peteg's blog

Piven Theatre: Melancholy Play

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Goldstar ticket: $12.50 + $4.00 service fee = $16.50, bought 2015-05-26. Took the Metra to Davis, Evanston, notionally the downtown, thronged with kids studying at Northwestern. The wifi at the Unicorn Cafe is pretty bad, and it got a bit colder than I expected. Dinner at Siam Splendour Evanston, a mostly-decent Bamee something-or-other. I went on the suggestion of Eric at work, who did warn me that it was a piece of fluff (or almond shells). Marissa Oberlander at the Reader says similar things, but I evidently lack the ability to relate like she can. The vacuity sucked the fun out of the fluff, and turned the harsher observations (paraquote: "American men only experience/express happiness and anger") into clangers. The cast was valiant, and the musicians able in support. Some people left at interval, and I was tempted but wedged in by the generally aged crowd. I can't complain too much as it was solidly in the tradition of the American musicals I saw at The Muny several years ago. The space was quite pleasant, and they take their community art development seriously in that part of Evanston.

The Best of Chicago Spoken Word at Uptown Underground.

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$15.00, booked 2015-05-30. Part of the Pivot Arts Festival. I was lazy and took the red line up. Laksa at Asian Mix Cafe, reliable as always, and then a long schlep up Broadway. I was hoping for more from the support acts, many of whom presented their own poems; the greatest hits from the Chicago Slamworks people was most of the show. I think I made the right call to skip their most recent production, about coming-of-age. The audience was thin. The venue is pure retro, right down to the surly bouncer who was too busy updating his Facebook/Tinder/whatever to bounce anyone. I had a Poets stout while waiting for it to start (at 8pm, and not 7.30pm like they promised).

Silent Theatre Company: The Seven Secret Plays of Madam Caprice at the Chopin Theatre.

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Goldstar ticket: $10.00 + $5.25 service fee = $15.25, bought 2015-05-18. Downstairs, 4pm. Adam the ever-present bar dude was tending bar there rather than at the top of the stairs, and wasn't vending decaf, so I got a flavourless ginger ale. I walked over in grey skies: cold, windy, but at least not rainy. Lunch at Pot Pan Thai beforehand: I'm developing a taste for their chicken penang.

Tony Adler hated it, and I was worried that no-one would show. In the end there were about 15 people, which was enough to fill out the front rows. He's dead right that the seating is a long way from optimal; quite often one of the actors stood between me and the action. The Hammer Trinity guys had it figured out: a larger floor space, and more spatially linear action. Marcus Fittanto was great, as was the rest of the cast, and the production was solid, with some excellent lighting. Lauren Fisher evoked Paulette Goddard from Chaplin's days of silence, and Gillian Hastings anchored things with a fabulous voice and indefatigability. Josie Nahas floats around like she's born to it. Still, mental illness is not something to be played lightly, and scruting the plays-within-the-play is beyond me.

Infernal Affairs

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Last saw about four years ago. It's creeping up the IMDB top-250: now #208. Tony Leung is as louche as ever.

The Great Dictator

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The highest-rated Chaplin on IMDB (#56 in the top-250) but quite meh.

Irish Theatre of Chicago: The White Road at the Den Theatre.

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Goldstar ticket: $15.00 + $4.75 service fee = $19.75, bought 2015-05-18. 3pm, with my fellow oldies. A recounting of Shackleton's abortive imperial Antarctic expedition during the Great War. This is a solid production with some good acting, but I can't imagine any Irishman (and I mean any) ever saying "For England!" in a non-ironic way.

Chloe Riley got into it. I went on Grace's recommendation.

Mad Max: Fury Road

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$13.97, Regal Webster 11, 3D, 2:20pm screening. Seat B10 was a bit too close to the screen for the chopped-up action spaghetti scenes to make much sense. I got a coffee at the Starbucks in the Barnes and Noble on the corner; I can't remember the last time I was in a bookshop. The bloke just sloshed some cold milk in an espresso, and the result was one of the best coffees I've had at a Starbucks. Props to him.

