Early predictions for what will be on our best of 2014 lists

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  • "David Bowie Is," an exhibition surveying the performer's influential career, comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art in September and is one of our best of 2014 predictions.

  • "Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938" opens June 24 at the Art Institute of Chicago and is one of our best of 2014 predictions.

  • Gary Shteyngart and Aleksandar Hemon discuss their individual immigrant experiences on January 20, one of our best of 2014 predictions.

"David Bowie Is," an exhibition surveying the performer's influential career, comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art in September and is one of our best of 2014 predictions.


ART
A train extruding from a fireplace. A female eye staring down the viewer as if through a peephole. There's a mysterious air to the paintings "Time Transfixed" and "The Eye," both of which were created by René Magritte during his "breakthrough years" of 1926–1938 and are now part of the Art Institute of Chicago's permanent collection. See these and other works—collages, drawings, objects, photographs, periodicals and more—in "Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary," opening June 24 at the AIC. Focusing exclusively on this seminal period of the Belgian master's career, the show features everything from his first forays into Surrealism and word-image paintings to early commercial work and commissions.

In September, the Museum of Contemporary Art presents "David Bowie Is," the first major international retrospective of the performer's influential, multifaceted career. Featuring more than 300 objects from the past five decades—including hand-penned lyrics, album artwork, original costumes, set designs and rare performance footage—the show examines an artist committed to reinvention. You'll see examples of his stylishness, theatricality, and ability to turn and face the strange.

BOOKS
On January 22, in an event sponsored by the Chicago Humanities Festival, Aleksandar Hemon grills Gary Shteyngart on his new memoir, Little Failure, which comes out January 7. Both authors have written about their experiences as immigrants in the U.S., and the resulting convo at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple should be an interesting one.

THEATER
After a lackluster year for musical theater in 2013, we're looking forward to a wealth of enticing tuners in the first half of the new year: Rachel Rockwell's revival of Brigadoon at the Goodman (Jun 27–Aug 3), Porchlight Music Theatre's productions of Ain't Misbehavin' (Feb 1–Mar 9) and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Apr 26–Jun 1), the "reimagined" Hair at American Theater Company (Apr 25–Jun 29), and at TimeLine, the first-ever Chicago production of Juno, Marc Blitzstein's 1959 musical adaptation of Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock (Apr 23–Jul 27).

And there's a slew of Stephen Sondheim on tap: The Hypocrites' take on Into the Woods (Feb 5–Mar 30), Gary Griffin's back-to-back Gypsy (Feb 6–Mar 23) and Road Show (Mar 13–May 4) at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Theo Ubique's staging of Passion (Mar 7–Apr 27). All that without having to leave the city limits.

Rising director Joanie Schultz wowed us with her Victory Gardens debut in 2013; her sensitive production of Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale was our top pick of 2013. So we're eagerly anticipating her Goodman mainstage bow this spring, helming David Ives's seductive comedy Venus in Fur (Mar 8–Apr 13).

COMEDY
Two bits of rough news hit right in the middle of the holidays: First, that the Lincoln Lodge would lose its longtime home with the closing of the Lincoln Restaurant. We're crossing all our appendages in hopes that the Lodge finds a new venue early in the new year.

Second was the report that Just for Laughs wouldn't be returning to Chicago in June. Whether that's a huge loss to comedy fans is perhaps debatable; the festival's local bookings always felt like an afterthought, and booking so many big names during the same week only made for tough choices about what to see. Still, we'll be watching to see what, if anything, steps up to fill that summer void.

The relocation of iO will undoubtedly be one of the biggest shifts of the year. Charna Halpern told Crain's recently she expects the comedy institution to move into its new digs at 1501 North Kingsbury Street by August; the new space will have four theaters, up from the two performance spaces in iO's current Wrigleyville location.

In the nearer term, SketchFest only seems to get bigger every year—this year's 13th annual outing sports 150 troupes over two weekends (Jan 9–19). And January's Tomorrow Never Knows fest is incorporating more comedy alongside its indie rock offerings, with Hideout shows by James Adomian, Nikki Glaser, Natasha Leggero and Kyle Dunnigan (Jan 16–19).

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