Whether it’s a gala event, a once-in-a-lifetime concert or a hidden gem of a play, we’re here to up your cultural (and fun) IQ. Here are top picks for your cultural calendar for the coming week, the coming month and beyond.
1 Classical pianist David Fray gained a lot of attention (perhaps too much) for his unusual, expressive personality at the keyboard; he hunches down like a question mark over the keyboard and his face is like an emotional billboard. But he’s also an incredibly gifted interpreter of Bach and other giants of the keyboard repertoire. In concert this weekend at Symphony Center, he will play Preludes and Fugues from Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” along with Boulez’s “Notations,” Schoenberg’s “Three Pieces” and Brahms’ “Seven Fantasies.” June 5, 3 p.m. $27-$81. Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., 312-294-3000
2 Now that we’ve gotten the long Memorial Day weekend under our belts, summer street festival season is in full swing. The Do Division festival is one of the biggies, a sidewalk sale by Division Street merchants with a steady background of live music and of course much food and beer. (There’s also a subfestival called the Do Division Family Fun Fest, set off from the main action, where you can take the kids for pony rides, face painting and the like.) I’ll confess that I don’t recognize any of the bands playing (programmed by the Empty Bottle and Subterranean), which makes me feel very old indeed, but do you go to a street fair to hear famous musicians? Seriously? June 3-5. Admission by donation. Division Street between Damen Avenue and Leavitt Street
3 The 1886 Haymarket riot, in which protesters and police came together in a toxic mix that left at least 11 dead (seven of them police officers) and dozens wounded when someone threw a bomb and police opened fire in response, feels in some ways very topical indeed, with a clash between police and protesters, burning class resentment and massive media attention focused on Chicago’s violence problem. The new musical “Haymarket: The Anarchist’s Songbook” takes us inside the protest movement, with socialists and anarchists debating means and ends in the days leading up to the incident, then shows us the trial and punishment of leaders whose connection to the fatal bomb was tenuous at best. The songs by David Kornfeld are an interesting mix of styles, but share an expressive intensity, deftly performed by the talented cast, many of whom play instruments as well as singing. The book, by Alex Higgin-Houser, draws on the extensive writings about the incident to give us a sense of the internal struggles of a political movement. Certainly, this musical is one-sided (no policeman gets a song, and the trial is presented as farcical political theater); but it does give you some things to think about, and the show is overall an impressive debut for the new Underscore Theatre Company. Through June 12. $20-$35. Edge Theatre, 5451 N. Broadway Ave., 312-646-0975
4 The Chicago Rhythm Fest is a percussive performance that brings together the Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s resident troupe Bam, Trinity Irish Dance Company, Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, Mexican Folkloric Dance Company of Chicago and Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater for an evening of choreography from a variety of cultures and dance traditions. That’s a lot of dance talent packed onto one stage. June 4, 7:30 p.m. $28-$68. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy., 312-341-2300
5 If you are looking for some art, and you want to support local artists (or if you just want some really good people-watching) the 57th Street Art Fair should be on your schedule. It’s a juried art fair, so you can see what the jury thinks is good; but there’s enough art for sale (about 250 exhibitors every year) that you can find something you like. June 4-5. Free. 57th Street between Kenwood and Woodlawn avenues
6 Honestly, much of the time I simply don’t understand contemporary art, but sometimes that’s a good thing. Such is the case with the art collective the Propeller Group, based in Vietnam. Their work, involving video and other mass media, incorporates ideas from advertising and politics mashed together into art that raises questions about consumerism, progress and the homogenization and internationalization of society. At least, that’s my guess. If you want a better chance at saying something more in-depth about their work, check out the new exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art and attend an artist talk in which the members of the group might even give you some idea of how to understand their work. Or not. They are artists, after all. Talk June 4, 3 p.m., exhibition through Nov. 13. $12 suggested admission. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., 312-280-2660
7 The Orion Ensemble, a chamber music group made up of five incredibly gifted women, has titled their latest concert “Musical Enchantments,” and composer Antonin Dvorak’s “Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola,” one of three works on the program, certainly lives up to the name. Though Dvorak excelled at big orchestral works (cf., “New World Symphony”), these delicate little pieces are also completely charming. Also on the program are works by Johannes Brahms and under-appreciated early 20th century composer Amy Beach. June 5, 7:30 p.m. $26. Music Institute of Chicago, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston
8 When it comes to filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, heated arguments break out among film lovers over which of his films is his best. The proponents of “The Master” call the fans of “Boogie Nights” nostalgic sentimentalists. The “Boogie Nights” crowd roll their eyes and mutter dark things about “rigid formal distance” in “The Master.” Personally, I’d make an argument for “There Will Be Blood,” a work that takes a hard look at American drive and greed through a series of indelible sequences (I can easily call to mind the opening 10 minutes, with its harrowing portrayal of digging in a silver mine), anchored by two great performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips will screen and discuss the film as part of a series sponsored by the National Society of Film Critics. June 7, 7 p.m. $12. Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave.
9 If all the hype around Shakespeare 400, the yearlong citywide celebration of the anniversary of the bard’s death, has you feeling like it’s all a bit high-toned (Forsooth!), you might get a kick out of the Improvised Shakespeare Company, a local long-form improv troupe that takes an audience suggestion for a new play title, then riffs in Elizabethan language for a full-blown two-act play. It’s a remarkable high-wire act of homage and comedy. Ongoing, Thursdays 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 8 p.m., 10:30 p.m. $16. Del Close Theater at IO, 1501 N. Kingsbury St., 312 929-2401
10 Big-voiced belter Adele has made a career of soul-baring songs about the joy and pain of love. Drawing on the soulful style of singers such as Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald, but throwing in over-the-top Celine Dion drama, she delivers a song with almost alarming intensity. The “Saturday Night Live” skits about her song “Hello” gets at the almost magical power of her singing. In the United Center, where she’ll play three shows in July, she’s got a venue she can fill with that massive voice (and, one assumes, a pretty big audience). July 10, 11, 13. $39.95–$149.50. United Center, 1901 W. Madison St.
|Event schedules and availability change; phone ahead. Send your weekend tips in an email (without attachments) with the date in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like this email? Pass it on! Easy one-click sign-up is here.