This is far more vacuous than I'd been lead to believe by the reviewers. Whatever mythology Miller is trying to mint, it's essentially a bunch of post-Fight Club space monkeys engaging in mid-70s bogan behaviour, a homage to the days of the V8 streetcars tearing up the suburban streets of wherever. Lock up your daughters, and maybe your old men, Summernats without the tattoo tent. Tom Hardy was the draw but here he's back to efficient mumbling mode; I far prefer it when he has lines to deliver (see the last time he drove a vehicle any distance) and not just heads to bust. Angus Sampson channels Kenny as the organic mechanic. Richard Carter, eternal copper, is his usual arch inflexible self-character. At least he gets blown up. John Howard was in there somewhere. iOTA is the metal god. And that, of course, was Megan Gale. I far prefer the one-armed Lena Olin of Romeo is Bleeding to Charlize Theron, if only because she has so much more fun.

I struggle with Dana Stevens review (or leader writer): just because women engage in violence does not mean they are empowered, at least in my mind. ... and ultimately it is Max's plan those gals are executing, so he's not entirely surplus to their requirements. A. O. Scott convinced me to do the 3D thing. Someone has hijacked Anthony Lane's column at the New Yorker.

Hal Hartley: Henry Fool

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Last seen about four-and-a-half years ago. Remains awesome.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: The Emerson Quartet.

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Goldstar ticket: $22.50 + $5.50 service fee = $28.00, bought 2015-05-18. As usual with these last-gasp ticket purchases, I should have stayed home. There's no doubt these guys are tight, but the tunes tonight were not to my taste: Liebermann: New Work for String Quartet (CMS Co-Commission, NY premiere), Mozart: Quintet in E-flat major, and Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence. Uncomfortably cold too, at least in just a tshirt. Pizza at Giordarno's with Christian beforehand.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

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Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

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All the early-80s tropes: the kid, the dog, the lack of dialogue, the pointlessness of it all. Certainly superior to the original. How many dreams died on that road to Broken Hill? Most of the getups look like they're straight out of Mardi Gras. Again the stunts are awesome, but go by too fast. Arkie Whiteley is in there somewhere.

Mad Max

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The original, from 1979. I've never been very persuaded by Mel Gibson. Here Steve Bisley tries to act him off the screen and ends up getting burned to a cinder. Maybe that was the point of the whole thing. Some of the stunts are pretty cool, but they go by so fast you have to be paying attention. Remaining rapt is not eased by the repetitive and sometimes kooky dialogue. Parts of Victoria have never looked this good, or this empty of weekenders.

First Floor Theatre: The Paranoid Style in American Politics at the Flat Iron Arts Building.

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$20 + $1.69 processing = $21.69, bought 2015-04-24, for closing night. Goldstar had a cheaper base price but the service fee was too high. I headed over around 6.30pm to grab some dinner at Pot Pan Thai (the same-old Banmee Delight) in some heavy fog and light rain, or condensate. Their ticket clearly indicated that we should use the street-level Collaboraction door, but in actuality one needed to proceed up the main stairway of the Flat Iron Arts Building and brave the comic book geeks on the third floor landing. Being closing night, it was packed.

This was an original by Emmett Rensin, inspired by an essay of the same name by Richard J. Hofstadter from 1963/4. The promotional materials of the robust-values candidate feature a mugshot of Mickle Maher, author of Song About Himself. While the dialogue is taut, and the timeline nicely spliced up, the plot is a bit hackneyed; it must be, as I picked the perp somewhere around halfway. I hoped there'd be a twist, with the limp-wristed intern Gary (excellently played to type by Luke Michael Grimes) stepping up and really telling us why he's a Republican.

