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La Casa de Bernarda Alba

Through 6/7: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 6 PM

Timeless is the tale of sex and suppression. And this drama from Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca offers no shortage of players looking to put the kibosh on lust. There's a mother, snuffing out promises of marriage and passion for her five daughters following their father's sudden death. There are the sisters, who progressively warp into sex-starved monsters, drooling and jealous. And finally, the great male manipulators, unseen perhaps because they represent more than just themselves—a whole patriarchal system, stifling in its detached greed. García Lorca, a gay poet and playwright, knew a thing or two about tightly wound societies. Much of his work was written during the first part of the 20th century, prior to his murder by Franco's Nationalists at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The House of Bernarda Alba is his final play, completed in June 1936, just months before García Lorca was executed and his work banned. He was just 38, and never got to see the play staged. Continue reading >> $25, $15 students and seniors

Aguijon Theater (map)
2707 N. Laramie Ave.
Belmont Cragin
phone 773-637-5899
La Casa de Bernarda Alba

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The Project(s)

Through 5/24: Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM

In 2011 local playwright Shepsu Aakhu staged an oral history of Chicago's now demolished Washington Park housing project, using verbatim transcripts of interviews with his family members who lived there. The result: two hours of concentrated, resonant truth. For this American Theater Company oral history project, playwrights PJ Paparelli and Joshua Jaeger take an opposite approach—and get an opposite result. They cobble together 100-plus interviews with former and current CHA residents, academics, and city officials into a broad outline covering so much history and so many issues it's more reductive and instructive than resonant. Moments of concentrated truth do arise, thanks to the nuanced work of the eight-person cast. Even more might if Paparelli didn't insist on displaying his directorial cleverness at every opportunity. —Justin Hayford $38-$48

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American Theater Company (map)
1909 W. Byron St.
North Center
phone 773-409-4125

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The Power of Prom

Through 5/30: Fri-Sat 8 PM

The spoofed-to-death 1980s get the satirical treatment yet again in this musical comedy by Ed Furman, Pat Reidy, and TJ Shanoff. The plot concerns the prom-related aspirations of a plucky Molly Ringwald type who attends the sort of high school you find in the films of John Hughes. The student body includes a popular mean girl, a sensitive jock, a horny nerd, and two rebellious punks with an incongruous passion for Reaganomics. The script contains all the expected gags about obsolete technologies, stupid fads, and unflattering fashions; the songs are the era’s pop hits refitted with parody lyrics. Still, the show’s not entirely an exercise in nostalgia, thanks to the authors’ raunchy streak and the spiky performances in Mick Napier’s cheeky staging. —Zac Thompson $20

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

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Improvised Twilight Zone

Through 6/17: Wed 9:30 PM
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Directed by Kyle Dolan, this improvised version of the supernatural 60s TV show is a creative concept with a talented cast. On the night I attended, audience suggestions like "the Chernobyl drone video," "the Alamo," and "Uranus" were used to create three individual Twilight Zone episodes, with different cast members playing the part of Rod Serling. But the suggestions were generally brought to light only in the wrap-ups; a more impressive show would incorporate them more extensively. —Marissa Oberlander $8

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

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Million Dollar Quartet

Open run: Wed 2 and 7:30 PM, Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 5 and 8 PM, Sun 3:30 and 6:30 PM

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

Apollo Theater (map)
2540 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-935-6100

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Twisted Melodies

Through 6/14: Fri 7:30 Pm, Sat 2 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM

Actor-playwright-singer-pianist Kevin Rolston Jr. stars in his own one-man play about 1970s soul singer Donny Hathaway, whose struggle with paranoid schizophrenia led to his suicide in 1979. While Rolston delivers solid renditions of some of Hathaway's repertoire—including "The Ghetto—Part 1," "The Closer I Get to You," the John Lennon ballad "Jealous Guy," and the exquisite Tin Pan Alley standard "For All We Know"—the focus here is on Hathaway's escalating mental illness, in particular his belief he was being persecuted by an imaginary "Machine" trying to steal "my songs and my secrets." Rolston's sometimes frighteningly intense performance is supported by the work of sound designer Rick Sims, video producer Dre Robinson, and projections designer Paul Deziel, who evoke the sometimes beautiful but mostly chaotic visual and auditory hallucinations that disrupted Hathaway from his ability to create beautiful music. Congo Square Theatre's production, directed by Samuel G. Roberson Jr., is a powerful and sometimes painful examination of the tragedy of mental illness as well as a worthy tribute to an iconic artist. —Albert Williams $37, $27 students and seniors, $19.50 two-for-one matinees

http://congosquaretheatre.org
Athenaeum Theatre (map)
2936 N. Southport Ave.
Lakeview
phone 773-935-6860

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Crimes of the Heart

Through 6/14: Thu-Sat 7:30, Sun 2 PM

Step Up Productions presents Beth Henley's 1981 drama about three southern sisters. $24, $17 students and seniors

http://stepupproductions.org
Athenaeum Theatre (map)
2936 N. Southport Ave.
Lakeview
phone 773-935-6860

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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

Lunacy!

