Shaw Chicago, the city-sponsored ensemble specializing in George Bernard Shaw’s plays, turns to the writer’s sole mature effort at fiction–a Candide-like fable about an African woman who has the audacity to question the heavenly father missionaries have taught her to worship. Armed with a decaying Bible and a Zulu fighting stick, this “interesting but unsatisfactory convert” sets off through the jungle to learn why God made a world with evil. In a deceptively genial prose style that sometimes recalls Rudyard Kipling and Lewis Carroll while it skewers the hypocrisies of European colonialism, Shaw recounts his heroine’s encounters with a procession of would-be god figures: an Old Testament deity demanding suffering and sacrifice; various prophets and preachers, from Peter and Ecclesiastes to Pavlov and Shaw himself; a Muslim who insists on male superiority because “God made Man before he made Woman” (“Second thoughts are best,” replies the girl); and Jesus, reduced from being a teacher to sitting as an artist’s model. Written in South Africa in 1932, the novella was banned in Shaw’s native Ireland and attacked by churchmen as subversive (“They are quite right from their point of view,” Shaw responded); it attacks the racist and sexist underpinnings of religious dogma and prophesies the emergence of feminism and multiracialism (in the end the girl tames and weds a Shavian Irish socialist). Dan H. Laurence’s 1962 dramatization, presented as a 70-minute reading under Andrew Callis’s direction, features projected illustrations from the book’s original edition and a trio of well-spoken performances by Catherine Worth as the girl, Belinda Bremner as the narrator, and Scott Lynch-Giddings in a hilarious, impeccably accented series of caricatures of the men in the girl’s life. Chicago Cultural Center, studio theater, 78 E. Washington (enter at 77 E. Randolph), 312-744-7648. Through January 27: Sunday, 2 and 7 PM; Monday, 7 PM. Free, but reservations are required. –Albert Williams