas present from St. Nick? Either way, our wish list includes a pair of tickets to this evening of achingly pretty falsetto over chiming guitar.
GO: 12/9 at 7:30. $39. UIC Pavilion, 525 S Racine.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Like a little more brogue in your folk? Danú, a group of virtuosos from County Waterford, Ireland, plays jigs, reels, and carols 12/9 at McAninch Arts Center.


museums Stray Light
This exhibit of David Hartt’s films and photos re-creates Chicago’s iconic Johnson Publishing Company, right down to the carpet—an ode turned even more surreal given the news that the headquarters, virtually unchanged since its 1971 opening, will relocate in 2012. Go 12/10, when Hartt sits down with Johnson’s chairwoman, Linda Johnson Rice, for a tête-à-tête.
GO: Talk: 12/10 at 3. $6–$10. Exhibit continues through 5/6. Museum open Tue 10–8, Wed–Sun 10–5. Free (kids under 13) to $12; free Tue for Illinois residents. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago.


Soprano Nicole Cabell
Nicole Cabell

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals—a.k.a. people we like: the soprano and Chicago magazine 2010 single Nicole Cabell.

“I’m singing Princess Pamina in Lyric’s The Magic Flute, and the 10th is our last show in December. Following that, on the 11th, I’ll be performing with the Chicago Children’s Choir. They’re doing their holiday concert—a real treat for me. The first time I heard them, I was just blown away.

“Since this is going to be a performing week for me, I’ll drink lots of tea and try to stay as quiet as possible. Too much talking for a singer is not a good thing. But I’m sort of a Korean food junkie, so if I have time, I might go to this Korean restaurant, San Soo Gab San, up in Lincoln Square. It’s my go-to place.” —As told to Jennifer Swann



film Empire
The Art Institute’s new exhibit Light Years, on the role of photography in avant-garde art, doesn’t open until next week, but the museum kicks things off with a trailer of sorts, projecting Andy Warhol’s 1964 film Empire from its own treetop terrace onto the upper floors of the Aon Center, across Millennium Park. Spoiler alert: The movie is pretty much just the Empire State Building. For eight hours. But it’s a beauty.
GO: 12/9 from 6 pm to 2 am. Visible from the Art Institute, 111 S Michigan, as well as Millennium Park, Michigan and Washington.

classical WFMT Anniversary
Sixty years young, Chicago’s classical radio station broadcasts a full day of live performances, featuring The Lincoln Trio at 11 a.m., the soprano Nicole Cabell (see “What I’m Doing This Weekend,” above) at 2 p.m., and the CSO cellist Brant Taylor at 4:30 p.m. Tune in to 98.7 FM for the full roster—or, better yet, drop in to the Chicago Cultural Center for a live serenade.
GO: 12/13 from 10 am to 8 pm Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington.

ALSO THIS WEEK: And also at the Cultural Center: On 12/11, Third Coast Percussion’s David Skidmore presents the Chicago debut of his Common Patterns in Uncommon Time, written in honor of the 100th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. And 12/8 at the MCA, Eighth Blackbird performs world premieres by the three finalists from the sextet’s first-ever composition competition.

poetry Poetry Off the Shelf
And coming this week from the Poetry Foundation: a collection of holiday-themed staged readings, including Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” read by the U. of C.’s resident Welshman, Nicholas Rudall, and directed by The Second City cofounder Bernard Sahlins. To which we say, Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda.” Which either means, “Merry Christmas and happy New Year,” or “Where’s the toilet?”
GO: 12/11–12 at 7. Poetry Foundation, 61 W Superior.


Photography: (PENELOPE) Photo by Michael Brosilow; (CABELL) Erika Dufour