Considering a couple bucks will rent you Frank Capra’s nearly perfect 1946 film–complete with Jimmy Stewart’s pitch-perfect performance–why would any theater imagine that actors standing at microphones and reading would be worth ten times that? Yet this “radio” version of the screenplay by adapter Joe Landry, director Marty Higginbotham, and a crafty cast is well worth the money. The show may have a patina of cuteness: every sound effect is produced live, and actors in 1940s costumes play plucky aw-shucks characters in quirky voices. But the company, and particularly James Leaming as George Bailey, never lets this quaintness water down the harrowing ordeal at the center of the story, as a small-town nobody is rescued from the abyss of broken dreams. Finally, a holiday show that earns a houseful of teary eyes. Through 12/26: Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat 5 and 8:30 PM, Sun 3 PM. No show Sat 12/25. American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron, 773-929-1031. $10-$30.