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Events This Weekend – Member Picks

62 total results

Pimprov

Open run: Fri 10:30 PM

If pimpin' ain't easy, pimprovising must be even harder. But the five members of Pimprov project a scary ease as they dress and cavort like "Super Freak"-era Rick James (only with more accessories) and smoothly assimilate audience suggestions into thug-themed short-form games. The group stays heavily engaged with the crowd throughout this high-energy show, bringing people on stage and carrying on multiple side conversations during and between bits. What I enjoyed most were their hilarious, spontaneous dancing (from tap to b-boying) and varied characters. These are no one-trick pimps: at the show I saw they shrewdly played everything from north side trixies to blue-collar Chicagoans. —Ryan Hubbard $15

Chemically Imbalanced Theater (map)
1422 W. Irving Park Rd.
Wrigleyville
phone 773-865-7731
Pimprov

Hellish Half-Light

Through 8/30: Thu-Sat 8 PM

Many of Samuel Beckett's short plays aren't really plays at all. They're human behavior mechanisms—kinetic sculptures made of people and words, constructed to generate distilled visions of who we are and what we do. Director Jennifer Markowitz has assembled a solid half-dozen such mechanisms for this Mary-Arrchie Theatre production, ranging from a clever little joke like Catastrophe (a theater director berates his assistant while she manipulates an actor as if he were so many pipe cleaners) to a dark demonstration of political karma like What Where (a paranoid despot arrests her own thugs one by one until there's only one arrest left to be made) and the literally sculptural Play (three heads sit atop a pedestal and narrate their love triangle in counterpoint). The cast is generally strong, but Stephen Walker is exceptional, playing various characters in a naturalistic (yet often wiseass) style that, strangely enough, makes Beckett's abstractions work. —Tony Adler $25

Angel Island (map)
735 W. Sheridan Rd.
Lakeview
phone 773-871-0442
Hellish Half-Light

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Enchanted April

Sat 8/30-Sun 8/31: 1 PM

Theatre-Hikes specializes in combining theatrical productions with a walk in the park, with scenes typically presented at points along a guided hike. The company's current production, a stage adaptation of Elizabeth von Arnim's charming 1922 novel about four unhappy Englishwomen transformed by a holiday in Italy, enhances the best qualities of von Arnim's story—its good-hearted optimism and faith in the curative powers of peace and sunshine. Bradley Baker's cast excels at delivering intense, believable performances under less than ideal conditions: the day I saw the show, in Ravenswood Manor Park, two cabs collided no more than 20 feet from the performance; Allison Reinke, alone and in the midst of a monologue, never missed a beat. —Jack Helbig

North Park Village Nature Center (map)
5801 N. Pulaski Rd.
Albany Park
phone 312-744-5472

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The Boxer

Through 8/31: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM

Matt Lyle's silent play is called The Boxer, but its true hero is Velma, a plucky gal down on her luck, who gets work during the Great Depression by disguising herself (not always credibly) as a man. Thanks to a twist of fate and a well-timed punch, she finds herself training a boxer for a big fight. Then she falls in love with him. For their third collaboration with Pursuit Productions, director Kacie Smith and choreographer Ahmad Simmons have put together a show that feels like a lost Chaplin feature and is just as delightful. The actors—led by Amber Snyder and Eric Duhon as Velma and the Boxer—are at once goofy and graceful, Mike Evans's piano performance of his own score and Matt Wills's sound effects are witty and well-timed, and Craig Kidwell's light design cleverly recreates the look of a black-and-white film. —Aimee Levitt $20

Athenaeum Theatre (map)
2936 N. Southport Ave.
Lakeview
phone 773-935-6860

The Qualms

Through 8/31: Tue-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 3 and 7:30 PM

I once wrote a profile on Bruce Norris for Chicago magazine. This was about eight years ago—after he'd pissed people off with evil-minded satires like The Pain and the Itch, but before they anointed him with a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony for Clybourne Park. The profile (which, I have to say, is very good) examines Norris's perverse charm. He's quoted at one point saying that Steppenwolf Theatre artistic director Martha Lavey "has referred to me as a 'perseverator': I enjoy things that are hectoring and terrierlike [and] refuse to drop the topic. I've driven people away from dinner tables. If I get something stuck in my ass that I refuse to let go of, it's horrible—and yet it's thrilling for me to hammer someone. . . . To have them cave. Just to scourge them of their folly." Continue reading >> $20-$86

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Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Downstairs Theater (map)
1650 N. Halsted St.
Old Town
phone 312-335-1650
The Qualms

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Down Range

8/7-8/31: Thu-Sun 7:30 PM

Jeffrey Skinner’s award-winning poetry is lean, focused, and essential. Would that this 2009 play, making its Chicago premiere at Genesis Theatrical Productions, were the same. Skinner concocts several promising stories about career army buddies Frank and Doc and their long-suffering wives—then provides only a scene or two from each. So whether he’s trying to dramatize the plight of army wives stranded stateside or the addictive lure of live combat or the encroachment of workaday reality into youthful idealism, he sketches the highlights but lets little develop, making this nearly two-and-a-half-hour play feel largely aimless. The muddled chronology doesn’t help. Still, director Kay Martinovich’s mostly sterling cast injects impressive psychological nuance into the mix. As emotionally tortured Frank, Carl Herzog never hits a false note. —Justin Hayford $45

