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Alice in Wonderland

Through 8/10: dates, times, locations, and prices vary; see website

Staging Lewis Carroll's well-known tale is demanding, and this Theatre-Hikes show rises to the outdoor (which is to say, sweaty, noisy, variable) occasion: with just a few props and costume pieces, the actors create the sea of tears, the dodo race, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the grinning Cheshire cat. Alice (the perfectly cast Madalyn Mattsey) of course attends the Mad Hatter's tea party, and is given a baby by the Duchess (when the baby become a pig, it's tossed out into the audience). My six- and seven-year-old companions were enthralled by Alice's wandering journey through this sometimes scary, always surprising world, while I marveled anew at Carroll's intellectual playfulness—his language, particularly his tale of the Jabberwock (recited impressively by Sam Fain), is thrilling, playing with received ideas of rationality, the self, time, and authority. —Suzanne Scanlon $13-$19


Bally Hoo

Open run: Fri 7 PM

The supper-club floor shows in vintage movies always look like such elegant fun, with Adolphe Menjou sitting ringside in his tux while spunky chorines tap and a smiling tenor croons. I've wondered why something like that couldn't happen now. The people behind Untitled obviously wondered the same thing, and have revived the concept in Bally Hoo. Still, the night I saw this 90-minute, "1930s-style" production, it was more a promising work in progress than a fantasy come true. Richard Strimner had the right voice, style, and application of pomade for his role as emcee; the seven-piece band was clean if not hot; and the four-member chorus line hit their stride doing a cute number about exercise. But the details were often off. Anachronistic belly-dance and musical-saw acts wrecked the mood. The contemporary look of the musicians created dissonance. And while she had some alluring moves, stripper Lady Jack was occasionally betrayed by her costuming. I hope Untitled tightens things up, because this could be delightful. Reader food critic Mike Sula has commented on the dining experience. —Tony Adler $25, food and drink not included, reservations required

Untitled (map)
111 W. Kinzie St.
River North
phone 312-880-1511



Through 8/17: Wed 7:30 PM, Thu 2 (except 7/31) and 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 and 7:30 PM

In 1943, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! stirred audiences with its youthful optimism, glorifying a hero who was willing to fight for the woman and the land he loved. "Oh, what a beautiful morning," the singing cowboy crooned—just what Americans needed to hear at the peak of World War II. But after the war—as people began to comprehend the horrors of the Holocaust, the devastation of Europe's great cities, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—earthy hopefulness gave way to anxious uncertainty about the meaning of life and the precariousness of human existence, prompting a vogue for tales in which magic and miracles provided a sense of hope. In the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life, a man is saved from suicide by a guardian angel. And the despairing protagonist of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1945 Carousel actually does commit suicide; a heavenly Starkeeper gives him a chance to return to earth to set things right for the family he left behind. Continue reading >> $25-$105

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Goodman Theatre (map)
170 N. Dearborn St.
phone 312-443-3800


Charlotte's Web

Through 8/17: Fri-Sun 10 AM; also Thu 8/7, 10 AM

Emerald City Theatre's expertly done production of E.B. White's beloved book reminds me why this tale endures. After Fern (Avery Moss) saves a pig named Wilbur (Liam Dahlborn) from slaughter and he's sent to a farm, he befriends a lovely maternal spider, Charlotte (Tosha Fowler). Other barnyard friends include the charming Goose (Laura A. Harrison) and Gander (Jay Mast), Templeton the Rat (hilarious Erik Strebig), and the wise Sheep (Jeremy Pfaff). Many of the actors double as musicians, the banjo, fiddle, guitar, and cello providing a backdrop that's funny, folksy, or elegaic as needed. White's story ends (as you likely know) with bittersweet hope and surprise; it's worth revisiting its moving treatment of friendship, memory, and the cycle of life. —Suzanne Scanlon $16-$24

Buy from Ticketmaster
Broadway Playhouse (map)
175 E. Chestnut Street
Gold Coast/Mag Mile/Streeterville
phone 800-775-2000


Cirque Shanghai: Warriors

5/21-9/21: Wed and Sat 2, 6, and 8 PM; Thu 2 and 8 PM; Fri 2, 7, and 9 PM, Sun 2 and 4 PM

Every year this troupe of energetic Asian acrobats, contortionists, and martial artists comes to Chicago and delivers essentially the same show under a new name (and in new costumes). It hardly matters—the acts still thrill, the production still dazzles. The show does seem a little more amped up this year, packing a lot into a mere 70 minutes. In fact, if you let your mind wander for even a couple seconds, you're likely to miss something spectacular. And when it's all over, you may well find yourself hungry for more. They may call themselves warriors, but really these troupers are showbiz to the core. —Jack Helbig $19.50- $39.50

Navy Pier (map)
600 E. Grand Ave.
Near North
phone 312-595-7437


Comedy Bar (map)
157 W. Ontario
River North
phone 773-387-8412


I Shit You Not!

