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God, Sex & Death Variety Hour

First Wednesday of the month: 7:30 PM
Schubas 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago Lakeview


Many a mental health professional advises that if you're really afraid of something, the best thing to do is confront your fear. That's sort of what comedian/musician Danny Black is up to with the God, Sex, and Death Variety Hour. During his opening monologue at the August show, Black, who plays host, admits he's terrified of death but swears that "talking about it makes it better." In reference to the god part, Black says he had a religious experience on a retreat once—god spoke to him, obviously—but he mostly ignored it at the time; so giving the guy (or gal) a nod now seems like the polite thing to do. The inclusion of sex as a topic—at any time, in any universe—seems self-explanatory. Continue reading >> 773-525-2508

Avenue Q

Wed-Fri 8 PM, Sat 5 and 8:30 PM, Sun 3 PM; also Sun 7:30 PM beginning 7/22
Mercury Theater Chicago 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago Lakeview


773-325-1700

Guards at the Taj

Through 7/22: Wed-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 3 and 7:30 PM, Tue 7:30 PM; no performance 7/4
Steppenwolf Theatre 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago Old Town


312-335-1650

The Magic Cabaret

Open run: Wed 8 PM,
Greenhouse Theater Center 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago Lincoln Park

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Once upon a time, Chicago was a magic town. You could buy tricks and apparatus at Marshall Field's and get a full-blown magic show with your dinner at Schulien's. The waiters there invented what became known as the Chicago style of magic. It was up-close and personal, not too grand, but still astonishing, and best of all, it made the audience part of the show. David Parr and Joe Diamond re-create this golden age in The Magic Cabaret, using homely objects like books and light bulbs and (naturally) playing cards to bring their stories of old-time magic to life. The result is by turns funny, surprising, and spooky. But here's the most amazing part: it really is fun for the whole family, not just the kids. —Aimee Levitt 773-404-7336

Duck and Cover Classroom

Open run: daily, various times
The Time Gallery 1342 N. Milwaukee Ave., second floor, Chicago Wicker Park/Bucktown

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I can't vouch for Escape Artistry's trumpeted dedication to "equality, environment, and education," but I can attest to the aesthetic and cryptological rigor of this tantalizing, exasperating, and ingenious escape-room game. After a cheeky introductory video instructing us newly deputized agents in the nuances of time travel (here walking down a hallway), we're locked in a drearily appointed 1950s schoolroom and given 60 minutes to decipher combinations to multiple locks in hopes of finding some missing uranium. I couldn’t track the backstory—something about two missing agents and the world’s first nuclear chain reaction—but lead designer Melissa Schlesinger’s stocked the room with mind-addling puzzles that delighted and ultimately baffled me (luckily I was trapped with smart people). Stick with it: the payoff is worth it. —Justin Hayford 773-789-9535

20,000 Leagues Under the Seas

Through 8/18: Wed-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 2 and 7:30 PM, alternate Tue 7:30 PM, alternate Thu 2 PM
Lookingglass Theatre Company Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago Gold Coast/Mag Mile/Streeterville


312-337-0665

The Roommate

Through 8/5: Wed-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 3 and 7:30 PM, Tue 7:30 PM, no performance Wed 7/4
Steppenwolf Theatre 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago Old Town


312-335-1650

Support Group for Men

Through 7/29: Wed 7:30 PM, Thu 2 and 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, Tue 7:30 PM, no performances Wed 7/4 or Tue 7/17
Goodman Theatre 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago Loop

Buy Tickets$30-$75


312-443-3800

Hamlet

Through 7/29: Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 2 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM
Gift Theatre Company 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago Jefferson Park


773-283-7071

Blue Man Group

Open run: Thu 8 PM; Fri 7 PM; Sat 2, 5, and 8 PM; Sun 4 and 7 PM
Briar Street Theatre 3133 N. Halsted St., Chicago Lakeview