National Pastime Theater (map)
941 W. Lawrence Ave.
Uptown
phone 773-327-7077

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Medea

Through 9/14: Fri-Sun 8 PM

Jeremy Menekseoglu continues his rigorous, bracing reimaginings of classical Greek tragedies with his most idiosyncratic offering yet at Dream Theatre Company. His Medea, a powerful witch whose sorcery won Jason all his famous battles, is now middle-aged, fleshy, and abandoned. Living in squalor in the remains of the Argo, she blames her marriage’s demise on her children, for whom neither she nor Jason have any affection. In typical form, Menekseoglu artfully combines muscular poetry, well-chosen anachronisms, and epic cruelty. But this time the seams occasionally show, and the cast struggles to find a unifying tone. Even the normally unimpeachable Rachel Martindale as Medea struggles against the script’s ever-shifting currents. Still, Menekseoglu’s imperfect vision is consistently interesting and intermittently thrilling. He’s one rewrite away from another great play. —Justin Hayford $20

Dream Laboratory (map)
5026 N. Lincoln
Lincoln Square
phone 773-552-8616

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Churchill

Through 9/14: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM

Winston Churchill was a remarkable statesman and a total badass. The neglected, disdained son of a blue-blood English politician and an American beauty, he had a caustic wit, enormous pugnacity, and a tendency to piss people off. He spent his early career in the military, fighting his way through India, Sudan, and other outposts of the British Empire (all the while reporting on it for publications back home). He warned against appeasing Hitler, then led his country through the war that followed appeasement's failure. On the cusp of the Battle of Britain, he famously told the people "we shall fight in the fields and in the streets . . . we shall never surrender." Badass indeed. Ronald Keaton references all these facts and attributes in the course of his 105-minute solo turn as the great man—yet never shows us the formidable temperament behind them. Genial, sly, occasionally poignant, and packed with astonishing Churchillian quotes, the performance is engaging but lacks bite. It's as if Keaton were playing a nostalgic old pal of Churchill's rather than Churchill himself. —Tony Adler $25-$42.50

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

Hank Williams: Lost Highway

Through 9/28: Wed-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM

Matthew Brumlow is superb in this affecting chronicle of the turbulent life of the great country singer-songwriter Hank Williams, who died in 1953, at age 29, from heart failure brought on by too much pills and liquor. Under the guidance of director Damon Kiely and musical director Malcolm Ruhl, Brumlow uncannily re-creates Williams's expressive yodeling style, demonstrating the deeply personal way Williams melded hillbilly and black blues influences in such classic tunes as "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Long Gone Lonesome Blues," and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." American Blues Theater's excellent remounting of Randal Myler and Mark Harelik's musical drama also boasts a first-rate supporting cast of actor-instrumentalists on guitar, fiddle, bass, steel guitar, harmonica, and spoons. (Love the spoons!) —Albert Williams $29-$49

http://americanbluestheater.com
Greenhouse Theater Center (map)
2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-404-7336
Hank Williams: Lost Highway

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Global Garden

6/7-10/2: Thu 3-6 PM and Sat 9 AM-1 PM

The one-acre organic farm exists to help integrate refugees into their new lives in Chicago. Most of them are former farmers themselves, and the 83 individual family plots on the farm are almost evenly divided between 75 families—Burmese from various tribes who fled war and persecution at home, and ethnic Nepalese who were forced from their homes in Bhutan. —Mike Sula, 2013

Sacramento and Lawrence (map)
Sacramento and Lawrence
Albany Park

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Lincoln Park

5/10-10/25: Sat 7 AM-1 PM
Lincoln Park High School (map)
2001 N. Orchard St.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-534-8130

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Blaine School (map)
1420 W. Grace St.
Lakeview

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Avenue Q

Through 10/26: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 and 6:30 PM

The brilliance of this foulmouthed 2003 Broadway musical comedy (book by Jeff Whitty, music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx) is not just that it skewers a certain long-running PBS kids' show, but that it does so while telling a compelling story, about a callow recent college grad coming to grips with the real world and all the downwardly mobile misfits he meets in his edgy New York neighborhood. L. Walter Stearns packs his production with adept quadruple threats (they sing, they act, they dance, and they work puppets). Jackson Evans earns lots of laughs as the hapless hero who finds himself all the way out on Avenue Q. But the heart of the show belongs to Adam Fane and Daniel Smeriglio, playing closeted knockoffs of Sesame Street's odd couple, Bert and Ernie. —Jack Helbig $20-$59

Mercury Theater (map)
3745 N. Southport Ave.
Lakeview
phone 773-325-1700

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Second City's Neighborhood Tour

Through 10/29: Sun 10:30 AM, Wed 4 PM

Today kicks off another season of the Second City's Neighborhood Tour. Funny meets factual as guides walk you through the history of the Old Town neighborhood, stopping at the haunts of famed Second City alums along the way. You just might learn something. $15

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Second City (map)
1616 N. Wells St.
Old Town
phone 312-337-3992
Second City's Neighborhood Tour

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