March 29, 2017
1. Included here not just because of its embrace of this newsletter's favorite number, the Doc10 Film Festival reels in ten documentary films, all getting ready for their close-up in their Chicago premieres, for a long weekend's nonfiction binge. For the executive-summary types: eye the opening-night double bill of "Step," about a Baltimore high-school dance team, and "Sweet Dillard," about a Florida youth music school (the kindred Merit School of Music, a worthy no-tuition institution in the West Loop, is counterpointing a benefit with the film). Also sniff out "Rat Film," a Herzogian examination of Baltimore's history, race relations and Rodentia. For the all-the-facts types, RogerEbert.com has a preview longer than some of the films. Although a few films have already sold out (the festival FAQ warns, in all caps, that every screening sold out last year), you can sneak in via the velvet-rope line if you buy a pass to the full series. March 30-April 2. $11-$15 per film; $130 fest pass. Davis Theater, 4614 N. Lincoln Ave.
2. Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter has strung 40 years of her life together performing publicly, championing new music and caressing the old. Of those 40, the past 29 have seen her resonating with the sturdy sound post of Lambert Orkis, her recital accompanist. Here, Mutter and Orkis show off the rhythmically complicated gears and springs of "Clockwork," by the contemporary composer Sebastian Currier, who has written several pieces for Mutter's articulate voice. They also hit Mozart, Respighi and some sparkle by Saint-Saens. And if tradition holds, an encore. March 29. 8 p.m. $40-$116. Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.
3. In reviews of plays past, the knock on playwright Lauren Yee has been intrusive writerliness, with punishing wordplay and rhapsody wrapping the language so tightly that it gets in the way. "King of the Yees," a new Yee commissioned by the Goodman Theatre, goes heavy meta, a milieu that welcomes hypercleverness. The main character, Lauren Yee, is rehearsing a play when her father, Larry, barges in with a lecture about the Yee family association, a club for people named Yee. Later, he disappears, and Lauren searches for him literally and herself metaphorically in San Francisco's Chinatown. March 31-April 30. $10-$40. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.
4. The Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, crescendoing toward its 40th anniversary this fall, presents a free, brief solo or chamber concert every Wednesday at 12:15, steady as a battleship. The series often books young dynamos writing the first chapters of their career stories, prising away prizewinners before they get too big for a free series. This week, pianist EunAe Lee, a doctoral student at Northwestern, collects a dexterous handful of short works including a Chopin nocturne and a Liszt rhapsody, a couple of months before storming the finals of the prestigious Cliburn competition. April 5. 12:15 p.m. Free. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.
5. Tracy Letts' "Linda Vista" debuts this week, his fifth world premiere for Steppenwolf. Given that a previous premiere was the tumid "August: Osage County," which swept the globe and almost all its award nominations (except those where it was double-nominated), any Letts release automatically cranks the hype machine. So much so that Letts doesn't have to let on much about the plot—we know that the main character is a 50-year-old divorcé moving out of his ex-wife's garage and into his own apartment, and not much else. March 30-May 21. $15-$94. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St.
6. Not another reference to the Field Museum's attic-emptying "Specimens" exhibit, Roomful of Teeth is actually a cutting-edge new-music vocal octet, one of whose members has won the Pulitzer Prize for music composition. Unlike hoary misconceptions of new music as desertlike atonal blooping, Roomful of Teeth's repertoire ranges from lush-harmonied indulgences to fantasias on throat singing to poppy hallucinations by Merrill Garbus (a.k.a. the ecstatically capitalized tUnE-yArDs). On this program, the Teeth cut the contemporary composer Ted Hearne's "Coloring Book," setting texts about the African-American experience, and Caroline Shaw's "Partita for 8 Voices," the Pulitzer-winning piece. April 2. 3 p.m. $5-$35. Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St.
7. Popping into town for one night only, the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra also ferries in Broadway demigoddess Bernadette Peters, she of the red ringlets and pouty voice, to split the bill. In the first half, the Pops rock works of George Gershwin, including a reconstruction of the Paul Whiteman version of "An American in Paris." In the second, Peters, in her first Chicago appearance after more than 10 years, sings her bread and butter, Broadway and the American songbook. March 31. 7:30 p.m. $35-$146. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway.
8. With the Chicago Dancing Festival over, the April shower of dance performances and classes called Chicago Dance Month, now in its fifth year, waltzes in to supply a dense dance calendar. Kicking off in a free, reservations-requested event at 6 p.m. on April 3 at Navy Pier, the month entails spring steps from affiliated companies such as the Joffrey Ballet and Visceral Dance Chicago (discounts available) and springboards to monthslong series such as Stomping Grounds, Chicago Human Rhythm Project's polyrhythms with diverse percussive dance companies. It's a lot to consider, but the month of a thousand dances begins with a single step. April 1-30. Various locations.
9. Spies are everywhere. Not only the Holocaust Museum's Adolf Eichmann exhibit, the opening of the espionage-collage restaurant SafeHouse and the microfilm—er, TV show—"The Americans" informing the cultural conversation, but also the Evening of Intrigue at the Chicago History Museum, a benefit in cahoots with the upcoming exhibit "Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America," opening April 8. For the event, the History Museum managed to book an actual, real-life spy people might actually have heard of, other than Mata Hari, who is dead. Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent whose cover was blown in the 2003 affair that led to the conviction of Scooter Libby, will converse with Mary Ann Ahern of NBC 5 between cocktails and dinner, when all good spy conversations take place. Wigs, clear glasses and questionable accents optional. March 31. 6-10 p.m. $250-$500. Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St.
10. The most insidious part of depression is the mind's conspiracy against itself, its ability to persuade itself of hopelessness. Other people have the ability to short-circuit these damaging cycles, a principle motivating the work of the charity Hope for the Day, which produces a video series called "Music Saved My Life," a sort of It Gets Better for suicide prevention. Hope for the Day has organized a dinner called Food Gives Me Hope, pooling the talents of the head chefs of Boeufhaus, Fat Rice, GreenRiver, Roister and Oriole—a virtuosic quintet (trust me, I'm also a Crain's food critic)—for a six-course dinner with wine and cocktail pairings. You know people really care about a cause when 100 percent of the proceeds go to the charity. April 2. $250. GreenRiver, 259 E. Erie St., 18th floor.