Baby Wants Candy Credit: Alex Elena

Baby Wants Candy Accompany comedians to a bar’s karaoke night and you’ll quickly discover how tremendous the overlap is on the Venn diagram of improv versus musical theater nerds. This long-running troupe’s signature show is where the two fandoms are wedded to create an hour of giddy, off-kilter, harmonious enlightenment . . . and also some dick jokes. The current Chicago iteration, now in new digs in Judy’s Beat Lounge at Second City, promises to be a reliable source of live band-accompanied levity and whip-smart sketch weirdness. While BWC landed in thorny territory early on during opening night—a lily-white ensemble satirizing the Standing Rock standoff—it was a particular joy to see the cast’s deceptively astute story maneuvering and self-deprecation enable them to walk a precarious tightrope without a fall. —Dan Jakes

First Time or Fan?Credit: Courtesy Under the Gun Theater

First Time or Fan? Think of it as a party game for Broadway nerds. First some singers present selections from a chosen musical. (Little Shop of Horrors on the night I attended.) Then they hand the stage over to a troupe of improvisers who’ve never heard of that musical but act it out anyway, based on the performed selections and a few other hints. The biggest problem I had was suspending my disbelief that actors capable of creating a 40-minute entertainment, complete with spontaneously composed songs, really didn’t know Little Shop of Horrors. Still, they got the plot and characters wrong enough, often enough, charmingly and amusingly enough that I decided not to worry. The show is almost necessarily uneven, but the participants have the chops, smarts, and sense of rapport necessary to make it worthwhile. Tabitha Rooney sang a particularly touching rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green” when I saw the show, Alex DiVirgilio was clever even when grossly mistaken, and Mike Movido did a fine, fine portrayal of a plant. —Tony Adler

Hug It Out: The Best of Huggable RiotCredit: Courtesy Huggable Riot

Hug It Out: The Best of Huggable Riot Veteran local sketch group Huggable Riot stages their favorite sketches from the past two years in this revue. The women—Jennifer Allman, Ashley Leisten, and Natalia Via—are definitely the strongest members of this six-person cast. It’s most apparent in sketches like “Dammit Janet” (by Johanna Medrano), featuring a trio of women suffering through spin class, and “Fears” (by Mark Fleming, Charlie Kaplan and Brianne Goodrum), a spoof on bedtime ghost stories with a welcome feminist bent. Political material, from criticisms of Mayor Emanuel to gun violence statistics, ran through other sketches with a more jarring and less impactful effect. —Marissa Oberlander

Luke Babylon: The Christian MagicianCredit: Courtesy the Annoyance

Luke Babylon: The Christian Magician When is a magic trick a miracle? Christianity has grappled with this distinction forever. Medieval Catholicism, writes historian Helen L. Parish, was a religion of “clerical conjurors and magic-working saints.” Jesus himself of course turned water into Yellow Tail. It’s all the same to evangelical prestidigitator Luke Babylon in this one-of-a-kind Annoyance Theatre spectacle. For lo, ’twas God who made thy four of clubs levitate to the top of the deck, and though the maestro and medium will gladly accept your applause, he’d rather have your soul. Know what you’re in for: Luke Babylon, the Christian Magician, is what you get when that adorable guy at the bar with the swoopy hair and the big brown eyes has a lot of surreptitious love in his heart for the son of God and knows how to rip your card in half and sew it back together with magic. —Max Mailer

Jo Scott and Jeff Murdoch of Seriously UnpreparedCredit: Shannon Jenkins

Seriously Unprepared Presents: Lives of the Prepared Comedy students and writers’-room diehards will get the most out of this laid-back conversation and two-person improv set emceed by Seriously Unprepared duo Jo Scott and Jeff Murdoch. Each week a different iO alum video calls in and answers questions about his or her professional experience postgraduation. At the show I attended, Conner O’Malley discussed his stint writing for Late Night With Seth Meyers and how routine it felt to develop material that was warmly received in the office but that unquestionably had no place on the show. Murdoch and Scott’s set inspired by the chat ran a little longer than it ought to, but they did achieve the dubious distinction of pulling off the most macabre pregnancy-related joke I’ve ever heard. —Dan Jakes

