Gwendolyn Ramsey, concierge at the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago , is this week’s concierge correspondent and shares her top three things to do in Chicago. Check out the short video clip, below, to see what she recommends.
There are three things I know I can always count on in Chicago: 1. The reliability of the Red Line; that puppy just never stops. 2. The winters will always be treacherous and last a lot longer than you expect; you just have to deal with it. 3. No matter what day it is, no matter what time of year it is, you can always find an amazing show to see in Chicago.
So quit complaining about the weather, and head on out to one of our awesome theaters. I have four productions below that are definitely worth braving the winter weather to see. And hey, you can always take the Red Line.
Countless immigrants come to the US in search of the American Dream. Diana and Misha are no different; they emigrated from Russia to America and are living in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, with their son Alex and daughter Mira. Mira is 14 and was born in the US, and basically acts like a typical American teenager—complete with a secret boyfriend and all. Her father Misha owns a private transportation company where 18 year old Alex also works. Alex is in college, but because his father’s transportation business is struggling he is forced to pick up a second job at Verizon. Though Misha may not make the most money, he takes pride in his work, but this is not the American Dream Diana had expected. What begins as a dark family comedy turns into a crime thriller when Diana’s estranged brother Boris comes to town. Boris manages to set up shop quickly, employing nephew Alex as a driver. As the story unfolds we find out that though Boris’s mysterious occupation is lucrative it might not be legal. Alex is then forced to examine his own moral code and choose which American Dream he wants to pursue: a lucrative life of crime or an honest working class occupation that just covers the bills. The play, written by Erika Sheffer and directed by Yasen Peyankov, weaves the tale of a modern immigrant family’s experience that is engaging, quick witted, and mysterious.
1650 N. Halsted St. Chicago
Runs through May 11
For tickets visit: steppenwolf.org or call 312-335-1650. $55-$78.
Recommended for adults
Trip.’s “4PLAY sex in a series” is in its Chicago debut at the Den Theatre. The story, which is based around three couples’ intertwining journeys, is fun fodder for a play, but it’s not revolutionary. However, the way in which the story is told adds depth that one wouldn’t expect from the average date night romantic comedy experience. Employing metatheatrical devices, like a broken fourth wall, a play within a play, and the actors performing in the audience—the lines between the play and real life are blurred. “4PLAY” is written by Graham Brown, Nathan Faudree and Lisa Roth and is directed by Graham Brown. I should also mention that director Graham Brown also stars in the piece, playing a stage director who falls in love with a young woman he cast in a show—really blurring the lines between what’s fact and fiction. Though the play follows three couples’ relationships, the main character seems to be Brown’s, as he sees the most stage time and is also followed around by what we assume is his self-conscious physically embodied in the form of a stage manager. Theatrical ploys aside, what really draws you in are the relationships because they are so honestly and thoughtfully forged by the actors. All in all, the production offers a fresh and authentic view of the modern day relationship, not to mention a really fun theatrical experience. “4PLAY sex in a series” is the perfect alternative to the traditional date night play.
“4PLAY sex in a series”
1333 N. Milwaukee Ave
Runs through March 15
For tickets visit: 4play.brownpapertickets.com $20.
Recommended for adults
Nick and Nora are executive assistants to the uber-rich and powerful Daniel Weisinger. As a concierge, I can certainly empathize with the executive assistant’s plight, therefore, Nick and Nora’s journey in Leslye Headland’s “Assistance” definitely resonated with me. Like an executive assistant, a concierge receives many requests ranging from the mundane, like transferring a phone call, to the extreme, like finding a helicopter to land in a place where it really shouldn’t. Lucky for me, my guests aren’t as harsh and demanding as Weisinger, so I can confidently say I enjoy my job much more than they do. No matter what your occupation, we can all empathize with Nick, Nora, and the endless march of assistants that parade through Weisinger’s office after being hired and fired because we all at one point have worked at a job we didn’t like, or for a boss we hated. What Headland’s play examines is why? Why do we continue to work at the jobs we hate? The fact that this play is a part of her seven play series based on the seven deadly sins with “greed” being the inspiration, gives us a clue. Director Joshua Aaron Weinstein’s production is finely tuned, and the actors’ performances hit all the right notes, leaving us glad for our safe seats in the audience while we watch the office antics with horror and curiosity.
