Though long overlooked in music-history books, Milwaukee’s Die Kreuzen were a crucial part of the posthardcore puzzle. Formed in 1981, they released their self-titled debut, which laid out the connections between hardcore and metal, in 1984—by which time labels such as SST, Touch and Go, and Homestead were all releasing records by independent bands that had emerged from punk but bucked its limitations. Die Kreuzen played with a punk ferocity and velocity—bassist Keith Brammer and drummer Erik Tunison formed a precise, heavy rhythm section—and the combination of Brian Egeness’s metallic, serrated guitar and Dan Kubinski’s scorched howl seemed to anticipate the tortured, brutal screech of death metal, which was coming around the bend. Starting with their next album, 1986’s October File, Die Kreuzen began easing up on the tempos and moving into an arty hard-rock sound, with Kubinski mastering a proto-metal cry and Egeness finessing an almost prog-rock tone. The band went on to make a couple more albums (like the others, for Touch and Go), but after Egeness left in ’92, Die Kreuzen’s days were numbered. Last year the group reunited—with former Couch Flambeau guitarist Jay Tiller replacing Egeness, who declined to participate—and they’re bringing their career-spanning show to Chicago for the first time in more than two decades. —Peter Margasak We Are Hex and Canadian Rifle open. $17
This young couple walked by me as I headed up the street after seeing Charles Mee's Big Love at Strawdog Theatre. They were probably in their late teens, early 20s. The boy put the girl in a headlock and kissed the part in her hair. She laughed, but in a fakey, uncertain way, like she hadn't quite decided whether she should be pissed or pleased. Still, when he let go, she stuck with him. And there you have it: the paradoxical, not to say creepy, glory of love. A headlock and a kiss. Big Love draws wisdom from that paradox. An oddball yet deadly serious update on Aeschylus's The Suppliants, it tells the tale of 50 (yes, 50) Greek sisters whose father has promised them in marriage to their 50 male cousins. Rather than go through with the wedding, the sisters commandeer a yacht and head for Italy, where—still in their bridal gowns—they ask asylum of wealthy Piero. Soon enough, the 50 cousins show up at Piero's estate as well. What follows is a comic, tragic, utterly terrific battle that makes The Taming of the Shrew look like the kid's stuff it essentially is. Matt Hawkins's staging is also terrific. The precisely choreographed cast of 30 (yes, 30) play for keeps—especially those in featured roles, such as the fierce Michaela Petro, the convincingly dangerous Shane Kenyon, the girly-girlish Sarah Goeden, and Stacy Stoltz and John Ferrick as gender warriors who find themselves caught behind enemy lines. Paul Fagen and Cheryl Roy float through in delightful character roles, and Mike Mroch's apparently simple set discloses its value as the show goes along. All in all, this Big Love is a marvel of big ensemble work in a tiny space. —Tony Adler $28
Enjoy local music, food, and arts vendors. Raffle prizes include gift certificates to Fleur, Chicago Diner, and New Wave Coffee.
The complete collection of McClusky's collages, which he made from household objects and that depict his life as a traveling circus clown. Reception Fri 1/11, 5-8 PM.
A reverend struggles with his faith during a night in a tropical Mexican hotel. $32 suggested donation
Kenneth H. Brown's meticulous depiction of a day in a Marine prison camp caused a sensation when it premiered at New York's Living Theater in 1963. The guards' unrelenting, systematic dehumanization of their fellow Marine prisoners is appalling, especially since the abuse seems intended to instill loyalty to the Corps. And Brown's near-total eschewal of plot—the maltreatment goes on until it simply stops—removes any comforting fictive filter between audience and action. Wisely, director Jennifer Markowitz does nothing to make her Mary-Arrchie production enjoyable. Her actors endure an hour of exhausting physical drills while we watch from various uncomfortable locations. As movement theater, it's grotesquely beautiful; as a glimpse into the darkest recesses of male psychology, it's sickening. —Justin Hayford $25
The tale Chris Bower tells in this one-hander, about an unhinged father determined to make his son into a high school football star, could stand on its own as a fascinating short story. But brought to the stage by director Kevlyn Hayes and actor Matt Test, the piece is powerful, darkly funny—and ultimately sad. Test plays a computer repair guy who's allowed his inner demons to rule, and ruin, his life. Estranged from his son and forbidden by court order to be near his wife—who goes to all the football games—he's drawn inexorably to repeated self-destructive encounters with them, and with the authorities. Hayes's clever, graceful staging finds myriad onstage metaphors for the protagonist's disintegrating mental state. —Jack Helbig $15
