So to continue the theme of awesome things in Chicago, I’m going to talk about three things going on right now. You can still catch them…if you go quickly!
The first is the Court Theater production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot directed by Ron Oj Parson. It’s all African American cast, an idea that had ruminated with the director and some of the actors for years. It’s fantastic. August Wilson and Allen Gilmore as Gogo and Didi were magnificent. I’d seen August Wilson before in Seven Guitars; it was such a pleasure to see him again. Anthony Lee Irons was sublime as Lucky or Pig. (Next line is a spoiler.) I always feel such pleasure when he goes from mute silence to thinking. It’s a magnificent moment in theater.
Waiting for Godot has to be one of my favorite plays. I’ve now seen it four times, the most for any play even Shakepseare. I’ve even put together my ideal cast. Nathan Lane as Didi, August Wilson as Gogo, John Goodman as Pozzo, and Anthony Lee Irons as Lucky. This production was better than the famous Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan show from 2013. Stewart and McKellan just weren’t convincing as Didi and Gogo. Alas.
The all African American cast gave it new layered meanings. It added some more tension with the already painful sequences between Pozzo and his slave Lucky. The director aptly writes in the Director’s note, “In its “absurd” way, this play is about the waiting we all do in life—waiting for life to resolve, waiting for love, waiting for peace, waiting for heaven, waiting for an answer, waiting for freedom, waiting for justice, waiting for change…Waiting…for Godot.” Goodness, it’s so good that it hurts.
Show ends February 15th.
The second show is the recently released documentary Red Army at the Music Box. It’s about the Soviet hockey program. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I do have a fascination with Soviet Union cultural histories (or generally any cultural histories under socialist/communist regimes). Also, I do have a fondness for hockey. It focuses largely on famous hockey player Slava Fetisov, whose list of awards and medals covered the entire movie screen. It’s such a compelling story of the apparatus that supported these hockey players to become the best in the world.
You get the good and the bad. There’s a wonderful moment when the documentarian asks Slava Fetisov, “How was your first Olympics?” Fetisov’s face immediately falls. That Olympics was the famous “Miracle on Ice.” And you feel for these guys when they lost. I felt that it was an interesting critique of Soviet society. These men were playing hockey as a team for their country. Of course, Soviet society was repressive; one man wasn’t allowed to see his dying father. But teamwork was drilled into these men. Fetisov talks about his unhappiness with Soviet policies but he never chooses to defect. It’s amazing to see how much loyalty and pride he has to this day.
I don’t know how long it will be in theaters so check it out soon.
Last but not least, I just wanted to let you guys know that my favorite event in Chicago is coming up. The 55th annual University of Chicago Folk Festival is this weekend. Friday through Sunday nights, there will be incredible concerts of folk musicians from all over the country (and sometimes international). This was where I heard Irish music for the first time and learned that I really like Bluegrass. During the day on Saturday and Sunday, there are a series of workshops that cover a variety of topics from guitar theory, dance music, to Russian choral singing. The workshops are free and the concerts are affordable so consider checking them out.
That’s all for now!