Buy from Ticketmaster$49-$99


After 20 years and god knows how many bald caps and gallons of paint, this Chicago staple stays true to its mission: “Blue Man Group—enemy of monotony, remedy for boredom, promoter of overjoy and elation.” That experimental, interactive theater can remain both current and family friendly in equal measure speaks to the show's healthy mix of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it wit and larger-than-life clowning. Audience participation, voluntary and involuntary, is still a key component, whether it’s sharing Twinkies with the trio, donning a poncho in the splash zone, or being shamed as a latecomer, in showstopping fashion. Cultural references and parodies have certainly changed with the times (and devices), but the keys to Blue Man Group remain its hypnotic music and lively energy—if you’re not out of your seat dancing when the 90 minutes are up, you probably don’t have a pulse. —Marissa Oberlander 773-348-4000

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story

Through 9/15: Thu-Fri 7:30, Sat 3 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM
Stage 773 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview


773-327-5252

Haymarket

Through 7/22: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Mon 7:30 PM
Den Theatre 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago Wicker Park/Bucktown


773-609-2336

Twisted Knots

Open run: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 4 PM


Longtime married couple Frank and Carla—a stressed-out salesman and an underappreciated nurse—try to get back their conjugal mojo by role-playing a call-girl scenario (Carla plays the call girl) in their hotel room on New Year’s Eve. The Hard Rock Hotel on Michigan Avenue provided furnishings and decor to lend verisimilitude to Greg Pinsoneault and Shaun Renfro’s set design in this production directed by Tara Branham. In fact, it’s Dale Danner’s script that could use some authenticity; the couple’s sex games and the husband’s much-discussed superstitious streak feel contrived and strained. Only when the charade is dropped toward the end do we glimpse genuine disappointment and fatigue. Ryan Kitley’s Frank seems detached from the proceedings, but Mary Cross turns in lively, tangy work as Carla. —Zac Thompson

The Magic Parlour

Through 7/1: Fri 7:30 and 9:30 PM, Sat 4:30, 7:30, and 9:30 PM
Palmer House Hilton 17 E. Monroe St., Chicago Loop


This magic show is exactly what it should be: funny, lively, intimate, and utterly baffling. House Theatre of Chicago member Dennis Watkins blends quick-witted improv and physical comedy with freewheeling patter as he performs classic illusions. Though his sleight of hand is impossibly subtle, it was the mind-reading tricks that seemed to have drawn several inquisitive skeptics back for another look on the night I attended. A curio-shop intimacy encourages audience participation, and Watkins, with his Eagle Scout looks, clearly takes a mischievous pleasure in the unexpected. Just let your cell phone go off during the show and see what kind of fun he has. Drinks (wine, beer, and soda) are included in the cost of admission. —Keith Griffith 312-726-7500

The Infinite Wrench

Open run: Fri-Sat 11:30 PM, Sun 7 PM
Neo-Futurarium 5153 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago Andersonville


Greg Allen gave and Greg Allen took away. On December 31, 2016, the Neo-Futurists founder made good on his promise to kill off the company's signature cult show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, ending an unprecedented run of 28 years. The current generation of ensemble members weren't happy. Now they've pretty much reconstituted TMLMTBGB in everything but name, running on the same schedule at the same venue with the same exuberance. Though their new baby is superficially different from the original (where before the plays were numbered, for instance, now they're color coded), it retains the identical goal of offering 30 original short plays in 60 minutes. The performance I saw lapsed occasionally into reductive political posturing, having more to do with tribal affirmation than revelation. But it also had its share of wit, insight, emotional frankness, and dancerly physicality. —Tony Adler 773-275-5255

The Musical Armando

Open run: Fri 8 PM
iO Theater, The Mission Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Other North

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This fully improvised musical follows the structure of long-running long-form showcase the Armando Diaz Experience. As in the nonmusical version, the performance changes every night and depends entirely on the skill, experience, and playfulness of the ensemble. But the night I saw it, the show was packed with strong performers who for 90 minutes did everything improvisers are supposed to do—played well together, built on each other's ideas, kept the energy up, and avoided egotism and stupidity—and the result was utterly delightful. It didn’t hurt that the program featured guest monologist Dave Gaudet of ComedySportz, who entertained with three short, witty, artfully told autobiographical pieces. —Jack Helbig

Barbecue Apocalypse

Through 7/21: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM
Prop Thtr 3502 N. Elston Ave., Chicago Avondale


