Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Burning Down Under

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Lots of performers claim to be multicultural, but few straddle as many different cultures as gracefully and powerfully as writer, actor, and spoken-word performer Miles Merrill. Born and raised in Chicago, he's the product of a very 60s-style mixed marriage: his father was a Black Panther, and his mother could trace her ancestry back to the Mayflower. Then, when Merrill moved to Australia three years ago, he began performing hip, hilarious monologues that explored the myriad differences between Australian and American life. He discovered, for example, that Australians couldn't decide whether to put him down as a black man in a white supremacist culture or be in awe of him because he was an American and so represented the pop culture they worship. Not a bad trick, to be at once privileged and marginalized--and not a bad position from which to comment on the flaws of two subtly different white-dominated societies. Merrill's performances reflect a similar eclecticism, combining storytelling, poetry, and wild, witty wordplay in a style reminiscent of Gil Scott-Heron, Ken Nordine, and Allen Ginsberg, with a touch of Lenny Bruce, a dash of Shel Silverstein, and a tincture of Woody Allen thrown in for good measure. On his CD, What Night Knows, Merrill's tales are accompanied by Australian jazz group Professor Itchy's Kitchen. Merrill will be doing selections from What Night Knows plus newer pieces one night only next week, then in early September he'll be performing as part of the Around the Coyote festival. Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret, 2011 W. North, 773-465-2709. Thursday, August 26, 10:30 PM. Free. --Jack Helbig

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