DCA Storefront Theatre
66 E. Randolph St. Chicago
Runs through March 16
For tickets visit: nickandnora.brownpapertickets.com or call 312-533-4666. $15.
Recommended for adults
This world premiere play adapted by Christopher M. Walsh from the classic 1859 novel is sure to satisfy any Charles Dickens fan. Full of love, excitement, murder, and lust, Lifeline’s production under Elise Kauzlaric’s direction is bursting with life and passion; which is an especially exceptional feat considering the story is so full of, well, death. For those of you who haven’t studied the classic novel in school or had the opportunity to read it otherwise, the story takes place in two cities: London and Paris. The action is primarily set whilst the Reign of Terror is sweeping through France during the French Revolution and heads are flying left and right. Ex-French aristocrat Charles Darnay had denounced his title and fled Paris years prior making England his home and escaping his tyrannical father and uncle. After fate led him to Lucie, who happens to be the daughter of a doctor his horrible family had unfairly imprisoned for 18 years, Darnay is forced to choose between the love of his life and doing what is right back home in chaotic France. With the aid and selfless sacrifice of Sydney Carton, who is in love with Lucie as well, Darnay manages to narrowly escape the National Razor. The thoughtful and well executed—no pun intended—production delivers exactly what one would hope for, and the passionate performances serve the story well. The especially beautiful thing is that the production highlights the extreme dichotomy of man. While the story takes place in one of the deepest and darkest times in history, it simultaneously restores your faith in humanity and the generosity of the human spirit.
“A Tale of Two Cities”
Runs through April 6.
6912 North Glenwood Ave.
For tickets visit: boxoffice.printtixusa.com/lifelinetheatre/eventcalendar or call 773-761-4477. $40.
Recommended for ages 14 and up
About the Author
Krista Krauss is a Senior Concierge at the James Hotel, a member of The Chicago Hotel Concierge Association, a native Chicagoan, and a local theater artist. Krista is also a member of the League of Chicago Theatres Young Professionals Circle. She received dual degrees in Communication and Theatre from Loyola University Chicago. Her mission is to create and support awareness of Chicago’s unique local theaters. E-mail her at KKrauss@jameshotels.com.
Parents are saints, and that is probably more obvious during this brutal winter. If you’re tired of your kids drawing on the walls then you should head with them down to the Museum of Contemporary Arts (MCA) Chicago Family Days.
Coloring books can be too inhibiting for a child’s growing creativity and MCA’s Family Day Draw is about pushing the limits of what a drawing can be. Practicing artists will be helping families experiment with different styles and ideas such as portraiture, three dimensions, doodles, and more. You can practice your portraiture on special guests Poems While You Wait who will write you a poem if you draw them.
The theme of this weekend’s Family Day is based on MCA’s “William J. O’Brien” exhibit, which is the artist’s first comprehensive museum exhibit. O’Brien’s work process always started with drawing which led to his amazing ceramics work.
Along with drawing, participants will be encouraged to take place in a range of activities such as scavenger hunts that are not only fun but spur conversations between families about the artworks in the museum.
MCA Family Day Draw takes place Saturday, March 8 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago located at 220 East Chicago Ave. There are two more MCA Family Days left for the season: Remix on April 12 and Dream on May 10. MCA Family Days are free for families with children 12 years and younger. For more information visit mcachicago.org.
Hey, March… so far we’re not a fan. If you’re like me and are looking to deal with the Polar Vortex by mowing on golden-delicious pieces of fried chicken, then you’re in luck. From Fried Chicken Sundays at State & Lake Chicago Tavern to the much-anticipated opening of Leghorn, here are two top spots to satisfy your cravings this week in Chicago.
Chefs Jared Van Camp and Sieger Bayer—along with the talented Element Collective crew (Kinmont, Old Town Social, Nellcote, RM Champagne Salon, Owen & Alchemy) —are officially opening the doors of Leghorn, their socially-conscious BYOB chicken shack on Thursday, March 6. Located in Ukrainian Village (959 N. Western Ave.), guests can delve into chicken sandwiches daily from 11 a.m. until the goods are gone. As if the photo of their sandwiches weren’t enough to entice you (above), they’re also enthusiastic supporters of not only sustainable farmers and artisans, but gay rights. Learn more, here.
Available at State & Lake Chicago Tavern every Sunday, feast on half and full perfectly-crisped chicken buckets. Half buckets include five pieces and two biscuits for $16 and full buckets include 10 pieces and four biscuits for $30. Select growlers are also available for $20.
