Susan Messing's weekly show, where she pairs off with a guest "friend" for an hour of purely improvised comedy, is one of the funniest entertainments in town. Messing is deeply talented: her acting is focused and nuanced, and she's got one of the the sharpest shit-detectors around, allowing her to cut or extend scenes like a good director. She works with a different "friend" at nearly every performance, often for the first time ever, and each prods her in unpredictable ways. But Messing stays on her toes, finding newer and quirkier characters—like a chatty old lady who sings musical numbers and pop songs at work or a wife from a 1940s screwball comedy who encourages her husband to tie her up—and the proportion of what works to what doesn't is a testament to her congeniality, experience, and broad intelligence. Messing was my pick for Best Improviser in the Reader's 2008 Best Of Chicago issue. --Ryan Hubbard $5http://annoyanceproductions.com
Three original 20-minute shows. $5http://annoyanceproductions.com
Baby Wants Candy—a tight troupe now famous for its improvised musicals—began in 1997 as one of the dozens of ImprovOlympic teams formed every year. Somehow they've avoided the usual dissolution of such groups. More impressive, they've never experienced the artistic conservatism that paralyzes improvisers eager to "do it right"—and reap the reward, presumably, of a career in NYC or LA. Instead the troupe has become the very model of smart, physical, quick-thinking, and just plain silly long-form improvisers; they still play well together and manage to entertain. Inspired by the improbable suggestion "So this is it" at the show I saw, nine actors (backed by the five-member Yes Band) improvised a complicated, hilarious, tongue-in-cheek tale of three partnerships on the rocks--two marriages and a professional relationship--and the narrator who helps bring the couples back together. —Jack Helbig $15
Re-creating a legendary 1956 jam session involving Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, this crowd-pleaser is basically a vehicle for crackling renditions of classic tunes, including "Blue Suede Shoes," "That's All Right," and "Great Balls of Fire." The show's emotional center is Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, a man caught between competing personal and business pressures. —Albert Williams $25-$70
Improv games billed as a "drinking party." $15http://www.thirstyimprov.com
Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard claim to get a fair amount of guff in Nashville circles for adding hints of hip-hop and arena rock to Florida Georgia Line’s brand of country, but the occasional rapped verse or Mutt Lange-worthy beat only makes their band sound more like, well, America. “Cruise,” their top-five come-on to a lady who’s as perfect as a song, is a well-mixed oleo of the hyperproduced twang-pop of Rascal Flatts and the more laid-back work of guest star Nelly (“Ride Wit Me,” “Where the Party At”), topped off with cred-boosting references to trucks and Marshall Tucker. Even on “Party People” (from their debut full-length, 2012’s Here’s to the Good Times), where they give props to David Lee Roth and “country in the rap beat,” they cloak their boom-bap in fingerpicking and southern accents. Florida Georgia Line’s second album, coming in October on Republic Nashville, is called Anything Goes, which suggests that they want to stay on message as rule breakers. But the first single, the ballad “Dirt,” is a thoughtful rumination about the circle of life—and its devotion to the traditional is so through-and-through that it uses a 10 percent down payment on a house as an indication of forthcoming romantic commitment. —Maura Johnston $35
Sculptures and assemblage pieces by Michele Stutts. Reception Fri 9/5, 6-9 PM.
Satirical painting, stencils, and screen prints by Stanislav Grezdo. Reception Fri 9/5, 6-9 PM.