peteg's blog

The House Theatre: The Hammer Trinity at the Chopin Theatre.

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Goldstar ticket: $32.50 + $7.00 = $39.50. I walked over in the early-Spring cold, wind, and snow, figuring it was only going to get worse. Had lunch at Pot Pan Thai, fuelling up for nine hours of dragons and swords and all the stuff that real people stay home to watch on cable on days like this. It was a lot shorter on nudity than those, however. Zac Thompson swung it with his lengthy review at the Reader, and my fond memory of Season on the Line, from the same company at the same venue a few months back. I regret not attending the other things in their current season.

What can I say. The puppetry is uniformly excellent. The two dragons are awe-inspiring, and I spent too much time looking at the foxes that accompanied Kay Kron (last seen in Hot Georgia Sunday at the Den Theatre), who had to thread a very fine narrative needle. John Henry Roberts (writer of The Sweeter Option) had a very funny scene involving a submarine, though my favourite was perhaps between (who I thought were) the strongest actors (Ben Hertel and Christopher Walsh), about imaginary property. Joey Steakley played a foppish statesman quite well, evoking Gary Oldman's aspect and evocative desperation at times. I'm not totally sure I can get on board with the faith placed in chess grandmasters despite Kara Davidson's valliant efforts. Miniature models, excellent anchoring by William Dick for the first two-thirds, ... — what's not to like?

I had two coffees ($1.50 each) and a Żywiec ($4) as the thing unfolded, and a chicken kebab from the Mediterranean on Milwaukee at the one hour dinner break. The breaks were a little too frequent and a little too long, but I guess it did give the cast time to recuperate. I was a little disappointed that this session was only perhaps a third full, and moreover most people seemed connected to the cast, which does not bode well for future sessions. I later read that Lee Kuan Yew carked it, which caused me to reflect on his "white trash of Asia" prediction for Australia, and his alternative to the politics of this piece. "The story will save him whether he wants it to or not."

Vladislav Zhukov: The Kim Vân Kiều of Nguyen Du (1765-1820)

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Apparently I bought this for £12.94 around 2010-07-18 from the Book Depository. I don't know what I was thinking; the last poetry I read was imposed while I was captive in high school. But I recall now that while this poem is widely feted, I could not find much of an exposition of characters or plot anywhere. Having now read it, I'm pretty sure I'm not the person to attempt to do so. I think I picked this particular translation for the obvious reasons: Zhukov is clearly a quixotic type. A review in the Journal of Vietnamese Studies observes, contrary to other translations extent as of 2008: "Incredibly and uniquely, Zhukov reproduces the intricate rhyme scheme of the original throughout his translation [...]." Unfortunately, as Eric Henry goes on to observe, the syntactic and grammatical burden placed on the reader is high, which limits the amount that can be absorbed by a brain yearning for sleep. Throughout Zhukov's passion burns bright while the man remains elusive.

The wikipedia page seems decent now. Here's an excerpt from a book of translations I dug up a while back. Small details as I understand them, all dubious: Kiều loses her maidenhead to her first husband, whose lust earns the chagrin of his business partner, the madam Tu. Kim and Kiều do get married at the end and shack up, but only for one night, after which they revert to a Rousseauian state of nature (chaste youthful infatuation). Kim already had children with Vân (Kiều's sister), allowing Kiều to claim that the necessary had been taken care of. It seems to me that Kiều fell in love with at least two men other than Kim in their fifteen years apart, most spectacularly with a warlord. She meets both men in brothels, which somehow does not reflect poorly on them in her eyes.

Escobar: Paradise Lost

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I missed this one at the Music Box Theatre last year. Good thing I did too, as it is quite drecky. Del Toro is as solid as ever but is not in the frame long enough to make the critical difference.

Romeo Is Bleeding

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Pretty good for a while and then it all falls apart. Oldman at his finest? Lena Olin is pretty decent though totally implausible.

Watchmen

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Third time around.

Point Blank

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For Lee Marvin, but not for me.

