Marc Kelly Smith/Photo by Mike Kadela
Marc Kelly Smith is one of the most natural, purely comfortable actors on the stage. It’s a joy to see, and it comes across immediately, this intense ease that allows him to dip into his rich palate of emotional engagement and paint a canvas of real human strife—love, regret, sustained longing and anger. He capitalizes on this loudest of emotions in a way that is reminiscent of Timothy Edward Kane’s recent full-throttled portrayal of Hector in “An Iliad.” Smith is in touch with his own brand of divine rage, but in a way that also speaks to the southeast Chicago native in him, where a grandfather, or father perhaps, would lay one too many harsh hands down on the kid. An Archie Bunker (“All in the Family”) with a stick sort of scene. This all comes through in his ninety-minute show, “Flea Market.”
Marc Kelly Smith is a Chicago icon. He is the poetry slam founder who started an international movement. The artist Tony Fitzpatrick introduced him at the Cultural Center a couple of years ago saying, “He has changed the way poetry is understood.” At the Society of Midland Authors last April, Guggenheim chairman and Chicagoan Edward Hirsch leaned into Smith and said, “You’ve created something really beautiful.” Writer Stuart Dybek turned to his novelist son, Nick Dybek, when Smith was recently performing poetry and said, “He’s the best performer.” In one of the great essays written about Smith and the poetry slam, “The Second Throat,” award-winning poet Patricia Smith wrote, “Darting about the theater, his eyes meaningfully manic, Marc Kelly Smith did what he’s always done so masterfully—he dropped like fuel on a fire that, up until then, everyone thought had been contained.” Currently, he runs the longest-running show in Chicago at the Green Mill every Sunday. Because of this, his own art is often left behind. Which is remarkable, because he’s the most talented one in the bunch. Read the rest of this entry »
This weekend I watched “Fast & Furious 6,” alternately gaping, cheering and shaking my head in disbelief at scene after scene of various insane stunts that Dom and his team of impossibly awesome drivers effortlessly pull off. “Oh come on,” I would whisper, grinning stupidly despite myself, “that doesn’t make any sense!” Tonight at “Cirque Shanghai: Dragon’s Thunder,” as a fifth motorcyclist entered into a golden contraption referred to as the “Globe of Death,” my friend turned to me and said those exact words. And she was totally right. Read the rest of this entry »
“What the hell is Mike Tyson gonna do up here on stage tonight?”
This is the thought that Tyson attributes to every member of the audience early on in “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.” And from the rowdy reaction of the large collection of fans and other interested parties gathered in the Cadillac Palace Theatre Friday night for the first of a two-night stint in Chicago for this traveling one-man show that has already run on Broadway and in Las Vegas, it seems he knows how to read a crowd.
So, does this show, in fact, consist only of the “undisputed truth?” Well, anything you say is undisputed when you’re speaking into a microphone and there’s no one else on stage to argue with you. And whether everything Tyson says during the course of the evening is undisputable or not is not the point. Undoubtedly former boxer Mitch Green and Tyson’s ex-wife Robin Givens would relish a chance to tell their sides of some particularly juicy stories.
But “Undisputed Truth,” written by Tyson’s wife Kiki Tyson and directed by Spike Lee, is more of a confessional autobiography, a subjective recounting of personal stories in an undisputedly intriguing life, than it is an argument for absolute truth. In fact, the title that Tyson jokingly declares he originally wanted to give the show—“Boxing, Bitches and Lawsuits”—may actually be more appropriate. Read the rest of this entry »
How far will an outside producer go in dropping crucial elements in transposing an outside production to Chicago? How much will be lost in making the transition, particularly when it comes from New York?
