Wednesday, November 15, 2006

He had it comin'...

I have begun going back to local theatre. Oh, I'm not ready to totally embrace the genre with chest-crushing exuberance, but I have put the elbow in the water. High prices and a fairly long trip mean that I've become more selective.

Which is why I found myself at Kander & Ebb & Fosse's Chicago the Musical a week ago. This is the second production I've seen of Chicago locally. (And why do they insist on putting "the Musical" on the tail end of this donkey? Although I must admit, one friend asked me why they're still touring without Peter Cetera.) The first was only two years ago. I thoroughly loved it both times, although I admit Billy the lawyer is a bit weak in this later production. I enjoyed watching hipster Huey Lewis, but never for one minute thought he'd be able to get anybody out of a murder rap.

The set-up is a real gas. In 1920's Chicago, where ethics have been replaced by easy liquor, we find Roxie being accused (and rightly so) of murder, and it's up to Billy and the easily-swayed justice/media system (did I just link those two together?) to get her off. Lots of thrilling songs, and the spectacularly staged sequence in Cell Block Tango, about the women who been done wrong singing about the men they did wrong to, lights up the stage. I heartily recommend the stage production over the movie.

Today I entered a much more somber affair, Doubt, the local production of the Broadway play. Lest you be put off by the rather colorless and Catholic advertisements, nothing should stop you from seeing this production. First of all, it's only 90 minutes. No intermissions. No reason to get up from an hour of semi-boredom, as in the case of most theatrical productions, and wonder if you should slip out quietly. Nope, you're in it for the whole thing. It's funny, it's sparse (both in sets and cast), and it's magnificent. Cherry Jones has won two Tonys in her Broadway career; she won the latest for Sister Aloysius in Doubt last year.

The story is centralized around Sister Aloysius, who is as sure as can be about everything. She knows her role as principal of a Catholic school in 1964 in the Bronx. She knows what the young Sister James (Lisa Joyce) is going to say, cutting off her sentences before she can finish them. And she knows what she doesn't like about Father Flynn (Chris McGarry). His fingernails are too long. His sermons aren't black and white enough. He's too male.

Doubt leads us down several paths, some of them familiar and some of them uncomfortable. It should be at the top of your theatre-going list.

I also bought tickets for the City Arts & Lecture show of Linda Hunt interviewing Cherry Jones in two weeks. I had a tough time finding a seat. It might be that people were buying tickets because of Linda Hunt, as Ms. Jones is less well known. But sooner or later the world will tell of her talent. No doubt.

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