Pianist Gerald Clayton has recorded every one of his three albums since moving from his native Los Angeles to New York seven years ago, and in that brief time his music has undergone a dramatic transformation from brisk and lively post-Oscar Peterson postbop to burnished, thoroughly contemporary jazz that borrows rhythmic ideas from hip-hop and dices them up with staggering technique. He pushes even further on his latest album, Life Forum (Concord Jazz), beefing up his core trio of bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown with three horn players (trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and saxophonists Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephenson) and two vocalists, Gretchen Parlato and Sachal Vasandani, who add refined wordless singing. Clayton’s dense, translucent arrangements frequently function as set pieces for his improvisations, even when the horns and voices stick to composed material, and he incorporates a pop-soul influence similar to what you’ll hear on records by Parlato and Robert Glasper. Clayton composed all the music, and he often revels in its lush, complex harmonies while the horns and singers move in elegant counterpoint against the core trio’s fleet movements—on the hard-driving “Some Always,” for instance, he and Akinmusire play an extended passage in precise unison over a churning, frenetic groove. When it’s just the core trio, as on the skittering “Sir Third,” the borderline telepathic rapport Clayton has developed with the band comes to the fore, especially when he and Brown navigate rapid-fire tangles of rhythmic displacements or trade phrases so quickly your ears barely have time to process the exchanges. I’d love to hear the full ensemble play this music, but the trio is so sharp that these new pieces will survive the transition just fine. —Peter Margasak $20-$45
University Ballet of Chicago presents a comedic rendition of the Miguel de Cervantes novel. $5-$12
A rich, middle-aged socialite and a dumb but sexy young dancer exploit each other for fun and profit. Locked in a loveless marriage, the socialite wants a little something on the side; the dancer, a gold-digger with the morals of an alley cat, wants someone to pay the bills. The socialite sets the dancer up in a "love nest," as it used to be called, and bankrolls the would-be star's new nightclub. It's a standard scenario of showbiz sleaze, but in the landmark Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey, set in late-30s Chicago, there's a twist: the socialite is a woman, the dancer a man. That role reversal is unconventional even now, when relationships between young guys and old dolls still raise eyebrows in some quarters. In 1940, when Pal Joey premiered, having a woman on top was downright perverse, if not perverted. New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson called the show "odious" and decried its "depravity," asking rhetorically, "Can you draw sweet water from a foul well?" Continue reading >> $39
Friedrich Schiller's first play, from 1781, recalls the Gloucester subplot of King Lear: a charismatic villain steals the inheritance and position of his virtuous brother, and their father realizes too late that he's trusted the wrong son. Schiller turns the bad seed, Francis, into a despotic count, while his wronged sibling, Charles, becomes the morally conflicted leader of a band of thieves. Brad Gunter's modern-dress staging for Strangeloop Theatre has an all-female cast and a let's-play-dress-up framing device that's ill defined and unnecessary. The director's occasional heavy-handedness is redeemed, however, by the show's whiz-bang pacing—even during long speeches on the nature of freedom—and swashbuckling performances, especially Margo Chervony's blazing turn as Francis. —Zac Thompson $10-$15
Mako Sica claim on their Bandcamp page that their name means “Bad Lands.” Zelienople is named for the town in Pennsylvania where two band members pulled the plug on an unsuccessful road trip. On their new unnamed split LP for Slow Knife Records both combos turn inward—each contributes a side-length exploration of mostly blue moods—but it’s probably a stretch to connect that to the geographical bad vibes implied by their names. Mako Sica’s “Ancestors” opens with echoing guitars and wordless vocals that remind me of Keiji Haino at his most disconsolate. For a moment they swing to the other end of the spectrum with a jaunty instrumental passage—imagine Television jamming on Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me”—but soon they lapse back into forlorn atmospherics. Zelienople’s “I Think I’ll Join You” starts out eerie, with electronically processed reeds and churchy organ rising from a wash of cymbals, then gets progressively more spacey and remote—it’s as though they were spooked by a sad memory and then got lost in it. The band’s LP from last year, The World Is a House on Fire (Type), distills that lost atmosphere into discrete songs. Memorial Day celebrations tend to drown out sorrow with jingoism, but if you’re looking for music that respects what loss feels like, this record-release concert is where you need to be. —Bill Meyer Mako Sica headlines; Zelienople and a trio of Jason Stein, Matt Schneider, and Frank Rosaly open. $5 suggested donation