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‘The Good Book’ at Court: Rethinking the Bible as the work of men, and struggling to see light

‘The Good Book’ at Court: Rethinking the Bible as the work of men, and struggling to see light

March 30, 2015 – 11:58 pm | No Comment | 57 views

Review: It ain’t necessarily so, says Miriam with scholarly conviction and a defiant flourish of the Good Book. The Bible, she says flatly, is not the word of God. How it might have been pieced together and how its powerful text touches the lives of two contemporary souls – this scholar and a devout teenage boy struggling with his sexual awakening – is the stuff of “The Good Book,” a brilliantly funny and provocative new play by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson now in its world premiere run at Court Theatre. ★★★★★

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Conductor Edo de Waart, in a hero’s return, guides CSO to the classical heart of Brahms

March 29, 2015 – 9:40 pm | No Comment | 125 views

Edo De Waart led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in works by Brahms and Mozart. (Todd Rosenberg)Review: Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart; Orion Weiss, piano. March 26 at Orchestra Hall.

By Lawrence B. Johnson

It was a little more than two years ago, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gearing up for a major Asia tour, that Dutch conductor Edo de Waart stepped in for ailing music director Riccardo Muti to lead a ringing performance at Orchestra Hall of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”), a key component of that impending tour.

Then he stayed around for a second week to lead Brahms’ Fourth Symphony and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C (“Jupiter”) — and subbed again last season for Vladimir Jurowski in an all-Strauss program. How handy that de Waart, 73, music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, lives just up the way.

In a pair of concerts March 26 and 28, de Waart was back on the CSO podium — this visit scheduled! — for the second time since that heroic pre-Asia effort, presiding over Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F, again music from deep within the Classical vein, though composed some 80 years after the “Eroica.” And again the result was a finely wrought performance that showcased the Chicago Symphony at its patrician best.

 

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CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: From a Burgundian sweet spot, bargain white

March 29, 2015 – 9:38 pm | No Comment | 96 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  From a Burgundian sweet spot, bargain white

Tasting Report: The Chardonnay produced in the principal appellations of Burgundy has long laid legitimate claim to being, collectively, the finest white wine in the world. But as those celebrated whites have become expensive, now would be a perfect time to consider the white wines from Burgundy’s deep south – from the appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé. The 2013 vintage from Louis Jadot typifies one of the world’s best wine values.

Role Playing: Lia D. Mortensen’s intense portrait of a mentally failing scientist holds mirror to life

March 26, 2015 – 9:25 pm | No Comment | 326 views
Role Playing: Lia D. Mortensen’s intense portrait  of a mentally failing scientist holds mirror to life

Interview: A very hard personal experience helped actress Lia D. Mortensen get into the skin of the brilliant scientist she portrays in Sharr White’s play “The Other Place” at Profiles Theatre. She had watched her father, Dale T. Mortensen, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in economic sciences, suffer the mentally eroding effects of brain cancer, which took his life.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Beau-Séjour Bécot, royalty of the Right Bank

March 26, 2015 – 9:24 pm | No Comment | 125 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Beau-Séjour Bécot, royalty of the Right Bank

Tasting Report: At any tasting of the great wines of Bordeaux, the stars don’t merely come out – they shower. So it was at a recent sipping of a small but widely representative sampler that produced one heady delight after another. The megastar of this assortment was the seductively opulent Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2009 from St.-Emilion on Bordeaux’s Right (or east) Bank.

Chen leads Chicago Sinfonietta, vocal forces through exuberant, sensual ‘Carmina Burana’

March 24, 2015 – 9:56 pm | No Comment | 612 views
Chen leads Chicago Sinfonietta, vocal forces  through exuberant, sensual ‘Carmina Burana’

Review: The singular community spirit of Chicago Sinfonietta was on proud display March 23 at Orchestra Hall in a stylish, disciplined and roundly entertaining performance of Orff’s “Carmina Burana” conducted by the organization’s music director, Mei-Ann Chen. Featured with Chen’s chamber-size ensemble were two Chicago choruses, both prepared to a fare-thee-well: the choir of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts and the Anima Young Singers of Greater Chicago.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Decanting can put blush back in an old bottle

March 23, 2015 – 3:42 pm | No Comment | 134 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Decanting can put blush back in an old bottle

Mulling Wine: To decant or not to decant? To my mind, that isn’t even a question. Any wine, new or very old, gains from time in a decanter. Long experience has taught me that wines that have rested years or even decades in my cellar invariably blossom after the aeration that comes with decanting.

