Thursday, April 29, 2010

Angels, dinos, trombones and more!

Dear Readers,

Don't miss this weekend's Drama Group production of "City of Angels" at Bloom High School. It should be a blockbuster show and runs this weekend only. More details are in the listing. A number of Southland theatrical offerings cover the 'something for everyone' spectrum. Gil Oliva (left), a fantastic actor who often works behind the scenes, starred in the production. Joe Clair (at desk) also starred.
   You'll want to plan a trip to Shedd Aquarium with kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews to see the four-month-old baby Beluga. The beautiful baby boy will be delighting fans in a special view area in the Oceanarium. And while you are thinking about museums, Field goes back in time, by millions of years, as it celebrates the world's most famous T. rex's 10th anniversary at the museum. That would be Sue. Dino-size events and exhibits begin in May. 
Skim the blog. You will notice I do not record hits to this website since I know you are reading this and passing the link along. So many people have told me their arts and entertainment experiences have expanded with the introduction of "And now presenting..." 
Have a great weekend and see you again soon. Please, as always, send press releases, comments and any corrections to me at
By Myra Eder

Beckett baffles.
After more than two weeks of thinking and perusing literary commentary, I finally have a small grip on Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame.”
The star-studded Steppenwolf Theatre production, which opened earlier this month and runs through June 6 (ticket information in listing below), absolutely mesmerized me, pried my brain open and continues to intrigues me.
This one-act play, which premiered in 1957, takes the viewer into a realm beyond theater of the absurd.
Watching “Endgame,” I think, parallels what one might encounter stepping into Salvador Dali painting come to life. The surreal experience, a dreamlike, perhaps nightmarish journey would not make sense at first. The dreamer would have to return often to understand the Dali plane of existence.
So too with “Endgame.”
The brilliant four-person Steppenwolf Company cast, as well as director Frank Galati give life and coherence to Beckett’s bizarre script. Indeed, one does not have to be a Beckett scholar, or for that matter have any familiarity with the late legendary playwright to realize the skill and insight this play demands.
Powerful stage chemistry adds another layer of genius to "Endgame."
The power in Steppenwolf’s production is such that Beckett’s intent becomes secondary as the audience experiences another reality that unfolds in “Endgame.”
 William Petersen (pictured) portrays Hamm, a blind man, king of his abode, who sits on his throne-on-wheels in the center of a small room.  Hamm’s lame manservant Clov (Ian Barford) goes back and forth, in and out of the little room as he begrudgingly responds to his master’s every demand. Theirs is an alien codependence.
    Clov, for some unexplained reason, cannot sit down.
   Meanwhile, Hamm’s aged and apparently legless parents, Nagg (Francis Guinan) and Nell (Martha Lavey), each live in a covered ashcan, discarded by their son and by life.
    Their pathetic existence deteriorates as the play moves forward, without any obvious impact on their son.
     At first, most audience members would find little, if anything, in common with Beckett’s characters. But in fact, if each person were to break down his or her life into a few basic, unrelated episodes, similarities to the onstage actions probably would emerge. 
“Endgame” ultimately is very human if not humane.
 Beckett’s dialogue reveals, in Galati’s words, a “world broken apart, dismantled of the rational thought charged through the first half of the (post war) 20th century.” It was this postwar state of mind that critics see as a key force in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” as well as “Endgame.”
In Steppenwolf artistic director Lavey’s compelling interview with Galati in the program, she asks how he would want an audience to experience “Endgame.”
Galati replies, “With open arms. Not afraid of the dark …. I think a great work of art asks us to step into it and accept its wisdom, its vision of truth.”
 As an aside, Petersen is an extraordinary talent. While “CSI” no doubt pays very well, Petersen belongs onstage where he can breathe life into complex characters created by the brilliant playwrights of every age. His dazzling performance in Steppenwolf's "Dublin Carol" late last year was my first opportunity to see him outside his Gil Grissom TV character. Petersen commands the stage and slips into his roles with convincing authority. He does not act. He is that character of the moment.
 A final note: I urge anyone who is not a Beckett scholar to read the program before the curtain goes up. I regret not having done so as the “Endgame” experience would have been even richer with the knowledge gained from Lavey’s Galati interview as well as artistic apprentice Rebecca Stevens’ analysis of the play and playwright in historical context.


