'Algren' captures city's gritty magic
by Hedy Weiss
Jewel of a multimedia piece is vivid portrait
Memo to all those involved in promoting Chicago as a global tourist destination: Forget about the standard video portrait of the city, filled with generic (if enticing) views of the skyline and lake and ballparks, of Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park and the rest.
Instead, take a peek at the Lookingglass Theatre production of "Nelson Algren: For Keeps and a Single Day" -- the brilliant synthesis of live theater and music, film and memory-made-solid that is now in a superb remount at the Museum of Contemporary Art Theatre. Once you've experienced this 90-minute jewel of a multimedia piece -- a hypnotic portrait of Chicago in all its grit and hard-edged glory -- you will want to find a way to capture it forever. It is magic.
A verbally, visually and sonically gorgeous show, "For Keeps" is the seamless creation of John Musial (director, videographer and scenic designer), Thomas J. Cox (its enthralling solo actor), David Pavkovic (composer of the thrillingly percussive, metallic-threaded score), and powerhouse musicians Kevin O'Donnell and Bob Lovecchio.
Of course it would not exist without the raw, poetic riffs of Nelson Algren -- Chicago's unofficial poetry-and-prose laureate who captured the hot beat and cold reality of Chicago's hustlers and hookers, believers and blasphemers, con men and sentimental squares and so much more.
Moving from the city's founding myths to its street-wise truths, from Algren's childhood crush on a neighbor to his lifelong love-hate affair with the metropolis itself, this is an urban torch song conjured with fire and ice. A real stunner.