Archive for June, 2008


[youtube] E32Ll3Tga2Y[/youtube]All hail the hail. (This is summer, right? Just checking.)

The Mysterious Elephant and the Terrible Tragedy of the Unlikely Addington Twins (*Who Kill Him)

Nobody does plays like the Strange Tree Group does plays. How do you define the stuff these guys do? Just listen to the title of their newest work, written by Strange Tree’s resident playwright Emily Schwartz:

The Mysterious Elephant and the Terrible Tragedy of the Unlikely Addington Twins (*Who Kill Him).

There’s just no pigeonholing a title like that. An Edward Gorey vibe permeates everything they do, certainly. Like last year’s extraordinary Mr. Spacky . . . The Man Who Was Continuously Followed by Wolves, The Mysterious Elephant features heightened dialogue and a Victorianesque setting juxtaposed with hilarious musical numbers and a sly awareness that the characters are in fact in a play. After just two full-length productions, the Strange Tree Group have created a style (shall we call it Schwartzian?) that, should anyone else attempt something similar, they would be accused of ripping off Strange Tree.

The Mysterious Elephant introduces us to the Addington Twins, Esther and Edward (the well-matched Carol Enoch and Matt Holzfiend). These orphans have inherited a mansion from their recently deceased Aunt Ernestine (Jennifer Marschand, hilariously severe in a 180-degree turn from her role in Mr. Spacky a year ago). At the house the twins encounter a strange Narrator (Weston Davis) who has been chronicling the fortunes of the Addington family for centuries. The twins’ adventure introduces them to a number of their dead ancestors, most notably Christoff, a re-animated corpse who just wants to be loved. Scott Cupper’s scene-stealing turn here is one of the highlights of the show.

And of course they meet the titular Elephant, a giant clockwork beast and family heirloom. The elephant (yes, there is an elephant on stage) is a hell of a creation, with a patchwork design that makes it look like a giant, well-loved stuffed animal. It is actor-operated by Thomas Zeitner, who also plays accordian as part of the musical ensemble. When you see the show (are you going to see the show? Go see the show!) take a moment during intermission or something and get a look at the elephant up close. The layout of the space does not allow a really good view of it during the performance.

I’m always a fan when a show chooses to embrace the knowledge that its audience is watching a play, rather than try to cover its tracks and pretend it is a movie or something. The plot of The Mysterious Elephant takes that notion and runs with it, with all of its characters being keenly aware of the fact that they are characters, and that their fates depend upon the twists and turns of the story in which they find themselves. Director Carolyn Klein reinforces this in her staging, as when Mr. Zeitner is added ceremoniously to the elephant contraption during the overture.

The Strange Tree Group is, hands down, my favorite company in Chicago right now. Go see their show. It runs at the Chopin Theatre until July 19th. You won’t see anything like it anywhere else.

City Stickers

I was taking care of some bills last night and realized that I was running right up against the deadline to renew my City Sticker by mail — the current stickers expire June 30, with a “grace period” until July 15, and they say you should allow 30 days for your mailed renewal. But, oh look! There’s a website. I can renew there and it says it’ll take about two weeks to get my new sticker. Perfect. Except…

City of Chicago Vehicle Sticker Purchase

Really? How hard is it to make a simple web store that sells one thing and have it work on the Mac? Does this mean I’m going to have to go somewhere and interact with an actual person? (No, it means I’m going to have to reboot my Mac into Windows, but I’m going to resent it.)

Illinois Obama: Hobo

Illinois Obama

One of the features of John Hodgman‘s 2005 book The Areas of My Expertise is a list of 700 Hobo Names (expanded by 100 in the paperback edition). A group of illustrators, spearheaded by Adam “Apelad” Koford, took up the challenge of drawing the hobos behind each of those 700 names and they’ve done so nearly twice over. I bring this up now because I’ve just been reminded that Number 424 on that list is “Illinois Obama“. To what great heights hobos can aspire in America!

Two other ‘Illinois Obama’ illustrations:

Illinois ObamaIllinois Obama



It’s hard to walk a block in this city without seeing one of SOLVE’s eponymous stickers. And that’s not all SOLVE did — there are other stickers, paste-ups, boards, prints tucked into newspaper boxes. I never met the man, but I’m a fan of his work.

I only learned SOLVE’s real name this weekend, in the most horrible possible way. Brendan Scanlon was murdered Friday night in Logan Square. Chicago is poorer for this loss.

A suspect has been charged with the murder.

  • Gapers Block article on Chicago street art from last May, including SOLVE
  • SOLVE’s Flickr stream
  • Chicago Tribune on the murder
  • Memorial at Grand and Milwaukee
  • Chicago Street Art Flickr group discussion
  • (Links via Gapers Block, Upset Magazine, Chicagoist. Photo by josephp )

    How They See Us – 1966 Edition

    I recently picked up a copy of One Fearful Yellow Eye (1966) — one of the classic Travis McGee detective novels by John D. MacDonald. McGee’s normal setting is South Florida, but in this one he travels to Chicago to help out an old friend. McGee is… not really a fan of our fair city:


    Another Shameless Act of Self-Promotion

    Hey, everybody! Do you like pirates? (Is there anybody who DOESN’T like pirates?) How about revenge, blood, and general mayhem and murderousness?

    You DO?!? Then you should come see my show! There’s swordfighting, and swashbucking, and more swordfighting! And me, being British. Again. I KNOW!

    Backstage Theatre‘s Bloody Bess: A Tale of Piracy and Revenge opens next Friday, June 13th, at 7:30 at Gallery 37, 66 E. Randolph Street. Here are the complete details:

    Bloody Bess: A Tale of Piracy and Revenge
    conceived by Stuart Gordon
    written by William J. Norris and John Ostrander
    Directed by Geoff Coates

    June 13-July 20, 2008
    in association with DCA Theatre
    The Storefront Theatre @ Gallery 37
    66 East Randolph Street-Chicago

    Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays @ 7:30pm
    Sundays @ 3pm

    To reserve tickets please call 312-742-TIXS (8497)
    Or visit

    Tickets are $15-20.

    Fourscore and seven shirts ago

    Woot Lincoln

    I can’t believe I forgot to mention this earlier, and because of Woot’s weird t-shirt “Reckoning” thing, the shirt may not be available much longer, but anyway, let’s finish this run-on sentence off and get to the point, which is… a t-shirt with a picture of Abraham Lincoln made out of the Gettysburg Address. I know, right?

    (Your City Name Here) redux

    Bank of America ad

    It’s already a pet peeve of mine when advertisers do a quick “insert name of city here” to try and make you feel like they have some sort of connection to your city. But the best stock photo that Bank of America could come up with to evoke Chicago-ness is the skyline with some dorks on Segways in the foreground? Seriously?

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