Wacky Father’s Day gifts???

frozen-dentures This isn’t your grandpa’s ice tray – though the ice does look suspiciously like a set of his dentures! Well, freeze up a batch of cubes with the Frozen Smiles Ice Tray ($5.49), serve them to your party guests… and watch them smile!  h/t Oddee.com

 

BeerBeltThis fully adjustable Beer Belt ($13.99) will allow your dad to hold a six-pack without his hands! This hands-free convenience accommodates both, cans and bottles! h/t Oddee.com (Source)

 

Pole-Dancer-Alarm-ClockGet your dad to rise and shine with this Pole Dancer Alarm Clock ($26.99), an alarm that is sure to grab his attention even when he’s in a deep sleep! When not going off this clock just looks like a novel sculpture of a pole dancer, but when its time to wake up, the party has just begun. The Pole dancer spins around and around in front of a curtained stage, strobing disco lights activate making the stage area come to life and a loud strip tease style of alarm music will wake him up. h/t Oddee.com (Source)

Michelle Obama – Arts Warrior!

I’m excited to report that, during her second New York City visit, first lady Michelle Obama spent her time emphasizing the crucial role the arts play in our society, reopening part of the American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday and later addressing the crowd at a glittering ballet gala – where she was greeted with enthusiastic ovations from audiences that included prominent figures in politics, the arts, entertainment and fashion.

She stressed the importance of giving young people better access to the arts:

“The arts are not just a nice thing to have or to do if there is free time or if one can afford it,” she said at the museum. “Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue, they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation.”

michelle Obama and Caroline Kennedy at Metropolitan Museum of Art“The president and I want to ensure that all children have access to great works of art,” she told a crowd that included students from four New York City public schools that focus on the arts. “We want all children who believe in their talent to see a way to create a future for themselves in the arts community, either as a hobby or as a profession.”

Mrs. Obama also she reminded the audience that her husband, President Barack Obama, had included an additional $50 million (yeah!) for the National Endowment for the Arts in his economic stimulus package.

It was hardly the first time Michelle surprised the art world with her involvement, and it’s looking as if it’ll be far from the last. She and the president have gone to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to watch the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. They attended the reopening of the newly renovated Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was assassinated. She’s been spotted at Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre, for a Welcome to Washington event that included performances by the Washington Ballet, the Arena Stage, the Washington National Opera, and other groups.

Mrs. Obama spoke in the newly renovated Charles Engelhard Court, a striking room filled with sunlight, in front of the Greek Revival-style facade of an early 19th-century bank branch that was originally on Wall Street. She wore a bright purple Isaac Mizrahi sheath and coat.  To the amusement of a crowd that included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Vogue editor Anna Wintour, former model Iman and designer Ralph Lauren, Mrs. Obama was reminded by museum president Emily Rafferty that she and the president had their first date in a museum. (aside: how cool is that?!?)

“Thank you for reminding me,” Mrs. Obama said. “You know, after 20-some-odd years of knowing a guy, you forget that your first date was at a museum. But it was, and it was obviously wonderful; it worked.”

Michelle ObamaMichelle also met with arts luminaries in the gallery in the Egyptian wing named for Hatshepsut, the woman who ruled as pharaoh. “We thought it would be appropriate,” says Emily Rafferty.

After meeting with a group of arts leaders, the first lady changed into evening clothes and headed to American Ballet Theatre’s spring gala at the Metropolitan Opera House, a highlight of the city’s social calendar. Among the glitterati: Actresses Sigourney Weaver, Kim Raver, and Rosemary Harris; New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, opera singer Renee Fleming, and Wintour, who pronounced the evening “wonderful _ wonderful for the ballet, wonderful for the arts.”

The crowd rose in enthusiastic applause _ one man shouted, “Brava!” _ as Mrs. Obama, dressed in a black Alaia dress and Thakoon jacket, was introduced by Caroline Kennedy, whose mother, Jackie Kennedy, was a longtime supporter of the arts.

“My husband and I believe strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation’s leaders for tomorrow,” the first lady said, before introducing a multiracial cast of ballet students from ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, who leaped and pirouetted their way to a huge ovation.

FYI: parts of this story are from http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-05-19/obamas-new-arts-czar/ 

Review: “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” (Northlight)

Inishmore-art-banner

Leave it to Martin McDonagh to find the humor in terrorism.

