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Yo-Yo Ma is soloist with Music Director Riccardo Muti and the CSO in Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The often stormy and repressive nature of life in the Soviet Union clearly infused the music of Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich.

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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “Decadance/Chicago” by Ohad Naharin. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Recent performances by a number of major Chicago dance companies suggest that in a city renowned for its theater scene, an impressive component of drama also can be found in the work of its dancers.

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Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed in Steppenwolf’s Chicago premiere of “Guards at the Taj” by Rajiv Joseph. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

It is no secret that we live in a world of grotesque extremes. In “Guards at the Taj,” playwright Rajiv Joseph explores this phenomenon by spinning a story that contrasts the radically opposing instincts of a megalomaniacal ruler.

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Len Cariou, right, and Mark Janas in “Broadway & The Bard.”

In the one-man show “Broadway & The Bard,” Len Cariou – an actor of exceptional breadth and experience – brings both a youthful enthusiasm and worldly wise sensibility to what is clearly a labor of love. 

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Kamal Angelo Bolden and Aimé Donna Kelly in the Chicago premiere of “Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” by Suzan-Lori Parks. (Credit: Liz Lauren)

Suzan-Lori Parks’ fascinating three-hour trilogy, now on stage at the Goodman Theatre, probes the meaning of freedom, and all the complexity and ambivalence that word can carry with it.

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Jalen Gilbert and Heather Chrisler in “Mies Julie” at Victory Gardens Theater. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

Yael Farber’s blistering contemporary South African version of “Miss Julie,” the 1888 August Strindberg classic, is far and away the most brilliant play to arrive on a Chicago stage this season. 

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“Empower” performance May 31, 2018 at the Lyric Opera House. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

It’s one thing to star in your local high school musical. It’s a very different thing to take possession of the internationally renowned stage of Lyric Opera of Chicago. That’s just what these students did.

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Left: David Sajewich, Kyrie Courter in “Company.” (Photo by Brett A. Beiner). Right: Renelle Nicole, Jessica Brooke Seals and Kylah Williams in “A New Attitude.” (Photo credit: Alan Davis)

Looking for the best way to spend a sultry pre-summer evening aside from taste-testing the latest flavor of gelato? Easy. Catch a musical.

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Edward Gero and Jade Wheeler in “The Originalist” at Court Theatre. (Photo by Gary W Sweetman)

It’s a good bet that no one seeing “The Originalist” will undergo a major shift in their opinions, but they certainly will be reminded of how the Supreme Court’s polarization reflects the temper of the current moment in politics.

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Marty Rea as Vladimir and Aaron Monaghan as Estragon in Druid theatre company’s “Waiting for Godot” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Matthew Thompson)

Within the span of a single week I saw productions of two plays – Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” and Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” – that I wouldn’t necessarily have linked together had I not seen them in such quick succession.

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Esa-Pekka Salonen, 2015 (Credit: Nicolas Brodard)

Here is the formula for an astonishing evening of music: Take Bela Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and put it in the astonishing hands of pianist Mitsuko Uchida, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.

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Ella Joyce and Marie Thomas in Chuck Smith’s major revival of Emily Mann’s “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” at Goodman Theatre, May 5-June 10. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

If ever there were a way to remind audiences of what it would really take to “make America great again,” the Goodman Theatre’s revival of “Having Our Say” could easily qualify as the show to get the job done.

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Conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 on May 17, 2018. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Although everything they touch turns to gold these days, nothing quite reveals the brilliance of the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra quite like the challenge of a Mahler masterwork. 

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Tiffany Topol, seated, and, from left: Cassidy Stirtz, Nik Kmiecik, Jeanne T. Arrigo and Everleigh Murphy. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

Theater critic Hedy Weiss gives us her take on shows from American Blues Theater, Shattered Globe, Porchlight, the Paramount Theatre and more.

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From left: Liliana Mastroianni, Cleo Shine and Thavory Hang in The Yard’s production of “Columbinus.” (Credit: Evan Hanover)

An intensely disciplined, fearless, altogether remarkable ensemble of sophisticated young artists brings this singular – and singularly riveting – docu-drama to life.

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Anthony Irons in Shattered Globe Theatre’s Chicago premiere of “How to Use a Knife.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Among its several honors, Will Snider’s “How to Use a Knife” was named a finalist for a PEN Center USA Literary Award. Based on this exceptional Shattered Globe production alone, it should have won the prize.