The brainchild of Chef de Cuisine Joe Marchionna, the inspiration for Fried Chicken Sundays simply came from his hunger for great fried bird.
“I had tried a few of the hot fried chicken restaurants in town and figured I should give it a shot,” he says. “Fried chicken was not something in my culinary repertoire before this project, but I have always enjoyed eating it since I was a kid so I researched 20 or so different versions and from there it was trial and error.”
Chef Marchionna’s selection of chicken reflects the State and Lake Chicago Tavern brand. It is an all organic, non-hormonal, pastured farm chicken that is butchered whole and left on the bone to help retain moisture during the fry.
While he won’t divulge all of his tricks, he does share that the addition of beef tallow to the fryer helps add a great depth of flavor and that home cooks should allow the chicken to rest in the dredge before the final breading and frying stage as it helps the flour adhere to the chicken better so it doesn’t fall off after the first bite.
For additional details or to make a reservation visit stateandlakechicago.com.
Head to Navy Pier this weekend and watch as your youngster propels paper aircraft through vertical wind tunnels or launches foam rockets at targets high in the sky. Whether they’re looking to build a tower and knock it down using air cannons of all sizes or get blown away in front of the exhibit’s Wall O’ Fans, there’s no shortage of fun ways for your kids to blow off some steam.
The exhibit also features special events daily, including:
The Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday-Friday and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays (Kraft Free Family Night!) and Saturdays. The Chicago Children’s Museum is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This week’s concierge correspondent Anthony Gates shares his top three things to do in Chicago. Check out the short video clip, below, to see what he recommends.
For many across the country they have one week left to indulge before they give up social media, caffeine, alcohol, or any other thing that they feel is bad for them. For those who are giving up sweets you have seven days to go full Homer Simpson on some of Chicago’s most sugary, decadent delights.
To compare the sweets from The Doughnut Vault with your garden-variety doughnut should be a crime. When your glazed doughnut is voted the best doughnut in the country over a doughnut that has bacon on it you know that you’re dealing with a different beast. What makes The Doughnut Vault’s doughnuts so special? Instead of risen doughnuts they make cake doughnuts, which use less oil giving them a lighter texture but are actually fried longer. There might actually be a labor law that allows workers to drop everything they’re doing when Doughnut Vault doughnuts are brought to the workplace. Check with your human resources representative.
If you’re going to have a doughnut outside of the Doughnut Vault this week then it has to be a paczki, which is another mouthwatering gift Polish immigrants gave us. This jelly-filled pastry was created specifically for this week as the Polish were trying to find a way to get rid of all of their sugar, eggs, lard, and fruit before Lent. Bakeries across Chicago will have you covered for your paczki (sounds like poonsh-key) needs, but you might want to take a look at Delightful Pastries various locations or Oak Mills Bakery in Wicker Park or Belmont. You can find the traditional variety with raspberries or strawberries inside or you can try more modern ones like those filled with vodka and vanilla bean custard. Alcohol and sweets—it’s like killing two birds with one stone.
Alliance Bakery and Café is all about rich delicacies. Focused on fine European pastries, it’s hard to pick what to get when you walk in, but you can’t go wrong with the countless macarons that are available. Forget about those stale cookie sandwich things that’s sole purpose is to remove a tooth from your mouth. Alliance Bakery’s macarons are so soft, creamy, and delicious that you will likely leave with a box filled with each of their ten varieties. You can’t go wrong with the hazelnut chocolate or raspberry macarons.
Voted one of the concierge’s favorite shopping destinations in 2014, Vosges is the definition of luxury. They fuse chocolate with everything from chiles to champaign, but your taste buds will never forgive you if you visit and leave without one of their bacon and chocolate offerings. Not to steal from Forrest Gump, but they have bacon and chocolate bars, bacon and chocolate truffles, bacon and chocolate caramels, and even bacon and chocolate pancake mix. Good luck giving that up for 40 days after getting a taste.
One of Oprah’s favorite things, and we know everything she touches is gold, when you stroll past More Cupcakes in River North it wouldn’t be your fault if you thought you had just walked past a jewelry store. More Cupcakes even sells their delicious bites in what look like jewelry boxes. Don’t be fooled by More’s presentation though as the sweets backup their beauty in their taste. Flavors are always changing as the shop follows the saying that “if you can eat or drink it, we can turn it into a cupcake,” and if you’ve had their margarita or coconut mango treats than you know they live up to their motto.