BEVERLY THEATRE GUILD stages one of the most thrilling-twists-at-the-end mysteries ever to hit the stage, "Deathrap," April 30-May 2 at Baer Theater at Morgan Park Academy, 2153 W. 111th St., Chicago. Tickets, $20 each, as well as showtimes and more are at (773) 284-8497 and

DRAMA GROUP presents the musical"City of Angels" April 30-May 2 at the Bloom High School Theatre, Dixie Highway at Chicago Road, Chicago Heights. The show weaves two plots together, the 'real' world of a writer trying to turn his book into a screenplay and the 'reel' world of the fictional film. Tickets are $18 adults, $17 students and seniors, (708) 755-3444 and at This should be a phenomenal show. Alas, I am in Minnesota and will miss the production, so please savor it on my behalf as well!

DRURY LANE OAKBROOK TERRACE100 Drury Lane, presents the powerful musical  "Ragtime," with the theater's largest cast ever. The show continues through May 23. Tickets are $31-$45 and dinner packages can be purchased, (630) 530-0111, all Ticketmaster outlets and at www.drurylaneoakbrook.comSEE REVIEW BELOW.

ILLINOIS THEATRE CENTER, 371 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest, closes its mainstage season with "No Way to Treat A Lady," through May 2. "No Way ..." is billed as a "slightly twisted musical comedy" about a publicity crazed actor-turned-serial-killer. David Boettcher directs. Tickets are $19-$21 at (708) 481-3510. Joe Lehman and Debra Criche Mell (pictured at right) are among the featured actors starring in the production.

NOBLE FOOL THEATRICALS, Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage Theatre, 4051 E. Main St., St Charles, tackles the tough words (OK, the easy ones too) as "The Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" buzzes through St. Charles through June 13, and if you have not seen this riotous ode to adolescents and spelling bees, it's worth the trip. (I-355 extension dramatically reduces the drive time to St. Charles.) Tickets are $29 and $39 at (630) 584-6342 and Ticketmaster. 

OAK LAWN PARK DISTRICT THEATRE presents the musical story of Gypsy Rose Lee, "Gypsy," June 4-June 13 at Oak View Center, 110th Street and Kilpatrick, Oak Lawn. Tickets are $21, $20 seniors, (708) 857-2200.

ORLAND PARK THEATRE TROUPE travels to River City, Iowa, onstage of course, for one of America's favorite musicals, Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" April 30-May 2 at Carl Sandburg High School Performing Arts Center, 13600 LaGrange Road, Orland Park. Kristina Wilson and Bob Stewart star as Marian Paroo and Harold Hill (photo at right). Tickets are $18 adults, $16 seniors and students, $14 children 12 and under, (708) 403-7275 and and click on Recreation and Parks/Programs/Theatre. 

PALOS VILLAGE PLAYERS present "Enchanted April," April 30-May 8, weekends only, at Palos Park Recreation Center, 8901 W. 123rd St., Palos Park. Tickets are $15, $12 seniors, students at (877) 787-8497 and Sarah Lowrence (pictured) and Bruce Fredrick  strike less-than-pleased poses during rehearsal. Of course, I don't think they are irritated with each other but their characters certainly look irritated.

PROVISION THEATER COMPANY, 1001 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, presents the world premiere run of "The Hiding Place," based on the autobiography of Corrie ten Boom whose family joined the World War II Resistance to battle the Nazis and do what they could to undermine Hitler's "final solution." The production runs weekends through May 23; tickets are $25, $28 at (866) 811-4111 and

SPOTLIGHT THEATRE kicks off the summer with the Tennessee Williams classic, "The Night of the Iguana," June 11, 12 and 18, 19 at Sherman Recital Hall, Governors State University, University Park. Tickets are $14, $12 seniors and students at (708) 941-8294 and

STEPPENWOLF THEATRE, 1650 N. Halsted, Chicago explores the theme of belief with the extraordinary production of Samuel Beckett's "Endgame" directed by award-winning ensemble member, Frank Galati. The show runs continues through June 6. Nobel prize-winning playwright Beckett's play is described as an absurd comic masterpiece. Ensemble member William Petersen of "CSI" fame gives a riveting performance. Tickets are $20-$53 for previews, $20-$77 for regular run, (312) 335-1650. SEE REVIEW ABOVE!
Meanwhile Tarell Alvin McCraney's brilliant triptych, The Brother/Sister Plays," continues in the Steppenwolf upstairs through May 23. Sarah Gross' March review of the entire trilogy is at the end of the blog. Gross said the three one-act dramas are phenomenal, in the 'do not miss' category' for serious theater-goers. SEE REVIEW BELOW!
"An Evening with David Sedaris," best-selling author and NPR humorist, stops at the upstairs theater June 8-13. All tickets are $35.