Chicago Bach Choir’s vivid ‘St. John Passion’ was forged from the stuff of lasting memories

March 23, 2015 – 3:40 pm | 2 Comments | 329 views
Chicago Bach Choir’s vivid ‘St. John Passion’ was forged from the stuff of lasting memories

Review: One can come away from a profoundly affecting musical experience with any number of dominant feelings: enlightenment, exaltation, transcendence, solemnity among them. After hearing the Chicago Bach Choir and Orchestra perform its namesake’s “St. John Passion,” I walked out into the brisk spring night air with a singular sense of privilege. The performance conducted by John Nelson on March 20 at the Harris Theater surely belongs among the concerts that will endure in memory.

Prelude to a fête française: CSO concert fare anticipates big Gallic do, or has it started?

March 22, 2015 – 9:38 pm | No Comment | 324 views
Prelude to a fête française: CSO concert fare anticipates big Gallic do, or has it started?

Review: Although it was not billed as such, the March 19-21 concerts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma and conductor Charles Dutoit made it seem as if the French-focus “Reveries and Passions” festival, coming in May and June at Symphony Center, is already underway. Allons-y!

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Raising a grand glass to the Rhône’s Rasteau

March 22, 2015 – 9:23 pm | No Comment | 149 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Raising a grand glass to the Rhône’s Rasteau

Tasting Report: The Southern Rhône Valley village of Rasteau, which was officially promoted to its own appellation in 2010, doubtless lags in name recognition behind regional fixtures like Gigondas and Vacqueyras. Its merit, however, could hardly be spelled out more clearly than in Domaine Les Aphillanthes’ 2012 Rasteau “1921.”

‘Two Trains Running’ at Goodman: As tumult besets their world, diner denizens grasp at life

March 20, 2015 – 12:09 am | No Comment | 188 views
‘Two Trains Running’ at Goodman: As tumult besets their world, diner denizens grasp at life

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. ★★★★★

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Argentina Malbec, native and Bordeaux-style

March 19, 2015 – 11:15 pm | No Comment | 150 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Argentina Malbec, native and Bordeaux-style

Tasting Report: It wasn’t so long ago that Malbec was known – to the extent that it was in the consciousness of wine enthusiasts at all – for its modest supporting role in Bordeaux blends. Then Argentina roared into vinous ascendancy, and Malbec became an overnight star. Witness the two wines at hand: Susana Balbo’s unblended Signature Malbec 2012 and what might be called an upside-down Bordeaux blend: Clos de los Siete 2011.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: The too-fine point of the 100-point rating game

March 17, 2015 – 9:54 pm | No Comment | 190 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: The too-fine point of the 100-point rating game

Mulling Wine: Reviews in Chicago Wine Journal do not come with numbers. I see only two purposes in reducing a review to a double-digit Post-It note, and neither of them has anything to do with enlightening the reader, the consumer. Numerical inscriptions lend the inscriber a certain pontifical authority: “I declare this a 90-point wine. Go forth, and purchase it with confidence.” The other talking point for scoring wine is exactly that: a point-of-sale flag that essentially does the salesman’s job for him. “This one got 90 points!” It’s no longer even necessary to name the scorer.

Sophocles with an absurdist suffix: Sideshow makes its doubly daring case for ‘Antigonick’

March 15, 2015 – 7:15 pm | No Comment | 230 views
Sophocles with an absurdist suffix: Sideshow  makes its doubly daring case for ‘Antigonick’

Review: It is a breathtaking coup de théâtre, Sideshow Theatre’s time-altering, mind-bending double take on Anne Carson’s bizarre translation of Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy “Antigone.” Carson’s free-wheeling spin on the original tosses in anachronistic references along with a sly, straight-faced component of utter nonsense that dares the audience to buy it or even comprehend it. And as if that were not enough, director Jonathan L. Green further flummoxes expectations by reassigning roles across gender. Not once, but twice. ★★★★

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Ruinart brut puts fresh zest in classic bottles

March 14, 2015 – 11:20 am | No Comment | 141 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Ruinart brut puts fresh zest in classic bottles

Tasting Report: There’s a charming paradox in the exuberant freshness of Ruinart’s Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne. It comes from the oldest house of Champagne, a continuous producer since 1729. This lovely sparkler, alluringly presented in an 18th-century-style clear, bulbous bottle, offers an exhilarating flavor blend of steely citrus and brioche, with a mousse so generous and constant that it seems to be fed by some unseen source.