The Irish playwright is infamous for the intense violence and large quantity of blood in his plays. In The Lieutenant of Inishmore he satirizes the constantly splintering Irish terrorist groups that infested Ireland in the 20th Century. The current production at Northlight Theatre exploits the gruesome spectacle of the play, splashing the stage with blood, brains, and plenty of other body parts.

inishmore1 The play evokes both Quentin Tarantino and John M. Synge. McDonagh exposes the Ireland tourists aren’t familiar with, steeped in ancient traditions and convulsed by political conflict. The lieutenant of Inishmore is Padraic (Cliff Chamberlain), a crazed Irish terrorist considered too bloodthirsty for the IRA. The play begins when the men responsible for cat-sitting Padraic’s furry friend find Wee Thomas squashed on the side of the road. While those with a dead cat on their hands try to figure out how to break the news, other “patriots” enter Inishmore, and the body count slowly increases.

McDonagh had a hard time finding someone to produce the play originally; many theatres found it too controversial. It has become one of his most successful plays to date, and director BJ Jones (who has also directed McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara and The Cripple of Innishmaan) nails the Chicago premier of the dark comedy. The success of this production would not be possible, however, without special effects designer Steve Tolin, brought in from Pittsburgh. He presents a myriad of different ways to make blood spray and spurt from the actor’s bodies; it’s not often that the gore of a slasher flick is recreated on-stage.

inishmore2 Cliff Chamberlain is excellent as the bloodthirsty Padraic, balancing the craziness of a killer with the tenderness of man who loves his cats. Kelly O’Sullivan plays well against Chamberlain as Mairead, a 16-year-old fan-girl of Padraic and accurate shot with an air rifle. The funniest two of the show, though, is the duo stuck with the dead cat, the long-haired Davey (Jamie Abelson) and Padraic’s father, Donny (Matt DeCaro). The pair takes awhile to connect, but once they find it they are hilarious. John Judd, Andy Luther, and Keith Gallagher are menacing as a trio of Irish hitmen looking for Padraic. By the second act, the whole ensemble clicks together and the outcome is bloody and wickedly funny.

Jones and his team do a very precise job in finding the inherent comedy in the violence. The amount of bloodshed in the play is ridiculous, and the characters’ reasoning behind it is bizarre. With the help of Tolin and fight choreographer Nick Sandys, Jones arranges scenes that show the folly of extremist violence. And by committing to the dangerous reality the script presents, the cast can be comical while making the audience believe that they have real guns with real bullets.

McDonagh wrote the play in response to some very non-comical real events. In February, 1993, an English gas company was bombed, killing and wounding soldiers, civilians, and several children. As Americans, we have plenty of experience with the horrors of terrorism. By pointing out the ridiculousness of extremist beliefs, the play is incredibly relevant to our 21st Century world. And even though “the Troubles” in Ireland have calmed down since the 1990’s, terrorism is still alive there. In March, IRA dissidents assassinated several English soldiers near Belfast as they went to get pizza. The events depicted in Lieutenant of Inishmore are not as outlandish as they might seem at first glance.

Rating: «««½

Cast and artistic team rosters, including bios, can be found after the fold.

To see videos of this production, click here.

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"History Boys" Reviews – TimeLine delivers a triumph!

The Chicago-premiere of the Tony-Award winning play The History Boys , by Alan Bennett, held its opening night this past Saturday, and I can personally say that it was a highly-imaginative, stellar production of an enthralling, rambunctious play.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Pictures and a compendium of reviews (as they are produced) follow:

Hector (Donald Brearley, center) teaches his students (from left) Scripps (Will Allan), Crowther (Govind Kumar), Dakin (Joel Gross), Rudge (Michael Peters), Lockwood (Rob Fenton), Akthar (Behzad Dabu), Timms (Brad Bukauskas) and Posner (Alex Weisman) in rather unconventional ways in  

Dennis Polkow, NewCity

I don’t know what kind of techniques director Nick Bowling might have employed to have the eight-ensemble cast seem as if they know each other as well as a group of students who have been together in class together for what always seems like an eternity while it is happening, but the way these young men interact is extraordinary.  No less an accomplishment is that the teachers and the headmaster who are preparing these students for their Oxford and Cambridge entrance exams also interact with the students and each other with the needed familiarity necessary for Alan Bennett’s witty and thought-provoking play to work its special charms.  Recommended                     (Full review here.)

Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times:

TimeLine fills your head: Actors revel in the wit and energy of ‘History Boys’

Enter TimeLine Theatre – where The History Boys, Alan Bennett’s Tony-Award-wining play is receiving one of those Chicago productions that exults in the glory of the ensemble – and you instantly become part of its hothouse world. 

