Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman is Gorey-meets-Kafkaon March 4, 2020 at 12:15 am

Once upon a time, in a room that looked like a fifth-grade classroom after a firebombing followed by an era of mildew, a man named Katurian (Martel Manning) was being questioned. Katurian was a writer of stories that felt like Edward Gorey had infiltrated the dreams of Franz Kafka. In a totalitarian dictatorship such as he was in, the resemblance of recent child murders to the themes of his writing has been taken as practical proof of his guilt. “We like executing writers. . . . You execute a writer, it sends out a signal, y’know?” says good cop Tupolski (Cyd Blakewell). Bad cop Ariel (Gregory Fenner) is less concerned with messaging than with the noble use of excessive force, an obsession pegged to his “problem childhood.”

Amid the interrogation and torture, the theme of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman (2003) is storytelling itself–what we write, and why, and what happens when the sense we make of senseless things like loss becomes the trap of a flawed existence, rather than an escape from it. Under Laura Alcala Baker’s direction, Gift Theatre’s production tensely renders the darkness and the wonder of McDonagh’s brilliant nightmare. Katurian’s relationship with his abused brother Michal (Jay Worthington) roams from protection to disillusionment, sometimes burdened by and sometimes made divine by love, representing the best and worst of characters who never lose touch with their human qualities in a world with no happy endings. Inspired use of puppetry (designed by Daniel Dempsey) brings Katurian’s stories, which structure the work, to life. v

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Haven hands us an extra-tense Titus Andronicuson March 4, 2020 at 12:30 am

Titus Andronicus is a bloody tale about the illusion of peacetime. Despite being a child of the Clinton administration, I didn’t realize it until I sat through Haven’s latest production at the Den, directed by Ian Damont Martin. But that’s exactly what keeps the show relevant. Haven handily rises to that occasion, loading the show with contemporary commentary about race, gender, legacy, and violence that expands the Bard’s work in rebellious form. Here, I saw the tragedy of liberal politics, the failures of political reconciliation without institutional change.

In this rendition, an artful and highly choreographed battle between the Romans and Goths kicks off the story, which leads victorious Titus (Colin Jones) back to Rome and the emergence of Saturninus’s (Christopher Wayland Jones) rules. The rest of the juicy plot follows an ever-growing cycle of vengeance verging on Grand Guignol.

From Sarah Espinoza’s gorgeous and brassy sound design to Gabrielle Lott-Rogers’s brutal, brilliant performance as Marcus, this adaptation blows it out of the water. This is truly an intricate and tight take. From the top, costume designer Lilly Walls’s use of color in the show is apparent: the Romans are Black actors donning elaborate black costumes; the surviving Goths–all white actors–are in blood-soaked white tatters. It’s a smart reversal of the harmful tradition that treats whiteness as “pure” and Blackness as “dirty.” The gendering of the roles is also defiant and chaotic, complicating Shakespearian masculinity in profound ways. The revenge might be served in piping-hot pie crusts, but this production’s ability to draw out classic bleak humor while offering fresh themes really brings the heat. v

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Michael O’Brien’s high school basketball notebookon March 4, 2020 at 4:16 am

No game for me tonight, which is always weird with so much going on but a necessary thing while I work on the All-Area team and Player of the Year story. That will all be out on Friday.

Mike Clark was over at Carver tonight, checking in on Corliss and King.

Lets get into the games. Not a ton of upsets but some interesting scores.


Simeon 94, Juarez 34: Not much surprise in this one. DePaul recruit Ahamad Bynum left in the third quarter with an ankle injury but Wolverines coach Robert Smith says he’s going to be ok. Sincere Callwood led the way with 15 points.

Maine West 66, Rolling Meadows 61: Minor upset here and so much for that hyped Max Christie vs. Dom Martinelli showdown.

Glenbard East 75, Willowbrook 70 OT: Good one here. DaRon Hall scored 31 and Jack Rivas won it with a put back just before the buzzer.

Glenbrook South 67, Conant 48: Dom Martinelli scores his 2,000th point. Had 30 as the Titans cruised.

West Aurora 47, Waubonsie Valley 41: This was the first upset of the night. Ben Schwieger returned from injury to play for the Warriors but it wasn’t enough to hold off West Aurora, which was just 9-19 in the regular season. Kelvin Balfour scored 18 for the Blackhawks.

Mundelein 82, Wheeling 38: Trey Baker nails 12 three-pointers. He scored 42 points in about 20 minutes of play according to Jeff Newton. Scottie Ebube added 17 points and nine rebounds.

