About the Town in May




By Philip Vidal



Gearing up for summer travel, regular service to and from O’Hare International Airport and London on the world’s largest passenger airliner, the Airbus double-decker A380, begins on British Airways on May 8, and American Airlines begins seasonal (May 4-October 27) daily flights between O’Hare and Venice.  That will make it much more convenient to attend the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, aka the Venice Architecture Biennale (May 26-November 25), to see the U.S. pavilion, which is co-commissioned by the School of the Art Institute and the University of Chicago.  Chicago architectural firm Studio Gang and Chicago artist Amanda Williams will contribute to the U.S. Pavilion. This will also make it easier for me to visit my Italian relatives, who live in the Dolomites just north of Venice.  No more running (done too often) through European airports to catch a connecting flight.



Porchlight Music Theatre presents “Memphis” at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts through June 10. Photo by Michael Courier.

If you aren’t able to get away in May, armchair travel is a ready alternative.  Porchlight Music Theatre will transport you to the 1950s Memphis music scene with their production of the Tony Award winning musical “Memphis” at Ruth Page Center for the Arts, through June 10.  It looks like it has a huge cast.  Kokandy Productions is putting on Robert Wright and George Forrest’s musical “Grand Hotel,” set in 1920s Berlin, at Theater Wit, through May 27.   The Barrymore brothers, Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford were in the 1932 film version.



For Mother’s Day, May 13, Hell in a Handbag Productions’ artistic director David Cerda channels Joan Crawford, and Ed Jones portrays Crawford’s adopted daughter Carol Ann Crawford, during a special screening of the 1981 camp classic “Mommie Dearest,” which stars Faye Dunaway, at the Music Box Theatre.  This special screening also includes a mother-daughter costume contest, but this is definitely an adult event.


For what is certainly a healthier view of mother-daughter relationships, watch Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” on Masterpiece Theater on WTTW.  The two-part series appropriately begins on Mother’s Day.


On a much more poignant note…. Boo Killbrew’s “Lettie,” about a woman who is trying to rebuild her life and reconnect with her two teenagers after having been incarcerated for seven years, is at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater through May 6.


I visited Buenos Aires in 2004, years after Argentina’s ‘dirty war’ of the late 70s and early 80s. I was in awe of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the mothers who kept a constant vigil in front of the presidential palace demanding information about the whereabouts of their children who had disappeared during the war.  Teatro Vista’s “The Madres,” set in Argentina in 1979 and about the mother and grandmother of one of those who disappeared, continues through May 27 at the Richard Christiansen Theatre at Victory Gardens (The Biograph).



Steep Theatre’s “Birdland” runs through June 9. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith.

My good friend Doris Timmen introduced me to Steep Theatre in Edgewater.  Everything I have seen there has been terrific.  The U.S. premiere of Olivier and Tony Award winning English playwright Simon Stephens’ “Birdland” has gotten terrific reviews and has been extended through June 9.  Other theater:   “The Wolf at the End of the Block,” written in 2017 by Chicago’s talented playwright Ike Holter, has been extended through May 19 at the 16th Street Theater in Berwyn.  The world premiere of his “The Light Fantastic” is at Jackalope Theatre Company at the Broadway Armory Park, May 8-June 16. It’s part modern-day horror story.


In the 1945 film “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” based on Oscar Wilde’s novel, Dorian Gray remains youthful while his portrait changes to reflect his malevolence. Chicago artist Ivan Albright was commissioned to paint the portrait that showed Dorian Gray’s moral decline in the film.  A retrospective of Albright’s work, “Flesh: Ivan Albright at the Art Institute of Chicago,” runs May 4 to August 5 and is sure to be as thought provoking as the portrait of Dorian Gray.


A Facets Celebration: Screen Gems Benefit” is May 2 at The Arts Club of Chicago.  Lisa Yun Lee will receive The Facets Award.



The Lyric Opera House hosts the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala on May 7. Photo by Marc Much.

The culinary Oscar, the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala, returns to Chicago for the fourth year in a row.  It will be held May 7 at the Lyric Opera House.  “Chicago Style” the inaugural cocktail conference is at the Ace Hotel, May 7-10.  The Chicago Beer Classic on Soldier Field is May 5.  Illinois Craft Beer Week (formerly Chicago Craft Beer Week) is May 18-25 and kicks off on May 18 with the “Beer Under Glass” annual fundraiser at the Garfield Park Conservatory.


Also in mid-May, Prince Harry and Northwestern University alumna Meghan Markle will be wed on May 19 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor.  If your invitation to their wedding got lost in the mail, as did mine, there are plenty of options here in Chicago that weekend:

  • The Chicago Antiques + Art + Design Show returns to the Merchandise Mart on May 17-20. The May 17 preview party benefits the Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
  • Inspired by his two best-selling memoirs, actor Rob Lowe will perform his one-man show, “Stories I Only My Friends: Live” to the Cadillac Theatre on May 19.
  • Wright Plus Architectural Housewalk is May 19 in Oak Park and includes rarely offered interior tours.
  • Ballet Nacional de Cuba performs “Don Quixote” at the Auditorium, May 18-20.
  • Hart Davis Hart, one of the country’s top wine auction houses headquartered here in Chicago, hosts their “Finest & Rarest Wines” auction at Spiaggia, May 18-19.
  • My East Lakeview grammar school, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, hosts its 130th anniversary Alumni Weekend and All-class Reunion that weekend.
  • My father was a fishery biologist for the State of Illinois’ Department of Conservation (now the Department of Natural Resources), so my sisters and I learned about the importance of conservation so that people and nature can live together. The Nature Conservancy has chapters in every state and offices in 74 countries.  Celebrate their 60 years in Illinois at The Nature Conservancy’s 60th Anniversary Celebration that includes nature experiences, cocktails and dinner on Northerly Island on May 19.
  • The Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s annual spring benefit is at Purdue Northwest in Westville, IN, on May 19. The trust’s mission is to protect and preserve natural habitats in Northwestern Indiana.
  • And if you really want to get in touch with nature, the second-oldest continually operating canoe race in the country, the Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon, is May 20. In 2017, nearly 800 paddlers in canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards participated in 18.5 and 5.25-mile courses.


Depeche Mode performs at the United Center on June 1.

May begins with a blast from my past.  After the screening of “High Fidelity” at the Chicago Theatre, its Evanston-born star John Cusack will talk about the 2000 movie that was filmed and set in Chicago, on May 4.  Then June begins with two other blasts from my past.  Depeche Mode plays the United Center on June 1, and David Byrne: American Utopia Tour 2018 is at the at the Auditorium Theatre June 1-3.  The Byrne concert is sold out, but my sister managed to score tickets, while I did not.  I am sure to hear about this: sibling rivalry never dies.










Dates, times, and availability are subject to change.