Through 6/20: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM (no show Fri 5/22), Sun 3 PM; also Tue 5/19, 7:30 PM; Sun 6/14, 7:30 PM

Jackalope Theatre presents a "cryptohistorical comedy" on the premise that the 1969 moon landing was faked. $15-$20

http://jackalopetheatre.org
Broadway Armory Park (map)
5917 N. Broadway St.
Edgewater
phone 312-742-7502

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Thinking Caps

Through 5/31: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 2 PM

In this original sci-fi thriller for Strangeloop Theatre, playwright Keith Gatchel imagines the Thinking Cap, a social-media platform embedded in a Google Glass-like headset equipped with a camera that points into the wearers' conscious memories, allowing them to telepathically play virtual simulations and chat with friends. That's how faintly kooky Charles ends up having his first date with his naive and puckish future wife, Maggie. All the personal details and dialogue are smart and sweet, and the play touches minds with Vonnegut more than once. But after Maggie is hired by the smooth-talking Thinking Caps CEO and Charles aligns himself with an anti-thinking-cap congresswoman, a sinister super PAC commandeers the plot with attacks executed so incoherently and laboriously that even the intriguing notion of "weaponizing thought" gets lost in the muddle. —Jena Cutie $18, $15 students and seniors

http://strangelooptheatre.org
The Charnel House (map)
3421 W. Fullerton Ave.
Logan Square
phone 773-871-9046

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Ghost Gardens

Through 5/31: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

The time is the dystopian present, the setting a Detroit neighborhood whose inhabitants hold on despite carcinogens spilling from a mill that can no longer support them. Steven Simoncic's play looks for all the world like an earnest issue piece, plumbing the depths of rust-belt collapse. And to some extent, that's what it is. But Simoncic comes at the issues from such an odd and humane angle that you don't have to put on your do-gooder helmet to watch it. Given a fluid, compassionate world-premiere staging by Pegasus Theatre's Ilesa Duncan, Ghost Gardens tells the tale of Lorelie, who isn't doing so well. Her mother has cancer, her good-natured oaf of a husband is halfway out of a job, and she buried a baby daughter ten years ago. But when she announces a new pregnancy, she becomes a symbol of hope for the community. Simoncic's script needs work: it ends weakly, ignores its own implications, and offers a disappointingly pat take on Lorelie's husband. The basics are there, though, and the dialogue is buoyant—especially in the mouths of an engaging cast. —Tony Adler $18-$30

Chicago Dramatists (map)
1105 W. Chicago Ave.
West Town/Noble Square
phone 312-633-0630
Ghost Gardens

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Chicago Dramatists Saturday Series

Open run: Sat 2 PM,
phone 312-633-0630

This near-weekly program features staged readings of works in progress. $5

Chicago Dramatists (map)
1105 W. Chicago Ave.
West Town/Noble Square
phone 312-633-0630

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Sense and Sensibility

Through 6/7: Wed 1 and 7:30 PM, Thu 7:30 PM (except 5/14, 1 PM), Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM; also Sun 5/24, 6:30 PM; Tue 5/12, 5/26, and 6/2, 7:30 PM

Jane Austen is not a writer whose work you'd automatically consider as material for a full-blown, unironic musical. It's true that all six of her books center around the marriage plot, and there's usually a large and colorful supporting cast, including someone who can be counted on to play the pianoforte at a party, and sometimes one of the heroes will even say or write something absolutely swoon-worthy like "You pierce my soul."

But such moments in Austen are rare. As Virginia Woolf wrote about Love and Freindship [sic], the juvenile novella that gleefully parodies the romance novels Austen grew up reading and sets the tone for all the work that followed: "What is this note which never merges in the rest, which sounds distinctly and penetratingly all through the volume? It is the sound of laughter. The girl of fifteen is laughing, in her corner, at the world." You can't laugh and sing a dramatic love ballad at the same time. Continue reading >> $58-$88

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (map)
800 E. Grand Ave.
Other Central
phone 312-595-5600
Sense and Sensibility

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Another Kind of Love

Through 6/14: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM

Life isn't about avoiding pain but plumbing its depths and managing the results wails Another Kind of Love, a female-driven punk-rock masterpiece by Crystal Skillman, now receiving a debut production from InFusion Theatre Company. Maybe masterpiece isn't quite the right word—it suggests something lofty and out of reach, where this play banks on raw and accessible if festering emotions. But an artistic achievement it is. The Brooklyn-based Skillman has previously tackled angsty relationships and paid fan-girl tributes, but this time she gives us sisters, those lovable/hateful creatures simultaneously in each other's arms and at each other's throats. Here there are three of them, ex-members of a Riot Grrrl-era band, now in their 30s and struggling to find a way forward. The oldest, Tanya, stayed in Seattle's suburbia with her 15-year-old daughter, Max, while the others, Kit and Collin, cashed in on fame to varying degrees. They haven't seen each other since the band broke up, but after urgings from Max—herself a punk rocker in the making—the sisters reunite on the anniversary of their rock-star mother's suicide. Continue reading >> $25, $20 seniors, $15 students

http://infusiontheatre.com
Chopin Theatre (map)
1543 W. Division St.
Ukrainian Village/East Village
phone 773-769-3832
Another Kind of Love

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The Seven Secret Plays of Madame Caprice

Through 6/21: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 4 PM

I've seen Silent Theatre do much, much better but never worse than this vaguely conceived, sloppily executed attempt at whimsy. Wallowing in saccharine wisdom-of-madness cliches, this "meta-theatrical adventure" posits a mysterious and magical woman named Esteliana Caprice, who invites five joyless misfits to a party at her home, where she turns them into joyful misfits. Her project connects somehow to the mostly inscrutable "plays" of the title, which are acted out by the misfits, sometimes to narration and sometimes to songs performed by a live quartet. Though the cast can be charming in short bursts, the general flakiness quickly becomes hard to take. And so do the seating arrangements. Writer/director Tonika Todorova has opted for an alley staging, with three rows of chairs placed on either side of a long, narrow playing area; since there are also thick pillars on either side, big chunks of the action are lost to audience members in the second and third rows. —Tony Adler $20-$30

http://silenttheatre.com
Chopin Theatre (map)
1543 W. Division St.
Ukrainian Village/East Village
phone 773-769-3832

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