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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

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

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Ms. Pat

8/28-8/31: Thu and Sun 8:30 PM, Fri 8:30 and 10:30 PM, Sat 7, 9, and 11:15 PM

$25 plus two-drink minimum

Zanies (map)
1548 N. Wells St.
Old Town
phone 312-337-4027

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Ecstasy

8/28-9/28: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

"Victory of the people" is the rallying cry of Cole Theatre, a new company from Chicago-based actors Boyd Harris and Layne Manzer. So it's a bit ironic that the group's inaugural production is Mike Leigh's Ecstasy, whose downtrodden working-class characters would seem anything but victorious. Manzer, Cole Theatre's artistic director, and Harris, managing director, say they chose the play because it's "big, ambitious." And it is that. Leigh, of course, is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker whose credits include Secrets & Lies (1996), Topsy-Turvy (1999), and Vera Drake (2013). But he's long written and directed for the stage as well; Ecstasy debuted in 1979 at London's Hampstead Theatre. Not atypically for Leigh, nudity and violence take their turns in the show, and its setting—1970s London, in a heavily Irish neighborhood near Kilburn High Road—calls for a range of working-class dialects that American actors really have to nail if the whole thing isn't to reek of phoniness. On top of that, the play takes quite a while to get going. Continue reading >> $15-$25

http://coletheatre.org
A Red Orchid Theatre (map)
1531 N. Wells St.
Old Town
phone 312-943-8722
Ecstasy

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Apes of Wrath

Ongoing: Tue-Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM, Sun 7 PM

The six spritely, mercurial, wholly engaging performers behind Second City E.T.C.'s Apes of Wrath work overtime to make their show appear to be about something. But just what remains a mystery. And an unnecessary one at that. Press materials describe the two-hour sketch comedy review in vaguely dystopic terms. "In the world of high stakes, we become a more heightened version of ourselves," the PR asserts, "which can sometimes resemble more simian behavior than human." Despite the syntactical tangle, the point seems clear: this will be a series of skits about our baser selves, in which "the dark and light sides of our human devolution" will be showcased. Except for the most part, they're not. Unitard-clad performance artists improvise poetry about the World Cup and cigarettes for inmates at Louisiana State Prison. The Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies, on a collision course, seduce each other by singing about their impending billion-night stand. The attention-span-challenged BuzzFeed staff try to concoct daily lists with social significance, like "The 15 Vegetables That Don't Make Me Greenhouse Gassy." Continue reading >> $23

Buy Tickets
Second City E.T.C. (map)
Piper's Alley, 1608 N. Wells St.
Old Town
phone 312-337-3992
Apes of Wrath

Depraved New World

Open run: Tue-Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM, Sun 7 PM

I'm the king of regret. You name it, I've got a voice inside my head telling me I should be sorry or embarrassed or guilty about it. Have I ever done anything right? Don't bother answering. I know. The big news is that I may not be the only one in the world who feels that way. Second City's latest main-stage revue spends a lot of time on the subject of self-subversion, and I don't think it can be aimed at me alone. (Can it? Oh God, what if it is?) An entertaining if not blockbusting show, Depraved New World opens with a song for the psychic saboteur in all of us: "Why can't I turn off these voices of loneliness, fear, despair, and dread?" ask the six cast members. "The world is so filled with noises. The loudest are in my head." They follow that up with a bit set at a corporate staff meeting where people compulsively second-guess themselves ("Nobody likes your brownies," the office brownie queen hears herself thinking—though, as it happens, she's right), even to the point of second-guessing the second guess. Continue reading >> $23

Buy Tickets
Second City (map)
1616 N. Wells St.
Old Town
phone 312-337-3992
Depraved New World

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Second City E.T.C.

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM, Sun 7 PM, also Tue 8/2-8/30 and Wed 7/6-8/31, 8 PM,
phone 312-337-3992

Second City E.T.C.'s latest revue, A Clown Car Named Desire, is directed by Ryan Bernier $22-$27

http://secondcity.com
Buy Tickets
Second City E.T.C. (map)
Piper's Alley, 1608 N. Wells St.
Old Town
phone 312-337-3992

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