Andrew Cutler played the Sourthern dirty-tricks maestro Pete Caldwell perfectly. Mitch Salm as east-coast greaser Will Ford had some very funny scenes, especially opposite Eric Gerard, a communications director who fears the black grandmas of the inner-city Chicago churches. These nicely offset the occasional violence, which when it came was plausibly explosive. Amanda Fink as the candidate's daughter and presumable chief-of-staff rushed her lines and pouted a little too much; the pearls don't totally make the blue-blood. Kate Cornelius-Schecter played a right-wing journalist who wanted to more directly participate in the political pantomine. While I enjoyed it, in that car-crash kinda way, its central weakness was that it failed to yield any insight into why anyone with principles could be a Republican.

I went pretty much on the recommendation of Jena Cutie at the Reader. According to Jerald Raymond Pierce, Rensin mined all the cable shows I don't watch. I concur that the scene transitions were first-rate.

The Black Dahlia

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Third time around. Hilary Swank has a blast, and I dearly wish she had more screen time. I like Aarow Eckhart but he's a bit railroaded here. I'm still a bit mystified how we're supposed to assemble the whole thing. The cinematography is occasionally excellent, as it always is with De Palma.

Hal Hartley: Simple Men

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Yeah. Weaker than his first two features, but followed up by his taut and fantastic Surviving Desire, so emphatically just a blip. I like Bill Sage's affected ineffectualness here, and Martin Donovan is always amusing in a Hartley. Karen Sillas is valliant. Damian Young, as the sheriff, is still somewhat compis mentis here.

Space Cowboys

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Eastwood stars and directs in 2000. He and Tommy Lee Jones enjoy their sparring, and Donald Sutherland chases skirt, in what adds up to a less than mediocre piece of grumpy-old-boomer triumphalism. Ironically it's the Russians who have all the space repair tech now...


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An Adrienne Shelley segue from the Hal Hartleys, second time around. I enjoyed it, with its nods to Twin Peaks. I realise now that, as a Southern Gothic manufactured by a New Yorker, it is a bit patronising, and as far as a story of self-betterment, well, all you need to do is treat that high-tipping old gent just right...

A Red Orchid Theatre: Red Handed Otter.

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$30.00 + $4.00 (Convenience Charge) = $34.00, bought 2015-04-11. This is the weakest of the four things I've seen there, but it did feature the strongest performance yet by Luce Metrius, who played a general, rounded sort of character for once. He was ably supported by Mierka Girten, she with a freehold on comedic clueful ditz, and Guy van Swearingen as the bloke who lost his cat. I went due to the review by Tony Adler at the Reader; he's right that the whole thing is a bit twee, somewhat fun but certainly not for people who don't have a thing for animals. The set is somewhat ornate and has a few hidden features, but is not used as broadly as e.g. Ecstasy. I sat right in the middle because the guys with the reserved seating were no-shows.

The Scrapes: discography to date at Bandcamp.

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I heard that these guys from Brisbane have a gig at an underground venue in Sydney in May, and as I won't be there the best I could do is buy their entire back catalogue. Their new album has slipped its promised deadline by at least a day. I like their mix of doom-drone, Dirty Three knockoffs and the odd atmospheric original so far. Kali Yuga Sunrise sounds like a mix of the Dirty Three's Indian Love Song with Valgeir Sigur√įsson's World Without Ground from Architecture of Loss, and perhaps Lungs, for Merrilee off Ekv√≠librium, with a dash of Ben Frost.

Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O., but not really.

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$12.00 + $3.36 service fee + $2.50 delivery fee = $17.86, bought 2015-01-30. The thing with buying tickets with such lead times is that you never know how things are going to be when the gig rolls around. I was pretty tired, a little sick, and certainly not up for a superlate night listening to loud, repetitive psychedelic rock an hour's walk from home. But what the heck, I went anyway. This was my first time at the Empty Bottle, past the hospital on Division. I'm guessing it was at about a third of capacity. I had a couple of Left Hand Milk Stouts to ease the passing of time: arrived there at 8.45pm, somewhat enjoyed the support (ST 37, I think, from Austin, Texas; one guy had a "free shrugs" t-shirt) from 9.30pm, and tried to get into the Japanese guys around 10.30pm. I bailed at 11pm as the last 70 bus down division had gone and it was a school night.