‘First Wives Club’ delivers the songs and stars, but the new musical is still looking for its heart

March 14, 2015 – 11:17 am | No Comment | 256 views
‘First Wives Club’ delivers the songs and stars, but the new musical is still looking for its heart

Review: “The First Wives Club,” the movie, was a sweet revenge caper for three of the funniest forty-something women in the business. Now Faith Prince as Brenda the loudmouth, Christine Sherrill as the aging star Elise and Carmen Cusack as the ditherer Annie star in the Broadway-bound musical comedy “First Wives Club,” playing at the Oriental Theatre. The musical is a work in progress but it has several heady things going for it, including these leading ladies, who fall together in a D-line when their husbands try to dump them. ★★

Role Playing: Siobhan Redmond sees re-formed Lady Macbeth as valiant queen in ‘Dunsinane’

March 12, 2015 – 10:50 pm | No Comment | 380 views
Role Playing: Siobhan Redmond sees re-formed  Lady Macbeth as valiant queen in ‘Dunsinane’

Interview: “I have no idea what it’s really like to be a queen, to run a country, or to have a child,” says the veteran Irish actress Siobhan Redmond, who portrays Lady Macbeth, rethought as Gruach in David Greig’s “Dunsinane,” currently produced by National Theatre of Scotland at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. “But the audience must believe that I have the weight of Scotland on my back.” Yes, Lady Macbeth lives.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Guigal meets Ruffino where value beats price

March 12, 2015 – 10:49 pm | No Comment | 174 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Guigal meets Ruffino where value beats price

Tasting Report: A wine bargain is a relative concept. While it’s hard to apply the word “bargain” to an expensive bottle, no matter how exalted the juice, in the real world I have a few longstanding faves – notable among them Ruffino’s Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale and E. Guigal’s red Côtes du Rhone. Vintage after vintage, both perform way beyond their modest price.

‘Yankee Tavern’ at American Blues Theater: Conspiracy theory slips under cloak of reality

March 10, 2015 – 10:18 pm | No Comment | 249 views
‘Yankee Tavern’ at American Blues Theater: Conspiracy theory slips under cloak of reality

Review: Ray is a dot-connector with a conspiracy theory about everything from 9/11 to Disneyland. His hypotheses range from intriguing to idiotic, but taken together they make for an interlude as provocative as it is wild in Steven Dietz’s “Yankee Tavern” at American Blues Theater. ★★★

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Setting the temperature for cellar and sipping

March 10, 2015 – 10:17 pm | No Comment | 186 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Setting the temperature for cellar and sipping

Mulling Wine: Wine should be, first of all, refreshing. And refreshment begins with temperature. The ancient notion that red wines should be served at room temperature is exactly that – ancient, and therein lies the problem. Time was, before central heating, when homes (and dining establishments) were not the toasty places we know and require today.

‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ at Writers: Innocence and experience backed into last corner of hope

March 8, 2015 – 9:48 pm | No Comment | 271 views
‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ at Writers: Innocence and experience backed into last corner of hope

Review: What makes Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s 1955 play “The Diary of Anne Frank” so compelling – and it is nothing less in the current production at Writers Theatre – fills a large frame of human drama. It is a complex profile of hope shadowed by terror and despair, and finally crushed under the boot of hatred. But still, first, there is innocent hope, a luminous vision of life abounding in wonder, possibility and good. ★★★★★

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Sonoma expo serves up surprises amid stars

March 6, 2015 – 5:57 pm | No Comment | 254 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Sonoma expo serves up surprises amid stars

Tasting Report: It wasn’t the many alluring examples of Pinot Noir that made the biggest impression when some 70 wineries set out their wares at the recent Sonoma in the City showcase at the Drake Hotel. What caught my eye, and palate, was the range of Sonoma wines – the varietals, the blends and the bargains.