Voices STD (Stuff to Do)—February 8, 2008

By Ben Rossi

These days it’s easy to feel like whoever is controlling the weather has got a bone to pick with the city of Chicago. What did we ever do to him? Whatever it was, it’s obvious that revenge is a dish best served cold with a side of blinding snow. But where nature fails, culture offers a refuge.

Friday / February 8

The 48th Annual University of Chicago Folk Festival kicks off tonight with a performance at Mandel Hall. Sponsored by the University of Chicago Folklore Society, the festival features three days of roots music by the nation’s top folk acts and weekend workshops in everything from slide guitar to barn dance. There’s something for everyone, from Irish folk to Cajun dance hall. Don’t miss the free dances on Saturday and Sunday. (Mandel Hall, 8 p.m., $10 for students, tickets can be purchased at zaptix.com, by mail, or at box office)

Doc hosts the Japan Midwest Foundation Film Festival all this weekend, featuring contemporary Japanese films sharing the theme of “The Changing Scenery of Japan.” These movies explore contemporary Japanese society through its portrayals of the generations growing up in the shadow of World War II. The series is co-sponsored by the Japan Society and Center for East Asian Studies. All Under the Moon and the prizewinning Pacchigi! screen tonight; both address ethnic divisions in Japanese society. (Max Palevsky, 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., free)

It’s very seldom that Jeff Goldblum doesn’t play some nerd with wry, fidgety charm. But in David Cronenberg’s The Fly, screening tonight at the Music Box, his usual facetious nerd character transforms into a horrible monster lacking any trace of charm. Revising the venerable old story of science overreaching its God-given bounds, Cronenberg’s film is concerned more than anything with decomposition, flesh’s refusal to stay healthy. (3733 North Southport Avenue, midnight, $9.25, also playing Saturday)

Saturday / February 9

Paul Newman gives arguably his greatest performance in Robert Rossen’s bleak The Hustler, playing tonight at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Newman plays an ambitious pool hustler struggling to defeat the reigning champion, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). The story barely conceals the existential cry of despair underneath. (164 North State Street, 5:15 p.m., $7 for students)

Catch some free excerpts from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe, this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company show, which will be performed by the University Chamber Orchestra. The excerpts will be paired with Dvorak’s Czech Suite. (Fulton Recital Hall, 8 p.m., free)

Sunday / February 10

Platypus, a Marxist journal society, hosts its first reading group in an ongoing series focused on “The Absence of the Left” in politics. Readings include a letter from the Iraqi Communist Party. (Reynolds Club room 019, 1–4 p.m., free)

Monday / February 11

Want to laugh on a Monday? Go see “That’s Weird, Grandma,” a collection of short plays written by Chicago Public School students and performed by comedy troupe Barrel of Monkeys at the Neo-Futurarium. It sounds dubious on paper, but it is one of the funniest shows going on right now. (5153 North Ashland Avenue, 8 p.m., $10)

Chamber-pop starlit Nina Nastasia delivers stripped-down versions of her delicate, fraught songs tonight at the Hideout. The Bitter Tears round off the ticket. (1354 West Wabansia Avenue, 9 p.m., $10, 21+)

Tuesday / February 12

Professors and former Weatherman members Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrm speak tonight about key political events and trends in 1968 as part of the Chicago History Museum’s The ’68 Experience. An ongoing series of talks and a bus tour, The ’68 Experience explores this fascinating time in American society, including its music, culture, and politics. (1601 North Clark Street, 7 p.m., $10)

Boasting some of the best performances of the season, Goodman Theatre’s Shining City is a ghost story for grown-ups about a Dublin widower haunted by the specter of his ex-wife. John Judd as the widower and Jay Whittaker as his shrink are both outstanding. (170 North Dearborn Street, 7:30 p.m., $23–$70)

Wednesday / February 13

Through March 2 the Museum of Contemporary Art presents Jeni Spota’s small, impasto paintings inspired by the dream sequence of a character named Giotto in the film The Decameron. Mysterious and emotive, the paintings are an auspicious beginning for Spota, who received her M.F.A. from the Art Institute in 2007. (220 East Chicago Avenue, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., $6 for students)

Thursday / February 14

The undergraduate program in English will throw a little Valentine’s party this evening, so muster your courage, eat, drink, and prepare a poem or whatever you think will work. If you want, you can submit said poem to the Valentine’s Day poetry contest at the party, too. (Rosenwald 405, 4:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m., free)