THEATRE AT THE CENTER, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, takes its onstage vows with the Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt musical, "I Do! I Do!" an intimate (in the bedroom), nostalgic (as years go by) look at a couple's marriage through 50 years -- the good times, the not-so-good, the terrific and the really tough times. The show opened on Broadway in 1966 and has become a classic treasure in musical theater. The two-person production, featuring Chicago-based stage stars Bernie Yvon and Heidi Kettenring, continues through May 23. Tickets are at (219) 836-3255 and and

CHICAGO CHILDREN'S THEATRE presents the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia production, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites" through May 2 at Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive. Tickets are $35 adults, $25 children 12 and under and includes post show museum admission, (773) 227-0180, ext. 15 and at


Closing out its 32nd annual season, the ILLINOIS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA presents "Two Worlds, Old and New" at 8 p.m. May 22 at Lincoln-Way North Performing Arts Center, 19900 S. Harlem Ave. (turn west off Harlem where Vollmer Road goes east), Frankfort. The program features the masterful talents of Concertmaster Hal Grossman (pictured at right) and Assistant Concertmaster Elizabeth Huffman performing Bach's Concerto for Two Violins which premiered in 1731. The program also includes Symphony No. 9 in E minor from Dvorak's From the New World. Poulenc's Two Marches and an Interlude round out the program. Tickets are $30-$50 at (708) 481-7774 and, if any are left, at the box office before the performance.

DRURY LANE OAKBROOK, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, presents the legendary Bobby Vinton in three concerts after Mother's Day weekend, May 10 and 11. Tickets are $45-$55 with discounts for subscribers. Vinton's live shows leave nothing undone as he sings his greatest hits, 'Roses Are Red, My Love,' ''There, I've Said It Again,' 'Blue on Blue' and 'My Melody of Love,' the song that brought him the honorary title, the Polish Prince -- and many more chart toppers. Now in his 70s, Vinton remains the consummate stage performer. Tickets are at (630) 530-5203, and Ticketmaster.

CENTER FOR PERFORMING ARTS at Governors State University, University Park, presents "Whose Live Anyway" at 8 p.m. April 30. Based on the 1980s television series, "Whose Line Is It Anyway," the stage production features the same stars, Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Chip Esten and Jeff B. Davis. Tickets are $45 to $56 at (708) 235-2222 and at

"Starry Nights" at Homewood-Flossmoor Park District's annual summer concert series at IRWIN PARK, Highland Avenue and Ridge Road, Homewood, kicks off June 11 as Piano Man recreates the sounds of Billy Joel and Elton John. On June 25 Elevation performs U2 and Pink Houses plays John Cougar Mellencamp on July 23. Tickets on sale May 3 are $7 adult, $5 child at (708) 957-0300.

Dance International! fills the stage at 8 p.m. May 8 at OZINGA AUDITORIUM, Trinity Christian College, 5501 W. College Drive, Palos Heights. Tickets are $19-$24, $15-$19 seniors and $5 students; under 12 free, (708) 802-0686 and at


CHRISTOPHER ART GALLERY at Prairie State College, 202 S. Halsted St., Chicago Heights, will feature creative works by 12 graduating students, opening with an artists reception at noon, May 5. The artworks will remain on display through May 20. Information is at (708) 709-3636.

UNION STREET GALLERY, 1527 Otto Blvd., Chicago Heights, continues its exhibit "Pairs," through May 14. This exhibit focuses on pairs of related works by each participating artist. Pairs are displayed as 'partners,' inviting comparisons of subject, style, size and color. Other events, including classes with professional artists, fundraisers a variety of special happenings and all the info you need for a visit to the gallery are at and at (708) 754-2601. Gallery admission is free.


ADLER PLANETARIUM AND ASTRONOMY MUSEUM, 1300 S. Michigan Ave. (at the east end of Solidarity Drive on the Museum Campus), (312) 922-7827 (STAR).  The first planetarium in the western world packs in a universe of information, exhibits, extraordinary shows. Kids will fly a shuttle, explore a new planet, spend time in extra terrestrial housing in an all-new permanent exhibit, Planet Explorers. This wondrous hands-on, climb in, launch into space exploration will entice the kid in everyone. I admit, I wanted to fly the shuttle but instead climbed in and out of the off-world living quarters. This astronomically exciting 'space park' is free with general admission. While you are up on the third floor, don't forget to check out Shoot for the Moon, a two-gallery look at the history of pre-shuttle spaceflight with loads of memorabilia, videos and more, all anchored with the authentic Gemini 12 spacecraft that carried astronauts Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin on a 59-orbit, 2.5 million km. journey in space in November 1966. Everything you need to know for a trip down there is at

