A scene from Urban Theater Company's Brainpeople
FOOD FOR THOUGHT Urban Theater Company’s Brainpeople opens this week.


Don’t-miss picks for Wed 11.10.10 through Tue 11.16.10:


theatre Brainpeople
This tale of a dinner party by the Oscar-nominated José Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) makes the final feast in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus look downright Emily Post approved. We won’t divulge whether the guests survive dessert, but we will say Urban Theater Company has all the ingredients for a delectably dark production.
GO: Previews through Nov 11; $12. Run continues through Dec 12; $10–$35. Batey Urbano, 2620 W Division. urbantheaterchicago.org


theatre The Iliad
If your knowledge of Homer begins and ends with Bart’s dad, prepare for an eye opener when another TV stalwart, the Emmy-nominated screenwriter Craig Wright (also, the playwright of last year’s Michael Shannon tour de force, Mistakes Were Made) adapts this Grecian formula.
GO: Previews Nov 12–13; $15. Run continues through Dec 19; $25–$30. aredorchidtheatre.org


concerts Stew and the Negro Problem
A postpunk ensemble called the Negro Problem led by a black man is apt to raise eyebrows, but this “Afro Baroque cabaret band” has raised serious accolade ruckus as well, nabbing a Tony and two Obies for its musical Passing Strange. Saturday’s audience can stick around for a discussion with the artists; a cash bar should help facilitate conversation.
GO: Nov 12–13 at 7:30. $10–$28 ($100 includes dinner Fri). Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago. mcachicago.org


dance Breakbone Danceco
The boundary-smashing choreographer Atalee Judy enlists two fellow “dance excavateurs” in the premiere of her architectural opus, Course of Empire: An Excavation on Building a City of the Interior. The dancers trace the life span of an imaginary city, from its origins to its rise and eventual fall, with the filmmaker Carl Wiedemann’s IMAX-scale projections of decayed historic spaces playing alongside.
GO: Nov 11–20: Thu–Sat at 8. $12–$22. Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N Western. viaducttheatre.com

ALSO THIS WEEK: Eat to the Beat, the Harris’s $5 brownbag-lunch performance series, returns Nov 12 with a preview of River North Chicago Dance Company’s fall engagement, which runs in full the following night.


classical Fifth House Ensemble
Last year this inventive group teamed up with a local graphic novelist for a series about a housecat during the plague. This year FHE pairs music by Beethoven, Elliott Carter, and the CSO’s new composer-in-residence Mason Bates with stories based on Grimm’s fairy tales. Up first: A hybrid of The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was and the Russian fable The Snow Maiden, with Bates playing along, that should melt your heart.
GO: Nov 16 at 7. Free. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington. Nov 17 at 8. $20–$25. Mayne Stage, 1328 W Morse. fifth-house.com


galleries Touch and Go: Ray Yoshida and His Spheres of Influence
Few teachers provoke the sort of heartfelt responses you’ll hear from former students of Yoshida (1930–2009). Not only is this exhibition a retrospective of the SAIC prof, whose output straddled the Chicago art scene’s transition from expressionism to pop, it also includes works by his colleagues and students, demonstrating the remarkable reach of one memorable artist.
GO: Nov 13–Feb 12. Sullivan Galleries, 33 S State, 7th floor. 312-629-6635


Chicago actor and show-dog trainer Mike O'Brien
Mike O’Brien

Up next in our series of plans from notable, in-the-know locals (a.k.a. people we like): Mike O’Brien, the Chicago actor and show-dog trainer who’ll play Scrooge for the third year running in the Goodman Theatre’s Pooch on Scrooge event this Saturday (think photos with Santa—replacing Santa with Scrooge and kids with dogs).

“Since I’m not doing another play until Rhino Fest in January [O’Brien’s past work includes playing Police Commissioner James Conlisk for 401 performances in Hizzoner, Neil Giuntoli’s biodrama on Mayor Richard J. Daley: “When we performed at the Beverly Arts Center, they thought it was the second coming. They were ready to re-elect him”], it’s a good weekend to catch up on seeing other people’s work. On Friday, I’m going to see The Hypocrites’ performance of K, a takeoff on Kafka. On Saturday, I’ll spend the morning with dogs and the afternoon trying to quit smiling. The hardest part is keeping a stern face. My feeling is that Dickens could have rewritten [A Christmas Carol] and, instead of sending three ghosts to convert [Scrooge], he could have sent 100 dogs onstage, wagging their tails. Then on Sunday, there’s a benefit for a pretty well known actor-writer-director in town, Beau O’Reilly, to give him a little help with some medical bills. I definitely want to support him.”

GO: Pooch on Scrooge runs Nov 13 from 9 to noon at Goodman Theatre, 170 N Dearborn; a recommended donation of $15 benefits Season of Concern. The Goodman’s annual production of A Christmas Carol previews Nov 19–28 ($25­–$61) and continues through Dec 31 ($25­–$76).


Photography: (Brainpeople) Anthony Aicardi, (O’Brien) David Sutton