Chappie

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$10.40 at the AMC River East 21, 3.15pm session on a beautiful Spring afternoon. I spent a bit of time reading Zhukov's Kim Vân Kiều down by the lake, of which, more later. Despite the poor reviews, I went to prove that I will watch Sharlto Copley do just about anything, even green-screen. Jackman's early scene in the bathroom is a pure recycling of his acting in Erskineville Kings, and if you listen carefully you can hear him yell "Run Forrest!" at Copley. The gold-plated AK47 was a kack, just for a second. I like Blomkamp's earlier stuff but this was perhaps too much of the same, and stuffing it with stars is not the way forward for him — he'd be better off doing a Kubrick or Coen brothers and working with more unknowns. Dave is telling me I need to come to terms with Die Antwoord. Anyway, it's easy to sink the boot into this one, and I did enjoy some of it immensely, so I'll stop here.

Manohla Dargis. I concur that it's time for Blomkamp to move beyond gesturing at things and really have a go. Gary Marcus at the New Yorker.

Babes with Blades: Titus Andronicus at City Lit Theatre.

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$22.00 + $1.76 in something-or-other = $23.76, bought 2015-02-06. I had lunch at Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen, and sent Dave Lish's Preparation for the Next Life at the worst USPS ever, near De Paul. (I heart the USPS, but trust me, avoid this office.) After that a coffee at Osmium, and fixed some of Dad's IT problems while standing and shivering near the lake; the day was warm but cooled off rapidly. Had dinner at The Little India, just like last time I went to City Lit Theatre. The bicycle needs a tune-up. St Patrick's Day festivities made the riding somewhat painful due to drunk and entitled pedestrians.

I have some vague memories of seeing Titus Andronicus at NUTS a long time ago. It's spectacular but a long way from plausible. The all-women cast valliantly tried to make it into more than it is. Despite the warnings that the first two rows were free-blood-splattering zones, I still coped a bit sitting in the third. That the Babes with Blades essentially celebrate violence (see their mission statement) makes me wonder about supporting them.

Dan Jakes at the Reader.

Chicago Slam Works: Redlined at Stage 773.

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$20.00 + $3.50 (Online Processing Fee) = $23.50 on 2015-03-01. Closing night. This was a lot closer to what I was looking for in Chicago theatre: performance poetry with a local focus. Rahm copped it in the neck, but he is a soft target. I'm pretty sure the race politics were straight up black and white, and not so much Asian or Latino; we'll see what these guys do if Chuy gets up. Not all was hit, but the misses were still mostly good. The girl behind me got into the cat-calling but not the you-go-girls. Perhaps this is what you do at Second City (comedy club). The white boy in love with hip-hop put me in mind of Morganics. I had some direct pro-forma experience of the Lakeview bros on the ride up: a bloke in his big black Ford SUV pulled out in front of me on Lincoln; I swore loudly in pseudo-shock. He stopped a bit further up the road, where the traffic got thick, and told me he that it was my fault for not having a headlight. I told him he still needed to check, he said F-U and roared off. Given how I ride, the shock came in it being the first such incident in this city.

Jena Cutie at the Reader probably swung it. I wasn't feeling particularly attacked as I'm not a tourist and not really a resident (etc).

Inside Man

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Great cast. Spike Lee used this thriller to sell a mid-2000s NYC social commentary to a mainstream audience. Good for him. I really enjoy his hypotheticals, like the one in the middle of this and at the end of 25th Hour: he just may flick the switch to actual, for all you know at the time. Denzel Washington's one-liner disses are the funniest, and he anchors the show with a louche appeal that somehow (now) evokes Obama. Must be in that loose gangly stride. Jodie Foster is a natural sharky hustler. Clive Owen is robotic; they could have cast Nick Cage. Christopher Plummer is as excellent as always. And so on. Can't believe I hadn't seen it before now.

Profiles Theatre: The Other Place.

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Goldstar ticket: $12.00 + $6.25 = $18.25, bought 2015-02-19. Slightly caught out by the beginning of daylight saving. Walked up in some mild but not quite warm weather, dodging puddles once more. Stopped off at the Bowtruss on Broadway for a so-so hot chocolate. Red line back. It may be time to get the bike out. Tony Adler at the Reader tells you everything you need to know.

The Poor Theatre: Edgar & Annabel at The Side Project.

