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Alice

Through 8/10: Sat 2 and 5 PM, Sun noon and 3 PM

Michael Monteiro Wise's free-wheeling adaptation of Lewis Carroll's unhinged 1865 children's tale transforms Alice from an idle Victorian preteen to a contemporary American young woman bewildered by urban chaos on her first day in Chicago. It's a strained premise, but Nothing Without a Company's decision to stage the piece as an escapade running through the park is inspired, as characters—both human and puppet—appear in the most unexpected places. But while director Anna Rose li-Epstein honors the irrational and nonlinear aspects of Carroll's writing, she disregards its hallucinogenic clarity, leaving her cast to flail through 75 minutes of largely indiscriminate, impersonal, bellicose lunacy. Taylor Dariarow's fuzzily defined Alice has little personality beyond excessive exuberance, and it's never clear why any of us should follow her. —Justin Hayford

http://nothingwithoutacompany.org
Lincoln Park (map)
Cannon, north of Fullerton
Lincoln Park

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Anna, in the Darkness

Through 8/2: Sat 10 PM

Dream Theatre's celebrating Halloween year-round at its new Lincoln Square digs by running Jeremy Menekseoglu's classic one-woman thriller weekly between main-stage shows. Megan Merrill embodies Anna, a tortured southern schoolteacher, as fearlessly and unnervingly as she did when I saw this performed in 2012. And the anxiety of being trapped in the basement with her as angry, fanatical townies seek to punish her for "that thing" she did was very real—all the more so when the lights flickered and a brick sailed through the window. The basement, reimagined in a new theater, is a reminder how much of Dream Theatre's magic is in the eerie spaces it creates. The company is already cluttering up this one, and I suspect it will settle in soon with alternate universes more creative than our nightmares. —Marissa Oberlander $20

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

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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

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

The Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery

Ongoing

Like many of us, Ted Geisel felt unfulfilled by his day job. Does it matter that, as Dr. Seuss, Geisel produced some of the world's most beloved picture books and introduced generations of children to the pleasures of reading? For the sake of his young audience, Dr. Seuss had to keep his drawings simple and his color palette limited. But before he'd gone to work as a commercial illustrator, Geisel had trained as a fine artist. So late at night, he painted. He experimented with color and style and more adult themes. He hung his "midnight paintings" in his house in La Jolla, California, but didn't want them released into the world while he was still alive. Continue reading >>

Water Tower Place (map)
835 North Michigan Avenue
Other North The Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery

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Avenue Q

Through 7/27: 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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Ball at the Savoy

Through 8/3: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM

This jazz-inflected comic operetta was a big hit for composer Paul Abraham when it opened in Berlin in December 1932 (a month before Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, which prompted Abraham, a Jew, to leave the country). This long-overdue American premiere by Chicago Folks Operetta—directed by Kristen Barrett and conducted by Anthony Barrese, well-regarded pros on the regional opera circuit—reveals Ball at the Savoy as a musically inventive work that fuses lyrical waltzes with bouncy jazz, sensuous tangos, and even a few hints of Hindemith-style dissonant counterpoint. The libretto (by Fritz Lohner-Beda and Alfred Grünwald, in a new English translation by Gerald Frantzen and Hersh Glagov) mixes operetta sentimentality and screwball comedy in the tale of an aristocrat's wife who (almost) cheats on her husband in revenge for his supposed infidelity. A farcical subplot involves a Turkish diplomat who falls for a free-spirited American songwriter. Racy stuff for its time, the work is quaint and even a bit sexist now, but a historically significant piece of musical theater nonetheless, and a wonderful vehicle for the superb soprano Alison Kelly as the (almost) unfaithful wife. Frantzen, Kelly's spouse, is in fine tenor voice as the husband, and the chorus and orchestra are excellent. —Albert Williams $35-$40

http://chicagofolksoperetta.org
Stage 773 (map)
1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Lakeview
phone 773-327-5252
Ball at the Savoy

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Kingston Mines (map)
2548 N. Halsted St.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-477-4646