When it comes to the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” apparently quite a bit. The show had always been performed here with some half the number of Rockettes seen at Radio City and with canned music versus the live orchestra that one can experience in New York. But in bringing the show back to the area for the first time in four years, elements that nonetheless made the show, well, spectacular, are noticeably absent this year. Read the rest of this entry »
Performing in a fashionably nostalgic parlor room at the Palmer House Hilton downtown, magician Dennis Watkins—star of the House Theatre’s wildly popular “Death and Harry Houdini”—presents an intimate night of misdirection and sleight of hand. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Paul Natkin
Opening with a string of guys diving through hoops and closing with an insanely impressive spectacle by the Chinese motorcycle troupe “Imperial Thunder,” this show forgoes any form of forced plot development to focus on seventy-five minutes of nonstop acrobatics, juggling and generally amazing feats—all staged in front of a backdrop of twinkling stars that constantly shift from one color to another. Read the rest of this entry »
Calling itself the “metropolitan” version of “A Prairie Home Companion,” this monthly live radio-show-cum-podcast takes what Garrison Keillor has been doing for decades and adapts it for a younger, hipper crowd, throwing in more laughs (and more swearing). Led with a mix of wide-eyed earnestness and subtle cynicism by artistic director and head writer Matt Lyle, “The City Life Supplement” even has its very own Lake Wobegone: the fictional north Chicago neighborhood of Ravens Park, where you can get a five-dollar haircut from a Serbian named Milos or listen to your favorite hipster soap opera “As the World Sighs” (set in Wicker Park, natch). Read the rest of this entry »
In addition to its musical theater productions, Theo Ubique has presented a number of revue shows over the years that have showcased the likes of Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen and Stephen Sondheim. The group has never performed a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical before, however, and has decided that its first foray into the crème de la crème of musical theater canons would be a revue of Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers.
Ordinarily, you might expect Theo Ubique to cobble together its own revue of R&H songs as it has with other composers, complete with anecdotes going into the context of a song within a specific show or details about how a particular song was composed. In this case, however, there was already a 1983 revue available and approved by the R&H estate that had been conceived by Jeffrey B. Moss, “Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein.”
That revue—first done for a New York City hotel—featured two pianos and five performers and was actually somewhat of a “show-within-a-show” concept that had the performers prepare to go on as part of the show before singing solos, duets, trios and ensemble numbers with a decidedly New York cabaret-style feel that even included bits of jazz harmony and touches of swing and swagger, all done to syncopated two-piano accompaniment. Read the rest of this entry »
There’s a brilliant sort of “Eureka!” moment revealed early in the staging of “The Astronaut’s Birthday,” Redmoon’s spectacle produced in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art, and that is the realization that the array of symmetrical windows composing the facade of the museum’s Josef Paul Kleihues building make a perfect set of panels for a comic book. Once witnessed, you’ll be unlikely to ever look at the MCA without picturing some graphic narrative unfolding within its panes. Created and directed by Redmoon artistic director Frank Maugeri, with a co-creation credit to the company’s co-founder, Jim Lasko, “The Astronaut’s Birthday” is a compelling story, with nice artwork from Donovan Foote and others that pays homage at times to the likes of Jack Kirby (although it retains a circa-seventies superheroes-generic style most of the time) and that purports to draw from the Golden Age of comics and the 1950s sci-fi movies in telling the tale of an innocent bystander drawn, along with his family, into events of cosmic significance. Comic-book nerds like me are more likely to suss out references to the Silver Age from the sixties and seventies, especially in the plot structure and “lessons” learned by the characters. Nevertheless, the whole thing works pretty well as advertised, with some especially nice visual moments when all the panels are brought together to create a single dramatic image. Read the rest of this entry »
Since 2001, artistic director Pete Guither has been projecting images onto naked performers as part of “The Living Canvas.” “Demons,” their seventh show in Chicago, delves into the mind of a troubled young woman as she transports her sister into the fantastical world she lives in: a world filled with faeries, phantasms and playful creatures. These creatures are boldly portrayed by eight other unclad actors of varying shapes and sizes who are constantly in motion: scrambling up the scaffolding of the set, executing elaborate movement routines, or creating a living wall of art. The psychedelic color displays projected onto the actors and the set coupled with Isaac Mandel’s invigorating sound design exquisitely highlight the simple beauty of the piece. For anyone feeling particularly affected by the summer heat, Guither has a solution for you: take those restrictive clothes off. Seriously. There is a full number designed for audience participation at the end of every show. From the packed house on the night I saw it, and the amount of willing audience participation, “The Living Canvas” is highly regarded not only as a visually striking performance, but as an exciting, interactive experience. (Zach Freeman)
The Living Canvas at National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway, (773)327-7077, through August 14. $20.