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$16.00, bought on 2015-03-01. I took the red line up with the expectation of getting out at Argyle and having a phở. Instead it dumped me at Sheridan with a much longer schlepp than I had intended. (The driver was pretty funny: after announcing that he wasn't going to stop until Howard, he got rather insistent that everyone pile back on, ride to Howard, and take the all-stops south-bound from there.) Le's was its usual uninspired but reliable self. After that I walked up to the Edgewater Chicago Public Library, which is a fantastic new facility, and then to the Elipsis Coffeehouse hear Loyola. Dinner at the nearby Five Guys; pretty much as advertised, if only I'd known what to order. And still more schlepping up to The Side Project on Jarvis. As it hit 10C sometime during the day, one needs either galoshes or giant strides to make it through the puddles. I mostly stuck to the roads.

The theatre is near the Jarvis red line stop, somewhat opposite a sign that says "Thoreau's Corner". Nice spot. I was there early but by the time they got under way it was packed with young people who seemed to be attached to the cast somehow. The best part was an inspired combination of karaoke and bomb making, which somewhat unfortunately went on for a little too long. Otherwise it evoked a NUTS production: skillful kids doing something with a cute premise that cannot make the distance. There was only one way for this one to go, and sure enough, there it went; Orwell reduced to a single note.

I think Zac Thompson's review at the Reader tipped it, but it got generally positive reviews everywhere. More details from Kerstin Broockmann.

The Church at Double Door.

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$30.00 + Ticket Fee $6.50 = $36.50. Bought January 30. Apparently sold out. Still crook, coughing and spluttering, getting messy; would've preferred not to go, but maybe the last chance to see these dinosaur psychedelic pop rockers, for me at least. Caught the 70 bus down Division, walked up Milwaukee to North in the last of the sub-zero weather for the right now. First time at Double Door. It's direct opposite the Damen blue-line station, and is something like a mildly scaled-up Hopetoun Hotel: on the affirmative, 550 capacity, bar running down the side, standing-room only, small stage, painted black. And for the negative, it's ugly with a poor beer menu. I got there around 8.20pm. There was a small queue at the door.

While waiting around I got talking to a bloke who'd flown up from Kansas City, with a far better idea of what to expect than I had. The warm up band played a short set: The Sharp Things from NYC, who couldn't help themselves but poke fun at the amiable mid-west crowd. Small break, and without too much fanfare, The Church. Kilbey played it somewhat mystical, wearing a third-eye t-shirt, gathering himself before particular songs, like they meant a lot to him, getting quite twitchy at times; he looked like a rock god etched from heroin. The acoustics were so-so, but he did sound English and from the wiki I see I'm not wrong. Ian Haug looked like the music wasn't taxing him. As always I got lost in the bass, and a lack of familiarity with their material made it difficult for me to get into it.

The Hypocrites: Endgame by Samuel Beckett, at the Den Theatre.

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Goldstar: $14.00 + $4.25 (service) = $18.25, bought January 27. I can't say no to a show by The Hypocrites, well, not unless it's Gilbert and Sullivan. Given the snow but not super-cold ambient conditions, I walked over from Clybourn/Divison, and had some lunch at Pot Pan Thai; their Ba Mee noodles are just what I'm looking for, most days. Still recovering from the time in West Lafayette, and coming down with some throat/nose thing, I wasn't as totally compis mentis as you need to be to get into a Beckett. The acting was uniformly excellent and the set was quite good, but didn't quite block out the things happening off-stage, like late-comers dropping their programs. The play itself is stuffed with the familiar end-of-personal-days preoccupations familiar to me from Happy Days, right down to Donna McGough's wedding veil. I should have recognised Sean Sinitski from Season on the Line.

Chris Jones at the Tribune. Alex Huntsberger. Zac Thompson at the Chicago Reader.

LAMPO: Jennifer Walshe and Tony Conrad as Ma La Pert

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A Liz Fraser-alike b-boxing, or scatting ala Megan from The Herd? The place was packed, possibly due to a glowing preview in the Chicago Reader. To me it sounded like mild audience abuse with an Irish lilt, a cello, and a violin plugged into some analog electronics; chopping this stuff up doesn't make it more inventive. The walk over was in sleet. I was sleepy all day after taking the train back from West Lafayette.

