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Johnston's Brel translation among Chicago's top shows

July 9, 2008

CHICAGO--"Jacques Brel's Lonesome Losers of the Night," translated by Western Michigan University's Dr. Arnold Johnston, has been performed to capacity crowds since it opened June 6 and is one of the top-rated shows in Chicago, based on critical reviews.

"Lonesome Losers" has been praised by critics Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune, Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times and Albert Williams of the Chicago Reader, among several others. After two weeks, the show's run was extended by one month to the end of August. After four weeks, it was extended indefinitely and is expected to run at least through the end of 2008.

"Lonesome Losers" follows the trials of two soldiers at port in a bar in Amsterdam and examines how relationships bloom and wilt through the magical lyricism of Brel.

The production is performed by the Theo Ubique Theatre Company and directed by Fred Anzevino, the same combination that brought "A Jacques Brel Revue: Songs of Love and War," Johnston's previous translation, to Chicago's No Exit Cafe in 2006. The cast of "Lonesome Losers" is Jeremy Trager, Chris Damiano, Jenny Lamb and Eric Martin. Critical praise for the production is across the board, citing the direction, cast performances and Johnston's translations.

"Brel was in the category of Dylan or Elvis in terms of his popularity in Europe," Johnston is quoted as saying in a Chicago Sun-Times review. "He started out with a guitar in coffeehouses and became musically adventurous as his career advanced."

Johnston, who retired June 30 following a distinguished 40-year career at WMU, is professor and chair emeritus of English. He is acknowledged by many, including Brel's widow, for the authentic quality of his translations of the famed Belgian-French singer. Johnston and his wife, Deborah Percy, have extensive resumes as playwrights and actors and frequently collaborate.

Performances of "Lonesome Losers" are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago.

Tickets are $20 and may be reserved by calling (773) 743-3355. Special prices for students, senior citizens and groups are available. Dinner packages, including authentic French cuisine, also are available.

Media contact: Thom Myers, (269) 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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