The Gift Theatre’s TenCredit: Claire Demos

Ten A gay man is subjected to conversion therapy a la A Clockwork Orange. A hetero woman confronts the superficially nice guy who pussy-grabbed her when they dated. A cheery millennial offers absurd tips on how to “beat” Trump-style authoritarianism. The Gift Theatre celebrates itself each year with an evening of ten short new works contributed by members and friends; this time around most of the selections deal in blue-state anxieties. Pretty glum, all in all, though a few moments may make you put off killing yourself. The piece about the gay man, Jose Nataras’s Warrior, does a neat job of manipulating our sense of the main character, well played by Daniel Kyri. Gift’s resident improv company, Natural Gas, went off on clever tangents when I attended. And then there’s Will Eno’s Arrangement for Red Bicycle and No Piano, which slides past the dystopian hysterics, dark certainties, and self-righteous indignation to get to the human heart of things. Correctly saved for last, Eno’s brilliant little conceit demonstrates what an authentic theatrical imagination can do. —Tony Adler

Women It’s a cute enough idea—apply millennial attitudes to Louisa May Alcott’s 19th-century classic Little Women. In Chiara Atik’s version, the traditional narrative is infused with 21st-century awareness of race and gender. Jo (Aziza Macklin), for example, declares herself a lesbian, rejecting Laurie (Joe Lino) and refusing to “capitulate to the shackles” of her gender. Eventually she moves to New York to become a writer; her older sister Meg (Emily Lindberg) stays home having babies and becoming increasingly hostile. Amy (Francesca Atian) becomes an artist and moves to Europe; Beth (Jillian Leff), as in the original, is dying, though here her death is more an inconvenience than anything else—the sisters are too self-involved to care very much. Toward the end of the Cuckoo’s Theater Project production there’s a shift in tone toward Alcott’s earnestness, but much of the show is cartoonish, a one-note joke. —Suzanne Scanlon

Guarding the Princess, part of the Young Playwrights FestivalCredit: Emily Schwartz

Young Playwrights Festival The four works featured in this year’s festival of plays by high school students—the 30th edition—could not be more different. Alexandra Obert’s Obsessed is a clear-eyed examination of obsessive relationships, while Elyssa Saldana’s Guarding the Princess is a witty take on fairy tales. Ricardo Salgado’s Eye See All is a comical romp through paranoid conspiracy theories, Sejahari Saulter-Villegas’s Race to the Finish a searing, Brechtian deconstruction of contemporary race relations. But each piece, chosen by the folks at Pegasus Theatre from a pool of more than 600 entries, is a tiny gem, engaging the audience with crisp, believable dialogue, clear storytelling, and original, fascinating characters—giving us hope for a new generation of compelling playwrights in the process. —Jack Helbig

You’re Being Ridiculous

You’re Being Ridiculous The art of storytelling is on display at Steppenwolf Theatre’s 1700 space, and the theme is “family.” Hosted by the lanky and affable Jeremy Owens, You’re Being Ridiculous features a rotating cast of performers on a once-a-week schedule, so opening night’s autobiographical tales of debauchery, hateful resentment, self-discovery, and being probed in stirrups by OBGYN students at a medical school in rural Missouri won’t be repeated. Still, here’s a taste: Christianity wreaks havoc on the young. Coming out to parents in Arkansas is difficult and demoralizing. Some people think a storytelling performance at a major theater is a great opportunity for open-air cry therapy. And if there’s anything on the docket for the rest of this LookOut series that remotely approaches Lisa Marie Farver’s Faulknerian tale of trailer sex with a first cousin who later died, this is not an occasion to be missed. —Max Maller