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Friday 4/4 - Thursday 4/10

APRIL

by Mike Sula

4 FRIDAY In various versions of the classic folk song "The Ballad of Frankie and Johnny" the avenging heroine is either executed or forgiven for offing her two-timing man. In Redmoon Theater's Frankie and Johnny, Frankie's fate is played out by live actors and the group's fantastically designed puppets. Set in a vaudevillian cabaret and narrated by a tough-talking film noir detective, this production is being refined in conjunction with students from the University of Illinois at Chicago in preparation for its premiere at Steppenwolf in June. It opens tonight at 7:30 in the UIC Theatre, 1044 W. Harrison. Tickets are $10. Call 312-996-2939.

If we weren't such jive-ass Chicagoans whose fingers are way off the pulse of the pop cult jugular, we would have been bestowed a Polly Esther's earlier than this. The popular nightclub chain, which institutionalizes the dubiously stabilized 70s retro craze in much the same way the House of Blues institutionalizes you-know-what, has already landed in seven other cities. Of course truly hip nostalgics may want to hold out for the imminent arrival of establishments themed on the kooky hairstyles, clothing, and music of the early 90s. The revisionary club opens tonight at 8 at 213 W. Institute Place, 312-664-0777. Cover charge is $8.

5 SATURDAY Arabic calligraphy is a vital and thriving form of artistic expression in the Middle East and Asia. The traveling exhibition The Right to Write: Calligraphic Works From the Collection of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts includes work by 45 artists from 17 countries. Examples vary from traditional calligraphy in its purest form to abstracts that use characters totally divorced from their meanings to figurative representations of animals, humans, or objects formed by the ornate script. It opens this morning at 10 in the Sidney R. Yates Gallery of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It's free. Call 312-744-6630.

Cosmic rays from outer space are blamed for all sorts of inappropriate behavior, but mostly they just careen around the universe bouncing from magnetic field to magnetic field. Blasted from exploding stars and gas clouds at extremely high velocities, these electrically charged atomic particles are the subject of Astronomy With Particles: How the Study of Cosmic Rays Became Astroparticle Physics, a free ten-part lecture series by physicist Lucy Fortson. The first lecture starts this morning at 11 in room 115 of the Kersten Physics Teaching Center on the University of Chicago campus, 5720 S. Ellis. Call 773-702-7823 for more.

6 SUNDAY It's easy to get burned shopping for Elizabethan mustard pots. See, mustard paste wasn't invented until after the Elizabethan era, so you might as well be buying the Brooklyn Bridge. British father and son antique experts John and Julian Bly say that the best way to avoid getting shaken down by shady antique chiselers is to know your history. The proprietors of the 106-year-old John Bly Antiques (started by John's grandfather) in Hertfordshire will host a daylong program teaching antique lovers to be detectives. It starts at 9:30 this morning in Rosary College's Fine Arts Recital Hall, 7900 W. Division, River Forest. $125 gets you breakfast, lunch, cocktails, and dinner, in addition to the Blys' advice. Call 708-524-6454 for reservations.

According to the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute, an "associated but independent organization" that tests the high-end retailer's product line, the average Hammacher Schlemmer customer's yearly income is $75,000. But even if yours isn't quite that large, you're still welcome to show up at the Michigan Avenue store today to help determine the best extended-memory recorded-message card. More compact than a tape recorder, the device can digitally record your political campaign contributions or a memo to fire your gardener. Participants receive a 10 percent discount on store purchases made that day. Testing goes from 11 AM to 2 PM at 445 N. Michigan. Call 312-649-7342.

7 MONDAY In the legendary performances of Mark Pauline's San Francisco-based Survival Research Laboratories, giant remote-controlled flame-throwing machines waged epic battles with organic robots made of animal parts and metal, while sonic cannons assaulted brave (or stupid) audiences with blasts of concentrated physical noise. The three SRL videos that will be shown tonight by the Psychotronic Film Society, A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief, A Will to Provoke, and A Scenic Harvest, allow optimal viewing from a remote, safe distance. The free screening starts at 8 at the Liar's Club, 1665 W. Fullerton. Call 773-509-4958.

8 TUESDAY Obsessive Simpsons fans can hardly make it through a conversation without injecting some reference to the world's most referential cartoon. The show's animation director and producer David Silverman can add to those voluminous vocabularies when he screens censored Itchy and Scratchy outtakes and early episodes from The Tracey Ullman Show, and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of television's longest-running prime-time animated series. It's tonight at 7:30 at William Rainey Harper College, in the Building J theater, 1200 Algonquin, Palatine. Tickets are $7. Call 847-925-6100.

9 WEDNESDAY "The silence is too loud / Dozing only in the noise of day / Knowing now how people sleep / Soundly next to the El tracks / I long for those city nights / Neighbors yelling and screaming / Sirens wailing / Gunfire echoing down the block / Oh how I long to lie down in a restless city night." So goes poet Charles McCoskey's "Unable to Sleep" from the prison poetry anthology Hear Me Out (End of Time Press). McCoskey reads tonight at 7:30 along with fellow contributors John Perry and Roman Metcalf as part of the Guild Complex's Hear Me Out: Poems From Prison. It's at the Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division, and it costs $5; $3 for open-mike participants. Call 773-278-2210.

10 THURSDAY Frederick P. Hitz, the first presidentially appointed Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency, has held the post for six years and has worked for the CIA on and off since 1967. At a luncheon today sponsored by the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Strategy Forum he will discuss the possibility of reform within the agency. Afterward there will be a question-and-answer period during which curious individuals may want to question him about interesting projects the CIA may or may not have undertaken in the past, like say, signing Manuel Noriega's paychecks, distributing crack in Los Angeles ghettos, and scheming to make Fidel Castro's beard fall out by dusting his boots with thallium salts. Lunch starts at noon in the Crystal Room on the eighth floor of the Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan. It's $20. Call 312-431-5026 for reservations.

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