At issue here is the whole notion of education – intellectual, emotional, sexual.  The veteran literature teacher, Hector (Donald Brearley, in a remarkable mix of subdued passion, volatility and self-loathing), believes in knowledge for knowledge’s sake, even if that include groping his favorite students.  As he notes: “The transmission of knowledge is itself an erotic act.”                           (Full review here)

Donald Brearley, Michael Peters, Govind Kumar, Brad Bukauskas, Behzad Dabu, Joel Gross, Will Allan, Rob Fenton and Alex Weisman 

Artistic Director PJ Powers comments:
“Alan Bennett’s provocative script tackles essential questions we regularly grapple with as we explore TimeLine’s unique mission — ‘how do we benefit by dissecting, studying and examining history?’” Powers said. “Whether audiences have seen this production in London, on Broadway or on film, or are coming to it for the first time, The History Boys will have a fresh and powerful impact at TimeLine’s intimate theater.”

Related articles and files:

Thespian mice discovered in Goodman Theatre’s rafters

Goodman Theatre, home of great theatre and thespian Mice.

In a major scientific discovery, Dr. Vince Shlomi from SW Labs has verified that a high-intellect species of mice has been discovered in the rafters of Goodman Theatre in Chicago’s Loop

“It was the weirdest thing,” said Anna Clifford, Goodman stage manager and Starbucks barista.  “We’d come in for rehearsals, and things would be moved around.  The lighting would be adjusted, or the scripts would be chewed on.  I just figured it was someone from the cast of Mary Poppins.” 

These 2 thespian mice from Goodman stand for their bows. The discovery occurred a week into the run of Goodman’s present production, Come Back, Little Shicksa.  On a routine check of the lighting, set designer and taxi driver Radhakant Baijpai, noticed that a Shakespeare book of plays was tucked between the rafter beams.  “I bent down to pick up the book,” said Rhada “and it started to move – so  I grabbed the book, and there underneath was five or 6 of those critters, all moving their arms wildly and emoting!” 

So as to avoid calling in health inspectors, the Goodman box office placed PETA-approved traps amongst the rafters, along with copies of  the American classic  about the downfall of a washed-up Avon lady – Dearth of a Saleswoman – as bait. The theatre-loving mice were soon caught and  trucked off to SW Labs, which is where they discovered that the mice responded more to Shakespeare than to slices of cheese. 

When Goodman artistic-director and Elvis-impersonator Robert Falls was asked for a comment regarding the theatre mice, he just offered a terse “It’s all much ado about nothing”.

Cast of “Blagojevich Superstar” to be interviewed by Blago himself!

Blago to interview Blago


blagospoofThose listening to WLS AM radio at 7am this  Wednesday morning will hear something quite unique – ex-Gov Blago will be interviewing two stars of the Second City spoof of Blago himself, entitled “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” –  Joey Bland, who plays Blagojevich, and Mike Bradecich (who plays both Ald. Dick Mell and D.A. Patrick Fitzgerald). Second City’s popular review, now playing at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier, is a foul-mouthed portrayal of the ex-governor’s legal woes (which is apt, after one hears the Blago’s expletive-laced phone conversations).  The show also takes shots at Blago’s wife, Patti.

So why is the ex-Gov on the radio to begin with?  It seems that he is sitting in on the regularly scheduled “Wade and Roma” show at WLS AM while the duo are on vacation. He was a guest on the program just last week after he took a hiatus from a full-blown media blitz earlier this year.

Ah, the joys of Chicago’s ultimate theatrical event: politics

Story is courtesy of Natasha Koreckion of the Chicago Sun-Times

Blago Superstar

10 Years later – Remembering Gene Siskel

genesmiling-thumb-200x261 While scanning through the Sun-Times a few days ago, I had one of those “wow, time goes fast” moments.  It seems like just a few years ago that the much-admired Chicago movie critic Gene Siskel passed away.  But, as Roger Ebert‘s poignant article says, Siskel’s death was actually 10 years ago!  I always liked seeing Mr. Siskel on the television; he always exuded great intellect combined with a Buckingham-Fountain-sized heart.  It’s such a great tribute that the Gene Siskel Film Center serves as his biggest legacy.

Although cinema was Siskel’s biggest passion, he also was a big supporter of arts in Chicago.     Gene Siskel, R.I.P.

Roger Ebert’s entire article, “Remember Gene” can be read here.

Gene Siskel Film Center, located on State Street in Chicago's Loop.

top photo courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times.