Evanston 58, Hoffman Estates 45: This one was close for awhile. Blake Peters scord 20 and Jaylin Gibson added 13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and six steals.

Homewood-Flossmoor 104, Shepard 50: Nothing like posting triple digits in the first playoff game. A statement number for the Vikings, especially coming off that loss at Bolingbrook last week. RJ Ogom scored 21 and H-F drained 17 three-pointers.

Marian Catholic 68, TF South 44: A very solid win for the Spartans. Yemi Elutilo led the way with 19, Ahron Ulis had 18 and Elijah Joiner chipped in with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Word is that Joe Green is no longer with the team.

Buffalo Grove 83, Hersey 69: Another monster game for sophomore Kam Craft, who scored 37 to lead the Bison into the regional final.

Bolingbrook 80, Plainfield East 61: Darius Burford, possibly the most effective scorer that hasn’t received a ton of press this season, led the way with 31 points.


St. Viator 58, Grayslake North 43: Connor Kochera posts 31 points and eight rebounds to lead the Lions.

Oak Forest 65, Brooks 54: This is the game I had my eye on tonight and it did wind up close but the Bengals pass the test. Jayson Kent led the way with 24 points and sophomore Robbie Avila scored 19. Isaiah Tolbert and Amron Hammons each had 14 for Brooks.


Clark 74, Wells 38: I saw this one in the regular season and expected a much closer game. Looks like the Eagles are firing on all cylinders. Sophomore Darrius Perryman continued his solid play with 22 points and seven rebounds. Senior Carion Weathers added 18 points,


Fenger 70, Yorkville Christian 59: What a huge win for the White Division team. Donovan Taylor is living up to his billing as one of the best unknown players in the city. He scored 20. Micah Schnyders led Yorkville Christian with 20.

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Even in sports, there is no immunity from the coronaviruson March 4, 2020 at 4:42 am

The coronavirus is here, and it will affect many parts of our lives, though to what degree we don’t know.

What once was a distant, new, at times deadly virus afflicting people way off in Wuhan, China, has now spread across the world to the United States.

The disease has shown up in Illinois, where, as of this writing, four cases have been reported in the Chicago area with many others in the state being “actively monitored” for symptoms.

With an incubation phase that can take up to two weeks, and some of the infected apparently showing few or no symptoms during that time, it’s not hard to see how the virus spreads.

Old images of the way a geometric progression goes from one to two to four to a trillion like a runaway Wile E. Coyote rocket ship spring to mind.

But it’s best to forget such cartoon visions and remember rationally that this is an emerging disease about which not everything is known and that the common influenza, which hits our country every season, kills as many as 60,000 Americans annually. And yet lots of citizens don’t bother to get flu shots. The devil you know becomes boring.

Still, something is up here. And the coronavirus’ unsettling impact on our daily lives, the economy and our blessed world of sport is certain, even if the extent is up in the air.

Already games have been canceled, postponed or closed to spectators around the world in reaction to the virus.

In Japan, spring-league baseball games are played in front of no one. In Dublin, the rugby match between Ireland and Italy in the Six Nations tournament was canceled. Similar tournament games in Hong Kong and Singapore have been pushed back until October.

Italian pro soccer games have been postponed or delayed indefinitely. The world indoor track and field championships, scheduled for March 13-15 in Nanjing, China, have been postponed by a year. The world short-track speed skating championships that also were supposed to be held March 13-15 in Seoul, South Korea, will be held next fall, if at all.

Closer to home, the NBA has sent messages to its players to no longer high-five fans (or foes, one assumes) but to fist-bump instead. Or do nothing.

The huge housewares show scheduled for McCormick Place is taking no chances, either. The event was canceled, taking with it the 47,000 hotel nights that were reserved. Think that affects the local economy?

Even the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has new standards for priests using the chalice during Mass, parishioners shaking hands (no more), the dispensing of Communion (don’t touch the tongue!), etc.

What a pandemic such as the coronavirus does is remind us of how fragile we are as living creatures. And then it reminds us of how blessed we are to have societal rituals such as sports — for athletes and observers — and how we take them for granted until they’re disturbed or stopped.

“Obviously, everyone is concerned because you don’t want anything like [the virus] to occur, and you don’t want to spread it,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said after hearing the new guidelines from MLB regarding sanitary procedures for players.

Indeed, where else do Americans come together in such large numbers in such close proximity to one another more than at sporting events? A little paranoia can go a long way in cutting our comfort zone.

College, high school, even grade school games and their ensuing tournaments need to be rethought, or at least be prepared for possible delay.

IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said Tuesday that though the virus is ”a topical discussion item for the foreseeable future” the high school organization has ”no plans to suspend or alter any IHSA winter State Series tournaments at this juncture.” However, Anderson said the IHSA will actively work with health departments and medical experts to keep ”students safe.”

Which brings us to the elephant in the room: the 2020 Summer Olympics scheduled for Tokyo in July. Billions of dollars and the immediate futures of thousands of athletes and tens of thousands of workers hang in the balance.

Will the coronavirus have been brought under control by summer? Indeed, planners think that May is probably the latest that a decision must be made to effectively hold or cancel the Games. Will the disease be considered little more than a nuisance by then, like the common cold, which radio announcer and President Trump favorite Rush Limbaugh has declared — without evidence — it is?

The Olympics have been outright canceled only three times — 1916, 1940, 1944 — during the two World Wars.

Maybe we’ve got a virus world war just starting here. Or maybe a passing sneeze.

Let’s hope for the latter.

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Fans and friends help beloved DJ Teri Bristol pay her medical billson March 3, 2020 at 8:00 pm

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Gossip Wolf has been tearing it up at Chicago clubs to the mixes of legendary DJ Teri Bristol since the mid-90s. Fellow enthusiasts of late-night booty shaking no doubt remember her epic sets at Medusa’s, at Smart Bar, and alongside Psycho-Bitch at Crobar’s Sunday-night G.L.E.E. Club (aka Gay, Lesbian, Everyone’s Equal). In January, Bristol was hospitalized in Tennessee for kidney failure; she’s had surgery and gone on dialysis, and her bills are piling up. To raise money, a slew of friends and top-notch DJs–including Greg Haus, DJ Heather, Jeff Pazen, Jevon Jackson, Boy Alberto, and Blu 9–will spin at the One Love for Teri Bristol fund-raiser at Smart Bar on Saturday, March 28. Fans can also donate to a GoFundMe page set up by Bristol’s loved ones. Get well soon, Teri! This wolf can’t wait to see you back behind the decks!

Impulsive Hearts have a history of dropping summer-themed jams just when it seems like warm weather might never come back–plus they use their music to do good! The local five-piece, led by singer-songwriter Danielle Sines, donated proceeds from a 2019 EP to Chicago sexual-violence-prevention nonprofit Resilience. Their excellent sophomore full-length, Cry All The Time, arrives Friday, March 6 (via Midwest Action and Cavity Search), and a portion of vinyl sales will benefit Girls Rock! Chicago. Impulsive Hearts play Thursday, March 19, at Sleeping Village as part of Midwest Action’s Spring Showcase with Bev Rage & the Drinks, Harvey Fox, and Richard Album.

Last week, oddball soul visionary Zango the Third released a charming, synth-based album called Boketto, which he wrote following “a profound experience with my brother that prepped me for tragedies that happened in the coming months.” The contemplative mood he lends to his easygoing melodies makes songs such as the yacht-rock-tinged “Tree Bark Crown (Resurface)” even better. v

Got a tip? Tweet @Gossip_Wolf or e-mail

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Noise musician Jason Soliday on a voice that makes electronics mooton March 3, 2020 at 8:25 pm

A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

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Horse Lords, The Common Task This instrumental Baltimore four-piece combine explosive joy with ferocious rhythmic discipline. The baffling metrical ambiguity in their swams of morphing and overlapping ostinatos means that when this stuff is danceable–and it often is–you can choose any one of three or four different beats. The songs on their new album, The Common Task, can sound like overcaffeinated Tuareg “desert blues,” like 17 robots all trying to get into the same elevator, or like a reggaeton beat in a clothes dryer. And despite the avant-garde and academic influences that inform Horse Lords’ music, their live show isn’t a chin-stroking music-appreciation exercise–it boils over with the rowdy energy they get back from the crowd.

Sugar Shack, “You’re a Freak” Houston garage band Sugar Shack released this corny stomper in 1992, during their ersatz grunge phase, and my smartass college buddies adopted it as a theme song: “You’re a freak and you don’t even know it / We’re all freaks and we’re not afraid to show it.” RIP to guitarist Austin Thomerson, killed in November while trying to foil a pawnshop robbery.

Hot Snakes, “Suicide Invoice” The Greatest Living Posthardcore Band played this cold knife of an earworm at Music Frozen Dancing. The next day, I learned that Jeff VanderMeer (of Annihilation fame) had used its lyrics as an epigram for his new novel, Dead Astronauts: “And when I dream / I keep my promises to you / I really do.” Both the book and the song are improved by the association.