Last Friday of every month, 8 p.m.

Local comedians and monologists share personal stories of inadvertent defecation. Michael Sanchez and Monte LeMonte host. $5
Timothy O'Toole's (map)
622 N. Fairbanks Ct.
Gold Coast/Mag Mile/Streeterville
phone 312-642-0700
I Shit You Not!


Juba! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance

7/30-8/2: Wed-Thu and Sat, 7:30 PM

The Chicago Human Rhythm Project hosts the tappers as part of the citywide festival Rhythm World. $25-$35


Life Without Roses

Through 4/26: Fri 7:30 PM; no shows 4/19

Founded in Chicago in 1914 by Margaret Anderson, The Little Review was one of the most important periodicals for literary modernism, publishing work by T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and many others. June Sawyers's one-character play, based on Anderson's memoir My Thirty Years' War, traces the bohemian editor's career from her arrival in Chicago to her 1917 departure for New York. Sawyers does a creditable job of capturing the era's glamour and sense of possibility, and there's an added frisson to seeing the show on the same floor of the Fine Arts Building where the magazine had offices for a while. But Cynthia Judge's genial, script-in-hand performance as Anderson lacks the requisite daring and panache. —Zac Thompson $10

Pianoforte Chicago (map)
Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., suite 825
phone 312-291-0291


Living Loop Performance Arts Festival

Through 8/29: Fri, times vary

This summer-long multidisciplinary festival features weekly appearances by artists and troupes including Hubbard Street 2 (6/6), Solaire (7/18), and M.A.D.D. Rhythms (8/22), with times and locations to be announced two weeks before the performance.


The Long and Forgotten Winter

8/1-8/3: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

Michael Estanich's new piece explores the connection between the past and the future. $20


Maggie and Coco Save the World

Open run: the last Friday of every month, 8 PM,

Given the cultural ascent of really good TV, it's surprising that there aren't more efforts, like this one, to adapt the serial structure to the stage. In Coriolis Theater's live "pilot" episode, angry 99-percenter Coco returns to Chicago from a six-month stint with Occupy Wall Street—to the surprise of her roommate Maggie, who's more inclined to occupy the couch and watch American Idol. There's little plot or action, but these 50 minutes do the one thing a pilot must: establish interesting characters you want to see again. Grayson Vreeland's cast is already more realistically diverse and relatable than the white-bread lineups you find on most young-adult urban sitcoms. If the show's writers develop compelling story lines for them, they might earn the repeat following that Coriolis is banking on. —Keith Griffith $10-$15
Fine Arts Building (map)
410 S. Michigan Ave.
phone 312-291-0291


The Magic Parlour

Open run: Fri 7:30 and 9:30 PM

This 60-minute, late-night magic show is exactly what it should be: funny, lively, intimate, and utterly baffling. House Theatre of Chicago member Dennis Watkins blends quick-witted improv and physical comedy with freewheeling patter as he performs classic illusions. Though his sleight-of-hand is impossibly subtle, it was the mind reading tricks that seemed to have drawn several inquisitive skeptics back for another look on the night I attended. A curio-shop intimacy and cash bar encourage audience participation, and Watkins, with his Eagle Scout looks, clearly takes a mischievous pleasure in the unexpected. Just let your cell phone go off during the show and see what kind of fun he has. --Keith Griffith $75
Palmer House Hilton (map)
17 E. Monroe St.
phone 312-726-7500

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Through 8/17: various times

Chicago Shakespeare Theater's outdoor staging of the Bard's lovable, batshit tale of missed connections starts out more drearily than dreamily, but as if by magic, once the players enter the enchanted forest their spells begin to work. This Midsummer's draw is the physical comedy that builds to a harrowing four-way tiff that humanizes everyone except Ryan Imhoff's sicko Lysander. That's apt, since the most gratifying thing about the production is a moment in the morning-after scene when he and Hermia (Tiffany Yvonne Cox) peer at each other like suspicious strangers before shaking it off and skipping to their nuptials. It's a chilling reminder that though affairs are restored to order, Lysander's sadistic mistreatment of Hermia has permanently changed something between them. —Jena Cutie


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