773-539-7838

Kiss Kiss Cabaret

Open run: Fri 10 PM
Uptown Underground 4707 N. Broadway St., Chicago Uptown


The tone and pace are just right in this late-night burlesque show. Doubling as affable emcee Max Flattery, director Chris Biddle keeps the evening fresh with a rotating lineup of erotic dancers, campy acts, and nerdy comedians. Striptease routines satisfy a wide range of PG-13 fetishes, sometimes in unconventional ways. Teddy Bare's absinthe fairy number, for instance, incorporates modern dance elements not typically associated with the bump and grind. The result is an eclectic blend of steam, smart humor, and shtick. If Biddle and company can maintain momentum, Kiss Kiss Cabaret has what it takes to become a cheeky Chicago staple. —Dan Jakes 773-867-1946

Bible Bingo

Open run: Fri-Sat 8 PM
Royal George Theatre Center 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago Lincoln Park


Vicki Quade’s Nuns4Fun empire is nothing if not holy impressive. Since the inception of Late Night Catechism in 1993, it's raised $3 million-plus for retiring nuns. But that doesn’t mean that Mrs. Mary Margaret O’Brien—the former nun played by a witty Kathleen Puls Andrade on the night I attended—will be thanking you. Church bingo fund-raiser Mrs. O’Brien is full of salty-nun severity and some refreshing snark, welcoming audience-member squirms elicited by talk of religion on date night. As one-half of the token Jewish couple and unlikely winner of the first round of bingo, I got more attention and Catholic prizes than I'd prayed for—and promptly traded my Bible eraser for another winner’s mini Torah. (Don’t tell Mrs. O’Brien!) —Marissa Oberlander 312-988-9000

We Gotta Bingo

Open run: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 5 PM
Chicago Theater Works 1113 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview


At Disney World, you can book a "character breakfast," which is what they call it when Goofy harasses you while you try to eat waffles. This show is sort of like that, only you're fed lasagna and the zany characters you’re forced to dance, play games, and otherwise interact with have a lot less depth than Goofy. The evening's premise is that the audience is attending a bingo night benefiting two Catholic congregations—a predominantly Italian-American one and a predominantly Irish-American one—that have recently merged. For some reason there are beer-hall Germans and a swishy gay guy on hand too. All the punch lines rely on tired stereotypes, but the jokes are so obvious they'll probably only offend your sense of humor. —Zac Thompson

Late Nite Catechism

Open run: Sat 5 PM, Sun 2 PM
Royal George Theatre Center 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago Lincoln Park

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A bona fide born-in-Chicago international hit, this simultaneously nostalgic and satirical comedy by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan concerns a nun instructing her students—that's you—on the dos and don'ts of dogma. —Jack Helbig 312-988-9000

Festival of Flesh

Open run: first Sat of each month, 10: 30 PM and midnight
Underground Lounge 952 W. Newport Ave., Chicago Lakeview


Gothic illusionist and proud floor-length-leather-jacket owner Ron Fitzgerald emcees Arkham Noise Productions' burlesque show, which caters to a wide array of fetishes with an alternating lineup of about 100 performers—around a dozen acts on a given night, curated by producer/DJ Miss Ellie Noise. Audience members can watch the show from their bar stools; this month's range of fantasies included domination, flesh hooks, IKEA (DIY kink?), and bathing in public. Still, nearly every act was a striptease at heart, and followed a familiar trajectory: gloves to girdle to brassiere, and then an exuberant reveal. It felt more silly than sexy, and the only clothes remaining onstage at the end were the basketball jerseys that line the back wall of the bar. —Hannah Gold 773-327-2739

Improvised Sondheim Project

Open run: Sat 9 PM
MCL Chicago 3110 N. Sheffield, Chicago Lakeview

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Stephen Sondheim isn't an easy composer to imitate, much less off-the-cuff. His music isn't your typical high-kicking Broadway fare, and his lyrics aren't the sort you come up with off the top of your head (we’re talking about a man who managed to rhyme "personable" and "coercin' a bull"). Yet imitating Sondheim off-the-cuff is precisely the objective of this improvised one-act musical. On the night I saw the show, the five-member cast and their piano accompanist (Stephanie McCullough Vlcek) did occasionally create a mood of disenchantment and urbanity vaguely reminiscent of the master. But their muted, muddled efforts lacked the sort of devotion, derision, or blend of both that makes for a successful homage, takedown, or affectionate parody. —Zac Thompson