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Chicago performing arts and other splendors -- best bets in music and theater reviews for cultural travelers and local enthusiasts

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    Review: Mike Nussbaum, irrepressible at age 90, is like great Bordeaux wine. Need I amplify that? Chicago’s prince of perdurable actors is the single best reason – among many good ones – to catch Goodman Theatre’s almost-instant revival of “Smokefall,” Noah Haidle’s fine-stitched play about family, its profound fractures and its potential for healing. ★★★★★

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    Review: ★★★ The wisdom and the charm of Gina Gionfriddo’s play “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” at the Goodman Theatre, resounds in the collision of two fortysomething women, old friends from college, one a mom and the other a scholar in women’s studies, who now look at each other’s lives and question their own choices. Yet in the end, the dramatic sum feels somehow less than this coalescence of clever parts. ★★★

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    Review: We need a new word to describe the quality that makes every August Wilson play a red-letter event of any theater season. This single new descriptor would meld the two features that Wilson always mixes with such ineffable ease: charm and poignancy. They are the stuff of “Two Trains Running” at the Goodman Theatre, a beguiling portrait of the human condition as an uphill battle - and the difference a leap of faith can make. ★★★★★

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    Interview: A.C. Smith, a big-framed actor formidably attired in black as a wealthy undertaker, is ensconced Buddha-like at the corner table of a diner in the Goodman Theatre production of August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running.” Simply learning how to sit there, and figuring out what to do with his unnaturally gloved hands, says Smith, was a daunting new wrinkle even for a savvy veteran of Wilson’s plays.

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    Review: I hate going here, I really do, because it’s going to sound like home cooking, but the hysterical truth is – and everything about this is hysterical – that the Goodman Theatre romp through Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” roundly eclipses the production I saw last season in New York. Directed by Steve Scott, this show is so smart and tight, so killingly funny, that seeing it just once may not be possible. ★★★★★

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    11th in a series of season previews

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    Feature: Three formative plays on the boards in Goodman Theatre’s New Stages Festival offer an intriguing glimpse into the process of turning a work of promise into a well-honed piece of stagecraft ready for prime time. Now in its 12th year, the 2015 edition of New Stages concludes Nov. 13-15 with final performances of those plays and a cluster of readings.

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    Review: Chicago’s holiday offerings include Three Scrooges — not a show, but a trio of shows all based on “A Christmas Carol.” And yes, there’s some slapstick in it, even ribaldry, depending on which flavor of Dickens you choose.

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    Review: After five and a half hours spent watching the dramatic evolution of “2666,” the adaptation by Robert Falls and Seth Bockley of Roberto Bolaño’s sprawling novel at the Goodman Theatre, I could think only of that sublimely ironic lyric made famous by Peggy Lee: Is that all there is?This ambitious enterprise affords a goodly share of rewards along its meandering narrative as a sort of whodunit for intellectuals. But in the end, in its totality, “2666” as theater is a shaggy-dog story of St. Bernard proportions. ★★★

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    Review: It’s Dolly’s world, the charming milieu and crazy circumstances of Thornton Wilder’s perdurable farce “The Matchmaker.” All the other characters on stage just live in it. So say hello to a delightful Dolly whose world is well worth a visit in the Goodman Theatre production starring -- with a capital S -- Kristine Nielsen. ★★★★

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    2016-17 SEASON PREVIEW: The following is adapted from a news release submitted by an arts organization to Chicago On the Aisle. ——
    Lauren Molina and Bri Sudia star as two sisters leaving Ohio in 1935 to conquer New York City in Bernstein's "Wonderful Town." Here's the Goodman Theatre's complete line-up...

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    Review: For his ninth season, Larry Yando plays the gnarled old man whose very name is now a synonym for miser, his "Bah! Humbug!" an all-purpose slapdown that distills the essence of a curmudgeonly world view. Until Scrooge discovers joy, that is. Yando's wonderfully long face is as capable as ever of rubbery contortions worthy of a cartoonist's pen. Goodman's "A Christmas Carol" is a tradition happily renewed. ★★★★

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    Review: Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” an existential snapshot of lost souls at a signless crossroads, exemplifies theater as an ensemble endeavor. In Annie Baker’s modernized, razor-sharp adaptation of the play, complemented by a directorial tour de force from Robert Falls, Goodman Theatre brings the spirit of dramatic teamwork to vibrant life. ★★★★★

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    Review: Playwright Charles Smith’s “Objects in the Mirror” is a gritty, honest and provocatively open-ended story about coming of age. Mesmerizing, if no less exasperating, it is served with resonant conviction in a world premiere production at Goodman Theatre. ★★★★

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    Review: Fairly late in his career, Eugene O’Neill, that great purveyor of tragedy, penned a romantic comedy worthy of his darker plays. “Ah, Wilderness!” is that now-classic lark, and it once again bursts onto the stage at Goodman Theatre in a funny and affecting production that is arguably the crown jewel of Chicago’s theater season. ★★★★★

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    Review: If you have not yet seen both “A View from the Bridge” at Goodman Theatre and “The Crucible” at Steppenwolf Theatre – well, it’s Miller time. These are mesmerizing productions of two of Arthur Miller’s finest plays, and impressive reminders of why Goodman and Steppenwolf hold such eminent places on Chicago’s – indeed, the nation’s – theater scene. Each of these parallel runs has only a handful of performances remaining. Together, they make for a stunning one-two theatrical punch. Both ★★★★★

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    Feature: Three formative plays on the boards in Goodman Theatre’s New Stages Festival offer an intriguing glimpse into the process of turning a work of promise into a well-honed piece of stagecraft ready for prime time. Now in its 12th year, the 2015 edition of New Stages concludes Nov. 13-15 with final performances of those plays and a cluster of readings.

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    Review: Chicago’s holiday offerings include Three Scrooges — not a show, but a trio of shows all based on “A Christmas Carol.” And yes, there’s some slapstick in it, even ribaldry, depending on which flavor of Dickens you choose.

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    Review: After five and a half hours spent watching the dramatic evolution of “2666,” the adaptation by Robert Falls and Seth Bockley of Roberto Bolaño’s sprawling novel at the Goodman Theatre, I could think only of that sublimely ironic lyric made famous by Peggy Lee: Is that all there is?This ambitious enterprise affords a goodly share of rewards along its meandering narrative as a sort of whodunit for intellectuals. But in the end, in its totality, “2666” as theater is a shaggy-dog story of St. Bernard proportions. ★★★

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    Review: It’s Dolly’s world, the charming milieu and crazy circumstances of Thornton Wilder’s perdurable farce “The Matchmaker.” All the other characters on stage just live in it. So say hello to a delightful Dolly whose world is well worth a visit in the Goodman Theatre production starring -- with a capital S -- Kristine Nielsen. ★★★★

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