Philip is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

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Ohne If forced to claim a favorite band, I’d probably pick Ohne, the short-lived quartet of Daniel Lowenbruck, Reto Mader, Dave Phillips, and Tom Smith. The absurd actionist musique concrete on their album Ohne 1 has everything I love about noise: it jump-cuts from crisp electric sizzle to surreal tape collage to jarring squall to piano-and-accordion skronk, and it’s all somehow both adept and ham-fisted. Between tense silences, it splices in vocal barks, belches, laughs, and amplified apple chewing–and over the top floats Smith’s disconcerting yet compelling croon. It’s chaos, but it flows incredibly well due to tight editing and deft improvisational skills.

Co-dependent A few times per month, Co-dependent releases an album with a color-gradient circle for a cover, titled with CODE plus a three-digit number. Each contains contemporary electronic and computer music, covering a wide spectrum: rhythmic dance-floor pulses, deep drones, knots of generative noise. It’s the musical equivalent of a gumball-machine egg: you never know what you’re going to get, and if you don’t like it, there’s another surprise coming. Current favorites include RM Francis’s squiggling pulsar synthesis on CODE889 and 333’s enigmatic sine-wave transmissions on CODE333.

Charmaine Lee at the Kitchen, 11/20/2018 I wasn’t familiar with vocal improviser Charmaine Lee before stumbling across this YouTube video, but that’s something I’ll need to rectify–I was floored by the variety of sounds Lee can coax from a voice and a microphone. It’s a humbling reminder for this electronics obsessive: you don’t need a pile of knobs and wires to create a compelling sound world.

Mia is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

Eartheater, aka Alexandra Drewchin - SAMANTHA WEST

Jen Kutler, Disembodied The most intriguing release of 2019 was Jen Kutler’s Disembodied, an album generated by vibrations and movements captured with an electronic ring worn on the finger by a series of feminine-spectrum people bringing themselves to orgasm. In what Kutler calls a “de-sexualization experiment,” data transmitted from the ring is transformed into MIDI files that activate pure tones, field recordings, and granular synthesis; these voices are then edited into lush drones, complex harmonies, and engrossing textures.

Eartheater, Trinity Raw power. Trinity is the third studio album from multi-instrumentalist, composer, and vocalist Eartheater, aka Alexandra Drewchin. It’s slippery with electronic-oriented dance swells and multi-octave vocal crashes. The track “High Tide,” produced by AceMo, absolutely crushes. Drewchin’s set last year at the Hideout’s beloved Resonance Series proved her total mastery of the craft.

Beyond/Below mix series Drop out and tune in to Beyond/Below, an ambient mix series run by Chicago’s Hi-Vis (who curates the Dreamtone label and organizes Neon Falls events with Sold). It features new international artists with a focus on deep listening. The mixes include psychedelic electronics, hallucinatory dream states, and voyages of warped time. And every one has a track list. v

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The Make-Up bring their clever, liberation-heavy soul-punk back to the masseson March 3, 2020 at 10:50 pm

The wit of Ian Svenonius is something to which we’ve never quite been privy, a clever commentary between him and himself that’s probably brilliant despite being totally impenetrable to everyone else. (Have you read his book Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group?) Sometimes you have no choice but to respect an artist’s commitment, even if you can’t totally parse their ambition. Lucky for us, we’ve been privileged to watch Svenonius live his own legend for three decades, dressed to the nines and commanding stages with a panache that he’d probably be the first to say is borrowed from 60s soul front men. Though he first emerged in the late 80s as front man of D.C. punk band Nation of Ulysses, Svenonius is perhaps most famous for his stint leading the Make-Up, which formed in 1995. Though they’ve played a handful of reunion shows since breaking up in 2000, Svenonius recently resurrected that posse, which in the late 90s rethought what it meant to be an underground, politically charged punk band. The Make-Up’s stripped-clean, lo-fi sound leans hard into gospel and soul, preaches much more than it snarls, and ultimately paved a path for a glut of early-2000s imitators who aimed to smash the state in three-piece suits. Today their records, such as 1997’s Sound Verite and 1999’s Save Yourself (both released on K), sound modern, thanks in part to Svenonius’s own resilience. The Make-Up will hold up live because he won’t let his vintage vision–and, by proxy, his vision of the band–die. And we should all feel blessed that he’s keeping on, regardless of the project, new or old. v

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Chicago named #1 city to celebrate St. Patrick’s Dayon March 3, 2020 at 2:09 pm

Chicago Eats

Chicago named #1 city to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

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Even before the stock market tanked, Trump’s economy hasn’t been great for me. Here’s why.on March 3, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Opinionated Woman

Even before the stock market tanked, Trump’s economy hasn’t been great for me. Here’s why.

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