Events | Calendar | Chicago Reader

Events

Loading...
  • Detail View
  • List View
  • Grid View
29 results

The Harold

Open run: Wed-Thu 8 PM, Fri 8 and 10:30 PM, Sat 10:30 PM, Sun 8 PM, Mon 10:30 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Improv teams use an audience suggestion to create interweaving story lines that result in a connected long-form narrative.

Duck and Cover Classroom

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

,
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

The Winner . . . of Our Discontent

Wed-Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM (except 12/31, 7 and 10 PM), Sun 7 PM (no show 12/25), Tue 8 PM; also Tue 12/20-Thu 12/22 and Tue 12/27-Thu 12/29, 11 PM
Second City 1616 N. Wells St., Chicago Old Town

Buy Tickets$19-$46


The Second City is nothing if not responsive. I mean, really: Nothing. Responsiveness is the whole point of an improv-based, satirical theater. The institution has no entertainment value if its ensemble members fail to respond to one another and no relevance if it fails to respond to the world. Continue reading >> 312-337-3992

Dream Freaks Fall From Space

Open run: Wed-Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM, Sun 4 PM, Tue 8 PM
Second City 1616 N. Wells St., Chicago Old Town

Buy Tickets$29-$46


Second City is in denial. Donald Trump is our president, and along with that comes a host of issues regarding race, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and police brutality, among other things. The cast of the brand-new yet already outdated main-stage revue Dream Freaks Fall From Space tackle these loaded topics by mentioning them, then moving right along. And speaking of denial, scenes break one of the most fundamental rules of improvisation—embody the spirit of "yes, and . . . " to complement your partner onstage. Here instead actors deny ideas with "What are you talking about?" Second City is the tentpole of Chicago comedy for the rest of the country, but Dream Freaks feels like it was concocted in an intermediate-level improv class where mere nods get laughs and politics get skewered with Pixy Stix. Continue reading >> 312-337-3992

Cascade Drive-In

Ongoing
Cascade Drive-In 1100 E. North Ave., West Chicago Other Suburbs West


When you go to a movie theater, there's a decent chance someone will sneeze and you'll contract a horrifying airborne monkey disease (or at least that's what I learned from Outbreak). Not a thing you have to worry about at the drive-in. Plus you can make out, it's BYOB, and it's under ten bucks for a double feature.

Homolatte

First and third Tue of month, 7:30 PM
Tweet Let's Eat 5020 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago Uptown


With Scott Free, featuring gay and lesbian spoken-word artists. 773-728-5576

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

Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM, Sun 7 PM
Second City E.T.C. Piper's Alley, 1608 N. Wells St., Chicago Old Town

Buy Tickets$19-$46


In the weeks and now days leading up to the inauguration, it seems like the jokes about Trump and the current state of our political climate are basically writing themselves. Between rumors of golden showers and the president-elect's meeting with Steve Harvey, it sometimes feels as if we're all living in one long political sketch. So where are comedians supposed to go from here? Continue reading >> 312-337-3992

Comedians You Should Know

Open run: Thu 9 PM


A mix of barflys and independent comedy fans flocks to this weekly showcase, one of the best in the city. The room is friendly, and if hecklers appear, they're shut down affably by Chicago's top stand-ups. It's not a place to try out new material, so the comedians hit jokes hard. And the audience, sitting close and around the stage like a big hug, welcomes the change of pace from the bar's drunk tomfoolery. CYSK is an appropriate name. 312-642-0700

The Improvised Shakespeare Company

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Seven strapping men in swashbuckler shirts improvise a two-act Shakespearean play based on a title suggested by the audience. At the show I saw, "The Taming of the Jew" inspired the Bard's usual themes (religion, family, betrayal) and plot devices (murders, disguises, fortunes gained/lost) as well as an uncomfortably funny circumcision. Director-performer Blaine Swen, a veteran of long-form Shakespearean improv who swears they don't conspire during the intermission, has assembled a vigorous ensemble of actors and proven improvisers. Their experience doing Shakespeare flowers in the language: they relish iambic dialogue, execute perfectly timed asides, occasionally utter rhyming couplets (some hilariously forced: "Let us be quick-sa, and get to the bar mitzvah!"), and drop parodic phrases ("scurvenous knave," "midfortnight report") and well-placed anachronisms (the bar mitzvah had a DJ). Even the ending echoed the real plays: story lines resolved tidily—and uproariously. —Ryan Hubbard

ComedySportz Theatre

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri 8 and 10 PM, Sat 6, 8, and 10 PM
ComedySportz Theatre 929 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview

Buy from Ticketmaster$19


Part of a national chain of comedy clubs, this company is known for quick improv games (think Whose Line Is It Anyway?), but it also stages long-form improv. LCD screens and sophisticated lighting and sound systems amplify the sports-style improv of the company's eponymous production, ComedySportz. There's a snobbery in the Chicago improv community that looks up at the "art" of the long form, with its emphasis on story and characters, and down on the "entertainment" of the short, with its emphasis on games and punch lines. ComedySportz falls emphatically in the entertainment camp; its bottom line is laughter, and it gets plenty of it. The show is structured as a competition between two teams performing multiple games that require audience participation. A referee ensures that the players--a rotating roster from a company of about 50--work clean or they finish the game with a brown bag over their heads. The formula is practically foolproof: players may flash their quick wits in winning responses, but they're even funnier when they fail. In one game a team had to devise a pick-up line, each member contributing a word. Moving rapidly from player to player, the line developed: "Tonight-I'll-tango-with-your-face." Probably wouldn't work at a bar, but at ComedySportz it killed. --Ryan Hubbard 773-549-8080 or 312-559-1212

Super Human

Open run: Thu 8:30 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Five women storm the stage. Over the loudspeaker Philadelphia-bred rapper Khia sings of her neck and her back and two specific parts of her nether regions while the ladies hump the air and pound the walls—one even does a handstand. They're Super Human, and before they even get to the improv they're amazing. Continue reading >>

Messing With a Friend

Open run: Thu 10:30 PM
Annoyance Theatre 851 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview

Buy Tickets$5


"Yes, and . . . " is the holy mantra of any solid improviser, the idea being to build upon—never to tear down or impede—whatever your partner tosses you. In the long-running Messing With a Friend, Susan Messing reigns supreme over "Yes, and . . . ," imbuing pregnant pauses with many an excellently timed F-bomb and fleshing out characters at once demented and lovable. The "friend" of the title alludes to the revolving rotation of actors and performers who join Messing weekly; the week I saw it, her guest was Steppenwolf ensemble member Rondi Reed, whose improv skills seemed a bit rusty. But Messing carried the ball for them both, in one bit effortlessly jumping from being the man ditched for the gay choir director to the gay choir director himself before leading the whole room in a round of "Amazing Grace." "A joyful romp through hell," the program calls the show; fire and brimstone never burned so good. —Chloe Riley 773-697-9693

Chrissy Gardner

Thursdays, 8 PM


at the Piano Bar

Scantron

Ongoing: Thu 10 PM
Crowd Theater 3935 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago Lakeview


Improv inspired by dysfunctional relationships.

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

Thank God It's Thursday

Open run: Thu 8:30 PM
Laugh Out Loud 3851 N. Lincoln, Chicago North Center


Thursday improv slots are hard to come by, and the Chicago Improv Den reserves these nights for house teams coming out of its training program. With the weekend so close, expect looser, more playful long-form improv. 773-857-6000

Jeannie Tanner Trio

Thursdays, 7 p.m.
Marie's Pizza & Liquors 4127-29 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago Other North


773-725-1812

John Hasbrouck & James Conway

Thursdays, 8 p.m.
Honky Tonk BBQ 1800 S. Racine, Chicago Pilsen/Little Village


312-226-7427

Kendall Kelly Lewis Trio

Thursdays, 9 p.m.
The Joynt 650 N. Dearborn St., Chicago River North


312-573-2233

Alan Gresik's Swing Shift Orchestra

Thursdays, 9 p.m.
Green Mill 4802 N. Broadway St., Chicago Uptown


773-878-5552

blues jam hosted by James Wheeler

Thursdays, 9:30 p.m.
Rosa's Lounge 3420 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago Logan Square


773-342-0452

The Scene

Open run: Thu 10 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


A group of comedians continually rework an initial improvised scene to put the creative process in the forefront.

Singles Only!

2/19, 10 PM
Laugh Factory 3175 N. Broadway St., Chicago Lakeview


Chicago comedians tell love horror stories. During the show the audience will be invited to tell embarrassing stories for a chance to win tickets and drinks. A singles mixer follows the show. 773-327-3175

The Salmagundi

Open run: Thu 10 PM
ComedySportz Theatre 929 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview


Two unsuspecting house teams are paired up and given a challenge that changes on a weekly basis. 773-549-8080 or 312-559-1212

Don Melas

Thursdays, 10 p.m.
Bernice's Tavern 3238 S. Halsted St., Chicago Bridgeport


312-907-1580

Mansion Party

Open run: Thu 10:30 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


A long-form improv show centered around friends who spend a weekend in a house.

The Forced Transfer

Opens Tue 6/7
National Cambodian Heritage Museum 2831 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago Ravenswood


As a young Buddhist monk in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, during the 1960s, Kompha Seth studied the Brahmi alphabet and Magadhi—a root language of modern Khmer—which had been preserved and passed down for generations. Today, he's one of only a few Cambodians in the world who understands these dialects and their links to modern Khmer. Continue reading >> 773-506-1280