Yes, Alice, there is a planetarium in Will County. The stars shine often in Joliet at the intimate HERBERT TRACKMAN PLANETARIUM, one of the Southland's far-too-well-kept secrets, located on the main campus of Joliet Junior College, 1215 Houbolt Road (be sure to get directions to the planetarium). If you have not made the trip, you're missing a real treat. The 6:30 p.m. Thursday shows are geared to the younger set. Coming up on April 29 "Are There Aliens?" and on May 13, "Comets and Asteroids." The 7:30 p.m. Tuesday series is for the junior high and older set. Coming up May 4"The Seasonal Skies: May." and on May 18, "The Search for Intelligent Life." Further information is at (815) 729-9020 or go to and search Trackman. PLEASE NOTE: Astronomer Art wants to assure everyone that the world will NOT end on Dec. 21, 2012.

A Matisse blockbuster continues at the ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO: The world-class art museum111 S. Michigan Ave., looks at an extraordinary period in the life of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) in an original exhibit created by the Art Institute with the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Check out this Art Institute video for "Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917." Time frame in the artist's career generatedthe iconic "Bathers by the River" in the Art Institute collection. The exhibit runs through June 20 and is included in general admission! All the information you'll need for an Art Institute visit are at

BROOKFIELD ZOO300 Golf Road, between Interstates 55 and 290, debuts the "Great Bear Wilderness" on May 8. All the information you need for a day at Brookfield is at (Chicago Zoological Society).

DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY, 740 E. 56th Place, Chicago, presents what should be a fascinating look at one movement in that battle against racism: "The Black Panthers: Making Sense of History." The exhibit joins permanent galleries focused on different eras of blacks throughout American History. Museum details are at (773) 947-0600.          

FIELD MUSEUM, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive (on the Museum Campus), (312) 922-9410. Guess who is having a birthday? Yes, T. rex Sue naturally is millions of years old, but she celebrates her 10th anniversary at Field Museum with a package of exciting prehistoric adventures May 26-Sept. 6. A film production. "Waking the T. rex 3-D; The story of Sue" will take visitors on an amazing Sue adventure. And "RoboSue: The T. rex Experience" will feature robotic Sue, a robotic dino that will almost interact with visitors -- safely of course. And for the serious Sue fans, on May 29-May 31, Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the archeological wonder, will be at the Field to talk about her adventures, answer questions and sign autographs. The spectacular Sue doings will require special tickets. Meanwhile "Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age," a 7,500-square-foot exhibit, continues through Sept. 4 and will thrill even the most jaded Ice Age fan. Star of this exhibit is a 40,000-year-old baby mammoth. At adulthood, the huge animals weighed as much as eight tons with tusks that could reach 16 feet in length. Alas, these cousins of elephants died out, but fortunately left a huge fossil record. Museum visitors will discover answers to many qustions including how the prehistoric creatures balanced their tusks, how much they ate and how elephants 'talk' to each other. Special all-access tickets will be required for the Sue spectacular. Details of Hendrickson's talks are at (312) 665-7100. Information about Field Museum is at

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, 220 E. Chicago Ave., presents an exhibit of works by Steve Krakow, also known at "Plastic Crimewave." More than 100 original 'info strips" are on display. Additionally, four concerts will take place in May with musicians featured in Krakow's strips. which run every other week in the Chicago Reader newspaper. The exhibit runs from May 7-30 and Krakow will discuss his work at an Artist's Talk at 6 p.m. May 11. Also mark your calendar for June 26 when Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art debuts. Calder will continue through Oct. 17. All the exhibit details and info you need to plan an MCA visit are at

Explore the universe with "Hubble," the latest Omnimax film at the MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. This thrilling adventure takes you where few have ever gone before. Then check out the phenomena of storms, such as lightning (at right), one of the many high tech looks at Mother Nature in "Science Storms," the recently opened, two-level, 26,000 square feet permanent exhibit included with general admission. Also, now playing in the Omnimax theatre. All the details and everything you need to plan a day at MSI are at

PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, continues its series of free nature films with the May 6 and 27 showings of "On the Wings of the Monarch," a documentary that follows host Libby Graham on an amazing journey into the life of the monarch butterfly. All the information you need for a Notebaert Nature Museum visit are at

Visitors to SHEDD AQUARIUM, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, can now see the four-month old baby beluga in the Oceanarium. Also, "Happy Feet -D Experience" is playing in the renovated theater. Visitors will travel to Antarctica and meet a lively cast of penguin characters in this magical 12-minute, 4-D family feature. Check out all the details and events as well as plan your trip to the world-famous Shedd Aquarium at

