Performers in long-form improvisations often reach for laughs by creating mundane, low-stakes situations: roommates arguing over food, couples bickering about each other’s bad habits. But Chairs has a premise tailor-made to eliminate this possibility: every performance begins with a death. Whose is determined by a quick game of musical chairs, then the events preceding the death are acted out by the CarniKid Productions ensemble, directed by Second City instructor Bina Martin. At times this concept must backfire on the players. But every time I’ve caught the show, first performed in 2002, I’ve been struck by its immediacy and sense of urgency–qualities that virtually guarantee strong, honest laughter or tears. Through 1/21: Thu 8:30 PM, Sat 9 PM, Fri 12/23, 6:30 PM, no show Sat 12/24, Victory Gardens Theater, first-floor studio, 2257 N. Lincoln, 773-871-3000, $10-$15, $20 Sat 12/31 (includes champagne toast).