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The Magic Cabaret

Open run: Wed 8 PM,
phone 773-404-7336
,

Once upon a time, Chicago was a magic town. You could buy tricks and apparatus at Marshall Field's and get a full-blown magic show with your dinner at Schulien's. The waiters there invented what became known as the Chicago style of magic. It was up-close and personal, not too grand, but still astonishing, and best of all, it made the audience part of the show. David Parr and Joe Diamond re-create this golden age in The Magic Cabaret, using homely objects like books and light bulbs and (naturally) playing cards to bring their stories of old-time magic to life. The result is by turns funny, surprising, and spooky. But here's the most amazing part: it really is fun for the whole family, not just the kids. —Aimee Levitt $20

http://magic-cabaret.com
Greenhouse Theater Center (map)
2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-404-7336

Scenes From an Execution

Through 3/29: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM

English writer Howard Barker's superb but too rarely seen 1984 play (originally written as a vehicle for Glenda Jackson) crackles in the Runcible Theatre's spare, intimate production at the Royal George Theatre's black-box gallery space. This engrossing, ironic study of art, sex, and politics concerns a female painter in 16th-century Italy who is commissioned to create an epic canvas celebrating the victory of the Venetian army—and, by extension, Christendom itself—over a Muslim enemy. Rather than glorifying Venice's military and moral superiority, the artist delivers a brutal depiction of the horrors of war—and faces severe consequences at the hands of the secular and religious authorities. The staging by director Andrew Root and movement director Micah Figueroa features a commanding, beautifully spoken lead performance by husky-voiced British actor Sarah Chalcroft, who mines Barker's barbed text for every nuance of her character's complexity. Strong support comes from a fine ensemble (including the wonderful Stephen Fedo as the Venetian doge, the painter's patron-turned-persecutor). Raquel Adorno's costumes imaginatively meld Renaissance and contemporary styles to underscore the timeless relevance of Barker's examination of the volatile relationship of the artist to her public. —Albert Williams $26

http://runcibletheatre.org
Royal George Theatre Center (map)
1641 N. Halsted St.
Lincoln Park
phone 312-988-9000
Scenes From an Execution

Million Dollar Quartet

Open run: Wed 2 and 7:30 PM, Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 5 and 8 PM, Sun 3:30 and 6:30 PM

Re-creating a legendary 1956 jam session involving Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, this crowd-pleaser is basically a vehicle for crackling renditions of classic tunes, including "Blue Suede Shoes," "That's All Right," and "Great Balls of Fire." The show's emotional center is Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, a man caught between competing personal and business pressures. —Albert Williams $25-$70

Apollo Theater (map)
2540 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-935-6100

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Late Nite Catechism

Open run: Sat 5 PM, Sun 2 PM
phone 312-988-9000

A bona fide born-in-Chicago international hit, this simultaneously nostalgic and satirical comedy by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan concerns a nun instructing her students—that's you—on the dos and don'ts of dogma. —Jack Helbig $30

Buy from Ticketmaster
Royal George Theatre Center (map)
1641 N. Halsted St.
Lincoln Park
phone 312-988-9000

Kiss Kiss Cabaret

Open run: Fri 10 PM

The tone and pace are just right in this late-night burlesque show. Doubling as affable emcee Max Flattery, director Chris Biddle keeps the evening fresh with a rotating line-up of erotic dancers, campy acts, and nerdy comedians. Striptease routines satisfy a wide range of PG-13 fetishes, sometimes in unconventional ways. Teddy Bare's absinthe fairy number, for instance, incorporates modern dance elements not typically associated with the bump-and-grind. The result is an eclectic blend of steam, smart humor, and shtick. If Biddle and company can maintain momentum, Kiss Kiss Cabaret has what it takes to become a cheeky Chicago staple. —Dan Jakes $15 online in advance, $20 at the door

Greenhouse Theater Center (map)
2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-404-7336

Bible Bingo: An Act of Charity in Two Acts

Open run: Fri-Sat 8 PM

A former nun holds a bingo fundraiser for her church in this interactive one-woman comedy written by Vicki Quade (Late Nite Catechism). $30

http://biblebingo.info
Royal George Theatre Center (map)
1641 N. Halsted St.
Lincoln Park
phone 312-988-9000

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First Date

Through 3/29: Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 7 and 9:30 PM, Sat 5:30 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM

This has all the earmarks of a standard-issue date-night show: upbeat material, likable tunes, unchallenging themes, contemporary stock characters (the repressed guy, the high-maintenance girl, her gay BFF). Nothing here to scare guys who hate musicals (and call intermission "halftime") or the women who date them. But remarkably, Austin Winsberg (book) and Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (music and lyrics) have created an entertaining, emotionally satisfying show that never panders or condescends. Nor does J.R. Rose’s strong, well-paced production, packed with performers (notably Dana Parker and Charlie Lubeck) who know how to get their laughs without neglecting the emotional depths in this rich material. —Jack Helbig $15-$59

Royal George Theatre Center (map)
1641 N. Halsted St.
Lincoln Park
phone 312-988-9000

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Garage Rep 2015

Through 4/26: times vary, see website

Steppenwolf Theatre's robust Garage Rep, in which the mighty Lincoln Park institution hands over its handsome 80-seat Garage Theatre—as well as production and publicity teams—to three substantially less-than-mighty local companies for nine weeks, has traditionally been something of a free-for-all. It's never mattered whether the shows had anything to do with one another, hewed to any particular aesthetic, or offended anyone's tastes. If a chosen company wanted to try it out, it was in. The rules haven't changed for the festival's sixth annual incarnation. As is typical of Garage Rep, all the productions run efficiently and energetically. Just about everything feels expansive—and thus necessarily a bit shaky, a testament to these artists' courageous unwillingness to play it safe in such a high-profile gig. As with the venerable Rhinoceros Theater Festival, risk taking is part and parcel with Garage Rep. Continue reading >> $20

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Antigonick

Through 4/5: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

We first hear Antigone (Anu Bhatt), whose lines "We begin in the dark / and birth is the death of us" invoke Hegel, the philosopher who read Sophocles's heroine as a character without "ethical consciousness." Such layering marks the poet and classicist Anne Carson’s Antigonick, a loose translation of the Greek tragedy that doubles as a meditation on the nature of tragedy. Carson goes so far as to add a silent witness, Nick (David Lawrence Hamilton), who's onstage throughout, marking time with the metronome on his desk and posting death notices, which only accumulate after Antigone challenges Kreon (Ann James), rejecting the laws of the polis for the particular laws of grief and rage. Sideshow Theatre meets Carson’s singular vision with a production that eagerly subverts expectations, mixing up its casting by gender, age, and color. It's an ensemble achievement, and director Jonathan L. Green's elegant staging reflects this, seamlessly flowing from choral recitation to individual speech and back. —Suzanne Scanlon $20-$30

http://sideshowtheatre.org
Victory Gardens Theater (map)
2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-871-3000
Antigonick

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El Stories: Love Train

Through 3/28: Sat 11 PM

The Waltzing Mechanics present real-life stories about finding love on the train. $20

http://waltzingmechanics.org
Greenhouse Theater Center (map)
2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-404-7336

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