‘Ragtime’ soars through Drury Lane 

He is Q. His presence completely fills the house with a tangible energy, a positive force that gains strength throughout the evening.
Q would be phenomenal actor Quentin Earl Darrington (pictured above) whose bravura Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Drury Lane Theatre’s “Ragtime” stunned the Oakbrook Terrace house for nearly three hours on opening night.
In fact, the entire cast in the theater’s lavish production keeps a tight grip on the audience with riveting performances.
Loosely based on the E.L. Doctorow novel of the same name, “Ragtime” weaves together three stories and three families -- upscale white New Yorkers, a trio of African Americans and Latvian immigrants, a father and daughter, who have arrived in New York with nothing but hope. The unlikely paths of all cross in early 20th century America with profound impacts on the lives of all.
“Ragtime” celebrates life while it reveals the inequities, cruelty and northern style lynchings blacks dealt with every day.
Cory Goodrich’s dazzling performance of the upscale Mother was touching, humane and strong, and Larry Adams as the baffled, confused Father, whose lifestyle and mores remained stuck in the 19th century, was brilliant.
Mark David Kaplan, Max Quinlan and Valisia LeKae as the Immigrant, Mother’s Younger Brother and Sarah, respectively, were phenomenal and their performances kept the house energy high and stage chemistry hot.
This was the third “Ragtime” production I had seen over the years, and the only one that had a grip on me throughout the night.
The superb cast under Rachel Rockwell’s direction and Roberta Duchak’s music direction came together in a “Ragtime” that thrilled the audience from the moment it began. Every musical number garnered a huge round of hoots and applause, and when the cast began taking its bows, virtually everyone jumped up immediately to join in the thundering standing ovation.
If this show and its actors do not capture Jeff Awards, I cannot imagine what will. 
The show continues through May 23. Tickets are $31-$45 and dinner packages can be purchased, (630) 530-0111, all Ticketmaster outlets and at    
Powerful Brother/Sister Plays' extended through May 23

Review by Sarah Gross 
Tarell Alvin McCraney’s triptych “The Brother/Sister Plays,” running through May 23 at The Steppenwolf Theatre, seamlessly melds elements of theater with storytelling, poetry, and music (playwright photo at right). McCraney’s talent and accomplishment belie his 29 years. His writing is contemporary and timeless, as fresh and raw as it is mythic and tragic.
The full-length “In the Red and Brown Water” is performed in rotation with a double bill of one-act plays, “The Brothers Size” and “Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet.”  The plays share characters and setting; they complement each other but stand alone. 
All three plays are set in a poor African-American housing project in the south. An extraordinarily talented ensemble cast brings the setting and characters to life under the poignant, spare direction of Steppenwolf member Tina Landau.
Speaking their own stage directions, the characters turn to the audience with words that reveal or create a scene. These directions range from the simple, “Enter - the boys” and “Exit Shongo,” to the descriptive and poetic, “Oya, sitting on the front porch, humming, then crying.” This storytelling-like technique draws the audience into an intimate relationship with the actors and characters.
The first segment of the trilogy, “In the Red and Brown Water,” tells the tragic story of Oya (Alana Arenas), a young woman forced to choose between an athletic scholarship and staying home to care for her mother. As the story unfolds, she also struggles with the pain of unrequited love and the grief of discovering her infertility. Oya’s journey is both eased and complicated by the colorful cast of characters in her community.
 “In the Red and Brown Water” employs an ancient technique, the Greek chorus, whose haunting chants accentuate the dialogue. Music also sets the scene in a stirring rendition of the gospel song “Down By The Riverside,” which marks the passing of one of the characters.
“The Brothers Size,” performed by a cast of three, captures the kinship of brotherhood as Ogun Size (K. Todd Freeman) attempts to rebuild a relationship with younger brother Oshoosi (Phillip James Brannon), who was just released from prison. When the brothers break into song and dance for a spontaneous rendition of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” their playful intimacy makes this scene one of the trilogy’s highlights.
In the final play, “Marcus: Or the Secret of Sweet,” teenaged Marcus struggles to come to terms with his homosexuality. Like Oya, Marcus finds both support and conflict in his community.
“Theatre is one of the rare opportunities where we are all together taking a leap of faith to believe something…to pretend for a moment that this is happening," said playwright McCraney in a post-show talk.
Steppenwolf’s production of “The Brother/Sister Plays” invites you to take this leap of faith with an ensemble of immense talent.



photo by sarah gross

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Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.