Jennifer Walshe and Tony Conrad will perform together as Ma La Pert, an improvisational collaboration that blends a variety of traditional and non-traditional instruments such as violins, autoharps, drums, vocalizations, found objects, and costumes to generate unique sounds during their live performances.

Jennifer Walshe is a London-based vocalist, composer, and conceptual artist who often works under various identities individually as Grupat, and also with different collaborators across Europe and the US, including Ma La Pert with Tony Conrad and with Tomomi Adachi on the People’s United Telepathic Improvisational Front. Walshe’s work has been exhibited in New York, Dublin, London, and Toronto.

Tony Conrad is an experimental filmmaker, artist, composer and musician based between Brooklyn and Buffalo, NY. He is known for his early pioneering drone-based minimalist music, as well as his involvement in the Theatre of Eternal Music (The Dream Syndicate) and collaborations with numerous filmmakers, artists, and musicians such as John Cale, La Monte Young, Mike Kelley, Marian Zazeela, Jim O’Rourke, Lou Reed, and Walter De Maria. In addition to experimental filmmaking, Conrad has composed numerous audio works for amplified strings, and has more recently focused on examining traditions in Western music and geometry from Pythogoras to the present.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

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$9.25. 8.50pm session at the Wabash Landing 9 cinema in West Lafayette. I was the only one there, and indeed, why would you have a 9pm screening of a kids movie? Like the last one this was pretty funny in the small, seemingly very age-inappropriate, and super-derivative. Like the last movie I saw here, we got the everythings-awesome-when-you're-part-of-a-team schpiel. Americas' stocks on teamwork must be running out. Buy teamwork! Banderas is quite amusing too.

New York Times review.

Strawdog Theatre Company: The Sweeter Option

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$28.00 + convenience charge of $3.00 = $31.00. Opening night, and with it, an open bar. I had the best beer on offer: a Revolution Eugene Porter, in a can. I hoofed it up to the Strawdog via City Grounds in the cold (-10C) but windless evening, so somewhat bearable. This was after hacking the PLDI paper all afternoon. I grabbed a quick Thai-style laksa at the Asian Mix Cafe nearby, same as last time. Whatever the reviews say, their yellow curry noodle laksa thing is the bomb.

This was my first time behind Strawdog's red door, which is apparently their main space with superior seating. It was almost completely packed. From my seat at the front left, adjacent to where the actors flounced in and out, I spent a lot of time looking at the sides of actor's faces and the backs of their heads. After a while I realised that pretty much everyone sitting near and behind me must have as well.

This is another noir, putting me in mind of my last trip here (to see Desperate Dolls). The draw was Michaela Petro, last seen laughing like a drain in Ecstasy at A Red Orchid Theatre. A bonus was Emily Tate from Dead Accounts. The lead bloke (Sam Guinan-Nyhart) was pretty solid given the generally bewildering activity around him, especially when they changed sets: he wandered around looking dazed and confused as his world changed, and the ladies (of course) gave him those knowing looks.

I really wanted to enjoy this but ended up struggling to scratch the surface. Jackie Davies observes the out-of-order scenes: oh yeah, I got that, after a while. Justin Hayford at the Chicago Reader. Aaron Hunt notes the weak ending.

Mean Streets

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Yeah. It's a bit weird seeing de Niro eclipse Keitel, almost in real time. I'd bracket it with The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Atticus Lish: Preparation for the Next Life

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I discovered Red Plenty via a glowing review by Dwight Garner, and his review in the New York Times last November led me to this. Having read it I agree with what he said and have little to add. Powerful stuff indeed. Somewhat perplexingly it is an economical, dense, urgent and necessary type of thing that is rarely beautiful; in fact when my heart was up around my ears it was getting viscerally ugly. But never cheap, condescending or exploitative, and always clear-eyed. I guess the word for this stuff is art. I hope he keeps at it.

Chungking Express

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Last seen about four years ago. There remains a lot to like about Wong Kar-Wai's work. Over several nights.