Verily, the Armageddonists have got it right: Satan is abroad in the land. And he seems to be putting on shows at every off-Loop theater in Chicago. Here’s a selection of fresh hells, designed to help you worship the Evil One—at least through the end of the month.
Frankenstein Yes, it’s easy to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the story of a monster who, in searching for acceptance, becomes more human than the death-obsessed scientist who created him. But who’d have guessed that City Lit Theater Company would render that paradox so literally? Mark Pracht is impressive as the anguished and terrible Creature, while Ed Krystosek has a flat, Kermit the Frog-like delivery as Victor Frankenstein. Worse, the monster arrives only toward the end of the first act, leaving Krystosek to carry scene after expositional scene until then—director Terry McCabe gets more excitement out of the whizzing, purring Victorian lab equipment. The show eventually builds momentum, but slows down again when the focus shifts away from Pracht’s lumbering antihero and back to Kermit. —Asher Klein Through 11/4: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, also Thu 10/25 and 11/1, 8 PM, and Wed 10/31, 8 PM, City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, 773-293-3682, citylit.org, $20.
The Life of Death Gripped by depression following a hysterectomy, a young woman comes to believe that she’s been chosen by Death to bring a fatal plague to London. Charley Sherman’s adaptation of the story by British horror writer Clive Barker is pedestrian and talky, but this WildClaw Theatre production compensates for the script’s flaws with an impressively evocative, eerie sound design by Christopher Kriz and inventive video segments by Ira Amyx. Under Carolyn Klein’s direction, WildClaw stalwart Steve Herson brings texture to the role of the tall, deep-voiced fellow who may or may not be the grim reaper. —Albert Williams Through 11/4: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Storefront Theater, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph, 312-742-8497, dcatheater.org, $15-$25.
Nightmares on Lincoln Avenue IV: Welcome to the Undead City It’s a shame no deranged, mask-wearing sadist was in on the writing of this long Corn Productions sketch show. A decent psychopath might’ve found imaginative ways to tell writers-directors Christian Vernon and Kallie Rolison that their show, which follows a wholesome family from Peoria on a visit to zombie-ridden Chicago, is bloated with exasperating, unfunny bits and hollow references to local color (look, bucket drummers!). But that clearly didn’t happen. And so, rather than showcase the funnier bits—like the radio ad for a pooper-scooper that ends with the voice talent ad-libbing a gruesome murder on-air—Nightmares buries them under tired parodies of scary-movie tropes and a listless, limb-dragging zombie plot. —Keith Griffith Through 10/31: Wed-Sat 8 PM, Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln, 773-650-1331, cornservatory.org, $7-$15.
Splatter Theater Scarrie (see above) started it all for Hell in a Handbag Productions, and this satire on slasher flicks did the same, 25 years ago, for Annoyance Productions. Incredibly, I reviewed that original staging. Back then I said, “Splatter Theater‘s not out for blood. Just a good time. The show’s a goof on the conventions of those stupid old B-quality hack-’em-ups we’re all supposed to have seen at the drive-in. It’s also very funny. And resourceful: blood pours, drizzles, dribbles, and sprays in 2,000 variations—and ever-increasing quantities—through a half million open wounds. Paper cuts generate buckets.” The thing is still fitfully funny, thanks mainly to some agreeably flaky performances and a twist or two. But this anniversary revival hasn’t got the gonzo energy, the let’s-try-this zeal I can still remember. —Tony Adler Through 10/27: Sat 10 PM, also Wed 10/31, 8 PM, Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N. Broadway, 773-561-4665, annoyanceproductions.com, $20.