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A Streetcar Named Desire

Through 12/21: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

It's easy to caricature Blanche DuBois, the desperate, deluded, and doomed heroine of Tennessee Williams's 1947 masterwork. All you have to do is (1) adopt a genteel southern accent and (2) act crazy. That's precisely the strategy followed by Cat Davidson in this ham-fisted staging for Pulse Theatre Company; her cartoonish Blanche is a southern-fried loon, alternating between hissy fits and bouts of the vapors. It's impressive that she can keep up the histrionics for all of the production's three-and-a-half-hour running time, but she completely misses the aching tenderness at Blanche's core. A similar lack of subtlety characterizes Adam Zaininger's performance as Blanche's brutish undoer, Stanley Kowalski, who comes across here like the heavy in a 1930s gangster movie. —Zac Thompson $25

Profiles Theatre, Alley Stage (map)
4147 N. Broadway St.
Uptown
phone 773-549-1815

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At Last: A Tribute to Etta James

Through 12/28: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM

Opening night at Black Ensemble's revival felt more akin to a baseball game, with female audience members regularly standing up and cheering during songs—a gesture that seemed to speak as much to the powerful music of Etta James as to the finesse with which BET executive director Jackie Taylor handles the Grammy Award winner's legacy. Taylor, who first wrote and produced the show in 2005, here again uses five "incarnations" of Etta played by five different performers to tell the singer's story, but she's updated the material to reflect James's 2012 death. Drag-queen narrator Ms. Real, reprised with enjoyable sass by Rueben D. Echoles, now takes the form of a kind of deadpanning angel, ushering the five griping Ettas into one last badass belter before the star's final ascent. —Chloe Riley $55-$65

Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center (map)
4450 N. Clark St.
Uptown
phone 773-769-4451
At Last: A Tribute to Etta James

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New Year's Eve Hullabaloo

Wed 12/31, 9 PM-2 AM
,

The venue's grand opening includes a cocktail hour, a performance by Kiss Kiss Cabaret, a dance party, and a champagne toast at midnight. $100

Uptown Underground (map)
4707 N. Broadway
Uptown

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With Love From The Black Ensemble Theater

Wed 12/31, 8 PM-1 AM
,

A performance by the stars of At Last: A Tribute to Etta James along with food, dancing, and lots of champagne. $125, $200 for couples

Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center (map)
4450 N. Clark St.
Uptown
phone 773-769-4451

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Hellcab

Through 1/11: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 7 PM

Richard Cotovsky is already part of the Hellcab legend. As his program bio notes, he played the lead role—i.e., driver of the infernal taxi—more than 200 times in the original Famous Door Theatre production, which opened in 1992 and ran for nearly a decade. Now Profiles Theatre has taken over the franchise, presenting Hellcab as an annual holiday show, and Cotovsky's back for the 2014 edition. Of course, he's older now—a grizzled 60. Age adds a layer of pathos to the performance as Cotovsky's cabbie tools around Chicago on a frigid Christmas Eve, picking up Christians, tourists, more than one lawyer, the scum of the earth and their victims, as well as an angel or two. Cotovsky was trying too hard on opening night: he could've got twice the mileage out of half the grimaces. There's something sobering, though, in his character's flawed maturity—now bemused, now frail, never quite wise, yet distinctly alive when he goes all air-guitar to "Whole Lotta Love." —Tony Adler $35

Profiles Theatre, Main Stage (map)
4139 N. Broadway
Uptown
phone 773-549-1815
Hellcab

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The Paper Machete

Open run: Sat 3 PM

The "salon in a saloon." Comedians, writers, and storytellers discuss the week in pop culture and politics.

http://thepapermacheteshow.com/
Green Mill (map)
4802 N. Broadway
Uptown
phone 773-878-5552

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Uptown Poetry Slam

Sundays, 7 p.m.

Featuring open mike, special guests, and end-of-the-night competition. $6

http://facebook.com/uptownpoetryslam
Green Mill (map)
4802 N. Broadway
Uptown
phone 773-878-5552
Uptown Poetry Slam

Homolatte

First and third Tue of month, 7:30 PM

With Scott Free, featuring gay and lesbian spoken-word artists.

http://homolatte.com
Tweet Let's Eat (map)
5020 N. Sheridan Rd.
Uptown
phone 773-728-5576

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