After grabbing each of these five before next Wednesday you’ll understand true sacrifice when you have to go without them until April, so make sure to savor every bite.
Those who have only experienced Flamenco at a glance might’ve been intrigued by the dancing that seems to punish the ground, the clapping that demands attention, the guitar that paints a picture with its melody, and the singer who lays out their soul for the listener. The 2014 Chicago Flamenco Festival is an opportunity to take a deeper look at the style of music that is filled with extreme passion.
Through March 23 the Instituto Cervantes has organized a series of performances, events, and workshops celebrating this performance art that originates from the Romani people in Spain. The Chicago Flamenco Festival will introduce the fundamentals for those unfamiliar and show an interesting fusion being done with Flamenco and other styles of music for those already familiar with the art.
Of the performers, one you don’t want to miss is Estrella Morente whose song “Volver” was made famous internationally by the Pedro Almodovar film of the same name. Morente’s anguish while she sings is something that stays with the audience. The Chicago group Las Guitarras de España will be performing along with Antonio Mesa where both will present a fusion of flamenco with jazz and other styles of music.
There are four pillars to Flamenco: baile (dance), toque (guitar), palmas (clapping), and cante (singing). You can learn about each of these pillars in various workshops. Aside from performing, Las Guitarras de España will hold a workshop on flamenco guitar playing methods along with dance technique.
The 2014 Chicago Flamenco Festival will run through March 23 in various locations. For more information visit http://chicago.cervantes.es/FichasCultura/Ficha92816_47_2.htm.
When you were a kid and went to the beach you’d stand at the water’s edge and throw punches at the crashing waves. On Sunday is your opportunity to throw some punches at nature for this horrible winter. Be warned, you’re likely to be hitting snow and ice, but at least it will be for a good cause.
The 14th annual Chicago Polar Plunge will take place Sunday, March 2 at North Avenue Beach. Splash your way into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan to support the Special Olympics Chicago. This organization assists almost 5,000 athletes and created this polar plunge as a fundraising initiative. Those who want to participate in the plunge must raise at least $150 to help reach the million dollar goal. Don’t worry you don’t have to go all the way in—knee deep participants are welcome.
The biggest catch of this upcoming plunge is that not only is Mayor Rahm Emanuel participating but after a fierce social media campaign the new host of “The Tonight Show,” Jimmy Fallon, has announced that he will join in too.
— ChicagosMayor (@ChicagosMayor) February 21, 2014
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) February 24, 2014
Chicago – I'm wearing a suit and tie for the #PolarPlunge. Show solidarity by wearing a necktie. (I'm not telling you what else to wear.)
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) February 24, 2014
Special Olympics Chicago will also be giving out prizes to the top three overall fundraisers, the team raising the most funds, best group costume, and top three individual costumes.
It is never too late to support an amazing cause and make sure you drop by North Avenue Beach to watch a lot of people shiver at the same time. The first wave of plungers of the Chicago Polar Plunge will start at 10:00 a.m. For more information visit sochicago.org.
Looking for a fun, new way to celebrate Mardi Gras in Chicago? How about a seven-stop, indoor bar crawl along Navy Pier? If you’re looking to join in, then grab your masks and beads and prepare to have some fun on Saturday, March 1, from 2 to 8 p.m.
Check in takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Crystal Gardens, near the main entrance of the Pier. Entry includes two drink tickets, drink specials at each location, and entertainment that includes everything from live music and face-painting to games, raffles, prizes and more.
• Access to seven bars along Navy Pier
• Two Bud Light drink tickets at designated bars
• Specials including: $3 Bud Light Drafts, $4 Goose Island 312 & Craft Drafts, $5 Southern Comfort Hurricanes
• $20 credit for Lyft transportation (first time users only), use code PSSG
• Live music, entertainment, games & prizes at participating bars
• Enter raffles along the crawl to win your chance at: Two tickets to the Legend’s Lounge at The United Center for the Bulls or Hawks game (compliments of Bud Light) and The Navy Pier Experience Package that includes gift cards from bars, restaurants, stores, free parking, tickets to rides at Pier Park and more.
Participating bars: Harry Caray’s Tavern; Billy Goat Tavern; Riva Crab House; Mystic Blue; Haagen Dazs; Crystal Gardens; and City Porch. Tickets are $20 and available online here.