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Bible Bingo: An Act of Charity in Two Acts

Open run: Fri-Sat 8 PM

A former nun holds a bingo fundraiser for her church in this interactive one-woman comedy written by Vicki Quade (Late Nite Catechism). $30

http://biblebingo.info
Royal George Theatre Center (map)
1641 N. Halsted St.
Lincoln Park
phone 312-988-9000

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Blue Man Group

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri 7 PM, Sat 2, 5, and 8 PM, Sun 4 and 7 PM
phone 773-348-4000

At the Briar Street Theatre since 1997, the cobalt zanies have added wizard-worthy tricks to an already potent mix of visual puns, physical stunts, and cultural commentary. The latest edition conjures up a 2.5-D universe, giant "GiPads" that perform outsized multitasking, and Lady Gaga hat spin-offs. The same subversive spirit fuels the show's still-potent signature bits, including splatter-crazed "paint drumming." The secret of their cerulean success? Understanding that laughter and thought can be BFFs. —Lawrence Bommer $49-$59

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Briar Street Theatre (map)
3133 N. Halsted St.
Lakeview
phone 773-348-4000

Bri-Ko

Open run: Sat 2 PM

How many bumbling buddies does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Or juggle? Or deliver a meal in a water balloon? On Saturday afternoons at Stage 773, the answer is three—specifically the three members of Bri-Ko. The sketch-comedy troupe Rube Goldberg would've created if Rube Goldberg had created sketch-comedy troupes, Bri-Ko puts on a silent clown show for the sort of kid who'd appreciate British humor. The name suggests bricolage—i.e., art improvised from materials found at hand. But the many kooky props at hand here (Nerf darts, ping-pong balls, various foodstuffs) are used to make a great, big mess. Tim Soszko, Brian Peterlin, and Chicago Sketch Fest founder Brian Posen bop happily about like Beaker the Muppet, contriving difficult ways to accomplish routine tasks. High art it's not, but the slapstick is practiced and the dumb smiles on these bozos' faces are contagious. —Asher Klein $10-$20

Stage 773 (map)
1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Lakeview
phone 773-327-5252

Burlesque Is More

Through 8/30: Sat 10:30 PM

A comedic burlesque show. $20, $15 for students

Annoyance Theatre (map)
851 W. Belmont
Lakeview
phone 773-697-9693

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Bus, boat, train, and walking tours

Ongoing

See chicagohistory.org for schedule and details.

Chicago History Museum (map)
1601 N. Clark St.
Lincoln Park
phone 312-642-4600

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Bye Bye Liver: The Chicago Drinking Play

Open run: Fri-Sat 8 and 10 PM
phone 773-904-8777

A show about and with drinking. $20

http://thepubtheater.com
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Public House Theatre (map)
3914 N. Clark St.
Lakeview
phone 800-650-6449

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the Vic (map)
3145 N. Sheffield Ave.
Lakeview
phone 773-472-0449

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Catch the Fish

Through 8/10: Fri-Sun (except 8/10) 8 PM; also Thu 8/7, 8 PM; Sun 8/10, 2 PM

Given the premise—a journalist from Vanity Fair profiles three twentysomething strivers living in Los Angeles—you might assume you're in for yet another unflattering portrait of LA, commonly regarded as the capital of all things venal and vapid. But playwright Jonathan Caren never dismisses his characters as mere ditzes and douches, and so they have more depth than the coke-snorting wannabes we (and the journalist) initially take them for. The performances in Will Crouse's staging for the Poor Theatre aren't always as layered as the script is, which can make the people of this 80-minute one-act seem schizo rather than multifaceted. Only Dillon Kelleher, as a somewhat puppyish would-be ladies' man, manages to communicate the desperate loneliness behind the pose. —Zac Thompson $15, $10 industry and students

http://thepoortheatre.org
Rivendell Theatre (map)
5775 N. Ridge Ave.
Edgewater
phone 773-334-7728
Catch the Fish

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