Ask anyone working in Chicago theater and you’ll hear the same despairing moan: the audiences have disappeared. Across the city actors are playing to empty seats. So if you’re one of those people who’s only planning on seeing one or two shows this season, make sure Jenny Magnus’s The Willies is on your list. This hour-long one-woman show deftly weaves seven seemingly unrelated monologues into a rich tapestry of beguiling anxiety. Each of Magnus’s expertly crafted characters–the southern belle, the overwrought teen, the sleepless artist–wakes in the middle of the night to ponder something: love, beauty, regrets. But The Willies offers its audience possibilities, not finalities, and none of the characters find adequate answers. In the opening piece, “Smelling Something,” Magnus is convinced that a fetid odor is fouling her. The more intently she tries to track down the origin of the smell, the farther from reality she wanders, finally concluding that she must be rotting from the inside. Supported by Scott Turner’s sublime lighting design, Magnus uses her monologues like a lullaby, taking us into a colorful, exhilarating, and sometimes terrifying world where certainty is forever an illusion. Organic Theater Company Greenhouse Lab Theater, 3319 N. Clark, 327-5588. Through November 13: Fridays-Saturdays, 10:30 PM. $8.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tamara Staples.