The quality of an improv show is directly proportional to the quality of the improvisers who create it. Put together a group of kids who know nothing about the world—or themselves—and you get a lot of cliches and imitations of bad TV. Put together an ensemble of strong, experienced actors who happen also to like to improvise and you have the optimal conditions for a piece filled with well-articulated characters in amusing relationships and interesting situations. That latter was the case with Natural Gas, the Gift Theatre's house improv team, on the night I saw them. As in every improvisation, not every moment worked, and some actors made basic mistakes, like introducing inconsistencies. All the same, their show contained more than the usual moments of spontaneous delight—and occasional splashes of pure inspiration. —Jack Helbig $5
Local comedians and monologists share personal stories of inadvertent defecation. Michael Sanchez and Monte LeMonte host. $5
Burlesque, vaudeville, shtick, and other types of performance, hosted by Silent Theatre. $10http://silenttheatre.com
A comedy variety show hosted Flabby Hoffman.
Francis O'Neill, who served as Chicago's chief of police from 1901 to 1905, was a bit obsessed with the music of his native Ireland. He once disappeared, prompting assassination rumors and a police manhunt, only to turn up at the house of a friend—where he was busy playing duets. But in the latest version of Adam Whiteman's musical tribute, which Stefan Brun returns to direct, this fascinating character gets a lackluster dramatization. Though Tom Cassidy portrays O'Neill with genial confidence, the stilted script bends more toward hagiography than genuine storytelling. The show's stellar music—selected from O'Neill's own published collections of traditional Irish tunes, and played by a talented trio—remains the true star of this quirky jaunt. —Keith Griffith $25
Comics are not always funny—but in those cases, they can be claimed as high art, like The Walking Dead or Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Comics—the other kind—aren't always funny either. They either curl up like dead spiders and disappear beneath a dresser forever, or they soldier on to another open mike. That quick homonym demonstration aside, here's the deal with a new stand-up comedy show happening at Challengers Comics + Conversation on the last Thursday of every month. Action Comedy is a nod to Action Comics, the series in which Superman first appeared, published by what would become DC Comics. The show's produced by a five-boy team of Kevin Brody, Mitch Kurka, Ian Abramson, Jeff Scheen, and Zach Peterson, and joins an already pretty stellar line-up of live programming at the shop. Continue reading >>
What's the point? I wondered when I saw Alzan Pelesic wearing whiteface as Ebenezer Scrooge, his eyes and lips highlighted in black. What's to be gained from seeing Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol staged as if it were an old-time silent movie? This production doesn't supply a rational answer. But I found that rationality mattered less and less to me as it went on. Silent Theatre Company's adaptation suffers considerably from problems brought on by trying to boil the scenario down to a quick 75 minutes. The original story's two holiday parties, for instance, are merged into one at the cost of plausibility. Still, Diane Hamm's costumes for the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future evince a great, otherworldly charm; together with Isaiah Robinson's witty piano score and some generous performances (Nick Leininger, in particular, contributes a marvelous physical evocation of Jacob Marley's suffering), they more than justify the show on sensual grounds. —Tony Adler $15-$20http://silenttheatre.com
Rebecca O'Neil hosts this BYOB comedy show that features local stand-ups and is, curiously enough, operated out of a used book store.