Monday, December 7, 2009

Culture watch

Here's a look at some shows worth your time now playing around town.
  • Taming of the Flu is the new mainstage comedy show at The Second City, opening as the comedy institution spends the month of December celebrating its 50th anniversary. I was fortunate to attend the premiere last night and found it funny and entertaining. My Flavorpill preview is forthcoming.
  • Also at Second City, Studs Terkel's Not Working continues its run in the e.t.c. theater. With a solid cast and sharp writing, there's a lot to like in this show. It runs through the holidays, after which the cast will begin writing and gradually work in material toward a new revue, so catch it while you can. My Flavorpill preview is here.
  • Yet again at Second City, this year's The Second City That Never Sleeps: Letters to Santa comedy and music benefit is set for Tuesday, December 15 through Wednesday, December 16. It's the eighth annual staging of a nifty holiday tradition in which 24 straight hours of big-name rock bands and comedy stars raise money to buy presents for underprivileged local kids in response to their actual letters to Santa Claus retrieved at the Chicago post office. With performers like Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, the Upright Citizens Brigade's Horatio Sanz and Matt Walsh, and The Mountain Goats, everybody wins. My Flavorpill preview is here.
  • Second City didn't produce but its Donny's Skybox Theatre plays host to Ass'09 (pronounced "asinine"), a comedic year-in-revue sendup from impresario and FOBB&B David Facchini. I would have seen it Friday night but it sold out before I could get tickets. Ass'09 runs through December 18; tickets at
  • If it's December it must be time for A Christmas Carol. The Goodman Theatre's annual staging of the holiday classic runs through the end of the month. I liked this year's model and enjoyed the stalwart Larry Yando in the lead role. My Flavorpill preview is here.
  • Missed last night's Broadway premiere of Race, David Mamet's hot new play? Same here. But there's another Mamet opening closer to home this weekend (if your home is Chicago, anyway) when the Steppenwolf Theatre officially premieres its new revival of Mamet's landmark fast-talker American Buffalo. Amy Morton directs her fellow Steppenwolf ensemble members Francis Guinan and August: Osage County playwright Tracy Letts. (What doesn't this guy do? Can he block for Matt Forte?) Previews are now underway; my Flavorpill preview is forthcoming.
  • The Addams Family is a new musical starring two-time Tony winners Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, now running in an eight-week Chicago tryout en route to Broadway. Officially opens Wednesday but previews are underway. My Flavorpill preview is here. I also attended the show's opening press conference last spring, where I got the skinny on Charles Addams and his macabre characters' New Yorker magazine pedigree. Read about it here.
  • As if playing Grandmama in The Addams Family eight shows a week weren't enough, Jackie Hoffman is also working on her night off. The Second City veteran is playing the Royal George Theatre on Monday nights in a one-woman showcase for her brassy comedic gifts. Whining in the Windy City: Holiday Edition runs through December 21. My Flavorpill preview is here.
  • Want something seasonal? Uplifting? Outdoor? Musical? Participatory? Free? Then check out Caroling at Cloud Gate, the City of Chicago's annual festival of a cappella holiday carols sung live in Millennium Park under the "Bean." A different group of choristers leads the singing every Friday night at 6pm, with free coffee and hot chocolate courtesy of Caribou Coffee. Two more weeks. My Flavorpill preview is here.
  • Prefer your Christmas entertainment funny? Dirty? Late-night? Gonzo? Then get over to ComedySportz Theatre, where the notorious improv group The Hot Karl presents their in-your-face brand of holiday entertainment in Santa Claus Conquers the Nazis. My Flavorpill preview is here.
  • Like Wicked before it, Jersey Boys came to Chicago from Broadway, set up camp downtown and made all the money. The slickly produced and highly enjoyable story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons runs through the holidays and closes its wildly successful two-year run on January 10. My Flavorpill preview is here.
  • The road from Broadway runs in both directions, as Million Dollar Quartet has announced it's picking up stakes after the new year and transferring to the Great White Way. It's the true tale of the now-legendary 1956 all-night jam session when Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis -- oh, and Elvis Presley -- cranked out each other's songs at Sam Phillips' Sun Studios in Memphis. They'll play the hits and you'll love it. Through January 3. My Flavorpill preview is here.
  • If your idea of standup comedy is a middle-aged, middle-class American standing in front of a brick wall on cable television complaining about his wife, there's a whole big world out there you should get to know, creatively and geographically. You can do both at Make Chai Not War, a showcase for some of the best young comedians in the business, several of whom happen to be of Indian or Muslim descent. Local favorite Hannibal Buress, now writing for Saturday Night Live, headlines. Make Chai Not War plays the Lakeshore Theater this Sunday evening in a benefit for Apna Ghar, a shelter for abused women and children. My Flavorpill preview is here.

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