Articles by Lawrence B. Johnson
A stew of great characters. 4 stars!
Lust, greed and mayhem. 3 stars
Preview: The Scottish actor, a Shakespeare veteran, talks with Chicago On the Aisle about the dark and turbulent mindscape of “Timon of Athens.” The play opens May 2 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
CD Reviews: The latest evidence of the Philharmonia Baroque’s mastery of 18th century fare is a CD release of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” – plus three more violin concertos by the Red Priest, as Vivaldi was known – featuring the orchestra’s wizardly concertmaster and all-world Baroque star Elizabeth Blumenstock. ****
Medea’s very, very jealous. 4 stars!
Interview: As “the soul of the age” turns 448 on April 23, the celebrated actor talks with Chicago On the Aisle about his one-man play “Being Shakespeare,” presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater at the Broadway Theatre through April 29.
Doctorow’s novel on stage. 4 stars!
Con game in the park. 3 stars.
Tony Kushner’s classic soars. 5 stars!
Preview: The stars are dream-catchers and story-tellers. Humans have always thought so, hence the mythic characters and lore written into the constellations. But, hey, if the ancient Greeks could puzzle out stories in the stars, why can’t we – and have a ball doing it? No wonder the community myth-making adventure on tap April 19 at the Adler Planetarium is called “Starball.”
Review: From the admixture of opulence and asceticism that constituted conductor Charles Dutoit’s program of French music with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this weekend, one might have taken away good lessons offered in a perhaps subversively gleeful spirit. ****
Preview: It sounds like a perfect mix of guests for a dinner party, the composers queued up for the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s concert April 15 at Orchestra Hall. George Crumb and Anton Webern will be arriving together, so to speak, along with Schubert and Grieg – and a newcomer whose radical voice should give the affair a good jolt.
Dark comedy at A Red Orchid. 2 stars.
A stunner at Victory Gardens. 4 stars!
Shaggy dog revenge story. 3 stars.
Review: Sensational. That, in a word, was Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky’s debut April 5 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Charles Dutoit. The tall, assured pianist – one could only think of the young Van Cliburn – made epic poetry of Rachmaninoff’s formidable Third Piano Concerto in a performance that probed a deep vein of lyricism and simply transcended technical issues. ****
Interview: Chuck Spencer relishes poking through the piled clutter during his first long, solitary, silent minutes on stage at the beginning of Arthur Miller’s play “The Price,” at Raven Theatre.
Commentary: Pianist Mitsuko Uchida’s two appearances this last week at Orchestra Hall, in a recital of Schubert’s late sonatas March 25 and her current concerts playing and conducting Mozart concertos with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, resonate not like discrete encounters but rather like an epic testimonial to her phenomenal art.
Debating God at the Mercury. 3 stars.
Review: That master of the modern English comedy of manners, Noel Coward, might plausibly have written “Ten Chimneys,” the light-hearted toss of a play now occupying Northlight Theatre. It is so stylish, so wry, so – well, ephemeral. ***
Interview: So perfectly does Rebecca Finnegan blend her painful lyric pauses into the narrative flow of “A Catered Affair,” at Porchlight Music Theater, that you scarcely notice she has ramped up from speech to song. Then the swelling power of that voice grabs you, and you realize you’re watching something special: an accomplished actor who’s also a genuine singer.
Soprano and cello, burgers and pizza.
Carnal carnival at Goodman. 3 stars.
Interview: The scruffy creature with darting eyes who calls himself Davies looks like his last bed was a cardboard box on the street. He is the elusive but palpably real character at the core of Harold Pinter’s play “The Caretaker,” now on the boards at Writers’ Theatre, and he’s brought to wheedling, calculating life in a masterful piece of acting by Bill Norris.
Arthur Miller on memory’s attic. 3 stars.
Review: Sometimes, in the course of a symphony orchestra season, it’s good just to hear the band dial up the core German repertoire and show what it can do. That’s exactly what the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and music director Riccardo Muti did March 8 in a sumptuous double dose of Brahms, the Violin Concerto with soloist Pinchas Zukerman and the Second Symphony. *****
Desperate souls in a diner. 4 stars!
Spunky side of the Bard. 4 stars!
Review: Stepping in to pinch hit for Pierre Boulez may not be the least stressful way to make one’s conducting debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Subbing on short notice to take over Boulez’s rare pairing of Mahler’s song-symphony “Das Lied von der Erde” and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto – that’s quite a debut.****
The Lyric Opera of Chicago has commissioned the first opera from 33-year-old Peruvian composer Jimmy López, and will present the new work’s world premiere in December 2015.