This list goes to 11: our critics share their best bets for chilly nights | Calendar | Chicago Reader

This list goes to 11: our critics share their best bets for chilly nights 

Break the hibernation habit with some hot choices onstage.

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click to enlarge Aura CuriAtlas

Aura CuriAtlas

Nikolai Roster

THEATER PICKS (KERRY REID)

Whisper House

Duncan Sheik's first musical theater effort—2006's Spring Awakening—won him two Tony Awards. He followed that up by collaborating with book writer Kyle Jarrow on this haunting tale of a young boy sent to live with his aunt at a remote lighthouse after his father is shot down over the Pacific in World War II. Black Button Eyes Productions, which brought stellar spookiness to Ghost Quartet last summer, stages the Chicago premiere under Ed Rutherford's direction. Athenaeum Theatre, 1/10-2/15, blackbuttoneyes.com

Voice of Good Hope

On the heels of the Trump impeachment, City Lit may have snagged the "good timing" award with this revival of Kristine Thatcher's 2000 play about Barbara Jordan, the Black Texas congresswoman (and the first elected from the deep south) who first came to national prominence during the Watergate hearings. Thatcher's play also delves into Jordan's longtime relationship with speechwriter Nancy Earl and her struggle with multiple sclerosis. Terry McCabe directs, with Andrea Conway-Diaz starring as Jordan. City Lit Theater, 1/10-2/23, citylit.org

Rhinoceros Theater Festival

Maybe it's the "rhinoceros" in the room: now in its 31st year, RhinoFest has been around so long that, paradoxically, it's sometimes easy to overlook. But for fringe theater fans, Rhino is indispensable. The tickets are cheap, the variety dizzying, and the vibe both communally warm and cool enough to spark your brain. Among this year's highlights are Ghosts of Whitechapel, about the victims of Jack the Ripper, created by Kate Black-Spence and Chris Brickhouse; the return of David Shapiro in Wallace Shawn's monologue The Fever, which won raves back in the 1990s; and Curious's own Four Story Animal Plus Dessert, dramatizing stories by Samuel Beckett, Flannery O'Connor, Anton Chekhov, and Elizabeth Bishop (and yes, there will be dessert). Prop Thtr, 1/11-2/23, rhinofest.com

The Mousetrap

True confession: I have never seen Agatha Christie's murder mystery, despite it being the longest-running show in London's West End and being produced at seemingly every high school and community theater in the world. If you're in the same boat, you have a chance to rectify that with Court's production, directed by Sean Graney. The cast for the whodunit is a murderer's row of talent, including Kate Fry, Hollis Resnik, David Cerda, Allen Gilmore, and Alex Goodrich. Court Theatre, 1/16-2/16, courttheatre.org

Top Girls

I saw Remy Bumppo's first production of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls 18 years ago, and there are still moments that stick in my mind. The company revisits Churchill's 1982 play interrogating feminism in the age of Thatcher through Marlene, the hard-charging head of the titular temp agency. Her search for empowerment takes her from a fantastical dinner party with famous women in history and legend (including 19th-century explorer Isabella Bird and Dull Gret, seen leading a group of women into battle against demons in hell in a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder) to her strained relationship with her working-class sister, who is raising Marlene's sullen daughter. Keira Fromm directs. Theater Wit, 1/16-2/22, remybumppo.org

DANCE PICKS (IRENE HSIAO)

Steppenwolf's LookOut Series, presented on their black box stage at 1700 N. Halsted, is hosting such a variety of dance this month, it's impossible to look away.

aMoratorium

Invited to make a work for the Art Institute, choreographer J'Sun Howard found himself drawn to portraits of struggle, resilience, and joy in the works of Chicago artist Charles Wilbert White, who was determined to create "images of dignity" that document Black history and culture. Mourning lives lost and damaged by police violence, aMoratorium creates space for "generous, compassionate, loving play between Black men," with reference to the Black church and spiritual traditions. Fri-Sat 1/3-1/4, 8 PM, Steppenwolf 1700 Theatre, steppenwolf.org

Dream Logic & The Fool and the World

Aura CuriAtlas combines dance, theater, and acrobatics in an evening that takes the 22 Major Arcana cards of the Tarot deck as a starting point for movement inquiry. These cards, starting with the Fool and ending with the World, "symbolize phases and encounters throughout a person's journey through life," explains co-artistic director Dan Plehal. "Together, the Fool and the World bookend a cycle that is always beginning again." Thu-Sat 1/9-1/11, 8 PM, Steppenwolf 1700 Theatre, steppenwolf.org

The Space Between

One of the pleasures of watching string quartets is the drama that emerges among the players: the side conversations, the jokes, the polite competition. Grammy-nominated Spektral Quartet brings their bodies and voices into space in a collaboration between composer Lisa R. Coons and choreographer Mark DeChiazza that explores power dynamics and social interaction. Fri-Sat 1/17-1/18, 8 PM, Steppenwolf 1700 Theatre, steppenwolf.org

Family Reunion

Last spring, inspired by the community created in a support group for gender-expansive folks at IntraSpectrum Counseling, choreographer Nora Sharp created Family Portrait as part of Synapse Arts's New Works program. "What would it be like to cultivate this generous witnessing energy in a rehearsal and performance context?" they wondered. Sharp continues this improvisational exercise in movement, conversation, sound, and live video with a larger group of multitalented queer performers. Fri-Sat 1/24-1/25, 8 PM, Steppenwolf 1700 Theatre, steppenwolf.org

COMEDY PICKS (BRIANNA WELLEN)

TNK Fest

Don't be fooled into thinking this is just a music festival—the five-day-long lineup features some of the best comedy acts to come through Chicago, including the triumphant returns of hometown favorites Helltrap Nightmare (Sun 1/19) and Megan Stalter (Sat 1/18). Filling out the lineup are not-to-be-missed national acts the New Negroes with Baron Vaughn & Open Mike Eagle (Thu 1/16), Whitmer Thomas (Fri 1/17), Three Busy Debras (Sat 1/18), and Liza Treyger (Sun 1/19). The whole fest is spread across five venues, but all the laughs are at the Hideout. Thu-Sun 1/16-1/19, various times, the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, tnkfest.com, $15-$20 per show, $100 for five-day pass.

The Haggard Unicorn

Stand-up and rightfully self-proclaimed "Queen of radical comedy" KJ Whitehead records her new half-hour special, filled with thoughtful, personal, and, above all, hilarious material about gender, race, and the world today. The night also features performances from Devin Middleton and Mo Less. Fri 1/31, 8 PM, Collaboraction, 1579 N. Milwaukee, facebook.com/iamkjwhitehead, $10.  v

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Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
October 30
Performing Arts
October 02

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