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John Callaway Tonight

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John Callaway Tonight, Pegasus Players. After 43 years of covering other people's news, Chicago broadcaster John Callaway now reports on himself. He delivers a ton of tales in this one-man 150-minute retrospective, sharing his memories of a hardscrabble childhood in West Virginia and the little crimes that inspired his coming-of-age getaway to Chicago: he hitchhiked here in 1956 with 71 cents in his pocket.

Famous as a superb listener in his public-television interviews (and enthusiastic enough to make any subject interesting), Callaway is an equally sensitive storyteller, whether describing spring floods, transient hotels, or the scoop-crazy City News Bureau. Accompanying these heartfelt anecdotes are video clips from Callaway interviews, a flawless demonstration of the no-step drop kick, and three ballads dedicated to his famed singing daughters. The show amounts to a combined time trip and self-portrait rich with Callaway's unforced ardor for Chicago and journalism.

Though a tad too long, Dan Foster's staging wisely balances Callaway's memories with his responses to written questions from the audience. The night I attended, Callaway astutely analyzed today's escalating conflict between the Internet's democratization of news gathering and the increasing presence and power of media conglomerates--one of several observations that Callaway gave a personal context. It's easy to imagine future broadcasters being inspired by the way Callaway's words have influenced deeds.

--Lawrence Bommer

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